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By MARIANNA PATRONA

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The paint there was dry, peeling. " Jess was watching my face. "There was no paint on the inside," I said. "It's black carballoy. . " I picked at the paint with a fingernail, and more of it flaked away and I was looking at words etched in the hard metal: *** 6 . . Frazier was looking at me with the kind of look you give a dog that's been run over. Gatley was standing behind him and Smith and Jacobs and a couple of men from the maintenance shop. " I was yelling, and the blood was thudding in my temples like nine-pound sledges.

Full of surprises, Jess was. Blackies will find that cute door pretty soon. Must be a nice trail leading to it. Shame to make it too easy for the mothering worms. Jess used to say that. Some Jess. Knew what he was getting into. A swimmer, Jess was. Better to go that way than here. In the dust. Helpful, at that. Caked up on my belly, along the arm. Not losing as much blood now. Blood Jess gave me. Nice place he had, good bed to lie in. Like to be there now. . I had four legs and four arms—or was it six of each?

What I'm going to try may not work, and if it doesn't, I'll wind up like the major and this poor kid here who never even had a name. But it's what I have to do. Maybe I'm wasting my time writing long chatty letters to a guy that doesn't exist, never will exist. But I'm banking on it that I'm not the last. OK, you read the note Number Three left, and came here, just like I did. The box was empty when I found it, too, but his tip to try the sealed wing was there. The paint I put back over it won't last more than ten years, and that ought to be long enough—unlesshe finds you first.

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