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Becks crossed her arms across her chest in a gesture that was only semidefensive. I don’t know why she looks at me that way. I’ve never hit her. Dave a few times, and I broke Alaric’s nose once, but never her. “Dave says you’ve been up here for three hours.”

I blinked. “I have?”

I thought you needed the sleep, George said.

“Gee, thanks,” I muttered. You’d think having my dead sister living inside my head might have some helpful side effects, like, say, insomnia, but no such luck. I get all the negatives of being insane, with none of the bonuses.

“You have,” said Becks, with a small nod. “We’ve been going oway. Ithe footage. We got some great shots, especially from the sequence where Alaric was holding the crowbar. Before everything got bad, I mean.”

“You checked your license allowances before you let him do that, right?” I asked, levering myself to my feet. My back was stiff enough to confirm that whole “three hours” thing; I’d been sitting in one position for way too long.

“Of course,” she said, sounding affronted. “As long as I stayed within five feet and he was in no immediate nonconsensual danger, I was totally within my legal rights as a journalism teacher. What do you think I am, some sort of field newbie?” She sounded even more offended than the question would justify, because there was another question underneath it: When did you stop being any fun? Becks hired on as a Newsie under George and switched to my department almost before the ink on her contract was dry. She’s one of nature’s born Irwins, and she and I worked together really well. That’s why I gave her my department when I stepped down. And that’s probably also why she seems to really believe, deep down, that all she needs to do is find me a stick and a hole to poke it into and I’ll be fine.

It’s really a pity that I don’t think it’s ever going to work that way for me. Because damn, it would be nice.

“I don’t think you’re a field newbie, Becks, I just think there are some people who’d love to have an excuse to slap us with more violation charges. I mean, how much did we pay to get those ‘standing too close to a goat’ charges off Mahir’s record? And he’s in England. They still like goats over there.”

“All right, fair enough,” she admitted. “But still, Alaric did really well out there today. I think he’s almost ready for his exams.”

“Well, good.”

“He just needs a senior Irwin to sign off on him.”

“So sign.”


“Was that the only reason you came up here to poke at me? Because it doesn’t seem like enough.”

You’re trying to distract her.

I gritted my teeth and didn’t answer. No one heard George but me; everyone heard me when I talked to her. Not exactly the fairest deal I’ve ever been a part of, but, hey, I’m the one who gets to keep breathing, so I probably shouldn’t complain all that much. George wouldn’t complain if our positions were reversed. She’d just glare at people, drink a lot of Coke, and write scathing articles about how our judgmental society called her crazy for choosing to maintain a healthy relationship with a dead person.

Becks gave me a sidelong look. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” I said, teeth still gritted as I willed George to shut up until I’d managed to get Becks to go away. “Just stiff. And that didn’t answer my question. What else made you come up here?”

“Ah, that. You have company.” Becks unfolded her arms, shoving her hands into the pocketsof her jeans. She’d changed her clothes, which only made sense; the clothing she’d worn in the field needed to be thoroughly sterilized before it was safe to wear again. The logical need to change didn’t explain why she’d put on new jeans and a flowery shirt that wouldn’t offer any protection in an outbreak, but girls have never made much sense to me. I never needed them to. George was always there, ready and willing to play translator.

I raised an eyebrow. “Company? Define ‘company.’ Is this the kind of company that wants an interview? Or the kind of company I have a restraining order against?” Most people don’t think I’m handling Georgia’s death very well, what with the whole “hearing her inside my head even though she’s not here anymore” aspect of things. Well, if I’m not handling it well, the Masons aren’t handling it at all, since they’ve spent the last year alternately pleading with me to see reason and threatening to sue me for ownership of her intellectual property. I always knew they were vultures, but it took someone actually dying for me to understand just how appropriate that comparison really was. They’d started hovering around before the man who paid her killer was even cold, looking for a way to make a profit off the situation.

I mean that literally. I checked the time stamps on the first e-mails they sent me. I don’t think they even took the time to pretend to grieve before they started trying to make sure they’d get their piece of the action. So yeah, I took out a restraining order against them. They’ve taken it surprisingly well thus far. Maybe because it’s done wonderful things for their ratings.

“Neither,” said Becks. “She says she knows you from the CDC, and that she’s been trying to get hold of you for weeks—something about needing to talk to you about a research program that Georgia was involved with back when you were—Shaun? Where are you going?”

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