Rawl Winsted’s head felt bruised . It wasn’t a physical feeling but a mental one, a fuzziness in his mind as though his entire brain were wrapped in cotton candy. And there was one particular portion of his memory he simply couldn’t touch. Every time he would send an exploratory thought in that direction it would dissipate into nothingness, leaving him with a feeling of mild confusion.
He knew precisely what was causing that sensation: a hypnotic block. It had been placed there to prevent him from knowing exactly why he’d come to the planet Kolokov, whom he’d worked for and what he’d done. He resented it a little—after all, what man liked having a portion of his life permanently taken away from him? To never know what he’d done or said for a period of about a week was a slightly chilling concept.
But his resentment was slight. He’d accepted the hypnotic block as one of the conditions of his employment on the just-completed job. And besides, his employer—whoever it had been—had given him a substantial bonus for agreeing to the treatment. The thought of the extra ten thousand rublei tucked neatly away in his bank account was a very consoling one.
Even so, his thoughts couldn’t help but be attracted to that blank spot in his mind, like a tongue poking at the vacancy left by a recently extracted tooth.
He brought his mind back to the business at hand. As long as he was on Kolokov, he couldn’t resist the temptation to make a little extra money, and the piece of jewelry on the worktable before him represented a sizable investment that could pay off handsomely. It was a brooch that had been stolen two nights ago—gold set with several small diamonds in the center of a triangle of enormous emeralds. It was an expensive piece, but totally useless in its present form because it was an original and easily identifiable. He had paid the thief only two thousand rublei for it, which was less than half the value of the stones and the gold by themselves.