me. Then I hurried back out into the day.


It was time for my meeting with Richard Patern, and I wasn't looking forward to it; I'd lied to get the appointment, and I was hard-pressed to think of a reason why Patern should want to talk to me once he discovered my real interests. I made it a point to be on time.

After a swift, whining ride in a Muzak-filled elevator, I found myself in familiar territory at the main reception desk of Fielding, Fielding and Gross. I was somewhat surprised when the receptionist waved me on into the interior network of corridors, and even more surprised to find a man I assumed was the resident genius waiting for me outside his office in his shirt sleeves. He grinned when he saw his secretary staring at me as if I had no clothes on.

Richard Patern was a man in his early thirties who projected the image of an athlete-scholar. He'd kept in shape, and was obviously proud of his body; he had broad shoulders, a trim waist, and the tight, somewhat awkward gait of a former football player or wrestler. His deep tan nicely complemented bright, intelligent hazel eyes. To round off the image, he wore a twenty-five-dollar razor haircut and a two-hundred-fifty-dollar Brooks Brothers suit. He looked good and he knew it.

Patern stepped forward and extended a tapered, sinewy hand. 'Mongo the Magnificent,' he intoned like an announcer. I shook his hand. Gripping me firmly by the elbow, he presented me to his secretary, who was still staring at me wide-eyed. 'This is one of the greatest circus performers of all time. Incredible gymnast and tumbler; absolutely able to defy gravity.'

'So you told me,' the woman said breathily. Her green eyes blinked like traffic lights. 'Hello again, Dr. Frederickson.'

Patern ushered me into an office decorated in browns and golds, with vast areas of tinted glass that afforded a dizzying view of Manhattan. Outside, a helicopter flapped silently toward its aerie somewhere along the East River.

The walls of the office that weren't glass were decorated exclusively with antique, lacquered circus posters which looked very old and valuable. Frank Manning, preoccupied with his sandbox, had neglected to mention the fact that Patern was a circus buff. It could make things difficult.

'Would you like some coffee, Dr. Frederickson?'

I nodded. Patern buzzed his secretary, who appeared within seconds with cups and a pot of coffee on a tray.

'Let's see,' Patern said, stirring his coffee. His gaze slowly rose to the ceiling, then snapped back to my face as his memory circuits revved up. 'You were a headliner with the Statler Brothers Circus. Genius I.Q.; used your time and money to study for a Ph.D. in criminology. You retired from the circus, and you work uptown at the university.' He paused, apparently inviting me to respond. I declined with a smile. He asked, 'Do you know Frank Manning?'

'I do,' I said a little stiffly. 'Frank' Manning sounded a little strained and familiar coming from Patern. I indicated his office with a sweep of my hand, tried to keep my voice neutral. 'You've come a long way in a short time, Mr. Patern.'

He didn't seem to hear me. 'Let's see,' he said distantly, 'I think I saw a piece on you in Newsweek… something about you also being a private detective. Is that right?'

I nodded, beginning to feel uncomfortable.

'Well, I'm really delighted to meet you,' he said with apparent sincerity. 'My secretary tells me you want to talk to me about a building.'

'A particular building, Mr. Patern. I'd like to ask you some questions about the Nately Museum.'

His smile remained, but the hazel eyes above it grew hard and cold. 'That sounds like detective talk, not client talk.'

'It is detective talk.' With my personal dossier in Patern's head, there didn't seem much point in trying to maintain the potential-client masquerade. 'I'd appreciate your giving me some information.'

He gave it some thought, then said, 'I don't mean to be rude, but I just can't see why the Nately Museum should concern a private detective.'

'Why don't you let me be the judge of that? You may be doing yourself a favor in the long run. There are some people who don't believe the idea for the museum was yours.'

'What people?' he snapped.

'I'm told there's a similarity between the Nately Museum and some of Victor Rafferty's work. The people who mention it definitely don't mean it as a compliment to you.'

A look of genuine surprise and concern swept over his face. 'What's this Rafferty business?' he said impatiently. 'Rafferty's been dead four, five years.'

Something in the architect's voice suggested that I hadn't been the first to make the comparison to his face. I asked him about it, and he made a quick, nervous gesture with his hands.

'A guy at the dedication ceremony mentioned it,' he said tightly.

'Do you remember the man's name?'

Patern absently rubbed a knuckle in one eye while he thought about it, then shook his head. 'No. I remember he was well dressed, had a full beard, and walked with a limp. Look, is this really important?'

It struck me that it was to him; otherwise he'd already have asked me to leave. 'It could be, Mr. Patern. Is there anything else you remember about this man?'

'I think he had two first names. I mean, his last name was a first name. He wanted to know where I got the idea for the museum. I told him I thought it was a stupid question.'

'I don't want to sound stupid,' I said, clearing my throat, 'but where did you get the idea for the museum?'

'It sounds like somebody may be preparing a legal action against me,' he said tightly. 'Accusing me of stealing somebody else's idea is a ridiculous charge, and it's ridiculous for you to expect me to help somebody who might be out to embarrass me.'

'Nobody's trying to embarrass you. My investigation doesn't involve a lawsuit.'

He studied me intently for a few moments; when he spoke, it was very softly. 'Then you won't mind telling me who hired you.'

'I can't tell you that, Mr. Patern.'

He smiled crookedly. 'You mean you won't.'

I didn't say anything, and his voice suddenly turned ugly. 'You're helping somebody poke their nose in my business. You want me to give you information, and you won't even tell me who wants it, and why. You can get out, Frederickson.'

I could see his point, but held my ground. 'What is it that you have to hide, Mr. Patern?'

He half-rose out of his chair, then slowly sat down again. When he spoke his voice was controlled, but a blue vein throbbed in his forehead. 'I don't have anything to hide, and I find it insulting for you to imply that I do. Look, I don't need to copy another man's work; I'm too good an architect. Besides, I have my preliminary sketches to prove that the Nately Museum is my work.'

'It's not your sketches I'm interested in; it's the basic concept for the museum. Where did that come from?'

He hesitated for only a split second, but it was enough to convince me I was onto something. 'That's none of your business,' he said with controlled anger.

I tried pushing another button to open a door and reveal what had been hidden behind the hesitation. 'What about the 'Rafferty angles' in the building?'

'You'll find 'Rafferty angles' in any one of hundreds of buildings constructed in the past fifteen years,' he said easily. He seemed comfortable with the question. 'They're the only means you can use to get that special lighter-

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