In the morning, as Paul sat working some diffraction equations, because he was waiting for the night's computer run results, a man in a dark suit and hat stepped into the door. "Mr. Owens?"
The man took his hat off and stepped into the room. He closed the door behind him and walked toward Paul, who sat at the only desk, and the only chair. He pulled out a billfold, in which was a badge. "I'm Special Agent John Mandigar of the local FBI office."
They shook hands. Paul's gut gave an ominous twinge.
Mandigar was a person of contrasts. His pale skin contrasted with this overly dark hair as if one or the other were artificial. His eyes were very dark, the pupils gleaming oddly in the cold gray light in the room. His hair was clipped short, in straight lines, even around the ears, which put them in a sort of boxalmost a futuristic design.
Mandigar pulled out a notebook which he opened on the desk. He unscrewed a fountain pen and leaned over the desk ready to write. "Mr. Owens, I am wrapping up the field investigation on your TS review. Do you have any questions at this moment that you would like to ask me?"
"How's it going?"
"We'll have a final decision in a week."
"This was all sort of sudden and unusual, wasn't it?"
"Unusual?" Mandigar had thin lips, and they easily contracted into straight lines. His little black eyes blazed. "Mr. Owens, the Government can review anyone's clearance any time."
"Mr. Mandigar, investigations cost a lot of money, don't they? So wouldn't there have to be a reason?"
Mandigar shrugged, sputtering a bit. "Well, yes, though not necessarily."
"A team of auditors came in and found that my hair was too long and I was playing loud music. Disco music. Apparently these guys still live in the Vietnam of the 1960's and they want to get rid of me, so they've triggered this whole unnecessary investigation."
"Well, I wouldn't say unnecessary. There have been a few employees fired for smoking marijuana. Your name was suggested bysome partiesas a candidate to check into. You're clean."
"Who were the parties who searched my house a last week?"
"Mr. Owens, we don't search houses. That requires a warrant, and I see no indication in your file that a warrant was ever requested or issued."
"How can I believe you?"
"I wouldn't lie to you."
"Somebody searched my house."
"Why didn't you call the police?"
Paul stopped and thought. Why hadn't he? "In my situation, Mr. Mandigar, you begin to feel as though the whole world is against you."
Mandigar shook his head lightly. "I don't know what to tell you." He lightly punched his fist on the desk. "There is, however, this major problem. You see, there is a record at your college campus of you being arrested during an antiwar demonstration. You were formally charged, but you were not convicted."
Paul said: "It was absolutely ludicrous. I was on my way to a chemistry class, and I stopped to watch this big brawl between the campus cops and some demonstrators. I was arrested, along with several other students. It took three days to get the witnesses to come forth and say that we had just arrived there, and that we had not been part of it."
Mandigar put his hands in his pockets and swaggered around the room. "Good, Mr. Owens, real good. Why did the original investigation not make a note of it? Because you lied about it?"
"No. I told about itit's on my application for this job, where they ask if you were ever arrested for any reason. Mr. Niederhauserthat was your predecessorbelieved me, and a statement was put into my file, saying that the arrest had been a mistake. Campus police records confirmed it."
"Okay, I'll buy that. The problem is, though, that your presence at that demonstration may in fact mean that you were at other demonstrations. That you were in fact a student demonstrator. That you may have been in violation of various local ordinances and so forth, never mind that you may have been a traitor to your country!"
"I have never had a treasonous thought in my head, Mr. Mandigar. I don't drink to excess, I don't smoke, I don't use drugs, and I try not to exceed the speed limit."
"I just wish all of you would go away and let me do my work. That would be good for my country."
"Okay, Mr. Owens. Lockheed will hear from us in a week or so, and they'll notify you whether you're fired or not."
Mandigar picked up his hat and left the room.
Paul sat in utter silence, except for the faint creaking of the door as a cold wind blew down the corridor.