The Messenger

The Messenger by Stephen Miller

Book: The Messenger by Stephen Miller Read Free Book Online
Authors: Stephen Miller
Perhaps elsewhere,” Barrigar says.
    “Not an accident?” Watterman can’t hide the tremble in his voice.
    “We don’t think so,” Barrigar answers.
    “An attack. Anthrax. Was it letters, like last time?”
    “No.”
    “So, of course they’re testing at the lab and the hospital. What about here? Have they tested here?” he asks, working to keep the fear out of his voice. The agents all try not to react, but he can feel everybody tightening up.
    “We’re being tested right now.”
    “Good, good … Forget what I said about going to the lab.”
    “The CDC labs are under quarantine at the moment.”
    “Yes, right. Good. Of course. Well …” He looks up at them. There’s nothing really to say. “Spores
inside
the labs?”
    “No.”
    “Outside. In the offices?”
    “That’s right. And also other locations.”
    “Right.” That only makes sense. “Okay. Well, what do you want with me? I suppose you think I did it?”
    Barrigar stares at him. All the FBI agents hold their breath.
    “You know none of this surprises me. Not one bit. I’ve written paper after paper on this exact situation. Well, I’m not staying here. I’m a consultant. You’ve got to pay my fee if you want to pull me out of bed and waste my working hours. I already told Havercamp—”
    “Who’s Havercamp?”
    “The director—god
damn
it.
Shit!
” He’s losing his mind, going senile. Havercamp has been retired from the directorship of the CDC for a decade at least. Christ … falling apart … “Look, I can’t stay here. I have to get back. My wife has a very serious condition and she depends on me for … for emotional support. That’s extremely important for her health—”
    “We have some questions for you …”
    “This has nothing to do with me!” Adrenaline is pumping through his system and he is starting to lose it. “Nothing,” he repeats.
    “There’s still some basic questions we have to ask, Doctor. I need you to account for your movements over the last two years.”
    “That’s easy. I haven’t been anywhere.”
    “Nowhere?”
    “Stayed right here in Atlanta. Look, suppose I just go home? Just put one of those damn ankle things on me. Call it house arrest. It would save the taxpayers my upkeep—”
    “Dr. Watterman, you’re going to be part of a conference call. Five minutes from now. We’ll get a phone in here, and a monitor.You take the call and then we’ll go from there. We can’t keep you against your will.”
    “Actually, I think you can.”
    “We’ll talk after the call,” Barrigar says. That tight little smile, and then he gets up and leaves along with his posse.
    Daria goes for something to eat at a cafeteria across from City Hall, and takes her time with the menu, lingering in the line, leaning close to the glass, peering at the entire range of food selections. Going all around the salad bar, leaning close in and inspecting every radish.
    In the end she sits at a small table and consumes about a tenth of a plate of mushed chicken—too salty—and some spinach wilted to the consistency of algae. She wipes her mouth and moves the napkin all over the table. Does it another half dozen times. Goes over and borrows parts of a newspaper from the table of a young guy. Cute enough. He looks like a student.
    She ends up with a business section and part of the entertainment section. The economy continues to repair itself slowly; some oddball markets are doing better than older, traditional repositories for investments; costs have to come down, and jobs have to go up–that’s what passes for wisdom on the business pages.
    The front of the entertainment section is gone, so she reads what’s left—the continuation of an article about an experimental theater company’s production of a show on Eadweard Muybridge, an analysis of how Broadway’s recruitment of Hollywood “stars” has become the default business plan on the Great White Way—
    “Here you go, I’m done with this …”

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