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FOR a long time the two of them stood studying the small wood house, overgrown with ivy, set back on the lot behind an enormous oak. The little town was silent and sleepy; once in a while a car moved slowly along the distant highway, but that was all. “This is the place,” Gross said to Kramer. He folded his arms. “Quite a quaint little house.” Kramer said nothing. The two Security Agents behind them were expressionless. Gross started toward the gate. “Let’s go. According to the check he’s still alive, but very sick. His mind is agile, however. That seems to be certain. It’s said he doesn’t leave the house. A woman takes care of his needs. He’s very frail.” They went down the stone walk and up onto the porch. Gross rang the bell. They waited. After a time they heard slow footsteps. The door opened. An elderly woman in a shapeless wrapper studied them impassively. “Security,” Gross said, showing his card. “We wish to see Professor Thomas.” “Why?” “Government business.” He glanced at Kramer. Kramer stepped forward. “I was a pupil of the Professor’s,” he said. “I’m sure he won’t mind seeing us.” The woman hesitated uncertainly. Gross stepped into the doorway. “All right, mother. This is war time. We can’t stand out here.” The two Security agents followed him, and Kramer came reluctantly behind, closing the door. Gross stalked down the hall until he came to an open door. He stopped, looking in. Kramer could see the white corner of a bed, a wooden post and the edge of a dresser. He joined Gross. In the dark room a withered old man lay, propped up on endless pillows. At first it seemed as if he were asleep; there was no motion or sign of life. But after a time Kramer saw with a faint shock that the old man was watching them intently, his eyes fixed on them, unmoving, unwinking. “Professor Thomas?” Gross said. “I’m Commander Gross of Security. This man with me is perhaps known to you—” The faded eyes fixed on Kramer. “I know him. Philip Kramer…. You’ve grown heavier, boy.” The voice was feeble, the rustle of dry ashes. “Is it true you’re married now?”
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