He said, "I know a place on El Camino. Not as noisy as the Sky Ranch. They have waterbeds there. The Courier: that's what it's called."

"Fine," I said, "I don't care where we stay."

"It's not too expensive." We were in Palo Alto, driving south. He put on the signal well before we made the right turn into the driveway. Then he said, "See. The rooms are set back from the street. It's really quite nice."

I waited in the rental car while he checked in. N. was a slight man, smaller than the desk clerk, and much older.

The key dangled from a plastic keychain with room number stamped on it; he left it hanging in the lock, door ajar, as we went inside to look at the room. He sat tentatively perched on the side of the bed.

"Yes," he said. "This will be just fine."

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