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. . it seemed odd she'd be out there knitting at two o'clock in the morning.”


As the librarian recounted what she could recall of Lena's death, confirming that Holly's dream had really been Jim's memory, Holly was touched by both dread and nausea. What Eloise Glynn did not seem to know, what perhaps no one knew, was that Lena had not been in that mill alone.


Jim had been there, too.


And only Jim had come out of it alive.


Holly glanced at him and saw that he had lost all color in his face again.


He was not merely pale. He was as gray as the sky outside.


Mrs. Glynn asked Holly for her driver's license, to complete the library card, and even though Holly didn't want the card, she produced the license.


The librarian said, "Jim, I think what got you through all that pain and loss, more than anything, was books. You pulled way into yourself, read al! the time, and I think you used fantasy as sort of a painkiller.”


She handed Holly the license and library card, and said to her; "Jim was an awfully bright boy. He could get totally into a book, it became real for him.”


Yeah, Holly thought, did it ever.


"When he first came to town and I heard he'd never been to a real school before, been educated by his parents, I thought that was just terrible, even if they did have to travel all the time with that nightclub act of theirs" Holly recalled the gallery of photographs on Jim's study walls in Laguna Niguel: Miami, Atlantic City, New York, London, Chicago, Las Vegas. . .


"-but they'd actually done a pretty fine job. At least they'd turned him into a booklover, and that served him well later." She turned to Jim. "I suppose you haven't asked your grandpa about Lena's death because you figure it might upset him to talk about it. But I think he's not as fragile as you imagine, and he'd know more about it than anyone, of course." Mrs.


Glynn addressed Holly again: "Is something wrong, dear?" Holly realized she was standing with the blue library card in her hand, statue-still, like one of those waiting-to-be-reanimated people in the worlds within the books upon the shelves within these rooms. For a moment she could not respond to the woman's question.


Jim looked too stunned to pick up the ball this time. His grandfather was alive somewhere. But where? "No," Holly said, "nothing's wrong. I just realized how late it's getting-" A shatter of static, a vision: her severed head screaming, her severed hands crawling like spiders across a floor, her decapitated body writhing and twisting in agony; she was dismembered but not dead, impossibly alive, in a thrall of horror beyond endurance Holly cleared her throat, blinked at Mrs. Glynn, who was staring at her curiously.


"Uh, yeah, quite late. And we're supposed to go see Henry before lunch.


It's already ten. I've never met him." She was babbling now, couldn't stop. "I'm really looking forward to it.”


Unless he really did die over four years ago, like Jim had told her, in which case she wasn't looking forward to it at all. But Mrs. Glynn did not appear to be a spiritualist who would blithely suggest conjuring up the dead for a little chat.


"He's a nice man," Eloise Glynn said. "I know he must've hated having to move off the farm after his stroke, but he can be thankful it didn't leave him worse than he is. My mother, God rest her soul, had a stroke, left her unable to walk, talk, blind in one eye, and so confused she couldn't always recognize her own children. At least poor Henry has his wits about him, as I understand it. He can talk, and I hear he's the leader of the wheelchair pack over there at Fair Haven.”


"Yes," Jim said, sounding as wooden as a talking post, "that's what I hear.”


"Fair Haven's such a nice place," Mrs. Glynn said, "it's good of you to keep him there, Jim. It's not a snakepit like so many nursing homes these days.”


The Yellow Pages at a public phone booth provided an address for Fair Haven on the edge of Solvang. Holly drove south and west across the valley.


"I remember he had a stroke," Jim said. "I was in the hospital with him, came up from Orange County, he was in the intensive-care unit. I hadn't. . . hadn't seen him in thirteen years or more.”


Holly was surprised by that, and her look generated a hot wave of shame that withered Jim. "You hadn't seen your own grandfather in thirteen years?" "There was a reason. . . .”


"What?" He stared at the road ahead for a while, then let out a guttural sound of frustration and disgust. "I don't know. There was a reason, but I can't remember it. Anyway, I came back when he had his stroke, when he was dying in the hospital. And I remember him dead, damn it.”


"Clearly remember it?" "Yes.”


She said, "You remember the sight of him dead in the hospital bed, all his monitor lines flat?" He frowned. "No.”


"Remember a doctor telling you he'd passed away?" "No.”


"Remember making arrangements for his burial?" "No.”


which case she wasn't looking forward to it at all. But Mrs. Glynn did not appear to be a spiritualist who would blithely suggest conjuring up the dead for a little chat.


"He's a nice man," Eloise Glynn said. "I know he must've hated having to move off the farm after his stroke, but he can be thankful it didn't leave him worse than he is. My mother, God rest her soul, had a stroke, left her unable to walk, talk, blind in one eye, and so confused she couldn't always recognize her own children. At least poor Henry has his wits about him, as I understand it. He can talk, and I hear he's the leader of the wheelchair pack over there at Fair Haven.”


"Yes," Jim said, sounding as wooden as a talking post, "that's what I hear.”


"Fair Haven's such a nice place," Mrs. Glynn said, "it's good of you to keep him there, Jim. It's not a snakepit like so many nursing homes these days.”


The Yellow Pages at a public phone booth provided an address for Fair Haven on the edge of Solvang. Holly drove south and west across the valley.


"I remember he had a stroke," Jim said. "I was in the hospital with him, came up from Orange County, he was in the intensive-care unit. I hadn't. . . hadn't seen him in thirteen years or more.”


Holly was surprised by that, and her look generated a hot wave of shame that withered Jim. "You hadn't seen your own grandfather in thirteen years?" "There was a reason. . . .”


"What?" He stared at the road ahead for a while, then let out a guttural sound of frustration and disgust. "I don't know. There was a reason, but I can't remember it. Anyway, I came back when he had his stroke, when he was dying in the hospital. And I remember him dead, damn it.”


"Clearly remember it?" "Yes.”


She said, "You remember the sight of him dead in the hospital bed, all his monitor lines flat?" He frowned. "No.”


"Remember a doctor telling you he'd passed away?" "No.”


"Remember making arrangements for his burial?" "No.”


"Then what's so clear about this memory of him being dead?" Jim brooded about that awhile as she whipped the Ford around the curving roads, between gentle hills on which scattered houses stood, past white-fenced horse pastures green as pictures of Kentucky. This part of the valley was lusher than the area around New Svenborg. But the sky had become a more somber gray, with a hint of blue-black in the clouds bruised.


At last he said, "It isn't clear at all, now that I look close at it.


Just a muddy impression. . . not a real memory.”


"Are you paying to keep Henry at Fair Haven?" "No.”


"Did you inherit his property?" "How could I inherit if he's alive?" "A conservatorship then?" He was about to deny that, as well, when he suddenly remembered a hearing room, a judge. The testimony of a doctor. His granddad's counsel, appearing on the old man's behalf to testify that Henry was of sound mind and wanted his grandson to manage his property.


"Good heavens, yes," Jim said, shocked that he was capable not only of forgetting events from the distant past but from as recently as four years ago. As Holly swung around a slow-moving farm truck and accelerated along a straight stretch of road, Jim told her what he had just remembered, dim as the recollection was. "How can I do this, live this way? How can I totally rewrite my past when it suits me?" "Self defense," she said, as she had said before. She swung in front of the truck. "I'd bet that you remember a tremendous amount of precise detail about your work as a teacher, about your students over the years, colleagues you've taught with-" It was true. As she spoke, he could flash back, at will, through his years in the classroom, which seemed so vivid that those thousands of days might have occurred concurrently only yesterday.


"-because that life held no threat for you, it was filled with purpose and peace. The only things you forget, push relentlessly down into the deepest wells of memory, are those things having to do with the death of your parents, the death of Lena Ironheart, and your years in New Svenborg. Henry Ironheart is part of that, so you continue to wipe him from your mind.”


The sky was contusive.


He saw blackbirds wheeling across the clouds, more of them now than he had seen in the cemetery. Four, six, eight. They seemed to be paralleling the car, following it to Solvang.


Strangely, he recalled the dream with which he had awakened on the morning that he had gone to Portland, saved Billy Jenkins, and met Holly.


In the nightmare, a flock of large blackbirds shrieked around him in a turbulent flapping of wings and tore at him with hooked beaks as precision-honed as surgical instruments.


"The worst is yet to come," he said.


"What do you mean?" "I don't know.”


"You mean what we learn at Fair Haven?" Above, the blackbirds swam through the high, cold currents.


Without having a clue as to what he meant, Jim said, "Something very dark is coming.”


Fair Haven was housed in a large, U-shaped, three-story building outside the town limits of Solvang, with no trace of Danish influence in its architecture. It was strictly off the-rack design, functional and no prettier than it had to be: cream-tinted stucco, concrete-tile roof, boxy, flat-walled, with out detail. But it was freshly painted and in good repair; the hedges were neatly trimmed, the lawn recently mown, and the sidewalks swept clean.


Holly liked the place. She almost wished she lived there, was maybe eighty, watching some TV every day, playing some checkers, with no worry bigger than trying to figure out where she had put her false teeth when she'd taken them out last night.


Inside, the hallways were wide and airy, with yellow vinyl-tile floors.


Unlike in many nursing homes, the air was neither tainted with the stench of incontinent patients left unclean by inattentive staff nor with a heavy aerosol deodorant meant to eliminate or mask that stench.


The rooms she and Jim passed looked attractive, with big windows opening to valley views or a garden courtyard. Some of the patients lay in their beds or slumped in their wheelchairs with vacant or mournful expressions on their faces, but they were the unfortunate victims of major strokes or late-stage Alzheimer's disease, locked away in memories or torment, largely unconnected to the world around them. Everyone else appeared happy; and patients' laughter actually could be heard, a rarity in such places.


According to the supervisor on duty at the nurses' station, Henry Ironheart had been a resident of Fair Haven for over four years.


Mrs. Danforth, the administrator into whose office they were shown, was new since Henry Ironheart had been checked in. She had the slightly plump, well-groomed, and inoffensively self satisfied look of a minister's wife in a prosperous parish. Though she could not understand why they needed her to verify something that Jim knew already, she checked her records and showed them that, indeed, Henry Ironheart's monthly bill was always promptly paid by James Ironheart, of Laguna Niguel, by check.


"I'm glad you've come to visit at last, and I hope you'll have a pleasant time," Mrs. Danforth said, with genteel reproach meant to make him feel guilty for not visiting his grandfather more often while at the same time not directly offending him.


After they left Mrs. Danforth, they stood in a corner of the main hallway, out of the bustle of nurses and wheelchair-bound patients.


"I can't just walk in on him," Jim said adamantly. "Not after all this time. I feel. . . my stomach's clutched up, cramped. Holly, I'm afraid of him.”


"Why?" "I'm not sure." Desperation, bordering on panic, made his eyes so disquieting that she did not want to look into them.


"When you were little, did he ever harm you?" "I don't think so." He strained to see back through the clouds of memory, then shook his head. "I don't know.”


Largely because she was afraid to leave Jim alone, Holly tried to convince him that it would be better for them to meet the old man together.


But he insisted she go first. "Ask him most of what we need to know, so when I come into it, we won't have to stay much longer if we don't want to. . . in case it goes bad, gets awkward, unpleasant.


Prepare him for seeing me, Holly. Please.”


Because he appeared ready to bolt if she did not play things his way, Holly finally agreed. But watching Jim walk into the courtyard to wait there, she already regretted letting him move out of her sight. If he started to lose control again, if The Enemy began to break through, nobody would be with him to encourage him to resist the onslaught.


A friendly nurse helped Holly find Henry Ironheart when he proved not to be in his room. She pointed him out at a card table in the cheery recreation center, at the other end of which a half dozen residents were watching a game show on television.


Henry was playing poker with his cronies. Four of them were at a table designed to accommodate wheelchairs, and none wore the standard nursing-home attire of pajamas or sweatsuits. Besides Henry, there were two fragile-looking elderly men---one in slacks and a red polo shirt; the other in slacks, white shirt, and bow tie-and a birdlike woman with snow-white hair, who was in a bright-pink pantsuit. They were halfway through a hotly contested hand, with a substantial pile of blue plastic chips in the pot, and Holly waited to one side, reluctant to interrupt them. Then one by one, exhibiting a flair for drama, they revealed their cards, and with a whoop of delight the woman-Thelma, her name was-raked in her winnings , theatrically gloating as the men goodnaturedly questioned her honesty.


Finally intruding into their banter, Holly introduced herself to Henry Ironheart, though without identifying herself as Jim's fiancee.

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