Final Notice

Final Notice by Jonathan Valin Read Free Book Online

Book: Final Notice by Jonathan Valin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jonathan Valin
was designed for the highpowered techno-freaks, the gadget gang who are into computerassisted analysis and voice-printing and galvanic skin measurement, as if criminal investigation were just another way of dissecting a frog. Now I have very few illusions left about my work or about my life and, on most days, am willing to acknowledge that being happy in your work or happy about anything is mostly a matter of self-deception. Nevertheless, I get on with the job, which is rarely pleasant and sometimes more unpleasant than you can imagine. I do it because it's what I do best, what I have a talent for. And by God, I'm not willing to bend that talent to any computer analyst's prejudices.
    I started to write it down what I would say to that symposium crowd. Of course, I ended up writing an apology for my life, full of arrows and dots that all pointed shamelessly back to me. And I realized that what I was trying to get at was the nature of jobs themselves -how we appropriate and become them, the way a bird or an insect becomes a part of his surroundings. It seemed to me, then, that vocations were a kind of camouflage that most people evolved throughout a lifetime of little hurts and little triumphs, spun out of themselves the way a spider spins its web. And that for me, with my ingrown passion for finding things out, the job was no more or less than my way of tackling the mystery of knowing anyone at all. That, in spite of the cynical cracks, mine was essentially a lively business and, deep down, a moral art.
    Now, who in that crowd would have listened to that kind of thing with a straight face? For that matter, who can listen to it now? And, yet, it's true, shameless, and very possibly absurd. But it helps to explain why I left Sachs feeling elated and to point up how much of that elation was a self-congratulatory pleasure in my work. Realistically I knew that it was pure chance that Leo Sachs happened to be in the second-floor john when my Ripper was at work. And it was most certainly an accident, and a piece of outright cheek, that I'd come to Sachs in the first place. And yet I wasn't denying the accidental quality, just adding to it a kind of serendipitous contentment the way you feel when you go back over a letter or a report you've written and discover that it's phrased more clearly than you thought at the time you wrote it.
    What the hell, I said to myself, as I walked down the concrete stairs to Delta Avenue. Why not just admit it? After thirtyseven years, it's still all a mystery to you. Accidental or intentional, unexpected or predictable, it still comes as a surprise. But that's the advantage of not growing too far up, of not looking too critically into your own mechanisms. Like the monkey who presses the button and gets his banana -it was that kind of circuitous satisfaction I was feeling. And, of course, I knew immediately where to go next.
    Back to the Hyde Park library, which was gleaming like a chrome fender in the afternoon sun. I parked the Pinto in the little asphalt lot beside the rear door, got out, still feeling lucky, and walked up to the glass entryway.
    Inside it was already beginning to look like night. The fluorescent lights were taking hold, drying out the color of the carpeting and of clothes and the woody sheen of the big card catalogues next to the door. I waved to Miss Moselle, who was perched like a night owl on a stool behind the circulation desk, and walked up the staircase to the second floor. I'd started back to the art section on the east wall when someone called my name.
    "Mr. Stoner?"
    I turned around and saw that the gray-haired woman behind the Juvenile Desk was smiling at me. She had lipstick on her teeth and just about everywhere else beneath her nose; but she was jolly-looking in her loose print dress cinched at the waist with one of those perforated plastic belts that are made to fit any size. I smiled back at her and she said, "Were you looking for Kate?"
    "As a matter of fact,

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