Dirk began to follow Eric the following day. He found an excellent
spot, where he could stand and peer over a newspaper into Eric's enclosure in case the rhino tried any funny business. He
found how easy following a caged animal really was, and even began thinking of changing to exclusively investigating cases
involving unescaped zoo animals. By the end of the second day of his in-depth surveillance he'd changed his mind, partially
because he realised that he would find it even harder to make a profit, and partially because he was so unbelievable, monumentally,
unquestionably BORED. There wasn't anywhere in Eric's pen that could hide three whole tons of rhinoceros, so Dirk began
to try and find ways of obscuring the creature from his view. It was on the third day, when he was trying to hide the rhino
using the bars of an adjacent cage, that he noticed something that rather startled him.
Eric was following Dirk, too. Or at least, Eric's nose was.
Wherever Dirk endeavoured to stand, at least one if not both
of Eric's nostrils was always pointed at him. Dirk ambled around the pen nonchalantly, and, sure enough, the rhinoceros' nose
was always pointed at him. He tried the other direction. Eric's nostrils stared at him. Even more worryingly, the rhino itself
didn't seem to be moving either. It was just always pointed in such a way that one of its nostrils was pointed straight at
Still, Dirk knew his success was guaranteed, and so he made
a note of the rhino's unusual ability and decided that, having achieved this first vital step toward the ultimate understanding
of the real metaphysical truths behind the fundamental interconnectedness of all things, he deserved a jolly nice coffee and
possibly even some cake. The rhinoceros' nostrils followed him as he headed toward the café and were still with him when he
bought himself a coffee and an elaborate cake, which was, to the eye of an expert on unhealthy indulgences such as Dirk, a
masterpiece of aeronautic design - a fine example of the culinary world meeting that of Leonardo Da Vinci - but was to the
palette a bit of soggy bread with decidedly tepid cream on it. As Dirk sat to eat it, and to drink the brown dishwater that
he'd been served with it in a cup, he pulled out his latest overpriced toy.
He'd seen it in a shop on the way to the zoo the previous morning
and had immediately wanted it. It had cost eight hundred dollars, and it was a very, very small, awesomely fragile mobile
phone. The chances of it not being lost or broken by the end of the month were close to nothing, but he'd had to have it.
It had a WAP feature, E-mail, a calculator, a watch, a stopwatch, a calendar, a scheduler attachment for the calendar, a random
number generator for lottery numbers, a variety of games, an I-Ching feature almost identical to a useless gadget Dirk had
bought about a year before, it had predictive text messaging that, despite having over 50,000 words in its dictionary, was
incapable of accepting the words house, pig or ecumenical, and it could record its own ring tones. Dirk hadn't the faintest
idea how any of these things worked, however, and from the moment he bought it he'd been locked in a mighty struggle to try
and turn the key lock off.
Dirk's only real desire in this entire key lock effort was to
ring Kate and get her to look up everything ever written about rhinos for him. After all, he himself now had to spend all
his time watching Eric, especially because Eric was now watching him, and Jimmy was actually proving to be a decidedly useless
ally. Among other things, Jimmy couldn't read or write, and spent all his time watching truly awful Australian soap operas,
ordering huge amounts of pizza delivered to the apartment, and, most irritatingly of all, ringing Dirk's expensive and inoperable
mobile phone. Jimmy was able to use every extra feature, and also knew both the key lock command and the number of the accursed
technological conundrum, yet constantly insisted that he could not, under any circumstances, reveal the secret. "You told
me. If I teach you, then it's a paradox. You tol' me something very, very bad would happen if we had one of those." Worse,
Dirk understood that the kangaroo was right, and the impotence that being wrong would give him would be even worse than merely
hating the truth.
It all exemplified Jimmy's main character flaws - namely that
he learned quickly, and he was ruthlessly bright. Dirk would have appreciated this if it weren't for the fact that Jimmy had
been spending all his time with Dirk's future self, and so was becoming even more like Dirk than he was himself. He'd already
learned all of Dirk's best tricks and loopholes, including the art of constructing the most unbelievably awesome, terrific
fantasy world of lies and deceit and yet still get away with calling it an expense form. Worse still, Gently had told Jimmy
in extensive detail about the dangers inherent in creating a time paradox, and Dirk himself hated himself for it. Jimmy had
known more than he did on the subject, and so Dirk had read a book in order to avoid the horror of being less intelligent
than a talking kangaroo. It was only after he'd finished that he realised that if he'd not read the book, Jimmy couldn't have
learned anything from him, and so he hated himself even more for that. He looked at his personal investigation in his notebook,
and added 'manipulative', 'gullible' and finally, in capitals, 'self-loathing'.
Theory on time paradoxes says that if you create a paradoxical
loop in the time stream then the universe will come to a sudden, catastrophic end when time notices people are pissing about.
As a result, it would be a really bad idea if, for a handy example, you are taught how to use an item like a mobile phone
by a kangaroo who you will, in your lifetime, go on to teach. As a result, Jimmy, who learned to use the phone when future
Dirk told him, couldn't, and indeed wouldn't, tell Dirk until after Dirk himself knew anyway. While telling Jimmy this had
almost certainly saved the nature of existence, Dirk utterly hated himself for it.
Don't misunderstand; Dirk felt that the rules of causality were
some of the finest, least bendable, most unbreakable rules in the history of, well, everything. It was just he didn't feel
they should ever apply to him. It meant that there was no way at all, for example, for him to find out who hired him. All
he knew about the case, and all Jimmy could tell him, was that he would succeed without trying, which just made him try even
harder to find out what he was trying to do, and that that loathsome bastard would be claiming all Dirk's obscenely elaborate
expenses. Although Dirk himself would claim them in about ten weeks' time, and for him to do so now would cause a paradox,
he still felt that this was not really on. He underlined 'self-loathing' several times for this piece of bastardy alone.
Eric's nostrils followed him out the park as he headed for the
"So Dirk, you're telling me that you are in Santa Fe." Kate
idly watched as Thor attempted to put the huge pane of glass into the broken window. It was obviously too big, but he just
couldn't get his head round the idea.
"In America? Not some restaurant in Charing Cross?" Thor was
trying to slot the sheet across the entire wall. It just barely fit. Kate vaguely wondered how he'd brought it into the house.
"No, the one in America."
"And yet I saw you in your office not twenty minutes ago?" Thor
turned to Kate with pride, having trapped the entire window, and most of the wall, behind the huge block of glass. Kate shook
"Dirk, are you sure you aren't on some form of hallucinogenic
drugs?" Kate looked away as Thor's brow crinkled, and then he raised his hammer.
"Kate, do I seem the kind to take hallucinogens?....Kate?"
"Well, it might just be overwork.." Smash! Smash! Smash!
"No, just listen to me, OK? The me that you saw at my office
is me, but it's me from the future. He replaced me because he was thrown into the past, but I think he went via the future.
Anyway, now I've got to go into the future so I can go into the past so that you can see me in my office at the present. Even
though it is technically now the past."
"Dirk, about those drugs..." Thor roared in anguish when he
found that one piece of glass that had been too big had, for reasons he couldn't quite grasp, chosen to become around five
thousand small pieces.
"No, no, no. None of that matters at the moment. Look, I just
need you to find out what number this is, and then look up everything you can about rhinos. Then ring me back and tell me
"What do you want to know about rhinos for?" Still sulphurously
angry, Thor stamped out of the room. He'd given up glaring at the elks when they'd all begun to hide from him, so he'd now
moved on to wildebeest. Kate hoped the zookeepers wouldn't complain again. The last one had only got out of the tree by luck,
and no one was quite sure how he made it back to the footpath before the lions reached him.
"Not whole rhinos, just the nostrils. Anyway, I've got to go,
I'm nearly out of..."
Kate sighed as she headed for the computer. She had started
to agree with her mother. Why couldn't she just find a nice, normal man and settle down?
As Dirk stood and waited by the payphone, he pulled out the
manual for his mobile and leafed through it moodily. The problem with his reading style was that he refused to learn anything
particularly useful from the manual, as that would mean he hadn't already known something. However, he knew he had to find
out how the damned thing worked, or Jimmy wouldn't be able to ring it, and this upset him further as he felt he was being
forced to do something. Dirk didn't like to feel forced. He would have preferred to have merely been leafing through the text
in order to refresh his memory on things he had no idea about whatsoever. He rang Kate again to moan to her about this, and
she really didn't seem sympathetic at all, so he decided to read through the manual properly and stop being so silly. This
in turn made him more upset.
The entire book seemed useless. The first thirty pages contained
all sorts of information about the nature of the mobile phone revolution, what the silicon chip had done for us, and how to
mould plastic into a ridiculously small box around a bundle of these chips. It then went on to give a further ten pages purely
dedicated to showing him all the other wonderful phones he hadn't bought, and which were all, the book explained, far inferior
to his, before concluding with a fifteen page history of the company and three separate registration cards for the phone,
the charger and the simcard. He found his phone number in a footnote on page twenty seven, and how to turn the key lock off
from a passing six year old with the same model as himself.
He rang Kate to tell her the phone number, and she said a number
of rather unpleasant things about what he could do with the phone if he didn't leave her alone to look for information about
rhinos for him. She seemed very tetchy these days.
Dirk proceeded to the zoo again, and found, somewhat distressingly,
that Eric was still watching him. This wasn't really getting him anywhere, so he took a fresh newspaper from a man eating
some biscuits and flagrantly began to read it in front of him. Much to Dirk's disappointment, the man didn't react in any
way at all, so he ate one of the biscuits as well.
Unfortunately, the chap seemed to show no ill-feeling about
this at all. He was the very heart of generosity itself, and even moved the plate slightly closer to Dirk so he could get
to them more easily. This infuriated Dirk. It meant that the man sitting opposite him was almost certainly a much better person
than he was, and for this reason alone Dirk decided that he simply must make this pompous buffoon pay for this mistake by
bringing him down to his own level. He took another biscuit and then noisily slurped the man's coffee. The man responded by
standing up and, quite needlessly, went and bought Dirk another cup, and also two slices of cake. He clearly was no more bothered
than at the start. Dirk chose to add repeatedly kicking the man in his left shin, not hard enough to particularly hurt but
enough to become highly annoying. Still nothing. Dirk leaned over to him.
"Do you mind?"
"Well, I've been reading your paper, eating your biscuits, and
drinking your coffee. Now I'm kicking you in the leg as well. So, do you mind?"
"No, not at all. Do carry on."
"Why not?" whined Dirk with a slight pout.
"Well, I don't think it fair to limit your enjoyment."
Dirk leaned back to think about this. He lit a cigarette.
"What the hell are you doing? This is California!" The man cast
him a look of total disgust and stormed out of the café. Dirk felt much better, and decided that he was not, after all, going
to quit smoking. He did, however, still need someone to talk to, and as Kate did not seem likely to want to hear from him
it would have to be Jimmy.
One of the few benefits that Jimmy's partnership did offer Dirk
was that the kangaroo was actually able to drive. Why Gently had felt the need to teach him was uncertain, but Dirk knew it
meant he would now have to do so in the future, and it had, he admitted, proved quite useful. On the other hand, how a heavily-armed,
talking kangaroo with no disposable income could come to possess a sleek, blue convertible was one of those questions Dirk
found nagging at him whenever he was in it. He just got the feeling that his other self had allowed Jimmy to cause all sorts
of trouble that would soon be coming to bite Dirk on his posterior, and that he'd done it all out of spite. Dirk felt comforted
that he would be able to do similar things to himself in the future, but also dreaded how imaginative he could be. He rang
Jimmy and asked him to come and pick him up.
The convertible looks much as it did in chapter 8, except that
Jimmy has seen the need to blackout the glass in the windows with black paint, as even in L.A. a kangaroo cannot hold a driving
licence, however, as he drove much too fast and kept several different automatic weapons in the vehicle, he was able to pass
as just any other road user. Dirk found this irresponsible and very annoying, and knew Gently had arranged this all. He moved
'self-loathing' onto an entirely fresh page and climbed into the car.
"Why exactly do you have a convertible, Jimmy? You can't drive
with the roof down."
"I can't get in with the roof up." Jimmy gave another of his
grins. Dirk was undecided if it was worse than his own. The kangaroo began to drive back to the apartment, but Dirk stopped
"No, take me somewhere I can buy a clipboard."
"What? How the hell am I supposed to know where you buy a bleeding
clipboard? Even if I did, I can't take you there unless you give me directions. What do you need one for anyway?" Jimmy fumed.
It is extremely hard to describe what a fuming kangaroo looks like.
"I've been thinking about things. My future self is older than
I am, right?"
"Well, yeah." Jimmy stared into the middle distance, as he often
did when Dirk talked to him. Initially, Dirk had taken this to mean he wasn't listening, but now he understood that Jimmy
was actually just waiting for Dirk to become careless and make an error he could ruthlessly laugh at.
"So most people that go into the future will be older than they
"Left" Dirk said.
"Eh?" Jimmy looked suddenly confused. Dirk revelled in it for
a few seconds.
"Turn left you bloody stupid kangaroo, turn left." Dirk lunged
across to twist the steering wheel. Jimmy punched him very hard in the top of the head and turned left.
"What the bloody hell are you doing? Never get in the driver's
line of sight. You could cause an accident."
Dirk growled something unprintable and then continued his earlier
train of thought. "Look, People who visit the future and come back to their own time period will be older. So I need to find
someone who's spent a few years in the future, and so looks several years older than they are. Right."
"Bloody awful idea." Jimmy continued to drive straight ahead.
"TURN RIGHT! Turn right you useless semi-antipodean jumping
mouse!" Again Dirk twisted the wheel. Again Jimmy punched him in the head.
"Well, I don't know left from right, do I? I'm a kangaroo, for
Christ sake. I find out where I'm going by going there, not by the arbitrary names of two completely subjective directions.
I've never seen the need to find out. If I was going the other way it would be left. Therefore it cancels out and is neither."
Jimmy sat back smugly. "Anyway, which way now?"
"That way." Dirk pointed to the road he wanted. "Anyway, if
I may continue? It all has something to do with the rhinoceros. If I stand by the rhino and ask people their date of birth,
I can follow the people who seem a bit too old for their age." Dirk grinned triumphantly, then remembered how much he hated
doing it and stopped.
"Yeah, right. Like anyone's going to tell you that."
"People will tell you anything you want if you've got a clipboard.
Park here." Dirk clambered out and entered the mall, seeking a clipboard and a pen.