“Interrogating is not a simple business anymore.”
Charlie and Mr. Jonah were sitting in a large office that was professionally gray and square, and Charlie admired the room’s balance of furniture and emptiness. He felt good that everything on the desktop and in the black bookshelf had a specific place and function.
Mr. Jonah moved closer to the great window that stretched from floor to ceiling. Boston’s compact skyline huddled around them, and in the distance there was some smoke from Charlestown but beyond that were the low humps of green hills. The glass was lightly tinted blue, and because the window faced north the direct glare of the sun never came into the office.
“Interrogating is not a simple business,” he said again. “I don’t mean the act itself—I certainly don’t have the authority to tell you about that, since you can do it and I obviously can’t. Otherwise I wouldn’t be in this kind of position. I’d be sitting right where you are, if I could do what you can do.” Charlie smiled politely, fidgeted with the knot of his tie, which he had retied three times an hour ago.
“I mean it’s not a simple business. The numbers, the schedules, the economics of the thing—none of that is simple. The most difficult part of working for a company like ContraData if you’ve been developing the skill on your own, out there in the world, is realizing that what you can do is no longer just a part of your own experience. Realizing that it now affects thousands of agents, managers, accountants, executives all over the world. Not to mention, of course, the clients involved in the specific cases that you have. Time and again.”
Through his window, Mr. Jonah watched a world that was not moving.
“Sometimes I envy my agents—I really do. Sometimes I wish I could feel what you feel when you first realize you’ve actually done it—that hazy moment when it really is 1979 again, or when you hear the first notes from a radio that reminds you that some singer from the nineties is still alive wherever you are.”
He looked Charlie in the eye, and the receding gray of his hair was icy against the blue of the window.
“But sometimes I wouldn’t want to be you for anything in the world, Charlie.”
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