“Until they get into the brain,” said my father darkly.
There was something in his eyes I couldn’t stand to look at, and was terrified of understanding. I looked away.
Somehow, having him say my name and not his dead daughter’s didn’t help. I shook my head. “I don’t want to think about that,” I said. “Joyce will be fine. She has to be.”
He wasn’t looking that way because of Joyce. I wasn’t scared because of Joyce. But neither of us was ready to deal with what that look really meant. Maybe we were both hoping we’d never have to.
The phone rang. I was reaching for it when my father stepped crisply in front of me, snatching the receiver from its cradle. “Colonel Mitchell,” he said by way of greeting.
There was a pause as he listened to the person on the other end.
Then: “Yes. Put him through.”
“Is it Nathan?” I asked, before I could think better of it.
He glanced my way, pressing the forefinger of his free hand against his lips in a signal for me to be quiet. “Yes, Sally’s here. No, you may not speak to her. Whatever you need us to know, you can explain it to me.” There was another pause before he said, “Dr. Kim, I am speaking as a representative of the United States military when I say you will tell me what I want to know before I tell you anything further about my daughter.”
The next pause was longer. Finally, my father said, “Intramuscular praziquantel? Are you certain?” Another pause. “Son, you’re asking me to inject the patient with antiparasitics. I think you owe me an explanation as to why.”
Please, Nathan, be careful, I thought, locking my hands together to keep myself from making another grab at the phone. Whatever you tell him, you have to be careful. If Nathan wanted to tell my father about his mother’s involvement with all this, that was his decision… but if he didn’t do it the right way, I wasn’t going to be going anywhere with him, and he might wind up leading a military retrieval team to Dr. Cale’s lab before the sun came up.
Finally, my father said, almost grudgingly, “Well, yes, that does make medical sense, and I suppose the risks of intramuscular praziquantel are substantially outweighed by the risks of not reaching the parasite in time. Thank you for your assistance, Dr. Kim.” He thrust the receiver unceremoniously toward me. “Your boyfriend wants to talk to you. Privates Dowell and Fabris will see you back to the main lab when you’re finished.” Pressing the receiver into my hand, he turned on his heel and strode out of the room, presumably on his way to tell the doctors responsible for Joyce’s treatment how to adjust her medication.
A pang of guilt lanced through me as I realized that if those treatments worked, the doctors would probably also use them on the sleepwalkers. After all, medicine was medicine, and saving lives was important. But the people who originally owned those bodies were gone, and the tapeworms that had taken them over had as much of a right to live as anyone else. Didn’t they? They’d been acting out of instinct, and because they wanted lives of their own, not out of malice. It was still theft. The thought of infection terrified me. But once those bodies were stolen…
It was apparently a day for revelations. I was actually starting to understand Dr. Cale’s point of view.
Fighting the urge to start shuddering, I raised the phone to my ear. “Nathan?”
“Sal.” He sounded relieved. “Are you all right?”
I smiled, allowing my own relief to show. “Is that how we’re going to start all conversations from now on?”
“Until you stop getting yourself into situations where I have to worry about your safety, yes. It absolutely is.” Nathan sighed. “Is your father there?”
“No. He went to supervise Joyce’s medication. He left me with two soldiers to make sure I made it back to where I’m supposed to be, though.” I offered the privates who were guarding me a little wave with my free hand. They didn’t wave back. “Are you coming to get me?”
“I’m already on my way. I should be there in about ten minutes.”
Now that I was listening for it, I could hear the faint sounds of traffic behind his voice. He was driving. He was coming to get me. My knees went weak with relief. I gripped the desk, and said, “We need to go back to the house. I want to get some things, and Beverly, before I go to your place. I should probably also leave a note for Mom.” I had no idea what it was going to say. It still seemed like the right thing to do.
“And you’re all right?”
“I keep asking you if you’re all right because you keep not answering me. Are you all right?”
“I…” I hesitated, looking first to the two privates, and then to the open office door. Dad was somewhere in the building, talking to the doctors who were going to try to save my sister from sharing the fate of the sleepwalkers who had killed Dr. Snyder and that intern in front of me. They might have a right to live. But so did Dr. Snyder. So did the woman in the white lab coat.
So did Devi.
“I don’t know,” I said finally. “Just come and get me, Nathan. Just get me away from here before I have to figure it out.”
“I’ll be right there,” he promised.
The line went dead, a dial tone sounding dully in my ear. I dropped the receiver carefully back into its cradle, turning my attention to the two men assigned to watch over me. “Please take me to my father now,” I said. “I want to see how my sister is doing.”