“It’s good to be back,” I had whispered, my hand hooked through his arm. It felt like we were embarking on a new adventure, just the two of us.

But today was different. I felt out of step and out of sorts.

“There you are.” Matthew appeared at my elbow and gave me a lingering kiss. “I missed you.”

I laughed. “We’ve been apart for an hour and a half.”

“Exactly. Far too long.” His attention wandered over the table, taking in the untouched pot of tea, my blank yellow legal pad, and the unopened copy of the latest American Historical Review that we’d rescued from my overstuffed department mailbox on our way to Science Hill. “How was your morning?”

“They’ve taken very good care of me.”

“So they should.” On our way into the grand brick building, Matthew had explained that Marcus was one of the founding members of the private club and that the facility was built on land he’d once owned.

“Can I get you something, Professor Clairmont?”

I pressed my lips together. A small crease appeared in the smooth skin between my husband’s keen eyes.

“Thank you, Chip, but I believe we’re ready to go.”

It was not a moment too soon. I stood and gathered my things, slipping them into the large messenger bag at my feet.

“Can you put the charges on Dr. Whitmore’s account?” Matthew murmured, pulling out my chair.

“Absolutely,” Chip said. “No problem. Always a pleasure to welcome a member of Dr. Whitmore’s family.”

For once I beat Matthew outside.

“Where’s the car?” I said, searching the parking lot.

“It’s parked in the shade.” Matthew lifted the messenger bag from my shoulder. “We’re walking to the lab, not driving. Members are free to leave their cars here, and it’s very close to the lab.” He looked sympathetic. “This is strange for both of us, but the oddness will pass.”

I took a deep breath and nodded. Matthew carried my bag, holding it by the short handle on top.

“It will be better once I’m in the library,” I said, as much for my benefit as his. “Shall we get to work?”

Matthew held out his free hand. I took it, and his expression softened. “Lead the way,” he said.

We crossed Whitney Avenue by the garden filled with dinosaur statuary, cut behind the Peabody, and approached the tall tower where Chris’s labs were located. My steps slowed. Matthew looked up, and up some more.

“No. Please not there. It’s worse than the Beinecke.” His eyes were glued to the unappealing outlines of Kline Biology Tower, or KBT as it was known on campus. He’d likened the Beinecke, with its white marble walls carved into square hollows, to a giant ice-cube tray. “It reminds me of—”

“Your lab in Oxford was no great beauty either, as I recall,” I said, cutting him off before he could give me another vivid analogy that would stay with me forever. “Let’s go.”

It was Matthew’s turn to be reluctant now. He grumbled as we walked into the building, refused to put his blue-and-white Yale lanyard with its magnetized plastic ID card around his neck when the security guard asked him to, continued to complain in the elevator, and was glowering as we looked for the door to Chris’s lab.

“It’s going to be fine, Matthew. Chris’s students will be thrilled to meet you,” I assured him.

Matthew was an internationally renowned scholar and a member of the Oxford University faculty. There were few institutions that impressed Yale, but that was one of them.

“The last time I was around students was when Hamish and I were fellows at All Souls.” Matthew looked away in an effort to hide his nervousness. “I’m better suited to a research lab.”

I pulled on his arm, forcing him to stop. Finally he met my eyes.

“You taught Jack all sorts of things. Annie, too,” I reminded him, remembering how he’d been with the two children who had lived with us in Elizabethan London.

“That was different. They were . . .” Matthew trailed off, a shadow flitting through his eyes.

“Family?”

I waited for his response. He nodded reluctantly.

“Students want the same things Annie and Jack did: your attention, your honesty, and your faith in them. You’re going to be brilliant at this. I promise.”

“I’ll settle for adequate,” Matthew muttered. He scanned the hallway. “There’s Christopher’s lab.

We should go. If I’m late, he’s threatened to repossess my ID.”

Chris pushed the door open, clearly frazzled. Matthew caught it and propped it open with his foot.

“Another minute, Clairmont, and I would have started without you. Hey, Diana,” Chris said, kissing me on the cheek. “I didn’t expect to see you here. Why aren’t you at the Beinecke?”

“Special delivery.” I motioned toward the messenger bag, and Matthew handed it over. “The page from Ashmole 782, remember?”

“Oh. Right.” Chris didn’t sound the least bit interested. He and Matthew were clearly focused on other questions.

“You two promised,” I said.

“Right. Ashmole 782.” Chris crossed his arms. “Where’s Miriam?”

“I gave Miriam your invitation and will spare you her response. She will be here when—and if—she chooses.” Matthew held up his ID card. Even the employment office couldn’t take a bad picture of him. He looked like a model. “I’m official, or so they tell me.”

“Good. Let’s go.” Chris took a white lab coat off the nearby rack and shrugged it over his shoulders. He held another out to Matthew.

Matthew looked at it dubiously. “I’m not wearing one of those.”

“Suit yourself. No coat, no contact with the equipment. Up to you.” Chris turned and marched off.

A woman approached him with a sheaf of papers. She was wearing a lab coat with the name CONNELLY embroidered on it and “Beaker” written above it in red marker.

“Thanks, Beaker.” Chris looked them over. “Good. Nobody refused.”

“What are those?” I asked.

“Nondisclosure forms. Chris said neither of you has to sign them.” Beaker looked at Matthew and nodded in greeting. “We’re honored to have you here, Professor Clairmont. I’m Joy Connelly, Chris’s second-in-command. We’re short a lab manager at the moment, so I’m filling in until Chris finds either Mother Teresa or Mussolini. Would you please swipe in so that we have a record of when you arrived?

And you have to swipe out to leave. It keeps the records straight.” She pointed to the reader by the door.

“Thank you, Dr. Connelly.” Matthew obediently swiped his card. He was still not wearing a lab coat, though.

“Professor Bishop needs to swipe in, too. Lab protocol. And please call me Beaker. Everybody else does.”

“Why?” Matthew asked while I fished my ID out of my bag. As usual, it had settled to the bottom.

“Chris finds nicknames easier to remember,” Beaker said.

“He had seventeen Amys and twelve Jareds in his first undergraduate lecture,” I added. “I don’t think he’ll ever recover.”

“Happily, my memory is excellent, Dr. Connelly. So is your work on catalytic RNA, by the way.”

Matthew smiled. Dr. Connelly looked pleased.

“Beaker!” Chris bellowed.

“Coming!” Beaker called. “I sure hope he finds Mother Teresa soon,” she muttered to me. “We don’t need another Mussolini.”

“Mother Teresa is dead,” I whispered, running my card through the reader.

“I know. When Chris wrote the job description for the new lab manager, it listed ‘Mother Teresa or Mussolini’ under qualifications. We rewrote it, of course. Human Resources wouldn’t have approved the posting otherwise.”

“What did Chris call his last lab manager?” I was almost afraid to ask.

“Caligula.” Beaker sighed. “We really miss her.”

Matthew waited for us to enter before releasing the door. Beaker looked nonplussed by the courtesy. The door swooshed closed behind us.

A gaggle of white-coated researchers of all ages and descriptions waited for us inside, including senior researchers like Beaker, some exhausted-looking postdoctoral fellows, and a bevy of graduate students. Most sat on stools pulled up to the lab benches; a few lounged against sinks or cabinets. One sink bore a hand-lettered sign over it that said rather ominously THIS SINK RESERVED FOR HAZMAT. Tina, Chris’s perpetually harried administrative assistant, was trying to extricate the filled-out nondisclosure forms from beneath a can of soda without disturbing the laptop that Chris was booting up. The hum of conversation stopped when we entered.

“Oh. My. God. That’s—” A graduate student stared at Matthew and clapped a hand over her mouth.

Matthew had been recognized.

“Hey, Professor Bishop!” A graduate student stood up, smoothing out his lab coat. He looked more nervous than Matthew. “Jonathan Garcia. Remember me? History of Chemistry? Two years ago?”

“Of course. How are you, Jonathan?” I felt several nudging looks as the attention in the room swung in my direction. There were daemons in Chris’s lab. I looked around, trying to figure out who they were. Then I caught the cold stare of a vampire. He was standing by a locked cabinet with Beaker and another woman. Matthew had already noticed him.

“Richard,” Matthew said with a cool nod. “I didn’t know you’d left Berkeley.”

“Last year.” Richard’s expression never wavered.

It had never occurred to me that there would already be creatures in Chris’s lab. I’d visited him only once or twice, when he was working alone. My messenger bag suddenly felt heavy with secrets and possible disaster.

“There will be time for your reunion with Clairmont later, Shotgun,” Chris said, hooking the laptop to a projector. There was a wave of appreciative laughter. “Lights please, Beaker.”

The laughter quieted as the lights dimmed. Chris’s research team leaned forward to see what he had projected on the whiteboard. Black-and-white bars marched across the top of the page, and the overflow was arranged underneath. Each bar—or ideogram, as Matthew had explained to me last night—represented a chromosome.

“This semester we have an all-new research project.” Chris leaned against the whiteboard, his dark skin and white lab coat making him look like another ideogram on the display. “Here’s our subject. Who wants to tell me what it is?”

“Is it alive or dead?” a cool female voice asked.

“Good question, Scully.” Chris grinned.

“Why do you ask?” Matthew looked at the student sharply. Scully squirmed.

“Because,” she explained, “if he’s deceased—oh, the subject is male, by the way—the cause of death might have a genetic component.”

The graduate students, eager to prove their worth, started tossing out rare and deadly genetic disorders faster than they could record them on their laptops.

“All right, all right.” Chris held up his hand. “Our zoo has no more room for zebras. Back to basics, please.”

Matthew’s eyes danced with amusement. When I looked at him in confusion, he explained.

“Students tend to go for exotic explanations rather than the more obvious ones—like thinking a patient has SARS rather than a common cold. We call them ‘zebras,’ because they’re hearing hoofbeats and concluding zebras rather than horses.”

“Thanks.” Between the nicknames and the wildlife, I was understandably disoriented.

“Stop trying to impress one another and look at the screen. What do you see?” Chris said, calling a halt to the escalating competition.

“It’s male,” said a weedy-looking young man in a bow tie, who was using a traditional laboratory notebook rather than a computer. Shotgun and Beaker rolled their eyes at each other and shook their heads.

“Scully already deduced that.” Chris looked at them impatiently. He snapped his fingers. “Do not embarrass me in front of Oxford University, or you will all lift weights with me for the entire month of September.”

Everybody groaned. Chris’s level of physical fitness was legendary, as was his habit of wearing his old Harvard football jersey whenever Yale had a game. He was the only professor who was publicly, and routinely, booed in class.

“Whatever he is, he’s not human,” Jonathan said. “He has twenty-four chromosome pairs.”

Chris looked down at his watch. “Four and a half minutes. Two minutes longer than I thought it would take, but much quicker than Professor Clairmont expected.”

“Touché, Professor Roberts,” Matthew said mildly. Chris’s team slid glances in Matthew’s direction, still trying to figure out what an Oxford professor was doing in a Yale research lab.

“Wait a minute. Rice has twenty-four chromosomes. We’re studying rice?” asked a young woman I’d seen dining at Branford College.

“Of course we’re not studying rice,” Chris said with exasperation. “Since when did rice have a sex, Hazmat?” She must be the owner of the specially labeled sink.

“Chimps?” The young man who offered up this suggestion was handsome, in a studious sort of way, with his blue oxford shirt and wavy brown hair.

Chris circled one of the ideograms at the top of the display with a red Magic Marker. “Does that look like chromosome 2A for a chimp?”

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