F Wilson: Deep as the Marrow

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F Wilson Deep as the Marrow
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    Deep as the Marrow
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Deep As The Marrow

by F. Paul Wilson

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

DEEP AS THE MARROW Copyright 1997 by F. Paul Wilson

A Tor Book Published by Tom Doherty Associates, Inc. 175 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10010

ISBN: 0-812-57198-3

To Meggan and Coates upon the start of their life together


Special thanks to Robert Surgent for sharing his treasury of Stupid Car Tricks.

Also, thanks to Mary, Meggan, Coates, Parvez Dara, Harriet McDougal, Steven Spruill, Al Zuckerman, and the National Drug Policy Foundation.

Fear by day and night, fear as deep as the marrow.

—James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time



“… and then you know what Jimmy did?” John Vanduyne struggled to concentrate on his six-year-old daughter’s story about the baddest boy in her kindergarten class. It wasn’t easy. His gaze kept shifting back to the angry face on the screen of the little TV on the kitchen side counter.

“No, Katie,” he said. “What did he do?” Katie slurped up a big spoonful of her Lucky Charms and chewed as quickly as she could.

Morning was the brightest part of the kitchen’s day, but even now, with the spring sun cascading through the windows, it was still fairly dim. A 1970s kitchen, with dark-oak cabinets and furniture, a Congoleum floor, and harvest-gold appliances and countertops. If he ever decided to buy the place, he’d want to brighten it up. But each year he put off the decision and renewed his lease.

He watched Katie swallow convulsively. She was really into this story. Excitement shone from her bright blue eyes.

My eyes, he thought. The round face, clear skin, and long, dark, glossy hair are her mother’s; and she’s going to be petite like Mamie. But those are Vanduyne eyes.

She said, “Well, he took his pencil and he…” John heard the words “racist” and “genocide” and couldn’t help glancing at the TV again.

A very angry black congressman, his jowls trembling with rage, was letting the President of the United States have it with both barrels.

John knew him—or at least knew of him: Floyd Jessup.

DNY flashed through his mind and he had to smile at the reflex… a natural response after you’ve been in Washington awhile.

No surprise about Jessup’s reaction. The President had made his official announcement last night, and here was the congressman, not twelve hours later, venting his considerable spleen on Good Morning America. His staff hadn’t wasted a second.

“… and to think that we supported this man, we helped put Thomas Winston into the White House! And what does he do? He drives a knife into the back of the already oppressed African-American community!” John ripped his attention back to Katie and found that he’d missed what bad boy Jimmy Clifton had done. He tried to cover.

“Oh, wow. Did he get in trouble?”

“Yep!” Katie said with a quick nod and a satisfied smile that revealed a gap on top. She’d lost her first tooth just last week. Her upper right-front incisor now belonged to the Tooth Fairy. “Had to go down the hall and see Sister Louise.”

“Is that bad?”

Katie stared at him as if he had two heads. “She’s the principal. Daddy.”

“Oh, right. Sister Louise. Of course.” Despite the fact that he’d been raised a Baptist, John had opted to enroll Katie in a Catholic school—Holy Family Elementary in Bethesda. It had a great reputation as one of the best primary schools inside the Beltway. Even had a waiting list.

John was delighted Katie was getting along so well in school. She’d suffered some separation anxiety at first— perfectly understandable, considering what she’d been through—but now she looked forward to catching the school bus and riding off with her friends every morning. Made it worth all the strings he’d had to pull to get her in.

Pulling strings… the name of the game around here. When he’d been a practicing internist in Atlanta he hadn’t known a thing about strings. But he’d learned fast: a couple of years as a Health and Human Services deputy secretary and he could pull with the best of them.

He glanced at his watch. “Oops. You’re going to miss the bus.”

She grinned. “And then I’ll be Latie Katie.”

“Yes, you will. Did you take your pill?”

She searched the tablecloth around her cereal bowl for it. “No, I—”

“I have it.” John looked up as his mother approached them from the far side of the kitchen, holding up an amber vial.

“Thanks, Nana,” Katie said, sticking out her hand.

Nana—she was still Helga to her peers, and she’d once been “Ma” to John, but she became “Nana” to the family once Katie began speaking. Not a day passed that John didn’t thank heaven that his mother had come to Washington to stay with them. He and Katie couldn’t have got along without her.

She shook a pink, red-speckled tablet into her granddaughter’s upheld palm.

John watched his mother and realized how much she’d aged within the past few years. Seventy-five and looking every minute of it. Two or three years ago her hair had been just as white, but she’d looked sixty-five. Living proof that stress makes you old.

But her slide seemed to have slowed and halted since she’d begun yoga classes last fall. He’d noticed a new spring in her step over the past few months.

Tall and trim—John’s father had been tall, as well— and just beginning to develop a dowager’s hump, she still took impeccable care of herself, keeping her thinning white hair softly permed; she was never without a touch of pink lipstick, even this early in the day. Her natural high coloring accentuated the blue of her eyes.

She didn’t have a full closet but she bought good quality clothing and then wore it to death. No housecoats, no polyester, and God forbid she ever appeared in an outfit that didn’t match. This morning she wore lightweight wool beige slacks and a blue-and-beige turtleneck.

Katie popped the pill into her mouth and washed it down with a gulp of orange juice. The tablets were chewable but she’d never liked the flavor, so she’d learned to swallow them whole. She was an old pro at it by now.

One of those tablets, twice a day, every day, for… how long? John wished he knew. He did know what would happen if she missed a dose or two.

His throat tightened and he had to reach out and touch her, smooth some fly away strands of her shiny, dark hair. So fine… baby fine. Nana combed out the knots every morning and braided it into a pair of pigtails. Katie tended to prefer a single, looser French braid like the bigger girls‘, but Nana didn’t think that was neat enough. Nana liked things neat.

Katie looked at him. “What’s the matter, Daddy?”

“Nothing. Why?”

“You look funny.”

He crossed his eyes. “Is this better?”

“No!” She laughed. “Now you look goofy!”

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