Cassie yawned over the goat book. She had begun reading with a sense of excitement and purpose, only to find that most of the information about livestock care was inapplicable to their situation. There was no safe place to let the goat wander, except perhaps in the hotel parking garage, under guard. There wasn’t much chance they would have an opportunity to breed their goat, although the idea of a herd of goats for milk and meat would have captured her imagination under better circumstances. And the fine distinctions between orchard grass, timothy hay and alfalfa? This goat would be lucky to get enough grass and weeds from the nearby parks.

With so little practical information, Cassie let her mind drift. She wished Galahad’s request to help mind the clinic had been granted. Instead he had been assigned to hang out with the guards from the other groups and make sure there were no double agents among them. She wished, too, that Julilla hadn’t moved back into her own room, or that Zach wasn’t angry at having been made their Telo guinea pig. With no one to talk to but dull little Sasha and nothing to read but the goat book full of unworkable advice, she grew sleepy. Would Doc ever come to relieve her, or would he be stuck all night with the crazy delegates from the alliance?

The door opened and she snapped her head up. It was only David. “Is Doc still speaking?” she asked.

“He was when I left. He got a late start. Roy from the City Hall group got into it with Elissa over seating arrangements. While that was going on, the St. Catherine’s girls tried to form some kind of agreement with the St. Xavier’s reps on how they would vote on any issues that came up, and by the time Mundo got everyone called to order, they were behind schedule.”

“Great.” Cassie set the book aside. “They’ll be there all night. Once they start drinking, we’ll be lucky if they don’t tear each other apart. Who needs Pharms and Obits when we’ve got each other?”

David agreed. “They gave me a headache. Got any aspirin?”

Cassie led David into the treatment room and rummaged in a cabinet. “How bad is it? If it’s really bad, I can give you some aspirin we got from the Pharms. But if it’s just a mild headache, the willow tincture will work just as well and we make it ourselves for free.”

“I’ll try the willow.” David accepted the dropper and dosed himself. Then he handed back the bottle and sprawled in a chair, gazing up at Cassie with a predatory expression she had never seen before. “So you’re stuck here all alone.”

Cassie put the bottle away and wished he would quit looking at her like that. “Not really. I’ve got Sasha and a whole ward full of patients in the next room.”

“But no one in here.”

She locked the cabinet, affecting a manner of brisk efficiency. “Well, you’re all set. I need to get back to work now.”

“No you don’t.” He waved her to him. “There’s something else I need.” He grabbed her wrist and tried to put her hand on his crotch.

Cassie struggled as his fingers dug into her flesh. “Let me go! I’ll tell Galahad.”

“Go ahead and tell.” He forced her hand along the bulge in his pants. “You don’t really think he gives a damn, do you? We shared girls when we were with the Kevorks. You’re no more special than any of the others were.”

Cassie tried to slap him, but David grabbed her, and she kicked his shins and stomped on his feet until he released her. She lunged for a heavy flashlight on the table, and brandished it like a club. “Get out of here!”

He got to his feet with the lazy moves of a cat, his features twisted in an ugly smirk. “I wasn’t going to hurt you. I just thought you’d like to have a little fun with a guy who knows how to treat a girl.”

“And you think you’re that guy?”

“At least we know who killed my last girlfriend.”

Cassie sucked in her breath at the mention of Leila. “I don’t know what that has to do with anything.”

“Really?” He took a step toward her. “The noble Sir Galahad didn’t tell you what happened to Trina? Better watch out or the same thing might happen to you.”

Ice was forming in the pit of her stomach, but Cassie tried not to let her hands shake or her voice tremble. “Quit talking crazy. If there’s something you think I need to know, tell me.”

“Better ask him yourself, darling. That way you can’t say I made it up.”

“I’m not your darling.”

“But you will be,” he said with a slow, appraising smile. “Once you know the truth, you’ll come looking for me. And I’ll be keeping the bed warm for you.”

For a moment Cassie thought he might try to grab her again and she tightened her grip on the flashlight. But to her relief, David walked away with an air of exaggerated unconcern. Although she knew she should run to the ward for safety in case he came back with something worse than nasty words and groping in mind, she couldn’t face anyone yet. She set the flashlight on the table, startled to find she was weak in the knees and breathing hard.

What was David talking about? Of course she knew Galahad had girlfriends before her. She wasn’t surprised he had one with the Kevorks, but if she was dead, so what? There were lots of ways to die.

Cassie sank into a chair, hugging herself. There had already been so many unpleasant surprises about Galahad. She wasn’t up for one more. Why couldn’t everything be like it was in the penthouse, all clean and civilized? Up there, everything was right with the world, while down here—

Sasha poked her head in the door. “Cassie?”

“Unless Doc is back, go away.”

“But you have to come,” Sasha said. “Topper, the one with the rash, is sick.” Seeing that Cassie was unmoved, she added. “He’s throwing up blood.”



Alice Audrey said...

Poor Cassie! When it isn't one thing, it's another.

Anonymous said...

Cassie shouldn't be so affected by everything that she hears about Galahad. It seems to me, that under these circumstances the clean civility that we know in easy times can not be counted on in Telo times. I wouldn't give anything that David said bug me.
If it were me, the only reason that I would bother reporting this stuff to Galahad is because he needs to know what a nice trustworthy friend he has. David is dangerous.