Chapter no 78

Quantum Radio

Maria wandered through the massive house. It felt like a museum to her.

The gallery hall off the foyer was filled with breathtaking art. Small couches with no backs lined the walls like sitting benches waiting to assist patrons who were tired of walking.

The great room was like the lounge of a hotel, with seating groups scattered across the vast space, near the fire, at the window, and a few floating in the room. Maria imagined that parties with hundreds of people had been hosted here.

She found herself in the grand two-story foyer, with its curved staircase.

In the distance, she heard Nora, Ty, and Kato searching the home.

She was searching too, but she had to admit, she was nearly too dazed to process what she was seeing.

Outside the great room, she walked down a narrow hall, where she found a powder room with a large common space with three sinks and four enclosed toilet compartments. The bathroom was bigger than any bedroom she had ever had at a homeless shelter.

The master bedroom was even more breathtaking, like something out of a magazine, with beautiful furniture and draperies that were like masterpiece paintings in textile form, bright and swirling and captivating.

Beside the bed was the biggest shock of all: a picture of Maria and her mother standing together on a beach, both wearing floppy linen hats that looked as though they were blowing in the wind.

The Maria Santos she saw in the picture was happy and healthy and all the things Maria wasn’t. That she owned a house like this was mind-boggling to her. Maria had never even stepped foot in a place like it before.

Yet she and the woman in the picture were the same. Same parents. Same DNA.


That was the only thing that separated them. Choices and their environment.

She realized someone was in the room, watching her. She jerked around, startled.

Kato stood there, his wig and makeup on, looking like a completely different person. In a strange way, Maria felt pride at his transformation— she had done something creative for the first time in a long time.

“Basement’s clear,” he said. “What did you find?”

“A recording studio—with no notes or relevant data. A movie theater. A gym with an emphasis on cardio equipment. A wine cellar—”

Maria broke into a laugh. “Of course you did. Just like my place.” He studied her. “You doing okay?”

“Aren’t we all?”

Her laugh died down, and still, Kato stared at her.

More quietly, she said, “I’m okay. It’s just… seeing this, it really lays it out. How thoroughly I screwed my life up.”

“You didn’t—”

“I did,” Maria said, nodding. “Well, it’s not over.”

“It almost was for me, once.” “You know what I think?”

“Of the things I know, what you’re thinking isn’t one of them.”

“I think this whole thing—whatever is happening here—it’s like one big do-over.”

Maria cocked her head at him. “How do you figure?” “I can’t say exactly. It’s just a feeling I get.”

“Can’t exactly take that to the bank.”

“My instincts have saved me a million times in the field.”

Maria considered that for a moment. Then she said the thing that scared her most in the world. “I’m not her.”

“You don’t need to be her.”

“You don’t understand. If she’s sung a song a hundred times, and I take the stage and try to sing it, someone will know it’s off.”

“We’ll tell them you have a cold.”

Maria closed her eyes. “It’s more than that. More than how you sound. It’s how you command the stage. Your command of the audience. She has

it. I did once. Now… I don’t know.”

“It doesn’t have to be perfect.” Kato took a step toward her. “It just has to be the best you can do. That’s all any of us are doing.”

Ty appeared in the doorway to the master bedroom. “What’s going on?” “Just clearing the room,” Kato said, his tone changing, more matter-of-

fact. “Nothing so far.”

Ty turned away. “Well, we have found something.”

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