Sometimes it isn't so much fun. There are a lot of bad smells in the city, but I'm learning how to kind of ignore the really nasty ones and concentrate on the nice ones, like bakeshop smells.'

'Have you always had this ability?'

'Oh, no. Only since yesterday morning. I started to get real good at smelling things at the same time I started to feel better.'

By the time we ended our meal with simple orange sherbet and mint tea, my initial surprise and curiosity surrounding Margaret Dutton's olfactory acumen had turned to utter astonishment. All through the six courses following the soup she had carried on a running commentary on the ingredients in the dishes, many of which she could name, most of which she couldn't; when she couldn't identify some particular taste or smell, she would content herself with telling me just how many ingredients were in that particular dish. I didn't care to interrupt the flow of our meal by constantly calling Peter over to verify her proclamations, but I knew enough about Thai cooking to suspect she was right about most of the ingredients she could name. As I paid the bill, I mused on the fact that Mama Spit not only had undergone what seemed a near-miraculous, overnight transformation from raving psychotic to a thoroughly pleasant and lucid woman by the name of Margaret Dutton, but also had turned into something akin to a human bloodhound.

Chapter 3

On Friday morning I lent Margaret two hundred dollars to go out and buy herself underwear and some changes of clothing from what she was wearing. And I told her to be very careful; during the night the ice-pick killer had claimed two more victims, one on a street in the Bronx and another at a subway stop in lower Manhattan.

She returned before noon with a good basic wardrobe of corduroy slacks, a skirt, a print dress, two blouses, changes of underwear, sturdy but comfortable shoes, and a cloth coat, all of which she'd bought at a church thrift shop on the Bowery. She even brought me back change. She'd also found herself a job, just as she'd said she would, responding to a Help Wanted sign posted on a building on Seventh Avenue, in the garment district. I recognized the address, and didn't like it; it was a sweatshop turning out knockoff designer jeans, no place for Margaret. I told her she could work for me, as my secretary's office assistant, until we could come up with something better, perhaps a job utilizing her extraordinary senses of taste and smell, which had to be of value to some enterprise, perhaps a perfume manufacturer or product-testing laboratory. I would pay her what I paid the temporaries Francisco occasionally hired when the paperwork in the office began to pile up. In addition, I would provide her with room and board and forgo payments on her loan, which she insisted she would repay, until she had saved enough money to go out on her own. In the meantime, I would check with some of the city officials I knew and inquire into the availability of low-income housing. The only proviso was that she would have to sleep in a spare bedroom in my apartment if and when Garth and Mary were in the city and wanted to use their apartment. She was grateful, and it took me fifteen minutes to get her to stop crying. Despite my protestations and reminders that she already had a job, Margaret insisted that she was going to spend the weekend scrub-a-dubbing the house from top to bottom. By the time she had finished, the brownstone was cleaner than the professional cleaning service had left it when Garth and I had first bought the property. I almost felt as if I were exploiting the woman, and I suspected I was going to miss Margaret Dutton when she moved on.

On Monday morning she was downstairs at the office promptly at nine o'clock to meet Francisco, who proceeded to teach her how to use the multi-line telephone and do a little basic filing. I went back into my own private office to prepare for an eleven o'clock meeting with the board of directors of a corporation for which Garth and I had been doing some in-depth vetting of potential CEOs. There was a fax from Garth, who for some reason had assumed I would be away over the weekend. My brother usually wasn't very particular about what he wore, but a monthlong skiing vacation in Zermatt, with its glitzy apres-ski nightlife, was apparently bringing out the finicky in him; the good news was that he was indeed learning how to ski and hadn't broken anything yet; the bad news was that he had forgotten to pack a favorite sweater, which he believed was in the apartment in the brownstone, and he didn't see how he could possibly manage to make it to New Year's without it. Would I send it to him? Well, sure. I couldn't have my brother skiing and partying in Zermatt half naked.

I finished typing and reviewing the report I was to give, then trotted up to Garth's apartment. It didn't take me long to explore the drawers and closets and determine that the sweater he wanted wasn't there, but when I turned to leave the bedroom I noticed something that was there, and it disturbed me very much. I went over to the nightstand next to the bed where Margaret had been sleeping and picked up a plastic bag containing perhaps two dozen or more rather large black-and-yellow capsules which resembled nothing so much as a pile of dead mutant bumblebees with their heads, wings, and legs chopped off. I shook my head in frustration, then punched the intercom on the wall. When Francisco answered, I asked him to send Margaret up to see me. Then I went into the living room and sat down on the sofa with a sigh.

She saw the bag of pills in my hand as soon as she entered, and the blood drained from her face. 'Oh, dear,' she said in a small voice, putting a hand to her mouth.

'Sit down, Margaret,' I said, indicating a chair directly across from me. 'I need to talk to you.'

She slowly came across the room and sank down in the armchair, clasping her hands in her lap. She had begun to gnaw at her lower lip, and her pale violet eyes were fixed on the bag of capsules. 'I haven't taken one yet today,' she said in the same small, weak voice.

'What are these, Margaret?'

'I. . don't know.'

'You lied to me, Margaret. You told me you weren't on medication. Why?'

Now she looked up into my face, and her eyes swam with the same fear I had first glimpsed in the restaurant on Thanksgiving when I had started to question her. 'It's not like medication, Mongo. I mean, I didn't get those from a doctor.'

'Where did you get them?'

She again put a trembling hand to her mouth, and her eyes filled with tears. 'I'm not supposed to tell. I was warned not to tell anybody about the pills, or something very bad would happen.'

'Something very bad has already happened, Margaret. If a doctor didn't give these to you, then they're probably illegal-some street drug you brought into my home. I have a very special hatred for street drugs, Margaret; they cripple, and they kill. There's no telling what this stuff is, or what it can do to you. You're a guest in my home, and that makes me responsible for what you do here and what happens to you. It also makes me responsible in the eyes of the law for what you bring in here. You say you don't know what these are? The drug doesn't have a name?'

She shook her head.

'How did you get these pills? You don't have any money, so you couldn't have paid for them.'

'A man gave them to me just before the young people caught him. They killed him and threw him away.'

Her voice had grown even fainter and slightly hoarse, so I wasn't sure I'd heard her correctly. 'What?'

'I was sitting in my blankets on the grate, Mongo, like always. It was last Tuesday night. The streetlight was broken, and it was dark. I was still awful crazy then, so I can't remember everything exactly the way it happened, but I'm sure it was real. I'm sure it really happened. The pills prove that, don't they?'

'Tell me what happened, Margaret.'

'A man came running around the corner and up the block toward me. He stopped in the middle of the block and looked around, like he was afraid of something, or somebody was chasing him. Then he saw me in the shadows and came running over to me. I started spitting and cursing, and I even hit him in the face when he put his hands on me, but it didn't do any good. He looked real scared, but he also looked determined, like he was going to do something to me no matter what I did to him. That made me real scared. He took that bag of pills out of his coat pocket. Then he put one of them in my mouth. I didn't want to swallow it, but he put one hand over my nose and mouth so I couldn't spit it out or breathe, and he rubbed my throat with his other hand. That made me swallow the pill. Then he put the bag under my blanket. I started spitting and cursing at him again, but he held my head in his hands and spoke real loud and slow in my ear so I had to hear what he told me. He said I'd feel better after taking the pill, and that I should remember to take one at the same time every day if I wanted to keep feeling better. He

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