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Part 3, Chapters 28 Summary

Steffie, one of the many volunteer victims who never got help in the disaster simulation, finally returns home. She receives a letter from her mother; she wants Steffie to go visit her in Mexico City for Easter. Gladney explains that he will drop her off at the airport and her mother will meet her at the other end; the idea of going to a foreign country, flying thirty thousand feet above the ground at supersonic speed, and doing it all alone is sobering for the nine-year-old.

After a few moments of thought, Steffie claims she promised to serve as a volunteer victim again just before Easter, so she cannot go. Gladney says he will write her an excuse. Dana Breedlove, Steffie’s mother, was Gladney’s first and fourth wife; Stephanie Rose (Steffie) was conceived before the marriage fell apart for the second time. Breedlove is secretive about her work, but Gladney knows she reviews fiction for the CIA, a task which leaves her feeling tired and irritable.

Gladney wonders why he is inexplicably attracted to women whose lives are connected to intelligence. Breedlove is a part-time spy; Tweedy comes from a spying and counterspying family and is married to a “high-level jungle operative”; and Janet (Heinrich’s mother) was involved in clandestine currency research before she retired to the ashram. His attraction to Babette was probably relief, at least in part—until her fears propelled her into a “frenzy of clandestine research and erotic deception.”

Gladney has lunch with Siskind and some other colleagues; two of them conduct a rambling dialogue which leads them to the subject of death. Both men used to take great pleasure in imagining their own deaths, and one of them still does. When he is upset or feeling self-pity, he imagines everyone gathered around his coffin, regretting they did not appreciate him more when he was alive.

Gladney does not want to listen to this, as he has his “own dying to dwell upon,” but...

(The entire section is 494 words.)