The man who loves junk mail recommends Tschai, by Jack Vance

Please refer to my dispatch from Monday before reading the following.

"Are you telling me this is the beard of the man I had lunch with in Płock? What happened to the man?"

"He lost his beard, and his life. I'm not sure which he was more unhappy to lose," said the man who loved junk mail.

It was clear that this man was insane, and that he was capable of anything. I decided that it would be wise to play along, to humor him, to stay on his good side.

"I'll do it," I said.

"I knew you would," he said. "There's a car waiting for you outside. It will take you to the airport. I promise the driver will make sure you have a pleasant experience. Further, I have a special relationship with airport security at Warsaw Chopin. I hand-picked the officers who will be on duty at the airport when you depart. They will see to it that you are not delayed in any way."

"But I left my baggage at the hotel," I told him. "It has my Nintendo Switch."

"No need to worry," he said. "Your baggage is already in the car's boot. You will be contacted with further instructions when you arrive in Honolulu.

He reached into yet another pocket and pulled out a battered copy of Tschai, by Jack Vance and began reading it. I said goodbye, but he either didn't hear me or was simply ignoring me. In any case, I knew he was done talking to me.

I had initially planned to go straight back to my hotel as soon as I left the cafe, but since his driver had my luggage and passport, I had little choice but to go along.

Outside, I saw an old Toyota Crown station wagon with the back door open. Standing next to the door was a young woman with a head of coal-black hair. She was wearing smartly-tailored chauffeur's uniform. She wore her cap tilted at a jaunty angle.

"Please get in," she said gesturing to the back seat. "My name is Katarzyna. I have been transferred to your service."

I got into the back seat. Katarzyna closed the door, got into the driver's seat, and lurched from the curb. I could smell gas fumes from the car's cracked muffler. The car rocked back and forth as we hit every pothole in the road. I began to feel nauseous.

As we rode in silence I tried to formulate a plan to overpower Katarzyna and steal the car. Suddenly she asked, "Are you an avid reader of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant?" I was surprised by the question. I replied that I was, in fact, an avid reader of Kant.

"Then you must know that there are two kinds of knowledge. There is knowledge as a means and there is knowledge as an end," she said.

"Yes," I replied.

"Knowledge as a means can only be acquired by study and learning such as reading and writing. But knowledge as an end is knowledge that exists beyond the mind. It isn't a matter of remembering something. It is a feeling, an irreducible state of being. It is akin to when you meet someone you like very much. It is something that cannot be explained. Such knowledge is beyond the intellect. You see it or you don't."

"I've never heard it put that way before," I said.

"The man who loves junk mail is a great connoisseur of knowledge as an end."

"You sound like you know him well."

"In many ways he in unknowable. But I know that his favorite color is blush pink. I know that he likes to snack on meringue. I know that he cries when he listens to the aria from Madame Butterfly.  He has the ability to see into another person's soul. He can see the person's true nature, their depth and their character. He can see what they cannot see. He knew that you would do everything he asked of you. He said that you were exactly the person he was looking for. He said that he had been waiting for you for a long time, and that your arrival was fortuitous."

"Fortuitous?" I asked.

"The man who loves junk mail has a mystical streak. He believes in signs, omens, and destiny."

"What is my destiny?" I asked.

"That is something you will have to discover for yourself," she said with a smile.

"What is your destiny?"

My destiny is to serve the man who loves junk mail. That is all."

We rode for several more minutes in silence. Then Katarzyna said, "I think we are being followed. There is a car that has been behind us since we left the cafe."

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"I am very sure."

I looked back and saw a black sedan with heavily tinted windows. The car accelerated and pulled alongside us. I saw a flash of light and heard a loud bang. I ducked and Katarzyna swerved the car to avoid the gunshots. Another flash of light. Another loud bang.

"My God! They are firing at us!" I exclaimed.

"Stay down!" she yelled, and I complied. She took a sharp right onto a freeway exit. The sedan's driver wasn't able to react quickly enough and missed the exit.

"We lost him," she said.

"Who was it?" I asked.

"I don't know. But I know their leader. He is an old enemy of the man who loves junk mail."

"The man who loves junk mail said that I was to have a pleasant experience on the way to the airport," I said.

"The man who loves junk mail also said that your suitcase was in the boot of the car," said Katarzyna. "The truth matters little to him when he is in pursuit of a higher goal."