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20

Peter Finn stood beside the urinal and watched Agent Allen frowning, puzzling over a cell phone with a dark screen. Was it broken? No, for now the FBI man decided to turn it on. The small device in his hand came to life and beeped. The agent raised the phone to his ear, saying, Allen here Riker?

The FBI agent left the mens room on the run, and Peter had his father all to himself, though Joe Finn was behind the closed door of a stall.

Better that way.

The boy had been waiting for this moment for so long. Dad? He pressed his forehead to the cool metal of the stall door and asked, Do you hate me-because I lived-and Ariel died?

There was a moment of silence, and then he heard his father crying.

Barry Allen ran past the startled agent guarding the entrance to the mens room. He was heading for the other facility. All that Riker had said was, Get to Nahlman now!

As he rounded the side of the building, he saw Dale Berman in the far-off parking lot. Who was watching Nahlmans back?

No one, fool.

The young agent entered the ladies room at a dead run and went flying, skidding on the slick floor-falling and landing on Nahlmans body- his face pressed to hers. He screamed, but not out of fear. It was a high keen of anguish that brought other agents running into the tiled room. Shoes were all around him now, and above him were voices all taking at once. Jesus Christ, said one. And another agent, the son of a doctor, knelt beside the body. This young man never tried to find a pulse; he was informed by the gaping wound that had opened Nahlmans throat; the blood had ceased to flow-no living heart to pump it. He shook his head-no beat, no life, no use. Im sorry, Barry.

A voice was yelling from Barry Allens cell phone. Another agent picked it up from the floor and made her short report to Detective Riker. Shes gone, sir.

The state trooper concluded his radio request for backup and roadblocks at exits east and west of the rest stop. He was behind the wheel of his cruiser when he leaned out the window with a few final words for Special Agent Berman. Dont touch anything. Theres a crime-scene unit on the way. Im going after that tow truck.

Im in charge of this investigation, said Berman, raising his voice to be heard above the revving of the other mans engine.

Yeah, sure you are, yelled the trooper as he peeled out of the parking lot, siren screaming.

Berman turned to see a gang of agents converging upon him. Spread out! he yelled. I want this whole place-

Oh, shit!

Joe Finn was muscling the others aside, and the mans eyes were crazed.

Agent Allen was younger and faster than Finn, running, flying, aiming himself like a cannonball. In the next second, Berman was flat on his back with the younger man on top him. Allen, handicapped by eyes full of tears, only got in two good punches to the face before he was pulled off. As he was being dragged back by other agents, Barry Allen screamed, You stupid, incompetent son of a bitch!

No man or woman in his company had any disagreement with this assessment of the special agent in charge. Cell phones were appearing in every pair of hands.

Dale Berman looked up at the sky, listening to beeps of incoming calls drowned out by the boxers s c reams of Dodie! My baby!



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