art by Steven R. Stewart
by James Patrick Kelly
Marva wanted to keep an open mind, but she suspected that Doctor Kamer wasn't about to help her. Maybe it was the background music playing in his office. Baroque sonatas. Too damn serene. Over-confident. Doctors had ruined her life and this one was like all the rest. And then there was the curved furniture, and the moonscape on his flix. So he had the kind of income that could buy a vacation in space. Blood money, squeezed from other people's misery.
"So Mrs. Gundersen," he said. "Why are you here today?"
"Didn't you read my file?"
"I did." He blinked at the desktop and it lit up; the reflected light of a folder turned his skin to milk as he peered at it. "I have reports from Drs. Maffei and Orosco and Smithson and Dejani."
"Then you know what I want."
"May I hear it in your own words?"
She hated being the person it was about. "I had a memory implanted," she said. "It was a mistake. I want it gone."
"Why do you think it was a mistake?"
"Because it changed who I am."
"And who were you?"
Her hands closed into fists. She could tell that he had made up his mind about her. "Okay. I thought I was happily married. Jeff and I were together for twelve years. Never a hint of trouble. We were content, at least I was. I was never suspicious. Never. That wasn't the kind of person I was." She noticed his fingers tapping on the desktop. "You're taking notes?"
"Is that a problem?"
She batted at the air in front of her as if to ward off a bad smell. "Two years ago he was in Manhattan to negotiate a deal for the patents to new flash steam process. He was an intellectual property lawyer. He and Cindy were killed in the VX nerve gas attack in Times Square. They were seeing the robot revival of Cats. Cindy was his secretary. Got that?"
"He was staying at the Algonquin. Cindy wasn't supposed to be in New York."
"What do you mean, all right? He didn't tell anyone she was going."
"You think there was something suspicious going on.
"I think they were having an affair."
He swiped several pages of her file, looking for something. "It says here that they were staying in separate rooms."
She reached behind her neck and tugged at the short hairs. "I went down to identify the body." The pain helped her focus. "Afterwards, I had to pack up his things. A pair of her shoes were in his hotel room."