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chapter 5
 Abstract of Transcript, Monitor J-12, to U.S. Treasury Department Intelligence: "Miss Orison McCall's report from Potawattomi, Indiana, was delayed by one hour. Contact was established at 00:10 hours. Details follow herewith:
"J-12: CQ, CQ, CQ, CQ.
"Miss McCall: If you'd been a minute later, I'd have been sound asleep, dreaming bad dreams.
"J-12: Is the job wearing you down?
"Miss McCall: It's exciting and mysterious. Nothing like Washington. The boss of Taft Bank appears to be a man named Dink Gerding. He's six feet tall and slim, his hair is clipped short as a dachshund's, and he walks like an Olympic skier. The other men at the bank bow when they meet him, and some of them get all the way down onto the floor when he's angry. Do you suppose this means something?
"J-12: Everything means something.
"Miss McCall: He said that. Dink did. For everything in the universe, he said, there's an explanation.
"J-12: Not so. I mean that everything that people do in banks is explainable. Not all the universe is logical—the tax-structure, for instance, or the ways of women.
"Miss McCall: I'm not required to put up with male chauvinism from a pillow, Mister, no banns having been published between us.
"J-12: Sorry, beautiful. Here are instructions from the Chief. He wants to know why some members of the Taft Bank staff wear earmuffs, and he wants details of what goes on upstairs. He wants you to get to know this Dink Gerding better. Over.
"Miss McCall: Roger, Wilco, and Aye-Aye. Meanwhile, get philologists working on this. The sentence, Wanji e-Kal, Datto. Dink ger-Dink d'summa, means, more or less, 'This is Wanji. I'd like to speak to Dink Gerding.' This message was received by me at Taft Bank this morning, evidently by accident. Check also possible meaning of the phrase, 'Escudo green is pale.'
"J-12: Will do.
"Miss McCall: Good night, then; wherever you are.
"J-12: Good night, beautiful. Out."
Report of Treasury Intelligence on six words of presumed foreign-language message:
"Datto may be Tagalog chief. Summa is Latin sum. Total message is nonsense in fifty languages. The clear message, Escudo green is pale probably a code. Escudo is Portuguese currency presently equal to U.S. $0.348. End of Report."
Confidential report (on scratchboard) of Elder Compassion to H.R.H. Dink ger-Dink, Prince Porphyrogenite of Empire, Heir-Apparent to the Throne, Scion of the Triple Crown, Count of the Northern Marches, Admiralissimo of the Conquest Forces of Empire, Captain-Commander of the XLIIth Subversion-and-Conquest Task Force (Sol III):
"She whispered to her pillow, local time 2 A.M., 'I love him.'"
Orison hadn't gone to sleep easily. She'd suppressed information from J-12, saying nothing to him about the Microfabridae, surely the most striking objective discovery of her two days' spying within the Taft Bank. More central in her thoughts than her disloyalty to the Treasury Department, though, was Dink Gerding. He'd told her that she was half in love with him. He was half wrong, she thought. "I love him entirely," she whispered, not knowing that J-12—in carelessness, not subterfuge—had left the receiver-switch open to the pillow she'd made her confidante.
The Wall Street Journal greeted her the next morning, curled up in her "In" basket. She'd just switched on her microphone and said "Good morning" to her invisible listener when Mr. Wanji stepped from the elevator. His ears, she saw, were bare today. But they were pink—a shocking, porcelain, opaque, Toby-mug shade of pink.
She looked away from this latest manifestation of peculiarity in banker's ears. "Good morning, Mr. Wanji," she said.
"Hi, doll," Wanji said. "The brain-guy says you don't have to read out loud any more. Just read quiet-like. Dig?"
"Yes, sir," she said. "Shall I take notes on anything in particular?"
"Naw," Wanji said. "The brain-guy, he remembers everything."
"The brain-guy?" Orison asked. "Is that Dink Gerding?"
"Naw. Dink's the boss. The brain-guy is the man who makes the wheels go round," Wanji said. He pressed the "Up" button of the elevator. As Wanji embarked, Orison observed that the elevator operator had the same shocking-pink ears.
Had those earmuffs been designed to hide this pinkness, the symptom of some rare and disfiguring disease? Orison returned to her newspaper, reading silently as ordered, wondering what obscure Pinocchio of sense was curled up in the belly of this whale of illogic. The elevator, she noticed with the housekeeping bit of her mind, was running much more than usual today, up and down like a spastic yo-yo. Whatever the mysterious business of the William Howard Taft National Bank and Trust Company might be, there was a lot of it being done.
Her telephone buzzed. Orison switched off her microphone. "Miss McCall here," she said, feeling very efficient and British.
"This is Mr. Kraft Gerding," she was told. "I need you at the National Guard Armory right away, Miss McCall. Will you come right over?"
"Yes, sir," Orison said. She gathered up her purse and coat and pressed the elevator button. The operator ushered her into his car as though she were his queen, and the elevator the paramount plane of the royal flight. Standing behind him as he piloted them downward five floors, Orison studied the man's ears. They were that awful, artificial pink, as though enameled. Pancake makeup? Orison wondered. The ears, now the earmuffs were off, might be the clue to that fish-of-understanding she sought. Orison dampened a fingertip and applied it to the edge of the man's ear.
He turned and stared. "A fly," Orison explained. "I brushed it off."
"Oh. Thank you. Here's the street floor, Miss McCall."
"Thank y............
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