buy, took one look at one of those Colt .44 items you people turn out, saw it to be a fake, put his
money back in his pants pocket, and left. Now. What do you say?'
There was nothing that Wyndam-Matson could think of to say. But he thought to himself
instantly. It's Frink and McCarthy. They said they'd do something, and this is it. But — he could
not figure out what they had done; he could not make sense out of Calvin's account.
A kind of superstitious fright filled him. Those two — how could they doctor an item made last
February? He had presumed they would go to the police or the newspapers, or even the pinoc
government at Sac, and of course he had all those taken care of. Eerie. He did not know what to tell
Calvin; he mumbled on for what seemed an endless time and at last managed to wind up the
conversation and get off the phone.
When he hung up he realized, with a start, that Rita had come out of the bedroom and had
listened to the whole conversation; she had been pacing irritably back and forth, wearing only a
black silk slip, her blond hair falling loosely over her bare, slightly freckled shoulders.
'Tell the police,' she said.
Well, he thought, it probably would be cheaper to offer them two thousand or so. They'd accept
it; that was probably all they wanted. Little fellows like that thought small; to them it would seem
like a lot. They'd put in their new business, lose it, be broke again inside a month.
'No,' he said.
'Why not? Blackmail's a crime.'
It was hard to explain to her. He was accustomed to paying people; it was part of the overhead,
like the utilities. If the sum was small enough. . . but she did have a point. He mulled it over.
I'll give them two thousand, but I'll also get in touch with that guy at the Civic Center I know,
that police inspector. I'll have them look into both Frink and McCarthy and see if there's anything
of use. So if they come back and try again — I'll be able to handle them.
For instance, he thought, somebody told me Frink's a kike. Changed his nose and name. All I
have to do is notify the German consul here. Routine business. He'll request the Jap authorities for
extradition. They'll gas the bugger soon as they get him across the Demarcation Line. I think
they've got one of those camps in New York, he thought. Those oven camps.
'I'm surprised,' the girl said, 'that anyone could blackmail a man of your stature.' She eyed him.
'Well, I'll tell you,' he said. 'This whole damn historicity business is nonsense. Those Japs are
bats. I'll prove it.' Getting up, he hurried into his study, returned at once with two cigarette lighters
which he set down on the coffee table. 'Look at these. Look the same, don't they? Well, listen. One
has historicity in it.' He grinned at her. 'Pick them up. Go ahead. One's worth, oh, maybe forty or
fifty thousand dollars on the collectors' market.'
The girl gingerly picked up the two lighters and examined them.
'Don't you feel it?' he kidded her. 'The historicity?'
She said, 'What is 'historicity'?'
'When a thing has history in it. Listen. One of those two Zippo lighters was in Franklin D.
Roosevelt's pocket when he was assassinated. And one wasn't. One has historicity, a hell of a lot of
it. As much as any object ever had. And one has nothing. Can you feel it?' He nudged her. 'You
can't. You can't tell which is which. There's no 'mystical plasmic presence,' no 'aura' around it.'
'Gee,' the girl said, awed. 'Is that really true? That he had one of those on him that day?'
'Sure. And I know which it is. You see my point. It's all a big racket; they're playing it on
themselves. I mean, a gun goes through a famous battle, like the Meuse-Argonne, and it's the same
as if it hadn't, unless you know. It's in here.' He tapped his head. 'In the mind, not the gun. I used to
be a collector. In fact, that's how I got into this business. I collected stamps. Early British colonies.'
The girl now stood at the window, her arms folded, gazing out at the lights of downtown San
Francisco. 'My mother and dad used to say we wouldn't have lost the war if he had lived,' she said.
'Okay,' Wyndam-Matson went on. 'Now suppose say last year the Canadian Government or
somebody, anybody, finds the plates from which some old stamp was printed. And the ink. And a
supply of — '
'I don't believe either of those two lighters belonged to Franklin Roosevelt,' the girl said.
Wyndam-Matson giggled. 'That's my point! I'd have to prove it to you with some sort of
document. A paper of authenticity. And so it's all a fake, a mass delusion. The paper proves its
worth, not the object itself!'
'Show me the paper.'
'Sure.' Hopping up, he made his way back into the study. From the wall he took the Smithsonian
Institution's framed certificate; the paper and the lighter had cost him a fortune, but they were worth
it — because they enabled him to prove that he was right, that the word 'fake' meant nothing really,
since the word 'authentic' meant nothing really.
'A Colt .44 is a Colt .44,' he called to the girl as he hurried back into the living room. 'It has to do
with bore and design, not when it was made. It has to do with — '
She held out her hand. He gave her the document.
'So it is genuine,' she said finally.
'Yes. This one.' He picked up the lighter with the long scratch across its side.
'I think I'd like to go now,' the girl said. 'I'll see you again some other evening.' She set down the
document and lighter and moved toward the bedroom, where her clothes were.
'Why?' he shouted in agitation, following after her.
'You know it's perfectly safe; my wife won't be back for weeks — I explained the whole
situation to you. A detached retina.''
'It's not that.'
Rita said, 'Please call a pedecab for me. While I dress.'
'I'll drive you home,' he said grumpily.
She dressed, and then, while he got her coat from the closet, she wandered silently about the
apartment. She seemed pensive, withdrawn, even a little depressed. The past makes people sad, he
realized. Damn it; why did I have to bring it up? But hell, she's so young — I thought she'd hardly
know the name.
At the bookcase she knelt. 'Did you read this?' she asked, taking a book out.
Nearsightedly he peered. Lurid cover. Novel. 'No,' he said. 'My wife got that. She reads a lot.'
'You should read it.'
Still feeling disappointed, he grabbed the book, glanced at it. The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. 'Isn't
this one of those banned-in-Boston books?' he said.
'Banned through the United States. And in Europe, of course.' She had gone to the hall door and
stood there now, waiting.
'I've heard of this Hawthorne Abendsen.' But actually he had not. All he could recall about the
book was — what? That it was very popular right now. Another fad. Another mass craze. He bent
down and stuck it back in the shelf. 'I don't have time to read popular fiction. I'm too busy with
work.' Secretaries, he thought acidly, read that junk, at home alone in bed at night. It stimulates
them. Instead of the real thing. Which they're afraid of. But of course really crave.
'One of those love stories,' he said as he sullenly opened the hall door.
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'No,' she said. 'A story about war.' As they walked down the hail to the elevator she said, 'He says
the same thing. As my mother and dad.'
'Who? That Abbotson?'
'That's his theory. If Joe Zangara had missed him, he would have pulled America out of the
Depression and armed it so that — ' She broke off. They had arrived at the elevator, and other
people were waiting.
Later, as they drove through the nocturnal traffic in Wyndam-Matson's Mercedes-Benz, she
'Abendsen's theory is that Roosevelt would have been a terribly strong President. As strong as
Lincoln. He showed it in the year he was President, all those measures he introduced. The book is
fiction. I mean, it's in novel form. Roosevelt isn't assassinated in Miami; he goes on and is reelected
in 1936, so he's President until 1940, until during the war. Don't you see? He's still President when
Germany attacks England and France and Poland. And he sees all that. He makes America strong.
Garner was a really awful President. A lot of what happened was his fault. And then in 1940,
instead of Bricker, a Democrat would have been elected — '
'According to this Abelson,' Wyndam-Matson broke in. He glanced at the girl beside him. God,
they read a book, he thought, and they spout on forever. -
'His theory is that instead of an Isolationist like Bricker, in 1940 after Roosevelt, Rexford
Tugweii would have been President.' Her smooth face, reflecting the traffic lights, glowed with
animation; her eyes had become large and she gestured as she talked. 'And he would have been
very active in continuing the Roosevelt anti-Nazi policies. So Germany would have been afraid to
come to Japan's help in 1941. They would not have honored their treaty. Do you see?' Turning
toward him on the seat, grabbing his shoulder with intensity, she said, 'And so Germany and Japan
would have lost the war!'
Staring at him, seeking something in his face — he could not tell what, and anyhow he had to
watch the other cars — she said, 'It's not funny. It really would have been like that. The U.S. would
have been able to lick the Japanese. And — '
'How?' he broke in.
'He has it all laid out.' For a moment she was silent. 'It's in fiction form,' she said. 'Naturally, it's
got a lot of fictional parts; I mean, it's got to be entertaining or people wouldn't read it. It has a
human-interest theme; there's these two young people, the boy is in the American Army. The girl
— well, anyhow, President Tugwell is really smart. He understands what the Japs are going to do.'
Anxiously, she said, 'It's all right to talk about this; the Japs have let it be circulated in the Pacific. I
read that a lot of them are reading it. It's popular in the Home Islands. It's stirred up a lot of talk.'
Wyndam-Matson said, 'Listen. What does he say about Pearl Harbor?'
'President Tugwell is so smart that he has all the ships out to sea. So the U.S. fleet isn't
'So, there really isn't any Pearl Harbor. They attack, but all they get is some little boats.'
'It's called 'The Grasshopper something?' '
'The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. That's a quote from the Bible.'
'And Japan is defeated because there's no Pearl Harbor. Listen. Japan would have won anyhow.
Even if there had been no Pearl Harbor.'
'The U.S. fleet — in his book — keeps them from taking the Philippines and Australia.'
'They would have taken them anyhow; their fleet was superior. I know the Japanese fairly well,
and it was their destiny to assume dominance in the Pacific. The U.S. was on the decline ever since
World War One. Every country on the Allied side was ruined in that war, morally and spiritually.'
With stubbornness, the girl said, 'And if the Germans hadn't taken Malta, Churchill would have
stayed in power and guided England to victory.'
'In North Africa — Churchill would have defeated Rommel finally.'
'And once the British had defeated Rommel, they could move their whole army back and up
through Turkey to join remnants of Russian armies and make a stand-in the book, they halt the
Germans' eastward advance into Russia at some town on the Volga. We never heard of this town,
but it really exists because I looked it up in the atlas.'
'What's it called?'
'Stalingrad. And the British turn the tide of the war, there. So, in the book, Rommel never would
have linked up with those German armies that came down from Russia, von Paulus' armies;
remember? And the Germans never would have been able to go on into the Middle East and get the
needed oil, or on into India like they did and link up with the Japanese. And — '
'No strategy on earth could have defeated Erwin Rommel,' Wyndam-Matson said. 'And no events
like this guy dreamed up, this town in Russia very heroically called 'Stalingrad,' no holding action
could have done any more than delay the outcome; it couldn't have changed it. Listen. I met
Rommel. In New York, when I was there on business, in 1948.' Actually, he had only seen the
Military Governor of the U.S.A. At a reception in the White House, and at a distance. 'What a man.
What dignity and bearing. So I know what I'm talking about,' he wound up.
'It was a dreadful thing,' Rita said, 'when General Rommel was relieved of his post and that
awful Lammers was appointed in his place. That's when that murdering and those concentration
camps really began.'
'They existed when Rommel was Military Governor.'
'But — ' She gestured. 'It wasn't official. Maybe those SS hoodlums did those acts then . . . but he
wasn't like the rest of them; he was more like those old Prussians. He was harsh — '
'I'll tell you who really did a good job in the U.S.A.,' Wyndam-Matson said, 'who you can look to
for the economic revival. Albert Speer. Not Rommel and not the Organization Todt. Speer was the
best appointment the Partei made in North America; he got all those businesses and corporations
and factories — everything ! — going again, and on an efficient basis. I wish we had that out here
— as it is, we've got five outfits competing in each field, and at terrific waste. There's nothing more
foolish than economic competition.'
Rita said, 'I couldn't live in those work camps, those dorms they have back East. A girl friend of
mine; she lived there. They censored her mail — she couldn't tell me about it until she moved back
out here again. They had to get up at six-thirty in the morning to band music.'
'You'd get used to it. You'd have clean quarters, adequate food, recreation, medical care
provided. What do you want? Egg in your beer?'
Through the cool night fog of San Francisco, his big German-made car moved quietly.
On the floor Mr. Tagomi sat, his legs folded beneath him. He held a handleless cup of oolong
tea, into which he blew now and then as he smiled up at Mr. Baynes.
'You have a lovely place here,' Baynes said presently. 'There is a peacefulness here on the Pacific
Coast. It is completely different from — back there.' He did not specify.
''God speaks to man in the sign of the Arousing.'' Mr. Tagomi murmured.
'The oracle. I'm sorry. Fleece-seeking cortical response.'
Woolgathering, Baynes thought. That's the idiom he means. To himself he smiled.
'We are absurd,' Mr. Tagomi said, 'because we live by a five-thousand-year-old book. We set it
questions as if it were alive. It is alive. As is the Christian Bible; many books are actually alive. Not
in metaphoric fashion. Spirit animates it. Do you see?' He inspected Mr. Baynes' face for his
Carefully phrasing his words, Baynes said, 'I — just don't know enough about religion. It's out of
my field. I prefer to stick to subjects I have some competence in.' As a matter of fact, he was not
certain what Mr. Tagomi was talking about. I must be tired, Mr. Baynes thought. There has been,
since I got here this evening, a sort of . . . gnomish quality about everything. A smaller-than-life
quality, with a dash of the droll. What is this five-thousand-year-old book? The Mickey Mouse
watch, Mr. Tagomi himself, the fragile cup in Mr. Tagomi's hand . . . and, on the wall facing Mr.
Baynes, an enormous buffalo head, ugly and menacing.
'What is that head?' he asked suddenly.
'That,' Mr. Tagomi said, 'is nothing less than creature which sustained the aboriginal in bygone
'Shall I demonstrate art of buffalo slaying?' Mr. Tagomi put his cup down on the table and rose to
his feet. Here in his own home in the evening he wore a silk robe, slippers, and white cravat. 'Here
am I aboard iron horse.' He squatted in the air. 'Across lap, trusty Winchester rifle 1866 issue from
my collection.' He glanced inquiringly at Mr. Baynes. 'You are travel-stained, sir.'
'Afraid so,' Baynes said. 'It is all a little overwhelming for me. A lot of business worries And
other worries, he thought. His head ached. He wondered if the fine I. G. Farben analgesics were
available here on the Pacific Coast; he had become accustomed to them for his sinus headaches.
'We must all have faith in something,' Mr. Tagomi said. 'We cannot know the answers. We
cannot see ahead, on our own.'
Mr. Baynes nodded.
'My wife may have something for your head,' Mr. Tagomi said, seeing him remove his glasses
and rub his forehead. 'Eye muscles causing pain. Pardon me.' Bowing, he left the room.
What I need is sleep, Baynes thought. A night's rest. Or is it that I'm not facing the situation?
Shrinking, because it is hard.
When Mr. Tagomi returned — carrying a glass of water and some sort of pill — Mr. Baynes
said, 'I really am going to have to say good night and get to my hotel room. But I want to find out
something first. We can discuss it further tomorrow, if that's convenient with you. Have you been
told about a third party who is to join us in our discussions?'
Mr. Tagomi's face registered surprise for an instant; then the surprise vanished and he assumed a
careless expression. 'There was nothing said to that effect. However — it is interesting, of course.'
'From the Home Islands.'
'Ah,' Mr. Tagomi said. And this time the surprise did not appear at all. It was totally controlled.
'An elderly retired businessman,' Mr. Baynes said. 'Who is journeying by ship. He has been on
his way for two weeks, now. He has a prejudice against air travel.'
'The quaint elderly,' Mr. Tagomi said.
'His interests keep him informed as to the Home Islands markets. He will be able to give us
information, and he was coming to San Francisco for a vacation in any case. It is not terribly
important. But it will make our talks more accurate.'
'Yes,' Mr. Tagomi said. 'He can correct errors regarding home market. I have been away two
'Did you want to give me that pill?'
Starting, Mr. Tagomi glanced down, saw that he still held the pill and water. 'Excuse me. This is
powerful. Called zaracaine. Manufactured by drug firm in District of China.' As he held his palm
out, he added, 'Nonhabit-forming.'
'This old person,' Mr. Baynes said as he prepared to take the pill, 'will probably contact your
Trade Mission direct. I will write down his name so that your people will know not to turn him
away. I have not met him, but I understand he's a little deaf and a little eccentric. We want to be
sure he doesn't become — miffed.' Mr. Tagomi seemed to understand. 'He loves rhododendrons.
He'll be happy if you can provide someone to talk to him about them for half an hour or so, while
we arrange our meeting. His name, I will write it down.'
Taking his pill, he got out his pen and wrote.
'Mr. Shinjiro Yatabe,' Mr. Tagomi read, accepting the slip of paper. He dutifully put it away in
'One more point.'
Mr. Tagomi slowly picked at the rim of his cup, listening.
'A delicate trifle. The old gentleman — it is embarrassing. He is almost eighty. Some of his
ventures, toward the end of his career, were not successful. Do you see?'
'He is not well-off any longer,' Mr. Tagomi said. 'And perhaps he draws a pension.'
'That is it. And the pension is painfully small. He therefore augments it by means here and there.'
'A violation of some petty ordinance,' Mr. Tagomi said. 'The Home Government and its
bureaucratic officialdom. I grasp the situation. The old gentleman receives a stipend for his
consultation with us, and he does not report it to his Pension Board. So we must not reveal his visit.
They are only aware that he takes a vacation.'
'You are a sophisticate,' Mr. Baynes said.
Mr. Tagomi said, 'This situation has occurred before. We have not in our society solved the
problem of the aged, more of which persons occur constantly as medical measures improve. China
teaches us rightly to honor the old. However, the Germans cause our neglect to seem close to
outright virtue. I understand they murder the old.'
'The Germans,' Baynes murmured, again rubbing his forehead. Had the pill had an effect? He felt
a little drowsy.
'Being from Scandinavia, you no doubt have had much contact with the Festung Europa. For
instance, you embarked at Tempelhof. Can one take an attitude like this? You are a neutral. Give
me your opinion, if you will.'
'I don't understand what attitude you mean,' Mr. Baynes said.
'Toward the old, the sick, the feeble, the insane, the useless in all variations. 'Of what use is a
newborn baby?' some Anglo-Saxon philosopher reputedly asked. I have committed that utterance to
memory and contemplated it many times. Sir, there is no use. In general.'
Mr. Baynes murmured some sound or other; he made it the noise of noncommittal politeness.
'Isn't it true,' Mr. Tagomi said, 'that no man should be the instrument for another's needs?' He
leaned forward urgently. 'Please give me your neutral Scandinavian opinion.'
'I don't know,' Mr. Baynes said.
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