Coming out of the barber’s shop, Detective Robin found himself flanked by two men who began pushing him gently but firmly towards a black drone parked in mid-air a couple of blocks away. Detective Robin decided not to put up resistance, in part because he recognized that the drone was an official G-CIA vehicle. Which meant that the two men were probably agents - and wouldn’t let him get away. So when the drone arrived, called by one of the men on his button monitor, and opened the door, he got in and sat down quietly. -Are you G-CIA agents? Like me? – tried Detective Robin. No answer, as expected. Not a single word for the entire fifteen minute flight. They landed on the roof of a big glass skyscraper, got out and the two men indicated a lift, pushing him gently inside it, alone. Detective Robin felt he was going down at remarkable speed. Then the doors opened. A small new-generation robot moved towards him and said: follow me. They proceeded down a long empty corridor, the robot stopped by a plain door, sent a signal, and the door opened. Detective Robin entered with a sigh. He didn’t like these covert ways of being summoned. Mr. Hughes, G-CIA chief of chiefs again? Yes. He was sitting behind a small, plain desk, and barely looked up as he came in.
-Sit down, Agent Robin.
-Here I am, sir. Sitting.
-None of your humour here, agent. Tell me what you know about telepathy.
-Telepathy? – Detective Robin was surprised. - We had several hours of work on extra sensory power as part of our normal training course, sir. Of telepathy in particular I do not recall much, sir.
-There are twelve different kinds of telepathy, Agent Robin. My secretary will give you a list of several links to download and read; you must study all of them. This will keep you busy for several days.
-One particular type of telepathy - continued Mr Hughes - is rare and very interesting. It permits two people or more, to communicate with each other by the mind. In other words, each reads the other’s thoughts.
-Yes sir, I remember discussing this on our training course. Useful for espionage: someone inside a building reads a document and communicates the content by his mind to the agent outside…
-Yes, and that is why our office spends so much money and energy on this kind of ESP.
-Certainly, an important aspect of warfare…
-For defence, Detective Robin!
-For defence, sir!
-You will study the papers, but I now want to do some arithmetic with you. Look at the graph.
On the big board behind Hughes’ desk there appeared a red curve in Cartesian coordinates.
-It shows our estimates of the phenomenon of telepathy in our country. You see that 99% of people have practically no telepathic capability at all, 1% has some, and of these, only 0.1% may, with training, be able to read each other’s minds.
-Yes sir. This does not seem to be much…
Mr Hughes looked at him in silence, showing little sympathy. Detective Robin felt obliged to add:
-That means, sir, that in the city of New York, with ten million people, one hundred thousand people have some kind of telepathy power, and of these, one thousand people may display telepathic power and communicate with each other.
-Of these, we calculate that only 10% might be ready to use this power - added Mr. Hughes.
-That makes about one hundred people in New York. And – Detective Robin added hastily – this means a total of over three thousand people in our country. This is, sir, quite a lot.
-Yes? Now imagine, Detective Robin, that these three thousand people make a web… -What? A telepathic web, sir?
-Yes, sending each other messages only by the power of thought.
Detective Robin was silent for a moment as he thought.
-Does it really exist? I mean…this web? A web…with what aims, sir?
Again he received a look that meant “you are not being very smart, Detective Robin”.
-We do not know whether this web is already well established or not. And you can guess that this is the reason why you are here. The city mayor came here and he is pretty sure that something like that is already in operation. He is very nervous about it…
-And where do I come in?
-You, Detective Robin, shall inquire and clarify whether the web exists, and to what aim. That is all. Of course, you can pay a visit to our ESP unit, and to the chief of the telepathy unit, Mr. Sullivan. They know a lot about the technical side.
-I am…the only one?
-No, there are twenty other special agents who are on the same job…
-Ah. It would be good, sir, to construct a sort of telepathic web among us, so as to exchange information…
-Detective Robin, your sense of humour is not appreciated here, and you know that.
But Detective Robin thought that a shadow of smile had briefly appeared on Mr Hughes’ greenish face.
-You can go now, but leave by the main door and ask my secretary for the list of your links.
-Yes sir. And how do I communicate my eventual findings to you?
-Don’t worry, just go, and take your home-work with you!
Mr. Hughes’ secretary, being Mr. Hughes’s secretary, was not a beauty. Big nose, heavy glasses and tight lips; this was Mrs. Curby. But Detective Robin didn’t dislike her; actually he found her rather intriguing. They did not meet more than once a month, but each time he would notice interesting books on her desk. And although she didn’t say much, what she did say was always of interest. This time he saw an open book showing Chinese characters.
-What is that, Mrs Curby?
-Oh, this is the Dao De Jing, you know, the work of the Taoist master Laozi. The text is almost three thousand years old. It is made up of short chapters, and actually you can a few lines at a time, read at random, is often enough for the whole day. It suits me, as I do not have the time to read a whole book… -What were you reading just now?
-The last verse of a central chapter, a verse which says: “a good tailor does little cutting.”
-Indeed, it’s food for thought for a lifetime…
-I am glad you think so, Detective Robin. Detectives do not usually think much, I mean, not about these kind of things. Oh …but, I have something for you.
She handed him a single printed page, with a series of links printed on it.
-Very interesting stuff – she said – I have looked at a few titles, I was curious. As you know Detective Robin, ESP, particularly telepathy is my boss’ new fixation.
He nodded and waited. He felt that she wanted to say more. And after a moment:
-In particular I noticed an article describing a new aspect of telepathy. It concerns the interpretation of written material, for example understanding a report by telepathy, in other words understanding the author’s own thinking - reading between the lines, do you follow?
-How is it possible? You’d have to at least know the author.
-Yes, you would have to be syntonic, somehow, with the author’s cerebral waves. You would have to have a kind of empathetic relationship with him or her.
Detective Robin was thinking: “why is she telling me this?”
-For example, Detective Robin, suppose I read a report sent to Mr. Hughes by one of his G-CIA agents on a given mission …And suppose I were one of these gifted high-telepathy individuals, which I am not, of course. Then I might find it well written, correct and all, and yet I may feel that the report is in contrast to the author’s real thinking…
-Fascinating, Mrs. Curby. Have you read my last report to Mr Hughes about Noah’ Ark?
-What do you mean, Agent Robin?
-Come on, Mrs Curby. I am a detective. And I gather that you are one of those gifted people. And that maybe you are in the web Mr. Hughes is talking about…
-Very funny! – Mrs. Curby attempted a laugh, but did not succeed. But she looked at him kindly – as if to say, would I, Mr Hughes’ own secretary, be part of the web he is so afraid of?
The telephone rang.
-That’s Mr Hughes now – she said. – I have to go. But you should know Detective Robin, that sometimes lies are very beautiful things. And they may give you a lot of unexpected friends.
-Wait, first give me a name, an address to help my inquiry…
-Your inquiry? Oh, I have no name to give you, sir – she paused before opening the door – but I will tell you that when I am in trouble, I mean, when I am confused or uncertain, I go and ask advice of Reverend Kleinkopf at the Notre Dame Chapel.
And she disappeared. Detective Robin took the sheet of paper and walked out, to find the same robot waiting to guide him to the lift.