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dinner. In between times, no. "What are you doin' here, kid?" Louie rasped in a voice rough from too many
cigarettes. "You outa your mind or somethin'?"
"I'm trying to find out about Dad," Paul said.
"You'll find out, all right," the cook said. "You'll keep him company in the calaboose, that's how you'll find
out. Feldgendarmerie wants you bad, sonny. You're hotter'n a two-dollar pistol on Saturday night." He
swiped a wet rag across the counter.
"It was the Germans who got him, then?" Paul asked.
"Who did you expect? Santa Claus and the elves?" Louie lit another Camel. Paul tried not to flinch.
Smoking in restaurants had been illegal for a hundred years in the home timeline. Smoking itself wasn't
illegal there, but people who smoked did it in the privacy of their own homes. Smoking in public was as
nasty as picking your nose in public. Paul had never seen Louie do that. But he smoked like a chimney.
Paul said, "I don't know. I wondered if the Chinese had anything to do with it."
"Oh. On account of the competition, you mean?" Louie probably had a grade-school education at best, but
he was no dope. He shook his head. "Nah, wasn't them. This was official. Besides, they don't like the
Kaiser more than they don't like your old man, you know what I mean?"
"Yeah." Paul nodded.
"But you gotta get lost," Louie said. "There's a reward out for you two hundred and fifty bucks." That was
a lot of money in this alternate. Louie went on, "Some of the clowns around here, they'd turn in their mother
for a buck ninety-five."
He was probably right. Paul knew that, no matter how much he wished it weren't so. Trying to sound tough,
he said, "I'll be okay."
"Yeah, sure you will. And pigs have wings." Louie waggled his eyebrows and rolled his eyes. "Go on. Get
lost. No, hang on." He held up a hand, like a cop stopping traffic. This, that, and the other thing went into a
paper bag. When it was bulging, he thrust it at Paul. "Now get lost and if the cops come around, I never
seen you."
The bag held burgers, fries, and some of the honey-soaked baklava that was a labor of love at Louie's.
"You're a lifesaver," Paul exclaimed. "Here, wait, though. I can pay you for this stuff."
Louie turned his back. "Like I said, I don't see you. I don't hear you, neither. And I'll tell the . . .
Feldgendarmerie the same." Paul didn't know what the Greek word in front of Feldgendarmerie meant. It
wasn't a compliment, though. He was sure of that.
"Thanks," he said. "I won't forget this."
"Ghosts. Who'd figure a lousy Frisco burger joint had ghosts in it?" Louie wouldn't turn around.
Paul gave up. He hurried out of Louie's place and out of the neighborhood. Nobody came after him. No
policeman's whistle screeched. The bag was heavy with food. He went over to Union Square, not far
away. The Victory Monument stood here, as it did in the home timeline. The breakpoint between the two
worlds came after the Spanish-American War. In this alternate, that was almost the last glory the USA had
won. Pigeons perched on the bronze figure representing naval power atop the tall column in the center of
the square. Considering what the birds did to that figure, maybe they stood for air power.
Like so much of this San Francisco, the square looked sad and run down. The grass needed watering and
mowing. The wind swirled dust and wastepaper around the base of the Victory Monument. No-body'd
painted the park benches in a long, long time. When Paul sat down on one of them, the planks creaked and
shifted. He wondered if it would hold his weight, and got ready to jump in a hurry.
He gulped down one of the big, juicy hamburgers heavy on the onions and some fries and a chunk of
baklava. By the time he got done, he felt as if he'd swallowed a bowling ball. The bag still had a lot of food
in it. When Louie gave, he gave with both hands. Paul knew what he'd do for supper tonight.
He wished he knew what to do after supper. The closest people from the home timeline he knew of were
in Germany. Getting hold of them would have been easy ... if he could have gone into Curious Notions.
Dumb, Paul. You were really dumb. He made a fist and slammed it down on the bench. That was true, but
did him no good. How do I fix things?
"Don't be dumb," he said. Saying it was easy. Doing it? Doing it looked anything but.
Every so often, Lucy walked by Curious Notions on the way home from work. She didn't know why. The [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]