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Sex Life of the Gods, The

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<h2 title="Chapter Five"><SPAN name="p51" id="p51"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>51<span class="ns">]<br /></span></span>CHAPTER FIVE</h2> <p>Detective Lieutenant Nolan Brice stood in the brush near the wrecked aircraft, watching the men move about in the light of several spotlights that had been set up by the National Guardsmen who had roped off the area. The thick blackness of the surrounding forest, plus a glance at his watch, told him that dawn wasn’t too far away. FAA investigator Dickson, a thin, stringy ex-pilot stepped around the scrambled bits of wreckage and offered a light to the dead cigarette in Nolan’s mouth.</p> <p>“Thanks,” Brice said and blew the smoke to the night. “What d’you make of it, Mister Dickson?”</p> <p>Dickson shrugged and pushed his snap-brim hat back with a blunt forefinger. “Dunno. It’s pretty dark to see much, but it’s no private plane.”</p> <p>“Why do you say that?”</p> <p>“No wings, no tail assembly. Of course, it’s hard to tell in the dark. When it gets light enough, we’ll know the story; but I don’t know of any private plane that looks like that one. Then too, the Army is holding the news boys at bay. I think those two government fellows are playing this one close to their chests.”</p> <p>Brice nodded and dragged on the cigarette, but he said nothing about the speed of the thing. “Any bodies?”</p> <p>Dickson shook his head. “The thing is pretty well burned, and the bodies, if there are any to be found, could be all over the area. We did find a kind of flying suit, though, badly burned <SPAN name="p52" id="p52"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>52<span class="ns">] </span></span>and torn.”</p> <p>“Just the suit? No one in it?”</p> <p>Dickson looked perplexed. “Bothers you huh? Me too. I can’t figure out why a pilot would carry something like that as an extra. Oh, well, it’ll all come out when we really start investigating.”</p> <p>“How long does a thing like that take?”</p> <p>Dickson shrugged. “A couple of days, a week. Even a few months. It’s hard to say.”</p> <p>Brice nodded, took a final drag on the cigarette and tossed it toward the wreck, watching the red ash burst near the wreck. Dickson had wandered off to the far side of the crash-made clearing. Hell, Brice thought, I’d better get that butt. Leaving a thing like that around here could get me in trouble. They’d think it was part of the crash.</p> <p>When he walked over to retrieve the butt, he saw the light from the flood glinting on a small gold object. He picked it up and found that he had someone’s watch. The crystal had been smashed, likely in the crash, and the hands were stopped at 4:15. The expansion band watch dispelled his hunch that the pilot of the plane had been a Russian, or something; it was a Bulova, and he didn’t think Russians had them. But what cinched the whole thing was on the under side of the face, in the light of the spots, he could read: “To Nick, Love, Beth.”</p> <p>And suddenly, it was there! He knew the watch. He knew it as well as he knew his own. Hell, he had picked it up at the jeweler’s shop in Everett, two years before, when Beth hadn’t been able to get into town and wanted to surprise Nick with it! Stunned and puzzled, Brice dropped the watch into his pocket and decided not to say anything to Cartwell and Morgan. Maybe it would cost him, <SPAN name="p53" id="p53"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>53<span class="ns">] </span></span>later, but he couldn’t tell them - not until he had a better picture of what the hell was going on.</p> <p>He lit another cigarette and stood there thinking about the watch. How had it gotten here? Nick didn’t know how to fly a plane, and even if he had studied the art, could he fly an aircraft that cleared a speed of two thousand miles per hour? Hell no! Nor had the watch been there, in the weather, all this time.</p> <p>Of course, Nick could have hocked the damned thing in some town when he needed money, and by some quirk of fate it had been brought back to the same area it had left over a year before. That was possible, but Brice didn’t believe it. It just didn’t fit.</p> <p>“Seen enough?”</p> <p>Brice turned and saw Cartwell standing behind him. How long has he been there, he wondered, and forced a grin. The stocky built blond grinned back at him.</p> <p>“Thought you might want a cup of coffee,” he said.</p> <p>“Where the hell will you get coffee out here?”</p> <p>Cartwell waved an arm toward the foot of the hills. “A farm down there. They wake up early around here. Sam conned the farmer’s wife into making coffee for the boys. Want some?”</p> <p>“Might as well. We have a few minutes - in fact, we have a lot of time, before daylight.”</p> <p>“Getting tired?” Cartwell asked, as they started down the hill past the ring of soldiers.</p> <p>“A little. More like anxious to find out what the tale is on that wreck.”</p> <p>“You’ve been talking to Dickson, I see.”</p> <p>Brice nodded. “Yeah. Well, one thing we know. It’s apparently some kind of experimental <SPAN name="p54" id="p54"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>54<span class="ns">] </span></span>aircraft ... like a rocket, or something. And, if it isn’t one of ours...” Brice left it hang and Cartwell didn’t pick it up.</p> <p>For a few minutes they walked in silence through the dew<!-- TN: no hyphen in original --> splattered forests, homing in on the glow of yellow lights that winked at them through the branches. Finally they reached the rutted, dirt road that twisted along the stream bed toward the framed shape of the farm house. Cartwell broke the silence as they neared the place.</p> <p>“Don’t talk much about the wreck around these people, Nolan. They’re nice folks, but simple natured. They plant by the phases of the moon and the biggest event in their lives is going to the state fair. They’re Lancaster Dutch, recently imported, and they believe in the hex signs they painted on the barn.”</p> <p>Brice nodded. “Okay, John.”</p> <p>The farm couple were strangers to Brice, but their type was familiar. Pennsylvania was full of them. They were, as Cartwell had said, good people. They were farmers, about three jumps above the witchcraft<!-- TN: no hyphen in original --> believing stock that had given them birth and were hard to understand. They were the stay-at-home type, to whom Pittsburgh was the Far West, and if they were forced to move farther than fifty miles away from home, their relations screamed that they would never see them again.</p> <p>The woman, whose name Nolan hadn’t caught, was plain<!-- TN: no hyphen in original --> appearing, with no makeup and her hair pulled back into a severe knot at the base of her skull. From the moment, she asked them in and poured their coffee, he liked her. In her own, slow way she was a fine person, but her <SPAN name="p55" id="p55"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>55<span class="ns">] </span></span>world was the farm, her life was the soil.</p> <p>“Have you found that poor pilot, yet?” She asked, setting the coffee before them.</p> <p>“No, ma’am,” Cartwell told her.</p> <p>The heavy<!-- TN: no hyphen in original --> set woman made a clucking sound with her mouth. “Honest to true,” she mused. “You’d wonder why a thing like that had to come to be.” She sighed heavily. “There’ll be some poor woman in tears tonight. D’you think he was married?”</p> <p>“I don’t know, ma’am,” Cartwell said.</p> <p>“It’s the children that suffer...” she said softly and allowed the rest of what she was about to say trail off as Dickson came in. He smiled at the farmwife and she poured him a cup of coffee.</p> <p>Dickson pulled off his hat. “I’d like to thank you,” he told her, “for being so kind...”</p> <p>The woman looked pleased and flustered at the same time; there was a tinge of flush about her face. “Bosh,” she said, smiling. “It’s the least a body can do. I know I’d feel real glad to have someone helping, were it my boy up there.”</p> <p>“Your boy flies?”</p> <p>“He did.” The woman looked a bit pained. “He was killed during the war.”</p> <p>“I’m sorry,” Dickson said, and reached for a doughnut from the plate on the table.</p> <p>A silence fell over them as they waited for the coming of dawn and a chance to really look the wreck over. Nolan was somehow glad to be spared of conversation with the others. He felt like a criminal, with the small gold watch in his coat pocket and he wanted to tell Dickson and Cartwell about the thing. But he couldn’t. For the first time in his life he was delaying an <SPAN name="p56" id="p56"></SPAN><span class="pagenum"><span class="ns">[p</span>56<span class="ns">] </span></span>investigation, hiding evidence. He was well aware of the whole thing, but he was also aware of what the presence of that watch meant. It was a personal thing now, and until he knew which way to go, he had to keep the watch a secret.</p> <p>If Nick Danson had somehow come back in that wreck and, if they found no bodies, he would have gone to Beth ... the whole thing would be complicated beyond belief. What would such a thing do? What would happen to the woman he loved, if Nick Danson was back?</p> <p>He stared moodily into the dark liquid in his coffee cup and wondered where it would all end.</p> </div> <div class="chapter">
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