Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8
On Thursday the next week, the 17th of May, at about 10:24 AM, Latham and Charlie and Spilman were approaching a side entrance of the Latham plant. It was Charlie's 2nd visit here. He was so excited that he was jumping up and and down. As Latham unlocked the side door, Charlie shouted, "It's nice in there!" and he ran in ahead of the other two. Latham closed the door behind Charlie.
"He going to to be alright in there by himself?" Spilman asked.
"He's not by himself. Everybody in there knows him, and almost all of them like him very much or are pretending to. And this time we've got his own work table and tools waiting for him. Believe me, he'll be just fine. Won't miss the two of us a bit."
Spilman said, "Freddy tells me the drive to overturn Factory & Workshop is... dead. Deader than dead. They're worse off than when they started."
"That's what I've been told as well," Latham replied. As Spilman had said last week, the money he and his associates were going to steal, money intended to bribe MP's, couldn't be reported as stolen, because it was off the books, unreported income, and reporting the theft would instigate an investigation. But something better than they could've hoped had happened: one of the bribers did report the theft of a satchel containing thirty-five thousand pounds, which had been intended to be divided into bribes for three MP's. (Instead, it had been divided into anonymous donations to various charities in London, Liverpool and Dublin.) The courier who'd been relieved of the satchel turned out not to have very steady nerves: in exchange for anonymity and immunity from prosecution, he'd named many names in the bribery campaign. Intentionally or not, news of the bribery investigation (as well as news of the by comparison much less sensational investigation into unreported income) was leaked to the press and had made headlines five days in a row now, counting today. Unknown to the press but known to Spilman and Latham and their friends, some of the MP's who'd already received bribes had given them back. These MP's, to a man, were now publicly, loudly, denouncing bribery and corruption and singing the praises of the poor exploited salt of the Earth.
"Do you realize what a genius Charlie is?" Latham said. "I met him to begin with because, last week, he saw less than a third of the face of an ordinary watch protruding from a pocket of man running past him at full speed on a crowded railroad platform, and he knew exactly what kind of watch it was. Even saw a distinctive scratch on the case. Also, he saw from that fleeting glimpse that the watch was attached to a platinum chain. If you saw a watch chain for half a second, could you tell if it was platinum or silver or nickel or steel? I certainly couldn't. He makes incredibly detailed and accurate drawings quicker than I can blow my nose. He can fix a watch with his bare hands in ten seconds, with no magnification, that'd take me ten minutes with a ten-power loupe and five different specialized tools. Now we're giving him the loupes and all the tools and the bright lamps and a proper workspace, and the benefit of all of our experience and advice. God knows what he'll be able to do. He's simply awesome."
"He's an idiot savant, then."
"I object to the term 'idiot' being applied to Charlie."
"Hey, hey," Spilman said, "no offense to Charlie. I love the little guy, and I'm not pretending. Drop the 'idiot,' then. He's a savant. He's focused onto certain things. He identified the fugitive's watch, but remembered nothing about his face or clothes. He'll fix man's watch with his bare hands, but forget the man's name."
"Yes, he does miss a lot that most of us notice, and that is because he's focused on other things. Still. You or I could focus and concentrate as hard as we wanted to, for years, and we'd still be very far from doing some things Charlie does. As a man who loves his work, and has concentrated very hard on watches since he was a small boy, trust me when I say this."
"Oh, I believe you, Al. I know Charlie has very rare talents. I've noticed. Oh, oh... It bothers you when I call you 'Al,' doesn't it? That's alright. I'll call you Latham. It's fine. Whatever makes you comfortable. If you want me to call you 'Shirley,' I shall."
"Thanks, Spilman. 'Latham,' for now. I know it's a bit quirky of me." Latham also knew that his sensitivity about what people called him -- his family called him "Albert" or "Al," and he preferred that no one else did -- he knew that this was an example of the symptoms of the condition he shared with Charlie, who didn't like to be called "Evans." But he still hadn't talked about autism to anyone except Inspector Raymond, and his father, and Eugen Bleuler, who'd coined the term "autistic," and with whom Latham corresponded in German.
"It's fine, Latham. It makes you more comfortable, and it's no more difficult for me. So, you think some of your people may only pretend to dote on Charlie? Think there may be some resentment of the Wunderkind?"
"I have no specific suspicions of something like that. It's just -- I can't read people's minds. And from Charlie's point of view, it makes no difference. We are what we pretend to be."
"'We are what we pretend to be!'" Spilman exclaimed. "There's a portentious statement. Are you a Nietzschean? That sounded somewhat Nietzschean. 'Wir sind das, was wir vorgeben zu sein.'"
"I like Nietzsche. And Shaw. And Freud. And Marx. And Heine. And many other authors. But I don't think of myself as an -an, or an -ist, or an -ian of any sort. In fact, I hope I'm not. If I were, I think that would mean I was missing a lot of the most important points those and other great writers were attempting to make. And you, Spilman?"
"What you just said. And very well-said. I try to be my own man."
"Oh, I don't think there's the slightest doubt in your case, Spilman." They had strolled to the front doors of the factory. "Well, shall we give you a tour of the plant, then?"