The quiet, almost reverent, exclamation drew my attention up the curved stairway to the right of the tiered audience seating. Hank stood outside the door to the control room, eyes wide, arms hanging loosely at his sides. His face was so white, both his freckles and his bushy red eyebrows looked like they had been glued on.
He shook his head and said it again, with feeling. "Holy crap!"
The sound of his name seemed to snap him out of his daze. He sprang into action, loping down the aisle, two stairs at a time. "Are you out of your freakin’ mind? I don’t freakin’ believe this!"
"Calm down, I—"
"Calm down?" He landed in front of me, slightly out of breath, cummerbund askew. "Calm down?" His index finger stabbed the air in front of me. "You call out the world’s most efficient killing machine, from my studio, and you want me to calm down? I’m a dead man," he groaned, closing his eyes. "My life is over, and I never even had a chance to get married and father an heir to follow in the old man’s footsteps." He opened his eyes to glare at me reproachfully. "You could have at least warned me before you set me up for a blind date with death."
I couldn’t help myself. "Blind date with death?" The glare intensified. "Okay, forget I said that. But would you have helped me, if I had told you what I was going to do?"
The blood rushed back into his face with a vengeance. "I don’t know, but it would have been nice to have a choice!"
Time to settle him down before the increased blood flow blew an aneurysm in that overheated brain. "Relax, Hank. There’s no way anyone can connect what happened here to either you or the Herald. My technical expert is the best in the world, and she assures me this broadcast will be virtually untraceable."
"Virtually untraceable? Now why don’t I find that reassuring?"
"Will you calm down? Even if the Ferrymen eventually trace it back to me, you’re in the clear, and I’ll be leaving town, probably later tonight. We planned this down to the last detail, covered all possible contingencies. Trust me, I would never put someone else’s life at risk."
I paused, wondering if that was strictly true, given what had happened to Cuey and Michaels. I still wasn’t one hundred percent convinced their deaths weren’t my fault. Of course, this wasn’t the time to wrestle my conscience. Instead, I told Hank, "You’re safe."
He eyed me suspiciously for a long minute. "You’re sure."
He stared at me some more, then heaved a sigh. Straightening his cummerbund and checking his tie, he muttered, "I hope you’re right, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough." He ran an unsteady hand over his hair. "Look, I don’t know about you, but I could use a drink.
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