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Chapter Twenty-eight

``People are beginning to talk,'' said Fenchurch that evening, after they had hauled her 'cello in.

``Not only talk,'' said Arthur, ``but print, in big bold letters under the bingo prizes. Which is why I thought I'd better get these.''

He showed her the long narrow booklets of airline tickets.

``Arthur!'' she said, hugging him. ``Does that mean you managed to talk to him?''

``I have had a day,'' said Arthur, ``of extreme telephonic exhaustion. I have spoken to virtually every department of virtually every paper in Fleet street, and I finally tracked his number down.''

``You've obviously been working hard, you're drenched with sweat poor darling.''

``Not with sweat,'' said Arthur wearily. ``A photographer's just been. I tried to argue, but --- never mind, the point is, yes.''

``You spoke to him.''

``I spoke to his wife. She said he was too weird to come to the phone right now and could I call back.''

He sat down heavily, realized he was missing something and went to the fridge to find it.

``Want a drink?''

``Would commit murder to get one. I always know I'm in for a tough time when my 'cello teacher looks me up and down and says, `Ah yes, my dear, I think a little Tchaikovsky today.'.''

``I called again,'' said Arthur, ``and she said that he was 3.2 light years from the phone and I should call back.''

``Ah.''

``I called again. ''She said the situation had improved. He was now a mere 2.6 light years from the phone but it was still a long way to shout.``

``You don't suppose,'' said Fenchurch, doubtfully, ``that there's anyone else we can talk to?''

``It gets worse,'' said Arthur, ``I spoke to someone on a science magazine who actually knows him, and he said that John Watson will not only believe, but will actually have absolute proof, often dictated to him by angels with golden beards and green wings and Doctor Scholl footwear, that the month's most fashionable silly theory is true. For people who question the validity of these visions he will triumphantly produce the clogs in question, and that's as far as you get.''

``I didn't realize it was that bad,'' said Fenchurch quietly. She fiddled listlessly with the tickets.

``I phoned Mrs Watson again,'' said Arthur. ``Her name, by the way, and you may wish to know this, is Arcane Jill.''

``I see.''

``I'm glad you see. I thought you mightn't believe any of this, so when I called her this time I used the telephone answering machine to record the call.''

He went across to the telephone machine and fiddled and fumed with all its buttons for a while, because it was the one which was particularly recommended by Which? magazine and is almost impossible to use without going mad.

``Here it is,'' he said at last, wiping the sweat from his brow.

The voice was thin and crackly with its journey to a geostationary satellite and back, but it was also hauntingly calm.

``Perhaps I should explain,'' Arcane Jill Watson's voice said, ``that the phone is in fact in a room that he never comes into. It's in the Asylum you see. Wonko the Sane does not like to enter the Asylum and so he does not. I feel you should know this because it may save you phoning. If you would like to meet him, this is very easily arranged. All you have to do is walk in. He will only meet people outside the Asylum.''

Arthur's voice, at its most mystified: ``I'm sorry, I don't understand. Where is the asylum?''

``Where is the Asylum?'' Arcane Jill Watson again. ``Have you ever read the instructions on a packet of toothpicks?''

On the tape, Arthur's voice had to admit that he had not.

``You may want to do that. You may find that it clarifies things for you a little. You may find that it indicates to you where the Asylum is. Thank you.''

The sound of the phone line went dead. Arthur turned the machine off.

``Well, I suppose we can regard that as an invitation,'' he said with a shrug. ``I actually managed to get the address from the guy on the science magazine.''

Fenchurch looked up at him again with a thoughtful frown, and looked at the tickets again.

``Do you think it's worth it?'' she said.

``Well,'' said Arthur, ``the one thing that everyone I spoke to agrees on, apart from the fact that they all thought he was barking mad, is that he does know more than any man living about dolphins.''


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