Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 10 of 61

“All I’m saying is, there’s a difference between you and an exact copy of you, isn’t there?”

I knew what he was doing, distracting me with one of our old fights, but I couldn’t resist the bait, and as I marshalled my arguments, it actually helped calm me down some. Dan was that kind of friend, a person who knew you better than you knew yourself. “So you’re saying that if you were obliterated and then recreated, atom-for-atom, that you wouldn’t be you anymore?”

“For the sake of argument, sure. Being destroyed and recreated is different from not being destroyed at all, right?”

“Brush up on your quantum mechanics, pal. You’re being destroyed and recreated a trillion times a second.”

“On a very, very small level –“

“What difference does that make?”

“Fine, I’ll concede that. But you’re not really an atom-for-atom copy. You’re a clone, with a copied brain — that’s not the same as quantum destruction.”

“Very nice thing to say to someone who’s just been murdered, pal. You got a problem with clones?”

And we were off and running.

The Mansion’s cast were sickeningly cheerful and solicitous. Each of them made a point of coming around and touching the stiff, starched shoulder of my butler’s costume, letting me know that if there was anything they could do for me. . . I gave them all a fixed smile and tried to concentrate on the guests, how they waited, when they arrived, how they dispersed through the exit gate. Dan hovered nearby, occasionally taking the eight minute, twenty-two second ride-through, running interference for me with the other castmembers.

He was nearby when my break came up. I changed into civvies and we walked over the cobbled streets, past the Hall of the Presidents, noting as I rounded the corner that there was something different about the queue-area. Dan groaned. “They did it already,” he said.

I looked closer. The turnstiles were blocked by a sandwich board: Mickey in a Ben Franklin wig and bifocals, holding a trowel. “Excuse our mess!” the sign declared. “We’re renovating to serve you better!”

I spotted one of Debra’s cronies standing behind the sign, a self-satisfied smile on his face. He’d started off life as a squat, northern Chinese, but had had his bones lengthened and his cheekbones raised so that he looked almost elfin. I took one look at his smile and understood — Debra had established a toehold in Liberty Square.

“They filed plans for the new Hall with the steering committee an hour after you got shot. The committee loved the plans; so did the net. They’re promising not to touch the Mansion.”

“You didn’t mention this,” I said, hotly.

“We thought you’d jump to conclusions. The timing was bad, but there’s no indication that they arranged for the shooter. Everyone’s got an alibi; furthermore, they’ve all offered to submit their backups for proof.”

“Right,” I said. “Right. So they just happened to have plans for a new Hall standing by. And they just happened to file them after I got shot, when all our ad-hocs were busy worrying about me. It’s all a big coincidence.”

Dan shook his head. “We’re not stupid, Jules. No one thinks that it’s a coincidence. Debra’s the sort of person who keeps a lot of plans standing by, just in case. But that just makes her a well-prepared opportunist, not a murderer.”

I felt nauseated and exhausted. I was enough of a castmember that I sought out a utilidor before I collapsed against a wall, head down. Defeat seeped through me, saturating me.

Dan crouched down beside me. I looked over at him. He was grinning wryly. “Posit,” he said, “for the moment, that Debra really did do this thing, set you up so that she could take over.”

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