Backup by Jim Butcher

By Jim Butcher

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If you can speak Estonian, you can speak anything,” Padillo said. “She spoke eight without accent. She told me once that the first three languages are the hardest. One month we would speak nothing but English, the next month French. Then German or Russian or Estonian or Polish and back to Spanish or Italian and then start the whole thing over. ” Padillo’s mother died of tuberculosis in the spring of 1941. “I was fifteen then and I spoke six languages, so I said to hell with Mexico and headed for the States.

I decided on another brandy. “ It was time for sober reflection, for cunning and for foxylike wiliness. Here was McCorkle, the friendly saloon-keeper, pitted against some of the most fiendish minds in Europe. Maas, for example. He would have a fiendish mind. I thought of the short fat man and couldn’t bring myself to dislike him, much less hate him. If I had worked at it, I probably could have found some excuses for his behavior. Then there was Padillo, off to God knows where. How well did I know Padillo?

During take-off his hands blanched white at the knuckles as they squeezed the arms of his seat. When he realized that it wasn’t the pilot’s first time up he leaned back, produced a package of Senoussi and lighted one with a wooden match. He blew out the uninhaled smoke and then glanced at me with that speculative look which stamps a fellow traveler as something of a conversationalist. I had been in Berlin for a three-day weekend, during which I had managed to spend too much money and to acquire a splendid hangover.

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