Do you believe that one day, the phone will ring, and it will be fate on the other end, calling you forth to your destiny? Of course you don’t. It’s a ridiculous thing to believe. I certainly didn’t believe it then, and I can’t really say that I do now. But in hindsight, it’s hard to deny that this was just such a phone call.

It was a man’s voice. Husky, low-pitched, accented, authoritative, but with a note of some kind of contradiction — confidence subtly undermined.

“Mr. Maze,” it said, “my name is Kaspar Rubelcaba. Martin Andersen gave me your name.” And then there was a pause.

This is pretty standard. When people call me for business purposes, they’re usually not happy about it, and I can understand why. Generally they’re people who aren’t accustomed to asking for help, but circumstances have forced them to ask for mine. Half the time they don’t believe that I can help them anyway; they’re only calling because they’ve exhausted all other options. They don’t know me and know very little about me, but they’re going to have to trust me with their secrets. Of course they’re uncomfortable.

This guy had heard about me from Martin, my attorney (and old friend), who always keeps an ear to the ground for people who might require my services. The kind of work I do, you can’t exactly put an ad in the paper. Although if you could, I know what it would say:

Perception is my business. When all other avenues have failed you, call on Hector Maze. All the insight you want — and then some. Confidentiality guaranteed, sliding scale, fully licensed and bonded by the appropriate mystical authorities. Call now and get a free gift.

Anyway, after a couple of seconds, the voice went on: “I’m the chief operations officer down here at Elasticland.” I knew the place — a big theme park down by the water. I’d never been there. I’m not much for your theme parks.

“Mr. Maze, we’ve been experiencing some…difficulties. Unusual ones. I was hoping that your unique expertise might be brought to bear on the situation. Please call me as soon as possible.” He gave a number and then hung up. The answering machine piped up, “End of messages,” providing a nice sense of closure.