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Son of the Morning (Chapter 2)

SHE NEEDED MONEY. Grace stared through the rainy night at the ATM; it was lit like a shrine, inviting her to cross the street and perform its electronic ritual. It was thirty yards away, at most. It would take her only a couple of minutes to reach it, punch in the necessary numbers, and she would have cash in her hand.

She needed to empty out the checking account, and probably a single ATM wouldn't have enough cash on hand to give her that amount, which meant she would have to find another ATM, then another, and every time she did the odds that she would be spotted would increase-as well as the odds of being mugged.

The ATM cameras would all film her, and the police would know where she had been, and when. A sudden image of Ford blasted into her brain, paralyzing her anew with shattering pain.God. oh God. The inhuman, involuntary keen rose in her throat again, rattled eerily against her clenched teeth. The sound that leaked out made a prowling cat freeze with one paw uplifted, its hair standing out. Then the animal turned and leaped and vanished into therainwashed darkness, away from the crouched creature who emitted such a ghostly, anguished sound.

Grace rocked back and forth, pushing the pain deep inside, forcing herself tothink. Ford had bought her safety with his life, and it would be a betrayal beyond bearing if she wasted his sacrifice by making bad decisions.

A slew of late-night withdrawals, allafter the estimated times of death, would cement her appearance of guilt.Kristian would know what time she had left theSiebers ' house, and Ford and Bryant had been killed at roughly that time. They had both been partially undressed, and in Bryant's bedroom.. Parrish had set up the situation with his usual thoroughness; any cop alive would believe she had walked in on a homosexual encounter between her husband and her brother, and killed them both. Her subsequent disappearance was another point against her.

The men with Parrish had been professional in their manner; they wouldn't have done anything sloppy like leave fingerprints. No neighbors would have seen strange cars parked at the house, because they had parked elsewhere and walked to the house. There were no witnesses, no evidence to point to anyone except her.

And even if by some miracle she convinced the police she was innocent, she had no proof Parrish had killed them. She hadseen him do it, but she couldn't prove she had. Moreover, to the cops' way of thinking, he wouldn't have had a motive, while she obviously had plenty of motive. What could she offer as proof? A batch of papers written in a tangle of ancient languages, which she hadn't even deciphered yet, and which Parrish could have gotten from her at any time simply by telling her to turn them over to him?

There was no motive,at least none she could prove. And if she turned herself in, Parrish would get the papers, and she would end up dead. He would make certain of it. It would be made to look as if she'd hung herself, or perhaps a drug overdose would cause a brief scandal about the presence of drugs in jails and prisons, but the end result would be the same.

She had to stay alive, and out of police hands. It was the only chance she had of finding outwhy Parrish had killed Ford and Bryant-and avenging them.

To stay alive, to stay free, she had to have money. To get money, she had to use the ATMs no matter how guilty it made her look.

Would the police freeze her bank account? She didn't know, but if they did they would probably need a court order to do it. That should give her a little time – time she was wasting by huddling behind a trash bin, instead of walking across the street to the ATM and getting out what she could, while she could.

But she felt numb, almost incapable of functioning. The thirty yards might as well have been a hundred miles.

The shiny black surface of the wet pavement reflected the distorted, surreal image of the lights: the brightly colored hues of neon, the stark white of the streetlights, the never ending, monotonous progression of the traffic light through green, yellow, red, over and over, exerting its control over nonexistent traffic. Attwo A.M. there was only an occasional car, and none at all for the past five minutes. No one was in sight. Now was the time to approach the ATM.

But still she crouched there, hidden from view and partially protected from the rain by the overhang of the building and the bulk of the trash bin. Her hair was plastered to her head, her sodden braid hanging limp and rain-heavy down her back. Her clothes were soaked, and even though the night was still unusually warm byMinneapolis standards, the dampness had leached the heat from her body so that she shivered with cold.

She clutched a garbage bag to her chest; it was a small bag, the type sometimes used to line the trash cans in public buildings. She had liberated it from just such a can in the ladies' rest room of the public library. The computer and the precious papers were protected inside the case, but when it had started raining she had panicked at the possibility of them getting wet, and all she could think of using to protect them was a plastic bag.

Maybe it hadn't been smart, going to the library. It was, after all, a public place, and one she frequented. On the other hand, how often did the police search libraries for suspected murderers? It was impossible for Parrish to have gotten a good look at her through that tiny slit in the bedroom curtains, but he certainly guessed she was the one lurking outside the window and had seen everything. He and his men were searching for her, but even though Ford had told them she'd gone to the library she doubted they would think she had goneback to one to hide.

The police might not even have been notified of the murders yet. Parrish couldn't report them without bringing himself into the picture, which he wouldn't want to do. The neighbors wouldn't have heard anything, since the shots had been silenced.

No. The police knew. Parrish wouldn't take the chance of letting days go by before the bodies-her mind stumbled on the word, but she forced herself to finish the thought-were discovered. Was there any way for forensics to tell if the pistol had been fitted with a silencer? She didn't think so. All Parrish would have to do would be to call in a "suspicious noise, like gunshots," at their address, and use a pay phone so nothing would show up on the 911 records.

Both Parrish and his henchmen, and the police, were looking for her. Still, she had gone to the main branch of the library. Instinct had led her there. She was numb with shock and horror, and the library, as familiar to her as her own house, had seemed like a haven. The smell of books, that wonderful mingling of paper and leather and ink, had been the scent of sanctuary. Dazed, at first she had simply wandered among the shelves, looking at the books that had defined the boundaries of her life until a few short hours ago, trying to recapture that sense of safety, of normalcy. It hadn't worked. Nothing would ever be normal again. Finally she had gone into the rest room, and stared in bewilderment at the reflection in the mirror. That white faced, blank-eyed woman wasn'ther, couldn't possibly be Grace St. John, who had spent her life in academia and who specialized in deciphering and translating ancient languages. The Grace St. John she was familiar with, the one whose face she had seen countless times in other mirrors, had happy blue eyes and a cheerful expression, the face of a woman who loved and was loved in return. Content. Yes, she had been content. So what if she was just a little too plump, so what if she could have been the poster girl for Bookworms Anonymous? Ford had loved her, and that WBS" what had counted in her life. "

Ford was dead. It couldn't be. It wasn't real. Nothing that had happened was real. Maybe if she closed her eyes, when she opened them she would find herself in her own bed, and realize it had only been a ghastly nightmare, or that she was having some sort of mental breakdown. That would be a good trade, she thought as she squeezed her eyes shut. Her sanity for Ford's life. She'd go for that any day of the week.

She tried it. She squeezed her eyes really tight, concentrated on the idea that it was just a nightmare and that she was about to wake up, and everything would be all right. But when she opened her eyes, everything was the same. She still stared back at herself in the stark fluorescent light, and Ford was still dead. Ford and Bryant. Husband and brother, the only two people on earth whom she loved, and who loved her in return. They were both gone, irrevocably, finally, definitely gone. Nothing would bring them back, and she felt as if the essence of her own being had died with them. She was only a shell, and she wondered why the framework of bone and skin that she saw in the mirror didn't collapse from its own emptiness.

Then, looking into her own eyes, she'd known why she didn't collapse. She wasn't empty, as she'd thought. There was something inside after all, something wild and bottomless, a feral tangle of terror and rage and hate. She had to fight Parrish, somehow. If either he or the police caught her, then he would have won, and she couldn't bear that.

He wanted the papers. She had only begun to translate them; she didn't know what they contained, or what Parrish thought they contained. She didn't know what was so important about them that he had killed Ford and Bryant, and intended to kill her, merely because they knew these particular papers existed. Maybe Parrish thought she had deciphered more than she actually had. He didn't just want physical possession of the papers, he wanted to erase all knowledge of their existence, and their content. What was in them that her

Husband and brother had died because of them? That was why she had to protect the laptop. Her computer held all her notes, her journal entries, her language programs that aided her in her work. Give her access to a modem, and she could connect to any resource on-line that she needed in her work, and she could continue her translations. She would find out why.Why.

To have any chance of successfully hiding, she had to have cash. Good, untraceable cash.

She had to make herself walk to that ATM. And when she'd emptied it-assuming there was any cash left in it, given the hour-she would have to find another one.

Her fingers were numb, and bloodless. The temperature had remained in the sixties, but she had been wet for hours.

She didn't know where she found the surge of energy that carried her to her feet. Perhaps it wasn't energy at all, but desperation. But suddenly she was standing, even though her knees were so stiff and weak she had to lean against the wet wall for support. She pushed away from the wall, and momentum propelled her several unsteady steps before panic and fatigue dragged at her again, slowing her to a standstill. She clutched the garbage bag to her chest, feeling the reassuring weight of the laptop within the plastic. Rain dripped down her face, and a massive black weight pressed on her chest.Ford. Bryant.

Damn everything. Somehow her feet were moving again, clumsily shuffling, but moving. That was all she required, that they move.

Her purse swung awkwardly from her shoulder, banging against her hip. Her steps slowed, stopped. Stupid! It was a miracle she hadn't already been mugged, wandering back alleys at this time of night with her purse plainly in sight.

She edged back into the shadows, her heart thumping from a surge of panic. For a moment she stood paralyzed, afraid to move as her gaze darted around the dark alley, searching for any of the night predators who prowled the city. The narrow alley remained silent, and her breath sighed out of her. She was alone. Perhaps the rain had worked in her favor, and the homeless, the druggies, the hoodlums, had decided to take shelter somewhere.

She laughed in the darkness, the sound small and humorless. She had grown up inMinneapolis , and she had no real idea which sections of the city she should avoid. She knew her neighborhood, her routes to the university, the libraries, the post office and grocery, doctor and dentist. In the course of her work, and Ford's, she had traveled to six continents and God knows how many countries; she had thought herself well traveled, but suddenly she realized how little she knew of her own city because she had been encapsulated in her own little safe, familiar world. .

To survive, she would have to be a lot smarter, a lot more aware. Street smarts meant a lot more than locking your car doors as soon as you were inside. She would have to be ready for anything, an attack from any quarter, and she would have to be ready to fight. She would have to learn to think like the night predators, or she wouldn't make it a week on the street.

Carefully she slipped the ATM card into her pocket, then huddled once again under the overhanging roof. After depositing the precious, plastic-wrapped computer on her feet, she opened her purse and began ruthlessly sorting through the contents. She took out what cash she had, stuffing it into a pocket of the computer case without bothering to count it; she knew it wasn't much, maybe forty or fifty dollars, because she didn't normally carry much cash. She hesitated over the checkbook, but decided to take it; she might be able to use it, though a paper trail was dangerous. Ditto for the American Express card. She dropped both of them into the plastic bag. Any use they had, though, would be immediate and short-term. She would have to leaveMinneapolis , and after she did, using either checks or a credit card would lead the police right to her.

There were several photos in the plastic pockets. She didn't have to see them to know what they were. Her fingers trembling, she pulled the entire photo protector out of her wallet and slipped it too into the bag.

Okay, what else? There were her driver's license and social security card, but what good were they now? The license would only identify her, which she wanted to avoid, and as for the social security card-a hollow laugh escaped her. She didn't think she had much chance of living to collect social security.

Any identification she left behind would undoubtedly be found and used by the street scavengers, which might help dilute the police search for her if they had to run down leads that had nothing to do with her. She left the cards, and on impulse dug the checkbook out of the plastic bag. After carefully tearing out one check and storing it in the same pocket with her cash, she dropped the checkbook back into her purse.

She left the tube of lip balm, but couldn't bear not having a comb. Another eerie, hollow laugh sounded in her throat; her husband and brother had just been murdered, the police were after her, and she was worried about beingunkempt? Nevertheless, the comb went into the bag.

Her scrabbling fingers touched several pens and mechanical pencils, and without thought she took two of them. They were as essential to her work as the computer, because sometimes, when she was stumped on deciphering a particularly obscure passage or word, actually rewriting the words in her own hand would form a link of recognition between her brain and her eyes, and suddenly she would understand at least some of the words as she saw similarities to other languages, other alphabets. She had to have the pens.

There was her bulky appointment book. She ignored it, shutting it out of her thoughts. It held the minutiae of a life that no longer existed: the appointments and lists and reminders. She didn't want to see the scribbled notation for Ford's next dental cleaning, or the sappy heart he'd drawn on the calendar on herbirthdate .

She left her business cards – she'd never used them much, anyway. She left the small pack of tissues, the spray bottle of eyeglass cleaner, the roll of antacid tablets, the breath mints. She took the metal nail file, tucking it into her pocket. It wasn't much, but it was the only thing she possessed in the way of a weapon. She hesitated over her car keys, wondering if perhaps she could sneak back and get either her car or Ford's truck. No. That was stupid. She left the keys. With both the keys and her address, perhaps whoever found the purse would steal either the car or the truck, or both, and lead the police astray even more.

Chewing gum, rubber bands, a magnifying glass … she identified all of those by feel, and removed only the magnifying glass, which she needed for work. Why had she been carrying so muchjunk around? A flicker of impatience licked at her, the first emotion other than grief and despair that had seeped through the numbness that surrounded her. It wasn't just her purse; she couldn't afford to make any mistakes, carry any excess baggage, let anything interfere with her focus. From this second forward, she would have to do whatever was necessary. There couldn't be any more wasting of precious time and energy because she was paralyzed by fear. She had toact, without hesitation, or Parrish would win.

Grimly she tossed the purse on top of the trash bin, and heard a faint squeak and scrabble as a scavenging rat was disturbed. Somehow she made her feet begin moving again, shuffling across the littered alley, painfully inching from safety to exposure.

The headlights of an approaching car made her freeze just before stepping onto the sidewalk. It passed, tires swishing on the wet pavement, the driver not even bothering to glance at the bedraggled figure standing between two buildings.

The car turned right at the next intersection, and disappeared from view. Grace focused on the ATM, took a deep breath, and walked. She was staring so hard at the brightly lit machine that she missed the curb and stumbled, twisting her right ankle. She ignored the pain, not letting herself stop. Athletes walked off pain all the time; she could do the same.

The ATM loomed closer and closer, brighter and brighter. She wanted to run, to return to the safety of the trash bin. She might as well have been naked; the sensation of being exposed was so powerful that she shuddered, fighting for control. Anyone could be watching her, waiting for her to finish the transaction before mugging her, taking the money, and perhaps killing her in the process. The ATM camera would be watching her now, recording every move.

She tried to recall how much money was in the checking account. Damn it, she'd thrown away the checkbook without looking at the balance! There was no way she was going to go back to that alley and climb into the trash bin to search for her purse, even assuming she could manage the exertion. She would simply withdraw money until the machine stopped her.

The machine stopped her at three hundred dollars.

She stared at the computer screen in bewilderment. "Transaction Denied." Sheknew there was more than that in the account, there was more than two thousand-not a great amount, but it could mean the difference between death and survival for her. She knew there was a limit on what she could withdraw in a single transaction, but why had the machine balked at the second one?

Maybe there wasn't enough cash left in the ATM to fill the request. She started over, punching in her code, and this time she requested only one hundred.

"Transaction Denied." Panic shot through her stomach, twisting it into knots. Dh, God, the police couldn't have frozen the account so soon, could they?

No.No. It was impossible. The banks were closed. Something might be done first thing in the morning, but nothing could have happened yet. The machine was just out of money. That was all it was.

Hurriedly, she stuffed the three hundred dollars into her pockets, dividing it up so that if she were mugged, she might be able to get away with emptying out only one pocket. She only hoped nothing would happen to the computer; she would hand over the money without argument, but she would fight for the computer and those precious files. Without them, she would never know why Ford and Bryant had died, and she had to know. It wouldn't be enough to avenge them; she had to knowwhy.

She began walking hurriedly, desperation driving her numb feet. She had to find another ATM, get more money. But wherewas another one? Until now, she had used only the one located at her local bank branch, but she knew she had seen others. They were located at malls, but malls were closed at this hour. She tried to think of places that were open twenty-four hours a day, and also had ATMs. Grocery stores, maybe? She remembered when she had opened the account, the bank had given her a booklet listing all its ATM "convenient locations," but she wasn't finding them all that damn convenient.

"Gimmethe money." They materialized in front of her, lunging out of an alley so fast she had no time to react. There were two of them, one white, one black, both feral. The white guy jabbed a knife at her, the blade glinting ghostly pale in the rain filtered streetlight. "Don't fuck with me, bitch," he breathed, his breath more lethal than the weapon. "Justgimme the money." He was short a few teeth and a lot of intelligence.

Wordlessly she stuck her hand into her pocket and took out the fold of money. She knew she should be scared, but evidently the human mind could sustain fear only to a certain level, and anything after that simply didn't register.

The black guy grabbed the money, and the other one jabbed the knife closer, this time at her face. Grace jerked her head back just in time to keep the blade from slicing across her chin. "I saw you, bitch. Gimme the rest of it."

So much for her grand scheme; they had probably been watching her from the time she crossed the street. She reached into her other pocket, and managed to wedge her fingers inside the fold so that she brought out only half of it. The black guy snatched it, too.

Then they were gone, pelting back into the alley, melting into the darkness. They hadn't even asked about the plastic bag she carried. They'd been after cash, not something that required extra trouble. At least she still had the computer. Grace closed her eyes, and fought to keep her knees from buckling under the crushing weight of despair. At least she still had the computer. She didn't have her husband, or her brother, but at least she still had… the… damn… computer. The harsh, howling sound startled her. It was a moment before she realized it came from her own throat, another moment before she realized that she was walking again, somehow, somewhere. Rain dripped down at her face, or at least she thought it was rain. She couldn't feel herself crying, but then she couldn't feel herself walking, either; she was simply moving. Maybe shewas crying, useless as that would be. Rain, tears, what difference did it make?

She still had the computer. Computer.Kristian .

Oh, God.Kristian . She had to warn him. If Parrish had any inklingKristianknew about the files, much less part of their content, he wouldn't hesitate to kill the boy.

Pay telephones, thank God, were far more plentiful and convenient than ATMs. She fished some change out of the bag, desperately clutching the coins in her wet palm as she crossed one comer and hurried up the block, then turned at another street, wanting to put plenty of distance between her and the two muggers before she stopped. God, the streets were so deserted, something she would never have imagined in a metro area the size of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Her footsteps echoed; her breathing sounded ragged and uneven, unnaturally loud. The rain dripped from eaves and awnings, and the buildings towered high and close over her, with the occasional lighted window indicating some poor office prisoner pulling an all-nighter. She was a world removed from them, all dry and warm in their steel and glass cocoons, while she hurried through the rain and tried to be invisible.

Finally, panting, she stopped at a pay phone.It wasn't in a booth, they seldom were now, just a phone with three small pieces of clear plastic forming shelters on each side and overhead. At least it had a shelf for her to rest the bag on, propping it in place with her body while she held the receiver between her head and shoulder and fumbled a quarter into the slot. She couldn't rememberKristian's number but her fingers did, dancing in the familiar pattern without direction from her brain.

The first ring was still buzzing in her ear when it abruptly stopped andKristian's voice said, "Hello?" He sounded tense, unusually alert for this time of night-or rather, morning.

"Kris." The word was nothing more than a croak. She cleared her throat and tried again. "Kris, it's Grace."

"Grace, my God! Cops are everywhere, and they said-" He stopped suddenly and lowered his voice, his whisper forceful and almost fierce. "Are you all right? Where are you?"

All right? How could she be all right? Ford and Bryant were dead, and there was a great empty hole in her chest. She would never be all right again. She was, however, physically unharmed, and she knew that was what he was asking. From his question, she also knew that Parrish had indeed called the police; the quiet neighborhood must be in a turmoil.

"I saw it happen," she said, her throat so constricted that her voice sounded like a stranger's, flat and empty. "They're going to say I did it, but I didn't, I swear. Parrish did. I saw him."

"Parrish? Parrish Sawyer, your boss? That Parrish? Are you sure? What happened?"

She waited until the barrage of questions had halted. "Isaw him," she repeated. "Listen, have they questioned you yet?"

"A little. They wanted to know what time you left here." "Did you mention the documents I'm working on?"

"No." His voice was positive. "They asked why you were here, and I said you brought your modem over for me to repair. That's it."

"Good. Whatever you do, don't mention the documents. If anyone asks, just say you didn't see any papers at all."

"Okay, but why?" "So Parrish won't kill you, too." Her teeth began to chatter. Oh, God, she was so cold, the light wind cutting through her wet clothes. "I'm not kidding. Promise me you won't let anyone know you have any idea I was working on anything. I don't know what's in these papers, but he intends to get rid of everyone who knows of their existence."

There was silence on the line, thenKristian said in bewilderment, "You mean he doesn't want us to know about that Knight Templar guy you were trying to track down? He lived seven centuries ago, if he existed at all! Who the hell cares?"

"Parrish does." She didn't know why, but she intended to find out. "Parrish does," she repeated, her voice trailing off.

She listened to his breathing, the sound quick and shallow, amplified by the phone. "Okay, I'll keep my mouth shut. I promise." He paused. "Do you need any help? You can borrow my car-"

She almost laughed. Despite everything, the sound bubbled up in her throat and hung there, unable to work its way past restricted muscles.Kristian's mechanical monument to testosterone was a sure attention-getter, the one thing she most wanted to avoid. "No, thanks," she managed to say. "What I need is money, but the ATM I just tried ran out of cash, and I was mugged as soon as I walked away from it anyway."

"I doubt it," he said. He doubted that she was mugged? "What?" She was so tired she could barely move or think, but surely he couldn't mean that.

"I doubt it was out of money," he said. Suddenly his voice sounded older, taking on the cool intensity that meant he was thinking of computers. "How much did you take out?"

"Three hundred. Isn't that the limit for each transaction? I remember the banker said something about three hundred dollars when we set up our account."

"Not three hundred per transaction,"Kristian patiently explained. "Three hundred perday. You could make as many transactions as you wanted, until the total reached three hundred for that twenty-four-hour period. Each bank sets its own limit, and the limit for your bank is three hundred."

His explanation fell on her like words of doom. Even if she found another ATM, she wouldn't be able to get more money until this time tomorrow morning. She couldn't wait that long. If the police could freeze her account, they would definitely have it done by then. And she needed to get out ofMinneapolis , to find some safe hiding place where she could work on the documents and find out just why Parrish had killed Ford and Bryant. To do that, she had to have money; she had to have access to a phone, to resource material.

"I'm sunk," she said, her tone leaden. "No!" He almost yelled the word. More softly he repeated, "No. I can fix that. How much is your balance?"

"I don't know exactly. A couple of thousand." "Find another ATM," he instructed. "I'll get into your bank's computer, change the limit to … say, five thousand.

Empty out your account, then I'll change the limit back to the original amount. They'll never know how it happened, I promise. "

Hope bloomed inside her, a strange sensation after those past nightmare hours. All she had to do was find another ATM, something easier said than done when she was on foot.

"Look in the phone directory," he was saying. "Every branch of your bank will have an ATM. Pick the closest one and go there."

Of course. How simple. Normally she would have thought of that herself, and the fact that she hadn't was a measure of her shock and exhaustion.

"Okay." Thank heavens, there was still a directory chained to the shelf. She opened the protective cover. Well, there was part of a directory, at least, and it contained the most important part, the Yellow Pages. She thumbed through them until she reached "Banks," and located her own bank, which had sixteen of those so-called convenient locations.

She estimated it would take her half an hour to get to the nearest one. "I'm going now," she said. "I'll be there in thirty to forty-five minutes, unless something happens." She could be picked up by the police, or mugged again, or Parrish and his goons might be out cruising the city, looking for her. None of the things that could happen to her would be pleasant.

"Call me,"Kristian said urgently. "I'll get into the bank's computer now, but call me and let me know if everything went okay."

"I will," she promised. The thirty-minute walk took almost an hour. She was exhausted, and the laptop gained weight with each step she took. She had to hide every time a car went past, and once a patrol car sped through an intersection just ahead of her, lights whirring in eerie silence. The spurt of panic left her weak and shaking, her heart pounding.

Her familiarity with the downtown area was limited to specific destinations. She had lived, gone to school, and shopped in the suburbs. She took a wrong turn and went several blocks out of her way before she realized what she had done, and had to backtrack. She was acutely aware of the seconds ticking away toward dawn, when people would be getting up and turning on their televisions, and learning about the double murder in her quiet neighborhood. The police would have photographs of her, taken from the house, and her face might be on hundreds of thousands of screens. She needed to be somewhere safe before then.

Finally she reached the branch bank, with the lovely ATM on the front of it, all lit up and watched over by the security camera. so if someone got killed right there they'd have a tape of the murder to show on the evening news.

She was too tired to worry about the camera, or the possibility that another couple of jerks might be watching her. Just let someone else try to mug her. The next time, she would fight; she had nothing to lose, because the money meant her life. She walked right up to the machine, took out her bank card, and followed the instructions, asking for a full two thousand.

The obedient machine began regurgitating twenty-dollar bills. It coughed up a hundred of them before it stopped. Dh, blessed automation!

What with the three hundred she had already withdrawn, she didn't think there could be much left. She didn't try to find out the exact amount, not with two thousand dollars in her hand and time pressing hard on her. She darted around the corner and hid herself in the shadows, hunkering down against the wall and hurriedly stuffing bills inside the computer case, in her pockets, in the cups of her bra, inside her shoes. All the while she scanned the area for movement, but the streets were quiet and empty. The night predators would be heading for their lairs now, turning the city back over to the day denizens.

Maybe. She couldn't afford to take any chances now. She needed some kind of weapon, anything, no matter how primitive, with which she could protect herself. She looked around, hoping to find a sturdy stick, but the only things littering the ground were small pieces of glass and a few rocks.

Well, weapons didn't get much more primitive than rocks, did they?

She picked up the biggest ones, slipping all but one into her pocket. That one, the biggest one, she kept clutched in her hand. She was aware of how pitiful this defense was, but at the same time she felt oddly comforted. Any defense was better than none.

She had to callKristian , and she had to get out ofMinneapolis . She wanted nothing more than to lie down and sleep, to be able to forget for just a few hours, but the luxury of rest would have to wait. Instead Grace hurried through the streets as the sky began to lighten, and the sun began to rise on her first day as a widow.

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