Something smelled bad, but I'm as corruptible as the next man. Probably more so. Still, I seemed determined to scare Barrett off. 'You're very thorough, Mr. Barrett. But, why me?'

'Because you have a reputation for being able to establish a rapport with young people. If I sent some tough guy over there, Tommy wouldn't listen. I'm betting that if he'll listen to anyone, it'll be you.'

I flushed at the mention of tough guy; Barrett might have been talking about Garth, all six feet two inches of him.

I'll take the job, Mr. Barrett,' I said. 'But you'll be charged the normal rates. I get one hundred dollars a day, plus expenses. If I can't find your brother in fifty days, he's not to be found.'

'Thank you, Dr. Frederickson,' Barrett said. There was just a hint of laughter in the man's voice, and I couldn't tell whether it came from a sense of relief or something else. 'There's a round-trip airline ticket inside that folder, along with a check for one thousand dollars. I trust that's a sufficient retainer.'

'It is,' I said, trying as best I could to keep my own feelings of elation out of my voice. It had been some time since I'd seen that much money all in one place.

'Dr. Frederickson-' Barrett studied the backs of his own hands. 'Since time is so very important in this matter, I had hoped that you-well, I'd hoped that you could get on it right away.'

'I'll be on the first plane,' I said, reaching for the telephone. I allowed myself a smile. 'One advantage of being my size is that it doesn't take you long to pack.'

I landed in Rome, checked in at a hotel near the Vatican, and immediately began making the rounds of the art galleries. An artist, especially a young one, would probably be in either Florence or Venice; a drug user and pusher in Rome. Besides, if Tommy Barrett was as good as his brother said he was, and if he was making it, the chances were that some of his work would be surfacing in the Rome galleries.

I was checking the stuff in the galleries against the art samples in the dossier Barrett had given me. I was looking for work with Tommy Barrett's style or signature, preferably both. If I got no lead on him in Rome, then I could try Florence, Venice, or maybe Verona. Then there were the jails to be checked out; after that the cemeteries.

I made no effort to shake the man who was following me, mainly because I was curious as to his reasons. He looked young, big, and strong, a professional on his way up. He was good, but not that good.

I decided to lead him around a bit. Following the example of my feet, my mind began to wander.

I was still wondering who Barrett's sources were, and how he had found out about me. I certainly didn't have that many references, not the kind Barrett would know. My light had been hidden under a test tube for most of my short career.

I'd always been interested in criminology, and nature had partially compensated for her small joke by endowing me with a rather impressive I.Q. that put me in the so-called genius category. All of which doesn't make it any easier to reach the groceries on the top shelf of Life's supermarket.

Of course, there isn't a police force in the world that would hire me on a regular basis and, even if there was, I wouldn't want it. Garth was a public servant because he wanted to be; me, because I had to be. And there was the difference.

It had often occurred to me that I was merely trying to overcompensate for the fact that my brother had been born normal and I had not. But I knew it was more than that. Part of it boiled down to the fact that I had the same needs and shared the same hungers as all men, a yearning for self-respect, for simple human dignity.

All of which tends, at times, to make me a little paranoid. But it wasn't paranoia that had put the man on my tail, and paranoia didn't explain why Barrett had been willing to pay five thousand dollars for the somewhat ephemeral quality of rapport.

On the other hand, I didn't anticipate that much difficulty in tracking down Tommy Barrett. Dead, alive, or imprisoned, I was fairly confident I'd be able to catch up with him. His dossier revealed him to be an artistic, highly sensitive individual, intelligent but lacking the guile necessary to elude the police or me for very long.

Also, Tommy Barrett's life-style and mode of dress limited him in the places he could safely go without immediately attracting attention. Add to that the fact that I speak passable Italian. I figured my chances of finding an expatriate American in Italy were pretty good.

I scored on my fifth stop-Tommy Barrett's work, style and signature, was propped up in the window. The young girl in the store was cooperative; the artist lived in Venice. Fifteen minutes later I was on my way to the train station.

I decided it was time to get rid of my tail and, at the same time, try to get some line on who he was and why he was still following me.

A few years before, I'd almost been killed by a pervert who had a thing for dwarfs. After that, I'd taken steps to make sure it never happened again. I knew every nerve and pressure point in the human body.

The years in the circus had toughened my own muscles, and I had kept them that way. Knowledge of anatomy was my ultimate weapon, and karate had provided me with a delivery system.

I went down a quiet side street, ducked into an alley and immediately flattened myself against the side of the building.

My friend arrived a few moments later. It's doubtful he knew what hit him. I shifted my weight forward, thrusting the stiffened fingers of my right hand deep into the man's solar plexus, just beneath the rib cage. He bounced once on his face, then lay still.

I worked quickly, dumping the contents of his pockets out onto the ground. I found a small, blurred tattoo on the inside, fleshy part of his thumb that I recognized as a Sicilian clan marking. Minor Mafia. His clothes were dusty, as though he had recently walked through a field of grain. There was a small spiral notebook. I slipped it into my pocket and walked hurriedly from the alley.

I got off the train in Mestra, a small town a few kilometers from Venice where I had found comfortable lodgings on previous trips to Italy, and which was relatively free from the summer tourist crush.

It was too late to go into Venice that day so I checked into a hotel, rested awhile, then went out for some pasta. Later, I settled down in my room with a brandy to go over the small notebook I had taken from the man I'd decked in the alley.

It didn't take me long to decide there wasn't much in the book that would be of use to me. Most of the pages were filled with crude obscene drawings. There were the names of women, each name accompanied by a sort of sexual rating that I suspected was more wishful thinking than the result of actual research. On the last page was the neatly lettered notation, '823dropl0.' I put the notebook on my bed stand and went to sleep.

I got up the next morning and took a cab to the outskirts of Venice, then got on a water bus. If Tommy Barrett was in Venice, I had a pretty good idea of where I'd find him, this time of day, in the middle of the tourist season.

I got off at St. Mark's Square, then pushed my way through the crowds to the central pallazza itself. I took the elevator to the top of the clock tower and got off on the observation deck. I glanced once more at the dossier photos, then took the binoculars I'd brought with me out of their case.

I didn't need them; even without the glasses I could see Tommy Barrett standing in front of St. Mark's Basilica, directly beneath its famed four horses. Elizabeth Hotaling was with him, shilling his sketches to the shifting knots of people that would gather around him for a few minutes watching him work, then drift on to one of the many other artists at work in the pallazza.

Easy cases make me nervous. I descended and attached myself to a group of Barrett's current admirers. Gradually, I worked my way to the front, where I had a clear view of the artist and his girl friend. Elizabeth Hotaling caught my eye and smiled. I smiled back.

The girl in front of me matched the photograph in the dossier, but that was all. The rest of Barrett's description just didn't fit. True, there was a toughness about her, in the way she moved and handled herself. But I was positive that once she'd been tougher, and that most of that quality had been burned out of her; what remained now was only an aura, a lingering memory, like the smell of ozone in the air after a thunderstorm.

She was beautiful, but she had more than that: a confidence, a sense of presence that could only have come from a variety of experiences she certainly hadn't gotten in the middle of St. Mark's Square.

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