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Title: Supermind
Author: Garrett, Randall, 1927-1987, Janifer, Laurence M.
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 "Supermind" ***

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 the 1963 book publication of the story.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the copyright on
this publication was renewed.

Minor spelling and typographical errors have been corrected without
note.

The word "PLaza" (two capital letters) was correct usage to designate
a telephone exchange at the time the story was written. It has been
left as printed.

* * * * *


Supermind

Mark Phillips


1

In 1914, it was enemy aliens.

In 1930, it was Wobblies.

In 1957, it was fellow travelers.

In 1971, it was insane telepaths.

And, in 1973:

"We don't know _what_ the hell it is," said Andrew J. Burris, Director
of the FBI. He threw his hands in the air and looked baffled and
confused.

Kenneth J. Malone tried to appear sympathetic. "What what is?" he
asked.

Burris frowned and drummed his fingers on his big desk. "Malone," he
said, "make sense. And don't stutter."

"Stutter?" Malone said. "You said you didn't know what it was. What
the hell it was. And I wanted to know what it was."

"That's just it," Burris said. "I don't know."

Malone sighed and repressed an impulse to scream. "Now wait a minute,
Chief--" he started.

Burris frowned again. "Don't call me Chief," he said.

Malone nodded. "Okay," he said. "But if you don't know what it is, you
must have some idea of what you don't know. I mean, is it larger than
a breadbox? Does it perform helpful tasks? Is it self-employed?"

"Malone," Burris sighed, "you ought to be on television."

"But--"

"Let me explain," Burris said. His voice was calmer now, and he spoke
as if he were enunciating nothing but the most obvious and eternal
truths. "The country," he said, "is going to hell in a handbasket."

Malone nodded again. "Well, after all, Chief--"

"Don't call me Chief," Burris said wearily.

"Anything you say," Malone agreed peacefully. He eyed the Director of
the FBI warily. "After all, it isn't anything new," he went on. "The
country's always been going to hell in a handbasket, one way or
another. Look at Rome."

"Rome?" Burris said.

"Sure," Malone said. "Rome was always going to hell in a handbasket,
and finally it--" He paused. "Finally it did, I guess," he said.

"Exactly," Burris said. "And so are we. Finally." He passed a hand
over his forehead and stared past Malone at a spot on the wall. Malone
turned and looked at the spot, but saw nothing of interest. "Malone,"
Burris said, and the FBI agent whirled around again.

"Yes, Ch--Yes?" he said.

"This time," Burris said, "it isn't the same old story at all. This
time it's different."

"Different?" Malone said.

Burris nodded. "Look at it this way," he said. His eyes returned to
the agent. "Suppose you're a congressman," he went on, "and you find
evidence of inefficiency in the government."

"All right," Malone said agreeably. He had the feeling that if he
waited around a little while everything would make sense, and he was
willing to wait. After all, he wasn't on assignment at the moment, and
there was nothing pressing waiting for him. He was even between
romances.

If he waited long enough, he told himself, Andrew J. Burris might say
something worth hearing. He looked attentive and eager. He considered
leaning over the desk a little, to look even more eager, but decided
against it; Burris might think he looked threatening. There was no
telling.

"You're a congressman," Burris said, "and the government is
inefficient. You find evidence of it. What do you do?"

Malone blinked and thought for a second. It didn't take any longer
than that to come up with the old, old answer. "I start an
investigation," he said. "I get a committee and I talk to a lot of
newspaper editors and magazine editors and maybe I go on television
and talk some more, and my committee has a lot of meetings--"

"Exactly," Burris said.

"And we talk a lot at the meetings," Malone went on, carried away,
"and get a lot of publicity, and we subpoena famous people, just as
famous as we can get, except governors or presidents, because you
can't--they tried that back in the Fifties, and it didn't work very
well--and that gives us some more publicity, and then when we have all
the publicity we can possibly get--"

"You stop," Burris said hurriedly.

"That's right," Malone said. "We stop. And that's what I'd do."

"Of course, the problem of inefficiency is left exactly where it
always was," Burris said. "Nothing's been done about it."

"Naturally," Malone said. "But think of all the lovely publicity. And
all the nice talk. And the subpoenas and committees and everything."

"Sure," Burris said wearily. "It's happened a thousand times. But,
Malone, that's the difference. It isn't happening this time."

There was a short pause. "What do you mean?" Malone said at last.

"This time," Burris said, in a tone that sounded almost awed, "they
want to keep it a secret."

"A secret?" Malone said, blinking. "But that's--that's not the
American way."

Burris shrugged. "It's un-congressman-like, anyhow," he said. "But
that's what they've done. Tiptoed over to me and whispered softly that
the thing has to be investigated quietly. Naturally, they didn't give
me any orders--but only because they know they can't make one stick.
They suggested it pretty strongly."

"Any reasons?" Malone said. The whole idea interested him strangely.
It was odd--and he found himself almost liking odd cases, lately. That
is, he amended hurriedly, if they didn't get _too_ odd.

"Oh, they had reasons, all right," Burris said. "It took a little
coaxing, but I managed to pry some loose. You see, every one of them
found inefficiency in his own department. And every one knows that
other men are investigating inefficiency."

"Oh," Malone said.

"That's right," Burris said. "Every one of them came to me to get me
to prove that the goof-ups in his particular department weren't his
fault. That covers them in case one of the others happens to light
into the department."

"Well, it must be _somebody's_ fault," Malone said.

"It isn't theirs," Burris said wearily, "I ought to know. They told
me. At great length, Malone."

Malone felt a stab of honest pity. "How many so far?" he asked.

"Six," Burris said. "Four representatives, and two senators."

"Only two?" Malone said.

"Well," Burris said, "the Senate is so much smaller. And, besides, we
may get more. As a matter of fact, Senator Lefferts is worth any six
representatives all by himself."

"He is?" Malone said, puzzled. Senator Lefferts was not one of his
favorite people. Nor, as far as he knew, did the somewhat excitable
senator hold any place of honor in the heart of Andrew J. Burris.

"I mean his story," Burris said. "I've never heard anything like it--
at least, not since the Bilbo days. And I've only heard about those,"
he added hurriedly.

"What story?" Malone said. "He talked about inefficiency--"

"Not exactly," Burris said carefully. "He said that somebody was out
to get him--him, personally. He said somebody was trying to discredit
him by sabotaging all his legislative plans."

"Well," Malone said, feeling that some comment was called for, "three
cheers."

"That isn't the point," Burris snapped. "No matter how we feel about
Senator Lefferts or his legislative plans, we're sworn to protect him.
And he says 'they' are out to get him."

"They?" Malone said.

"You know," Burris said, shrugging. "The great 'they.' The invisible
enemies all around, working against him."

"Oh," Malone said. "Paranoid?" He had always thought Senator Lefferts
was slightly on the batty side, and the idea of real paranoia didn't
come as too much of a surprise. After all, when a man was batty to
start out with ... and he even _looked_ like a vampire, Malone thought
confusedly.

"As far as paranoia is concerned," Burris said, "I checked with one of
our own psych men, and he'll back it up. Lefferts has definite
paranoid tendencies, he says."

"Well, then," Malone said, "that's that."

Burris shook his head. "It isn't that simple," he said. "You see,
Malone, there's some evidence that somebody _is_ working against him."

"The American public, with any luck at all," Malone said.

"No," Burris said. "An enemy. Somebody sabotaging his plans. Really."

Malone shook his head. "You're crazy," he said.

Burris looked shocked. "Malone, I'm the Director of the FBI," he said.
"And if you insist on being disrespectful--"

"Sorry," Malone murmured. "But--"

"I am perfectly sane," Burris said slowly. "It's Senator Lefferts
who's crazy. The only trouble is, he has evidence to show he's not."

Malone thought about odd cases, and suddenly wished he were somewhere
else. Anywhere else. This one showed sudden signs of developing into
something positively bizarre. "I see," he said, wondering if he did.

"After all," Burris said, in a voice that attempted to sound
reasonable, "a paranoid has just as much right to be persecuted as
anybody else, doesn't he?"

"Sure," Malone said. "Everybody has rights. But what do you want me to
do about that?"

"About their rights?" Burris said. "Nothing, Malone. Nothing."

"I mean," Malone said patiently, "about whatever it is that's going
on."

Burris took a deep breath. His hands clasped behind his head, and he
looked up at the ceiling. He seemed perfectly relaxed. That, Malone
knew, was a bad sign. It meant that there was a dirty job coming, a
job nobody wanted to do, and one Burris was determined to pass off on
him. He sighed and tried to get resigned.

"Well," the FBI director said, "the only actual trouble we can
pinpoint is that there seem to be a great many errors occurring in the
paperwork. More than usual."

"People get tired," Malone said tentatively.

"But computer-secretary calculating machines don't," Burris said. "And
that's where the errors are, in the computer-secretaries down in the
Senate Office Building. I think you'd better start out there."

"Sure," Malone said sadly.

"See if there's any mechanical or electrical defect in any of those
computers," Burris said. "Talk to the computer technicians. Find out
what's causing all these errors."

"Yes, sir," Malone said. He was still trying to feel resigned, but he
wasn't succeeding very well.

"And if you don't find anything--" Burris began.

"I'll come right back," Malone said instantly.

"No," Burris said. "You keep on looking."

"I do?"

"You do," Burris said. "After all, there has to be _something_ wrong."

"Sure," Malone said, "if you say so. But--"

"There are the interview tapes," Burris said, "and the reports the
Congressmen brought in. You can go through those."

Malone sighed. "I guess so," he said.

"And there must be thousands of other things to do," Burris said.

"Well--" Malone began cautiously.

"You'll be able to think of them," Burris said heartily. "I know you
will. I have confidence in you, Malone. Confidence."

"Thanks," Malone said sadly.

"You just keep me posted from time to time on what you're doing, and
what ideas you get," Burris said. "I'm leaving the whole thing in your
hands, Malone, and I'm sure you won't disappoint me."

"I'll try," Malone said.

"I know you will," Burris said warmly. "And no matter how long it
takes, I know you'll succeed."

"No matter how long it takes?" Malone said hesitantly.

"That's right!" Burris said. "You can do it, Malone! You can do it."

Malone nodded slowly. "I hope so," he said. "Well, I--Well, I'll start
out right away, then."

He turned. Before he could make another move Burris said, "Wait!"

Malone turned again, hope in his eyes. "Yes, sir?" he said.

"When you leave--" Burris began, and the hope disappeared. "When you
leave," he went on, "please do one little favor for me. Just one
little favor, because I'm an old, tired man and I'm not used to things
any more."

"Sure," Malone said. "Anything, Chief."

"Don't call me--"

"Sorry," Malone said.

Burris breathed heavily. "When you leave," he said, "please, please
use the door."

"But--"

"Malone," Burris said, "I've tried. I've really tried. Believe me.
I've tried to get used to the fact that you can teleport. But--"

"It's useful," Malone said, "in my work."

"I can see that," Burris said. "And I don't want you to, well, to stop
doing it. By no means. It's just that it sort of unnerves me, if you
see what I mean. No matter how useful it is for the FBI to have an
agent who can go instantaneously from one place to another, it
unnerves me." He sighed. "I can't get used to seeing you disappear
like an overdried soap bubble, Malone. It does something to me, here."
He placed a hand directly over his sternum and sighed again.

"I can understand that," Malone said. "It unnerved me, too, the first
time I saw it. I thought I was going crazy, when that kid--Mike
Fueyo--winked out like a light. But then we got him, and some FBI
agents besides me have learned the trick." He stopped there, wondering
if he'd been tactful. After all, it took a latent ability to learn
teleportation, and some people had it, while others didn't. Malone,
along with a few other agents, did. Burris evidently didn't, so he
couldn't teleport, no matter how hard he tried or how many lessons he
took.

"Well," Burris said, "I'm still unnerved. So please, Malone, when you
come in here, or go out, use the door. All right?"

"Yes, sir," Malone said. He turned and went out. As he opened the
door, he could almost hear Burris' sigh of relief. Then he banged it
shut behind him and, feeling that he might as well continue with his
spacebound existence, walked all the way to the elevator, and rode it
downstairs to the FBI laboratories.

The labs, highly efficient and divided into dozens of departments,
covered several floors. Malone passed through the Fingerprint section,
filled with technicians doing strange things to great charts and
slides, and frowning over tiny pieces of material and photographs.
Then came Forgery Detection, involving many more technicians, many
more slides and charts and tiny pieces of things and photographs, and
even a witness or two sitting on the white bench at one side and
looking lost and somehow civilian. Identification Classified was next,
a great barn of a room filled with index files. The real indexes were
in the sub-basement; here, on microfilm, were only the basic
divisions. A man was standing in front of one of the files, frowning
at it. Malone went on by without stopping.

Cosmetic Surgery Classification came next. Here there were more
indexes, and there were also charts and slides. There was an agent
sitting on a bench looking bored while two female technicians--
classified as O&U for Old and Ugly in Malone's mind--fluttered around
him, deciding what disguises were possible, and which of those was
indicated for the particular job on hand. Malone waved to the agent,
whom he knew very slightly, and went on. He felt vaguely regretful
that the FBI couldn't hire prettier girls for Cosmetic Surgery, but
the trouble was that pretty girls fell for the Agents, and vice versa,
and this led to an unfortunate tendency toward only handsome and
virile-looking disguises. The O&U division was unfortunate, he
decided, but a necessity.

Chemical Analysis (III) was next. The Chemical Analysis Section was
scattered over several floors, with the first stages up above.
Division III, Malone remembered, was devoted to nonpoisonous
substances, like clay or sand found in boots or trouser cuffs, cigar
ashes and such. They were placed on the same floor as Fingerprints to
allow free and frequent passage between the sections on the problems
of plastic prints, made in putty or like substances, and visible
prints, made when the hand is covered with a visible substance like
blood, ketchup or glue.

Malone found what he was looking for at the very end of the floor. It
was the Computer Section, a large room filled with humming, clacking
and buzzing machines of an ancient vintage, muttering to themselves as
they worked, and newer machines which were smaller and more silent.
Lights were lighting and bells were ringing softly, relays were
relaying and the whole room was a gigantic maze of calculating and
control machines. What space wasn't filled by the machines themselves
was filled by workbenches, all littered with an assortment of gears,
tubes, spare relays, transistors, wires, rods, bolts, resistors and
all the other paraphernalia used in building the machines and
repairing them. Beyond the basic room were other, smaller rooms, each
assigned to a particular kind of computer work.

The narrow aisles were choked here and there with men who looked up as
Malone passed by, but most of them gave him one quick glance and went
back to work. A few didn't even do that, but went right on
concentrating on their jobs. Malone headed for a man working all alone
in front of a workbench, frowning down at a complicated-looking
mechanism that seemed to have neither head nor tail, and prodding at
it with a long, thin screwdriver. The man was thin, too, but not very
long; he was a little under average height, and he had straight black
hair, thick-lensed glasses and a studious expression, even when he was
frowning. He looked as if the mechanism were a student who had cut too
many classes, and he was being kind but firm with it.

Malone managed to get to the man's side, and coughed discreetly. There
was no response.

"Fred?" he said.

The screwdriver waggled a little. Malone wasn't quite sure that the
man was breathing.

"Fred Mitchell," he said.

Mitchell didn't look up. Another second passed.

"Hey," Malone said. Then he closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
"Fred," he said in a loud, reasonable-sounding voice, "the State
Department's translator has started to talk pig-Latin."

Mitchell straightened up as if somebody had jabbed him with a pin. The
screwdriver waved wildly in the air for a second, and then pointed at
Malone. "That's impossible," Mitchell said in a flat, precise voice.
"Simply impossible. It doesn't have a pig-Latin circuit. It can't
possibly--" He blinked and seemed to see Malone for the first time.
"Oh," he said. "Hello, Malone. What can I do for you?"

Malone smiled, feeling a little victorious at having got through the
Mitchell armor, which was almost impregnable when there was a job in
hand. "I've been standing here talking to you for some time."

"Oh, have you?" Mitchell said. "I was busy." That, obviously,
explained that. Malone shrugged.

"I want you to help me check over some calculators, Fred," he said.
"We've had some reports that some of the government machines are out
of kilter, and I'd like you to go over them for me."

"Out of kilter?" Fred Mitchell said. "No, you can forget about it.
It's absolutely unnecessary to make a check, believe me. Absolutely.
Forget it." He smiled suddenly. "I suppose it's some kind of a joke,
isn't it?" he said, just a trifle uncertainly. Fred Mitchell's world,
while pleasant, did not include much humor, Malone knew. "It's
supposed to be funny," he said in the same flat, precise voice.

"It isn't funny," Malone said.

Fred sighed. "Then they're obviously lying," he said, "and that's all
there is to it. Why bother me with it?"

"Lying, Fred?" Malone said.

"Certainly," Fred said. He looked at the machinery with longing.

Malone took a breath. "How do you know?" he said.

Fred sighed. "It's perfectly obvious," he said in a patient tone.
"Since the State Department translator has no pig-Latin circuit, it
can't possibly be talking pig-Latin. I will admit that such a circuit
would be relatively easy to build, though it would have no utility as
far as I can see. Except, of course, for a joke." He paused. "Joke?"
he said, in a slightly uneasy tone.

"Sure," Malone said. "Joke."

Mitchell looked relieved. "Very well, then," he began. "Since--"

"Wait a minute," Malone said. "The pig-Latin is a joke. That's right.
But I'm not talking about the pig-Latin."

"You're not?" Mitchell asked, surprised.

"No," Malone said.

Mitchell frowned. "But you said--" he began.

"A joke," Malone said. "You were perfectly right. The pig-Latin is a
joke." He waited for Fred's expression to clear, and then added: "But
what I want to talk to you about isn't."

"It sounds very confused," Fred said after a pause. "Not at all the
sort of thing that--that usually goes on."

"You have no idea," Malone said. "It's about the political machines,
all right, but it isn't anything as simple as pig-Latin." He
explained, taking his time over it.

When he had finished, Fred was nodding his head slowly. "I see," he
said. "I understand just what you want me to do."

"Good," Malone said.

"I'll take a team over to the Senate Office Building," Fred said, "and
check the computer-secretaries there. That way, you see, I'll be able
to do a full running check on them without taking any one machine out
of operation for too long."

"Sure," Malone said.

"And it shouldn't take long," Fred went on, "to find out just what the
trouble is." He looked very confident.

"How long?" Malone asked.

Fred shrugged. "Oh," he said, "five or six days."

Malone repressed an impulse to scream. "Days?" he said. "I mean--well,
look, Fred, it's important. Very important. Can't you do the job any
faster?"

Fred gave a little sigh. "Checking and repairing all those machines,"
he said, "is an extremely complex job. Sometimes, Malone, I don't
think you realize quite how complex and how delicate a job it is to
deal with such a high-order machine. Why--"

"Wait a minute," Malone said. "Check and repair them?"

"Of course," Fred said.

"But I don't want them repaired," Malone said. Seeing the look of
horror on Fred's face, he added hastily, "I only want a report from
you on what's wrong, whether they are actually making errors or not.
And if they are making errors, just what's making them do it. And just
what kind of errors. See?"

Fred nodded very slowly. "But I can't just leave them there," he said
piteously. "In pieces and everything. It isn't right, Malone. It just
isn't right."

"Well, then," Malone said with energy, "you go right ahead and repair
them, if you want to. Fix 'em all up. But you can do that after you
make the report to me, can't you?"

"I--" Fred hesitated. "I had planned to check and repair each machine
on an individual basis."

"The Congress can allow for a short suspension," Malone said. "Anyhow,
they can now, or as soon as I get the word to them. Suppose you check
all the machines first, and then get around to the repair work."

"It's not the best way," Fred demurred.

Malone discovered that it was his turn to sigh. "Is it the fastest?"
he said.

Fred nodded.

"Then it's the best," Malone said. "How long?"

Fred rolled his eyes to the ceiling and calculated silently for a
second. "Tomorrow morning," he announced, returning his gaze to
Malone.

"Fine," Malone said. "Fine."

"But--"

"Never mind the buts," Malone said hurriedly. "I'll count on hearing
from you tomorrow morning."

"All right."

"And if it looks like sabotage," Malone added, "if the errors aren't
caused by normal wear and tear on the machines, you let me know right
away. Phone me. Don't waste an instant."

"I'll--I'll start right away," Fred said heavily. He looked sadly at
the mechanism he had been working on, and put his screwdriver down
next to it. It looked to Malone as if he were putting flowers on the
grave of a dear departed. "I'll get a team together," Fred added. He
gave the mechanism and screwdriver one last fond parting look, and
tore himself away.

Malone looked after him for a second, thinking of nothing in
particular, and then turned in the opposite direction and headed back
toward the elevator. As he walked, he began to feel more and more
pleased with himself. After all, he'd gotten the investigation
started, hadn't he?

And now all he had to do was go back to his office and read some
reports and listen to some interview tapes, and then he could go home.

The reports and the interview tapes didn't exactly sound like fun,
Malone thought, but at the same time they seemed fairly innocent. He
would work his way through them grimly, and maybe he would even
indulge his most secret vice and smoke a cigar or two to make the work
pass more pleasantly. Soon enough, he told himself, they would be
finished.

Sometimes, though, he regretted the reputation he'd gotten. It had
been bad enough in the old days, the pre-1971 days when Malone had
thought he was just lucky. Burris had called him a Boy Wonder then,
when he'd cracked three difficult cases in a row. Being just lucky had
made it a little tough to live with the Boy Wonder label. After all,
Malone thought, it wasn't actually as if he'd done anything.

But since 1971 and the case of the Telepathic Spy, things had gotten
worse. Much worse. Now Malone wasn't just lucky any more. Instead, he
could teleport and he could even foretell the future a little, in a
dim sort of way. He'd caught the Telepathic Spy that way, and when the
case of the Teleporting Juvenile Delinquents had come up he'd been
assigned to that one too, and he'd cracked it. Now Burris seemed to
think of him as a kind of God, and gave him all the tough dirty jobs.

And if he wasn't just lucky any more, Malone couldn't think of himself
as a fearless, heroic FBI agent, either. He just wasn't the type. He
was ... well, talented. That was the word, he told himself: talented.
He had all these talents and they made him look like something
spectacular to Burris and the other FBI men. But he wasn't, really. He
hadn't done anything really tough to get his talents; they'd just
happened to him.

Nobody, though, seemed to believe that. He heaved a little sigh and
stepped into the waiting elevator.

There were, after all, he thought, compensations. He'd had some good
times, and the talents did come in handy. And he did have his pick of
the vacation schedule lately. And he'd met some lovely girls...

And besides, he told himself savagely as the elevator shot upward, he
wasn't going to do anything except return to his office and read some
reports and listen to some tapes. And then he was going to go home and
sleep all night, peacefully. And in the morning Mitchell was going to
call him up and tell him that the computer-secretaries needed nothing
more than a little repair. He'd say they were getting old, and he'd be
a little pathetic about it; but it wouldn't be anything serious.
Malone would send out orders to get the machines repaired, and that
would be that. And then the next case would be something both normal
and exciting, like a bank robbery or a kidnapping involving a gorgeous
blonde who would be so grateful to Malone that...

He had stepped out of the elevator and gone down the corridor without
noticing it. He pushed at his own office door and walked into the
outer room. The train of thought he had been following was very nice,
and sounded very attractive indeed, he told himself.

Unfortunately, he didn't believe it. His prescient ability,
functioning with its usual efficient aplomb, told Malone that things
would not be better, or simpler, in the morning. They would be worse,
and more complicated.

They would be quite a lot worse.

And, as usual, that prescience was perfectly accurate.


2

The telephone, Malone realized belatedly, had had a particularly
nasty-sounding ring. He might have known it would be bad news.

As a matter of fact, he told himself sadly, he had known.

"Nothing at all wrong?" he said into the mouthpiece. "Not with any of
the computers?" He blinked. "Not even one of them?"

"Not a thing," Mitchell said. "I'll be sending a report up to you in a
little while. You read it; we put them through every test, and it's
all detailed there."

"I'm sure you were very thorough," Malone said helplessly.

"Of course we were," Mitchell said. "Of course. And the machines
passed every single test. Every one. Malone, it was beautiful."

"Goody," Malone said at random. "But there's got to be something--"

"There is, Malone," Fred said. "There is. I think there's definitely
something odd going on. Something funny. I mean peculiar, not
humorous."

"I thought so," Malone put in.

"Right," Fred said. "Malone, try and relax. This is a hard thing to
say, and it must be even harder to hear, but--"

"Tell me," Malone said. "Who's dead? Who's been killed?"

"I know it's tough, Malone," Fred went on.

"Is everybody dead?" Malone said. "It can't be just one person, not
from that tone in your voice. Has somebody assassinated the entire
senate? Or the president and his cabinet? Or--"

"It's nothing like that, Malone," Fred said, in a tone that implied
that such occurrences were really rather minor. "It's the machines."

"The machines?"

"That's right," Fred said grimly. "After we checked them over and
found they were in good shape, I asked for samples of both the input
and the output of each machine. I wanted to do a thorough job."

"Congratulations," Malone said. "What happened?"

Fred took a deep breath. "They don't agree," he said.

"They don't?" Malone said. The phrase sounded as if it meant something
momentous, but he couldn't quite figure out what. In a minute, he
thought confusedly, it would come to him. But did he want it to?

"They definitely do not agree," Fred was saying. "The correlation is
erratic; it makes no statistical sense. Malone, there are two
possibilities."

"Tell me about them," Malone said. He was beginning to feel relieved.
To Fred, the malfunction of a machine was more serious than the murder
of the entire Congress. But Malone couldn't quite bring himself to
feel that way about things.

"First," Fred said in a tense tone, "it's possible that the
technicians feeding information to the machines are making all kinds
of mistakes."

Malone nodded at the phone. "That sounds possible," he said. "Which
ones?"

"All of them," Fred said. "They're all making errors--and they're all
making about the same number of errors. There don't seem to be any
real peaks or valleys, Malone; everybody's doing it."

Malone thought of the Varsity Drag and repressed the thought. "A bunch
of fumblebums," he said. "All fumbling alike. It does sound unlikely,
but I guess it's possible. We'll get after them right away, and--"

"Wait," Fred said. "There is a second possibility."

"Oh," Malone said.

"Maybe they aren't mistakes," Fred said. "Maybe the technicians are
deliberately feeding the machine with wrong answers."

Malone hated to admit it, even to himself, but that answer sounded a
lot more probable. Machine technicians weren't exactly picked off the
streets at random; they were highly trained for their work, and the
idea of a whole crew of them starting to fumble at once, in a big way,
was a little hard to swallow.

The idea of all of them sabotaging the machines they worked on, Malone
thought, was a tough one to take, too. But it had the advantage of
making some sense. People, he told himself dully, will do nutty things
deliberately. It's harder to think of them doing the same nutty things
without knowing it.

"Well," he said at last, "however it turns out, we'll get to the
bottom of it. Frankly, I think it's being done on purpose."

"So do I," Fred said. "And when you find out just who's making the
technicians do such things--when you find out who gives them their
orders--you let me know."

"Let you know?" Malone said. "But--"

"Any man who would give false data to a perfectly innocent computer,"
Fred said savagely, "would--would--" For a second he was apparently
lost for comparisons. Then he finished: "Would kill his own mother."
He paused a second and added, in an even more savage voice, "And then
lie about it!"

The image on the screen snapped off, and Malone sat back in his chair
and sighed. He spent a few minutes regretting that he hadn't chosen,
early in life, to be a missionary to the Fiji Islands, or possibly
simply a drunken bum without any troubles, but then the report
Mitchell had mentioned arrived. Malone picked it up without much
eagerness, and began going through it carefully.

It was beautifully typed and arranged; somebody on Mitchell's team had
obviously been up all night at the job. Malone admired the work,
without being able to get enthusiastic about the contents. Like all
technical reports, it tended to be boring and just a trifle obscure to
someone who wasn't completely familiar with the field involved. Malone
and cybernetics were not exactly bosom buddies, and by the time he
finished reading through the report he was suffering from an extreme
case of ennui.

There were no new clues in the report, either; Mitchell's phone
conversation had covered all of the main points. Malone put the sheaf
of papers down on his desk and looked at them for a minute as if he
expected an answer to leap out from the pile and greet him with a glad
cry. But nothing happened. Unfortunately, he had to do some more work.

The obvious next step was to start checking on the technicians who
were working on the machines. Malone determined privately that he
would give none of his reports to Fred Mitchell; he didn't like the
idea of being responsible for murder, and that was the least Fred
would do to someone who confused his precious calculators.

He picked up the phone, punched for the Records Division, and waited
until a bald, middle-aged face appeared. He asked the face to send up
the dossiers of the technicians concerned to his office. The face
nodded.

"You want them right away?" it said in a mild, slightly scratchy
voice.

"Sooner than right away," Malone said.

"They're coming up by messenger," the voice said.

Malone nodded and broke the connection. The technicians had, of
course, been investigated by the FBI before they'd been hired, but it
wouldn't do any harm to check them out again. He felt grateful that he
wouldn't have to do all that work himself; he would just go through
the dossiers and assign field agents to the actual checking when he
had a picture of what might need to be checked.

He sighed again and leaned back in his chair. He put his feet up on
the desk, remembered that he was entirely alone, and swung them down
again. He fished in a private compartment in his top desk drawer, drew
out a cigar and unwrapped it. Putting his feet back on the desk, he
lit the cigar, drew in a cloud of smoke, and lapsed into deep thought.

Cigar smoke billowed around him, making strange, fantastic shapes in
the air of the office. Malone puffed away, frowning slightly and
trying to force the puzzle he was working on to make some sense.

It certainly looked as though something were going on, he thought.
But, for the life of him, he couldn't figure out just what it was.
After all, what could be anybody's purpose in goofing up a bunch of
calculators the way they had? Of course, the whole thing could be a
series of accidents, but the series was a pretty long one, and made
Malone suspicious to start with. It was easier to assume that the
goof-ups were being done deliberately.

Unfortunately, they didn't make much sense as sabotage, either.

Senator Deeds, for instance, had sent out a ten-thousand-copy form
letter to his constituents, blasting an Administration power bill in
extremely strong language, and asking for some comments on the
Deeds-Hartshorn Air Ownership Bill, a pending piece of legislation
that provided for private, personal ownership, based on land title, to
the upper stratosphere, with a strong hint that rights of passage no
longer applied without some recompense to the owner of the air.
Naturally, Deeds had filed the original with a computer-secretary to
turn out ten thousand duplicate copies, and the machine had done so,
folding the copies, slipping them into addressed envelopes and sending
them out under the Senator's franking stamp.

The addresses on the envelopes, however, had not been those of the
Senator's supporters. The letter had been sent to ten thousand
stockholders in major airline companies, and the Senator's head was
still ringing from the force of the denunciatory letters, telegrams
and telephone calls he'd been getting.

And then there was Representative Follansbee of South Dakota. A set of
news releases on the proposed Follansbee Waterworks Bill contained the
statement that the artificial lake which Follansbee proposed in the
Black Hills country "be formed by controlled atomic power blasts, and
filled with water obtained from collecting the tears of widows and
orphans."

Newsmen who saw this release immediately checked the bill. The wording
was exactly the same. Follansbee claimed that the "widows and orphans"
phrase had appeared in his speech on the bill, and not in the proposed
bill itself. "It's completely absurd," he said, with commendable calm,
"to consider this method of filling an artificial lake."
Unfortunately, the absurdity was now contained in the bill, which
would have to go back to committee for redefinition, and probably
wouldn't come up again in the present session of Congress. Judging
from the amount of laughter that had greeted the error when it had
come to light, Malone privately doubted whether any amount of
redefinition was going to save it from a landslide defeat.

Representative Keller of Idaho had made a speech which contained so
many errors of fact that newspaper editorials, and his enemies on the
floor of Congress, cut him to pieces with ease and pleasure. Keller
complained of his innocence and said he'd gotten his facts from a
computer-secretary, but this didn't save him. His re-election was a
matter for grave concern in his own party, and the opposition was,
naturally, tickled. They would not, Malone thought, dare to be tickled
pink.

And these were not the only casualties. They were the most blatant
foul-ups, but there were others, such as the mistake in numbering of a
House Bill that resulted in a two-month delay during which the
opposition to the bill raised enough votes to defeat it on the floor.
Communications were diverted or lost or scrambled in small ways that
made for confusion--including, Malone recalled, the perfectly horrible
mixup that resulted when a freshman senator, thinking he was talking
to his girlfriend on a blanked-vision circuit, discovered he was
talking to his wife.

The flow of information was being blocked by bottlenecks that suddenly
existed where there had never been bottlenecks before.

And it wasn't only the computers, Malone knew. He remembered the
reports the senators and representatives had made. Someone forgot to
send an important message here, or sent one too soon over there. Both
courses were equally disturbing, and both resulted in more snarl-ups.
Reports that should have been sent in weeks before arrived too late;
reports meant for the eyes of only one man were turned out in
triplicate and passed all over the offices of Congress.

Each snarl-up was a little one. But, together, they added up to
inefficiency of a kind and extent that hadn't been seen, Malone told
himself with some wonder, since the Harding administration fifty years
before.

And there didn't seem to be anyone to blame anything on.

Malone thought hopefully of sabotage, infiltration and mass treason,
but it didn't make him feel much better. He puffed out some more smoke
and frowned at nothing.

There was a knock at the door of his office.

Speedily and guiltily, he swung his feet off the desk and snatched the
cigar out of his mouth. He jammed it into a deep ashtray and put the
ashtray back into his desk drawer. He locked the drawer, waved
ineffectively at the clouds of smoke that surrounded him, and said in
a resigned voice: "Come in."

The door opened. A tall, solidly-built man stood there, wearing a
fringe of beard and a cheerful expression. The man had an enormous
amount of muscle distributed more or less evenly over his chunky body,
and a pot-belly that looked as if he had swallowed a globe of the
world. In addition, he was smoking a cigarette and letting out little
puffs of smoke, rather like a toy locomotive.

"Well, well," Malone said, brushing feebly at the smoke that still
wreathed him faintly. "If it isn't Thomas Boyd, the FBI's answer to
Nero Wolfe."

"And if the physique holds true, you're Sherlock Holmes, I suppose,"
Boyd said.

Malone shook his head, thinking sadly of his father and the cigar.
"Not exactly," he said. "Not ex--" And then it came to him. It wasn't
that he was ashamed of smoking cigars like his father, exactly, but
cigars just weren't right for a fearless, dedicated FBI agent. And he
had just thought of a way to keep Boyd from knowing what he'd been
doing. "That's a hell of a cigarette you're smoking, by the way," he
said.

Boyd looked at it. "It is?" he said.

"Sure is," Malone said, hoping he sounded sufficiently innocent.
"Smells like a cigar or something."

Boyd sniffed the air for a second, his face wrinkled. Then he looked
down at his cigarette again. "By God," he said, "you're right, Ken. It
_does_ smell like a cigar." He came over to Malone's desk, looked
around for an ashtray and didn't find one, and finally went to the
window and tossed the cigarette out into the Washington breeze. "How
are things, anyhow, Ken?" he said.

"Things are confused," Malone said. "Aren't they always?"

Boyd came back to the desk and sat down in a chair at one side of it.
He put his elbow on the desk. "Sure they are," he said. "I'm confused
myself, as a matter of fact. Only I think I know where I can get some
help."

"Really?" Malone said.

Boyd nodded. "Burris told me I might be able to get some information
from a certain famous and highly respected person," he said.

"Well, well," Malone said. "Who?"

"You," Boyd said.

"Oh," Malone said, trying to look disappointed, flattered and modest
all at the same time. "Well," he went on after a second, "anything I
can do--"

"Burris thought you might have some answers," Boyd said.

"Burris is getting optimistic in his old age," Malone said. "I don't
even have many questions."

Boyd nodded. "Well," he said, "you know this California thing?"

"Sure I do," Malone said. "You're looking into the resignation out
there, aren't you?"

"Senator Burley," Boyd said. "That's right But Senator Burley's
resignation isn't all of it, by any means."

"It isn't?" Malone said, trying to sound interested.

"Not at all," Boyd said. "It goes a lot deeper than it looks on the
surface. In the past year, Ken, five senators have announced their
resignations from the Senate of the United States. It isn't exactly a
record--"

"It sounds like a record," Malone said.

"Well," Boyd said, "there was 1860 and the Civil War, when a whole lot
of senators and representatives resigned all at once."

"Oh," Malone said. "But there isn't any Civil War going on now. At
least," he added, "I haven't heard of any."

"That's what makes it so funny," Boyd said. "Of course, Senator Burley
said it was ill health, and so did two others, while Senator Davidson
said it was old age."

"Well," Malone said, "people do get old. And sick."

"Sure," Boyd said. "The only trouble is--" He paused. "Ken," he said,
"do you mind if I smoke? I mean, do you mind the smell of cigars?"

"Mind?" Malone said. "Not at all." He blinked. "Besides," he added,
"maybe this one won't smell like a cigar."

"Well, the last one did," Boyd said. He took a cigarette out of a pack
in his pocket, and lit it. He sniffed. "You know," he said, "you're
right. This one doesn't."

"I told you," Malone said. "Must have been a bad cigarette. Spoiled or
something."

"I guess so," Boyd said vaguely. "But about these retirements--the FBI
wanted me to look into it because of Burley's being mixed up with the
space program scandal last year. Remember?"

"Vaguely," Malone said. "I was busy last year."

"Sure you were," Boyd said. "We were both busy getting famous and well
known."

Malone grinned. "Go on with the story," he said.

Boyd puffed at his cigarette. "Anyhow, we couldn't find anything
really wrong," he said. "Three senators retiring because of ill
health, one because of old age. And Farnsworth, the youngest, had a
nervous breakdown."

"I didn't hear about it," Malone said.

Boyd shrugged "We hushed it up," he said. "But Farnsworth's got
delusions of persecution. He apparently thinks somebody's out to get
him. As a matter of fact, he thinks _everybody's_ out to get him."

"Now that," Malone said, "sounds familiar."

Boyd leaned back a little more in his chair. "Here's the funny thing,
though," he said. "The others all act as if they're suspicious of
everybody who talks to them. Not anything obvious, you understand.
Just worried, apprehensive. Always looking at you out of the corners
of their eyes. That kind of thing."

Malone thought of Senator Lefferts, who was also suffering from
delusions of persecution, delusions that had real evidence to back
them up. "It does sound funny," he said cautiously.

"Well, I reported everything to Burris," Boyd went on. "And he said
you were working on something similar, and we might as well pool our
resources."

"Here we go again," Malone said. He took a deep breath, filling his
nostrils with what remained of the cigar odor in the room, and felt
more peaceful. Quickly, he told Boyd about what had been happening in
Congress. "It seems pretty obvious," he finished, "that there is some
kind of a tie-up between the two cases."

"Maybe it's obvious," Boyd said, "but it is just a little bit odd. Fun
and games. You know, Ken, Burris was right."

"How?" Malone said.

"He said everything was all mixed up," Boyd went on. "He told me the
country was going to Rome in a handbasket, or something like that."

Wondering vaguely if Burris had really been predicting mass religious
conversions, Malone nodded silently.

"And he's right," Boyd said. "Look at the newspapers. Everything's
screwy lately."

"Everything always is screwy," Malone said.

"Not like now," Boyd said. "So many big-shot gangsters have been
killed lately we might as well bring back Prohibition. And the labor
unions are so busy with internal battles that they haven't had time to
go on strike for over a year."

"Is that bad?" Malone said.

Boyd shrugged. "God knows," he said. "But it's sure confusing as all
hell."

"And now," Malone said, "with all that going on--"

"The Congress of the United States decides to go off its collective
rocker," Boyd finished. "Exactly." He stared down at his cigarette for
a minute with a morose and pensive expression on his face. He looked,
Malone thought, like Henry VIII trying to decide what to do about all
these here wives.

Then he looked up at Malone. "Ken," he said in a strained voice,
"there seem to be a lot of nutty cases lately."

Malone considered. "No," he said at last. "It's just that when a nutty
one comes along, we get it."

"That's what I mean," Boyd said. "I wonder why that is."

Malone shrugged. "It takes a thief to catch a thief," he said.

"But these aren't thieves," Boyd said. "I mean, they're just nutty."
He paused. "Oh," he said.

"And two thieves are better than one," Malone said.

"Anyhow," Boyd said with a small, gusty sigh, "it's company."

"Sure," Malone said.

Boyd looked for an ashtray, failed again to find one, and walked over
to flip a second cigarette out onto Washington. He came back to his
chair, sat down, and said, "What's our next step, Ken?"

Malone considered carefully. "First," he said finally, "we'll start
assuming something. We'll start assuming that there is some kind of
organization behind all this, behind all the senators' resignations
and everything like that."

"It sounds like a big assumption," Boyd said.

Malone shook his head. "It isn't really," he said. "After all, we
can't figure it's the work of one person: it's too widespread for
that. And it's silly to assume that everything's accidental."

"All right," Boyd said equably. "It's an organization."

"Trying to subvert the United States," Malone went on. "Reducing
everything to chaos. And that brings in everything else, Tom. That
brings in the unions and the gang wars and everything."

Boyd blinked. "How?" he said.

"Obvious," Malone said. "Strife brought on by internal confusion,
that's what's going on all over. It's the same pattern. And if we
assume an organization trying to jam up the United States, it even
makes sense." He leaned back and beamed.

"Sure it makes sense," Boyd said. "But who's the organization?"

Malone shrugged.

"If I were doing the picking," Boyd said, "I'd pick the Russians. Or
the Chinese. Or both. Probably both."

"It's a possibility," Malone said. "Anyhow, if it's sabotage, who else
would be interested in sabotaging the United States? There's some
Russian or Chinese organization fouling up Congress, and the unions,
and the gangs. Come to think of it, why the gangs? It seems to me that
if you left the professional gangsters strong, it would do even more
to foul things up."

"Who knows?" Boyd said. "Maybe they're trying to get rid of American
gangsters so they can import some of their own."

"That doesn't make any sense," Malone said, "but I'll think about it.
In the meantime, we have one more interesting question."

"We do?" Boyd said.

"Sure we do," Malone said. "The question is: how?"

Boyd said: "Mmm." Then there was silence for a little while.

"How are the saboteurs doing all this?" Malone said. "It just doesn't
seem very probable that _all_ the technicians in the Senate Office
Building, for instance, are spies. It makes even less sense that the
labor unions are composed mostly of spies. Or, for that matter, the
Mafia and the organizations like it. What would spies be doing in the
Mafia?"

"Learning Italian," Boyd said instantly.

"Don't be silly," Malone said. "If there were that many spies in this
country, the Russians wouldn't have to fight at all. They could _vote_
the Communists into power, and by a nice big landslide, too."

"Wait a minute," Boyd said. "If there aren't so many spies, then how
is all this getting done?"

Malone beamed. "That's the question," he said. "And I think I have an
answer."

"You do?" Boyd said. After a second he said: "Oh, no."

"Suppose you tell me," Malone said.

Boyd opened his mouth. Nothing emerged. He shut it. A second passed
and he opened it again. "Magic?" he said weakly.

"Not exactly," Malone said cheerfully. "But you're getting warm."

Boyd shut his eyes. "I'm not going to stand for it," he announced.
"I'm not going to take any more."

"Any more what?" Malone said. "Tell me what you have in mind."

"I won't even consider it," Boyd said. "It haunts me. It gets into my
dreams. Now, look, Ken, I can't even see a pitchfork any more without
thinking of Greek letters."

Malone took a breath. "Which Greek letter?" he said.

"You know very well," Boyd said. "What a pitchfork looks like. _Psi._
And I'm not even going to think about it."

"Well," Malone said equably, "you won't have to. If you'd rather start
with the Russian-spy end of things, you can do that."

"What I'd rather do," Boyd said, "is resign."

"Next year," Malone said instantly. "For now, you can wait around
until the dossiers come up--they're for the Senate Office Building
technicians, and they're on the way. You can go over them, and start
checking on any known Russian agents in the country for contacts. You
can also start checking on the dossiers, and in general for any
hanky-panky."

Boyd blinked. "Hanky-panky?" he said.

"It's a perfectly good word," Malone said, offended. "Or two words.
Anyhow, you can start on that end, and not worry about anything else."

"It's going to haunt me," Boyd said.

"Well," Malone said, "eat lots of ectoplasm and get enough sleep, and
everything will be fine. After all, I'm going to have to do the real
end of the work, the psionics end. I may be wrong, but--"

He was interrupted by the phone. He flicked the switch and Andrew J.
Burris' face appeared on the screen.

"Malone," Burris said instantly, "I just got a complaint from the
State Department that ties in with your work. Their translator has
been acting up."

Malone couldn't say anything for a minute.

"Malone," Burris went on. "I said--"

"I heard you," Malone said. "And it doesn't have one."

"It doesn't have one what?" Burris said.

"A pig-Latin circuit," Malone said. "What else?"

Burris' voice was very calm. "Malone," he said, "what does pig-Latin
have to do with anything?"

"You said--"

"I said one of the State Department translators was acting up," Burris
said. "If you want details--"

"I don't think I can stand them," Malone said.

"Some of the Russian and Chinese releases have come through with the
meaning slightly altered," Burris went on doggedly. "And I want you to
check on it right away. I--"

"Thank God," Malone said.

Burris blinked. "What?"

"Never mind," Malone said. "Never mind. I'm glad you told me, Chief.
I'll get to work on it right away, and--"

"You do that, Malone," Burris said. "And for God's sake stop calling
me Chief! Do I look like an Indian? Do I have feathers in my hair?"

"Anything," Malone said grandly, "is possible." He broke the
connection in a hurry.


3

The summer sun beat down on the white city of Washington, D. C, as if
it had mistaken its instructions slightly and was convinced that the
city had been put down somewhere in the Sahara. The sun seemed
confused, Malone thought. If this were the Sahara, obviously there was
no reason whatever for the Potomac to be running through it. The sun
was doing its best to correct this small error, however, by exerting
even more heat in a valiant attempt to dry up the river.

Its attempt was succeeding, at least partially. The Potomac was still
there, but quite a lot of it was not in the river bed any more.
Instead, it had gone into the air, which was so humid by now that
Malone was willing to swear that it was splashing into his lungs at
every inhalation. Resisting an impulse to try the breaststroke, he
stood in the full glare of the straining sun, just outside the Senate
Office Building. He looked across at the Capitol, just opposite,
squinting his eyes manfully against the glare of its dome in the
brightness.

The Capitol was, at any rate, some relief from the sight of Thomas
Boyd and a group of agents busily grilling two technicians. That was
going on in the Senate Office Building, and Malone had come over to
watch the proceedings. Everything had been set up in what Malone
considered the most complicated fashion possible. A big room had been
turned into a projection chamber, and films were being run off over
and over. The films, taken by hidden cameras watching the
computer-secretaries, had caught two technicians red-handed punching
errors into the machines. Boyd had leaped on this evidence, and he and
his crew were showing the movies to the technicians and questioning
them under bright lights in an effort to break down their resistance.

But it didn't look as though they were going to have any more success
than the sun was having, turning Washington into the Sahara. After
all, Malone told himself, wiping his streaming brow, there were no
Pyramids in Washington. He tried to discover whether that made any
sense, but it was too much work. He went back to thinking about Boyd.

The technicians were sticking to their original stories that the
mistakes had been honest ones. It sounded like a sensible idea to
Malone; after all, people did make mistakes. And the FBI didn't have a
single shred of evidence to prove that the technicians were engaged in
deliberate sabotage. But Boyd wasn't giving up. Over and over he got
the technicians to repeat their stories, looking for discrepancies or
slips. Over and over he ran off the films of their mistakes, looking
for some clue, some shred of evidence.

Even the sight of the Capitol, Malone told himself sadly, was better
than any more of Boyd's massive investigation techniques.

He had come out to do some thinking. He believed, in spite of a good
deal of evidence to the contrary, that his best ideas came to him
while walking. At any rate, it was a way of getting away from four
walls and from the prying eyes and anxious looks of superiors. He
sighed gently, crammed his hat onto his head and started out.

Only a maniac, he reflected, would wear a hat on a day like the one he
was swimming through. But the people who passed him as he trudged
onward to no particular destination didn't seem to notice; they gave
him a fairly wide berth, and seemed very polite, but that wasn't
because they thought he was nuts, Malone knew. It was because they
knew he was an FBI man.

That was the result of an FBI regulation. All agents had to wear hats.
Malone wasn't sure why, and his thinking on the matter had only
dredged up the idea that you had to have a hat in case somebody asked
you to keep something under it. But the FBI was firm about its
rulings. No matter what the weather, an agent wore a hat. Malone
thought bitterly that he might just as well wear a red, white and blue
luminous sign that said _FBI_ in great winking letters, and maybe a
hooting siren too. Still, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was not
supposed to be a secret organization, no matter what occasional
critics might say. And the hats, at least as long as the weather
remained broiling, were enough proof of that for anybody.

Malone could feel water collecting under his hat and soaking his head.
He removed the hat quickly, wiped his head with a handkerchief and
replaced the hat, feeling as if he had become incognito for a few
seconds. The hat was back on now, feeling official but terrible, and
about the same was true of the fully-loaded Smith & Wesson .44
Magnum revolver which hung in his shoulder holster. The harness chafed
at his shoulder and chest and the weight of the gun itself was an
added and unwelcome burden.

But even without the gun and the hat, Malone did not feel exactly
chipper. His shirt and undershirt were no longer two garments, but
one, welded together by seamless sweat and plastered heavily and not
too skillfully to his skin. His trouser legs clung damply to calves
and thighs, rubbing as he walked, and at the knees each trouser leg
attached and detached itself with the unpleasant regularity of a wet
bastinado. Inside Malone's shoes, his socks were completely awash, and
he seemed to squish as he walked. It was hard to tell, but there
seemed to be a small fish in his left shoe. It might, he told himself,
be no more than a pebble or a wrinkle in his sock. But he was willing
to swear that it was swimming upstream.

And the forecast, he told himself bitterly, was for continued warm.

He forced himself to take his mind off his own troubles and get back
to the troubles of the FBI in general, such as the problem at hand. It
was an effort, but he frowned and kept walking, and within a block he
was concentrating again on the _psi_ powers.

_Psi_, he told himself, was behind the whole mess. In spite of Boyd's
horrified refusal to believe such a thing, Malone was sure of it.
Three years ago, of course, he wouldn't have considered the notion
either. But since then a great many things had happened, and his
horizons had widened. After all, capturing a double handful of totally
insane, if perfectly genuine telepaths, from asylums all over the
country, was enough by itself to widen quite a few stunned horizons.
And then, later, there had been the gang of juvenile delinquents. They
had been perfectly normal juvenile delinquents, stealing cars and
bopping a stray policeman or two. It happened, though, that they had
solved the secret of instantaneous teleportation, too. This made them
just a trifle unusual.

In capturing them, Malone, too, had learned the teleportation secret.
Unlike Boyd, he thought, or Burris, the idea of psionic power didn't
bother him much. After all, the psionic spectrum (if it was a spectrum
at all) was just as much a natural phenomenon as gravity or magnetism.

It was just a little hard for some people to get used to.

And, of course, he didn't fully understand _how_ it worked, or _why_.
This put him in the position, he told himself, of an Australian
aborigine. He tried to imagine an Australian aborigine in a hat on a
hot day, decided the aborigine would have too much sense, and got back
off the subject again.

However, he thought grimly, there was this Australian aborigine. And
he had a magnifying glass, which he'd picked up from the wreck of some
ship. Using that--assuming that experience, or a friendly missionary,
taught him how--he could manage to light a fire, using the sun's
thermonuclear processes to do the job. Malone doubted that the
aborigine knew anything about thermonuclear processes, but he could
start a fire with them.

As a matter of fact, he told himself, the aborigine didn't understand
oxidation, either. But he could use that fire, when he got it going.
In spite of his lack of knowledge, the aborigine could use that nice,
hot, burning fire...

Hurriedly, Malone pried his thoughts away from aborigines and heat,
and tried to focus his mind elsewhere. He didn't understand psionic
processes, he thought; but then, nobody did, really, as far as he
knew. But he could use them.

And, obviously, somebody else could use them too.

Only what kind of force was being used? What kind of psionic force
would it take to make so many people in the United States goof up the
way they were doing?

That, Malone told himself, was a good question, a basic and an
important question. He was proud of himself for thinking of it.

Unfortunately, he didn't have the answer.

But he thought he knew a way of getting one.

It was perfectly true that nobody knew much about how psionics worked.
For that matter, nobody knew very much about how gravity worked. But
there was still some information, and, in the case of psionics, Malone
knew where it was to be found.

It was to be found in Yucca Flats, Nevada.

It was, of course, true that Nevada would probably be even hotter than
Washington, D. C. But there was no help for that, Malone told himself
sadly; and, besides, the cold chill of the expert himself would
probably cool things off quite rapidly. Malone thought of Dr. Thomas
O'Connor, the Westinghouse psionics expert and frowned. O'Connor was
not exactly what might be called a friendly man.

But he did know more about psionics than anyone else Malone could
think of. And his help had been invaluable in solving the two previous
psionic cases Malone had worked on.

For a second he thought of calling O'Connor, but he brushed that
thought aside bravely. In spite of the heat of Yucca Flats, he would
have to talk to the man personally. He thought again of O'Connor's
congealed personality, and wondered if it would really be effective in
combating the heat. If it were, he told himself, he would take the man
right back to Washington with him, and plug him into the
air-conditioning lines.

He sighed deeply, thought about a cigar and decided regretfully
against it, here on the public street where he would be visible to
anyone. Instead, he looked around him, discovered that he was only a
block from a large, neon-lit drugstore and headed for it. Less than a
minute later he was in a phone booth.

The operators throughout the country seemed to suffer from heat
prostration, and Malone was hardly inclined to blame them. But, all
the same, it took several minutes for him to get through to Dr.
O'Connor's office, and a minute or so more before he could convince a
security-addled secretary that, after all, he would hardly blow
O'Connor to bits over the long-distance phone.

Finally the secretary, with a sigh of reluctance, said she would see
if Dr. O'Connor were available. Malone waited in the phone booth,
opening the door every few seconds to breathe. The booth was
air-conditioned, but remained for some mystical reason an even ten
degrees above the boiling point of Malone's temper.

Finally Dr. O'Connor's lean, pallid face appeared on the screen. He
had not changed since Malone had last seen him. He still looked, and
acted, like one of Malone's more disliked law professors.

"Ah," the scientist said in a cold, precise voice. "Mr. Malone. I am
sorry for our precautions, but you understand that security must be
served."

"Sure," Malone said.

"Being an FBI man, of course you would," Dr. O'Connor went on, his
face changing slightly and his voice warming almost to the boiling
point of nitrogen. It was obvious that the phrase was Dr. O'Connor's
idea of a little joke, and Malone smiled politely and nodded. The
scientist seemed to feel some friendliness toward Malone, though it
was hard to tell for sure. But Malone had brought him some fine
specimens to work with--telepaths and teleports, though human, being
no more than specimens to such a very precise scientific mind--and he
seemed grateful for Malone's diligence and effort in finding such
fascinating objects of study.

That Malone certainly hadn't started out to find them made, it
appeared, very little difference.

"Well, then," O'Connor said, returning to his normal, serious tone.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Malone?"

"If you have the time, Doctor," Malone said respectfully, "I'd like to
talk to you for a few minutes." He had the absurd feeling that
O'Connor was going to tell him to stop by after class, but the
scientist only nodded.

"Your call is timed very well," he said. "As it happens, Mr. Malone, I
do have a few seconds to spare just now."

"Fine," Malone said.

"I should be glad to talk with you," O'Connor said, without looking
any more glad than ever.

"I'll be right there," Malone said. O'Connor nodded again, and blanked
out. Malone switched off and took a deep, superheated breath of phone
booth air. For a second he considered starting his trip from outside
the phone booth, but that was dangerous--if not to Malone, then to
innocent spectators. Psionics was by no means a household word, and
the sight of Malone leaving for Nevada might send several citizens
straight to the wagon. Which was not a place, he thought judiciously,
for anybody to be on such a hot day.

He closed his eyes for a fraction of a second. In that time he
reconstructed from memory a detailed, three-dimensional, full-color
image of Dr. O'Connor's office in his mind. It was perfect in detail;
he checked it over mentally and then, by a special effort of will, he
gave himself the psychic push that made the transition possible.

When he opened his eyes, he was in O'Connor's office, standing in
front of the scientist's wide desk. He hoped nobody had been looking
into the phone booth at the instant he had disappeared, but he was
reasonably sure he'd been unobserved. People didn't go around peering
into phone booths, after all, and he had seen no one.

O'Connor looked up without surprise. "Ah," he said. "Sit down, Mr.
Malone." Malone looked around for the chair, which was an
uncomfortably straight-backed affair, and sat down in it gingerly.
Remembering past visits to O'Connor, he was grateful for even the
small amount of relaxation the hard wood afforded him. O'Connor had
only recently unbent to the point of supplying a spare chair in his
office for visitors, and, apparently, especially for Malone. Perhaps,
Malone thought, it was more gratitude for the lovely specimens.

Malone still felt uncomfortable, but tried bravely not to show it. He
felt slightly guilty, too, as he always did when he popped into
O'Connor's office without bothering to stay space-bound. By law, after
all, he knew he should check in and out at the main gate of the huge,
ultra-top-secret Government reservation whenever he visited Yucca
Flats. But that meant wasting a lot of time and going through a lot of
trouble. Malone had rationalized it out for himself that way, and had
gotten just far enough to do things the quick and easy way and not
quite far enough to feel undisturbed about it. After all, he told
himself grimly, anything that saved time and trouble increased the
efficiency of the FBI, so it was all to the good.

He swallowed hard. "Dr. O'Connor--" he began.

O'Connor looked up again. "Yes?" he said. He'd had plenty of practice
in watching people appear and disappear, between Malone and the
specimens Malone had brought him; he was beyond surprise or shock by
now.

"I came here to talk to you," Malone began again.

O'Connor nodded, a trifle impatiently. "Yes," he said. "I know that."

"Well--" Malone thought fast. Presenting the case to O'Connor was
impossible; it was too complicated, and it might violate governmental
secrecy somewhere along the line. He decided to wrap it up in a
hypothetical situation. "Doctor," he said, "I know that all the
various manifestations of the _psi_ powers were investigated and named
long before responsible scientists became interested in the subject."

"That," O'Connor said with some reluctance, "is true." He looked sad,
as if he wished they'd waited on naming some of the psionic
manifestations until he'd been born and started investigating them.
Malone tried to imagine a person doing something called O'Connorizing,
and decided he was grateful for history.

"Well, then--" he said.

"At least," O'Connor cut in, "it is true in a rather vague and general
way. You see, Mr. Malone, any precise description of a psionic
manifestation must wait until a metalanguage has grown up to encompass
it; that is, until understanding and knowledge have reached the point
where careful and accurate description can take place."

"Oh," Malone said helplessly. "Sure." He wondered if what O'Connor had
said meant anything, and decided that it probably did, but he didn't
want to know about it.

"While we have not yet reached that point," O'Connor said, "we are
approaching it in our experiments. I am hopeful that, in the near
future--"

"Well," Malone cut in desperately, "sure. Of course. Naturally."

Dr. O'Connor looked miffed. The temperature of the room seemed to drop
several degrees, and Malone swallowed hard and tried to look
ingratiating and helpful, like a student with nothing but A's on his
record.

Before O'Connor could pick up the thread of his sentence, Malone went
on: "What I mean is something like this. Picking up the mental
activity of another person is called telepathy. Floating in the air is
called levitation. Moving objects around is psychokinesis. Going from
one place to another instantaneously is teleportation. And so on."

"The language you use," O'Connor said, still miffed, "is extremely
loose. I might go so far as to say that the statements you have made
are, essentially, meaningless as a result of their lack of rigor."

Malone took a deep breath. "Dr. O'Connor," he said, "you know what I
mean, don't you?"

"I believe so," O'Connor said, with the air of a king granting a
pardon to a particularly repulsive-looking subject in the lowest
income brackets.

"Well, then," Malone said. "Yes or no?"

O'Connor frowned. "Yes or no what?" he said.

"I--" Malone blinked. "I mean, the things have names," he said at
last. "All the various psionic manifestations have names."

"Ah," O'Connor said. "Well. I should say--" He put his fingertips
together and stared at a point on the white ceiling for a second.
"Yes," he said at last.

Malone breathed a sigh of relief. "Good," he said. "That's what I
wanted to know." He leaned forward. "And if they all do have names,"
he went on, "what is it called when a large group of people are forced
to act in a certain manner?"

O'Connor shrugged. "Forced?" he said.

"Forced by mental power," Malone said.

There was a second of silence.

"At first," O'Connor said, "I might think of various examples: the
actions of a mob, for example, or the demonstrations of the Indian
Rope Trick, or perhaps the sale of a useless product through
television or through other advertising." Again his face moved, ever
so slightly, in what he obviously believed to be a smile. "The usual
name for such a phenomenon is 'mass hypnotism,' Mr. Malone," he said.
"But that is not, strictly speaking, a _psi_ phenomenon at all.
Studies in that area belong to the field of mob psychology; they are
not properly in my scope." He looked vastly superior to anything and
everything that was outside his scope. Malone concentrated on looking
receptive and understanding.

"Yes?" he said.

O'Connor gave him a look that made Malone feel he'd been caught
cribbing during an exam, but the scientist said nothing to back up the
look. Instead he went on: "I will grant that there may be an
amplification of the telepathic faculty in the normal individual in
such cases."

"Good," Malone said doubtfully.

"Such an amplification," O'Connor went on, as if he hadn't heard,
"would account for the apparent--ah--mental linkage that makes a mob
appear to act as a single organism during certain periods of--ah--
stress." He looked judicious for a second, and then nodded. "However,"
he said, "other than that, I would doubt that there is any psionic
force involved."

Malone spent a second or two digesting O'Connor's reply.

"Well," he said at last, "I'm not sure that's what I meant. I mean,
I'm not sure I meant to ask that question." He took a breath and
decided to start all over. "It's not like a mob," he said, "with
everybody all doing the same thing at the same time. It's more like a
group of men, all separated, without any apparent connections between
any of the men. And they're all working toward a common goal. All
doing different things, but all with the same objective. See?"

"Of course I do," O'Connor said flatly. "But what you're suggesting--"
He looked straight at Malone. "Have you had any experience of this
... phenomenon?"

"Experience?" Malone said.

"I believe you have had," O'Connor said. "Such a concept could not
have come to you in a theoretical manner. You must be involved with an
actual situation very much like the one you describe."

Malone swallowed. "Me?" he said.

"Mr. Malone," O'Connor said. "May I remind you that this is Yucca
Flats? That the security checks here are as careful as anywhere in the
world? That I, myself, have top-security clearance for many special
projects? You do not need to watch your words here."

"It's not security," Malone said. "Anyhow, it's not only security. But
things are pretty complicated."

"I assure you," O'Connor said, "that I will be able to understand even
events which you feel are complex."

Malone swallowed again, hard. "I didn't mean--" he started.

"Please, Mr. Malone," O'Connor said. His voice was colder than usual.
Malone had the feeling that he was about to take the extra chair away.
"Go on," O'Connor said. "Explain yourself."

Malone took a deep breath. He started with the facts he'd been told by
Burris, and went straight through to the interviews of the two
computer-secretary technicians by Boyd and Company.

It took quite awhile. By the time he had finished, O'Connor wasn't
looking frozen any more; he'd apparently forgotten to keep the freezer
coils running. Instead, his face showed frank bewilderment, and great
interest. "I never heard of such a thing," he said. "Never. Not at any
time."

"But--"

O'Connor shook his head. "I have never heard of a psionic
manifestation on that order," he said. It seemed to be a painful
admission. "Something that would make a random group of men co-operate
in that manner--why, it's completely new."

"It is?" Malone said, wondering if, when it was all investigated and
described, it might be called O'Connorizing. Then he wondered how
anybody was going to go about investigating it and describing it, and
sank even deeper into gloom.

"Completely new," O'Connor said. "You may take my word." Then, slowly,
he began to brighten again, with all the glitter of newly-formed ice.
"As a matter of fact," he said, in a tone more like his usual one, "as
a matter of fact, Mr. Malone, I don't think it's possible."

"But it happened," Malone said. "It's still happening. All over."

O'Connor's lips tightened. "I have given my opinion," he said. "I do
not believe that such a thing is possible. There must be some other
explanation."

"All right," Malone said agreeably. "I'll bite. What is it?"

O'Connor frowned. "Your levity," he said, "is uncalled-for."

Malone shrugged. "I didn't mean to be--" He paused. "Anyhow, I didn't
mean to be funny," he went on. "But I would like to have another idea
of what's causing all this."

"Scientific theories," O'Connor said sternly, "are not invented on the
spur of the moment. Only after long, careful thought."

"You mean you can't think of anything," Malone said.

"There must be some other explanation," O'Connor said. "Naturally,
since the facts have only now been presented to me, it is impossible
for me to display at once a fully-constructed theory."

Malone nodded slowly. "Okay," he said. "Have you got any hints, then?
Any ideas at all?"

O'Connor shook his head. "I have not," he said. "But I strongly
suggest, Mr. Malone, that you recheck your data. The fault may very
well lie in your own interpretations of the actual facts."

"I don't think so," Malone said.

O'Connor grimaced. "I do," he said firmly.

Malone sighed, very faintly. He shifted in the chair and began to
realize, for the first time, just how uncomfortable it really was. He
also felt a little chilly, and the chill was growing. That, he told
himself, was the effect of Dr. O'Connor. He no longer regretted
wearing his hat. As a matter of fact, he thought wistfully for a
second of a small, light overcoat.

O'Connor, he told himself, was definitely not the warm, friendly type.

"Well, then," he said, conquering the chilly feeling for a second,
"maybe there's somebody else. Somebody who knows something more about
psionics, and who might have some other ideas about--"

"Please, Mr. Malone," O'Connor said. "The United States Government
would hardly have chosen me had I not been uniquely qualified in my
field."

Malone sighed again. "I mean, maybe there are some books on the
subject," he said quietly, hoping he sounded tactful. "Maybe there's
something I could look up."

"Mr. Malone." The temperature of the office, Malone realized, was
definitely lowering. O'Connor's built-in freezer coils were working
overtime, he told himself. "The field of psionics is so young that I
can say, without qualification, that I am acquainted with everything
written on the subject. By that, of course, I mean scientific works. I
do not doubt that the American Society for Psychical Research, for
instance, has hundreds of crackpot books which I have never read, or
even heard of. But in the strictly scientific field, I must say
that--"

He broke off, looking narrowly at Malone with what might have been
concern, but looked more like discouragement and boredom.

"Mr. Malone," he said, "are you ill?"

Malone thought about it. He wasn't quite sure, he discovered. The
chill in the office was bothering him more and more, and as it grew he
began to doubt that it was all due to the O'Connor influence. Suddenly
a distinct shudder started somewhere in the vicinity of his shoulders
and rippled its way down his body.

Another one followed it, and then a third.

"Mr. Malone," O'Connor said.

"Me?" Malone said. "I'm--I'm all right."

"You seem to have contracted a chill," O'Connor said.

A fourth shudder followed the other three.

"I--guess so," Malone said. "I d-d--I do s-seem to be r-r-rather
chilly."

O'Connor nodded. "Ah," he said. "I thought so. Although a chill is
certainly odd at seventy-two degrees Fahrenheit." He looked at the
thermometer just outside the window of his office, then turned back to
Malone. "Pardon me," he said. "Seventy-one point six."

"Is--is that all it is?" Malone said. Seventy-one point six degrees,
or even seventy-two, hardly sounded like the broiling Nevada desert
he'd expected.

"Of course," O'Connor said. "At nine o'clock in the morning, one would
hardly expect great temperatures. The desert becomes quite hot during
the day, but cools off rapidly; I assume you are familiar with the
laws covering the system."

"Sure," Malone said. "S-sure."

The chills were not getting any better. They continued to travel up
and down his body with the dignified regularity of Pennsylvania
Railroad commuter trains.

O'Connor frowned for a second. It was obvious that his keen scientific
eye was sizing up the phenomenon, and reporting events to his keen
scientific brain. In a second or less, the keen scientific brain had
come up with an answer, and Dr. O'Connor spoke in his very keenest
scientific voice.

"I should have warned you," he said, without an audible trace of
regret. "The answer is childishly simple, Mr. Malone. You left
Washington at noon."

"Just a little before noon," Malone said. Remembering the burning sun,
he added: "High noon. Very high."

"Just so," O'Connor said. "And not only the heat was intense; the
humidity, I assume, was also high."

"Very," Malone said, thinking back. He shivered again.

"In Washington," O'Connor said, "it was noon. Here it is nine o'clock,
and hardly as warm. The atmosphere is quite arid, and about twenty
degrees below that obtaining in Washington."

Malone thought about it, trying to ignore the chills. "Oh," he said at
last. "And all the time I thought it was you."

"What?" O'Connor leaned forward.

"Nothing," Malone said hastily. "Nothing at all."

"My suggestion," O'Connor said, putting his fingertips together again,
"is that you take off your clothes, which are undoubtedly damp, and--"

Naturally, Malone had not brought any clothes to Yucca Flats to change
into. And when he tried to picture himself in a spare suit of Dr.
O'Connor's, the picture just wouldn't come. Besides, the idea of doing
a modified striptease in, or near, the O'Connor office was thoroughly
unattractive.

"Well," he said slowly, "thanks a lot, Doctor, but no thanks. I really
have a better idea."

"Better?" O'Connor said.

"Well, I--" Malone took a deep breath and shut his eyes.

He heard Dr. O'Connor say: "Well, Mr. Malone, goodbye. And good luck."

Then the office in Yucca Flats was gone, and Malone was standing in
the bedroom of his own apartment, on the fringes of Washington, D.C.


4

He walked over to the wall control and shut off the air-conditioning
in a hurry. He threw open a window and breathed great gulps of the
hot, humid air from the streets. In a small corner at the back of his
mind, he wondered why he was grateful for the air he had suffered
under only a few minutes before. But that, he reflected, was life. And
a very silly kind of life, too, he told himself without rancor.

In a few minutes he left the window, somewhat restored, and headed for
the shower. When it was running nicely and he was under it, he started
to sing. But his voice didn't sound as much like the voice of Lauritz
Melchior as it usually did, not even when he made a brave, if
foolhardy stab at the Melchior accent. Slowly, he began to realize
that he was bothered.

He climbed out of the shower and started drying himself. Up to now, he
thought, he had depended on Dr. Thomas O'Connor for edifying,
trustworthy and reasonably complete information about psionics and
_psi_ phenomena in general. He had looked on O'Connor as a sort of
living version of an extremely good edition of the Britannica, always
available for reference.

And now O'Connor had failed him. That, Malone thought, was hardly
fair. O'Connor had no business failing him, particularly when there
was no place else to go.

The scientist had been right, of course, Malone knew. There was no
other scientist who knew as much about psionics as O'Connor, and if
O'Connor said there were no books, then that was that: there were no
books.

He reached for a drawer in his dresser, opened it and pulled out some
underclothes, humming tunelessly under his breath as he dressed. If
there was no one to ask, he thought, and if there were no books...

He stopped with a sock in his hand, and stared at it in wonder.
O'Connor hadn't said there were no books. As a matter of fact, Malone
realized, he'd said exactly the opposite.

There were books. But they were "crackpot" books. O'Connor had never
read them. He had, he said, probably never even heard of many of them.

"Crackpot" was a fighting word to O'Connor. But to Malone it had all
the sweetness of flattery. After all, he'd found telepaths in insane
asylums, and teleports among the juvenile delinquents of New York.
"Crackpot" was a word that was rapidly ceasing to have any meaning at
all in Malone's mind.

He realized that he was still staring at the sock, which was black
with a pink clock. Hurriedly, he put it on, and finished dressing. He
reached for the phone and made a few fast calls, and then teleported
himself to his locked office in FBI Headquarters, on East 69th Street
in New York. He let himself out, and strolled down the corridor. The
agent-in-charge looked up from his desk as Malone passed, blinked, and
said, "Hello, Malone. What's up now?"

"I'm going prowling," Malone said. "But there won't be any work for
you, as far as I can see."

"Oh?"

"Just relax," Malone said. "Breathe easy."

"I'll try to," the agent-in-charge said, a little sadly. "But every
time you show up, I think about that wave of red Cadillacs you
started. I'll never feel really secure again."

"Relax," Malone said. "Next time it won't be Cadillacs. But it might
be spirits, blowing on ear-trumpets. Or whatever it is they do."

"Spirits, Malone?" the agent-in-charge said.

"No, thanks," Malone said sternly. "I never drink on duty." He gave
the agent a cheery wave of his hand and went on out to the street.

The Psychical Research Society had offices in the Ravell Building, a
large structure composed mostly of plate glass and anodized aluminum
that looked just a little like a bright blue transparent crackerbox
that had been stood on end for purposes unknown. Having walked all the
way down to this box on 56th Street, Malone had recovered his former
sensitivity range to temperature and felt pathetically grateful for
the coolish sea breeze that made New York somewhat less of an
unbearable Summer Festival than was normal.

The lobby of the building was glittering and polished, as if human
beings could not possibly exist in it. Malone took an elevator to the
sixth floor, stepped out into a small, equally polished hall, and
hurriedly looked off to his right. A small door stood there, with a
legend engraved in elegantly small letters. It said:

     _The Psychical Research Society_
                  _Push_

Malone obeyed instructions. The door swung noiselessly open, and then
closed behind him.

He was in a large square-looking room which had a couch and chair set
at one corner, and a desk at the far end. Behind the desk was a brass
plate, on which was engraved:

     _The Psychical Research Society_
               _Main Offices_

To Malone's left was a hall that angled off into invisibility, and to
the left of the desk was another one, going straight back past doors
and two radiators until it ran into a right-angled turn and also
disappeared.

Malone took in the details of his surroundings almost automatically,
filing them in his memory just in case he ever needed to use them.

One detail, however, required more than automatic attention. Sitting
behind the desk, her head just below the brass plaque, was a redhead.
She was, Malone thought, positively beautiful. Of course, he could not
see the lower two-thirds of her body, but if they were half as
interesting as the upper third and the face and head, he was willing
to spend days, weeks or even months on their investigation. Some jobs,
he told himself, feeling a strong sense of duty, were definitely worth
taking time over.

She was turned slightly away from Malone, and had obviously not heard
him come in. Malone wondered how best to announce himself, and
regretfully gave up the idea of tiptoeing up to the girl, placing his
hands over her eyes, kissing the back of her neck and crying:
"Surprise!" It was elegant, he felt, but it just wasn't _right_.

He compromised at last on the old established method of
throat-clearing to attract her attention. He was sure he could take it
from there, to an eminently satisfying conclusion.

He tiptoed on the deep-pile rug right up to her desk. He took a deep
breath.

And the expected happened.

He sneezed.

The sneeze was loud and long, and it echoed through the room and
throughout the corridors. It sounded to Malone like the blast of a
small bomb, or possibly a grenade. Startled himself by the volume of
sound he had managed to generate, he jumped back.

The girl had jumped, too, but her leap had been straight upward, about
an inch and a half. She came down on her chair and reached up a hand.
The hand wiped the back of her neck with a slow, lingering motion of
complete loathing. Then, equally slowly, she turned.

"That," she said in a low, sweet voice, "was a hell of a dirty trick."

"It was an accident," Malone said. "The Will of God."

"God has an exceedingly nasty mind," the girl said. "Something, by the
way, which I have often suspected." She regarded Malone darkly. "Do
you always do that to strangers? Is it some new sort of perversion?"

"I have never done such a thing before," Malone said sternly.

"Oh," the girl said. "An experimenter. Avid for new sensations.
Probably a jaded scion of a rich New York family." She paused. "Tell
me," she said, "is it fun?"

Malone opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He shut it, thought for
a second and then tried again. He got as far as: "I--" before Nemesis
overtook him. The second sneeze was even louder and more powerful than
the first had been.

"It must be fun," the girl said acidly, producing a handkerchief from
somewhere and going to work on her face. "You just can't seem to wait
to do it again. Would it do any good to tell you that the fascination
with this form of greeting is not universal? Or don't you care?"

"Damn it," Malone said, goaded, "I've got a cold."

"And you feel you should share it with the world," the girl said. "I
quite understand. Tell me, is there anything I can do for you? Or has
your mission been accomplished?"

"My mission?" Malone said.

"Having sneezed twice at me," the girl said, "do you feel satisfied?
Will you vanish softly and silently away? Or do you want to sneeze at
somebody else?"

"I want the president of the Society," Malone said. "According to my
information, his name is Sir Lewis Carter."

"And if you sneeze at him," the girl said, "yours is going to be mud.
He isn't much on novelty."

"I--"

"Besides which," she said, "he's extremely busy. And I don't think
he'll see you at all. Why don't you go and sneeze at somebody else?
There must be lots of people who would consider themselves honored to
be noticed, especially in such a startling way. Why don't you try and
find one somewhere? Somewhere very far away."

Malone was beyond speech. He fumbled for his wallet, flipped it open
and showed the girl his identification.

"My, my," she said. "And hasn't the FBI anything better to do? I mean,
can't you go and sneeze at counterfeiters in their lairs, or wherever
they might be?"

"I want to see Sir Lewis Carter," Malone said doggedly.

The girl shrugged and picked up the phone on the desk. It was a
blank-vision device, of course; many office intercoms were. She
dialed, waited and then said, "Sir Lewis, please." Another second went
by. Then she spoke again. "Sir Lewis," she said, "this is Lou, at the
front desk. There's a man here named Malone, who wants to see you."

She waited a second. "I don't know what he wants," she told the phone.
"But he's from the FBI." A second's pause. "That's right, the FBI,"
she said. "All right, Sir Lewis. Right away." She hung up the phone
and turned to watch Malone warily.

"Sir Lewis," she said, "will see you. I couldn't say why. But take the
side corridor to the rear of the suite. His office has his name on it,
and I won't tell you you can't miss it because I have every faith that
you will. Good luck."

Malone blinked. "Look," he said. "I know I startled you, but I didn't
mean to. I--" He started to sneeze, but this time he got his own
handkerchief out in time and muffled the explosion slightly.

"Good work," the girl said approvingly. "Tell me, Mr. Malone, have you
been toilet-trained, too?"

There was nothing at all to say to that remark, Malone reflected as he
wended his way down the side corridor. It seemed endless, and kept
branching off unexpectedly. Once he blundered into a large open room
filled with people at desks. A woman who seemed to have a great many
teeth and rather bulbous eyes looked up at him. "Can I help you?" she
said in a fervent whine.

"I sincerely hope not," Malone said, backing away and managing to find
the corridor once more. After what seemed like a long time, and two
more sneezes, he found a small door which was labeled in capital
letters:

     THE PSYCHICAL RESEARCH SOCIETY
             SIR LEWIS CARTER
                PRESIDENT

Malone sighed. "Well," he muttered, "they certainly aren't hiding
anything." He pushed at the door, and it swung open.

Sir Lewis was a tall, solidly-built man with a kindly expression. He
wore grey flannel trousers and a brown tweed jacket, which made an
interesting color contrast with his iron-grey hair. His teeth were
clenched so firmly on the bit of a calabash pipe with a meerschaum
bowl that Malone wondered if he could ever get loose. Malone shut the
door behind him, and Sir Lewis rose and extended a hand.

Malone went to the desk and reached across to take the hand. It was
firm and dry. "I'm Kenneth Malone," Malone said.

"Ah, yes," Sir Lewis said. "Pleased to meet you. Always happy, of
course, to do whatever I can for your FBI. Not only a duty, so to
speak, but a pleasure. Sit down. Please do sit down."

Malone found a chair at the side of the desk, and sank into it. It was
soft and comfortable. It provided such a contrast to O'Connor's
furnishings that Malone began to wish it was Sir Lewis who was
employed at Yucca Flats. Then he could tell Sir Lewis everything about
the case.

Now, of course, he could only hedge and try to make do without stating
very many facts. "Sir Lewis," he said, "I trust you'll keep this
conversation confidential."

"Naturally," Sir Lewis said. He removed the pipe, stared at it, and
replaced it.

"I can't give you the full details," Malone went on, "but the FBI is
presently engaged in an investigation which requires the specialized
knowledge your organization seems to have."

"FBI?" Sir Lewis said. "Specialized investigation?" He seemed pleased,
but a trifle puzzled. "Dear boy, anything we have is at your disposal,
of course. But I quite fail to see how you can consider us--"

"It's rather an unusual problem," Malone said, feeling that that was
the understatement of the year. "But I understand that your records go
back nearly a century."

"Quite true," Sir Lewis murmured.

"During that time," Malone said, "the Society investigated a great
many supposedly supernatural or supernormal incidents."

"Many of them," Sir Lewis said, "were discovered to be fraudulent, I'm
afraid. The great majority, in fact."

"That's what I'd assume," Malone said. He fished in his pockets, found
a cigarette and lit it. Sir Lewis went on chewing at his unlit pipe.
"What we're interested in," Malone said, "is some description of the
various methods by which these frauds were perpetrated."

"Ah," Sir Lewis said. "The tricks of the trade, so to speak?"

"Exactly," Malone said.

"Well, then," Sir Lewis said. "The luminous gauze, for instance, that
passes for ectoplasm; the various methods of table-lifting; control of
the Ouija board--things like that?"

"Not quite that elementary," Malone said. He puffed on the cigarette,
wishing it was a cigar. "We're pretty much up to that kind of thing.
But had it ever occurred to you that many of the methods used by phony
mind-reading acts, for instance, might be used as communication
methods by spies?"

"Why, I believe some have been," Sir Lewis said. "Though I don't know
much about that, of course; there was a case during the First World
War--"

"Exactly," Malone said. He took a deep breath. "It's things like that
we're interested in," he said, and spent the next twenty minutes
slowly approaching his subject. Sir Lewis, apparently fascinated, was
perfectly willing to unbend in any direction, and jotted down notes on
some of Malone's more interesting cases, murmuring: "Most unusual,
most unusual," as he wrote.

The various types of phenomena that the Society had investigated came
into the discussion, and Malone heard quite a lot about the Beyond,
the Great Summerland, Spirit Mediums and the hypothetical existence of
fairies, goblins and elves.

"But, Sir Lewis--" he said.

"I make no claims personally," Sir Lewis said. "But I understand that
there is a large and somewhat vocal group which does make rather
solid-sounding claims in that direction. They say that they have seen
fairies, talked with goblins, danced with the elves."

"They must be very unusual people," Malone said, understating heavily.

"Oh," Sir Lewis said, without a trace of irony, "they certainly are."

Talk like this passed away nearly a half-hour, until Malone finally
felt that it was the right time to introduce some of his real
questions. "Tell me, Sir Lewis," he said. "Have you had many instances
of a single man, or a small group of men, controlling the actions of a
much larger group? And doing it in such a way that the larger group
doesn't even know it is being manipulated?"

"Of course I have," Sir Lewis said. "And so have you. They call it
advertising."

Malone flicked his cigarette into an ashtray. "I didn't mean exactly
that," he said. "Suppose they're doing it in such a way that the
larger group doesn't even suspect that manipulation is going on?"

Sir Lewis removed his pipe and frowned at it. "I may be able to give
you a little information," he said slowly, "but not much."

"Ah?" Malone said, trying to sound only mildly interested.

"Outside of mob psychology," Sir Lewis said, "and all that sort of
thing, I really haven't seen any record of a case of such a thing
happening. And I can't quite imagine anyone faking it."

"But you have got some information?" Malone said.

"Certainly," Sir Lewis said. "There is always spirit control."

"Spirit control?" Malone blinked.

"Demoniac intervention," Sir Lewis said. "'My name is Legion,' you
know."

Sir Lewis Legion, Malone thought confusedly, was a rather unusual
name. He took a breath and caught hold of his revolving mind. "How
would you go about that?" he said, a little hopelessly.

"I haven't the foggiest," Sir Lewis admitted cheerfully. "But I will
have it looked up for you." He made a note. "Anything else?"

Malone tried to think. "Yes," he said at last. "Can you give me a
condensed report on what is known--and I mean _known_--on telepathy
and teleportation?"

"What you want," Sir Lewis said, "are those cases proven genuine, not
the ones in which we have established fraud, or those still in doubt."

"Exactly," Malone said. If he got no other use out of the data, it
would provide a measuring-stick for the Society. The general public
didn't know that the Government was actually using psionic powers, and
the Society's theories, checked against actual fact, would provide a
rough index of reliability to use on the Society's other data.

But spirits, somehow, didn't seem very likely. Malone sighed and stood
up.

"I'll have copies made of all the relevant material," Sir Lewis said,
"from our library and research files. Where do you want the material
sent? I do want to warn you of its bulk; there may be quite a lot of
it."

"FBI Headquarters, on 69th Street," Malone said. "And send a statement
of expenses along with it. As long as the bill's within reason, don't
worry about itemizing; I'll see that it goes through Accounting
myself."

Sir Lewis nodded. "Fine," he said. "And, if you should have any
difficulties with the material, please let me know. I'll always be
glad to help."

"Thanks for your co-operation," Malone said. He went to the door, and
walked on out.

He blundered back into the same big room again, on his way through the
corridors. The bulbous-eyed woman, who seemed to have inherited a full
set of thirty-two teeth from each of her parents, gave him a friendly
if somewhat crowded smile, but Malone pressed on without a word. After
awhile, he found the reception room again.

The girl behind the desk looked up. "How did he react?" she said.

Malone blinked. "React?" he said.

"When you sneezed at him," she said. "Because I've been thinking it
over, and I've got a new theory. You're doing a survey on how people
act when encountering sneezes. Like Kinsey."

This girl--Lou something, Malone thought, and with difficulty
refrained from adding "Gehrig"--had an unusual effect, he decided. He
wondered if there were anyone in the world she couldn't reduce to
paralyzed silence.

"Of course," she went on, "Kinsey was dealing with sex, and you
aren't. At least, you aren't during business hours." She smiled
politely at Malone.

"No," he said helplessly, "I'm not."

"It is sneezing, then," she said. "Will I be in the book when it's
published?"

"Book?" Malone said, feeling more and more like a rather low-grade
moron.

"The book on sneezing, when you get it published," she said. "I can
see it now: _The Case of Miss X, a Receptionist_."

"There isn't going to be any book," Malone said.

She shook her head. "That's a shame," she said. "I've always wanted to
be a Miss X. It sounds exciting."

"X," Malone said at random, "marks the spot."

"Why, that's the sweetest thing that's been said to me all day," the
girl said. "I thought you could hardly talk, and here you come out
with lovely things like that. But I'll bet you say it to all the
girls."

"I have never said it to anybody before," Malone said flatly. "And I
never will again."

The girl sighed. "I'll treasure it," she said. "My one great moment.
Goodbye, Mr.--Malone, isn't it?"

"Ken," Malone said. "Just call me Ken."

"And I'm Lou," the girl said. "Goodbye."

An elevator arrived and Malone ducked into it. Louie? he thought.
Louise? Luke? Of course, there was Sir Lewis Carter, who might be
called Lou. Was he related to the girl?

No, Malone thought wildly. Relations went by last names. There was no
reason for Lou to be related to Sir Lewis. They didn't even look
alike. For instance, he had no desire whatever to make a date with Sir
Lewis Carter, or to take him to a glittering nightclub, or to make him
any whispered propositions. And the very idea of Sir Lewis Carter
sitting on the Malone lap was enough to give him indigestion and spots
before the eyes.

Sternly, he told himself to get back to business. The elevator stopped
at the lobby and he got out and started down the street, feeling that
consideration of the lady known as Lou was much more pleasant. After
all, what did he have to work with, as far as his job was concerned?

So far, two experts had told him that his theory was full of lovely
little holes. Worse than that, they had told him that mass control of
human beings was impossible, as far as they knew.

And maybe it was impossible, he told himself sadly. Maybe he should
just junk his whole theory and think up a new one. Maybe there was no
psionics involved in the thing at all, and Boyd and O'Connor were
right.

Of course, he had a deep-seated conviction that psionics was somewhere
at the root of everything, but that didn't necessarily mean anything.
A lot of people had deep-seated convictions that they were beetles, or
that the world was flat And then again, murderers often suffered as a
result of deep-seated convictions of one sort or another.

On the other hand, maybe he had invented a whole new psionic theory
or, at least, observed some new psionic facts. Maybe they would call
the results Malonizing, instead of O'Connorizing. He tried to picture
a man opening a door and saying: "Come out quick, Mr. Frembits is
Malonizing again."

It didn't sound very plausible. But, after all, he did have a
deep-seated conviction. He tried to think of a shallow-seated
conviction, and failed. Didn't convictions ever stand up, anyhow, or
lie down?

He shook his head, discovered that he was on 69th Street, and headed
for the FBI Headquarters. His convictions, he had found, were
sometimes an expression of his precognitive powers; he determined to
ride with them, at least for awhile.

By the time he came to the office of the agent-in-charge, he had
figured out the beginnings of a new line of attack.

"How about the ghosts?" the agent-in-charge asked as he passed.

"They'll be along," Malone said. "In a big bundle, addressed to me
personally. And don't open the bundle."

"Why not?" the agent-in-charge asked.

"Because I don't want the things to get loose and run around saying
boo to everybody," Malone said brightly, and went on.

He opened the door of his private office, went inside and sat down at
the desk there. He took his time about framing a thought, a single,
clear, deliberate thought:

_Your Majesty, I'd like to speak to you._

He hardly had time to finish it. A flash of color appeared in the
room, just a few feet from his desk. The flash resolved itself into a
tiny, grandmotherly-looking woman with a coronal of white hair and a
kindly, twinkling expression. She was dressed in the full court
costume of the First Elizabethan period, and this was hardly
surprising to Malone. The little old lady believed, quite firmly, that
she was Queen Elizabeth I, miraculously preserved over all these
centuries. Malone, himself, had practically forgotten that the woman's
real name was Rose Thompson, and that she had only been alive for
sixty-five years or so. For most of that time, she had been insane.

For all of that time, however, she had been a genuine telepath. She
had been discovered during the course of Malone's first psionic case,
and by now she had even learned to teleport by "reading" the process
in Malone's mind.

"Good afternoon, Sir Kenneth," she said in a regal, kindly voice. She
was mad, he knew, but her delusion was nicely kept within bounds. All
of her bright world hinged on the single fact that she was unshakably
certain of her royalty. As long as the FBI catered to that notion--
which included a Royal dwelling for her in Yucca Flats, and the
privilege of occasionally knighting FBI agents who had pleased her
unpredictable fancy--she was perfectly rational on all other points.
She co-operated with Dr. O'Connor and with the FBI in the
investigation of her psionic powers, and she had given her Royal word
not to teleport except at Malone's personal request.

"I'd like to talk to you," Malone said, "Your Majesty."

There was an odd note in the Queen's voice, and an odd, haunted
expression on her face. "I've been hoping you'd ask me to come," she
said.

"I had a hunch you were following me telepathically," Malone said.
"Can you give me any help?"

"I--I really don't know," she said. "It's something new, and something
disturbing. I've never come across anything like it before."

"Like what?" Malone asked.

"It's the--" She made a gesture that conveyed nothing at all to
Malone. "The--the static," she said at last.

Malone blinked. "Static?" he said.

"Yes," she said. "You're not telepathic, so I can't tell you what it's
really like. But--well, Sir Kenneth, have you ever seen disturbance on
a TV screen, when there's some powerful electric output nearby? The
bright, senseless snowstorms, the meaningless hash?"

"Sure," Malone said.

"It's like that," she said. "It's a sudden, meaningless, disturbing
blare of telepathic energy."

The telephone rang once. Malone ignored it.

"What's causing these disturbances?" he asked.

She shook her head. "I don't know, Sir Kenneth. I don't know," she
said. "I can't pick up a person's mind over a distance unless I know
him, and I can't see what's causing this at all. It's--frankly, Sir
Kenneth, it's rather terrifying."

The phone rang again.

"How long have you been experiencing this disturbance?" Malone asked.
He looked at the phone.

"The telephone isn't important," Her Majesty said. "It's only Sir
Thomas, calling to tell you he's arrested three spies, and that
doesn't matter at all."

"It doesn't?"

"Not at all," Her Majesty said. "What does matter is that I've only
been picking up these flashes since you were assigned to this new
case, Sir Kenneth. And..." She paused.

"Well?" Malone said.

"And they only appear," Her Majesty said, "when I'm tuned to _your_
mind!"


5

Malone stared. He tried to say something but he couldn't find any
words. The telephone rang again and he pushed the switch with a sense
of relief. The beard-fringed face of Thomas Boyd appeared on the
screen.

"You're getting hard to find," Boyd said. "I think you're letting fame
and fortune go to your head."

"I left word at the office that I was coming here," Malone said
aggrievedly.

"Sure you did," Boyd said. "How do you think I found you? Am I
telepathic? Do I have strange powers?"

"Wouldn't surprise me in the least," Malone said. "Now, about those
spies--"

"See what I mean?" Boyd said. "How did you know?"

"Just lucky, I guess," Malone murmured. "But what about them?"

"Well," Boyd said, "we picked up two men working in the Senate Office
Building, and another one working for the State Department."

"And they are spies?" Malone said. "Real spies?"

"Oh, they're real enough," Boyd said. "We've known about 'em for
years, and I finally decided to pick them up for questioning. God
knows, but maybe they have something to do with all this mess that's
bothering everybody."

"You haven't the faintest idea what you mean," Malone said. "Mess is
hardly the word."

Boyd snorted. "You go on getting yourself confused," he said, "while
some of us do the real work. After all--"

"Never mind the insults," Malone said. "How about the spies?"

"Well," Boyd said, a trifle reluctantly, "they've been working as
janitors and maintenance men, and of course we've made sure they
haven't been able to get their hands on any really valuable
information."

"So they've suddenly turned into criminal masterminds," Malone said.
"After being under careful surveillance for years."

"Well, it's possible," Boyd said defensively.

"Almost anything is possible," Malone said.

"Some things," Boyd said carefully, "are more possible than others."

"Thank you, Charles W. Aristotle," Malone said. "I hope you realize
what you've done, picking up those three men. We might have been able
to get some good lines on them, if you'd left them where they were."

There is an old story about a general who went on an inspection tour
of the front during World War I, and, putting his head incautiously up
out of a trench, was narrowly missed by a sniper's bullet. He turned
to a nearby sergeant and bellowed: "Get that sniper!"

"Oh, we've got him spotted, sir," the sergeant said. "He's been there
for six days now."

"Well, then," the general said, "why don't you blast him out of
there?"

"Well, sir, it's this way," the sergeant explained. "He's fired about
sixty rounds since he's been out there, and he hasn't hit anything
yet. We're afraid if we get rid of him they'll put up somebody who
_can_ shoot."

This was standard FBI policy when dealing with minor spies. A great
many had been spotted, including four in the Department of Fisheries.
But known spies are easier to keep track of than unknown ones. And, as
long as they're allowed to think they haven't been spotted, they may
lead the way to other spies or spy networks.

"I thought it was worth the risk," Boyd said. "After all, if they have
something to do with the case--"

"But they don't," Malone said.

"Damn it," Boyd exploded, "let me find out for myself, will you?
You're spoiling all the fun."

"Well, anyhow," Malone said, "they don't."

"You can't afford to take any chances," Boyd said. "After all, when I
think about William Logan, I tell myself we'd better take care of
every lead."

"Well," Malone said finally, "you may be right. And then again, you
may be normally wrong."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Boyd said.

"How should I know?" Malone said. "I'm too busy to go around and
around like this. But since you've picked the spies up, I suppose it
won't do any harm to find out if they know anything."

Boyd snorted again. "Thank you," he said, "for your kind permission."

"I'll be right down," Malone said.

"I'll be waiting," Boyd said. "In Interrogation Room 7. You'll
recognize me by the bullet hole in my forehead and the strange South
American poison, hitherto unknown to science, in my esophagus."

"Very funny," Malone said. "Don't give up the ship."

Boyd switched off without a word. Malone shrugged at the blank screen
and pushed his own switch. Then he turned slowly back to Her Majesty,
who was standing, waiting patiently, at the opposite side of the desk.
Interference, he thought, located around him...

"Why yes," she said. "That's exactly what I did say."

Malone blinked. "Your Majesty," he said, "would you mind terribly if I
asked you questions before you answered them? I know you can see them
in my mind, but it's simpler for me to do things the normal way, just
now."

"I'm sorry," she said sincerely. "I do agree that matters are confused
enough already. Please go on."

"Thank you, Your Majesty," Malone said. "Well, then. Do you mean that
_I'm_ the one causing all this mental static?"

"Oh, no," she said. "Not at all. It's definitely coming from somewhere
else, and it's beamed at you, or beamed around you."

"But--"

"It's just that I can only pick it up when I'm tuned to your mind,"
she said.

"Like now?" Malone said.

She shook her head. "Right now," she said, "there isn't any. It only
happens every once in awhile, every so often, and not continuously."

"Does it happen at regular intervals?" Malone asked.

"Not as far as I've been able to tell," Her Majesty said. "It just
happens, that's all. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to
it. Except that it did start when you were assigned to this case."

"Lovely," Malone said. "Perfectly lovely. And what is it supposed to
mean?"

"Interference," she said. "Static. Jumble. That's all it means. I just
don't know any more than that, Sir Kenneth; I've never experienced
anything like it in my life. It really does disturb me."

That, Malone told himself, he could believe. It must be an experience,
he told himself, like having someone you were looking at suddenly
dissolve into a jumble of meaningless shapes and lights.

"That's a very good analogy," Her Majesty said. "If you'll pardon me
speaking before you've voiced your thought."

"Not at all," Malone said. "Go right ahead."

"Well, then," Her Majesty said. "The analogy you use is a good one.
It's just as disturbing and as meaningless as that."

"And you don't know what's causing it?" Malone said.

"I don't know," she said.

"Nor what the purpose of it is?" he said.

Her Majesty shook her head slowly. "Sir Kenneth," she said, "I don't
even know whether or not there _is_ any purpose."

Malone sighed deeply. Nothing in the case seemed to make any sense. It
wasn't that there were no clues, or no information for him to work
with. There were a lot of clues, and there was a lot of information.
But nothing seemed to link up with anything else. Every new fact was a
bright, shiny arrow pointing nowhere in particular.

"Well, then--" he started.

The intercom buzzed. Malone jabbed ferociously at the button. "Yes?"
he said.

"The ghosts are here," the agent-in-charge's voice said.

Malone blinked. "What?" he said.

"You said you were going to get some ghosts," the agent-in-charge
said. "From the Psychical Research Society, in a couple of large
bundles. And they're here now. Want me to exorcise 'em for you?"

"No," Malone said wearily. "Just send them in to join the crowd. Got a
messenger?"

"I'll send them down," the agent-in-charge said. "About one minute."

Malone nodded, realized the man couldn't see him, said: "Fine," and
switched off. He looked at his watch. A little over half an hour had
passed since he had left the Psychical Research Society offices. That,
he told himself, was efficiency.

Not that the books would mean anything, he thought. They would just
take their places at the end of the long row of meaningless,
disturbing, vicious facts that cluttered up his mind. He wasn't an FBI
agent any more; he was a clown and a failure, and he was through. He
was going to resign and go to South Dakota and live the life of a
hermit. He would drink goat's milk and eat old shoes or something, and
whenever another human being came near he would run away and hide.
They would call him Old Kenneth, and people would write articles for
magazines about The Twentieth Century Hermit.

And that would make him famous, he thought wearily, and the whole
circle would start all over again.

"Now, now, Sir Kenneth," Queen Elizabeth said. "Things aren't quite
that bad."

"Oh, yes, they are," Malone said. "They're even worse."

"I'm sure we can find an answer to all your questions," Her Majesty
said.

"Sure," Malone said. "Even I can find an answer. But it isn't the
right one."

"You can?" Her Majesty said.

"That's right," Malone said. "My answer is: to hell with everything."

* * * * *

Malone's Washington offices didn't look any different. He sighed and
put the two big packages from the Psychical Research Society down on
his desk, and then turned to Her Majesty.

"I wanted you to teleport along with me," he said, "because I need
your help."

"Yes," she said. "I know."

He blinked. "Oh. Sure you do. But let me go over the details."

Her Majesty waved a gracious hand. "If you like, Sir Kenneth," she
said.

Malone nodded. "We're going on down to Interrogation Room 7 now," he
said. "Next door to it, there's an observation room, with a one-way
panel in the wall. You'll be able to see us, but we won't be able to
see you."

"I really don't require an observation panel," Her Majesty said. "If I
enter your mind, I can see through your eyes."

"Oh, sure," Malone said. "But the observation room was built for more
normal people--saving your presence, Your Majesty."

"Of course," she said.

"Now," Malone went on, "I want you to watch all three of the men we're
going to bring in, and dig everything you can out of their minds."

"Everything?" she said.

"We don't know what might be useful," Malone said. "Anything you can
find. And if you want any questions asked--if there's anything you
think I ought to ask the men, or say to them--there's a non-vision
phone in the observation room. Just lift the receiver. That
automatically rings the one in the interrogation room and I'll pick it
up. Understand?"

"Perfectly, Sir Kenneth," she said.

"Okay, then," Malone said. "Let's go." They headed for the door.
Malone stopped as he opened it. "And by the way," he said.

"Yes?"

"If you get any more of those disturbances, let me know."

"At once," Her Majesty promised.

They went on down the hall and took the elevator down to Interrogation
Room 7, on the lowest level. There was no particular reason for
putting the interrogation section down there, except that it tended to
make prisoners more nervous. And a nervous prisoner, Malone knew, was
very possibly a confessing prisoner.

Malone ushered Her Majesty through the unmarked door of the
observation chamber, made sure that the panel and phone were in
working order, and went out. He stepped into Interrogation Room 7
trying hard to look bored, businesslike and unbeatable. Boyd and four
other agents were already there, all standing around and talking
desultorily in low tones. None of them looked as if they had a
moment's worry in their lives. It was all part of the same technique,
of course, Malone thought. Make the prisoner feel resistance is
useless, and you've practically got him working for you.

The prisoner was a hulking, flabby fat man in work coveralls. He had
black hair that spilled all over his forehead, and tiny button eyes.
He was the only man in the room who was sitting down, and that was
meant to make him feel even more inferior and insecure. His hands were
clasped fatly in his lap, and he was staring down at them in a
regretful manner. None of the agents paid the slightest attention to
him. The general impression was that something really tough was coming
up, but that they were in no hurry for it. They were willing to wait
for the third degree, it seemed, until the blacksmith had done a
really good job with the new spikes for the Iron Maiden.

The prisoner looked up apprehensively as Malone shut the door. Malone
paid no attention to him, and the prisoner unclasped his hands, rubbed
them on his coveralls and then reclasped them in his lap. His eyes
fell again.

Boyd looked up too. "Hello, Ken," he said. He tapped a sheaf of papers
on the single table in the room. Malone went over and picked them up.

They were the abbreviated condensations of three dossiers. All three
of the men covered in the dossiers were naturalized citizens, but all
had come in as "political refugees" from Hungary, from Czechoslovakia,
and from East Germany. Further checking had turned up the fact that
all three were actually Russians. They had been using false names
during their stay in the United States, but their real ones were
appended to the dossiers.

The fat one in the interrogation room was named Alexis Brubitsch. The
other two, who were presumably waiting separately in other rooms, were
Ivan Borbitsch and Vasili Garbitsch. The collection sounded, to
Malone, like a seedy musical-comedy firm of lawyers: Brubitsch,
Borbitsch and Garbitsch. He could picture them dancing gaily across a
stage while the strains of music followed them, waving legal forms and
telephones and singing away.

Brubitsch did not, however, look very gay. Malone went over to him
now, walking slowly, and looked down. Boyd came and stood next to him.

"This is the one who won't talk, eh?" Malone said, wondering if he
sounded as much like Dick Tracy as he thought he did. It was a
standard opening, meant to make the prisoner think his fellows had
already confessed.

"That's him," Boyd said.

"Mmm," Malone said, trying to look as if he were deciding between the
rack and the boiling oil. Brubitsch fidgeted slightly, but he didn't
say anything.

"We didn't know whether we had to get this one to talk, too," Boyd
said. "What with the others, and all. But we did think you ought to
have a look at him." He sounded very bored. It was obvious from his
tone that the FBI didn't care in the least if Alexis Brubitsch never
opened his mouth again, in what was likely to be a very short
lifetime.

"Well," Malone said, equally bored, "we might be able to get a few
corroborative details."

Brubitsch swallowed hard. Malone ignored him.

"Now, just look at him," Boyd said. "He certainly doesn't _look_ like
the head of a spy ring, does he?"

"Of course he doesn't," Malone said. "That's probably why the Russians
used him. They figured nobody would ever look twice at a fat slob like
this. Nobody would ever suspect him of being the head man."

"I guess you're right," Boyd said. He yawned, which Malone thought was
overacting a trifle. Brubitsch saw the yawn, and one hand came up to
jerk at his collar.

"Who'd ever think," Malone said, "that he plotted those killings in
Redstone--all three of them?"

"It is surprising," Boyd said.

"But, then," Malone said, "we know he did. There isn't any doubt of
that."

Brubitsch seemed to be turning a pale green. It was a fascinating
color, unlike any other Malone had ever seen. He watched it with
interest.

"Oh, sure," Boyd said. "We've got enough evidence from the other two
to send this one to the chair tomorrow, if we want to."

"More than enough," Malone agreed.

Brubitsch opened his mouth, shut it again and closed his eyes. His
lips moved silently.

"Tell me," Boyd said conversationally, leaning down to the fat man.
"Did your orders on that job come from Moscow, or did you mastermind
it all by yourself?"

Brubitsch's eyes stirred, then snapped open as if they'd been pulled
by a string. "Me?" he said in a hoarse bass voice. "I know nothing
about this murder. What murder? I know nothing about it."

There were no such murders, of course. But Malone was not ready to let
Brubitsch know anything about that. "Oh, the ones you shot in
Redstone," he said in an offhand way.

"The what?" Brubitsch said. "I shot people? Never."

"Oh, sure you did," Boyd said. "The others say you did."

Brubitsch's head seemed to sink into his neck. "Borbitsch and
Garbitsch, they tell you about a murder? It is not true. Is a lie."

"Really?" Malone said. "We think it's true."

"Is a lie," Brubitsch said, his little eyes peering anxiously from
side to side. "Is not true," he went on hopefully. "I have alibi."

"You do?" Boyd said. "For what time?"

"For time when murder happened," Brubitsch said. "I was someplace
else."

"Well, then," Malone said, "how do you know when the murders were
done? They were kept out of the newspapers." That, he reflected, was
quite true, since the murders had never happened. But he watched
Brubitsch with a wary eye.

"I know nothing about time," Brubitsch said, jerking at his collar. "I
don't know when they happened."

"Then how can you have an alibi?" Boyd snapped.

"Because I didn't do them!" Brubitsch said tearfully. "If I didn't,
then I _must_ have alibi!"

"You'd be surprised," Malone said. "Now, about these murders--"

"Was no murder, not by me," Brubitsch said firmly. "Was never any
killing of anybody, not even by accident."

"But your two friends say--" Boyd began.

"My two friends are not my friends," Brubitsch said firmly. "If they
tell you about murder and say it was me, they are no friends. I did
not murder anybody, I have alibi. I did not even murder anybody a
little bit. They are no friends. This is terrible."

"There," Malone said reflectively, "I agree with you. It's positively
awful. And I think we might as well give it up. After all, we don't
need your testimony. The other two are enough; they'll get maybe ten
years apiece, but you're going to get the chair."

"I will not sit down," Brubitsch said firmly. "I am innocent. I am
innocent like a small child. Does a small child commit a murder? It is
ridiculous."

Boyd picked up his cue with ease. "You might as well give us your side
of the story, then," he said easily. "If you didn't commit any
murders--"

"I am a small child," Brubitsch announced.

"Okay," Boyd said. "But if you didn't commit any murders, just what
_have_ you been doing since you've been in this country as a Soviet
agent?"

"I will say nothing," Brubitsch announced. "I am a small child. It is
enough." He paused, blinked, and went on, "I will only tell you this:
no murders were done by our group in any of our activities."

"And what were your activities?" Malone asked.

"Oh, many things," Brubitsch said. "Many, many things. We--"

The telephone rang loudly, and Malone scooped it up with a practiced
hand. "Malone here," he said.

Her Majesty's voice was excited. "Sir Kenneth!" she said. "I just got
a tremendous burst of static!"

Malone blinked. _Is my mind acting up again?_ he thought, knowing she
would pick it up. _Am I being interfered with?_

He didn't feel any different. But then, how was he supposed to feel?

"It's not _your_ mind, Sir Kenneth," Her Majesty said. "Not this time.
It's _his_ mind. That sneaky-thinking Brubitsch fellow."

_Brubitsch?_ Malone thought. _Now what is that supposed to mean?_

"I don't know, Sir Kenneth," Her Majesty said. "But get on back to
your questioning. He's ready to talk now."

"Okay," Malone said aloud. "Fine." He hung up and looked back to the
Russian sitting on his chair. Brubitsch was ready to talk, and that
was one good thing, anyhow. But what was all the static about?

What was going on?

"Now, then," Malone said. "You were telling us about your group
activities."

"True," Brubitsch said. "I did not commit any murders. It is possible
that Borbitsch committed murders. It is maybe even possible that
Garbitsch committed murders. But I do not think so."

"Why not?" Boyd said.

"They are my friends," Brubitsch said. "Even if they tell lies. They
are also small children. Besides, I am not even the head of the
group."

"Who is?" Malone said.

"Garbitsch," Brubitsch said instantly. "He worked in the State
Department, and he told us what to look for in the Senate Office
Building."

"What were you supposed to look for?" Boyd said.

"For information," Brubitsch said. "For scraps of paper, or things we
overheard. But it was very bad, very bad."

"What do you mean, bad?" Malone said.

"Everything was terrible," Brubitsch said mournfully. "Sometimes
Borbitsch heard something and forgot to tell Garbitsch about it.
Garbitsch did not like this. He is a very inflamed person. Once he
threatened to send Borbitsch to the island of Yap as a spy. That is a
very bad place to go to. There are no enjoyments on the island of Yap,
and no ones likes strangers there. Borbitsch was very sad."

"What did you do with your information?" Boyd said.

"We remembered it," Brubitsch said. "Or, if we had a scrap of paper,
we saved it for Garbitsch and gave it to him. But I remember once that
I had some paper. It had a formula on it. I do not know what the
formula said."

"What was it about?" Malone said.

Brubitsch gave a massive shrug. "It was about an X and some numbers,"
he said. "It was not very interesting, but it was a formula, and
Garbitsch would have liked it. Unfortunately, I did not give it to
him."

"Why not?" Boyd said.

"I am ashamed," Brubitsch said, looking ashamed. "I was lighting a
cigarette in the afternoon, when I had the formula. It is a very
relaxing thing to smoke a cigarette in the afternoon. It is soothing
to the soul." He looked very sad. "I was holding the piece of paper in
one hand," he said. "Unfortunately, the match and the paper came into
contact. I burned my finger. Here." He stuck out a finger toward
Malone and Boyd, who looked at it without much interest for a second.
"The paper is gone," he said. "Don't tell Garbitsch. He is very
inflamed."

Malone sighed. "But you remember the formula," he said. "Don't you?"

Brubitsch shook his massive head very slowly. "It was not very
interesting," he said. "And I do not have a mathematical mind."

"We know," Malone said. "You are a small child."

"It was terrible," Brubitsch said. "Garbitsch was not happy about our
activities."

"What did Garbitsch do with the information?" Boyd said.

"He passed it on," Brubitsch said. "Every week he would send a
short-wave message to the homeland, in code. Some weeks he did not
send the message."

"Why not?" Malone said.

"The radio did not work," Brubitsch said simply. "We received orders
by short-wave, but sometimes we did not receive the orders. The radio
was of very poor quality, and some weeks it refused to send any
messages. On other weeks, it refused to receive any messages."

"Who was your contact in Russia?" Boyd said.

"A man named X," Brubitsch said. "Like in the formula."

"But what was his real name?" Malone said.

"Who knows?" Brubitsch said. "Does it matter?"

"What else did you do?" Boyd said.

"We met twice a week," Brubitsch said. "Sometimes in Garbitsch's home,
sometimes in other places. Sometimes we had information. At other
times, we were friends, having a social gathering."

"Friends?" Malone said.

Brubitsch nodded. "We drank together, talked, played chess. Garbitsch
is the best chess player in the group. I am not very good. But once we
had some trouble." He paused. "We had been drinking Russian liquors.
They are very strong. We decided to uphold the honor of our country."

"I think," Malone murmured sadly, "I know what's coming."

"Ah?" Brubitsch said, interested. "At any rate, we decided to honor
our country in song. And a policeman came and talked to us. He took us
down to the police station."

"Why?" Boyd said.

"He was suspicious," Brubitsch said. "We were singing the
_Internationale_, and he was suspicious. It is unreasonable."

"Oh, I don't know," Boyd said. "What happened then?"

"He took us to the police station," Brubitsch said, "and then after a
little while he let us go. I do not understand this."

"It's all right," Malone said. "I do." He drew Boyd aside for a
second, and whispered to him: "The cops were ready to charge these
three clowns with everything in the book. We had a hell of a time
springing them so we could go on watching them. I remember the
stir-up, though I never did know their names until now."

Boyd nodded, and they returned to Brubitsch, who was staring up at
them with surly eyes.

"It is a secret you are telling him," Brubitsch said. "That is not
right."

"What do you mean, it's not right?" Malone said.

"It is wrong," Brubitsch went on. "It is not the American way."

He went on, with some prodding, to tell about the activities of the
spy ring. It did not seem to be a very efficient spy ring; Brubitsch's
long sad tale of forgotten messages, mixed orders, misplaced documents
and strange mishaps was a marvel and a revelation to the listening
officers. "I've never heard anything like it," one of them whispered
in a tone of absolute wonder. "They're almost working on our side."

Over an hour later, Malone turned wearily away from the prisoner. "All
right, Brubitsch," he said. "I guess that pretty much covers things
for the moment. If we want any more information, though--"

"Call on me," Brubitsch said sadly. "I am not going anyplace. And I
will give you all the information you desire. But I did not commit any
murders."

"Goodbye, small child," Malone said, as two agents led the fat man
away. The other two left soon afterward, and Malone and Boyd were
alone.

"Think he was telling the truth?" Boyd said.

Malone nodded. "Nobody," he said, "could make up a story like that."

"I suppose so," Boyd said, and the phone rang. Malone picked it up.

"Well?" he asked.

"He was telling the truth, all right," Her Majesty said. "There are a
few more details, of course, like the girl Brubitsch was involved
with, Sir Kenneth. But she doesn't seem to have anything to do with
the spy ring, and besides, she isn't a very nice person. She always
wants money."

"Sounds perfectly lovely," Malone said. "As a matter of fact, I think
I know her. I know a lot of girls who always want money. It seems to
be in fashion."

"You don't know this one, Sir Kenneth," Her Majesty said, "and
besides, she wouldn't be a good influence on you."

Malone sighed. "How about the static explosions?" he said. "Pick up
any more?"

"No," she said. "Just that one."

Malone nodded at the receiver. "All right," he said. "We're going to
bring in the second one now. Keep up the good work."

He hung up.

"Who've you got in the observation room?" Boyd asked.

"Queen Elizabeth I," Malone said. "Her Royal Majesty."

"Oh," Boyd said without surprise. "Well, was Brubitsch telling the
truth?"

"He wasn't holding back anything important," Malone said, thinking
about the girl. It would be nice to meet a bad influence, he thought
mournfully. It would be nice to go somewhere with a bad influence (a
bad influence, he amended, with a good figure) and forget all about
his job, about the spies, about telepathy, teleportation, psionics and
everything else. It might be restful.

Unfortunately, it was impossible.

"What's this business about a static explosion?" Boyd said.

"Don't ask silly questions," Malone said. "A static explosion is a
contradiction in terms. If something is static, it doesn't move--
whoever heard of a motionless explosion?"

"If it is a contradiction in terms," Boyd said, "they're your terms."

"Sure," Malone said. "But I don't know what they mean. I don't even
know what I mean."

"You're in a bad way," Boyd said, looking sympathetic.

"I'm in a perfectly terrible way," Malone said, "and it's going to get
worse. You wait and see."

"Of course I'll wait and see," Boyd said. "I wouldn't miss the end of
the world for anything. It ought to be a great spectacle." He paused.
"Want them to bring in the next one?"

"Sure," Malone said. "What have we got to lose but our minds? And who
is the next one?"

"Borbitsch," Boyd said. "They're saving Garbitsch for a big finish."

Malone nodded wearily. "Onward," he said, and picked up the phone. He
punched a number, spoke a few words and hung up.

A minute later, the four FBI agents came back, leading a man. This one
was tall and thin, with the expression of a gloomy, degenerate and
slightly nauseated bloodhound. He was led to the chair and he sat down
in it as if he expected the worst to start happening at once.

"Well," Malone said in a bored, tired voice. "So this is the one who
won't talk."


6

Midnight.

Kenneth J. Malone sat at his desk, in his Washington office,
surrounded by piles of papers covering the desk, spilling off onto the
floor and decorating his lap. He was staring at the papers as if he
expected them to leap up, dance round him and shout the solution to
all his problems at him in trained choral voices. They did nothing at
all.

Seated cross-legged on the rug in the center of the room, and looking
like an impossible combination of the last Henry Tudor and Gautama
Buddha, Thomas Boyd did nothing either. He was staring downward, his
hands folded on his ample lap, wearing an expression of utter, burning
frustration. And on a nearby chair sat the third member of the
company, wearing the calm and patient expression of the gently-born
under all vicissitudes: Queen Elizabeth I.

"All right," Malone said into the silence. "Now let's see what we've
got."

"I think we've got cerebral paresis," Boyd said. "It's been coming on
for years."

"Don't be funny," Malone said.

Boyd gave a short, mirthless bark. "Funny?" he said. "I'm absolutely
hysterical with joy and good humor. I'm out of my mind with
happiness." He paused. "Anyway," he finished, "I'm out of my mind.
Which puts me in good company. The entire FBI, Brubitsch, Borbitsch,
Garbitsch, Dr. Thomas O'Connor and Sir Lewis Carter--we're all out of
our minds. If we weren't, we'd all move away to the moon."

"And drink to forget," Malone added. "Sure. But let's try and get some
work done."

"By all means, Sir Kenneth," Her Majesty said. Boyd had not included
her in his list of insane people, and she looked slightly miffed. It
was hard for Malone to tell whether she was miffed by the mention of
insanity, or at being left out.

"Let's review the facts," Malone said. "This whole thing started with
some inefficiency in Congress."

"And some upheavals elsewhere," Boyd said. "Labor unions, gangster
organizations."

"Just about all over," Malone said. "And though we've found three
spies, it seems pretty obvious that they aren't causing this."

"They aren't causing much of anything," Boyd said. "Except a lot of
unbelieving laughter further up the FBI line. I don't think anybody is
going to believe our reports of those interviews."

"But they're true," Her Majesty said.

"Sure they're true," Boyd said. "That's the unbelievable part. They
read like farce, and not very good farce at that."

"Oh, I don't know," Malone said. "I think they're pretty funny."

"Shall we get back to the business at hand?" Her Majesty said gently.

"Ah," Malone said. "Anyhow, it isn't the spies. And what we now have
is confusion even worse compounded."

"Confounded," Boyd said. "John Milton. _Paradise Lost_, I heard it
somewhere."

"I don't mean confounded," Malone said. "I mean confusion. Anyhow, the
Russian espionage rings in this country seem to be in as bad a state
as the Congress, the labor unions, the syndicates, and all the rest.
And all of them seem to have some sort of weird tie-in to these
flashes of telepathic interference. Right, Your Majesty?"

"I believe so, Sir Kenneth," she said. The old woman looked tired and
confused. Somehow, a lot of the brightness seemed to have gone out of
her life. "That's right," she said. "I didn't realize there was so
much of it going on. You see, Sir Kenneth, you're the only one I can
pick up at a distance who has been having these flashes. But now that
I'm here in Washington, I can feel it going on all around me."

"It may not have anything to do with everything else," Boyd said.

Malone shook his head. "If it doesn't," he said, "it's the weirdest
coincidence I've ever even dreamed about, and my dreams can be pretty
strange. No, it's got to be tied in. There's some kind of mental
static that is somehow making all these people goof up."

"But why?" Boyd said. "What is it being done for? Just fun?"

"God only knows," Malone said. "But we're going to have to find out."

"In that case," Boyd said, "I suggest lots and lots of prayers."

Her Majesty looked up. "That's a fine idea," she said.

"But God helps those," Malone said, "who help themselves. And we're
going to help ourselves. Mostly with facts."

"All right," Boyd said. "So far, all the facts have been a great
help."

"Well, here's one," Malone said. "We got one flash each from
Brubitsch, Borbitsch and Garbitsch while we were questioning them. And
in each case, that flash occurred just before they started to blab
everything they knew. Before the flash, they weren't talking. They
were behaving just like good spies and keeping their mouths shut.
After the flash, they couldn't talk fast enough."

"That's true," Boyd said reflectively. "They did seem to give up
pretty fast, even for amateurs."

Malone nodded. "So the question is this," he said. "Just what happens
during those crazy bursts of static?"

He looked expectantly at Her Majesty, but she shook her head sadly. "I
don't know," she said. "I simply don't know. It's just noise to me,
meaningless noise." She put her hands slowly over her face. "People
shouldn't do things like that to their Sovereign," she said in a
muffled voice.

Malone got up and went over to her. She wasn't crying, but she wasn't
far from it. He put an arm around her thin shoulders. "Now, look, Your
Majesty," he said in gentle tones, "this will all clear up. We'll find
out what's going on, and we'll find a way to put a stop to it."

"Sure we will," Boyd said. "After all, Your Majesty, Sir Kenneth and I
will work hard on this."

"And the Queen's own FBI," Malone said, "won't stop until we've
finished with this whole affair, once and for all."

Her Majesty brought her hands down from her face, very slowly. She was
forcing a smile, but it didn't look too well. "I know you won't fail
your Queen," she said. "You two have always been the most loyal of my
subjects."

"We'll work hard," Malone said. "No matter how long it takes."

"Because, after all," Boyd said in a musing, thoughtful tone, "it is a
serious crime, you know."

The words seemed to have an effect on Her Majesty, like a tonic. For a
second her face wore an expression of Royal anger and indignance, and
the accustomed strength flowed back into her aged voice. "You're quite
correct, Sir Thomas!" she said. "The security of the Throne and the
Crown are at stake!"

Malone blinked. "What?" he said. "Are you two talking about something?
What crime is this?"

"An extremely serious one," Boyd said in a grave voice. He rose
unsteadily to his feet, planted them firmly on the carpet, and
frowned.

"Go on," Malone said, fascinated. Her Majesty was watching Boyd with
an intent expression.

"The crime," Boyd said, "the very serious crime involved, is that of
Threatening the Welfare of the Queen. The criminal has committed the
crime of Causing the Said Sovereign, Baselessly, Reasonlessly and
Without Consent or Let, to Be in a State of Apprehension for Her Life
or Her Well-Being. And this crime--"

"Aha," Malone said. "I've got it. The crime is--"

"High treason," Boyd intoned.

"High treason," Her Majesty said with satisfaction and fire in her
voice.

"Very high treason," Malone said. "Extremely high."

"Stratospheric," Boyd agreed. "That is, of course," he added, "if the
perpetrators of this dastardly crime are Her Majesty's subjects."

"My goodness," the Queen said. "I never thought of that. Suppose
they're not?"

"Then," Malone said in his most vibrant voice, "it is an Act of War."

"Steps," Boyd said, "must be taken."

"We must do our utmost," Malone said. "Sir Thomas--"

"Yes, Sir Kenneth?" Boyd said.

"This task requires our most fervent dedication," Malone said. "Please
come with me."

He went to the desk. Boyd followed him, walking straight-backed and
tall. Malone bent and removed from a drawer of the desk a bottle of
bourbon. He closed the drawer, poured some bourbon into two handy
water-glasses from the desk, and capped the bottle. He handed one of
the water-glasses to Boyd, and raised the other one aloft.

"Sir Thomas," Malone said, "I give you Her Majesty, the Queen!"

"To the Queen!" Boyd echoed.

They downed their drinks and turned, as one man, to hurl the glasses
into the wastebasket.

In thinking it over later, Malone realized that he hadn't considered
anything about that moment silly at all. Of course, an outsider might
have been slightly surprised at the sequence of events, but Malone was
no outsider. And, after all, it was the proper way to treat a Queen,
wasn't it?

And...

When Malone had first met Her Majesty, he had wondered why, although
she could obviously read minds, and so knew perfectly well that
neither Malone nor Boyd believed she was Queen Elizabeth I, she
insisted on an outward show of respect and dedication. He'd asked her
about it at last, and her reply had been simple, reasonable and to the
point.

According to her--and Malone didn't doubt it for an instant--most
people simply didn't think their superiors were all they claimed to
be. But they acted as if they did, at least while in the presence of
those superiors. It was a common fiction, a sort of handy oil on the
wheels of social intercourse.

And all Her Majesty had ever insisted on was the same sort of
treatment.

"Bless you," she'd said, "I can't help the way you _think_, but, as
Queen, I do have some control over the way you _act_."

The funny thing, as far as Malone was concerned, was that the two
parts of his personality were becoming more and more alike. He didn't
actually believe that Her Majesty was Queen Elizabeth I, and he hoped
fervently that he never would. But he did have a great deal of respect
for her, and more affection than he had believed possible at first.
She was the grandmother Malone had never known; she was good, and
kind, and he wanted to keep her happy and contented. There had been
nothing at all phony in the solemn toast he had proposed, nor in the
righteous indignation he had felt against anyone who was giving Her
Majesty even a minute's worth of discomfort.

And Boyd, surprisingly enough, seemed to feel the same way. Malone
felt good about that; Her Majesty needed all the loyal supporters she
could get.

But all of this was later. At the time, Malone was doing nothing
except what came naturally. Nor, apparently, was Boyd. After the
glasses had been thrown, with a terrifying crash, into the metal
wastebasket, and the reverberations of that second had stopped ringing
in their ears, a moment of silence had followed.

Then Boyd turned, briskly rubbing his hands. "All right," he said.
"Let's get back to work."

Malone looked at the proud, happy look on Her Majesty's face; he saw
the glimmer of a tear in the corner of each eye. But he gave no
indication that he had noticed anything at all out of the ordinary.

"Fine," he said. "Now, getting on back to the facts, we've established
something, anyhow. Some agency is causing flashes of telepathic static
all over the place. And those flashes are somehow connected with the
confusion that's going on all around us. Somehow, these flashes have
an effect on the minds of people."

"And we know at least one manifestation of that effect," Boyd said.
"It makes spies blab all their secrets when they're exposed to it."

"These three spies, anyhow," Malone said.

"If spies is the right word," Boyd said.

"Okay," Malone said. "And now we've got another obvious question."

"It seems to me we've got about twelve," Boyd said.

"I mean, who's doing it?" Malone said. "Who is causing these
telepathic flashes?"

"Maybe it's just happening," Boyd said. "Out of thin air."

"Maybe," Malone said. "But let's go on the assumption that there's a
human cause. The other way, we can't do a thing except sit back and
watch the world go to hell."

Boyd nodded. "It doesn't seem to be the Russians," he said. "Although,
of course, it might be a Red herring."

"What do you mean?" Malone said.

"Well," Boyd said, "they might have known we were on to Brubitsch,
Borbitsch and Garbitsch--" He stopped. "You know," he said, "every
time I say that name I have to reassure myself that we're not all
walking around in the world of Florenz Ziegfeld."

"Likewise," Malone said. "But go on."

"Sure," Boyd said. "Anyhow, they might have set the three of them up
as patsies, just in case we stumbled on to this mess. We can't
overlook this possibility."

"Right," Malone said. "It's faint, but it is a possibility. In other
words, the agency behind the flashes might be Russian, and it might
not be Russian."

"That clears that up nicely," Boyd said. "Next question?"

"The next one," Malone said grimly, "is, what's behind the flashes?
Some sort of psionic power is causing them, that much is obvious."

"I'll go along with that," Boyd said. "I have to go along with it. But
don't think I like it."

"Nobody likes it," Malone said. "But let's go on. O'Connor isn't any
help; he washes his hands of the whole business."

"Lucky man," Boyd said.

"He says that it can't be happening," Malone said, "and if it is we're
all screwy. Now, right or wrong, that isn't an opinion that gives us
any handle to work with."

"No," Boyd said reflectively. "A certain amount of comfort, to be
sure, but no handles."

"Sir Lewis Carter, on the other hand--" Malone said. He fumbled
through some of the piles of paper until he had located the ones the
president of the Psychical Research Society had sent. "Sir Lewis
Carter," he went on, "does seem to be doing some pretty good work. At
least, some of the more modern stuff he sent over looks pretty solid.
They've been doing quite a bit of research into the subject, and their
theories seem to be all right, or nearly all right, to me. Of course,
I'm not an expert."

"Who is?" Boyd said. "Except for O'Connor, of course."

"Well, somebody is," Malone said. "Whoever's doing all this, for
instance. And the theories do seem okay. In most cases, for instance,
they agree with O'Connor's work, though they're not in complete
agreement."

"I should think so," Boyd said. "O'Connor wouldn't recognize an astral
plane if TWA were putting them into service."

"I don't mean that sort of thing," Malone said. "There's lots about
astral bodies and ghosts, ectoplasm, Transcendental Yoga, theosophy,
deros, the Great Pyramid, Atlantis, Mu, norns, and other such
ridiculous pets. That's just silly, as far as I can see. But what they
have to say about parapsychology and psionics as such does seem to be
reasonably accurate."

"I suppose so," Boyd said tiredly.

"Okay, then," Malone said. "Did anybody notice anything in that pile
of stuff that might conceivably have any bearing whatever on our
problems?"

"I did," Boyd said. "Or I think I did."

"You both did," Her Majesty said. "And so did I, when I looked through
it. But I didn't bother with it. I dismissed it."

"Why?" Malone said.

"Because I don't think it's true," she said. "However, my opinion is
really only an opinion." She smiled around at the others.

Malone picked up a thick sheaf of papers from one of the piles of his
desk. "Let's get straight what it is we're talking about," he said.
"All right?"

"Anything's all right with me," Boyd said. "I'm easy to please."

Malone nodded. "Now, this writer--what's his name?" he said. He
glanced at the copy of the cover page. _"Minds and Morons,"_ he read.
"By Cartier Taylor."

"Great title," Boyd said. "Does he say which is which?"

"Let's get back to serious business," Malone said, giving Boyd a
single look. There was silence for a second, and then Malone said, "He
mentions something, in the book, that he calls 'telepathic
projection.' As far as I understand what he's talking about, that's
some method of forcing your thoughts on another person." He glanced
over at the Queen. "Now, Your Majesty," he said, "you don't think it's
true--and that may only be an opinion, but it's a pretty informed one.
It seems to me as if Taylor makes a good case for this 'telepathic
projection' of his. Why don't you think so?"

"Because," Her Majesty said flatly, "it doesn't work."

"You've tried it?" Boyd put in.

"I have," she said. "And I have had no success with it at all. It's a
complete failure."

"Now, wait a minute," Boyd said. "Just a minute."

"What's the matter?" Malone said. "Have you tried it, and made it
work?"

Boyd snorted. "Fat chance," he said. "I just want to look at the
thing, that's all." He held out his hand, and Malone gave him the
sheaf of papers. Boyd leafed through them slowly, stopping every now
and again to consult a page, until he found what he was looking for.
"There," he said.

"There what?" Malone said.

"Listen to this," Boyd said. "'For those who draw the line at demonic
possession, I suggest trying telepathic projection. Apparently, it is
possible to project one's own thoughts directly into the mind of
another--even to the point of taking control of the other's mind.
Hypnotism? You tell me, and we'll both know. Ever since the orthodox
scientists have come around to accepting hypnotism, I'm been chary of
it. Maybe there really is an astral body or a soul that a person has
stashed about him somewhere--something that he can send out to take
control of another human being. But I, personally, prefer the
telepathic projection theory. All you have to do is squirt your
thoughts across space and spray them all over the other fellow's
brain. Presto-bingo, he does pretty much what you want him to do.'"

"That's the quote I was thinking of," Malone said.

"Of course it is," Her Majesty said. "But it really doesn't work. I've
tried it."

"How have you tried it?" Malone said.

"There were many times, Sir Kenneth," Her Majesty said, "when I wanted
someone to do something particular for me or for some other person.
After all, you must remember that I was in a hospital for a long time.
Of course, that represents only a short segment of my life-span, but
it seemed long to me."

Malone, who was trying to view the years from age fifteen to age
sixty-odd as a short segment of anybody's lifetime, remembered with a
shock that this was not Rose Thompson speaking. It was Queen Elizabeth
I, who had never died.

"That's right, Sir Kenneth," she said kindly. "And in that hospital,
there were a number of times when I wanted one of the doctors or
nurses to do what I wanted them to. I tried many times, but I never
succeeded."

Boyd nodded his head. "Well--" he began.

"Oh, yes, Sir Thomas," Her Majesty said. "What you're thinking is
certainly possible. It may even be true."

"What _is_ he thinking?" Malone said.

"He thinks," Her Majesty said, "that I may not have the talent for
this particular effect--and perhaps I don't. But, talent or not, I
know what's possible and what isn't. And the way Mr. Taylor describes
it is simply silly, that's all. And unladylike. Imagine any
self-respecting lady 'squirting' her thoughts about in space!"

"Well," Malone said carefully, "aside from its being unladylike--"

"Sir Kenneth," Her Majesty said, "you are not telepathic. Neither is
Sir Thomas."

"I'm nothing," Boyd said. "I don't even exist."

"And it is very difficult to explain to the non-telepath just what Mr.
Taylor is implying," Her Majesty went on imperturbably. "Before you
could inject any thoughts into anyone else's mind, you'd have to be
able to see into that mind. Is that correct?"

"I guess so," Malone said.

"And in order to do that, you'd have to be telepathic," Her Majesty
said. "Am I correct?"

"Correct," Malone said.

"Well, then," Her Majesty said with satisfaction, and beamed at him.

A second passed.

"Well, then, what?" Malone said in confusion.

"Telepathy," Her Majesty said patiently, "is an extremely complex
affair. It involves a sort of meshing with the mind of this other
person. It has nothing, absolutely nothing, in common with this simple
'squirting' of thoughts across space, as if they were orange pips you
were trying to put into a wastebasket. No, Sir Kenneth, I cannot
believe in what Mr. Taylor says."

"But it's still possible," Malone said.

"Oh," Her Majesty said, "it's certainly possible. But I should think
that if any telepaths were around, and if they were changing people's
minds by 'squirting' at them, I would know it."

Malone frowned. "Maybe you would at that," he said. "I guess you
would."

"Not to mention," Boyd put in, "that if you were going to control
everything we've come across like that you'd need an awful lot of
telepathic operators."

"That's true," Malone admitted. "And the objections seem to make some
sense. But what else is there to go on?"

"I don't know," Boyd said. "I haven't the faintest idea. And I'm
rapidly approaching the stage where I don't care."

"Well," Malone said, heaving a sigh, "let's keep looking."

He bent down and picked up another sheaf of copies from the Psychical
Research Society.

"After all," he said, without much hope, "you never know."

* * * * *

Malone looked around the office of Andrew J. Burris as if he'd never
seen it before. He felt tired, and worn out, and depressed; it had
been a long night, and here it was morning and the head of the FBI was
giving him instructions. It was, Malone told himself, a hell of a
life.

"Now, Malone," Burris said, "this is a very ticklish situation. You've
got to handle it with great care."

"I can see that," Malone said apprehensively. "It certainly looks
ticklish. And unusual."

"Well, we don't want any trouble," Burris said. "We have enough
trouble now."

"Sometimes I think we have too much," Malone said.

"That's our job," Burris said, looking grim.

Malone blinked. "What is?" he said.

"Having trouble," Burris said.

There was a short silence. Malone broke it. "Anyhow," he said, "you
feel we have enough trouble, so we're trying to make things easy for
everybody."

Burris nodded. "I've talked with the president," he said, "and he
feels this is the best way to handle matters."

Malone tried to imagine Burris explaining the incredible complexities
of the situation to the president, and was torn between relief that he
hadn't been there and a curious wish to have heard the scrambled
conversation that must have taken place. "The way it seems to me," he
said cautiously, "shipping those spies back to Russia is a worse
punishment than sending them to the federal pen."

"Maybe it is," Burris said. "Maybe it is. How would you feel if you
were being sent to jail?"

"Innocent," Malone said instantly.

"But that isn't the point," Burris went on. "You see, Malone, we don't
really have much damaging evidence against those spies, except for
their confessions. During all the time we were watching them, we took
care that they never did come up with anything dangerous; we weren't
fishing for them but for their superiors, for the rest of the
network."

"There doesn't seem to be any more network," Malone said. "Not in this
country, anyhow."

"Sure," Burris said. "We know that now, thanks to the confessions, and
to Her Majesty. But we can't prosecute on that sort of evidence. You
know what a good defense attorney could do with unsupported
confessions--and even if we wanted to take the lid off telepathy for
the general public, it would be absolute hell bringing it into court."

"So," Malone said, "we can't put them in prison, even if we want to."

"Oh, I didn't say that," Burris said hastily. "We could probably win,
even against a good defense. But they wouldn't get much time in
prison, and we'd only end up deporting them in any case."

Malone fished for a cigarette, lit it and blew out smoke. "So we're
going to save the taxpayers some money," he said. "That'll be nice for
a change."

"That's right," Burris said, beaming. "We're going to save Federal
funds by shipping them back to their motherland now. After all, they
did take out their naturalization papers under false names, and their
declarations are chockfull of false information. So all it takes is a
court order to declare their citizenships null and void, and hand all
three of them back to the Soviets."

"A nice, simple housecleaning," Malone said. "All open and
above-board. And the confessions will certainly stand up in a
deportation hearing."

"No question of it," Burris said. "But the reason I called you here,
Malone, is that there's still one thing bothering me."

Malone blew out some more smoke, thought wistfully about cigars, and
said: "What? Everything seems simple enough to me."

Burris frowned and leaned back in his chair. "It's this notion of
yours, Malone," he said.

"Notion?"

"About going over there," Burris said. "Now, I can understand your
wanting some facts on Moscow, current background and all that sort of
thing. So far, everything makes sense."

"Fine," Malone said warily.

"But, after all, Malone," Burris said, "we do have such a thing as the
Central Intelligence Agency. They send us reports. That's what they're
for. And why you want to ignore the reports and make a trip over there
to walk around and see for yourself--"

"It's because of everything that's happening," Malone said.

Burris looked puzzled. "What?" he said.

"Because of all the confusion," Malone said. "Frankly, I can't trust
the CIA, or any other branch of the government. I've got to see for
myself."

Burris considered this for a second. "It's going to look very
peculiar," he said.

Malone shrugged. "Everything looks peculiar," he said. "A little more
won't hurt anything. And if I do turn up anything we can use, the
whole trip will be worth it."

"But sending an FBI man along with Brubitsch, Borbitsch and Garbitsch
is a little strange," Burris said. "Not to mention Her Majesty."

"There is that," Malone said. "I wonder what our Red friends are going
to think of the Queen."

"God knows," Burris said. "If they take her seriously, they're liable
to call her some sort of capitalist deviationist."

"And if they don't take her seriously?" Malone said.

"Then they're going to wonder why she's _pretending_ to be a
capitalist deviationist," Burris said.

Malone flicked his cigarette at an ashtray. "You can't win," he said.

"Frankly," Burris said, "I wouldn't allow Her Majesty to go along
under any circumstances--except that there is an excuse for having an
older woman around."

"There is?" Malone said.

Burris nodded. "As a chaperone," he said.

"Now, wait a minute," Malone said. "Brubitsch, Borbitsch and
what's-his-name don't need a chaperone."

"I didn't say it was for them," Burris said.

"Me?" Malone asked in a tone of absolute wonder. "Now, Chief, I don't
need a chaperone. I'm a grown man. I know my way around. And the idea
of having Her Majesty along to chaperone me is going to make
everything look even stranger. After all, Chief--"

"Malone," Burris said, in a voice of steel.

"Sorry," Malone mumbled. "But, really, I'm not some young, innocent
girl in a Victorian novel."

"No," Burris said, a trifle sadly, "you're not. But there is one going
along on the trip with the rest of you."

"There is?" Malone said. "Who is she? Rebecca?"

"Her name's Luba," Burris said. "Luba Garbitsch."

"Garbitsch's wife?" Malone said.

Burris shook his head. "His daughter," he said. "And don't tell me
there isn't any such name as Luba. I know there isn't. But what would
you pick to go with Garbitsch?"

"Wastepaper basket," Malone said instantly. "Grapefruit rinds. Lemon
peels. Coffee grounds."

"Damn it, Malone," Burris said, "this is serious."

"Well," Malone said, "it doesn't sound serious. What are we doing,
deporting the entire family?"

"I suppose we could," Burris said, "if we really wanted to get
complicated about it. What with Garbitsch's false declaration, I
haven't the faintest idea what his daughter's status would be--but she
_was_ born here, Malone, and as far as we can tell she's perfectly
loyal to the United States."

"Fine," Malone said. "So you're sending her to Russia. This is making
less and less sense, you know."

Burris rubbed a hand over his face. "Malone," he said in a quiet,
patient voice, "why don't you wait for me to finish? Then everything
will make sense. I promise."

"Well, all right," Malone said doubtfully. "Luba Garbitsch is going
along to Russia, in spite of the fact that she's perfectly loyal."

"True," Burris said. "You see, Malone, she loves her traitorous old
daddy just the same. Family affection. Very touching."

"And if he's going to Moscow--"

"She wants to go along," Burris said. "That's right."

"And you're going to send her along," Malone said, "out of the
goodness of your kindly old heart. Just like Santa Claus. Or the
Easter bunny."

Burris looked acutely uncomfortable. "Now, Malone," he said. "It's not
exactly that, and you know it."

"It isn't?" Malone said, trying to look surprised.

Burris shook his head. "If we send Luba Garbitsch along," he said,
"that gives us a good excuse for Her Majesty. As a chaperone."

"Are you sure," Malone asked slowly, "that anybody with a name like
Luba Garbitsch could plausibly need a chaperone? Even in a den of
vice? Because somehow it doesn't sound right: Luba Garbitsch,
chaperoned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I."

"Well," Burris said, "it won't be the Queen. I mean, she won't be
known as the Queen."

"Incognito?" Malone said.

Burris shrugged. "In away," he said. "What do you think would be a
good name for her to travel under?"

Malone considered. "I don't know," he said at last. "But no more
Lubas."

"I was thinking," Burris said carefully. "How about Rose Thompson?"

There was a long silence.

"I don't know whether she'll go for the idea," Malone said. "But I'll
try it."

"You can do it, Malone," Burris said instantly. "I know you can. I
just know it."

"Your faith," Malone said with a sigh, "is going to be too much for me
one of these days."

Burris shrugged. "Just take it easy, Malone," he said. "You said you
wanted to have Her Majesty over there to read a few minds, and you've
got her. But remember, don't get involved in anything complicated.
Don't start any fireworks."

"I hope not," Malone said.

"Stay out of political arguments," Burris said.

Malone blinked. "What do you think I'm going to do?" he said. "Bring
along a soapbox?"

"You never know," Burris said. "Just keep quiet, and don't go prowling
around where you're not wanted."

"That," Malone said decisively, "would keep me out of Russia
entirely."

"Damn it," Burris said, "you know what I mean. We don't want any
international incidents, understand?"

"Yes, sir," Malone said.

Burris nodded. "All right, then," he said. "Your plane leaves from the
airport in an hour. You'd better go and talk to Her Majesty first."

"Right," Malone said.

"And I hope you know what you're doing," Burris said.

_So do I,_ Malone thought privately. Aloud, he said, "I just want to
get the feel of things over there, that's all, sir. I won't cause any
more trouble than an ordinary tourist."

"Malone," Burris said, "don't be an ordinary tourist. They're
empty-headed morons and they do make trouble. Be an invisible tourist.
Be nice to everybody. Be polite and kind. Don't step on any toes, no
matter whose and no matter why."

"Yes, sir," Malone said.

"Remember, they're going to know who you are," Burris said.

"It's not as if we could keep it a secret."

"Yes, sir," Malone said. "I'll remember."

"All right." Burris extended his hand. "Good luck, Malone," he said,
with a deeper feeling of sincerity than Malone had experienced from
him in months.

Malone shook the hand. "Thank you, sir," he said.

* * * * *

A little less than an hour later, Malone sat on the steps of the
landing ramp that led up to the open door of the big Air Force
transport plane on the runway. The plane was waiting, and so was
Malone. He didn't feel confident, or even excited. He felt just a
little bit frightened. Burris' complicated warnings had had some
effect, and Malone was fighting down a minor case of the shakes.

Next to him, her face wreathed in happy smiles, sat a smartly-dressed
grey-haired woman in her sixties. She wore an unobtrusive tailored
suit and a light jacket, and she looked as if she might be one of the
elder matrons of the society set, very definitely an upper-crust type.
In spite of the normality of her clothing, Her Majesty looked every
inch a Queen, Malone thought.

"And that, Sir Kenneth, is only natural," she said sweetly. "Even when
traveling incognito, one must retain one's dignity. And I don't object
at all to using the name of Rose Thompson in a good cause; it was used
for so many years it almost feels like part of me."

"I shouldn't be at all surprised," Malone said mildly.

A voice from above and behind him interrupted his worried thoughts.
"Mr. Malone!" it said. "Mr. Malone?"

Malone screwed his head around and looked up. An Air Force colonel was
standing in the doorway of the plane, looking down with a stern,
worried expression. "Yes?" Malone said. "What is it?"

"Takeoff, Mr. Malone," the colonel said. "We're due to go in fifteen
minutes, and our clearance has been established."

"Fine," Malone said.

"But your passengers," the colonel said. "Where are they?"

Malone tried to look calm, cool and collected. "They'll be here," he
said. "Don't worry about a thing." Privately, he hoped he was right.
Boyd hadn't shown up yet, and Boyd was bringing the musical-comedy spy
trio. It wasn't, Malone thought, that Boyd was usually late. But with
Brubitsch, Borbitsch and Garbitsch in tow, almost anything could
happen, he thought. He hoped fervently that it wouldn't.

"It won't," Her Majesty said. "At least, it hasn't so far. They're all
in a car, and they're driving right here. Boyd is thinking that he
ought to be here within five minutes."

Malone nodded, wiping his forehead. "Five minutes, Colonel," he called
back to the figure at the door. The colonel nodded efficiently at him,
turned and disappeared inside the plane. Malone looked at his watch.
The second hand was going around awfully fast, he thought. He wondered
if it were possible for time to speed up while he waited, so that by
the time Boyd arrived he would be an old, old man. He felt about eight
years older already, he told himself, and a minute hadn't even passed.

He forced his eyes away from the moving second hand. Looking at it, he
knew, would only make him more nervous. Maybe there was some scenery
around that he could stare at. He raised his eyes and looked out
toward the gates that led to the interior of the air terminal.

Scenery, he told himself in sudden wonder, was no word for it.

He stared. He wanted to blink, but at the same time he felt that it
would be a shame to close his eyes for even a tenth of a second. He
held his eyelids apart by main force and went right on staring.

The girl walking toward him across the field was absolutely beautiful.
She seemed to make everything light up and start singing. Malone was
sure that, somewhere, he could hear birds plugging their favorite
numbers, and the soft rustle of the wind through pine branches. He
could feel the soft caress of the wind on his face, and he could smell
the odor of lilacs and honeysuckles and violets and whatever all those
other flowers were. They had all different colors and shapes, and he
couldn't remember many of their names, but he could tell they were all
around him. They had to be all around him. Especially all the red
ones.

The girl had red hair that tossed gently in the wind. The bottom
two-thirds of her figure, Malone was happy to note, was not only as
good as the top third but a good deal better. It took him several
seconds to reach this conclusion, because at first he was willing to
swear that he had never seen such a beautiful girl before.

But, he told himself with a shade of apprehension, he had.

As she approached, he stood up. "Well, well," he said brightly. "If it
isn't the Lady That's Known as Lou. Did the Psychical Research Society
give you the day off, or are you here to see about a misplaced broom?"

The girl beamed at him. "My, my," she said. "How are you?"

"Fine," Malone said. "And--"

"And how are the others?" she said.

Malone blinked. "Others?" he said.

She nodded. "Grumpy, Sleepy, Happy, Dopey, Bashful and Doc," she said.

Malone opened his mouth, shut it again, and thought for a second.
"Now, wait a minute," he said at last. "That's not fair. I--"

"Oh," she said. "And I nearly forgot. I owe you one from last time:
_gesundheit_."

"And many happy returns," Malone said. "Seriously, what are you doing
out here?"

"Talking," the girl said. "To you. Or hadn't you noticed?"

"I mean in general," Malone said desperately.

"In general," she said agreeably, "I'm here to take a little trip."

"Oh," Malone said. "By plane?"

She smiled sweetly and shook her head. "Not at all," she said. "I'm
waiting for the next scheduled broomstick."

Malone took a deep breath. "When does your plane leave?" he said
doggedly.

"In ten minutes or so," she said.

"Then you'd better hurry and get on," he said.

She nodded. "That's what I thought," she said.

A second passed.

"Did you want to say something?" Malone said uncomfortably.

She shook her head. "Not particularly," she said.

"Well, then--"

"The time _is_ growing short," she said.

"Isn't it, though?" Malone said, feeling a little mystified. "Well,
now. Goodbye. I'll see you soon."

"Goodbye," she said.

Another second passed.

"Your plane--" Malone started.

"How about yours?" she said.

"I'm all right," Malone said nervously. "But if your plane's leaving
in ten minutes you'd better get on it."

"I intend to," she said, without moving.

"Well--" Malone started.

"As soon as you quit blocking the ramp," she said. "Would you mind
terribly if I climbed over your head? Because I do have to get on
board."

"Now wait a minute," Malone said. "This isn't your plane."

"How do you know?" she said. "Do you own it? Are you flying it away?"

"Well," Malone said helplessly, "it's my plane, and there's nobody
going on it but--"

He paused. A great light seemed to burst in his mind, shedding a
perfectly horrible glow over the wreck of his mental processes. "You
know," he said in a tentative tone, "we never have been properly
introduced. I only know your name is Lou."

"That's what people call me," the girl said. "For short. I'm Luba
Garbitsch."

"And I'm Kenneth Malone," Malone said. "Kenneth J. Malone. Of the
FBI."

She nodded. "Yes," she said. "I know."

"Your father--"

"My father is going to Russia," she said, "and I am going along with
him."

"Oh," Malone said. "Sure. Sure. Oh."

There was a longer silence.

"Can I get on board now?" Luba said.

"There isn't any hurry," Malone said. "We're still waiting for--for
passengers. And this is one of them." He turned and indicated the
Queen. "This is Her--Rose Thompson. She'll be traveling along with
us."

Her Majesty was wearing a broad, broad grin, Malone noticed nervously
as he turned. Undoubtedly she had been tuned in to the whole
conversation, and knew just what had gone on in both minds. But she
only said, "I'm very pleased to meet you, my dear."

Lou blinked, smiled and stretched out her hand. "Well, then," she
said. "Hello. And let's all have a happy trip."

"By all means," Malone said. "And the trip seems to be about to
start."

He could hear the tramping of a lot of feet coming across the field
toward them. He looked and saw that the feet were all neatly attached
to bodies, two to a body. There were Thomas Boyd's feet, the assorted
twelve feet of six FBI agents, and three pairs that belonged to Alexis
Brubitsch, Ivan Borbitsch and Vasili Garbitsch. Brubitsch looked even
fatter than ever, Borbitsch even thinner. Garbitsch was of an
indeterminate middling shape; he had grey hair and a pair of
pince-nez, and he walked a trifle unevenly, like a duck, with his
hands clasped low in front of him. He was looking down at the ground
as the crowd shoved him along.

When the crowd neared the steps, Luba went over to him. Garbitsch
looked up, with a pleasant, somehow wistful smile on his face. "Hello,
Luba, my child," he said.

Luba smiled, too. "Hello, Dad," she said. "All ready to go?"

"Certainly I am ready," he said. "I am all packed. We take off in a
few minutes. And you, Luba, my child?"

"Fine, Dad," she said.

She looked down. "They've got handcuffs on you," she said. "Why,
that's--"

Garbitsch shrugged. He looked even more wistful. "A formality," he
said. "It makes no difference."

"Okay," Boyd said suddenly. "We've got to get out of here pretty soon,
and you'll be taking off. Let's break it up. Miss Thompson, you and
Luba go aboard. Malone, you follow with the others."

Malone rounded up Brubitsch, Borbitsch and Garbitsch and followed the
ladies aboard.

He came back to the door then, and stuck his head out. "The keys," he
said.

Boyd stared. "What?"

"The keys to the handcuffs," Malone said. "I'll need 'em."

"You're going to take them off when they get to Russia?" Boyd said.

Malone shook his head. "No," he said. "Now."

"But--"

"I think we'll have plenty of warning if they decide to try anything,
Tom," Malone said quietly. "Her Majesty, after all, is keeping them
under surveillance."

Without another word, Boyd tossed up the keys. Malone caught and
pocketed them. "I'll be back as soon as possible," he said.
"Meanwhile, you can keep digging on other stuff--what we've discussed
and anything it seems to lead into."

"Right," Boyd said. "Stay out of trouble, Ken. So long."

Malone nodded and ducked back into the plane. He unlocked the
handcuffs, and Brubitsch and Borbitsch immediately went and sat down
mournfully together at the back of the plane. Malone looked for Lou,
but she was already seated--with Her Majesty, naturally. He sighed
briefly and sat down, at last, next to the wistful Garbitsch.

"It will be nice to see Russia again," Garbitsch said. "I hardly hoped
to do so."

The plane shuddered, roared and took off. Then it settled down to its
normal state of unnatural quiet. Malone sat back and tried to relax.

It was impossible.


7

Red Square was, somehow, disappointing. It was crowded with men and
women, all looking very Russian in an undefined sort of way, and the
big glass windows sparkled from every side. "I know it's silly," Luba
said in a baffled voice, "but, somehow, I always expected Red Square
to be red."

"And why should that be?" the MVD man next to her said. He was a burly
man with a sour expression, as if he had eaten too many onions the day
before.

"Well," Malone said, "it is Red Square, after all."

"But red is symbolic only," the MVD man said surlily. "Is not color.
Only symbol of glorious Russia."

"I suppose so," Luba said. "But it's still disappointing."

"You expect, perhaps, that we recruit our glorious Red Army from
American Indian tribes?" the MVD man said sourly. "You are
literal-minded bourgeois intellectual. This is not good thing to be."

"Somehow," Malone mused, "I didn't think it was."

"But this is different," Luba said. "The Red Army is made up of
Russians. But this is just a square. You could paint it."

"After all," Malone offered, "the White House is white, isn't it?"

"White is cowardly color," the MVD man pointed out with satisfaction.

"Never mind that," Malone said. "We call it a white house, and it is a
white house. You call this a red square, and it isn't even pink. Not
even a little bit pink. It's just--just--"

"Just building-colored," Luba put in. Malone turned to her and
executed a small bow.

"Thank you," he said.

"Think nothing of it," Luba said.

"Oh, don't worry," Malone said. "I will."

The MVD man hissed like a teakettle and both heads swung round to look
at him again. Her Majesty, who had been admiring some dresses in a
shop window, also turned. "My goodness," she said. "That's a terrible
wheeze. Do you take something for it?"

"Is not wheeze," the MVD man said. "Is noise representing impatience
with arrogance and stupidity of capitalist warmonger conversation."

"Arrogance?" Luba said.

"Stupidity?" Malone said.

Her Majesty drew herself to her full height. "We do not monger war,"
she said. "Not in the least. We are not mongers."

The MVD man looked at her, blinked, sighed and looked away. "This
color discussion," he said, "it is very silly. Look at the Blue Ridge
Mountains, in your country. Are they blue?"

"Well--" Malone said.

"What color, for example, is the Golden Gate Bridge?" the MVD man
continued, with heavy sarcasm. "Is not even a gate. Is a bridge. Is
not golden. But you say we disappoint. No. You disappoint."

There seemed to be no immediate answer to that, so Malone didn't try
for one. Instead, he went back to looking at the Square, and beyond it
to where the inverted turnips of the Kremlin gleamed in the moonlight.
The turnips were very pretty, if a little odd for building-tops. But
Red Square, in spite of all its historic associations, seemed to be a
little dull. The buildings were just buildings, and the streets were
filled with Russians. They were not bomb-throwing Russians, bearded
Russians or even "Volga Boatman"-singing Russians. They were just
ordinary, dull Russians of every sort, shade, race, color and previous
condition of servitude.

It was just about what he'd expected after the trip. That hadn't been
exciting either, he told himself. There had been no incident of any
kind. None of the three spies seemed to be exactly overjoyed about
being sent back to good old Mother Russia, but none seemed inclined to
make much fuss about the matter, either. Malone had blandly told them
that they were being deported, instead of tried, because there was no
evidence that was worth the expense of a trial. And, besides that, he
had particularly emphasized that the FBI did not believe any of the
stories the three men had told.

"They just don't match up," he said. "You all told different stories,
and there's too much disagreement between them. Frankly, we don't
believe any of them--not yet, we don't. But mark my words. We'll find
out the truth some day."

He'd thought it was a good speech, and Her Majesty had agreed with
him. It had its desired effect, since the plane was the first place
the three had had a chance to meet since their arrest. "Each one knows
that he told the truth," Her Majesty said, "but nobody knows what the
other two said."

"That's what I figured," Malone said. "They didn't have a chance to
talk to each other."

"And so each one is lying his head off to the others," Her Majesty
said, "and telling them all about how he, too, lied gloriously and
bravely in defense of the Motherland. It's really very funny."

"Well," Malone said, "it makes them happy. And why not?"

Luba, too, had chatted with her father quite a lot of the time. Her
Majesty reported that none of this conversation could possibly be
understood as dangerous or harmful. It was just simple conversation.

Of course, Luba and her father hadn't talked all the time, and Malone
did have a chance to get a few words in edgewise. Her Majesty made no
report on those conversations, but Malone was comfortably aware that
they did not belong in the harmless class. His relationship with the
girl seemed, he told himself happily, to be improving slightly. Now
and again, he even won a round from her.

As the American plane crossed the border, it was picked up by an
escort of Russian fighter craft, which stuck with them all the way
into Moscow. The fighters didn't do anything; they were just there,
Malone figured, for insurance. But they made him nervous when he
looked out the window. The trip from the border to Moscow seemed to
take a long time.

Then, at the airfield, a group of MVD men had almost elbowed the
American Embassy delegation out of the way in greeting the
disembarking little band. There was a lot of palaver, in Russian,
English and various scrambled mixtures which nobody understood. The
American delegation greeted Malone, Luba and Her Majesty formally, and
the MVD concentrated on Brubitsch, Borbitsch and Garbitsch. The three
spies were hustled away, apparently to MVD Headquarters, without much
fuss. Luba said goodbye to her father calmly enough, and Vasili
Garbitsch seemed almost entirely unaffected by his surroundings. As
the plane touched ground, he had said: "Ah, the soil of Mother
Russia," but, outside of a goodbye or two, those were his last words
before leaving.

One MVD man stayed behind, even after the American delegation had
left. His name, he explained, was Vladimir Josefovitch Petkoff. "It
will be my pleasure to show your group the many historic and
interesting sights of Moskva," he announced to Malone.

"Pleasure?" Malone said. Petkoff was tall and heavy, and wore a row of
medals that strung out across his chest like a newspaper headline.

"My duty," Petkoff said flatly, "is my pleasure. That is how we
arrange matters in Russia."

And so the tour had started, with Red Square. Malone told himself he
didn't really mind if it weren't red, but he did think it could at
least look sinister. Unfortunately, the Square did not seem
particularly willing to oblige.

"So this is Red Square," Malone said, after a long silence.

"You do not sound interested," Petkoff said in what sounded like a
vaguely ominous voice. "Because it is not painted in capitalistic and
obvious colors, it bores you?"

"Not exactly," Malone said. "But when you've seen one Square, you've
seen them all, is how I feel about it. There must be somewhere else to
sight-see."

"Somewhere?" Petkoff said. "There is everywhere. This is Moskva, the
capital and the greatest city in Mother Russia. That is what we are
told to say." He lowered his voice. "Personally," he added, "I come
from Leningrad. I prefer it. But in Moskva one talks only of Moskva."

"I know just how you feel," Malone assured him. "I've been to San
Francisco."

"Well, then," Petkoff said, almost smiling at him. "What is there you
would like to see?"

Malone fished in his pocket for an American cigarette. He'd brought a
carton with him, having once tried Russian makes. They seemed to be
mostly cardboard, both the long filter and the tobacco. He lit the
cigarette and thought for a second. "I don't suppose," he said
cautiously, "that we could take a look around inside the Kremlin,
could we?"

"Aha," Petkoff said. "I see what is in your mind."

"You do?" Malone said, startled.

"Naturally," Petkoff said. "You wish to see the tomb of Lenin. It is
famous throughout the world."

Malone considered that for a minute. "Somehow," he said cautiously,
"the coffin of Lenin doesn't exactly sound like a gay start for
sight-seeing."

Petkoff looked pleased instantly. "I understand," he said. "Truly I
understand. You, too, feel sad over the death of the great Lenin. How
beautiful! How cultured!"

Malone wondered whether or not to disillusion the man, and decided
against it. "Well, something like that," he said vaguely.

"I'll tell you what: is there a restaurant around here where we could
get something to eat?"

"To eat?" Petkoff said, still looking pleased. "You wish to eat?"

"Well," Malone said, "I'm rather hungry, and I guess the ladies must
be, too."

"What?" Luba said, returning to the group. She had joined Her Majesty
in viewing the display of dresses. The Queen came scurrying over, too,
through the silent and jostling Russian crowds.

"I was suggesting a restaurant," Malone said.

"Best idea anybody's had all day," Lou said. Her Majesty graciously
consented to agree, and Petkoff beamed like the rising sun.

"My friends," he said. "My very fine friends--although you are
capitalistic bourgeois intellectuals, thrown aside by the path of
progress--in Moskva we have the finest restaurants in all the world."

"How about ... oh, Leningrad?" Malone said in a low voice.

"In Leningrad," Petkoff admitted, "the restaurants are better. But in
Moskva, the restaurants are very good indeed. Much better than one
might expect, if one knows Leningrad."

"Well," Malone said, "I suppose we've just got to put up with Moscow."

They went back to the corner, and hailed the long, black,
sleek-looking limousine that had brought them in from the airport. The
two silent men in the front seat of the gleaming Volga sedan were
waiting patiently. Malone, Her Majesty and Lou got into the back,
Petkoff in front. The two men were as still as statues--and rather
unpleasant-looking statues, Malone thought--until Petkoff snapped
something in Russian. Then one of them, at the wheel, said: _"Da,
Tovarishch."_

The car started down the Moscow streets.

Her Majesty was silent and somewhat abstracted during the ride, just
as she had been during the entire trip so far. She was, Malone knew,
prying into every mind she could touch. He smiled inwardly when he
thought about that.

The MVD, all unbeknownst to itself, was busily carrying around and
protecting the single most dangerous spy in Moscow.

Nobody else spoke, either, until the car was moving along at a good
clip. Petkoff began some small talk then, but it wasn't very
interesting until he finally managed to edge it around to the subject
he really wanted to talk about.

"By the way, Mr. Malone," he said, in a voice that sounded as if
Petkoff were trying to establish an offhand manner, and not succeeding
in the least. "It was thoughtful, very thoughtful, of American
government, to return to us those men. Very kind."

Malone's expression conveyed nothing but the sheerest good will.
"Well, you know how it is," he said. "Anything we can do to preserve
peace and amity between our countries--we'll do it. You know that.
Getting along, coexistence, that sort of thing. Oh, we're glad to
oblige."

"I am sure," Petkoff said darkly. "You realize, of course, that they
are criminals? Deserters from Red Army, embezzlers. Embezzlers of
money."

Wondering vaguely what else you could be an embezzler of, Malone
nodded. "That's what your ambassador in Washington said, when we told
him about the deportation order."

"But Dad's not an embezzler," Luba broke in. "Or a deserter, either.
He--"

"We have the records," Petkoff said.

"But--"

"Ordinarily, Mr. Malone," Petkoff said pointedly, "we do not find it
the policy of the American government to send back political
refugees."

"Now, listen," Lou said. "If you think you can shut me up--"

"That is exactly what I think," Petkoff said. "Let me assure you that
no offense has been intended."

Lou opened her mouth and started to say something. Then she shut it
again. "Well," she said, "I guess this isn't the time to argue about
it. I'm sorry, Mr. Petkoff."

The MVD man beamed back at her. "Call me Vladimir," he said.

Malone broke in hastily. "You see, Major," he said, "these men are all
embezzlers, as you've said yourself. We have the word of your
government on that."

Petkoff took his eyes off Lou with what seemed real reluctance. "Oh,"
he said. "Yes. Of course you do."

"Therefore," Malone said smoothly, "the three are criminals and not
political refugees."

"Indeed," Petkoff said blandly. "Very interesting. Your government has
done a good deal of thinking in this matter."

"Sure we have," Malone said. "After all, we don't want to cause any
trouble."

"No," Petkoff said, and frowned. "Of course not."

"Naturally," Malone said.

After that, there was silence for almost a full minute. Then Major
Petkoff turned to Malone again with a frown. "Wait," he said.

"Wait?" Malone said.

"The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics," Petkoff said, "has no
extradition treaty with your capitalist warmongering country."

"We're not warmongers," Her Majesty put in. Both men ignored her.

"True," Malone admitted.

"Then there was no reason to send these men back to us," Petkoff said.

"Oh, no," Malone said. "There was a very good reason. You see, we
didn't want them in our country, either."

"But--"

"And when we found that they'd lied on their naturalization papers,
why, naturally, we took immediate steps. The only steps we could take,
as a matter of fact."

"The only steps?" Petkoff said. "You could have preferred charges.
This was not done. Why was it not done?"

"That," Malone said, sidestepping neatly, "is a matter of governmental
policy, Major Petkoff. And I can't provide any final answer."

"Ah?" Petkoff said.

"But, after all, a trial would not make sense," Malone said, now
busily attacking from the side. "You see, at first we thought they
were espionage agents."

"A foolish conclusion," Petkoff said uneasily.

Malone nodded. "That's what we finally realized," he said. "We
questioned them, but their stories were nonsense, absolute nonsense.
Of course, we had no idea of what foreign government might have
employed them."

"Of course not," Petkoff said, shifting slightly in his seat. The car
took a wide curve and swayed slightly, and Malone found himself nearly
in Lou's lap. The sensation was so pleasant that all conversation was
delayed for a couple of seconds, until the car had righted itself.

"So," Malone went on when he had straightened out, "we decided to save
ourselves the expense of a trial."

"Very natural," Petkoff said. The slight delay had apparently allowed
him to recover his own mental balance. "The capitalist countries think
only of money."

"Sure," Malone said agreeably. "Well, anyhow, that's the way it was.
There was no point, really, in putting them in prison--what for? What
good could it do us?"

"Who knows?" Petkoff said.

"Exactly," Malone said. "So, since all we wanted to do was get rid of
them, and since we had an easy way to do that, why, we took it, that's
all, and shipped them here."

"I see," Petkoff said. "And the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is
properly grateful."

"My goodness," Her Majesty put in, apparently out of an irrepressible
sense of fun. "Maybe we'll get medals."

"Medals," Petkoff said sternly, "are not given to capitalist
agitators."

"We are not agitated," Her Majesty said, and folded her hands in her
lap, looking quite satisfied with herself.

Petkoff thought for a second. "And why," he said, "did you feel that
such elaborate precautions were necessary in returning these men to
us?"

Malone shrugged. "Well, we couldn't have them just running around all
over the world, could we?" he said. "We felt that here they'd be
properly housed and fed, in their own homeland, even if they didn't
get a job."

"They will be properly taken care of," Petkoff prophesied darkly.

"Now, wait a minute--" Lou began, and then stopped. "Sorry," she said.

Malone felt sorry for her, but there was nothing he could say to make
things any better. "Exactly," he told Petkoff with what he hoped was a
smile.

"Ah, well," Petkoff said. "My friend and colleague, we should cease
this shoptalk. Shoptalk?"

"Quite correct," Malone said.

"I have studied English a long time," Petkoff said. "It is not a
logical language."

"You're doing very well," Malone said. Petkoff gave him a military
duck of the head.

"I appreciate your compliments," he said. "But I fear we are boring
the ladies."

The major had timed his speech well. At that moment, the ornate Volga
pulled up to a smooth stop before a large, richly decorated building
that glowed brightly under the electric lights of a large sign. The
sign said something incomprehensible in Cyrillic script. Under it, the
building entrance was gilded and carved into fantastic rococo shapes.
Malone stared at the sign, and was about to ask a question about it
when Petkoff spoke.

"Trotkin's," he said. "The finest restaurant in all the world--in
Moskva, this is what they say of it."

"I understand," Malone said.

"Come," Petkoff said grandly, and got out of the car. One of the two
silent men leaped out and opened the back door, and Her Majesty, Lou
and Malone climbed out and stood blinking on the sidewalk under the
sign.

Petkoff leaned over and said something to the driver. The second
silent man got back into the car, and it drove away down the street,
turned a corner and disappeared. The party of four started toward the
entrance of the restaurant.

The door swung open before Major Petkoff reached it. A doorman was
holding it, and bowing to each of the four as they passed. He was
dressed in Victorian livery, complete to knee-breeches and lace, and
Malone thought this was rather odd for the classless Russian society.
But the doorman was only the opening note of a great symphony.

Inside, there were tables and chairs--or at least, Malone told
himself, that's what he thought they were. They were massive wood
affairs, carved into tortuous shapes and gilded or painted in all
sorts of colors that glittered madly under the barrage of several
electric chandeliers.

The chandeliers hung from a frescoed ceiling, and looked much too
heavy. They swayed and tinkled in time to the music that filled the
room, but for a second Malone looked past them at the ceiling. It
appeared to represent some sort of Russian heaven, at the end of the
Five-Year Plan. There were officers and ladies eating grapes,
waltzing, strolling on white puffy clouds, singing, drinking, making
love. There was an awful lot of activity going on up on the ceiling,
and it wasn't until Malone lowered his gaze that he realized that none
of this activity had been exaggerated.

True, there were no white puffy clouds, and he couldn't immediately
locate a bunch of grapes anywhere. But there were the musicians, in
the same Victorian outfits as the doorman: three fiddlers, a cellist,
and a man who played piano. "Just like in night-clubs in bourgeois
Paris," Petkoff said, following Malone's gaze with every evidence of
pride.

Between the musicians and Malone were a lot of tables and chairs and
ancient, proud-looking waiters who appeared to have been hired when
Trotkin's had opened--and that, Malone thought, had been a long, long
time ago. He felt like those two ladies, whose names he couldn't
remember, who said they'd slipped back in time. Officers and their
ladies, the men in glittering uniforms, the ladies in ball dresses of
every imaginable shade, cut, material and degree of exposure, were
waltzing around the room looking very polite and old-world. Others
were sitting at the tables, where candles fluttered, completely
useless in the electric glare. The noise was something terrific, but,
somehow, it was all very well-bred.

The headwaiter was suddenly next to them. He hadn't walked there, at
least not noticeably; he appeared to have perfected the old-world
manner of the silent servant. Or, of course, Malone thought, the man
might be a teleport.

"Ah, Major Petkoff," he said, in a silken voice. "It is so good to see
you again. And your friends?"

"Americans," Petkoff said. "They have come to see the glorious Soviet
Union."

"Ah," the headwaiter said. "Your usual table, Major?"

Petkoff nodded. The headwaiter led the party through the dancers,
snaking slowly along until they reached a large table near the
musicians and at the edge of the dance floor. Her Majesty
automatically took the seat nearest the musicians, which she imagined
to be the head of the table. Lou sat at her left hand, and Malone at
her right, his back against a wall. Petkoff took the foot of the
table, called a waiter over, and ordered for the party. He did a
massive job of it, with two waiters, at last, taking down what seemed
to be his entire memoirs, plus the list of all soldiers in the Red
Army below the rank of Grand Exalted Elk, or whatever it might have
been. Malone had no idea what the major was ordering, except that it
sounded extensive and very, very Russian.

Finally the waiter went on his way. Major Petkoff turned to Malone and
smiled. "Naturally," he said, "we will begin with vodka, _nyet_?"

Malone considered saying _nyet,_ but he didn't feel that this was the
time or the place. Besides, he told himself grimly, it would be a sad
day when a Petkoff could drink a Malone under the table. His proudest
heritage from his father was an immense capacity, he told himself. Now
was his chance to test it.

"And, naturally, a little caviar to go with it," Petkoff added.

"Certainly," Malone said, as if caviar were the most common thing in
the world in his usual Washington saloons.

It wasn't long before the waiter reappeared, bringing four glasses and
three bottles of vodka chilled in an ice-bucket, like a bouquet of
champagne. Petkoff bowed him out after one bottle had been opened, set
the glasses up and began to pour.

"Oh, goodness," Her Majesty started to say.

"None for me, thanks," Lou chimed in.

"Oh, yes," Her Majesty said. "I don't think I'll have any either. An
old lady has to be very careful of her system, you know."

"You do not look like an old lady," Petkoff said gallantly.
"Middle-aged, perhaps, to be cruel. But certainly not old. Not over
... oh, perhaps forty."

Her Majesty smiled politely at him. Malone began to wonder if it had
been gallantry, after all. From what he'd seen of the Russian women,
it was likely, after all, that Petkoff really thought Her Majesty
wasn't much over forty at that.

"You're very flattering, Major," Her Majesty said. "But I assure you
that I'm a good deal older than I look."

Malone tried to tell himself that no one else had noticed the stifled
gulp that had followed that remark. It had been his own stifled gulp.
And his face, he felt sure, had aged one hundred and twelve years
within a second or so. He waited for Her Majesty to tell Major Petkoff
just how old she really was...

But she said nothing else. After a second she turned and smiled at
Malone.

"Thanks," he said.

"Oh, you're quite welcome," she said.

Petkoff frowned at both of them, shrugged, and readied the bottle.
"Well, then," he said. "It seems as if the drinking will be done by
men--and that is right. Vodka is the drink for men."

He had filled his own glass full of the cold, clear liquid. Now he
filled Malone's. He stood, glass in hand. Malone also climbed to his
feet.

"To the continued friendship of our two countries!" Petkoff said. He
raised his glass for a second, then downed the contents. Malone
followed suit. The vodka burned its merry way into his stomach. They
sat.

A waiter arrived with a large platter. "Ah," Petkoff said, turning.
"Try some of this caviar, Mr. Malone. You will find it the finest in
the world."

Malone, somehow, had never managed to develop a taste for caviar. He
was willing to admit, if pressed, that this made him an uncultured
slob, but caviar always made him think of the joke about the country
bumpkin who thought it was marvelous that you could soften up buckshot
just by soaking it in fish oil.

Now, though, he felt he had to be polite, and he tried some of the
stuff. All things considered, it wasn't quite as bad as he'd thought
it was going to be. And it did make a pretty good chaser for the
vodka.

Her Majesty also helped herself to some caviar. "My goodness," she
said. "This reminds me of the old days."

Malone waited, once again, with bated breath. But, though Her Majesty
may have been crazy, she wasn't stupid. She said nothing more.

Petkoff, meanwhile, refilled the glasses and looked expectantly at
Malone. This time it was his turn to propose the toast. He thought for
a second, then stood up and raised his glass.

"To the most beautiful woman in all the world," he said, feeling just
a little like a character in _War and Peace_. "Luba Vasilovna
Garbitsch."

"Ah," Petkoff said, smiling approvingly. Malone executed a little bow
in Lou's direction and followed Petkoff in downing the drink. Two more
glasses of vodka wended their tortuous ways into the interior.

"Tell me, colleague," Petkoff said as be spooned up some more caviar,
"how are things in the United States?"

Malone shot a glance at Her Majesty, but she was concentrating on
something else, and her eyes seemed far away. "Oh, all right," he said
at last.

"Of course, you must say so," Petkoff murmured. "But, as one colleague
to another, tell me: how much longer do you think it will be before
the proletarian uprising in your country?"

There were a lot of answers to that, Malone told himself. But he chose
one without too much difficulty. "Well, that's hard to judge," he
said. "I'd hate to make any prediction. I don't have enough
information."

"Not enough information?" Petkoff said. "I don't understand."

Malone shrugged. "Since our proletariat," he said, "have shown no sign
of wanting any rebellion at all, how can I predict when they're going
to rebel?"

Petkoff gave him an unbelieving smile. "Well," he said. "We must have
patience, eh, colleague?"

"I guess so," Malone said, watching Petkoff pour more vodka.

By the time the meal came, Malone was feeling a warm glow in his
interior, but no real fogginess. The dance floor had been cleared by
this time, and a group of six costumed professionals glided out and
took places. The musicians broke out into a thunderous and bumpy
piece, and the dancers began some sort of Slavic folk dance that
looked like a combination of a _kazotska_ and a shivaree. Malone
watched them with interest. They looked like good dancers, but they
seemed to be plagued with clumsiness; they were always crashing into
one another. On the other hand, Malone thought, maybe it was part of
the dance. It was hard to tell.

The dinner was as extensive as anything Malone had ever dreamed of:
_borshcht_, beef Stroganoff, smoked fish, vegetables in gigantic
tureens, ices and cheeses and fruits. And always, between the courses,
during the courses and at every available moment, there was vodka.

The drinking didn't bother him too much. But the food was too much.
Unbelieving, he watched Petkoff polish off a large red apple, a pear
and a small wedge of white, creamy-looking cheese at the end of the
towering meal. Her Majesty was staring, too, in a very polite manner.
Lou simply looked glassy-eyed and overstuffed. Malone felt a good deal
of sympathy for her.

Petkoff finished the wedge of cheese and ripped off a belch of
incredible magnitude and splendor. Malone felt he should applaud, but
managed to restrain himself. Her Majesty looked startled for a second,
and then regained her composure. Only Lou seemed to take the event as
a matter of course, which set Malone to wondering about her home-life.
Somehow he couldn't picture her wistful little father ever producing a
sound of such awesome magnitude.

"My dear colleague," Petkoff was saying. Malone turned to him and
tried to look interested. "There is one thing I have wondered for many
years."

"Really?" Malone said politely.

"That is right," Petkoff said. "For years, there has never been a
change of name in your organization of secret police."

"We're not secret police," Malone said.

Petkoff gave a massive shrug. "Naturally," he said, "one must say
this. But surely, one tires of being called FBI all the time."

"One does?" Malone said. "I don't know. It gives a person a sort of
sense of security."

"Ah," Petkoff said. "But take us, for instance. We pride ourselves on
our ability to camouflage ourselves. GPU, and then OGPU--which were, I
understand, subject for many capitalist jokes."

Malone tried to look as if he couldn't imagine such a thing. "I
suppose they might have been," he said.

"Then we were NKVD," Petkoff said, "and now MVD. And I understand,
quite between us, Mr. Malone, that there is talk of further change."

There was a sudden burst of applause. Malone wondered what for, looked
at the dance floor and realized that the six Slavic dancers were
taking bows. As he watched, one of them slipped and nearly fell. The
musicians obliged with a final series of chords and the dancers
trotted away. A waltz began, and couples from the tables began
crowding the floor.

"How can you manage the proletariat," Petkoff asked, "if you do not
keep them confused?"

"We don't, exactly," Malone said. "They more or less manage us."

"Ha," Petkoff said, dismissing this with a wave of his hand.
"Propaganda." And then he, too, turned to watch the dancers. The waltz
was finishing, and a fox-trot had begun. "With your permission, Mr.
Malone," he said, rising, "I should like to ask so-lovely Miss
Garbitsch to dance with me."

Malone glanced at the girl. She gave him a quick smile, with just a
hint of nervousness or strain in it, and turned to Petkoff. "I'd be
delighted, Major," she said. Malone shut his own mouth. As the girl
rose, he got to his feet and gave the couple a small, Victorian bow.
Petkoff and Lou walked to the floor, and Malone, sitting down again,
watched enviously as he took her in his arms and began to guide her
expertly across the floor in time to the music.

Malone sighed. Some men, he told himself, had all the luck. But, of
course, Lou had to be polite, too. She didn't really like Petkoff, he
told himself; she was just being diplomatic. And he had made some
progress with her on the plane, he thought.

He looked over at Her Majesty, but the Queen was staring abstractedly
at a crystal chandelier. Malone sighed again, took a little caviar and
washed it down with vodka. The vodka felt nice and warm, he thought
vaguely. Vodka was good. It was too bad that the people who made such
good vodka had to be enemies. But that was the way things were, he
told himself philosophically.

Terrible. That's how things were.

The fox-trot went to its conclusion. Malone saw Petkoff, chatting
animatedly with Lou, lead her off to a small bar at the opposite side
of the room. "Some people," he muttered, "have too much luck. Or too
much diplomacy."

Her Majesty was tugging at his arm. That, Malone thought, was going to
be more bad news.

It was.

"Sir Kenneth," she said softly, "do you realize that this place is
full of MVD men? Of course you don't; I haven't told you yet."

Malone opened his mouth, shut it again, and thought in a hurry. If the
place were full of MVD men, that meant they probably had it bugged.
And that meant several things, all of them unpleasant. Her Majesty
shouldn't have said anything--she shouldn't have shown any nervousness
or anxiety in the first place, she shouldn't have known there were so
many MVD men in the second place--because there was no way for her to
know, except through her telepathy, a little secret Malone did not
want the Russians to find out about. And she should definitely, most
definitely, not have called him "Sir Kenneth."

"Oh," Her Majesty said. "I am sorry, Sir--er--Mr. Malone. You're quite
right, you know."

"Sure," Malone said. "Well. My goodness." He thought of something to
say, and said it at once. "Of course there are MVD men here. This is
just the place for good old MVD men to come when they go off duty. A
nice, relaxing place full of fun and dancing and food and vodka..."
And he was thinking, at the same time: _Are they doing anything odd?_

"Russian, you know," Her Majesty said, almost conversationally, "is an
extremely difficult language. It takes a great deal of practice to
learn to think in it really fluently."

"Yes, I should think it would," Malone said absently. _You mean you
haven't been able to pick up what these people are thinking?_

"Oh, one can get the main outlines," Her Majesty went on, "but a
really full knowledge is nearly impossible. Though, of course, it
isn't quite as bad as all that. A man who speaks both languages, like
our dear Major Petkoff, for instance--so charming, so full of _joie de
vivre_--could be an invaluable assistant to anyone interested in
learning exactly how Russians really think." She smiled nervously. Her
face was suddenly set and strained. "I find that--"

She stopped then, very suddenly. Her eyes widened, and her right hand
reached out to grasp Malone's arm more strongly than he had thought
she ever could. "Sir Kenneth!" Her voice, all restraint gone, was a
hissing whisper. Malone started to say something, but Her Majesty went
on, her eyes wide. "Do something quickly!" she said.

"What?" Malone said.

"They've put something in Lou's drink!" Her Majesty hissed.

Malone was on his feet before she'd finished, and he took a step
across the room.

"She's already swallowed it!" the Queen said. "Do something! Quickly!"

The dancers on the floor were no concern of his, Malone told himself
grimly. He didn't decide to move; he was on his way before any thought
filtered through into his mind. Officers and their ladies looked after
him with shocked stupor as he plowed his way across the dance floor,
using legs, elbows, shoulders and anything else that allowed him free
passage. Sometimes the dancers managed to get out of his way.
Sometimes they didn't. It was all the same to Kenneth J. Malone.

Her Majesty followed in his wake, silent and stricken, scurrying after
him like a small destroyer following a battleship, or like a
ball-carrying grandmother following up her interference.

Malone caught sight of Lou, standing at the bar. In that second, she
seemed to realize for the first time that something was wrong. She
pushed herself violently away from the bar, and looked frantically
around, her mouth opening to call. Petkoff was a blur next to her;
Malone didn't look at him clearly. Lou took a step...

And two men with broken, lumpy faces came through a door somewhere in
the rear of the restaurant, closer to her than Malone. Petkoff
suddenly swam into sight; he was standing very still and looking
entirely baffled.

Malone pushed through a pair of dancers, ignored their glares and the
man's hissed insult, which he didn't understand anyhow, and found his
view suddenly blocked by a large expanse of dark grey.

It was somebody's chest, in a uniform. Malone shifted his gaze half an
inch and saw a row of gold buttons. He looked upward.

There, towering above him, was a face. It stared down, looking heavy
and cruel and stupid. Malone, his legs still carrying him forward,
bounced off the chest and staggered back a step or two. He heard a
hissed curse behind him, and realized without thinking about it that
he had managed to collide with the same pair of dancers again. He
didn't look around to see them. Instead, he looked ahead, at the giant
who blocked his path.

The man was about six feet six inches tall, a great Mongol who weighed
about a sixth of a ton. But he didn't look fat; he looked strong
instead, and enormously massive. Malone sidestepped, and the Mongol
moved slightly to block him. To one side, Malone saw Her Majesty
scurrying by. The Mongol was apparently more interested in Malone than
in trying to stop sweet little old ladies. Malone saw Her Majesty
heading for the bar, and forgot about her for the second.

The Mongol shifted again to block Malone's forward progress.

"What seems to be such great hurry, _Tovarishch_?" he said in a voice
that sounded like an earthquake warning. "Have you no culture? Why you
run across floor in such impolite manner?"

The man might have been blocking his way because of Lou, or might
simply want to teach an uncultured _Amerikanski_ a lesson. Malone
couldn't tell which, and it didn't seem to matter. He whirled and
reached for a glass of vodka standing momentarily unattended on a
nearby table.

He tossed the vodka at the giant's eyes, and scooted around the
mountain of flesh before it erupted with a volcanic succession of
Russian curses that shook the room with their volume and sincerity.

But Lou and Her Majesty were nowhere in sight. Major Petkoff was
staring, and Malone followed his line of sight.

A door in the rear of the restaurant was just closing. Behind it
Malone saw Her Majesty and Lou, disappearing from sight.

Malone knocked over a waiter and headed for Petkoff. "What's going on
here?" he bellowed over the crash of dishes and the rising wave of
Russian profanity.

Petkoff shrugged magnificently. "I have no ideas, colleague," he said.
"I have no ideas."

"But she--"

"Miss Garbitsch was taken suddenly ill," Petkoff said.

"Damn sudden," Malone growled.

"Her friend, Miss Thompson, has taken her to the ladies' room,"
Petkoff said. He gestured, narrowly missing a broken, lumpy face
Malone had seen before.

"You are under arrest," the face said. Its partner peered over
Petkoff's shoulder.

"I?" Petkoff said.

"Not you," the face said. "Him." He started for Malone and Petkoff
threw out both arms.

"Hold!" he said. "My orders are to see that this man is not molested."

The guests had suddenly and silently melted away. Malone backed off a
step, looking for something to stage a fight with.

"On the other hand, Comrade," one of the lumpy-faced men said, "we
have orders also."

"My orders--" Petkoff began.

"Your orders do not exist," the other lumpy man said. "We are to
arrest this man. Our orders say so."

"You are fools," Petkoff said. He spread his arms wider, blocking both
of them. Malone edged back against the bar, feeling behind him for a
bottle or maybe a bungstarter. Instead, his hand touched a sleeve.

A voice behind him bellowed: "Cease!"

The two lumpy-faced men goggled. Petkoff did not move.

Malone turned, and saw a tall, thin civilian with dark glasses.
"Cease," the civilian repeated. "It is the girl we are to arrest! The
girl!"

"This is not a girl," one of the lumpy men said. "Sir. We are to
arrest this man. Our orders say distinctly--"

"Never mind your orders!" Petkoff said. "Go and reduce your orders to
shreds and stuff them up your nostrils and die of suffocation! My
orders say--"

"The girl!" the civilian said. "Where is the girl?"

Malone darted forward. Petkoff caught him neatly with one arm as he
went by. "Until we decide what to do," the MVD man said, "you stay
here." Malone bucked against him, but could get nowhere. "Meanwhile,"
Petkoff said, "I am for letting you go."

"I appreciate it," Malone said through his teeth. "How about proving
it?"

"If you let him go," a lumpy man said, "you will answer to our group
head."

Petkoff tightened his hold protectively. Meanwhile, the civilian was
climbing up into a stratospheric rage.

"You are dolts, imbeciles, worms without brains and walking bellies
filled with carrion!" he said magnificently. "I have orders which I am
sworn to carry out!"

"You are not alone," Petkoff said.

Malone took another try at a getaway, and failed.

"We take precedence," a lumpy man said. "We can talk later. Arrest
comes first."

"But who?" the civilian snapped. "I insist--"

"There shall be no arrest!" Petkoff screamed. "No one is to be
arrested at all!"

"I swear by the bones of Stalin that my orders state--" the tall man
began.

"The bones of Stalin are with us!" a lumpy man said. "Go and die in a
kennel filled with fleas and old newspaper! Go and freeze to the
likeness of an obscene statue of a bourgeois deity! Go and hang by the
ears from a monument four thousand feet high in the center of the
great desert!"

Inspired, the other lumpy man screamed "Charge!" and came for Petkoff
and the civilian. Petkoff whirled, letting go of Malone in order to
beat back this wave of maddened attackers, and Malone took the
advantage. He ducked free under Petkoff's left arm and started around
the gesticulating, screaming, fighting group for the door at the back
of the restaurant. He took exactly four steps.

Then he stopped. The Mongol, his eyes red with a combination of vodka
and bull-roaring rage, was charging toward him, his hands outflung and
his fingers grasping at the air. "Warmonger!" he was shouting.
"Capitalist slave-owner! Leprous and ancient cannibal without culture!
You have begun a war you can not finish!"

"Ha!" Malone said, feeling inadequate to the occasion. As the Mongol
charged, he felt a wave of intense pragmatism come over him. He
reached back toward the bar, grabbed a bottle of vodka and tossed
several glassfuls into the giant's face. The Mongol, deluged and
screaming, clawed wildly at his eyes and spun round several times,
cursing Malone and all his kin for the next twenty-seven generations,
and grabbing thin air in his attempt to reach the _Amerikanski_.

All of the customers appeared to have discovered urgent engagements
elsewhere. There was little for the Mongol to collide with except
empty tables and chairs. But he did manage to swipe one of the
lumpy-faced men on the side of the head with one flail of his arms.
The lumpy-faced man said "Yoop!" and went staggering away into
Petkoff, who spun him around and threw him away in the general
direction of the bandstand. The diversion provided Malone with just
enough time to start moving again.

Four uniformed men were making their way toward the ladies' room from
the opposite side of the restaurant. They were carrying a stretcher,
which seemed pitifully inadequate for the carnage Malone had just
left.

He blocked their path. "Where are you going?" he said.

"You are American?" one of them said. "I speak English good, no?"

Behind him, Malone heard a yowl and a crunch, as of a body striking
wood. It sounded as if somebody had fetched up against the bar. "You
speak English fine," he said, feeling wildly out of place. "Have you
been taking lessons?"

"Me?" the man said. "It is no time for talk. We got to get lady for
hospital."

"Lady?" Malone said. "For hospital?"

"Miss Garbitsch her name is," the stretcher-man said, trying to get
past Malone. The FBI agent shifted slightly, blocking the path. "We
wait outside one revolution--"

"One what?"

"When hands revolve once," the man said. "One hour. Now we get call so
we take her to hospital."

It sounded suspicious to Malone. He heard more yells behind him, and
they sounded a little closer. The sound of running men came to his
ears. "Well," he said happily, "goodbye all."

The stretcher-bearer said, "Vot?" Malone shoved him backward into the
approaching mob, grabbed the stretcher away from the other three men,
who were acting a little dazed, and swung it in a wide arc. He caught
an MVD man in the stomach, and the man doubled up with a weird
whistling groan, turned slightly in agony, and hit another MVD man
with his bowed head. The second man fell; Malone heard more crashes
and screaming, but he didn't find out any details. Instead, he threw
the stretcher at the milling mob and turned, already in motion, racing
for the ladies' room.

He had no notion of what he was going to do when he got there, or what
he was going to find. Her Majesty and Lou were in there, all right,
but how were they going to get out without being arrested, clubbed,
disemboweled or taken to a Russian hospital for God alone knew what
novel purposes?

His mind was still a little foggy from the vast amounts of vodka he
had poured down, and he wasn't in the least sure that teleportation
would even work. He tried to figure out whether Her Majesty had
already carried Lou off that way--but he doubted it. Lou was quite a
burden for the old woman. And besides, he wasn't at all sure whether
it was possible to teleport a human being. A lump of inanimate matter
is one thing; an intelligent woman with a mind of her own is
definitely something else.

It seemed to take forever for him to reach the door, and he was
panting heavily when he reached for it. Suddenly, another hand shot in
front of his, turning the doorknob. Malone looked up.

It was impossible to figure out where she had come from, or what she
thought she was doing, but a bulging, slightly intoxicated Russian
matron with bluish hair piled high on her head, a rusty orange dress
and altogether too many jewels scattered here and there about her
ample person, stood regarding him with a mixture of scorn, surprise
and shock.

Malone crowded her aside without a thought and jerked the door open.
Behind her he could see the melee still continuing, though it looked
by now as if the Russians weren't very sure who they were supposed to
be fighting. The Mongol's great head rose for a second above the
storm, shouting something unintelligible, and dropped again into the
crowd.

Malone focused on the matron, who was standing with her mouth open
staring at him.

"Madam," he said with stern dignity, "wait your turn!"

He ducked inside and slammed the door behind him. There was a small
knob to bolt the door with, and he used it. But it wasn't going to
hold long, he knew. If the mob outside ever got straightened out, the
door would go down like a piece of cardboard, bolt or no bolt.
Undoubtedly the gigantic Mongol could do the job with one hand tied
behind his back.

Malone turned around and put his own back to the door. Women were
looking up and making up their minds whether or not to scream. Time
stood absolutely still, and nobody seemed to be moving--not even the
two directly before him: a frightened-looking little old lady, who was
trying to hold up a semiconscious redhead.

And, somewhere behind him, he knew, was a howling mob of thoroughly
maddened Russians.


8

The door rattled against Malone's back as a hand twisted the knob and
shook it. He braced himself for the next assault, and it came: the
shudder of a heavy body slamming up against it. Miraculously, the door
held, at least for the moment. But the roars outside were growing
louder and louder as the second team came up.

Where was the Mongol? he wondered. But there was no time for idle
contemplation. The scene inside the room demanded his immediate
attention.

He was in the anteroom, a gilded and decorated parlor filled with
overstuffed chairs and couches. There was a door at the far side of
the room, and a woman suddenly came out of it holding a pocketbook in
one hand and a large powder-puff in the other. She saw Malone and
reacted instantly.

Her scream seemed to be a signal. The two other women sitting on
couches screamed, too, and jumped up with their hands to their faces.
Malone shouted something unintelligible but very loud at them and
brandished a fist menacingly. They shrieked again and ran for the
interior room.

Malone heard the roaring outside, and pressed his back tighter against
the door. Then, suddenly, he broke away from it and ran over to Her
Majesty and Lou. He looked down. Lou was apparently completely
unconscious by this time, and there was a peaceful look on her face.
The Queen looked down at her, then up at Malone.

"I'm sorry, Sir Kenneth," she said, "but we really haven't time for
romantic thoughts just now."

Malone passed a hand over his brow. "We haven't got time for
anything," he said. "You can see what's going on outside."

"My goodness," Her Majesty said. "Oh, yes. My goodness, yes."

"Okay," Malone said. "We've got to teleport out, if we can--and if we
can take Lou with us."

"I don't know, Sir Kenneth," the Queen said.

"We've got to try," Malone said grimly, looking down. There was a
crash as something hit the door. It shuddered, creaked, and held.
Malone took a breath. Lou was too beautiful to leave behind, no matter
what.

"I'll mesh my mind with yours," Her Majesty said, "so we'll be
synchronized."

"Right," Malone said. "The plane. Let's go."

There was another crash, but he hardly heard it. He closed his eyes
and tried to visualize the interior of the plane that was waiting for
them at the airfield. He wasn't sure he could do it; the vodka might
have clouded his mental processes just enough to make teleporting
impossible. He concentrated. The crash came again, and a shout. He
almost had it ... he almost had it...

The last sound he heard was the splintering of the door, and a great
shout that was cut off in the middle.

Malone opened his eyes.

"We made it," he said softly. "And I wonder what the MVD is going to
think."

Her Majesty took a deep breath. "My goodness," she said. "That _was_
exciting, wasn't it?"

"Not half as exciting as it's going to be if we don't hurry now,"
Malone said. "If you know what I mean."

"I do," Her Majesty said.

"That's good," Malone said at random. "I don't." He helped the Queen
ease the unconscious body of Luba Garbitsch into one of the padded
seats, and Malone pushed a switch. The seat gave a tiny squeak of
protest, and then folded back into a flat bedlike arrangement. Lou was
arranged on this comfortable surface, and Malone took a deep breath.
"Take care of her for a minute, Your Majesty," he said.

"Of course," the Queen said.

Malone nodded. "I'm going to see who's up front," he said. He walked
through the corridors of the plane and rapped authoritatively on the
door of the pilot's cabin. A second passed, and he raised his hand to
knock again.

It never reached the door, which opened very suddenly. Malone found
himself facing a small black hole.

It was the muzzle and the bore of the barrel of an M-2 .45 revolver,
and it was pointing somewhere in the space between Malone's eyes.
Behind the gun was a hard-eyed air force colonel with a grim
expression.

"You know," Malone said pleasantly, "they're good guns, but they
really can't compare to the .44 Magnum."

The pilot blinked, and his gun wavered just a little. "What?" he said.

"Well," Malone said, "if you'd only join the FBI, like me, you'd have
a .44 Magnum, and you could compare the guns."

The pilot blinked again. "You're--"

"Malone," Malone said. "Kenneth J. Malone, FBI. My friends call me
Snookums, but don't try it. Why not let's put the gun away and be
friends?"

"Oh," the colonel said weakly. "Mr.--sure. I'm sorry, Mr. Malone.
Didn't recognize you for a second there."

"Perfectly all right," Malone said. The gun was still pointing at him,
and in spite of the fact that he felt pleasantly like Philip Marlowe,
or maybe the Saint, he was beginning to get a little nervous. "The
gun," he said.

The colonel stared at it for a second, then reholstered it in a hurry.
"I am sorry," he said. "But we've been worried about Russians coming
aboard. I've got my copilot and navigator outside, guarding the plane,
and they were supposed to let me know if anybody came in. When they
didn't let me know, and you knocked, I assumed you were Russians. But,
of course, you--"

Conversation came to a sudden dead stop.

"About these Russians--" Malone said desperately. But the pilot's eyes
got a little glazed. He wasn't listening.

"Now, wait a minute," he said. "Why _didn't_ they notify me?"

"Maybe they didn't see me," Malone said. "I mean us."

"But--"

"I'm not very noticeable," Malone said hopefully, trying to look small
and undistinguished. "They could just have ... not noticed me. Okay?"
He gave the pilot his most friendly smile.

"They'd have noticed you," the pilot said. "If they're still out
there. If nothing's happened to them." He leaned forward. "Did you see
them, Malone?"

Malone shrugged. "How would I know?" he said.

"How would you--" The pilot seemed at a loss for words. Malone waited
patiently, trying to look as if everything were completely and
perfectly normal. "Mr. Malone," the pilot said at last, "how _did_ you
get aboard this aircraft?"

He didn't wait for an answer, and Malone was grateful for that.
Instead, he stepped over to a viewport and looked out. On the field,
two air force officers were making lonely rounds about the plane.
Fifty yards farther away, a squad of Russian guards also patrolled the
brightly-lit area. There was nothing else in sight.

"There isn't any way you could have done it," the pilot said without
turning.

"That's the FBI for you," Malone said. "We've got our little trade
secrets, you know." Somehow, the pilot's back looked unconvinced.
"Disguise," Malone added. "We're masters of disguise."

The pilot turned very slowly. "Now what the hell would you disguise
yourself as?" he said. "A Piper Cub?"

"It's a military secret," Malone said hurriedly.

The pilot didn't say anything for what seemed a long time. "A military
secret?" he asked at last, in a hushed voice. "And you can't tell me?
You're a civilian, and I'm a colonel in the United States Air Force,
and you can't tell me a military secret?"

Malone didn't hesitate a second. "Well, Colonel," he said cheerfully,
"that's the way things are."

The pilot threw up his hands. "It's none of my business," he said
loudly. "I'm not even going to think about it. Because if I do, you'll
have a mad pilot on your hands, and you wouldn't like that, would
you?"

"I would hate it," Malone said sincerely, "like hell. Particularly
since I've got a sick woman aboard."

"Disguised," the pilot offered, "as Lenin, I suppose."

Malone shook his head. "I'm not kidding now," he said. "She is sick,
and I want a doctor for her."

"Why didn't you bring one with you?" the pilot said. "Or wasn't the
disguise big enough for three?"

"Four," Malone said. "We've got three now; me and Miss Garbitsch and
Miss Thompson. Lou--Miss Garbitsch is the one who's sick. But I want a
doctor from the American Embassy."

"I think we could all use one," the pilot said judiciously. "But you'd
better tell me what's the matter with the girl."

Malone gave him a brief and highly censored version of the melee at
Trotkin's, particularly omitting the details of the final escape from
the MVD men.

When he had finished, the pilot gave a long, low whistle. "You have
been having fun," he said. "Can I go on your next adventure, or is it
only for accredited Rover Boys?"

"You have to buy a pin and a special compass that works in the dark,"
Malone said. "I don't think you'd like it. How about that doctor?"

The pilot nodded wearily. "I'll send my navigator over to the airfield
phone," he said. "As a matter of fact, I'll tell him to tell the
doctor I'm the one who's sick, so the Russians don't get suspicious.
It may even be true."

"Just so he gets here," Malone said. The pilot was flagging his
navigator through the viewport as Malone went out, closing the door
gently behind him. He went back down the plane corridor to Her Majesty
and Lou.

Lou was still lying on the makeshift bed, her eyes closed. She looked
more beautiful and defenseless than ever, and Malone wanted to do
something big and terrible to all the Russians who had tried to take
her away or dope her. With difficulty, he restrained himself. "How is
she?" he asked.

"She seems to be all right," the Queen said. "The substance they put
in her drink doesn't appear to have had any other effect than putting
her to sleep and making her a little sick--and that was a good thing."

"Oh, sure," Malone said. "That was fine."

"Well," Her Majesty said, "she did get rid of quite a bit of the drug
in the ladies' room." She smiled, just a trifle primly. "I think
she'll be all right," she said.

"There's a doctor on the way, anyhow," Malone said, staring down at
her. He tried to think of something he could do for her--fan her, or
bring her water, or cool her fevered brow. But she didn't look very
fevered. She just looked helpless and beautiful. He felt sorry for all
the nasty things he had said to her, and all the nasty things she had
said to him. If she got well--and of course she was going to get well,
he told himself firmly--things would be different. They'd be sweet and
kind to each other all the time, and do nice things for each other.

And she was definitely going to get well. He wouldn't even think about
anything else. She was going to be fine again, and very soon. Why, she
was hardly hurt at all, he told himself, hardly hurt at all.

"Sir Kenneth," Her Majesty said. "I've been thinking: while we were
about it, why didn't we just teleport all the way back home?"

Malone turned. "Because," he said, "we'd have had the devil of a time
explaining just how we managed to do it."

"Oh," she said. "I see. Of course."

"This teleportation gimmick is supposed to be a secret," Malone went
on. "We don't want to let out anything more about it than we have to.
As it is, there's going to be some fierce wondering among the Russians
about how we got out of that restaurant."

"Obviously," the Queen said, entirely unexpectedly, "a bourgeois
capitalistic trick."

"Obviously," Malone agreed. "But we don't want to start up any more
questions than we have to."

"And how about the plane itself?" Her Majesty went on. "Do you think
they'll let us take off?"

"I don't know how they can stop us," Malone said.

"You don't?"

"Well, they don't want to cause any incidents now," Malone said. "At
least, I don't think they do. If they could have captured us--me, or
Lou, or both of us, depending on which side of the argument you want
to take--anyhow, if they could have grabbed us on their own home
grounds, they'd have had an excuse. Lou got sick, they'd say, and they
just took her to the hospital. They wouldn't have to call it an arrest
at all."

"Oh, I see," Her Majesty said. "But now we're not on their home
grounds."

"Not so long as we stay in this plane, we're not," Malone said. "And
we're going to stay here until we take off."

Her Majesty nodded.

"I wish I knew what they thought they were doing, though," Malone
mused. "They certainly couldn't have held us for very long, no matter
how they worked things."

"I know what was on their minds," Her Majesty said. "At least partly.
It was all so confused it was difficult to get anything really
detailed or complete."

"There," Malone said fervently, "I agree with you."

"The whole trouble was," the Queen said, "that nobody knew about
anybody else."

"I'd gathered something like that," Malone said. "But what exactly was
it all about?"

"Well," the Queen said, "Major Petkoff was supposed to tell Lou, in
effect, that if she didn't agree to do espionage work for the Soviet
Union, things would go hard with her father."

"Nice," Malone said. "Very friendly gentleman."

"Well," the Queen continued, "he was supposed to tell her about that
at the bar, when he had her alone. But she got that drugged drink
before he could begin to say anything."

"Then who drugged it?" Malone said. "Lou?"

The Queen shrugged. "Someone else," she said. "Major Petkoff didn't
know anything about the drugged drink."

"A nice surprise for him, anyhow," Malone said.

"It was a surprise for everybody," the Queen said. "You see, the
drugged drink was meant to get her to the hospital, where they'd have
her alone for a long time and could really put some pressure on her."

"And then," Malone said, "there were the men who wanted to arrest me.
And the ones who wanted to take Lou to jail. And the mad Mongol who
just wanted to fight, I guess."

"There were so many different things, all going on at once," the Queen
said.

Malone nodded. "There seems to be quite a lot of confusion in the
Soviet Union, too," he said. "That does not sound to me like an
efficient operation."

"It wasn't, very," the Queen said. "You see, they have Garbitsch now,
but they can't do anything to him because they can't get to Lou. And
it doesn't do them any good to do anything to her father, unless she
knows about it first."

"It sounds," Malone said, "as if the USSR is going along the same
confused road as the good old United States."

The Queen nodded agreement. "It's terrible," she said. "I get those
same flashes of telepathic static, too."

"You do?" Malone said, leaning forward.

"Just the same," the Queen said. "Whatever is operating in the United
States is operating over here, too."

Malone sat down in a seat on the aisle. "Everything," he announced,
"is now perfectly lovely. The United States is being confused and
mixed up by somebody, and the Somebody looked like a Russian spy. But
now Russia is being confused, too."

"Do you think there are some American spies working here?" the Queen
said.

"If they're using psionics," Malone said, "as they obviously are--and
I don't know about them, Burris doesn't know about them, O'Connor
doesn't know about them and nobody else I can find knows about them--
then they don't exist. That's flat."

"How about outer space?" the Queen said. "I mean, spies from outer
space trying to take over the Earth."

"It's a nice idea," Malone said sourly. "I wish they'd hurry up and do
it."

"Then you don't think--"

"I don't know what to think," Malone said. "There's some perfectly
simple explanation for all this. And somewhere, in all the running
around and looking here and there I've been doing, I've got all the
facts I need to come up with that answer."

"Oh, my," the Queen said. "That's wonderful."

"Sure it is," Malone said. "There's only one trouble, as a matter of
fact. I don't know what the explanation is, and I don't know which
facts are important and which ones aren't."

There was a short silence.

"I wish Tom Boyd were here," Malone said wistfully.

"Really?" the Queen said. "Why?"

"Because," Malone said, "I feel like hearing some really professional
cursing."

* * * * *

Three-quarters of an hour passed, each and every minute draped in some
black and gloomy material. Malone sat in his seat, his head supported
by both hands, and stared at the back of the seat ahead of him. No
great messages were written on it. The Queen, respecting his need for
silent contemplation, sat and watched Lou and said nothing at all.

It was always possible, of course, Malone thought, that he would fall
asleep and dream of an answer. That kind of thing kept happening to
detectives in books. Or else a strange man in a black trenchcoat would
sidle up to him and hand him a slip of paper. The words: "Five
o'clock, watch out, the red snake, doom," would be written on the
paper and these words would provide him with just the clues he needed
to solve the whole case. Or else he would go and beat somebody up, and
the exercise would stimulate his brain and he would suddenly arrive at
the answer in a blinding flash.

Wondering vaguely if a blinding flash were anything like a dungeon,
because people kept being in them and never seemed to come out, Malone
sighed. Detectives in books were great, wonderful people who never had
any doubts or worries. Particularly if they were with the FBI. Only
Kenneth J. Malone was different.

Maybe someday, he thought, he would be a real detective, instead of
just having a few special gifts that he hadn't really worked for,
anyhow. Maybe someday, in the distant future, he would be the equal of
Nick Carter.

Right now, though, he had a case to solve. Nick Carter wasn't around
to help.

And Kenneth J. Malone, FBI, was getting absolutely nowhere.

Finally, his reverie was broken by the sounds of argument outside the
plane door. There were voices speaking both English and Russian, very
loudly. Malone went to the door and opened it. A short, round,
grey-haired man who looked just a little like an over-tired bear who
had forgotten to sleep all winter almost fell into his arms. The man
was wearing a grey overcoat that went nicely with his hair, and
carrying a small black bag.

Malone said: "Oog," replaced the man on his own feet and looked past
him at the group on the landing ramp outside. The navigator was there,
arguing earnestly with two men in the uniform of the MVD.

"Damn it," the navigator said, "you can't come in here. Nobody comes
in but the doctor. This is United States territory."

The MVD men said something in Russian.

"No," the navigator said. "Definitely no."

One of the MVD men spat something that sounded like an insult.

The navigator shrugged. "I don't understand Russian," he told them.
"All I know is one word. No. _Nyet_ Definitely, absolutely irrevocably
_nyet_."

_"Sikin sin Amerikanyets!"_

The MVD men turned, as if they'd been a sister act, and went down the
steps. The navigator followed them, wiping his forehead and breathing
deeply. Malone shut the door.

"Well, well, well," the doctor said, in a burbling sort of voice.
"Somehow, we thought it might be you. Anyhow, the ambassador did."

"Really?" Malone said, trying to sound surprised.

"Oh, yes," the doctor assured him. "You have raised something of a
stench in and around good old Moscow, you know."

"I'm innocent," Malone said.

The doctor nodded. "Undoubtedly," he said judiciously. "Who isn't? And
where, by the way, is the girl?"

"Over there." Malone pointed. News apparently traveled with great
speed in Moscow, MVD and censorship notwithstanding. At any rate, he
thought, it traveled with great speed to the ears of the Embassy
staff.

The doctor lifted Lou's limp wrist to time her pulse, his lips pursed
and his eyes focused on a far wall.

"What have you heard?" Malone said.

"The MVD boys are extremely worried," the doctor said. "Extremely." He
didn't let go of the wrist, a marvel of which Malone had never grown
tired. Doctors always seemed to be able, somehow, to examine a patient
and carry on a conversation about totally different things, without
even showing the strain. This one was no exception. Malone watched in
awe.

"According to the reports we got from them," the doctor said, "you
wandered off from _Trotkin's_ without your escort."

"Well," Malone said at random, "I didn't think to leave them a
farewell note. I hope they don't think I disliked their company."

"Officially," the doctor said, lifting Lou's left eyelid and gazing
thoughtfully into the blue iris thus exposed, "they're afraid you're
lost, and they were apologetic as all hell about it to the
ambassador." The iris appeared to lose its fascination; the doctor
dropped the eyelid and fished in his black bag, which he had put on
the seat next to Lou.

"And unofficially?" Malone asked.

"Unofficially," the doctor said, "we've got news of a riot at
_Trotkin's_ tonight, in which you seem to have been involved. Mr.
Malone, you must be quite a barroom brawler when you're at home."

"Frankly," Malone said, "I'm a little out of practice. And I hope I
never have the chance to get back _into_ practice."

The doctor nodded, removing a stethoscope from the bag and applying it
to Lou's chest. He waited a second, frowned and then took the plugs
out of his ears. "I know just what you mean," he said. "You might be
interested to know the first unofficial score of that little match."

"Score?" Malone said.

The doctor nodded again. "Three concussions," he said, "one possible
skull fracture, a broken arm, two bitten hands, and a large and varied
assortment of dental difficulties and plain hysteria. No dead,
however. I really don't understand why not."

"Well," Malone said, "nobody wanted to create an international
incident."

"Hmf," the doctor said. "I see. Or I think I do, which is as far as I
care to go in the matter. The Russians suspect, by the way, that
you've managed to get aboard the plane. They do know, of course, about
the girl, and when the pilot called for me they put two and two
together. In spite of his story about being sick. What they can't
figure out is how you managed to _get_ aboard the plane."

"Neither can I," Malone said at random. The doctor gave him a single
bright stare.

"Well," he said at last, "I suppose you know your own business best.
By the way, my examination accords pretty well with our unofficial
information about the girl--that she was given some sort of drug in a
drink. Is that what happened?"

Malone nodded. "As far as we know," he said. "She did get rid of a lot
of it within a few minutes, though."

"Good," the doctor said. "Very sensible."

"Sense had nothing to do with it," Malone said.

"In any case," the doctor went on doggedly, "there can't be too much
left in her system. Her pulse is good, she's breathing easily and
there don't seem to be any complications, so I should doubt strongly
that there's been much damage done. Besides all which, of course, the
Russians would hardly have wanted to hurt her; what they gave her
would probably have done little more harm even if she'd ingested it
all, and kept it down."

"Good," Malone said sincerely.

"I'll give you some pills," the doctor said, fishing in his bag again,
"and you can give them to her when she wakes up."

"Is that all?" Malone said, vaguely disappointed.

The doctor eyed him keenly. "Well," he said, "I could give her an
injection, but I'd be a little afraid to. If it had a synergistic
action with the drug, she might be worse off than before."

"Oh," Malone said. "By all means. Just the pills."

"I'm glad you agree," the doctor said. "Oh, and about leaving--"

"Yes?" Malone said. "We want to get out of here in a hurry, if we
can."

"I think you can," the doctor said. "The ambassador mentioned that
he'd try to arrange it with the Russians. I don't know what he'll tell
them--but then, that's why he's an ambassador, and I'm a doctor." He
straightened up and handed Malone an envelope containing three green
capsules. "Give her these if she wakes up with a headache," he said.
"If she feels all right, just forget all about them."

"Sure," Malone said. "And thanks, Doctor. Tell the ambassador we'd
appreciate it if he got us out of here as soon as possible."

"Certainly," the doctor said. "After all, I might as well take on the
job of a diplomatic courier."

Malone nodded. "Well," he said, "goodbye, Mr. Courier."

The doctor went to the door, opened it and turned.

"Absolutely," he said, "Mr. Ives."


9

Lou didn't wake up until the plane was dropping toward the Washington
airfield, and when she did awaken it was as if she had merely come out
of an especially deep sleep. Malone was standing over her, which was
far from a coincidence; he had been waiting and watching virtually
every minute since takeoff.

During his brief periods of rest, Her Majesty had taken over, and she
was now peacefully asleep at the back of the plane, looking a little
more careworn, but just as regal as ever. She looked to Malone as if
she had weathered a small revolution against her rule, but had managed
to persuade the populace (by passing out cookies to the children,
probably) that all was, in the last analysis, for the best in this
best of all possible worlds. She looked, he thought, absolutely
wonderful.

So did Lou. She blinked her eyes open and moved one hand at her side,
and then she came fully awake. "Well," she said. "And a bright hello
to you, Sleuth. If it's not being too banal, where am I?"

"It is," Malone said, "but you're in an airplane, coming into
Washington. We ought to be there in a few minutes."

Lou shook her head slowly from side to side. "I have never heard any
news that sounded better in my entire life," she said. "How long ago
did we leave Moscow?"

"Our trip to Beautiful Moskva," Malone said, "ended right after they
tried to get you to the hospital, by giving you a drugged drink. Do
you remember that?"

"I remember it, all right," she said. "I'm never going to forget that
moment."

"How do you feel?" Malone said.

"Fine," Lou said. "And how are _you_?"

"Me?" Malone said. "I'm all right. I've _been_ all right. Don't worry
about _me_."

"Well, one never knows," Lou said. "With your cold and all."

"I think that's better," Malone said hastily. "But you're sure you
feel fine?"

Lou nodded. "A little tired, maybe, but that's all." She paused. "I
remember Miss Thompson taking me to the ladies' room. I got pretty
sick. But from there on, I'm not sure what happened."

"I came in," Malone said, "and got you out."

"How brave!" Lou said.

"Not very," Malone said casually. "After all, what could happen to me
in a ladies' room?"

"You'd be surprised," Lou murmured. "And you came and got me, and took
me to the plane and all. And I--" She hesitated, and for a second she
looked very small and wistful. "Do you--do you think they'll do
anything to Dad?" she said.

"I don't see why," Malone said confidently. "After all, the only thing
he did wrong was to get caught, and that's an occupational risk if
you're in the spy business. Lots of people get caught. Happens all the
time. Don't worry about it."

"I--all right," she said. "I won't, then."

"Good," Malone said. He fished in his pocket. "I've got some pills
here," he said, "in case you have a headache. The doctor said I could
give them to you if you had a headache, but otherwise I should just
forget about them."

Lou smiled. "I think you'd better just forget about them," she said.

Malone's hand came out of his pocket empty. "I just want to make sure
you're okay," he said. "Probably very silly. Of course you're okay."

"Of course I am," she said. "But I don't think you're silly." She
smiled again, a very warm smile. Malone took a deep breath and
discovered that he hadn't been breathing at all regularly for several
minutes. Lou's smile increased a trifle in intensity and he stopped
breathing all over again. "All things considered," she said, "I think
you're pretty wonderful, Ken."

Malone's voice sounded to him as if it were coming from a great
distance. He wondered if the strange feeling in his stomach were the
pangs of love, or the descent of the plane. Then he realized that he
didn't care. "Well, well," he said airily. "Well, well, well. Frankly,
Lou, I'm inclined to agree with you. Though I'm not sure about the
qualification."

"Fine thing," she said. "Tell a man he's wonderful and he just nods
his head as if he knew it all along."

Malone swallowed hard. "Maybe I did," he said. "And how did you come
to this startling conclusion?"

It was Lou who broke the light mood of their speech first. "Look,
Ken," she said seriously, "I'm the daughter of an enemy spy. You know
that. You're an FBI agent."

"So what?" he said.

"So," she said, "you don't treat me like the daughter of a spy. You
treat me just like anybody else."

"I do not," Malone said instantly.

"All right," she said, and shrugged. "But I'm sure none of this is in
the FBI manual for daughters of convicted spies."

"Now, you look," Malone said. "Just what do you think this is? The
McCarthy era? Any way I treat you, it has nothing to do with your
father. He's a spy, and we caught him and we sent him back to Moscow.
That's our job. But all this about the sins of the fathers being
visited on the heads of the children, even unto the seventh
generation--this is just plain silly. You're you; you're not your
father. You haven't done anything--why should I treat you as if you
have?"

"How do you know I'm not a spy, too?" she said.

"Because," Malone said flatly, "I know."

"Really?" she said softly. "Do you really?"

Malone opened his mouth, shut it and then started again. "Strictly
speaking," he said carefully, "I don't know. But we're in the United
States now, where a person is considered innocent until proven
guilty."

"And that," Lou said, "is all you're going on, I suppose."

"Not all," Malone said.

"I didn't think so," Lou said, still smiling.

"Don't ask me how," Malone said, "but we're pretty sure you knew
nothing about your father's activities. Forget it."

Lou looked suddenly slightly disappointed. Malone wondered why. Of
course, there was one more reason, and maybe she'd thought of that.
"It does make it easier," he said, "that you happen to be a beautiful
girl."

She smiled again, and started to say something, but she never got the
chance. The landing gear of the aircraft bumped gently against the
runway, and the ship rolled slowly in to a stop.

A second passed. From the back of the plane a voice said: "Are we back
in Washington, S--Mr. Malone?"

"That's right, Miss Thompson," Malone told the Queen.

"And Miss Garbitsch--"

"I'm fine, Miss Thompson," Luba said. She swung her feet around to the
deck.

"Wait a minute," Malone said. "Do you think you ought to get up?"

Lou's smile seemed to reduce him to small, very hot ashes. "Ken," she
said, "the doctor said I was fine, so what are you worrying about? I
can get up. I'll be all right."

"Oh, okay," he said, and stepped back. Her Majesty had already left
the plane. Lou got up, and wavered just a little. Malone held out his
arms, and found her in them before he had thought about it.

A long time seemed to pass. Malone wasn't sure whether he was standing
still because he wanted to, or because he was absolutely incapable of
motion. Lou didn't seem in any hurry to break away, either.

Then she put her arms around his neck.

"Sleuth," she said, "don't you ever follow up a hint?"

"Hint?" Malone said.

"Damn it," Lou said in a soft, sweet voice, "kiss me, Ken."

Malone had no answer to that--at least, no verbal answer.

One didn't seem to be needed.

When he finally came up for air, he said: "Lou..."

"Yes, Ken?"

"Lou, where are you going from here?"

Lou stepped back a pace. "What?" she said.

"I mean, back to New York?" Malone said. "Or someplace else? I mean--
well, what are you going to do?"

"Oh," Lou said. "Oh, yes. I'll be going back to New York. After all,
Ken, I do have a living to make, such as it is, and Sir Lewis is
expecting me."

"I don't know," Malone said, "but it still sounds funny. A girl like
you working for--well, for the Psychical Research people. Ghosts and
ectoplasm and all that."

Lou stepped back another pace. "Now, wait a minute," she said. "You
seemed to need their information, all right."

"But that was--oh, well," Malone said. "Never mind. Maybe I'm silly.
It really doesn't matter."

"I guess it doesn't, now," she said. "Except that it does mean I've
got to leave for New York almost at once."

"Can you cut out that 'almost'?" Malone said. "Because I've got to be
there myself, and right away. If you hurry, we can get the same
plane."

"That would be great," she said.

"Okay, then," Malone said. "Don't you worry about a thing, I'll take
care of reservations and everything."

"My, my," Lou said. "What it must be like to have all that pull and
influence."

"What?" Malone said.

Lou grinned. "Nothing," she said. "Nothing."

"Then it's all settled. I'll take care of the reservations, and we'll
go in together," Malone said.

"Fair enough," Lou said, "my fine feathered Fed."

* * * * *

Actually, it took Malone nearly three hours to get everything set in
Washington for his New York departure. He had to make a verbal report
to Andrew J. Burris first, and that consumed quite a lot of time,
since Burris was alternately shocked, horrified, gleeful and confused
about the whole trip, and spent most of his time interrupting Malone
and crying out for God's vengeance, mercy, justice or understanding.

Then Malone had to dictate a longer report for the written record.
This didn't take quite as long, since there were no interruptions, but
by the time it was over he felt as if he were going out to become a
Carthusian monk. He felt, as he rubbed his raw throat, that it
wouldn't be a bad idea at all to take a nice vow of silence for
awhile. He could write people little notes, and they would all treat
him kindly and gently. He would be pointed out to strangers, and
people would try to do him favors.

Unfortunately, he couldn't take the vow at once. During his absence,
his desk log showed, several calls had come in, all of which had to be
taken care of at once. Some of them dealt with evidence or statements
from old cases, some were just nuisances. The most urgent was from Dr.
O'Connor at Yucca Flats.

"If you're not too busy," O'Connor said in his icily polite tone, "I
would like to have Miss Thompson back as soon as possible." He sounded
as if Malone had borrowed his scalpel.

"I'll see what I can do," Malone said carefully.

"There is a new series of tests," O'Connor said, "on which I am now at
work; the assistance of Miss Thompson would be invaluable to me at
this time."

After he'd hung up, Malone called Her Majesty at her Washington hotel.
She was very glad of the chance to return to Yucca Flats, she said.
There, Malone knew, she would be able to return to her accustomed
dignity as Queen of the Greater English Commonwealth, a district
which, in her mind, seemed to include the greater part of the Western
world. On her present mission, she was plain Miss Thompson and, though
the idea of going about incognito had its charms, it became a little
dull after awhile. The adventuring was fine, although a little rougher
than she'd thought it would be; the sight of the Queen's Own FBI in
action was still a powerful attraction for Her Majesty. But the peace
and quiet and dignity of Her Own Royal Palace won out without too much
trouble.

"Of course," Malone said, "you'll be on call in case I need you."

"I am always in touch with my subjects," Her Majesty said with
dignity, "and most especially with you, Sir Kenneth. I shall so
remain."

And then there was a little paperwork to take care of. By the time
Malone had finished, he would have been glad to teleport to New York
on his own. But on reflection he decided that he would much rather
travel with Lou, and hurried down to the airport.

By the time the plane landed at La Guardia, and they'd taken
a 'copter to the East Side Terminal and a taxi to the big
blue-aluminum-and-glass Ravell Building, Malone had reached a new
decision. It would be nothing short of wonderful, he felt, if he
could spend the rest of his life traveling around with Luba Garbitsch.

Of course, that name was something of a handicap. It was hardly a
romantic one. He wondered, very briefly, whether or not "Luba Malone"
were an improvement. But he buried the thought before it got any
further. Enough, he told himself firmly, was enough.

"It's been a nice trip," Lou said. She, too, sounded subdued, as if
she were thinking about something terribly serious.

"Great," Malone said happily. "A wonderful trip."

"I enjoyed being with you," Lou said.

"Me, too," Malone said. He paid off the taxi-driver and they got out
at the corner. Malone went to the newsstand there and picked up a copy
of the _Post_.

"That," Lou said over his shoulder, "is one whole hell of a headline."

It filled the entire page, four lines of thick black capitals:

     JUDGE
     DROPS
     UNION
     SUIT!

"Well, well," Malone said. "Let's see what this is all about." He
flipped to page three. Lou craned her neck over his shoulder and they
read the start of the story together.

     DISTRICT COURT RULES UNION HAS NO CASE

     New York [AP], August 23. Judge James Lefkowitz
     of the New York Supreme Court ruled today that
     the International Truckers' Brotherhood had no
     grounds for their suit against the United Transport
     Corp. and its officers. The action, a bitterly
     fought contest, involved a complaint by the
     Brotherhood that UTC had violated their contract
     with the Brotherhood by hiring "unqualified drivers"
     to work for the corporation.

     In a statement made immediately after the ruling,
     Judge Lefkowitz said: "It is obvious that a man with
     a state-certified chauffeur's license is not an
     'unqualified driver.'"

     Effects of this ruling are thought to be
     far-reaching. Comment from the international
     Truckers' Brotherhood...

There was more to it, a lot more, but Malone didn't feel like reading
it. It sounded just as confused as he expected news to sound these
days, but it also sounded a little dull. He could feel Lou's breathing
against his ear as he read, and he lost interest in the paper almost
at once.

"My, my," she said. "And I expected a real exposé of a story, after
that headline."

"This is an exposé," Malone said. "But I'm not sure what of."

"It sounds pretty confused," Lou said.

"Everything seems to, these days," Malone said. "Including any story
of what's been happening during the last little while."

"Agreed," Lou said. "Without argument."

"Listen," Malone said suddenly. "Would it help if I went up and told
Sir Lewis that there's no mark against your record?"

"Mark?" Lou said. "Against my record?"

"Well," Malone said, "I mean--well, he isn't the sort of man who'd
fire somebody, because of--because of something like this?"

"You mean because I know an FBI man?" Lou said.

"I--"

"Never mind," she said. "I know what you mean. And he won't. He'll
understand." She came round to face him, and patted his cheek.
"Thanks," she said. "Thanks a lot, anyway."

"If there's anything I can do--"

"There won't be," Lou said. "You'll call me, though, about tonight?"

"Sure I will," Malone said. He hoped that the tentative date he'd made
with her for that evening wouldn't be broken up because of a sudden
onslaught of work. "I'll let you know before five, for sure."

"Fine," Lou said. "I'll wait to hear from you."

She turned to walk away.

"Hey," Malone said. "Wait a minute."

"What?" she said, turning again.

Malone looked judicious. "I think," he said weightily, "that,
considering all the fun we've had, and all the adventuring and
everything else, the least you could do would be to kiss me goodbye."

"On Fifth Avenue?"

"No," Malone said. He tapped his lips. "Here."

She laughed, bent closer and pecked him on the cheek. Then, before he
could say anything else, she was gone.


10

On the way to FBI Headquarters on 69th Street, he read the _Post_ a
little more carefully. The judge and his union suit weren't the only
things that were fouled up, he saw. Things were getting pretty bad all
over.

One story dealt with the recent factional fights inside the American
Association for the Advancement of Medicine. A new group, the United
States Medical-Professional Society, appeared to be forming as a
competitor to the AAAM, and Malone wasn't quite so sure, when he
thought about it, that this news was as bad as it appeared on the
surface. Fights between doctors, of course, were reasonably rare, at
least on the high hysterical level the story appeared to pinpoint. But
the AAAM had held a monopoly in the medical field for a long time;
maybe it was about time some competition showed itself. From what he
could find out in the story, the USMPS seemed like a group of fairly
sensible people.

But that was one of the few rays of light Malone could discern amid
the encircling bloom of the news. The gang wars had reached a new
high; the _Post_ was now publishing what it called a Daily Scoreboard,
which consisted in this particular paper of six deaths, two
disappearances and ten hospitalizations. The six deaths were evenly
scattered throughout the country: two in New York, one each in Chicago
and Detroit, and two more in San Francisco. The disappearances were in
Los Angeles and in Miami, and the hospitalizations were pretty much
all over.

The unions had been having trouble, too. Traditional forms of
controversy appeared to have gone out the window, in favor of
startling disclosures, beatings, wild cries of foul and great masses
of puzzling evidence. How, for instance, Malone wondered, had the
president of Local 7574 of the Fishermen's Fraternal Brotherhood
managed to mislay a pile of secret records, showing exactly how the
membership was being bilked of dues, on a Boston subway train? But,
somehow, he had, and the records were now causing shakeups, denials
and trouble among the fishermen.

Of course, the news was not all bad. There were always the comic
strips. Pogo was busily staving off an approaching wedding between
Albert Alligator and a new character named Tranquil Portly, who
appeared to be a brown bear. He was running into some resistance,
though, from a wolflike character who planned to abscond with Albert's
cigars while Albert was honeymooning. This character, Don Coyote by
name, looked like a trouble-maker, and Malone vowed to keep a careful
eye on him.

And then there were other headlines:

     FUSION POWER SOON COMMERCIALLY
     AVAILABLE SAYS AEC HEAD
     Sees Drastic Cut in Power Rates

     UN POLICE CONTINGENT OKAYED:
     MILLION MEN TO FORM 1ST GROUP
     Member Countries Pledge $20
     Billion in Support Moneys

     OFFICIAL STATES: "WE'RE AHEAD AFTER 17 YEARS!"
     US Space Program Tops Russian Achievements

     ARMED FORCES TO TOUGHEN TRAINING PROGRAM IN 1974
     Gen. Foote: "Our aim is to train fighting men,
     not to run a country club."

     GOVERNMENT TO SAVE $1 BILLION ANNUALLY?
     Senator Hits Duplication of Effort in Government,
     Vows Immediate Reform

Malone read that one a little more carefully, because it looked, at
first sight, like one of the bad-news items. There had been
government-spending reforms before, almost all of which had resulted
in confusion, panic, loss of essential services--and twice as many men
on the payroll, since the government now had to hire useless
efficiency experts, accountants and other such supernumerary workers.

But this time, the reform looked as if it might do some good. Of
course, he told himself sadly, it was still too early to tell.

The senator involved was Deeks, of Massachusetts, who was also in the
news because of a peculiar battle he had had with Senator Furbisher of
Vermont. Congress, Malone noted, was still acting up. Furbisher
claimed that the moneys appropriated for a new Vermont dam were really
being used for the dam. But Deeks had somehow come into possession of
several letters written by a cousin of Furbisher's, detailing some of
the graft that was going on in the senator's home state. Furbisher was
busily denying everything, but his cousin was just as busy confessing
all to anybody who would listen. It was building up into an extremely
interesting fracas, and, Malone thought, it would have been even
funnier than Pogo except that it was happening in the Congress of the
United States.

He heaved a sigh, folded up the paper and entered the building that
housed the New York contingent of the FBI.

Boyd was waiting in his office when he arrived.

"Well, there, Kenneth," he said. "And how are all our little Slavic
brothers?"

"Unreasonable," Malone said, "and highly unpleasant."

"You refer, no doubt," Boyd said, "to the _Meeneestyerstvoh
Vnootrenikh Dyehl_?"

_"Gesundheit,"_ Malone said kindly.

"The MVD," Boyd said. "I've been studying for days to pull it on you
when you got back."

Malone nodded. "Very well, then," he said in a stately, orotund tone.
"Say it again."

"Damn it," Boyd said, "I _can't_ say it again."

"Cheer up," Malone said. "Maybe some day you'll learn. Meantime,
Thomas, did you get the stuff we talked about?"

Boyd nodded. "I think I got enough of it," he said. "Anyhow, there is
a definite trend developing. Come on into the private office, and I'll
show you."

There, on Boyd's massive desk, were several neat piles of paper.

"It looks like enough," Malone said. "As a matter of fact, it looks
like too much. Haven't we been through all this before?"

"Not like this, we haven't," Boyd said. "Information from all over,
out of the everywhere, into the here." He picked up a stack of papers
and handed them to Malone.

"What's this?" Malone said.

"That," Boyd said, "is a report on the Pacific Merchant Sailors'
Brotherhood."

"Goody," Malone said doubtfully.

Boyd came over, pulling at his beard thoughtfully, and took the top
few sheets out of Malone's hands. "The report," he said, looking down
at the sheets, "includes the checks we made on the office of the
president of the Brotherhood, as well as the Los Angeles local and the
San Francisco local."

"Only two?" Malone said. "That seems as if you've been lying down on
the job."

"They're the top two in membership," Boyd said. "But listen to this:
the president and three of his underlings resigned day before
yesterday, and not quite in time. The law--by which I mean us, and a
good many other people--is hot on their tails. It seems somebody
accidentally mixed up a couple of envelopes."

"Sounds like a case for the Post Office," Malone said brightly.

"Not these envelopes," Boyd said. "There was a letter that was
supposed to go to the head of the San Francisco local, dealing with a
second set of books--not the ones used for tax purposes, but the real
McCoy. The letter didn't get to the San Francisco man. Instead, it
went to the attorney general of the state of California."

"Lovely," Malone said. "Meanwhile, what was San Francisco doing?"

Boyd smiled. "San Francisco was getting confused," he said. "Like
everybody else. The San Francisco man got a copy of an affidavit
dealing with merchant-ship tonnage. That was supposed to go to the
attorney general."

"Good work," Malone said. "So when the Frisco boys woke up to what was
happening--"

"They called the head man, and he put two and two together, resigned
and went into hiding. Right now, he's probably living an undercover
life as a shoe salesman in Paris, Kentucky."

"And, after all," Malone added, "why not? It's a peaceful life."

"The attorney general, of course, impounded the second set of books,"
Boyd went on. "A grand jury is hearing charges now."

"You know," Malone said reflectively, "I almost feel sorry for the
man. Almost, but not quite."

"I see what you mean," Boyd said. "It is a hell of a thing to happen."

"On the other hand--" Malone leafed through the papers in a hurry,
then put them back on Boyd's desk with a sigh of relief. "I've got the
main details now," he said. "I can go through the thing more
thoroughly later. Anything else?"

"Oh, lots," Boyd said. "And all in the same pattern. The FPM, for
instance, literally dropped one in our laps."

"Literally?" Malone said. "What was the Federation of Professional
Musicians doing in your lap?"

"Not mine," Boyd said hastily. "Not mine. But it seems that some
secretary put a bunch of file folders on the windowsill of their
second-floor offices, and they fell off. At the same time, an agent
was passing underneath, slipped on a banana peel and sat down on the
sidewalk. Bingo, folders in lap."

"Wonderful," Malone said. "The hand of God."

"The hand of something, for sure," Boyd said. "Those folders contain
all the ammunition we've ever needed to get after the FPM. Kickbacks,
illegal arrangements with nightclubs, the whole works. We're putting
it together now, but it looks like a long, long term ahead for our
friends from the FPM."

And Boyd went to his desk, picked up a particularly large stack of
papers. "This," he said, "is really hot stuff."

"What do you call the others?" Malone said. "Crime on ice?"

"The new show at the Winter Garden," Boyd said blithely. "Don't miss
it if you can."

"Sure," Malone said. "So what's so hot?"

Boyd smiled. "The police departments of seven major cities," he said.
"They're all under attack either by the local prosecuting attorney or
the state's attorney general. It seems there's a little graft and
corruption going on."

"This," Malone said, "is not news."

"It is to the people concerned," Boyd said. "Four police chiefs have
resigned, along with great handfuls of inspectors, captains and
lieutenants. It's making a lovely wingding all over the country, Ken."

"I'll bet," Malone said.

"And I checked back on every one," Boyd went on. "Your hunch was
absolutely right, Ken. The prosecuting attorneys and the attorneys
general are all new men--all the ones involved in this stuff. Each one
replaced a previous incumbent in a recent election. In two cases, the
governor was new, too--elected last year."

"That figures," Malone said. "What about the rest?"

Boyd's grandiose wave of a hand took in all the papers on the desk.
"It's all the same," he said. "They all follow a pattern, Ken, _the_
pattern. The one you were looking for."

Malone blinked. "I'll be damned," he said. "I'll be doubly damned."

"And how about the Russians?" Boyd said.

"You mean the _Meeneestyerstvoh Vnootrenikh Dyehl_?" Malone said.

"Now," Boyd said, "I'll be damned. And after I practiced for days."

"Ah," Malone said. "But I was _there_. The Russians are about as mixed
up as a group of Transylvanian villagers with two vampires to track
down and not enough flambeaux for all. Here, for instance, is just one
example: the conflicting sets of orders that were given about me and
Her Majesty and L--Miss Garbitsch."

Briefly, he outlined what had happened.

"Sounds like fun," Boyd said.

"They were so busy arguing with each other," Malone finished, "that I
have a feeling we hardly needed the teleportation to escape. It would
just have taken longer, that's all." He paused. "By the way, Tom,
about the stakeout--"

"Luba Garbitsch is being protected as if she were Fort Knox," Boyd
said. "If any Soviet agent tries to approach her with a threat of any
kind, we'll have him nabbed before he can say Ivan Robinovitch."

"Or," Malone suggested, "_Meeneestyerstvoh_--"

"If we waited for that one," Boyd said, "we might have to wait all
day." He paused. "But who's doing it?" he went on. "That's still the
question. Martians? Venerians? Or is that last one Venusians?"

"Aphrodisiacs," Malone suggested diplomatically.

"Thank you, no," Boyd said politely. "I never indulge while on duty."

"Thomas," Malone said, "you are a Rover Boy First-Class."

"Good," Boyd said. "But, meanwhile, who is doing all this? Would you
prefer Evil Beings from the Planet Ploor?"

"I would not," Malone said firmly.

"But I have a strange feeling," Boyd said, "that, in spite of all the
evidence to the contrary, you do not hold with the Interplanetary
Alien Theory."

"Frankly," Malone said, "I'm not sure of anything. Not really. But I
do want to know why, if it's interplanetary aliens doing this stuff,
they're picking such a strange way of going about it."

"Strange?" Boyd said. "What's strange about it? You wouldn't expect
Things from Ploor to come right out and _tell_ us what they want,
would you? It's against custom. It may even be against the law."

"Well, maybe," Malone said. "But it is pretty strange. The difference
between what's happening in Russia and what's happening here--"

"What difference?" Boyd said. "Everybody's confused. Here, and over
there. It all looks the same to me."

"Well, it isn't," Malone said. "Take a look at the paper, for
instance." He tossed the _Post_ at Boyd, who caught it with a
spasmodic clutching motion and reassembled it slowly.

"Why throw things?" Boyd said. "You sore or something?"

"I guess I am," Malone said. "But not at you. It's--somebody or
something. Person or persons unknown."

"Or Ploorians," Boyd said.

"Whatever," Malone said. "But take a look at the paper and see if you
see what I see." He paused. "Does that mean anything?" he said.

"Probably," Boyd said. "We'll figure it out later." He leafed through
the newspaper slowly, pulling thoughtfully at his beard from time to
time. Malone watched him in breathless silence.

"See it?" he said at last.

Boyd looked up and, very slowly, nodded. "You're right, Ken," he said
in a quiet voice. "You're absolutely right. It's as plain as the nose
on your face."

"And that," Malone said, "sounds like an insult. It's much plainer
than that. Suppose you tell me."

Boyd considered. "Over here," he said at last, "there are a lot of
confused jerks and idiots. Right?"

"Correct," Malone said.

"And in Russia," Boyd went on, "there's a lot of confusion. Right?"

"Sure," Boyd said. "It's perfectly clear. I wonder why I didn't see it
before."

"That's it!" Malone cried. "That's the difference!"

"Sure," Boyd said. "It's perfectly clear. I wonder why I didn't see it
before."

"Because you weren't looking for it," Malone said. "Because nobody
was. But there's one more check I want to make. There's one area I'm
not sure of, simply because I don't have enough to go on."

"What area is that?" Boyd said. "It seems to me we did a pretty good
job--"

"The Mafia," Malone said. "We know they're having trouble, but--"

"But we don't know what kind of trouble," Boyd finished. "Right you
are."

Malone nodded. "I want to talk to Manelli," he said. "Can we set it
up?"

"I don't see why not," Boyd said. "The A-in-C can give us the latest
on him. You want me with you?"

"No," Malone said after some thought. "No. You go and see Mike Sand,
heading up the International Truckers' Union. We know he's tied up
with the Syndicate, and maybe you can get some information from him.
You know what to dig for?"

"I do now," Boyd said. He reached for the intercom phone.

* * * * *

Cesare Antonio Manelli was a second-generation Prohibition mobster,
whose history can most easily be described by reference to the various
affairs of State which coincided with his development. Thus:

When Cesare was a small toddler of uncertain gait and chubby visage,
the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
canceled out not only the Eighteenth Amendment, but the thriving
enterprises conducted by Manelli, Sr., and many of his friends.

When Cesare was a young schoolboy, poring over the multiplication
tables, his father and his father's friends were busy dividing. They
were dividing, to put it more fully, husbands from families as a means
of requesting ransom, and money from banks as a means of getting the
same cash without use of the middleman, or victim. This was the period
of the Great Readjustment, and the frenzied search among gangland's
higher echelons for a substitute for bootlegging.

And when Cesare was an innocent high-schooler, sporting a Paleolithic
switchblade knife and black leather jacket, his father and his
father's friends had reached a new plateau. They consolidated into a
Syndicate, and began to concentrate on gambling and the whole,
complex, profitable network of unions.

And then World War II had come along, and it was time for Cesare to do
his part. Bidding a fond farewell to his father and such of his
father's friends as had survived the disagreements of Prohibition, the
painful legal processes of the early Thirties and the even more
painful consolidations of the years immediately before the war, young
Cesare went off to foreign lands, where he distinguished himself by
creating and running the largest single black-market ring in all of
Southern Europe.

Cesare had followed in his father's footsteps. And, before his sudden
death during a disagreement in Miami, Giacomo "Jack the Ripper"
Manelli was proud of his son.

"Geez," he often said. "Whattakid, huh? Whattakid!"

At the war's end, young Cesare, having proven himself a man, took unto
himself a nickname and a shotgun. He did not have to use the shotgun
very much, after the first few lessons; soon he was on his way to the
top.

There was nowhere for Cesare "Big Cheese" Antonio Manelli to go,
except up.

Straight up.

Now, in 1973, he occupied a modestly opulent office on Madison Avenue,
where he did his modest best to pretend to the world at large that he
was only a small cog--indeed, an almost invisible cog--in a large
advertising machine. His best was, for all practical purposes, good
enough.

Though it was common knowledge among the spoil-sport law enforcement
officers who cared to look into the matter that Manelli was the real
owner of the agency, there was no way to prove this. He didn't even
have a phone under his own name. The only way to reach him was by
going through his front man in the agency, a blank-faced, truculent
Arab named Atif Abdullah Aoud.

According to the agent-in-charge of the New York office, Malone had
his choice of two separate methods of getting to Manelli. One, more
direct, was to walk in, announce that he was an agent of the FBI, and
insist on seeing Manelli. If he had a search warrant, the A-in-C told
him, he might even get in. But, even if he did, he would probably not
get anything out of Manelli.

The second and more diplomatic way was to call up Atif Abdullah Aoud
and arrange for an appointment.

Malone made his decision in a flash. He flipped on the phone and
punched for a PLaza exchange.

The face that appeared on the screen was that of a fairly pretty, if
somewhat vapid, brunette. "Rodger, Willcoe, O'Vurr and Aoud, good
afternoon," she said.

Malone blinked.

"Who is calling, please?" the girl said. She snapped gum at the screen
and Malone winced and drew away.

"This is Kenneth J. Malone," he said from what he considered a safe
distance. "I want to talk to Mr. Aoud."

"Mr. Aoud?" she said in a high, unhelpful whine.

"That's right," Malone said patiently. "You can tell him that there
may be some government business coming his way."

"Oh," she said. "But Mr. Aoud isn't in."

Mr. Aoud wasn't in. Mr. Aoud was out. Malone turned that over in his
mind a few times, and decided to try and forget it just as quickly as
possible. "Then," he said, "let me talk to one of the other partners."

"Partners?" the girl said. She popped her gum again. Malone moved back
another inch.

"You know," he said. "The other people he works with. Rodger, or
Willcoe, or O'Vurr."

"Oh," the girl said. "Them."

"That's right," Malone said patiently.

"How about Mr. Willcoe?" the girl said after a second of deep and
earnest thought. "Would he do?"

"Why not let's try him and see?" Malone said.

"Okay," the girl said brightly. "Let's." She flashed Malone a dazzling
smile, only slightly impeded by the gum, and flipped off. Malone
stared at the blank screen for a few seconds, and then the girl's
voice said, invisibly: "Mr. Willcoe will speak to you now, Mr. Melon.
Thank you for waiting."

"I'm not--" Malone started to say, and then the face of Frederick
Willcoe appeared on the screen.

Willcoe was a thin, wrinkle-faced man with very pale skin. He seemed
to be in his sixties, and he looked as if he had just lost an
all-night bout with Count Dracula. Malone looked interestedly for
puncture marks, but failed to find any.

"Ah," Willcoe said, in a voice that sounded like crinkled paper. "Mr.
Melon. Good afternoon."

"I'm not Mr. Melon," Malone said testily.

Willcoe looked gently surprised, like a man who has discovered that
his evening sherry contains cholesterol. "Really?" he said. "Then I
must be on the wrong line. I beg your pardon."

"You're not on the wrong line," Malone said. "I am Mr. Melon in a
way." That didn't sound very clear when he got it out, so he added:
"Your secretary got my name wrong. She thinks I'm Mr. Melon--Kenneth
J. Melon."

"But you're not," Willcoe said.

Malone resisted an impulse to announce that he was really Lamont
Cranston. "I'm Kenneth J. Malone," he said.

"Ah," Willcoe said. "Quite amusing. Imagine my mistaking you for a Mr.
Melon, when you're really Mr. Malone." He paused, and his face got
even more wrinkled. "But I don't know you under either name," he said.
"What do you want?"

"I want to talk to Mr. Manelli," Malone said.

"But Mr. Aoud--"

"Mr. Aoud," Malone said, wondering if it sounded as silly to Willcoe
as it did to him, "isn't in. So I thought you might be able to arrange
an appointment for this afternoon."

Willcoe bit his lip. "Mr. Manelli isn't in just now," he said.

"Yes," Malone said. "I didn't think he would be. That's why I want to
arrange an appointment for later, when he _will_ be in."

"Does Mr. Manelli know you?" Willcoe said suspiciously, the wrinkles
deepening again.

"He knows my boss," Malone said carefully. "You just tell him that
this is something that ought to be worth time and money to him. His
time, and his money."

"Hmm," Willcoe said. "I see. Would you wait a moment, Mr. Mel--Mr.
Malone?"

The screen blanked out immediately. The wait this time was slightly
longer.

And the next face that appeared on the screen was that of Cesare "Big
Cheese" Antonio Manelli, the nearly invisible cog.

For a cog, the face was not a bad one. It was strong and well-muscled,
and it had dark, wavy hair running along the top. At the sides of the
face, the hair was greying slightly, and behind the grey two large
ears stuck out. Manelli's nose was a long, faintly aquiline affair and
his eyes were very pleasant and candid. They were light grey.

"Aha," Manelli said. "You are Mr. Malone, right?" His voice was
guttural, but it was obvious that he was trying for control. "I regret
announcing that I was out, Mr. Malone," he said. "But a man in my
position--I like privacy, Mr. Malone, and I try to keep privacy for
myself. Let me request you to answer a question, Mr. Malone: do I know
you, Mr. Malone?"

"Not personally," Malone said. "I--"

"But I'm supposed to know your boss," Manelli said. "I don't know him,
either, so far."

Malone shrugged. "I'm sure you do," he said, and dropped the name
almost casually: "Andrew J. Burris."

Manelli raised his eyebrows. "So that's who you are," he said. "I
ought to have known, Mr. Malone. And you want to talk to me a little
bit, right?"

"That's right," Malone said.

"But this is no way to act, Mr. Malone," Manelli said reproachfully.
"After all, we understand each other, you and me. What you should do,
you should come in through channels, in the correct way, so everything
it would be open and above the board."

"Through channels?" Malone said.

Manelli regarded him with a pitying glance. "You must be new on your
job, Mr. Malone," he said. "Because there is an entire system built
up, and you don't know about it. The way things work, we sit around
and we don't see people. And then somebody comes and presents his
credentials, you might say--search warrants, for instance, or
subpoenas. And then we know where we are."

Malone shook his head. "This isn't that kind of call," he said. "It's
more a friendly type of call."

"Mr. Malone," Manelli said. The reproach was stronger in his voice.
"You must be very new at your job."

"Nevertheless," Malone said.

Manelli hesitated only a second. "Because I like you," he said, "and
to teach you how things operate around here, I could do you a favor."

"Good," Malone said patiently.

"In an hour," Manelli said. "My place. Here."

The screen blanked out before Malone could even say goodbye.

Malone got up, went out to the corridor, and decided that, since he
had time to kill, he might as well walk on down to Manelli's office.
That, he told himself, would give him time to decide what he wanted to
say.

He toyed at first with the idea of a nice bourbon and soda in a
Madison Avenue bar, but he discarded that idea in a hurry. It was
always possible for him to get into a tight spot and have to teleport
his way out, and he didn't want to be fuzzy around the edges in case
that happened. _Trotkin's_ had showed him that, under enough stress,
he could manage the job with quite a lot of vodka in him. But there
was absolutely no sense, he told himself sadly, in taking chances.

He started off downtown along Fifth. Soon he was standing in front of
the blue-and-crystal tower of the Ravell Building.

That made up his mind for him. He checked his watch, mentally flipped
a coin and then cheated a little to make the answer come out right. He
went inside and stepped into an elevator.

"Six," he said with decision.

Lou was sitting at the Psychical Research Society desk, talking to the
tweedy Sir Lewis Carter. Malone waved at Carter, decided that
conversation with Lou was out, and started to walk away. Then he
realized that he couldn't have Carter thinking he was crazy. He had to
figure out something to tell the man--and in a hurry, too.

Carter smiled and gestured to him. "Ah, Mr. Malone," he said. "I'm
glad you brought our Lou home safely. I've heard a little about your--
ah--escapade. Astounding, really."

"Not for the FBI," Malone said modestly. "We've been through too
much."

"But--"

"No, really," Malone said. "We never call anything astounding any
more."

"I can well imagine," Carter said. "Is there anything I can do for
you?"

Malone thought fast. He had to have something, and he didn't have much
time. "Why--uh--" he said, and then it came to him. "Yes, as a matter
of fact you can," he said.

"Glad to be of service," Carter said. "I'm sure we can do anything you
request."

"Have you got any more data on telepathic projection?" Malone said.

Sir Lewis Carter frowned. "Telepathic projection?" he said.

"The stuff--the phenomenon Cartier Taylor mentioned," Malone said, "in
_Minds and Morons_. I think it was page eighty-four."

"Oh," Carter said. "Oh, yes. Of course. Well, Mr. Malone, we'll see
what we can do for you."

Malone sighed. "Thanks," he said mournfully. "I guess--I guess that's
all, then." He smiled at Lou, and turned the smile into a terrifying
scowl when his eye caught Carter's. "Oh," Malone said. "So long. So
long, everybody."

"Ken--"

This was not, he told himself sadly, either the time or the place.
"Goodbye, Sir Lewis," he said. "Goodbye, Lou."

The elevator opened its doors and received him.

* * * * *

Exactly fifty-nine minutes after Cesare Manelli had hung up on him,
Malone showed up in the stately and sumptuous suite that belonged, for
a stiff fee every month, to the firm of Rodger, Willcoe, O'Vurr and
Aoud. The girl at the desk was his old Spearmint friend.

"Mr. Manelli," Malone said. "I've got an appointment. My name is
Malone and his is Manelli. He works here." That, he told himself, was
an understatement; but at least he had a chance of getting his point
across.

"Oh," the girl said. Her gum popped. "Certainly. Right away, Mr.
Maloney."

Malone opened his mouth, then shut it again. It just wasn't worth the
trouble, he thought.

The girl did things with a switchboard, then turned to him again. "Mr.
Manelli's office is right down there in back," she said, pointing
vaguely. "Think you can find it, Mr. Maloney?"

"I'll try," Malone promised. He went down the long corridor and
stopped at an unmarked door. It was at least an even chance, he told
himself, and opened the door.

The room inside appeared to be mostly desk. The gigantic slab of wood
sat against the far wall of the room, in the right-hand corner and
spreading over toward the center. It appeared, in the soft half-light
of the room, to be waiting for somebody to walk into its lair. Malone
was sure, at first sight, that this desk ate people; it was just the
type: big and dark and glowering and massive.

There wasn't anybody seated behind it, which reinforced his belief.
The desk had eaten its master. Now it was out of control and they
would have to have it shot. Malone took a deep breath and tried not to
veer.

Then he heard a voice.

"Sit down, Mr. Malone," the voice said. "How about you having a drink
while we talk? If this is going to be so friendly."

The voice didn't belong to the desk. It belonged, unmistakably, to Big
Cheese himself. Malone turned and saw him, sitting in the left-hand
corner of the room behind a low table. There was another empty chair
facing Manelli, and Malone went over and sat in it.

"A drink?" he said. "Okay. Sure."

"Bourbon and soda, isn't it?" Manelli said. He stood up.

"Your research department gets fast answers," Malone said. "Bourbon
and soda it is."

"After all," Manelli said, shrugging slightly, "a person in my
position, he has to make sure he knows what is what, and all the time.
It's routine, what you call S. O. P. Standard Operating Procedure,
they call it."

"I'm sure they do," Malone murmured politely.

"And besides," Manelli said, "you are a well-known type. I thought I
knew the name when old Fred mentioned it, or I would never talk to
you. You know how it is."

Malone nodded. "Well," he said, as Manelli went over to a small
portable bar at the back of the room and got busy, "we're being frank,
anyway."

"And why shouldn't we be frank, Mr. Malone?" Manelli said. "It's a
nice, friendly conversation, and what have we got on our minds?"

For the first time, as he turned, Malone got a glimpse of something
behind the structured and muscular face. There was panic there, just a
tiny seed under iron control, but it showed in the eyes and in the
muscles of the cheek.

"Just a nice, friendly conversation," Malone said. Manelli brought the
drinks over and set them on the table.

"Take your pick," he said. "That's not what a good host should do, ask
the guest to pick one, like a game; but I got into the habit. People
get nervous about arsenic in the drinks. Which is silly."

"Sure it is," Malone agreed. He picked up the left-hand glass and
regarded it carefully. "If you wanted to kill me, you'd need a motive
and an opportunity, and you don't have either at the moment. Besides,
you'd make sure to be far away when it happened." He hoped he sounded
confident. He took a sip of the drink, but it tasted like bourbon and
soda.

"Mr. Malone," Manelli said, "you say these things about me, and it
hurts. It hurts me, right here." He pressed a hand over the checkbook
side of his jacket. "I'm a legitimate businessman, and no different
from any other legitimate businessman. You can't prove anything else."

"I know I can't," Malone said. "But I want to talk to you about your
real business."

"This is my real business," Manelli said. "The advertising agency. I
work here. Advertising is in my blood. And I don't understand the
least little bit why you have to do things to me all the time."

"Do things?" Malone said. "What did I do?"

"Now, Mr. Malone," Manelli said. He took a swallow of his drink. "You
said let's be frank, so I'm frank. Why not you?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Malone said, telling part of
the truth.

Manelli took another swallow of his drink, fished in a jacket pocket
and brought out two cigars. "Smoke, Mr. Malone?" he said. "The very
best, from Havana, Cuba. Cost me a dollar and a half each."

Malone looked with longing at the cigar. But it was okay for Manelli
to smoke cigars, he thought bitterly. Manelli was a gangster, and who
cared how he looked? Malone was an FBI man, and FBI men didn't smoke
cigars. Particularly Havana cigars. That, he told himself with
regretful firmness, was that.

"No, thanks," he said. "I never smoke on duty."

Manelli shrugged and put one cigar away. He lit the other one and
dense clouds of smoke began to rise in the room. Malone breathed
deeply.

"I understand you've been having troubles," he said.

Manelli nodded. "Now, you see, Mr. Malone?" he said. "You tell me you
don't know what's happening, but you know I got troubles. How come,
Mr. Malone? How come?"

"Because you have got troubles," Malone said. "But I have nothing to
do with them." He hesitated, thought of adding: "Yet," and decided
against it.

"Now, Mr. Malone," Manelli said. "You know better than that."

"I do?" Malone said.

Manelli sighed, took another swallow of his drink and dragged deeply
on the cigar. "Let's take a for-instance," he said. "Now, you
understand my business is advertising, Mr. Malone?"

"It's in your blood," Malone said, involuntarily.

"Right," Manelli said. "But I think about things. I like to figure
things out. In a sort of a theoretical way, like a for-instance.
Understand?"

"What sort of theoretical story are you going to tell me?" Malone
said.

Manelli leaned back in his chair. "Let's take, for instance, some
numbers runners who had some trouble the other day, got beat up and
money taken from them. Maybe you read about it in the papers."

"I haven't been following the papers much," Malone said.

"That's all right," Manelli said grandly. "Maybe it wasn't _in_ the
papers. But anyhow, I figured out maybe that happened. I had nothing
to do with this, Mr. Malone; you understand that? But I figured out
how maybe it happened."

"How?" Malone said.

Manelli took another puff on his cigar. "Maybe there was an error at a
racetrack--we could say Jamaica, for instance, just for laughs. And
maybe two different totals were published for the pari-mutuel numbers,
and both got given out. So the numbers runners got all fouled up, so
they got beat up and money taken from them."

"It could have happened that way," Malone said.

"I figure maybe the FBI had something to do with this," Manelli said.

"We didn't," Malone said. "Frankly."

"And that's not all," Manelli said. "Let's say at Jamaica one day
there was a race."

"All right," Malone said agreeably. "That doesn't require a whole lot
of imagination."

"And let's say," Manelli went on, "that the bookies--if there are any
bookies in this town; who knows?--that they got the word about who
came in, win, place and show."

"Sounds natural," Malone said.

"Sure it does," Manelli said. "But there was a foul-up someplace,
because the win animal was disqualified and nobody heard about it
until after a lot of payoffs were made. That costs money." He stopped.
"I mean it would cost money, if it happened," he finished.

"Sure," Malone said. "Certainly would."

"And you tell me it's not the FBI?" Manelli said.

"That's right," Malone said. "As a matter of fact, we're investigating
things like these confusions and inefficiencies all over."

Manelli finished his drink in one long, amazed swallow. "Now, wait a
minute," he said. "Let's say for a joke, like, for laughs, that I am
some kind of a wheel in these things, in bookies and numbers boys and
like that."

"Let's call it a syndicate," Malone said. "Just for laughs."

"Okay, then," Manelli said, with a suspicious gaze at Malone.
"Whatever you call it, a man like me today, he wouldn't be some
two-bit chiseler without brains. He would be a businessman, a
smooth-operating smart businessman. Right?"

"Right," Malone said. "And what I want to know is: how's business?"

"You're kidding?" Manelli said.

"I'm not kidding," Malone said. "I mean it. The FBI's investigating
mix-ups just like the ones you're telling me about. We want to stop
them."

Manelli blinked. "You know, Mr. Malone," he said softly, "I heard
about government interference in private enterprise, but don't you
think this is a little too far out?"

Malone shrugged. "That's what I'm here for," he said. "Take it or
leave it."

"Just so it's understood," Manelli said, "that we're talking about
imaginary things. Theoretical."

"Sure," Malone said. "Imagine away."

"Well," Manelli said slowly, "you heard about this wrecked night-club
in Florida? It happened maybe a month ago, in Miami?"

"I heard about it," Malone said.

"This is just a for-instance, you know," Manelli said. "But suppose
there was a roulette wheel in that club. Just a wheel."

"Okay," Malone said.

"And suppose the wheel was rigged a little bit," Manelli said. "Not
seriously, just a little bit."

"Fine," Malone said. "This is going to explain a wrecked club?"

"Well, sure," Manelli said. "Because something went wrong with the
machinery, or maybe the operator goofed up. And number seven came up
eight times in a row."

"Good old lucky seven," Malone said.

"So there was a riot," Manelli said. "Because some people had money on
the number, and some people got suspicious, and like that. And there
was a riot."

"And the club got wrecked," Malone said. "That's what I call bad
luck."

"Luck?" Manelli said. "What does luck have to do with roulette?
Somebody goofed, that's all."

"Oh," Malone said. "Sure."

"And that's the way it's been going," Manelli said. He puffed on his
cigar, put it in a nearby ashtray, and blew out a great Vesuvian spout
of smoke.

"Too bad," Malone said sympathetically.

"It's all over," Manelli said. "Mistakes and people making the
mistakes, goofing up here and there and everyplace. There have been
guys killed because they made mistakes, and nobody can afford guys
being killed all the time."

"It does run into expense," Malone said.

"And time, and hiring guys to do the killing, and then they goof up,
too," Manelli said. "It's terrible. Some guys have even been killed
without they made any mistakes at all. Just by accident, sort of."

"Well," Malone said carefully, "you can depend on the government to do
everything in its power to straighten things out."

Manelli frowned. "You mean that, Mr. Malone?"

"Of course I do," Malone said honestly. He hadn't, he reminded
himself, promised to help Manelli. He had only promised to straighten
things out. And he could figure out what that might mean later, when
he had the time.

"All I say is, it's funny," Manelli said. "It's crazy."

"That's the way it is," Malone said.

Manelli looked at him narrowly. "Mr. Malone," he said at last, "maybe
you mean it at that. Maybe you do."

"Sure I do," Malone said. "After all, the government is supposed to
help its citizens."

Manelli shook his head. "Mr. Malone," he said, "you can call me
Cesare. Everybody does."

"No, they don't," Malone said. "They call you Cheese. I've got a
research staff too."

"So call me Cheese," Manelli said. "I don't mind."

"There's only one little trouble," Malone said. "If I called you
Cheese, you'd call me Ken. And word would get around."

"I see what you mean," Manelli said.

"I don't think either one of us wants his associates to think we're
friends," Malone said.

"I guess not," Manelli said. "It would cause uneasiness."

"And a certain lack of confidence," Malone said. "So suppose I go on
calling you Mr. Manelli?"

"Fine," Manelli said. "And I'll call you Mr. Malone, like always."

Malone smiled and stood up. "Well, then," he said, "good-bye, Mr.
Manelli."

Manelli rose, too. "Goodbye, Mr. Malone," he said. "And good luck, if
you really mean what you said."

"Oh, I do," Malone said.

"Because things are terrible," Manelli said. "And they're getting
worse every day. You should only know."

"Don't worry," Malone said. "Things will be straightened out pretty
soon." He hoped, as he went out the door and down the corridor, that
he was telling the truth there, at least. He'd sounded fairly
confident, he thought, but he didn't feel quite so confident. The
secretary was busy on the switchboard when he came out into the
anteroom, and he went by without a greeting, his mind busy, churning
and confused.

He felt as if his head were on just a little crooked. Or as if, maybe,
he had a small hole in it somewhere and facts were leaking out onto
the sidewalk.

If he only looked at the problem in the right way, he told himself, he
would see just what was going on.

But what was the right way?

"That," Malone murmured as he hailed a cab for the ride back to 69th
Street, "is the big, sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. And how much
time do I have for an answer?"


11

"Boyd?" the agent-in-charge said. "He went out to talk to Mike Sand
down at the ITU a while ago, and he hasn't come back yet."

"Fine," Malone said. "I'll be in my office if he wants me."

The agent-in-charge picked up a small package. "A messenger brought
this," he said. "It's from the Psychical Research Society, and if it's
ghosts, they're much smaller than last time."

"Dehydrated," Malone said. "Just add ectoplasm and out they come,
shouting _boo_ at everybody and dancing all over the world."

"Sounds wonderful," the agent-in-charge said. "Can I come to the
party?"

"First," Malone said judiciously, "you'd have to be dead. Of course, I
can arrange that--"

"Thanks," the agent-in-charge said, leaving in a hurry. Malone went on
down to his office and opened the package. It contained more
facsimiles from Sir Lewis Carter, all dealing with telepathic
projection. He spent a few minutes looking them over and trying to
make some connected sense out of them, and then he just sat and
thought for awhile.

Finally he picked up the phone. In a few minutes he was talking to Dr.
Thomas O'Connor, at Yucca Flats.

"Telepathic projection?" O'Connor said when Malone asked him the
question he'd thought of. "Well, now. I should say that--no. First,
Mr. Malone, tell me what evidence you have for this phenomenon."

Malone felt almost happy, as if he had done all his homework before
the instructor called on him. "According to what I've been able to get
from the PRS," he said, "ordinary people--people who aren't
telepaths--occasionally receive some sort of messages from other
people."

"I assume," O'Connor said frostily, "that you are speaking of
telepathic messages?"

Malone nodded guiltily. "I didn't mean the phone," he said, "or
letters or things like that. Telepathic messages, or something very
like it."

"Indeed," O'Connor said. "Mr. Malone, I believe you will find that
such occurrences, when accurately reported, are confined to close
relatives or loved ones of the person projecting the message."

Malone thought back. "That's right," he said.

"And, further," O'Connor went on, "I think you'll find that the--ah--
message so received is one indicating that the projector of such a
message is in dire peril. He has, for instance, been badly injured, or
is rapidly approaching death, or else he has narrowly escaped death."

"True," Malone said.

"Under such circumstances," O'Connor said coldly, "it is possible that
the mind of the person projecting the communication might be capable
of generating immense psionic power, thereby forcing even a
non-telepath to recognize the content of the message."

"Good," Malone said. "That's wonderful, Doctor, and I--"

"But," O'Connor said sharply, "the amount of psionic energy necessary
for such a feat is tremendous. Usually, it is the final burst of
energy, the outpouring of all the remaining psionic force immediately
before death. And if death does not occur, the person is at the least
greatly weakened; his mind, if it ever does recover, needs time and
rest to do so."

Malone let that sink in slowly. "Then a person couldn't do it very
often," he said.

"Hardly," O'Connor said.

Malone nodded. "It's like--like giving blood to a blood bank. Giving,
say, three quarts of blood. It might not kill you. But if it didn't,
you'd be weak for a long time."

"Exactly," O'Connor said. "A good analogy, Mr. Malone."

Malone hated himself for it, but he felt pleased when O'Connor praised
him. "Well," he said, "that winds up Cartier Taylor's theory pretty
thoroughly."

"I should think so," O'Connor said. "I am surprised, Mr. Malone, that
you would put any credence whatever in that man's theories. His
factual data, I will admit, is fairly reliable. But his theories are--
well, they are hardly worth the time it takes to read them."

"I see," Malone said. "It did seem like a good answer, though."

"It undoubtedly is a good one," O'Connor said. "It is clever and has
the advantage of being simple. It is contradicted, Mr. Malone, only by
the facts."

"Sure," Malone said sadly. "But--hey. Wait a minute."

"Yes?" O'Connor said.

"One person couldn't do this alone, at least, not very often and not
without serious harm to himself. Right?"

"That is what I said," O'Connor agreed. "Yes, Mr. Malone."

"But how about several people?" Malone said. "I mean, well, let's look
at that blood bank again. You need three quarts of blood. But one
person doesn't have to give it. Suppose twelve people gave half a pint
each. Suppose twenty-four people gave a quarter of a pint each.
Suppose--"

"There is," O'Connor said, "a point of diminishing returns. But I do
see your point, Mr. Malone." He thought for a second. "It might just
be possible," he said. "At least theoretically. But it would take a
great deal of mental co-ordination among the participants. They would
have to be telepathic themselves, for one thing."

"Why?" Malone said, feeling stupid.

"Because they would have to mesh their thoughts closely enough to
direct them properly and at the correct time." O'Connor nodded. "But,
given that, I imagine that it could be done."

"Wonderful," Malone said.

"However," O'Connor said, apparently glad to throw even a little cold
water on the notion, "it could not be done for very long periods of
time, you realize."

"Sure," Malone said happily.

"By the way, Mr. Malone," O'Connor said. "Does this have anything to
do with the hypothesis you presented to me some time ago? Mass
hypnotism, as I recall--"

"No," Malone said. "I've given that idea up for good. I think this is
being done on an individual basis--working on one person at a time."
Then another idea hit him. "You say these people would have to be
telepaths?"

"That's right," O'Connor said.

"Then wouldn't Her Majesty know about them? If they're telepaths? Or
is there some kind of a mind shield or something that a telepath could
work out?"

"Mind shield?" O'Connor said. "Ah, yes. Miss Thompson might be fooled
by such a shield. It would have to be an exceptional one, but such
things do seem to be possible. They belong to the realm of mental
disciplines, of course, rather than psionics."

"Sure," Malone said. "But there could be that kind of shield?"

"There could," O'Connor said. "The mind which created the shield for
itself would have to be of tremendous power and a really high order of
control. A strong, sane mind might conceivably create such a block
that even Miss Thompson, let us say, might believe that she was
picking up a real mind, when she was only picking up surface thoughts,
with the real thought hidden behind the telepathic block."

"Fine," Malone said. "Thanks. Thanks a lot, Dr. O'Connor."

"I am always happy to put my extensive knowledge of science at your
disposal, Mr. Malone," O'Connor said.

Malone watched the image collapse without really seeing it. Instead,
he was busily talking to himself, or rather to his other self.

"Well, now, Sir Kenneth," he said. "Let's pull all the facts together
and see what happens."

"Indeed, Mr. Malone," said Sir Kenneth Malone, "it is time that we
did. Proceed, Sirrah. I shall attend."

* * * * *

"Let's start from the beginning," Malone said. "We know there's
confusion in all parts of the country, in all parts of the world, I
guess. And we know that confusion is being caused by carefully timed
accidents and errors. We also know that these errors appear to be
accompanied by violent bursts of psionic static--violent energy. And
we know, further, that on three specific occasions, these bursts of
energy were immediately followed by a reversal of policy in the mind
of the person on the receiving end."

"You mean," Sir Kenneth put in, "that they changed their minds."

"Correct," Malone said. "I refer, of course, to the firm of Brubitsch,
Borbitsch and Garbitsch, Spying Done Cheap."

"Indeed," Sir Kenneth said. "Then the operators of this force,
whatever it may be, have some interest in allowing these spies to
confess?"

"Maybe," Malone said. "Let's leave that for later. To get back to the
beginning of all this: it seems to me to follow that the accidents and
errors which have caused all the confusion through the United States
and Russia are caused by somebody's mind being changed at exactly the
right moment. A man does something just a little differently than he
decided to--or else he forgets to do it at all."

"Correct," Sir Kenneth said. "And you feel, Mr. Malone, that a
telepathic command is the cause of this confusion?"

"A series of them," Malone said. "But we also know, from Dr. O'Connor,
that it takes a great deal of psychic energy to perform this
particular trick--more than a person can normally afford to expend."

"Marry, now," Sir Kenneth exclaimed, "such a statement does not seem
to have reason in it. Changing the mind of a man seems a small thing
in comparison to teleportation, or psychokinesis, or levitation. And
yet it takes more power than any of these?"

Malone thought for a second. "Sure it does," he said. "I'd say it was
a matter of resistance. Moving an inanimate object is pretty simple--
comparatively, anyhow--because inert matter has no mental resistance."

"And moving yourself?" Sir Kenneth said.

"There is some resistance there, probably," Malone said. "But you'll
remember that part of the Fueyo training system for teleportation
involved overcoming your own mental resistance to the idea."

"True," Sir Kenneth said. "Quite true. Then let us say that it
requires enormous power to effect these changes. What is our next
step, Mr. Malone?"

"Next, Sir Kenneth," Malone said, "We have to do a little supposing.
This project must be handled by a fairly large group, since no
individual can work it. This large group has to be telepathic, and not
only for the precise timing O'Connor specified."

"There is another reason?" Sir Kenneth said.

"There is," Malone said. "They've also got to know exactly when to
make their victim change his mind. Right?"

"Absolutely," said Sir Kenneth. "Now, Sirrah, where does all this
leave us? We have had the orderly presentation of the case; where,
Sirrah, is your summation?"

"Coming up," Malone said. "We've got to look for a widespread
organization of telepaths, with enough mental discipline to hold a
mental shield that Her Majesty can't crack, and can't even recognize
the existence of. We thought she'd found all the telepaths. She said
so, and she obviously thought so. But she didn't. These are strong,
trained--and sane."

"Aha," said Sir Kenneth.

"Her Majesty," Malone said, "found us only the crazy telepaths, the
weak ones, the nuts."

"Fine," said Sir Kenneth. "And this, Mr. Malone, leaves us with only
one question. Her Majesty--may God bless her--stated that she first
spotted these flashes of telepathic static by listening in on our
minds."

"Our mind," Malone said. "I hope."

"Very well," Sir Kenneth said. "This means that some force is being
directed in this way, toward us. And how do we know that all the
deduction, all the careful case-building we have done, hasn't been
influenced by this group? That might mean, of course, that we are
miles, or even light-years, from the solution."

Malone said: "Yeep." The sound was echoed by Sir Kenneth, and the two
halves of the coruscating mind of Kenneth J. Malone were once more
one.

_Your Majesty,_ the minds thought, _I'd like to talk to you._

Nothing happened. Evidently, Her Majesty was temporarily out of mental
contact with him.

"Hell," Malone said. "Not to mention od's blood." He flipped on the
visiphone and dialed Yucca Flats.

The figure that appeared on the screen was that of a tall,
solidly-built man with a red face and the uniform of a Beefeater. This
Tower Warder had the British royal crest embroidered on his chest, and
the letters: "E. R."

"Good evening, Sir Kenneth," he said politely.

Malone had sometimes wondered what it would be like to be on the
Queen's permanent, personal staff. Evidently, it soaked in so
thoroughly that one began to stay in character all the time. The
little old lady's delusion was such a pleasant one that it was
painlessly infectious.

"I'd like to speak to Her Majesty, Colonel Fairfax," Malone said.

"Her Majesty," Colonel Fairfax said with regret, "is asleep, sir. I
understand that she has had rather a trying time, of late."

"Then I must ask you to wake her," Malone said. "I don't want to
disturb her any more than you do, Colonel, but this is important."

"Her Majesty's rest," Colonel Fairfax said gently, "is also important,
Sir Kenneth."

"This is more important," Malone said. "I know how you feel, but it's
necessary to wake her."

The screen blanked out.

Malone sighed and began to sing softly to himself while he waited:

"The soldiers of the Queen are linked in friendly tether--
And if she's off her bean, we'll all go nuts together..."

Her Majesty appeared at this point, dressed in a silken robe bearing
her crest and initials (E. R., rather than R. T., of course), and
wearing a silken Mother Hubbard cap on her head. "Oh, dear," she said
instantly. "Are you still worried about them?"

"The flashes?" Malone said. "That's right. You tuned in on my mind
right away, didn't you?"

"As soon as I got your message," she said. "I like your little song,
at least, I think I do."

Malone blushed faintly. "Sorry," he said.

"Oh, don't be, Sir Kenneth," Her Majesty said. "After all, I do allow
my subjects a good deal of liberty; it is theirs to make use of." She
smiled at him. "Actually, I should have told you, Sir Kenneth. But it
seemed so natural that I--that I forgot it."

_Oh, no,_ Malone thought.

"I'm afraid so," Her Majesty said. "When I told you about the
interference, your mind quite automatically began to build what I
think of as a--as a defense against it. A shield, so to speak."

_Me?_ Malone thought.

"Most certainly," Her Majesty said. "You know, Sir Kenneth, you have a
very strong mind."

"Oh, I don't know," Malone said aloud. "Sometimes I don't feel so
bright."

"I'm not talking about intelligence," Her Majesty said. "The two
properties are interconnected, of course, but they are not identical.
After all ... well, never mind. But you have strength of will, Sir
Kenneth, and strength of purpose. As a matter of fact, you have been
building your strength in the last few days."

"Really?" Malone said, surprised.

"It's become more and more difficult," Her Majesty said, "to see into
the depths of your mind, during the past few days. The surface of your
mind is as easy to read as ever, but it's hard to see what's going on
in the depths."

"I'm not doing it deliberately," Malone said.

"In any case," Her Majesty said, "this process has been going on ever
since you knew that telepathy was possible, two years ago. But in the
past forty-eight hours matters have accelerated tremendously."

"That sounds good," Malone said. "Does it mean these mind-changers
I've been thinking about can't get through to me?"

"What mind-changers?" the Queen said. "Oh. I see." She paused. "Well,
I can't be positive about this, Sir Kenneth; it's all so new, you
know. All I can tell you is that there haven't been any flashes of
telepathic energy in your mind in the last forty-eight hours."

"Well," Malone said doubtfully, "that's something. And I am sorry I
had to wake you, Your Majesty."

"Oh, that's perfectly all right," she said. "I know you're working
hard to restore order to the realm, and it is the duty of any
Sovereign to give such aid as she can to her Royal subjects."

Malone cleared his throat. "I trust," he said, "Your Majesty will ever
find me a faithful servant."

Her Majesty smiled. "I'm sure I shall," she said. "Good night, Sir
Kenneth."

"Good night," he said, and flipped off. At once, the phone chimed
again.

He flipped the switch on. "Malone here," he said.

Boyd's face appeared on the screen. "Ken," he said fervently, "I am
very glad you're still in town."

"Thanks," Malone said politely. "But what about Mike Sand? Any
information?"

"Plenty," Boyd said. "I damn near didn't believe it."

"What do you mean, you didn't believe it?" Malone said. "Isn't the
information any good?"

"It's good, all right," Boyd said. "It's great. He practically talked
his head off to me. Gave me all his books, including secret sets. And
I've put him under arrest as a material witness--at his own request."

"It sounds," Malone said, "as if Mike Sand has had a sudden and
surprising change of heart."

"Doesn't it, though," Boyd said. "We can crack the ITU wide open now,
and I mean really wide open."

"Same pattern?" Malone said.

"Of course it is," Boyd said. "What does it sound like? Same pattern."

"Good," Malone said. "Get on up here. I'll talk to you later."

He cut off in a hurry, leaned back in his chair and started to think.
At first, he thought of a cigar. Boyd, he figured, couldn't be back in
the office for some time, and nobody else would come in. He locked the
door, drew out the cigar-laden box he kept in his desk in New York,
and lit up with great satisfaction.

When the cloud of smoke around his head was dense enough to cut with a
knife, he went back to more serious subjects. He didn't have to worry
too much about his mind being spied on; if Her Majesty couldn't read
his deepest thoughts, and the mind-changers weren't throwing any bolts
of static in his direction, he was safe.

Now, then, he told himself--and sneezed.

He shook his head, cursed slightly, and went on.

Now, then...

There was an organization, spread all over the Western world, and with
secret branches, evidently, in the Soviet Union. The organization had
to be an old one, because it had to have trained telepaths of such a
high degree of efficiency that they could evade Her Majesty's probing
without her even being aware of the evasion. And training took time.

There was something else to consider, too. In order to organize to
such a degree that they could wreak the efficient, complete havoc they
were wreaking, the organization couldn't be completely secret; there
are always leaks, always suspicious events, and a secret society that
covered all of those up would have no time for anything else.

So the organization had to be a known one, a known group, masquerading
as something else.

So far, everything made sense. Malone took another deep, grateful puff
on the cigar, and frowned. Where, he wondered, did he go from here?

He reached for a pencil and a piece of paper. He headed the paper:
_Organization._ Then he started putting down what he knew about it,
and what he'd figured out.

     1. Large
     2. Old
     3. Disguised

It sounded just a little like Frankenstein's Monster, so far. But what
else did he know about it?

After a second's thought, he murmured: "Nothing," and took another
puff.

But that wasn't quite true.

He knew one more thing about the organization. He knew they'd probably
be immune to the confusion everybody else was suffering from. The
organization would be--had to be--efficient. It would be composed of
intelligent, superbly cooperative people, who could work together as a
unit without in the least impairing their own individuality.

He reached for the list again, put down:

     4. Efficient

And looked at it. Now it didn't remind him quite so much of the
Monster. But it didn't look familiar, either. Who did he know, he
thought, who was large, old, disguised and efficient?

It sounded like an improbable combination. He set the list down again,
clearing off some of the papers the PRS had sent him to make room for
it.

Then he stopped.

The papers the PRS had sent him...

And he'd gotten them so quickly, so efficiently...

They were a large organization...

And an old one...

He tossed the cigar in the general direction of the ashtray, grabbed
the phone and jabbed at buttons.

The girl who answered the phone looked familiar. She did not look very
old, but she was large and she had to be disguised, Malone thought.
Nobody could naturally have that many teeth.

"Psychical Research Society," she said. "Oh, Mr. Malone, good
evening."

"Sir Lewis," Malone said. "Sir Lewis Carter. President. I want to talk
to him. Hurry."

"Sir Lewis?" the girl said slowly. "Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Malone, but the
office is closed now for the day. And Sir Lewis has gone already. It's
after six o'clock, Mr. Malone, and the office is closed."

"Home number," Malone said desperately. "I've got to."

"Well, I can do that, Mr. Malone," she said, "but it wouldn't do you
any good, really. Because he went away on his vacation, and when he
goes on his vacation he never tells us where. You know? He won't be
back for two or three weeks."

"Oog," Malone said, and thought for less than a second. "Miss
Garbitsch," he said. "Lou. Got to talk to her. Now."

"Oh, I can't do that, either, Mr. Malone," the toothy girl said. "All
of the executive officers, they left already on their vacation. And
that includes Miss Garbitsch, too. They just left a skeleton force
here at the office."

"They're all gone?" Malone said hollowly.

"That's right," she said cheerfully. "As a matter of fact, I'm in
charge now, and that's why I'm staying so late. To sort of catch up on
things. You know?"

"It's very important," Malone said tensely. "You don't know where any
of them went? You don't have any address?"

"None at all," she said. "I'm sorry, but that's how it is. Maybe it's
strange, and maybe you'd ask questions, but I obey orders, and
those're my orders. To take over until they get back. They didn't tell
me where they went, and I didn't ask."

"Great," Malone said. He wanted to shoot himself.

Lou was one of them. Of course she was; that was obvious now, when he
thought about it. Lou was one of the secret group that was sabotaging
practically everything.

And now they'd all gone. For two weeks--or for good.

The girl's voice broke in on his thoughts.

"Oh, Mr. Malone," she said, "I'm sorry, but I just remembered. They
left a note for you."

"A note?" Malone said.

"Sir Lewis said you might call," the girl said, "and he left a
message. If you'll hold on a minute I'll read it to you."

Malone waited tensely. The girl found a slip of paper, blinked at it
and read:

"My dear Malone, I'm afraid you are perfectly correct in your
deductions; and, as you can see, that leaves us no alternative. Sorry.
Miss G. sends her apologies to you, as do I." The girl looked up.
"It's signed by Sir Lewis," she said. "Does that mean anything to you,
Mr. Malone?"

"I'm afraid it does," Malone said bleakly. "It means entirely too
much."


12

After the great mass of teeth, vaguely surrounded by a face, had faded
from Malone's screen, he just sat there, looking at the dead, grey
screen of the visiphone and feeling about twice as dead and at least
three times as grey.

Things, he told himself, were terrible. But even that sentence, which
was a good deal more cheerful than what he actually felt, didn't do
anything to improve his mood. All of the evidence, after all, had been
practically living on the tip of his nose for nearly twenty-four
hours, and not only had he done nothing about it, but he hadn't even
seen it.

Two or three times, for instance, he'd doubted the possibility of
teleporting another human being. All his logic had told him it wasn't
so. But, he'd thought, he and Her Majesty had teleported Lou, and so,
obviously, his logic was wrong.

No, it wasn't, he thought now. There _would_ be too much mental
resistance, even if the person were unconscious. Teleportation of
another human being _would_ be impossible.

Unless, of course, the other human being was able to teleport on her
own.

True, she had been no more than semiconscious. She probably couldn't
have teleported on her own. But Malone and Her Majesty had, ever so
kindly and ever so mistakenly, helped her, and Lou had managed to
teleport to the plane.

And that wasn't all, he thought dismally. That was far from all.

"Let's take another for-instance," he said savagely, in what he
thought was a caricature of the Manelli voice. In order for all three
to teleport, there had to be perfect synchronization.

Otherwise, they'd have arrived either at different places, or at the
same place but at different times.

And perfect synchronization on a psionic level meant telepathy. At
least two of the three had to be telepathic. Her Majesty was, of
course. Malone wasn't.

So Lou had to be telepathic, too.

Malone told himself bitterly to quit calling the girl Lou. After the
way she'd deceived him, she didn't deserve it. Her name was Luba
Garbitsch, and from now on he was going to call her Luba Garbitsch. In
his own mind, anyway.

Facts came tumbling in on him like the side of a mountain, falling on
a hapless traveler during a landslide. And, Malone told himself, he
had never had less help in all of his ill-starred life.

Her Majesty had never, never suspected that Luba Garbitsch was
anything other than the girl she pretended to be. That was negative
evidence, true, and taken alone it meant nothing at all. But when you
added the other facts to it, it showed, with perfect plainness, that
Luba Garbitsch was the fortunate possessor of a mind shield as tough,
as strong and as perfect as any Malone, O'Connor or good old Cartier
Taylor had ever even thought of dreaming up.

And then, very suddenly, another fact arrived, and pushed the rest out
into the black night of Malone's bitter mind. He punched hard on the
intercom button and got the desk of the agent-in-charge.

"Now what's wrong?" the A-in-C said. "Ghosts got loose? Or do you want
some help with a beautiful blonde heiress?"

"What would I be doing," Malone snapped, "with a beautiful blonde
heiress?"

The agent-in-charge looked thoughtful. It was obvious that he had been
saving his one joke up for several hours. "You might be holding her,"
he suggested, "for ransom, of course."

"That's not funny," Malone said. "Nothing is funny any more."

"Oh, all right," the A-in-C said. "You Washington boys are just too
good for the rest of us. What's on your mind?"

"You've got a twenty-four-hour watch on Luba Garbitsch, haven't you?"
Malone said.

"Sure we have," the A-in-C said. "Boyd said--"

"Yes, I know what he said," Malone cut in. "Give me a check on those
men. I want to find out where she is right now. Right this minute."

The agent-in-charge shrugged. "Sure," he said. "It's none of my
business. Hang on a second."

The screen went blank, but it didn't go silent. Each of the agents, on
a stakeout job like the Garbitsch one, would be carrying personal
communicators, and Malone could hear the voice of the agent-in-charge
as he spoke to them.

He couldn't make out all the words, and it wasn't important anyhow.
He'd know soon enough, he kept telling himself; just as soon as the
A-in-C came back and reported.

It seemed like about twelve years before he did.

"She's all right," he said. "Nothing to worry about; she's probably
working late at her office, that's all. She hasn't gone home yet."

"Want to bet?" Malone snapped.

"Don't tempt me," the A-in-C said. "I wouldn't take your money--it's
probably counterfeit, printed in Washington."

"I'll give you ten to one," Malone said.

"Ten to one, I'll take," the A-in-C said rapidly. "Ten to one is like
taking candy from a traffic cop. I'm no amateur, even if I am stuck
away in dull little old New York--and I know the boys I've got on
stakeout. I'll check, and--"

"Let me know when you do," Malone said. "I've got some long-distance
calls to make."

* * * * *

Forty-five minutes later, he had all the news he needed. Spot checks
on PRS offices on the West Coast, where it wasn't closing time yet,
showed that all the executive officers had suddenly felt the need of
extended vacations to parts unknown.

That, if not exactly cheering news, was still welcome; Malone had more
backing for his theory.

An overseas call to New Scotland Yard in London took a little more
time, and several arguments with bored overseas operators who,
apparently, had nothing better to do than to confuse the customers.
But Malone finally managed to get Assistant Commissioner C. E. Teal,
who promised to check on Malone's inquiry at once.

It seemed like years before he called back, and Malone leaped to the
phone.

"Yes?" he said.

Teal, red-faced and apparently masticating a stick of gum, said: "I
got C. I. D. Commander Gideon to follow up on that matter, Mr. Malone.
It is rather late here, as you must realize--"

"Yes?" Malone said. "And they've all gone?"

"Why, no," Teal said, surprised. "A spot check shows that most of the
executives of the London branch of the Psychical Research Society are
spending quiet evenings in their homes. Our Inspector Ottermole
actually spoke to Dr. Carnacki, the head of the office here."

"Oh," Malone said.

"They haven't skipped," Teal went on. "Is this in connection with
anything serious, Mr. Malone?"

"Not yet," Malone said. "But I'll let you know at once if there are
any further developments. Thanks very much, Mr. Teal."

"A pleasure, Mr. Malone," Teal said. "A pleasure." And then, still
masticating, he switched off.

And that, Malone told himself, was definitely that. Of course the
British PRS hadn't gone underground; why should they? The British
police weren't on to them, as Scotland Yard showed. And, no matter
what opinions Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I might hold in the matter,
the FBI had absolutely no jurisdiction in the British Isles.

Malone buried his face in his hands, thought about a cigar and decided
that even a cigar might make him feel worse. Where were they? What
were they doing now? What did they plan to do?

Where had they gone?

"Out of the everywhere," he said in a hollow, sepulchral voice, "into
the here."

But where was the here?

He tried to make up his mind whether or not that made sense.
Superficially, it sounded like plain bad English, but he wasn't sure
of anything any more. Things were getting much too confused.

There was a knock at the door.

Malone, without any hope at all, called: "Come in," and the door
opened.

The agent-in-charge came in, and dropped a dollar on Malone's desk.

"So you checked," Malone said.

"I checked," the A-in-C said sadly. "The boys went through the entire
damned building. Not a sign of her. Not even a trace."

"There wouldn't be one," Malone said, shoving the dollar back to
waiting hands. "Take the money; I knew what would happen. It was a
sucker bet."

"Well, I feel like the sucker, all right," the A-in-C said. "I don't
know how she did it."

"I do," Malone said quietly. "Teleportation."

The A-in-C whistled. "Well," he said, "it was a great secret as long
as it was FBI property. But now, friend, all hell is going to bust
loose."

"It already has," Malone said hollowly.

"Great," the A-in-C said. "What now?"

"Now," Malone said, "I am going to go back to Washington. Take care of
poor little old New York for me."

He closed his eyes, and vanished.

When he opened them, he was in his Washington apartment. He went over
to the big couch and sat down, feeling that if he were going to curse
he might as well be comfortable while he did it. But when the air was
bright blue, some minutes later, he didn't feel any better. Cursing
was not the answer.

Nothing seemed to be.

What was his next move?

Where did he go from here?

The more he thought about it, the more his mind spun. He was, he
realized, at an absolute, total, dead end.

Oh, there were things he could do. Malone knew that very well. He
could make a lot of noise and go through a lot of waste motion--that
was what it would amount to. He could have all the homes of all the
missing PRS members checked. That would result, undoubtedly, in the
discovery that the PRS members involved weren't in their homes. He
could have their files impounded, which would clutter everything with
a great many more pieces of paper, and none of the pieces of paper
would do any good to him. In general, he could have the entire FBI
chasing all over hell and gone--and finding nothing whatever.

No, it would be a waste of time, he told himself. That much was
certain.

And, though he probably had enough evidence to get the FBI in motion,
he had nowhere near enough to carry the case into court, much less
make a try at getting the case to stand up in court. That was one
thing he couldn't do, even if he wanted to: issue warrants for arrest
on any basis whatever.

But Malone was an FBI agent, and his motto was: "There's always a
way." No normal method of tracking down the PRS members, and finding
their present whereabouts, was going to work. They'd been covering
themselves for such an emergency, undoubtedly, for a good many years
and, due to telepathy, they certainly knew enough not to leave any
clues around, of any kind.

But nobody, Malone told himself, was perfect. There were clues lying
around somewhere, he was sure of that; there had to be. The problem
was, simply, to figure out where to look, and what to look for.

Somewhere, the clues were sitting quietly and waiting for him to find
them. The thought cheered him slightly, but not very much. Instead, he
went into the kitchen and started heating water for coffee. He thought
there might be a long night ahead of him, and sighed gently. But there
was no help for it. The work had to be done, and done quickly.

But when eight cigars had been reduced to ash, and what seemed like
several gallons of coffee had sloshed their way into Malone's interior
workings, his mind was as blank as a baby's. The lovely, opalescent
dawn began to show in the East, and Malone swore at it. Then, haggard,
red-eyed, confused, violently angry, and not one inch closer to a
solution, he fell into a fitful doze on his couch.

* * * * *

When he awoke the sun was high in the sky, and outside his window the
cheerful sound of traffic floated in the air. Downstairs somebody was
playing a television set too loudly, and the voice reached Malone's
semi-aware mind in a great tinny shout:

"And now, the makers of Bon-Ton B-Complex Bolsters--the blanket of
health--present Mother Kohler's Chit-Chat Hour!"

The invisible audience screamed and howled. Malone ripped out a
particularly foul oath and sat up on the couch. "That," he muttered,
"is a fine thing to wake up to." He focused his eyes, with only
slight difficulty, on his watch. The time was exactly noon.

"But first," the announcer burbled downstairs, "a word from Mother
Kohler herself, about the brand new special B-Complex _Irradiated_
Bolster you can get at your neighborhood stores..."

"Shut up," Malone said. He had wasted a lot of time doing nothing but
sleeping, he told himself. This was no time to be listening to
television. He got up and found, to his vague surprise, that he felt a
lot better and more clear-headed than he'd been feeling. Maybe the
sleep had done him some good.

He yawned, blinked and stretched, and then he padded into the
bathroom, showered and shaved and put on fresh clothes. He thought
about having a morning cup of coffee, but last night's dregs appeared
to have taken up permanent residence in his digestive tract, and he
decided against it at last. He swallowed some orange juice and toast
and then, heaving a great sigh of resignation and brushing crumbs off
his shirt, he teleported himself over to his office.

He was going to have to face Burris eventually, he knew.

And now was just as good, or as bad, a time as any.

Malone didn't hesitate. He punched the button on his intercom for
Burris' office and then sat back, with his eyes closed, for the
well-known voice.

It didn't come.

Instead, Wolf, the director's secretary, spoke up.

"Burris isn't in, Malone," he said. "He had to fly to Miami. I can get
a call through to him on the plane, if it's urgent, but he'll be
landing in about fifteen minutes. And he did say he'd call this
afternoon."

"Oh," Malone said. "Sure. Okay. It isn't urgent." He was just as glad
of the reprieve; it gave him one more chance to work matters through
to a solution, and report success instead of failure. "But what's
going on in Miami?" he added.

"Don't you read the papers?" Wolf asked.

Everybody, Malone reflected, seemed to be asking him that lately. "I
haven't had time," he said.

"The governor of Mississippi was assassinated yesterday, at Miami
Beach," Wolf said.

"Ah," Malone said. He thought about it for a second. "Frankly," he
said, "this does not strike me as an irreparable loss to the nation.
Not even to Mississippi."

"You express my views precisely," Wolf said.

"How about the killer?" Malone said. "I gather they haven't got him
yet, or Burris wouldn't be on his way down."

"No," Wolf said. "The killer would be on his way here instead. They
haven't got him, Malone. It seems Governor Flarion was walking along
Collins Avenue when somebody fired at him, using a high-powered rifle
with, I guess, a scope sight."

"Professional," Malone commented.

"It looks like it," Wolf said. "Nobody even heard the sniper's shot;
the governor just fell over, right there in the street. And by the
time his bodyguards found out what had happened, it was impossible
even to be sure just which way he was facing when the shot had been
fired."

"And, as I remember Collins Avenue--" Malone started.

"Right," Wolf said. "Out where Governor Flarion was taking his stroll,
there's an awful lot of it to search. The boys are trying to find
somebody who might have seen a man acting suspicious in any of the
nearby buildings, or heard a shot, or seen anybody at all lurking or
loitering anywhere remotely close to the scene."

"Lovely," Malone said. "Sounds like a nice complicated job."

"You don't know the half of it," Wolf said. "There's also the Miami
Beach Chamber of Commerce. According to them, Flarion died of a heart
attack, and not even in Miami Beach. The bullet and the body are
supposed to be written off as just coincidences, to keep the fair name
of Miami Beach unsullied."

"All I can say," Malone offered, "is good luck. This is the saddest
day in American history since the assassination of Huey P. Long."

"Agreed," Wolf said. "Want me to tell Burris you called?"

"Right," Malone said. He flicked off.

Now, he asked himself, how did the assassination of Governor Nemours
P. Flarion fit in with anything? Granted, good old Nemours P. had been
a horrible mistake, a paranoid, self-centered, would-be dictator whose
talents as a rabble-rouser and a fearmonger had somehow managed to get
him elected to a governorship. Certainly nobody felt particularly
unhappy about his death. But he wouldn't fit into the pattern. Malone
reminded himself that that was one more thing he had to find out when
he got the chance.

The trouble lay in finding an opportunity, he thought--and then he
corrected himself.

Not _finding_ it--_making_ it. Nobody was going to hand him anything
on a silver serving salver.

He punched the intercom again and got the Records office.

"Yes, sir?" a familiar voice said.

"Potter?" Malone said. "This is Malone. I want facsimiles of
everything we have on the Psychical Research Society, on Sir Lewis
Carter, and on Luba Vasilovna Garbitsch. Both of those last are
connected with the Society."

"Right," Potter said. "They'll be up at once."

Then he punched again, and asked for the latest copy of the Washington
_Post_. He gave the article on Governor Flarion one quick glance, but
it didn't contain anything in the way of facts that he hadn't already
had from Wolf. After that, he left it and concentrated on the more
prosaic, human-interest news, the smaller stories.

     FIFTH SPLINTER GROUP FORMS IN DCA BATTLE

That was an interesting one, he thought. The Daughters of Colonial
Americans had about reached the point of diminishing returns in their
battle over the claims of Rose Carswell Elder, a descendant of a Negro
freedman named William Elder who had lived in Boston in 1776 and
fought on the side of the Colonies during the Revolution. One more
splinter group, Malone thought, and there'd be as many splinters as
members. Rose Carswell Elder was pressing her claim for membership,
and the ladies were replying by throwing crockery and hard words at
each other.

Then there was the Legion of American War Veterans. The headline on
this one read:

     LAWV OUSTS 'ROWDIES': AID MEETING CONTINUES

The "rowdies," Malone discovered, were a large minority group that
wanted the good old days of electric canes, paper hats, whistles and
pretty girls. "The Legion has grown up," a spokesman told them. "This
convention is being held to discuss the possibility of increased
technological aid to India and Africa. There is no place for
tomfoolery or high jinks."

The expulsion order had been carried by a record majority.

And then there were two items, on different pages, that seemed to
contradict each other. The first was a small headline on page
fourteen:

     RESIGNATIONS REACH NEW HIGH IN U.S. COLLEGE FACULTIES

Teachers were apparently resigning all over the place, in virtually
every department of virtually every college. That made sense. And the
other item, on page three, made just as much sense:

     HIGHER TAXES VOTED THROUGHOUT U.S.
     FOR TEACHER INCOME RISE
     State and Federal Aid Also Promised
     in Drive to Raise Salaries Now

Apparently, teachers were resigning just as they were about to get
more money than they'd ever seen before. But Malone could fit that
into the pattern easily enough; it was perfectly obvious, once he
thought about it.

Malone didn't have time to go through much more of the paper; the
facsimile records he'd been waiting for arrived, and he put the _Post_
aside and concentrated on them instead. Maybe somewhere in the records
was the clue he desperately needed.

The PRS was widely spread, all right. It had branches in almost every
major city in the United States, in Europe, South Africa, South
America and Australia. There was even a small branch society in
Greenland. True, the Communist disapproval of such non-materialistic,
un-Marxian objectives as Psychical Research showed up in the fact that
there were no registered branches in the Sino-Soviet bloc. But that,
Malone thought, didn't really matter. Maybe in Russia they called
themselves the Lenin Study Group, or the Better Borshcht League. He
was fairly sure, from what he'd experienced, that the PRS had some
kind of organization even behind the Iron Curtain.

Money didn't seem to be much of a problem, either. Malone checked for
the supporters of the organization and found a microfilmed list that
ran into the hundreds of thousands of names, most of them ordinary
people who seemed to be interested in spiritualism and the like, and
who donated a few dollars apiece each year to the PRS. Besides this
mass of small donations, of course, there were a few large ones, from
independently wealthy men who gave support to the organization and
seemed actively interested in its aims.

It wasn't an unusual picture; it was just an exceptionally big one.

Malone sighed and went on to the personal dossiers.

Sir Lewis Carter himself was a well-known astronomer and
mathematician. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Royal
Astronomical Society and the Royal Mathematical Society. He had been
knighted for his contributions in higher mathematics only two years
before he had come to live in the United States. Malone went over the
papers dealing with his entry into the country carefully, but they
were all in order and they contained absolutely no clues he could use.

Sir Lewis' books on political and historical philosophy had been
well-received, and he had also written a novel, _But Some Are More
Equal,_ which, for a few weeks after publication, had managed to reach
the bottom of the best-seller list.

And that was that. Malone tried to figure out whether all this
information did him any good at all, and he didn't have to think for
very long. The answer was no. He opened the next dossier.

Luba Vasilovna Garbitsch had been born in New York. Her mother had
been a woman of Irish descent named Mary O'Keefe, and had died in '68.
Her father, of course, had now been revealed as a Russian agent, and
was at present making his home, such as it probably was, in good old
Moscow.

Malone sighed. Somewhere in the dossiers, he was sure, there was a
clue, the basic clue that would tell him everything he needed to know.
His prescience had never been so strong; he knew perfectly well that
he was staring at the biggest, most startling and most complete
disclosure of all. And he couldn't see it.

He stared at the folders for a long minute. What did they tell him?
What was the clue?

And then, very slowly, the soft light of a prodigal sun illuminated
his mind.

"Mr. Malone," Malone said gently, "you are a damned fool. There are
times when it is necessary to discard the impossible after you have
seen that the obscure is the obvious."

He wasn't sure whether that meant anything, or even whether he knew
what he was saying. He was sure of only one thing: the final answer.

And it _was_ obvious. Obvious as all hell.


13

There was, of course, only one thing to do, and only one place to go.
Malone went downstairs without even stopping to wave farewell to the
agent-in-charge, and climbed into the big, specially-built FBI Lincoln
that waited for him.

"Want a driver?" one of the mechanics asked.

"No, thanks," Malone said. "This one's a solo job."

That was for sure. He drove out onto the streets and into the heavy
late afternoon traffic of Washington, D. C. The Lincoln handled
smoothly, but Malone didn't press his luck among the rushing cars. He
wasn't in any hurry. He had all the time in the world, and he knew it.
They--and, for once, Malone knew just who "they" were--would still be
waiting for him when he got there.

_If_ he got there, he thought suddenly, dodging a combination
roadblock consisting of a green Plymouth making an illegal turn, a
fourteen-year-old boy on a bicycle and a sweet young girl pushing a
baby carriage. He managed to get past and wiped his forehead with one
hand. He continued driving, even more carefully, until he was out of
the city.

It took quite a lot of time. Washington traffic was getting worse and
worse with every passing month, and the pedestrians were as nonchalant
as ever. As Malone turned a corner, a familiar face popped into view,
practically in front of his car. He swerved and got by without
committing homicide, and a cheerful voice said: "Thanks, sorry."

"It's okay, Chester," Malone said. The big man skipped back to the
sidewalk and watched the car go by. Malone knew him slightly, a
private eye who did some work on the fringes of Washington crime;
basically a nice guy, but a little too active for Malone's taste.

For a second he thought of asking the man to accompany him, but the
last thing Malone needed was muscle. What he wanted was brains, and he
even thought he might be developing some of those.

He was nearly sure of it by the time he finally did leave the city and
get out onto the highway that went south into the depths of Virginia.
And, while he drove, he began to use that brain, letting his reflexes
take over most of the driving problems now that the Washington traffic
tangle was behind him.

He took all his thoughts from behind the shield that had sheltered
them and arrayed them neatly before him. Everything was perfectly
clear; all he had to do now was explain it.

Malone had wondered, over the years, about the detectives in books.
They always managed to wrap everything up in the last chapter--and
that was all right. But they always had a whole crowd of suspects
listening to them, too. And Malone knew perfectly well that he could
never manage a set-up like that. People would be interrupting him.
Things would happen. Dogs would rush in and start a fight on the
floor. There would be earthquakes, or else somebody would suddenly
faint and interrupt him.

But now, at long last, he realized, he had his chance.

Nobody, he thought happily, could interrupt him. And he could explain
to his heart's content.

Because the members of the PRS were telepathic. And Malone, he thought
cheerfully, was not.

Somebody, he was sure, would be tuned in on him as he drove toward
their Virginia hiding place. And he hoped that that somebody would
alert everybody else, so they could all tune in and hear his grand
final explanation of everything.

_And a hearty good afternoon to everybody,_ he thought. _A very hearty
and happy and sunny good afternoon to all--and most especially to Miss
Luba Garbitsch. I hope she's the one who's tuned in--or that somebody
has alerted her by now, because I'd rather talk to her than to anyone
else I can think of out there._

_Nothing personal, you understand. It's just that I'd like to show off
a little. I don't need to hide anything from you--as a matter of
plain, simple fact, I can't. Not with my shield down._

He paused then, and, in his imagination, he could almost hear Lou's
voice.

"I'm listening, Kenneth," the voice said. "Go on."

_Well, then,_ he thought. He fished around in his mind for a second,
wondering exactly where to start. Then he decided, in the best
traditions of the detective story, not to mention _Alice in
Wonderland,_ to start at the beginning.

_The dear old Psychical Research Society,_ he thought, _had been going
along for a good many years now--since the 1880's, as a matter of
fact, or somewhere near there. That's a long time and a lot of
research. A lot of famous and intelligent men and women have belonged
to the Society. And in all that time, they've worked hard, and worked
sincerely, in testing every kind of psychic phenomenon. They've worked
impartially and scientifically to find out whether a given unusual
incident was explicable in terms of known natural laws, or was the
result of some unknown force._

_And it's hardly surprising that, after about a hundred years of work,
something finally came of it._

"Not surprising at all," he imagined Lou's voice saying. "You're
making things very clear, Kenneth."

Or had that been "Sir Kenneth"? Malone wasn't sure, but it didn't
really matter. He spun the car around a curve in the highway, smiled
gently to himself, and went on.

_Naturally, to the average man in the street, the Society was just a
bunch of crackpots, and the more respected and famous the people who
belonged to it, the happier he was; it just proved his superiority to
them. He didn't deal with crackpot notions, did he?_

_No, the Society did. And nobody except the members paid much
attention to what was going on._

_I remember one of the book facsimiles you gave me, for instance. Some
man, whose name I can't recall, wrote a great "exposé" of the Society,
in which he tried to prove that Sir Lewis Carter and certain other
members were trying to take over the world and run it to suit
themselves, making a sort of horrible dictatorship out of their power
and position. At that, he wasn't really far from the truth, though he
had it turned around a little. But the book shows that he has no
knowledge whatever of what psionics is, or how it works. He seems to
me to be just a little afraid of it, which probably adds to his
ignorance. And, as a result, he got a twisted idea of what the PRS is
actually doing._

He could almost hear Lou's voice again. "Yes," she was saying. "I
remember the book. It was put in our reference library for its
humorous aspects."

_That's right,_ Malone thought. _It would be only funny to you. But it
would be frightening and terrible to an awful lot of people simply
because they wouldn't understand what the Society was all about._

"All right," Lou's voice said helpfully. "And what _is_ it all about?"

Malone settled back in the driver's seat as the car continued to spin
along the road. _It seems to me,_ he thought carefully, _that any
telepath has to go one of two ways. Either, like Her Majesty or the
others we found when we discovered her two years ago, the telepath
ends up insane--or perhaps commits suicide, which is simply one step
further in retreat--or else he learns to understand and control his
own powers, and to understand other human beings so well that, if he
actually did control the world, everyone would benefit in the long
run._

_The difference between the two kinds is the difference between Her
Majesty and the PRS._

"That's good thinking," he could hear Lou say.

_No, it isn't,_ he thought; _it's no more than guessing, and it could
be just as wild as you please. But there is one thing I do know: the
way to get a better world, or anyhow the first step, is to clear the
road ahead. And that means getting rid of the fools, idiots, maniacs,
blockheads, morons, psychopaths, paranoids, timidity-ridden,
fear-worshipers, fanatics, thieves, criminals and a whole lot more._

"Get rid of them?" Lou's voice said.

_Well,_ Malone thought, _I don't mean they've got to be killed or
driven out of the civilized world. You've just got to get them out of
any place where their influence is heavily felt on society as a
whole._

"All right," Lou's voice said pleasantly. "And how could we go about
that? Do we write nasty letters to the editor?"

_There's a much more effective way,_ Malone thought. _There's no
trouble in getting rid of a man if you can make him expose himself.
And you've managed that pretty well. You've thwarted their idiotic
plans, made them stumble over their own fumble-mindedness, played on
their neuroses, concocted errors for them to fight and, in general,
rigged things in any possible way so that they'd quit, or get fired,
or lose elections, or get arrested, or just generally get put out of
circulation somehow._

_It's extremely effective--and it works very well._

_Sometimes, you've only had to put the blocks to individuals.
Sometimes whole nations have had to go. And sometimes it's been
in-between, and you've managed to foul up whole organizations with
misplaced papers missent messages, error, and changed minds and
everything else you can think of._

_As a matter of fact, it sounds like fun._

"Well," he imagined Lou saying, "it is fun, in away. But it's a deadly
serious business, too."

_Sure it is,_ Malone thought. _I think the first time that came home
to me was when I saw what was happening in Russia, and compared it to
what had been going on over here. Tom Boyd saw that, too, when I
pointed it out to him--as you probably know if you were spying on my
mind at the time._

_Not that I mind that in the least._

_Come more often, by all means._

_But Tom, in case you weren't listening, said: "Over here there are a
lot of confused jerks and idiots... And in Russia there's a lot of
confusion."_

_Now, that's perfectly true, and it spells out the difference. Over
here, you've been confusing the jerks and the idiots, getting rid of
them so the system can work properly. Over in Russia, on the other
hand, you've left the jerks and the idiots all alone to do their dirty
work, and you've just added to the confusion where necessary, so that
the system will break down of its own weight._

"But, after all," Lou said, "things look pretty bad over here, too.
Look at the papers."

_Everybody,_ Malone thought, _has been telling me to go and look at
the newspapers. And when I do look at them I find all sorts of
evidence of confusion. Teachers resigning, senators and
representatives goofing up bills on Congress, gang wars cluttering up
the streets with cadavers and making things tough for the Sanitation
Department, factional fights in various organizations. Now, all of
that looks pretty horrible in the papers, but do you know something?
It isn't horrible at all._

_It's pretty damn good, as a matter of fact._

_The teachers who are resigning, for instance, are the nincompoops
who've got to be pruned out so that competent teachers can come in.
And, with the higher salaries, more and more competent men and women
are going to be attracted to the job. The universities are going to be
freer and better places to work in; they won't be monopolies any
more._

"Monopolies?" Lou said.

_In restraint of knowledge,_ Malone thought. _The old monopoly was in
restraint of trade, and legal action helped to kill that kind. The
monopoly in restraint of knowledge took a little more killing, but
you're doing the job quite nicely. And not only in the schools._

_The factional fights are having the same result. Look at the AAAM,
for instance. That organization is a monopoly, pure and simple.
Simple, anyhow. And what the factional fights are doing to it is just
breaking up the monopoly and letting knowledge free again._

_And then we come to Congress. Senators and representatives are having
a terrible time, some of them. There's a fight going on between
Furbisher and Deeks because Deeks has discovered some evidence against
Furbisher. Who's having the terrible time?_

_All of them?_

_Nope. Furbisher is. Deeks isn't._

_And that's the way it's going all over. The useful, necessary
legislation is going through Congress now without being cluttered up
by stupid dam bills and water bills and other idiocies that simply
clog the works._

_And then, of course, there are the gang wars. Now, I feel as sorry
for the Sanitation Department as anybody, but at least they're
cleaning the streets for good now. The boys who are dying off and
getting sent to hospitals and jails are just the ones who should have
been sent away long ago. Everybody knows that, but nobody can prove
it._

_Except the PRS._

_And the PRS is busy doing just what it can about that proof._

_And all it takes is a few of you. I don't know how many--I don't know
how many of you there really are, for that matter. But it must be a
fair number to stock all your branches with "top-level" executives and
the lower-level men and women who really believe in the PRS blind, and
do their best to keep it working._

_There are probably a lot of ways it might work, but the simplest and
best way I can think of is this one: there's a clearing-house sort of
set-up, and information comes in from various telepathic spies working
for the PRS, about various projected activities of the imbecile
contingent._

_And, from this information, you figure out the best time and place
for lightning to strike, and you select the kind of lightning it's
going to be. Here it's a misplaced letter, there some "facts" that
aren't facts, and somewhere else a dropped package of secret records.
Somebody goofs--and is exposed._

_Maybe it works on the local-organization level. Maybe there are teams
all over the country, all ready to synchronize their minds and jab
somebody in the thought processes at just the right time, in just the
right way, as soon as they get the word. That's one way of doing it,
maybe the best way._

_There are others, but it doesn't really matter how that end of it
works. The important thing is that it does work._

_And, when it works, it can certainly create quite a mess. Yes-sirree,
Bob. Or Lou, as the case may be._

_I sure hope somebody's picking all this up, because I'd hate to have
to explain it again when I get there._

_Are you there, anybody?_

Malone imagined he heard Lou's voice. "Yes, Ken," she said. "Yes, I'm
here."

But, of course, there was no way for them to get through to him. They
were telepathic, but Kenneth J. Malone wasn't he told himself sadly.

_Hello, out there,_ he thought. _I hope you've been listening so far,
because there isn't going to be too much more. But there are a couple
of things that still need to be cleared up. I've got some answers, but
there are others I'm going to need._

_There's Russia, for instance. It does seem to me as if your teams in
Russia, whatever they're calling themselves, an having a lot more fun
than the U. S. teams. For one thing they've got an easier job._

_In this country, the teams are looking for ways to get rid of the
blockheads, and there are a lot of them. In Russia, you don't have to
get rid of the blockheads. All you have to do is clear the road for
them. And you can do that by fouling up the more intelligent people._

"Intelligent people?" he could hear Lou say.

_Intelligence doesn't mean good sense,_ Malone thought. _I don't doubt
that the men who are maintaining Russia's power are intelligent men--
but what they're doing is bad for the world as a whole, in the long
run._

_So you foul them up, and leave the blockheads a clear field to run
the country into the ground. And that's easier than fouling up the
blockheads._

_Sure it is._

_There are fewer intelligent, active people around than there are
blockheads._

_Always were._

_And maybe there always will be--but not if the PRS can help it._

_Oh, and by the way,_ Malone thought. _You do know how I spotted you,
don't you? You were tuned in then, weren't you?_

_And I don't mean just Lou. I mean all of you._

_In a world of blind men, the man who can see stands out. In a world
of the insane, the sane man stands out._

_And in a world where organizations are regularly being confused and
fouled up--either as whole organizations, or through your attempts to
get rid of individual members--a smooth-running, efficient
organization stands out like a sore thumb._

_Frankly, it took me longer to see it than it should have._

_But I've got the answer at last--the main answer. Though, as I say,
there are some others I'd like to have._

_Like, for instance, Russia. And exactly what did happen that night in
Moscow._


14

At this point Malone suddenly became aware of a sound that was not
coming from his own mind. It was coming from somewhere behind his car,
and it was a very loud sound. It was, he discovered when he looked
back, the siren of a highway patrolman on a motorcycle, coming toward
him at imminent risk of life and limb and waving frantically with an
unbelievably free hand.

Malone glanced down at the speedometer. With a sigh, he realized that
his reflexes had allowed him a little leeway, and that he was going
slightly over the legal speed limit for this Virginia highway. He
shook his head, eased up on the accelerator, and began to apply the
brakes.

By the time he had pulled over to the side of the road, the highway
patrolman was coming to a halt behind the big Lincoln. Malone watched
him check the number on the rear plate and then walk slowly around to
the window on the driver's side. "Can't you hurry?" Malone muttered
under his breath. "All this Virginian ease is okay in its place,
but--" In the meanwhile he was getting out his identification, and by
the time the patrolman reached him he had it in his hand.

"I'm sorry," he said.

"Sorry?" the patrolman said, frowning. He had an open, boyish face
with freckles and a pug nose. He looked like somebody's kid brother,
very dependable but just a little cute. "What for?" he said.

Malone shrugged. "What else?" he said. "Speeding."

"Oh, that," the patrolman said. "Why, don't you worry about that."

"Don't worry about it?" Malone said. This particular kid brother was
obviously a little nuts, and should have been put away years ago. He
ground his teeth silently, but he didn't make any complaints. It was
never wise, he knew, to irritate a traffic cop of any sort.

"Sure not," the patrolman said. "Why, we don't pay any attention out
here until a fella hits ten miles over the posted limit. That's okay."

"Fine," Malone said cheerily. "Then I can drive on?"

"Now, just hold it a second there," the patrolman said. "Let's see
your identification if you don't mind."

Malone held it out wordlessly. The patrolman, obviously intent on
finding out just what kind of paper the card was made of, who had
printed it and whether there were any germs on it, gave it a long,
careful scrutiny. Malone shifted slightly in his seat, counted to ten
and managed to say nothing.

Then the patrolman started reading the card aloud. "Kenneth J.
Malone," he said in a tone of some surprise. "Special Agent of the
FBI." He looked up. "That right?" he said. "What it says here?"

"That's right," Malone said. "And you can have my autograph later." He
regretted the last sentence as soon as it was out of his mouth, but
the patrolman didn't seem to notice.

"Then you're the man, all right," he said happily. "I caught your
plate number as you went on by me, back there."

"Plate number?" Malone said. "What am I supposed to have done?" He'd
overslept, he knew, but that was the only violation of even his
personal code that he could think of. And it didn't seem likely that
the Virginia Highway Patrol was sending out its men to arrest people
who overslept.

"Why, Mr. Malone," the patrolman said with honest surprise written all
over his Norman Rockwell face, "as far as I know you didn't do a thing
wrong."

"But--"

"They just told us to be on the watch for a black 1973 Lincoln with
your number, and see if you were driving it. They did say you'd
probably be driving it."

"Good," Malone said. "And I am. And I'd like to continue doing so." He
paused and then added, "But what happened?"

"Well," the patrolman said, in exactly the manner of a man starting
out to tell a long, interesting story about the Wars of the Spanish
Succession, "well, sir, it seems FBI Headquarters in Washington, they
got in touch with the Highway Patrol Headquarters, down in Richmond,
and Highway Patrol Headquarters--"

"Down in Richmond," Malone muttered resignedly.

"That's right," the patrolman said in a pleased voice. "Well, they
called all the local barracks, and then we got the message on our
radios." He stopped, exactly as if he thought he had finished.

Malone counted to ten again, made it twenty and then found that he was
capable of speech. "What?" he said in a calm, patient voice, "was the
message about?"

"Well," the patrolman said, "it seems some fella down in Washington,
fella name of Thomas Boyd, they said it was, wants to talk to you
pretty bad."

"He could have called me on the car phone," Malone said in what he
thought was a reasonable tone of voice. "He didn't have to--"

"There's no call for yelling at me, Mr. Malone," the patrolman said
reproachfully. "I only obeyed my orders, which were to locate your
black 1973 Lincoln and see if you were driving it, and give you a
message. That's all."

"It's enough," Malone muttered. "He didn't have to send out the
militia to round me up."

"Oh, no, Mr. Malone," the patrolman said. "Not the militia. Highway
Patrol. We don't rightly have any connection with the militia at all."

"Glad to hear it," Malone said. He picked up the receiver of the car
phone and waited for the buzz that would show that he was connected
with Communications Central in Washington.

It didn't come.

"Oh, yes," the patrolman said suddenly. "I suppose that's why this Mr.
Boyd, he couldn't call you on the car telephone, Mr. Malone. The
message we got, it also says that the fella at the FBI garage in
Washington just forgot to plug in that phone there."

"Oh," Malone said. "Well, thanks for telling me."

"You're right welcome, Mr. Malone," the patrolman said "You can plug
it in now."

"I intend to," Malone said through his teeth. He closed his eyes for a
long second, and then opened them again. He saw the interested face of
the patrolman looking down at him. Hurriedly, he turned away, felt
underneath the dashboard until he found the dangling plug, and
inserted it into its socket.

The buzz now arrived.

Malone heaved a great sigh and punched for Boyd's office. Then he
looked around.

The patrolman was still standing at the car window. He was looking
down at Malone with an interested, slightly blank expression.

Malone thought of several things to say, and chose the most harmless.
"Thanks a lot," he told the patrolman. "I appreciate your stopping off
to let me know."

"Oh, that's all right, Mr. Malone," the patrolman said. "That was my
orders, to do that. And even if they weren't, it was no trouble at
all. Any time. I'd always be glad to do anything for the FBI."

"Boyd here," a tinny voice from the phone said.

Malone eyed the patrolman sourly. "Malone here," he said. "What's the
trouble, Tom? I--No, wait a minute."

"Ken!" Boyd's voice said. "I've been trying to--"

"Hold it a second," Malone said. He opened his mouth, and then he saw
a car go by. The patrolman hadn't seen it. Malone felt sorry for the
driver, but not too sorry. "Say!" he said to the patrolman.

"Yes, sir?" the patrolman said.

"That boy was really going, wasn't he?" Malone said. "He must have
been doing at least ninety."

The patrolman jerked his head around to stare at the disappearing car.
"Well--" he said, and then: "Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Malone. Thanks.
I'll see you later." He raced for his machine, swung aboard and roared
down the road, guiding with one hand and manipulating the controls of
his radar set with the other.

Malone waved him a cheery farewell, and got back to the phone.

"Okay, Tom," he said. "Go ahead."

"Who was that you were talking to?" Boyd asked.

"Oh, just a motorcycle patrolman," Malone said. "He wanted to be
helpful, so I told him to go chase a Buick."

"Why a Buick?" Boyd said, interestedly.

"Why not?" Malone said. "There happened to be one handy at the time.
Now, what's on your mind?"

"I've been searching all over hell for you," Boyd said. "I wish you'd
just leave some word where you were going, and then I wouldn't have
to--"

"Damn it," Malone cut in. "Tom, just tell me what you want. In
straightforward, simple language. It just took me ten minutes to pry a
few idiotic facts out of a highway patrolman. Don't make me go through
it all over again with you."

"Okay, okay," Boyd said. "Keep your pants on. But here's the dope: I
just flew in from New York, and I brought all the files on the case--
the stuff you left in your office in New York, remember?"

"Right," Malone said. "Thanks."

"And I think we may be able to get the Big Cheese," Boyd went on.

"Manelli?" Malone said.

"None other than the famous Cesare Antonio," Boyd said. "It seems two
of his most valued lieutenants were found in a garage in Queens,
practically weighted down with machine-gun bullets."

Malone thought of Manelli, complaining sadly about the high overhead
of murder. "And where does that get us?" he said.

"Well," Boyd said, "whoever did the job forgot to search the bodies."

"Oh-oh," Malone said.

"Very much oh-oh," Boyd said. "They're loaded down, not only with
lead, but with paper. There are documents linking Manelli right up to
the International Truckers' Union--a direct tie-in with Mike Sand. And
Sand now says he's tied in with the Great Lakes Transport Union in
Chicago."

"This sounds like a big one," Malone said.

"You have no idea," Boyd said. "And in the middle of all this, Burris
called."

"Burris?" Malone said.

"That's right," Boyd said. "He wants me to go on down to Florida and
take over the investigation of the Flarion assassination. So it looks
as if I'm going to miss most of the fun."

"Too bad," Malone said.

"But maybe not all," Boyd said. "It may tie in with the case we're
working on. At least, that's what Burris thinks."

"Yes," Malone said. "I can see why he thinks so. Did he have any
message for me, by the way?"

"Not exactly," Boyd said.

Malone blinked. "Not exactly?" he said. "What's that supposed to
mean?"

"Well," Boyd said, "he says he does have something to tell you, but
it'll wait until he sees you. Then, he says, he'll tell you
personally."

"Great," Malone said.

"Maybe it's a surprise," Boyd said. "Maybe you're fired."

"I wouldn't have the luck," Malone said. "But if I get any leads on
the Flarion job, I'll let you know right away."

"Sure," Boyd said. "Thanks. And--by the way, what are you doing now?"

"Me?" Malone said. "I'm driving."

"Yes, I know," Boyd said patiently. "To where, and why? Or is this
another secret? Sometimes I think nobody loves me any more."

"Oh, don't be silly," Malone said. "The entire city of Miami Beach is
awaiting your arrival with bated breath."

"But what are you doing?" Boyd said.

Malone chose his words carefully. "I'm just checking a lead," he said
at last. "I don't know if it's going to pan out or not, but I thought
I'd drive down to Richmond and check on a name I've got. I'll call you
about it in the morning, Tom, and let you know what the result is."

"Oh," Boyd said. "Okay. Sure. So long, Ken."

"So long," Malone said. He hung up the phone, put the car into gear
again and roared off down U. S. Highway Number One. He didn't feel
entirely happy about the way things had gone; he'd been forced to lie
to Tom Boyd, and that just wasn't right.

However, there was no help for it. It was actually better this way, he
told himself hopefully. After all, the less Tom knew from now on, the
better off he was going to be. The better off everyone would be.

He went on through Fredericksburg without incident, but he didn't
continue on to Richmond. Instead, he turned off U. S. 1 when he
reached a little town called Thornburg, which was smaller than he had
believed a town could be and live. He began following a secondary road
out into the countryside.

The countryside, of course, was filled with country, in the shape of
hills, birds, trees, flowers, grass and other distractions to the
passing motorist. It took Malone quite a bit longer than he expected
to find the place he was looking for, and he finally came to the sad
conclusion that country estates are just as difficult to find as
houses in Brooklyn. In both cases, he thought, there was the same
frantic search down what seemed to be a likely route, the same
disappointment when the route turned out to lead nowhere, and the same
discovery that no one had ever heard of the place and, in fact,
doubted very strongly whether it even existed.

But he found it at last, rounding a curve in a narrow black-top road
and spotting the house beyond a grove of trees. He recognized it
instantly.

He had seen it so often that he felt as if he knew it intimately.

It was a big, rambling, Colonial-type mansion, painted a blinding and
beautiful white, with a broad, pillared porch and a great carved front
door. The front windows were curtained in rich purples, and before the
house was a great front garden, and tall old trees. Malone
half-expected Scarlett O'Hara to come tripping out of the house at any
moment.

Inside it, however, if Malone were right, was not the magnetic
Scarlett. Inside the house were some of the most important members of
the Psychical Research Society.

But it was impossible to tell from the outside. Nothing moved on the
well-kept grounds, and the windows didn't show so much as the flutter
of a purple curtain. There was no sound. No cars were parked around
the house, nor, Malone thought as he remembered _Gone With the Wind,_
were there any horses or carriages.

The place looked deserted.

Malone thought he knew better, but it took a few minutes for him to
get up enough courage to go up the long driveway. He stared at the
house. It was an old one, he knew, built long before the Civil War and
originally commanding a huge plantation. Now, all that remained of
that vast parcel of land was the few acres that surrounded the house.

But the original family still inhabited it, proud of the house and of
their part in its past. Over the years, Malone knew, they had kept it
up scrupulously, and the place had been both restored and modernized
on the inside without harming the classic outlines of the
hundred-and-fifty-year-old structure.

A fence surrounded the estate, but the front gate was swinging open.
Malone saw it and took a deep breath. Now, he told himself, or never.
He drove the Lincoln through the opening slowly, alert for almost
anything.

There was no disturbance. Thirty yards from the front door he pulled
the car to a cautious stop and got out. He started to walk toward the
building. Each step seemed to take whole minutes, and everything he
had thought raced through his mind again.

Nothing seemed to move anywhere, except Malone himself.

Was he right? Were the PRS people really here? Or had he been led
astray by them? Had he been manipulated as easily as they had
manipulated so many others?

That was possible. But it wasn't the only possibility.

Suppose, he thought, that he was perfectly right, and that the PRS
members were waiting inside. And suppose, too, that he'd misunderstood
their motives.

Suppose they were just waiting for him to get a little closer.

Malone kept walking.

In just a few steps, he would be close enough so that a bullet aimed
at him from the house hadn't a real chance of missing him.

And it didn't have to be bullets, either. They might have set a trap,
he thought, and were waiting for him to walk right into it. Then they
would hold him prisoner while they devised ways to...

To what? He didn't know. And that was even worse; it called up
horrible terrors from the darkest depths of Malone's mind. He
continued to walk forward, feeling about as exposed as a restaurant
lamb chop caught with its panty down.

He reached the steps that led up to the porch, and took them one at a
time.

He stood on the porch. A long second passed.

He took a step toward the high, wide and handsome oaken door. Then he
took another step, and another.

What was waiting for him inside?

He took a deep breath, and pressed the doorbell button.

The door swung open immediately, and Malone involuntarily stepped
back.

The owner of the house smiled at him from the doorway. Malone let out
his breath in one long sigh of relief.

"I was hoping it would be you," he said weakly. "May I come in?"

"Why, certainly, Malone. Come on in. We've been expecting you, you
know," said Andrew J. Burris, director of the FBI.


15

Malone sat, quietly relaxed and almost completely at ease, in the
depths of a huge, comfortable, old-fashioned Morris chair. Three
similar chairs were clustered with his, around a squat, massive coffee
table made of a single slab of dark wood set on short, curved legs.
Malone looked around at the other three with a relaxed feeling of
recognition: Andrew J. Burris, Sir Lewis Carter, and Luba Vasilovna
Garbitsch.

"That mind shield of yours," Burris was saying, "is functioning very
well. We weren't entirely sure you had actually located us until you
pulled into that driveway."

"I wasn't entirely sure what I was locating," Malone said.

"And so it's over," Burris said with a satisfied air. "Everything's
over."

"And just beginning," Sir Lewis put in. He drew a pipe from an inside
pocket and began to fill it.

"And, of course," Burris said, "just beginning. Things do that; they
go round and round in circles. It's what makes everything so
confusing."

"And so much fun," Lou said, leaning back in her chair. She didn't
look hostile now, Malone thought; she looked like a cat, wary but
content. He decided that he liked this Lou even better than the old
one. Lou, at home among her psionic colleagues, was even more than
he'd ever thought she could be.

"More what?" she said suddenly. Burris jerked upright a trifle.

"What's more what?" he said. "Damn it, let's stick to one thing or the
other. As soon as this thing starts mixing talk and thought it
confuses me."

"Never mind," Lou said. She smiled across the table at Malone.

Malone jerked a finger under his collar.

"What made you decide to come here?" Sir Lewis said. He had the pipe
lit now, and blew a cloud of fragrant smoke over the table.

Malone wondered where to start. "One of the clues," he said at last,
"was the efficiency of the FBI. It hit me the same way the efficiency
of the PRS had hit me, while I was looking at the batch of reports
that had been run off so rapidly."

"Ah," Sir Lewis said. "The dossiers."

"Dossiers?" Burris said.

Sir Lewis puffed at his pipe. "Sorry," he said. "I thought you had
been tuned in for that."

"I was busy," Burris said. "I can't tune into everything. After all,
I've only got one mind."

"And two hands," Malone said at random.

"At least," Lou said. Their eyes met in a glance of perfect
understanding.

"What the hell do hands have to do with it?" Burris said.

Sir Lewis shrugged. "Tune in and see," he said. "It's an old joke; but
you'll never really adjust to telepathy unless you practice."

"Damn it," Burris said, "I practice. I'm always practicing. This and
that and the other thing--after all, I am the director of the FBI.
There's a lot to be done."

Sir Lewis puffed at his pipe again. "At any rate," he said smoothly,
"Mr. Malone had requested some dossiers on us. On the PRS, myself, and
Luba. They arrived very quickly. The efficiency of that arrival, and
the efficiency he'd been noting about the FBI ever since he began work
on this case, finally struck home to him."

"Ah," Burris said. "You see? The FBI's a full-time job. It's got to be
efficient."

"Of course," Sir Lewis said soothingly.

"Anyhow," Malone said, "Sir Lewis is right. While every other branch
of the government was having its troubles with the Great Confusion,
the FBI was ticking along like a transistorized computer."

"A good start," Sir Lewis said.

"Darn good," Burris said. "Malone, I knew I could depend on you.
You're a good man."

Malone swallowed hard. "Well, anyway," he said after a pause, "when I
saw that I began to remember a few other things. Starting with a
couple of years ago, when we first found Her Majesty, remember?"

"I'll never forget it," Burris said fervently. "She knighted me.
Knight Commander of the Queen's Own FBI. What a moment."

"Thrilling," Malone said. "But you got to Yucca Flats for your
knighting awfully quickly, a little too fast even for a modern plane."

"It had to be done," Burris said. "Anyhow, I've never really liked
planes. Basically unsafe. People crash in them."

"But you wouldn't," Malone said. "You could always teleport yourself
out."

"Sure," Burris said. "But that's troublesome. Why bother? Anyhow, I'd
been to Yucca Flats before, so I could teleport there--a little way
down the road, where I could meet my car--without any trouble."

"Anyhow, that was one thing," Malone said. "And then there was Her
Majesty, when she pointed at that visiphone screen and accused you of
being the telepathic spy. Remember?"

"She wasn't pointing at me," Burris said. "She was pointing at the man
in the next room. How about you doing some remembering?"

"Sure she was," Malone said. "But it was just a little coincidence.
And I have a hunch she felt, subconsciously, that there was something
not quite right about you."

"Maybe," Burris conceded. "But that doesn't answer my question."

"It doesn't?" Malone said.

"Now look, Malone," Burris said. "None of this is proof. Not real
proof. Not the kind the FBI has trained you to look for."

"But--"

"What I want to know," Burris said, "is why you came here, to my home?
And in spite of everything you've said, that hasn't been tied down."

Malone frowned. After a second's thought he said, "Well...  All I know
is that it just seemed obvious. That's all."

"Indeed it is," Sir Lewis said. "But one of the things we'll have to
teach you, my boy, is how to distinguish between a deduction from
observed fact and a psionic intuition. You've been confusing them for
some years now."

"I have?" Malone said.

"Sure you have," Burris said. "And, what's more--"

"Well, he's no worse than you are, Andrew," Lou said.

Burris turned. "Me?" he said in a voice of withering scorn.

"Certainly," Lou said. "After all, you've never really become used to
mixtures of thought and speech. And, what's more, you've been using
telepathy so long that when you try to communicate with nothing but
words you only confuse yourself."

"And everybody else," Sir Lewis added.

"Hmpf," Burris said. "I'm busy all the time. I haven't got any extra
time for practice."

Malone nodded, comparatively unsurprised. He'd wondered for years how
a man so obviously unable to express himself clearly could run an
organization like the FBI as well as he did. Having psionic abilities
evidently led to drawbacks as well as advantages.

"Actually," he said, "my prescience made one mistake."

"Really?" Burris said, looking both worried and pleased about it.

"I expected the place to be full of people," Malone said. "I thought
the elite corps of the PRS would be here."

"Oh," Burris said, looking crestfallen.

"Why, that was no mistake," Sir Lewis said. "As a matter of fact, they
are all here. But they're quite busy at the moment; things are coning
to a head, you know, and they must work quite undisturbed."

"And this," Burris added, "is a good place for it. There are sixty
rooms in this house. Sixty."

"That's a lot of rooms," Malone said politely.

"A mansion," Burris said. "A positive mansion. And my family has lived
here ever since--"

"I'm sure Ken isn't very interested in your family just now," Lou
broke in.

"My family," Burris said with dignity, "is a very interesting family."

"I'm sure it must be," Lou said demurely. Sir Lewis choked with
laughter suddenly and began waving his pipe. After a minute, Malone
joined in.

"Damn it," Burris said. "Let's stick to one thing or the other. Did I
say that?"

"Twice," Malone said.

"Sixty rooms," Burris said. "All built by my family. And local
contractors, of course. That's enough to house sixty rooms full of
people. And that number of people is a large houseful, I should
think."

"It sounds like a lot," Malone said.

"It is a lot," Burris said. "All in my house. The house my family
built."

"And we're grateful for it," Sir Lewis said soothingly. "We truly
are."

"Good," Burris said.

"You must have had a large family," Lou said.

"A large family," Burris said, "and many guests. Many, many guests.
From all over. Including famous people. General Hood slept in this
house, and he slept very well indeed."

"As a matter of fact," Lou added, "he's still sleeping. They call it
being dead."

"That's not funny," Burris snapped.

"Sorry," Lou said. "It was meant to be."

"I--" Burris shut his mouth and glared.

Malone was far away, thinking of the sixty rooms full of people,
sitting quietly, their minds ranging into the distance, meshed
together in small units. It was a picture that frightened and
comforted him at the same time. He wasn't sure he liked it, but he
certainly didn't dislike it, either.

After all, he told himself confusedly, too many cooks save a stitch in
time.

He veered away from that sentence quickly. "Tell me," he said, "were
you receiving my broadcast on the way here?"

Burris and Sir Lewis nodded. Lou started to nod, too, but stopped and
looked surprised. "You mean you didn't know we were?" she said.

"How could I know?" Malone said. "After all, I was just tossing it out
and hoping that somebody was on the listening end."

"But of course somebody was," Lou said. "I was."

"Good," Malone said. "But I still don't see how I was supposed to know
that you--"

"I answered you, silly," Lou said. "I kept on answering you.
Remember?"

Malone blinked, focused and then said, very slowly, "That was my
imagination. Please tell me it was my imagination before I go nuts."

"Sorry," Lou said. "It wasn't."

"But that kind of thing," Malone said, "it takes a tremendous amount
of power, doesn't it?"

"Not when the receiver is a telepath," Lou said sweetly.

Malone nodded slowly. "That," he said, "is exactly what I'm afraid of.
Don't tell me--"

There was silence.

"Well?" Malone said.

"You said not to tell you," Lou said instantly.

"All right," Malone said. "I rescind the order. Am I a telepath, or am
I not?"

Lou's lips didn't move. But then, they didn't have to.

The message came, unbidden, into Malone's mind.

_Of course you are. That was the whole reason for Andrew's assigning
you to this type of case._

"My God," Malone said softly.

Sir Lewis laid down his pipe in a handy ashtray. "Of course," he said,
"you will find it difficult to pick up anyone but Lou, at first. The
rapport between you two is really quite strong."

"Very strong indeed," Lou murmured. Malone found himself beginning to
blush.

"It will be some time yet," Sir Lewis went on, "before you can really
call yourself a telepath, my boy."

"I'll bet it will," Malone said. "Before I can call myself a telepath
I'm going to have to get thoroughly used to the idea. And that's going
to take a long, long time indeed."

"You only think that," Sir Lewis said. "Actually, you're used to the
idea now. That was Andrew's big job."

"His big job?" Malone said. "Now, wait a minute--"

"You don't think I picked you for our first psionics case out of thin
air, do you?" Burris said. "Before anything else, you had to be forced
to accept the fact that such things as telepaths really existed."

"Oh, they do," Malone said. "They certainly do."

"There's me, for instance," Burris said. "But you had to be convinced.
So I ordered you to go out and find one."

"Like the Bluebird of Happiness," Malone said.

Burris frowned. "What's like the Bluebird of Happiness?" he said.

"You are," Malone said.

"I am not," Burris said indignantly. "Bluebirds eat worms. My God,
Malone."

"But the Bluebird," Malone said doggedly, "was right at home all the
time, while everyone searched for it far away. And I had to go far
away to find a telepath, when you were the one who ordered me to do
it."

"Right," Burris said. "So you went and found Her Majesty. And, when
you did find her, she forced acceptance on you simply by being Her
Majesty and proving to you, once and for all, that she could read
minds."

"Great," Malone said. "Of course, I could have got myself killed
taking these lessons--"

"We were watching you," Burris said. "If anything had happened, we'd
have been right on the spot."

"In time to bury the body," Malone said. "I think that's very
thoughtful of you."

"We would have arrived in time to save you," Burris said. "Don't
quibble. You're alive, aren't you?"

"Well," Malone said slowly, "if you're not sure, I don't know how I
can convince you."

"There," Burris said triumphantly. "You see?"

Malone sighed wearily. "Okay," he said. "So you sent me out to find a
telepath and to prove to me that there were such things. And I did.
And then what happened?"

"You had a year," Burris said, "to get used to the idea of somebody
reading your mind."

"Thanks," Malone said. "Of course, I didn't know it was you."

"It was Her Majesty too," Burris said. "Everybody."

"Good old Malone," Malone said. "The human peep-show."

"Now, that's what we mean," Sir Lewis broke in. "Subconsciously, you
disliked the idea of leaving your thoughts bare to anyone, even a
sweet little old lady. To some extent, you still do. But that will
pass."

"Goody," Malone said.

"The residue is simply not important," Sir Lewis went on. "Your
telepathic talents prove that."

"Oh, fine," Malone said. "Here I am reading minds and teleporting and
all sorts of things. What will the boys back at Headquarters think
now?"

"We'll get to that," Burris said. "But that first case did one more
thing for you. Because you didn't like the idea of leaving your mind
open, you began to develop a shield. That allowed you some sort of
mental privacy."

"And then," Malone said, "I met Mike Fueyo and his little gang of
teleporting juvenile delinquents."

"So that you could develop a psionic ability of your own," Burris
said. "That completed your acceptance. But it took a threat to
solidify that shield. That was step three. When you discovered your
mind was being tampered with--"

"The shield started growing stronger," Malone said. "Sure. Her Majesty
told me that, though she didn't know why."

"Right," Burris said.

"But, wait a minute," Malone said. "How could I do all that without
knowing it? How would I know that some of my thoughts were safe behind
a shield if I didn't know the shield existed and couldn't even tell if
my mind were being read?" He paused. "Does that make sense?" he asked.

"It does," Burris said, "but it shouldn't."

"What?" Malone said.

"Two years ago, you had the answer to that one," Burris said. "Dr.
O'Connor's machine. Remember why it did detect when a person's mind
was being read?"

"Oh," Malone said. "Oh, sure. He said that any human being would know,
subconsciously, whether his mind was being read."

"He did, indeed," Burris said. "And then we came to the fourth step:
to put you in rapport with some psionicist who could teach you how to
control the shield, how to raise and lower it, you might say. To learn
to accept other thoughts, as well as reject them. To learn to accept
your full telepathic talent. That was Lou's job."

"Lou's ... job?" Malone said. He felt his own shield go up. The
thoughts behind it weren't pleasant. Lou had been ... well, hired to
stay with him. She had pretended to like him; it was part of her job.

That was perfectly clear now.

Horribly clear.

"You are now on your way," Sir Lewis said, "to being a real
psionicist."

"Fine," Malone said dully. "But why me? Why not, oh, Wolfe Wolf? I'd
think he'd have a better chance than I would."

"My secretary," Burris said, "has talents enough of his own. But you,
you're something brand-new. It's wonderful, Malone. It's exciting."

"It's a new taste thrill," Malone murmured. "Try Bon-Ton B-Complex
Bolsters. Learn to eat your blanket as well as sleep with it."

"What?" Burris said.

"Never mind," Malone said. "You wouldn't understand."

"But I--"

"I know you wouldn't," Malone said, "because I don't."

Sir Lewis cleared his throat "My dear boy," he said, "you represent a
breakthrough. You are an adult."

"That," Malone said testily, "is not news."

"But you are a telepathic adult," Sir Lewis said. "Many of them are
capable of developing it into a useful ability. Children who have the
talent may accidentally develop the ability to use it, but that almost
invariably results in insanity. Without proper guidance, a child is no
more capable of handling the variety of impressions it receives from
adult minds than it is capable of understanding a complex piece of
modern music. The effort to make a coherent whole out of the
impression overstrains the mind, so to speak, and the damage is
permanent."

"So here I am," Malone said, "and I'm not nuts. At least I don't think
I'm nuts."

"Because you are an adult," Sir Lewis went on. "Telepathy seems to be
almost impossible to develop in an adult, even difficult to test for
it. A child may be tested comparatively simply; an adult, seldom or
never."

He paused to relight his pipe.

"However," he went on, "the Psychical Research Society's executive
board discovered a method of bringing out the ability in a talented
child as far back as 1931. All of us who are sane telepaths today owe
our ability to that process, which was applied to us, in each case,
before the age of sixteen."

"How about me?" Malone said.

"You," Sir Lewis said, "are the first adult ever to learn the use of
psionic powers from scratch."

"Oh," Malone said. "And that's why Mike Fueyo, for instance, could
learn to teleport, though his older sister couldn't."

"Mike was an experiment," Sir Lewis said. "We decided to teach him
teleportation without teaching him telepathy. You saw what happened."

"Sure I did," Malone said. "I had to stop it."

"We were forced to make you stop him," Sir Lewis said. "But we also
let him teach you his abilities."

"So I'm an experiment," Malone said.

"A successful experiment," Sir Lewis added.

"Well," Malone said dully, "bully for me."

"Don't feel that way," Sir Lewis said. "We have--"

He stopped suddenly, and glanced at the others. Burris and Lou stood
up, and Sir Lewis followed them.

"Sorry," Sir Lewis said in a different tone. "There's something
important that we must take care of. Something quite urgent, I'm
afraid."

"You can go on home, Malone," Burris said. "We'll talk later, but
right now there's a crisis coming and we've got to help. Leave the
car. I'll take care of it."

"Sure," Malone said, without moving.

Lou said, "Ken--" and stopped. Then the three of them turned and
started up the long, curving staircase that led to the upstairs rooms.

Malone sat in the Morris chair for several long minutes, wishing that
he were dead. Nobody made a sound. He rubbed his hands over the soft
leather and tried to tell himself that he was lucky, and talented, and
successful.

But he didn't care.

He closed his eyes at last, and took a deep breath.

Then he vanished.


16

Two hours passed, somehow. Bourbon and soda helped them pass, Malone
discovered; he drank two highballs slowly, trying not to think about
anything, and kept staring around at the walls of his apartment
without really seeing anything. He felt terrible.

He made himself a third bourbon and soda and started in on it. Maybe
this one would make him feel better. Maybe, he thought, he ought to
break out the cigars and celebrate.

But there didn't seem to be very much to celebrate, somehow.

He felt like a guinea pig being congratulated on having successfully
resisted a germ during an experiment.

He drank some more of the bourbon and soda. Guinea pigs didn't drink
bourbon and soda, he told himself. He was better off than a guinea
pig. He was happier than a guinea pig. But he couldn't imagine any
guinea pig in the world, no matter how heartbroken, feeling any worse
than Kenneth J. Malone.

He looked up. There was another guinea pig in the room.

Then he frowned. She wasn't a guinea pig. She was one off the
experimenters. She was the one the guinea pig was supposed to fall in
love with, so the guinea pig could be nice and telepathic and all the
other experimenters could congratulate themselves. But whoever heard
of a scientist falling in love with a guinea pig? It was fate. And
fate was awful. Malone had often suspected it, but now he was sure.
Now he saw things from the guinea pig's side, and fate was terrible.

"But Ken," the experimenter said. "It isn't like that at all."

"It is, too," Malone said. "It's even worse, but that'll have to wait.
When I have some more to drink it will get worse. Watch and see."

"But Ken--" Lou hesitated, and then went on. "Don't feel sad about
being an experiment. We're all experiments."

"I'm the guinea pig," Malone said. "I'm the only guinea pig. You said
so."

"No, Ken," she said. "Remember, all of us in the PRS got early
training when it was new and untried. Some of those methods weren't as
good as we now have them; that's why a man like your boss sometimes
tends to have a little trouble."

"Sure," Malone said. "But I'm your guinea pig. You made me dance
through hoops and do tricks and everything just for an experiment.
That's what." He took another swallow of his drink. "See?" he said.
"It's getting worse already."

"No, it's not," Lou said. "It's getting better, if you'll only listen.
I wasn't given this job, Ken. I volunteered for it."

"That isn't any better," Malone said morosely.

"I volunteered because I--because I liked you," Lou said. "Because I
wanted to work with you, wanted to be with you."

"It's more experimenting," Malone said flatly. "More guinea-pigging
around."

"It isn't, Ken," Lou said. "Believe me. Look into my mind. Believe
me."

Malone tried. A second passed...

And then a long time passed, without any words at all.

"Well, well," Malone said at last. "If this is the life of a guinea
pig, I'm all for it."

"I'm all for guinea pigs' rights," Lou said. "Life, Liberty and the
Pursuit of Me."

"Agreed," Malone said. "How about that crisis, by the way? Are you
going to have to leave suddenly again?"

Lou stretched lazily on the couch. "That's all over with, thank God,"
she said. "We had to get our agent out of Miami Beach, and cover his
tracks at the same time."

"Tricky," Malone said.

"Very," Lou said.

"But--" Malone blinked. "Wait a minute," he said. "Your agent? You
mean you had Governor Flarion killed?"

Lou nodded soberly. "We had to," she said. "That paranoid mind of his
had built up a shield we simply couldn't get through. He had plans for
making himself president, you know--and all the terrifying
potentialities of an embryonic Hitler." She grimaced. "We don't like
being forced to kill," she said, "but sometimes we've got to."

Malone thought of his own .44 Magnum, and the times he had used it,
and nodded very slowly.

"There are still a couple of questions, though," he said. "For
instance, there's that trip to Russia. Why _did_ you make it? Was it
your father?"

"Of course it was," Lou said. "We had to get him back in and make sure
he was safe."

"You mean that Vasili Garbitsch is a PSR member?" Malone said,
stunned.

"Well, really," Lou said. "Did you think my father would really be a
spy? We had to get him back to Russia; he was needed for work in the
Kremlin. That's why we nudged Boyd into making the arrest."

"And the others?" Malone said. "Brubitsch and Borbitsch?"

"Real spies," Lou said. "Bad ones, but real. Any more questions?"

"Some," Malone said. "Were you kidding about that drink in Moscow?"

She shook her head. "I wish I had been," she said. "But I was
concentrating on Petkoff, who didn't know a thing about the drugged
drink. I didn't catch anything else until after I'd swallowed it. And
then it was too late."

"Good old Petkoff," Malone said. "Always helpful. But he was right
about one thing, anyway."

"What?" Lou said.

"The FBI," Malone said. "He told us it was a secret police
organization. And, by God, in a way it is!"

Lou grinned. Malone started to laugh outright. They found themselves
very close and the laughter stopped, and there was some more time
without words. When Malone broke free, he had a suddenly sobered
expression on his face.

"Hey," he said. "What about Tom Boyd? He knows a lot but he hasn't got
any talents, as far as I know, and--"

"He'll be all right," Lou said. "Andrew and the others have thought of
that."

"But he knows an awful lot about the evidence I dug up."

"Andrew will give him a cover-up explanation they're working out," Lou
said. "That will convince Boyd there's nothing more to worry about. Of
course, we may have to change his mind about a few things, but we can
do that, probably through you, since you know him best. There's
nothing for you to worry over, Ken. Nothing at all."

"Good," Malone said. He leaned over and kissed her. "Because I'm not
in the least worried."

Lou sighed deeply, looking off into space.

"Luba Malone," she said. "It sounds nice. And, after all, my mother
was Irish. At least it sounds better than Garbitsch."

"What doesn't?" Malone said automatically. Then he blinked. "Hey,
_I'm_ Malone!" he said. "How could you be Malone?"

"Me?" Lou said. She caroled happily. "I'm Malone because I love you,
love you with all my heart."

"That," Malone said, "does it. A woman after my own heart."

Lou made a low curtsy.

"And a woman of grace and breeding," Malone said. "Eftsoons, if that
means anything."

"You know," Lou said, "I like you even better when you're being Sir
Kenneth. Especially when you're talking to yourself."

"My innate gallantry and all my good qualities come out," Malone said.

"Yes," Lou said. "Indeed they do. All over the place. It's nice to go
back to Elizabethan times, anyhow, in the middle of all these
troubles."

"Oh, I don't know," Malone said. "There's always been trouble. In the
Middle Ages, it was witches. In the Seventeenth Century, it was
demons. In the Nineteenth it was revolutions. In--"

Lou cut him off with a kiss. When she broke away Malone raised his
eyebrows.

"I prithee," he said, "interrupt me not. I am developing a scheme of
philosophy. There have always been troubles. In the 1890's there was a
Depression and panic, and the Spanish-American War--"

"All right, Sirrah," Lou said. "And then what?"

"Let's see," Malone said, reverting to 1973 for a second. "In 1903
there was the airplane, and troubles abroad."

"Yes?" Lou said. "Do go on, Sirrah. Your liege awaits your slightest
word."

"Hmm," Malone said.

"That, Milord, was a very slight word indeed," Lou said. "What's after
1903?"

Malone smiled and went back to the days of the First Elizabeth
happily.

"In 1914, it was enemy aliens," said Sir Kenneth Malone.





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