The Santaroga Barrierby Frank Herbert
Santaroga seemed to be nothing more than a prosperous farm community. But there was something . . . different . . . about Santaroga.
Santaroga had no juvenile delinquency, or any crime at all. Outsiders found no house for sale or rent in this valley, and no one ever moved out. No one bought cigarettes in Santaroga. No cheese, wine, beer or produce from/p>
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Santaroga seemed to be nothing more than a prosperous farm community. But there was something . . . different . . . about Santaroga.
Santaroga had no juvenile delinquency, or any crime at all. Outsiders found no house for sale or rent in this valley, and no one ever moved out. No one bought cigarettes in Santaroga. No cheese, wine, beer or produce from outside the valley could be sold there. The list went on and on and grew stranger and stranger.
Maybe Santaroga was the last outpost of American individualism. Maybe they were just a bunch of religious kooks. . . .
Or maybe there was something extraordinary at work in Santaroga. Something far more disturbing than anyone could imagine.
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The Santaroga Barrier
By Herbert, Frank
Tor BooksCopyright © 2002 Herbert, Frank
All right reserved.
The sun went down as the five-year-old Ford camper-pickup truck ground over the pass and started down the long grade into Santaroga Valley. A crescent-shaped turn-off had been leveled beside the first highway curve. Gilbert Dasein pulled his truck onto the gravel, stopped at a white barrier fence and looked down into the valley whose secrets he had come to expose.
Two men already had died on this project, Dasein reminded himself. Accidents. Natural accidents. What was down there in that bowl of shadows inhabited by random lights? Was there an accident waiting for him?
Dasein's back ached after the long drive up from Berkeley. He shut off the motor, stretched. A burning odor of hot oil Permeated the cab. The union of truckbed and camper emitted Creakings and poppings.
The valley stretching out below him looked somehow different from what Dasein had expected. The sky around it was a ring of luminous blue full of sunset glow that spilled over into an upper belt of trees and rocks.
There was a sense of quiet about the place, of an island sheltered from storms.
What did I expect the place to be? Dasein wondered.
He decided all the maps he'd studied, all the reports on Santaroga he'd read, had led him to believe he knew the valley. But maps were not the land. Reports weren't people.
Dasein glanced at his wristwatch: almost seven. He felt reluctant to continue.
Far offto the left across the valley, strops of green light glowed among trees. That was the area labeled "green-houses" on the map. A castellated block of milky white on an out-cropping down to his right he identified as the Jaspers Cheese Cooperative. The yellow gleam of windows and moving lights Around it spoke of busy activity.
Dasein grew aware of insect sounds in the darkness around him, the swoop-humming of air through night-hawk' wings and, away in the distance, the mournful baying of hounds. The voice of the pack appeared to come from beyond the Co-op.
He swallowed, thinking that the yellow windows suddenly were like baleful eyes peering into the valley' darker depths.
Dasein shook his head, smiled. That was no way to think. Unprofessional. All the ominous nonsense muttered about Santaroga had to be put aside. A scientific investigation could not operate in that atmosphere. He turned on the cab's done light, took his briefcase from the seat beside him. Gold lettering on the brown leather identified it: "Gilbert Dasein-Department of Psychology-University of California-Berkeley.".
In a battered folder from the case he began writing: "Arrived Santaroga Valley approximately 6:45 p.m. Setting is that of a prosperous farm community...".
Presently, he put case and folder aside.
Prosperous farm community, he thought. How could he know it was prosperous? No-prosperity wasn't what he saw. That was something he knew from the reports.
The real valley in front of him now conveyed a sense of waiting, of quietness punctuated by occasional tinklings of cowbells. He imagined husbands and wives down there after a day of work. What did they discuss now in their waiting darkness?
What did Jenny Sorge discuss with her husband-provided she had a husband? It seemed impossible she'd still be single-lovely, nubile Jenny. It was more than a year since they'd last seen each other at the University.
Dasein sighed. No escaping thoughts of Jenny-not here in Santaroga. Jenny contained part of Santaroga's mystery. She Was an element of the Santaroga Barrier and a prime subject For his present investigation.
Again, Dasein sighed. He wasn't fooling himself. He knew why he'd accepted this project. It wasn't the munificent sum those chain stores were paying the university for this study, nor the generous salary provided for himself.
He had come because this was where Jenny lived.
Dasein told himself he'd smile and act normal, perfectly normal, when he met her. He was here on business, a psychologist detached from his usual teaching duties to make a market study in Santaroga Valley.
What was a perfectly normal way to act with Jenny though? How did one achieve normalcy when encountering the paranormal?
Jenny was a Santarogan-and the normalcy of his valley defied normal explantations.
His mind went to the reports, "the known facts." All the folders of data, the collections of official pryings, the secondhand secrets which were the stock in a trade of the bureaucracy-all this really added up to a single "known fact" about Santaroga: There was something extraordinary at work here, Something far more disturbing than any so-called market study Had ever tackled before.
Meyer Davidson, the soft looking, pink fleshed little man who'd presented himself as the agent of the investment corporation, the holding company behind the chain stores paying for this project, had put it in an angry nutshell at the first orientation meeting: "The whole thing about Santaroga boils down to this-Why were we forced to close our branches there? Why won't even one Santarogan trade with an outsider? That's what we want to know. What's this Santaroga Barrier Which keeps us from doing business there?"
Davidson wasn't as soft as he looked.
Dasein started the truck, turned on his headlights, resumed his course down the winding grade.
All the data was a single datum.
Outsiders found no houses for rent or sale in this valley.
Santaroga officials said they had no juvenile delinquency figures for the state's statistics.
Servicemen from Santaroga always returned when they were discharged. In fact, no Santarogan had ever been known to move out of the valley.
Why? Was it a two-way barrier?
And the curious anomalies: The data had included a medical journal article by Jenny's uncle, Dr. Lawrence Piaget, reputedly the valley's leading physician. The article: "The Poison Oak Syndrome in Santaroga." Its substance: Santarogans had A remarkable susceptibility to allergens when forced to live Away from their valley for extended periods. This was the Chief reason for service rejection of Santaroga's youths.
Data equaled datum.
Santaroga reported no cases of mental illness or mental deficiency to the State Department of Mental Hygiene. No Santarogan could be found in a state mental hospital. (The psychiatrist who headed Dasein's university department, Dr. Chami Selador, found this fact "alarming.")
Cigarette sales in Santaroga could be accounted for by transient purchasers.
Santarogans manifested an iron resistance to national advertising. (An un-American symptom, according to Meyer Davidson.)
No cheese, wines or beers made outside the valley could be marketed to Santarogans.
All the valley's businesses, including the bank, were locally owned. They flatly rejected outside investment money.
Santaroga had successfully resisted every "pork barrel" government project the politicians had offered. Their State Senator was from Porterville, ten miles behind Dasein and well outside the valley. Among the political figures Dasein had interviewed to lay the groundwork for his study, the State Senator was one of the few who didn't think Santarogans were " a pack of kooks, maybe religious nuts of some kind."
"Look, Dr. Dasein," he'd said, "all this mystery crap about Santaroga is just that-crap."
The Senator was a skinny, intense man with a shock of gray hair and red -veined eyes. Barstow was his name; one of the old California families.
Barstow's opinion: "Santaroga's a last outpost of American individualism. They're Yankees. Down Easters living in california Nothing mysterious about 'em at all. They don't ask special favors and they don't fan my ears with stupid questions. I wish all my constituents were as straightforward and honest."
One man's opiniion, Dasein thought.
An isolated opinion.
Dasein was down into the valley proper now. The two-lane road leveled into a passage through gigantic trees. This was the Avenue of the Giants winding between rows of Sequoia gigantea.
There were homes set back in the trees. The datum-data said some of these homes had been here since the gold rush. The scroll work of carpenter gothic lined their eaves. Many were three stories high, yellow lights in their windows.
Dasein grew aware of an absence, a negative fact about the houses he saw: No television flicker, no cathode living rooms, no walls washed to skimmed-milk gray by the omnipresent tube.
The road forked ahead of him. An arrow pointed left to "City Center" and two arrows directed him to the right to "The Santaroga House" and "Jaspers Cheese Co-op."
Dasein turned right.
His road wound upward beneath an arch: "Santaroga, The Town That Cheese Built." Presently, it emerged from the redwoods into an oak flat. The Co-op loomed gray white, bustling with lights and activity behind a chain fence on his right. Across the road to his left stood Dasein's first goal here, a long three-storey inn built in the rambling 1900 style with a porch its full length. Lines of multipaned windows (most dark) looked down onto a gravel parking area. The sign at the entrance read: "Santaroga House--Gold Rush Museum--Hours 9 a.m. to 5 p.m."
Most of the cars nosed to a stone border parallel to the porch were well-kept older models. A few shiny new machines were parked in a second row as though standing aloof.
Dasein parked beside a 1939 Chevrolet whose paint gleamed with a rich waxy gloss. Red-brown upholstery visible through the windows appeared to be hand-tailored leather.
Rich man's toy, Dasein thought.
He took his suitcase from the camper, turned to the inn. There was a smell of new mown lawn in the air and the sound of running water. It reminded Dasein of his childhood, his aunt's garden with the brook along the back. A strong sense of nostalgia gripped him.
Abruptly, a discordant note intruded. From the upper floors of the inn came the raucous sound of a man and woman arguing. The man's voice brusk, the woman's with a strident fishwife qualify.
"I'm not staying in this godforsaken hole on more night," the woman screamed. "They don't want our money! They don't want us! You do what you want; I'm leaving!"
"Belle, stop it! You've..."
A window slammed. The argument dimmed to a muted screeching-mumbling.
Dasein took a deep breath. The argument restored his perspective. Here were two more people with their noses against the Santaroga Barrier.
Dasein strode along the gravel, up four steps to the porch and through swinging doors with windows frosted by scroll etching. He found himself in a high-ceilinged lobby, crystal chandeliers overhead. Dark wood paneling, heavily grained like ancient charts enclosed the space. A curved counter stretched across the corner to his right, an open door behind it from which came the sound of a switch-board. To the right of this counter was a wide opening through which he glimpsed a dining room--white tablecloths, crystal, silver. A western stagecoach was parked at his left behind brass posts supporting a maroon velvet rope with a "Do Not Touch" sign.
Dasein stopped to study the coach. It smelled of dust and mildew. A framed card on the boot gave its history: "Used on the San Francisco-Santaroga route from 1868 to 1871." Below this card was a slightly larger frame enclosing a yellowed sheet of paper with a brass legend beside it: "A note from Black Bart, the Po-8 Highwayman." In sprawling script on the yellow paper it read:
"So here I've stood while wind and rain
Have set the trees asobbin'
And risked my life for that damned stage
That wasn't worth the robbin'."
Dasein chuckled, shifted his briefcase to his left arm, crossed to the counter and rang the call bell.
A bald, wrinkled stick of a man in a black suit appeared in the open doorway, stared at Dasein like a hawk ready to pounce. "Yes?"
"I'd like a room," Dasein said.
"What's you business?"
Dasein stiffened at the abrupt challenge. "I'm tired," he said. "I want a night's sleep."
"Passing through, I hope," the man grumbled. He shuffled to the counter, pushed a black registry ledger toward Dasein.
Dasein took a pen from its holder beside the ledger, signed.
The clerk produced a brass key on brass tag, said: "You get two fifty-one next to that dang' couple from L.A. Don't blame me if they keep y' awake arguing." He slapped the key onto the counter. "That'll be ten dollars...in advance."
"I'm hungry," Dasein said, producing his wallet and paying. "Is the dining room open?" He accepted a receipt.
"Close at nine," the clerk said.
"Is there a bellboy?"
"You look strong enough to carry you own bag." He pointed beyond Dasein. "Room's up them stairs, second floor."
Dasein turned. There was on open area behind the stage-coach. Scattered through it were leather chairs, high wings and Heavy arms, a few occupied by elderly men sitting, reading. Light came from heavy brass floor lamps with fringed shades. A carpeted stairway led upward beyond the chairs.
It was a scene Dasein was to think of many times later as his first clue to the real nature of Santaroga. The effect was that of holding time securely in a bygone age.
Vaguely troubled, Dasein said: "I'll check my room later. May I leave my bag here while I eat?"
"Leave it on the counter. No one'll bother it."
Dasein put the case on the counter, caught the clerk studying him with a fixed stare.
"Something wrong?" Dasein asked.
The clerk reached for the briefcase under Dasein's arm, but Dasein stepped back, removed it from the questing fingers, met an angry stare.
"Hmmmph!" the clerk snorted. There was no mistaking his frustration. He'd wanted a look inside the briefcase.
Inanely, Dasein said: "I...uh, want to look over some papers while I'm eating." And he thought: Why do I need to explain?
Feeling angry with himself, he turned, strode through the passage into the dining room. He found himself in a large square room, a single massive chandelier in the center, brass carriage lamps spaced around walls of dark wood paneling. The chairs at the round tables were heavy with substantial arms. A long teak bar stretched along the wall at his left, a wood-framed mirror behind it. Light glittered hypnotically from the central chadelier and glasses stacked beneath the mirror,
The room swallowed sounds. Dasein felt he had walked into a sudden hush with people turning to look at him. Actually, his entrance went almost unnoticed.
A white-coated bartender on duty for a scattering of customers at the bar glanced at him, went back to talking to a swarthy man hunched over a mug of beer.
Family groups occupied about a dozen of the tables. There was a card game at a table near the bar. Two tables held lone women busy with their forks.
There was a division of people in this room, Dasein felt. It was a matter of nervous tension contrasted with a calmness as substantial as the room itself. He decided he could pick out the transients-they appeared tired, more rumpled; their children were closer to rebellion.
As he moved farther into the room, Dasein glimpsed himself in the bar mirror-fatigue lines on his slender face, the curly black hair mussed by the wind, brown eyes glazed with attention, still driving the car. A smudge of road dirt drew a dark line beside the cleft in his chin. Dasein rubbed at the smudge, thought: Here's another transient.
"You wish a table, sir?"
A Negro waiter had appeared at his elbow-white jacket, hawk nose, sharp Moorish features, a touch of gray at the temples. There was a look of command about him all out of agreement with the menial costume. Dasein thought immediately of Othello. The eyes were brown and wise.
"Yes, please: for one," Dasein said.
"This way, sir,"
Dasein was guided to a table against the near wall. One of the carriage lamps bathed it in a warm yellow glow. As the heavy chair enveloped him, Dasein's attention went to the table near the bar-the card game...four men. He recognized one of the men from a picture Jenny had carried: Piaget, the doctor uncle, author of the medical journal article on allergens. Piaget was a large, gray-haired man, bland round face, a curious Suggestion of the Oriental about him that was heightened by the fan of cards held close to his chest.
"You wish a menu, sir?"
"Yes. Just a moment...the men playing cards with Dr. Piaget over there."
"Who are they?"
"You know Dr. Larry, sir?"
"I know his niece, Jenny Sorge. She carried a photo of Dr. Piaget."
The waiter glanced at the briefcase Dasein had placed in the center of the table. "Dasein," he said. A wide smile put a flash of white in the dark face. "You're Jenny's friend from the school."
The waiter's words carried so many implications that Dasein found himself staring, open-mouthed.
"Jenny's spoken of you, sir," the waiter said.
"The men playing cards with Dr. Larry-you want to know who they are." He turned toward the players. "Well, sir, that's Captain A1 Marden of the Highway Patrol across from Dr. Larry. On the right there, that's George Nis. He manages the Jaspers Cheese Co-op. The fellow on the left is Mr. Sam Scheler. Mr. Sam runs our independent service station. I'll get you that menu, sir."
The waiter headed toward the bar.
Dasein's attention remained on the card players, wondering why they held his interest so firmly. Marden, sitting with his back partly turned toward Dasein, was in mufti, a dark blue suit. His hair was a startling mop of red. He turned his head To the right and Dasein glimpsed a narrow face, tight-lipped Mouth with a cynical downtwist.
Scheler of the independent service station (Dasein wondered about this designation suddenly) was dark skinned, an angular Indian face with flat nose, heavy lips. Nis, across from him, Was balding, sandy-haired, blue eyes with heavy lids, a wide Mouth and deeply cleft chin.
"Your menu, sir."
The waiter placed a large red-covered folder in front of Dasein.
"Dr. Piaget and his friends appear to be enjoying their game," Dasein said.
"That game's an institution, sir. Every week about this hour, regular as sunset-dinner here and that game."
"What do they Play?"
"It varies, sir. Sometimes it's bridge, sometimes pinochle. They play whist on occasion and even poker."
"What did you mean--independent service station?" Dasein asked. He looked up at the dark Moorish face.
"Well, sir, we here in the valley don't mess around with those companies fixin' their prices. Mr. Sam, he buys from whoever gives him the best offer. We pay about four cents less a gallon here."
Dasein made a mental note to investigate this aspect of the Santaroga Barrier. It was in character, not buying from the big Companies, but where did they get their oil products?
"The roast beef is very good, sir," the waiter said, pointing to the menu.
"You recommend it, eh?"
"I do that, sir. Grain fattened right here in the valley. We have fresh corn on the cob, potatoes Jaspers-that's with cheese sauce, very good, and we have hot-house strawberries for dessert."
"Salad?" Dasein asked.
"Our salad greens aren't very good this week, sir, I'll bring you the soup. It's borscht with sour cream. And you'd like beer with that. I'll see if I can't get you some of our local product."
"With you around I don't need a menu," Dasein said. He returned the red-covered folder. "Bring it on before I start eating the tablecloth."
Dasein watched the retreating black-white coated, wide, confident. Othello, indeed.
The waiter returned presently with a streaming bowl of soup, a white island of sour cream floating in it, and a darkly amber mug of beer.
"I note you're the only Negro waiter here." The waiter's voice was suddenly wary.
"I was wondering if Santaroga had any integration problems."
"Must be thirty, forty colored families in the valley, sir. We don't rightly emphasized the distinction of skin color here." The voice was hard, curt.
"I didn't mean to offend you, " Dasien said.
"You didn't offend me." A smile touched the corners of his mouth, was gone. "I must admit a Negro waiter is a kind of institutional accent. Place like this...must've had plenty of Negro waiters here in its day. Kind of like local color having me on the job." Again, that flashing smile. "It's a good job, and my kids are Doing even better. Two of 'em work in the Co-op; other's Going to be a lawyer."
"You have three children?"
"Two boys and a girl. If you'll excuse me, sir, I have other table."
"Yes, of course."
Dasein lifted the mug of beer as the waiter left.
He held the beer a moment beneath his nose. There was a tangy odor about it with a suggestion of cellars and mushrooms. Dasein remembered suddenly that Jenny had praised The local Santaroga beer. He sipped it-soft on the tongue, Smooth, clean aftertaste of malt. It was everything Jenny had said.
Jenny, he thought. Jenny...Jenny...
Why had she never invited him to Santaroga on her regular weekend trips home? She'd never missed a weekend, he recalled. Their dates had always been in mid-week. He remembered What she'd told him about herself: orphaned, raised By the uncle, Piaget, and a maiden aunt...Sarah.
Dasein took another drink of the beer, sampled the soup. They did go well together. The sour cream had a flavor reminiscent of the beer, a strange new tang.
There'd never been any mistaking Jenny's affection for him, Dasein thought. They'd had a thing, chemical, exciting. But no direct invitation to meet her family, see the valley. A hesitant Probing, yes-what would he think of setting up practice in Santaroga? Sometime, he must talk to Uncle Larry about Some interesting cases.
What cases? Dasein wondered, remembering. The Santaroga information folders Dr. Selador had supplied were definite: "No reported cases of mental illness."
Dasein's mind went back to the night he'd proposed. NO hesitant probing on Jenny's parlt then-Could he live in Santaroga?
He could remember his own incredulous demand: "Why do we have to live in Santaroga?"
"Because I can't live anywhere else."
Love me, love my valley.
No amount of pleading could wring an explanation from her. She'd made that plain. In the end, he'd reached with anger boiling out of injured manhood. Did she think he couldn't support her any place but ion Santaroga?
"Come and see Santaroga," she'd begged.
"Not unless you'll consider living outside."
Remembering the fight, Dasein felt his cheeks go warm. It'd been finals week. She'd refused to answer his telephone calls for two days....and he'd refused to call after that. He'd retreated into a hurt shell.
And Jenny had gone back to her precious valley. When he'd written, swallowed his pride, offered to come and see her-no answer. Her valley had swallowed her.
Dasein signed, looked around the dining room, remembering Jenny's intensity when she spoke about Sataroga. This Paneled dining room, the Santarogans he could see didn't fit The picture in his mind
Why didn't she answer my letters? he asked himself. Most likely she's married. That must be it.
Dasein saw his waiter come around the end of the bar with a tray. The bartender signaled, called: "Win." The waiter stopped, rested the tray on the bar. Their heads moved close together beside the tray. Dasein received the impression they were arguing. Presently, the waiter said something with a chopping motion of the head, grabbed up the tray, brought it to Dasein's table.
"Doggone busybody," he said as he put the tray down across from Dasein, began distributing the dishes from it. " Try to tell me I can't give you Jaspers! Good friend of Jenny's and I can't give him Jaspers."
The waiter's anger cooled: he shook his head, smiled, put a plate mounded with food before Dasein.
"Too doggone many busybodies in this world, y' ask me."
"The bartender," Dasein said. "I heard him call you 'Win'"
"Winston Burdeaux, sir, at your service." He moved around the table closer to Dasein. "Wouldn't give me any Jaspers beer for you this time, sir. "He took a frosted bottle from the tray, put it near the mug of beer he'd served earlier. "This isn't as good as what I brought before. The food's real Jaspers, though. Doggone busybody couldn't stop me from doing that.".
"Jaspers," Dasein said. "I thought it was just the cheese."
Burdeaux pursed his lips, looked thoughtful. "Oh, no, sir. Jaspers, that's in all the products from the Co-op. Didn't Jenny Ever tell you?" He frowned. "Haven't you ever been up here in the valley with her, sir?"
"No," Dasein shook his head from side to side.
"You are Dr. Dasein-Gilbert Dasein?"
"You're the fellow Jenny's sweet on, then." He grinned. Said: "Eat up, sir. It's good food."
Before Dasein could collect his thoughts, Burdeaux turned, hurried away.
"You're the fellow Jenny's sweet on," Dasein thought. Present tense...not past tense. He felt his heart hammering, cursed himself for an idiot. It was just Burdeaux't way talking. That was all it could be.
Confused, he bent to his food.
The roast beef in his first bite lived up to Burdeaux's prediction-tender, juicly. The cheese sauce on the potatoes had a flowing tang reminiscent of the beer and the sour cream.
The fellow Jenny's sweet on.
Burdeaux's words gripped Dasein's mind as he ate. Filled him with turmoil.
Dasein looked up from his food, seeking Burdeaux. The waiter was nowhere in sight. Jaspers. It was this rich tang, this new flavor. His attention went to the bottle of beer, the non-Jaspers beer. not as good? He sampled it directly from the bottle, found it left a bitter metallic aftertaste. A sip of the first beer from the mug-smooth, soothing. Dasein felt it cleared his head as it cleared his tongue of the other flavor.
He put down the mug, looked across the room, caught the bartender staring at him, scowling. The man looked away.
They were small things-two beers, an argument between a waiter and a bartender, a watchful bartender-nothing but clock ticks in a lifetime, but Dasein sensed danger in them. He reminded himself that two investigators had met fatal accidents In the Santaroga Valley--death by misadventure...a car going too fast around a corner, off the road into a ravine...a fall from a rocky ledge into a river-drowned. Natural
Thoughtful, Dasein returned to his food.
Presently, Burdeaux brought the Strawberries, hovered as Dasein sampled them.
"Very good. Better than that bottle of beer."
"My fault, sir. Perhaps another time." He coughed discreetly. "Does Jenny know you're here?"
Dasein put down his spoon, looked into his dish of strawberries as though trying to find his reflection there. His mind suddenly produced a memory picture of Jenny in a red dress, vital, laughing, bubbling with energy. "No...not yet," he said.
"You know Jenny's still a single girl, sir?"
Dasein glanced across to the card game. How leathery tan the players' skin looked. Jenny not married? Dr. Piaget looked up from the card game, said something to the man on his left. They laughed.
"Has...is she in the telephone directory, Mr. Burdeaux?" Dasein asked.
"She lives with Dr. Piaget, sir. And why don't you call me Win?"
Dasein looked up at Burdeaux's sharp Moorish face, wondering suddenly about the man. There was just a hint of southern accent in his voice. The probing friendliness, the volunteered information about Jenny-it was all faintly southern, intimate, kindly...but there were undertones of something else: a questing awareness, harsh and direct. The psychologist in Dasein was fully alert now.
"Have you lived very long here in the valley, Win?" Dasein asked.
"'Bout twelve years, sir."
Burdeaux shook his head. A rueful half-smile touched his lips. "Oh, you wouldn't like to hear about that, sir."
"But I would." Dasein stared up at Burdeaux, waiting. Somewhere there was a wedge that would open this valley's Mysteries to him. Jenny not married? Perhaps Burdeaux was that wedge. There was an open shyness about his own manner, Dasein knew, that invited confidences. He relied upon this Now.
"Well, if you really want to know, sir," Burdeaux said. "I was in the N'Orleans jailhouse for cutting' up." (Dasein noted a sudden richening of the southern accent.) "We was doin' our numbers, usin' dirty language that'd make your neck hair walk. I suddenly heard myself doin' that'd make your neck hair view my thinking' and I saw it wad kid stuff. Juvenile." Burdeaux mouthed the word, proud of it. "Juvenile, sir. Well, when I got out of that jailhouse, the high sheriff telling' me never to come back, I went me home to my woman and I tol' Annie, I tol' her we was leavin' That's when we left to come here, sir."
"Just like that, you left?"
"We hit the road on our feet, sir. It wasn't easy an' there was some places made us wish we'd never left. When come here, thought, we knew it was worth it."
"You just wandered until you came here?"
"It was like God was leadin' us, sir. This place, well, sir, it's hard to explain. But...well, they insist I go to school to better myself. That's one thing. I can speak good standard English when I want...when I think about it." (The accent Began to fade.)
Dasein smiled encouragingly. "These must be very nice people here in the valley."
"I'm going to tell you something, sir," Burdeaux said. "Maybe you can understand if I tell you about something happened to me here. It's thing would've hurt me pretty bad one time, but here...We were at a Jaspers part, sir. It was right after Willa, my girl, announced her engagement to Cal Nis. And George. Cal's daddy, came over and put his arm across my shoulder. 'Well there, Win, you old nigger bastard,' he said, 'we better have us a good drink and a talk together because our kids are going to make us related.' That was it, Mr. Dasein. He didn't mean a thing calling me nigger. It was Just like...like the way we call a pale blonde fellow here Whitey. It was like saying my skin's black for A1 Marden And I'd say: 'He's that red-headed fellow over there playing Cards.' As he was saying it I knew that's all he meant. It just came over me. It was being accepted for what I am. It was the friendliest thing George could do and that's why he did it."
Dasein scowled trying to follow the train of Burdeaux's meaning. Friendly to call him nigger?
"I don't think you understand it," Burdeaux said. "Maybe you'd have to be black to understand. But...well, perhaps this'll make you see it. A few minutes later, George said to me: 'Hey, Win, I wonder what kind of grandchildren we're going to have-light, dark or in between?' It was just a kind of wonderment to him, that he might have black grandchildren. He didn't care, really. He was curious. He found it interesting. You know, when I told Annie about that afterward, I cried. I was so happy I cried."
It was a long colloquy. Dasein could see realizations of this fact come over Burdeaux. The man shook his head, muttered: "I talk too much. Guess I'd better..."
He broke off at a sudden eruption of showing at the bar near the card players. A red-faced fat man had stepped back from the bar and was flailing it with a briefcase as he shouted at the bartender.
"You sons of bitches!" he screamed. "You think you're too goddamn' good to buy from me! My line isn't good enough for you! You can make better..."
The bartender grabbed the briefcase.
"Leggo of that, you son of a bitch!" the fat man yelled. "You all think you're so goddamn' good like you're some foreign country! An outsider am I? Let me tell you, you pack of foreigners! This is America! This is a free...
The red-headed highway patrol captain, A1 Marden, had risen at the first sign of trouble. Now, he put a large hand on the screamer's shoulder, shook the man once.
The screaming stopped. The angry man whirled, raised the briefcase to hit stopped. The angry man whirled, raised the man focused on Marden's glaring eyes, the commanding face, hesitated.
"I'm Captain Marden of the Highway Patrol," Marden said. "And I'm telling you we won't have any more of this." His voice was calm, stern...and, Dasein thought, faintly amused.
The angry man lowered the briefcase, swallowed.
"You can go out and get in your car and leave Santaroga." Marden said. "Now. And don't come back. We'll be watching For you, and we'll run you in if we ever catch you in the valley Again."
Anger drained from the fat man. His shoulders slumped. He swallowed, looked around at the room of staring eyes. "I'm glad to go," he muttered. "Nothing'd make me happier. It'll be a cold day in hell when I ever come back to your dirty little valley. You sink. All of you stink." He jerked his shoulder from Marden's grasp, stalked out through the passage to the lobby.
Marden returned to the card game shaking his head.
Slowly, the room returned to its previous sounds of eating and conversation. Dasein could feel a difference, though. The salesman's outburst had separated Santarogans and transients An invisible wall had gone up. The transient families at their tables were hurrying their children, anxious to leave.
Dasein felt the same urgency. There was a pack feeling about the room now-hunters and hunted. He smelled his own perspiration. His palms were sweaty. He noted that Burdeaux had gone.
This is stupid! he thought. Jenny not married?
He reminded himself that he was a psychologist, an observer. But the observer had to observe himself.
Why am I reacting this way? he wondered. Jenny not married?
Two of the transient families already were leaving, herding their young ahead of them, voices brittle, talking about going "on to the next town."
Why can't they stay here? he asked himself. The rates are reasonable.
He pictured the area in his mind: Porterville was twenty-five miles away, ten miles outside the valley on the road he had taken. The other direction led over a winding, twisting mountain road some forty miles before connecting with Highway 395. The closet communities were to the south along 395, at least seventy miles. This was an area of National Forests, lakes, fire roads, moonscape ridges of lava rock-all of it sparsely inhabited except for the Santaroga Valley. Why would people want to travel through such an area at night rather than stay at this inn?
Dasein finished his meal, left the rest of the beer. He had to talk this place over with his department head, Dr. Chami Selador, before making another move. Burdeaux had left the Check on a discreet brown tray-three dollars and eighty-six Cents. Dasein put a five dollar bill on the tray, glanced once More around the room. The surface appeared so damn' normal! The card players were intent on their game. The bartender Was hunched over, chatting with two customers. A child at a Table off to the right was complaining that she didn't want to drink her milk.
It wasn't normal, though, and Dasein's senses screamed this fact at him. The brittle surface of this room was prepared to shatter once more and Dasein didn't think he would like what might be revealed. He wiped his lips on his napkin, took his briefcase and headed for the lobby.
His suitcase stood atop the desk beside the register. There was a buzzing and murmurous sound of a switchboard being operated in the room through the doors at the rear corner. He took the suitcase, fingered the brass room key in his pocket--two fifty-one. If there was no phone in the room, he decided he'd come down and place his call to Chami from a booth.
Feeling somewhat foolish and letdown after his reaction to the scene in the dining room, Dasein headed for the stairs. A few eyes peered at him over the tops of newspapers from the lobby chairs. The eyes look alert, inquisitive.
The stairs led to a shadowy mezzanine--desks, patches of white paper. A fire door directly ahead bore the sign: "To Second Floor. Keep this door closed."
The next flight curved left, dim overhead light, wide panels of dark wood. It led through another fire door into a hall with an emergency exit sign off to the left. An illuminated board opposite the door indicated room two fifty-one down the hall to the right. Widely spaced overhead lights, the heavy pile of a maroon carpet underfoot, wide heavy doors with brass handles and holes for old-fashioned passkeys gave the place an aura of the Nineteenth Century. Dasein half expected to see a maid in ruffled cap, apron with a bow at the back, long skirt and black stockings, sensible shoes--or a portly banker type with tight vest and high collar, an expanse of gold chain at the waist. He felt out of place, out of style here.
The brass key worked smoothly in the door of two fifty-one; it let him into a room of high ceilings, one window looking down onto the parking area. Dasein turned on the light. The switch controlled a tasseled floor lamp beside a curve-fronted teak dresser. The amber light revealed a partly opened doorway into a tiled bathroom (the sound of water dripping there), a thick-legged desk-table with a single straight chair pushed against it. The bed was narrow and high with a heavily carved headboard.
Dasein pushed down on the surface of the bed. It felt soft. He dropped his suitcase onto the bed, stared at it. An edge of white fabric protruded from one end. He opened the suitcase, studied the contents. Dasein knew himself for a prissy, meticulous packer. The case now betrayed a betrayed a subtle disarray. Someone had opened it and searched it. Well, it hadn't been locked. He checked the contents--nothing missing.
Why are they curious about me? he wondered.
He looked around for a telephone, found it, a standard French handset, on a shelf beside the desk. As he moved, he caught sight of himself in the mirror above the dresser--eyes wide, mouth in straight line. Grim. He shook his head, smiled. The smile felt out of place.
Dasein sat down in the straight chair, put the phone to his ear. There was a smell of disinfectant soap in the room--and something like garlic. After a moment, he jiggled the hook.
Presently, a woman's voice came on: "This is the desk."
"I'd like to place a call to Berkeley," Dasein said. He gave the number. There was a moment's silence, then" "Your room number, sir?"
"One moment, please."
He heard the sound of dialing, ringing. Another operator came on the line. Dasein listened with only half his attention as the call was placed. The smell of garlic was quite strong. He stared at the high old bed, his open suitcase. The bed appeared inviting, telling him how tired he was. His chest ached. He took a deep breath.
"Dr. Selador here,"
Selador's India-cum-Oxford accent sounded familiar and close. Dasein bent to the telephone, identified himself, his mind caught suddenly by that feeling of intimate nearness linked to the knowledge of the actual distance, the humming wires reaching down almost half the length of the state.
"Gilbert, old fellow, you made it all right, I see," Selador's voice was full of cheer.
"I'm at the Santaroga House, Doctor,"
"I hear it's quite comfortable."
"Looks that way." Through his buzzing tiredness, Dasein felt a sense of foolishness. Why had he made this call? Selador's sharp mind would probe for underlying meanings, motives.
"I presume you didn't call just to tell me you've arrived," Selador said.
"No...I..." Dasein realized he couldn't express his own vague uneasiness, that it wouldn't make sense, this feeling of estrangement, the separation of Santarogans and Outsiders, the pricklings of warning fear. "I'd like you to look into the oil company dealings with this area," Dasein said. "See if you can find out how they do business in the valley. There's apparently an independent service station here. I want to know who supplies the gas, oil, parts--that sort of thing."
"Good point, Gilbert. I'll put one of out..." There was a sudden crackling, bapping sound on the line. It stopped and there was dead silence.
Damn! Dasein thought. He jiggled the hook. "Operator. Operator!"
A masculine voice came on the line. Dasein recognized the desk clerk's twang. "Who's that creating all that commotion?" the clerk demanded.
"I was cut off on my call to Berkeley," Dasein said. "Could you..."
"Line's out," the clerk snapped.
"Could I come down to the lobby and place the call from a pay phone?" Dasein asked. As he asked it, the thought of walking that long distance down to the lobby repelled Dasein. The felling of tiredness was a weight on his chest.
"There's no line out of the valley right now," the clerk said. "Call can't be placed."
Dasein passed a hand across his forehead. His skin felt clammy and he wondered if he'd picked up a germ. The room around him seemed to expand and contract. His mouth was dry and he had to swallow twice before asking: "When do they expect to have the line restored?"
"How the hell do I know?" the clerk demanded.
Dasein took the receiver away from his ear, stared at it. This was a very peculiar desk clerk...and a very peculiar room the way it wavered and slithered with its stench of garlic and its...
He grew aware of a faint hissing.
Dasein's gaze was drawn on a string of growing astonishment to an old-fashioned gaslight jet that jutted from the wall beside the hall door.
Stink of garlic? Gas!
A yapping, barking voice yammered on the telephone.
Dasein looked down at the instrument in his hand. How far away it seemed. Through the window beyond the phone he could see the Inn sign: Gold Rush Museum. Window equaled air. Dasein found muscles that obeyed, lurched across the desk, fell, smashing the telephone through the window.
The yapping voice grew fainter.
Dasein felt his body stretched across the desk. His head lay near the shattered window. He would see the telephone cord stretching out the window. There was cool air blowing on a distant forehead, a painful chill in his lungs.
They tried to kill me, he thought. It was a wondering thought, full of amazement. His mind focused on the two investigators who'd already died on this project--accidents. Simple, easily explained accidents...just like this one!
The air--how cold it felt on his exposed skin. His lungs burned with it. There was a hammering pulse at his temple where it pressed against the desk surface. The pulse went on and on and on...
A pounding on wood joined the pulse. For a space, they beat in an insane syncopation.
"You in there! Open up!" How commanding, that voice. Open up, Dasein thought. That meant getting to one's feet, crossing the room, turning a door handle...
I'm helpless, he thought. They could still kill me.
He heard metal rasp against metal. The air blew stronger across his face. Someone said: "Gas!"
Hands grabbed Dasein's shoulders, He was hauled back, half carried, half dragged out of the room. The face of Marden, the red-haired patrol captain, swung across his vision. He saw the clerk: pale, staring face, bald forehead glistening under yellow light. There was a brown ceiling directly in front of Dasein. He felt a rug, hard and rasping, beneath his back.
A twanging voice said: "Who's going to pay for that window?" Someone else said: "I'll get Dr. Piaget."
Dasein's attention centered on Marden' mouth, a blurred object seen through layers of distortion. There appeared to be anger lines at the corners of the mouth. It turned toward the hovering pale face of the desk clerk, said: "To hell with your window, Johnson! I've told you enough times to get those gas jets out of this place. How many rooms still have them?"
"Don't you take that tone with me, Al Marden. I've known you since..."
"I'm not interested in how long you've known me, Johnson. How many rooms still have those gas jets?"
The clerk's voice came with an angry tone of hurt: "Only this'n an' four upstairs. Nobody in the other rooms."
"Get 'em out by tomorrow night," Marden said.
Hurrying footsteps interrupted the argument. Dr. Piaget's round face blotted out Dasein's view of the ceiling. The face wore a look of concern. Fingers reached down, spread Dasein's eyelids. Piaget said: "Let's get him on a bed."
"Is he going to be all right?" the clerk asked.
"It's about time you asked," Marden said.
"We got him in time," Piaget said. "Is that room across the hall empty?" "He can have 260," the clerk said. "I'll open it."
"You realize this is Jenny's fellow from the school you almost killed?" Marden asked, his voice receding as he moved away beside the clerk.
"Jenny's fellow?" There was the sound of a key in a lock. "But I thought..."
"Never mind what you thought!"
Piaget's face moved close to Dasein. "Can you hear me, young fellow" he asked.
Dasein drew in a painful breath, croaked, "Yes."
"You'll have quite a head, but you'll recover."
Piaget's face went away. Hands picked Dasein up. The ceiling moved. There was another room around him: like the first one--tall ceiling, even the sound of dripping water. He felt a bed beneath his back, hands beginning to undress him. Sudden nausea gripped him. Dasein pushed the hands away.
Someone helped him to the bathroom where he was sick. He felt better afterward--weak, but with a clearer head, a better sense of control over his muscles. He saw it was Piaget who'd helped him.
"Feel like getting back to bed now?" Piaget asked.
"Yes." "I'll give you a good shot of iron to counteract the gas effect on your blood," Piaget said. "You'll be all right."
"How'd that gas jet get turned on?" Dasein asked. His voice come out a hoarse whisper.
"Johnson got mixed up fooling with the valves in the kitchen," Piaget said. "Wouldn't have been any harm done if some idiot hadn't opened the jet in your room."
"I coulda sworn I had 'em all turned off." That was the clerk's voice from somewhere beyond the bathroom door.
"They better be capped by tomorrow night," Marden said.
They sounded so reasonable, Dasein thought. Marden appeared genuinely angry. The look on Piaget's face could be nothing other than concern.
Could it have been a real accident? Dasein wondered.
He reminded himself then two men had died by accident in this valley while engaged in the investigation.
"All right," Piaget said. "Al, you and Pim and the others can clear out now. I'll get him to bed."
"Okay, Larry. Clear out, all of you." That was Marden.
"I'll get his bags from the other room." That was a voice Dasein didn't recognize.
Presently, with Piaget's help, Dasein found himself in pajamas and in the bed. He felt clearheaded, wide awake and lonely even with Piaget still in the room.
Among strangers, Dasein thought.
"Here, take this," Piaget said. He pressed two pills into Dasein's mouth, forced a glass of water on him. Dasein gulped, felt the pills rasp down his throat in a wash of water.
"What was that?" Dasein asked as he pushed the glass away.
"The iron and a sedative."
"I don't want to sleep. The gas..."
"You didn't get enough gas to make that much difference. Now, you rest easy." Piaget patted his shoulder. "Bed rest and fresh air are the best therapy you can get. Someone'll look in on you from time to time tonight. I'll check back on you in the morning."
"Someone," Dasein said. "A nurse?"
"Yes," Piaget said, his voice brusk. "A nurse. You'll be as safe here as in a hospital."
Dasein looked at the night beyond the room' window. Why the feeling of danger now, then? he wondered. Is it reaction? He could feel the sedative blurring his senses, soothing him. The sense of danger persisted.
"Jenny will be happy to know you're here," Piaget said. He left the room, turning off the light, closing the door softly.
Dasein felt he had been smothered in darkness. He fought down panic, restored himself to a semblance of calm.
Marden's odd conversation with the clerk, Johnson, returned to him. "...Jenny's fellow from the school..."
What had Johnson thought? What was the thing Marden had cut short? Dasein fought the sedative. The drip-drip of water in the bathroom invaded his awareness. The room was an alien cell.
Was it just an accident?
He remembered the fragmented confusion of the instant when he'd focused on that hissing gas jet. Now, when the danger was past, he felt terror.
It couldn't have been an accident!
But why would Johnson want to kill him?
The disconnected telephone call haunted Dasein. Was the line really down? What would Selador do? Selador knew the dangers here.
Dasein felt the sedative pulling him down into sleep. He tried to focus on the investigation. It was such a fascinating project. He could hear Selador explaining the facets that made the Santaroga Project such a glittering gem--
"Taken singly, no item in this collection of facts could be considered alarming or worthy extended attention. You might find it interesting that no person from Cloverdale, California, could be found in a mental hospital. It might be of passing interest to learn that the people of Hope, Missouri, consumed very little tobacco. Would you be alarmed to discover that all the business of Enumclaw, Washington, were locally owned? Certainly not. But when you bring all of these and the other facts together into a single community, something disturbing emerges. There is a difference at work here."
The drip of water in the bathroom was a compelling distraction. Dangerous difference, Dasein thought. Who'll look in on me? he wondered.
It occurred to him to ask himself then who had sounded the alarm. The breaking window had alerted someone. The most likely person would be Johnson, the room clerk. Why would he bring help to the person he was trying to kill? The paranoia in his own thoughts began to impress itself on Dasein.
it was an accident, Dasein thought. It was an accident in a place of dangerous difference.
* * *
Dasein's morning began with a sensation of hunger. He awoke to cramping pains. Events of the night flooded into his memory. His head felt as though it had been kicked from the inside.
Gently, he pushed himself upright. There was a window directly ahead of him with the green branch of an oak tree across it. As though his muscles were controlled by some hidden force, Dasein found himself looking up at the door to see if there was a gas jet. Nothing met his questing gaze but a patch on the wallpaper to mark the place where a jet had been.
Holding his head as level as possible, Dasein eased himself out of bed and into the bathroom. A cold shower restored some of his sense of reality.
He kept telling himself: If was an accident.
A bluejay was sitting on the oak branch screeching when Dasein emerged from the bathroom. The sound sent little clappers of pain through Dasein's head. He dressed hurriedly, hunger urging him. The bluejay was joined by a companion. They screeched and darted at each other through the oak tree, their topknots twitching. Dasein gritted his teeth, faced the mirror to tie his tie. As he was finishing the knot, he saw reflected in the mirror the slow inward movement of the hall door. A corner of a wheeled tray appeared. Dishes clattered. The door swung wider.
Jenny appeared in the doorway pushing the tray. Dasein stared at her in the mirror, his hands frozen at the tie. She wore a red dress, her long black hair caught in a matching bandeaux. Her skin displayed a healthy tan. Blue eyes stared back at him in the mirror. Her oval face was set in a look of watchful waiting. Her mouth was as full as he remembered it, hesitating on the edge of a smile, a dimple flickering at her left cheek.
"Finish your tie," she said. "I've brought you some breakfast.". Her voice had a well-remembered, throaty, soothing tone.
Dasein turned, moved toward her as though pulled by strings. Jenny abandoned the cart, met him half way. She came into his arms, lifting her lips to be kissed. Dasein, feeling the warmth of her kiss and the familiar pressure of her against him, experienced a sensation of coming home.
Jenny pulled away, studied his face, "Oh, Gil," she said, "I've missed you so much. Why didn't you even write?"
He stared at her, surprised to silence for a moment, then: "But I did write. You never answered."
She pushed away from him, her features contorted by a scowl. "Ohhh!" She stamped her foot.
"Well, I see you found him." It was Dr. Piaget in the doorway. He pushed the cart all the way into the room, close the door.
Jenny whirled on him. "Uncle Larry! Did you keep Gil's letters from me?"
Piaget looked from her to Dasein. "Letters? What letters?"
"Gil wrote and I never got the letters!"
"Oh," Piaget nodded. "Well, you know how they are at the post office sometimes--valley girl, fellow from outside."
"Ohhh! I could scratch their eyes out!"
"Easy, girl." Piaget smiled at Dasein.
Jenny whirled back into Dasein's arms, surprised him with another kiss. He broke away slightly breathless.
"There," she said. "That's for being here. Those old biddies at the post office can't dump that in the trash basket."
"What old biddies?" Dasein asked. He felt he had missed part of the conversation. The warmth of Jenny's kisses, her open assumption nothing had changed between them, left him feeling defenseless, way. A year had passed, after all. He'd managed to stay away from here for a year--leaning on his wounded masculine ego, true, fearful he'd find Jenny married...lost to him forever. But what had she leaned on? She could've come to Berkeley, if only for a visit.
And I could've come here.
"Why're you grinning?" he demanded. "And you haven't explained this about the post office and the..."
"I'm grinning because I'm so happy," she said. "I'm grinning because I see the wheels going around in your head. Why didn't one of us go see the other before now? Well, you're here as I knew you would be. I just knew you would be." She hugged him impulsively, said: "About the post office..."
"I thin Gilbert's breakfast is getting cold," Piaget said. "You don't mind if I call you Gilber?"
"He doesn't mind," Jenny said. Her voice was bantering, but there was a sudden stiffness in her body. She pushed away from Dasein.
Piaget lifted a cover from one of the plates on the cart, said: "Jaspers omelette, I see. Real Jaspers."
Jenny spoke defensively with a curious lack of vitality: "I made it myself in Johnson's kitchen."
"I see," Piaget said. "Yes...well, perhaps that'a best." He indicated the plate. "Have at it, Gilbert."
The thought of food made Dasein's stomach knot with hunger. He wanted to sit down and blot the omelette...but something made him hesitate. He couldn't evade the nagging sense of danger.
"What's this Jaspers business?" he asked.
"Oh, that," Jenny said, pulling the cart over to the chair by the desk. "That just means something made with a product from the Co-op. This is our cheddar in the omelette. Sit down and eat."
"You'll like it," Piaget said. He crossed the room, put a hand on Dasein's shoulder, eased him into the chair. "Just let me have a quick look at you." He pinched Dasein's left ear lobe, studied it, looked at his eyes. "You're looking pretty fit. How's the head?"
"It's better now. It was pretty fierce when I woke up."
"Okay. Eat your breakfast. Take it easy for a day or two. Let me know if you feel nauseated again or have any general symptoms of lethargy. I suggest you liver for dinner and I'll have Jenny bring you some more iron pills. You weren't in there ling enough to cause you any permanent trouble."
"When I think of that Mr. Johnson's carelessness, I want to take one of his cleavers to him," Jenny said.
"We are bloodthirsty today, aren't we," Piaget said.
Dasein picked up his fork, sampled the omelette. Jenny watched him, waiting. the omelette was delicious--moist and with a faint bite of cheese. He swallowed, smiled at her.
Jenny grinned back. "You know," she said, "that's the first food I ever cooked for you."
"Don't rush him off his feet, girl," Piaget said. He patted her head, said: "I'll leave you two for now. Why don't you bring your young man along home for diner? I'll have Sarah make what he needs." He glanced at Dasein. "That all right with you?"
Dasein swallowed another bite of the omelette. The cheese left a tangy aftertaste that reminded him of the unpasteurized beer Burdeaux had served. "I'd be honored, sir," he said.
"Honored, yet," Piaget said. "We'll expect you around seven." He glanced at his wristwatch. "It's almost eight-thirty, Jenny. Aren't you working today?"
"I called George and told him I'd be late."
"He didn't object?"
"He knows...I have a friend...visiting." She blushed.
"Like that, eh? Well, don't get into any trouble." Piaget turned, lumbered from the room with a head-down purposeful stride.
Jenny turned a shy, questioning smile on Dasein. "Don't mind Uncle Larry," she said. "He darts around like that--one subject then another. He's very real, wonderful person."
"Where do you work?" Dasein asked.
"At the Co-op."
"The cheese factory?"
"Yes. I'm...I'm on the inspection line."
Dasein swallowed, reminded himself he was here to do a market study. He was a spy. And what would Jenny say when she discovered that? But Jenny posed a new puzzle. She had a superior talent for clinical psychology--even according to Dr. Selador whose standards were high. Yet...she worked in the cheese factory.
"Isn't there any work...in your line here?" he asked.
"It's a good job," she said. She sat down on the edge of the desk, swung her legs "Finish your breakfast. I didn't make that coffee. It's out of the hotel urn. Don't drink it if it's too strong. There's orange juice in the metal pitcher. I remembered you take your coffee black and didn't bring any..."
'Whoa!" he said.
"I'm talking too much I know it," she said. She hugged herself. "Oh, Gil, I'm so happy you're here. Finish your breakfast and you can take me across to the Co-op. Maybe I can take you on the guided tour. It's a fascinating place. There are lots of dark corners back in the storage cave."
Dasein drained his coffee, shook his head. "Jenny, you are incorrigible."
"Gill, you're going to love it here. I know you are," she said.
Dasein wiped his lips on his napkin. She was in love with him. He could see that in every look. And he...he felt the same way about her. It was still love me love my valley, though. Her words betrayed it. Dasein sighed. He could see the blank wall of an unresolvable difference looming ahead of them. If her love could stand the discovery of his true role Would she come away with him?
"Gil, are all right?" she asked.
He pushed his chair back, got up. "Yes. I'm..."
The telephone rang.
Jenny reached behind her on the desk, brought the receiver to her ear. "Dr. Dasein's room." She grinned at Dasein. The grin turned to a scowl. "Oh, it's you, Mr. Pem Johnson, is it? Well, I'll tell you a thing or two, Mr. Johnson! I think you're a criminal the way you almost killed Dr. Dasein! If you'd...No! Don't you try to make excuses! Open gas jets in the rooms,! I think Dr. Dasein ought to sue you for every cent you have!"
A tinny, rasping noise came from the phone. Dasein recognized only a few words. The grin returned to Jenny's face. "It's Jenny Sorge, that's who it is," she said. "Don't you...well, I'll tell you if you'll be quiet for a minute! I'm here bringing Dr. Dasein what the doctor ordered for him--a good breakfast. He doesn't dare eat anything you'd have prepared for him. It'd probably have poison in it!"
Dasein crossed to a trunk stand where his suitcase had been left, opened it. He spoke over his shoulder. "Jenny, what's he want, for heaven's sake?"
She waved him to silence.
Dasein rummaged in the suitcase looking for his briefcase. He tried to remember what had been done with it in the confusion of the previous night, looked around the room. No sign of it. Someone had gone to the other room for his things. Maybe whoever it was had missed the briefcase. Dasein thought of the case's contents, wet his lips with his tongue. Every step of his program to unravel the mystery of the Santaroga Barrier was outlined there. In the wrong hands, that information could cause him trouble, throw up new barriers.
"I'll tell him," Jenny said.
"Wait a minute," Dasein said. "I want to talk to him." He took the phone from her. "Johnson?"
"What do you want?" There was that twangy belligerency, but Dasein couldn't blame him after the treatment he'd received from Jenny.
"My briefcase," Dasein said. "It was in the other room. Would you sent up someone with a key and..."
"Your damned briefcase isn't in that room, mister! i cleaned the place out and I ought to know."
"Then where is it?" Dasein asked.
"If it's that case you were so touchy about lat night, I saw Captain Marden leave with something that looked like it last night after all the commotion you caused."
"I caused?" Outrage filled Dasein's voice. "See here, Johnson! You stop twisting the fasts!"
After only a heartbeat of silence, Johnson said: "I was, wasn't I? Sorry."
Johnson's abrupt candor disarmed the psychologist in Dasein. In a way, it reminded him of Jenny. Santarogans, he found, displayed a lopsided reality that was both attractive and confusing. When he'd collected his thoughts, all Dasein could say was: "What would Marden be doing with my case?"
"That's for him to say and you to find out," Johnson said with all his old belligerence. There was a sharp click as he broke the connection.
Dasein shook his head, put the phone back on its hook.
"Al Marden wants you to have lunch with him at the Blue Ewe," Jenny said.
"Hmmm?" He looked up at her, bemused, her words taking a moment to register. "Marden...lunch?"
"Twelve noon. The Blue Ewe's on the Avenue of the Giants where it goes through town...on the right just pat the first crt me to work."
Dasein picked up his suitcoat, allowed himself to be led from the room.
That damn' briefcase with all its forms and notes and letters, he thought. The whole show! But it gave him a perverse feeling of satisfaction to know that everything would be out in the open. I wasn't cut to be a cloak and dagger type.
There was no escaping the realization, though, that revelation of his real purpose here would intensify Santaroga's conspiracy of silence. And how would Jenny react?
Copyright 1968, 1996 by Frank Herbertr
Excerpted from The Santaroga Barrier by Herbert, Frank Copyright © 2002 by Herbert, Frank. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Frank Herbert was born in Tacoma, Washington, and educated at the University of Washington, Seattle. He worked a wide variety of jobs—including TV cameraman, radio commentator, oyster diver, jungle survival instructor, lay analyst, creative writing teacher, reporter and editor of several West Coast newspapers—before becoming a full-time writer.
Frank Herbert (1920-1986) created the most beloved novel in the annals of science fiction, Dune. He was a man of many facets, of countless passageways that ran through an intricate mind. His magnum opus is a reflection of this, a classic work that stands as one of the most complex, multi-layered novels ever written in any genre. Today the novel is more popular than ever, with new readers continually discovering it and telling their friends to pick up a copy. It has been translated into dozens of languages and has sold almost 20 million copies.
As a child growing up in Washington State, Frank Herbert was curious about everything. He carried around a Boy Scout pack with books in it, and he was always reading. He loved Rover Boys adventures, as well as the stories of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and the science fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs. On his eighth birthday, Frank stood on top of the breakfast table at his family home and announced, "I wanna be a author." His maternal grandfather, John McCarthy, said of the boy, "It's frightening. A kid that small shouldn't be so smart." Young Frank was not unlike Alia in Dune, a person having adult comprehension in a child's body. In grade school he was the acknowledged authority on everything. If his classmates wanted to know the answer to something, such as about sexual functions or how to make a carbide cannon, they would invariably say, "Let's ask Herbert. He'll know."
His curiosity and independent spirit got him into trouble more than once when he was growing up, and caused him difficulties as an adult as well. He did not graduate from college because he refused to take the required courses for a major; he only wanted to study what interested him. For years he had a hard time making a living, bouncing from job to job and from town to town. He was so independent that he refused to write for a particular market; he wrote what he felt like writing. It took him six years of research and writing to complete Dune, and after all that struggle and sacrifice, 23 publishers rejected it in book form before it was finally accepted. He received an advance of only $7,500.
His loving wife of 37 years, Beverly, was the breadwinner much of the time, as an underpaid advertising writer for department stores. Having been divorced from his first wife, Flora Parkinson, Frank Herbert met Beverly Stuart at a University of Washington creative writing class in 1946. At the time, they were the only students in the class who had sold their work for publication. Frank had sold two pulp adventure stories to magazines, one to Esquire and the other to Doc Savage. Beverly had sold a story to Modern Romance magazine. These genres reflected the interests of the two young lovers; he the adventurer, the strong, machismo man, and she the romantic, exceedingly feminine and soft-spoken.
Their marriage would produce two sons, Brian, born in 1947, and Bruce, born in 1951. Frank also had a daughter, Penny, born in 1942 from his first marriage. For more than two decades Frank and Beverly would struggle to make ends meet, and there were many hard times. In order to pay the bills and to allow her husband the freedom he needed in order to create, Beverly gave up her own creative writing career in order to support his. They were in fact a writing team, as he discussed every aspect of his stories with her, and she edited his work. Theirs was a remarkable, though tragic, love story-which Brian would poignantly describe one day in Dreamer of Dune (Tor Books; April 2003). After Beverly passed away, Frank married Theresa Shackelford.
In all, Frank Herbert wrote nearly 30 popular books and collections of short stories, including six novels set in the Dune universe: Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune. All were international bestsellers, as were a number of his other science fiction novels, which include The White Plague and The Dosadi Experiment. His major novels included The Dragon in the Sea, Soul Catcher (his only non-science fiction novel), Destination: Void, The Santaroga Barrier, The Green Brain, Hellstorm's Hive, Whipping Star, The Eyes of Heisenberg, The Godmakers, Direct Descent, and The Heaven Makers. He also collaborated with Bill Ransom to write The Jesus Incident, The Lazarus Effect, and The Ascension Factor. Frank Herbert's last published novel, Man of Two Worlds, was a collaboration with his son, Brian.
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The Santaroga Barrier is a chilling and masterfully depicted tale, worthy of the author Frank Herbert, and (dare I say it?) better even than the acclaimed Dune novels. A psychologist is sent to investigate the enigmatic town of Santaroga, which is utterly void of crime, juvenile delinquincy, or victims of mental disorder, and completely self-sufficient, independentally providing for all internal sustinence requirements. And if that isn't odd enough, no one who enters the town ever returns. They either remain reisdents of Santaroga for the remainder of their lives, or perish in what can only be described as freak accidents. In short, the town just doesn't seem...right. Gilbert Daisin, the appointed psychologist, who is in love with one of Santaroga's residents, is torn between the mysterious quiet splender of the town, the woman he loves, and his devotion to his duty. Through each page of this gripping novel, the reader is forced to endure each heartrending decision which literally rips Gilbert from within his soul, as he struggles to resist the destructive hive mentality of Santaroga. The sheer power of this brilliant novel is not to be underestimated. May the Force be with you!
While many people criticize any of Frank Herbert's work outside of 'Dune,' I feel these criticisms are utterly unfounded. In 'The Santaroga Barrier' Herbert presents to us the tale of Dr. Gilbert Dasein who is being sent to Santaroga by Corporate Interest Groups to explain all the oddities that are occuring in their. This novel is stunning as far as its descriptive powers, it's character building, dialogue, and ideas that Herbert presents to the reader. But--don't believe me--read it for yourself.
This book is a good choice for those who would like to read a Frank Herbert book but are scared by the heft of the Dune series. The suspensful story revolves around a small town in California named Santaroga which is very weary of outsiders. A man sent to do a market study for a chain store finds himself in many strange, often sinister, situations while visiting Santaroga. A real page turner.