They have been in Boston for a week, and Martiene's sister still stops halfway across the M.I.T. bridge every morning to watch the day come in over the river. It's still dark when they sign out on the call board and leave the theater. The buses don't start running for over an hour. So they walk, in the cool dimness and uncanny quiet, up Mass.Ave. and halfway over the bridge. When Alinde has watched the sky long enough, they keep going, together as far as Pearl Street. Tanner turns left there, and the girls keep going one more block and then left on (of course) River Street.
All the windows in the house are dark, and Martiene and Alinde try to climb the stairs quietly in their heavy boots. Martiene unlocks the door, locks it again after them, hands her pack to Alinde and goes straight to the kitchen to put the kettle on. Alinde takes Martiene's laptop and her own out of their packs and plugs them both in on the kitchen table. As soon as she plugs hers in, it starts beeping.
She squeaks and pokes at it frantically. "Sorry, sorry. I thought I turned it off." The beeping cuts off abruptly. "We were playing Hearts and Julie likes the sound on. The chime it rings when someone gets...oh."
Martiene starts measuring leaves into the teapot. "What is it?"
"Message from the Guild," says Alinde very quietly. "It's Theo. He's...it's over."
The spoon feels very heavy all of a sudden, and Martiene sets it down carefully. She pulls out a chair and keys her password into her terminal. A flashing red light immediately appears in the bottom right-hand corner--priority message. The speed it's flashing says there's more than one message. The other's probably from Patrick, who will have been woken by the beeping of his own terminal, or from Tanner, who will have come home to find Pat awake three hours early.
The first message is from the Guild and gives little information, only that Theodore Rosann passed away at 3:17 a.m. and that the Guild memorial service will be webcast in two days, at 6:30 p.m. when both the day and night shifts are awake.
None of the other Masters have ever been gotten to say whether Theo had actually been a student at any time, or whether it was to the Tower or the Green he'd originally been apprenticed. Since long before Martiene and her team came to the School, he'd simply been there in his rooms at the base of the Tower--ruling over the garden, lending a hand in the set shop, singing in the choruses of the School operas and doing the occasional small part in the apprentice shows. He'd had a spare bedroom and a rudimentary infirmary, and the School health shop would send him students who needed a quiet room and a cup of tea more than they needed a doctor. He'd had four cats, all rescued from city alleyways. He'd had the School Scrabble high score six years running. He'd had strands of ivy tattooed around both ankles, and a sunflower on his left palm.
He'd had lung cancer. Just before they set out on the current tour, six weeks ago, he'd been told he had two months.
Across the table, Alinde lets out a long shaky breath. "Did you get a message from Tanner?"
Martiene calls up her other messages. The third is Tanner's, saying that he can't go to sleep and Pat can't go back to sleep and that the girls should come over as soon as it's light. "Yeah. Don't let me forget, we should bring trash bags. Tanner said they were out. You want the first shower?"
When Martiene hears the water start running in the tiny bathroom, she clicks open the second message. "It happened in his sleep," it says. "I saw him, afterwards, and all the lines in his face had gone away. Try to remember him as he was when you were all children, that's how he looked. All the cats that ever were will make him welcome. I'm supposed to speak at the memorial and I have no idea what words will do him justice." The message ends abruptly there with the signature, MKR.
When Alinde comes out of the bathroom, Martiene is still staring at the screen.
In memory of TSW, 1961-November 31, 2006...possessor of green thumbs, rescuer of feral cats, good friend.