The Clockwork Book's door was hanging open when she got back to the lair beneath the city. Tallie shook her head grimly. She saw that the Book was dealing with a client, so she flipped the sign on the door to 'Engaged' as she slipped quietly inside.
The client seemed to be having some difficulty. "But I can't tell you about that," he was protesting. "If it gets out to anyone else before I've published... well, the whole thing will be wasted: six years of research!"
The Book, as always, was impassive. "I understand your problem," it said, "but I am unable to make exceptions. There was a time when I accepted time delays for individual stories. But since everyone wanted to impose the delays - usually, as I recall, measured in centuries - the idea proved to be impractical, and I was forced to revise my Terms of Service."
Tallie smiled to herself. Everybody always thought that theirs was a Special Case.
"But this is a special case!" the man exclaimed. "All I need to know is the reason Senator Huer decided to resign at such a critical juncture: that knowledge should explain everything that followed!"
"In fact," said the Book, "although you are mostly correct, you would find that certain new questions are suggested, as well." The man groaned.
"I must know!" he choked out. But as Tallie could have told him he would, he left after ten more minutes of agony. She flipped the sign to 'Available' and closed the door behind him.
"Poor Mister Deering," the Book told her, "is a history teacher in search of tenure: a full professorship for life. I will say that his research is very close to something interesting; but as you saw, he is unwilling to pay for the information in kind."
Tallie, like the Book, had seen this before. "Rosie says she'll have your gadgets ready in about three days," she told him.
"Excellent!" said the Clockwork Book. "Then all we will need is... the right sort of client.