فصل 15

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فصل 15

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15

“More tea, Professor Bishop?”

“Hmm?” I looked up at the preppy young man with the expectant expression. “Oh. Yes. Of course.

Thank you.”

“Right away.” He whisked the white porcelain teapot from the table.

I looked toward the door, but there was still no sign of Matthew. He was at Human Resources getting his identification badge while I waited for him in the rarefied atmosphere of the nearby New Haven Lawn Club. The hushed confines of the main building dampened the distinctive plonk of tennis balls and the screaming children enjoying the pool during the last week of summer vacation. Three brides-to-be and their mothers had been escorted through the room where I was sitting to view the facilities they would enjoy should they be married here.

This might be New Haven, but it was not my New Haven.

“Here you are, Professor.” My attentive waiter was back, accompanied by the fresh scent of mint leaves. “Peppermint tea.”

Living in New Haven with Matthew was going to require some adjustment. My little row house on the tree-lined, pedestrians-only stretch of Court Street was far more spartan than any of the residences we’d occupied over the last year, whether in the present or the past. It was furnished simply with flea market finds, cheap pine furniture left over from my graduate-student days, and shelf upon shelf of books and journals. My bed didn’t have a footboard or a headboard, never mind a canopy. But the mattress was wide and welcoming, and at the end of our long drive from Madison the two of us had collapsed into it with groans of relief. We’d spent most of the weekend stocking the house with essentials like any normal New Haven couple: wine from the store on Whitney Avenue for Matthew, groceries for me, and enough electronics to outfit a computer lab. Matthew was horrified that I owned only a laptop. We left the computer store on Broadway with two of everything—one for him and one for me. Afterward we strolled the paths of the residential colleges while the carillon played in Harkness Tower. College and town were just beginning to swell with returning students who shouted greetings across the quad and shared complaints about reading lists and class schedules.

“It’s good to be back,” I had whispered, my hand hooked through his arm. It felt like we were embarking on a new adventure, just the two of us.

But today was different. I felt out of step and out of sorts.

“There you are.” Matthew appeared at my elbow and gave me a lingering kiss. “I missed you.”

I laughed. “We’ve been apart for an hour and a half.”

“Exactly. Far too long.” His attention wandered over the table, taking in the untouched pot of tea, my blank yellow legal pad, and the unopened copy of the latest American Historical Review that we’d rescued from my overstuffed department mailbox on our way to Science Hill. “How was your morning?”

“They’ve taken very good care of me.”

“So they should.” On our way into the grand brick building, Matthew had explained that Marcus was one of the founding members of the private club and that the facility was built on land he’d once owned.

“Can I get you something, Professor Clairmont?”

I pressed my lips together. A small crease appeared in the smooth skin between my husband’s keen eyes.

“Thank you, Chip, but I believe we’re ready to go.”

It was not a moment too soon. I stood and gathered my things, slipping them into the large messenger bag at my feet.

“Can you put the charges on Dr. Whitmore’s account?” Matthew murmured, pulling out my chair.

“Absolutely,” Chip said. “No problem. Always a pleasure to welcome a member of Dr. Whitmore’s family.”

For once I beat Matthew outside.

“Where’s the car?” I said, searching the parking lot.

“It’s parked in the shade.” Matthew lifted the messenger bag from my shoulder. “We’re walking to the lab, not driving. Members are free to leave their cars here, and it’s very close to the lab.” He looked sympathetic. “This is strange for both of us, but the oddness will pass.”

I took a deep breath and nodded. Matthew carried my bag, holding it by the short handle on top.

“It will be better once I’m in the library,” I said, as much for my benefit as his. “Shall we get to work?”

Matthew held out his free hand. I took it, and his expression softened. “Lead the way,” he said.

We crossed Whitney Avenue by the garden filled with dinosaur statuary, cut behind the Peabody, and approached the tall tower where Chris’s labs were located. My steps slowed. Matthew looked up, and up some more.

“No. Please not there. It’s worse than the Beinecke.” His eyes were glued to the unappealing outlines of Kline Biology Tower, or KBT as it was known on campus. He’d likened the Beinecke, with its white marble walls carved into square hollows, to a giant ice-cube tray. “It reminds me of—”

“Your lab in Oxford was no great beauty either, as I recall,” I said, cutting him off before he could give me another vivid analogy that would stay with me forever. “Let’s go.”

It was Matthew’s turn to be reluctant now. He grumbled as we walked into the building, refused to put his blue-and-white Yale lanyard with its magnetized plastic ID card around his neck when the security guard asked him to, continued to complain in the elevator, and was glowering as we looked for the door to Chris’s lab. “It’s going to be fine, Matthew. Chris’s students will be thrilled to meet you,” I assured him.

Matthew was an internationally renowned scholar and a member of the Oxford University faculty. There were few institutions that impressed Yale, but that was one of them.

“The last time I was around students was when Hamish and I were fellows at All Souls.” Matthew looked away in an effort to hide his nervousness. “I’m better suited to a research lab.”

I pulled on his arm, forcing him to stop. Finally he met my eyes.

“You taught Jack all sorts of things. Annie, too,” I reminded him, remembering how he’d been with the two children who had lived with us in Elizabethan London.

“That was different. They were . . .” Matthew trailed off, a shadow flitting through his eyes.

“Family?”

I waited for his response. He nodded reluctantly.

“Students want the same things Annie and Jack did: your attention, your honesty, and your faith in them. You’re going to be brilliant at this. I promise.”

“I’ll settle for adequate,” Matthew muttered. He scanned the hallway. “There’s Christopher’s lab.

We should go. If I’m late, he’s threatened to repossess my ID.”

Chris pushed the door open, clearly frazzled. Matthew caught it and propped it open with his foot.

“Another minute, Clairmont, and I would have started without you. Hey, Diana,” Chris said, kissing me on the cheek. “I didn’t expect to see you here. Why aren’t you at the Beinecke?”

“Special delivery.” I motioned toward the messenger bag, and Matthew handed it over. “The page from Ashmole 782, remember?”

“Oh. Right.” Chris didn’t sound the least bit interested. He and Matthew were clearly focused on other questions.

“You two promised,” I said.

“Right. Ashmole 782.” Chris crossed his arms. “Where’s Miriam?”

“I gave Miriam your invitation and will spare you her response. She will be here when—and if— she chooses.” Matthew held up his ID card. Even the employment office couldn’t take a bad picture of him. He looked like a model. “I’m official, or so they tell me.”

“Good. Let’s go.” Chris took a white lab coat off the nearby rack and shrugged it over his shoulders. He held another out to Matthew.

Matthew looked at it dubiously. “I’m not wearing one of those.”

“Suit yourself. No coat, no contact with the equipment. Up to you.” Chris turned and marched off.

A woman approached him with a sheaf of papers. She was wearing a lab coat with the name CONNELLY embroidered on it and “Beaker” written above it in red marker.

“Thanks, Beaker.” Chris looked them over. “Good. Nobody refused.”

“What are those?” I asked.

“Nondisclosure forms. Chris said neither of you has to sign them.” Beaker looked at Matthew and nodded in greeting. “We’re honored to have you here, Professor Clairmont. I’m Joy Connelly, Chris’s second-in-command. We’re short a lab manager at the moment, so I’m filling in until Chris finds either Mother Teresa or Mussolini. Would you please swipe in so that we have a record of when you arrived?

And you have to swipe out to leave. It keeps the records straight.” She pointed to the reader by the door.

“Thank you, Dr. Connelly.” Matthew obediently swiped his card. He was still not wearing a lab coat, though.

“Professor Bishop needs to swipe in, too. Lab protocol. And please call me Beaker. Everybody else does.”

“Why?” Matthew asked while I fished my ID out of my bag. As usual, it had settled to the bottom.

“Chris finds nicknames easier to remember,” Beaker said.

“He had seventeen Amys and twelve Jareds in his first undergraduate lecture,” I added. “I don’t think he’ll ever recover.”

“Happily, my memory is excellent, Dr. Connelly. So is your work on catalytic RNA, by the way.”

Matthew smiled. Dr. Connelly looked pleased. “Beaker!” Chris bellowed.

“Coming!” Beaker called. “I sure hope he finds Mother Teresa soon,” she muttered to me. “We don’t need another Mussolini.”

“Mother Teresa is dead,” I whispered, running my card through the reader.

“I know. When Chris wrote the job description for the new lab manager, it listed ‘Mother Teresa or Mussolini’ under qualifications. We rewrote it, of course. Human Resources wouldn’t have approved the posting otherwise.”

“What did Chris call his last lab manager?” I was almost afraid to ask.

“Caligula.” Beaker sighed. “We really miss her.”

Matthew waited for us to enter before releasing the door. Beaker looked nonplussed by the courtesy. The door swooshed closed behind us.

A gaggle of white-coated researchers of all ages and descriptions waited for us inside, including senior researchers like Beaker, some exhausted-looking postdoctoral fellows, and a bevy of graduate students. Most sat on stools pulled up to the lab benches; a few lounged against sinks or cabinets. One sink bore a hand-lettered sign over it that said rather ominously THIS SINK RESERVED FOR HAZMAT. Tina, Chris’s perpetually harried administrative assistant, was trying to extricate the filled-out nondisclosure forms from beneath a can of soda without disturbing the laptop that Chris was booting up. The hum of conversation stopped when we entered.

“Oh. My. God. That’s—” A graduate student stared at Matthew and clapped a hand over her mouth.

Matthew had been recognized.

“Hey, Professor Bishop!” A graduate student stood up, smoothing out his lab coat. He looked more nervous than Matthew. “Jonathan Garcia. Remember me? History of Chemistry? Two years ago?”

“Of course. How are you, Jonathan?” I felt several nudging looks as the attention in the room swung in my direction. There were daemons in Chris’s lab. I looked around, trying to figure out who they were. Then I caught the cold stare of a vampire. He was standing by a locked cabinet with Beaker and another woman. Matthew had already noticed him.

“Richard,” Matthew said with a cool nod. “I didn’t know you’d left Berkeley.”

“Last year.” Richard’s expression never wavered.

It had never occurred to me that there would already be creatures in Chris’s lab. I’d visited him only once or twice, when he was working alone. My messenger bag suddenly felt heavy with secrets and possible disaster.

“There will be time for your reunion with Clairmont later, Shotgun,” Chris said, hooking the laptop to a projector. There was a wave of appreciative laughter. “Lights please, Beaker.”

The laughter quieted as the lights dimmed. Chris’s research team leaned forward to see what he had projected on the whiteboard. Black-and-white bars marched across the top of the page, and the overflow was arranged underneath. Each bar—or ideogram, as Matthew had explained to me last night— represented a chromosome.

“This semester we have an all-new research project.” Chris leaned against the whiteboard, his dark skin and white lab coat making him look like another ideogram on the display. “Here’s our subject. Who wants to tell me what it is?”

“Is it alive or dead?” a cool female voice asked.

“Good question, Scully.” Chris grinned.

“Why do you ask?” Matthew looked at the student sharply. Scully squirmed.

“Because,” she explained, “if he’s deceased—oh, the subject is male, by the way—the cause of death might have a genetic component.”

The graduate students, eager to prove their worth, started tossing out rare and deadly genetic disorders faster than they could record them on their laptops.

“All right, all right.” Chris held up his hand. “Our zoo has no more room for zebras. Back to basics, please.”

Matthew’s eyes danced with amusement. When I looked at him in confusion, he explained. “Students tend to go for exotic explanations rather than the more obvious ones—like thinking a patient has SARS rather than a common cold. We call them ‘zebras,’ because they’re hearing hoofbeats and concluding zebras rather than horses.”

“Thanks.” Between the nicknames and the wildlife, I was understandably disoriented.

“Stop trying to impress one another and look at the screen. What do you see?” Chris said, calling a halt to the escalating competition.

“It’s male,” said a weedy-looking young man in a bow tie, who was using a traditional laboratory notebook rather than a computer. Shotgun and Beaker rolled their eyes at each other and shook their heads.

“Scully already deduced that.” Chris looked at them impatiently. He snapped his fingers. “Do not

embarrass me in front of Oxford University, or you will all lift weights with me for the entire month of September.”

Everybody groaned. Chris’s level of physical fitness was legendary, as was his habit of wearing his old Harvard football jersey whenever Yale had a game. He was the only professor who was publicly, and routinely, booed in class.

“Whatever he is, he’s not human,” Jonathan said. “He has twenty-four chromosome pairs.”

Chris looked down at his watch. “Four and a half minutes. Two minutes longer than I thought it would take, but much quicker than Professor Clairmont expected.”

“Touché, Professor Roberts,” Matthew said mildly. Chris’s team slid glances in Matthew’s direction, still trying to figure out what an Oxford professor was doing in a Yale research lab.

“Wait a minute. Rice has twenty-four chromosomes. We’re studying rice?” asked a young woman I’d seen dining at Branford College.

“Of course we’re not studying rice,” Chris said with exasperation. “Since when did rice have a sex, Hazmat?” She must be the owner of the specially labeled sink.

“Chimps?” The young man who offered up this suggestion was handsome, in a studious sort of way, with his blue oxford shirt and wavy brown hair.

Chris circled one of the ideograms at the top of the display with a red Magic Marker. “Does that look like chromosome 2A for a chimp?”

“No,” the young man replied, crestfallen. “The upper arm is too long. That looks like human chromosome 2.”

“It is human chromosome 2.” Chris erased his red mark and started to number the ideograms.

When he got to the twenty-fourth, he circled it. “This is what we’ll be focusing on this semester.

Chromosome 24, known henceforward as CC so that the research team studying genetically modified rice over in Osborn doesn’t get the heebie-jeebies. We have a lot of work to do. The DNA has been sequenced, but very few gene functions have been identified.”

“How many base pairs?” Shotgun asked.

“Somewhere in the neighborhood of forty million,” replied Chris.

“Thank God,” Shotgun murmured, looking straight at Matthew. It sounded like an awful lot to me, but I was glad he was pleased.

“What does CC stand for?” asked a petite Asian woman.

“Before I answer that, I want to remind you that every person here has given Tina a signed nondisclosure agreement,” Chris said.

“Are we working with something that will result in a patent?” A graduate student rubbed his hands together. “Excellent.”

“We are working on a highly sensitive, highly confidential research project with far-reaching implications. What happens in this lab stays in this lab. No talking to your friends. No telling your parents. No boasting in the library. If you talk, you walk. Got it?”

Heads nodded.

“No personal laptops, no cell phones, no photographs. One lab terminal will have Internet access, but only Beaker, Shotgun, and Sherlock will have the access code,” Chris continued, pointing to the senior researchers. “We’ll be keeping lab notebooks the old-fashioned way, written in longhand on paper, and they will all be turned in to Beaker before you swipe out. For those who have forgotten how to use a pen, Bones will show you.”

Bones, the weedy young man with the paper notebook, looked smug. A bit reluctantly the students parted with their cell phones, depositing them in a plastic bucket that Beaker carried around the room.

Meanwhile Shotgun gathered up the laptops and locked them in a cabinet. Once the laboratory had been cleared of contraband electronics, Chris continued.

“When, in the fullness of time, we decide to go public with our findings—and yes, Professor Clairmont, they will one day be published, because that’s what scientists do,” Chris said, looking at Matthew sharply, “—none of you will have to worry about your careers ever again.”

There were smiles all around.

“CC stands for ‘creature chromosome.’”

The formerly smiling faces went blank.

“C-c-creature?” Bones asked.

“I told you there were aliens,” said a man sitting next to Hazmat.

“He’s not from outer space, Mulder,” Chris said.

“Good name,” I told Matthew, who looked bewildered. He didn’t own a TV, after all. “I’ll tell you why later.”

“A werewolf?” Mulder said hopefully. Matthew scowled.

“No more guesses,” Chris said hastily. “Okay, team. Hands up if you’re a daemon.”

Matthew’s jaw dropped.

“What are you doing?” I whispered to Chris.

“Research,” he replied, looking around the room. After a few moments of stunned silence, Chris snapped his fingers. “Come on. Don’t be shy.”

The Asian woman raised her hand. So did a young man who resembled a giraffe with his gingercolored hair and long neck.

“Should have guessed it would be Game Boy and Xbox,” Chris murmured. “Anyone else?”

“Daisy,” the woman said, pointing to a dreamy-eyed creature wearing bright yellow and white clothes who was humming and staring out the window.

“Are you sure, Game Boy?” Chris sounded incredulous. “She’s so . . . um, organized. And precise.

She’s nothing like you and Xbox.”

“Daisy doesn’t know it yet,” Game Boy whispered, her forehead creased with concern, “so go easy on her. Finding out what you really are can freak you out.”

“Perfectly understandable,” Chris replied.

“What’s a daemon?” Beaker asked.

“A highly valued member of this research team who colors outside the lines.” Chris’s response was lightning quick. Shotgun pressed his lips together in amusement.

“Oh,” was Beaker’s mild response.

“I must be a daemon, too, then,” Bones claimed.

“Wannabe,” Game Boy muttered.

Matthew’s lips twitched.

“Wow. Daemons. I knew Yale was a better choice than Johns Hopkins,” Mulder said. “Is this Xbox’s DNA?”

Xbox looked at Matthew in silent entreaty. Daisy stopped humming and was now paying guarded attention to the conversation.

Matthew, Shotgun, and I were the grown-ups in this situation. Telling humans about creatures shouldn’t be left to the students. I opened my mouth to reply, but Matthew put a hand on my shoulder.

“It’s not your colleague’s DNA,” Matthew said. “It’s mine.”

“You’re a daemon, too?” Mulder looked at Matthew with interest.

“No, I’m a vampire.” Matthew stepped forward, joining Chris under the projector’s light. “And before you ask, I can go outside during the day and my hair won’t catch fire in the sunlight. I’m Catholic and have a crucifix. When I sleep, which is not often, I prefer a bed to a coffin. If you try to stake me, the wood will likely splinter before it enters my skin.”

He bared his teeth. “No fangs either. And one last thing: I do not, nor have I ever, sparkled.”

Matthew’s face darkened to emphasize the point.

I had been proud of Matthew on many previous occasions. I’d seen him stand up to a queen, a spoiled emperor, and his own awe-inspiring father. His courage—whether fighting with swords or struggling with his own demons—was bone-deep. But nothing compared to how I felt watching him stand before a group of students and his scientific peers and own up to what he was.

“How old are you?” Mulder asked breathlessly. Like his namesake, Mulder was a true believer in all things wondrous and strange.

“Thirty-seven.”

I heard exclamations of disappointment. Matthew took pity on them.

“Give or take about fifteen hundred years.”

“Holy shit!” Scully blurted, looking as though her rational world had been turned inside out.

“That’s older than old. I just can’t believe there’s a vampire at Yale.”

“You’ve obviously never been to the astronomy department,” Game Boy said. “There are four vampires on the faculty there. And that new professor in economics—the woman they hired away from MIT—is definitely a vamp. Rumor has it there are a few in the chemistry department, but they keep to themselves.”

“There are witches at Yale, too.” My voice was quiet, and I avoided Shotgun’s eyes. “We’ve lived alongside humans for millennia. Surely you’ll want to study all three creature chromosomes, Professor Roberts?”

“I will.” Chris’s smile was slow and heartfelt. “Are you volunteering your DNA, Professor Bishop?”

“Let’s take one creature chromosome at a time.” Matthew gave Chris a warning look. He might be willing to let students pore over his genetic information, but Matthew remained unconvinced about letting them pry into mine.

Jonathan looked at me appraisingly. “So it’s witches who sparkle?”

“It’s really more of a glimmer,” I said. “Not all witches have it. I’m one of the lucky ones, I guess.”

Saying the words felt freeing, and when nobody ran screaming from the room, I was flooded with a wave of relief and hope. I also had an insane urge to giggle.

“Lights, please.” Chris said.

The lights came up gradually.

“You said we were working on several projects?” Beaker prompted.

“You’ll be analyzing this, too.” I reached into my messenger bag and drew out a large manila envelope. It was stiffened with cardboard inserts so that the contents wouldn’t be bent and damaged. I untied the strings and pulled out the page from the Book of Life. The brightly colored illustration of the mystical union of Sol and Luna shone in the lab’s fluorescent lights. Someone whistled. Shotgun straightened, his eyes fixed on the page.

“Hey, that’s the chemical wedding of mercury and sulfur,” Jonathan said. “I remember seeing that in class, Professor Bishop.”

I gave my former student an approving nod.

“Shouldn’t that be in the Beinecke?” Shotgun asked Matthew. “Or somewhere else that’s safe?”

The emphasis he placed on “safe” was so slight that I thought I might have imagined it. The expression on Matthew’s face told me I hadn’t.

“Surely it’s safe here, Richard?” The prince-assassin was back in Matthew’s smile. It made me uncomfortable to see Matthew’s lethal personae among the flasks and test tubes.

“What are we supposed to do with it?” Mulder asked, openly curious.

“Analyze its DNA,” I replied. “The illumination is on skin. I’d like to know how old the skin is— and the type of creature it came from.”

“I just read about this kind of research,” Jonathan said. “They’re doing mtDNA analysis on medieval books. They hope it will help to date them and determine where they were made.”

Mitochondrial DNA recorded what an organism had inherited from all its maternal ancestors.

“Maybe you could pull those articles for your colleagues, in case they’re not as well read as you are.” Matthew looked pleased that Jonathan was up to date on the literature. “But we’ll be extracting nuclear DNA as well as mtDNA.”

“That’s impossible,” Shotgun protested. “The parchment has gone through a chemical process to turn skin into a writing surface. Both its age and the changes it underwent during manufacture would damage the DNA—if you could even extract enough to work with.”

“It’s difficult, but not impossible,” Matthew corrected. “I’ve worked extensively with old, fragile, and damaged DNA. My methods should work with this sample, too.”

There were excited looks around the room as the implications of the two research plans sank in.

Both projects represented the kind of work that all scientists hoped to do, no matter what stage of their career they were in.

“You don’t think cows or goats gave their hide for that page, do you, Dr. Bishop?” Beaker’s uneasy voice quieted the room.

“No. I think it was a daemon, a human, a vampire, or a witch.” I was pretty sure it wasn’t human skin but couldn’t rule it out entirely.

“Human?” Scully’s eyes popped at the idea. The prospect of other creatures being flayed to make a book didn’t seem to alarm her.

“Anthropodermic bibliopegy,” Mulder whispered. “I thought it was a myth.”

“Technically it’s not anthropodermic bibliopegy,” I said. “The book this came from isn’t just bound in creature remains—it’s completely constructed from it.”

“Why?” Bones asked. “Why not?” Daisy replied enigmatically. “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Matthew said, plucking the page from my fingers. “We’re scientists. The whys come after the whats.”

“I think that’s enough for today,” Chris said. “You all look like you need a break.”

“I need a beer,” Jonathan muttered.

“It’s a bit early in the day, but I completely understand. Just remember—you talk, you walk,” Chris said sternly. “That means no talking to each other outside these walls either. I don’t want anyone to overhear.”

“If someone did overhear us talking about witches and vampires, they’d just think we were playing D&D,” Xbox said. Game Boy nodded.

“No. Talking,” Chris repeated.

The door swooshed open. A tiny woman in a purple miniskirt, red boots, and a black T-shirt that read STAND BACK—I’M GOING TO TRY SCIENCE walked through. Miriam Shephard had arrived.

“Who are you?” Chris demanded.

“Your worst nightmare—and new lab manager. Hi, Diana.” Miriam pointed to the can of soda.

“Whose is that?”

“Mine,” Chris said.

“No food or drink in the lab. That goes double for you, Roberts,” Miriam said, jabbing her finger in Chris’s direction.

“Human Resources didn’t tell me they were sending an applicant,” Beaker said, confused.

“I’m not an applicant. I filled out the paperwork this morning, was hired, and got my dog tags.”

Miriam held up her ID card, which was, as mandated, attached to her lanyard.

“But I’m supposed to interview . . .” Chris began. “Who did you say you are?”

“Miriam Shephard. And HR waived the interview after I showed them this.” Miriam pulled her cell phone out of her waistband. “I quote: ‘Have your ass in my lab at nine A.M., and be prepared to explain my mistakes in two hours—no excuses.’” Miriam removed two sheets of paper from her messenger bag, which was stuffed with laptops and paper files. “Who is Tina?”

“I am.” A smiling Tina stepped forward. “Hello, Dr. Shephard.”

“Hello. I’ve got my hiring manifest or health-insurance waiver or something for you. And this is Roberts’s formal reprimand for his inappropriate text message. File it.” Miriam handed over the papers.

She slung the bag from her shoulder and tossed it to Matthew. “I brought everything you asked for, Matthew.”

The entire lab watched, openmouthed, as the bag full of computers sailed through the air. Matthew caught it without damaging a single laptop, and Chris looked at Miriam’s throwing arm with naked admiration.

“Thank you, Miriam,” Matthew murmured. “I trust you had an uneventful journey.” His tone and choice of words were formal, but there was no disguising his relief at seeing her.

“I’m here, aren’t I?” she said caustically. Miriam pulled another piece of paper out of the back pocket on her miniskirt. After examining it she looked up. “Which one of you is Beaker?”

“Here.” Beaker walked toward Miriam, her hand extended. “Joy Connelly.”

“Oh. Sorry. All I have is a ridiculous list of nicknames drawn from the dregs of popular culture, along with some acronyms.” Miriam shook Beaker’s hand, drew a pen out of her boot, and crossed something out. She scribbled something next to it. “Nice to meet you. I like your RNA work. Sound stuff. Very helpful. Let’s go get coffee and figure out what needs to be done to whip this place into compliance.”

“The closest decent coffee is a bit of a hike,” Beaker said apologetically.

“Unacceptable.” Miriam made another note on her paper. “We need a café in the basement as soon as possible. I toured the building on my way up here, and that space is wasted now.”

“Should I come with you?” Chris asked, shifting on his feet. “Not now,” Miriam told him. “Surely you have something more important to do. I’ll be back at one o’clock. That’s when I want to see”—she paused and scrutinized her list—“Sherlock, Game Boy, and Scully.”

“What about me, Miriam?” Shotgun asked.

“We’ll catch up later, Richard. Nice to see a familiar face.” She looked down at her list. “What does Roberts call you?”

“Shotgun.” Richard’s mouth twitched.

“I trust it’s because of your speedy sequencing, not because you’ve taken to hunting like humans.”

Miriam’s eyes narrowed. “Is what we’re doing here going to be a problem, Richard?”

“Can’t imagine why,” Richard said with a small shrug. “The Congregation and its concerns are way above my pay grade.”

“Good.” Miriam surveyed her openly curious new charges. “Well? What are you waiting for? If you want something to do, you can always run some gels. Or unpack supply boxes. There are plenty of them stacked up in the corridor.”

Everyone in the lab scattered.

“Thought so.” She smiled at Chris. He looked nervous. “As for you, Roberts, I’ll see you at two o’clock. We have your article to discuss. And your protocols to review. After that, you can take me to dinner. Somewhere nice, with steak and a good wine list.”

Chris looked dazed but nodded.

“Could you give us a minute?” I asked Chris and Beaker. They moved off to the side, Beaker grinning from ear to ear and Chris pinching the bridge of his nose. Matthew joined us.

“You look surprisingly well for someone who’s been to the sixteenth century and back, Matthew.

And Diana’s obviously enceinte,” Miriam said, using the French word for “pregnant.”

“Thanks. Are you at Marcus’s place?” Matthew asked.

“That monstrosity on Orange Street? No chance. It’s a convenient location, but it gives me the creeps.” Miriam shivered. “Too much mahogany.”

“You’re welcome to stay with us on Court Street,” I offered. “There’s a spare bedroom on the third floor. You’d have privacy.”

“Thanks, but I’m around the corner. At Gallowglass’s condo,” Miriam replied.

“What condo?” Matthew frowned.

“The one he bought on Wooster Square. Some converted church. It’s very nice—a bit too Danish in decor, but far preferable to Marcus’s dark-and-gloomy period.” Miriam looked at Matthew sharply.

“Gallowglass did tell you he was coming with me?”

“No, he did not.” Matthew ran his fingers through his hair.

I knew just how my husband felt: The de Clermonts had switched into overprotective mode. Only now they weren’t protecting just me. They were protecting Matthew as well.

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