Me and Anndie spent almost the entire night talking, long time after Karen decided to crash out.  I was real nervous about telling her what I was gonna do and all, and why I was gonna do it, but I was glad I did.  As far as hurting her feelings, didn't happen.  Fact, she told me about her boyfriend Jason.  She wants to get back together with him but she told him to stay away from her after all the stuff at Hartwell went down, that she was in a lot of trouble.

"How do you know he's not looking for you right now?"  I ask her.  I bet you anything he is.

"I told him I'd get in touch with him as soon as things were safe."  Then she turns kind of red.  "I used your email to contact him.  I'm sorry, I probably shouldn't have done that."

"No, no, that's cool."  They're not gonna trace her here.  No way.  "Did he write you back?"

"Yeah--in fact, I was trying to think of a nice way to tell you that he'd be here in a couple of weeks."  She's really blushing hard.  "I--I didn't know how you felt about me.  I was really embarrassed, because you're such a nice guy and you've done so much for me."

"Was nothing."  And it really wasn't.  "Wasn't for you, the guys wouldn't have been okay."

"No, Jimmy, if it wasn't for me, they wouldn't be in the situation they got into."  She's still real bummed about that.

"You gotta quit blaming yourself for that, y'know.  You were just--"

"Doing my job.  Just like a good little Nazi."

"You gotta stop thinking about yourself like that, Anndie.  You're a good person.  You didn't know.  And when it got to crunch time, you came through."

She looks sad but she tries to smile.  "It's going to be a long time before I think I can look at myself that way."

"But you tried to call your boss on it."

"And look what it got me."

"Anndie, man, you're worse than Byers, beating up yourself like this."

That gets her to laugh.  "Byers has a guilt complex?"

"Byers feels guilty for everything, which is real dumb.  I mean yeah, he does some dumb stuff, but not as much as some people do, but when he does, he always feels real bad about it.  Me, I'm too dumb most of the time to even know I'm screwing up."

She laughs again.  "Jimmy, I don't think you're stupid.  I think you have what they call emotional intelligence."

"What's that?"

She giggles.  "Something maybe you could teach Jason.  He's the love of my life, but he's also a mathematician.  Reading people well isn't his specialty.  Or mine."

"Must be a real smart guy, if he's a mathe--whatever."

"Jason's brilliant, and he really is a sweetheart.  But you've got perception.  And you know what's important to you."

"So you don't think it's stupid for me to go looking for Yves."

She holds off on that one.  "I think it's dangerous.  But stupid?  I don't think looking out for people you love is stupid at all."

"She's in a lot of danger. Probably even more than we are. I gotta help her.  I gotta find her.  Get her to somewhere safe."

"From what you've told me, Jimmy, I'm not sure she'd be safe anywhere.  It sounds as if her father is a monster and maybe he wouldn't even hesitate to kill his own daughter."  She shudders.  "I had to lie to my mom and dad and my brother.  Said I got on an exchange program down here. I hate lying to them.  I miss them a lot, too.  I don't know when I'll see them again.  At least with Jason, nobody at the lab really knew about him.  He didn't even work at Hartwell.  We knew each other from Rutgers. He's still there. He's a postdoc now.  I'll be lucky if I ever get to finish my doctorate.  I know that sounds like it's petty after everything that's happened, but I still want to be a biochemist."

"Well, you should.  You're good at it.  Maybe Maggie'd help you."

She laughs but it's not a happy sound.  "Maggie is probably the last person in the world who would ever want to see me again."

"That's not true, you helped her a lot."

"I put her in a terrible position."

"Once things are safe, I bet she'd help you a lot."

"We'll see."  I don't think she wants to talk about that.  "Maybe I can get something going here.  Right now I'm just a dishwasher, if you really must know.  Karen doesn't want people in the lab to know what I can do just yet.  She has a bunch of new people in there and she doesn't know them really well, and she says to hold off and later on I might get to start doing gels and assays and all the other fun things."

"You're gonna be a great biochemist.  Just you wait."  I know she will.  I can tell in my heart that she's gonna have better luck someday.

"Thanks.  I appreciate that."

"And you got a good guy that loves you."

"It's been--we'll see what happens when Jason comes.  Since all this began, things have been tough."

"You'll work it out."  He loves her.  She loves him.  They have to make it work, right? "I  mean, he's coming all  the way here to see you."

"That's true, and it's not as if they pay postdocs luxurious stipends."  I think that makes her feel a little better. "He's going through a lot just to come see me."

"See?  Now you know how I feel about Yves."

She laughs, and it's a real laugh this time.  "That's kind of obvious, Jimmy."

"I miss the guys a lot."

"What would they say about this?  Your going off to find Yves?"

"They'd probably say I was a moron.  And I worry I'm gonna put 'em in danger."

"Are you going to try and contact them about this?"

I shake my head.  No way.  They'd probably kill me themselves.  And it's not like they're always crazy about Yves.  Okay, she's screwed them over a couple times, like when they first met.  I can understand why they don't trust her.  But really, she cares about them a lot.  She helped a lot the night they got hit with the stuff.  She really did want them to be okay.  Everything she was doing, she was trying to keep them out of danger. "Nope.  If they don't know about this, they can't get in trouble about it.  So I'm not gonna tell 'em."

"What're they going to think when they don't hear from you?"

"Well, you know how you sent email for me last night?  If you could do that like once a week, that'd be great."

"That's no problem.  I'll do that."

"Thanks.  That way they won't worry.  Won't think anything's up."

"I think that's the least I can do for you."

"It's plenty.  You're a real nice girl, Anndie."

"I'm not sure of that all the time, but I think you've got the best heart in the world."

We're quiet for a while, just drinking some Fosters and relaxing.

"When are you leaving?"  She asks me.

"As soon as my dad wires my money, I'll be out of here."

"Don't you think they could trace you?"

"No.  Unless they're looking for Morris Fletcher."

She laughs and shakes her head.  "This Fletcher guy.  I didn't think you had it in bad for anyone, Jimmy, but this guy seems to stick under your fingernails."

"You got no idea.  Not the first time he messed with us.  But this time, he's just the messenger boy.  So why not have a little fun with him?"

"You're not going to go after Runtz, are you?  You remember what Muladharma said."

"I'm not interested in him--okay, well I am, but I just wanna make sure Yves is okay."  And tell her how I really feel.  Even if she doesn't feel the same way, I gotta tell her.

"How did you get your dad to give you the money?"

"Well, at first he wasn't, 'cause I'm not supposed to get it till I'm 30, but then I told him it was something about a girl."

"And he understood."

"Yeah.  He did."  Man, I was so worried about that, and I didn't know what I was gonna tell him, so I just told him the truth.  And he was real good about it.  He just said to be real careful and to keep in touch.  I'll do the first.  I'm not sure how long it's gonna be until I can do the second.  I don't want them near any of this.  I've had my ups and downs with my mom and dad, but they've really been there for me.  Least I can do for them is not get them in trouble.

Anndie smiles.  "I hope Yves knows what a lucky girl she is."

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