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Title: Out Like a Light
Author: Garrett, Randall, 1927-1987
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Out Like a Light" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Astounding Science
Fiction April, May and June 1960. Extensive research did not uncover any
evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor
typographical errors have been corrected without note.]

[Illustration]

OUT LIKE A LIGHT

By MARK PHILLIPS

     =_Kenneth Malone--sometimes known as Sir Kenneth of The Queen's Own
     FBI--had had problems with telepathic spies, and more than somewhat
     nutty telepathic counterspies. But the case of the Vanishing
     Delinquents was at least as bad...._=

Illustrated by Freas

[Illustration]

The sidewalk was as soft as a good bed. Malone lay curled on it thinking
about nothing at all. He was drifting off into a wonderful dream and he
didn't want to interrupt it. There was this girl, a beautiful girl, more
wonderful than anything he had ever imagined, with big blue eyes and
long blond hair and a figure that made the average pin-up girl look like
a man. And she had her soft white hand on his arm, and she was looking
up at him with trust and devotion and even adoration in her eyes, and
her voice was the softest possible whisper of innocence and promise.

"I'd love to go up to your apartment with you, Mr. Malone," she said.

Malone smiled back at her, gently but with complete confidence. "Call me
Ken," he said, noticing that he was seven feet tall and superbly
muscled. He put his free hand on the girls warm, soft shoulder and she
wriggled with delight.

"All right--Ken," she said. "You know, I've never met anyone like you
before. I mean, you're so wonderful and everything."

Malone chuckled modestly, realizing, in passing, how full and rich his
voice had become. He felt a weight pressing over his heart, and knew
that it was his wallet, stuffed to bursting with thousand-dollar bills.

But was this a time to think of money?

No, Malone told himself. This was the time for adventure, for romance,
for love. He looked down at the girl and put his arm around her waist.
She snuggled closer.

He led her easily down the long wide street to his car at the end of the
block. It stood in godlike solitude, a beautiful red Cadillac capable of
going a hundred and ten miles an hour in any gear, equipped with fully
automatic steering and braking, and with stereophonic radio, a hi-fi and
a 3-D set installed in both front and back seats. It was a 1972 job, but
he meant to trade it in on something even better when the 1973 models
came out. In the meantime, he decided, it would do.

He handed the girl in, went round to the other side and slid in under
the wheel. There was soft music playing, somewhere, and a magnificent
sunset appeared ahead of them as Malone pushed a button on the dashboard
and the red Cadillac started off down the wide, empty, wonderfully paved
street into the sunset while he--

The red Cadillac?

The sidewalk became a little harder, and Malone suddenly realized that
he was lying on it. Something terrible had happened; he knew that right
away. He opened his eyes to look for the girl, but the sunset had become
much brighter; his head began to pound with the slow regularity of a
dead-march and he closed his eyes again in a hurry.

The sidewalk swayed a little but he managed to keep his balance on it
somehow, and after a couple of minutes it was quiet again. His head
hurt. Maybe that was the terrible thing that had happened, but Malone
wasn't quite sure. As a matter of fact, he wasn't very sure about
anything, and he started to ask himself questions to make certain he was
all there.

He didn't feel all there. He felt as if several of his parts had been
replaced with second-or even third-hand experimental models, and
something had happened to the experiment. It was even hard to think of
any questions, but after a while he managed to come up with a few.

_What is your name?_

Kenneth Malone.

_Where do you live?_

Washington, D. C.

_What is your work?_

I work for the FBI.

_Then what are you doing on a sidewalk in New York in broad daylight?_

He tried to find an answer to that, but there didn't seem to be any, no
matter where he looked. The only thing he could think of was the red
Cadillac.

And if the red Cadillac had anything to do with anything, Malone didn't
know about it.

Very slowly and carefully, he opened his eyes again, one at a time. He
discovered that the light was not coming from the gorgeous Hollywood
sunset he had dreamed up. As a matter of fact, sunset was several hours
in the past, and it never looked very pretty in New York anyhow. It was
the middle of the night, and Malone was lying under a convenient street
lamp.

He closed his eyes again and waited patiently for his head to go away.

A few minutes passed. It was obvious that his head had settled down for
a long stay, and no matter how bad it felt, Malone told himself, it
_was_ his head, after all. He felt a certain responsibility for it. And
he couldn't just leave it lying around somewhere with its eyes closed.

He opened the head's eyes once more, and this time he kept them open.
For a long time he stared at the post of the street lamp, considering
it, and he finally decided that it looked sturdy enough to support a
hundred and sixty-five pounds of FBI man, even with the head added in.
He grabbed for the post with both hands and started to pull himself
upright, noticing vaguely that his legs had somehow managed to get
underneath him.

As soon as he was standing, he wished he'd stayed on the nice horizontal
sidewalk. His head was spinning dizzily and his mind was being sucked
down into the whirlpool. He held on to the post grimly and tried to stay
conscious.

       *       *       *       *       *

A long time, possibly two or three seconds, passed. Malone hadn't moved
at all when the two cops came along.

One of them was a big man with a brassy voice and a face that looked as
if it had been overbaked in a waffle-iron. He came up behind Malone and
tapped him on the shoulder, but Malone barely felt the touch. Then the
cop bellowed into Malone's ear.

"What's the matter, buddy?"

Malone appreciated the man's sympathy. It was good to know that you had
friends. But he wished, remotely, that the cop and his friend, a shorter
and thinner version of the beat patrolman, would go away and leave him
in peace. Maybe he could lie down on the sidewalk again and get a couple
of hundred years' rest.

Who could tell?

"Mallri," he said.

"You're all right?" the big cop said. "That's fine. That's great. So why
don't you go home and sleep it off?"

"Sleep?" Malone said. "Home?"

"Wherever you live, buddy," the big cop said. "Come on. Can't stand
around on the sidewalk all night."

Malone shook his head, and decided at once never to do it again. He had
some kind of rare disease, he realized. His brain was loose, and the
inside of his skull was covered with sandpaper. Every time his head
moved, the brain jounced against some of the sandpaper.

But the policeman thought he was drunk. That wasn't right. He couldn't
let the police get the wrong impression of FBI agents. Now the man would
go around telling people that the FBI was always drunk and disorderly.

"Not drunk," he said clearly.

"Sure," the big cop said. "You're fine. Maybe just one too many, huh?"

"No," Malone said. The effort exhausted him and he had to catch his
breath before he could say anything else. But the cops waited patiently.
At last he said: "Somebody slugged me."

"Slugged?" the big cop said.

"Right." Malone remembered just in time not to nod his head.

"How about a description, buddy?" the big cop said.

"Didn't see him," Malone said. He let go of the post with one hand,
keeping a precarious grip with the other. He stared at his watch. The
hands danced back and forth, but he focused on them after a while. It
was 1:05. "Happened just--a few minutes ago," he said. "Maybe you can
catch him."

The big cop said: "Nobody around here. The place is deserted--except for
you, buddy." He paused and then added: "Let's see some identification,
huh? Or did he take your wallet?"

Malone thought about getting the wallet, and decided against it. The
motions required would be a little tricky, and he wasn't sure he could
manage them without letting go of the post entirely. At last he decided
to let the cop get his wallet. "Inside coat pocket," he said.

The other policeman blinked and looked up. His face was a studied blank.
"Hey, buddy," he said. "You know you got blood on your head?"

The big cop said: "Sam's right. You're bleeding, mister."

"Good," Malone said.

The big cop said: "Huh?"

"I thought maybe my skull was going to explode from high blood
pressure," Malone said. It was beginning to be a little easier to talk.
"But as long as there's a slow leak, I guess I'm out of danger."

"Get his wallet," the smaller cop--Sam--said. "I'll watch him."

A hand went into Malone's jacket pocket. It tickled a little bit, but
Malone didn't think of objecting. Naturally enough, the hand and
Malone's wallet did not make an instant connection. When the hand
touched the bulky object strapped near Malone's armpit it stopped,
frozen, and then cautiously snaked the object out.

"What's that, Bill?" Sam said.

Bill looked up with the object in his hand. He seemed a little dazed.
"It's a gun," he said.

"The guy's heeled!" Sam said. "Watch him! Don't let him get away!"

Malone considered getting away, and decided that he couldn't move. "It's
O.K.," he said.

"O.K., hell," Sam said. "It's a .44 Magnum. What are you doing with a
gun, Mac?" He was no longer polite and friendly. "Why you carrying a
gun?" he said.

"I'm not carrying it," Malone said tiredly. "Bill is. Your pal."

Bill backed away from Malone, putting the Magnum in his pocket and
keeping the FBI agent covered with his own Police Positive. At the same
time, he fished out the personal radio every patrolman carried in his
uniform, and began calling for a prowl car in a low, somewhat nervous
voice.

Sam said: "A gun. He could of shot everybody."

"Get his wallet," Bill said. "He can't hurt you now. I disarmed him."

Malone began to feel slightly dangerous. Maybe he _was_ a famous
gangster. He wasn't sure. Maybe all this about being an FBI agent was
just a figment of his imagination. Blows on the head did funny things.
"I'll drill everybody full of holes," he said in a harsh, underworld
sort of voice, but it didn't sound very convincing. Sam approached him
gently and fished out his wallet with great care, as if Malone were a
ticking bomb ready to go off any second.

There was a little silence. Then Sam said: "Give him his gun back,
Bill," in a hushed and respectful tone.

"Give him back his gun?" the big cop said. "You gone nuts, Sam?"

Sam shook his head slowly. "Nope," he said. "But we made a terrible
mistake. Know who this guy is?"

"He's heeled," Bill said. "That's all I want to know." He put the radio
away and gave all his attention to Malone.

"He's FBI," Sam said. "The wallet says so. Badge and everything. And not
only that, Bill. He's Kenneth J. Malone."

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, Malone thought with relief, that settled that. He wasn't a
gangster after all. He was just the FBI agent he had always known and
loved. Maybe now the cops would do something about his head and take him
away for burial.

"Malone?" Bill said. "You mean the guy who's here about all those red
Cadillacs?"

"Sure," Sam said. "So give him his gun back." He looked at Malone.
"Listen, Mr. Malone," he said. "We're sorry. We're sorry as hell."

"That's all right," Malone said absently. He moved his head slowly and
looked around. His suspicions were confirmed. There wasn't a red
Cadillac anywhere in sight, and from the looks of the street there never
had been. "It's gone," he said, but the cops weren't listening.

"We better get you to a hospital," Bill said. "As soon as the prowl car
gets here we'll take you right on down to St. Vincent's. Can you tell us
what happened? Or is it--classified?"

Malone wondered what could be classified about a blow on the head, and
decided not to think about it. "I can tell you," he said, "if you'll
answer one question for me."

"Sure, Mr. Malone," Bill said. "We'll be glad to help."

"Anything at all," Sam said.

Malone gave them what he hoped was a gracious and condescending smile.
"All right, then," he said. "Where the hell am I?"

"In New York," Sam said.

"I know that," Malone said tiredly. "Anywhere in particular, or just
sort of all over New York?"

"Ninth Street," Bill said hurriedly. "Near the Village. Is that where
you were when they slugged you?"

"I guess so," Malone said. "Sure." He nodded, and immediately remembered
that he shouldn't have. He closed his eyes until the pain had softened
to agony, and then opened them again. "I was getting pretty tired of
sitting around waiting for something to break on this case," he said,
"and I couldn't sleep, so I went out for a walk. I ended up in Greenwich
Village--which is no place for a self-respecting man to end up."

"I know just what you mean," Sam said sympathetically. "Bohemians, they
call themselves. Crazy people."

"Not the people," Malone said. "The streets. I got sort of lost."
Chicago, he reflected, was a long way from the easiest city in the world
to get around in. And he supposed you could even get confused in
Washington if you tried hard enough. But he knew those cities. He could
find his way around in them. Greenwich Village was different.

It was harder to navigate in than the trackless forests of the Amazon.
The Village had tracks, all right--thousands of tracks. Only none of
them led anywhere in particular.

"Anyhow," Malone said, "I saw this red Cadillac."

The cops looked around hurriedly and then looked back at Malone. Bill
started to say: "But there isn't any--"

"I know," Malone said. "It's gone now. That's the trouble."

"You mean somebody got in and drove it away?" Sam said.

"For all I know," Malone said, "it sprouted wings and flew away." He
paused. "When I saw it I decided to go over and have a look. Just in
case."

"Sure," Bill said. "Makes sense." He stared at his partner as if defying
him to prove it didn't make sense. Malone didn't really care.

"There wasn't anybody else on the street," he said, "so I walked over
and tried the door. That's all. I didn't even open the car or anything.
And I'll swear there was nobody behind me."

"Well," Sam said, "the street was empty when we got here."

"But a guy could have driven off in that red Cadillac before we got
here," Bill said.

"Sure," Malone said. "But where did he come from? I figured maybe
somebody dropped something by mistake--a safe or something. Because
there wasn't anybody behind me."

"There had to be," Bill said.

"Well," Malone said, "there wasn't."

There was a little silence.

"What happened then?" Sam said. "After you tried the door handle, I
mean."

"Then?" Malone said. "Then, I went out like a light."

A pair of headlights rounded the nearby corner. Bill looked up. "That's
the prowl car," he announced, and went over to meet it.

The driver was a solidly-built little man with the face of a Pekingese.
His partner, a tall man who looked as if he'd have been much more
comfortable in a ten-gallon Stetson instead of the regulation blue cap,
leaned out at Bill, Sam and Malone.

"What's the trouble here?" he said in a harsh, high voice.

"No trouble," Bill said, and went over to the car. He began talking to
the two cops inside in a low, urgent voice. Meanwhile, Sam got his arm
around Malone and began pulling him away from the lamp post.

Malone was a little unwilling to let go, at first. But Sam was stronger
than he looked. He convoyed the FBI agent carefully to the rear door of
the prowl car, opened it and levered Malone gently to a seat inside,
just as Bill said: "So with the cut and all, we figured he ought to go
over to St. Vincent's. You people were already on the way, so we didn't
bother with ambulances."

The driver snorted. "Next time you want taxi service," he said, "you
just call us up. What do you think, a prowl car's an easy life?"

"Easier than doing a beat," Bill said mournfully. "And anyway," he added
in a low, penetrating whisper, "the guy's FBI."

"So the FBI's got all kinds of equipment," the driver said. "The latest.
Why don't he whistle up a helicopter or a jet?" Then, apparently
deciding that further invective would get him nowhere, he settled back
in his seat, said: "Aah, forget it," and started the car with a small
but perceptible jerk.

Malone decided not to get into the argument. He was tired, and it was
late. He rested his head on the back seat and tried to relax, but all
he could do was think about red Cadillacs.

He wished he had never even heard of red Cadillacs.



II.


And it had all started so simply, too. Malone remembered very clearly
the first time he had had any indication that red Cadillacs were
anything unusual, or special. Before that, he'd viewed them all with
slightly wistful eyes: red, blue, green, gray, white or even black
Cadillacs were all the same to him. They spelled luxury and wealth and
display and a lot of other nice things.

[Illustration]

Now, he wasn't at all sure what they spelled. Except that it was
definitely uncomfortable, and highly baffling.

He'd walked into the offices of Andrew J. Burris, Director of the FBI,
just one week ago. It was a beautiful office, pine paneled and spacious,
and it boasted an enormous polished desk. And behind the desk Burris
himself sat, looking both tired and somehow a little kindly.

"You sent for me, chief?" Malone said.

"That's right." Burris nodded. "Malone, you've been working too hard
lately."

Now, Malone thought, it was coming. The dismissal he'd always feared. At
least Burris had found out that he wasn't the bright, intelligent,
fearless and alert FBI agent he was supposed to be. Burris had
discovered that he was nothing more or less than lucky, and that all the
"fine jobs" he was supposed to have done were only the result of luck.

Oh, well, Malone thought. Not being an FBI agent wouldn't be so bad. He
could always find another job.

Only at the moment he couldn't think of one he liked.

He decided to make one last plea.

"I haven't been working so hard, chief," he said. "Not too hard, anyhow.
I'm in great shape. I--"

"I've taken advantage of you, Malone, that's what I've done," Burris
said, just as if Malone hadn't spoken at all. "Just because you're the
best agent I've got, that's no reason for me to hand you all the tough
ones."

"Just because I'm what?" Malone said, feeling slightly faint.

"I've given you the tough ones because you could handle them," Burris
said. "But that's no reason to keep loading jobs on you. After that job
you did on the Gorelik kidnapping, and the way you wrapped up the
Transom counterfeit ring ... well, Malone, I think you need a little
relaxation."

"Relaxation?" Malone said, feeling just a little bit pleased. Of course,
he didn't deserve any of the praise he was getting, he knew. He'd just
happened to walk in on the Gorelik kidnappers because his telephone had
been out of order. And the Transom ring hadn't been just his job. After
all, if other agents hadn't managed to trace the counterfeit bills back
to a common area in Cincinnati, he'd never have been able to complete
his part of the assignment. But it was nice to be praised, anyhow.
Malone felt a twinge of guilt, and told himself sternly to relax and
enjoy himself.

"That's what I said," Burris told him. "Relaxation."

"Well," Malone said, "I certainly would like a vacation, that's for
sure. I'd like to snooze for a couple of weeks--or maybe go up to Cape
Cod for a while. There's a lot of nice scenery up around there. It's
restful, sort of, and I could just--"

He stopped. Burris was frowning, and when Andrew J. Burris frowned it
was a good idea to look attentive, interested and alert. "Now, Malone,"
Burris said sadly, "I wasn't thinking about a vacation. You're not
scheduled for one until August, you know--"

"Oh, I know, chief," Malone said. "But I thought--"

"Much as I'd like to," Burris said, "I just can't make an exception; you
know that, Malone. I've got to go pretty much by the schedule."

"Yes, sir," Malone said, feeling just a shade disappointed.

"But I do think you deserve a rest," Burris said.

"Well, if I--"

"Here's what I'm going to do," Burris said, and paused. Malone felt a
little unsure as to exactly what his chief was talking about, but by now
he knew better than to ask a lot of questions. Sooner or later, Burris
would probably explain himself. And if he didn't, then there was no use
worrying about it. That was just the way Burris acted.

"Suppose I gave you a chance to take it easy for a while," Burris said.
"You could catch up on your sleep, see some shows, have a couple of
drinks during the evening, take girls out for dinner--you know.
Something like that. How would you like it?"

"Well--" Malone said cautiously.

"Good," Burris said. "I knew you would."

       *       *       *       *       *

Malone opened his mouth, thought briefly and closed it again. After all,
it did sound sort of promising, and if there was a catch in it he'd find
out about it soon enough.

"It's really just a routine case," Burris said in an offhand tone.
"Nothing to it."

"Oh," Malone said.

"There's this red Cadillac," Burris said. "It was stolen from a party in
Connecticut, out near Danbury, and it showed up in New York City. Now,
the car's crossed a state line."

"That puts it in our jurisdiction," Malone said, feeling obvious.

"Right," Burris said. "Right on the nose."

"But the New York office--"

"Naturally, they're in charge of everything," Burris said. "But I'm
sending you out as sort of a special observer. Just keep your eyes open
and nose around and let me know what's happening."

"Keep my eyes and nose what?" Malone said.

"Open," Burris said. "And let me know about it."

Malone tried to picture himself with his eyes and nose open, and decided
he didn't look very attractive that way. Well, it was only a figure of
speech or something. He didn't have to think about it.

It really made a very ugly picture.

"But why a special observer?" he said after a second. Burris could read
the reports from the New York office, and probably get more facts than
any single agent could find out just wandering around a strange city. It
sounded as if there were something, Malone told himself, just a tiny
shade rotten in Denmark. It sounded as if there were going to be
something in the nice, easy assignment he was getting that would make
him wish he'd gone lion-hunting in Darkest Africa instead.

And then again, maybe he was wrong. He stood at ease and waited to find
out.

"Well," Burris said, "it is just a routine case. Just like I said. But
there seems to be something a little bit odd about it."

"I see," Malone said with a sinking feeling.

"Here's what happened," Burris said hurriedly, as if he were afraid
Malone was going to change his mind and refuse the assignment. "This red
Cadillac I told you about was reported stolen from Danbury. Three days
later, it turned up in New York City--parked smack across the street
from a precinct police station. Of course it took them a while to wake
up, but one of the officers happened to notice the routine report on
stolen cars in the area, and he decided to go across the street and
check the license number on the car. Then something funny happened."

"Something funny?" Malone asked. He doubted that, whatever it was, it
was going to make him laugh. But he kept his face a careful, receptive
blank.

"That's right," Burris said. "Now, if you're going to understand what
happened, you've got to get the whole picture."

"Sure," Malone said.

"Only that isn't what I mean," Burris added suddenly.

Malone blinked. "_What_ isn't what you mean?" he said.

"Understanding what happened," Burris said. "That's the trouble. You
won't understand what happened. I don't understand it and neither does
anybody else. So what do you think about it?"

"Think about what?" Malone said.

"About what I've been telling you," Burris snapped. "This car."

Malone took a deep breath. "Well," he said, "this officer went over to
check the license plate. It seems like the right thing to do. It's just
what I'd have done myself."

"Sure you would," Burris said. "Anybody would. But listen to me."

"All right, chief," Malone said.

"It was just after dawn--early in the morning." Malone wondered briefly
if there were parts of the world where dawn came, say, late in the
afternoon or during the evening some time, but he said nothing. "The
street was deserted," Burris went on. "But it was pretty light out, and
the witnesses are willing to swear that there was nobody on that street
for a block in either direction. Except them, of course."

"Except who?" Malone said.

"Except the witnesses," Burris said patiently. "Four cops, police
officers who were standing on the front steps of the precinct station,
talking. They were waiting to go on duty, or anyhow that's what the
report said. It's lucky they were there, for whatever reason; they're
the only witnesses we've got."

Burris stopped. Malone waited a few seconds and then said, as calmly as
he could: "Witnesses to what?"

"To this whole business with Sergeant Jukovsky," Burris said.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sudden introduction of a completely new name confused Malone for an
instant, but he recovered gamely. "Sergeant Jukovsky was the man who
investigated the car," he said.

"That's right," Burris said. "Except that he didn't."

Malone sighed.

"Those four officers--the witnesses--they weren't paying much attention
to what looked like the routine investigation of a parked car," Burris
said. "But here's their testimony. They were standing around talking
when this Sergeant Jukovsky came out of the station, spoke to them in
passing, and went on across the street. He didn't seem very worried or
alarmed about anything."

"Good," Malone said involuntarily. "I mean, go on, chief," he added.

"Ah," Burris said. "All right. Well. According to Jukovsky, he took a
look at the plate and found the numbers checked the listing he had for a
stolen Connecticut car. Then he walked around to take a look inside the
car. It was empty. Get that, Malone. The car was empty."

"Well," Malone said, "it was parked. I suppose parked cars are usually
empty. What's special about this one?"

"Wait and see," Burris said ominously. "Jukovsky swears the car was
empty. He tried the doors, and they were all locked but one, the front
door on the curb side, the driver's door. So he opened it, and leaned
over to have a look at the odometer to check the mileage. And something
clobbered him on the back of the head."

"One of the other cops," Malone said.

"One of the ... who?" Burris said. "No. Not the cops. Not at all."

"Then something fell on him," Malone said. "O.K. Then whatever fell on
him ought to be--"

"Malone," Burris said.

"Yes, chief?"

"Jukovsky woke up on the sidewalk with the other cops all around him.
There was nothing on that sidewalk but Jukovsky. Nothing could have
fallen on him; it hadn't landed anywhere, if you see what I mean."

"Sure," Malone said. "But--"

"Whatever it was," Burris said, "they didn't find it. But that isn't the
peculiar thing."

"No?"

"No," Burris said slowly. "Now--"

"Wait a minute," Malone said. "They looked on the sidewalk and around
there. But did they think to search the car?"

"They didn't get a chance," Burris said. "Anyhow, not just then. Not
until they got around to picking up the pieces of the car uptown, at
125th Street."

Malone closed his eyes. "Where was this precinct?" he said.

"Midtown," Burris said. "In the Forties."

"And the pieces of the car were eighty blocks away when they searched
it?" Malone said.

Burris nodded.

"All right," Malone said pleasantly. "I give up."

"Well, that's what I'm trying to tell you," Burris said. "According to
the witnesses--not Jukovsky, who didn't wake up for a couple of minutes
and so didn't see what happened next--after he fell out of the car, the
motor started and the car drove off uptown."

"Oh," Malone said. He thought about that for a minute and decided at
last to hazard one little question. It sounded silly--but then, what
didn't? "The car just drove off all by itself?" he said.

Burris seemed abashed. "Well, Malone," he said carefully, "that's where
the conflicting stories of the eyewitnesses don't agree. You see, two of
the cops say there was nobody in the car. Nobody at all. Of any kind.
Small or large."

"And the other two?" Malone said.

"The other two swear they saw somebody at the wheel," Burris said, "but
they won't say whether it was a man, a woman, a small child or an
anthropoid ape--and they haven't the faintest idea where he, she or it
came from."

"Great," Malone said. He felt a little tired. This trip was beginning to
sound less and less like a vacation.

"Those two cops swear there was something--or somebody--driving the
car," Burris said. "And that isn't all."

"It isn't?" Malone said.

Burris shook his head. "A couple of the cops jumped into a squad car and
started following the red Cadillac. One of these cops saw somebody in
the car when it left the curb. The other one didn't. Got that?"

"I've got it," Malone said, "but I don't exactly know what to do with
it."

"Just hold on to it," Burris said, "and listen to this: the cops were
about two blocks behind at the start, and they couldn't close the gap
right away. The Cadillac headed west and climbed up the ramp of the West
Side Highway, heading north, out toward Westchester. I'd give a lot to
know where they were going, too."

"But they crashed," Malone said, remembering that the pieces were at
125th Street. "So--"

"They didn't crash right away," Burris said. "The prowl car started
gaining on the Cadillac slowly. And--now, get this, Malone--both the
cops swear there _was_ somebody in the driver's seat now."

"Wait a minute," Malone said. "One of these cops didn't see anybody at
all in the driver's seat when the car started off."

"Right," Burris said.

"But on the West Side Highway, he did see a driver," Malone said. He
thought for a minute. "It could happen. The start happened so fast he
could have been confused, or something."

"There's another explanation," Burris said.

"Sure," Malone said cheerfully. "We're all crazy. The whole world is
crazy."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Not that one," Burris said. "I'll tell you when I finish with this
thing about the car itself. There isn't much description of whoever or
whatever was driving that car on the West Side Highway, by the way. In
case you were thinking of asking."

Malone, who hadn't been thinking of asking anything, tried to look
clever. Burris regarded him owlishly for a second, and then went on:

"The car was hitting it up at about a hundred and ten by this time, and
accelerating all the time. But the souped--up squad car was coming on
fast, too, and it was quite a chase. Luckily, there weren't many cars on
the road. Somebody could have been killed, Malone."

"Like the driver of the Cadillac," Malone ventured.

Burris looked pained. "Not exactly," he said. "Because the car hit the
125th Street exit like a bomb. It swerved right, just as though it were
going to take the exit and head off somewhere, but it was going much too
fast by that time. There just wasn't any way to maneuver. The Cadillac
hit the embankment, flipped over the edge, and smashed. It caught fire
almost at once--of course the prowl car braked fast and went down the
exit, after it. But there wasn't anything to do."

"That's what I said," Malone said. "The driver of the Cadillac was
killed. In a fire like that--"

"Don't jump to conclusions, Malone," Burris said. "Wait. When the prowl
car boys got to the scene, there was no sign of anybody in the car.
Nobody at all."

"In the heat of those flames--" Malone began.

"Not enough heat, and not enough time," Burris said. "A human body
couldn't have been destroyed in just a few minutes, not that completely.
Some of the car's metal was melted, sure--but there would have been
traces of anybody who'd been in the car. Nice, big, easily-seen traces.
And there weren't any. No corpse, no remains, no nothing."

Malone let that stew in his mind for a few seconds. "But the cops
said--"

"Whatever the cops said," Burris snapped, "there was nobody at all in
that Cadillac when it went off the embankment."

"Now, wait a minute," Malone said. "Here's a car with a driver who
appears and disappears practically at will. Sometimes he's there and
sometimes he's not there. It's not possible."

[Illustration]

"Ah," Burris said. "That's why I have another explanation."

Malone shifted his feet. Maybe there _was_ another explanation. But, he
told himself, it would have to be a good one.

"Nobody expects a car to drive itself down a highway," Burris said.

"That's right," Malone said. "That's why it's all impossible."

"So," Burris said, "it would be a natural hallucination--or illusion,
anyhow--for somebody to imagine he did see a driver, when there wasn't
any."

"O.K.," Malone said. "There wasn't any driver. So the car couldn't have
gone anywhere. So the New York police force is lying to us. It's a good
explanation, but it--"

"They aren't lying," Burris said. "Why should they? I'm thinking of
something else." He stopped, his eyes bright as he leaned across the
desk toward Malone.

"Do I get three guesses?" Malone said.

Burris ignored him. "Frankly," he said, "I've got a hunch that the whole
thing was done with remote control. Somewhere in that car was a very
cleverly concealed device that was capable of running the Cadillac from
a distance."

It did sound plausible, Malone thought. "Did the prowl car boys find
any traces of it when they examined the wreckage?" he said.

"Not a thing," Burris said. "But, after all, it could have been melted.
The fire did destroy a lot of the Cadillac, and there's just no telling.
But I'd give long odds that there must have been some kind of robot
device in that car. It's the only answer, isn't it?"

"I suppose so," Malone said.

"Malone," Burris said, his voice filled with Devotion To One's Country
In The Face Of Great Obstacles, "Malone, I want you to find that
device!"

"In the wreck?" Malone said.

Burris sighed and leaned back. "No," he said. "Of course not. Not in the
wreck. But the other red Cadillacs--some of them, anyhow--ought to
have--"

"What red Cadillacs?" Malone said.

"The other ones that have been stolen. From Connecticut, mostly. One
from New Jersey, out near Passaic."

"Have any of the others been moving around without drivers?" Malone
said.

"Well," Burris said, "there's been no report of it. But who can tell?"
He gestured with both arms. "Anything is possible, Malone."

"Sure," Malone said.

"Now," Burris said, "all of the stolen cars are red 1972 Cadillacs.
There's got to be some reason for that--and I think they're covering up
another car like the one that got smashed: a remote--controlled
Cadillac. Or even a self-guiding, automatic, robot-controlled Cadillac."

"They?" Malone said. "Who?"

"Whoever is stealing the cars," Burris said patiently.

"Oh," Malone said. "Sure. But--"

"So get up to New York," Burris said, "keep your eyes open, and nose
around. Got it?"

"I have now," Malone said.

"And when that Cadillac is found, Malone, we want to take a look at it.
O.K.?"

"Yes, sir," Malone said.



III.


Of course, there were written reports, too. Burris had handed Malone a
sheaf of them--copies of the New York police reports to Burris
himself--and Malone, wanting some time to look through them, had taken a
train to New York instead of a plane. Besides, the new planes still made
him slightly nervous, though he could ride one when he had to. If jet
engines had been good enough for the last generation, he thought, they
were certainly good enough for him.

But avoidance of the new planes was all the good the train trip did him.
The reports contained thousands of words, none of which was either new
or, apparently, significant to Malone. Burris, he considered, had given
him everything necessary for the job.

Except, of course, a way to make sense out of the whole thing. He
considered robot-controlled Cadillacs. What good were they? They might
make it easier for the average driver, of course but that was no reason
to cover up for them, hitting policemen over the head and smashing cars
and driving a hundred and ten miles an hour on the West Side Highway.

All the same, it was the only explanation Malone had, and he cherished
it deeply. He put the papers back in his brief case when the train
pulled into Penn Station, handed his suitcases to a redcap and punched
the 'cap's buttons for the waiting room. Now, he thought as he strolled
slowly along behind the robot, there was an invention that made sense.
And nobody had to get killed for it, or hit over the head or smashed up,
had they?

So what was all this nonsense about red robot-controlled Cadillacs?

Driving these unwelcome reflections from his mind, he paused to light a
cigarette. He had barely taken the first puff when a familiar voice
said: "Hey, buddy--hold the light, will you?"

Malone looked up, blinked and grinned happily. "Boyd!" he said. "What
are you doing here? I haven't seen you since--"

"Sure haven't," Boyd said. "I've been out west on a couple of cases.
Must be a year since we worked together."

"Just about," Malone said. "But what are you doing in New York?
Vacationing?"

"Not exactly," Boyd said. "The chief called it sort of a vacation,
but--"

"Oh," Malone said. "You're working with me."

Boyd nodded. "The chief sent me up. When I got back from the west, he
suddenly decided you might need a good assistant, so I took the plane
down, and got here ahead of you."

"Great," Malone said. "But I want to warn you about the vacation--"

"Never mind," Boyd said, just a shade sadly. "I know. It isn't." He
seemed deep in thought, as if he were deciding whether or not to get rid
of Anne Boleyn. It was, Malone thought, an unusually apt simile. Boyd,
six feet tall and weighing about two hundred and twenty-five pounds, had
a large square face and a broad-beamed figure that might have made him a
dead ringer for Henry VIII of England even without his Henry-like fringe
of beard and his mustache. With them--thanks to the recent FBI rule that
agents could wear "facial hair, at the discretion of the director or
such board as he may appoint"--the resemblance to the Tudor monarch was
uncanny.

But--like his famous double--Boyd didn't stay sad for long. "I thought
I'd meet you at the station," he said, cheering up, "and maybe talk over
old times for a while, on the way to the hotel, anyhow. So long as there
wasn't anything else to do."

"Sure," Malone said. "It's good to see you again. And when did you get
pulled out of the Frisco office?"

Boyd grimaced. "You know," he said, "I had a good thing going for me out
there. Agent-in-Charge of the entire office. But right after that job we
did together--the Queen Elizabeth affair--Burris decided I was too good
a man to waste my fragrance on the desert air. Or whatever it is. So he
recalled me, assigned me from the home office, and I've been on one case
after another ever since."

"You're a home office agent now?" Malone said.

"I'm a Roving Reporter," Boyd said, and struck a pose. "I'm a General
Trouble-shooter and a Mr. Fix-It. Just like you, Hero."

"Thanks," Malone said. "How about the local office here? Seen the boys
yet?"

Boyd shook his head. "Not yet," he said. "I was waiting for you to show
up. But I did manage hotel rooms with a connecting bath over at the
Statler-Hilton Hotel. Nice place. You'll like it, Ken."

"I'll love it," Malone said. "Especially that connecting bath. It would
have been terrible to have an unconnecting bath. Sort of distracting."

"O.K.," Boyd said. "O.K. You know what I mean." He stared down at
Malone's hand. "You know you've still got your lighter on?" he added.

Malone looked down at it and shut it off. "You asked me to hold it," he
said.

"I didn't mean indefinitely," Boyd said. "Anyhow, how about grabbing a
cab and heading on down to the hotel to get your stuff away, before we
check in at Sixty-ninth Street?"

"Good idea," Malone said. "And besides, I could do with a clean shirt.
Not to mention a bath."

"Trains get worse and worse," Boyd said, absently.

       *       *       *       *       *

Malone punched the redcap's buttons again, and he and Boyd followed it
through the crowded station to the taxi stand. The robot piled the
suitcases into the cab, and somehow Malone and Boyd found room for
themselves.

"Statler-Hilton Hotel," Boyd said grandly.

The driver swung around to stare at them, blinked, and finally said:
"O.K., Mac. You said it." He started with a terrific grinding of gears,
drove out of the Penn Station arch and went two blocks.

"Here you are, Mac," he said, stopping the cab.

Malone stared at Boyd with a reproachful expression.

"So how was I to know?" Boyd said. "I didn't know. If I'd known it was
so close, we could've walked."

"And saved half a buck," Malone said. "But don't let it bother you--this
is expense account money."

"That's right," Boyd said. He beamed and tipped the driver heavily. The
cab drove off and Malone hailed the doorman, who equipped them with a
robot bellhop and sent them upstairs to their rooms.

Three-quarters of an hour later, Boyd and Malone were in the offices of
the Federal Bureau of Investigation, on East Sixty-ninth Street. There,
they picked up a lot of nice, new, shiny facts. It was unfortunate, if
not particularly surprising, that the facts did not seem to make any
sense.

In the first place, only red 1972 Cadillacs seemed to be involved.
Anybody who owned such a car was likely to find it missing at any time;
there had been a lot of thefts reported, including some that hadn't had
time to get into Burris' reports. New Jersey now claimed two victims,
and New York had three of its own.

And all the cars weren't turning up in New York, by any means. Some of
the New York cars had turned up in New Jersey. Some had turned up in
Connecticut--including one of the New Jersey cars. So far, there had
been neither thefts nor discoveries from Pennsylvania, but Malone
couldn't see why.

There was absolutely no pattern that he, Boyd, or anyone else could
find. The list of thefts and recoveries had been fed into an electronic
calculator, which had neatly regurgitated them without being in the
least helpful. It had remarked that the square of seven was forty-nine,
but this was traced to a defect in the mechanism.

Whoever was borrowing the red Caddies exhibited a peculiar combination
of burglarious genius and what looked to Malone like outright idiocy.
This was plainly impossible.

Unfortunately, it had happened.

Locking the car doors didn't do a bit of good. The thief or thieves got
in without so much as scratching the lock. This, obviously, proved that
the criminal was either an extremely good lock-pick or knew where to get
duplicate keys.

However, the ignition was invariably shorted across.

This proved neatly that the criminal was not a very good lock-pick, and
did not know where to get duplicate keys.

Query: why work so hard on the doors, and not work at all on the
ignition?

That was the first place. The second place was just what had been
bothering Malone all along. There didn't seem to be any purpose to the
car thefts. They hadn't been sold, or used as getaway cars. True,
teenage delinquents sometimes stole cars just to use them joyriding, or
as some sort of prank.

But a car or two every night? How many joyrides can one gang take?
Malone thought. And how long does it take to get tired of the same
prank?

And why, Malone asked himself wearily for what was beginning to feel
like the ten thousandth time, why only red Cadillacs?

Burris, he told himself, must have been right all along. The red
Cadillacs were only a smoke screen for something else. Perhaps it was
the robot car, perhaps not--but whatever it was, Burris' general answer
was the only one that made any sense at all.

That should have been a comforting thought, Malone reflected. Somehow,
though it wasn't.

After they'd finished with the files and personnel at Sixty-ninth
Street, Malone and Boyd started downtown on what turned out to be a sort
of unguided tour of the New York Police Department. They spoke to some
of the eyewitnesses, and ended up in Centre Street asking a lot of
reasonably useless questions in the Motor Vehicle Bureau. In general,
they spent nearly six hours on the Affair of the Self-Propelled
Cadillac, picking up a whole bundle of facts. Some of the facts they had
already known. Some were new, but unhelpful.

Somehow, nobody felt much like going out for a night on the town.
Instead, both agents climbed wearily into bed thinking morose and
disillusioned thoughts.

And, after that, a week passed. It was filled with ennui.

Only one thing became clear. In spite of the almost identical _modus
operandi_, used in all the car thefts, they were obviously the work of a
gang rather than a single person. This required the assumption that
there was not one insane man at work, but a crew of them, all
identically unbalanced.

"But the jobs are just too scattered to be the work of one man," Malone
said. "To steal a car in Connecticut and drive it to the Bronx, and then
steal another car in Westfield, New Jersey fifteen minutes later takes
more than talent. It takes an outright for-sure magician."

This conclusion, while interesting, was not really helpful. The fact was
that Malone needed more clues--or, anyhow, more facts--before he could
do anything at all. And there just weren't any new facts around. He
spent the week wandering morosely from one place to another, sometimes
accompanied by Thomas Boyd and sometimes all alone. Time, he knew, was
ticking by at its usual rate. But there wasn't a thing he could do about
it.

He did try to relax and have some fun, as Burris had suggested. But he
didn't seem to be able to get his mind off the case.

Boyd, after the first little while, had no such trouble. He entered the
social life of the city with a whoop of joy and disappeared from sight.
That was fine for Boyd, Malone reflected, but it did leave Malone
himself just a little bit at loose ends.

Not that he begrudged Boyd his fun. It was nice that one of them was
enjoying himself, anyway.

It was just that Malone was beginning to get fidgety. He needed to be
doing something--even if it were only taking a walk.

So he took a walk, and ended up, to his own surprise, downtown near
Greenwich Village.

And then he'd been bopped on the head.



IV.


The patrol car pulled up in front of St. Vincent's Hospital and one of
the cops helped Malone into the Emergency Receiving Room. He didn't
feel as bad as he had a few minutes before. The motion of the car hadn't
helped any, but his head seemed to be knitting a little, and his legs
were a little steadier. True, he didn't feel one hundred per cent
healthy, but he was beginning to think he might live, after all. And
while the doctor was bandaging his head a spirit of new life began to
fill the FBI agent.

He was no longer morose and undirected. He had a purpose in life, and
that purpose filled him with cold determination. He was going to find
the robot-operated car--or whatever it turned out to be.

The doctor, Malone noticed, was whistling "Greensleaves" under his
breath as he worked. That, he supposed, was the influence of the
bohemian folk singers of Greenwich Village. But he put the noise
resolutely out of his mind and concentrated on the red Cadillac.

It was one thing to think about a robot car, miles away, doing something
or other to somebody you'd never heard of before. That was just
theoretical, a case for solution, nothing but an ordinary job.

But when the car stepped up and bopped Malone himself on the head, it
became a personal matter. Now Malone had more than a job to contend
with. Now he was thinking about revenge.

He told himself: _No car in the world--not even a Cadillac--can get away
with beaning Kenneth J. Malone!_

Malone was not quite certain that he agreed with Burris' idea of a
self-operating car, but at least it was something to work on. A car that
could reach out, crown an investigator and then drive off humming
something innocent under its breath was certainly a unique and dangerous
machine within the meaning of the act. Of course, there were problems
attendant on this view of things; for one thing, Malone couldn't quite
see how the car could have beaned him when he was ten feet away from it.
But that was, he told himself uncomfortably, a minor point. He could
deal with it when he felt a little better.

The important thing was the car itself. Malone jerked a little under the
doctors calm hands, and swore subvocally.

"Hold still," the doctor said. "Don't go wiggling your head around that
way. Just wait quietly until the demijel sets."

Obediently, Malone froze. There was a crick in his neck, but he decided
he could stand it. "My head still hurts," he said accusingly.

"Sure it still hurts," the doctor agreed.

"But you--"

"What did you expect?" the doctor said. "Even an FBI agent isn't immune
to blackjacks, you know." He resumed his work on Malone's skull.

"Blackjacks?" Malone said. "What blackjacks?"

"The ones that hit you," the doctor said. "Or the one, anyhow."

Malone blinked. Somehow, though he could manage a fuzzy picture of a
car reaching out to hit him, the introduction of a blackjack into this
imaginative effort confused things a little. But he resolutely ignored
it.

[Illustration]

"The bruise is just the right size and shape," the doctor said. "And
that cut on your head comes from the seams on the leather casing."

"You're sure?" Malone said doubtfully. It did seem as if a car had a lot
more dangerous weapons around, without resorting to blackjacks. If it
had really wanted to damage him, why hadn't it hit him with the engine
block?

"I'm sure," the doctor said. "I've worked in Emergency in this hospital
long enough to recognize a blackjack wound."

That was a disturbing idea, in a way. It gave a new color to Malone's
reflection on Greenwich Villagers. Maybe things had changed since he'd
heard about them. Maybe the blackjack had supplanted the guitar. But
that wasn't the important thing.

The fact that it had been a blackjack that had hit him was important. It
was vital, as a matter of fact. Malone knew that perfectly well. It was
a key fact in the case he was investigating.

The only trouble was that he didn't see what, if anything, it meant.

The doctor stepped back and regarded Malone's head with something like
pride. "There," he said. "You'll be all right now."

"When?" Malone said.

"You're not badly hurt," the doctor said reprovingly. "You've got a
slight concussion, that's all."

"A concussion?"

"Sure," the doctor said. "But it isn't serious. Just take these
pills--one every two hours until they're gone--and you'll be rid of any
effects within twenty-four hours." He went to a cabinet, fiddled around
for a minute and came back with a small bottle containing six orange
pills. They looked very large and threatening.

"Fine," Malone said doubtfully.

"You'll be all right," the doctor said, giving Malone a cheerful,
confident grin. "Nothing at all to worry about." He loaded a hypojet and
blasted something through the skin of Malone's upper arm. Malone
swallowed hard. He knew perfectly well that he hadn't felt a thing, but
he couldn't quite make himself believe it.

"That'll take care of you for tonight," the doctor said. "Get some sleep
and start in on the pills when you wake up, O.K.?"

"O.K.," Malone said. It was going to make waking up something less than
a pleasure, but he wanted to get well, didn't he?

Of course he did. If that Cadillac thought it was going to beat him....

"You can stand up now," the doctor said.

"O.K.," Malone said, trying it. "Thanks, doctor. I--"

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a knock at the door. The doctor jerked his head around.

"Who's that?" he said.

"Me," a bass voice said, unhelpfully.

The Emergency Room door opened a crack and a face peered in. It took
Malone a second to recognize Bill, the waffle-faced cop who had picked
him up next to the lamp post three years or so before. "Long time no
see," Malone said at random.

"What?" Bill said, and opened the door wider. He came in and closed it
behind him. "It's O.K., Doc," he said to the attendant. "I'm a cop."

"Been hurt?" the doctor said.

Bill shook his head. "Not recently," he said. "I came to see this guy."
He looked at Malone. "They told me you were still here," he said.

"Who's they?" Malone said.

"Outside," Bill said. "The attendants out there. They said you were
still getting stitched up."

"And quite right, too," Malone said solemnly.

"Oh," Bill said. "Sure." He fished in his pockets. "You dropped your
notebook, though, and I came to give it back to you." He located the
object he was hunting for and brought it out with the triumphant gesture
of a man displaying the head of a dragon he has slain. "Here," he said,
waving the book.

"Notebook?" Malone said. He stared at it. It was a small looseleaf book
bound in cheap black plastic.

"We found it in the gutter," Bill said.

Malone took a tentative step forward and managed not to fall. He stepped
back again and looked at Bill scornfully. "I wasn't even in the gutter,"
he said. "There are limits."

"Sure," Bill said. "But the notebook was, so I brought it along to you.
I thought you might need it or something." He handed it over to Malone
with a flourish.

It wasn't Malone's notebook. In the first place, he had never owned a
notebook that looked anything like that, and in the second place he
hadn't had any notebooks on him when he went for his walk. _Mine not to
question why_, Malone told himself with a shrug, and flipped the book
open.

At once he knew why the cop had mistaken it for his.

There, right on the first page, was a carefully detailed drawing of a
1972 Cadillac. It had been painstakingly colored in with a red pencil.

Malone stared at it for a second, and then went on to page two. This
page carried a list of names running down the left margin.

     _Ramon O.

     Mario G.

     Silvo E.

     Felipe A.

     Alvarez la B.

     Juan de los S.

     Ray del E._

That made sense, of a kind. It was a list of names. Whose names they
were, Malone didn't know; but at least he could see the list and
understand it. What puzzled him were the decorations.

Following each name was a queer-looking squiggle. Each was slightly
different, and each bore some resemblance to a stick-figure, a
geometrical figure or just a childish scrawl. The whole parade reminded
Malone of pictures he had seen of Egyptian hieroglyphics.

But the names didn't look Egyptian, and, anyhow, nobody used
hieroglyphics any more--did they?

Malone found himself thinking: _Now what does that mean?_ He looked
across at the facing page.

It contained a set of figures, all marked off in dollars and cents and
all added up neatly. One of the additions ended with the eye-popping sum
of $52,710.09, and Malone found that the sum made him slightly nervous.
This was high-powered figuring.

       *       *       *       *       *

On to page three, he told himself. Drawings again, both on that page and
on the one facing it. Malone recognized an outboard motor, a
store-front, a suit of clothing hanging neatly on a hanger, a motor
scooter, a shotgun and an IBM Electrotyper. Whoever had done the work
was a reasonably accurate artist, if untrained; the various items were
easily recognizable and Malone could see a great deal of detail.

That, of course, was fine. Only it made no more sense than the rest of
the notebook.

Malone riffled through a few more pages, trying to make sense of the
contents. One page seemed to be a shopping list, with nothing more
revealing on it than _bread, bacon, eggs (1/2 doz.), peaches (frz.),
cigs., & ltr., fluid_.

There was another list, farther on. This one said: _Hist. 2, Eng. 4,
Math. 3, Span. 2. What for Elec.?_

That cast the first glow of light. Whoever owned the notebook was a
student. Or a teacher, Malone thought; then, looking back at the
handwriting, he decided that the owner of the notebook had to be in high
school, certainly no farther along.

He went on flipping pages. One of them said, in large black capitals:
=_HE'S BLUFFING!_=

A note passed in class? There was not any way of making sure.

Malone thought about the hypothetical student for a minute. Then
something in the riffling pages caught his eye.

There were two names on the page he'd stopped at.

The first was: _Lt. Peter Lynch, NYPD._ It was followed by two little
squiggles.

The second was: _Mr. Kenneth J. Malone, FBI._

There were no squiggles after his own name, and Malone felt oddly
thankful for that, without knowing exactly why. But what did the names
mean? And who had--

"Uh ... Mr. Malone--" Bill said tentatively. "That _is_ your notebook,
isn't it?"

"Oh," Malone said. He looked up at the cop and put on his most
ingratiating smile. "Sure," he said. "It's mine. Sure it is. Just
checking to see if I'd lost any pages. Not good. Losing pages out of a
notebook. Never. Have to check, you know. Procedure. Very secret."

"Sure," Bill said uncertainly.

Malone took a deep breath. "Thought I'd lost the notebook," he said. "I
appreciate your returning it."

"Oh," Bill said, "that's O.K., Mr. Malone. Glad to do it."

"You don't know what this means to me," Malone said truthfully.

"No trouble at all," Bill said. "Any time." He gave Malone a big smile
and turned back to the door. "But I got to get back to my beat," he
said. "Listen, I'll see you. And if I can be any help--"

"Sure," Malone said. "I'll let you know. And thanks again."

"Welcome," Bill said, and opened the door. He strode out with the air of
a man who has just been decorated with the Silver Star, the Purple Heart
and the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Malone tried a few more steps and discovered that he could walk without
falling down. He thanked the doctor again.

"Perfectly all right," the doctor said. "Nothing to it. Why, you ought
to see some of the cases we get here. There was a guy here the other
night with both his legs all mashed up by a--"

"I'll bet," Malone said hurriedly. "Well, I've got to be on my way. Just
send the bill to FBI Headquarters on Sixty-ninth Street." He closed the
door on the doctor's enthusiastic: "Yes, _sir_!" and went on down the
hallway and out into the street. At Seventh Avenue and Greenwich Avenue
he flagged a cab.

What a place to be, Malone thought as the cab drove away. Where but in
Greenwich Village did avenues intersect each other without so much as a
by-your-leave?

"Statler-Hilton Hotel," he said, giving the whole thing up as a bad job.
He put his hat on his head and adjusted it painfully to the proper
angle.

And that, he thought, made another little problem. The car had not only
hit him on the head; it had removed his hat before doing so, and then
replaced it. It had only fallen off when he'd started to get up against
the lamp post.

_A nice quiet vacation_, Malone thought bitterly.

He fumed in silence all the way to the hotel, through the lobby, up in
the elevator and to the door of his room. Then he remembered the
notebook.

That was important evidence. He decided to tell Boyd about it right
away.

He went into the bathroom and tapped gently on the door to Boyd's
connecting room. The door swung open.

Boyd, apparently, was still out painting the town--Malone considered the
word _red_ and dropped the whole phrase with a sigh. At any rate, his
partner was nowhere in the room. He went back into his own room, closed
the door and got wearily ready for bed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dawn came, and then daylight, and then a lot more daylight. It was
streaming in through the windows with careless abandon, filling the room
with a lot of bright sunshine and the muggy heat of the city. From the
street below, the cheerful noises of traffic and pedestrians floated up
and filled Malone's ears.

He turned over in bed, and tried to go back to sleep.

But sleep wouldn't come. After a long time he gave up, and swung himself
over the edge of the bed. Standing up was a delicate job, but he managed
it, feeling rather proud of himself in a dim, semiconscious sort of way.

He went into the bathroom, brushed his teeth, and then opened the
connecting door to Boyd's room softly.

Boyd was home. He lay in a great tangle of bedclothes, snoring hideously
and making little motions with his hands and arms like a beached whale.
Malone padded over to him and dug him fiercely in the ribs.

"Come on," he said. "Wake up, Tommy-boy."

Boyd's eyes did not open. In a voice as hollow as a zombie's, he said:
"My head. Hurts."

"Can't feel any worse than mine," Malone said cheerily. This, he
reflected, was not quite true. Considering everything it had been
through recently, his head felt remarkably like its old, carefree self.
"You'll feel better once you're awake."

"No, I won't," Boyd said simply. He jammed his head under a pillow and
began to snore again. It was an awesome sound, like a man strangling to
death in chicken-fat. Malone sighed and poked at random among the
bedclothes.

Boyd swore distantly, and Malone poked him again.

"The sun is up," Malone said, "and all the little pedestrians are
chirping. It is time to rise."

Boyd said: "Gah," and withdrew his head from the pillow. Gently, as if
he were afraid he were going to fall apart, he rose to a sitting
position. When he had arrived at it, he opened his eyes.

"Now," Malone said, "isn't that better?"

Boyd closed his eyes again. "No," he said.

"Come on," Malone said. "We've got to be up and moving."

"I'm up," Boyd said. His eyes flickered open. "But I can't move," he
added. "We had quite a time last night."

"We?" Malone said.

"Me, and a couple of girls, and another guy. Just people I met." Boyd
started to stand up and thought better of it. "Just having a good time,
that's all."

Malone thought of reading his partner a lecture on the Evils of Drink,
and decided against it. Boyd might remember it, and use it against him
some time. Then he realized what had to be done. He went back into his
own room, dialed for room service, and ordered a couple of pots of
strong black coffee.

By the time a good deal of that was awash in Boyd's intestinal system,
he was almost capable of rational, connected conversation. He filled
himself to the eyebrows with aspirins and other remedies, and actually
succeeded in getting dressed. He seemed quite proud of this feat.

"O.K.," Malone said. "Now we have to go downstairs."

"You mean outside?" Boyd said. "Into all that noise?" He winced.

"Bite the bullet," Malone said cheerfully. "Keep a stiff upper lip."

"Nonsense," Boyd said, hunting for his coat with a doleful air. "Have
you ever seen anybody with a loose upper lip?"

Malone, busy with his own coat, didn't bother with a reply. He managed
somehow to get Boyd downstairs and bundled into a cab. They headed for
Sixty-ninth Street.

       *       *       *       *       *

There, he made several phone calls. The first, of course, was to Burris
in Washington. After that he got the New York Police Commissioner on the
wire and, finding that he needed still more authority, he called the
Mayor and then, by long-distance to Albany, the Governor.

But by noon he had everything straightened out. He had a plan fully
worked out in his mind, and he had the authority to go ahead with it.
Now, he could make his final call.

"They're completely trustworthy," Burris had told him. "Not only that,
but they have a clearance for this kind of special work--we've needed
them before."

"Good," Malone said.

"Not only that," Burris told him. "They're good men. Maybe among the
best in their field."

So Malone made his last call, to the firm of Leibowitz & Hardin,
Electronic Engineers.

Then he beckoned to Boyd.

"I don't see what I've been sitting around here for, all this time," his
partner complained. "I could have been home sleeping until you needed
me. And--"

"I need you now," Malone said. "I want you to take over part of this
plan."

Boyd nodded sourly. "Oh, all right," he said.

"Here's what I want," Malone said. "Every red 1972 Cadillac in the area
is to be picked up for inspection. I don't care why--make up a reason. A
general traffic check. Anything you please. You can work that end of it
out with the Commissioner; he knows about it and he's willing to go
along."

"Great," Boyd said. "Do you have any idea how many cars there are in a
city this size?"

"Well, we don't want all of them," Malone said. "Only red 1972
Cadillacs."

"It's still a lot," Boyd said.

"If there were only three," Malone said, "we wouldn't have any
problems."

"And wouldn't that be nice?" Boyd said.

"Sure," Malone said, "but it isn't true. Anyhow: I want every one of
those cars checked for any oddity, no matter how small. If there's an
inch-long scratch on one fender, I want to know about it. If you've got
to take the cars apart, then do that."

"Me?" Boyd said. "All by myself?"

"No," Malone said. "Use your head. There'll be a team working with you.
Let me explain it. Every nut, every bolt, every inch of those cars has
to be examined thoroughly--got it?"

"I've got it," Boyd said, "but I don't like it. After all, Malone--"

Malone ignored him. "The Governor of New York promised his
co-operation," he said, "and he said he'd get in touch with the
Governors of New Jersey and Connecticut and get co-operation from that
angle. So we'll have state and local police working with us."

"That's a help," Boyd said. "We'll make such a happy team of workmen.
Singing as we pull the cars apart through the long day and night and ...
listen, Malone, when do you want reports on this?"

"Yesterday," Malone said.

Boyd's eyebrows raised, then lowered. "Great," he said dully.

"I don't care how you get the cars," Malone said. "If you've got to,
condemn 'em. But get every last one of them. And bring them over to
Leibowitz & Hardin for a complete checkup. I'll give you the address."

"Thanks," Boyd said.

"Not at all," Malone said. "Glad to be of help. And don't worry; I'll
have other work to do." He paused, and then went on: "I talked to Dr.
Isaac Leibowitz, he's the head of the firm out there--and he says...."

"Wait a minute," Boyd said.

"What?"

"You mean I don't have to take the cars apart myself? You mean this
Leibowitz & Hardin, or whatever it is, will do it for me?"

"Of course," Malone said wearily. "You re not an auto technician or an
electronics man. You're an agent of the FBI."

"I was beginning to wonder," Boyd said. "After all."

[Illustration]

"Anyhow," Malone said doggedly, "I talked to Leibowitz, and he says he
can give a car a complete check in about six hours, normally."

"Six hours?" Boyd stared. "That's going to take forever," he said.

"Well, he can set up a kind of assembly-line process and turn out a car
every fifteen minutes. Any better?"

Boyd nodded.

"Good," Malone said. "There can't be so many 1972 red Cadillacs in the
area that we can't get through them all at that speed." He thought a
minute and then added: "By the way, you might check with the Cadillac
dealers around town, and find out just how many there are, sold to
people living in the area."

"And while I'm doing all that," Boyd said, "what are you going to be
doing?"

Malone looked at him and sighed. "I'll worry about that," he said. "Just
get started."

"Suppose Leibowitz can't find anything?" Boyd said.

"If Leibowitz can't find it, it's not there," Malone said. "He can find
electronic devices anywhere in any car made, he says--even if they're
printed circuits hidden under the paint job."

"Pretty good," Boyd said. "But suppose he doesn't?"

"Then they aren't there," Malone said, "and we'll have to think of
something else." He considered that. It sounded fine. Only he wished he
knew what else there was to think of.

Well, that was just pessimism. Leibowitz would find something, and the
case would be over, and he could go back to Washington and rest. In
August he was going to have his vacation, anyway, and August wasn't very
far away.

Malone put a smile carefully on his face and told Boyd: "Get going." He
slammed his hat on his head.

Wincing, he took it off and replaced it gently. The bottle of pills was
still in his pocket, but he wasn't due for another one just yet.

He had time to go over to the precinct station in the West Eighties
first.

He headed outside to get another taxi.



V.


The door didn't say anything at all except "Lt. P. Lynch." Malone looked
at it for a couple of seconds. He'd asked the Desk Sergeant for Lynch,
shown his credentials and been directed up a set of stairs and around a
hall. But he still didn't know what Lynch did, who he was, or what his
name was doing in the little black notebook.

Well, he told himself, there was only one way to find out.

He opened the door.

The room was small and dark. It had a single desk in it, and three
chairs, and a hatrack. There wasn't any coat or hat on the hatrack, and
there was nobody in the chairs. In a fourth chair, behind the desk, a
huskily-built man sat. He had steel-gray hair, a hard jaw and, Malone
noticed with surprise, a faint twinkle in his eye.

"Lieutenant Lynch?" Malone said.

"Right," Lynch said. "What's the trouble?"

"I'm Kenneth J. Malone," Malone said. "FBI." He reached for his wallet
and found it. He flipped it open for Lynch, who stared at it for what
seemed a long, long time and then burst into laughter.

"What's so funny?" Malone asked.

Lynch laughed some more.

"Oh, come on," Malone said bitterly. "After all, there's no reason to
treat an FBI agent like some kind of a--"

"FBI agent?" Lynch said. "Listen, buster, this is the funniest gag I've
seen since I came on the Force. Who told you to pull it? Jablonski
downstairs? Or one of the boys on the beat? I know those beat patrolmen,
always on the lookout for a new joke. But this tops 'em all. This is
the--"

"You're a disgrace to the Irish," Malone said tartly.

"A what?" Lynch said. "I'm not Irish."

"You talk like an Irishman," Malone said.

"I know it," Lynch said, and shrugged. "Around some precincts, you sort
of pick it up. When all the other cops are ... hey, listen. How'd we get
to talking about me?"

"I said you were a disgrace to the Irish," Malone said.

"I was a--what?"

"Disgrace." Malone looked carefully at Lynch. In a fight, he considered,
he might get in a lucky punch that would kill Malone. Otherwise, Malone
didn't have a thing to worry about except a few months of
hospitalization.

Lynch looked as if he were about to get mad, and then he looked down at
Malone's wallet again and started to laugh.

"What's so funny?" Malone demanded.

He grabbed the wallet and turned it toward him. At once, of course, he
realized what had happened. He had not flipped it open to his badge at
all. He'd flipped it open, instead, to a card in the card-case:

     KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE
     PRESENTS THAT Sir Kenneth
     Malone, Knight, is hereby formally
     installed with the title of
     KNIGHT OF THE BATH
     and this card shall signify his right
     to that title and his high and respected
     position as officer in and of
     THE QUEENS OWN F.B.I.

In a very small voice, Malone said: "There's been a terrible mistake."

"Mistake?" Lynch said.

Malone flipped the wallet open to his FBI shield. Lynch gave it a good
long examination, peering at it from every angle and holding it up to
the light two or three times. He even wet his thumb and rubbed at the
badge with it. At last he looked up.

"I guess you are the FBI," he said. "But what was with the gag?"

"It wasn't a gag," Malone said. "It's just--" He thought of the little
old lady in Yucca Flats, the little old lady who had been the prime
mover in the last case he and Boyd had worked on together. Without the
little old lady, the case might never have been solved--she was an
authentic telepath, about the best that had ever been found.

But with her, Boyd and Malone had had enough troubles. Besides being a
telepath, she was quite thoroughly insane. She had one fixed delusion:
she believed she was Queen Elizabeth I.

She was still at Yucca Flats, along with the other telepaths Malone's
investigation had turned up. And she still believed, quite calmly, that
she was Good Queen Bess. Malone had been knighted by her during the
course of the investigation. This new honor had come to him through the
mail; apparently she had decided to ennoble some of her friends still
further.

Malone made a note mentally to ask Boyd if he'd received one. After all,
there couldn't be too many Knights of the Bath. There was no sense in
letting _everybody_ in.

Then he realized that he was beginning to believe everything again.
There had been times, when he'd been working with the little old lady,
when he had been firmly convinced that he was, in fact, the swaggering,
ruthless swordsman, Sir Kenneth Malone. And even now....

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well?" Lynch said.

"It's too long a story," Malone said. "And besides, it's not what I came
here about."

Lynch shrugged again. "O.K.," he said. "Tell it your way."

"First," Malone said, "what's your job?"

"Me? Precinct Lieutenant."

"Of this precinct?"

Lynch stared. "What else?" he said.

"Who knows?" Malone said. He found the black notebook and passed it
across to Lynch. "I'm on this red Cadillac business, you know," he said
by way of introduction.

"I've been hearing about it," Lynch said. He picked up the notebook
without opening it and held it like a ticking bomb. "And I mean hearing
about it," he said. "We haven't had any trouble at all in this
precinct."

"I know," Malone said. "I've read the reports."

"Listen, not a single red Cadillac has been stolen from here, or been
reported found here. We run a tight precinct here, and let me tell
you--"

"I'm sure you do a fine job," Malone said hastily. "But I want you to
look at the notebook." He opened it to the page with Lynch's name on it.

Lynch opened his mouth, closed it and then took the notebook. He stared
at the page for a few seconds. "What's this?" he said at last. "Another
gag?"

"No gag, lieutenant," Malone said.

"It's your name and mine," Lynch said. "What is that supposed to mean?"

Malone shrugged. "Search me," he said. "The notebook was found only a
couple of feet away from another car theft, last night." That was the
simplest way he could think of to put it. "So I asked the Commissioner
who Peter Lynch was, and he told me it was you."

"And it is," Lynch said, staring at the notebook. He seemed to be
expecting it to rise and strike him.

Malone said: "Have you got any idea who'd be writing about you and me?"

Lynch shook his head. "If I had any ideas I'd feel a lot better," he
said. He wet his finger and turned the notebook pages carefully. When he
saw the list of names on the second page he stopped again, and stared.
This time he whistled under his breath.

Very cautiously, Malone said: "Something?"

"I'll be damned," Lynch said feelingly.

"What's wrong?" Malone said.

The police lieutenant looked up. "I don't know if it's wrong or what,"
he said. "It gives me sort of the willies. I know every one of these
kids."

Malone took out a pill and swallowed it in a hurry. He felt exactly as
if he had been given another concussion, absolutely free and without any
obligation. His mouth opened but nothing came out for a long time. At
last he managed to say: "_Kids?_"

"That's right," Lynch said. "What did you think?"

Malone shrugged helplessly.

"Every single one of them," Lynch said. "Right from around here."

There was a little silence.

"Who are they?" Malone said carefully.

"They're some kind of kid gang, social club, something like that," Lynch
said. "They call themselves the Silent Spooks."

"The what?" It seemed to Malone that the name was just a little fancy,
even for a kid gang.

"The Silent Spooks," Lynch said. "I can't help it. But here they are:
Ramon Otravez, Mario Grito, Silvo Envoz, Felipe Altapor, Alvarez la
Barba, Juan de los Santos and Ray del Este. Right down the line." He
looked up from the notebook with a blank expression on his face.
"There's only one name missing, as a matter of fact. Funny it isn't
there."

Malone tried to look as if he knew what was going on. "Oh?" he said.

"Yeah," Lynch said. "The Fueyo kid--Miguel Fueyo. Everybody calls him
Mike."

While interesting, this did not provide much food for thought. "Why
should his name be on it especially?" Malone said.

"Because he's the leader of the gang," Lynch said. "The boss. The big
shot." He pointed to the list of names. "Except for him, that's all of
them--the Silent Spooks."

Malone considered the missing Mike Fueyo.

He knew perfectly well, now, why Fueyo's name was not in the book.

Who puts his own name on a list?

The notebook was Fueyo's. It had to be.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lynch was looking at him expectantly. Malone thought of a question and
asked it. "They know you?" he said.

"Sure they do," Lynch said. "They all know me. But do they know you?"

Malone thought. "They could have heard of me," he said at last, trying
to be as modest as possible.

"I guess," Lynch said grudgingly.

"How old are they?" Malone said.

"Fourteen to seventeen," Lynch said. "Somewhere in there. You know how
these kid things run."

"The Silent Spooks," Malone said meditatively. It was a nice name, in a
way; you just had to get used to it for a while. When he had been a kid,
he'd belonged to a group that called itself the East Division Street
Kids. There just wasn't much romance in a name like that. Now, the
Silent Spooks--

With a wrench, he brought his mind back to the subject at hand. "Do they
get into much trouble?" he said.

"Well, no," Lynch said reluctantly. "As a matter of fact, they don't.
For a bunch like that, around here, they're pretty well-behaved, as far
as that goes."

"What do you mean?" Malone said.

Lynch's face took on a delicately unconcerned appearance. "I don't
know," he said. "They just don't get into neighborhood trouble. Maybe a
scrap now and then--nothing big, though. Or maybe one of them cuts a
class at school or argues with his teacher. But there's nothing unusual,
and little of anything." He frowned.

Malone said: "Something's got to be wrong. What is it?"

"Well," Lynch said, "they do seem to have a lot of money to spend."

Malone sat down in a chair across the desk, and leaned eagerly toward
Lynch. "Money?" he said.

"Money," Lynch said. "New clothes. Cigarettes. Malone, three of them are
even supporting their parents. Old Jose Otravez--Ramon's old man--quit
his job a couple of months ago, and hasn't worked since. Spends all his
time in bars, and never runs out of dough--and don't tell me you can do
that on Unemployment Insurance. Or Social Security payments."

"O.K.," Malone said. "I won't tell you."

"And there's others. All the others, in fact. Mike Fueyo's
sister--dresses fit to kill, like a high-fashion model. And the Grito
kid--"

"Wait a minute," Malone said. "From what you tell me, this isn't just a
little extra money. These kids must be rolling in the stuff. Up to their
ears in dough."

"Listen," Lynch said sadly. "Those kids spend more than I do. They do
better than that--they spend more than I _earn_." He looked remotely
sorry for himself, but not for long. "Every one of those kids spends
like a drunken sailor, tossing his money away on all sorts of things."

"Like an expense account," Malone said idly. Lynch looked up. "Sorry,"
Malone said. "I was thinking about something else."

"I'll bet you were," Lynch said with unconcealed envy.

"No," Malone said. "Really. Listen, I'll check with Internal Revenue on
that money. But have you got a list of the kids' addresses?"

"I can get one," Lynch said, and went to the door.

It closed behind him. Malone sat waiting alone for a few minutes, and
then Lynch came back. "List'll be here in a minute," he said. He sat
down behind his desk and reached for the notebook again. When he turned
to the third page his expression changed to one of surprise.

"Be damned," said. "There does seem to be a connection, doesn't there?"
He held up the picture of the red Cadillac for Malone to see.

"Sure does," Malone said. "That's why I want those addresses. If there
is a connection, I sure want to find out about it."

Ten minutes later, Malone was walking out of the precinct station with
the list of addresses in his pocket. He was heading for his Great
Adventure, but he didn't know it. All he was thinking about was the red
Cadillacs, and the eight teen-agers. "I'm going to get to the bottom of
this if it takes me all summer," he said, muttering to himself.

"That's the spirit," he told himself. "Never say die."

Then, realizing he had just said it, he frowned. Perhaps it hadn't
really counted. But, then again....

       *       *       *       *       *

He was on his way down the steps when he hit the girl.

The mutual collision was not catastrophic. On the other hand, it was not
exactly minor. It fell somewhere between the two, as an unclassifiable
phenomenon of undoubted potency. Malone said: "Oog," with some fervor as
the girl collided with his chest and rebounded like a handball striking
a wall. Something was happening to her, but Malone had no time to spare
to notice just what. He was falling through space, touching a concrete
step once in a while, but not long enough to make any real acquaintance
with it. It seemed to take him a long time to touch bottom, and when he
had, he wondered if _touch_ was quite the word.

_Bottom_ certainly was. He had fallen backward and landed directly on
his _glutei maximi_, obeying the law regarding equal and opposite
reaction and several other laws involving falling bodies.

His first thought was that he was now neatly balanced. His tail had
received the same treatment as his head. He wondered if a person could
get concussion of the tail bones, and had reached no definite conclusion
when, unexpectedly, his eyes focused again.

He was looking at a girl. That was all he saw at first. She had
apparently fallen just as he had, bounced once and sat down rather hard.
She was now lying flat on her back, making a sound like "_rrr_" between
her teeth.

Malone discovered that he was sitting undignifiedly on the steps. He
opened his mouth to say something objectionable, took another look at
the girl, and shut it with a snap. This was no ordinary girl.

He smiled at her. She shook her head and sat up, still going "_rrr_."
Then she stopped and said, instead: "What do you think--"

"I'm sorry," Malone said in what he hoped was a charming, debonair and
apologetic voice. It was quite a lot to get into one voice, but he tried
his very hardest. "I just didn't see--"

[Illustration]

"You didn't?" the girl said. "If you didn't, you must be completely
blind."

Malone noticed with hope that there was no anger in her voice. The last
thing in the world he wanted was to get this girl angry at him.

"Oh, no," Malone said. "I'm not blind. Not blind at all." He smiled at
her and stood up. His face was beginning to get a little tired, but he
retained the smile as he went over to her, extended a hand and pulled
her to her feet.

She was something special. Her hair was long and dark, and fell in soft
waves to her shoulders. The shoulders were something all by themselves,
but Malone postponed consideration of them for a minute to take a look
at her face.

It was heart-shaped and rather thin. She had large brown liquid eyes
that could look, Malone imagined, appealing, loving, worshiping--or,
like a minute ago, downright furious. Below these features, she had a
straight lovely nose and a pair of lips which Malone immediately
classified as Kissable.

Her figure, including the shoulders, was on the slim side, but she was
very definitely all there. Malone could not think of any parts the
Creator had left out, and if there were any he didn't want to hear about
them. In an instant, Malone knew that he had met the only great love of
his life.

Again.

His mind was whirling and for a second he didn't know what to do. And
then he remembered the Queen's Own FBI. Phrases flowered forth in his
mind as if it were a garden packed corner to corner with the most
exquisite varieties of blooming idiots.

"My deepest apologies, my dear," Sir Kenneth Malone said gallantly, even
managing a small display bow for the occasion. "May I be of any
assistance?"

The girl smiled up at him as she came to her feet. The smile was radiant
and beautiful and almost loving. Malone felt as if he couldn't stand it.
Tingles of the most wonderful kind ran through him, reached his toes and
then ran back the other way, meeting a whole new set going forward.

"You're very nice," the girl said, and the tingles became positive waves
of sensation. "Actually, it was all my fault. Please don't apologize,
Mr.--" She paused, expectantly.

"Me?" Malone said, his gallantry deserting him for the second. But it
returned full force before he expected it. "I'm Malone," he said.
"Kenneth Joseph Malone." He had always liked the middle name he had
inherited from his father, but he never had much opportunity to use it.
He made the most of it now, rolling it out with all sorts of subsidiary
flourishes. As a matter of fact, he barely restrained himself from
putting a "Sir" before his name.

The girl's brown eyes widened just a trifle. Malone felt as if he could
have fallen into them and drowned. "Oh, my," she said. "You must be a
detective." And then, like the merest afterthought: "My name's Dorothy."

_Dorothy._ It was a beautiful name. It made Malone feel all choked up,
inside. He blinked at the girl and tried to look manly and wonderful. It
was an effort, but he nearly carried it off.

       *       *       *       *       *

After a second or two he realized that she had asked him a question. He
didn't want to disillusion her in any way, and, after all, an FBI agent
was a kind of detective, but he thought it was only fair that she should
know the whole truth about him right from the start.

"Not exactly a detective," he said.

"Not exactly?" she said, looking puzzled. She looked positively glorious
when puzzled, Malone decided at once.

"That is," he said carefully, "I do detect, but not for the city of New
York."

"Oh," she said. "A private eye. Is that right?"

"Well," Malone said, "no."

She looked even more puzzled. Malone hastened to explain before he got
to the point where conversation was impossible.

"Federal Bureau of Investigation," he said. After a second he thought
of a clarification and added: "FBI."

"Oh," the girl said. "_Oh._"

"But you can call me Ken," Malone said.

"All right--Ken," she said. "And you call me Dorothy."

"Sure," he said. He tried it out. "Dorothy." It felt swell.

"Well--" she said after a second.

"Oh," Malone said. "Were you looking for a detective? Because if I can
help in any way--"

"Not exactly," Dorothy said. "Just a little routine business. I'll go on
in and--"

Malone suddenly found himself talking without having any idea why he'd
started, or what he was going to say. At first he said: "_Urr_," as if
the machine were warming up, and this stopped Dorothy and caused her to
give him a rather sharp, baffled stare. Then he found some words and
used them hurriedly, before they got away.

"Dorothy," he said, "would you like to take in a show this evening? I
think I can get tickets to ... well, I guess I could get tickets to
almost anything, if I really tried." His expression attempted to leave
no doubt that he would really try.

Dorothy appeared to consider for a moment. "Well," she said at last,
"how about 'The Hot Seat'?"

Malone felt just the way he had several years before when he had bluffed
his way into a gigantic pot during a Washington poker game, with only a
pair of fours to work with. At the last moment, his bluff had been
called.

It had, he realized, been called again. "The Hot Seat" had set some sort
of record, not only for Broadway longevity, but for audience frenzy.
Getting tickets for it was about the same kind of proposition as buying
grass on the Moon, and getting them with absolutely no prior notice
would require all the wire-pulling Malone could manage. He thought about
"The Hot Seat" and wished Dorothy had picked something easy, like
arranging for her to meet the Senate.

But he swallowed bravely. "I'll do my best," he said. "Got any second
choice?"

"Sure," she said, and laughed. "Pick any one you want. I haven't seen
them all, and the ones I have seen are worth seeing again."

"Oh," Malone said.

"I really didn't expect you to get tickets for 'The Hot Seat,'" she
said.

"Nothing," Malone said, "is impossible." He grinned at her. "Meanwhile,
where can I pick you up? Your home?"

Dorothy frowned and shook her head. "No," she said. "You see, I'm living
with an aunt, and I ... well, never mind." She thought for a minute. "I
know," she said. "Topp's."

"What?" Malone said.

"Topp's," Dorothy said. "On Forty-second Street, just East of Broadway?
It's a restaurant."

"I don't exactly know where it is," Malone said, "but if it's there,
I'll find it." He looked gallant and determined. "We can get something
to eat there before the show--whatever the show turns out to be."

"Fine," Dorothy said.

"How about making it at six?" Malone said.

She nodded. "Six it is," she said. "Now bye-bye." She touched her
forefinger to her lips, and brushed Malone's cheek with the kissed
finger.

By the time the new set of tingles had begun to evaporate, she had gone
into the police station. Malone heaved a great sigh of passion, and held
down a strong impulse to follow her and protect her. He wasn't quite
sure what he was going to protect her from, but he felt certain that
that would come to him when the time arrived.

Nevertheless, he had work to do, unpleasant as the idea had suddenly
begun to seem. He pulled the list of addresses out of his pocket and
looked at the first one.

_Mike Fueyo._

Mike was the leader of the Silent Spooks, according to Lieutenant Lynch.
Logically, therefore, he would be the first one to talk to. Malone tried
to think of some good questions, but the best one he could come up with
was: "Well, what about all those red Cadillacs?"

Somehow he doubted that this would provide a satisfactory reply. He
checked the address again and started firmly down the street, trying to
think of some better questions along the way.



VI.


The building was just off Amsterdam, in the Eighties. It had been a
shining new development once, but it was beginning to slide downhill
now. The metal on the windowframes was beginning to look worn, and the
brickwork hadn't been cleaned in a long time. Where chain fences had
once protected lonely blades of grass, children, mothers and baby
carriages held sway now, and the grass was gone. Instead, the building
was pretty well surrounded by a moat of sick-looking brown dirt.

Malone went into the first building and checked the name against the
mailboxes there, trying to ignore the combined smells of sour milk, red
pepper and here and there a whiff of unwashed humanity.

It was on the tenth floor: _Fueyo, J._ That, he supposed, would be
Mike's widowed mother; Lynch had told him that much about the boy and
his family. He found the elevator, which was covered with scribbles
ranging from JANEY LOVES MIGUEL to startling obscenities, and rode it
upstairs.

Apartment 1004 looked like every other apartment in the building, at
least from the outside. Malone pressed the button and waited a second to
hear the faint buzzing at the other side of the door. After a minute, he
pressed it again.

The door swung open very suddenly and Malone stepped back.

A short, wrinkled, dark-eyed woman in a print housedress was eying him
with deep suspicion. "My daughter is not home," she announced at once.

"I'm not looking for your daughter," Malone said. "I'd like to talk to
Mike."

"Mike?" Her expression grew even more suspicious. "You want to talk to
Mike?"

"That's right," Malone said.

"Ah," the woman said. "You one of those hoodlum friends he has. I'm
right? You can talk to Mike when I am dead and have no control over him.
For now, you can just--"

"Wait a minute," Malone said. He pulled out his wallet and flipped it
open to show his badge, being very careful that he made the right flip
this time. He didn't know exactly how this woman would react to The
Queen's Own FBI, but he didn't especially want to find out.

She looked down at the badge without taking the wallet from him. "Hah,"
she said. "You're cop, eh?" Her eyes left the wallet and examined Malone
from head to foot. It was perfectly plain that they didn't like what
they saw. "Cop," she said again, as if to herself. It sounded like a
curse.

Malone said: "Well, I--"

"You want to ask me stupid questions," she said. "That is what you want
to do. I'm right?"

"I only--"

"I know nothing," she said. "Nothing of any kind." She closed her mouth
and stood regarding him as if he were a particularly repulsive statue.
Malone looked past her into the living room beyond the door.

It was faded, now, but it had once been bright and colorful. There was
an old rug on the floor, and tables were everywhere. The one bright
thing about the room was the assortment of flowers; there were flowers
everywhere, in vases, in pots and even in windowboxes. There was also a
lot of crockery statuary, mostly faded, chipped or worn in some way. The
room looked to Malone as if its last inhabitant had died ten years
before; only the flowers had been renewed. Everything else had not only
the appearance of age, but the look of having been cast up as a
high-water mark by the sea, which had receded and left only the tangled
wreckage.

The woman cleared her throat and Malone's gaze came back to her. "I can
tell you nothing," she said.

"I don't want to talk to you," Malone said again. "I want to talk to
Mike."

Her eyes were very cold. "You from the police, and you want to talk to
Mike. You make a joke. Only I don't think the joke is very funny."

"Joke?" Malone said. "You mean Mike's not here?"

Her gaze never wavered. "You know he is not," she said. "Ten minutes ago
the policemen were taking him away to the police station. How then could
he be here?"

"Ten minutes ago?" Malone blinked. Ten minutes ago he had been looking
for this apartment. Probably it hadn't taken Lynch's men ten minutes to
find it; they weren't strangers in New York. "He was arrested?" Malone
said.

"I said so, didn't I?" the woman said. "You must be crazy or else
something." Her eyes were still cold points, but Malone saw a glow of
tears behind them. Mike was her son. She did not seem surprised that the
police had taken him away, but she was determined to protect him.

Malone's voice was very gentle. "Why did they arrest him?" he said.

The woman shrugged, a single sharp gesture. "You ask me this?"

"I'm not a cop," Malone said. "I'm from the FBI."

"FBI?" the woman said.

"It's all right," Malone said, with all the assurance he could muster.
"I only want to talk to him."

"Ah," the woman said. Tears were plain in her eyes now, glittering on
the surface. "Why they take him away, I do not know. My Mike do nothing.
Nothing."

"But didn't they say anything about--"

"They say?" the woman cried. "They say only they have orders from this
Lieutenant Lynch. He is lieutenant at police station."

"I know," Malone said gently.

"Lieutenant Lynch wants to ask Mike questions, so police come, take him
away." Her English was beginning to lose ground as tears came.

"Lynch asked for him?" Malone said. He frowned. Whatever that meant, he
wanted to be there himself. And perhaps he could help the old woman in
some way. Anyhow, he would try. She stared up at him Stonily. "Look,
Mrs. Fueyo," he said. "I'm going down there to talk to Mike right now.
And if he hasn't done anything, I'll see that he goes home to you. Right
away."

Her expression changed a trifle. She did not actually soften, but Malone
could feel the gratitude lurking behind her eyes as if it were afraid to
come out. She nodded gravely and said nothing at all. He stepped away,
and she closed the door without a sound.

He stood staring at the door for a few seconds. Then he turned and
punched the elevator button savagely.

There wasn't any time to lose.

He walked back to the precinct station. Knowing the way, it took him
about five minutes instead of the fifteen it had taken him to find the
Fueyo residence. But he still felt as if time were passing much too
fast. He ran up the steps and passed right by the desk sergeant, who
apparently recognized him, and said nothing as Malone charged up the
stairs to Lynch's office.

It was empty.

Malone stared at it and started down the hall again without knowing
where he was heading. Halfway to the stairs he met a patrolman. "Where's
Lynch?" he asked.

"The lieutenant?"

Malone fumed. "Who else?" he said. "Where is he?"

"Got some kid back in the tank, or somewhere," the patrolman said.
"Asking him a couple of questions, that's all." He added: "Hey, listen,
buddy, why do you want to see the lieutenant? You can't just go charging
in to--"

Malone was down the stairs before he'd finished. He went up to the
desk.

The desk sergeant looked down. "What's it this time?" he said.

"I'm in a hurry," Malone said. "Where are the cells? I want to see
Lieutenant Lynch."

The desk sergeant nodded. "O.K.," he said. "But the lieutenant ain't in
any of the cells. He's back in Interrogation with some kid."

"Take me there," Malone said.

"I'll show you," the sergeant said. "On duty. Can't leave the desk." He
cleared his throat and gave Malone a set of directions.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a door at the end of a corridor at the back of the station. It
was a plain wooden door with the numeral _1_ stenciled on it. Malone
opened it and looked inside.

He was staring into a rather small, rather plain little room. There were
absolutely no bright beam lights burning, and there didn't seem to be
any rubber hoses around anywhere. There were only four chairs.

Seated in three of the chairs were Lieutenant Lynch and two other police
officers. In the fourth chair, facing them, was a young boy.

He didn't look like a tough kid. He had wavy black hair, brown eyes and
what Malone thought looked like a generally friendly appearance. He was
slight and wiry, not over five feet five or six. And he wore an
expression that was neither too eager nor hostile. It wasn't just blank,
either; Malone finally pinned it down as Receptive.

He had the strangest impression that he had seen the boy somewhere
before. But he couldn't remember when or where.

Lieutenant Lynch was talking.

"... All we want, Mike, is a little information. We thought you'd be
able to help us, if you wanted to. Now, how about it?"

"Sure," Mike Fueyo said. His voice was a little high, but it was well
controlled and responsive. "Sure, lieutenant. I'll help if I can--but I
just don't dig what you're giving me. It doesn't make sense."

Lynch stirred a little impatiently, and his voice began to carry a new
bite. "I'm talking about Cadillacs," he said. "1972 Red Cadillacs."

"It's a nice car," Mike said.

"What do you know about them?" Lynch said.

"Know about them?" Mike said. "I know they're nice cars. That's about
it. What else am I going to know, lieutenant? Maybe you think I own one
of these big red 1972 Caddies. Maybe you think I got that kind of money.
Well, listen, lieutenant, I'd like to help you out, but I'm just not--"

"The Cadillacs," Lynch said, "were--"

"Just a minute, lieutenant," Malone said. Dead silence fell with great
suddenness. Lynch and all the others looked around at Malone, who smiled
apologetically. "I don't want to disturb anything," he said. "But I
would like to talk to Mike here for a little while."

"Oh," Lynch said sourly. "Sure. Sure."

"I'd like to ask him a couple of questions," Malone said. "Alone."

"Alone." Lynch said. "Oh." But there was nothing for him to do, Malone
knew, except bow to the inevitable. "Of course," he said. "Go right
ahead."

"You can stand outside the door," Malone said. "He won't get away. And
you'd better hold this." Malone, knowing perfectly well that staying
armed and alone in a room with a suspect was something you just did not
do--for very good reasons--unstrapped his .44 Magnum and handed it to
the lieutenant.

He left reluctantly, with his men.

Malone could understand Lynch's attitude. If Malone solved the case,
Lynch would not get any credit. Otherwise, it might go down in his
personal record. And, of course, the NYPD would rather wrap the case up
themselves; the FBI was treated as a necessary interference.
Unfortunately, Malone thought, Lynch had had absolutely no choice. He
sighed gently, and turned his attention to Mike Fueyo, who was still
sitting in his chair.

"Now, Mike--" he began, and was interrupted.

The door opened. Lieutenant Lynch said: "If you need us, Malone, just
yell."

"You'll hear me," Malone promised. The door shut.

He turned back to the boy. "Now, Mike," he began again, "my name is
Malone, and I'm with the FBI. I'd like to ask you a few--"

"Gee, Mr. Malone," Mike broke in eagerly. "I'm glad you're here."

Malone said: "Well, I--"

"These cops here have been giving me a pretty rough deal, you know?"
Mike said.

"I'm sure they--" Malone began.

"But I've been looking for you," Mike went on. "See, I wanted to say
something to you. Something real important."

Malone leaned forward expectantly. At last he was going to get some
information--perhaps the information that would break the whole case
wide open. He said: "Yes?"

"Well--" Mike began, and stopped.

"You don't have to be afraid of me, Mike," Malone said. "Just tell me
whatever's on your mind."

"Sure," Mike said. "It's this."

He took a deep breath. Malone clenched his fists. Now it was coming. Now
he would hear the all-important fact. He waited.

Mike stuck out his tongue and blew the longest, loudest, brassiest and
juiciest Bronx cheer that Malone had ever heard.

Then, almost instantly, the room was empty except for Malone himself.

Mike was gone.

There wasn't any place to hide, and there hadn't been any time to hide
in. Malone looked around wildly, but he had no doubts at all.

Mike Fueyo had vanished, utterly and instantaneously. He'd gone out like
a light.



VII.

[Illustration]


Thirty seconds passed. During that time, Malone did nothing at all. He
just sat there, while a confused montage of pictures tumbled through his
head. Sometimes he saw double exposures, and sometimes a couple of
pictures overlapped, but it didn't seem to make any difference, because
none of the pictures meant anything anyhow.

The reason for that was obvious. He was no longer sane. He had cracked
up. At a crucial moment, his brain had failed him, and now people would
have to come in and cart him away and put him in a straitjacket. It was
perfectly obvious to Malone that he was no longer capable of dealing
with everyday life. The blow on the head had probably taken final
effect, and it had been more serious than the doctor had imagined.

He had always distrusted doctors anyhow.

And now he was suffering from a delayed reaction. He wasn't living in
the real world any more. He had gone off to dreamland, where people
disappeared when you looked at them. There was no hope for him.

It was a nice theory, and it was even comforting, in a way. There was
only one thing wrong with it.

The room around him didn't look dreamlike at all. It was perfectly solid
and real, and it looked just the way it had looked before Mike Fueyo had
... well, Malone amended, before whatever had happened had happened. It
was a perfectly complete little room, and it had four chairs in it.
Malone was sitting in one of the chairs and all the others were empty.

There was absolutely nothing else in the room.

With some regret, Malone abandoned the theory that he had gone mad. This
left him with no ideas at all. Because if he hadn't become insane, then
what _had_ happened?

After another second or two, some ideas began to filter through the
daze. Perhaps he'd just blacked out for a minute and the kid had gone
out the door. That was possible, wasn't it?

Sure it was. And maybe he had just not seen the kid go. His eyes had
failed for a second or two. That could certainly happen, after a blow on
the head. Malone tried to remember where the sight centers of the brain
were. Maybe whoever had hit him had disturbed them, and he'd had a
sudden blackout.

Come to think of it, that made pretty good sense. If he had blacked out,
then Mike would have seen it as he went groggy, and Mike had just walked
out the door. It had to be the door, of course--the windows were out of
the question, since there weren't any windows. And six-inch-wide
air-conditioner ducts do not provide reasonable space for an exit, not
if you happen to be a human being.

That, Malone told himself, was settled--and a good thing, too. He had
begun to worry about it. But now he knew just what had happened, and he
felt relieved. He got up from his chair, walked over to the door and
opened it.

Lieutenant Lynch nearly fell into the room. He'd obviously had his ear
pressed tightly to the door and hadn't expected it to open. The other
two cops stood behind him, just about filling the hallway with their
broad shoulders.

"Well, well," Malone said.

Lynch recovered his balance and glared at the FBI agent. He said
nothing.

"Where is he?" Malone said.

"Where is he?" Lynch repeated, and blinked. "Where's _who_?"

Malone shook his head impatiently. "Fueyo," he said.

Lynch's expression was the same as that on the faces of the other two
cops: complete and utter bafflement. Malone stopped and stared. It was
suddenly very obvious that the lovely theory he had worked out for
Mike's disappearance wasn't true in the least. If Mike Fueyo had come
out the door, then these cops would know about it. But they obviously
knew nothing at all about it.

Therefore, he hadn't come out through the door.

Malone took a deep breath.

"What are you talking about?" Lynch said. "Isn't the kid in there with
you? What's happened?"

There was only one thing to do and, straight-faced, Malone went ahead
and did it. "Of course not," he snapped, trying to sound impatient and
official. "I released him."

"You _what_?"

"Released him," Malone said. He stepped out into the hall and closed the
door of the interrogation room firmly behind him. "I got all the
information I needed, so I let him go."

"Thanks," Lynch said bitterly. "After all, I was the one who--"

"You called him in for questioning, didn't you, lieutenant?" Malone
said.

"Yes, I did, and I--"

"Well," Malone said, "I questioned him."

There was a little silence. Then Lynch asked, in a strangled voice:
"What did he say?"

"Sorry," Malone said at once. "That's classified information." He pushed
his way into the corridor, trying to look as if he had fifteen other
jobs to accomplish within the next hour. Being an FBI agent was going to
help a little, but he still had to look good in order to really carry it
off.

"But--"

"Thanks for your co-operation, lieutenant," Malone said. "You've all
been very helpful." He smiled at them in what he hoped was a superior
manner. "So long," he said, and started walking.

"Wait!" Lynch said. He flung open the door of the interrogation room.
There was no doubt that it was empty. "Wait! Malone!"

Malone turned slowly, trying to look calm and in control of the
situation. "Yes?" he said.

Lynch looked at him with puzzled, pleading eyes. "Malone, _how_ did you
release him? We were right here. He didn't come through the door. There
isn't any other exit. So how did you get him out?"

There was only one answer to that, and Malone gave it with a quiet,
assured air. "I'm terribly sorry, lieutenant," he said, "but that's
classified information, too." He gave the cops a little wave and walked
slowly down the corridor. When he reached the stairs he began to speed
up, and he was out of the precinct station and into a taxicab before any
of the cops could have realized what had happened.

He took a deep breath, feeling as if it were the first he'd had in
several days. "Breathe air," he told himself. "It's _good_ for you." Not
that New York had any real air in it. It was mostly carbon fumes and the
like. But it was the nearest thing to air that Malone could find at the
moment, and he determined to go right on breathing it until something
better and cleaner showed up.

But that wasn't important now. As the cab tooled along down Broadway
toward Sixty-ninth Street, Malone closed his eyes and began going over
the whole thing in his mind.

Mike Fueyo had vanished.

Of that, Malone told himself, there was no shadow of doubt. No probable,
possible shadow of doubt.

No possible doubt--as a matter of fact--whatever.

Dismissing the Grand Inquisitor with a negligent wave of his hand, he
concentrated on the main question. It was a good question. Malone could
have sat and looked at it admiringly for a long time.

As a matter of fact, that was all he could think of to do, as the cab
turned up Seventieth Street and headed east. He certainly didn't have
any answers for it.

But it was a lovely question:

_Where does that leave Kenneth J. Malone?_

And, possibly even more important:

_Where was Miguel Fueyo?_

It was obvious that he'd vanished on purpose. And it hadn't just been
something he'd recently discovered. He had known all along that he could
pull the trick; if he hadn't known that, he wouldn't have done what he
had done beforehand. No seventeen-year-old boy, no matter what he was,
would give the FBI the raspberry unless he were pretty sure he could get
away with it.

Malone remembered the raspberry and winced slightly. The cab driver
called back: "Anything wrong, buddy?"

"Everything," Malone said. "But don't worry about it."

The cab driver shrugged and turned back to the wheel. Malone went back
to Mike Fueyo.

The kid could make himself vanish at will.

Invisibility?

Malone thought about that for a while. The fact that it was impossible
didn't decide him against it. Everything was impossible; that much was
clear. But he didn't think Mike Fueyo had just become invisible. No.
There had been the sense of a presence actually leaving the room. If
Mike had become invisible and stayed, Malone was sure he wouldn't have
felt the boy leave.

Mike had not just become invisible. (And what do I mean, "just"? Malone
asked himself unhappily.) He had gone--elsewhere.

This brought him back full circle to his original question: where was
the boy now? But he ignored it for a minute or two as another, even more
difficult query presented itself.

Never mind where, Malone told himself. _How?_

Something was bothering him. Malone realized that it had been bothering
him for a long time. At last he managed to locate it and hold it up to
the light for inspection.

Dr. O'Connor, the psionics expert at Westinghouse, had mentioned
something during Malone's last conversation with him. Dr. O'Connor,
who'd invented a telepathy detector, had been discussing further reaches
in his field.

"After all," he'd said, "if thoughts can bridge any distance whatever,
regardless of other barriers, there is no reason why matter could not do
likewise."

"How do you know?" Malone had asked him, "it doesn't. Or, anyhow, it
hasn't so far."

"There's no way to be sure of that." Dr. O'Connor had said sternly.
"After all, we have no reports of it--but that means little. Our search
has only begun."

"Oh," Malone said. "Sure."

"Matter, controlled by thought, might bridge distances instantaneously,"
Dr. O'Connor had said.

And he'd referred to something, some word....

_Teleportation._

That was it. Malone sat back. All you had to do, he reflected, was to
think yourself somewhere else, and--_bing!_--you were there. If Malone
had been able to do it, it would not only save him a lot of time and
trouble, but also such things as cab fare and train fare and ... oh, a
lot of different things.

But he couldn't. And Dr. O'Connor hadn't found anyone else who could,
either. As far as Malone knew, nobody could teleport.

Except Mike Fueyo.

The cab stopped in front of FBI Headquarters. "You some kind of secret
agent?" the cabbie said.

"Of course not," Malone said pleasantly. "I'm a foreign spy."

"Oh," the cabbie said. "Sure." He took his money with a somewhat puzzled
air, while Malone crossed the sidewalk and went into the building.

       *       *       *       *       *

Everyone was active. Malone pushed his way through arguing knots of men
until he reached the small office which he and Boyd had been assigned.
He had already decided not to tell Boyd about the disappearing boy. That
would only confuse him--and matters were confused enough as they stood.
Malone had no proof; he had only his word and the word of a few baffled
policemen, all of whom were probably thoroughly confused by now.

Boyd had a job to do, and Malone had decided to let him go on doing it.
That, as a matter of fact, was what he was doing when Malone entered the
room.

He was sitting at his desk, talking on the telephone. Malone couldn't
see the face on the screen, but Boyd was scowling at it fiercely.
"Sure," he said. "So some guy makes a fuss. That's what you're for."

"But he wants to sue the city," a voice said tinnily. "Or somebody."

"Let him sue," Boyd said. "We've got authority. Just get that car."

"Look," the voice said. "I--"

"I don't care how," Boyd snapped. "Get it. Then hand it over to the
pickup-squad and say: 'Mr. Malone wants this car--immediately.' They'll
know what to do. Got that?"

"Sure, Mr. Boyd," the voice said. "But I don't--"

"Never mind," Boyd said. "Go ahead and get the job done. The United
States of America is depending on you." With one last scowl, he hung up
and swung around to face Malone. "You gave me a great job," he said. "I
really love it, you know that?"

"It's got to be done," Malone said in a noncommittal voice. "How's it
going so far?"

Boyd closed his eyes for a second. "Twenty-three red 1972 Cadillacs to
date--which isn't bad, I suppose," he said. "And six calls like the one
you just heard. All from agents with problems. What am I supposed to do
when a guy catches a couple necking in a 1972 red Cadillac?"

"At this time of day?" Malone said.

"New York," Boyd said, and shrugged. "Things are funny here."

Malone nodded. "What did you do about them?" he said.

"Told the agent to take the car and give 'em a pass to a movie," Boyd
said.

"Good," Malone said. "Keep that sort of thing in the dark where it
belongs." For some reason, this reminded him of Dorothy. He still had to
get tickets for a show. But that could wait. "How about the assembly
line?" he said.

"Disassembly," Boyd said. "Leibowitz has started it going. He borrowed
the use of a big auto repair shop over in Jersey City, and they'll be
doing a faster job than we thought." He paused. "But it's been a
wonderful day," he said. "One to remember as long as I live. Possibly
even until tomorrow. And how have you been doing?"

"Well," Malone said, "I'm not absolutely sure yet."

"That's a nice, helpful answer," Boyd said. "In the best traditions of
the FBI."

"I can't help it," Malone said. "It's true."

"Well, what have you been doing?" Boyd said. "Drinking? Living it up
while I sit here and talk to people about Cadillacs?"

"Not exactly," Malone said. "I've been ... well, doing more or less what
Burris told me to do. Nosing around. Keeping my eyes open."

       *       *       *       *       *

The phone chimed. Boyd flipped up the mike and eyed the screen
balefully. "Federal Bureau of Investigation," he said crisply. "Who are
you?"

A voice on the other end said: "What?" before the image on the screen
cleared.

"Oh," a voice said. It was a very calm, quiet voice. "Hello, Boyd."

The image cleared. Boyd was facing the picture of a man in his middle
thirties, a brown-haired man with large, gentle brown eyes and an
expression that somehow managed to look both sad and confident. "Hello,
Dr. Leibowitz," Boyd said.

"Is Mr. Malone in?" Leibowitz said. "I really wanted to talk to him."

[Illustration]

"Sure," Boyd said. "Just a second."

He motioned to Malone, who came around and sat at Boyd's desk as Boyd
got up. He nodded to Leibowitz, and the electronics engineer nodded
back.

"How's everything coming, Dr. Leibowitz?" Malone said.

Leibowitz shrugged meaningfully. "All right," he said. "I called you to
tell you about that, by the way. We've managed to cut the per-car time
down somewhat."

"That's wonderful," Malone said.

"It's now down to about four hours per car--and that means we may be
able to do even better than running one off the line every fifteen
minutes. At the moment, fifteen minutes is about standard, though, with
sixteen cars in the line."

"Sure," Malone said. "But anything you can do to speed it up--"

"I understand," Leibowitz said. "Of course, I'll do anything that I can
for you. I have got a small preliminary report, by the way."

"Yes?"

"The first car has just been turned off the assembly line," Leibowitz
said. "And I'm afraid, Mr. Malone, that there's nothing odd about it at
all."

"Well," Malone said, "we can't expect to hit the jackpot with our first
try."

"Certainly not," Leibowitz said. "But the second should be off soon. And
then the rest. I'm keeping my eye on every one, of course."

"Fine," Malone said, and meant it. Leibowitz was the kind of man who
inspired instant, and complete trust. Malone was perfectly sure he'd do
the job he had started to do. Then an idea struck him. "Has the first
car been reassembled yet?" he asked.

"Of course," Leibowitz said. "We took that step into account in our
timing. What would you like done with it--and with the other ones, as
they come off?"

"Unless you can find something odd about a car, just return it to its
owner," Malone said. "Or pass the problem on to the squad men--they'll
take care of it." He paused. "If you do find something odd--"

"I'll call you at once, of course," Leibowitz said.

"Good," Malone said. "Incidentally, I did want to ask you something. I
don't want you to think I'm doubting your work, or anything like that.
Believe me."

"I'm sure you're not," Leibowitz said.

"But," Malone said, "why does it take so long? I'd think it would be
fairly easy to spot a robotic or a semirobotic brain capable of
controlling a car."

"It might have been, once." Leibowitz said. "But these days the problems
are rather special. Oh, I don't mean we can't do it--we can and we will.
But with subminiaturization, Mr. Malone, and semipsionic circuits, a
pretty good brain can be hidden beneath a coat of paint."

For no reason at all, Malone suddenly thought of Dorothy again. "A coat
of paint?" he said in a disturbed tone.

"Certainly," Leibowitz said, and smiled at him. It was a warm smile that
had little or nothing to do with the problem they were talking about.
But Malone liked it. It made him feel as if Leibowitz liked him, and
approved of him. He grinned back.

"But a coat of paint isn't very much," Malone said.

"It doesn't have to be very much," Leibowitz said. "Not these days. I've
often told Emily--that's my wife, Mr. Malone--that I could hide a TV
circuit under her lipstick. Not that there would be any use in it--but
the techniques are there, Mr. Malone. And if your conjecture is correct,
someone is using them."

"Oh," Malone said. "Sure. But you _can_ find the circuits, if they're
there?"

Leibowitz nodded slowly. "We can, Mr. Malone," he said. "They betray
themselves. A microcircuit need not be more than a few microns thick,
you see--as far as the conductors and insulators are concerned, at any
rate. But the regulators--transistors and such--have to be as big as a
pinhead."

"Enormous, huh?" Malone said.

"Well," Leibowitz said, and chuckled, "quite large enough to locate
without trouble, at any rate. They're very hard to conceal. And the
leads from the brain to the power controls are even easier to
find--comparatively speaking, of course."

"Of course," Malone said.

"All the brain does, you see," Leibowitz said, "is control the mechanism
that steers the car. But it takes real power to steer--a great deal more
than it does to compute the steering."

"I see," Malone, who didn't, said desperately. "In other words, unless
something radically new has been developed, you can find the circuits."

"Right," Leibowitz said, grinning. "It would have to be something very
new indeed, Mr. Malone. We're up on most of the latest developments
here; we've got to be. But I don't want the credit for this."

"No?" Malone said.

"Oh, no," Leibowitz said. "All I do is work out the general application
to theory, as far as actual detection is concerned. It's my partner, Mr.
Hardin, who takes care of all the engineering details."

Malone said: "Well, so long as one of you--"

"Sal's a real crackerjack," Leibowitz said enthusiastically. "He has an
intuitive feel about these things. It's really amazing to watch him go
to work."

"It must be," Malone said politely.

"Oh, it really is," Leibowitz said. "And it's because of Sal that I can
make the guarantee I do make: that if there are any unusual circuits in
those cars, we can find them."

"Thanks," Malone said. "I'm sure you'll do the job. And we need that
information. Don't bother to send along a detailed report, though,
unless you find something out of the ordinary."

"Of course, Mr. Malone," Leibowitz said. "I wouldn't have bothered you
except for the production speed-up here."

"I understand," Malone said. "It's perfectly all right. I'll be hearing
from you, then?"

"Certainly, Mr. Malone," Leibowitz said.

       *       *       *       *       *

Malone cut the circuit at once and started to turn away, but he never
got the chance. It started to chime again at once.

"Federal Bureau of Investigation," Malone said as he flipped up the
receiver. He wanted badly to copy Boyd's salutation, but he found that
he just didn't have the gall to do it, and said sadly instead: "Malone
speaking."

There was no immediate answer from the other party. Instead, the screen
slowly cleared, showing Malone the picture of a woman he recognized
instantly.

It was Juanita Fueyo--Mike's mother.

Malone stared at her. It seemed to him as if a couple of hours passed
while he tried to find his voice. Of course, she'd looked up the FBI
number in the phone book, and found him that way. But she was about the
last person on Earth from whom he'd expected a call.

"Oh, Mr. Malone," she said, "thank you so much! You got my Mike back
from the police!"

Malone gulped. "I did?" he said. "Well, I--"

"But Mr. Malone--you must help me again! Because now my Mike says he
must not stay at home! He is leaving, he is leaving right away!"

"Leaving?" Malone said.

He thought of a thousand things to do. He could send a squad of men to
arrest Mike. And Mike could disappear while they were trying to get hold
of him. He could go down himself--and be greeted, if he knew Mike Fueyo,
with another giant economy-size raspberry. He could try to plead with
Mike on the phone.

And what good would that do?

So, instead, he just sat and stared while Mrs. Fueyo went right on.

"He says he will send me money, but money is nothing compared to my own
boy, my own Mike. He says he must go away, Mr. Malone--but I know you
can stop him! I know it!"

"Sure," Malone said. "But I--"

"Oh, I knew that you would!" Mrs. Fueyo shrieked. She almost came
through the screen at him. "You are a great man, Mr. Malone! I will say
many prayers for you! I will never stop from praying for you because you
help me!" Her voice and face changed abruptly. "Excuse me now," she
said. "I must go back to work."

"Well," Malone said, "if I--"

Then she turned back and beamed at him again. "Oh, thank you, Mr.
Malone! Thank you with the thanks of a mother! Bring my boy back to me!"

And the image faded and died.

Boyd tapped Malone on the shoulder. "I didn't know you were involved in
an advice column for the lovelorn," he said.

"I'm not," Malone said sourly.

Boyd sighed. "I'll bite," he said. "Who was that?"

Malone thought of several possible answers and finally chose one.
"That," he said, "was my mother-in-law. She worries about me every time
I go out on a job with you."

"Very funny," Boyd said. "I am screaming with laughter."

"Just get back to work, Tommy-boy," Malone said, "and leave everything
to me."

He hoped he sounded more confident than he felt. Lighting a
cigarette--and wishing he were alone in his own room, so that he could
smoke a cigar and not have to worry about looking dashing and
alert--Malone strolled out of the office with a final wave to Boyd. He
was thinking about Mike Fueyo, and he stopped his chain of reasoning
just long enough to look in at the office of the Agent-in-Charge and ask
him to pry loose two tickets for "The Hot Seat" that night.

The agent, a tall, thin man, who looked as if he suffered from chronic
stomach trouble, said, "You must be crazy. Are they all like that in
Washington?"

"No," Malone said cheerfully. "Some of them are pretty normal. There's
this one man--Napoleon, we call him--who keeps insisting that he should
have won the battle of Waterloo. But otherwise he's perfectly fine."

He flicked his cigarette in the air and left, grinning. Five steps away
the grin disappeared and a frown took its place.



VIII.


He walked along Sixty-ninth Street to Park Avenue without noticing where
he was going. Luckily, the streets weren't really crowded, and Malone
only had to apologize twice, once for stepping on a man's toe and once
for absently toeing a woman's dog. When he reached the corner he headed
downtown, humming "Kathleen Mavourneen" under his breath and trying to
figure out his next move.

He needed more than one move. He needed a whole series of moves. This
was not the usual kind of case. Burris had called it a vacation and, in
one way, Malone supposed, Burris was perfectly right. For once there was
no question about who had committed the crimes. It was obvious by now
that Mike Fueyo and his Silent Spooks had been stealing the Cadillacs.

It was even obvious that Mike--or someone with Mike's talent--had bopped
him on the head, and taken the red Cadillac he had been examining. And
the same gang probably accounted for the Sergeant Jukovsky affair, too.

Or at least it was reasonable to assume that they did, Malone thought.
He could see how it had worked: one of the Silent Spooks was a lot
smaller than a grown man, and the two cops who hadn't seen anyone in the
parked car just hadn't been able to catch sight of the undersized
driver. Of course, there _had_ been someone in the car when it had been
driving along the West Side Highway. Someone who had teleported himself
right out of the car when it had gone over the embankment.

That, of course, meant that there would be no secret machines found in
the red Cadillacs Leibowitz & Hardin were examining now. But Malone had
already decided to let that phase of things go on. First of all, it was
always possible that he was wrong, and that some such machine really
did exist. Second, even if they didn't find a machine, they might find
something else. Almost anything, he thought, might turn up.

And, third, it kept Boyd decently busy, and out of Malone's hair.

That had been an easy solution. And, Malone thought, the problem of who
had been taking the red Cadillacs looked just as easy now, if his
answers were right. And he was reasonably sure of that.

Unfortunately, he was now left with a new and unusual question:

_How do you catch a teleport?_

Malone looked up, jarred to a stop by a man built like a brown bear,
with a chunky body and an oval, slightly sloping head and face. He had
very short brown hair shot through with gray, and he gave Malone a
small, inquisitive stare and looked away without a word.

Malone mumbled: "Sorry," and looked up at the street sign. He was at
Forty-seventh Street and Park Avenue. He jerked a hand up to his face,
and managed to hook the chunky man by the suit. It fell away, exposing
the initials SM carefully worked into his shirt. Second Mistake, Malone
thought wildly, muttered: "Sorry," again and turned west, feeling fairly
grateful to the unfortunate bystander.

He had reminded Malone of one thing. If he wanted to get even a part of
his plan past the drawing-board stage, he had to make a phone call in a
hurry.

He found a phone booth in a bar called the Ad Lib, at Madison Avenue.
Sternly telling himself that he was stopping there to make a phone call,
a business phone call, and not to have a drink, he marched right past
the friendly bartender and went into the phone booth, where he made a
call to New York Police Commissioner John Henry Fernack.

Fernack's face was that of an old man, but there was no telling how old.
The early seventies was one guess, Malone imagined; the late fifties
might be another. He looked tough, as if he had spent all of his life
trying to persuade other people that he was young enough for the
handball tournament. When he saw Malone, his eyebrows lifted slightly,
but he didn't say anything.

"Commissioner," Malone said, "I called to ask you to do me a favor."

There was caution hidden in the calm and quiet voice. "Well," Fernack
said, "what is it, Malone?"

"Can you have all the robberies for a given period run through the
computer?" Malone said. "I need some dope."

"Depends on the given period," Fernack said. "I can't do it for 1774."

"What would I need data on robberies in 1774 for?" Malone said, honestly
interested.

"I never question the FBI," Fernack said soberly. "But what dates do you
want?"

"The past year, maybe the past year and a half."

"And what data?"

"I want every reported crime that hasn't been solved," Malone said,
"which also seems to have been committed by some impossible means. A
safe that was robbed without being opened, for instance--that's the kind
of thing I mean."

"Every unsolved crime?" Fernack said. "Now, hold your horses, Malone.
I'm not at all sure that--"

"Don't worry about a thing, commissioner," Malone said. "This is
confidential."

"You know how I'd feel about this if word ever got out to--"

"I said confidential, John Henry," Malone said, trying to sound friendly
and trustworthy. "After all, every place has unsolved crimes. Even the
FBI isn't absolutely perfect."

"Oh," Fernack said. "Sure. But confidential, Malone."

"You have my word," Malone said sincerely.

Fernack said: "Well--"

"How fast can you get the dope?" Malone said.

"I don't exactly know," Fernack said. "The last time anything even
remotely like this was run through--departmental survey, but you
wouldn't be interested--it took something like eight hours."

"Fine," Malone said. "Eight hours then. I'll look everything over and if
we need a second run-through it won't take too long. I'll let you know
as soon as I can about that." He grinned into the phone.

Fernack cleared his throat and asked delicately: "Mind telling me what
all this is for?"

Malone offered up a little prayer before answering, and when he did
answer it was in his softest and most friendly tones: "I'd rather not
say just now, John Henry."

"But Malone--" Fernack's voice sounded a little strained, and his jaw
set just a trifle. "If you--"

Malone knew perfectly well how Fernack reacted when he didn't get a bit
of information he wanted. And this was no time to set off any fireworks
in the commissioner's office. "Look, John Henry," he said gently, "I'll
tell you as soon as I can. Honest. But this is classified
information--it's not my fault."

Fernack said: "But--" and apparently realized that argument was not
going to do him any good. "All right, Malone," he said at last. "I'll
have it for you as soon as possible."

"Great," Malone said. "Then I'll see you later."

"Sure," Fernack said. He paused, as if he were about to open the
controversy just once more. But all he said was: "So long, Malone."

       *       *       *       *       *

Malone breathed a great sigh of relief and flipped the phone off. He
stepped out of the booth feeling so proud of himself that he could
barely walk. Not only had he managed to calm down Commissioner Fernack,
he had also walked right past a bar on the way to the phone. He had
performed several acts, he felt, above and beyond the call of duty, and
he told himself that he deserved a reward.

Happily, the reward was convenient to hand. He went to the bar and
beckoned the bartender over to him. "Bourbon and soda," he said. "And a
medal, if possible."

"What?" the bartender said.

"A medal," Malone said. "For conduct beyond reproach."

The bartender nodded sadly. "Maybe you just ought to go home, Mac," he
said. "Sleep it off."

New Yorkers, Malone decided as the bartender went off to get his drink,
had no sense of humor. Back in Chicago--where he'd been more or less
weaned on gin, and discovered that, unlike his father, he didn't much
care for the stuff--and even in Washington, people didn't go around
accusing you of drunkenness just because you made some harmless little
pleasantry.

Oh, well. Malone drank his drink and went out into the afternoon
sunlight.

He considered the itinerary of the Magical Miguel Fueyo. He had gone
straight home from the police station, apparently, and had then told his
mother that he was going to leave home. But he had promised to send her
money.

Of course, money was easy for Mike to get. With a shudder, Malone
thought he was beginning to realize just _how_ easy. Houdini had once
boasted that no bank vault could hold him. In Mike Fueyo's case, that
was just doubly true. The vault could neither hold him out or keep him
in.

But he was going to leave home.

Malone said: "Hm-m-m," to himself, cleared his throat and tried it
again. By now he was at the corner of the block, where he nearly
collided with a workman who was busily stowing away a gigantic ladder, a
pot of paint and a brush. Malone looked up at the street sign, where the
words: "Avenue of the Americas" had been painted out, and "Sixth Avenue"
hand-lettered in.

"They finally gave in," the painter told him. "But do you think they'll
buy new signs? Nah. Cheap. That's all they are. Cheap as pretzels." He
gave Malone a friendly push with one end of the ladder and disappeared
into the crowd.

Malone didn't have the faintest idea of what he was talking about. And
how cheap could a pretzel be, anyway? Malone didn't remember ever having
seen an especially tight-fisted one.

New York, he decided for the fifteenth time, was a strange place.

He walked downtown for a block, still thinking about Mike Fueyo, and
absently turned west again. Between Sixth and Seventh, he had another
attack of brilliance and began looking for another phone booth.

He found one in a Mexican bar named the Xochitl, across the street from
the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. It was just a coincidence that he
had landed in another bar, he told himself hopefully, but he didn't
quite believe it. To prove it to himself, he headed straight for the
phone booths again and put in his call, ignoring the blandishments of
several rows of sparkling bottles which he passed on the way.

He dialed the number for Lieutenant Lynch's precinct, and then found
himself connected with a new desk sergeant.

"I'm Malone," he said. "I want to talk to Lynch."

"Glad to know you, Malone," the desk sergeant said pleasantly. "Only
_Lieutenant_ Lynch doesn't want to subscribe to the Irish _Echo_."

"I'm the FBI." He showed his badge.

The desk sergeant took a good long look at it. "Maybe you are, and maybe
you aren't," he said at last. "Does the lieutenant know you?"

"We were kids together," Malone said. "We're brothers. Siamese twins.
Put him on the phone."

"Wait a minute," said the desk sergeant. "I'll check."

The screen went blank for two agonizing minutes before it cleared again
to show Lynch's face.

"Hello, Mr. Malone," Lynch said formally. "Have you found some new
little trick to show us poor, stupid policemen? Like, say, making
yourself vanish?"

"I'll make the whole police force vanish," Malone said, "in a couple of
minutes. I called to ask a favor."

"Anything," Lynch said. "Anything within my poor power. Whatever I have
is yours. Whither thou goest--"

"Knock it off," Malone said, and then grinned. After all, there was no
sense in making an enemy out of Lynch.

Lynch blinked, took a deep breath, and said in an entirely different
voice: "O.K., Malone. What's the favor?"

"Do you still have that list of Silent Spooks?" Malone said.

"Sure I do," Lynch said. "Why? I gave you a copy of it."

"I can't do this job," Malone said "You'll have to."

"Yes, sir," Lynch said, and saluted.

"Just listen," Malone said. "I want you to check up on every kid on that
list."

"And what are we supposed to do when we find them?" Lynch said.

"That's the trouble," Malone said. "You won't."

"And why not?"

"I'll lay you ten to one," Malone said, "that every one of them has
skipped out. Left home. Without giving a forwarding address."

Lynch nodded slowly. "Ten to one?" he said. "Want to make that a money
bet? Or does the FBI frown on gambling?"

"Ten dollars to your one," Malone said. "O.K.?"

"Made," Lynch said. "You've got the bet ... just for the hell of it,
understand."

"Oh, sure," Malone said.

"And where can I call you to collect?"

Malone shook his head. "You can't," he said. "I'll call you."

"I will wait with anxiety," Lynch said. "But it had better be before
eight. I get off then."

"If I can make it," Malone said.

"If you can't," Lynch said, "call me at home." He gave Malone the
number, and then added: "Whatever information I get, I can keep for my
own use this time, can't I?"

"You've already got all the information you're going to get. I just gave
it to you."

"That," Lynch said, "we'll see."

"I'll call to collect my money," Malone said.

"We'll talk about it later," Lynch said. "Farewell, old pal."

"Flights of angels," Malone said, "sing thee to thy rest."

[Illustration]

       *       *       *       *       *

Malone replaced the microphone and headed for the door. Halfway there,
however, he stopped. He hadn't had a _tequila_ in a long time, and he
thought he owed it to himself. He felt he had come out ahead in his
exchange with Lynch, and another medal was in order.

Only a small one, though. He told himself that he would order one
_tequila_ and quit. Besides, he had to meet Dorothy.

He sat down on one of the tall bar stools. The bartender bustled over
and eyed him speculatively.

"_Tequila con limon_" he said negligently.

"Ah," the bartender said. "_Si, senor_."

Malone waited with ill-concealed impatience. At last it arrived.

Malone took the small glass of _tequila_ in his right hand, with the
slice of lemon held firmly between the index and middle fingers of the
same hand, the rind facing in toward the glass. On the web between the
thumb and forefinger of his left hand he had sprinkled a little salt.
Moving adroitly and with dispatch, he downed the _tequila_, licked off
the salt and bit his teeth into the lemon slice.

It felt better than good; it felt wonderful. He hadn't had such a good
time in years.

He had three more before he left the Xochitl.

Then, noticing the time, he moved in a hurry and got out of the bar
before temptation overcame him and he started ordering still more. It
was nearly six o'clock, and he had to meet Dorothy at Topp's.

He hoped he could find it.

He headed downtown toward Forty-second Street, turned left and--sure
enough--there was a big red sign. It said Topp's. Malone beamed his
approval at it. It was just where it ought to be, and he was grateful.

He pushed open the glass door of the place and went in.

The _maître d'hôtel_ was a chunky man with a pleasant face, a receding
hairline and some distance back on his head, dark, curly hair. He beamed
at Malone as if the FBI agent were a long-lost brother. "Table for one,
sir?" he said.

"No," Malone said, peering into the place. It was much bigger than he
had expected. "No," he said again. "I guess I'll just have a drink at
the bar."

The _maître d'_ smiled and bowed him to a bar stool. Malone sat down and
looked the place over again. His first glance had shown him that Dorothy
wasn't there yet, but he saw no harm in making sure. _Always be careful
of your facts_, he admonished himself a little fuzzily.

There were a lot of women in the place, but they were all with escorts.
Some of them had two escorts, and Malone wondered about them. Were they
drunk, or was he? It was obvious that someone was seeing double, but
Malone wasn't quite sure who.

He stared at his face in the bar mirror for a few seconds, and ordered a
bourbon and soda when a bartender came over and occluded the image. The
bartender went away and Malone went on studying himself.

He wasn't bad-looking for an FBI agent. He was taller than his father,
anyway, and less heavily built. That was one good thing. As a matter of
fact, Malone told himself, he was really a pretty good-looking guy.

So why did women keep him waiting?

He heard her voice before he saw her, behind him. But she wasn't talking
to him.

"Hello, Milty," she said. "How's everything?"

Malone turned around to get a look at Milty. He turned out to be the
_maître d'_. What did he have that Malone didn't have? the agent asked
himself sourly. Obviously Dorothy was captivated by his charm. Well,
that showed him what city girls were like. Butterflies. Social
butterflies. Flitting hither and yon with the wind, now attracted to
this man, now to that. Once, Malone told himself sadly, he had known
this beautiful woman. Now she belonged to someone else.

He felt a little bit sad about it, but he told himself to buck up and
learn to live with his tragedy. He drank some more of his bourbon and
soda, and then she noticed him.

He heard her say: "Oh. Excuse me, Milty. There's my man." She came over
and sat down next to him.

He wanted to ignore her, just to teach her a lesson. But he had already
turned around and smiled at her, and she smiled back.

"Hi," she said. "Did you get the tickets?"

_Tickets!_

Malone knew there had been something he'd forgotten, and now he knew
what it was. "Oh," he said. "Sure. Just a second. I've got to check up."

"Check up?"

"Friend of mine," Malone improvised hurriedly. "Bringing them." He gave
Dorothy a big smile and climbed down off the bar stool. He managed to
find a phone booth, and dialed FBI headquarters on Sixty-ninth Street
and blessed several saints when he found that A-in-C was still there.

"Tickets," Malone said.

The Agent-in-Charge blinked at him. "What tickets?" he said.

"The 'Hot Seat' tickets," Malone said. "Did you get 'em?"

"I got 'em," the Agent-in-Charge said sourly. "Had to chase all over
town and pull more wires than there are on a grand piano. But they
turned up, brother. Two seats. Do you know what a job like that
entails?"

"I'm grateful," Malone said. "I'm hysterical with gratitude."

"I'd rather track down a gang of fingerless second-story men than go
through that again," the Agent-in-Charge said. He looked as if his
stomach trouble had suddenly gotten a great deal worse. Malone thought
that the A-in-C was considering calling a doctor, and would probably
decide to make it the undertaker instead, and save the price of a call.

"I can't express my gratitude," Malone told him. "Where are they? Where
do I pick them up?"

"Box office," the A-in-C said sourly. "I tell you, everybody in
Washington must be nuts. The things I have to go through--"

"Thanks," Malone said. "Thanks a lot. Thanks a million. If there's ever
anything I can do for you, let me know and I'll do it." He hung up and
went back to the bar.

"Well?" Dorothy said. "Where do we go tonight? Joe's Hot Dog stand? Or a
revival of 'The Wild Duck' in a loft on Bleecker Street?"

There was pride in Malone's manner as he stood there on his feet. There
was just a touch of hauteur as he said: "We'll see 'Hot Seat'."

And he was repaid for all of the Agent-in-Charge's efforts. Dorothy's
eyes went wide with appreciation and awe. "My goodness," she said. "A
man of his word--and what a tough word, too! Mr. Malone, I congratulate
you."

"Nothing," Malone said. "A mere absolute nothing."

"Nothing, the man says," Dorothy muttered. "My goodness. And modest,
too. Tell me: how do you do, Mr. Malone?"

"Me?" Malone said. "Very well, so far." He finished his drink. "And
you?"

"I work at it," she said cryptically. "May I have another drink?"

Malone gave her a grin. "Another?" he said. "Have two. Have a dozen."

"And what," she said, "would I do with half a dozen drinks? Don't
answer. I think I can guess. But let's just take them one at a
time--O.K.?" She signaled to the bartender. "Wally, I'll have a Martini.
And Mr. Malone will have whatever it is he has, I imagine."

"Bourbon and soda," Malone said, and gave the bartender a grin, too,
just to make sure he didn't feel left out. The sun was shining--although
it was evening outside--and the birds were singing--although, Malone
reflected, catching a bird on Forty-second Street and Broadway might
take a bit of doing--and all was well with the world.

There was only a tiny, nagging disturbing thought in his mind. It had to
do with Mike Fueyo and the Silent Spooks, and a lot of red Cadillacs.
But he pushed it resolutely away. It had nothing to do with the evening
he was about to spend. Nothing at all.

After all, this _was_ supposed to be a vacation, wasn't it?

"Well, Mr. Malone," Dorothy said, when the drinks had arrived.

"Very well indeed," Malone said, raising his. "And just call me Ken.
Didn't I tell you that once before?"

"You did," she said. "And I asked you to call me Dorothy. Not Dotty. Try
and remember that."

"I will remember it," Malone said, "just as long as ever I live. You
don't look the least bit dotty, anyhow. Which is probably more than
anybody could say for me." He started to look at himself in the bar
mirror again, and decided not to. "By the way," he added, as a sudden
thought struck him. "Dotty what?"

"Now," she said. "There you go doing it."

"Doing what?"

"Calling me that name."

"Oh," Malone said. "Make it Dorothy. Dorothy what?" He blinked. "I mean,
I know you've got a last name. Dorothy Something. Only it probably isn't
Something. What is it?"

"Francis," she said obligingly. "Dorothy Francis. My middle name is
Something, in case you ever want to call me by my middle name. Just
yell: 'Hey, Something,' and I'll come a-running. Unless I have something
else to do. In which case everything will be very simple: I won't come."

"Ah," Malone said doubtfully. "And what do--"

"What do I do?" she said. "A standard question. Number two of a series.
I do modeling. Photographic modeling. And that's not all--I also do
commercials on 3-D. If I look familiar to you, it's probably because
you've seen me on 3-D. Do I look familiar to you?"

"I never watch 3-D," Malone said, crestfallen.

"Fine," Dorothy said unexpectedly. "You have excellent taste."

"Well," Malone said, "it's just that I never seem to get the time--"

"Don't apologize for it," Dorothy said. "I have to appear on it, but I
don't have to like it. And, now that I've answered your questions, how
about answering some of mine?"

"Gladly," Malone said. "The inmost secrets of the FBI are yours for the
asking."

"Hm-m-m," Dorothy said slowly. "What do you do as an FBI agent, anyhow?
Dig up spies?"

"Oh, no," Malone said. "We've got enough trouble with the live ones. We
don't go around digging anybody up. Believe me." He paused, feeling
dimly that the conversation was beginning to get out of control. "Have I
told you that you are the most beautiful woman I've ever met?" he said
at last.

"No," Dorothy said. "Not yet, anyway. But I was expecting it."

"You were?" Malone said, disappointed.

"Certainly," Dorothy said. "You've been drinking. As a matter of fact,
you've managed to get quite a head start."

Malone hung his head guiltily. "True," he said in a low voice. "Too
true. Much too true."

Dorothy nodded, downed her drink and waved to the bartender. "Wally,
bring me a double this time."

"A double?"

"Sure," Dorothy said. "I've got to do some fast catching-up on Mr.
Malone here."

"Call me Ken," Malone muttered.

"Don't be silly," Dorothy told him. "Wally hardly knows you. He'll call
you Mr. Malone, and like it."

The bartender went away and Malone sat on his stool and thought busily
for a minute. At last he said: "If you really want to catch up with
me--"

"Yes?" Dorothy said.

"Better have a triple," Malone muttered.

Dorothy's eyebrows rose slightly.

"Because I intend to have another one," Malone added.



IX.


It started a million years ago.

In that distant past, a handful of photons deep in the interior of Sol
began their random journey to the photosphere. They had been born as
ultrahard gamma radiation, and they were positively bursting with
energy, attempting to push their respective ways through the dense
nucleonic gas that had been their womb. Within millimicroseconds, they
had been swallowed up by the various particles surrounding
them--swallowed, and emitted again, as the particles met in violent
collision.

And then the process was repeated. After a thousand thousand years, and
billions on billions of such repetitions, the handful of photons reached
the relatively cool photosphere of the sun. But the long battle had
taken some of the drive out of them; over the past million years, even
the strongest had become only hard ultraviolet, and the weakest just
sputtered out in the form of long radio waves.

But now, at last, they were free! And in the first flush of this
newfound freedom, they flung themselves over ninety-three million miles
of space, traveling at one hundred and eighty-six thousand miles a
second and making the entire trip in less than eight and one-half
minutes.

They struck the Earth's ionosphere, and their numbers diminished. The
hard ultraviolet was gobbled up by ozone; much of the blue was scattered
through the atmosphere. The remainder bore steadily onward.

Down through the air they came, only slightly weakened this time. They
hit the glass of a window in the Hotel New Yorker, losing more of their
members in the plunge.

And, a few feet from the glass, they ended their million-year epic by
illuminating a face.

The face responded to them with something less than pleasure. It was
clear that the face did not like being illuminated. It was very bright,
much too bright. It seemed to be searing its way through the face's
closed eyelids, right past the optic nerves into the brain-pan itself.
The face twisted in a sudden spasm, as if its brain were shriveling with
heat. Its owner thoughtfully turned over, and the face sought the
seclusion and comparative darkness of a pillow.

Unfortunately, the motion brought the face's owner to complete
wakefulness. He did not want to be awake, but he had very little choice
in the matter. Even though his face was no longer being illuminated, he
could feel other rays of sunlight eating at the back of his head. He put
the pillow over his head and felt more comfortable for a space, but this
slight relief passed, too.

He thought about mausoleums. Mausoleums were nice, cool, dark places
where there was never any sun or heat, and never any reason to wake up.
Maybe, he told himself, cunningly, if he went to sleep again he would
wake up dead, in a mausoleum. That, he thought, would be nice.

Death was nice and pleasant. Unfortunately, he realized, he was not
dead. And there was absolutely no chance of his ever getting back to
sleep. He finally rolled over again, being very careful to avoid any
more poisonous sunlight. Getting up was an even more difficult process,
but Malone knew it had to be managed. Somehow he got his feet firmly
planted on the floor and sat up.

It had been a remarkable feat, he told himself. He deserved a medal.

That reminded him of the night before. He had been thinking quite a lot
about the medals he deserved for various feats. He had even awarded some
of them to himself, in the shape of liquid decoctions.

He remembered all that quite well. There were a lot of cloudy things in
his mind, but from all the testimony he could gather, he imagined that
he'd had quite a time the night before. Quite a wonderful time, as a
matter of fact.

Not that that reflection did anything for him now. As he opened his
eyes, one at a time, he thought of Boyd. Once, long ago, ages and ages
ago, he had had to wake Boyd up, and he recalled how rough he had been
about it. That had been unforgivable.

He made a mental note to apologize to Boyd the next time he saw him--if
he could ever see again. Now, he knew how Boyd had felt. And it was
terrible.

Still sitting on the bed, he told himself that, in spite of everything,
he was lucky. To judge by his vague memories, he'd had quite a time the
night before, and if the hangover was payment for it, then he was
willing to accept the payment. Almost. Because it had really been a
terrific time. The only nagging thought in his mind was that there had
been something vital he'd forgotten.

"Tickets," he said, aloud, and was surprised that his voice was audible.
As a matter of fact, it was too audible; the noise made him wince
slightly. He shifted his position very quietly.

And he hadn't forgotten the tickets. No. He distinctly remembered going
to see "The Hot Seat," and finding seats, and actually sitting through
the show with Dorothy at his side. He couldn't honestly say that he
remembered much of the show itself, but that couldn't be the important
thing he'd forgotten. By no means.

He had heard that it was a good show, though. Some time, he reminded
himself, he would have to get tickets and actually see it.

He checked through the evening. Drinks. Dinner ... he had had dinner,
hadn't he? Yes, he had. He recalled a broiled sea bass looking up at him
with mournful eyes. He couldn't have dreamed anything like that.

And then the theater, and after that some more drinks ... and so on, and
so on, and so on, right to his arrival back in his hotel room, at
four-thirty in the morning, on a bright, boiled cloud.

He even remembered arguing with Dorothy about taking her home. She'd won
that round by ducking into a subway entrance, and he had turned around
after she'd left him and headed for home. Had he taken a taxi?

[Illustration]

Yes, Malone decided, he had. He even remembered that.

Then what had he forgotten?

He had met Dorothy--he told himself, starting all over again in an
effort to locate the gaps--at six o'clock, right after phoning ...

He looked at his watch. It was ten o'clock in the morning. He had
completely forgotten to call Fernack and Lynch.

Hangover or no hangover, Malone told himself grimly, there was work to
be done. Somehow, he managed to get to his feet and start moving.

He checked Boyd's room after a while. But his partner wasn't home.
_Probably at work already_, Malone thought, _while I lie here useless
and helpless_. He thought of a sermon on the Evils of Alcohol, and
decided he'd better read it to himself instead of delivering it to Boyd.

But he didn't waste any time with it. By ten-fifteen he was showered and
shaved, his teeth were brushed, and he was dressed. He felt, he
estimated, about fifteen hundred per cent better. That was still lousy,
but it wasn't quite as bad as it had been. He could move around and talk
and even think a little, if he were careful about it. Before he left, he
took a look at himself in the mirror.

Well, he told himself, that was nice.

It hardly showed at all. He looked tired, to be sure, but that was
almost normal. The eyes weren't bloodshot red, and didn't seem to bug
out at all although Malone would have sworn that they were bleeding all
over his face. His head was its normal size, as near as he remembered;
it was not swollen visibly, or pulsing like a jellyfish at every move.

He looked even better than he felt.

He started for the door, and then stopped himself. There was no need to
go out so early; he could start work right in his own hotel room and not
even have to worry about the streets of New York, the cars or the
pedestrians for a while.

He thought wistfully about a hair of the hound, decided against it with
great firmness, and sat down to phone.

He dialed a number, and the face of Commissioner Fernack appeared almost
at once. Malone forced himself to smile cheerfully, reasonably sure that
he was going to crack something as he did it. "Hello, John Henry," he
said in what he hoped was a good imitation of a happy, carefree voice.
"And how are you this lovely morning?"

"Me?" Fernack said sourly. "I'm in great shape. Tiptop. Malone, how did
you--"

"Any news for me?" Malone said.

Fernack waited a long time before he answered, and when he did his voice
was dangerously soft and calm. "Malone," he said, "when you asked for
this survey, just what kind of news did you expect to get anyway?"

"An awful lot of impossible crimes," Malone said frankly. "How did I do,
John Henry?"

"You did very well," Fernack said. "Too well. Listen, Malone, how could
you know about anything like this?"

Malone blinked. "Well," he said, "we have our sources. Confidential. Top
secret. I'm sure you understand, commissioner." Hurriedly, he added:
"What does the breakdown look like?"

"It looks like hell," Fernack said. "About eight months ago, according
to the computer, there was a terrific upswing in certain kinds of crime.
And since then it's been pretty steady, right at the top of the swing.
Hasn't moved down hardly at all."

"Great," Malone said.

Fernack stared. "What?" he said.

"I mean--" Malone stopped, thought of an answer and tried it: "I mean,
that checks out my guess. My information. Sources."

Fernack seemed to weigh risks in his mind. "Malone, I know you're FBI,"
he said at last. "But this sounds pretty fishy to me. Pretty strange."

"You have no idea how strange," Malone said truthfully.

"I'm beginning to," Fernack said. "And if I ever find out that you had
anything to do with this--"

"Me?"

"And don't look innocent," Fernack said. "It doesn't succeed in looking
anything but horrible. You remind me of a convicted murderer trying to
steal thirty cents from the prison chaplain."

"What would I have to do with all these crimes?" Malone said. "And what
kind of crimes were they, anyway?"

"What you'd have to do with them," Fernack said, "is an unanswered
question. And so long as it remains unanswered, Malone, you're safe. But
when I come up with enough facts to answer it--"

"Don't be silly, commissioner," Malone said. "How about these crimes?
What kind were they?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Burglaries," Fernack said. "And I have a hunch you know that well
enough. Most of them were just burglaries--locked barrooms, for
instance, early in the morning. There's never any sign of tampering with
the locks, no sign of breaking and entering, no sign of any alarms being
tampered with in any way. But the money's gone from the cash register,
and all of the liquor is gone, too."

Malone stared. "_All_ the liquor?" he said in a dazed voice.

"Well," Fernack said, "all of it that's in plain sight, anyway. Except
for the open bottles. Disappeared. Gone. Without a trace. And most of
the time the extra stock's gone, too, from the basement or wherever they
happen to keep it."

"That's a lot of liquor," Malone said.

"Quite a lot," Fernack said. "Some of the bars have gone broke, not
being insured against the losses."

The thought of thousands of bottles of liquor--millions of bottles--went
through Malone's mind like an icepick. He could almost see them, handle
them, taste them. "Hair of the dog," he muttered. "What hair. What a
dog."

"What did you say, Malone?"

"Nothing," Malone said hastily. "Nothing at all." After a second another
query occurred to him. "You mean to tell me that only bars were robbed?
Nothing else?"

"Oh, no," Fernack said. "Bars are only part of it. Malone, why are you
asking me to tell you this?"

"Because I want to know," Malone said patiently.

"I still think--" Fernack began, and then said: "Never mind. But it
hasn't been only bars. Supermarkets. Homes. Cleaning and tailoring
shops. Jewelers. Malone, you name it, and it's been hit."

Malone tried valiantly to resist temptation, but he was not at his best,
and he lost. "All right," he said. "I will name it. Here's a list of
places that haven't even been touched by the rising crime wave: Banks,
for one."

"Malone!"

"Safes that have been locked, for another," Malone went on. "Homes with
wall safes--though that's not quite accurate. The homes may have been
robbed, but the safes won't have been touched."

"Malone, how much do you know?" Fernack said.

"I'll make a general rule for you," Malone said. "Any place that fits
the following description is safe: It's got a secure lock on it, and
it's too small for a human being to get into."

Fernack opened his mouth, shut it and stared downward, obviously
scanning some papers lying on the desk in front of him. Malone waited
patiently for the explosion--but it never came.

Instead, Fernack said: "You know, Malone, you remind me of an old friend
of mine."

"Really?" Malone said pleasantly.

"You certainly do," Fernack said. "There's just one small difference.
You're an FBI man, and he's a crook. If that's a difference."

"It is," Malone said. "And on behalf of the FBI, I resent the
allegation. And, as a matter of fact, defy the allegator. But that's
neither here nor there," he continued. "If that's the difference, what
are the similarities?"

Fernack drew in a deep, hissing breath, and when he spoke his voice was
as calm and quiet as a coiled cobra. "The both of you come up with the
damnedest answers to things. Things I never knew about or even cared
about before. Things I wish I'd never heard of. Things that don't have
any explanations. And--" He stopped, his face dark in the screen. Malone
wondered what color it was going to turn, and decided on purple as a
good choice.

"Well?" Malone said at last.

"And you're always so right it makes me sick," Fernack finished flatly.
He rubbed a hand through his hair and stared into the screen at Malone.
"How did you know all this stuff?" he said.

Malone waited one full second, while Fernack got darker and darker on
the screen. When he judged that the color was right, he said quietly:
"I'm prescient. And thanks a lot, John Henry; just send the reports to
me personally, at Sixty-ninth Street. By messenger. So long."

He cut the circuit just as Fernack started: "Now, Malone--"

       *       *       *       *       *

With a satisfied, somewhat sheepish smile, Malone dialed another number.
This time a desk sergeant told him politely that Lynch wasn't at the
precinct, and wouldn't arrive until noon.

Malone had Lynch's home number. He dialed it.

It was a long wait before the lieutenant answered, and he didn't look
much like a police officer when his face finally showed up on the
screen. His hair was uncombed and he was unshaven. His eyes were
slightly bleary, but he was definitely awake.

"Oh," Malone said. "Hello."

"Hi, there," Lynch said with enormous cheerfulness. "Old buddy-boy. Old
pal. Old friend."

"What's wrong?" Malone said.

"Wrong?" Lynch said. "Nothing. Nothing. Nothing at all. I just wanted to
thank you for not waking me up last night. I only waited for your call
until midnight. Then I decided I just wasn't very important to you. You
obviously had much bigger things on your mind."

"As a matter of fact," Malone said, eying Lynch's figure, dressed in a
pair of trousers and a T-shirt, speculatively, "you're right."

"That's what I thought," Lynch said. "And I decided that, since you were
so terribly busy, it could wait until I woke up. Or even until I got
down to the station. How about it--buddy-boy?"

"Listen, Lynch," Malone said, "we made a bet. Ten to one. I just want to
know if I can come down to collect or not."

There was a second of silence.

"All right," Lynch said at last, looking crestfallen. "I owe you a buck.
Every last one of those kids has skipped out on us."

"Good," Malone said. He wondered briefly just what was good about it,
and decided he'd rather have lost the money to Lynch. But facts, he
reflected, were facts. Thoroughly nasty facts.

"I spent all night tracing them," Lynch said. "Got nowhere. Nowhere at
all. Tell me, Malone, how did you know--"

"Classified," Malone said. "Very classified. But you're sure they're all
gone? Vanished?"

Lynch's face reddened. "Sure I'm sure," he said. "Every last one of them
is gone. And what more do you want me to do about it?" He paused, then
added: "What do you expect, Malone? Miracles?"

Malone shook his head gently. "No," he said. "I--"

"Oh, never mind," Lynch said.

"But I--"

"Look, Malone," Lynch said, "there's a guy who wants to talk to you."

"One of the Silent Spooks?" Malone said hopefully.

Lynch shook his head and made a growling noise. "Don't be silly," he
said. "It's just that this guy might have some information--but he won't
say anything to me about it. He's a social worker or something like
that."

"Social worker?" Malone said. "He works with the kids, right?"

"I guess," Lynch said. "His name's Kettleman. Albert Kettleman."

Malone nodded. "O.K.," he said. "I'll be right over."

"Hey," Lynch said, "hold on. He's not here now. What do you think this
is--my house or a reception center?"

"Sorry," Malone said wearily. "Where and when?"

"How about three o'clock at the precinct station?" Lynch said, "I can
have him there by then, and you can get together and talk." He paused.
"Nobody likes the cops," he said. "People hear the FBI's mixed up in
this, and they figure the cops are all second-stringers or something."

"Sorry to hear it," Malone said.

"I'll bet you are," Lynch told him bitterly.

Malone shrugged. "Anyway," he said, "I'll see you at three, right?"

"Right," Lynch said, and Malone flipped off.

He sat there for a few seconds grinning quietly. His brain throbbed like
an overheated motor, but he didn't really mind any more. His theory had
been justified, and that was the most important thing.

The Silent Spooks were all teleports.

Eight of them--eight kids on the loose, stealing everything they could
lay their hands on, and completely safe. How could you catch a boy who
just disappeared when you started for him? No wonder their names hadn't
appeared on the police blotter, Malone thought.

The Spooks didn't get into trouble.

They didn't have to.

They could get into any place big enough to hold them, take what they
wanted and just disappear. They'd been doing it for about eight months,
according to the figures Malone had received from Fernack; maybe
teleportative ability didn't develop until you were around fourteen or
fifteen.

But it had developed in these kids--and they were using it in the most
obvious way. They had a sure method of getting away from the cops, and a
sure method of taking anything they wanted. No wonder they had so much
money.

Malone got up, feeling slightly dazed, and left the hotel.



X.


By three o'clock, he was again among the living. Maybe his occupations
had had something to do with it; he'd spent about four hours supervising
Operation Dismemberment, and then listening to the reports on the
dismantled Cadillacs. It was nice, peaceful, unimportant work, but there
just wasn't anything else to do. FBI work was ninety-five per cent
marking time, anyway; Malone felt grateful that there was any action at
all in what he was doing.

Dr. Leibowitz had found all sorts of things in the commandeered
Caddies--everything from guns and narcotics to pornographic pictures in
lots of three hundred, for shipment into New York City from the suburbs
where the processing plants probably were. Of course, there had been
personal effects, too--maps and lucky dolls and, just once, a single
crutch.

Malone wondered about that for quite a while. Who'd just walk off and
leave one crutch in a car? But people did things like that all the time,
he finally told himself heavily. There wasn't any explanation for it,
and there probably never would be.

But in spite of the majestic assortment of valuables found in the cars,
there was no sign of anything remotely resembling an electro-psionic
brain. Dr. Leibowitz had found just about everything--except what he was
looking for.

At a quarter of three, Malone gave up. The search wasn't quite finished,
but he'd heard enough to last him for a long time. He grabbed a cab
downstairs and went over to Lynch's office to meet Kettleman.

The "social worker or something" was a large, balding man about six feet
tall. Malone estimated his weight as close to two hundred and fifty
pounds, and he looked every pound of it; his face was round without
being chubby, and his body was stocky and hard. He wore black-rimmed
glasses, and he was going bald in front. His face was like a mask: it
was held in a gentle, almost eager expression that Malone would have
sworn had nothing to do with the way Kettleman felt underneath.

Lynch performed the introductions, escorted the two of them to one of
the interrogation rooms at the rear of the station, and left them there,
with: "If either of you guys comes up with anything, let me know," for a
parting shot.

Kettleman blinked slowly behind his glasses. "Mr. Malone," he said, "I
understand that the FBI is interested in one of the ... ah ...
adolescent social groups with which I work."

"Well, the Silent Spooks," Malone said. "That's right."

"The Spooks," Kettleman said. His voice was rather higher than Malone
would have expected, oddly breathy without much depth to it. "My, yes. I
did want to talk to somebody about it, and I thought you might be the
man."

"I'll be interested in anything you have to say," Malone said
diplomatically. He was beginning to doubt whether he'd get any real
information out of Kettleman. But it was impossible to tell. He sat back
in a hard wooden chair and tried to look fascinated.

"Well," Kettleman said tentatively, "the boys themselves have sort of a
word for it. They'd say that there was something ... ah ... 'oddball'
about the Spooks. Do you understand? Not just the fact that they never
drink liquor, you understand, but--"

"Something strange," Malone said. "Is that what you mean."

"Ah," Kettleman said. "_Strange._ Of course." He acted, Malone thought,
as if he had never heard the word before, and was both pleased and
startled by its sound. "Perhaps I had better explain my position a
little more clearly," he said. "That will give you an idea of just where
I ... ah ... 'fit in' to this picture."

"Whatever you think best," Malone said, resigning himself to a very dull
hour. He tried to picture Kettleman in the midst of a gang of juvenile
delinquents. It was very hard to do.

"I'm a social worker," Kettleman said, "working on an individual basis
with these--social groups that the adolescents have formed. It's my job
to make friends with them, become accepted by them, and try to turn
their hostile impulses toward society into more useful, more acceptable
channels."

"I see," Malone said, feeling that something was expected of him.
"That's fine."

"Oh, we don't expect praise, we social workers," Kettleman said
instantly. "The worth of a good job well done, that's enough for us." He
smiled. The effect was a little unsettling, as if a hippopotamus had
begun to laugh like a hyena. "But to continue, Mr. Malone," he said.

"Of course," Malone said. "Certainly."

"I've worked with many of the organizations in this neighborhood,"
Kettleman said. "And I've been quite successful in getting to know
them, and in being accepted by them. Of course, the major part of my job
is more difficult, but ... well, I'm sure that's enough about my own
background. That isn't what you're interested in, now, is it?"

He looked penitent. Malone said: "It's all right. I don't mind." He
shifted positions on the hard chair.

"Well, then," Kettleman said, with the air of a man suddenly getting
down to business. He leaned forward eagerly, his eyes big and bright
behind the lenses. "There's something very peculiar about those boys,"
he said in a whisper.

"Really?" Malone said.

"Very peculiar indeed," Kettleman said. "My, yes. All of the other ...
ah ... social groups are afraid of them."

"Big, huh?" Malone said. "Big, strong boys who--"

"Oh, my no," Kettleman said. "My goodness, no. All of the Spooks are
rather slight, as a matter of fact. They've got _something,_ but it
isn't strength."

"My goodness," Malone said tiredly.

"I doubt if--in the language of my own groups--any one of the Spooks
could punch his way out of a paper bag," Kettleman said. "It's more than
that."

"Frankly," Malone said, "I'm inclined to agree with you. But what is
this something that frightens everyone else?"

Kettleman leaned even closer. "I'm not sure," he said softly. "I can't
say for certain, Mr. Malone. I've only heard rumors."

"Well," Malone said, "rumors might--"

"Rumors are a very powerful force among my groups, Mr. Malone,"
Kettleman said. "I've learned, over the years, to keep my ear to the
ground, as it were, and pay very close attention to rumors."

"I'm sure," Malone said patiently. "But what did this particular rumor
say?"

"Well," Kettleman said, and stopped. "Well," he said again. And at last
he gulped and got it out: "Magicians, Mr. Malone. They say the Spooks
are magicians--that they can come and go at will. Make themselves
invisible. All sorts of things. Of course, I don't believe that, but--"

"Oh, it's quite true," Malone said, solemn-faced.

"It's ... what?"

"Perfectly true," Malone said. "We've known all that."

"Oh, my," Kettleman said. His face took on a whitish cast. "Oh, my
goodness," he said. "Isn't that ... isn't that amazing?" He swallowed
hard. "True all the time," he said. "Magicians. I--"

"You see, this information isn't new to us," Malone said.

"Oh," Kettleman said. "No. Of course not. My. It's ... rather
disconcerting to think about, isn't it?"

"There," Malone said, "I agree with you."

       *       *       *       *       *

Kettleman fell silent. Malone offered him a cigarette, but the social
worker refused with a pale smile, and Malone lit one for himself. He
took a couple of puffs in the silence, and then Kettleman said: "Well,
Mr. Malone, Lieutenant Lynch did say that I was to tell you everything I
could about these boys."

"I'm sure we all appreciate that," Malone said at random, wondering
exactly what he meant.

"There is ... well, there is one more thing," Kettleman said.
"Ordinarily, of course, I wouldn't say anything about this to anyone. In
my line of work, Mr. Malone, you learn the need for confidence. For
being able to keep one's word."

"Certainly," Malone said, wondering what startling new fact was on its
way now.

"And we certainly try to keep the confidence of the boys," Kettleman
said maddeningly. "We wouldn't betray them to the police in any way
unless it were absolutely necessary."

"Betray them--? Mr. Kettleman," Malone said, "just what are you trying
to tell me?"

"It's about their meeting place," Kettleman said. "Oh, my. I'm not at
all sure I ought to tell you this." He wrung his pale fat hands together
and looked at Malone appealingly.

"Now, now," Malone said, feeling foolish. "It's perfectly all right. We
don't want to hurt the Spooks. Not any more than we have to. You can
tell me, Mr. Kettleman."

"Oh," Kettleman said. "Well. I--The Spooks do have a sort of secret
meeting place, you know. And they meet there."

He stopped. Malone said: "Where is it?"

"Oh, it's a big empty warehouse," Kettleman said. "I really feel
terrible about this. They're meeting there tonight some time, or that's
what the rumors say. I shouldn't be telling you--"

"Of course you should," Malone said, trying to sound reassuring. "Don't
worry about a thing, Mr. Kettleman. Tonight?"

"That's right," Kettleman said eagerly. He grinned and then looked
morosely down at his hands.

"Do you know where this warehouse is?" Malone said. "If any of the other
little social groups use it--"

"Oh, no, they don't," Kettleman said. "That's what makes it so funny.
You see, the warehouse is deserted, but it's kept in good repair; there
are bars on the windows, and it's protected by all sorts of alarm
systems and things like that. So none of the others can use it. Only the
Spooks. You can't get in without a key, not at all."

"But do the Spooks--" Malone began.

"Oh, no," Kettleman moaned. "They don't have a key. At least, that's
what the other ... social groups say. The Spooks just ... just melt
through the walls, or something like that."

"Mr. Kettleman," Malone said, "where is this warehouse?"

"I shouldn't be telling you this," Kettleman said.

Malone sighed. "Please. Mr. Kettleman. You know we're working for the
good of those boys, don't you?"

"Well, I--"

"Sure we are," Malone said. "So you can tell me."

Kettleman blinked behind his glasses, and moaned a little. Malone waited
with his hands tense in his lap. At last Kettleman said: "It's on West
Street, near Chambers. That's downtown." He gave Malone an address.
"That's where it is," he said. "But you won't ... do anything to the
boys, will you? They're basically good boys. No matter what. And they--"

"Don't worry about it, Mr. Kettleman," Malone said. "We'll take care of
the Spooks."

"Oh," Kettleman said. "Yes. Sure."

He got up. Malone said: "There's just one more thing, Mr. Kettleman."

"Yes?" The big man's voice had reached the high, breathy pitch of a
fife.

[Illustration]

"Do you have any idea what time the Spooks usually meet?"

"Well, now," Kettleman said, "I don't really know. You see, the reason I
wanted to tell you all this was because Lieutenant Lynch was checking up
on all those boys yesterday, and I thought--" He stopped and cleared his
throat, and when he began again his voice had dropped almost to a
whisper: "Well, Mr. Malone, I thought, after all, that since he was
asking me questions ... you know, questions about where they were, the
Spooks I mean, and all of that ... since he was asking me questions--"

"Yes?" Malone said.

"I thought perhaps I ought to tell you about them," Kettleman said.
"Where they were, and all of that."

Malone stood up. "Mr. Kettleman," he said in his most official voice, "I
want you to know that the FBI appreciates what you've done. Your
information will probably be very helpful to us, and the FBI certainly
commends you for being public-spirited enough to come to us and tell us
what you know." He thought for a second, and then added: "In the name of
the FBI, Mr. Kettleman--well done!"

Kettleman stared, smiled and gulped. "My goodness," he said "Well." He
smiled again, a little more broadly. "One has one's duty, you know. My,
yes. Duty." He nodded to Malone.

"Of course," Malone said, going to the door and opening it. "Thanks
again, Mr. Kettleman."

Kettleman saw the open door and headed for it blindly. As he left he
flashed one last smile after Malone, who sighed, shut the door and
leaned against it for a second.

The things an FBI agent had to go through!

       *       *       *       *       *

When he had recovered, he opened the door again and peered carefully
down the hallway to make sure Kettleman had gone. Then he left the
interrogation room and went down the hall, past the desk sergeant, and
up the stairs to Lieutenant Lynch's office. He was still breathing a
little hard when he opened Lynch's door, and Lynch didn't seem to be
expecting him at all. He was very busy with a veritable snow flurry of
papers, and he looked as if he had been involved with them steadily ever
since he had left Malone and Kettleman alone downstairs.

"Well," Malone said. "Hello there, lieutenant."

Lynch looked up, his face a mask of surprise. "Oh," he said. "It's you.
Through with Kettleman?"

"I'm through," Malone said. "As if you didn't know." He looked at Lynch
for a long minute, and then said: "Lieutenant--"

Lynch had gone right back to his papers. He looked up again with a bland
expression. "Yes?"

"Lieutenant, how reliable is Kettleman?" Malone said.

Lynch shrugged. "He's always been pretty good with the kids, if that's
what you mean. You know these social workers--I've never got much
information out of him. He feels it's his duty to the kids ... I don't
know. Some such thing. Why do you ask?"

"Well," Malone said, "what he told me. Was he kidding me? Or does he
know what he's talking about? Was what he said reasonably accurate?"

"How would I know?" Lynch said. "After all, you were down there alone,
weren't you? I was up here, working. If you'll tell me what he said,
maybe I'll be able to tell you whether or not I think he was kidding.
But--"

Malone placed both his palms on the lieutenant's desk, mashing a couple
of piles of papers. He leaned forward slowly, his eyes on Lynch's bland,
innocent face. "Now look, Lynch," he said. "I like you. I really do.
You're a good cop. You get things done."

"Well, thanks," Lynch said. "But I don't see what this has to do with--"

"I just don't want you trying to kid your buddy-boy," Malone said.

"Kid you?" Lynch said. "I don't get it."

"Come on, now," Malone said. "I know that room was bugged, just as well
as you do. It was the sensible thing for you to pull, and you pulled it.
You've got the whole thing recorded, haven't you?"

"Me?" Lynch said. "Why would I--"

"Oh, cut it out," Malone said impatiently. "Let's not play games, O.K.?"

There was a second of silence.

"All right," Lynch said. "So I recorded the conversation. Kill me.
Crucify me. I'm stealing FBI secrets. I'm a spy secretly working for a
foreign power. Take me out and electrocute me."

"I don't want to fight you," Malone said wearily. "So you've got the
stuff recorded. That's your business."

"My business?"

"Sure," Malone said cheerfully, "as long as you don't try to use it."

"Now, Malone--" Lynch began.

"This is touchy stuff," Malone said. "We're going to have to take a lot
of care in handling it. And I don't want you throwing raids all over the
place and mixing everything up."

"Malone, I--"

"Eventually," Malone said, "I'm going to need your help with these kids.
But for right now, I want to handle this my way, without any
interference."

"I wouldn't think of--"

"You wanted information," Malone said. "Fine. That's all right with me.
You got the information, and that's O.K., too. But if you try to use it
before I say the word, I'll ... I'll talk to good old Uncle John Henry
Fernack. And he'll help me out: he'll give you a refresher course on
_How To Be A Beat Cop_. In Kew Gardens. It's nice and lonely out there
now, Lynch. You'd love it."

"Malone," Lynch said tiredly.

"Don't give me any arguments," Malone said. "I don't want any
arguments."

"I won't argue with you, Malone," Lynch said. "I've been trying to tell
you something."

Malone stepped away from the desk. "All right," he said. "Go ahead."

       *       *       *       *       *

Lynch took a deep breath. "Malone, I'm not trying to queer your pitch,"
he said. "If I were going to pull a raid, here's what I'd have to do:
get my own cops together, then call the precinct that covers that old
warehouse. We don't cover the warehouse from here, Malone, and we'd need
the responsible precinct's aid in anything we did down there."

Malone said: "Well, all I--"

"Not only that," Lynch said. "I'd have to call Safe and Loft, and get
them in on it. A warehouse raid would probably be their baby first of
all. That means this precinct, the warehouse precinct, and the Safe and
Loft Squad, all together to raid that warehouse. Malone, would I pull a
raid at this stage, if I had to go through all that, without knowing
what I was going to find down there?"

"Oh," Malone said.

"If those kids can just appear and disappear at will," Lynch said, "I'm
not going to pull a raid on them, and end up looking like a fool, until
I've got some way of making sure they're there when the raid goes
through."

Malone coughed gently. "O.K.," he said at last. "Sorry."

"There's only one thing I want," Lynch said. "I want to be able to move
as soon as possible."

"Well, sure," Malone said apologetically.

"And that means I'm going to have to be informed," Lynch said. "I want
to know what's going on, as fast as possible."

Malone nodded gently. "Sure," he said. "I'll tell you everything that
happens--as soon as I know myself. But right now, I haven't got a thing
for you. All I have is a kind of theory, and it's pretty screwy."

He stopped. Lynch looked up at him. "Just how screwy can it get?" he
said. "The facts are nutty enough."

"You have absolutely no idea," Malone assured him. "I'm not even saying
a word about this, not until I prove it out one way or another. I'm not
even thinking about it. I don't even want me to know about it, until it
stops sounding so nutty to me."

"O.K., Malone," Lynch said. "I can see a piece of it, if no more. The
Fueyo kid vanishes mysteriously--never mind all that about you getting
him out of the interrogation room by some kind of confidential method.
There isn't any confidential method. I know that better than you do."

"I had to say something, didn't I?" Malone asked apologetically.

"So the kid disappears," Lynch said, brushing Malone's question away
with a wave of his hand. "So now I hear all this stuff from Kettleman.
And it begins to add up. The kids can disappear somehow, and re-appear
some place else. Walk through walls?" He shrugged. "How should I know?
But they can sure do something like it."

"Something," Malone said. "Like I said, it sounds screwy."

"I don't like it," Lynch said.

Malone nodded. "Nobody likes it," he said. "But keep it under your hat.
I'll give you everything I have--whenever I have anything. And ... by
the way--"

"Yes?" Lynch said.

"Thanks for giving me and Kettleman a chance to talk," Malone said.
"Even if you had reasons of your own."

"Oh," Lynch said. "You mean the recording."

"I was a little suspicious," Malone said. "I didn't think you'd give
Kettleman to me without getting _something_ for yourself."

"Would you?" Lynch said.

Malone shrugged. "I'm not crazy either," he said.

Lynch picked up a handful of papers. "I've got all this work to do," he
said. "So I'll see you later."

"O.K.," Malone said.

"And if you need my help, buddy-boy," Lynch said, "just yell--right?"

"I'll yell," Malone said. "Don't worry about that. I'll yell loud enough
to get myself heard in Space Station One."



XI.


The afternoon was bright and sunny, but it didn't match Malone's mood.
He got a cab outside the precinct station and headed for Sixty-ninth
Street, dining off his nails en route. When he hit the FBI Headquarters,
he called Washington and got Burris on the line.

He made a full report to the FBI chief, including his wild theory and
everything else that had happened. "And there was this notebook," he
said, and reached into his jacket pocket for it.

The pocket was empty.

"What notebook?" Burris said.

Malone tried to remember if he'd left the book in his room. He couldn't
quite recall. "This book I picked up," he said, and described it. "I'll
send it on, or bring it in when the case is over."

"All right," Burris said.

Malone went on with his description of what had happened. When he'd
finished, Burris heaved a great sigh.

"My goodness," he said. "Last year it was telepathic spies, and this
year it's teleporting thieves. Malone, I hate to think about next year."

"I wish you hadn't said that," Malone said sadly.

Burris blinked. "Why?" he said.

"Oh, just because," Malone said. "I haven't even had time to think about
next year, yet. But I'll think about it now."

"Well, maybe it won't be so bad," Burris said.

Malone shook his head. "No, chief," he said. "You're wrong. It'll be
worse."

"This is bad enough," Burris said.

"It's a great vacation," Malone said.

"Please," Burris said. "Did I have any idea--"

"Yes," Malone said.

Burris' eyes closed. "All right, Malone," he said after a little pause.
"Let's get back to the report. At least it explains the red Cadillac
business. Sergeant Jukovsky was hit by a boy who vanished."

"I was hit by a boy who vanished, too," Malone said bitterly. "But, of
course, I'm just an FBI agent. Expendable. Nobody cares about--"

"Don't say that, Malone," Burris said. "You're one of my most valuable
agents."

Malone tried to stop himself from beaming, but he couldn't. "Well,
chief," he began, "I--"

"Vanishing boys," Burris muttered. "What are you going to do with them,
Malone?"

"I was hoping you might have some kind of suggestion," Malone said.

"Me?"

"Well," Malone said, "I suppose I'll figure it out--when I catch them.
But I did want something from you, chief."

"Anything, Malone," Burris said. "Anything at all."

"I want you to get hold of Dr. O'Connor, out at Yucca Flats, if you can.
He's the best psionics man Westinghouse has right now, and I might need
him."

"If you say so," Burris said doubtfully.

"Well," Malone said, "these kids are teleports. And maybe there's some
way to stop a teleport. Give him a good, hard kick in the psi, for
instance."

"In the what?"

"Never mind," Malone said savagely. "But if I'm going to get any
information on what makes teleports tick, I'm going to have to get it
from Dr. O'Connor--right?"

"Right," Burris said.

"So get in touch with Dr. O'Connor," Malone said.

"I'll have him call you," Burris said. "Meanwhile ... well, meanwhile
just carry on, Malone. I've got every confidence in you."

"Thanks," Malone growled.

"If anybody can crack a case like this," Burris said, "it's you."

"I suppose it had better be," Malone said, and rang off.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then he started to think. The notebook wasn't in his pockets. He checked
every one, even the jacket pocket where he usually kept a handkerchief
and nothing else. It wasn't anywhere on his person.

Had he left it in his room?

He thought about that for several minutes, and finally decided that he
hadn't. He hadn't taken it out of his pocket, for one thing, and if it
had fallen to the ground he couldn't have helped seeing it. Of course,
he'd put his wallet, keys, change and other such items on the dresser,
and then replaced them in his pockets when morning had come--but he
could remember how they'd looked on the dresser.

The notebook hadn't been there among them.

Now that he came to think of it, when had he seen the notebook last?
He'd shown it to Lieutenant Lynch during the afternoon, and then he'd
put it back in his pocket, and he hadn't looked for it again.

So it had to be somewhere in one of the bars he'd visited, or at the
theater where he and Dorothy had seen "The Hot Seat."

Proud of himself for this careful and complete job of deduction, he
strolled out and, giving Boyd and the Agent-in-Charge one small smile
each, to remember him by, he went into the sunlight trying to decide
which place to check first. He settled on the theater because it was
most probable: after all, people were always losing things in theaters.
Besides, if he started at the theater, and found the notebook there, he
could then go on to a bar to celebrate. If he found the notebook in a
bar, he didn't much relish the idea of going on to an empty theater in
the middle of the afternoon to celebrate getting the book back.

Shaking his head over this flimsy structure of logic, he headed down to
"The Hot Seat." He banged on the lobby doors for a while without any
good result, and finally leaned against one of the side doors, which
opened. Malone fell through, recovered his balance and found himself
facing an old, bewhiskered man with a dustpan, a broom and a surprised
expression.

"I'm looking for a notebook," Malone said.

"Try a stationery store, youngster," the old man said. "I thought I'd
heard 'em all, but--"

"No," Malone said. "You don't understand."

"I don't have to understand," the old man said. "That's what's so
restful about this here job. I just got to sweep up. I don't have to
understand nothing. Good-by."

"I'm looking for a notebook I lost here last night," Malone said
desperately.

"Oh," the old man said. "Lost and Found. That's different. You come with
me."

The old man led Malone in silence to a cave deep in the bowels of the
theater, where he went behind a little desk, took up a pencil as if it
were a club, held it poised over a sheet of grimy paper, and said:
"Name?"

Malone said: "I just want to find a notebook."

"Got to give me your name, youngster," the old man said solemnly. "It's
the rules here. After all."

Malone sighed: "Kenneth Malone," he said. "And my address is--"

The old man, fiercely scribbling, looked up. "Wait a minute, can't you?"
he said. "I ain't through 'Kenneth' yet." He wrote on, and finally said:
"Address?"

"Statler Hilton Hotel," Malone said.

"In Manhattan?" the old man said.

"That's right," Malone said wearily.

"Ah," the old man said. "Tourist, ain't you? Tourists is always losing
things. Once it was a big dog. Don't know yet how a dog got into this
here theater. Had to feed it for four days before somebody showed up to
claim it. Fierce-looking animal. Part bloodhound, part water spaniel."

Fascinated in spite of himself, Malone said: "That's impossible."

"Nothing's impossible," the old man said. "Work for a theater long
enough and you find that out. Part bloodhound, I said, and part water
spaniel. Should have seen that dog before you start talking about
impossibilities. What a strange-looking beast. And then there was the
time--"

"About the notebook," Malone said.

"Notebook?" the old man said.

"I lost a notebook," Malone said. "I was hoping that--"

"Description?" the old man said, and poised his pencil again.

Malone heaved a great sigh. "Black plastic," he said. "About so big." He
made motions with his hands. "No names or initials on it. But the first
page had my name written on it, along with Lieutenant Peter Lynch."

"Who's he?" the old man said.

"He's a cop," Malone said.

"My, my," the old man said. "Valuable notebook, with a cop's name in it
and all. You a cop, youngster?"

Malone shook his head.

"Too bad," the old man said obscurely. "I like cops." He stood up. "You
said black plastic? Black?"

"That's right," Malone said. "Do you have it here?"

"Got no notebooks at all here, youngster," the old man said. "Empty
billfold, three hats, a couple of coats and some pencils. And an
umbrella. No dogs tonight, youngster, _and_ no notebooks."

"Oh," Malone said. "Well ... wait a minute."

"What is it, youngster?" the old man said. "I'm busy this time of day.
Got to sweep and clean. Got work to do. Not like you tourists."

With difficulty, Malone leashed his temper. "Why did I have to describe
the notebook?" he said. "You haven't got any notebooks at all."

"That's right," the old man said cheerfully.

"But you made me describe--"

"That's the rules," the old man said. "And I ain't about to go against
the rules. Not for no tourist." He put the pencil down and rose. "Wish
you were a cop," he said. "I never met a cop. They don't lose things
like people do."

Making a mental note to call up later and talk to the manager, if the
notebook hadn't turned up in the meantime, Malone went off to find the
bars he had stopped in before the theater.

       *       *       *       *       *

Saving Topp's for last, he started at the Ad Lib, where a surprised bald
man told him they hadn't found a notebook anywhere in the bar for
something like six weeks. "Now if you'd been looking for umbrellas," he
said, "we could have accommodated you. Got over ten umbrellas
downstairs, waiting for their owners. I wonder why people lose so many
umbrellas?"

"Maybe they hate rain," Malone said.

"I don't know," the bald man said. "I'm sort of a psychologist--you
know, a judge of people. I think it's an unconscious protest against the
fetters of a society which is slowly strangling them by--"

Malone said good-by in a hurry and left. His next stop was the Xochitl,
the Mexican bar on Forty-sixth Street. He greeted the bartender warmly.

[Illustration]

"Ah," the bartender told him. "You come back. We look for you."

"Look for me?" Malone said. "You mean you found my notebook?"

"Notesbook?" the bartender said.

"A little black plastic book," Malone said, making motions, "about so
big. And it----"

"Not find," the bartender said. "You lose him?"

"Sure I lost him," Malone said. "I mean, _it_. Would I be looking for it
if I hadn't lost it?"

"Who knows?" the bartender said, and shrugged.

"But you said you were looking for me," Malone said. "What about?"

"Oh," the bartender said. "I only say that. Make customer feel good,
think we miss him. Customers like, so we do. What your name?"

"Pizarro," Malone said disgustedly, and went away.

The last stop was Topp's. Well, he had to find the notebook there. It
was the only place the notebook could be. That was logic, and Malone was
proud of it. He walked into Topp's trying to remember the bartender's
name, and found it just as he walked into the bar.

"Hello, Wally," he said gaily.

The bartender stared at him. "I'm not Wally," he said. "Wally's the
other barman. My name's Ray."

"Oh," Malone said, feeling deflated. "Well, I've come about a
notebook."

"Yes, sir?" Ray said.

"I lost the notebook here yesterday evening, between six and eight. If
you'll just take me to the Lost and Found department--"

"One moment, sir," Ray said, and left him standing at the bar, all
alone.

In a few seconds he was back. "I didn't see the notebook myself, sir,"
he said. "But if Wally picked it up, he'd have turned it over to the
_maître d'_. Perhaps you'd like to check with him."

"Sure," Malone said. The _maître d'_ turned out to be a shortish,
heavy-set man with large blue eyes, a silver mane and a thin,
pencil-line mustache. He was addressed, for no reason Malone was able to
discover, as BeeBee.

Ray introduced them. "This gentleman wants to know about a notebook," he
told BeeBee.

"Notebook?" BeeBee said.

Malone explained at length. BeeBee nodded in an understanding fashion
for some moments and, when Malone had finished, disappeared in search of
the Lost and Found. He came back rather quickly, with the disturbing
news that no notebook was anywhere in the place.

"It's got to be here," Malone insisted.

"Well," BeeBee said, "it isn't. Maybe you left it some place else. Maybe
it's home now."

"It isn't," Malone said. "And I've tried every place else."

"New York's a big city, Mr. Malone," BeeBee said.

Malone sighed. "I've tried every place I've been. The notebook couldn't
be somewhere I haven't been. A rolling stone follows its owner." He
thought about that. It didn't seem to mean anything, but maybe it had
once. There was no way to tell for sure.

He went back to the bar to think things over and figure out his next
move. A bourbon-and-soda while thinking seemed the obvious order, and
Ray bustled off to get it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Had he left the notebook on the street somewhere, just dropping it by
accident? Malone couldn't quite see that happening. It was, of course,
possible--but the possibility was so remote that he decided to try and
think of everything else first. There was Dorothy, for instance.

Was it possible that she might have the book?

It was. But, if so, how had she got it?

Malone enumerated possibilities on his fingers. First, he could have
dropped it or something like that, and she could have picked it up. But
dropping the notebook was a chance he'd eliminated already. It just
didn't sound likely.

Besides, if he were going to work on the dropping hypothesis, he might
as well start from anywhere, on the assumption that he had dropped it
anywhere on the street.

But if he _had_ dropped it--second finger--and Dorothy had picked it
up, wouldn't she have given it back?

She would have, Malone decided, unless she actually intended to steal
it.

And if she had intended to steal it, she could just as easily have
lifted it out of his pocket in the first place. She didn't need to wait
for it to fall out conveniently, all by itself.

Third finger: why would she steal the notebook? What good was it to her?
And how did she even know he had it?

None of those questions seemed to have any answers. Of course, if she'd
been connected with the Silent Spooks in some way, it would explain a
little--but somehow Malone couldn't see Dorothy as a Silent Spook.

Malone stared at his ring finger and pinky. He pressed the ring finger
down, thinking that perhaps Dorothy had picked the notebook up and just
forgotten to give it back. That was possible, even if not likely.

Only it required that notebook dropping out again.

The pinky went down. She might be some sort of a kleptomaniac, Malone
thought.

That didn't look very probable.

No, Malone decided, realizing that he had no more fingers left, it was
impossible to shake off the feeling that the girl had deliberately taken
the book for some definite purpose of her own.

He decided to give her a call.

He took the drink from Ray and slid off the bar stool. Two steps away he
remembered one more little fact.

He didn't have her number, and he didn't know anything about where she
lived, except that it could be reached by subway. That, Malone told
himself morosely, limited things nicely to the five boroughs of New
York.

And she'd said she was living with her aunt. Would she have a phone
listing under her own name, or would the listing be under her aunt's
name--which he also didn't know?

At any rate, he could check listings under Dorothy Francis, he told
himself.

He did so.

There were lots and lots of people named Dorothy Francis, in Manhattan
and in all the other boroughs.

Malone frowned thoughtfully. _I wish somebody would tell me how to get
in touch with her_, he thought. _She might know more about that book
than I do._

The thought bothered him. But, to offset it, there was a nice new
feeling growing at the back of his mind.

He felt as if he were going to know the answer soon enough.

He felt as if he were going to be lucky again.

In the meantime, he went back to the bar to think some more. He was on
his second bourbon-and-soda, still thinking but without any new ideas,
when BeeBee tapped him gently on the shoulder.

"Pardon me," the _maître d'_ said, "but are you English?"

"Am I what?" Malone said, spilling a little of his drink on the bar.

"Are you English?" BeeBee inquired.

"Oh," Malone said. "No. Irish. Very Irish."

"That's nice," BeeBee said.

Malone stared at him. "I think it's fine," he said, "but I'd love to
know why you asked me."

"Well," BeeBee said, "I knew you couldn't be American. Not after the
phone call. You don't have to hide your nationality here; we're quite
accustomed to foreign visitors. And we don't have special prices for
tourists."

Malone waited two breaths. "Will you please tell me," he said slowly,
"what it is you're talking about?"

"Certainly," BeeBee said with aplomb. "There's a call for you in the
upstairs booth. A long-distance call, personal."

"Oh," Malone said. "Who'd know I was--" He stopped, thinking hard. There
was no way in the world for anyone to know he was in Topp's. Therefore,
nobody could be calling him. "They've got the wrong name," he said
decisively.

"Oh, no," BeeBee said. "I heard them quite distinctly. You _are_ Sir
Kenneth Malone, aren't you?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Malone gaped for one long second, and then his mind caught up with the
facts. "Oh," he said. "Sure." He raced upstairs to the phone booth,
said: "This is Sir Kenneth Malone," into the blank screen, and waited
patiently.

After a while an operator said: "Person to person call, Sir Kenneth,
from Yucca Flats. Will you take this call?"

"I'll take it," Malone said. A face appeared on the screen, and Malone
knew he was right. He knew exactly how he'd been located, and by whom.

Looking at the face in the screen alone, it might have been thought that
the woman who appeared there was somebody's grandmother, kindly,
red-cheeked and twinkle-eyed. Perhaps that wasn't the only stereotype;
she could have been an old-maid schoolteacher, one of the kindly
schoolteachers who taught, once upon a time that never was, in the
little old red schoolhouses of the dim past. The face positively
radiated kindliness, and friendship, and peace.

But if the face was the face of a sentimental dream, the garb was the
garb of royalty. Somebody's grandmother was on her way to a costume
party. She wore the full court costume of the days of Queen Elizabeth I,
complete with brocaded velvet gown, wide ruff collar and bejeweled
skullcap.

She was, Malone knew, completely insane.

Like all the other telepaths Malone and the rest of the FBI had found
during their work in uncovering a telepathic spy, she had been located
in an insane asylum. Months of extensive psychotherapy, including all
the newest techniques and some so old that psychiatrists were a little
afraid to use them, had done absolutely nothing to shake the firmest
conviction in the mind of Miss Rose Thompson.

She was, she insisted, Elizabeth Tudor, rightful Queen of England.

She claimed she was immortal--which was not true. She also claimed to be
a telepath. This was perfectly accurate. It had been her help that had
enabled Malone to find the telepathic spy, and a grateful government had
rewarded her.

It had given her a special expense allotment for life, covering the
clothing she wore, and the style in which she lived. Rooms had been set
aside for her at Yucca Flats, and she held court there, sometimes being
treated by psychiatrists and sometimes helping Dr. Thomas O'Connor in
his experiments and in the development of new psionic machines.

She was probably the happiest psychotic on Earth.

Malone stared at her. For a second he could think of nothing to say but:
"My God." He said it.

"Not at all, Sir Kenneth," the little old lady said. "Your Queen."

Malone took a deep breath. "Good afternoon, Your Majesty," he said.

"Good afternoon, Sir Kenneth," she said, and waited. After a second
Malone figured out what she was waiting for.

He inclined his head in as courtly a bow as he could manage over a
visiphone. "I am deeply honored," he said, "that Your Majesty has called
on me. Is there any way in which I might be of service?"

"Oh, goodness me, no," said the little old lady. "I don't need a thing.
They do one very well here in Yucca Flats. You must come out soon and
see my new throne room. I've had the decorations done by ... but I can
see you're not interested in that, Sir Kenneth."

"But--" Malone realized it was useless to argue with the old lady. She
was telepathic, and knew exactly what he was thinking. That, after all,
was how he had been located; she had mentally "hunted" for him until she
found him.

But why?

"I'll tell you why, Sir Kenneth," the little old lady said. "I'm worried
about you."

"Worried? About me, Your Majesty?"

"Certainly," the little old lady said, inclining her head just the
proper number of degrees, and raising it again. "You, Sir Kenneth, and
that silly little notebook you lost. You've been stewing about it for
the last hour."

It was obvious that, for reasons of her own, the Queen had seen fit to
look into Malone's mind. She'd found him worrying, and called him about
it. It was, Malone thought, sweet of her in a way. But it was also just
a bit disconcerting.

He was perfectly well aware that the Queen could read his mind at any
distance. But unless something reminded him of the fact, he didn't have
to think about it.

And he didn't like to think about it.

"Don't be disturbed," the Queen said. "Please. I only want to help you,
Sir Kenneth; you know that."

"Well, of course I do," Malone said. "But--"

"Heavens to Betsy," she said. "Sir Kenneth, what kind of a detective are
you?"

"What?" Malone said, and added at once: "Your Majesty." He knew
perfectly well, of course, that Miss Thompson was not Queen Elizabeth
I--and he knew that Miss Thompson knew what he thought.

But she didn't mind. Politeness, she held, was the act of being pleasant
on the surface, no matter what a person really thought. People were
polite to their bosses, she pointed out, even though they were perfectly
sure that they could do a better job than the bosses were doing.

So she insisted on the surface pretense that Malone was going through,
treating her like a Queen.

The psychiatrists had called her delusion a beautifully rationalized
one. As far as Malone was concerned, it made more sense than most of
real life.

       *       *       *       *       *

"That's very nice of you, Sir Kenneth," the Queen said. "But I want to
ask you again: what kind of detective are you? Haven't you got any
common sense at all?"

Malone hated to admit it, but he had always had just that suspicion.
After all, he wasn't a very good detective. He was just lucky. His luck
had enabled him to break a lot of tough cases. But some day people would
find out, and then--

"Well," the Queen said, "at the very least you ought to _act_ like a
detective." She sniffed audibly. "Sir Kenneth, I'm ashamed that a member
of My Own FBI can't do any better than you're doing now."

Malone blinked into the screen. He did feel ashamed in a vague sort of
way, and he was willing to admit it. But he did feel, wistfully, that it
would be nice to know just what he was being ashamed of. "Have I been
missing something?" he said.

"Outside of the obvious," the Queen said, "that you've been missing your
notebook--or, rather, Mike Fueyo's notebook."

"Yes?" Malone said.

"You certainly have," the Queen said. "Don't you see what happened to
that notebook? You've been missing the only possible explanation."

"All I can figure," Malone said, "is that Dorothy Francis picked my
pocket."

"Exactly," the Queen said. "Now, if you'd only wear proper clothing, and
a proper pouch at your belt--"

"I'd be stared at," Malone said. "In court clothing--"

"No one in New York would stare at you," the Queen said. "They'd think
it was what they call an advertising stunt."

"Anyhow," Malone said, "I wasn't wearing court clothing. So that made it
easy for her to steal the notebook."

Her Majesty gave him a bright smile. "There!" she said.

"There, what?" Malone said.

"I knew you could do it," the Queen said. "All you had to do was apply
your intelligence and you'd come up with just the fact you needed."

"What fact?" Malone said.

"That Miss Francis has your notebook," the Queen said. "You just told
me."

"All right," Malone said, and stopped, and took a deep breath. After a
pause he said: "What is that supposed to mean? What on Earth would she
want with it? Just to look at all the pretty pictures?"

"Don't be silly," the Queen said, with some asperity. "She doesn't even
want to look at the thing. She doesn't care what's in it."

Malone closed his eyes. "Riddle time," he murmured. "Great." Then he
sighed. "O.K.," he said. "What _does_ she want with it? She must have
some use for it. She isn't just a kleptomaniac or something--is she?"

"Of course not," the Queen said.

"Then she has a reason," Malone said. "Fine. But what is it? Is she an
auxiliary member of the Silent Spooks, or something like that? Don't
tell me she's Mike Fueyo's girl friend. I don't think I could take that.
It's too silly."

"Naturally it's silly! Sir Kenneth, I--" She stopped, and her face lit
up suddenly with pleasure. "Now you're on the right track!" she said.
"You just keep right on with that line of thought."

Malone blinked in awe. "You mean she's--"

He didn't want to say it. But the evidence was all there. Dorothy's
appearance at the station. The remark Mrs. Fueyo had made when he went
to the apartment.

It all fit.

"That's right," the Queen said, a little sadly. "She's Dorothea
Francisca Fueyo--little Miguel Fueyo's older sister."



XII.

[Illustration]


Malone put in a great deal of time, he imagined, just staring at the
face of the little old lady in the screen. At last he said: "Her name is
Fueyo!"

"I've told you so," the Queen said with some asperity.

"I know," Malone said. "But--"

"You're excited," the Queen said. "You're stunned. Goodness, you don't
need to tell me that, Sir Kenneth. I know."

"But she's--" Malone discovered that he couldn't talk. He swallowed a
couple of times and then went on. "She's Mike Fueyo's sister."

"That's exactly right, Sir Kenneth," the Queen said.

"Then she ... swiped the book to protect her little brother," Malone
said. "Oh, boy."

"Exactly, Sir Kenneth," the Queen said.

"And she doesn't care about me at all," Malone said. "I mean, she only
went out with me because I was me. Malone. And she wanted the notebook.
That was all there was to it."

"I wouldn't say that, if I were you," she went on. "Quite the contrary.
She does like you, you know. And she thinks you're a very nice person."
The Queen beamed. "You are, you know," she said.

"Oh," Malone said uncomfortably. "Sure."

"You don't have to think that she merely went out with you because of
her brother's notebook," the Queen said. "But she does have a strong
sense of loyalty--and he _is_ her younger brother, after all."

"He sure is," Malone said. "He's a great kid, little Mike."

"You see," the Queen continued imperturbably, "Mike told her about
losing the notebook the other night--when he struck you."

"When he struck me," Malone said. "Oh, yes. He struck me all right."

"He guessed that you must have it when you started asking questions
about the Silent Spooks, you see," the Queen said. "That was the only
way you could have found out about him--unless you were telepathic.
Which, of course, you're not."

"No," Malone said.

"Now, understand me," the Queen said. "I do not think that his striking
you was a very nice act."

[Illustration]

"I don't either," Malone said. "It hurt like ... it hurt quite a lot."

"Certainly," the Queen said. "But, then, he didn't hurt the car any, and
he didn't want to. He just wanted to ride around in it for a while."

"He likes red Cadillacs," Malone said.

"Oh, yes," the Queen said. "He thinks they're wonderful."

"Good for him," Malone said sourly.

"Well, now," the Queen said. "You just go right on over to her house. Of
course, she doesn't live with an aunt."

"No," Malone said. "She lives with Mike and his mother."

"Why not?" the Queen said. "She's part of the family."

Malone nodded silently.

"She'll give you the book, Sir Kenneth. I just know that she will. And I
want you to be very nice to her when you ask for it. She's a very nice
girl, you know."

"She's a swell girl," Malone said morosely. "And I'll ... hey. Wait a
minute."

"Yes, Sir Kenneth?"

"How come you can read her thoughts?" Malone said. "And Mike's? I
thought you had to know somebody pretty well before you could read them
at a distance like this. Do you? Know them, I mean."

"Oh, no," the Queen said. "But I can read _you_, of course." Malone
could see that the Queen was trying very hard not to look proud of
herself. "And last night," she went on, "you two were ... well, Sir
Kenneth, you had a real _rapport_ with each other. My goodness, yes."

"Well," Malone said, "we--"

"Don't explain, Sir Kenneth," the Queen said. "It really isn't
necessary; I thought it was very sweet. And--in any case--I can pick her
up now. Because of that rapport. Not quite as well as I can pick you up,
but enough to get the strong surface thoughts."

"Oh," Malone said. "But Mike--"

"I can't pick him up at all, this far away," the Queen said. "There is
just a faint touch of him, though, through the girl. But all I know
about him is what she thinks." She smiled gently. "He's a nice boy,
basically," she said.

"Sure he is," Malone said. "He's got a nice blackjack, too--basically."
He grimaced. "Were you reading my mind all last night?" he said.

"Well," the Queen said, "no. Toward morning you were getting so fuzzy I
just didn't bother."

"I can understand that," Malone said. "I nearly didn't bother myself."

The Queen nodded. "But toward afternoon," she said, "I didn't have
anything to do, so I just listened in. You do have such a nice mind, Sir
Kenneth--so refreshing and different. Especially when you're in love."

Malone blushed quietly.

"Oh, I know," the Queen said. "You'd much rather think of yourself as a
sort of apprentice lecher, a kind of cynical Don Juan, but--"

"I know," Malone said. "Don't tell me about it. All right?"

"Of course, Sir Kenneth," the Queen said, "if you wish it."

"Basically, I'm a nice boy," Malone said. "Sure I am." He paused. "Do
you have any more pertinent information, Your Majesty?"

"Not right now," the Queen admitted. "But if I do, I'll let you know."
She giggled. "You know, I had to argue awfully hard with Dr. Hatterer to
get to use the telephone," she said.

"I'll bet," Malone said.

"But I did manage," she said, and winked. "I won't have that sort of
trouble again."

Malone wondered briefly what dark secret Dr. Hatterer had, that Her
Majesty had discovered in his mind and used to blackmail him with. At
last he decided that it was probably none of his business, and didn't
matter too much anyway.

"Quite right, Sir Kenneth," the Queen said. "And good-bye for now."

"Good-bye, Your Majesty," Malone said. He bowed again, and flipped off
the phone. Bowing in a phone booth wasn't the easiest thing in the world
to do, he thought to himself. But somehow he had managed it.

       *       *       *       *       *

He reached into his pocket--half-convinced, for one second, that it was
an Elizabethan belt-pouch. Talks with Her Majesty always had that
effect; after a time, Malone came to believe in her strange, bright
world. But he shook off the lingering effects of her psychosis, fished
out some coins and thought for a minute.

So Dorothy--Dorothea--had lifted the notebook. That was some help,
certainly. It let him know something more about the enemy he was facing.
But it wasn't really a lot of help.

What did he do now?

Her Majesty had suggested going to the Fueyo house, collaring the
girl--but treating her nicely, Malone reminded himself--and demanding
the book back. She'd even said he would get the book back--and, since
she knew some of what went on in Dorothea Fueyo's mind, she was probably
right.

But what good was that going to do him?

He knew what was in the book. Getting it back was something that could
wait. It didn't sound particularly profitable and it didn't even sound
like fun.

What he needed was a next move. He thought for a minute, dropped the
coins into the phone and dialed the number of the police commissioner's
office. After a brief argument with a secretary, he had Fernack on the
phone. And this time, Malone told himself, he was going to be polite.

If possible.

"Good afternoon, John Henry," he said sunnily, when the commissioner's
face was finally on the screen. "Can you get me some more information?"

Fernack stared at him sourly. "Depends," he said.

"On what?" Malone said, telling himself he wasn't going to get
irritated, and knowing perfectly well that he was lying.

"On what kind of information you want," Fernack said.

"Well," Malone said, "there's a warehouse I want to know some more
about. Who the owner is, for one thing, and--"

Fernack nodded. "I've got it," he said. He fished, apparently on his
desk, and brought up a sheet of paper. He held it up to the screen while
Malone copied off the name and address. "Lieutenant Lynch told me all
about it."

"Lynch?" Malone said. "But he--"

"Lynch works for me, Malone," Fernack said. "Remember that."

"But he said he'd--"

"He said he wouldn't do anything, and he won't," Fernack said. "He just
reported it to me for my action. He knew I was working with you, Malone.
And I _am_ his boss, remember."

"Great." Malone said. "Now, John Henry--"

"Hold it, Malone," Fernack said. "I'd like a little information, too,
you know. I'd like to know just what is going on, if it isn't too much
trouble."

"It's not that. John Henry," Malone said earnestly. "Really. It's just
that I--"

"All this about vanishing boys," Fernack said. "Disappearing into thin
air. All this nonsense."

"It isn't nonsense," Malone said.

"All right," Fernack said indulgently. "Boys disappear every day like
that. Sure they do." He leaned toward the screen and his voice was as
hard as his face. "Malone, are these kids mixed up with those impossible
robberies you had me looking up?"

"Well," Malone said, "I think so. But I doubt if you could prove it."

Fernack's face had begun its slow climb toward purple again. "Malone,"
he said, "if you're suppressing evidence, even if you are the FBI,
I'll--"

"I'm not suppressing any evidence," Malone said. "I don't think _you_
could prove a connection. I don't think _I_ could prove a connection. I
don't think _anybody_ could--not right now."

Fernack leaned back, apparently mollified.

"John Henry," Malone said, "I want to ask you to keep your hands off
this case. To let me handle it my way."

Fernack nodded absently. "Sure, Malone," he said.

"_What?_"

"I said sure," Fernack said. "Isn't that what you wanted?"

"Well, yes," Malone said, "but--"

Fernack leaned all the way back in his chair, his face a mask of
disappointment and frustration. "Malone," he said, "I wish I'd never
heard of this case. I wish I'd been retired or died before it ever came
up. I've been a police officer in New York for a long time, and I wish
this case had waited a few more years to happen."

He stopped. Malone leaned against the back wall of the phone booth and
lit a cigarette.

"Andy Burris called me less than half an hour ago," Fernack said.

"Oh," Malone said.

"That's right," Fernack said. "Good old Burris of the FBI. And he told
me this was a National Security case. National Security. It's your baby,
Malone, because Burris wants it that way." He snorted. "So don't worry
about me," he said. "I'm just here to co-operate. The patriotic, loyal,
dumb slave of a grateful government."

Malone blew out a plume of smoke. "You know, John Henry," he said, "you
might have made a good FBI man yourself. You've got the right attitude."

"Never mind the jokes," Fernack said bitterly.

"O.K.," Malone said. "But tell me: Did you actually make arrangements
for me to get into that warehouse? I suppose you know that's what I
want."

"I guessed that much," Fernack said. "I haven't made any arrangements at
all yet, but I will. I'll have Safe and Loft get the keys, and a full
set of floor plans to the place while they're at it. Will that do, Your
Majesty?"

Malone choked on his smoke and shot a quick look over his shoulder.
There was nothing there but the wall of the booth. Queen Elizabeth I was
nowhere in evidence. Then he realized that Fernack had been talking to
him.

"Don't do that," he said.

"What?" Fernack said.

Malone realized in one awful second how strange the explanation was
going to sound. Could he say that he thought he'd been mistaken for an
old friend of his, Elizabeth Tudor? Could he say that he'd just had a
call from her?

In the end he merely said: "Nothing," and let it go at that.

"Well, anyhow," Fernack said, "do you want anything else?"

"Not right now," Malone said. "I'll let you know, though. And--thanks,
John Henry. No matter why you're doing this, thanks."

"I don't deserve 'em." Fernack muttered. "And I hope you get caught in
some kind of deadfall and have to come screaming to the cops."

That, Malone reflected, was the second time a cop had suggested his
yelling if he got into trouble.

Hadn't the police force ever heard of telephones?

He said good-by and flipped off.

Then he stared at the screen for a little while, as his cigarette burned
down between his fingers. At last he put the cigarette out and went
downstairs again to the bar.

If he had to do some heavy thinking, he told himself, there was
absolutely no reason why he couldn't enjoy himself a little while doing
it.

       *       *       *       *       *

The evening rush had begun, and Malone found himself a stool by the
simple expedient of slipping into one while a drinker's back was turned.
Once ensconced, he huddled himself up like an old drunk, thus
effectively cutting himself off from interruptions, and lit another
cigarette. Ray was down at the other end of the bar, chatting with a
red-headed woman and her pale, bald escort. Malone sighed and set
himself to the job of serious, constructive thinking.

How, he asked himself, do you go about catching a person who can vanish
away like so much smoke?

Well, Malone could think of one solution, but it was pretty bloody.
Nailing the kids to a wall would probably work, but he couldn't say much
else for it. There had to be another way out. For some reason Malone
just couldn't see himself with a mouthful of nails, a hammer and a
teen-ager.

It sounded just a little too messy.

Then, of course, there were handcuffs.

That sounded a little better. The trouble was that Malone simply didn't
have enough information, and knew it. Obviously, the kids could carry
stuff with them when they teleported; the stuff they stole proved that.
And their clothes, Malone added. Apparently the kids didn't arrive at
wherever they went stark staring naked.

But how close to a teleport did the things he carried have to be?

In other words. Malone thought, if you put handcuffs on a teleport,
would the handcuffs vanish when the teleport did? And did that include
the part of the cuff you were holding?

What happened if you snapped half the cuff around your own wrist first?
Did you go along with the teleport? Or did your wrist go, while you
stayed behind and wondered how long it would take to bleed to death?

Or what?

All the questions were intriguing ones. Malone sighed, wishing he knew
the answer to even one of them.

It was somewhat comforting to think that he'd managed to progress a
little, anyway. The kids hadn't meant anybody to find out about
them--but Malone had found out about them, and alerted all the cops in
town, as well as the rest of the FBI. He knew just who they were, and
where they lived, and how they performed the "miracles" they performed.

Anyhow, he knew something about that last item.

He even knew who had his notebook.

He tabled that thought, and went back to feeling victorious. Within a
few seconds, the sense of achievement was gone, and futility had come in
its place. After all, he still didn't know how to catch the kids, did
he?

No.

He thought about handcuffs some more and then gave up. He'd just have to
try it and see how it worked. And if the teleports took his wrist away
he'd ... he'd ... he'd go after them and make them give it back.

Sure he would.

That reminded him of the notebook again, and, since the thing was being
so persistent, he decided he might as well pay some attention to it.

Dorothea had the notebook. Malone tried to see himself barging in on her
and asking for it, and he didn't care for the picture at all--no matter
how Good Queen Bess felt about it.

After all, she thought Mike Fueyo was basically a nice kid.

So what did she know?

He closed his eyes. There he was, in the Fueyo apartment, talking to
Dorothea.

"Dorothea," he muttered. "You filched my notebook."

That didn't sound very effective. And besides, it wasn't really his
notebook. He tried again.

"Dorothea, you pinched your brother's notebook."

Now, for some reason, it sounded like something covered by the Vice
Squad. It sounded terrible. But there were other ways of saying the same
thing.

"Dorothea," he muttered, "you borrowed your brother's notebook."

That was too patronizing. Malone told himself that he sounded like a
character straight out of the 3-D screens, and settled himself gamely
for another try.

"Dorothea, you _have_ your brother's notebook."

To which the obvious answer was: "Yes, I do, and so what?"

Or, possibly: "How do you know?"

And Malone thought about answering that one. "Queen Elizabeth told me,"
was the literal truth, but somehow it didn't sound like it. And he
couldn't find another answer to give the girl.

"Dorothea," he said, and a voice from nowhere added:

"Will you have another drink?"

Malone exploded, "That's not the question. Drinks have nothing to do
with notebooks. I'm after notebooks. Can't you understand--" Belatedly,
he looked up.

There was Ray, the barman.

"Oh," he said.

"I just came over," Ray said. "And I figured if you couldn't find your
notebook, maybe you'd like a drink. So long as you're here."

"Ray," Malone said with feeling, "you are an eminently reasonable
fellow. I accept your solution. Nay, more. I endorse your solution.
Wholeheartedly."

Ray went off to mix, and Malone stared after him happily. This was
really a nice place, he reflected--almost as nice as the City Hall Bar
in Chicago where he'd gone long ago with his father.

But he tore his mind away from the happy past and concentrated, instead,
on the miserable present. He decided for the last time that he was not
going to ask Dorothea for the book--not just yet, anyhow. After all, it
wasn't as if he needed the book; he knew his own name, and he knew
Lynch's name, and he knew the names on the second page. And he didn't
see any particular need for a picture of a red Cadillac, no matter how
nicely colored it was.

So, he asked himself, why embarrass everybody by trying to get it back?

Of course, it _was_ technically a crime to pick pockets, and that went
double or triple for the pockets of FBI agents. But Malone told himself
that he didn't feel like pressing charges, anyhow. And Dorothy probably
didn't make a habit of pocket-picking.

He sighed and glanced at his watch. It was fifteen minutes of six.

Now, he knew what his next move was going to be.

He was going to go back to his hotel and change his clothes.

That is, he amended, as soon as he finished the drink that Ray was
setting up in front of him.



XIII.


By the time Malone reached the Statler Hilton Hotel it was six-twenty.
Malone hadn't reckoned with New York's rush-hour traffic, and, after
seeing it, he still didn't believe it. Finding a cab had been
impossible, and he had started for the subway, hoping that he wouldn't
get lost and end up somewhere in Brooklyn.

But one look at the shrieking mob trying to sardine itself into the
Seventh Avenue subway entrance had convinced him it was better to walk.
Bucking the street crowds was bad enough. Bucking the subway crowds was
something Malone didn't even want to think about.

He let himself into his room, and was taking off his shoes with a
grateful sigh when there was a rap on the door of the bathroom that
connected his room with Boyd's. Malone padded over to the door, his
shoes in one hand. "Tom?" he said.

[Illustration]

"You were expecting maybe Titus Moody?" Boyd called.

"O.K.," Malone said. "Come on in."

Boyd pushed open the door. He was stripped to the waist, a state of
dress which showed the largest expanse of chest Malone had ever seen,
and he was carrying the small scissors which he used to trim his Henry
VIII beard. He stabbed the scissors toward Malone, who shuffled back
hurriedly.

"Listen," Boyd said, "did you call the office after you left this
afternoon?"

"No," Malone admitted. "Why? What happened?"

"There was a call for you," Boyd said. "Long Distance, just before I
left at five. I came on back to the hotel and waited until I heard you
come in. Thought you might want to know about it."

"I do, I guess," Malone said. "Who from?" Looking at Boyd, a modern-day
Henry VIII, the association was too obvious to be missed. Malone thought
of Good Queen Bess, and wondered why she was calling him again.

And--more surprising--why she'd called him at FBI headquarters, when she
must have known that he wasn't there.

"Dr. O'Connor," Boyd said.

"Oh," Malone said, somewhat relieved. "At Yucca Flats."

Boyd nodded. "Right," he said. "You're to call Operator Nine."

"Thanks." Malone went over to the phone, remembered his shoes and put
them down carefully on the floor. "Anything else of importance?" he
asked.

"On the Cadillacs," Boyd said. "We've got a final report now. Leibowitz
and Hardin finally finished checking the last of them--there weren't
quite as many as we were afraid there were going to be. Red isn't a very
popular color around here."

"Good," Malone said.

"And there isn't a doggone thing on any of 'em," Boyd said. "Oh, we
cleared up a lot of small-time crime, one thing and another, but that's
about all. No such thing as an electro-psionic brain to be found
anywhere in the lot. Leibowitz says he's willing to swear to it."

Malone sighed. "I didn't think he'd find one," he said.

"You didn't?"

"No," Malone said.

Boyd stabbed at him with the scissors again. "Then why did you cause all
that trouble?" he said.

"Because I thought we might find electro-psionic brains," Malone said
wearily. "Or one, anyhow."

"But you just said--"

Malone picked up the phone, got Long Distance and motioned Boyd to
silence in one sweeping series of moves. The Long Distance Operator
said: "Yes, sir? May we help you?"

"Give me Operator Nine," Malone said.

There was a buzz, a click and a new voice which said: "Operator Ni-yun.
May we help you?"

"All nine of you?" Malone muttered. "Never mind. This is Kenneth Malone.
I've got a call from Dr. Thomas O'Connor at Yucca Flats. Please connect
me."

There was another buzz, a click and an ungodly howl which was followed
by the voice of Operator Ni-yun saying: "We are connecting you. There
will be a slight delay. We are sor-ree."

Malone waited. At last there was another small howl, and the screen lit
up. Dr. O'Connor's face, as stern and ascetic as ever, stared through at
Malone.

"I understand you called me," Malone said.

"Ah, yes," Dr. O'Connor said. "It's very good to see you again, Mr.
Malone." He gave Malone a smile good for exchange at your corner
grocery: worth, one icicle.

"It's good to see you, too," Malone lied.

"Mr. Burris explained to me what it was that you wanted to talk to me
about," O'Connor said. "Am I to understand that you have actually found
a teleport?"

"Unless my theories are away off," Malone said, "I've done a lot better
than that. I've found eight of them."

"Eight!" Dr. O'Connor's smile grew perceptibly warmed. It now stood at
about thirty-four degrees Fahrenheit. "That is really excellent, Mr.
Malone. You have done a fine job."

"Thanks," Malone muttered. He wished that O'Connor didn't make him feel
quite so much like a first-year law student talking to an egomaniacal
professor.

"When can you deliver them?" O'Connor said.

"Well," Malone said carefully, "that depends." O'Connor seemed to view
the teleports as pieces of equipment, he thought. "I can't deliver them
until I catch them," he said. "And that's why I wanted to talk to you."

"Some slight delay," Dr. O'Connor said, "will be quite understandable."
His face left no doubt that he didn't like the necessity of
understanding anything that was going to keep him and the eight
teleports apart for even thirty seconds longer, now that he knew about
them.

"You see," Malone said, "they're kids. Juvenile delinquents, or
something like that. But they are teleports, that's for sure."

"I see," Dr. O'Connor said.

"So we've got to nab them," Malone said. "And for that I need all the
information I can get."

Dr. O'Connor nodded slowly. "I'll be happy," he said, "to give you any
information I can provide."

       *       *       *       *       *

Malone took a deep breath, and plunged. "How does this teleportation bit
work, anyhow?" he said.

"You've asked a very delicate question," Dr. O'Connor said. "Actually,
we can't be quite positive." His expression showed just how little he
wanted to make this admission. "However," he went on, brightening,
"there is some evidence which seems to show that it is basically the
same process as psychokinesis. And we do have quite a bit of empirical
data on psychokinesis." He scribbled something on a sheet of paper and
said: "For instance, there's this." He held the paper up to the screen
so that Malone could read it.

It said:

  md
  ----- = K
  ft2

Malone looked at it for some seconds. At last he said: "It's very
pretty. What is it?"

"This," Dr. O'Connor said, in the tone of voice that meant You Should
Have Known All Along, But You're Just Hopeless, "is the basic formula
for the phenomenon, where _m_ is the mass in grams, _d_ is the distance
in centimeters, _f_ is the force in dynes and _t_ is the time in
seconds. _K_ is a constant whose value is not yet known."

Malone said: "Hm-m-m," and stared at the equation again. Somehow, the
explanation was not very helpful. The value of _K_ was unknown. He
understood that much, all right but it didn't seem to do him any good.

"As you can see," Dr. O'Connor went on, "the greater the force, and the
longer time it is applied, the greater distance any mass can be moved.
Or, contrariwise, the more mass, the greater mass, that is, the easier
it is to move it any given distance. This is, as you undoubtedly
understand, not at all in contradistinction to physical phenomena."

"Ah," Malone said, feeling that something was expected of him, but not
being quite sure what.

Dr. O'Connor frowned. "I must admit," he said, "that the uncertainty as
to the constant _k_, and the lack of any real knowledge as to just what
kind of force is being applied, have held up our work so far." Then his
face smoothed out. "Of course, when we have the teleports to work with,
we may derive a full set of laws which--"

"Never mind that now," Malone said.

"But our work is most important, Mr. Malone," Dr. O'Connor said with a
motion of his eyebrows. "As I'm sure you must understand."

"Oh," Malone said, feeling as if he'd been caught without his homework,
"of course. But if you don't mind--"

"Yes, Mr. Malone?" Dr. O'Connor said smoothly.

"What I want to know," Malone said, "is this: what are the limitations
of this ... uh ... phenomenon?"

Dr. O'Connor brightened visibly. "The limitations are several," he said.
"In the first place, there is the force represented by _f_ in the
equation. This seems to be entirely dependent on the ... ah ... strength
of the subject's personality. That is if we assume that the process is
at all parallel with the phenomena of psychokinesis and levitation. And
there are excellent theoretical reasons for so believing."

"In other words," Malone said, "a man with a strong will would be able
to exert more force than a weaker-willed man?"

"Correct," Dr. O'Connor said. "And another factor is the time, _t_. What
we are measuring here is the span of attention of the individual--the
ability of the subject's mind to concentrate on a given thing for a span
of time. Many people, for example, cannot keep their attention focused
on a single thought for more than a few milliseconds, it seems. They are
... ah ... 'scatter-brained,' as the saying is."

His expression left no doubt that he included Malone in that group.
Malone tried not to look nervous.

Then Dr. O'Connor scowled. "There is another factor which we feel should
be in the equation," he said, "but we have not yet found a precise way
to express it mathematically. You must realize that the mathematical
treatment of psionics is, as yet, in a relatively primitive stage."

"Oh," Malone said. "Of course. Sure. But this other factor--"

"It is what might be called the ... ah ... _volume_ of attention," Dr.
O'Connor said. "That is, the actual amount of space that can be
conceived of and held by the subject, during the time he is
concentrating."

Malone blinked.

"For most people," Dr. O'Connor said, "the awareness of the space
surrounding them is limited to a few inches of moving space, no more. To
put this in a purely physical matrix: one might say that the
'teleportation field' doesn't extend more than a few inches beyond the
skin of the subject. Thus, it would be difficult to teleport anything
really large unless one were able to increase the volume of attention,
or awareness. However, it is difficult to express this notion
mathematically."

"I'll bet," Malone said.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dr. O'Connor shot him a frozen glance. "One of our early attempts," he
said, "was simply to put this in as a volume factor, so that the
left-hand side of the equation, below the line, would read--" He
scribbled again on the paper and held it up:

  m d
  ---- = K
  d3ft2

"Unfortunately, as you can perhaps see," Dr. O'Connor said, "the
equation would not stand up under dimensional analysis."

"Oh, sure," Malone said, adding sympathetically: "That's too bad. But
does that put a limit on how much a man could carry with him? I mean, he
couldn't take a whole building along, or anything like that, could he?"

"I doubt it," Dr. O'Connor said gravely. "That would require a
tremendous volume of space for one to focus his entire attention on, as
a whole, for any useful length of time. It would require a type of mind
that I am not even sure exists."

"In the case of a young, inexperienced boy," Malone said stubbornly,
"would you say that he could carry off anything heavy?"

"Of course not," Dr. O'Connor said. "Nor, as a matter of fact, could he
carry off anything that was securely bolted down; I hope you follow me?"

"I think so," Malone said. "But look here: suppose you handcuffed him
to, say, a radiator or a jail cell bar."

"Yes?"

"Could he get away?"

Dr. O'Connor appeared to consider this with some care. "Well," he said
at last, "he certainly couldn't take the radiator with him, or the cell
bar. If that's what you mean." He hesitated, looked slightly shamefaced,
and then went on: "But you must realize that we lack any really
extensive data on this phenomenon."

"Of course," Malone said.

"That's why I'm so very anxious to get those subjects," Dr. O'Connor
said.

"Dr. O'Connor," Malone said earnestly, "that's just what I had in mind
from the start. I've been going to a lot of extra trouble to make sure
that those kids don't get killed or end up in reform schools or
something, just so you could work with them."

"I appreciate that, Mr. Malone," O'Connor said gravely.

Malone felt as if someone had given him a gold star. Fighting down the
emotion, he went on: "I know right now that I can catch one or two of
them. But I don't know for sure that I can hold one for more than a
fraction of a second."

"I see your problem," Dr. O'Connor said. "Believe me, Mr. Malone. I do
see your problem."

"And is there a way out?" Malone said. "I mean a way I can hold on to
them for--"

"At present," Dr. O'Connor said heavily, "I have no suggestions. I lack
data."

"Oh, fine," Malone said. "We need the kids to get the data, and we need
the data to get the kids." He sighed. "Hooray for our side," he added.

"There does appear to be something of a dilemma here," Dr. O'Connor
admitted sadly.

"Dilemma is putting it mildly," Malone said.

Dr. O'Connor opened his mouth, shut it, opened it again and said: "I
agree."

"Well," Malone said, "maybe one of us will think of something. If
anything does occur to you, let me know at once."

"I certainly will," Dr. O'Connor said. "Believe me, Mr. Malone, I want
you to capture those--kids--just as badly as you want to capture them
yourself."

"I'll try," Malone said at random. He flipped off and turned with a
sense of relief back to Boyd. But it looked as if Henry VIII had been
hit on the head with a cow, or something equally weighty. Boyd looked
glassy-eyed and slightly stunned.

       *       *       *       *       *

"What's the matter with you?" Malone said. "Sick?"

"I'm not sick," Boyd said carefully. "At least I don't think I'm sick.
It's hard to tell."

"What's wrong?"

"Teleporting?" Boyd said. "Juvenile delinquents?"

Malone felt a sudden twinge in the area of his conscience. He realized
that he had told Boyd nothing at all about what had been going on since
the discovery of the notebook two nights ago. He filled his partner in
rapidly while Boyd stood in front of the mirror and rather shakily
attempted to trim his beard.

"That's why I had the car search continue," Malone said. "I was fairly
sure the fault wasn't in the cars, but the boys. But I had to make
absolutely sure."

Boyd said: "Oh," chopped a small section out of the center of his beard
and added: "My hand's shaky."

"Well," Malone said, "that's the story."

"It sure is quite a story," Boyd said. "And I don't want you to think I
don't believe it. Because I don't."

"It's true," Malone said.

"That doesn't affect me," Boyd said. "I'll go along with the gag. But
enough is enough. Vanishing teen-agers. Ridiculous."

"Just so you go along with me," Malone said.

"Oh, I'll go along," Boyd said. "This is my vacation, too, isn't it?
What's the next move, Mastermind?"

"We're going down to that warehouse," Malone said decisively. "I've got
a hunch the kids have been hiding there ever since they left their homes
yesterday."

"Malone," Boyd said.

"What?"

"You mean we're going down to the warehouse _tonight_?" Boyd said.

Malone nodded.

"I might have known," Boyd said. "I might have known."

"Tom," Malone said. "What's wrong?"

"Oh, nothing," Boyd said. "Nothing at all. Everything's fine and dandy.
I think I'm going to commit suicide, but don't let that bother you."

"What happened?" Malone said.

Boyd stared at him. "You happened," he said. "You and the teen-agers and
the warehouse happened. Three days' work--ruined."

Malone scratched his head, found out that his head still hurt and put
his hand down again. "What work?" he said.

"For three days," Boyd said, "I've been taking this blond chick all over
New York. Wining her. Dining her. Spending money as if I were Burris
himself, instead of the common or garden variety of FBI agent. Night
clubs. Theaters. Bars. The works. Malone, we were getting along
famously. It was wonderful."

"And tonight--" Malone said.

"Tonight," Boyd said, "was supposed to be the night. The big night. The
payoff. We've got a date for dinner--T-bone steak, two inches thick,
with mushrooms. At her apartment, Malone."

"You'll have to break it," Malone said sympathetically. "Too bad, but it
can't be helped now. You can pick up a sandwich before you go."

"A sandwich," Boyd said with great dignity, "is not my idea of something
to eat."

"Look, Tom--" Malone began.

"All right, all right," Boyd said tiredly. "Duty is duty. I'll go call
her."

"Fine," Malone said. "And meanwhile, I'll get us a little insurance."

"Insurance?"

"John Henry Fernack," Malone Malone said, "and his Safe and Loft Squad."



XIV.


The warehouse was locked up tight, all right, Malone thought. In the dim
light that surrounded the neighborhood, it stood like a single stone
block, alone near the waterfront. There were other buildings nearby, but
they seemed smaller; the warehouse loomed over Malone and Boyd
threateningly. They stood in a shadow-blacked alley just across the
street, watching the big building nervously, studying it for weak points
and escape areas.

[Illustration]

Boyd whispered softly: "Do you think they have a lookout?"

Malone's voice was equally low. "We'll have to assume they've got at
least one kid posted," he said. "But they can't be watching all the
time. Remember, they can't do everything."

"They don't have to," Boyd said. "They do quite enough for me. Do you
realize that, right now, I could be--"

"Break it up," Malone said. He took a small handset from his pocket and
pressed the stud. "Lynch?" he whispered.

A tinny voice came from the earpiece. "Here, Malone."

"Have you got them located yet?" Malone said.

"Not yet," Lynch's voice replied. "We're working on a triangulation now.
Just hold on for a minute or so. I'll let you know as soon as we've got
results."

The police squads--Lynch and his men, the warehouse precinct men and the
Safe and Loft Squad--had set up a careful cordon around the area, and
were now hard at work trying to determine two things.

First, they had to know whether there was anybody in the building at
all.

Second, they had to be able to locate anyone in the building with
precision.

The silence of the downtown warehouse district helped. They had several
specially designed, highly sensitive directional microphones aimed at
the building from carefully selected spots around the area, trying to
pick up the muffled sounds of speech or motion within the warehouse. The
watchmen in buildings nearby had been warned off for the time being so
that their footsteps wouldn't occlude any results.

Malone waited, feeling nervous and cold. Finally Lynch's voice came
through again. "We're getting something, all right," he said. "There are
obviously several people in there. You were right, Malone."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Thanks," Malone said. "How about that fix?"

"Hold it a second," Lynch said. Wind swept off the river at Malone and
Boyd. Malone closed his eyes and shivered. He could smell fish and
iodine and waste, the odor of the Hudson as it passes the city. Across
the river lights sparkled warmly. Here there was nothing but darkness.

A long time passed, perhaps ten seconds.

Then Lynch's voice was back: "Sergeant McNulty says they're on the top
floor, Malone," he said. "Can't tell how many for sure. But they're
talking and moving around."

"It's a shame these things won't pick up the actual words at a
distance," Malone said.

"Just a general feeling of noise is all we get," Lynch said. "But it
does some good."

"Sure," Malone said. "Now listen carefully: Boyd and I are going in.
Alone."

Lynch's voice whispered: "Right."

"If those mikes pick up any unusual ruckus--any sharp increase in the
noise level--come running," Malone said. "Otherwise, just sit still and
wait for my signal. Got that?"

"Check," Lynch said.

Malone pocketed the radiophone. "O.K., Tom," he whispered. "This is
H-hour--M-minute--and S-second."

"I can spell," Boyd muttered. "Let's move in."

"Wait a minute," Malone said. He took his goggles and brought them down
over his eyes, adjusting the helmet on his head. Boyd did the same.
Malone flicked on the infrared flashlight he held in his hand.

"O.K.?" he whispered.

"Check," Boyd said.

Thanks to the goggles, both of them could see the normally invisible
beams of the infrared flashlight. They'd equipped themselves to move in
darkness without betraying themselves, and they'd be able to see where a
person without equipment would be blind.

       *       *       *       *       *

Malone stayed well within the shadows as he moved silently around to the
alley behind the warehouse and then to a narrow passageway that led to
the building next door. Boyd followed a few feet behind him along the
carefully planned route.

Malone unlocked the small door that led into the ground floor of the
building adjoining. As he did so he heard a sound behind him and called:
"Tom?"

"Hey, Malone," Boyd whispered. "It's--"

Before there was any outcry, Malone rushed back. Boyd was struggling
with a figure in the dimness. Malone grabbed the figure and clamped his
hand over its mouth. It bit him. He swore in a low voice, and clamped
the hand over the mouth again.

It hadn't taken him more than half a second to realize what, whoever it
was who struggled in his arms, it wasn't a boy.

"Shut up!" Malone hissed in her ear. "I won't hurt you."

The struggle stopped immediately. Malone gently eased his hand off the
girl's mouth. She turned and looked at him.

"Kenneth Malone," she said, "you look like a man from Mars."

"Dorothea!" Malone gasped. "What are you doing here? Looking for your
brother?"

"Never mind that," she said. "You play too rough. I'm going home to
mother."

"Answer me!" Malone said.

"All right," Dorothea said. "You must know anyhow, since you're here.
Yes, I'm looking for that fat-headed brother of mine. But now I suppose
it's too late. He'll ... he'll go to prison."

Her voice broke. Malone found his shoulder suddenly occupied by a crying
face.

"No," he said quickly. "No. Please. He won't."

"Really?"

Boyd whispered: "Malone, what is this? It's no place for a date. And
I--"

"Oh, shut up," Malone told him in a kindly fashion. He turned back to
Dorothea. "I promise he won't," he said. "If I can just talk to your
brother, make him listen to reason, I think we can get him and the
others off. Believe me."

"But you--"

"Please," Malone said. "Believe me."

"Oh, Ken," Dorothea said, raising her head. "Do you ... do you mean it?"

"Sure I mean it," Malone said. "What have I been saying? The Government
needs these kids."

"The Government?"

"It's nothing to worry about," Malone said. "Just go on home now, all
right? I'll call you tomorrow. Late tonight, if I can. All right?"

"No," Dorothea said. "It's not all right. Not at all."

"But--"

Boyd hissed: "Malone!"

Malone ignored him. He had a bigger fight on his hands. "I'm not going
home," Dorothea announced. "I'm going in there with you. After all," she
added, "I can talk more sense into Mike's head than you can."

"Now, look," Malone began.

Dorothea grinned in the darkness. "If you don't take me along," she said
quietly, "I'll scream and warn them."

Malone surrendered at once. He had no doubt at all that Dorothea meant
what she said. And, after all, the girl might really be some use to
them. And there probably wouldn't be much danger.

Of course there wouldn't, he thought. He was going to see to that.

"All right," he said. "Come along. Stick close to us, and don't worry
about the darkness. We can see, even if you can't, so let us guide you.
But be quiet!"

Boyd whispered: "Malone, what's going on?"

"She's coming with us," Malone said, pointing to Dorothea.

Boyd shrugged. "Malone," he said, "who do you think you are? The Pied
Piper of Hamelin?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Malone wheeled and went ahead. Opening the door, he played his I-R
flashlight on the room inside and he, Boyd and Dorothea trailed in,
going through rooms piled with huge boxes. They went up an iron stairway
to the second floor, and so on up to the roof.

They moved across the roof quickly under the cold stars, to the wall of
the warehouse, which was two stories higher than the building they were
on. Of course, there were no windows in the warehouse wall facing them,
except on the top story.

But there was a single, heavy, fireproof emergency exit. It would have
taken power machinery or explosives to open that door from the outside
without a key, although from the inside it would open easily.

Fortunately, Malone had a key.

He took it out and stepped aside. "Give that lock the works," he
whispered to Boyd.

Boyd took a lubricant gun from his pocket and fired three silent shots
of special oil into the lock. Then he shot the hinges, and cracks around
the door.

They waited for a minute or two while the oil, forced in under pressure,
did its work. Then Malone fitted the key carefully into the lock and
turned it, slowly and delicately. The door swung open in silence. Malone
slipped inside, followed by Boyd and Dorothea Fueyo.

Infrared equipment went on again, and the eerie illumination spread over
their surroundings. Malone tapped Boyd on the shoulder and jerked his
thumb toward the back stairs. This was plainly no time for talk.

From the floor above, they could hear the murmur of youthful voices.

They started for the stairway. Fortunately, the building was of the
steel-and-concrete type; there were no wooden floors to creak and groan
beneath their feet.

At the bottom of the stairs, they paused. Voices came down the stairwell
clearly, even words being defined in the silence.

"... And quit harping on whose fault it was." Malone recognized Mike
Fueyo's voice. "That FBI guy was on to us and we had to pull out; you
know that. We always figured we'd have to pull out some day. So why not
now?"

"Yeah," another voice said. "But you didn't have to go and vanish right
under that Fed's nose. You been beating into our heads not to do that
sort of stuff ever since we first found out we could make this vanishing
bit. And then you go and do it in front of a Fed. Smart. Sure, you get a
big bang out of it, but is it smart? I ask you--"

"Yeah?" Mike said. "Listen, Silvo, they never would've got onto us if it
hadn't been for your stupid tricks. Slugging a cop on the dome. Cracking
up a car. You and your bug for speed!"

Malone blinked. Then it hadn't been Miguel Fueyo who'd hit Sergeant
Jukovsky, but Silvo. Malone tried to remember the list of Silent Spooks.
Silvo ... Envoz. That was it.

"You slugged the FBI guy, Mike," Silvo said. "And now you got us all on
the run. That's your fault, Mike. I want to see my old lady."

"I had to slug him," Mike said. "Listen, all Ramon's stuff was in that
Cadillac. What'd have happened if he'd found all that stuff?"

"So what happened anyway?" another voice--Ramon?--said. "He found your
stupid notebook, didn't he? He went yelling to the cops, didn't he?
We're running, ain't we? So what difference?"

"Shut up!" Mike roared.

"You ain't telling me to shut up!" (That was the third voice. Malone
thought; possibly Ramon Otravez.)

"Me either!" Silvo yelled. "You think you're a great big-shot, you think
you're king of the world!"

"Who figured out the Vanish?" Mike screamed. "You'd all be a bunch of
bums if I hadn't showed you that! And you know it! You'd all--"

"Don't give us that!" Silvo said. "We'd have been able to do it, same as
you. Like you said, anybody who's got talent could do it. There were
guys you tried to teach--"

"Sure," said a fourth voice. "Listen, Fueyo, you're so bright--so why
don't you try teaching it to somebody who don't have the talent?"

"Yeah!" said voice number five. "You think you could teach that flashy
sister of yours the Vanish?"

"You shut up about my sister, Phil!" Mike screamed.

"So what's so great about her?"

"She got that book back from the Fed," Mike said. "That's what. It's
enough!"

A voice said, "Any dame with a little--"

"Shut your face before I shut it for you!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Malone couldn't tell who was yelling what at who after a minute. They
all seemed unhappy about being on the run from the police, and they were
all tired of being cooped up in a warehouse under Mike's orders. Mike
was the only person they could take it out on--and Mike was under heavy
attack.

Two of the boys, surprisingly, seemed to side with him. The other five
were trying to outshout them. Malone wondered if it would become a
fight, and then realized that these kids could hardly fight each other
when the one who was losing could always fade out.

He leaned over and whispered to Dorothea and Boyd: "Let's sneak up there
while the argument's going on."

"But--" Boyd began.

"Less chance of their noticing us," Malone explained, and started
forward.

They tiptoed up the stairs and got behind a pile of crates in the
shadows, while invectives roared around them. This floor was lit by a
single small bulb hanging from a socket in the ceiling. The windows were
hung with heavy blankets to keep the light from shining out.

The kids didn't notice anything except each other. Malone took a couple
of deep breaths and began to look around.

All things considered, he thought, the kids had fixed the place up
pretty nicely. The unused warehouse had practically been made over into
an apartment. There were chairs, beds, tables and everything else in the
line of furnishings for which the kids could conceivably have any use.
There were even some floor lamps scattered around, but they weren't
plugged in. Malone guessed that a job would have to be done on the
warehouse wiring to get the floor lamps in operation, and the kids just
hadn't got around to it yet.

By now, the boys were practically standing toe to toe, ripping
air-bluing epithets out at each other. Not a single hand was lifted.

Malone stared at them for a second, then turned to Dorothea. "We'll wait
till they calm down a little," he whispered. "Then you go out and talk
to them. Tell them we won't hurt them or lock them up or anything. All
we want to do is talk to them for a while."

"All right," she whispered back.

"They can vanish any time they want to," Malone said, "so there's no
reason for them not to listen to--"

He stopped suddenly, listening. Over the shouting, screaming and cursing
of the kids, he heard motion on the floor below.

Cops?

It couldn't be, he told himself. But when he took out his radiophone,
his hands were shaking a little.

Lynch's voice was already coming over it when Malone thumbed it on.

"... So hang on, Malone! I repeat: we heard the ruckus, and we're coming
in! We're on our way! Hang on, Malone!"

The voice stopped. There was a click.

Malone stared at the handset, fascinated and horrified. He swallowed.
"No, Lynch!" he whispered, afraid to talk any louder for fear the kids
would hear him. "No! Don't come up! Go away! Repeat: go away! Stay away!
Lynch--"

It was no use. The radiophone was dead.

Lynch, apparently thinking Malone's set had been smashed in the fight,
or else that Malone was unconscious, had shut his own receiver off.

There was absolutely nothing that Malone could do.

       *       *       *       *       *

The kids were still yelling at the top of their voices, but the
thundering of heavy, flat feet galumphing up from the lower depths
couldn't be ignored for long. All the boys noticed it at about the same
time. They jerked their heads round to face the stairway. Malone and his
campatriots crouched lower behind the boxes.

Mike Fueyo was the first to speak. "Don't vanish yet!" he snapped.
"Let's see who it is."

The internal dissent among the Silent Spooks disappeared as if it had
never been, as they faced a common foe. Once again, they fell naturally
under Fueyo's leadership. "If it's cops," he said, "we'll give 'em the
Grasshopper Play we worked out. We'll show 'em."

"They can't fool with us," another boy said. "Sure. The Grasshopper
Play."

It was cops, all right. Lieutenant Lynch ran up the stairs waving his
billy in a heroic fashion, followed by a horde of blue-clad officers.

"Where's Malone?" Lynch shouted as he came through the doorway.

"Where's your what?" Mike yelled back, and the fight was on.

Later, Malone thought that he should have been surprised, but he wasn't.
There wasn't any time to be surprised. The kids didn't disappear. They
spread out over the floor of the room easily and lightly, and the cops
charged them in a great blundering mass.

Naturally, the kids winked out one by one--and reformed in the center of
the cops' muddle. Malone saw one cop raise his billy and swing it at
Mike. Mike watched it come down and vanish at the last instant. The
cop's billy descended on the head of another cop, standing just behind
where Mike had been.

The second cop, hit and blinded by the blow on his head, swung back and
hit the first cop. Meanwhile, Mike was somewhere else.

Malone stayed crouched behind the boxes. Dorothea stood up and shouted:
"Mike! Mike! We just want to talk to you!"

Unfortunately, the police were making such a racket that this could not
be heard more than a foot or so from the speaker. Lynch himself charged
into the mass, swinging his billy and his free fist and laying others
out one after the other. Pretty soon the floor was littered with cops.
Lynch was doing yeoman duty, but it was hard to tell what side he was
on.

The vanishing trick Mike had worked out was being used by all of the
kids. Cops were hitting other cops, Lynch was hitting everybody, and the
kids were winking on and off all over the loft. It was a scene of
tremendous noise and carnage.

Malone suddenly sprang to his feet and charged into the melee, shouting
at the top of his lungs and swinging both fists. The first person he saw
was one of the teen-agers, and he charged him with abandon.

[Illustration]

He should, he reflected, have known better. The kid disappeared. Malone
caromed off the stomach of a policeman, received a blow on the shoulder
from his billy, and rebounded into the arms of a surprised police
officer at the edge of the battle.

"Who're you?" the officer gasped.

"Malone," Malone said.

"You on our side?"

"How about you?" Malone said.

"I'm a lieutenant here," the officer said. "In charge of warehouse
precinct. I--"

Malone and the lieutenant stepped nimbly aside as another cop careened
by them, waving his billy helplessly. They looked away as the crash
came. The cop had fallen over a table, and now lay with his legs in the
air, supported by the overturned table, blissfully unconscious.

"We seem," Malone said, "to be in an area of some activity. Let's move."

       *       *       *       *       *

They shifted away a few feet. Malone looked into the foray and saw Boyd
at work roaring and going after the kids. One of them had established a
kind of game with him. He would appear just in front of Boyd, who rushed
at him, arms outstretched. As Boyd had almost reached him, the kid
disappeared and reappeared again just behind Boyd. He tapped the FBI
agent gently on the shoulder; Boyd turned and the process was repeated.

Boyd seemed to be getting winded.

The lieutenant suddenly dashed back into the fray. Malone looked around,
saw Mike Fueyo flickering in and out at the edges, and headed for him.

A cop swung at Mike, missed, and hit Malone on the arm. Malone swore.
The cop backed off, looking in a bewildered fashion for his victim, who
was nowhere in sight. Then Malone caught sight of him, at the other edge
of the fight. He started to work his way around.

He tried to avoid blows, but it wasn't always possible. A reeling cop
caught his lapel and tore it, and Lynch, indefatigable in battle,
managed to graze his chin with a blow meant for one of the disappearing
boys. Other cops were battling each other, going after the kids and
clutching empty air, cursing and screaming unheard orders in the fracas.

Malone ducked past Lynch, rubbed at his chin and looked for Mike. In the
tangle of bodies it was getting hard to see. There was the sound of
breaking ceramics as a floor lamp went over, and then a table followed
it, but Malone avoided both. He looked for Mike Fueyo--

A cop clutched him around the middle, out of nowhere, said: "Sorry,
buddy, who are you?" and dove back into the mass of bodies. Malone
caught his breath and forged onward.

There was Mike, at the edge of the fight, watching everything coolly. No
cop was near him. In the dim light the place looked like a scene from
Hell, a special Hell for policemen. Malone wove through battling hordes
to the edge and came out a few feet away from Mike Fueyo.

Fueyo didn't see him. He was looking at Boyd instead--still stumbling
back and forth as the teen-ager baiting him winked on and off in front
of him and behind him. He was laughing.

Malone came up silently from behind. The trip seemed to take hours. He
was being very quiet, although he was reasonably sure that even if he
yelled he wouldn't be heard. But he didn't want to take the slightest
chance.

He sprang on Mike and attached the handcuffs to his wrist, and to
Mike's wrist, within seconds.

"Ha!" he said involuntarily. "Now come with me!"

He gave his end of the handcuffs a tremendous yank.

He started to stagger, trailing an empty cuff behind him, flailing his
arms wildly. Ahead of him he could see a big cop with an upraised billy.
Malone tried to alter his course, but it was too late. He skidded
helplessly into the cop, who jerked round and swung the billy
automatically. Malone said: "Yi!" as he caught the blow on the
cheekbone, bounced off the cop and kept going.

He careened past a blur of figures, trying to avoid hard surfaces and
other human beings. But there was--

Oh, no, Malone thought.

Lynch.

Lynch was ready to swing. His fist was cocked, and he was heading for
one of the teen-agers with murder in his eye. Malone knew their paths
were going to intersect. "Watch out!" he yelled. "Watch out, it's me!
Stop me! Stop me! Somebody stop me!"

He went completely unheard.

Lynch swung and missed, hitting a cop who had been hiding behind the
teen-ager. The cop went down to join the wounded, and Lynch roared like
a bull and swung around, looking for more enemies.

That was when Malone hit him.

Long afterward, he remembered Lynch's hat sailing through the air, and
landing in the center of a struggling mass of policemen. He remembered
Lynch saying: "So there you are!" and swinging before he looked.

He remembered the blow on the chin.

And then, he remembered falling, and falling, and falling. Somewhere
there was a voice: "Where are they? They've disappeared for good."

And then, for long seconds, nothing.

       *       *       *       *       *

He woke up with a headache, but it wasn't too bad. Surprisingly, not
much time had passed; he got up and dusted off his trousers, looking
around at the battlefield. Wounded and groaning cops were all over. The
room was a shambles; the walking wounded--which comprised the rest of
the force--were stumbling around in a slow, hopeless sort of fashion.

Lynch was standing next to him. "Malone," he said, "I'm sorry. I hit
you, didn't I?"

"Uh-huh," Malone said. "You seemed to be hitting everybody."

"I was _trying_ for the kids," Lynch said.

"So was I," Malone said. "I got the cuffs on one and yanked him
along--but he disappeared and left me with the cuffs."

"Great," Lynch said. "Hell of a raid."

"Very jolly," Malone agreed. "Fun and games were had by all."

A cop stumbled up, handed Lynch his cap and disappeared without a word.
Lynch stared mournfully at it. The emblem was crushed and the cap looked
rather worn and useless. He put it on his head, where it assumed the
rakish tilt of a hobo's favorite tam-o'-shanter, and said: "I hope
you're not thinking of blaming _me_ for this fiasco."

"Not at all," Malone said nobly. He hurt all over, but on reflection he
thought that he would probably live. "It was nobody's fault." Except, he
thought, his own. If he'd only told Lynch to come in when called
for--and under no other circumstances--this wouldn't have happened. He
looked around at the remains of New York's Finest, and felt guilty.

The lieutenant from the local precinct limped up, rubbing a well-kicked
shin and trying to disentangle pieces of floor lamp from his hair.
"Listen, Lynch," he said, "What's with these kids? What's going on here?
Look at my men."

"Some days," Lynch said, "it just doesn't pay to get up."

"Sure," the local man said, "but what do I do now?"

"Make your reports."

"But--"

"To the Commissioner," Lynch said, "and to nobody else. If this gets
into the papers, heads will roll."

"My head is rolling right now," the local man said. "Know what one of
those kids did? Stood in front of a floor lamp. I swung at him and he
vanished. Vanished. I hit the lamp, and then the lamp hit me."

"Just see that this doesn't get out," Lynch said.

"It can't," the local man said. "Anybody who mentioned this to a
reporter would just be laughed out of town. It's not possible." He
paused thoughtfully, and added: "We'd all be laughed out of town."

"And probably replaced with the FBI," Lynch said morosely. He looked at
Malone. "Nothing personal, you understand," he said.

"Of course," Malone said. "We can't do any more here, can we?"

"I don't think we can do any more anywhere," Lynch said. "Let's lock the
place up and leave and forget all about it."

"Fine," Malone said. "I've got work to do." He looked round, found
Dorothea and signaled to her. "Come on, Dorothea. Where's Boyd?"

"Here I am," Boyd said, walking slowly across the big room to Malone. He
had one hand held to his chin.

"What's the matter with you?" Malone asked.

Boyd took his hand away. There was a bald spot the size of a quarter on
the point of his chin. "One of those kids," he said sadly, "has a hell
of a strong grip. Come on, Miss Fueyo. Come on, Malone. Let's get out of
here."



XV.


It is definitely not usual for the Director of the FBI to come stalking
into a local office of that same FBI without so much as an advance
warning or a by-your-leave. Such things are simply not done.

Andrew J. Burris, however, was doing them.

Three days after the Great Warehouse Fiasco, a startled A-in-C looked up
to see the familiar Burris figure stalk by his office, growling under
its breath. The A-in-C leaped to the interoffice phone, wondered whom he
ought to call first, and subsided, staring dully at the telephone screen
and thinking about retiring.

The next appearance of the head of the FBI was in the office assigned to
Malone and Boyd. Burris came through the doorway without warning, his
countenance that of a harried and unhappy man.

Malone looked up, blinked, and then readjusted his features to what he
imagined was a nice, bright smile. "Oh," he said. "Hello, chief. I've
been sort of expecting you."

"I'll bet you have," Burris said. He set his brief case on Malone's desk
and pulled a sheaf of papers from it. "Do you see these?" he said,
waving them. "Inquiries. Complaints. Demands. From everybody. I've been
getting them for three days."

"Sure are a lot of them," Malone said at random.

"From Police Commissioner Fernack," Burris said. "From the mayor. From
the governor, in Albany. From everybody. And they all want an
explanation. They demand one."

He sat down suddenly on Malone's desk, his anger gone.

"Well--" Malone began.

"Malone," Burris said plaintively, "I can stall them off for a while. I
can tell them all kinds of fancy stories. I don't mind. They don't
really need any explanation. But--" He paused, and then added: "I do!"

Malone closed his eyes, decided things looked even worse that way, and
opened them again. "Just what sort of an explanation did you have in
mind, chief?" he said.

"Any kind," Burris said instantly, "so long as it explains. I ... no."

"No?"

"No," Burris said. "I want the truth! Even if it doesn't explain
anything! Preferably, I want both--the truth and some explanations. If
possible. For three days, now, this area has been haunted by the Silent
Spooks. They've been stealing everything they could carry off! They've
got the whole city in an uproar!"

"Well," Malone said. "Not exactly. The papers--"

"I know," Burris said. "You've kept it out of the news. That's fine, and
I appreciate it, Malone. I really do. But I can't sit around and
appreciate it much longer. You've got to get those boys!" He bounced off
the desk and stood up again. "The longer they keep this up," he said,
"the harder it's going to be to square everything with the courts. Those
kids may end up getting killed! And how would that be?"

"Terrible," Malone said honestly.

"Something," Burris summed up, "has to be done."

Malone thought for a second. "Chief," he said at last, "if you can think
of any way to nab them, I'll certainly be grateful."

"Oh," Burris said. "Oh. No. No, Malone. This is your baby." He leaned
over and clapped Malone on the shoulder. "I have faith in you," he said.
"You cleared up that nutty telepath case and you can clear this one up,
too. But you've got to do it soon!"

"I'm working on it," Malone said helplessly. "We might get a lead any
time now."

"Good," Burris said. "Meanwhile, let's sit down and see if we can't
figure out a way to pacify the local bigwigs."

Malone sighed wearily.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour later, he was even more tired. Letting himself into his room at
the hotel, he felt completely exhausted. He had spent most of the hour
tactfully trying to get away from Burris. It had not been the world's
easiest job.

Dorothea Fueyo was sitting on the couch, waiting for him.

Immediately, he felt much better.

"You're late," Dorothea said accusingly. "I had to come up with the
duplicate key you gave me. And what are the bellboys going to think?"

"They're going to think you had a duplicate key," Malone said. "Anyhow,
I'm sorry. I got delayed at the office. Burris came to town--delivering
seventeen ultimatums, forty-nine conflicting sets of orders and a
rousing lecture."

"I could have come up to your office, then," Dorothea said, "instead of
compromising my reputation by sneaking up to your hotel room."

"And what about _my_ reputation?" Malone said. "Besides, the office is
no place for what I have in mind."

"Why, Mr. Malone!"

Malone ignored the comment. "Did you bring the notebook?" he said.

"Certainly." Dorothea handed a black, plastic-bound notebook over to
Malone. "But what's all this with a notebook? Going to keep score?"

"Not exactly," Malone said. He took the notebook and leafed through it
idly. It was not Mike Fueyo's book; the boy himself had that now, and
there was little chance of getting it back again. This one belonged to
Dorothea--but, Malone thought, it could serve the same purpose.

"What I have in mind," he said, "is something Mike said the other night,
just before the cops barged in. He said something about having tried to
teach you the Vanish. And that's why I asked you to come here. Did he
teach you?"

"Well, he tried," Dorothea said. "But I couldn't do anything with it. I
haven't got the Talent, Mike says." She paused. "Is that why you figured
I had a notebook like his?"

"Sure," Malone said. "It's the only thing that makes sense. Mike's
notebook was full of symbols--and that was all they could be. Symbols.
If you see what I mean."

"Not exactly," Dorothea said.

"Symbolism--anyhow, that's what Dr. O'Connor says--is one of the
primary factors in psionics."

"Dr.... oh, yes," Dorothea said. "Westinghouse. I've heard about him."

"Good," Malone said. "Anyhow, I decided the pictures in Mike's notebook
were just that--symbols. Things he wanted. And the little squiggles
after the names were symbols, too. You know," Malone said, "the boy's
pretty smart. Nobody else that I know of has ever figured out a way to
teach psionics--at least, not on that level. But Mike has."

"He's a good boy," Dorothea said. "Basically."

"Fine," Malone said. "Anyhow, if that were true, then the notebook was
some sort of guide. And if he tried to teach you the technique, then you
had to have a notebook, too. Clear?"

"Perfectly," Dorothea said, "so what do you want me to do?"

"Teach me," Malone said.

There was a silence.

"That's silly," Dorothea said. "How can I teach you something I can't do
myself? Besides, how do you know you have the Talent?"

"As far as the second question goes, I don't know. But I can try, can't
I? And as far as the first question goes, that might not be so simple.
But I think it can be done--if you remember what Mike tried to teach
you."

"Oh, I can remember all of that," she said, "but it's just that it
didn't do me any good. I couldn't use it."

"A man who's paralyzed from the waist," Malone said hopefully, "can't
play football. But if he knows how the game's played, he can teach
others--anyhow, he can teach the fundamentals. Want to try?"

Dorothea smiled. "All right, Ken," she said. "It's a great idea, at
that: the blind teaching the possibly-blind to read. Give me the
notebook, and I'll explain the first principles. Later, you'll have to
get a notebook of your own, because these symbols are very
personalized."

Malone grinned and pulled a black book from his pocket. "I thought they
might be," he said. "I've already got one. Let's go."

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration]

Sweating, Malone stared grimly at the picture he had drawn on a page of
his notebook. He'd been trying the stunt for four days, and so far all
he had achieved was a nice profusion of perspiration. He was beginning
to feel like an ad for a Turkish bath.

"No, Ken," Dorothea said patiently. "No. You can't do it that way.
You've got to _visualize_ it. That's how Mike could find red Cadillacs
so easily. All he had to do was--"

"I know," Malone said, impatiently. "That's what the pictures are for.
But I'm no artist. This doesn't even look much _like_ my office."

"It doesn't have to, Ken," Dorothea said. "All it has to do is give you
enough details to enable you to visualize your destination. The better
your memory is, the less detail you need. But you've got to grasp the
whole area in your mind."

Malone lifted his eyes from the book and stared into the darkness
outside the window without seeing it. Midnight had come and gone a long
time ago, and he was still working.

"If I don't crack this case pretty soon," he muttered, "Burris is going
to find a special new assignment for me--like investigating the social
life of a deserted space station."

"Now, that's just what's bothering you," Dorothea said. "Get your mind
off Burris. You can't teleport when your mind is occupied with other
things."

"Then how did the kids hop around so much during the fight at the
warehouse?"

"Plenty of practice," Dorothea said. "They've been doing it longer than
you have. It's like playing the piano. The beginner has to concentrate,
but the expert can play a piece he's familiar with and hold a
conversation at the same time. Now stop worrying--and start
concentrating."

Malone looked at the book again. With an effort, he forced everything
out of his mind except the picture. Burris' face came back once or
twice, but he managed to get rid of it. He looked at the lopsided
drawings that represented various items in the room, and made himself
concentrate solely on visualizing the objects themselves and their
surroundings.

Then, as the picture became clearer and achieved more reality, he began
going over the other mental exercises that Dorothea had taught him.

He heard a clock tick.

It was gone.

There was nothing but the picture, and the room it stood for ... nothing
... nothing....

The lights went out.

       *       *       *       *       *

Malone blinked and jerked his head up from the notebook. "What hap--" he
began.

And then he stopped.

He was no longer in his hotel room at the Statler-Hilton. He was
standing in the middle of his office at FBI headquarters, Washington,
D.C.

It had worked!

Malone walked over to the wall switch and turned on the lights in the
darkened room. He looked around. He was definitely in his office.

He was a teleport.

He blinked and wondered briefly if he were dreaming. He pinched himself,
said: "Ow," and decided that the pain offered no certain proof.

But he didn't feel like part of a dream.

He felt real. So did the office.

Just as he had promised Dorothea, he went to the phone and dialed the
Statler-Hilton.

It took a minute for the long-distance circuits to connect him with
Manhattan. Then the pretty operator at the hotel was smiling at him from
the screen. "Statler-Hilton Hotel," she said. "May we help you?"

"Ring Room 814," Malone said. "I'm probably asleep in it."

"What?" the operator said.

"Never mind," Malone said. "Just ring it."

"Yes, sir." The screen went blank.

The screen stayed blank for a long time.

And then the operator was back. "I'm sorry, sir," she said. "That room
doesn't answer."

"You're sure?" Malone said.

"Certainly."

"Try it again," Malone said.

The operator did so. She returned with the same answer.

Malone frowned and hung up. It didn't sound right. Even a dream was
supposed to make more sense than this was making. There was something
wrong.

He had to get back to the hotel room.

There was only one trouble. He didn't have a picture of the room in his
notebook.

Dorothea had said that it was almost impossible to go to a place one
hadn't been to before. Mike Fueyo had been able to pick up any red
Cadillac in the city because he'd concentrated solely on the symbol of a
red Cadillac. But he never knew which Cadillac he'd end up at.

Malone closed his eyes and tried to remember the hotel room. He
half-wished he had a photograph of it, but Dorothea had told him that
photos wouldn't work. They were too complete; they required no effort of
the mind. Only a symbol would do.

Of course, the job could be done without a symbol by somebody who'd had
plenty of practice. But Malone had made exactly one jump. Could he do
it the second time with nothing to work with except his own recollection
and visualization of the room?

He didn't know, but he was certainly going to try. He had to.

Something was wrong; something had happened to Dorothea.

He tried to imagine what it could be, and then realized that such
thoughts were only delaying him by distracting his mind from its main
job.

He kept his eyes tightly closed and tried to form the picture in his
mind. The couch--there. The dresser--over there. The easy-chair, the
rug, the walls, the table--wait a minute: he was losing the couch.
There. Now. The table, the desk--all there. In color. And in detail.

Slowly they came, and he held them in place, visualizing his hotel room
just as he had visualized his office minutes before. He concentrated.
Harder. Harder. _Harder._ HAR--

"Sir Kenneth!" a voice said. "Will you please stop standing there with
your eyes closed and help me with this poor child? She's fainted."

Malone's eyes popped open, but for a minute he wasn't entirely sure he'd
opened them. His visualization blended almost perfectly with the reality
of the room around him. There was only one jarring difference.

He had certainly never visualized the richly-dressed figure of Queen
Elizabeth I standing in the center of the room.

"Now, now," she said. "Thinking like that can only lead to confusion.
Come over here and help me."

       *       *       *       *       *

Dorothea was on the couch. Between them, they managed to wake her
gently, and she sat up and stared around at them and the room. "I'm
sorry," she said dazedly. "It's just that I didn't expect you to turn
into a little old lady in Elizabethan costume. Just a bit
disconcerting." She blinked. "By the way, who is she?"

"This," Malone said with a sense of some foreboding, "is Queen Elizabeth
I."

"She's dead," Dorothea said decisively.

"Not really, my dear," the Queen said. "Actually, you see ... well, it's
too long to explain now." She gave everybody a bland smile.

"She's nuts, then," Dorothea said. "She is nuts, isn't she? Because if
she isn't, I am."

"You're not crazy," Malone told her diplomatically. "But she--" He
stopped. How could he explain everything, in front of the Queen herself?

"Don't worry about it," Her Majesty said. "Dorothea is a little
confused--but it hardly matters. Perhaps there are other things to do."

"Sure," Malone said uncertainly. "By the way, how did you get here?"

"Now, why do you ask that?" the Queen said. "You've already figured it
all out, Sir Kenneth."

"I don't get it," Dorothea put in.

"Simple," Malone said. "She's telepathic. She's been listening in on our
sessions for the past four days--she must have been. So now she can
teleport, too."

Dorothea looked at the little old lady in awe. "But how could you come
to a place you'd never been to before?"

"I got all the information I needed, my dear, out of Sir Kenneth's
mind."

"Sir Kenneth?" Dorothea said. "Sir ... Ken? His mind?"

"Never mind it," Malone said. "What do I do now?"

Her Majesty said: "Don't worry about anything. And use your own psionic
talents. You can catch those dear boys now, you know. You're better than
they are."

"Me?" Malone said. "But they've had--"

"Practice, of course," the Queen said. "But you have a talent they
don't."

"I do?"

"Well," the Queen said, "you've been calling it 'luck' for years. You're
much too modest, Sir Kenneth. If you'll think back, you'll remember that
every time you had a bit of your so-called luck, it was because you were
at the right place at the right time. There's no other way to explain
the fact that you wandered at random through Greenwich Village--of all
places!--and just happened to end up at the very same red Cadillac that
young Mike was going to come to--_before he got there_!"

Malone felt the back of his head. "That," he said, "was luck?"

"You got the notebook, didn't you?" the Queen said. "But of course it
wasn't luck. It's prescience--the ability to predict the future. You've
had it all along, but you haven't been consciously using it. The only
way you'll ever catch those boys is to know where they're going to be
before they get there."

Malone sat down heavily on the couch next to Dorothea. His mind was
whirling with a fine, dizzy rapidity. In a few seconds he was going to
try and grab the brass ring.

"Oh, I'll help you," the Queen added. "Don't worry about that. I think I
can pick up Mike's mind, now that I'm closer to him. And if we can
figure out what their plans are, and where they're going to be, we can
nab them all, Sir Kenneth. Won't that be nice?"

"Ducky," Malone said. "Simply ducky. All I have to do is predict the
future while you read minds and we both teleport. And Dorothea can sit
around sticking pins in dolls, I guess. Or--"

"Well, now," the Queen said, "I don't know. Perhaps she just doesn't
have that talent. Besides, why would we want to do anything like that?
It seems to me--"

"Never mind," Malone said hopelessly. "If we're going to do anything,
let's get started."

       *       *       *       *       *

Twelve hours later, Kenneth J. Malone was sitting quietly in a small
room at the rear of a sporting-goods store on upper Madison Avenue,
trying to remain calm and hoping that the finest, most beautiful and
complete hunch--only now it wasn't a "hunch" any more, he reminded
himself; now it was prescience--was going to pay off. With him were Boyd
and two agents from the Sixty-ninth Street office. They were sitting
quietly, too, but there was a sense of enormous excitement in the air.
Malone wanted to get up and walk around, but he didn't dare. He clamped
his hands in his lap and sat tight.

They waited in silence, not daring to talk. There wasn't a sound in the
room. Malone felt like screaming, but he managed to control himself with
an effort.

There was no reason why the plan shouldn't work, Malone told himself.
According to all the theory he knew, it was fool proof. Her Majesty had
no doubts about it, either. She assured him that he had prescience, and
several other powers as well. Unfortunately, Malone wasn't quite as sure
as she was.

Even if the theory seemed to back her up, he thought, there was still a
chance that she was wrong, and the theory was wrong, and everything was
wrong. His hunch--prescience, if you wanted to call it that, he
amended--said definitely that this would be the place the Spooks would
hit tonight. Her Majesty was quite sure of it. And Malone couldn't think
of a single really good reason why either of them might be wrong. But
maybe he'd got the address mixed up. Maybe the Spooks were somewhere
else right now, robbing what they pleased, safe from capture--

It doesn't do much good to know where a teleporter _is_, Malone thought.
But it's extremely handy to know where he's going to be. And if you also
know what he plans to do when he gets where he's going, you've got an
absolute lead-pipe cinch to work with.

The Queen and Malone had provided that lead-pipe cinch. They were sure
that Mike planned to raid the sporting-goods store with the rest of the
Spooks that night.

But, of course, they might all just be riding for some kind of horrible,
unforeseen fall--

The main part of the sporting-goods store was fairly well lit, even at
night, though it was by no means brightly illuminated. There were
show-window lights on, and the street lamp from outside cast a nice
glow. Malone was grateful for that. But the back room was dark, and the
four men there were well-concealed. A curtain closed the room off, and
Malone watched the front of the store through a narrow opening in it. He
stared until his eyes ached, afraid to blink in case he missed the
appearance of the Spooks. Everything had to go off just right, precisely
on schedule.

And it was going to happen any minute, he told himself nervously. In
just a few minutes, everything would be over.

Malone held his breath.

Then he saw the figure walk slowly by the glass front of the shop,
looking in with over-elaborate casualness. He was casing the joint,
making sure there was no one left in it.

Mike Fueyo.

Malone tried to breathe, and couldn't.

Seconds ticked by.

And then--almost magically--they appeared. Eight of them, almost
simultaneously, in the center of the room.

Mike Fueyo spoke in a low, controlled voice. "O.K., now," he said.
"Let's move fast. We haven't got much time. We--"

And that was all he said.

Malone concentrated on just one thing: holding an image of the room,
with the eight Spooks in it.

There was a long second of silence.

Malone felt a bead of sweat trickle down his cheek. He held the image.

"What's wrong?" the tallest boy said suddenly--Ramon Otravez, Malone
remembered. "What's wrong, Mike?"

Mike let out his breath in a ragged sigh. "I ... don't know," he said
slowly. "I can't move--"

"It's a trap!" another boy shouted.

Malone bore down. He could feel power draining out of him, but he held
on, willing the boys to remain in the room, blanking out their own
teleportative abilities with his stronger ones.

The eight boys stood, frozen, in the center of the lit room.

Malone let another second go by, and then he stepped out from behind the
curtains.

"Hello, boys," he said casually.

Mike stared at him. "It's Malone," he said.

"That's right," Malone said. "Hello, Mike. I've been waiting for you."

Mike gulped. "You found us," he said. "Somebody talked."

Malone shook his head. "Nobody talked," he said. Concentration was
getting easier; the longer the situation remained the same, the less
power it took to keep it that way. He wished he had brought a cigar, and
compromised by fishing out a cigarette and lighting it.

Mike said: "But--" and was silent.

"I knew where you were going to be," Malone said. "You see, I've got a
few--powers of my own, Mike."

Ramon Otravez said: "He's kidding. It's some kind of a trick."

"Shut up," Mike told him.

"It's no trick," Malone said. "I've been waiting for you for quite a
while, boys." He paused. "And you can't move, can you? I've taken care
of that."

"Some kind of gas," Mike said instantly.

"Gas?" Malone said. "Nope." He shook his head.

"Electricity," Mike said. It sounded desperate. "Some gimmick you've got
set up back there behind the curtain, to--"

"No gimmick," Malone said. "It's just that I know a couple of tricks,
too--and I'm a little better at them than you are." The next minute was
going to be difficult, he knew, but it had to be done. He "froze" the
picture of the room in his mind and, at the same time, pictured himself
at the other side of the room. He made the effort, and at first nothing
happened. Then--

"You can do the Vanish," Mike said, very slowly and softly.

"Oh, I can do more than that," Malone said cheerfully from the other
side of the room. "I can do the Vanish, and I can also keep you from
doing it. Right?"

It hung in the balance for a second, but Malone was barely worried about
the final outcome. He'd beaten the boys, not with scientific gadgetry or
trickery, but at their own game. He'd done it simply, easily and
completely. And for boys who were sure they were something very special,
boys who'd never been beaten on their own grounds before, the shock was
considerable.

Malone knew, even before Mike said: "I guess so," in a defeated voice,
that he had won.

"Now," he said briskly, "you boys are going to come down to the FBI
offices with me. And you're not going to try any tricks--because you
can't get away with a thing, and you know you can't. I've just proven
that to you."

"I guess you have," Mike said.

Malone beckoned the three other men out of the back room and then, under
his watchful guidance, the procession started for the street.



XVI


"The only thing we had to worry about," Malone said, pouring some more
champagne into the hollow-stemmed glasses, "was whether the theory would
actually prove out in practice. From all we knew, it seemed logical that
I could concentrate on the room with the boys in it, and by that
concentration prevent them from teleporting out--but there's a lot we
don't know, too. And it didn't damage the kids any."

Dorothea relaxed in her chair and looked around at the hotel room walls
with contentment. "Mike seemed pretty normal--except that he had that
awful _trapped_ feeling."

Malone handed her one of the filled glasses with an air. He was
beginning slowly to feel less like the nervous, uncertain Kenneth J.
Malone and more and more like good old Sir Kenneth Malone. "I can see
why he felt trapped," he said. "If a guy's been unhampered by four walls
all the time, even for only a year or so, he's certainly going to feel
penned in when he's stopped from going through them. Especially when
what stops him is just what he has--only more of the same. It might be a
little ego-crushing, and just a trifle claustrophobic."

"The main thing is," Dorothea said, "that everybody's so happy.
Commissioner Fernack, even--with Mr. Burris promising to give him a
medal."

"And Lynch," Malone said reflectively. "He'll get a promotion out of
this for sure. And good old Kettleman."

"Kettleman," Dorothea said. "Oh, sure. He's some kind of social worker,
isn't he? Only we never knew what kind."

"And now he's getting a scroll from the FBI," Malone said. "A citation
for coming up with the essential clue in this case. Even though he
didn't know it _was_ the essential clue. You know," he added
reflectively, "one thing puzzles me about that man."

"Yes?"

"Well," Malone said, "he worked in your neighborhood. You knew him."

"Of course I did," Dorothea said. "We all knew Kettleman."

"He said he had a lot of success as a social worker," Malone said. "Now,
I've met him. And talked with him. And I just can't picture--"

"Oh," Dorothea said. "We keep him around--kept him around, I mean--as a
sort of joke. A pet, or a mascot. Of course, he never did catch on. I
don't suppose he has yet."

Malone laughed. "Nope," he said. "He hasn't."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Mike," Dorothea said.

"Mike what?"

"Mike," she repeated. "He's probably the happiest of all. After Mom and
I talked to him for a while, anyhow, and he began to ... to get used to
things. Now he's excited about being an FBI man." She looked worriedly
at Malone for a second. "You weren't kidding about that, were you?" she
asked.

She looked very pretty when she was worried, Malone decided. He leaned
over and kissed her with great care. After a while he said: "You were
saying?"

"Was I?" Dorothea said. "Oh, yes. I was. About Mike being an FBI man."

"Oh," Malone said. "Well, normally you've got to be a lawyer or an
accountant, but there are a few special cases. And maybe Mike would fit
in to the special-case bracket. If he doesn't--well, he'll be doing some
kind of official work for the Government."

"What about Her Majesty, or whatever she is?" Dorothea asked. "Is
she--convinced that teleportation's no good, the way Mike is?"

Malone looked unhappy. "I wish you hadn't mentioned it," he said.

"Then what will you do?" Dorothea said.

"Burris has it all down pat," Malone said bitterly. "Since I'm the only
one who can predict where she's going to be, I'm going to be her
permanent bodyguard from now on. She's promised me that she won't go
teleporting all over the place--but we won't be able to keep her locked
up all the time, either. So: whither she goes, I go--first."

"Well," Dorothea said, "don't feel bad. After all, you did what you set
out to do."

"I suppose so," Malone said.

"Sure you did," Dorothea said. "You got the boys. And they won't feel
so bad after they get used to it."

"I suppose not," Malone said. "We had to prove one thing to them,
anyway. We can stop them at any time. You see, they've got to think
about teleporting, and as soon as they do that one of our
telepaths--like Her Majesty or me, I guess--will know what they're
thinking. And we can 'freeze' them. I mean, I can."

"It sounds all right," Dorothea said.

"Sure," Malone said. "After all, we did them quite a favor--getting them
out of all the trouble they'd gotten themselves into."

"That reminds me, Ken," Dorothea said. "All the things that were stolen.
The liquor and all of that. Money. What's going to happen to that?"

"Well," Malone said, "everything that can be returned--and that includes
most of the liquor, because they hadn't had a chance to get rid of it to
the bootleggers around this area--will be returned. What can't be
returned--money, stuff they've used, broken or sold--well, I don't
exactly know about that. It might take a special act of Congress," he
said brightly.

"All for the boys?" Dorothea said.

"Well, they'll be at Yucca Flats," Malone said, "and they'll be pretty
useful. And, as I said before we started all this, if they try to run
away from Yucca Flats we'll just have to keep them 'frozen' all the
time. I mean, I will. Little as we want to. They can be of some use that
way, too. The Government isn't doing all this for nothing."

"But keeping them 'frozen'--"

"I said we didn't want to do it. And I don't think we'll have to.
They'll be well taken care of, don't worry. Some of the best
psychiatrists and doctors are out there. And Mike and the others--if
they can show they're trustworthy--can come home every weekend, or even
every night if they can teleport that far." Malone paused. "But it isn't
charity," he added. "We need people with specialized psionic
abilities--and, for a variety of reasons, they're pretty hard to find."

"You know," Dorothea said, "you're pretty wonderful, Mr. Malone."

Malone didn't answer her. He just kissed her again.

Dorothea pushed him gently away. "I'm envious," she announced.
"Everybody gets a reward but me. Do I get left out just because I swiped
your notebook?"

Malone kissed her again. "What kind of a reward do you want?"

She sighed. "Oh, well," she said, "I suppose this is good enough."

"Good enough?" Malone said. "Just good enough?"

His lips met hers for the fifth time. She reached one hand gently out to
the light switch and pushed it.

The lights went out.


THE END





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