An Alex Krycek backstory for the Sanctuary universe
Another boy, another trek
Word had leaked to the media that a chess wunderkind in protective custody in the D.C. area had been kidnapped, and the men upstairs didn't want to take a chance on any of their Fort Marlene employees recognizing the kid; hell, they might start to question what they were actually working on. Still, it came as a shock when I was told I'd been elected to play chauffeur, hauling the kid to a consortium research facility in the New Mexico desert, out of reach of the snooping media.
You've got to figure: you're dealing with a potential escapee, but you're handing him over to a guy with one arm. Why? Beyond that, the kid had a spooky, all-knowing sort of way about him. I'd been there when the old man passed him off to the Brit; the kid had called the Brit a liar to his face. It'd been funny at the time; I'd had to work to keep from laughing out loud. But it wouldn't be nearly so amusing if the kid's mind were trained on me. The old men had a penchant for exaggeration--not everything critical in the world revolved around them and their plans--but if this chess kid could read minds with anywhere near the accuracy they were claiming, my vaccine project could land right in the kid's spotlight.
I wondered if this was my kiss of death from the Brit. I'd obviously been getting nowhere fast in my attempts to access the vaccine lately and he could be figuring it was time to cut me loose, that I had nothing more to offer him. Hell, he'd been anything but accommodating the past month or so. If he was still on my side, he would have been working his manicured fingers off to get this babysitting job assigned where it belonged: with some green hire eager to prove himself.
Or maybe it was the old man who was behind giving this assignment.
It would be like him: watch me squirm, see where the probing led, what he could learn from it to use against me. If the kid were for real, hauling him would be like setting a psychic tape recorder in the car with me. Afterward he could have the kid regurgitate whatever he'd dug out of my head.
Trouble was, I was in no position to turn down an assignment that came from the board room. And desperate as I was to get my hands on the Cali vaccine, I'd just given it my best try and we'd failed. Much as my instinct was to launch right back, shoulder first, into the brick wall that was FarmaCol, another part of me knew it wasn't going to get me anywhere. I needed to back off, take a breath. Without a clear head, I was going to miss my opportunity, whatever that might turn out to be. I didn't want to wait, and this trek with the kid wasn't my idea of a way to clear my head, but as far as I could see, I didn't have much of a choice. I was just going to have to tough it out and hope the few days off would give me the perspective I was looking for.
The Brit did drop by before I went to pick up the kid. He put on a show of concern and supplied me with more than enough drugs to keep the kid out of it for the duration in the interest of not having my mind picked. The plan was to let the boy come around only long enough to eat, clean up and get himself between the rental car and a motel room under his own power, since there was no way I could carry a twelve-year-old with only one good arm. Then it would be back to dreamland. If I pushed myself, I should be able to make the trip in two days, with only one motel stop--a single point of potential exposure. At least, that's what I told myself. Even so, I wasn't looking forward to this in the least. I'm not cut out to be anybody's damn nanny.
On the road with the kid laid across the back seat, safely out of it, my mind couldn't stop piecing together scenarios to get me to the vaccine. Arizábal had done just what Marita asked him to--protect the vaccine--but given the turn in our circumstances, he'd taken things way too far. I was willing enough to take him out if would do any good, but realistically, without him I was never going to access those 24,000 doses of potentially planet-saving vaccine that were gathering dust, not to mention the ones that could still be produced Fear was a good motivator for a family man, though. I could point my 9mm at his wife, parents, kids, whoever if I had to. How far would I have to press him before he'd crack? The idea of shooting kids had always hit me like a punch in the gut, but with the world at stake... Life sucks. Maybe I could hand the dirty work over to Raul, though I had no idea whether he'd be willing or capable; we'd never discussed him doing that kind of shit. Damn the stupid bitch who'd spent so long setting up a way to save the world and then dumped out on it. No hope was better than false hope exposed for what it really was.
I'd barely crossed from Virginia into Tennessee when the air conditioning in the rental car went out. I kept checking the back seat, and it didn't take long for the kid's cheeks to start turning red. I had to stop every hour or so to re-soak a couple of towels to keep him cool, but there was no break from the heat for me. By the time we hit Memphis, I'd started to weave, and aside from that I stank from sweating into the seat for sixteen straight hours. Past midnight and it was still 84 degrees and as humid as a sauna. I got a motel room, stumbled inside and took a shower while I waited for the kid to come around in the car. When he did, I managed to coax him inside. He was still pretty groggy, which I figured gave me an advantage. Stupid fucking assignment. I sent him in to take a piss, and when he came out again, I gave him a carton of milk laced with the drugs, and he was gone again. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow...
... And woke up nine hours later from jumbled dreams, feeling like shit: achy all over, nausea, headache. And an empty bed beside me. No sign of my cargo. Adrenaline surged through me and I managed to stumble into my clothes and head out looking for him, fear of what the old men would do to me if I'd lost him competing with the feeling of sickness and the pounding in my head.
Found the kid a few minutes later in the motel's breakfast room, glued to the TV. It looked like Diana'd been right about TV sucking up the kid's concentration. I wanted to wring his neck, not smile, but I was posing as the dad and the desk clerk had an eye on me.
"Hey," I said, trying for a casual delivery. "Missed you."
Gibson looked up; a startled look passed through his eyes, but he smoothed it over quickly enough. "I was hungry," he said, matter of fact. Then he got off his chair and came with me back to the room.
I didn't get it.
"Why didn't you take off while you had the chance?" I said when I'd locked the door behind us.
"I'm a kid." He gave me an exasperated 'you should get it' look. "I don't have any money."
I shook my head. "Nice try," I said. "You could've run to anyone, say you'd been kidnapped. Isn't that what they tell kids to do?"
Gibson crawled onto the bed, a struggle given those short legs of his, and settled himself. His face changed from that impassive Little Guru look to serious.
"Because I knew what you'd do to me if I tried it. How you'd come after me--"
My head was pounding but I made myself move toward the mini-fridge and reached inside to grab a carton of milk.
"Dreamtime," I said, opening the carton and fishing in my pocket for one of the capsules.
One-handed it would be a bitch, and anyway, I was getting pretty shaky; all I wanted was to lie down before I collapsed. So I made the kid open it and pour the little beads into the milk.
"I don't care about whatever's inside your mind," he said in the same matter-of-fact voice he'd used to tell the Brit he was a liar. "I don't want to know. It's why I went to the breakfast room. So I wouldn't hear you."
"Yeah, well, don't fall over yourself doing me any favors. Drink."
I nodded toward the carton and the kid drank it down. I sank onto the side of my bed, propped my head in my good hand and counted the thud-thud-thud of the pain pounding through my forehead. I was sweating like a pig. And in no shape to go anywhere; that was pretty clear. We'd be spending at least the better part of the day here... and that was a best-case scenario. I just hoped what I was feeling was the effect of all those miles in a heat wave with no air conditioning, and not the onset of something worse.
When I looked up again, the kid was lying on his back, his hands folded over his belly, glassy-eyed.
I reached down, pushed off my shoes and stood. By rights I should be in Cali, talking to people, making connections, watching Arizábal's every move. I glanced a few seconds at the body in the next bed before I pulled the blankets up to cover him. He was a strange little kid, Gibson, one leg shorter than the other so that he kind of ambled when he walked, like an old man. Then there was the matching attitude: a kind of resigned calmness, like he was two or three layers removed from face-to-face reality. If he actually had any idea what the old men were like--what they might have in store for him--then why the hell hadn't he done the smart thing and taken off?
"You should've run," I said as I headed for the bathroom to scrounge up some ibuprofen. How smart could he really be? Hell if I would've stuck around if I were him.
Then I pretty much collapsed into bed and slept away the better part of the day. No dreams that I could recall, either. I woke up late in the afternoon feeling better than before, and just in time to catch the local rental company office and get them to swap out the car for one with working AC. The kid was beginning to stir, and I knew I was going to have to get some food into him, so I told him I was going to head over to the restaurant across the parking lot to eat, and that he should use the time to take a shower. It would give me some time to think at a safe distance, and anyway, I was hungry. I let the kid know I'd be sitting where I could see the door to the room, so he'd better stay put. All I got from that was a mild eye roll. The only other possible exit from the room was a high window in the bathroom, above the shower, and I figured he didn't have the strength or the agility to get to it.
All he asked was whether he could watch TV when he was done, and if he could have fried chicken and a milkshake.
Getting some food into my stomach helped. I resolved to try to focus on the task at hand rather than stewing over what it was keeping me from. No use giving myself an ulcer. I wasn't ready for any driving marathon, but on the other hand, nighttime driving would be cooler, with less traffic. It was a little after 7 p.m. There was the problem of timing with the kid: if I put him under now, it would be another eight hours before he came around again, which meant eight more hours stuck where I was. On the other hand, if we started soon, two hours should get us to Little Rock, another two-plus to Ft. Smith near the Oklahoma border. I could stop for a few hours' rest in either of those places if I needed to. However far I got, I'd be that much closer to my destination, and to seeing this assignment finished. Then I could get back to figuring out how to get my hands on the Cali vaccine.
After the kid had eaten, I took him out to the car. He knew what was coming.
"I don't like milk that much," he said. "Could you mix it in juice or soda or something this time?"
"Milk's good for you."
He shrugged. "What do you care? You're just turning me over to them." No anger, just more of that detached delivery that was really starting to get under my skin.
"They told me to mix it with milk. Maybe it reacts badly with something else." Not that I owed him any explanations. "Anyway, it's already in the milk." I handed him the carton. "Go on. Drink."
He sighed, but he drank it. When he'd finished, he looked up. "You know they're going to be looking for me--my parents and the police. You can't just hide me forever."
I snorted, but not because it was funny. The kid had no idea--absolutely no idea. "Lie down," I said, and shut the car door. So that was his plan: he was just going to wait it out, expecting the cavalry to come and save him.
He sure as hell didn't know these men. You didn't get away from them.
I'd been a kid once, too. Nobody had ever come for me.
I waited a half a minute or so and glanced back through the window. The kid was getting glassy-eyed but he turned and looked at me, an expression of confusion or worry or... I don't know. I couldn't tell, except that it wasn't a look I'd seen on him before.
Whatever it was, it was enough to make me turn away. I locked the doors, went back to get our bags and checked the room one last time. Then I returned to the car, checked to see that the kid was out and drove west into the fading evening light.
The kid's expression from a few minutes earlier stuck in my head like a lingering dark spot from glancing at the sun. Had he seen something inside me? I wanted to err on the side of caution in my assumptions about the kid, but I couldn't see him pulling anything coherent from it. Given the drugs he'd just ingested, any view he'd gotten was likely to be murky and distorted, like something seen through a fun house mirror. I knew; I'd been in that position myself.
Beyond that, when you came right down to it, in spite of the old men's panic about his potential, he was just a kid. The boy might be a mind reader, but that didn't necessarily make him this huge threat. When I thought about it, the old men had reacted like a bunch of elephants who'd spotted a mouse. Would a twelve-year-old--especially one with any smarts--actually try to tell someone that he knew about a shadowy conspiracy of international power brokers? Would he expect anybody to believe him? At the age of eleven--a year younger than my cargo--the old man had decided it was time for me to get acquainted with the entity that would be taking over our planet by watching one of the black oil 'experiments' they were doing at a prison camp. Did I try to tell anybody what I'd seen?
Okay, beside the fact that the old man had warned me with a look that sent shivers through me that I was never to tell anyone what I'd seen--ever--I knew what would have happened if I'd said anything at the orphanage. It would have gotten around and the minders would have taken me for a nut job and picked me apart, teasing. And the kids, well... kids who grow up in institutions are like sharks; they pick up on the scent of blood almost instantly. Let's see: psychiatric drugs, institutionalization, or just good old-fashioned peer torment. No thanks. Instead, I made sure to keep what I knew--and the terror that would creep up on me in my dreams--to myself.
When I thought about it, though, I realized there'd always been a kind of disconnect in my head between my everyday world and what I'd seen at the camp. It was almost like the Oil was a puzzle piece that didn't fit, a rogue image my mind had made up. Sometimes I wasn't sure whether it was real or just the residue of a particularly vivid nightmare. Maybe this kid Gibson was stuck in the same kind of rut--not able to wrap his mind around the fact that what was happening to him was all too real.
After two hours I hit Little Rock. The sun was finally going down and it was obvious that the sickness I'd fought earlier in the day was taking its toll on my stamina. I pulled off at a park along the way, splashed some water on my face, drank a soda for the caffeine and walked around for a few minutes to clear my head, but I didn't spend long because it was just as hot as the night before and I couldn't afford to leave the kid in a closed-up car to bake. Which was also the reason I wasn't going to be able to pull off anywhere along the side of the road and just sack out for a while: without the air conditioning, it would just be too damn hot. So I got back into the car and drove on.
About an hour out of Little Rock there was a sign for a state park beside a lake and I decided to take a chance on it. Found a spot right next to the water, in their empty visitor center parking lot, where there was enough of a breeze off the lake to make things tolerable, and sacked out in the front seat. I woke up once, around midnight, cooled the kid down with wet towels and drifted off again, only to find myself snagged in a dream about the Alberta outpost, sitting at the dinner table with Jeremiah Smith's creepy clone kids on those long wooden benches, the way I had four years earlier--empty-eyed kids, cogs in the wheel of a 'greater purpose'.
Maybe it was the dream that sparked the connection to the kid in the back seat. Or maybe not. But about 3 a.m., when Gibson's drugs started to wear off, the realization started to filter through as my head began to clear. I didn't know why I hadn't seen it before: the old men weren't having me haul the kid off just because they were afraid of him. They were planning on using him. A science experiment, a weapon--whatever--but the kid was destined for some sort of personal hell, and I was the one who was going to be delivering him to its front door.
I felt my good hand curl into a fist. If it weren't for the risk of injuring the only usable hand I had, I would have punched the wall.
Gibson was starting to come around in the back seat, moaning a little and starting to shift around, restless. Obviously he was overheated again. I forced away my grogginess and sat up. On the one hand, I knew I'd better not be delivering a sick kid to the jaws of the dragon. On the other...
On the other, I needed a chance to clear my head. Alone.
I scanned the shadows around us, looking for an
option that would keep my mind safe from mental prying. What kind of distance
would be involved in getting beyond the range of the kid's radar?
I cleared my throat. "You know, you could cool off in the water for a while." I pointed out the passenger window. "The kiddy beach is right there. You can see it roped off--look. Water in the shallows has had the whole day to warm up. Bet it's nice."
Gibson sat up and peered out into the darkness. "But it's the middle of the night."
Honestly this was the first time I'd heard any real degree of expression in his voice, even if it was obvious he thought I was nuts.
"So? What difference does it make?" I gestured toward the water's edge. "You're hot. There's enough moonlight to see where you're going." I paused. "It pays to be flexible, look at whatever options come your way."
"But I don't have any swim trunks." I could almost feel the kid frown.
"Use your underwear. Who's going to see you? You've got underwear, right?"
After a pause, I heard a little sigh and he nodded.
"Go on," I said, nodding toward the towels on the seat beside him. "Cool off while you can. I'll keep an eye on you."
Okay, so I hadn't anticipated the way that last part would come out, but Gibson seemed not to catch it. He picked a towel from the heap on the seat, pulled his shirt over his head and worked his pants and shoes off. Then he opened the car door and stepped out onto the pavement.
"Home's like this," he said, looking around. "It stays hot."
Like a sauna. I shook my head. I'd take winter in the Urals any day over this humidity you couldn't get away from. "Better wrap that towel around you--make yourself less of a target for mosquitoes."
Gibson looked up at me, just a split-second thing. He seemed... I don't know, maybe curious. Then he pulled the towel snug around his shoulders and started toward the water. I glanced around for park patrols: no moving lights, nothing.
I let my head drop back against the headrest, then pulled up and slammed the side of my fist against the steering wheel. Damn the old vultures.
The old man, given some time, would probably think about the similarities--what I'd lived through as a kid, then hauling this boy off to be a slave to somebody else's purpose. I could picture that sick smirk of his. Or maybe he'd already thought of it; maybe it had given him a reason to push for giving me this job.
If he had, I wasn't going to let him win. I knew how to hold my focus. There was a job to finish, and an even bigger job to get back to. Anyway, it was the way the world worked: people got caught up in the nets of creeps and schemers--or just plain bad luck--all the time. Kids included. If he had the smarts, the kid would get himself out of the old men's trap one way or another.
I squinted at the clock on the dashboard and then turned my attention to Gibson, who was standing in the shallows, bent over, hands flat on the surface, testing the temperature of the water. After a few seconds he waded in to his calves. A couple of tentative kicks to spray water, a few more steps out--quicker now--until the water was up to his knees. Then he was squatting down, lying on his belly in the shallows. Within another thirty seconds he was the silhouette of any kid, anywhere, splashing and playing, soaking up the freedom of the water.
For a minute, not thinking, I smiled. I remembered times like that... here and there. Moments when the clamps of life would loosen without warning and suddenly it was like the universe had turned inside out; for a few minutes you were in a different world, feeling almost weightless, no burdens on your back.
I got out of the car and started to walk the edge of the parking lot to stretch my legs. We should take off soon and there'd be more than enough sitting over the next few hours. Every few yards I'd glance back at the shadows where Gibson was. The kid would have to toughen himself up--start to be more aware and pro-active. Look out for his own best interest. Memories of the orphanage started to filter in, but I pushed them away, quickened my pace and focused on the rhythm of my feet.
Eventually, Gibson came back to the car.
"I'm done now," he announced, reaching in for a drier towel. The ordinary kid letting loose in the water was gone and he was his serious self again. He rubbed his hair and stopped short.
"What?" I asked.
"I don't have any dry underwear. What am I going to--"
"Just leave 'em on. They'll dry along the way."
"Are we going to leave now?"
"I'm kind of hungry..."
But knowing the kid, he wasn't going to ask me to get him anything.
"There's a little town a couple of miles back, on the way to the highway," I said. "We can pick you up something there."
Gibson climbed in and buckled his seat belt. "Thanks," he said as we pulled out of the parking lot.
I didn't know what the thanks was for--the fact that he'd be getting food or that I'd let him swim. But I didn't ask. Hell, I was hardly his savior.
At a 24-hour place I picked the kid up some eggs and hash browns to eat in the car, and that milkshake he'd been hoping for. The drugs went into it; he managed to make his way through about half of it before he conked out. Then it was onto the highway again in the dark. It had gotten down to about 70 degrees, so for the first few hours I drove with the windows down, letting the air blow through the car to keep me alert and dry the kid's underwear. Once the sun came up, though, I had to close up and switch on the AC again. I had five hours left of my eight-hour window, and I wanted to make the most of it.
Which I did. By the time Gibson came around, a little after noon, I'd reached Amarillo in the Texas panhandle. I was bushed, so I got a motel, took him inside and put him under again before he was awake enough to realize what was happening. Something in the back of my head was telling me these back-to-back doses might have their downsides, but I needed the rest. That, and I was getting tired of having to face the kid with another cup of dissolved drugs.
Once Gibson was out, I hit the sack. The constant driving must have been starting to add up, because I overslept the kid's eight-hour mark by a couple of extra hours. When I came around and managed to focus on the clock, I pulled up, gasping. But the room was dark; the breathing in the next bed was light and even. Gibson was still asleep.
Ten at night. My head was thick and I wanted like anything to roll over and drift off again, but the question kept nagging at me: Why wasn't Gibson awake? Were the effects of the drugs starting to compound, or were they starting to affect him in some way we hadn't counted on? I'd lost the better part of a day's travel time in Memphis, so the kid'd had more doses than either the Brit or I could have anticipated. And he'd need one more to get us to the facility outside Socorro.
I crawled out of bed, turned on the light in the bathroom and went back into the shadows to look at the boy. He was out, alright--not faking it. The pulse in his neck was strong and regular, and he didn't seem overheated. Still, something felt off and it left me restless. I headed for the shower, hoping to find some sort of clarity in the spray of hot water. The only kind that came was that I was hauling a soft-skinned, wobbly-legged twelve-year-old with absolutely no agenda--a kid who only wanted to go home and get back to his sheltered life--to a place where he was going to be a bunch of researchers' new lab monkey.
Which was the last thing I needed to be thinking about.
I finished up in the shower, toweled off and dressed. Might as well get started. It was 10:45 and I was only five road-hours from my destination. After that, I could clear this whole trip out of my head and get my focus back to where it should be--on how to access the vaccine.
Enough things were running through my mind that I was caught completely off-guard, opening the bathroom door, to find Gibson standing in front of the dresser, staring at my prosthesis. His eyes got big and a finger pulled back quickly when he saw me.
"You need to use the bathroom, you better do it," I said, clearing my throat, and I waited until the door had shut behind him to dig into my bag for a clean socket liner. The last thing I needed was anybody gawking at my arm--the fake one or what I had left of the original. Then again, the kid had seemed really spooked. I don't know whether he'd been more freaked out by the arm itself or the fact that I'd caught him staring at it.
By the time he came out, I had the car packed and ready to go. Gibson was hungry again, and I picked him up some yogurt and orange juice at a gas station convenience store when I filled the car. When I opened the door to hand him the food, he was frowning.
"My stomach hurts."
"You should eat something. It's been a good eighteen hours since the lake. Maybe that's part of the problem--you just need something in your stomach."
He didn't look convinced. I unhooked the gas nozzle from the car, tightened down the gas cap and drove around to the side of the station to wait for Gibson to eat. A sigh came from the back seat and I turned around. The kid was staring at the yogurt container and the bottle of juice, wondering which one held the drugs.
"Start with the juice," I said.
He peeled the little strip off the cap and paused. "Can I ask you something?"
I shrugged. "What?"
"Do people ever make fun of you because of your arm? Kids make fun of me because I'm lopsided and I walk funny." He frowned. "Sometimes they call me Grandpa."
"They stare sometimes." I rubbed my thumb hard against the steering wheel. "But you have to not let it get to you. You know who you are, what you can do." I glanced behind me. "Sometimes that can be an advantage--when they underestimate you."
"I guess," he said, but he didn't look convinced.
"Eat," I said. "We need to get moving."
Gibson gave a sigh and took a drink of the orange juice. I started the car and pulled out onto the road. I'd stop five miles or so down the 1-40, when Gibson had eaten enough of the yogurt to knock himself out, and I'd lay him out on the seat.
I traveled the rest of the way in the dark, though I figure I didn't miss much in the way of scenery given the scrub desert that stretches between Amarillo and Albuquerque. Past midnight, the air turned fresh and I drove with the windows down. I tried to focus on what was ahead--what my next move would be in trying to break into the Fort Knox that was FarmaCol, and how I was going to keep my movements hidden from the old man, because there was no question he'd be watching me. Still, memories of life in the orphanage lurked in the shadowed corners of my mind like cobwebs, hard to see until I'd walked right into them... and even harder to brush away.
On the last leg of the trip, south of Albuquerque, the sky began to lighten, the landscape taking shape around me in dark silhouettes, then in weak blues and yellows that gradually grew brighter and more intense, a gorgeous show that made the surrounding mountains stand out like rows of dark teeth.
Just after five I reached the facility, with sunrise not far off. I pulled into the parking lot, switched off the motor, turned back to check on Gibson--still dead to the world--and got out to stretch. I sure as hell wasn't going to miss this constant driving. Then I opened the kid's door and stood there just looking at him. Finally I went around to the trunk, got his things and took them over to the office and rang the bell. There was a dull buzzing in my stomach. I hadn't noticed it before; I'd been too focused on driving to think about being hungry. I'd have to stop somewhere on the way back to Albuquerque--that is, if I came across anyplace open at this hour--and get myself something to eat.
Eventually a thin, graying short-haired woman in scrubs showed up and unlocked the door. I told her what I was there for.
"Is the subject ambulatory? Do you need help?" she asked with about as much interest as if she were asking about about a delivery of towels. She picked up a clipboard with Gibson's name on it and started to look it over.
When I didn't answer, she looked up.
"Yeah, I guess," I said. "He's... asleep."
The woman called for someone to bring a wheelchair, and I headed for the car. The back seat smelled of sweaty kid. I gathered up Gibson's shoes and socks, stuffed the food containers into the paper bag they'd come in, and took a last glance at the kid: those geeky round glasses, one smooth cheek red from being pressed against the seat back, an arm hugging his stomach.
Across the parking lot, a door slammed shut and the clattering wheels of a gurney came closer. Involuntarily, I swallowed.
When the guys with the gurney reached the car, I went around to the trunk and arranged the stuff inside it. Sentimentality was a trap. I'd been smart enough to know that at nine years old, so I wasn't sure why I was having to remind myself now.
The trip north was quiet. I passed an all-night diner on the way out of Socorro, but the thought of sitting around didn't suit me and I told myself I could always find food in Albuquerque while I was waiting for my flight out. I tried listening to the radio but the reception was bad, and anyway, there's only so much ranchero music you can take. So I shut it off and listened to the wind roaring past the window.
At the edge of Albuquerque, I missed my turn-off and had to take the next one. It turned out--just my luck--to be Gibson Boulevard. I told myself it was just a crazy coincidence and kept going. Within four hours, I was airborne and on my way back to New York, mission complete.
But later, looking back, I could see how the
whole trip with the kid had been like the start of the kind of hairline crack that wedges
itself open wider over time. Which, given everything else that was about to
happen, was the last thing I needed.
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