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11

ANNE MARIE DIDNT LIKE it when Andy brooded, because it happened so seldom that it had to mean something serious had gone wrong. Hed been his usual cheery optimistic self when hed left for Pennsylvania with John and the others, but in the three days since, his mood had considerably darkened. Not unhappy, exactly, or angry. Mostly he seemed to be stymied, to have walked into a wall somehow, unable to move, and therefore unable to catch up with his regular buoyant self.

Generally speaking, Anne Marie left Andy to be Andy, with no interference from her. He was like a smooth-running but intricate machine whose workings were completely unknowable, and therefore not to be messed with. For instance, she knew how to drive a car and considered herself a good driver, but there were some special high-performance vehicles she wouldnt dare try to take control of, and thats what Andy was to her: too complex and abrupt to steer.

But this funk had been going on for three days, which was an eternity in the weather of Andy Kelp, and it showed no signs of improving, so finally, in the midafternoon of the third day, a Saturday, when yet again she walked into the living room and Andy was slumped in his favorite chair, gazing glassy-eyed in the general direction of the television set, which didnt happen to be switched on, she had to try at least kicking the tires a little: Hi, Andy.

Hi. His smile was as chipper as ever, but there didnt seem to be anything behind it.

Feeling suddenly like the wife in a soap opera, although she was neither, she sat on the sofa, where she could see him most directly, and said, Andy?

His eyes rolled toward her; his brows lifted slightly. The smile on his lips was small and nostalgic, as though he were remembering happy times rather than being in them. Mm?

Whats wrong, Andy?

He sat up straighter. He looked surprised. Wrong? Nothings wrong.

Ever since you came back from Penn

Oh, that, he said, and brushed it away, as though now he understood what she was talking about and it was nothing, nothing. Thats not my problem, he said. Thats Johns problem.

What problem?

His.

Andy, Anne Marie said, whats Johns problem that you keep thinking about?

Do I keep thinking about it? He considered that. Huh. Maybe I do, from time to time. You see, Anne Marie, we wanna get into this place

I know, she said. Thats what you do.

Right. Andy nodded. Thats what we do. Get into a place, get what we want, get out, game over. The thing is, this place, you cant get in. I mean, you really cant get in.

So no game, Anne Marie suggested.

Well, the thing is, Andy said, John came up with a great way to get in, a really great way. But now were stuck. We cant make that way work. I mean, John cant.

Anne Marie said, Do you want to tell me about it?

It wont do any good, but sure, why not? He adjusted himself more comfortably in his chair, and said, The guy has this huge compound surrounded by electric fence and guards, no way through it without being seen and heard. The guy is also a rat, so the ships are deserting him. Not the ships, his crew, his staff, the people that work for him. So hes got like a skeleton crew there, and Johns brilliant idea is, we hire on. Were working for the guy, naturally were on the property.

Well, that is a brilliant idea, Anne Marie said, if hes hiring.

Oh, hes hiring, Andy said. Or he would be, if anybodyd show up. Our trouble is, anybody he hires has to be checked by the law. Chester couldnt work for him any more because he was an ex-con. All of us are ex-cons, Anne Marie, all four of us, John and Tiny and Stan and me. What we need is new ID, and we dont know how to do that. I mean, we know how to go to Arnie Albright the fence and buy a drivers license, a credit card, it wont burn to the ground for another two, three days, but that stuff doesnt survive an inspection. Not by a bankruptcy court or a lot of feds. How do you get a different identity that stands up? Thats why John is down in the dumps about right now.

And you, too, she told him.

Well, maybe a little. He shrugged. Still, its Johns brilliant idea, so its John that feels so bad.

She shook her head, surveying him. You just wasted three days, she said.

He gave her his alert look, almost like the old days. I did?

Were gonna have to remember this, Andy, she said. Any time youve got a problem, youve got to talk it out with me. Mostly, all Ill be able to give you is sympathy, but thats not so bad.

Not bad at all, he agreed.

But this time, she said, Im almost positive I can solve your problem.

Come on, Anne Marie, he said. Youre gonna run some birth certificates off on your computer? This stuff has to stand up.

Thats what Im talking about. Andy, you know, when I was a kid, my father was a congressman, in Congress, from the great state of Kansas.

Yeah, I know.

Well, for a lot of that time, she said, and when I was in college, and after, he was on the Select Intelligence Committee in the Congress, to liaise with the FBI and the CIA and all of those other people in the intelligence community. The spooks.

Spies.

They call themselves spooks, she informed him.

They do? Andy scratched an ear. Have they thought that through?

Its what they call themselves.

Okay. Nodding, he said, Select Intelligence, you said. Whats Select Intelligence?

You have all this news coming in, she explained, from all over the world, all this intelligence, what they call the raw data. Select Intelligence is when you select the parts that agree with what you already wanted to do.

Okay, Andy said. That sounds about right.

And my father, Anne Marie said, got to know this guy called Jim Green that was a substitute identity specialist.

Jim Green.

He said he called himself that because it was the easiest name in the world to forget.

That wasnt his real name? What was his real name?

No one will ever know. Andy, Jim Greens job was to put together new identifications for spooks, identification packages so real, so secure, they could travel in foreign countries, they could be arrested, they could testify in court, they could do anything and the identification would hold up.

Thats pretty good, Andy allowed.

Anne Marie said, Its better than the Witness Protection Program. Theres retired spooks now with murder charges against them, fatwas out on them, death sentences passed on them, living under a new identification that Jim Green gave them, theyre safe forever, die in their own beds at a hundred.

Of what?

Old age. The point is, he could give you and John exactly what you need.

Andy, doubtful, said, Why would he?

I knew him for years, she said. He and my parents were neighbors in D.C. Hes retired now, but Im sure I could find him.

And you think hed do this for you.

Oh, sure. Laughing lightly, she said, He always liked me. He used to dandle me on his knee.

When you were a little girl.

Oh, seventeen, eighteen, she said. Getting to her feet, she said, Let me make some calls.


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