Changeling
passage. “Just her.”
    “Looks like Couture,” Professor amended, “but sounds like Statham. You’re like the whole cast of the Expendables all rolled into one.”
    Jade flashed him a quizzical look then turned to the bodyguard. “I’m not going in there without him.”
    The big man shook his head. “Mr. Roche’s orders.”
    Jade stared up at him for a moment then shrugged and started to turn away, but Roche’s voice issued from beyond the door. “Let them in, Jonathan.”
    “That’s right, Jonathan,” Professor taunted. “Let us in.”
    The surly bodyguard moved out of the way without comment. As Jade stepped toward the door, she leaned close to Professor. “What the hell was that about? You channeling Bones or something?”
    “Bones”—Uriah Bonebrake—was one of Professor’s former SEAL swim buddies, and had a terminal case of “no filter” syndrome. A hulking six-feet five-inches, Bones could say whatever he pleased—and frequently did. Professor may not have been as physically imposing as Bones, but he was no pushover. Generally speaking though, he kept a low profile. Testosterone-fueled posturing was definitely not his style.
    “Just testing a hypothesis,” Professor whispered, throwing a faint nod in the direction of the bodyguard. “I pushed and he didn’t push back. The guy’s a pro.”
    “Why does that matter?”
    “I’m not sure yet, but if he’s hiring former military for protection, maybe your old pal Roche isn’t just paranoid after all.”
    Roche was waiting for them inside.
    “Where’d everyone go?” Jade asked him.
    “I sent them away,” Roche said
    “You sent them away? What, you just asked nicely?”
    “I have a great deal of influence, both with the museum and the producers of Alien Explorers .”
    Roche sounded almost apologetic. Jade searched his face for some hint of treachery but saw none of the arrogance she recalled from their first meeting. Roche looked truly frightened. He stared at Professor warily for a moment before turning to Jade. “Do you trust him?”
    It was an odd question, but then Roche was nothing if not odd. “Of course,” she replied.
    “How long have you known him?”
    “A few years. Why?”
    Roche scrutinized Professor’s face again. “Ask him a question, something about your first meeting that no one else would know.”
    “Seriously?” Jade put her hands on her hips. “I don’t have time for this. Get to the point or I’m out of here.”
    Roche made no effort to hide his irritation. “This is the point, Dr. Ihara. You have no idea what they are capable of. I need an assurance.”
    “They?”
    “The Changelings. They’re here. They’re everywhere. Do you think what happened to you this morning was a coincidence?”
    “No. I think it was an accident.”
    Roche laughed harshly. “There are no accidents, Dr. Ihara. No coincidences.”
    “It’s okay, Jade” Professor said. “Now I’m curious. Ask me something.”
    Jade shook her head. She was done playing Roche’s game. “I said, I trust him. Now, what do you want?”
    Roche’s nostrils flared but then he made a dismissive gesture. “I suppose it doesn’t matter. They already know what I’m about to tell you.”
    Instead of answering her question however, Roche turned and headed further into the museum, the tacit implication that she should follow. He made his way to a private office and settled wearily into the chair behind a desk cluttered with papers and a scattering of Paracas artifacts. An elongated skull rested on one corner, looking more like a cheap paperweight than the remains of a once-living human being. Roche drummed his fingers on the desktop as if trying to organize his thoughts, then looked up at Jade. “You found something today, didn’t you?”
    “If you call a sinkhole and an underground tidal cave ‘something,’ then yes.”
    “That’s all you found?”
    Jade managed, with an effort, to keep her face a neutral mask.
    He knows about the

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