With nightfall, the breeze became a blustery wind, warm and parched. It blew a few dry leaves at them and harried dust ghosts along the pavement.
Travis knew they were too conspicuous even without the trailer and truck. The neighbors would be telling the police to look for a man, woman, and golden retriever-not the most common trio. They would be wanted for questioning in the death of Ted Hockney, so the search for them would not be perfunctory. They had to get out of sight quickly.
He had no friends with whom they could take refuge. After Paula died, he had withdrawn from his few friends, and he hadn't maintained relationships with any of the real-estate agents who had once worked for him. Nora had no friends, either, thanks to Violet Devon.
The houses they passed, most with warm lights in the windows, seemed to mock them with unattainable sanctuary.
Garrison Dilworth lived on the border between Santa Barbara and Montecito, on a lushly landscaped half acre, in a stately Tudor home that did not mesh well with the California flora but which perfectly complemented the attorney. When he answered the door, he was wearing black loafers, gray slacks, a navy-blue sports jacket, a white knit shirt, and half-lens tortoiseshell reading glasses over which he peered at them in surprise but, fortunately, not with displeasure. “Well, hello there, newlyweds!”
“Are you alone?” Travis asked as he and Nora and Einstein stepped into a large foyer floored with marble.
On the way over, Nora had told Travis that the attorney's wife had passed away three years ago and that he was now looked after by a housekeeper named Gladys Murphy.
“Mrs. Murphy?” Travis asked.
“She's gone home for the day,” the attorney said, closing the door behind them. “You look distraught. What on earth's wrong?”
“We need help,” Nora said.
“But,” Travis warned, “anyone who helps us may be putting himself in jeopardy with the law.”
Garrison raised his eyebrows. “What have you done? Judging by the solemn look of you-I'd say you've kidnapped the president.”
“We've done nothing wrong,” Nora assured him.
“Yes, we have,” Travis disagreed. “And we're still doing it-we're harboring the dog.”
Puzzled, Garrison frowned down at the retriever.
Einstein whined, looking suitably miserable and lovable.
“And there's a dead man in my house,” Travis said.
Garrison's gaze shifted from the dog to Travis. “Dead man?”
“Travis didn't kill him,” Nora said.
Garrison looked at Einstein again.
“Neither did the dog,” Travis said. “But I'll be wanted as a material witness, something like that, sure as hell.”
“Mmmmm,” Garrison said, “why don't we go into my study and get this straightened out?”
He led them through an enormous and only half-lit living room, along a short hallway, into a den with rich teak paneling and a copper ceiling. The maroon leather armchairs and couch looked expensive and comfortable. The polished teak desk was massive, and a detailed model of a five-masted schooner, all sails rigged, stood on one corner. Nautical items-a ship's wheel, a brass sextant, a carved bullock's horn filled with tallow that held what appeared to be sail-making needles, six types of ship lanterns, a helmsman's bell, and sea charts-were used as decoration. Travis saw photographs of a man and woman on various sailboats, and the man was Garrison.
An open book and a half-finished glass of Scotch were on a small table beside one of the armchairs. Evidently, the attorney had been relaxing here when they had rung the doorbell. Now, he offered them a drink, and they both said they would have whatever he was having.
Leaving the couch for Travis and Nora, Einstein took the second armchair. He sat in it, rather than curling up, as if prepared to participate in the discussion to come.
At a corner wet bar, Garrison poured Chivas Regal on the rocks in two glasses. Although Nora was unaccustomed to whiskey, she startled Travis by downing her drink in two long swallows and asking for another. He decided that she had the right idea, so he followed suit and took his empty glass back to the bar while Garrison was refilling Nora's.
“I'd like to tell you everything and have your help,” Travis said, “but you really must understand you could be putting yourself on the wrong side of the law.”
Recapping the Chivas, Garrison said, “You're talking as a layman now. As an attorney, I assure you the law isn't a line engraved in marble, immovable and unchangeable through the centuries. Rather . . . the law is like a string, fixed at both ends but with a great deal of play in it-very loose, the line of the law-so you can stretch it this way or that, rearrange the arc of it so you are nearly always-short of blatant theft or cold-blooded murder-safely on the right side. That's a daunting thing to realize but true. I've no fear that anything you tell me could land my bottom in a prison cell, Travis.”
Half an hour later, Travis and Nora had told him everything about Einstein. For a man only a couple of months shy of his seventy-first birthday, the silver-haired attorney had a quick and open mind. He asked the right questions and did not scoff. When given a ten-minute demonstration of Einstein's uncanny abilities, he did not protest that it was all mere trickery and flummery; he accepted what he saw, and he readjusted his ideas of what was normal and possible in this world. He exhibited greater mental agility and flexibility than most men half his age.
Holding Einstein on his lap in the big leather armchair, gently scratching the dog's ears, Garrison said, “If you go to the media, hold a press conference, blow the whole thing wide open, then we might be able to sue in court to allow you to keep custody of the dog.”
“Do you really think that would work?” Nora asked.
“At best,” Garrison admitted, “it's a fifty-fifty chance.” Travis shook his head. “No. We won't risk it.”
“What have you in mind to do?” Garrison asked.
“Run,” Travis said. “Stay on the move.”
“And what will that accomplish?” “It'll keep Einstein free.”
The dog woofed in agreement.
“Free-but for how long?” Garrison asked.
Travis got up and paced, too agitated to sit still any longer. “They won't stop looking,” he admitted. “Not for a few years.”
“Not ever,” the attorney said.
“All right, it's going to be tough, but it's the only thing we can do. Damned if we'll let them have him. He has a dread of the lab. Besides, he more or less brought me back to life-”
“And he saved me from Streck,” Nora said.
“He brought us together,” Travis said.
“Changed our lives.”
“Radically changed us. Now he's as much a part of us as our own child Would be,” Travis said. He felt a lump of emotion in his throat when he met the dog's grateful gaze. “We fight for him, just as he'd fight for us. We're family. We live together . . . or we die together.”
Stroking the retriever, Garrison said, “It won't only be the people from the lab looking for you. And not only the police.”
“The other thing,” Travis said, nodding.
“There, there, easy now,” Garrison said reassuringly, patting the dog. To
Travis, he said, “What do you think the creature is? I've heard your description of it, but that doesn't help much.”
“Whatever it is,” Travis said, “God didn't make it. Men made it. Which means it has to be a product of recombinant-DNA research of some kind. God knows why. God knows what they thought they were doing, why they wanted to build something like that. But they did.”
“And it seems to have an uncanny ability to track you.”
“To track Einstein,” Nora said.
“So we'll keep moving,” Travis said, “And we'll go a long way.”
“That'll require money, but the banks don't open for more than twelve hours,” Garrison said. “If you're going to run, something tells me you've got to head out tonight.”
“Here's where we could use your help,” Travis told him.
Nora opened her purse and withdrew two checkbooks, Travis's and her own. “Garrison, what we'd like to do is write a check on Travis's account and one on mine, payable to you. He's only got three thousand in his checking, but he has a large savings account at the same bank, and they're authorized to transfer funds to prevent overdrawing. My account's the same way. If we give you one of Travis's checks for twenty thousand-backdated so it appears to've been written before all this trouble-and one of mine for twenty, you could deposit them into your account. As soon as they clear, you'd buy eight cashier's checks for five thousand apiece and send them to us.”
Travis said, “The police will want me for questioning, but they'll know I didn't kill Ted Hockney because no man could've torn him apart like that. So they won't put a lock on my accounts.”
“If federal agencies are behind the research that produced Einstein and this creature,” Garrison said, “then they'll be hot to get their hands on you, and they might freeze your accounts.”
“Maybe. But probably not right away. You're in the same town, so your bank should clear my check by Monday at the latest.”
“What'll you do for funds in the meantime, while you're waiting for me to send you the forty thousand?”
“We've got some cash and traveler's checks left over from the honeymoon,” Nora said.
“And my credit cards,” Travis added.
“They can track you by credit cards and traveler's checks.”
“I know,” Travis said. “So I'll use them in a town where we don't intend to stay, and we'll scoot out fast as we can.”
“When I've purchased the cashier's checks for forty thousand, where do I send them?”
“We'll be in touch by phone,” Travis said, returning to the couch and sitting at Nora's side. “We'll work something out.”
“And the rest of your assets-and Nora's?”
“We'll worry about that later,” Nora said.
Garrison frowned. "Before you leave here, Travis, you can sign a letter giving me the right to represent you in any legal matters that may
arise. If anyone does try to freeze your assets, or Nora's, I can beat them off if at all possible-though I'll keep a low profile until they connect me with you."
“Nora's funds are probably safe for a while. She and I haven't told anyone but you about the marriage. The neighbors will tell the police I left in the company of a woman, but they won't know who she is. Have you told anyone about us?”
“Just my secretary, Mrs. Ashcroft. But she's not a gossip.”
“All right, then,” Travis said. “I don't think the authorities will find out about the marriage license, so they might take quite a while to come up with Nora's name. But when they do, they'll discover you're her attorney. If they monitor my accounts for canceled checks in the hope of learning where I've gone, they'll know about the twenty thousand I paid to you, and they'll come looking for you-”
“That doesn't give me the slightest pause,” Garrison said.
“Maybe not,” Travis said. “But as soon as they connect me to Nora and both of us to you, they'll be watching you closely. As soon as that happens . . . then the next time we call, you'll have to tell us at once, so we can hang up and break off all contact with you.”
“I understand perfectly,” the attorney said.
“Garrison,” Nora said, “you don't have to involve yourself in this. We're really asking too much of you.”
“Listen, my dear, I'm almost seventy-one. I still enjoy my law practice, and I still go sailing . . . but in truth I find life a bit on the dull side these days. This affair is just what I need to get my ancient blood flowing faster. Besides, I do believe you have an obligation to help keep Einstein free, not just for the reasons you mentioned but because . . . mankind has no right to employ its genius in the creation of another intelligent species, then treat it like property. If we've come so far that we can create as God creates, then we have to learn to act with the justice and mercy of God. In this case, justice and mercy require that Einstein remain free.”
Einstein raised his head from the attorney's lap, gazed up admiringly, then nuzzled his cold nose under Garrison's chin.
In the three-car garage, Garrison kept a new black Mercedes 560 SEL, an older white Mercedes 500 SEL with pale-blue interior, and a green Jeep that he used primarily to drive down to the marina, where he kept his boat.
“The white one used to belong to Francine, my wife,” the attorney said as he led them to the car. “I don't use it much any more, but I keep it in Working order, and I drive it often enough to prevent the tires from disintegrating. I should have gotten rid of it when Franny died. It was her car, after all. But . . . she loved it so, her flashy white Mercedes, and I can remember the way she looked when she was behind the wheel . . . I'd like you to take it.”
“A sixty-thousand-dollar getaway car?” Travis said, sliding one hand along the polished hood. “That's going on the run in style.”
“No one will be looking for it,” Garrison said. “Even if they do eventually connect me with you two, they won't know I've given you one of my cars.”
“We can't accept something this expensive,” Nora said.
“Call it a loan,” the attorney told her. “When you're finished with it, when you've gotten another car, just park this one somewhere-a bus terminal, an airport-and give me a call to tell me where it is. I can send someone to collect it.”
Einstein put his forepaws on the driver's door of the Mercedes and peered into the car through the side window. He glanced at Travis and Nora and woofed as if to say he thought they would be foolish if they turned down such an offer.
With Travis driving, they left Garrison Dilworth's house at ten-fifteen Wednesday night and took Route 101 north. By twelve-thirty they passed through San Luis Obispo, went by Paso Robles at one o'clock in the morning. They stopped for gasoline at a self-service station at two o'clock, an hour south of Salinas.
Nora felt useless. She was not even able to spell Travis at the wheel because she did not know how to drive. To some extent, that was Violet Devon's fault, not Nora's, just one more result of a lifetime of seclusion and oppression; nonetheless, she felt utterly useless and was displeased with herself. But she was not going to remain helpless the rest of her life. Damn it, no. She was going to learn to drive and to handle firearms. Travis could teach her both skills. Given his background, he could also instruct her in the martial arts, judo or karate. He was a good teacher. He had certainly done a splendid job of teaching her the art of lovemaking. That thought made her smile, and slowly her highly self-critical mood abated.
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