Red Rabbit

PROLOGUE

THE BACK GARDEN

THE SCARY PART, Jack decided, was going to be driving. He’d already bought a Jaguar—pronounced jag-you-ah over here, he’d have to remember—but both times he’d walked to it at the dealership, he’d gone to the left-front door instead of the right. The dealer hadn’t laughed at him, but Ryan was sure he’d wanted to. At least he hadn’t climbed into the passenger seat by mistake and really made an ass of himself. He’d have to remember all that: The “right” side of the road was the left. A right turn crossed oncoming traffic, not a left turn. The left lane was the slow lane on the interstates—motorways, he corrected himself. The plugs in the wall were all cockeyed. The house didn’t have central heating, despite the princely price he’d paid for it. There was no air-conditioning, though that probably wasn’t necessary here. It wasn’t the hottest of climates: The locals started dropping dead in the street when the mercury topped 75. Jack wondered what the D.C. climate would do to them. Evidently, the “mad dogs and Englishmen” ditty was a thing of the past.

But it could have been worse. He did have a pass to shop for food at the Army-Air Force Exchange Service—otherwise known as the PX at nearby Greenham Commons Air Base—so at least they’d have proper hot dogs, and brands that resembled the ones he bought at the Giant at home in Maryland.

So many other discordant notes. British television was different, of course, not that he really expected much chance to vegetate in front of the phosphor screen anymore, but little Sally needed her ration of cartoons. Besides, even when you were reading something important, the background chatter of some mindless show was comforting in its own way. The TV news wasn’t too bad, though, and the newspapers were particularly good—better than those he normally read at home, on the whole, but he’d miss the morning Far Side. Maybe the International Tribune had it, Ryan hoped. He could buy it at the train station kiosk. He had to keep track of baseball anyway.

The movers—removers, he reminded himself—were beavering away under Cathy’s direction. It wasn’t a bad house, though smaller than their place at Peregrine Cliff, now rented to a Marine colonel teaching the earnest young boys and girls at the Naval Academy. The master bedroom overlooked what seemed to be about a quarter-acre of garden. The realtor had been particularly enthused about that. And the previous owners had spent a lot of time there: It was wall-to-wall roses, mainly red and white, to honor the houses of Lancaster and York, it would seem. There were pink ones in between to show that they’d joined together to form the Tudors, though that house had died out with Elizabeth I—and ultimately made way for the new set of Royals, whom Ryan had ample reason to like.

And the weather wasn’t bad at all. They’d been in country three days and it hadn’t rained at all. The sun rose very early and set late, and in the winter, he’d heard, it never came up and immediately went back down again. Some of the new friends he’d made at the State Department had told him that the long nights could be hard on the little kids. At four years and six months, Sally still qualified for that. Five-month-old Jack probably didn’t notice such things, and fortunately, he slept just fine—he was doing so right now, in fact, in the custody of his nanny, Margaret van der Beek, a young redhead and daughter of a Methodist minister in South Africa. She’d come