3.

Lilah stood at the wall for some minutes, but she had lost the thread. She turned and found she could see dimly where the stair door was. She headed for it, and before she was out of the shadow of the fog, she could see Marius standing there.

She wandered over toward him, and when she was closer, she still didn’t think he saw her. She stood there looking at him, not really watching him, not really thinking about him. She didn’t know what to think about him. She knew so little. But she was almost sure Marius was not one of them. She was almost sure he was almost as reliable as old Garik. And as soon as she thought that, she thought how fragile Marius was, as fragile as old Garik.

She was remembering. More and more was coming back. It wasn’t half, it probably wasn’t ten percent of what had happened. But she was remembering. She was remembering what happened to Garik.

And she was wondering what had happened to her and how close she had come to what had happened to Garik.

She hastened back to Marius, who saw her dark figure condense out of the fog and smiled his rueful smile, a little startled.

“So, this job. Is it the same kind of job as the one I did on Padva?” she asked.

“You could say that,” Marius replied. “But I don’t know what you remember of your job on Padva, or your job after you left Padva, your second job.” Lilah’s dark, mobile face hardened. Marius said, “You don’t remember—?”

“My second job,” she said. “What’s this about my second job? I have a hard enough time remembering the first job.”

“Well, what do you remember?”

“Marius. What do you know about my job? My first job or my second job? You know something, I need to know what it is.”

“I know very little,” said Marius. “But I would have to know something, or you wouldn’t be here.” He held her gaze, or she held his, for some moments, while he hoped she took him at his word. Then he turned back to the foggy world and said, “You aren’t a household name, by any stretch, but in certain circles you are well-known.”

“As a what?”

“As a cop, actually,” he said. “As a wizard cop.” He sighed. “You will have more questions.”

“Maybe we should go back inside.”

“Trust me,” said Marius, “or don’t trust me, if you like, but this is as secure as anywhere. More, perhaps, because of certain properties of the fog.”

“Marius,” said Lilah, “what is this place exactly? I really want you to tell me.”

“This building, this city, this universe?”

“All of the above.”

Marius looked around, then moved away from the door. He crossed to the far end of the roof, some distance from where Lilah had stood, with the assurance of one who had walked that way often and didn’t have to think about obstacles. She followed him. They came to the parapet and stood leaning against it facing out, side by side.

“This world is this city,” said Marius. “It’s curious, my inclination is to tell you as little as possible, but that’s just instinct. I have no secrets from you, at least not about this place. It’s just—it’s just the sort of place that wants not to be talked about.” He looked at her. “You know what I mean?”

She thought a moment, looking out, perpendicular to him looking at her. “Yeah,” she said, “actually, I do.”

“And as it happens, this world turns out to be an excellent place for an office. There is plenty of room—it’s a theoretically infinite city, you see. Theoretically infinitely many buildings. Infinitely many, each of them finite, I think, but quite large, we are on the fiftieth floor or something, well, our office is.”

She looked at him. He was smiling at the fog. “We?” she repeated.

“Sorry,” Marius replied. “This job. Right now, it would be just me, this is my office, but I am recruiting. And you are my first recruit, or you can be.”

“Marius. Who is supporting this work? Who got you this office?”

“Well,” he said, “one knows of some things. One knows, for instance, that somehow, out of someone’s feverish dream, this little universe was created and exists: well, I say little, but it’s infinite in extent, that’s widely assumed anyway. But, ah,” and he laughed, “I realize now that you meant, who decided I should do this?”

“Or was it your idea? You decided to hire a beat up former famous wizard cop.”

“To police time travelers.”

“Is that what I’m supposed to be doing?”

“It’s what you’ve been doing,” he said. “Didn’t you realize that?”

After some moments, Lilah said, “No, actually. No. I didn’t realize that.” They stared out over the foggy city. “So, to answer my question,” she said.

“So,” said Marius, “various agencies have come to realize that someone needs to do it, and that their reach is not long enough to do it themselves.” Lilah gave just the slightest snort or sigh. Marius looked at her and said, “Really, we are talking about some serious misbehavior. This is not people making money on investments. This is about murder, robbery, kidnaping, seduction—no, let us call it rape, it really is—!”

“Wait. What is? You have a case in mind?”

“Let’s go back down to the office,” said Marius.

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