Tuesday, June 22, 2004
I think I'd love Doug for what he told Agent Jones if not for, well, the other things he said this morning.
He met me, Carter, and Maggie at the Post Office Square Starbucks. Caffeine was the last thing Maggie needed; she was shaking like a leaf. "They can't really put us in jail for talking about Marti and Carter, can they? I never really paid attention to this stuff, I mean, I defended the Patriot Act a month or so ago..."
Doug said not to worry; the Feds just want to throw a scare into us. Maggie and I commented that it was working pretty well. Carter shrugged, and Mags asked why he was so calm.
"I'm already in jail."
When we got to Agent Jones's office, we met up with the BioSoft founders and their lawyer. The agent started pacing, saying he didn't invite Natalya because that might just confirm my story for her. Then he started in on how "the process" could be the greatest danger facing world security. Imagine if you would, he said, that Mikhail Korpin came to the United States not because Carter's job paid more for a week than he made in a year, but to blow up a building. I've got a badge, he says, and then points at me and Carter. "You know I'd be stopped at any entrance or reported as suspicious before either of them. The thing that allows me to get five hours of sleep most nights is that most of the world's six billion people dismiss the idea of somehow exchanging minds as not even science fiction, but outright fantasy. If this notion ever gains credibility, we just have to hope suicide bombers decide that the process corrupts the soul enough that they'll never reach Paradise. That's what we're fighting here."
Doug stepped forward. "And we applaud that, but the truth of the matter is, the cat's been out of the bag for some time now. Why, you yourself pointed out Marti wasn't under any obligation to keep quiet when it suited your needs." Jones said soemthing about that being one interpretation before Doug started back in. "But it goes much further back. Warti has been posting her experiences on the internet since last July with over a hundred people reading her journal every day, and no-one's told her to stop."
"Who believes what they read on the internet?"
"Are you more likely to believe it seeing her in person?" So that was why he'd told me to put on a nice dress, pumps, and some make-up. "You only believe to because you've got a bunch of evidence stashed away somewhere. Miss Margaret Roache, here, was intimate with Martin Hartle and thus likely more difficult to fool. None of that applies to Natalya Tartakovsky."
"And what about you, Mr. Hastings?"
"Who says I do? Sure, a friend of mine says she's trustworthy, but maybe she's just a cute girl with an interesting story. Wouldn't you want to spend some time with her? And in the unlikely event that she's telling the truth, it's a chance to make legal history."
Khalil thought it over; he didn't like it that much, but he had to admit that there was nothing he could charge us with. "Just try to remember we're investigating a crime, all right?"
"Of course. But you've also got to remember that these ladies are the victims of that very personal crime, and you certainly wouldn't advise a rape victim to keep it a secret, would you?"
And then Agent Jones told us to leave.
As we got out the door, Maggie heaved a great big sigh of relief, and I agreed with that sentiment, but also... "What the hell was that? 'On the off-chance she's telling the truth'? What's that about?"
"I just had to convince him that there was no danger in you telling this Natalya Gubanov character. It worked, didn't it?"
"And is there any truth to it?" Carter and Maggie may have said something about being late for work at this point; I don't recall seeing them later. "I mean, are you humoring me? Do you just want to sleep with me even if I might be mentally ill? Or do you just see me as some kind of way to make a name for yourself?"
"Well, you have to admit that it is pretty far-fetched. I'll be honest, I had doubts until I heard Agent Jones taking it completely seriously. I mean, be fair, here!"
I closed my eyes and counted to ten. "Okay. It's reasonable. But from now on, just be honest with me. The lies I've had to deal with - and told! - since this all began... I just don't want to do that any more."
He nodded. "I can respect that. Now that I know it's true, well." He smiled. "You're a hell of a woman." And he kissed me on the cheek.
Made me feel pretty good, even if it is his job to convince people of things.
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