She smiled back. 'And I was pretty impressive in that deparI'ment. A strapping girl from Calgary with two older brothers to compete with, could drink more beer than half the university boys in Montreal.'
'You must have been resented."
'No, just envied.'
A new world had been presented to Marie St Jacques, she never return to her old one. Except for prescribed mid-term holidays, prolonged trips to Calgary grew less and less frequent. Her circles in Montreal expanded, the summers taken up with jobs in and outside the university. She gravitated first to history, then reasoned that most of history was shaped by economic forces - power and significance had to be paid for - and so she tested the theories of economics. And was consumed.
She remained at McGill for five years, receiving her master's degree and a Canadian Government Fellowship to Oxford.
'That was a day, I can tell you. I thought my father would have an apoplectic fit. He left his precious cattle to my brothers long enough to fly east to talk me out of it!
Talk you out of it? Why? He was an accountant; you were going after a doctorate in economics.'
'Don't make that mistake,' Marie exclaimed. 'Accountants and economists are natural enemies. One views trees, the other forests, and the visions are usually at odds, as they should be. Besides, my father's not simply Canadian, he's French-Canadian. I think he saw me as a traitor to Versailles. But he was mollified when I told him that a condition of the fellowship was a commiI'ment to work for the government for a minimum of three years. He said I could "serve the cause better from within". Vive Quebec, vive la France!'
They both laughed.
The three-year commiI'ment to Ottawa was extended for all the logical reasons: whenever she thought of leaving, she was promoted given a larger office and an expanded staff.
'Power corrupts, of course,' she smiled, 'and no one knows it better than a ranking bureaucrat whom banks and corporations pursue for a recommendation. But I think Napoleon said it better. "Give me enough medals and I'll win you any war " So I stayed. I enjoy my work immensely. But then it's work I'm good at and that helps.'
Jason watched her as she talked. Beneath the controlled exterior there was an exuberant, childlike quality about her. She was an enthusiast, reining in her enthusiasm whenever she felt it becoming too pronounced. Of course she was good at what she did; he suspected she never did anything with less than her fullest application. 'I'm sure you are - good, I mean - but it doesn't leave much time for other things, does it?'
'What other things?'
'Oh, the usual. Husband, family, house with a white picket fence.'
'They may come one day, I don't rule them out.'
'But they haven't.'
'No. There were a couple of close calls, but no brass ring. Or diamond, either.'
The smile faded. 'I'd forgotten. You read the cable.'
'Don't be. We've covered that .. Peter? I adore Peter. We lived together for nearly two years, but it didn't work out'
'Apparently he doesn't hold any grudges.'
'He'd better not!' She laughed again. 'He's director of the section, hopes for a cabinet appoinI'ment soon. It he doesn't behave himself. I'll tell the DeparI'ment of Treasury what he doesn't know and he'll be back as an SX-Two.'
'He said he was going to pick you up at the airport on the twenty-sixth You'd better cable him.'
'Yes, I know.'
Her leaving was what they had not talked about, they had avoided the subject as though it were a distant eventuality. It was not related to what-had-happened, it was something that was going to be. Marie had said she wanted to help him. he had accepted, assuming she was given by false gratitude into staying with him for a day or so - and he was grateful for that. But anything else was unthinkable.
Which was why they did not talk about it. Words and looks had passed between them, quiet laughter evoked, comfort established. At odd moments there were tentative rushes of warmth and they both understood and backed away. Anything else was unthinkable.
So they kept returning to the abnormality, to what-had-happened. To him more than to them, for he was the irrational reason for their being together ... together in a room at a small village inn in Switzerland. Abnormality. It was not part of the reasonable, ordered world of Marie St Jacques, and because it was not, her orderly, analytical mind was provoked. Unreasonable things were to be examined, unravelled, explained. She became relentless in her probing, as insistent as Geoffrey Washburn had been on the lie de Port Noir, but without the doctor's patience. For she did not have the time: she knew it and it drove her to the edges of stridency.
'When you read the newspapers, what strikes you?'
The mess. Seems it's universal.'
'Be serious. What's familiar to you?'
'Almost everything, but I can't tell you why.'
'Give me an example.'
'This morning. There was a story about an American arms shipment to Greece and the subsequent debate in the United Nations; the Russians protested. I understand the significance, the Mediterranean power struggle, the Middle East spillover.'
'Give me another.'
'There was an article about East German interference with the Bonn government's liaison office in Warsaw. Eastern bloc, western bloc; again I understood.'
'You see the relationship, don't you? You're politically -g">politically - receptive.'
'Or I have a perfectly normal working knowledge of current events. I don't think I was ever a diplomat. The money at the Gememschaft would rule out any kind of government employment."
'I agree, still you're politically aware. What about maps? You asked me to buy you maps. What comes to mind when you look at them?'
'In some cases names trigger images, just as they did in Zurich. Buildings, hotels, streets ... sometimes faces. But
never names. The faces don't have any.'
'Still you've travelled a great deal.'
'I believe I, have."
'You know you have.'
'All right, I've travelled.'
'How did you travel?'
'What do you mean, how?'
'Was it usually by plane, or by car - not taxis but driving yourself?'
'Both, I think. Why?'
'Planes would mean greater distances more frequently. Did people meet you? Are there faces at airports, hotels?'
'Streets,' he replied involuntarily.
'Streets? Why streets?'
'I don't know. Faces met me in the streets ... and in quiet places. Dark places.'
'Yes. And rooms.'
'Not offices? Business offices?'
'Sometimes. Not usually.'
'All right. People met you. Faces. Men? Women? Both?'
'Men mostly. Some women, but mostly men.'
'What did they talk about?'
'I don't know.'
'Try to remember.'
'I can't. There aren't any voices; there aren't any words.'
'Were there schedules? You met people, that means you had appoinI'ments. They expected to meet you and you expected to meet them. Who scheduled those appoinI'ments? Someone had to.'