He never should have trusted them to Louisa. You don’t leave two defenseless Panamanians who speak no English, no Spanish, no nothing with a woman who just dumped you.
‘Whom you dumped.
But Louisa was the only one here in Las Vegas who had shown any interest in Juan and Carlos. And she was a doctor.
What other choice was there, Grady Hummacher asked himself again. He could hardly baby-sit two teenaged boys while fifty million dollars oozed through his fingers, could he? The charter to Panama would have taken off without him. Anyone would have told him “Go!”—even the boys, if they could have.
But the sudden flight to Panama and back in two days had wiped him out. He hadn’t slept down there, and all the way back he’d worried about the boys.
The steering wheel slipped as Grady cut left, away from Las Vegas ’s McCarran Airport . Pickups roll. He’d rolled three of them in his thirty-seven years. If he’d had any sense, he would have sworn off trucks after the first one. But he loved the lurch when he screeched around a corner on two wheels, that split second between flipping and straightening out, between life and death. He’d thought the boys might be frightened, but they loved it too. Sunday on the way to the picnic he’d had the truck up over a hundred. They were grinning, the two of them. They hadn’t grinned like that since the first time he brought them out of the Panamanian rain forest and into the hotel in Yaviza.
The hotel was a no-star place, but to two deaf teenagers from a rain forest tribe, walking into the lobby bar with the neon lights had been like catapulting into the future. They’d shrunk back against the wall, sure, but Juan hadn’t stayed there long. His eyes had widened in awe, then zeroed in on the glowing colored tubes. Transfixed by the magical lights, he had reached for Carlos’s hand, and the two of them had inched forward to touch the neon tube.
Juan was so curious, so resourceful. Maybe the part of his brain that had never processed sound sharpened his views of each hanging branch, the minute variations of the underbrush, the varied consistency of the mud in every scintilla of his tribal rain forest. He was a topographical map locked in a silent drawer. Hummacher had spotted his potential the first time in the rain forest. He was so quick. Without hearing or language, Juan was the best guide in the tribe. And it had been so easy to get him and Carlos visaed in on the exploration company. Here in Las Vegas , they could have doctors, teachers, whatever they needed. And there wasn’t the danger of another geologist in Yaviza discovering their skill—and his find.
No way could he have guessed they’d get so sick here. Was it flu? Germs to which they had no immunity? One of those viruses you see on the six o’clock news? Or was it some microbe they brought into the country?
Hummacher squealed left. A horn shrieked in his ear. Cut too close. But he’d almost missed the damned parking lot. He slammed on the brakes, leaped out, and ran across the empty lot to Louisa’s clinic door.
His feet felt funny, like they weren’t making it all the way to the ground. Two endless air flights in mo days, charter or not, was enough to give you rubber legs.
Door was locked. What the hell type of clinic was Louisa running here? Hummacher shivered more fiercely and glared at the dark, empty parking lot. Well, okay, it was late. But if she had the hombres here, she ought to be with them. What kind of doctor would leave them alone? He loped around the side of the stucco block building.
Light in the back. That’s where they would be, then. Couldn’t see in; window too high and those damn cacti Louisa had been so proud of planting in front of her windows. Nature’s barbed wire, she’d called them. He leaped, smacked the window grate before he fell back, catching his sleeve on a cactus spine.
Of course they didn’t hear it. They were deaf If Juan could speak, the first question he’d ask would be, “Are you the village idiot?”
Hummacher ran back to his truck, flashed the lights on and off, on, off. Waited. Nothing changed. Were they too sick to notice?
The back door was weak. Dangerous, he’d told Louisa. Easy to jimmy. Easier to bang through. He started the engine, shifted into first, and hit the gas.
He was onto the macadam in one bounce, inside the clinic in two. The alarm shrieked. The place was lit up like a casino. A white-on-white
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