SFWRITER.COM > Novels > Frameshift > The Lost Chapters
Frameshift: The Lost Chapters
Copyright © 1997 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved.
A novel has a life of its own, and, just like biological
life, its metabolism consists both of anabolism (building up) and
catabolism (tearing down).
My eighth novel,
Frameshift, was published by Tor
Books in June 1997. The published version of the novel is
the tenth draft, weighing in at 109,000 words. The eighth,
ninth, and tenth drafts (finished October 26, 1995; December 29,
1995; and June 5, 1996) were mostly concerned with catabolism
cutting the manuscript down from 129,000 words I'd built it up to
by the seventh (October 4, 1995) draft.
In the end, I excised 20,000 words the equivalent of 50
book pages from the manuscript (all at my own volition, I
Seven thousand of those words represented four whole chapters
excised from near the beginning of the novel. There's no doubt
that the final version of Frameshift is leaner and
faster-paced without the following chapters, but I'm still quite
fond of them, and so I thought I'd make them available here for
those who had enjoyed the published novel and were looking for a
little more background about the characters.
Like many French-Canadians, Pierre Tardivel's parents had
little love for the national government in Ottawa, or for a
political system that made England's Queen Elizabeth the
country's head of state. But they also knew that Quebec was a
precarious proposition: six million French-speakers surrounded
to the east, west, and south by a quarter of a billion
Hoping to give him the most options, Pierre's mother sent
him to an English-immersion high school for a year. It was too
bad she hadn't decided he should be bilingual at a younger age;
he never truly became comfortable in English. Pierre's father
died when he was sixteen, but his life insurance provided enough
money to see Pierre through as much schooling as he wished. When
it came time for him to go on to college in 1980, McGill
Montreal's largest English-speaking university had seemed a
more sensible choice than any of the French-speaking ones.
Pierre was bright no question but completely unmotivated.
"Pourrait faire mieux" ("Could do better") and
"N'atteint pas son plein potentiel" ("Not living up to his
potential") had been boilerplate on his report cards since his
public-school days. That he was going to university at all was
just the path of least resistance.
Pierre had no major; he was sampling subjects as if McGill's
course calendar were a buffet. A little introductory genetics
now, some 100-level history after that, a literature course later
on . . . He'd coasted through the first semester and now, after
the Christmas break, was already back to skipping as many
lectures as he actually attended. As he sat slouched over a desk
in his genetics class, bored silly, he wished he'd skipped this
They'd only seen the fat, bald professor twice, once on the
first day of classes and again just before Christmas. At all
other times, they'd been fobbed off with a geeky teaching
assistant. Today, Pierre had arrived late; the only vacant seat
had been in the front row. As the TA plowed through his lecture,
apparently thinking he'd get a medal for finishing the course
work in record time, Pierre doodled hockey-team crests on a piece
of lined paper. Periodically, he glanced at his watch.
"... everything we are," said the TA, his voice a nasal
twang that made English sound even uglier than it usually did,
"is the result of the genes we inherited from our parents. As we
saw last semester, Gregor Mendel, a nineteenth-century Austrian
monk, did pioneering work . . ."
Pierre drew the crest for the Canadiens, using different
cross-hatching patterns to represent the red, white, and blue
colors of the big, wide "C" surrounding the central "H."
"... things such as hair color, blood type, and eye color
all are inherited along predictable lines . . ."
Satisfied with the crest, he went on to sketch a jersey
around it, with a captain's "C" above the left breast . . .
"... for instance, Mr. Tardivel here . . ."
Pierre looked up. The TA had noticed he wasn't paying
attention, but Pierre was damned if he was going to give in to a
pencil-necked Anglais. The guy loomed in to look at
Pierre's face. "... Mr. Tardivel here has brown eyes. Now,
since the gene for brown eyes is dominant, one or both of his
parents must also have brown eyes."
Pierre made a sneering laugh. "Wrong."
"I beg your pardon?" snapped the TA.
"You don't know what you're talking about. Both my mother and my
father have blue eyes."
"You're not wearing tinted contacts, are you?" asked the
teaching assistant, looming in for another look at Pierre's face.
Pierre snorted. "No."
"Then there's no way you can have brown eyes if both your
parents have blue eyes."
"This is stupid," said Pierre. "My mother has blue eyes,
and my father, when he was alive, had blue eyes, too." He shook
his head in disgust. "God, this class is a joke."
But by this point, Brenda Hastings, one of the other
students, was furiously leafing through the textbook. "He's
right, Pierre," she said, holding up the book, displaying a
The book was passed from aisle to aisle until it reached
Pierre's desk. He stared at the page and the chart labeled
"Alleles and Eye Color." The only impossible combination,
according to the book, was a brown-eyed child from two blue-eyed
Pierre slammed the cover shut. "Then how do you explain the
fact that I've got brown eyes?"
The TA crossed his arms in front of his chest. "Simple.
Either you're adopted, or your legal father wasn't your
Pierre started to say something in French, reformulated the
thought in English, but then simply fell silent, stunned.
Pierre skipped his next two classes something he'd been
toying with doing anyway and trudged through the snow to
McGill's science library. He read everything he could find on
eye color: its heritability, whether there were any childhood
diseases or conditions that could make blue eyes turn brown
(there weren't), anything that might prove the TA wrong.
But there was nothing. Eye color was a simple, standard
example of heredity. The gene for blue was recessive; the gene
for brown, dominant. If both parents had blue eyes, then their
children had to, as well.
It was that simple.
It was that complex.
Pierre's chair creaked as he leaned back in the library
study carrel, looking up at the acoustical-tile ceiling.
Everyone had always said he took after his mother: he had the
same moon face, the same small nose, the same chocolate hair. No
one had ever likened him to his father, Alain Tardivel the man
who had given him his name . . . and apparently nothing else.
Pierre still lived at his mother's house, a forty-minute
ride by bus and metro from McGill. There was still time to make
his final class of the day but he couldn't bring himself to go.
Instead, he headed home. His mother, who was a loans officer at
a bank, wouldn't be back from work until six or so.
But when she did get home, she and Pierre were going to
Pierre wandered around the house, killing time. It was a
comfortable old side-split, built just after World War II.
Pierre's father Alain Tardivel, that is had been a lawyer.
He'd kept long hours too long perhaps but had made a lot of
money. He'd died at forty-five of a heart attack, alone in his
Pierre looked at the little framed pictures on the mantle
above the fireplace. One of Alain and his mother, Élisabeth,
back when they were still dating. Alain and Pierre, age five, at
Expo '67. Alain, Élisabeth, and Pierre at Olympic Stadium,
watching a baseball game. Élisabeth as matron of honor at her
Family pictures. The kind everyone had.
At last his mother came home. She put fish sticks in the
oven this was Friday, after all and then made herself a
steaming cup of tea and sat down wearily in the living room to
read the day's copy of Le Devoir.
"How was work today?" asked Pierre in French.
She lowered the paper and smiled at him. Pierre had always
thought his mother had a pretty smile, but today it seemed to him
just upturned lips. "Okay," she said.
Pierre nodded and waited for the question he knew would come
next, automatically, as it did every weeknight. "How were things
at the university?"
"Enlightening," said Pierre, choosing his words with care.
"My genetics class was particularly interesting. We were
Élisabeth had gone back to her newspaper. She turned the page.
"Bein," she said.
"Particularly, the heritability of traits like eye color."
"Bein," she said again.
"A person cannot have brown eyes unless one of his parents
has brown eyes," said Pierre.
Élisabeth was turning another page, the newsprint rustling
like dried leaves. She stopped midway through the turn, arm
extended. Her gaze met Pierre's.
"Oh," she said softly.
There was a long silence between them, punctuated only by
the sounds of the house and the neighborhood: the susurration of
the refrigerator, a barking dog, a car horn in the distance.
When the silence had become unbearable, Pierre said slowly,
"So which one is it? Was I adopted, or did you . . . did
you . . . ?"
Élisabeth opened her mouth as if to say something, then
closed it. Finally, simply, she said, "I'm very sorry."
"You are . . . not adopted."
Pierre was quiet for fifteen seconds. "I see."
He waited for more and at last it came. "Your father
Alain, that is he worked such long hours and . . . and things
were not always good between us. I never intended to tell you
this, Pierre, but when we first got married, when we were just
starting out, Alain used to " her voice cracked slightly "
hit me." Her eyes were growing moist. "The first time he did
it, I think he was as surprised as I was. This was 1960, Pierre.
No one talked about stuff like that. There were no help lines to
call, no support groups. Alain realized what he was doing was
wrong and he stopped. Thank sweet Jesus, he stopped. But for a
couple of years there, things were very, very bad. I, ah, had a
friend who helped me through those times. He was a good man, a
kind man the kindest man I ever knew. But . . . but we're
Catholic; I wasn't allowed to get a divorce."
Angry: "You weren't supposed to " He cut himself short, but
the thought was plain: You weren't supposed to screw around,
either. An awkward silence persisted for a few moments, then
Pierre said, "What was his name?"
"Henry," said Élisabeth.
"`Henry,'" repeated Pierre, startled. "Tu as bien dit
`Henry' et pas `Henri'?"
Sarcastic: "Oui? Tu veux dire `yes,' je suppose. Un
"He was a very special man," said Élisabeth.
"What was his last name?"
Pierre was almost amused by the absurdity. "Comme une
pelle?" Like a shovel?
"He always used to say `like Sam.' But he treated women
me, at least a lot better than Sam Spade ever did."
"Did you did you love him?"
There was no embarrassment in his mother's voice. "Very
"Did my father did Alain know? Know that I wasn't
Élisabeth shook her head ever so slightly.
"Were you ever going to tell me?"
She made no reply.
"Is Spade still alive?"
Élisabeth's shoulders rose and fell slightly. "I assume so.
I haven't had any contact with him for eighteen years. The . . .
relationship ended when your father my husband, that is got
over his problems. Henry wished me every happiness. He wanted
Alain and me to have a good life together. Of course, once
things were going well with Alain again, there was no way I could
tell him what I'd done."
"Does Spade live here in Montréal?"
"No, like a lot of Anglais, he left Québec. I heard
through a friend God, must have been a dozen years ago that
he got married. I think they settled in Toronto."
"I want to meet him," Pierre said.
"No," said Élisabeth simply. "That would be awkward."
Pierre wasn't listening. "I want to meet him," he said
His mother closed her eyes. She was clearly trying to keep
her equilibrium, but there was a tightness at the corners of her
mouth and a strained tone to her voice. "Pierre," she said, not
quite looking at him, "what happened between me and Henry Spade
was over ages ago."
The electric clock on the wall whirred in the background. "It is
not over," said Pierre. "I'm part of it."
Perhaps feeling exposed, Élisabeth got up and drew the
living-room blinds. It was dark outside. In the distance, she
could hear someone trying to get a car to turn over in the cold.
"He doesn't even know he has a son," she said, returning to her
"He doesn't know?" repeated Pierre, flabbergasted.
His mother nodded slightly. "When, ah, I found out I was
pregnant, I told Alain. That was it. That was the turning point
for him. He never hit me again." She exhaled noisily. "I read
now in magazines now that this is something people talk about
that lots of men first hit their wives when they're
pregnant. I'm lucky, I suppose. Anyway, I couldn't tell Alain
and . . . and . . ."
Pierre let her trail off, then it came to him. "Mon
Dieu," he said. "You didn't know which of them was the
His mother was biting her lower lip, trying not to cry. She
nodded almost imperceptibly.
Pierre sat there, shaking his head slightly. "Merde," he
Élisabeth's voice was very far away. "After you were born,
it became clear, to me at least, who the father was. I could see
Henry in your eyes. But I never told Alain, and by that time
Henry was no longer part of my life."
Pierre said nothing.
"So you see," said Élisabeth, turning to face her son
directly, "you can't just go barging in on him eighteen years
later and say, surprise!, you've got a grown son. He may have
children of his own now. He "
"He's my father," said Pierre. "I have a right to meet
"Now, you two be good while I'm out." Barbara Bond smiled
at her two daughters. "No fighting. I've left money for pizza
on my dresser." She opened the front door. "Love ya both."
"'Bye, Mom," said Molly Bond.
"See ya," said Jessica, Molly's younger sister.
Mrs. Bond smiled again and walked out the door, closing and
locking it behind her.
Molly went over to the living-room window and moved the
curtain aside slightly. It was dark out and snowing lightly a
typical Minneapolis January evening. Her mother's red Honda
pulled out of the driveway and disappeared down the recently
plowed street. Molly turned around and looked at her sister.
Jessica was fifteen, three years younger than Molly. Her
naturally blonde hair had been bleached to an even lighter shade
and she wore it all puffed out, just like Loni Anderson did on
WKRP in Cincinnati. She'd recently gotten her ears
pierced and constantly wore gaudy earrings. Molly smiled,
wondering how she herself had missed out on the preening and
primping stage that went along with being a pretty teenage girl.
But Molly's smile soon faded. She'd been waiting for this
all week. Her mother would be gone for hours, off Christmas
shopping along the Nicolet Street Mall with her fiancé, Paul.
Molly liked Paul a lot, although it was hard getting used to
anyone thinking such lascivious thoughts about her mother let
alone the amazing things her mother thought about Paul. It had
come as a shock to find that her mother, just this side of
geriatric at thirty-seven, had a very active libido.
"Jess?" Molly said, sitting down on the couch next to her
sister, close enough that Jessica was inside her zone. "Can we
Jess had her legs tucked up beside her. She looked up from
the magazine she was reading a teen magazine with a banner
proclaiming Hottest Hunks of '81 and a picture of Tom
Wopat from The Dukes of Hazzard on the cover. "'Bout
"What do you think of Paul?" she said.
"He's cool," said Jess.
"Do you think he likes Mom?"
"How can you tell?"
Jess rolled her eyes. "Like, he's going to marry her."
"But what do you think he thinks about Mom?"
Jess shrugged. "I don't know."
"Earth to Molly: no, I don't. How would I?"
"Can you ever tell in advance what people are going to say
before they speak?"
"What are you talking about?" asked Jess.
"Do you ever know for sure that someone is lying even though
they look like they're telling the truth?"
"Get real," said Jess.
Molly exhaled and looked around the living room. It was a
comfortable home; Molly's mom had done all right for herself
after the divorce. Barbara Bond had married Molly's dad quite
young just after her eighteenth birthday and had given
birth to Molly only a year later. When the marriage broke up,
Molly's mom had gone to work as a secretary at a computer
company, and was now executive assistant to the vice-president.
She made a decent buck, and Dad, despite all his other failings,
at least kept the child-support payments coming.
Maybe Jessica was hiding it, thought Molly. Maybe if she
knew that I was the same way, she'd open up. God, it would be so
good to have someone to share this with. "Sometimes," said
Molly, very slowly, "I can tell what other people are thinking."
"Oh, sure," said Jessica. "Deja vu. I guess we all get
that from time to time."
Molly resisted the urge to correct her sister no mean
feat; correcting little sisters was what God had made big sisters
for, after all.
"I think I get it more than most people," said Molly. She
moved a little closer on the couch to Jessica and strained to
hear anything that would contradict what Jess had been saying.
But there was nothing. Still, maybe one last test . . .
"Tell you what, Jess. Let's play a game."
"Puh-leeze!" said Jessica, rolling her eyes again.
"No, seriously." Molly got up and went to the kitchen,
returning a moment later with something to write on the
grocery list and a pencil. "I'm writing a number between one
and ten on the back of this." She did so. And then she went
over to her purse, which was sitting on a cedar chest by the
front door. She fished out her wallet and took a twenty from it.
"If you can guess the number I've written down, you can have this
"What is this?" asked Jess. "Some kind of a trick?"
"No trick. Just try guessing the number. You want to go to
that Bruce Springsteen concert, right? You could certainly use
Six, thought Molly, sitting down on the couch right next
to her sister. She concentrated as hard as she could. Six.
"Oh, I'd just die to see The Boss!" said Jessica. "Is it
"Is it three?"
Molly felt her heart sink. But she could hear her sister's
thoughts, sense her excitement, see how much she wanted to be
able to come up with the money to go to the concert, how cruel a
joke this was.
"Yeah," said Molly, extending her hand with the wrinkled
bill. "Yeah, it is."
"Cool!" squealed Jessica. "Deja vu!" She snapped up the
money. Just then, the phone rang. Jessica hurried off the couch
and picked up the handset, ever afraid that her mother or sister
would answer first when a boy was calling for her. "Hello," she
said. "Oh, hi! No, nothing. Just hangin' around . . ."
Molly leaned back on the couch as Jessica ambled around,
moving as far left and right as the handset cord would allow.
After a bit, she hung up, then looked at Molly. "I'm going out.
Donna's going to pick me up." Donna, who lived a half-block
away, was almost a year older than Jessica and already had her
Molly forced a smile and waved at her sister. "Leaving her
alone" was right. Molly had first started hearing other people's
thoughts when she was thirteen. She'd watched Jessica day in and
day out now for two years, looking for any sign that she'd
developed the same gift. But there was nothing. She was sure
her mother didn't have the talent; there were nights she
never would have let Molly go out if she'd been able to
read her mind. But she'd hoped that Jessica would be the same,
that at last she'd have someone to talk to about all this,
someone who would understand what it meant, what if felt like,
what it did to you.
There was a horn blast from the driveway. Jessica had
already put on her bomber jacket and knee-high black leather
boots. She hurried out the door, leaving Molly sitting there,
all by herself, cold air wafting in.
Pierre Tardivel went to the dining-room table, took the
phone off the buffet, and sat it in front of him. He tapped out
1-416-555-1212, Toronto directory assistance. The operator told
him she had no specific listings for a Henry Spade, but there was
an H. E. Spade, an H. H. Spade, and an H. J. Spade. Pierre
jotted down the numbers for all of them, then turned to his
"If need be, I'll call all three of these people," Pierre
said to her. "I'll tell each of them who I am. You can save me
some trouble and embarrassment, and two of these three people
some inconvenience, if you tell me Henry's middle name."
Élisabeth was quiet for several seconds. Finally: "James,"
she said. "Henry James Spade."
"Thank you," said Pierre. He paused. "If I get him on the
phone, do you want to speak to him?"
Élisabeth considered. "No. No. He's got his own life now.
I I'd just like to know that he's well and happy."
Pierre nodded. "I'm going to call him from my room, then."
He headed for the stairs but, almost as an afterthought, he
detoured long enough to give his mother a quick kiss on the
cheek. "Merci," he said. "Merci, Maman."
"Hello," said a woman's voice with a Toronto English accent.
Pierre tried to flatten his own tones to match hers.
"Hello," he said, in English. "May I please speak to Henry
"No," said the woman. He heard the handset crash down and,
after some staticky silence, Pierre's ear was filled with dial
tone. Pierre stared at the one-piece phone for more than a
minute as though it were a snake. He couldn't understand getting
such a harsh reaction.
Well, he wasn't about to be stymied so easily. He took a
deep breath, calming himself, then hit the asterisk key to
re-dial the number.
"Hello," said the same woman's voice.
"Please don't hang up," said Pierre quickly, letting his
French accent shine through. "I'm trying to locate Henry James
The woman's voice was suspicious. "How do you know him?"
Pierre felt his heart lift. It was the right phone
"I'm the son of an old friend of his, from when he lived in
Montreal in the early sixties."
Suddenly the woman's voice was full of warmth. "Oh, I'm so
sorry! Forgive me, please. It's just that well, Henry hasn't
been able to use the phone for several years. All our relatives
and friends know that. I thought you were just another one of
those endless telephone sales pitches. I'm sorry!"
Pierre felt trepidation mingling with his relief. "That's
okay," he said, forcing a little laugh. "I hate calls like that,
too." He paused for a moment. "You . . . you said Henry can't
use the phone? Is he okay?"
Pierre could hear the rumble of the woman exhaling heavily
directly into the mouthpiece. "No. No, he's not. I I'm
sorry, I didn't get your name?"
"And you're a friend of Henry?"
"My parents were."
"Why are you calling, may I ask? Has something happened to
one of your parents?"
"Well, my father passed on a while ago. But, no, that's not
why I'm phoning. I just thought " Pierre swallowed, then it
all came out in a rush, the first conscious acknowledgment of the
plan that had been forming at the back of his mind. "I'm going
to be in Toronto over my university's reading week; my mother
suggested I look Henry up. Can I may I speak to him?"
"No, I'm sorry. As I said, he doesn't use the phone much.
He, ah, has Huntington's disease."
Pierre had heard of it a muscular disorder, perhaps?
but really didn't know anything about it. "Oh," he said.
"It makes it hard for him. He has a telephone headset, but
he doesn't like to wear it. He keeps knocking it off with his
"If I could just have a word with him . . ."
"I'd be glad to give him a message," said the woman.
"I really did hope to get to see him when I'm in Toronto."
"He rarely sees anyone anymore. I really don't think "
"Ask him," said Pierre bluntly. "Ask him if he'd like to
see me. Tell him it's Pierre Tardivel." He repeated the last
name. "Tell him I'm Élisabeth's son."
"I really "
"Please," said Pierre.
"All right," said the woman. "I'll ask him, and if he's
interested in hearing from you, I'll phone you back."
"No please. I'll hold on."
"It's long distance, and "
But Pierre feared if the woman were given time to think
about it all, she might decide to ignore his request. "Please.
I'll gladly hold on."
The rumbling of a sigh again. "All right," she said. "I'll
ask him. I'll have to go upstairs. Hang on."
Pierre watched the second hand on his bedroom clock sweep
through four complete circles as he waited. His heart was
Finally, he heard the sound of someone approaching the
phone, then picking up the handset. There was a protracted
silence. He thought perhaps the phone was going to be slammed
down again, but maybe all Mrs. Spade was doing was removing a
"Hello?" said the woman's voice. There was something quite
puzzled about the tone.
"Hello," said Pierre.
"It's the strangest thing," said the woman. "I haven't seen
my husband so agitated for years. To be honest, I don't recall
him ever mentioning a Tardivel family. But when I said the name,
he got quite excited. He says he'd be glad to see you when
you're in town."
"Thank you," said Pierre. His face itched, and he brought
up a hand to scratch his cheek. He was astonished to find that
it was wet. "Thank you very much."
After a restless night, Pierre returned to the university
science library and started digging. Huntington's disease (also
known as Huntington's chorea) turned out to be a very nasty
disorder indeed. First described in 1872, it affects one out of
every ten thousand people, or about half a million people
worldwide. For unknown reasons, it selectively destroys two
small parts of the brain that aid in the controlling of movement:
the putamen and the caudate nuclei. Symptoms for Huntington's,
which normally first manifest themselves between the ages of
thirty and fifty, include abnormal posture, progressive dementia,
and involuntary muscular action the name "chorea" referred to
the dancing movements typical of the disease. The disease
itself, or complications arising from it, eventually kills the
victim; Huntington's sufferers often choke to death on food
because they've lost the muscular control to swallow.
All of that was horrible. All of that was devastating.
Pierre's heart went out to Henry Spade, the father he had yet to
meet. But there was more . . . much more. Pierre staggered out
of the library and wandered around the cold streets of Montreal
for hours, his eyes often being drawn to the giant cross atop
Mount Royal, the hood of his coat only half-protecting his face
from the teeth of Quebec's January wind.
Huntington's disease was a hereditary disorder, an
inherited condition. It was carried on a dominant gene. Every
child of a parent with Huntington's had a fifty-fifty chance of
coming down with Huntington's. Since symptoms did not normally
show up until middle age, Pierre could have the gene and not yet
Pierre found a bench on the street and collapsed onto it,
mentally and physically exhausted, breath escaping in visible
clouds. His search for the beginning of his own life had perhaps
inadvertently given him a foretaste of its end.
Avi Meyer's father, Jubas Meyer, had been one of the fifty
people to escape from the Treblinka death camp. Jubas had lived
for three years after the escape, but had died before Avi was
born. As a child growing up in Chicago, where Avi's parents had
settled after time in a Displaced Persons camp, he'd resented the
fact that Dad wasn't around. But shortly after his Bar Mitzvah
in 1960, his mother said to him, "You're a man now, Avi. You
should know what your father went through what all our people
And she'd told him. All of it.
Yes, his father had escaped the camp, but his father's
brother and three sisters had all been killed there, as had Avi's
grandparents, and countless other people they'd been related to
All dead. Ghosts.
But now, perhaps, the ghosts could rest. They had the man
who had tormented them, the man who had tortured them, the man
who had gassed them to death.
Ivan the Terrible. They had the bastard. And now he was
going to pay.
Avi Meyer was a compact, homely man whose beard grew fast
enough that he needed to shave twice a day. Even though he'd
just turned thirty-four, his shoulders were permanently hunched,
the result of years spent poring over documents in libraries and
archives around the world. He had small eyes, a pug nose, and a
small mouth whose neutral position looked like most other
In March 1979, U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell created
the Office of Special Investigations within the Federal
Department of Justice. Its mission was simple: investigate and
prosecute suspected Nazi war criminals. Avi, who at that time
had been with the Immigration and Naturalization Service,
immediately joined the OSI. This case was their first big
It was a crisp, cold morning, the sky the color of mercury,
as Avi walked from his hotel to the Cleveland courthouse. As he
got close to the building, he cringed. There were demonstrators
waving placards. "Get USSR out of U.S. Courts!" demanded one.
He ground his teeth in fury. That some of the evidence had come
from the Soviet Union was irrelevant. They had the man.
That was all that mattered.
Another placard caught his eye. "Six Million Lies!" His
stomach knotted as he made his way into the building and down the
corridor to the large ceremonial courtroom, normally used for
swearing in new citizens an ironic locale for today's
proceedings, but it was the largest room in the building.
Avi took a seat on an aisle where he could get an
unobstructed view of the defendant, who was already at the
defense table with his lawyers. Avi had met the accused several
times during the OSI's investigation of him. He didn't look
particularly evil: a bald, tubby Ukrainian, sixty years old,
with protruding ears and almond-shaped eyes behind horn-rim
glasses. True, he seemed not nearly as cunning as some reports
had made out Ivan the Terrible to be, but he was hardly the first
man to have had his intellect dulled by the passing decades. And
there was no doubt that his was the same face that appeared on
the Trawniki card obtained from the Soviets a card that proved
he had been trained as a concentration-camp guard in 1942.
The bailiff called for everyone to stand. Judge Frank
Battisti entered with practiced ease and assumed his place at the
bench. He nodded at the court reporter and said, "On the record
now, in the matter of the United States of America, plaintiff,
versus John Demjanjuk, defendant."
Avi smiled without humor. Yes, his name was John now, but
it had been Ivan Demjanjuk in 1951 when he'd applied at
the American consulate in Stuttgart to enter the United States.
Since then, besides ridding himself of the telltale first name,
he'd married, had a daughter and a son, and had worked for years
at a Ford plant. He'd also been active at his church and in
Cleveland's Ukrainian community Ward Cleaver with an accent.
But then a Treblinka survivor named Eugen Turovsky had
picked John Demjanjuk's photo from a spread. The next day,
another survivor had identified him from the same photos.
Shortly after that, a third recognized him as well.
Yes, they had him.
The case would last a month or maybe six weeks, thought Avi,
but when it was over, the motherfucker would pay.
Molly had first seen Ramon as a guest on Tony Orlando and
Dawn when she was twelve or so. Of course, when she was that
age, Ramon had seemed nothing special to her (and love songs like
"Tie a Yellow Ribbon" had seemed wonderful, instead of making her
feel sad and lonely).
As Molly's own gift began to develop, she became fascinated by
Ramon's life and work, always scanning TV Guide for his
name, and re-reading the one book Ramon himself had written and
another book about him she'd found at the Minneapolis Public
She knew most psychics were phonies. But when Ramon had
briefly had his own TV series in the summer of 1978 (a variety
show on CBS that lasted just four installments; Tony Orlando, by
this time Dawn-less, had been his first guest), Molly made
a point of watching each installment, trying to spot any evidence
that he was faking. But no matter how hard she looked, she found
nothing. The guy, it seemed, was legit.
In March 1981 spring break of her first year at
university Molly took a brief trip to Las Vegas. Ramon was
appearing there at the Flamingo Hilton, and Molly had to see him.
When she got to Vegas, she was overwhelmed by everything.
The dry desert heat, the incredibly flat landscape, the beautiful
mountains on the horizon, the huge numbers of tourists, the
grungy men lining the sidewalks distributing leaflets about
Nevada's legal brothels, the incredible velvet and neon and
chrome decadence of the hotels the Tropicana, Aladdin, the
Dunes, Caesar's Palace, and the Flamingo Hilton, where she
herself was staying.
Molly toyed briefly with using her powers to get rich in one
of the casinos, but in most of the games the dealers had no idea
what cards they were holding until they were turned over, and,
besides, she'd spent the last five years taking great pains to
hide her power. She did buy twenty dollars worth of quarters and
spent about forty minutes at a slot machine ("Loosest slots in
town!" proclaimed the sign in the casino), which often enough
spit back small winnings. Classic intermittent reinforcement,
just like Lazarro had taught them in psych class. Of course, by
the end she'd lost it all.
Ramon had two shows each evening, one at eight and another
at ten. The woman at the hotel counter selling tickets explained
that at the later show, Ramon's female assistants were topless;
Molly bought a ticket for the earlier one. Well before eight,
she went down to the showroom. She'd read in the AAA guidebook
that one had to tip well to get a good seat at a Vegas show; she
gave the silver-haired Asian man at the door fifty dollars
almost twice what she'd spent on the show ticket and requested
a table right up front. Molly was doing something she rarely
did: wearing make-up and a tight, low-cut top. She wanted to be
near Ramon, and she wanted to be noticed.
The Asian man seemed suitably impressed by Molly's money and
seated her exactly where she'd asked.
The show began with a stand-up comic who told all the
predictable Vegas jokes. Husband to wife: "You know that money
I told you to keep hidden from me at all costs give it to me
now!" Molly paid no attention and waited nervously for Ramon to
which, at last, he did, wearing his trademark sequined
tuxedo and accompanied by seven beautiful assistants dressed in
ultraminiskirts and satin tops, each one a different color of the
He started off simply enough. "Someone over in this section
of the room is celebrating an anniversary." His voice was tinged
with a slight Italian accent. "Ah, yes. I knew it. Stand up,
please, ma'am. It's a major anniversary, isn't it? No, don't
tell me. Forty years, am I right? And you chose Las Vegas
because you were married here, correct?"
Well, anyone could have pulled off that bit, and Molly could
see men around the room leaning in to their dates and explaining
how it was all just lucky guesses. But then Ramon touched his
forehead and scrunched his eyes as if concentrating. He turned
to the left side of the room. "And over here someone has had a
tragedy recently. The loss of a pet. Yes, sir. Please stand
up. You lost a pet that was very dear to you, no? But but it
was an unusual pet. Not a dog or a cat. It was an iguana,
wasn't it, sir? And his name was . . . was . . ." (here he
scrunched his eyes even tighter) "Carl, wasn't it? Carl, with a
C, not a K . . . after your . . . your father's mother's eldest
The man, a beefy, fellow wearing a brown outback-style
jacket, seemed dumbfounded. He spoke with an Australian accent,
and agreed that Ramon had been correct in every particular.
Next, Ramon called for a volunteer. Molly raised her hand
immediately, stretching in her chair, trying to look as earnest
as possible. The first two times he asked for volunteers, he
chose other people, but on the third request he did indeed pick
He came close to her. Molly saw that he was older than
she'd first thought perhaps as much as fifty, although his
stage makeup tried to hide it. She rose to her feet. "Hello,
young lady," he said. "That's a lovely dress you've got on
but I bet you don't wear clothes like that all the time. I see
you somewhere cold, somewhere with lots of frozen lakes. You
you're from Minnesota, aren't you? Not the capital, though . . .
your home is in Minneapolis, isn't it? Yes, I thought so . . . I
can see you on Nicolet Street. You live in a . . . a house,
don't you? Not an apartment, but a house."
Molly felt her eyes go wide. He was reading her mind. He
was for real. There was someone else like her. She wanted to
shout it out right here, right now, in front of the entire
audience. She was grinning from ear to ear and nodding her head
at everything he said.
He stepped closer, leaned in, entering her zone. He
gallantly lifted her hand, bent to kiss it
And she heard it all, in his mind. He knew everything. Not
just the general details, but her name and her address, too
everything . . . everything that was in the hotel registry about
her. She was staying at this hotel and had charged the tickets
to her room tickets that were numbered. The Asian man had
taken her ticket stub, noted her seating assignment, and now sat
somewhere with a terminal tied into the hotel's computer feeding
details by radio to a tiny receiver concealed beneath Ramon's
carefully styled hair.
Faked. All of it. The Australian his clothing and his
accent designed to make him look like a tourist was doubtless
a plant; the rest simple tricks of word association.
Ramon did kiss her hand, then moved on to someone else.
Molly slumped back down in her seat, and as soon as the spotlight
had panned away from her, began to cry softly to herself in the
More Good Reading
The first two chapters of the
published version of Frameshift
On Writing Frameshift
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