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For a long time, neither of us spoke. Then Winterhawk sighed and slammed the computer screen closed. "I was hoping I was wrong," he said, dejection creeping into his voice.

I nodded. "Yeah, me too. Somebody must've hit him pretty hard. But why didn't they tell us about him at the clinic? Deaths aren't that common that they wouldn't remember one. Especially not one that happened two days ago."

'Hawk opened up the screen again. The words still hung there as if mocking us: DECEASED. "Transferred to General," he said. "What do you suppose 'General' is?"

"Don't know," I told him. "Hospital, maybe? I think there's a Redmond General Hospital somewhere in the Barrens."

"Yes, probably." He punched up the LTG directory on the computer and after a moment, nodded. "Yes, here it is. 164th NE and 85th NE."

"If he was already dead, why did they take him there?" I asked.

'Hawk shrugged. "P'raps to do an autopsy. That clinic didn't look equipped, and the cause of death was labeled Suspected." He leaned back in the chair. "We're ignoring something important, though."

"What's that?"

We're not even sure this is Tommy," he reminded me. "After all, all we have is a number and some statistics. Some fairly common statistics at that."

"Yeah, but what about the head wound?"

"Could have been a number of those, considering the apparent size of that bar fight."

I thought about that. "So what now? Johnson wanted proof. I don't think he's gonna take this as proof. If we can't even be sure it's Tommy, then he's not gonna believe it either."

Winterhawk got up and started pacing around the area. "The way I see it, we've a few options. One: we can go to Redmond General and see if they've got Tommy on ice in the morgue. Two: we can try to find another decker to break into General's system and see if they can find out anything else. Or three: I can set up that ritual we were talking about before."

"You mean the one for finding out where Tommy is, if that cap's his?" At 'Hawk's nod, I got up. "What'd you do with my jacket?"

He pointed. "It's over there. Why?"

Without answering him, I crossed the room and retrieved my jacket, which smelled heavily of smoke. I reached in the pocket, already suspecting what I'd find. Or rather, what I wouldn't find. "That's not gonna work," I told him.

"Why not?"

"Cap's gone. Probably fell out of my pocket while we were fighting that thing. If so, it's burned to a crisp by now."

'Hawk nodded. "Then that's that," he said with resignation. "No point in worrying about it now. P'raps we can clean up a bit and go to the hospital in the morning. Pretend we're long lost relatives or something. We need to figure out a way to see that body. If it's really there at all, I mean."

"I just don't get it," I said, dropping down into a nearby chair with a loud sigh. "Why would you cover up somebody's death? Especially somebody like Tommy—unless Johnson really screwed up, he didn't have anything anybody would want to cover up his death about. And why keep them in a little room in the basement of an abandoned building?" I looked up. "Do you think it could be Johnson's rival company involved somewhere?"

'Hawk spread his hands. "I don't know at this point. It seems a bit unlikely, but then, so do quite a few things. If they wanted Tommy, there would be several easier ways for them to get hold of him without this elaborate ruse." He paused. "And besides, there were a number of other patients as well." Standing up, he stretched. "I can't think straight right now. It's almost four in the morning. Why don't we get some sleep and we'll have another go at it in the morning. You're welcome to the couch if you don't want to go home."

I thought about that and realized he was right. I was getting tired. "Yeah, okay. In the morning." I looked around nervously again. "Are you sure one of those things won't show up in here?"

"Not positive," he admitted. "But relatively sure."

"Did anybody ever tell you that you were very reassuring?" I asked him. Without waiting for an answer, I threw myself down on the couch, sure I wasn't going to sleep at all.

Next thing I knew, Winterhawk was waking me up. Hazy gray light shone in through the apartment's open blinds. "Did you have any ideas while you were asleep?" he asked, already pulling on the jacket of his suit. Apparently he'd been awake awhile before he woke me.

"I don't even remember sleeping," I said groggily. "I gotta go home and clean up."

"Here," he said, handing me a hot cup of coffee. I accepted it gratefully. Winterhawk might have had some weird habits, but his taste for real food (including real coffee, not soykaf) was always appreciated. "Drink this first, and then I'll drive you. You really must learn to drive a car one of these days, old boy." He sat down with his own steaming coffee cup. "So what do you think—decker or General?"

"General," I said instantly. "I don't want to get anybody else killed on this."

He nodded. "Yes, I agree. I think if we're a bit careful, we can do it without anyone catching us. Let me finish up here, and then we'll go to your place and then to General."

An hour and a half later, we were headed back toward Redmond General Hospital. I was feeling much more like myself after a shower, some clean clothes, and a little more breakfast, which we caught on the way at McHugh's because my refrigerator was, as usual, empty except for three beers and the moldy remains of a sub sandwich from a couple of weeks ago. I was wearing my spare armored jacket, the one that didn't smell like a smokehouse. "So what exactly are we looking for?" I asked Winterhawk as he guided the Americar into one of the few free spaces in the hospital's parking lot.

He didn't answer until he'd stopped the car and we were walking toward the building. "I think we should try to sneak into the morgue if we can."

"Can't we just pretend to be relatives?"

'Hawk shook his head. "Too easy. They're bound to check records, even at a place like this. Besides, if something dodgy is going on, do you want to announce our presence?"

I mulled that over. "But how are we gonna get into the morgue without somebody stopping us? I don't think it's exactly a stop on the tour they give to school kids."

We were getting close to the door now. "Just look like you know what you're doing," he said under his breath. "And stay in sight." He pointed toward a large panel van parked nearby, out of sight of the hospital employees entering through the employee entrance about ten meters away. We ducked behind the van, and 'Hawk made a small gesture at me. When I looked down, I appeared to be dressed in hospital whites. I'd seen his mask spell before, so it didn't surprise me. "Do I look like me?" I asked him.

"Not quite. You look like an orderly with dark brown hair." He repeated the gesture, and for a moment he shimmered. When his form resolved again, it was that of a gray-haired, distinguished looking middle-aged man in a suit and a white lab coat.

"How come you get to be the doctor?" I asked, half-teasingly.

He grinned. "My spell." Motioning me ahead of him, he said, "Let's go. Let me do the talking if anybody bothers us."

We joined the small stream of hospital personnel entering through two wide swinging doors marked "HOSPITAL STAFF ONLY". The door opened on a long hallway; the various workers followed the hallway to the end, where it split off in two directions. Randomly, we picked one and followed a little knot of nurses and orderlies, all the time surreptitiously looking around for some kind of map or directory.

Redmond General was a very busy hospital—that was clear early on. The halls were full of more nurses and orderlies, doctors, bathrobe-clad patients walking up and down the halls, visitors, and custodial people. The whole place had the vague smell of disinfectant covering up other smells that were just slightly unpleasant, but not bad enough to really notice. The place had seven floors, but by silent agreement we confined our search to the ground floor, since morgues were usually located in a basement level. Everybody pretty much ignored us, so I guessed 'Hawk's spell must be working.

Eventually, trying not to look like we were lost, we found a bank of elevators near the main nurses' station. I looked at 'Hawk, and he nodded. Nonchalantly, he pushed the arrow and we waited for the doors to open. A troll orderly sauntered up, talking to an ork nurse. When the elevator door opened, we waited for the car's passengers to exit, then stepped in. The ork and the troll followed us, talking animatedly about the recent Urban Brawl match. 'Hawk pushed the "B" button, shrugging slightly at me as if to say, any better ideas? I shook my head. The elevator started to move.

"Hey," the troll orderly said, looking up from his conversation to grin at me, his huge tusks polished to a dull sheen. "I ain't seen you around here before. You new?"

Before I could answer, Winterhawk smiled at the troll. "He's my assistant," he said. "I'm afraid he doesn't speak any English." My eyes widened a bit: he spoke in what sounded to me like a perfect German accent, all traces of his normal British one gone.

The ork nurse spoke up. "I haven't seen you before either, Doctor—"

"Stein. This is Hans," he added, indicating me. He smiled benevolently at the ork. "We're doing some consulting, but I'm afraid we've lost our way."

"I'll say," the troll said as the nurse returned the smile. "Ain't nothin' down here but the laundry supply and the morgue."

Winterhawk nodded. "Then we did lose our way." He paused a moment, considering. "Does there happen to be a restroom down there as well?"

The nurse nodded. "It's not much of one, though. The morgue workers use it."

The elevator stopped, and the doors opened onto a dim corridor. Winterhawk nodded. "Nonetheless, it will serve." He looked a bit embarrassed. "Too much coffee on the plane, I think. If you'll show us the way, and excuse us—"

The ork nurse pointed the way to the restroom, a dark door on the right side of the hallway. At the end of the hall, I could see at door marked MORGUE. The two headed off in the opposite direction, and I was seized with sudden certainty that they weren't down here to get laundry supplies. Their giggles when they thought we were no longer listening confirmed my theory.

I grinned at 'Hawk as he dropped the spell. "So now I don't even get to speak English, huh?"

He shrugged, looking innocent. "It was all I could think of. Should we duck into the loo and wait for them to leave?"

"Nah." I shook my head, glancing back down the corridor. "I think they'll be here awhile, but I don't think they'll be any trouble."

"All right, then. Let's hope this is the end of our search." He started toward the morgue door. "Coming?"

I sighed and started after him. Yeah, right. This was the end, and I was gonna sprout wings and fly away. Things were never that easy.

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