"It didn't need to be cleaned. I can't find anything."
"But then he doesn't have to find anything, does he?" Thom countered. "That's what I'm for."
No mood for banter. "Well?" Rhyme cast his handsome face toward Sellitto. "What?"
"Got a case. Thought you might wanta help."
"What's all that?" Banks asked, motioning toward a new computer sitting beside Rhyme's bed.
"Oh," Thom said with infuriating cheer, "he's state of the art now. Show them, Lincoln. Show them."
"I don't want to show them."
More thunder but not a drop of rain. Nature, as often, was teasing today.
Thom persisted. "Show them how it works."
"Don't want to."
"He's just embarrassed."
"Thom," Rhyme muttered.
But the young aide was as oblivious to threats as he was to recrimination. He tugged his hideous, or stylish, silk tie. "I don't know why he's behaving this way. He seemed very proud of the whole setup the other day."
Thom continued. "That box there" -- he pointed to a beige contraption -- "that goes to the computer."
"Whoa, two hundred megahertz?" Banks asked, nodding at the computer. To escape Rhyme's scowl he'd grabbed the question like an owl snagging a frog.
"Yep," Thom said.
But Lincoln Rhyme was not interested in computers. At the moment Lincoln Rhyme was interested only in microscopic rings of sculpted calamari and the sand they nestled in.
Thom continued. "The microphone goes into the computer. Whatever he says, the computer recognizes. It took the thing a while to learn his voice. He mumbled a lot."
In truth Rhyme was quite pleased with the system -- the lightning-fast computer, a specially made ECU box -- environmental control unit -- and voice-recognition software. Merely by speaking he could command the cursor to do whatever a person using a mouse and keyboard could do. And he could dictate too. Now, with words, he could turn the heat up or down and the lights on or off, play the stereo or TV, write on his word processor, and make phone calls and send faxes.
"He can even write music," Thom said to the visitors. "He tells the computer what notes to mark down on the staff."
"Now that's useful," Rhyme said sourly. "Music."
For a C4 quad -- Rhyme's injury was at the fourth cervical vertebra -- nodding was easy. He could also shrug, though not as dismissingly as he'd have liked. His other circus trick was moving his left ring finger a few millimeters in any direction he chose. That had been his entire physical repertoire for the past several years; composing a sonata for the violin was probably not in the offing.
"He can play games too," Thom said.
"I hate games. I don't play games."
Sellitto, who reminded Rhyme of a large unmade bed, gazed at the computer and seemed unimpressed. "Lincoln," he began gravely. "There's a task-forced case. Us 'n' the feds. Ran into a problem last night."
"Ran into a brick wall," Banks ventured to say.
"We thought...well, I thought you'd want to help us out on this one."
Want to help them out?
"I'm working on something now," Rhyme explained. "For Perkins, in fact." Thomas Perkins, special agent in charge of the Manhattan office of the FBI. "One of Fred Dellray's runners is missing."
Special Agent Fred Dellray, a longtime veteran with the Bureau, was a handler for most of the Manhattan office's undercover agents. Dellray himself had been one of the Bureau's top undercover ops. He'd earned commendations from the director himself for his work. One of Dellray's agents, Tony Panelli, had gone missing a few days earlier.
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