‘No, we exchanged presents, to our mutual profit. Examine the envelopes, George - have they been tampered with? No, don't come closer. I might bewitch them. '
He looked them over. ‘The flap seal has both our signatures written across it, on each envelope. I know my signature and I saw you sign under mine. I do not see how even Houdini could have opened them. '
‘Please open number one, George, and read it aloud. .. and keep it. Put it back into your zipper pocket. '
‘Whatever you say, dear girl. ' He opened it and read, ‘ "4 July 1947. In the spring of 1951 www.o-cloakroom.ru a man calling himself ‘Dr Pinero' will infuriate both scientists and insurance men by claiming to be able to predict the date of any person's death. He will set up in business in this sort of fortune-telling. For several months he will enjoy great business success. Then he will be killed or die in an accident and his apparatus will be destroyed. Maureen Johnson. " ‘
(As George read aloud, I thought back to that Saturday night, 29 June 1918. Brian slept part of the time; Theodore and I not at all. Every now and then I ducked into the bath, recorded in crisp Pitman everything Theodore told me - many details that he had not given to judge Sperling and Justin and Mr Chapman. )
George said, ‘Interesting. I never did believe that this Doctor Pinero could do what he claimed to do. It must have been some complex hoax. '
‘That's not the point, George. ' (I did not speak sharply. )
‘It does not matter now whether he was a charlatan or not; the man is dead, his apparatus destroyed, none of his notes remains. So said Time magazine and all the newspapers. All this happened last year, 1951. That envelope has been in your custody since July 1947, four years ago. How did I do it? '
He answered mildly, ‘I wondered about that. Are you going to tell me? '
(Certainly, George. This man from the stars and the future came home and made love to me and told me these things because he thought they could help me. And then he died, killed in a war that wasn't his. For me. [Only now I know that he went back to the stars and I lost him. .. and found him. .. and now I'm lost again, in a darkened lorry with a screwball cat: Pixel, don't go away again! ])
‘George, I'm a soothsayer. '
‘A soothsayer. That's a fortune-teller. '
‘Literally it means one who speaks the truth. But I am a prophet, rather than a fortune-teller. All those envelopes contain prophecies. Now for envelope number two. Don't opera it quite yet. George, have I been in your office in the past month? '
‘Not to my knowledge. The only time you were ever in it, that I can recall, was about two years ago. We had a dinner date and it suited you to stop by my office rather than be picked up. '
‘That's right. You read the Wall Street journal, I'm sure. You are a director of the corporation managing the Paradise atomic power plant; I suspect that you read the journal pretty carefully concerning public power matters. '
‘That's true. Managing business involves studying all sorts of finicky details. '
‘What is new in the public power business lately? '
‘Nothing much. The usual ups and downs. '
‘Any new power sources? '
‘No, nothing significant. Some experimental windmills, but windmills, even improved ones, can't be classed as new. '
‘How about sunpower, George? '
‘Sunpower? Oh! Yes, there was a feature story in the Wall Street Journal. Eh. .. sunpower screens. Direct conversion of sunlight to electricity. Uh, two long-hair scientists, Dr Archibald Douglas and Dr M. L. Martin. Maureen, their gadget will never amount to anything. If you are considering it, don't risk any money on it. Do you realise how much of the time it is cloudy, how many hours are dark, how smog cuts into the potential? You wind up with -‘
‘George. Open the second envelope. '
He did so. ‘"Two scientists, Douglas and Martin, will develop conversion of sunlight into electricity at high efficiency. Douglas-Martin Sunpower Screens will revolutionise public power and strongly affect everything else for the rest of the twentieth century. " Maureen, I just can't see how such an inefficient source -‘
‘George, George! How. did I know, in 1947, about these sunpower gadgets disclosed just this year? How did I get the names right? Douglas. Martin. '
‘I don't know. '
‘I told you and now I'll repeat it. I am a prophet. Envelope number three tells Harriman Industries how to cash in on the Douglas-Martin Sunpower Screens. The next three envelopes concern power, public power, big power - and the changes coming that you won't believe. But you will have to believe when we open those envelopes one by one. The question is: will we open them after the fact, as with these two - and then all I could say is "I told you so" - or do we open each one long enough before the fact that my prophecy is useful to you? '
‘I'm getting chilly. Shall I get dressed, or come back to bed? '
‘Oh, dear! I've talked business too long. Come to bed, George, and let me try to make it up to you. '
He did and we cuddled, but the essential miracle did not take place. At last I said, ‘Shall I apply a little direct magic? Or would you rather rest? '
‘Maureen, what is it you want from Harriman Industries? You have not dope this just to perplex me. '
‘Of course not, George. I want to be elected a director of Harriman Industries, the holding company. Later on you will need me on the board of some of the corporations being held by it. However I will continue to decide how to time prophecies. .. as timing is everything. '
‘A director. There are no women on the board. '
‘There will be when you nominate me and I am elected. '
‘Maureen, please! All directors are major stockholders. '
‘How much stock does it take to be eligible? '
‘One share complies with the roles. But company policy calls for major ownership. In the holding company or any of its subsidiaries. '
‘How much? Shares. No, dollar value by the market; the various corporate shares are not all the same value per share. Not any, I should say. '
‘Uh, Mr Harriman and I think a director should own, or acquire soon after election, at least half a million in market value of shares. It fixes his attention on what he is voting on. '
‘George, on Monday at the close of market my summed up position in all of your companies was $872. 039. 81 - I can bring that up to an even million in a few days if it would help to smooth the way. '
George's eyebrows went way up. ‘Maureen, I didn't know that you owned any of our stock. I should have spotted your name in connection with any large block. '
‘I use dummies. Some in Zurich, some in Canada, some in New York. I can get it all into my own name if there is any reason to. '
‘We'll need some intelligences filed with us, at least. Maureen, am I free to tell Mr Harriman about your envelopes? Your prophecies? '
‘How would he feel about them? '
‘I'm not sure. He and I have been in business together since the twenties. .. but I don't know him. He's a plunger. .. I'm a plough horse. '
‘Well, let's keep it a bedroom secret for now. Perhaps you will want to open the next envelope in his presence. Or perhaps not. George, if the public, particularly the Street, got hold of the idea that you were making business decisions on the advice of a soothsayer, it might damage Harriman Industries, might it not? '
‘I think you're right. All right, bedroom secret. ' He suddenly smiled. ‘But if I said that I consulted an astrologer, half of those knot-heads would consider it "scientific":
‘And now let's. drop it, and let me see if I can get our plough horse interested in ploughing me. George, do all the men in your family have oversize penises? '
‘Not that I know of and I think you are trying to flatter me. '
‘Well, it seems big to me. Hey! It's getting bigger! '