But it was Ina the man from Tarnover was chiefly concerned to question. Sandy Locke had been hired on her say-so, whence the rest followed logically.
She grew terribly tired of saying over and over to the thin black man (whose name was Paul T. Freeman, but maybe only for the purposes of this assignment), “Of course I go to bed with men I know nothing about! If I only went to bed with men I do know about I’d never get any sex, would I? They all turn out to be bastards in the end.” Late on the afternoon of the second day of questioning the subject of Kate arose. Ina claimed to be unaware that her daughter had left the city, and the skull-faced man was obliged to believe her, since she had had no chance to go home and check her mail-store reel. Moreover, the girls in the apartment below Kate’s, currently looking after Bagheera, insisted she had given no least hint in advance of her intention to travel.
Still, she’d done so. Gone west, and what was more with a companion. Very likely one of her fellow students, of course; many of her friends hailed from California. Besides, she’d talked freely about “Sandy Locke” to her downstairs neighbors, and called him plastic, artificial, and other derogatory terms. Her mother confirmed that she had said the same on various occasions both public and private.
There being no trace of Haflinger, however, and no other potential clue to his whereabouts, and no recent record of Kate’s code being used—which meant she must have gone to a paid-avoidance area—Freeman, who was a thorough person, set the wheels in motion, and was rewarded by being able to advise the FBI that lodging for two people had been debbed against Kate Lilleberg in Lap-of-the-Gods.
Very interesting. Very interesting indeed.
TODAY’S SPECIAL He woke to alarm, recalling his gaffe of yesterday and along with that a great many details he’d have preferred to remain ignorant of concerning the habits of people in paid-avoidance areas. Their federal grants meant that few of them had to work at full-time jobs; they supplemented their frugal allowance by providing services—he thought of the restaurants where there were manual chefs and the food was brought by waiters and waitresses—or making handicrafts. Tourism in towns like this, however, was on the decline, as though people no longer cared to recall that this, the richest nation in history, had been unable to transcend a mere earthquake, so they spent much of their time in gossip. And what right now would offer a more interesting subject than the poker who blew out of nowhere and beat the local fencing champion?
“Sooner or later you’re going to have to learn to live with one inescapable fact about yourself,” Kate said over her shoulder as she sat brushing her hair before the room’s one lighted mirror. Listening, he curled his fingers. The color of that hair might be nothing out of the ordinary, but its texture was superb. His fingertips remembered it, independently of his mind.
“You’re a very special person. Why else would they have recruited you to Tarnover? Wherever you go you’re bound to attract attention.”
“You can’t help it.” She laid aside her brush and swiveled to face him; he was sitting glum on the edge of the bed.
“Consider,” she went on. “Would the people at G2S have offered to perm you if they didn’t think you were special even disguised as Sandy Locke? And—and I realized you were special, too.”
“You,” he grunted, “just have more insight than is good for you.”
“You mean: more than is good for you.”
“I guess so.” Now at last he rose to his feet, imagining he could hear his joints creak. To be this frustrated must, he thought, resemble the plight of being old: clearly recalling what it was like to act voluntarily and enjoy life as it came, now trapped in a frame that forbade anything except slow cautious movements and a diet prescribed by doctors.
“I don’t want to go through life wearing fetters,” he said abruptly.
“Tarnover talking!” she snapped.
“Wear fetters? Wear fetters? I never heard such garbage. Has there ever been a time in the whole of history when someone with amazing exceptional gifts could be deluded into thinking they’re a handicap?”