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Diamonds are Forever: Section Three

       Last updated: Thursday, April 8, 2004 00:35 EDT



3. Night Movements

    "Usually I'm up for a nosh before bed, but your Mamma stuffed me so much I think I'm like to roll down the hall." Jodi stared at the three-decker BLT I was eating. "Clint, you keep eating like that and you'll look like Elvis."

    "Thank yuh. Thankyuhverramuch," I said, with the proper accent. "I've been eatin' like this all my life. I exercise a lot, you know. And I know we'll be doing a lot of luggin' equipment around tomorrow, right?"

    "Right. This is actually a good place to test. The New Madrid zone runs right through part of this county."

    Jodi's current project was based on acoustic engineering research funded partly by NYU and partly by some interested commercial firms with some government backing. My main skills lay outside of that-I was a dual major, geology and compsci-but they intersected perfectly with the intent of the project, which was actually what had brought us together. It'd long been noted that some animals can apparently sense approaching earthquakes, and some work had been done showing that the Earth emitted varying levels of sound at different wavelengths ranging from infrasound- acoustic waves below about 20 cycles-and up to a bat-level ultrasound in the hundreds of thousands of cycles. Our team had modeled a number of possible interactions of the layers of soil, stone, and so on involved in fault systems, and it seemed to indicate that you should be able to detect both the main movement of an earthquake, and some of the precursors to it, through sound waves (rather than the related shockwaves recorded on seismographs). If the precursors could be detected, we'd have a possible way of actually predicting earthquakes. So if Jodi's sensor packages seemed to be getting reasonable readings, she'd probably just leave a set of them operating here; it was, as she said, a good potential location, with the fault system responsible for the greatest quake in the history of the United States passing by this very area.

    "I notice," she continued, "we've got separate rooms."

    "You had better believe it."

    She grinned. "Hey, I'm not really kvetching; you wouldn't be getting the same room as me if we were staying at my house either." She looked out into the darkness. "Your family seems really nice, Clint. Okay, they are kinda weird, with this strange combination of hick and 21st - century gadget freaks, but they're trying to make me feel welcome, and I can tell they love the hell out of you. So why didn't you bring me here earlier?"

    I looked down. Part of it of course was that problem, but it wasn't the only thing. "I guess I should've had more faith in them. I wasn't sure how they'd react to you. I mean, let's be honest, you're a-"

    "JAP. Jewish-American Princess. I know, you can't say it because I'd knock your block off, but I can say it, because it's true. But I'm not like some of the others, and you know it. We work good together as a team, and did before we started dating. You do the modeling work and I do the tinkering and we and the rest do the brainstorming. So what's to worry about?"

    "Some of the family's still pretty ... fundamentalist. I didn't know how they'd take a Jewish daughter-in-law."

    "You're right, you should have had more faith in them," she said tartly. Then she shrugged. "But I guess I wasn't sure how I'd introduce you to my family at first, either, and if they'd been like seven hundred miles away maybe I wouldn't have taken you to meet them yet."

    I suspected she would have anyway, but I wasn't going to argue about this-since it might then get back around to what other reasons I might have for not bringing her to meet the folks.

    "Well, you may still be hungry, but me, I'm just tired."

    I walked her to her room, which was just down from Mamma and Father's. They might be being friendly, but they weren't taking any chances on anything happening under their roof.

    Afterward, I went outside to take a look around the homestead. The lights from the house and the ones dotted around the property nearby let me make my way. Let me tell you, if you're from the city, you have no clue as to what dark is. The only thing darker than an overcast Kentucky night is a cave, and having been in both many times since I was a kid, there isn't much difference. Without the faint light from the homestead, I could've gotten lost fifteen feet from the front door.

    A darker shadow against the night showed me where Adam was standing.

    "Hey, Adam."

    "Clint. Congratulations again."

    "Thanks. Look, I hear Mamma sent you down."

    "Yeah. S'pose that was a mistake?"

    I shrugged, but nodded. "I think she should've waited until after we'd left. Nothing that desperate."

    "Well, you know Mamma; once she gets an idea in her head, three wild bulls couldn't drag it outta her."

    "Hadn't the place moved?"

    "Well, sure 'nuff, but you know almost as much as me about that. Only so many places it gets moved to. Won't no one need to go down for a time now, anyway."

    "You got a lot?"

    He chuckled. "Grandpa Marlon was a little jealous. Got more than he did, last trip."

    That startled me. "You got the biggest haul in our whole history?"

    "Sure 'nuff. Three double handfuls. Stuffed the bag I had."

    "Jesus!" The word was shocked out of me involuntarily. "Sorry, Adam. But... Jeez. That's going to actually take serious time to convert."

    He laughed. "Not hardly. Sure, in the older days it was kinda hard but now with the markets open an' all? And the Internet connections and international market? I'd placed 'em with potential buyers 'fore you ever got here. Only a few left for us to keep for jewelry 'n such."

    I blinked. Yeah, things had changed that much. "Two things for Grandpa to be jealous over, then."

    "Yep." He stared out at the fence. So did I. Was that movement?

    "Father said something about the road," Adam said after a minute.

    "Have to get it fixed. Forty feet got taken out by a slide."

    "They did that."

    I did the shrug-and-nod again. "That's my guess."

    "Darn. Sorry, Clint."

    "Guess we'll have to just hope nothing happens we can't explain to her."

    "Or that we can hide it fast."

    We both knew how important it was. If anyone else knew, the Slade gravy train would probably come to a screeching halt.

    "Well," I said finally. "Guess I should head to bed."

    "Me too. Forty feet of road... good thing we've got the equipment and supplies already. Might even need some cement to make concrete with, reinforce it you know."

    "Might could. Won't protect the rest of it, but the whole area might be in need of that kind of stability. I'll help."

    "If your lady'll let you off, we won't turn down another pair of hands."

    "Heck, she'll help herself. She's got her own calluses."

    Adam followed me in. "Guess she might, at that. Sure didn't have trouble carryin' her bags herself."

    I went to my room. Undressing with the light off as usual, I kept an eye out the window. The moon showed now through an occasional ragged break in the clouds. Suddenly I saw movement.

    Yeah. They were there, looking at the house almost as though they could see me looking back, two of them. Looked like they might be armed. But still, they didn't try to pass the fence. Not yet, anyway. I saw other movement near them, but didn't look too closely. There are things that give me the creeps when I see them, so I try not to. I pulled the steel shutters over the window and locked them. Even with that and the door locked, it was a while before I fell asleep.

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