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The hotel room was just big enough for a double bed, a ratty desk, an uncomfortable-looking overstuffed chair, a lamp, and a luggage rack. There was a tiny closet, a bathroom that was almost as small, and a window. The window opened onto a fire escape.

Wilson looked out. He was on the fifth floor. Rusty metal bars formed steps leading to a dark alley below.

He didn't look for bugs. They were there, no doubt, but he wasn't going to say anything.

He opened the window and sat down at the desk and emptied his pockets onto the ink-stained green blotter. The only incriminating items he could find were the cards in his billfold. There were dozens of them, including a handful of his own imprinted: John Wilson, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Psychology . . . . There were cards from other professors and other schools. There were membership cards in professional societies, activity cards, library identification cards, and a host of others.

One by one, he burned them in the lavatory, crushed the ashes, and flushed them down the drain, saving only his driver's license and a couple of credit cards. He could find nothing else that would give him away as a teacher or an egghead.

Slowly, wearily, he stripped off his clothes and draped them over a hanger where the uneasy breeze would blow away the charred odor of smoke. He drew a hot bath in the cracked old tub and stepped in it, trying to keep his mind away from flames and screams and black figures running. Slowly his taut muscles relaxed. As they did, his tangled thoughts straightened out.

He could count on no help, none at all. If he were to get away, he would have to do it alone. That they would try to stop him, that they would be after him soon if they were not already, he had no doubt.

Somehow he should be able to make his knowledge and experience count. He had to. What were his resources?

What was he?

He was a physicist specializing in electronics turned psychologist. His experimental work on the electroencephalograph had turned him toward what he had considered for so long a mere intuitive art, without measurements, without experimentally verifiable external data. Then he saw the opportunity for putting psychology on an objective basis.

With others, he had developed the Tool, the vital investigative device.

His thoughts came to a full stop. The Tool! That was it. That was the edge he needed. It would take hard work and money to assemble a portable replica of the complex laboratory model in a few hours, but he could do it. The work he could handle, and unless Emily failed him he would have the money.

He was briefly glad that he had not drawn back from blackmail—which would not have been blackmail if Emily had been the friend she pretended to be. For Emily it would be conscience money and cheap at that. She had always felt that a financial contribution ended her moral obligation.

The bed's oak veneer was peeling. Wilson crawled gratefully between thin sheets and sought sleep. He would need his rest. But it was a long time before his mind would stop flipping up pictures before his reluctant eyes, and when he slept he dreamed of terror.

The door woke him with its thin, woody voice. "Mr. Perry," it whispered. "Mr. Perry!"

The window was still dark. Wilson looked at his watch. The luminescent dial indicated 4:32. Silently Wilson slipped out of bed and into his clothes.

""Mr. Perry," the door said urgently. "There is very little time. I must see you."

Wilson had no intention of seeing anyone at 4:30 in the morning, much less a door, much less a door that called him by a name he had used only once. He knew how it was done, of course: some resonating device for foiling the bugs. Or for tricking him into thinking that was what it was for.

He slid out the window and made his way silently down the fire escape, keeping close to the wall in the dark. The last flight of steps screeched as his weight overbalanced it toward the ground. Then he was in the alley. The stairs swung back up noisily. He crouched there, waiting for discovery, but there was no more sound.

A stray beam from the nearby street swirled toward him. The night was filled with smog, strong in his nose, acrid in his throat. Ninth Street was deserted.

Where could he go at 4:30 in the morning?

He started walking south, briskly, working the stiffness out of his legs and the sleep out of his mind. The vital thing was to get out of the area immediately.

An all-night restaurant was open on Twelfth. It was little more than a diner; stools lined a single counter. A sleepy-eyed short-order cook was alone in the place. Disinterestedly, he watched Wilson take a stool and study the menu. Wilson punched his selection.

The cook took a toothpick out of his mouth and said: "It's broke. Some guy yanked out a handful of wires the other day."

"Yeah?" Wilson said. He was careful not to speak precisely. "I'll have ham 'n' eggs, hotcakes, 'n' coffee."

"Okay." The cook poured batter out of a metal pitcher onto a black griddle, took a small, thin slice of ham out of the refrigerator and slapped it down beside the pancakes, and with bored skill cracked two eggs one-handed into a skillet.

"Whatsa matter with the gadget?" Wilson asked, nodding at the microwave.

"These fancy machines are always getting out of whack. Besides, they just throw people outa jobs, right? What good is that?"

"Yeah," Wilson said.

"You hear about the big fire?"


"About time somebody showed those eggheads who's runnin' things," the cook growled. "They're like the microwave—fancy and complicated and always breaking down. Inventin' things, throwin' people outa work, startin' wars, betrayin' our secrets to anybody that wants 'em. They're no good, and it's time they got wise. The Senator'll show 'em."

It was, most certainly, time they got wise. Wilson didn't bother pointing out the inconsistencies in the man's argument. He was thinking about Sylvia and Bill Nugent and Aaron Friedman and Sammy Black. "Yeah," he said.

Wilson lingered over breakfast for an hour, sipping four or five cups of coffee, keeping a wary eye on the front window, but finally he had to leave. The cook was looking at him too often.

He thought of the library and discarded the idea immediately. It was too characteristic, and the local committee might well have spy-eyes on it for permanent surveillance.

Instead, he walked the streets. Now he was not alone. The sun had come up, and the smog had started to thin. People were hurrying to their jobs; buses rolled noisily along the streets, disgorging their cargoes.

He looked up once to find himself passing the library. So much, he thought grimly, for the subconscious. The windows and doors were boarded up. The building had died long ago.

He passed the postoffice and looked at it longingly, but it was too early.

At the corner a newsstand was yelling headlines: "unversity burns! hundreds die in blaze! arson suspected!"

He put a quarter into the machine and took the paper into a self-service drug store. He bought a Coke from a machine and took it to an empty booth. He spread the paper out on the table.

The front page was devoted to pictures and stories about the fire. One section of a story caught his eye. It said:


Although no witnesses to the start of the holocaust have been identified, local police have denied the rumor that it was set by an incensed mob of townspeople later swollen by additions from surrounding towns and cities.

There is evidence that the blaze was touched off by university teachers themselves in an attempt at martyrdom to gain sympathy for the egghead cause, asserted a police spokesman, who refused to be quoted directly.

A plot has been uncovered to discredit the Lowbrow movement and the Senate Subcommittee on Academic Practices, this spokesman stated. But the flames spread beyond control, and many of the arsonists and their families were burned alive.

Area law enforcement officers have been alerted to be on the lookout for university employees who may have escaped the general destruction, and a broad-spread appeal has been made to the public to report anyone whose actions or speech is suspicious.

The ashes of the gigantic fire are still being combed for bodies and identification compared with the university roster.


As yet there was no list of the dead and missing. In a black-bordered box was a brief item with a Washington dateline:


Senator Bartlett announced early today that investigators from his staff would aid the authorities in their search for the arsonists. The guilty eggheads, he said, should be charged with arson, murder, and treason and the maximum penalty assessed—if they are brought in alive.


Wilson stared blindly into a corner of the booth. So, he thought, there was an open incitement to murder. The eggheads were guilty before the investigation began, in spite of such inescapable evidence as wounds and broken bones and Senator Bartlett's own statements on the broadcast of the night before.

But this was a world eaten with a terrible cancer of suspicion and fear. It was a world in which truth was only a weapon to use against your enemies and your neighbors, if you could twist it into the right shape.

It was not exactly a world in which black was white and white was black; it was a world in which no color existed independently of the viewer. There was no objective reality to agree upon.

It was his world, and there was nothing he could do about it but try to escape from it.


He was a seedy, middle-aged down-and-outer with a gray stubble of beard on his seamed face. Wilson didn't look much better; he hadn't shaved, and he had rumpled his clothes artfully. Wilson tried to get through to the d-and-o with his instructions, but the man just nodded his head vaguely.

There was no help for it. Unless there was trouble, the d-and-o could do the job as well as anyone; if the man was picked up, that was the end of it, and at least he couldn't identify Wilson.

"They'll want identification," Wilson said. "Here's a credit card, and here's the five bucks. Got it straight now?"

"Sure, sure," said the d-and-o. "I go up to the general delivery window and I—"

"Okay," Wilson said. "Get going!"

"Can"t I have a drink now?" the man whined. "Ain't had a drink yet this morning, and I'm dry." His hand rasped across his mouth. "Lost my job to a gol-durned machine, I did. Damned eggheads did it. Ain't had a job since."

"Afterwards," Wilson said inflexibly.

"Okay, mister," the man said. "It's your money." He folded the bill and stuffed it into the pocket of his dirty pants.

Wilson gave him half a block, watching him through the fly-specked saloon window, and then started after him.

Moving slowly, the d-and-o climbed the broad, postoffice steps and disappeared into the dimness under the tall columns. Wilson hurried to keep him in sight.

He felt a moment of panic as he couldn't find his messenger inside, and then he spotted him to the right, up a short flight of stairs. Wilson faded back toward the wall.

The d-and-o ambled up to the broad window marked: GENERAL DELIVERY. He said something to the clerk and showed the credit card. A moment later he collected a small package wrapped in brown paper.

Slowly, while Wilson held his breath, the man turned south toward the side entrance. After a moment, Wilson followed. So did two other men, detaching themselves from a writing desk near the general delivery window.

As he passed through the exit, the d-and-o bent and straightened. Wilson's eyes were on his hands. They were empty.

At the door, Wilson looked down. The package was almost invisible behind a scraggly bush. Wilson stooped smoothly and had it and walked on.

He glanced back over his shoulder. The other two pursuers had caught up with the d-and-o; they grabbed him by the shoulder roughly and spread out his hands. As Wilson walked quickly in the opposite direction, he had a twinge of conscience. He smothered it quickly. They would soon discover their mistake and let the man go, and the d-and-o would consider it cheap if they held him overnight.

He had been betrayed, Wilson knew, and there was no doubt in his mind who had done it. Emily had turned him in, virtuously, with a firm belief that she was sacrificing something precious to save her family, as a mother in other times would have sold her virtue to buy food.

Wilson shrugged. The risk had been necessary. The only thing that bothered him now was whether the package was filled with money or cut paper.

He opened it in the privacy of a barber shop men's room. There was money in it.

He smiled ironically as he stowed the thick bundle of bills away in his billfold and inside coat pocket. It was as natural for Emily to pay for a bit more protection as it was for him to suspend final judgment until all sides of a question were investigated.

Either way it worked out, Emily was safe.

There are that kind of people in the world. They are the survivers.

Wilson bought himself fifteen minutes in a shower stall and a plastic-wrapped package of new underclothes. The shower sprays didn't work well, and the underclothes were too big, but he enjoyed them both. He skipped the shave. His face and his suit had reached the proper state of unkemptness.

He got a quick lunch at a stand-up cafeteria. When he finished he walked along the sidewalk reading window signs until he found one he liked. It said: HEARING AIDS.

He pushed his way into the store past a stubborn automatic door that refused to be automatic. At the rear, an old man looked up from a desk littered with electronic parts and moved to the counter. The flesh-colored, almost invisible cord of a hearing aid was taped to his neck. "I told you," he said in a tense, high-pitched voice, "I don't want no protection—"

"You must have mistaken me for someone else," Wilson said. "I want a hearing aid, one of those digital models."

"Mistook you all right," the old man said grumpily. "One of these Committee hoodlums trying to get me to contribute. Calls it 'riot insurance.' Broke my door the other day. You don't look hard of hearing."

"It's a present."

"Should have the person come in for tests himself, by rights. Makes a difference what kind of aid you need."

"I know, but I want to get one now. He can get it tested later, exchange it if he has to."

"Poor way to do things." He studied Wilson with faded blue eyes. "Well, how much you want to pay? We got 'em in all price ranges."

"Your best."

The old man nodded with just a trace of friendliness now and shuffled toward the rear of the store. He came back with a small box in his hand.

Wilson said:""How's business?"

The old man shook his head. "No good. People got a notion nowadays that there's something wrong with newfangled gadgets, that people should stay as God made them. Silly, damn fools. God made them stupid, too, but they don't have to stay that way unless they want."

He slapped the box down on the counter and opened it up. He explained the workings of the hearing aid for fifteen minutes before Wilson could get a word in."

"How much?" Wilson said finally.

"How's that?" said the old man, cupping his hand to his ear.

"How much is it?" Wilson said loudly.

"Don't have to shout. That'll be $12399.95." He looked wistfully at the box. "They don't make 'em like that anymore. That's all right, though. They don't buy 'em anymore, either."

Wordlessly, Wilson counted out the money.

Directly across the street was an electronic parts store. It was a big place with a counter stretching across the front and all the way down one side. There was no one in the store except a clerk. He looked up, surprised, as Wilson entered, and hurried to the front.

"You got a workroom? " Wilson said without preliminary.

"Sure," the clerk said, nodding his head at the partition behind him. "Best in town.

"I want to do some assembling. I'd like to rent the room and the use of your tools for the rest of the afternoon. I'll pay for whatever parts I use and twenty bucks more."

"Okay," said the clerk, his eyes wide. "And if you need any help, just whistle. I haven't had a customer in days."

Five hours later Wilson dropped the tiny soldering iron, took the jeweler's magnifying glass out of his eye, and rubbed his eyes wearily. On the bench in front of him was the hearing aid, but the old man across the street would never have recognized it. It was completely rewired and connected to a flat box. That box, in turn, was connected to a fanlike antenna of fine wire sewn into his coat between the lining and the coat itself.

The box went into his left-hand pocket. Wilson inserted the hearing aid into his ear, turned on the power, and hoped for the best. He had not tried for too much, and he had not gotten much. That little he needed.

It was almost six in the evening when he walked out of the workroom and reached the customer side of the counter. The clerk was idly flipping the pages of a tattered parts catalogue. He looked up. The speaker buzzed.

Curiosity, Wilson translated. "That's one hundred fifty-three bucks, right?"

"Right," said the clerk. "Say, I don't know what your business is—I don't want to know—but there's a thin, dark haired guy across the street watching this place. He's been there all afternoon."

Wilson looked through the front window. It was him, all right, the man from the hotel. "Got a back door?"

"Through there. Opens into the alley."

"Thanks. Here's another ten. Forget you ever saw me."

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