it was after midnight. jeanne d'arc headed for tania's desk with four files under her arm - a thin yellow one on sally's case, a thicker blue one on mrs nelson's case. a fat green one on the laura poll case, and one in a big purple box on the fairweather poker game case. when she reached the desk she found sally asleep on it.
she looked down disgustedly on sally's sleeping form but didn't wake her. she returned to her own cubicle and began rereading the laura poll file.
the laura poll file was divided into 10 subfiles of various degrees of thickness.
1) social. this was the thinnest file - laura had little time for a social life and had not seemed to know a single person outside of her political, competitive, sport and police circles
2) family. laura had no family. this had been confirmed, but jeanne had written "confirm again"
3) religious. this was also thin. laura had not openly belonged to any church - this was unlikely in any case for a young woman rising rapidly through the circles of the universe. exhaustive investigation after the disappearance seemed to confirm this.
4) competitive. all her former rivals in the various miss galaxy-miss universe type contests had been interviewed but as was common in this division of living creature enterprise, no one had a bad word to say about anyone else. but, despite the social stigma that attached to such a course even then, many of the young women had retained lawyers to represent them. jeanne had thought this a possible opening - with the subsequent elimination of lawyers the women who had used them could now be questioned directly. she had left a note to this effect in the file.
5) scholastic. all laura's former schoolmates had, predictably, nothing but praise for her. with one exception, a young woman named augustulina st anselm. a flaming redhaired beauty with flashing eyes, she had developed an implacable enmity for laura, deriving from an alleged incident on their first day at police academy. at that time, as a concession to the old ways, incoming students were allowed a morning where they could "meet and greet" and "get to know" each other.
augustulina claimed, at her interrogation, that laura, on their meeting, had exclaimed "what an ugly name!" when augustulina identified herself. she further claimed that the emotional turmoil caused by this had prevented her from finishing higher than third in any of the contests that she, like laura, continued to enter. it had not prevented her from winning championships in archery, high diving and backgammon, but, she pointed out, she had never achieved stardom in any team sport.
the problem was that augustulina had not reported the incident at the time, either to the staff of the police academy, or to the disrespect and humiliation police. (as she had no family, the question of notifying them did not arise.) but the biggest obstacle was that she could not find anyone attending the "meet and greet" to corroborate her account. tapes of the event had of course been requested, but they had been incomplete. the responsible officials at the police academy had been disciplined or reprimanded in the strongest terms but the damage had been done. under the most intense interrogation, augustulina had stuck to her story, occasionally remembering more details, such as that laura had added "it's the third 'u' that really makes it ugly".
in any case, little as conscientious police liked to concede such a point, the truth of augustulina's accusation was barely relevant to laura's disappearance - but her declared enmity was.
augustulina's life had continued to parallel laura's in many ways. she too had become involved in politics - in the red party of rush limbaugh and ann coulter, where she had quickly risen to the post of deputy director of information. but she claimed to have never encountered laura directly in the last tumultuous days of sanctioned political activity. the subsequent dissolution of the parties, with the accompanying banishment of the leaders and the imprisonment of the seconds in command, had made corroboration of this claim difficult. "but not impossible" jeanne had written in the file.
6) political. all of laura's colleagues from the former blue party had the warmest words and highest praise for her, and could recall no untoward incidents or friction with other party members. the investigators had made no attempt to surmount the formidable obstacles to interviewing fidel castro. but che guevara, interviewed in his prison cell, had only added to the chorus of hosannas for the beloved young woman. jeanne had written in the file - "interview castro".
7) sport. again, none of laura's teammates in any sport either disliked her or remembered anyone else doing so. the much depleted gambling police had been consulted, but despite their enthusiasm at actually having a case - the virtual elimination of this dreadful vice having long since been accomplished - they came up with nothing. the idea that a young woman like laura might have been involved with the pitiful remnants of a gambling ring was dismissed as laughable. the idea of a lone enraged gambler was also brushed aside, the engineering of the disappearance deemed beyond the means of any such person. but jeanne had noted - "follow up loner".
8) police. laura's colleagues in the paracrime unit had nothing to say against her. being police, fulsome praise was not their style, and their words lacked the fervor of those of her other acquaintances. it was pointed out by her supervisors that her career had hardly begun. jeanne had written: "police always most important. interview head of department. i will do this myself".
9) romantic. no evidence was uncovered that laura had ever given her heart to any but the comte de gobineau-richelieu. the young comte had been interrogated and investigated as thoroughly as it was possible to interrogate and investigate a living or dead creature. jeanne had written "one more time".
10) random. because of the high profile of the case at its inception, completely random investigation had been authorized - large numbers of creatures with no known connection to laura had been picked up and interrogated. the authorization of more random investigation after so long a time was problematic. a request to do so might be regarded as a nuisance.
jeanne stared at the file. she looked at a small plaque on her desk inscribed with the concluding words of the dictum drummed into every recruit at every police academy:
no matter how vigorous and dedicated the investigation, no matter how educated the police and public, the size of the universe makes police work difficult