Futures Past

Futures Past by James White Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Futures Past by James White Read Free Book Online
Authors: James White
several mentions of the city's moment of stark drama some sixty years earlier when the physics building at the university had blown up, taking the physics professor—a stuffy but very brilliant old gentleman tipped for a Nobel Prize—and a mercifully small number of post-graduate assistants with it. He read the chancellor's statement that, so far as he knew, no explosives had been kept in the building, descriptions of the peculiarly sharp detonation and the theories, based on evidence of fusing in parts of the debris, which ranged from an old-fashioned thunderbolt from on high to a meteor strike or the premature invention of a nuclear device ...
       "No other hobbies?"
       "Not that I know of," said Nesbitt, then added, "At one time I thought he might be taking up radio as a hobby —he had read some technical articles and wanted to know if I could tell him anything about a standing wave. He gets suddenly curious about lots of things."
       Michaelson had a vague idea of what a standing wave might be, having listened to the engineers talking shop during a course he had taken on TV traffic monitoring systems, but he did not see how it could help his current investigation. He opened another drawer.
       And hit the jackpot.
       It contained a large desk diary, a day book recording income and expenditure and an address book. As he leafed through them the look of disinterest on his face required an increasingly greater effort to maintain.
       There were appointment notes and memos reminding the suspect that he needed stamps for various retail outlets. There was not, so far as Michael could see, a corresponding supplier for the stamps. Other notes, none of which were recent, comprised current song titles with remarks like, "Piano arrangement not too difficult" or, "Very simple melody" or, "Good, but complicated orchestration needed—I can't memorize it." The final entry, dated three weeks earlier, said, "Found another possibility, will investigate the old lady tomorrow."
       The last entry in the address book, which otherwise contained only business contacts, was that of Mrs. Timmins. It had been written so heavily that her name and address had been embossed on four of the underlying pages.
       An emotional type, thought Michaelson coldly as he began going through the cash book.
       The entries were meticulously neat and, possibly because he had forgotten which book he was using, interspersed with reminders. Like the desk diary it showed ample evidence of income from the sale of stamps, but no indication of where he got them. His expenditure seemed to be confined to rent, food, clothing and sheet music. One of the latter items was for a song with "Memories" in the title and he had added, leaning very heavily on his ballpoint, "Memories don't sell as easily as stamps, but they are all I can take." The last four entries, all dated within the past few weeks, showed the expenditure of considerable sums of money to an undisclosed company or person, with a bracketed notation that said, "In used notes by registered mail." Michaelson noted the amounts.
       "Can I telephone?" asked the Inspector.
        "He has a night line," said Nesbitt.
       The night receptionist at the Worchester remembered Smith and, because he was not very busy, did not mind talking about him. Smith had stayed there for nearly a year, conducting a stamp business from nine to five—he lived somewhere else. He kept a very smart if conservative wardrobe in his office room—for impressing customers, he had said—but traveled to and from work in an old, shapeless suit. No, he had not acted in any way suspiciously or oddly, except that sometimes he arrived in the morning without a raincoat when it was pouring wet, and vice versa. But then the weather could change so suddenly. In this morning's forecast they had promised sunny periods ...
       During the next pause for breath Michaelson thanked the receptionist and hung up.
       A man who avoids

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