Asimov's Science Fiction: April/May 2014

Asimov's Science Fiction: April/May 2014 by Penny Publications Read Free Book Online

Book: Asimov's Science Fiction: April/May 2014 by Penny Publications Read Free Book Online
Authors: Penny Publications
Tags: Asimov's #459 & #460
reflectively. "Did you know the people who died?"
    "I did. Not well."
    The SUV slammed down onto its chassis, the edge of the sinkhole having given way just as the back wheels of the vehicle breached.
    "Ouch," said the other man.
    Jimmy said, "Did you hear that story, about a stranger pulling somebody out of the wreckage?"
    "I did indeed." Now he patted his beard while watching the activity at the sinkhole. Two jumpsuited workmen peered into the deeps. "Several people were pulled out. But I know the woman you mean, the one they interviewed. She's a teacher."
    "Do you know where she lives?"
    The other nodded as if agreeing with a profound thought, then stepped past Jimmy and continued to the yellow tape, where he surveyed the scene. Jimmy waited for a beat, then joined him.
    The two men operating the winch noticed them. They both raised their hands and called. "Mr. Seton!"
    "Gentlemen!" he called back, not otherwise moving.
    "Ain't this somethin'!" one man shouted.
    "You can say that again!" Seton turned to Jimmy. "I taught them. Math."
    "You said you know—"
    "Back here," Seton said, turning about. "I just left her. You know what's odd about these sinkholes?"
    Jimmy gave the street another look. "The size?"
    "The unlikelihood. One is possible. Some kind of groundwater erosion or poor structure over the sewers or... I don't know. But five at once, or nearly at once? Not a'tall likely."
    "Do the holes lead somewhere?"
    They had paused at the diner door. One small table with two chairs sat on a dais in the window, but Jimmy couldn't see beyond that. "Lead somewhere? What do you mean?" He tugged on the door. "Cheryl Larsen's in here, trying to enjoy what's left of her summer." Jimmy remembered the book, back in the car.
    "I have to get something. Can you just keep her there a minute?"
    The other man's head dipped so his brows hooded his gaze. "You're not getting a camera, are you?"
    "No," Jimmy said. "No. A book. My car's right around the corner. I left a book. Right back," and he strode away, wanting to run but having kept a permanent recording inside his head of his father saying, "It always looks bad when a black man runs away." He gritted his teeth to think that he would likely never lose that recording.
    The book lay on the back seat, alongside the duffel, warm to the touch.
    Seton had remained by the door, arms folded. "That was quick," Seton said, and Jimmy gave him a smile meant to put the other man at ease.
    The place smelled of baked goods and air-conditioning. At one table, an older couple facing at right angles to each other munched on sandwiches. The woman behind the counter wiped the surface without applying evident pressure.
    Seton led Jimmy to a table where a single woman sat, her arm in a sling. A cap unsuccessfully contained the permed ball of her hair.
    Seton said, "Here's a man who's come to see you."
    "Ms. Larson?" Jimmy said.
    Keeping her good hand on the table, she raised its index finger. "Did I teach you? I'm terrible with names."
    "No, ma'am. You don't know me."
    "It's about the sinkhole," Seton said.
    "Actually," Jimmy said, holding the book toward her, "it's about this man."
    Cheryl Larsen's mouth opened as if tugged down by an invisible string. She met Jimmy's eyes and shut her mouth. Her good hand tapped the book.
    "That," she said, "is uncanny."
9. In Plain Sight
    The prisoner slumped on the floor, perhaps napping. Jimmy tugged the lever on his chair, adjusting the back. Reflexively, he cleared his throat. He would not be speaking. If he succeeded, Methusaleh would speak; he would, of his own free will, answer their questions.
    Oblonski, the lieutenant colonel who had trained Jimmy and those whom Oblonski called "my happy few," made sure to differentiate their methods from the methods of their enemies and the methods of the past.
    "Our ways are not their ways," he had insisted. They would not engage in the farce of confession and reeducation by which the Chinese Communists had coerced the state's

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