Bamboo and Blood
better look. There weren’t many lines on it.

    “Where did this assumed murder take place?”

    “How should I know?” Which sometimes meant he knew exactly.

    “So, we can assume they don’t want us to guess where, and they certainly don’t want us to find out. Agreed?”

    Pak fiddled with his pencil.

    “In this case,” I said, “I’m going to take silence as assent. But you must realize, I’ll certainly find out sooner or later some of the things we aren’t supposed to know. It’s inevitable. Maybe even by tomorrow. I mean, it won’t be very hard to figure out where she was sent, and if we’re unlucky I’ll stumble over a lot more.”

    “You might, unless they’ve already pulled all of the files, not just fooled with them but pulled them and warned people to clam up.”

    “No, not ‘might.’ I will. Even if I try not to, I’ll find out. And when I do, we’ll know too much, won’t we?” It suddenly occurred to me that whoever ordered this assignment either didn’t understand much about investigations, or knew more than we realized. First the visitor had showed up, then Mun, and now this.

    Pak opened a drawer and took out a piece of paper. “You don’t mind if I doodle, do you?”

    “You want to know what stinks about this? If it is really connected to that funny weapons group you just mentioned, then the investigation belongs in other circles, not with us. There are plenty of units outside the Ministry to handle something like this. Why not those guerrillas from the special section? It has nothing to do with us, does it, if a woman is killed in Pakistan?”

    Pak’s pencil stopped on the paper. He looked up and frowned. “Why would you think that?”

    “That it has nothing to do with us?”

    “Don’t be coy, Inspector.”

    “Pakistan?” I thought about it. “I don’t know, no reason, I guess.”

    Pak didn’t look like he was going to take that for an answer.

    “Alright, just thinking out loud. Why? Am I getting close?”

    Pak’s expression didn’t change.

    “Three Fingers, actually.” I really didn’t know for sure why I’d mentioned Pakistan. Maybe it was on my mind. Seeing Mun had brought back a lot of memories.

    “Is that where he left the other two? Is that where someone didn’t prop the door open for you?” His eyes bored into mine. “That’s all? Just free association?”

    “You mentioned something about special weapons. I’ve heard a few things about that, not much. When foreign visitors come through my sector, I get reports. I don’t file everything I hear, you know that, but lately we’ve had some curious comings and goings. Even if I look the other way, people like to tell me things. Pakistan keeps coming up in what they say. Special weapons come up sometimes. I figured it was cracked, garbled, I don’t know. It’s cold and people are hungry, a lot of stuff is going around on the streets. Some people talk more than they used to.”

    “Forget whatever you’ve heard; forget it.” Pak began to draw jagged lines on the paper. “Inspector, let’s not make this any more complicated than it has to be. Empty your pockets of all of this speculation.” He glanced up. “Never mind, forget what’s in your pockets. You just gather a few facts for us tomorrow. We’ll put them on a form, seal it up in a nice new envelope, and drop it into the bureaucratic river that flows through the whole of mankind’s existence. It unifies us as a species. I think bureaucracy preceded speech. It may have even preceded sex, normal sex, anyway.” He gazed thoughtfully into the courtyard for a moment. “Do us both a favor, O, and for once take my advice: Just be a broom.”

    “I don’t think a broom is what we need.”

    “You don’t.” Pak sighed. “Naturally, you don’t.”

    “No, I think we are in the realm of the shovel.”

    “You planning to dig?”

    “If necessary. I do that sometimes, you know.”

    2

    As soon as I knocked on the door, I

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