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"He always did have a mind of his own." Hess spread her palms, gave him a sympathetic smile. "Well, if there's anything I can do, anything you need . . . you're sure you're up to all this running around?"

Mickey tried without much success to put on a rea.s.suring face. "My head's felt better, but I'll be fine."

"Somebody out in the cubicles might have some painkiller."

"I appreciate that. Maybe I'll just go and see what I can find."

He walked out into the lobby and noticed that the makes.h.i.+ft table where they'd earlier been preparing the pledge-card mailing was now doubling as a kind of study hall for half a dozen pairs of tutors and their students. Limping over to them, head truly pounding again, he knocked at one end of the table. "Excuse me," he said, as twelve pairs of eyes turned to him, "did any of you notice an older guy hanging around here yesterday afternoon, inside the building or out? About six feet, skinny, maybe seventy years old?"

A sea of blank faces stared back at him. Not much of a surprise.

On his phone call, Hunt had told Mickey to locate Al Carter if he could and ask him to give a call. After he'd done that, Mickey was to abandon his alibi search and phone calls to COO members and devote his time to trying to discover what had happened to Jim. His disappearance, Hunt had made clear, was now looking more and more as though it might be somehow related to this investigation, and this was anything but good news. In fact, the new development had seemed so immediate and important to Mickey that he'd totally forgotten that his boss had told him-first-to find Carter and give him the message to call Hunt. Then Mickey was to start looking for Jim, getting a line on where he'd gone after Irving Pizza if he could.

Suddenly Mickey realized he'd forgotten the first part of the a.s.signment. Back in the administrative cubicles where he'd been making his phone calls, he got some aspirin and learned that Carter was back in the parking lot-the city had returned the limo and he had gone out to make sure they hadn't damaged it too badly.

Mickey found him sitting alone behind the wheel, apparently sleeping in the new-minted and welcome suns.h.i.+ne. The front windows were down and Mickey hesitated, then started to walk with his halting steps up to the driver's side. When he was about five feet away, Carter spoke through his closed eyes. "The sound of your walking gives you away. Tell me I got the reward."

"Sorry. Not yet. But my boss would like you to give him a call. You might be getting close."

Mickey punched in Hunt's number on Carter's cell phone and handed the instrument back. He then moved away, out of earshot, and sat on the asphalt, his back up against the building, and settled into a drowsy seminumbness in the warming suns.h.i.+ne. In spite of himself, he dozed off. Seconds, or minutes, later, he started awake with Carter still on the phone, his side of the discussion consisting mostly of a ser

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