schweik got off the shuttle bus one block from his apartment building. the area he lived in was a notch up from what might be expected from his lowly position on the police, but he had few expenses and took overtime on a regular basis. most of the respectable residents in the area used the large supermarkets and there were not so many of the little sandwich and drinks shops that dotted much of the universe. but as he approached the only one on his block he saw a young woman with her head covered with a scarf waiting in the doorway.
schweik had never taken classes or tried to advance in the police forces, but he had taken an interest in one celebrated crime - the laura poll case.
schweik was an enthusiast of american football and a fan of the notre dame de paris reds team, and the mysterious disappearance of one of its star players had intrigued him and penetrated the fog of lethargy through which he usually viewed the universe. so when he saw a tall young woman on the street, or one with dark glasses or a big hat or something else that might be hiding or disguising her appearance, his first thought was often that it might be the long lost laura.
but when he reached the doorway he saw that the young woman with the scarf was not tall enough to be laura - and her eyes and complexion were too dark.
she stepped out of the doorway and looked him in the eye. "officer schweik?"
she took an old fashioned id badge out of her pocket and showed it to him. "i'm kali kelly, a special investigator."
schweik nodded. "for what department?"
"if i was going to tell you i would have told you, wouldn't i? let's go up to your apartment."
"what will the neighbors think?"
"don't worry about they think, just worry about what i think."
"all right." he headed for his building with the young woman behind him.
"i waited for you last night but you didn't show up. i checked and found you often work overtime."
"any particular reason?" they reached his building.
"so i can afford to live here." they entered the lobby. he checked his mailbox. it was empty.
"you get mail?"
"sometimes." he got into the elevator with the young woman behind him and pressed the button for the 24th floor.
"this sure is a nice place," she said.
"yes." schweik knew she was trying to irritate him. he was tired, and so far she was just boring him. unless -
"i understand you take an interest in the laura poll case," she said as the elevator stopped.
"yes, i do." they got off the elevator.
"is that what you get mail on?"
"sometimes." there were four doors on the floor and schweik unlocked the first one and went in and turned on the light. she followed him in. there was only one chair in the room and she sat down in it.
she took the scarf off her head, folded it and it turned into a rose, which she stuck in her dark hair.
"would you like a drink?" schweik asked her. " all i have is lime."
"no thank you."
schweik took one out of the refrigerator for himself and sat down on his couch.
"where do you keep your laura poll material?"
"in a box under this couch."
without getting up, schweik bent down and reached under the couch and pulled out a long flat box. he pushed it across the floor to her with his foot.
"it's not locked."
she looked down at it but made no move toward it. instead she stared at schweik.
schweik rubbed his eyes. "what did you say your name was again?"
"kelly. special investigtor kelly." kelly took the rose out of her hair and it turned into a green canary. the canary dropped to the floor and popped the box open with a flip of its beak.
"i see you're not impressed," kelly said. "do you have some magic yourself?"
"no. not any more. i had a brother - a half brother. we had some magic but he went away and took all the magic with him."
"and what happened to him?"
"he's around somewhere. i hear about him but i never see him."
the canary jumped up on the couch beside schweik and stared at him with its little purple eyes.
" i had two sisters. one had no magic and hated all magic. i had a little, the third had magic running out her ears."
kelly bent down and picked up schweik's box of laura poll material and rummaged through it quickly. "nothing special here."
"i could have told you that."
"well, i wouldn't be much of a special investigator if i just took people's words for things, would i?" she closed the case. "are you sure you don't have anything else?"
"take a look around."
kelly put the box back on the floor. "you came to the attention when another case involving the mail was being investigated. tell me, officer, what makes you so interested in laura poll?"
"im a football fan - american football. she was on my team - notre-dame de paris."
"i see. and how do think notre-dame is going to do this season?"
"they'll be competitive. even losing grogan. buenos aires is the team to beat, though."
"angkor wat might surprise some people."
"maybe. they need help at linebacker. harris really went downhill last year."
"yes, she did, didn't she."
they fell silent. schweik sipped his can of lime drink.
"there's a push on clean up a lot of these old cases," kelly said after a while. "with all the changes in the universe."
schweik didn't say anything, just looked politely at her.
"the days of subtle detection of complicated cases are drifting to a close.. the glory days of vidocq and lecoq and lestrade and sherlock holmes are gone.
now it's just round up villains by the carload and send them out. right? you must see this yourself every day."
"yes i do. maybe not every day. a lot of days."
"so what do you think, officer, of these changes in the universe?"
"as a police officer and a concerned citizen naturally i'm interested in changes in the universe. at the same time, it's not for me to say."
"i think it has something to do with the moon being in the nineteenth house of saturn or something like that."
"i don't know anything about astrology," schweik said. "i'm not a scientist."
"me either. i guess when the moon gets into the twenty-third house we'll all be in trouble."
kelly stood up. she took two small pieces of paper out of her pocket and gave them to schweik.
one had an address in the northern outskirts, the other a twenty-seven digit number. "if you find out anything new about laura poll, go to this address - alone - and give the guard in the lobby this number."
"do i have to memorize these?'
"no, you can keep them. just don't lose them."
schweik looked at the twenty-seven digit number. "is this a prime number?"
"how do i know?" kelly pointed to the canary and it jumped into her hand and turned into a broad brimmed black hat. she put it on.
"i can find my own way out."
when the door closed behind her schweik was too tired to get up and lock it. he fell back on the couch and went to sleep.
he began to dream. he was walking down a path in the black forest. he heard a train whistle.