Trott found it wedged between the bed and one of the nightstands.
Loman emptied the contents onto the mattress. He snatched up the wallet, flipped through the plastic windows full of credit cards and photographs, until he found her driver's license. According to the license data, she was five-four, one hundred and four pounds, blond, blue-eyed. Loman held up the ID so Trott and Amberlay could see the photograph.
"She's a looker," Amberlay said.
"I'd like to get a bite of that," Trott said.
His officer's choice of words gave Loman a chill. He couldn't help wondering whether Trott meant "bite" as a euphemism for sex or whether he was expressing a very real subconscious desire to savage the woman as the regressives had torn apart the couple from Portland.
"We know what she looks like," Loman said. "That helps."
Trott's hard, sharp features were inadequate for the expression of gentler emotions like affection and delight, but they perfectly conveyed the animal hunger and urge to violence that seethed deep within him.
"You want us to bring her in?"
"Yes. She doesn't know anything, really, but on the other hand she knows too much. She knows the couple down the hall were killed, and she probably saw a regressive."
"Maybe the regressives followed her through the window and got her," Amberlay suggested.
"We might find her body somewhere outside, on the grounds of the lodge."
"Could be," Loman said.
"But if not, we have to find her and bring her in. You called Callan?"
"Yeah," Amberlay said.
"We've got to get this place cleaned up," Loman said.
"We've got to keep a lid on until midnight, until everyone in town's been put through the Change. Then, when Moonlight Cove's secure, we can concentrate on finding the regressives and eliminating them."
Trott and Amberlay met Loman's eyes, then looked at each other. In the glances they exchanged, Loman saw the dark knowledge that they all were potential regressives, that they, too, felt the call toward that unburdened, primitive state. It was an awareness of which none of them dared speak, for to give it voice was to admit that Moonhawk was a deeply flawed project and that they might all be damned.
Mike Peyser heard the dial tone and fumbled with the buttons, which were too small and closely set for his long, tine-like fingers. Abruptly he realized that he could not call Shaddack, dared not call Shaddack, though they had known each other for more than twenty years, since their days together at Stanford, could not call Shaddack even though it was Shaddack who had made him what he was, because Shaddack would consider him an outlaw now, a regressive, and Shaddack would have him restrained in a laboratory and either treat him with all the tenderness that a vivisectionist bestowed upon a white rat or destroy him because of the threat he posed to the ongoing conversion of Moonlight Cove. Peyser shrieked in frustration. He tore the telephone out of the wall and threw it across the bedroom, where it hit the dresser mirror, shattering the glass.
His sudden perception of Shaddack as a powerful enemy rather than a friend and mentor was the last entirely clear and rational thought that Peyser had for a while. His fear was a trapdoor that opened under him, casting him down into the darkness of the primeval mind that he had unleashed for the pleasure of a night hunt. He moved back and forth through the house, sometimes in a frenzy, sometimes in a sullen slouch, not sure why he was alternately excited, depressed, or smoldering with savage needs, driven more by feelings than intellect.
He relieved himself in a corner of the living room, sniffed his own urine, then went into the kitchen in search of more food. Now and then his mind cleared, and he tried to call his body back to its more civilized form, but when his tissues would not respond to his will, he cycled down into the darkness of animal thought again. Several times he was clearheaded enough to appreciate the irony of having been reduced to savagery by a process—the Change—meant to elevate him to superhuman status, but that line of thought was too bleak to be endured, and a new descent into the savage mind was almost welcome.
Repeatedly, both when in the grip of a primitive consciousness and when the clouds lifted from his mind, he thought of the boy, Eddie Valdoski, the boy, the tender boy, and he thrilled to the memory of blood, sweet blood, fresh blood steaming in the cold night air.
Physically and mentally exhausted, Chrissie nevertheless was not able to sleep. In the burlap tarps in the back of Mr. Eulane's truck, she hung from the thin line of wakefulness, wanting nothing more than to let go and fall into unconsciousness.
She felt incomplete, as though something had been left undone—and suddenly she was crying. Burying her face in the fragrant and slightly scratchy burlap, she bawled as she'd not done in years, with the abandon of a baby. She wept for her mother and father, perhaps lost forever, not taken cleanly by death but by something foul, dirty, inhuman, satanic. She wept for the adolescence that would have been hers—horses and seaside pastures and books read on the beach—but that had been shattered beyond repair. She wept, as well, over some loss she felt but could not quite identify, though she suspected it was innocence or maybe faith in the triumph of good over evil.
None of the fictional heroines she admired would have indulged in uncontrolled weeping, and Chrissie was embarrassed by her torrent of tears. But to weep was as human as to err, and perhaps she needed to cry, in part, to prove to herself that no monstrous seed had been planted in her of the sort that had germinated and spread tendrils through her parents. Crying, she was still Chrissie. Crying was proof that no one had stolen her soul.
Sam had seen another pay phone at a Union 76 service station one block north of Ocean. The station was out of business. The windows were filmed with gray dust, and a hastily lettered FOR SALE sign hung in one of them, as if the owner actually didn't care whether the place was sold or not and had made the sign only because it was expected of him. Crisp, dead leaves and dry pine needles from surrounding trees had blown against the gasoline pumps and lay in snow-like drifts.
The phone booth was against the south wall of the building and visible from the street. Sam stepped through the open door but did not pull it shut, for fear of completing a circuit that would turn on the overhead bulb and draw him to the attention of any cops who happened by.
The line was dead. He deposited a coin, hoping that would activate the dial tone. The line was still dead.
He jiggled the hook from which the handset hung. His coin was returned.
He tried again but to no avail.
He believed that pay phones in or adjacent to a service station or privately owned store were sometimes joint operations, the income shared between the telephone company and the businessman who allowed the phone to be installed. Perhaps they had turned off the phone when the Union 76 had closed up.
However, he suspected the police had used their access to the telephone-company's computer to disable all coin-operated phones in Moonlight Cove. The moment they had learned an undercover federal agent was in town, they could have taken extreme measures to prevent him from contacting the world outside.
Of course he might be overestimating their capabilities. He had to try another phone before giving up hope of contacting the Bureau.
On his walk after dinner, he had passed a coin laundry half a block north of Ocean Avenue and two blocks west of this Union 76. He was pretty sure that when glancing through the plate glass window, he had seen a telephone on the rear wall, at the end of a row of industrial-size dryers with stainless-steel fronts.
He left the Union 76. As much as possible staying away from the streetlamps—which illuminated side streets only in the first block north and south of Ocean—using alleyways where he could, he slipped through the silent town, toward where he remembered having seen the laundry. He wished the wind would die and leave some of the rapidly dissipating fog.
At an intersection one block north of Ocean and half a block from the laundry, he almost walked into plain sight of a cop driving south toward the center of town. The patrolman was half a block from the intersection, coming slowly, surveying both sides of the street. Fortunately he was looking the other way when Sam hurried into the unavoidable fall of lamplight at the corner.
Sam scrambled backward and pressed into a deep entrance way on the side of a three-story brick building that housed some of the town's professionals A plaque in the recess, to the left of the door, listed a dentist, two lawyers, a doctor, and a chiropractor. If the patrol turned left at the corner and came past him, he'd probably be spotted. But if it either went straight on toward Ocean or turned right and headed west, he would not be seen.
Leaning against the locked door and as far back in the shadows as he could go, waiting for the infuriatingly slow car to reach the intersection, Sam had a moment for reflection and realized that even for one-thirty in the morning, Moonlight Cove was peculiarly quiet and the streets unusually deserted. Small towns had night owls as surely as did cities; there should have been a pedestrian or two, a car now and then, some signs of life other than police patrols.
The black-and-white turned right at the corner, heading west and away from him.
Although the danger had passed, Sam remained in the unlighted entrance way, mentally retracing his journey from Cove Lodge to the municipal building, from there to the Union 76, and finally to his current position. He could not recall passing a house where music was playing, where a television blared, or where the laughter of late revelers indicated a party in progress. He had seen no young couples sharing a last kiss in parked cars. The few restaurants and taverns were apparently closed, and the movie theater was out of business, and except for his movements and those of the police, Moonlight Cove might have been a ghost town. Its living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens might have been peopled only by moldering corpses—or by robots that posed as people during the day and were turned off at night to save energy when it was not as essential to maintain the illusion of life.
Increasingly worried by the word "conversion" and its mysterious meaning in the context of this thing they called the Moonhawk Project, he left the entrance way, turned the corner, and ran along the brightly lighted street to the laundry. He saw the phone as he was pushing open the glass door.
He hurried halfway through the long room-dryers on the right, a double row of washers back-to-back in the middle, some chairs at the end of the washers, more chairs along the left wall with the candy and detergent machines and the laundry-folding counter—before he realized the place was not deserted. A petite blonde in faded jeans and a blue pullover sweater sat on one of the yellow plastic chairs. None of the washers or dryers was running, and the woman did not seem to have a basket of clothes with her.
He was so startled by her—a live person, a live civilian, in this sepulchral night—that he stopped and blinked.
She was perched on the edge of the chair, visibly tense. Her eyes were wide. Her hands were clenched in her lap. She seemed to be holding her breath.
Realizing that he had frightened her, Sam said, "Sorry."
She stared at him as if she were a rabbit facing down a fox. Aware that he must look wild-eyed, even frantic, he added, "I'm not dangerous."
"They all say that."
"But I am."
Confused, he said, "You are what?"
She stood up.
"I'm a black belt."
For the first time in days, a genuine smile pulled at Sam's face. "Can you kill with your hands?"
She stared at him for a moment, pale and shaking. When she spoke, her defensive anger was excessive.
"Hey, don't laugh at me, as**ole, or I'll bust you up so bad that when you walk, you'll clink like a bag of broken glass."
At last, astonished by her vehemency, Sam began to assimilate the observations he'd made on entering. No washers or dryers in operation. No clothes basket. No box of detergent or bottle of fabric softener.
"What's wrong?" he asked, suddenly suspicious.
"Nothing, if you keep your distance."
He wondered if she knew somehow that the local cops were eager to get hold of him. But that seemed nuts. How could she know?
"What're you doing here if you don't have clothes to wash?"
"What's it your business? You own this dump?" she demanded.
"No. And don't tell me you own it, either."
She glared at him.
He studied her, gradually absorbing how attractive she was.
She had eyes as piercingly blue as a June sky and skin as clear as summer air, and she seemed radically out of place along this dark, October coast, let alone in a grungy Laundromat at one-thirty in the morning. When her beauty finally, fully registered with him, so did other things about her, including the intensity of her fear, which was revealed in her eyes and in the lines around them and in the set of her mouth. it was fear far out of proportion to any threat he could pose. If he had been a six-foot-six, three-hundred-pound, tattooed biker with a revolver in one hand and a ten-inch knife in the other, and if he had burst into the laundry chanting paeans to Satan, the utterly bloodless paleness of her face and the hard edge of terror in her eyes would have been understandable. But he was only Sam Booker, whose greatest attribute as an agent was his guy-next-door ordinariness and an aura of harmlessness.
Unsettled by her unsettledness, he said, "The phone."
He pointed at the pay phone.
"Yes," she said, as if confirming it was indeed a phone.
"Just came in to make a call."
Keeping one eye on her, he went to the phone, fed it his quarter, but got no dial tone. He retrieved his coin, tried again. No luck.
"Damn!" he said.
The blonde had edged toward the door. She halted, as though she thought he might rush at her and drag her down if she attempted to leave the Laundromat.
The Cove engendered in Sam a powerful paranoia. Increasingly over the past few hours he had come to think of everyone in town as a potential enemy. And suddenly he perceived that this woman's peculiar behavior resulted from a state of mind precisely like his. "Yes, of course—you're not from here, are you, from Moonlight Cove?"
"Neither am I."
"And you've seen something."
She stared at him.
He said, "Something's happened, you've seen something, and you're scared, and I'll bet you've got damned good reason to be."
She looked as if she'd sprint for the door.