"There may be a way you husband can have his surgery," he said, very slowly, as if hesitating to make a suggestion. "Without it costing you anything."
"How?" Andi looked at him with a frown.
He didn't answer right away. He had to say it carefully, didn't want to upset her so that she'd stalk out of the office in anger.
"There's something you could do."
"What?" She leaned forward, almost eagerly, gripping the edge of the desk. "I love my husband, Dr. DuPont. I'll do anything to save him!"
The words hung in the air, suddenly familiar, and she was shocked to realized they were the exact ones she'd said to Sin when she asked him to help her find Tran.
What the doctor said next, however, didn't seem to make any sense to her.
"I'm a man who loves women, Madame McAllister. Needs them, in fact. My first wife divorced me between I left New France. Recently, I shed a second and at present I'm between maitresses." He shrugged slightly. "I'm not someone to remain celebataire."
Andi's frown deepened. "That's very personal information, Doctor. Why are you telling me this?"
"Because the moment I saw you, I wanted you, Madame McAllister. I want you to be my maitress."
She didn't answer.
"Do this and I'll help your husband. Gratis."
"Y-you want me to go to bed with you, in exchange for saving my husband's life?" The look she gave him was incredulous, as if she wasn't certain she'd heard him correctly.
Suddenly, she felt dizzy.
No, I won't faint this time! she told herself. Not while I'm alone in a room with him!
Instead, she got angry.
"You really are a piece of work! To expect me to trade sex for my husband's life! My God, what a hypocrite you are!"
He looked a little pained.
"Please, don't make it sound so vulgaire! You'll be a long time without your husband, Madame. I find you attractive, and I want you! It's as simple as that!"
Andi began to laugh, but to his amazement, it wasn't the sound of ridicule, but rather the high sharp noise of hysteria.
He stood up, starting around the desk as she stopped, waving him back.
"Oh, please forgive me. There's nothing funny about this, is there? But it's so ironic! You see, Dr. DuPont, another man said that same thing to me once--and I ended up marrying him!"
"I assure I have no such motive in mind, Madame," DuPont answered, a little stiffly, as if she had insulted him. "Once your husband's well, we'll part company."
He gestured slightly.
"You'll be free to return to your farm with him, and you'll never see me again! I've no wish to destroy your marriage. I merely wish the pleasure of your company, and your body, for the next sixteen months!'
"What you're suggesting is unethical, you know," she said coldly. "Suppose I report you to the hospital authorities?"
"That would be most foolish." He smiled triumphantly. "You see, I was curious about a Felidan with a Terran name, especially since you don't call him by that name. And this disease of his. They call it prison lung, did you know that?"
Involuntarily, she shook her head.
"I didn't think so." The triumph was strong now, almost gloating. "Because the prisoners in the Toxic Zone die of it, you see. Last night, I had our hospital computer connect with the Terminal in the Fed's Section Office here, requesting information and cross-referencing on the two names "Andrew McAllister" and "Sin." It gave me some very interesting facts."
Andi looked away.
"W-what facts?" she whispered, mouth barely moving. Her lower lip began to tremble and she put one hand over it, so he wouldn't see the quiver.
"That a Felidan hybrid named Andrew McAllister escaped from Fort Joy Penal Reservation fifteen years ago and has never been apprehended, and two years later, a Felidan smuggler named Sinbad sh'en Singh became very active running the blockades from Terra to Bel-Ammon, until last year when he suddenly disappeared."
He paused, as if waiting for Andi's reaction. She was silent, fingers clutching the arms of the chair tightly, knuckles white with strain.
"I suppose the fact that there was a war on explains why no one caught his name when you applied for your marriage license."
She swallowed several times before whispering, "W-what are you going to do?"
"If you cooperate, my dear Madame, nothing!" He spread his hands and smiled. "However, if you insist on going to the hospital board, I'll be forced to be a good citizen and notify the Fed that their escaped prisoner and a most-wanted smuggler are both in this hospital, and you know what will happen then."
Andi looked at him and didn't answer.
"They'll take him off that respirator," he went on. "And if he doesn't die, he'll be sent back to Fort Joy, and he won't escape a second time!"
Leaning back in his chair, he stopped speaking, waiting for Andi's reply. She was frightened, didn't want to answer him, wanted to jump up and storm out, but she was afraid for her husband, loving him too much. He could see it all in her face.
"A-all right." Slowly, she nodded, and a single tear slid down her cheek. DuPont ignored it, as his heart pounded at his victory. "I'll do what you want, just--please don't let him die!"