Chapter 1: Cookie of Consolation
Chapter 2: Sam
It is a loss to the world no doubt, but I can’t tell you anything about how Sam found his way to the WAS highrise office; or how he bumped into Pumpkin and offended that said gentlemen greatly by knocking his ice cream over and not apologizing for it; or how he forgot to make himself look tidy, or about his desperate thoughts about not having any cookies in his pocket; and I can’t tell you any of this for the sincere reason that I really don’t know anything about what happened on his way there, for Sam is a quiet fellow, and he never did tell anyone about it.
For all I know he lost himself three times, and didn’t bump into Pumpkin at all; or stopped by his grandma’s, and didn’t have any desperate thoughts about cookies.
At all events, I do know that Sam arrived there (almost on time), and patting his leather coat across the orange glow strip, tried to assume that everyone liked him.
Passing the full height optical turnstile, Sam walked through a scanner, received a trell-it-card, and went in (feeling exactly the way you would feel if you had done something like that).
Looking at the card, he was impressed to find that it gave him all the pertinent information he needed to find his way around the building.
“I suppose they know all about me. Rather convenient, but it’s frightfully futuristic,” he was beginning to say, but he realized at once that there was no one by to hear him, and stopped.
I regret to say that in general, (and it is a great pity) Sam did not have the custom to talk to himself very loudly, at least, not loud enough for me to hear him.
Thus, reaching the fifth floor in silence, he glanced at his card again and after typing the numbers and letters it gave him into the security register on the wall, put his sunglasses on his head, and marched in.
That is, he started to march in; but upon seeing two high-ranking officials, with badges on their left shoulders, conversing with each other in low tones, he stopped short and waited politely.
The official on the right looked up and said – but on second thoughts I don’t think I’ll tell you what he said. I’d rather tell you what the other fellow said. He said (the other one), “Yes indeed. I have arrived at the same conclusion.”
Sam nodded and waited for more.
“What we want you to do, sir,” said Tradam P. H., the official on the right, fixing his eyes upon Sam, “is straightforward enough, but hardly unchallenging. It is a private investigation for government officials that will take superior skill and require wary minds. (“I hope you’ve got a wary mind,” said AV, the other official, to Sam.) You’re entirely free from any kind of employment at the moment?”
“Yes, sir. We are all of us… out of employment. Very much so,” said Sam, feeling immediately afterwards that it made them sound like shiftless vagabonds, which is not at all the proper impression to make when you want someone to hire you for a first-class job.
“Of course,” said Tradam, pulling down a bag of Tudlum what-cats-want and feeding it to the cat.
“Stop it!” AV interrupted, slapping Tradam’s hand as he fed the cat. “He only eats if I feed him,” he added, and taking the treat from Tradam, he fed the cat himself.
Tradam slapped his hand and said “Hang fire! That’s my cat! It is not your cat, once and for all!” and it suddenly flashed on Sam that that was what they had been talking about when he walked in.
AV recovered himself first and looking up, said, “Well, we’ll let that pass,” in a cool tone. But aside he said to Sam, “It’s my cat.”
Sam nodded consent and bit his lip, thinking it best to keep his countenance.
“Well,” continued Tradam, now that he was done feeding the cat. “Did I explain everything?”
“Not quite,” replied Sam, modestly.
“Oh yes, right. I was in the middle of it.”
“In the middle of what?” asked AV.
“It,” replied Tradam, in a reproachful voice. “You explain, AV,” he added, suddenly deciding it was better to sit and listen and make caustic remarks. It generally is.
AV accepted the role thus forced upon him calmly. “The WAS is a World Agency for Security. It’s obvious function is to keep everyone safe,” began AV, inviting Sam to a seat.
“Thank you,” Sam replied, taking it gratefully. “Safe from what?” he asked respectfully.
“From criminals. High criminals. The ones who genetically down-size the microorganisms in your morning coffee,” offered Tradam, with a smug smile.
“Precisely,” said AV in polite, but scalding sarcasm. “Well, as I was saying, that is the function of the WAS, catching them-”
“The microorganisms?” asked Sam, confused.
“No, no-th- the criminals, of course,” AV replied, feeling strongly fazed by such a stupid question. He recovered as fast as his mental abilities allowed him and continued, “Of course – yes the criminals not – the… the coffee.
“Well, everything was good, until yesterday night. That night, the head of the WAS, Mr. A. W. Semmes, disappeared. I’m afraid the only details about the disappearance we can give you is that earlier that day the EPS – that’s our personal security service – had sent a message to Mr. Semmes’s EPA – that’s his Executive Protection Agent – saying their usual means of transportation had been bugged, and a substitute limousine was on its way. “Suspiciously, of course, and very surprisingly, all communication between the EPS and Mr. Semmes’s EPA was lost after that. I must also mention that all this is strictly confidential; no one but me and Mr. Tradam here knows that the head of the WAS is missing, and we by no means want it leaking out in the media. So you see, it’s rather a hard case – I know, of course, you have a lot of experience, but do please express any discomforts you have. I hope we will be able to resolve them.”
He paused and Tradam added, “Personally, I’m convinced from the little I have seen of you that you are the man for this job.”
AV choked and coughed, but recovering himself asked, “How many other people do you work with? I’ve heard of you before, you are a GOA, I believe?”
“Group Of Amateurs?” interrupted Tradam, smothering a laugh.
Sam pulled at his T-shirt neckline, AV put his hand to his mouth and bit his cheek, and they both ignored him. Sam said in reply to AV, “Yes, a rather unusual GOA as a matter of fact. There are four of us; Johnnie, Sam, Pumpkin and Rosy,” he added, naming himself along with the others.
“Good,” replied AV with a tight smile. “That’s wonderful. That’s really wonderful.”
Tradam rolled his eyes, but tried not to let Sam see.
“Do you have any clue about why the head of the WAS would disappear?” Sam began, after a short pause, in which each was thinking different things.
Sam was thinking eagerly, “I wonder if Johnnie will like it.”
And AV was thinking, rather uncivilly, “I wonder how many years it’ll take them to find their first clue!”
And Tradam was thinking sourly, “I wonder if my wife made unicorn mac-and-cheese for supper again.”
But none of them said their thoughts aloud of course; AV only said, “You mean do we suspect what happened to him? We’re afraid,” and here he paused feelingly, “that even in this short amount of time he has been perhaps assassinated or efficiently done away with. As to an educated guess of who it might have been, it’s entirely impossible to say. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would have liked to have him killed. Too many to know who it was. He was a targeted person, of course, but he was on too many people’s tracks to make it easy even to guess. We can give you plenty of case files, but they won’t do you any good,” cautioned AV.
“No of course not,” said Sam politely.
“There’s a reason we want new faces on the job,” broke in Tradam, suddenly. “If someone’s onto us they’ll recognize our own EPA agents. What we want is people who… don’t really look like they’re on a case, or really on to… anything.”
AV put his hand in front of his mouth to hide an irrepressible desire to laugh and said hurriedly, “Tradam’s a fine fellow. He’s quite right – your GOA will suit us to a T. This case, however, and every detail pertaining to it, is of course, (as we mentioned) highly confidential. Nobody but us three knows about it.”
“Even Mr. Semmes doesn’t know he’s missing,” said Tradam, laughing.
Sam smiled (for he really did have a sense of humor, when he thought about it) and looked at AV again, who continued,
“There are various things in this building in connection to the case which you will of course be reviewing at your leisure. Would you mind sharing your contact information with us?”
“My pleasure,” said Sam, with an expectant look.
“Yes,” said AV with a benignant smile in reply to the look. “You’re hired.”
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