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ZELKEV DIDNT LIKE THE ordinary array of targets on the gunnery range. The hulking bad guys sighting down pistols were not for him. He preferred a good Nativity scene, a number of lambs and Magi and so forth to pop with his two trusty Glocks, or possibly a Crucifixion, working his way around from the nails in wrists and ankles to the crown of thorns to a few quick rounds in the sword-slice in the side.

Of course, his absolute favorite was St. Sebastian, he of the soulful look while his entire body was studded with thick long arrow shafts, so that he would mostly make you think of a condominium for birds. Zelkev just loved to pop St. Sebastian, using both Glocks at once, sinking one cartridge into each arrow wound, then finishing with a double hit right in the center of old Sebs nose.

He could shoot St. Sebastians all day, and would, too, even using the same target over and over, around and around, if he didnt know better, know what it could do to him. Control the impulses, dont let yourself get into endless repetitions, the repetitions building the mania, the mania feeding on itself, the St. Sebastians shredding into the unrecognizable and still the desire growing for more, thats where the darkness lay, that was the loss of control that had to be guarded against.

(Upstairs in the embassy, they knew. When it would happen that his laughter, deep and rolling, would rise up from the gunnery range in the embassys subbasement, louder than the shooting, the security people knew it was time to descendcautiouslytalk with Zelkev, call him by nameHow are you, Zelkev? When do you think this rain will stop, Zelkev? Are those new shoes, Zelkev?until it was possible to disarm him, take him upstairs, medicate him, and not permit him to leave the embassy grounds for three or four days.)

Well, that hadnt happened for months now, six months, seven, something like that. Hed been good; hed kept himself under control; hed not let any of the little dark imps run away with him. On the other hand, he hadnt had any work to do either, not for such a long time. You cant practice forever. St. Sebastian fills in for only so long.

This afternoon, he rode the elevator up from the gunnery range feeling logy, out of shape and out of sorts, and when he stepped out to the second-floor corridor where his room was, Ulffin was just coming down toward him and stopped to say, I was just sent for you.

I have done nothing, Zelkev said.

Memli wants a word with you, Ulffin told him.

Ill wash, and then see him. Ive been shooting. Of course, hed always been shooting, but it was necessary to say these things.

Ill tell him, and Ulffin scuttled off, afraid of him as they all were afraid of him, though when had he ever harmed anyone in the embassy? Never.

His room was a monks cell, with its hard single bed, small metal dresser, metal table with the television set on it, metal chair. A tall man, angular, with close-cropped blond hair and a square boxlike head featuring unemotional blue eyes, a small sharp-looking nose, and narrow bloodless lips, Zelkev stepped through into his bathroom, washed the shooting from his face and hands, returned to the bedroom to change to a cleaner and more formal shirt and pants, then went downstairs to the main floor and Memlis office. He moved with a certain stiffness, as though at one point hed been taken apart and then a bit awkwardly put back together again, but in fact he could move with a great deal of grace and control, when necessary.

Memli, who always wore his army uniform in a useless attempt to distract from the sloppiness of his body, was Zelkevs superior officer at the embassy, the military attach'e. He looked up from his desk when Zelkev entered his office, tried not to look frightened, and said, Ah, Zelkev, good news. Harbin has been found.

Zelkev smiled, an honest smile of pleasure and anticipation. He seated himself across from Memli and said, In America?

Oh, yes, hes still in America. Memli looked with some satisfaction at documents on his desk. You remember, wed learned hed bought a new identification.


Oh, you remember the name, good.

He got away from me, Zelkev said, with remembered annoyance. I never forget the ones that get away from me.

Well, heres your second chance. Memli held up a document, gazed from it to Zelkev. Fredric Eustace Blanchard. He has taken a position in rural Pennsylvania. There was some criminal activity that got into the newspapers, and a friend noticed Blanchards name. He is acting as personal private secretary to a disgraced American businessman named Monroe Hall.

The name meant nothing to Zelkev. Only the name Fredric Eustace Blanchard meant anything to him. He said, You have the address?

Hes in a protected compound.

So many of them are.

Unfortunately, Memli said, we still dont have a photograph. Not since the plastic surgery was done.

I dont care what he looks like, Zelkev said, and stood to take the document from Memli. Good-bye, he said.

| The Road to Ruin | c