larry kept following sally. he had heard her tell bessie that she was going to the employment agency, so he kept well behind her, not making much effort to conceal himself. when she turned on to avenue a-33, where the agency was located, he slowed down even more.
but when he turned the corner and looked up the long broad avenue he didn't see her.
larry turned and saw sally standing in the first doorway around the corner, staring at him expressionlessly.
"hello yourself." larry smiled pleasantly. "nice day for a walk."
i'm going to the employment agency," sally said. "probably thanks to you."
"you mean me personally? i didn't even know you were arrested until this morning. i didn't have anything to do with it."
sally just stared at him.
"i was otherwise engaged."
"why are you following me? i was let go - it was a mistake."
a street patrol robot approached them. he had a small baton in his hand and waved it at larry, in an almost friendly way, indicating that they were standing too close together.
larry showed him his i d. the robot tapped his head with the baton in a salute, and moved on.
"do you want to come to the agency with me?" sally asked. "you could tell them my getting arrested was a mistake. you could make yourself useful in that way."
larry looked around. "i have a better idea. why don't we go someplace and have a little talk?"
"talk about what? i have to go to the employment agency. i need coins or credit to buy something to eat."
"you don't have to eat right now, do you? besides, don't you have something to tell me?"
"what about the note in your mailbox?"
"you didn't look in your mailbox this morning - or last night ?'
"there was nothing in it last night. why would i look at it this morning?"
"so you didn't see the note?"
"hmm." larry looked up at the sky. "then maybe we better go back and get it."
"we? i have to go to the employment agency. you can go back and get it.'
"i think it would be a good idea if you came with me."
"i think it would be a better idea if you went back and got it and i'll wait for you at the agency. wait for me out on the front steps and if you're not there i'll wait for you."
'i don't - "
"you'll be back before me, i guarantee it. i already wasted time going over to uuu. haven't you ever been to the agency?"
"yes, i have been to the agency and that's why i'm not waiting for you. and why you're coming with me."
"i need a job so i can get some food."
"look, i'll buy you something to eat, ok? and then i'll drive you back to the agency. i left a car back by your apartment. or you can get up tomorrow and start over like today never happened. now, let's go."
"oh, all right."
they went back around the corner and headed back to sally's apartment. the walk was slightly uphill.
"maybe we'll see a police van and we can get a ride from them," larry said.
"i'd rather walk."
"suit yourself. not in such a hurry now, huh?"
"you said you'd buy me something to eat.'
"and i will. how come you didn't ask me what was on the note?'
"you didn't say you read it. ok, what was on the note?"
"it wasn't mail, it was just a note that someone stuck in the box. just one word - hate."
"eight? the number, like seven, eight, nine?"
the van with the two robots that larry had seen before was coming toward them and stopped across the street from them.
"everything all right?" the driver asked larry.
"fine. thanks, guys."
they drove off and larry turned back to sally. "no , hate - h - a -t -e."
"what's that ?'
"i'm not sure, i just know it's something bad. it's like war or cannibalism or something, it doesn't exist any more."
"then why worry about it?"
"we just want to know why you are getting this stuff. don't you want to know?"
"not any more. i wish i never brought you the first ones."
larry laughed. "yeah, well, you might not be the only one who wishes that."
they walked on in silence for a while.
"if you already read the note, why do we have to go back and get it?" sally asked suddenly.
"i don't know, just to have it - to prove it was really there."
"prove it to who? who cares?"
"can we take a break? please," annabelle st teresa asked tania.
"of course," tania answered.
annabelle got up and looked out the window of the small room.
she and tania had been going over the files of the cases annabelle and roy torquato were taking over so that tania and larry could concentrate on sally's case.
"do you think anybody cares about this stuff any more?" annabelle asked tania.
"these cases." annabelle half turned from the window and pointed at the files "mrs nelson. laura poll. delacruz-rossini. does anybody really care? "
"i care," tania answered. "it's my job."
annabelle laughed. "you mean it's my job."
'"you know what i mean. i don't make the assignments. take it up with charlotte or jeanne if you don't like it."
annabelle sat back down. "so if roy and i had the johnson case and you and larry had the rest of this stuff, you'd be cool with that?"
"how about if i worked the johnson case with larry and you did this stuff with roy?"
tania hesitated. "larry and i have been together for awhile. we're a good team."
"oh." annabelle rolled her eyes slightly.
"what! what are you implying? i must say i don't care for the tone of your voice, miss."
"you know," annabelle went on. "this whole situation, with both of you disappearing, and then suddenly popping up again, some people - not me, of course - might get the idea -"
tania turned red. "oh! oh! how vile! you filthy creature! back into the darkness, devil woman!"
annabelle laughed and picked a file up. "don't get your knickers in an uproar, detective. i was just making a little joke."
tania got hold of herself. "knickers in an uproar. where do you get an expression like that? have you been reading romance novels?"
"i wish i had the time to read a romance novel. come on, let's get through this."
there was a soft knock on the door. then it opened and roy torquato came in a step.
'sorry i'm late," he said. "how is it going here?"
"great," annabelle told him. "we've got everything under control."
"i'm going to get a coffee. do you want anything?"
"a coffee sounds great," annabelle answered.
"tania?" roy asked.
"i'll have a glass of water, please."
roy went back out. "i'm sorry if i upset you." annabelle told tania again. "i was just trying to lighten up the dreary day a little. and besides, roy and i are a good team too."
"let's take a short break here," mrs roosevelt announced.
"everybody back in their seats in seventeen minutes. we've still got a lot to go over."
the duc d'otrante turned to olivia and nodded toward the door, to indicate he didn't need any any help and she could take the break. soon everybody had left the conference room except the duc and charlotte, who remained seated beside each other at the table.
"you have something to ask me?" he said.
"yes. what do you know about the johnson case?"
"there are probably a lot of johnson cases. which one did you have in mind?"