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Title: Stop Look and Dig
Author: Smith, George Oliver, 1911-1981
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 "Stop Look and Dig" ***

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Stop Look and Dig


by George O. Smith



Edition 1, (November 29, 2006)



STOP LOOK AND DIG


BY GEORGE O. SMITH

ILLUSTRATED BY SMITH


    The enlightened days of mental telepathy and ESP should have made
    the world a better place, But the minute the Rhine Institute
    opened up, all the crooks decided it was time to go collegiate!


Someone behind me in the dark was toting a needle-ray. The impression came
through so strong that I could almost read the filed-off serial number of
the thing, but the guy himself I couldn’t dig at all. I stopped to look
back but the only sign of life I could see was the fast flick of taxicab
lights as they crossed an intersection about a half mile back. I stepped
into a doorway so that I could think and stay out of the line of fire at
the same time.

The impression of the needle-ray did not get any stronger, and that tipped
me off. The bird was following me. He was no peace-loving citizen because
honest men do not cart weapons with the serial numbers filed off.
Therefore the character tailing me was a hot papa with a burner charge
labelled "Steve Hammond" in his needler.

I concentrated, but the only impression I could get would have specified
ninety-eight men out of a hundred anywhere. He was shorter than my
six-feet-two and lighter than my one-ninety. I could guess that he was
better looking. I’d had my features arranged by a blocked drop kick the
year before the National Football League ruled the Rhine Institute out
because of our use of mentals and perceptives. I gave up trying--I wanted
details and not an overall picture of a hotbird carrying a burner.

I wondered if I could make a run for it.

I let my sense of perception dig the street ahead, casing every bump and
irregularity. I passed places where I could zig out to take cover in front
of telephone poles, and other places where I could zag in to take cover
beyond front steps and the like. I let my perception run up the block and
by the time I got to the end of my range, I knew that block just as well
as if I’d made a practise run in the daytime.

At this point I got a shock. The hot papa was coming up the sidewalk hell
bent for destruction. He was a mental sensitive, and he had been following
my thoughts while my sense of perception made its trial run up the street.
He was running like the devil to catch up with my mind and burn it down
per schedule. It must have come as quite a shock to him when he realized
that while the mind he was reading was running like hell up the street,
the hard old body was standing in the doorway waiting for him.

I dove out of my hiding place as he came close. I wanted to tackle him
hard and ask some pointed questions. He saw me as I saw him skidding to an
unbalanced stop, and there was the dull glint of metal in his right hand.
His needle-ray came swinging up and I went for my armpit. I found time to
curse my own stupidity for not having hardware in my own fist at the
moment. But then I had my rod in my fist. I felt the hot scorch of the
needle going off just over my shoulder, and then came the godawful racket
of my ancient forty-five. The big slug caught him high in the belly and
tossed him back. It folded him over and dropped him in the gutter while
the echoes of my cannon were still racketing back and forth up and down
the quiet street.



I had just enough time to dig his wallet, pockets, and billfold before the
whole neighborhood was up and out. Sirens howled in the distance and from
above I could hear the thin wail of a jetcopter. Someone opened a window
and called: "What’s going on out there? Cut it out!"

                              [Illustration]

"Tea party," I called back. "Go invite the cops, Tommy."

The window slammed down again. He didn’t have to invite the law. It
arrived in three ground cruisers and two jetcopter emergency squads that
came closing in like a collapsing balloon.

The leader of the squadron was a Lieutenant Williamson whom I’d never met
before. But he knew all about me before the ’copter hit the ground. I
could almost feel his sense of perception frisking me from the skin
outward, going through my wallet and inspecting the Private Operator’s
license and my Weapon-Permit. I found out later that Williamson was a
Rhine Scholar with a Bachelor’s Degree in Perception, which put him head
and shoulders over me. He came to the point at once.

"Any ideas about this, Hammond?"

I shook my head. "Nope," I replied. He looked at one of his men.

The other man nodded. "He’s levelling," he said.

"Now look, Hammond," said the lieutenant pointedly, "You’re clean and we
know it. But hot papas don’t go out for fun. Why was he trying to burn
you?"

"I wouldn’t know. I’m as blank as any perceptive when it comes to reading
minds. I was hoping to collect him whole enough to ask questions, but he
forced my hand." I looked to where some of the clean-up squad were tucking
the corpse into a basket. "It was one of the few times I’d have happily
swapped my perception for the ability to read a mind."

The lieutenant nodded unhappily. "Mind telling me why you were wandering
around in this neighborhood? You don’t belong here, you know."

"I was doing the job that most private eyes do. I was tailing a gent who
was playing games off the reservation."

"You’ve gone into this guy’s wallet, of course?"

I nodded. "Sure. He _was_ Peter Rambaugh, age thirty, and----"

"Don’t bother. I know the rest. I can add only one item that you may not
know. Rampaugh was a paid hotboy, suspected of playing with Scarmann’s
mob."

"I’ve had no dealings with Scarmann, Lieutenant."



The Lieutenant nodded absently. It seemed to be a habit with him, probably
to cover up his thinking-time. Finally he said, "Hammond, you’re clean. As
soon as I identified you I took a dig of your folder at headquarters.
You’re a bit rough and fast on that prehistoric cannon of yours, but----"

"You mean you can dig a folder at central files all the way from here?"

"I did."

Here was a _real_ esper for you. I’ve got a range of about two blocks for
good, solid, permanent things like buildings and street-car tracks, but
unfamiliar things get foggy at about a half a block. I can dig lethal
machinery coming in my direction for about a block and a half because I’m
a bit sensitive about such things. I looked at Lieutenant Williamson and
said, "With a range like yours, how come there’s any crime in this town at
all?"

He shook his head slowly. "Crime doesn’t out until it’s committed," he
said. "You’ll remember how fast we got here after you pulled the trigger.
But you’re clean, Hammond. Just come to the inquest and tell all."

"I can go?"

"You can go. But just to keep you out of any more trouble, I’ll have one
of the jetcopters drop you off at home. Mind?"

"Nope. But isn’t that more than the police are used to doing?"

He eyed me amusedly. "If I were a mental," he said, "I could read your
mind and know that you were forming the notion of calling on Scarmann and
asking him what-for. But since I’m only a mind-blank esper, all I can do
is to fall back on experience and guesswork. Do I make myself clear?"

Lieutenant Williamson’s guess-work and experience were us good as mental
sensitivity, but I didn’t think it wise to admit that I had been
considering just exactly how to get to Scarmann. I was quickly and firmly
convoyed home in a jetcopter but once I saw them take off I walked out of
the apartment again.

I had more or less tacitly agreed not to go looking for Scarmann, but I
had not mentioned taking a dig at the apartment of the dear departed,
Peter Rambaugh.



Rambaugh’s place was uptown and the front door was protected by an eight
tumbler cylinder job that would have taxed the best of esper lockpicks.
But there was a service entrance in back that was not locked and I took
it. The elevator was a self-service job, and Rambaugh’s back door was
locked on a snaplatch that a playful kitten could have opened. I dug the
place for a few minutes and found it clean, so I went in and took a more
careful look.

The desk was not particularly interesting. Just papers and letters and
unpaid bills. The dresser in the bedroom was the same, excepting for the
bottom drawer. That was filled with a fine collection of needle-rays and
stunguns and one big force blaster that could blow a hole in a brick wall.
None of them had their serial numbers intact.

But behind a reproduction of a Gainsborough painting was a wall safe that
must have been built before Rhine Institute discovered the key to man’s
latent abilities. Inside of this tin can was a collection of photographs
that must have brought Rambaugh a nice sum in the months when the murder
business went slack. I couldn’t quite dig them clear because I didn’t know
any of the people involved, and I didn’t try too hard because there were
some letters and notes that might lead me into the answer to why Rambaugh
was hotburning for me.

I fiddled with the dial for about fifteen minutes, watching the tumblers
and the little wheels go around. Then it went click and I turned the
handle and opened the door. I was standing there with both hands deep in
Rambaugh’s safe when I heard a noise behind me.



I whirled and slid aside all in one motion and my hand streaked for my
armpit and came out with the forty five. It was a woman and she was
carrying nothing more lethal than the fountain pen in her purse. She
blanched when she saw my forty-five swinging towards her middle, but she
took a deep breath when I halted it in midair.

"I didn’t mean to startle you," she apologized.

"Startle, hell!" I blurted. "You scared me out of my shoes."

I dug her purse. Beside the usual female junk she had a wallet containing
a couple of charge-account plates, a driver’s license, and a hospital
card, all made out to Miss Martha Franklin. Miss Franklin was about
twenty-four, and she was a strawberry blonde with the pale skin and blue
eyes that goes with the hair. I gathered that she didn’t belong there any
more than I did.

"I don’t, Mr. Hammond," she said.

So Martha Franklin was a mental sensitive.

"I am," she told me. "That’s how I came to be here."

"I’m esper. You’ll have to explain in words of one syllable because I
can’t read you."

"I was not far away when you cut loose with that field-piece of yours,"
she said flatly. "So I read your intention to come here. I’ve been
following you at mental range ever since."

"Why?"

"Because there is something in that safe I want very much."

I looked at her again. She did not look the type to get into awkward
situations. She colored slightly and said, "One indiscretion doesn’t make
a tramp, Mr. Hammond."

I nodded. "Want it intact or burned?" I asked.

"Burned, please," she said, smiling weakly at me for my intention. I
smiled back.

On my way to Rambaugh’s bedroom I dug the rest of the thug’s safe but
there wasn’t anything there that would give me an inkling of why he was
gunning for me. I came back with one of his needle-rays and burned the
contents of the safe to a black char. I stirred up the ashes with the nose
of the needier and then left it in the safe after wiping it clean on my
handkerchief.

"Thank you, Mr. Hammond," she said quietly. "Maybe I can answer your
question. Rambaugh was probably after you because of me."

"Huh?"

"I’ve been paying Rambaugh blackmail for about four years. This morning I
decided to stop it, and looked your name up in the telephone book.
Rambaugh must have read me do it."

"Ever think of the police?" I suggested.

"Of course. But that is just as bad as not paying off. You end up all over
the front pages anyway. You know that."

"There’s a lot of argument on both sides," I supposed. "But let’s finish
this one over a bar. We’re crowding our luck here. In the eyes of the law
we’re just a couple of nasty break-ins."

"Yes," she said simply.



We left Rambaugh’s apartment together and I handed Martha into my car and
took off.

It struck me as we were driving that mental sensitivity was a good thing
in spite of its limitations. A woman without mental training might have
every right to object to visiting a bachelor apartment at two o’clock in
the morning. But I had no firm plans for playing up to Martha Franklin; I
really wanted to talk this mess out and get it squared away. This she
could read, so I was saved the almost-impossible task of trying to
convince an attractive woman that I really had no designs upon her
beautiful white body. I was not at all cold to the idea, but Martha did
not seem to be the pushover type.

"Thank you, Steve," she said.

"Thanks for nothing," I told her with a short laugh. "Them’s my
sentiments."

"I like your sentiments. That’s why I’m here, and maybe we can get our
heads together and figure something out."

I nodded and went back to my driving, feeling pretty good now.

A man does not dig his own apartment. He expects to find it the way he
left it. He digs in the mailbox on his way towards it, and he may dig in
his refrigerator to see whether he should stop for beer or whatever else,
because these things save steps. But nobody really expects to find trouble
in his own home, especially when he is coming in at three o’clock in the
morning with a good looking woman.

They were smart enough to come with nothing deadly in their hands. So I
had no warning until they stepped out from either side of my front door
and lifted me into my living room by the elbows. They hurled me into an
easy chair with a crash. When I stopped bouncing, one of the gorillas was
standing in front of me, about as tall as Washington Monument as seen from
the sidewalk in front. He was looking at my forty-five with careful
curiosity.

"What gives?" I demanded.

The crumb in front of me leaned down and gave me a back-and-forth that
yanked my head around. I didn’t say anything, but I thought how I’d like
to meet the buzzard in a dark alley with my gun in my fist.

Martha said, "They’re friends of Rambaugh, Steve. And they’re a little
afraid of that prehistoric cannon you carry."

The bird in front of Martha gave her a one-two across the face. That was
enough for me. I came up out of my chair, lifting my fist from the floor
and putting my back and thigh muscles behind it. It should have taken his
head off, but all he did was grunt, stagger back, dig his heels in, and
then come back at me with his head down. I chopped at the bridge of his
nose but missed and almost broke my hand on his hard skull. Then the other
guy came charging in and I flung out a side-chop with my other hand and
caught him on the wrist.

But Rhine training can’t do away with the old fact that two big tough men
can wipe the floor with one big tough man. I didn’t even take long enough
to muss up my furniture.

I had the satisfaction of mashing a nose and cracking my hand against a
skull again before the lights went out. When I came back from Mars, I was
sitting on a kitchen chair facing a corner. My wrists and ankles were
taped to the arms and legs of the chair.

I dug around. They had Martha taped to another chair in the opposite
corner, and the two gorillas were standing in the middle of the room,
obviously trying to think.

So was I. There was something that smelled about this mess. Peter Rambaugh
was a mental, and he should have been sensitive enough to keep his take
low enough so that it wouldn’t drive Martha into thinking up ways and
means of getting rid of him. Even so, he shouldn’t have been gunning for
me, unless there was a lot more to this than I could dig.

"What gives?" I asked sourly.



There was no answer. The thug with my forty-five took out the clip and
removed a couple of slugs.

He went into the kitchen and found my pliers and came back teasing one of
the slugs out of its casing. The other bird lit a cigarette.

The bird with the cartridge poured the powder from the shell into the palm
of my hand. I knew what was coming but I couldn’t wiggle my fingers much,
let alone turn my hand over to dump out the stuff. The other guy planted
the end of the cigarette between my middle fingers and I had to squeeze
hard to keep the hot end up. My fingers began to ache almost immediately,
and I was beginning to imagine the flash of flame and the fierce wave of
pain that would strike when my tired hand lost its pep and let the
cigarette fall into that little mound of powder.

"Stop it," said Martha. "Stop it!"

"What do they want?" I gritted.

"They won’t think it," she cried.

The bright red on the end of the cigarette grayed with ash and I began to
wonder how long it would be before a fleck of hot ash would fall. How long
it would take for the ash to grow long and top-heavy and then to fall into
the powder. And whether or not the ash would be hot enough to touch it
off. I struggled to keep my hands steady, but they were trembling. I felt
the cigarette slip a bit and clamped down tight again with my aching
fingers.

Martha pleaded again: "Stop it! Let us know what you want and we’ll do
it."

"Anything," I promised rashly.



Even if I managed to hold that deadly fuse tight, it would eventually burn
down to the bitter end. Then there would be a flash, and I’d probably
never hold my hand around a gun butt again. I’d have to go looking for
this pair of lice with my gun in my left. If they didn’t try the same
trick on my other hand. I tried to shut my mind on that notion but it was
no use. It slipped. But the chances were that this pair of close-mouthed
hotboys had considered that idea before.

"Can you dig ’em Martha?"

"Yes, but not deep enough. They’re both concentrating on that cigarette
and making mental bets when it will--"



Her voice trailed off. A wisp of ash had dropped and my mental howl must
have been loud enough to scorch their minds. It was enough to stop Martha,
at any rate. But the wisp of ash was cold and nothing happened except my
spine got coldly wet and sweat ran down my face and into my mouth. The
palm of my hand was sweating too, but not enough to wet the little pile of
powder.

"Look," I said in a voice that sounded like a nutmeg grater, "Rambaugh was
a louse and he tried to kill me first. If it’s revenge you want--why not
let’s talk it over?"

"They don’t care what you did to Rambaugh," said Martha.

"They didn’t come here to practice torture," I snapped. "They want
something big. And the only guy I know mixed up with Peter Rambaugh is
Scarmann, himself."

"Scarmann?" blurted Martha.

Scarmann was a big shot who lived in a palace about as lush as the Taj
Mahal, in the middle of a fenced-in property big enough to keep him out of
the mental range of most peepers. Scarmann was about as big a louse as
they came but nobody could put a finger on him because he managed to keep
himself as clean as a raygunned needle. I was expecting a clip on the
skull for thinking the things I was thinking about Scarmann, but it did
not come. These guys were used to having people think violence at their
boss. I thought a little harder. Maybe if I made ’em mad enough one of
them would belt me on the noggin and put me out, and then I’d be cold when
that cigarette fell into the gunpowder and ruined my hand.

I made myself a firm, solid promise that if, as, and when I got out of
this fix I would find Scarmann, shove the nose of my automatic down his
throat through his front teeth and empty the clip out through the top of
his head.

Then the hotboy behind me lifted the cigarette from my fingers very gently
and squibbed it out in the ashtray, and I got the pitch.



This is the way it is done in these enlightened days. Rhine Institute and
the special talents that Rhine developed should and could have made the
world a better, brighter place to live in. But I’ve heard it said and had
it proved that the minute someone comes up with something good, there are
a lot of buzzards who turn it bad and make it a foul, rotten medium for
their lousy way of life.

No, in these days of mental telepathy and extra sensory perception, crumbs
do not erase other crumbs. They just grab some citizen and put him in a
box until he is ready to do their dirty work for them.

Guilt? That would be mine. A crime is a crime and the guy who does it is a
criminal, no matter how he justifies his act of violence.

The truth? Any court mentalist who waded through that pair of unwashed
minds would find no evidence of any open deal with Steve Hammond. Sure, he
would find violence there, but the Court is more than well aware of the
fact that thinking of an act of violence is not illegal. This Rhine
training has been too recent to get the human race trained into the
niceties of polite mental behavior. Sure, they’d get a few months or maybe
a few years for breaking and entering as well as assault, but after all,
they were friends of Rambaugh and this might well be a matter of
retaliation, even though they thought Rambaugh was an incompetent bungler.

So if Steve Hammond believed that he could go free with a whole hand by
planning to rub out a man named Scarmann, that would be Steve Hammond’s
crime, not theirs.

They didn’t take any chances, even though I knew that they could read my
mind well enough to know that I would go through with their nasty little
scheme. They hustled Martha into the kitchen, chair and all, and one of
them stood there with my paring knife touching her soft throat enough to
indent the skin but not enough to draw blood. The other rat untaped me and
stood me on my feet.

I hurt all over from the pasting I’d taken, so I took a boiling shower and
dressed leisurely. The guy handed me my forty-five, all loaded, as I came
out of the bathroom. The other bird hadn’t moved a muscle out in the
kitchen. His knife was still pressing against Martha’s throat. He was
still standing pat when I passed out of esper range on the street below.



In pre-Rhine days, a citizen in my pinch would holler for the cops because
he couldn’t be sure that the crooks would keep their end of the bargain.
But Rhine training has produced a real "Honor Among Thieves" so that
organized crime can run as fast as organized justice. If I kept my end and
they didn’t keep theirs, the word would get around from their own dirty
minds that they couldn’t keep a bargain. Well, I was going to keep mine
for the same reason, even though I am not a thief.

That’s the way it’s done these days. You get a good esper like me to knock
off a sharp mental operator like Scarmann.

The trouble was that I didn’t really want Scarmann, I wanted that pair of
mental sadists up in my apartment who were holding a knife against
Martha’s throat. I wanted them, and I wanted Martha Franklin’s skin to be
happily whole. And if I crossed them now, the only guys that wouldn’t play
ball with me in the future would be the crooks. Them I could do without.

So if they figured that an esper could take a mental like Scarmann, why
couldn’t an esper take the pair of them?

All I had to do was to think of something else until I could get my hands
on their throats. Sure, they’d follow my mind as soon as they felt my
mental waves within range, but if I could really find something
interesting enough to occupy my attention--and maybe theirs as well--they
could not identify me.

So I went back into the lobby of my apartment and dug into the mailbox of
another party, thus identifying myself as the man in three eight four.
Then I punched the elevator button for the Fourth and leaned back against
the elevator and let my mind wander up through the apartments above.



I violated all the laws against Esping Toms as the elevator oozed upwards.
Eventually my sense of perception wandered through my own apartment and I
located her lying on the bed, fully dressed. She’d probably been freed
lest some esper cop get to wondering why there was a woman taped to a
chair in a bachelor’s kitchen. I shut my mind like a clam, but I couldn’t
withdraw my perception too fast. I let it ooze back there like the eyes of
a lecherous old man at a burleycue.

I left the elevator at the Fourth and walked up the stairs by reflex,
while my mind was positively radiating waves of vulgarity.

My mind managed to identify her as "The girl on the bed" without thinking
any name. She was a good looking strawberry blonde with a slender waist
and a high bosom and long, slender legs. She was wearing a pair of Dornier
shoes with three inch heels that did things to her ankles. Her nylons were
size eight and one half, medium length, in that dark shade that always
gives me ideas. Her dress was a simple thing that did not have a store
label on it, and so I dug the stitches for a bit and decided that it had
been hand made. Someone was a fine dress-maker because it fitted her
slender body perfectly. Her petticoat was store type. It was simple and
fitted, too, but it had a label from Forresters in the hem. Her bra was a
Graceform, size thirty two, medium cup, but the girl on the bed did not
have much need for molding, shaping, uplifting, padding or pretense. She
was all her and she filled it right to the brim. I let my perception
dawdle on the slender ankles, the lissome waist, and the rounded hips.

My door key came out by habit-reflex and entered the keyhole while my
sense of perception let them have one last vicarious thrill. The girl on
the bed was an honest allover strawberry blonde. She....



Then the door swung open and hell went out for breakfast.

My forty-five bellowed at the light as I slid in and sloped to one side.
The room went dark as I dropped to the floor in front of my bookcase. From
across the room a hitburner seared the door and slashed sidewise, cutting
a smoking swathe across my encyclopedia from A-AUD to CAN-DAN and then
came down as I squirmed aside. It took King Lear right out of Shakespeare
before the beam winked out. It went off just in time to keep me from
sporting a cooked stripe down my face.

I triggered the automatic again to make a flash in their faces while I dug
the room to locate them in the dark. The needle beam flared out again and
drilled a hole in the bookcase behind me. The other guy made a slashing
motion with his beam to pin me down, but he made a mistake by standing up
to do it.

I put a slug in his middle that slammed him back against the wall. He hung
there for a moment before he fell to the floor with a dull, limp sound.
His needle beam slashed upward and burned the ceiling before his hand went
limp and let the weapon drop.

I whirled to dig the other guy in the room just as the throb of a stun-gun
beam moaned over my head. I wondered where they’d got the arsenal, dug the
serial number, and realized that it was mine. It gave me a chuckle. I’m a
pistol man, so the stun-gun that old gorilla-man was toting couldn’t have
had more than one more charge. I tried to dig it but couldn’t. Even a
Doctor Of Perception can’t really dig the number of kilo-watt-seconds in a
meson chamber.

My accurate esping must have made the other guy desperate, because he made
a dive and let his needle ray burn out a slashing beam that zipped across
over my head. My forty-five blazed twice. He missed but I didn’t, just as
the throb of the stun-gun rang the air again. I whirled to face my
stun-gun coming out of the bedroom door in front of Martha Franklin.



The slug intended for Martha’s body never came out of my gun because her
stun-gun got to me first. It froze me like a hunk of Greek statuary and I
went forward and toppled over until I came on a three-point landing of
elbow, the opposite knee, and the side of my face.

I was as good as dead.

My brain was still functioning but nothing else was. I was completely
paralyzed. My heart had stopped breathing and my lungs had stopped
breathing, and I’ve been told that a healthy man can retain consciousness
for maybe a minute or so without a fresh supply of blood to the brain.
Then things get muddy black and you’ve had it for good. My esp was still
functioning, but that would black out with the rest of Steve Hammond.

There was no physical pain. They could have drilled me with a blunt
two-by-four and I’d not have felt it.

Then because I couldn’t stare Death in the face, I shut my mind on the
fact and esped my late girl friend. She was standing there with my
stun-gun in her hand with a smile on her beautiful puss and that vibrant
body swaying gently. I wanted to vomit and I would have if I’d not been
frozen solid. That beautiful body presided over by that vicious brain made
me sick.

Her smile faded as I began to realize the truth. Her story was thin.
Rambaugh, a mental, would have been able to play his blackmail game to the
fine degree; he would have known when Martha’s patience was about to grow
short--if Martha’s story were true. No blackmailer pushed his victim to
the breaking point. And Rambaugh wouldn’t have gone for me if this had
just been a plain case of blackmail.

No, by thinking deeply, Martha Franklin had engineered the death of
Rambaugh and she’d almost engineered the rubbing-out of Scarmann. A
mental, Martha Franklin. A high-grade mental, capable of controlling her
thoughts so that her cohorts could be led by the mind into doing her dirty
work.

My mind chuckled. I’d be gone before they caught up with Martha, but
they’d catch up all right. She’d leave the apartment positively radiating
her act of violence and then the cops would have a catch. And you should
see how a set of Court Mentalists go to work on a guilty party these days.
Once they get the guy that pulled the trigger on the witness stand, in
front of a jury consisting of mixed mentals and espers, with no holds
barred, the court record gets a full load of the killer’s life,
adventures, habits, and attitude; just before the guilty party heads for
the readjustment chamber.



Things were growing blacker. Waves of darkness clouded my mind and I found
it hard to think straight. My esper sense faded first and as it faded I
let it run once more over Martha’s attractiveness and found my darkening
mind wishing that she were the girl I’d believed her to be instead of the
female louse she was. It could have been fun.

But now I was about to black out from stun-gun paralysis, and Martha was
headed for the readjustment chamber where they’d reduce her mental
activity to the level of a menial, sterilize her, and put her to work in
an occupation that no man or woman with a spark of intelligence, ambition,
or good sense would take.

She would live and die a half-robot, alone and ignored, her attractiveness
lost because of her own lack-luster mind.

And I’d been willing to go out and plug Scarmann for her.

Hah!

And then she was at my side. I perceived her dimly, inconstantly, through
the waves of blackness and unreality that were like the half-dreams that
we have when lying a-doze. She levered my frozen body over on its hard
back and went to work on my chest. Her arms went around me and she
squeezed. Air whooshed into my dead lungs, and then she was beating my
breastbone black and blue with her small fists. Beat. Beat-beat. Beat. I
couldn’t feel a thing but I could dig the fact that she was hurting her
hands as she beat on my chest in a rhythm that matched the beat of her own
heart.

I dug her own heartbeat for her, and she read my mind and matched the beat
perfectly.

Then I felt a thump inside of me and dug my own heart. It throbbed once,
sluggishly. It struggled, slowly. Then it throbbed to the beat of her
hands and the blackening waves went away. My frozen body relaxed and I
came down to rest on the floor like a melting lump of sugar.

Martha dropped on top of my body and pressed me down. Her arms were around
my chest as she forced air into my lungs. She beat my ribs sore when my
heart faltered, and squeezed me when my breathing slowed. I felt the life
coming back into me; it came in like the tide, with a fringe of
needles-and-pins that flowed inward from fingers and toes and scalp.

Martha pressed me down on the carpet and kissed me, full, open mouthed,
passionate. It stirred my blood and my mind and I took a deep, shuddering
breath.

I looked up into her soft blue eyes and said, "Thanks--slut!"

She kissed me again, pressing me down and writhing against me and
obviously getting a kick out of my reaction.

Then I came alive and threw her off with no warning. I sat up, and swung a
roundhouse right that clipped her on the jaw and sent her rolling over and
over. Her eyes glazed for a moment but she came out of it and looked
pained and miserable.

"You promised," she said huskily.

"Promised?"

"To kill Scarmann."

"Yeah?"

"You thought how you’d kill Scarmann for me, Steve."

"Someday," I said flatly, "I may kill Scarmann, but it won’t be for you!"

She tried to claw me but I clipped her again and this time I made it
stick. She went out cold and she was still out like a frozen herring by
the time Lieutenant Williamson arrived with his jetcopter squad to take
her away.

The last time I saw Martha Franklin, she was still trying to convince
twelve Rhine Scholars and True that any woman with a body as beautiful as
hers couldn’t possibly have committed any crime. She was good at it, but
not that good.

Funny. Mental sensitives always think they’re so damn superior  to  anyone
else.





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