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Bill

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Tad had a feeling something had happened to Bill, but he didn't pay it much mind, because he'd been feeling that way for weeks, what with Bill getting more quiet and withdrawn every day. It wasn't that he stopped going out with Tad and the other fellows--just that he didn't seem interested. When he'd agreed to meet Tad in Paris, it had seemed to good to be true, and then of course it was.

Tad had checked into the Hotel St. Jacques in Paris on the afternoon of March 3rd. He'd gone out had a meal, and went to bed. He'd had his first really satisfying sleep in what seemed like months, and then he'd gone to sit in the lobby. That was at about eight on the morning of the fourth. He'd haunted the lobby all day, even though Bill's train wasn't supposed to get in until three, and at eleven he had finally gone back to bed. Three hours later, he was back in the lobby again, because what if Bill got in late. What if he'd made a mistake about the time. Even as he waited, Tad knew that he was being silly, but this was Bill, and Bill was special. Special people made you do silly things--he'd always known that. That was why he made this ridiculous trip to Scotland, on the off-chance that some nonsense Bill had spouted when he was drunk actually meant something.

It was a funny place, Scotland. The landscape reminded him a little of back home, but everything was a little more pushed together here, and the people seemed a bit funny, talking about England's yoke and whatnot. It made him feel as if he was at home, only two hundred years ago. And then there was this fellow Grant, who was good-looking in the same way that Bill was, dark and thin and magnetic, and who talked a bit like Bill, too--like there was a lot more going on in his head than what was coming out of his mouth.

Tad couldn't quite make out whether or not Grant knew anything about Bill, either. Sometimes he seemed like he did--like he knew all of what Tad was going to tell him before he said it. But then afterwards, he looked like he didn't care about Bill's story at all, like he was listening for Tad, not for Bill, which was nice, in a way. Tad knew he wasn't all that good at reading people, but he thought maybe Grant didn't know if he knew anything about Bill any more than Tad did. He liked Grant, and that was good. It took his mind off Bill, a little.

***

It was always hard to think of people as being really dead, when you'd known them alive. And Tad didn't want to think of Bill as dead. He'd been a particularly alive-seeming person, too--quiet, but always thinking things, and looking as if a lot was going on inside. That was what Tad kept thinking about--all those things Bill was thinking about all the time, and where had they gone? And he'd liked Grant, too, which made him furious. All the time Grant had sat there listening to Tad talk about Bill, and Paris, and flying--all that time, he'd known Bill was dead. Tad wished he hadn't liked the man so much.

Grant wasn't all that much like Bill after all, though. He was so level-headed, and calm. No one like that would ever go to work for OCAL. No one who would work for OCAL would ever get hired at Scotland Yard either, probably. And Grant hadn't known Bill, so he wasn't being cold, exactly, just...separate. It was nicer, actually, talking about Bill to someone who hadn't known him than it would be to talk to someone who had. So when Grant said, "What are we going to do?" Tad's anger had spent itself, and he said, simply, "Find out. Find out what happened to Bill."

"He hit his head on a wash-basin."

Tad ignored that. "You know he's not this Martin fellow," he persisted. "You can find out what happened now. Find out what Bill was doing."

"What do you want to know?"

Tad ducked his head. "Was he going to come to Paris?" he asked.

Grant put a hand on Tad's shoulder. "I don't think he would have kept you waiting for long."

This was the moment Tad had seen coming since their eyes met over lovely Lady Kentallen lying in the sun, but he just said, "you'll find out, won't you?" and Grant said, "I will."