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What The Left Hand Was Doing

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There is no lie so totally convincing as something the other fellow already knows-for-sure is the truth. And no cover-story so convincing…

The building itself was unprepossessive enough. It was an old-fashioned, six-floor, brick structure that had, over the years, served first as a private home, then as an apartment building, and finally as the headquarters for the organization it presently housed.

It stood among others of its kind in a lower-middle-class district of Arlington, Virginia, within howitzer range of the capitol of the United States, and even closer to the Pentagon. The main door was five steps up from the sidewalk, and the steps were flanked by curving balustrades of ornamental ironwork. The entrance itself was closed by a double door with glass panes, beyond which could be seen a small foyer. On both doors, an identical message was blocked out in neat gold letters: The Society For Mystical and Metaphysical Research, Inc.

It is possible that no more nearly perfect cover, no more misleading front for a secret organization ever existed in the history of man. It possessed two qualities which most other cover-up titles do not have. One, it was so obviously crackpot that no one paid any attention to it except crackpots, and, two, it was perfectly, literally true.

Spencer Candron had seen the building so often that the functional beauty of the whole setup no longer impressed him as it had several years before. Just as a professional actor is not impressed by being allowed backstage, or as a multimillionaire considers expensive luxuries as commonplace, so Spencer Candron thought of nothing more than his own personal work as he climbed the five steps and pushed open the glass-paned doors.

Perhaps, too, his matter-of-fact attitude was caused partially by the analogical resemblance between himself and the organization. Physically, Candron, too, was unprepossessing. He was a shade less than five eight, and his weight fluctuated between a hundred and forty and a hundred and forty-five, depending on the season and his state of mind. His face consisted of a well-formed snub nose, a pair of introspective gray eyes, a rather wide, thin-lipped mouth that tended to smile even when relaxed, a high, smooth forehead, and a firm cleft chin, plus the rest of the normal equipment that normally goes to make up a face. The skin was slightly tanned, but it was the tan of a man who goes to the beach on summer weekends, not that of an outdoorsman. His hands were strong and wide and rather large; the palms were uncalloused and the fingernails were clean and neatly trimmed. His hair was straight and light brown, with a pronounced widow's peak, and he wore it combed back and rather long to conceal the fact that a thin spot had appeared on the top rear of his scalp. His clothing was conservative and a little out of style, having been bought in 1981, and thus three years past being up-to-date.

Physically, then, Spencer Candron, was a fine analog of the Society. He looked unimportant. On the outside, he was just another average man whom no one would bother to look twice at.

The analogy between himself and the S.M.M.R....