She pulled in behind his new VW bug, a lime green one that was strangely incongruous when one knew the owner was Hugh Scholander. It just didn’t fit any mental image of the man that 95% of the population would call up. Doris blinked, thought about that for a second and almost made one of her off-the-wall connections that disturbed Milt so much. Something about a side of Hugh that most people didn’t see. Doris filed it away in the back of her mind to let her subconscious work on it. No doubt something would shake free eventually.
Hugh opened the door and regarded her about the same time Doris closed the door of the squad car. His expression was, if anything, even more woebegone than ever. Doris figured he’d gotten another package, which was what she’d hoped. As she walked up, she held up her own surprise package and said, “Guess what, Hugh? I just got my latest book of the month delivery and thought I’d compare notes. You been getting them regularly over the last three months?”
Hugh sighed, somewhat theatrically, and stood back from the door to let her in. “Have I been getting more books? Hell, yes. I’ve gotten four more. I still don’t have any idea what’s going on. What’s this about you getting some?”
Doris preceded him into the front room and looked around. As she expected, one wall was floor to ceiling books. Hugh pointed to the couch and Doris took the hint and sat down. “Well, it appears that you and I both qualify for the club. I started getting them the same day you came in to the station.”
Hugh momentarily looked aghast, and then his face almost became tranquil. Misery loves company and Doris appeared to be a congenial companion from his point of view. “That’s too bad, Doris. Sorry to hear that.”
“Like hell you are. No, don’t protest—” Doris shot back, holding up a hand to stifle his attack of social skills. “I wouldn’t be, so I don’t expect you to be, either. But I am wondering just how many of us there are. You got any notion who else might be getting these little surprises?”
Hugh cogitated. After maybe twenty seconds of intense thought he shrugged and shook his head. Doris interpreted that to mean, no, but he’d throw out a few names to make her happy. That wouldn’t, of course, which she let him know, rather more gently than she was inclined.
“Look, Hugh. Stop a second and think back over the last few years. Think about friends, acquaintances, their homes. Have you seen anybody who had either of these series? I can’t think of anybody who did, though I have to admit, it’s not something I made a mental note of.
“But I think I would have noticed a bookshelf full of identical volumes. I know Walt and DJ Jackson have a set of encyclopedias—I can distinctly recall seeing one sitting behind Walt, in the bookcase behind his favorite chair. Try forming a picture in your mind of people’s homes.”
Hugh frowned. He started to voice a disclaimer of some sort, but Doris just shook her head and held up a hand. “Give it a try.”
Grumbling, he did.
The human brain, no matter what contemporary, fringe-sucking pop psychologists may like to believe, does not record things like a DVD. Nor does it approximate an older VHS, or even the long discarded Betamax format. The brain isn’t one coherent whole, as a matter of fact. Doris figured it was kind of like a rowdy set of rude committees that met occasionally, and once in a while, came to an agreement. When they did, you had a memory. Truth only played a part in the process when a couple of the committees were understaffed and abstaining or not in attendance at all. Especially if the committees had anything to do with pride, money, sex or food. Particularly the latter, the older one got.
But Doris also knew that a strong committee chairman, often laughingly called the conscious mind, could persuade some of the committees to pay attention if he kept at it long enough, diplomatically. Doris figured the latter was probably the most important part of the process. You can’t force a memory; you have to sweet talk it into coming out of the back ranks to stand directly in front of the microphone. And you damn well better make sure the microphone was turned on.
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