Sam stopped in the wide steps of the police department; trying to gather courage, he ascended without energy the six entrance steps.

The police station was as orderly as an undone bed; there was a profusion of crammed ashtrays full of unsmoked butts, wrinkled cigarette packages, gathered in cylindrical holders that could not contain so much volume. This, together with the floor that needed to be swept urgently and washed, gave the place a general atmosphere of informal abandonment.

The lobby was crowded with people. It reminded him of a day of sale at Bloomingdales. There were people waiting everywhere, all had an undecipherable facial statement.

A girl full with acne, wearing an obscenely short skirt and handcuffed, arched her brows towards Sam. She didn't seem to be older than fifteen years.

Sam felt very out of place. Aware that all the looks were nailed on him. He walked towards official on duty. As soon as he stopped in front of her, he saw her lower her eyes and inhale deeply with her flat chest. Sam stared at her fixedly in disbelief; she seemed to have something strange in her face. When Sam understood that it was the eyes, abnormally close to the nose, he looked away.

-Good morning officer, my name is Sam Seaborn.

-Good morning I am Officer Jennifer Cohen.

He looked unwittingly at her eyes again.

-Detective Shane Karlie is waiting for me, Ron Butterfield made an appointment with him.

The official fluttered her eyes again.

-At this moment the detective is busy, but he'll finish soon. Have a seat here at my side there anempty chair.

Sam turned towards the waiting room, as intimidated as he had felt when he was twelve years old, when he waited for his mother at the hairdresser.

A pair of eyes looked at him fixedly. As soon as he turned, all returned to their tasks. His eyes searched for a seat in the crowded place, he found an empty one and went to it, but stopped, almost colliding with one of the abandoned in the room. He was surprised.

-Do you have change, buddy? - the man asked, staggering. He was obviously drunk and had a recent cut next to his temple. One of the lenses of his glasses was broken. Sam went back before him.

-What happened? - asked the man in a drunkard's voice, - don't you understand the language? Do you speak Spanish or English?.

Sam dug in his pocket, looking for change. While he held the money in his palm, one police officer ordered the drunkard to one of the seats.

With growing anxiety, he thought and sat down in the seat next to the desk of officer Jennifer. Jennifer, slyly, immersed herself in the cheap novel by Veronica Lorenzo, a terrible unknown author of soap operas from South America, hidden in one of her desk drawers. Every time Sam, by chance, looked in her direction,

she smiled.

Sam felt an intruder in another world as the time relentlessly but horribly crawled by. His empty stomach began to make noises. The noon already passed.

- Excuse me, miss, can anything be done so that the detective Karlie would assist me? asked Sam making an effort to be courteous.

In that precise moment, Shane Karlie appeared with his customary stains of ice cream and an attractive tie that could have been clipped from a surrealist painting.

-Mr.. Seaborn, I am Shane Karlie - he said, offering him his hand. His handshake was like a tong. Sam took it and contained a grimace of disgust, it was humid and sticky. -Come on in to my office.

Both entered Karlie's smallish office . To Sam, it reminded the fishbowl of Gail, but Gail surely had more space. In a corner of the room, there were an electric coffeepot, a pot of sugar and a package of paper glasses.

-Do you want coffee?

- Yes, thank you.

Karlie went to the coffeepot and began to maneuver, trying to make it work. The coffeepot represented an old challenge: among the policemen who worked with Karlie it was said that nobody could finish the rotation at Homicide until knowing how to work it.

-Some day...- murmured Shane - I'm going to get electrocuted with this damned junk! - he plugged it in and some cracks were heard. - Either I or some other devil. Milk and sugar?

-Yes, please, - Sam said timidly. This had been the most bizarre view of his entire life.

Shane filled a glass, staying as far away from the pot as his short arms allowed. His stupidity for any mechanical thing was notorious. He had knowledge on any case of homicide, but the mechanical objects or electricians were outside of his skills.

-Here, - he give the coffee to Sam, and went to an old mini-bar for a refill of strawberry ice cream. Then he went toward his desk.

Karlie disappeared literally behind his enormous desk.

-Ron Butterfield told me that you wanted to ask me some questions. -said Sam

-Oh yes... yes... I have a file with this case... - he began to shuffle the papers and folders on his desk, -...on the side. It will soon appear...- he said, -...only I want to review some things with you... here! Is it the file... well, ah yes... well I do believe that you know, the computers are here to help us, but sometimes they only give us more work, - Shane commented with a sigh, - you understand what I want to tell you?

-Sure, - Sam responded, he was not very sure of agreeing with that idea, but he didn't dare contradict a homicide detective.

-In some place, a computer spit out your name, - Shane said, opening a brown folder and examined its contents, shaking his head. - Do you know Arthur Grutt? Would you like an ice cream?

-Yes . No. That is to say, Yes it's true that I knew Arthur Grutt. And no, I don't want ice cream, thank you.

- When I get your data, at once we link ourselves with the White House, and "Abracadabra," Ron is an old friend.

-For that reason we could do this with so much diplomacy. It would not be well if I showed up in your office, crowded with journalists asking questions on an automobile accident. What were you saying about Ron?

-I have spoken with Ron this morning. He told me that the name of the victim was Arthur Grutt and he said that there was something more I could learn from you.

-Yes there is; I asked that he not give you more details until I had the occasion of speaking with you.


-Because I believe this could be bigger than it is. We go to treat Arthur Grutt like a homicide. And I want to know why there was a letter directed to you in Grutt's computer. I assure you that the text surprised me.

-I don't believe that as much as I am surprised myself.

-I want you to tell me all you know about Arthur Grutt.


-Everything, from when he begun to be involved with you.

-It was this way how Sam narrated everything from Saturday finishing with last night's sleeping on Josh's sofa.

- All that you have told me, anything responds the suspicion of sabotage. All that we have is this note of Grutt.

-Well that's all that I know.

-Who could know it? Who could wonder it?

-I don't know. Sincerely I don't know, - Sam said grief-stricken. - Maybe Josh's Truman Grishman knows it and if he doesn't maybe he knows how to find out... He is my last hope.

-We should know if we have something believable or a chimera.

-But if you have doubts, why are you treating this as a homicide? Why is it not simply a simple car accident?

- I was investigating. Arthur Grutt īs disappearance was never communicated. If I were in that investigation team and one of my men disappeared suddenly, I would say something to somebody.

-What does that mean?

-I don't know yet. But in your place, I would ask me that question.

Sam didn't generally have problems with the words, but in this situation he was to choose his words and sentences with the same uneasiness of a disjointed pretender trying desperately to emit a declaration of love.

-Didn't his family call anybody in this whole time?

-No, he hadn't family that we have been able to find. But yes he had partners. None of them called to announce his disappearance.

-Poor wretch.

Shane ate some ice cream and shot another question

- Tell me about your treatment last night . Who would have a reason to do it?

Sam swung with difficulty. .

-I don't know. But I am sure it had to do with this whole investigation. Clearly they told me to move away from the investigation that the OPA has on the ROGELIA

-Are you sure? Do you have enemies ?

- I believe not, - Sam said, exasperated.

-Excuse me if I'm annoying with my questions, but I should clear all doubt, that maybe somebody is taking advantage of this situation for... to play you a bad time or to hide another fact.

-Well, if it is this way, in politics one never knows, today's enemies are tomorrow's friends, - he added wearily.

-It's ok my boy, don't worry. But tell me why you discarded Ron's help.

- I work for the White House, I don't like to walk around with an agent of security. But I accepted his help regarding my mother, otherwise I would not be here.

-The one that threatens you will return to attempt again. They surely already know that you are here and next time that they attempt it may not be only a warning. You should speak with Ron again and accept his help.

For several moments Sam had the impression that Shane was examining him with the concentration of an entomologist observing a pinned cockroach.

-.What will you do?

-I don't know.

-How about your mother?

-She has a masters in History, and a master in Half Age. I got her a ticket so she travels to Florence. Ron put some agents to watch over her. She will be quite busy inside the Uffici Gallery with her investigations. Knowing her as I know her, she will pass every day since they open up until they close inside the building.

-You are right, after the bomb threat some years ago the security there was intensified.Do you have some way that I contact you directly?

-I will leave you my cell number, - he said giving him a card and scrabbling the number in the back.

-I hate them, I really hate things cellular, - Shane said, - they ring only when something wrong happens here or when Cornelia needs me to take her parsley spray for dinner.

-I know how you feel, - sighed Sam trying to contain a laugh.

Shane smiled thoroughly and Sam was pleased with it. Karlie's face was the proverbial Irish map designed for beloved and honest, libations. The detective also had the disconcerting habit of turning off that smile as if a tap closed. He looked seriously at Sam.

-I want to do two things for me. You can consider this a police order. First, don't go anywhere to see anybody without someone knowing about it and for a while, don't go alone. Is that clear?

-I will attempt. The things sometimes happen too quickly in the White House. It is not always possible to make those arrangements.

-Yes, attempt it. Put a lot of zeal in making it happen. Because if you don't do it, I will be waiting when you return, if you return, and I will kick your ass.





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