Jarrow regained consciousness slowly, to a feeling of softness and warmth enveloping
him. Subdued light penetrated his eyelids, gently tugging him back to wakefulness.
A muted voice, a mans, was babbling in the background. Jarrow stretched
his legs and felt smooth sheets sliding against his skin. He turned onto his
side, and his face pressed into yielding pillows. His arm came up to rest on
another pillow alongside. Cool air found a chink by his shoulder; he pulled
the blanket closer around his neck. He hadnt felt so relaxed for years.
The babbling voice resolved itself into the vibrant logorrhea of TV announcers
everywhere---which should have been illegal when people were trying to sleep.
Jarrow pulled the blanket over his ear and tried to burrow deeper into the pillows,
but the voice infused itself through the cracks like water into a leaky shoe.
". . .announcement of a new national enforcement agency to be set up under
the Bureau of Environmental Control. Modeled on Europes `Green Police,
the organization will employ agents at federal and state levels to secure tighter
compliance with regulations and planning requirements. The agents will have
arbitrary powers of search and entry to conduct spot checks, and---get a load
of this---will operate on a percentage basis of the fines imposed by
a delinquency tribunal. In Stockholm last night, conservation secretary for
the Western Consolidation, Gustav Moller of Germany, applauded the news, but
called for stronger moves to pressure the Southern World and FER states into
line. Well have more on that later. Meanwhile, a time check: its
just coming up to seven-thirty on this chilly but clear Tuesday morning. . .
What? Jarrow rolled back over and opened his eyes.
"And to lighten things up a little, weve got a story about two penguins
whove decided to live in a city fountain. And here to tell you about it
is Mavis Young, good morning. I must say, youre looking great today."
It wasnt Tuesday, it was Thursday! And how could the time be 7:30
It came to him then, suddenly, that a lot of things were wrong. What was a
TV doing here? The bed was too big for a doctors recovery room. And Jarrow
was naked in it. Then he realized to his consternation that the pillows had
an odor of perfume.
"Hi Brad," a womans voice said from the TV. "Why, thank
you, kind sir."
"So, whats this about vagrant penguins?"
"Well, it all started with . . ."
Jarrow sat up. There was another queen-size bed alongside, untouched except
for some womens clothes strewn on the quilt. On the bedside unit between
the beds was a cigarette pack and lighter, an ashtray with several butts, and
two glasses, one with an inch of amber liquid.
He gazed around in bewilderment. There was a vanity-cum-bureau running along
the far wall, and on top of it, he could see a black briefcase, a ladys
purse, a mans wallet, loose papers, a set of keys, and some change. None
of the items looked familiar. Along with them was a part-emptied bottle of Canadian
Club and an ice bucket. Near the bed was a chair with a striped shirt and underwear
tossed carelessly over the back. A table with a tray holding dishes and what
looked like the remains of a meal stood with two more chairs by a window. The
drapes of the window were closed. There was an armchair nearby. On the other
side of the room, opposite the window, was a folding luggage stand bearing a
leather traveling case and a shoulder bag. A double closet completed the room,
which appeared to have two doors opening off from it. One of them was half-open,
and Jarrow could see from the view in the mirror above the vanity that it led
to a bathroom.
The place had every appearance of being a hotel. This whole situation was insane.
Jarrow hardly ever touched alcohol; he abhorred tobacco. Even raunchy jokes
embarrassed him, never mind sleazy amourettes in hotels. And the mens
clothes thrown over the chair werent his.
He scrambled up hastily, but hesitated when he caught a glimpse of his reflection.
There was something odd about his appearance. For the moment he wasnt
sure what. Then, feeling insecure in his nudity, he went into the bathroom for
a towel. There, he found a mans traveling kit by the sink, with toothbrush,
shaver, nail clippers, and hairbrush---and again nothing was familiar. There
was also a womans red zip-up cosmetic purse, pushed to one side and spilling
lipstick, compact, nail polishes, and hair grips; nearby was a pack of Band-Aids.
Jarrow hitched a bath towel around his waist and went back into the main room
to check the window.
Wherever this was, it lay among high-rises in what was clearly a large city
center. But whichever way he tried projecting the angles, he couldnt reconcile
it remotely with any view of Minneapolis. He let the drape fall back and stood
rubbing his brow, eyes closed, as if hoping to massage the illusion away. But
nothing had changed when he opened them again.
Baffled, he turned away from the window, and his eye came to rest on the plastic
stand on the table beside the tray, containing copies of the hotel directory
and various promotional materials. He picked up the directory and opened it.
The introductory page carried the face of a smiling black woman in a yellow
blouse and blue tunic. "Welcome!" The caption read,
" . . .to the Atlanta Hyatt."
Jarrow hadnt been to Atlanta since a weekend more than ten years
ago, when hed attended an educational conference. He could think of nobody
that he knew in the area, nor any business that might have brought him there.
He swallowed hard as the realization sank in that something very strange had
happened to him; his confusion began giving way to fear.
First, he needed to get dressed. He went back across the room to inspect the
closet. It contained a couple of suits, one light gray, one dark with a thin
pinstripe, several clean shirts, neckties, a pair of casual slacks, a maroon
bathrobe, and a blue, hip-length topcoat. As with the other items in the room,
he had never seen them before. The other side of the closet revealed a blouse
and skirt, a pair of blue jeans, a womans green coat, and an orange dress.
No sign of any of his own clothes.
He tried the leather traveling case: socks, underwear, handkerchiefs, clothes
brush, and other personal items---all a mans, but not his. A plastic bag
inside at one end contained laundry. He looked briefly in the shoulder bag,
but as he had anticipated, it was the womans. Frantic now, he searched
the drawers of the vanity, the cupboard units at the other end, the shelf above
the closets, and even the space beneath the sink in the bathroom. Nothing. He
straightened up, filled one of the fumblers from the cold faucet, and took a
long drink. Then he came back into the main room and stood, staring at the clothes
in the closet again. As was his tendency when he was thinking, his hand came
up unconsciously to pinch at his mustache. But his fingertips met a smooth upper
He turned and looked at himself again in the mirror on the closet door. There
was a bruise, a day or two old maybe, on his temple. And he had a Band-Aid on
one side of his neck a short distance below his right ear. When he explored
the spot with his fingertips, it felt tinder and slightly sore.
But the face was familiar: clear-skinned and clean-shaven, with black wavy
hair and dark eyes; and he could detect nothing unusual about the lithe, swarthy-skinned
body. Yet the sight seemed to jar with strange stirrings half remembered. Hed
had the same kind of feeling, momentarily, when he first caught sight of himself
in the larger mirror upon getting up from the bed.
He was sure that he had a habit of pinching his mustache when he was thinking
or brooding; indeed, hadnt the reflex just manifested itself? But how
could that be, when he didnt have a mustache? Maybe hed had one
once, and---along with a lot of other strange things that seemed to have been
going on---had forgotten getting rid of it. Or could it be simply the remnant
of an uncommonly vivid dream? . . . He needed a shave, he noted. But that could
A door opened and closed somewhere nearby in the corridor outside. Voices sounded
loudly for a few seconds, then receded, reminding Jarrow of the impending confrontation
that could come at any moment. He looked at the womans things scattered
around the room, the remains of the meal and the drink, the untouched second
bed. The vision of casual, abandoned intimacy repelled and unnerved him. Even
without the disorientation of his predicament, facing the aftermath would have
been ordeal enough. He had to get away and find somewhere to think alone without
this kind of complication. And there was only one way. . . .
He took down the pants of the gray suit and measured them against his leg.
They seemed to be about his size, anyway. He draped them on the edge of the
bed and held the jacket against himself. It was the right width and length.
Fumbling in his haste and anxiety, he took some socks and underwear from the
traveling case, pulled on the pants, and buttoned himself into one of the clean
shirts hanging in the closet. He found a pair of mens black leather shoes
tossed near the wall by the bathroom door, which again fitted perfectly, and
selected a plain, dark blue tie from the rack. Finally, he slipped on the jacket
and moved across the room to survey the items on the bureau-vanity more closely.
His next shock came when he opened the black briefcase and found a pair of
guns staring up at him. He knew nothing about weapons, but one was a large automatic
pistol and looked powerful, while the other was small and slim, lighter in construction,
probably intended for concealment. With them was a plastic case containing an
assortment of what looked like tools, drills, and other gadgets that didnt
mean anything, along with a number of electronic devices, equally baffling.
Jarrow stared in horrified fascination for several seconds, then closed the
briefcase decisively and pushed it aside. He didnt have time now to worry
about what it meant, and he certainly wasnt about to risk complicating
this situation further by taking it with him.
The loose change went into one of the pants pockets, and after a moments
hesitation the keys. There was also a hotel memo pad with the top sheet turned
over and several phone numbers scrawled on the one that was exposed. They didnt
convey anything. He turned back the top sheet and found scrawled on it the words:
Headman to ship out via Jville, sometime Nov. 19. Check ref "Cop
Jarrow shrugged and dropped the pad into one of the side pockets of his jacket,
along with the rooms electronically coded passcard. He took a handkerchief
from the traveling case and then picked up the wallet. Inside was a personal
ID card in a transparent window---and that was when he got his next shock, causing
him to gasp aloud. The ID card was made out for a Maurice Gordon, said to be
from Philadelphia; but the face looking back at him---smooth-shaven, olive-skinned,
with black wavy hair---was his own. A hasty check of the wallets other
compartments revealed that Maurice Gordon was cleared by the IRS to leave the
country at will, belonged to the Eastern Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce, and
had recently visited Washington. Also, he believed in being prepared for emergencies:
the wallet contained almost $2,500 in cash. Jarrow stuffed the wallet into an
inside pocket, went to the door, and then as an afterthought retrieved the blue
topcoat from the closet. He went back to the door again, paused for a deep breath
to steady himself, and let himself out.
A sign a short distance away directed him to the elevators. When he was halfway
along the corridor, a woman came around the corner, heading the other way. Certain
that it was his unknown companion, Jarrow tensed for the encounter, but she
passed by with just an uncertain half smile, sensing his apprehension. Getting
too jumpy, he told himself as he pressed the call button at the elevator. Calm
down. Got to calm down.
The car arrived. Despite his admonition, he felt himself tensing again as the
door opened, but the car was empty. "Which floor do you require?"
a synthetic voice asked from a grill as he got in.
In his present state of mind, a thousand-mile overland trip back to Minneapolis
was out of the question. Flying was a far more restricted affair that had once
been the case, and a ticket would only be issued on production of a valid internal
passport carrying a certificate of compliance issued by the taxation department
of ones state of residence. Since the only travel category authorized
in Jarrows internal passport was the low-priority grade that came with
his junior high-school teachers status, he had resigned himself to the
prospect of a long wait at the airport. But the thought occurred to him as the
elevator descended that the ID he was carrying meant that he would have to collect
the mysterious Maurice Gordons passport from Reception on checking out,
and from the quick assessment hed made from the contents of the wallet,
there seemed a good chance that Gordon might have a higher-category authorization.
So one small blessing could be that hed get home sooner.
When Jarrow came out of the elevator, a man in a white hat was disputing something
with the clerk at the desk, gesticulating furiously and then starting all over
again whenever the clerk tried to answer. Jarrow watched from behind a pillar.
The problem seemed interminable. Another woman came out behind him from the
adjacent elevator and again he froze, but she ignored him and went out the front
door. Finally, the dialogue at the desk ended, and the man in the white hat
stomped away. Jarrow emerged and approached warily.
The clerk greeted him matter-of-factly. "Good morning, sir."
"Hello. Er, room . . . "
Jarrow looked at the passcard in his hand, then realized that he didnt
know the room number. For security reasons the code printed on the electronic
passes wasnt the same as the door numbers. He slid the passcard across
the counter without finishing the sentence. The clerk inserted it into a terminal.
"Mr. Gordon, room 1406?"
Jarrow nodded, at the same time swallowing involuntarily. "Thats
"How can I help you?"
"I need to leave right away."
""Okay. Lets see, there are a few extra charges I have to add
in here. It wont take a second."
The clerk consulted unseen oracles and tapped at keys.
Jarrow looked around anxiously, expecting at any moment to hear a shout or
see somebody coming toward him from the elevators. A call-tone sounded from
a phone behind the desk. Another clerk took it. Jarrow watched uneasily. The
clerk said something into the handset, listened, and his eyes came to rest on
Jarrow. In his mind, Jarrow could picture security staff already rushing to
the lobby, police cruisers drawing up outside. He felt perspiration rushing
down his back, certain that every line on his face was a beacon broadcasting
that something was amiss and screaming for attention. But the clerks gaze
drifted casually away again, then he grinned to himself and started ribbing
whoever was at the other end. Jarrow looked away, telling himself again to calm
"If youll just okay that, Mr. Gordon."
"What? . . . Oh, yes." Jarrow inspected the bill that appeared on
the customer screen built into the top of the counter, "It says three nights.
Is that right? Ive been here three nights?"
"Today is Tuesday, sir. According to the record, you arrived late Saturday
afternoon without a reservation. Isnt that correct?"
"Sure. I was just checking. Thats okay."
"I need your coder, sir."
"Er, pardon?" He hadnt thought to check that he had one.
"Your personal verification coder, Mr. Gordon. I need to verify the bill."
"Oh, of course." Jarrow reached inside his jacket and drew out Gordons
wallet. Rummaging inside he found a PVC with the name MAURICE J. GORDON
embossed in visible print. The clerk took it and pushed it into a slot while
Jarrow watched woodenly, waiting for the inevitable rejection, or for some other
irregularity to signal itself.
"Thats fine, Mr. Gorgon. Here you are," The clerk returned
the coder, along with a U.S. internal passport. Numb with relief and not a little
surprise, Jarrow accepted them and nodded mutely. He looked at the passport
and saw that it was made out in the name of Maurice J. Gordon. The picture alongside
the thumbprint was his own. It was in order and carried a high-priority flight
"Thanks for using the Hyatt. Come and see us in Atlanta again sometime."
"Thank you. Can I get a cab to the airport?"
"Sure. There should be a couple outside. The doorman will take care of
"How far away is it?"
"This time of morning, aw, about twenty, twenty-five minutes. What times
"I havent booked one yet. Thanks . . . Thanks again."
"Have a good one."
Jarrow got a cab straightaway at the main entrance, but it was several miles
before he felt safe and could settle back in the seat to begin taking stock
of his circumstances.
"Driver, what day is it?" he asked, leaning forward, just to double-check.
"Tuesday, all of it, last I heard."
Jarrow sat back again, shaking his head. It was crazy.