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Brain Twister


Prologue
In nineteen-fourteen, it was enemy aliens.
In nineteen-thirty, it was Wobblies.
In nineteen-fifty-seven, it was fellow-travelers.
And, in nineteen seventy-one, Kenneth J. Malone rolled wearily out of
bed wondering what the hell it was going to be now.
One thing, he told himself, was absolutely certain: it was going to be
terrible. It always was.
He managed to stand up, although he was swaying slightly when he
walked across the room to the mirror for his usual morning look at him-
self. He didn't much like staring at his own face, first thing in the morn-
ing, but then, he told himself, it was part of the toughening- up process
every FBI agent had to go through. You had to learn to stand up and take
it when things got rough, he reminded himself. He blinked and looked
into the mirror.
His image blinked back.
He tried a smile. It looked pretty horrible, he thoughtÑbut, then, the
mirror had a slight ripple in it, and the ripple distorted everything.
Malone's face looked as if it had been gently patted with a waffle-iron.
And, of course, it was still early morning, and that meant he was hav-
ing a little difficulty in focusing his eyes.
Vaguely, he tried to remember the night before. He was just ending his
vacation, and he thought he recalled having a final farewell party for two
or three lovely female types he had chanced to meet in what was still the
world's finest City of Opportunity, Washington, D.C. (latest female-to-
male ratio, five-and-a-half to one). The party had been a classic of its
kind, complete with hot and cold running ideas of all sorts, and lots and
lots of nice powerful liquor.
Malone decided sadly that the ripple wasn't in the mirror, but in his
head. He stared at his unshaven face blearily.
Blink. Ripple.
Quite impossible, he told himself. Nobody could conceivably look as
horrible as Kenneth J. Malone thought he did. Things just couldn't be as
bad as all that.
Ignoring a still, small voice which asked persistently: "Why not?" he
turned away from the mirror and set about finding his clothes. He de-
termined to take his time about getting ready for work: after all, nobody
could really complain if he arrived late on his first day after vacation.
Everybody knew how tired vacations made a person.
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