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Chapter XIX

First there were only impressions: the delighted and meaningless chatter of people, the cherry wood panels of the hall, the portraits of old stuffy men. Then, looking down through and beyond Spaceman’s eyes, D and Marcus saw Gunther Thulewaite waiting patiently for the answer to his question. His face was hard and unpleasant even with a superficial smile. This was the face of someone getting ready to put down a rabid dog or squash a cockroach.

The charm D was using to observe Spaceman was dim and obscuring. The gist was clear but details remained murky. The emotions of passing guests became intertwined with the smells of food and drink. The impressions of menace from Thulewaite’s guards had somehow the same flavor as the stuffed canapĂ© that Spaceman was chewing on contentedly.

In a similar way, D’s observations came tinged with Marcus’ own alarm.

“Oh, there was no escape,” said Spaceman/Rasheed, relaxed and lucid. “I imagine there was some instant where Rasheed believed he would attempt to crawl out of the room, but ultimately, the room is where we found him, quite dead. It’s hoped he succumbed to the fumes before the flames.”

Gunther’s lips revealed tobacco-stained teeth and he nodded. “You are telling me things I already know. That’s merely one less thing I’ll have to whip out of you. You still haven’t told me who you really are.”

Still untroubled, Spaceman raised his hand. “Oh, I am Rasheed Suliman. I am the man you invited to your Ranch. Allow me to explain. I am the seventh generation of Rasheed Sulimans. You see in my family, there has always been a Rasheed Suliman, the second son of a second son, raised from birth to appreciate the more refined pleasures of life and to guarantee their ready availability to men of taste. From the moment I was born I have studied Rasheed Suliman, waiting for the moment my family would need me. I know his long history, his habits and his many, many deaths. When you killed your Suliman, I shaved my beard and gave up my childish clothes. I am now Suliman. I will be Suliman until I die and am reborn. I don’t know about you, but I feel a certain reassurance in that.”

Thulewaite laughed. “I’m not sure if I believe you, Rasheed, but I do have to say I like you better than the last man with your name.”

“Excellent,” Spaceman bowed. “Then perhaps you will be so kind as to allow me to do what you brought me here to do.”

“I’ll do better than that, Mr. Suliman,” said Thulewaite. “How would you like to meet some Senators?”

The Zanzibar room retreated and both Marcus and D returned to the limousine. LeHaze lifted her eyebrows.

“He’s in,” she said.

“Can you communicate with him?” Melissa asked.

“Unfortunately, no,” said D, “The mystical byways function on the basis of correspondence, or the proximity of certain symbolic catalysts. Without a mutual associations, there can be no common basis for—“

Shield’s eyebrows came together in consternation. “I know you’re speaking English because I recognize some of the words…”

“Sorry,” she said. “Basically we saw what he’s doing because I have his cigarette. In order for us to talk, he must have something that belonged to me.”

“Hmm. Too bad, then. But we’ll sort that out at some point tonight. The important thing right now is to keep an eye on Spaceman until we get there, can you do that?

D nodded, “I just wonder who’ll be watching us once we’re inside.”

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