than-air effect. They're no secret.'

'I don't know about that, Mr. Patern,' I said, watching his face. 'I do know this: the design for the building that became the Nately Museum was one of Victor Rafferty's pet projects, right down to the last line.'

His eyes clouded. 'How do you know that?'

'You'll just have to take my word for it. Now, would you like to tell me about the Nately Museum?'

'My God,' he whispered. He blinked rapidly and turned his face away. 'I… don't understand. It never occurred to me that I might be stealing someone else's idea.'

'I believe you, Mr. Patern. You could help your case by telling me how that building came about.'

'I don't know where the idea came from,' he said quietly, after a long pause. 'More precisely, I don't know who it came from.' He shook his head and leaned forward in his chair; it brought him back into the room with me. 'I saw a sketch; a very rough pencil drawing.'

'Do you have this sketch?' I asked quickly.

'No. It wasn't something that you'd keep. Here-'

He took a pencil and scratch pad out of his desk and quickly drew some lines. It was a crude drawing of a building that could be recognized as the Nately Museum. It was difficult to see how such a simple sketch could have been transformed into a structure that, according to Foster, was a virtual line-by-line replica of Rafferty's project.

'This is all there was?'

He nodded. 'It's close. It was only a scrap of paper, but it just seemed to open up so many possibilities… like watching a paper airplane soar can lead to the development of a new type of wing. I don't call that stealing.'

Neither did I, assuming Patern was telling the truth. 'What about all the details in the building?'

He shrugged helplessly, as though he despaired of making me understand. 'I studied Rafferty's work for years, like thousands of other architectural students. After a time, I suppose, you begin to absorb certain principles of style and design. The design for that building, even in the sketch that I showed you, is so organic that one thing necessarily leads to the next. Once you understand the concept, it almost completes itself.'

'Did you mention this to the man with the beard?'

'No. I was busy, flying high. We didn't have what you'd call a conversation. To me, he was just a stranger.'

'Where did you find this drawing?'

'I was taking part in a two-day seminar at the U.N. on housing problems in underdeveloped countries. I remember coming… into a room for a meeting. I was early. Another session had just finished when I sat down and found this paper in front of me.'

'Was it the only paper on the table?' I asked quietly. I sensed that remembering-and telling me-the story had cost him something.

He sighed. 'No. The room was a mess; there was a tight schedule between sessions and the janitorial staff only had a few minutes to clean up. Anyway, that drawing was like a Rorschach blot; I sat there staring at it, and all of a sudden I knew what the whole building would look like. At the time I just chalked it up to my fertile imagination. Now I can see-'

'When did this seminar take place, Mr. Patern?' My question brought him back to the present.

'A couple of years ago; in the fall, I think. Once I had the idea, the planning and construction went very quickly.'

I believed him: Patern's description of the creative process roughly jibed with the stories I'd heard other artists tell. My concern had shifted to the identity of the person who had left the paper behind. 'Do you have any idea who was at the meeting just before yours?'

'God, there were probably more than a couple of hundred people there. Rolfe Thaag was speaking, and you know how he attracts a crowd. I have a program in my files somewhere. If you'd like, I'll give you a copy.'

'I'd like,' I answered wryly.

Patern rummaged around in a filing cabinet and emerged with an official-looking program, which he took out for his secretary to copy.

'Incidentally,' he said as he came back into the office, 'I did ask around afterward to see who might have left that sketch there. Nobody claimed it.'

I wasn't surprised. 'Rafferty's obituary mentioned that he did a lot of work for the U.N.,' I said.

Patern nodded as his secretary came back into the office with two copies of the program. The names of the participants were listed on the last three pages, in small print; it would take me years to check out every person on the list. By now, they'd be scattered all over the globe. I thanked Patern for his time, pocketed the program copies, and rose to leave.

'The sketch,' Patern said, his voice strained. 'Do you think Victor Rafferty made it?'

'Somebody made it.' I had an urge to leave him with something. 'But the building is yours. Don't worry about it. I doubt there are more than five architects in the world who could have accomplished what you did from only that sketch.'

He smiled and leaned back in his chair like a man whose troubles were over. I had the feeling mine were just beginning.


It was time to shake the local branch of the family tree and see what might fall out. I caught a cab, which wallowed slowly crosstown through the rush-hour traffic. As I sat in the nearly motionless cab, somewhat out of joint from my talk with Patern, my own past suddenly reared up from behind an idle thought and leered at me.

The time I'd spent with the circus had been nightmare years, notwithstanding the fact that the man who was my boss is one of the finest human beings in the world. Phil Statler had saved my life by helping me up off a series of psychiatrists' couches where I'd been trying to discover just what the hell I was supposed to do in a world of giants.

Born into a perfectly normal Nebraska family, I was the product of a pairing of recessive genes. Nature had compounded her bad joke by endowing me with a fairly well-muscled intellect, and considerable gymnastic skills which I'd parlayed into a black belt in karate. By the time I reached my early twenties, I was in the circus and earning a living. It was Phil Statler who'd discovered the control I had over my body, and who'd groomed me into a headliner, away from the clowns and freaks. The man had given me dignity.

But simple dignity hadn't been enough. Perhaps because I was a physical deviate, I was drawn to the problems of other kinds of deviates. I earned a B.S. in sociology, then used my money and time off from the circus to finance my doctorate in criminology. Somewhat to my surprise, I'd been offered a teaching position at the university. There was probably a certain irony in my choice of New York City as a base of operations; my brother, Garth, was a detective on the New York City police force. All disgustingly normal six feet of him.

Garth always maintained that I had a tendency to over- compensate; that was how he explained my private investigator's license. I'd lucked out more than a few times in my life. I wasn't rich, as they say, but I was reasonably happy.

I caught Garth just as he was leaving the station house. He was almost an exact replica of our father: big, rawboned, a wheat-colored thatch of hair atop a head that despite his considerable size seemed too big for the rest of his body. After all his tough years in a city of cold stone, steel, and glass, he still walked with the ambling gait of a farmer. I loved the man; he'd carried me on his broad shoulders through a tortured childhood brimming with jeers and cruel jokes.

Despite his bellowing protests, I managed to maneuver Garth back into the tiny broom closet he called an office. There were dark rings under his blue eyes. Garth always looked tired; maybe it had something to do with being an honest cop who felt a personal responsibility toward eight million people.

'Hello, brother.' I flashed my largest grin.

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