HotFreeBooks.com
Status Quo
by Dallas McCord Reynolds
Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse

He sat down before the phone and dialed the offices of the Sun-Post and eventually got Sam Sokolski who this time beat him to the punch.

Sam said, "You shouldn't drink alone. Listen, Larry, why don't you get in touch with Alcoholics Anonymous. It's a great outfit."

"You ought to know," Larry growled. "Look, Sam, as science columnist for that rag you work for you probably come in touch with a lot of eggheads."

"Laddy-buck, you have said it," Sam said.

"Fine. Now look, what I want to know is have you ever heard—even the slightest of rumors—about an organization called the Movement?"

"What'd'ya mean, slightest of rumors? Half the weirds I run into are interested in the outfit. Get two or three intellectuals, scientists, technicians, or what have you, together and they start knocking themselves out on the pros and cons of the Movement."

Larry Woolford stared at him. "Are you kidding, Sam?"

The other was mystified. "Why should I kid you? As a matter of fact, I was thinking of doing a column one of these days on Voss and this Movement of his."

"Voss and this movement of his!"

"Sure," Sam said, "he's the top leader."

"Oh, great," Larry growled. "Look, Sam, eventually there is probably a story in this for you. Right now, though, we're trying to keep the lid on it. Could you brief me a little on this Movement? What are they trying to put over?"

"I seem to spend half my time briefing you in information any semi-moron ought to be up on," Sam said nastily. "However, briefly, they're in revolt against social-label judgments. They think it's fouling up the country and that eventually it'll result in the Russkies passing us in all the fields that really count."

"I keep running into this term," Larry complained. "What do you mean, social-label judgments, and how can they possibly louse up the country?"

Sam said, "I was present a month or so ago when Voss gave an informal lecture to a group of twenty or so. Here's one of the examples he used.

"Everybody today wants to be rated on a (1) personal, or, (2) social-label basis, depending on which basis is to his greatest advantage. The Negro who is a no-good, lazy, obnoxious person demands to be accepted because Negroes should not be discriminated against. The highly competent, hard working, honest and productive Negro wants to be accepted because he is hard-working, honest and productive—and should be so accepted.

"See what I mean? This social-label system is intended to relieve the individual of the necessity of judging, and the consequences of being judged. If you have poor judgment, and are forced to rely on your own judgment, you're almost sure to go under. So persons of poor judgment support our social-label system. If you're a louse, and are correctly judged as being a louse, you'd prefer that the social dictum 'Human beings are never lice' should apply."

Larry said, "What in the devil's this got to do with the race between this country and the Russkies?"

Sam said patiently, "Voss and the Movement he leads contend that a social-label system winds up with incompetents running the country in all fields. Often incompetent scientists are in charge of our research; incompetent doctors, in charge of our health; incompetent politicians run our government; incompetent teachers, laden with social-labels, teach our youth. Our young people are going to college to secure a degree, not an education. It's the label that counts, not the reality.

"Voss contends that it's getting progressively worse. That we're sinking into an equivalent of a ritual-taboo, tribal social-like situation. This is the system the low-level human being wants, yearns for and seeks. A situation in which no one's judgment is of any use. Then his lack of judgment is no handicap.

"According to members of the Movement, today the tribesman type is seeking to reduce civilization back to ritual-taboo tribalism wherein no one man's judgment is of any value. The union wants advancement based on seniority, not on ability and judgment. The persons with whom you associate socially judge you by the amount of money you possess, the family from which you come, the degrees you hold, by social-labels—not by your proven abilities. Down with judgment! is the cry."

"It sounds awfully weird to me," Larry grumbled in deprecation.

Sam shrugged. "There's a lot of sense in it. What the Movement wants is to develop a socio-economic system in which judgment produces a maximum advantage."

Larry said, "What gets me is that you talk as though half the country was all caught up in debating this Movement. But I haven't even heard of it, neither has my department chief, nor any of my colleagues, so far as I know. Why isn't anything about it in the papers or on the TriD?"

Sam said mildly, "As a matter of fact, I took in Mort Lenny's show the other night and he made some cracks about it. But it's not the sort of thing that's even meant to become popular with the man in the street. To put it bluntly, Voss and his people aren't particularly keen about the present conception of the democratic ideal. According to him, true democracy can only be exercised by peers and society today isn't composed of peers. If you have one hundred people, twenty of them competent, intelligent persons, eighty of them untrained, incompetent and less than intelligent, then it's ridiculous to have the eighty dictate to the twenty."

Larry looked accusingly at his long-time friend. "You know, Sam, you sound as though you approve of all this."

Sam said patiently, "I listen to it all, Larry my boy. I think Voss makes a lot of sense. There's only one drawback."

"And that is?"

"How's he going to put it over? This social-label system the Movement complains about was bad enough ten years ago. But look how much worse it is today. It's a progressive thing. And, remember, it's to the benefit of the incompetent. Since the incompetent predominates, you're going to have a hard time starting up a system based on judgment and ability."

Larry thought about it for a moment.

Sam said, "Look, I'm working, Larry. Was there anything else?"

Larry said, "You wouldn't know where I could get hold of Voss, would you?"

"At his home, I imagine, or at the University."

"He's disappeared. We're looking for him."

Sam laughed. "Gone underground, eh? The old boy is getting romantic."

"Does he have any particular friends who might be putting him up?"

Sam thought about it. "There's Frank Nostrand. You know, that rocket expert who was fired when he got in the big hassle with Senator McCord."

——————————————————-

When Sam Sokolski had flicked off, Larry stared at the vacant phone screen for a long moment, assimilating what the other had told him. He was astonished that an organization such as the Movement could have spread to the extent it evidently had through the country's intellectual circles, through the scientifically and technically trained, without his department being keenly aware of it.



One result, he decided glumly, of labeling everything contrary to the status quo as weird and dismissing it with contempt. Admittedly, that would have been his own reaction only a week ago.

Suppose that he'd been at a cocktail party, and had drifted up to a group who were arguing about social-label judgments and the need to develop a movement to change society's use of them. The discussion would have gone in one ear, out the other, and he would have muttered inwardly, "Weirds," and have drifted on to get himself another vodka martini.

Larry snorted and dialed the Department of Records. He'd never heard of Frank Nostrand before, so he got Information.

The bright young thing who answered seemed to have a harried expression untypical of Records employees. Larry said to her, "I'd like the brief on a Mr. Frank Nostrand who is evidently an expert on rockets. The only other thing I know about him is that he recently got in the news as the result of a controversy with Senator McCord."

"Just a moment, sir," the bright young thing said.

She touched buttons and reached into a delivery chute. When her eyes came up to meet his again, they were more than ever harried. They were absolutely confused.

"Mr. Franklin Howard Nostrand," she said, "currently employed by Madison Air as a rocket research technician."

"That must be him," Larry said. "I'm in a hurry, Miss. What's his background?"

Her eyes rounded. "It says ... it says he's an Archbishop of the Anglican Church."

Larry Woolford looked at her.

She looked back, pleadingly.

Larry scowled and said, "His university degrees, please."

Her eyes darted to the report and she swallowed. "A bachelor in Home Economics, sir."

"Look here, Miss, how could a Home Economics degree result in his becoming either an Archbishop or a rocket technician?"

"I'm sorry, sir. That's what it says."

Larry was fuming but there was no point in taking it out on this junior employee of the Department of Records. He snapped, "Just give me his address, please."

She said agonizingly, "Sir, it says, Lhasa, Tibet."

A red light flicked at the side of his phone and he said to her, "I'll call you back. I'm getting a priority call."

He flicked her off, and flicked the incoming call in. It was LaVerne Polk. She seemed to be on the harried side, too.

"Larry," she said, "you better get over here right away."

"What's up, LaVerne?"

"This Movement," she said, "it seems to have started moving! The Boss says to get over here soonest."

——————————————————-

The top of his car was retracted. Larry Woolford slammed down the walk of his auto-bungalow and vaulted over the side and into the seat. He banged the start button, dropped the lift lever, depressed the thrust pedal and took off at maximum acceleration.

He took the police level for maximum speed and was in downtown Greater Washington in flat minutes.

So the Movement had started moving. That could mean almost anything. It was just enough to keep him stewing until he got to the Boss and found out what was going on.

He turned his car over to a parker and made his way to the entrance utilized by the second-grade department officials. In another year, or at most two, he told himself all over again, he'd be using that other door. He had an intuitive feeling that if he licked this current assignment it'd be the opening wedge he needed and he'd wind up in a status bracket unique for his age.

LaVerne looked up when he hurried into her anteroom. She evidently had two or three calls going on at once, taking orders from one phone, giving them in another. Something was obviously erupting. She didn't speak to him, merely nodded her head at the inner office.

In the Boss' office were six or eight others besides Larry's superior. Their expressions and attitudes ran from bewilderment to shock. They weren't the men you'd expect to have such reactions. At least not those that Larry Woolford recognized. Three of them, Ben Ruthenberg, Bill Fraina and Dave Moskowitz were F.B.I. men with whom Larry had worked on occasion. One of the others he recognized as being a supervisor with the C.I.A. Walt Foster, Larry's rival in the Boss' affections, was also present.

The Boss growled at him, "Where in the heavens have you been, Lawrence?"

"Following our leads on this so-called Movement, sir," Larry told him. "What's going on?"

Ruthenberg, the Department of Justice man, grunted sour amusement. "So-called Movement, isn't exactly the correct phrase. It's a Movement, all right."

The Boss said, "Please dial Records and get your dossier, Lawrence. That'll be the quickest way to bring you up on developments."

Mystified, but already with a growing premonition, Larry dialed Records. Knowing his own classification code, he had no need of Information this time. He got the hundred-word brief and stared at it as it filled the screen. The only items really correct were his name and present occupation. Otherwise his education was listed as grammar school only. His military career had him ending the war as a General of the Armies, and his criminal career record included four years on Alcatraz for molesting small children.

Blankly, he faded the brief and dialed his full dossier. It failed to duplicate the brief, but that was no advantage. This time he had an M.D. degree from Johns Hopkins, but his military career listed him as a dishonorable discharge from the navy where he'd served in the steward department. His criminal record was happily nil, but his religion was listed as Holy Roller. Political affiliations had him down as a member of the Dixiecrats.

The others were looking at him, most of them blankly, although there were grins on the faces of Moskowitz and the C.I.A. man.

Moskowitz said, "With a name like mine, yet, they have me a Bishop of the Orthodox Greek Catholic Church."

Larry said, "What's it all about?"

Ruthenberg said unhappily, "It started early this morning. We don't know exactly when as yet." Which didn't seem to answer the question.

Larry said, "I don't get it. Obviously, the Records department is fouled up in some manner. How, and why?"

"How, we know," the Boss rumbled disgustedly. "Why is another matter. You've spent more time than anyone else on this assignment, Lawrence. Perhaps you can tell us." He grabbed up a pipe from his desk, tried to light it noisily, noticed finally that it held no tobacco and threw it to the desk again. "Evidently, a large group of these Movement individuals either already worked in Records or wriggled themselves into key positions in the technical end of the department. Now they've sabotaged the files."

"We've caught most of them already," one of the F.B.I. men growled, "but damn little good that does us at this point."

The C.I.A. supervisor made a gesture indicating that he gave it all up. "Not only here but in Chicago and San Francisco as well. All at once. Evidently perfectly rehearsed. Personnel records from coast to coast are bollixed. Why?"

Larry said slowly, "I think I know that now. Yesterday, I wouldn't have but I've been picking up odds and ends."

They all looked at him.

——————————————————-

Larry sat down and ran a hand back through his hair. "The general idea is to change the country's reliance on social-label judgments."

"On what," the Boss barked.

"On one person judging another according to social-labels. Voss and the others—"

"Who did you say?" Ruthenberg snapped.

"Voss. Professor Peter Voss from the University over in Baltimore section. He's the ring leader."

Ruthenberg snapped to Fraina, "Get on the phone and send out a pick-up order for him."

Fraina was on his feet. "What charge, Ben?"

Ben Ruthenberg snorted. "Rape, or something. Get moving, we'll figure out a charge later. The guy's a fruitcake."

Larry said wearily, "He's evidently gone into hiding. I've been trying to locate him. He managed to slip me some knockout drops and got away yesterday."

The Boss looked at him in disgust.

Ruthenberg said evenly, "We've had men go into hiding before. Get going, Fraina."

Fraina left the office and the others looked back to Larry.

The Boss said, "About this social-label nonsense—"

Larry said, "They think the country is going to pot because of it. People hold high office or places of responsibility not because of superior intelligence, or even acquired skill, but because of the social-labels they've accumulated, and these can be based on something as flimsy—from the Movement's viewpoint—as who your grandparents were, what school you attended, how much seniority you have on the job, what part of town you live in, or what tailor cuts your clothes."

Their expressions ran from scowls and frowns to complete puzzlement.

Walt Foster grumbled, "What's all this got to do with sabotaging the country's Records tapes?"

Larry shrugged. "I don't have the complete picture, but one thing is sure. It's going to be harder for a while to base your opinions on a quick hundred-word brief on a man. Yesterday, an employer, considering hiring somebody, could dial the man's dossier, check it, and form his opinions by the status labels the would-be employee could produce. Today, he's damn well going to have to exercise his own judgment."

LaVerne's face lit up the screen on the Boss' desk and she said, "Those two members of the Movement who were picked up in Alexandria are here, sir."

"Send them in," the Boss rumbled. He looked at Larry. "The F.B.I. managed to arrest almost everyone directly involved in the sabotage."

The two prisoners seemed more amused than otherwise. They were young men, in their early thirties—well dressed and obviously intelligent. The Boss had them seated side by side and glared at them for a long moment before speaking. Larry and the others took chairs in various parts of the room and added their own stares to the barrage.

The Boss said, "Your situation is an unhappy one, gentlemen."

One of the two shrugged.

The Boss said, "You can, ah, hedge your bets, by co-operating with us. It might make the difference between a year or two in prison—and life."

One of them grinned and then yawned. "I doubt it," he said.

The Boss tried a slightly different tack. "You have no reason to maintain a feeling of obligation to Voss and the others. You have obviously been abandoned. Had they any feeling for you there would have been more efficacious arrangements for your escape."

The more articulate of the two shrugged again. "We were expendable," he said. "However, it won't be long before we're free again."

"You think so?" Ruthenberg grunted.

The revolutionist looked at him. "Yes, I do," he said. "Six months from now and we'll be heroes since by that time the Movement will have been a success."

The Boss snorted. "Just because you deranged the Records? Why that's but temporary."

"Not so temporary as you think," the technician replied. "This country has allowed itself to get deeply enmeshed in punch-card and tape records. Oh, it made sense enough. With the population we have, and the endless files that result from our ultra-complicated society, it was simply a matter finally of developing a standardized system of records for the nation as a whole. Now, for all practical purposes, all of our records these days are kept with the Department of Records, confidential as well as public records. Why should a university, for instance, keep literally tons of files, with all the expense and space and time involved, when it can merely file the same records with the governmental department and have them safe and easily available at any time? Now, the Movement has completely and irrevocably destroyed almost all files that deal with the social-labels to which we object. An excellent first step, in forcing our country back into judgment based on ability and intelligence."

"First step!" Larry blurted.

The two prisoners looked at him. "That's right," the quieter of the two said. "This is just the first step."

"Don't kid yourselves," Ben Ruthenberg snapped at them. "It's also the last!"

The two members of the Movement grinned at him.

——————————————————-

When the others had gone, the Boss looked at Larry Woolford. He said sourly, "When this department was being formed, I doubt anyone had in mind this particular type of subversion, Lawrence."

Larry grunted. "Give me a good old-fashioned Commie, any time. Look, sir, what are the Department of Justice boys going to do with those prisoners?"

"Hold them on any of various charges. We've conflicted with the F.B.I. in the past on overlapping jurisdiction, but thank heavens for them now. Their manpower is needed."

Larry leaned forward. "Sir, we ought to take all members of the Movement we've already arrested, feed them a dose of Scop-Serum, and pressure them to open up on the organization's operations."

His superior looked at him, waiting for him to continue.

Larry said urgently, "Those two we just had in here thought the whole thing was a big joke. The first step, they called it. Sir, there's something considerably bigger than this cooking. Uncle Sam might pride himself on the personal liberties guaranteed by this country, but unless we break this organization, and do it fast, there's going to be trouble that will make this fouling of the records look like the minor matter those two jokers seemed to think it."

The Boss thought about that. He said slowly, "Lawrence, the Supreme Court ruled against the use of Scop-Serum. Not that it is over efficient, anyway. Largely, these so-called truth serums don't accomplish much more than to lower resistance, slacken natural inhibitions, weaken the will."

"Sure," Larry said. "But give a man a good dose of Scop-Serum and he'd betray his own mother. Not because he's helpless to tell a lie, but because under the influence of the drug he figures it just isn't important enough to bother about. Sir, Supreme Court or not, I think those two ought to be given Scop-Serum along with all other Movement members we've picked up."

The Boss was shaking his head. "Lawrence, these men are not wide-eyed radicals picked up in a street demonstration. They're highly respected members of our society. They're educators, scientists, engineers, technicians. Anything done to them is going to make headlines. Those that were actually involved in the sabotage will have criminal charges brought against them, but they're going to get a considerable amount of publicity, and we're going to be in no position to alienate any of their constitutional rights."

Larry stood up, approached his chief's desk and leaned over it urgently. "Sir, that's fine, but we've got to move and move fast. Something's up and we don't even know what! Take that counterfeit money. From Susan Self's description, there's actually billions of dollars worth of it."

"Oh, come now, Lawrence. The child exaggerated. Besides, that's a problem for Steven Hackett and the Secret Service, we have enough on our hands as it is. Forget about the counterfeit, Lawrence. I think I shall put you in complete control of field work on this, to co-operate in liaison with Ben Ruthenberg and the F.B.I. So far as we're concerned, the counterfeit angle belongs to Secret Service, we're working on subversion, and until the Civil Liberties Union or whoever else proves otherwise, we'll consider this Movement an organization attempting to subvert the country by illegal means."

Larry Woolford made a hard decision quickly. He was shaking his head. "Sir, I'd rather you gave the administrative end to someone else and let me continue in the field. I've got some leads—I think. If I get bogged down in interdepartmental red tape, and in paper work here at headquarters, I'll never get to the heart of this and I'm laying bets that we either crack this within days or there are going to be some awfully big changes in this country."

The Boss glared at him. "You mean you're refusing this assignment, Woolford. Confound it, don't you realize it's a promotion?"

Larry was worriedly dogged. "Sir, I'd rather stay in the field."

"Very well," the other snapped disgustedly, "I hope you deliver some results, Woolford, otherwise I am afraid I won't feel particularly happy about your somewhat cavalier rejection of this opportunity." He flicked on the phone and snapped to LaVerne Polk, "Miss Polk, locate Walter Foster for me. He is to take over our end of this Movement matter."

LaVerne said, "Yes, sir," and her face was gone.

The Boss looked up, still scowling. "What are you waiting for, Woolford?"

"Yes, sir," Larry said. It was just coming home to him now, what he'd done. There possibly went his yearned for promotion in the department. There went his chance of an upgrading in status. And Walt Foster, of all people, in his place.

——————————————————-

At LaVerne's desk, Larry stopped off long enough to say, "Did you ever assign that secretary to me?"

LaVerne shook her head at him. "She's come and gone, Larry. She sat around for a couple of days, after seeing you not even once, and then I gave her another assignment."

"Well, bring her back again, will you? I want her to do up briefs for me on all the information we accumulate on the Movement. It'll be coming in from all sides now. From the Press, from those members we've arrested, from our F.B.I. pals, now that they're interested, and so forth."

"I'll give you Irene Day," LaVerne said. "Where are you off to now, Larry?"

"Probably a wild goose chase," Larry growled. "Which reminds me. Do me a favor, LaVerne. Call Personal Service and find out where Frank Nostrand is. He's some kind of rocket technician at Madison Air Laboratories. I'll be in my office."

"Frank Nostrand," LaVerne said briskly. "Will do, Larry."

Back in his own cubicle, Larry stood for a moment in thought. He was increasingly aware of the uncomfortable feeling that time was running out on them. That things were coming to a dangerous head.

He stared down at the dozen or more books and pamphlets that his never seen secretary had heaped up for him. Well, he certainly didn't have time for them now.

He sat down at the desk and dialed an inter-office number.

The harassed looking face of Walter Foster faded in. On seeing Larry Woolford he growled accusingly, "My pal. You've let them dump this whole thing into my lap."

Larry grinned at him. "Better you than me, old buddy. Besides, it's a promotion. Pull this off and you'll be the Boss' right-hand man."

"That's a laugh," Foster said. "It's a madhouse. This Movement gang is as weird as they come."

"I bleed for you," Larry said. "However, here's a tip. Frol Eivazov, of the Chrezvychainaya Komissiya is somewhere in the country."

"Frol Eivazov!" Foster blurted. "What've the Commies got to do with this? Is this something the Boss knows about?"

"Haven't had time to go into it with him," Larry said. "However, it seems that friend Frol is here to find out what the Movement is all about. Evidently the big boys in Peking and Moscow are nervous about any changes that might take place over here. I suggest you have him picked up, Walt."



Walt Foster said, "O.K. I'll put some people on it. Maybe the F.B.I. can help."

Larry flicked off as he saw the red priority light on his phone shining. He pushed it and LaVerne's face faded in.

She said, "This Franklin Nostrand you wanted to know about. He's evidently working at the laboratories over in Newport News, Larry. He'll be on the job until five this afternoon."

"Fine," he said. Larry grinned at her. "When are we going to have that date, LaVerne?"

She made a face. "Some day when the program involves having fun instead of parading around in the right places, driving the right model car, dressed in exactly the right clothes, and above all associating with the right people."

It was his turn to grimace. "I'm beginning to think you ought to sign up with Voss and this Movement of his. You'd be right at home with his weirds."

She stuck out her tongue at him, and flicked off.

He looked at the empty screen and chuckled. He had half a mind to get a record of their conversation, strip out just the section where she'd stuck out her tongue, and then play it back to her. She'd be taken aback by being confronted by her own image making faces at her.

As he made his way to the parking lot for his car, something in their conversation nagged at him, but he couldn't put his finger on it. He considered the girl, all over again. She had almost all the qualities he looked for. She was attractive, without being overly so. He disliked women out of the ordinarily beautiful, it became too much to live up to. She was sharp, but not objectionably so. Not to the point of giving you an inferiority complex.

But, Holy Smokes, she'd never do as a career man's wife. He could just see the Boss' ultraconservative better half inviting them to dinner. It would happen exactly once, never again.

He obtained his car, lifted it to one of the higher levels and headed for Newport News. It was a half-hour trip and he wasn't particularly expectant of results. The tip Sam Sokolski had given him, wasn't much to go by. Evidently, Frank Nostrand was a friend of the Professor's but that didn't necessarily mean he was connected with the movement, or that he knew Voss' whereabouts.

He might have saved himself the trip.

The bird had flown again. Not only was Frank Nostrand not at the Madison Air Laboratories, but he wasn't at home either. Larry Woolford, mindful of his departmental chief's words on the prestige these people carried, took a full hour in acquiring a search warrant before breaking into the Nostrand home.

Nostrand was supposedly a bachelor, but the auto-bungalow, similar to Larry Woolford's own, showed signs of double occupancy, and there was little indication that the guest had been a woman.

Disgruntled, Larry Woolford dialed the offices, asked for Walt Foster. It took nearly ten minutes before his colleague faded in.

"I'm up to my eyebrows, Larry. What'd you want?"

Larry gave him Frank Nostrand's address. "This guy's disappeared, Walt."

"So?"

"He was a close friend of Professor Voss. I got a warrant to search his house. It shows signs that he had a guest. Possibly it was the Professor. Do you want to get some of the boys down here to go through the place? Possibly there's some clue to where they took off for. The Professor's on the run and he's no professional at this. If we can pick him up, I've got a sneaking suspicion we'll have the so-called Movement licked."

Walt Foster slapped a hand to his face in anguish. "You knew where the Professor was hiding, and you tried to pick him up on your own and let him get away. Why didn't you discuss this with either the Boss or me? I'm in charge of this operation! I would have had a dozen men down there. You've fouled this up!"

Larry stared at him. Already Walt Foster was making sounds like an enraged superior.

He said mildly, "Sorry, Walt. I came down here on a very meager tip. I didn't really expect it to pan out."

"Well, in the future, clear with either me or the Boss before running off half cocked into something, Woolford. Yesterday, you had this whole assignment on your own. Today, it's no longer a minor matter. Our department has fifty people on it. The F.B.I. must have five times as many and that's not even counting the Secret Service's interest. It's no longer your individual baby."

"Sorry," Larry repeated mildly. Then, "I don't imagine you've got hold of Frol Eivazov yet?"

The other was disgusted. "You think we're magicians? We just put out the call for him a few hours ago. He's no amateur. If he doesn't want to be picked up, he'll go to ground and we'll have our work cut out for us finding him. I can't see that it's particularly important anyway."

"Maybe you're right," Larry said. "But you never know. He might know things we don't. See you later."

Walt Foster stared at him for a moment as though about to say something, but then tightened his lips and faded off.

Larry looked at the phone screen for a moment. "Did that phony expect me to call him sir," he muttered.

——————————————————-

The next two days dissolved into routine.

Frustrated, Larry Woolford spent most of his time in his office digesting developments, trying to find a new line of attack.

For want of something else, he put his new secretary, a brightly efficient girl, as style and status conscious as LaVerne Polk wasn't, to work typing up the tapes he'd had cut on Susan Self and the various phone calls he'd had with Hans Distelmayer and Sam Sokolski. From memory, he dictated to her his conversation with Professor Peter Voss.

He carefully read the typed sheets over and over again. He continually had the feeling in this case that there were loose ends dangling around. Several important points he should be able to put his finger upon.

On the morning of the third day he dialed Steve Hackett and on seeing the other's worried, pug-ugly face fade in on the phone, decided that if nothing else the Movement was undermining the United States government by dispensing ulcers to its employees.

Steve growled, "What is it Woolford? I'm as busy as a whirling dervish in a revolving door."

"This is just the glimmer of an idea, Steve. Look, remember that conversation with Susan, when she described her father taking her to headquarters?"

"So?" Steve said impatiently.

"Remember her description of headquarters?"

"Go on," Steve rapped.

"What did it remind you of?"

"What are you leading to?"

"This is just a hunch," Larry persisted, "but the way she described the manner in which her father took her to headquarters suggests they're in the Greater Washington area."

Steve was staring at him disgustedly. How obvious could you get?

Larry hurried on. "What's the biggest business in this area, Steve?"

"Government."

"Right. And the way she described headquarters of the Movement, was rooms, after rooms, after rooms into which they'd stored the money."

"And?"

Larry said urgently, "Steve, I think in some way the Movement has taken over some governmental buildings, or storage warehouse. Possibly some older buildings no longer in use. It would be a perfect hideout. Who would expect a subversive organization to be in governmental buildings? All they'd need would be a few officials here and there who were on their side and—"

Steve said wearily, "You couldn't have thought of this two days ago."

Larry cut himself off sharply, "Eh?"

Steve said, "We found their headquarters. One of their members cracked. Ben Ruthenberg of the F.B.I. found he had a morals rap against him some years ago and scared him into talking by threats of exposure. At any rate, you're right. They had established themselves in some government buildings going back to Spanish-American War days. We've arrested eight or ten officials that were involved."

"But the money?"

"The money was gone," Steve said bitterly. "But Susan was right. There had evidently been room after room of it, stacked to the ceiling. Literally billions of dollars. They'd moved out hurriedly, but they left kicking around enough loose hundreds, fifties, twenties, tens and fives to give us an idea. Look, Woolford, I thought you'd been pulled off this case and that Walt Foster was handling it."

Larry said sourly, "I'm beginning to think so, too. They're evidently not even bothering to let me know about developments like this. See you later, Steve."

The other's face faded off.

Larry Woolford looked across the double desk at Irene Day. "Look," he said, "when you're offered a promotion, take it. If you don't, someone else will and you'll be out in the cold."

Irene Day said brightly, "I've always know that, sir."

He looked at her. The typical eager beaver. Sharp as a whip. Bright as a button. "I'll bet you have," he muttered.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Woolford?"

The phone lit as LaVerne said, "The Boss wants to talk to you, Larry." Her face faded and Larry's superior was scowling at him.

He snapped, "Did you get anything on this medical records thing, Woolford?"

"Medical records?" Larry said blankly.

The Boss grunted in deprecation. "No, I suppose you haven't. I wish you would snap into it, Woolford. I don't know what has happened to you of late. I used to think that you were a good field man." He flicked off abruptly.

Larry dialed LaVerne Polk. "What in the world was the Boss just talking about, LaVerne? About medical records?"

LaVerne said, frowning, "Didn't you know? The Movement's been at it again. They've fouled up the records of the State Medical Licensing bureaus, at the same time sabotaging the remaining records of most, if not all, of the country's medical schools. They struck simultaneously, throughout the country."

He looked at her, expressionlessly.

LaVerne said, "We've caught several hundred of those responsible. It's the same thing. Attack of the social-label. From now on, if a man tells you he's an Ear, Eye and Throat specialist, you'd better do some investigation before letting him amputate your tongue. You'd better use your judgment before letting any doctor you don't really know about, work on you. It's a madhouse, Larry."

——————————————————-

Larry Woolford, for long moments after LaVerne had broken the connection, stared unseeingly at his secretary across from him until she stirred.

He brought his eyes back to the present. "Another preliminary move, not the important thing, yet. Not the big explosion they're figuring on. Where have they taken that money, and why?"

Irene Day blinked at him. "I don't know, I'm sure, sir."

Larry said, "Get me Mr. Foster on the phone, Irene."

When Walt Foster's unhappy face faded in, Larry said, "Walt did you get Frol Eivazov?"

"Eivazov?" the other said impatiently. "No. We haven't spent much effort on it. I think this hunch of yours is like the other ones you've been having lately, Woolford. Frol Eivazov was last reported by our operatives as being in North Korea."

"It wasn't a hunch," Larry said tightly. "He's in this country on an assignment dealing with the Movement."

"Well, that's your opinion," Foster said snappishly. "I'm busy, Woolford. See here, at present you're under my orders on this job. In the way of something to do, instead of sitting around in that office, why don't you follow up this Eivazov thing yourself?" He considered it a moment. "That's an order, Woolford. Even if you don't locate him, it'll keep you out of our hair."

After the other was gone, Larry Woolford leaned back in his chair, his face flushed as though the other had slapped it. In a way, he had.

Larry said slowly, "Miss Day, dial me Hans Distelmayer. His offices are over in the Belmont Building."

As always, the screen remained blank as the German spy master spoke.

Larry said, "Hans, I want to talk to Frol Eivazov."

"Ah?"

"I want to know where I can find him."

The German's voice was humorously gruff. "My friend, my friend."

Larry said impatiently, "I'm not interested in arresting him at this time. I want to talk to him."

The other said heavily. "This goes beyond favors, my friend. On the face of it, I am not in business for my health. And what you ask is dangerous from my viewpoint. You realize that upon occasion my organization does small tasks for the Soviets...."

"Ha!" Larry said bitterly.

"... And," the German continued, unruffled, "it is hardly to my interest to gain the reputation of betraying my sometimes employers. Were you on an assignment in, say, Bulgaria or Hungary, would you expect me to betray you to the Chrezvychainaya Komissiya?"

"Not unless somebody paid you enough to make it worth while," Larry said dryly.

"Exactly," the espionage chief said.

"Look," Larry said. "Send your bill to this department, Hans. I've been given carte blanche on this matter and I want to talk to Frol. Now, where is he?"

The German chuckled heavily. "At the Soviet Embassy."

"What! You mean they've got the gall to house their top spy right in—"

Distelmayer interrupted him. "Friend Eivazov is currently accredited as a military attache and quite correctly. He holds the rank of colonel, you know. He entered this country quite legally, the only precaution taken was to use his second name, Kliment, instead of Frol, on his papers. Evidently, your people passed him by without a second look. Ah, I understand he went to the trouble of making some minor changes in his facial appearance."

"We'll expect your bill, Distelmayer," Larry said. "Good-by."

He got up and reached for his hat, saying to Irene Day, "I don't know how long I'll be gone." He added, wryly, "If either Foster or the Boss try to get in touch with me, tell them I'm carrying out orders."

He drove over to the Soviet Embassy, parked his car directly before the building.

——————————————————-

The American plainclothesmen stationed near the entrance, gave him only a quick onceover as he passed. Inside the gates, the impassive Russian guards didn't bother to flicker an eyelid.

At the reception desk in the immense entrada, he identified himself. "I'd like to see Colonel Frol Eivazov."

"I am afraid—" the clerk began stiffly.

"I suppose you have him on the records as Kliment Eivazov."

The clerk had evidently touched a concealed button. A door opened and a junior embassy official approached them.

Larry restated his desire. The other began to open his mouth in denial, then shrugged. "Just a moment," he said.

He was gone a full twenty minutes. When he returned, he said briefly, "This way, please."

Frol Eivazov was in an inner office, in full uniform. He came to his feet when Larry Woolford entered and said to the clerk, "That will be all, Vova." He was a tall man, as Slavs go, but heavy of build and heavy of face.

He shook hands with Larry. "It's been a long time," he said in perfect English. "That conference in Warsaw, wasn't it? Have a chair, Mr. Woolford."

Larry took the offered chair and said, "How in the world did you expect to get by with this nonsense? We'll have you declared persona non grata in a matter of hours."

"It's not important," Eivazov shrugged. "I have found what I came to find. I was about to return to report any way."

"We won't do anything to hinder you, colonel," Larry said dryly.

Eivazov snapped his fingers. "It's all amusing," he said. "In our country we would quickly deal with this Movement nonsense. You Americans with your pseudo-democracy, your labels without reality, your—"

Larry said wearily, "Please, Frol, I promise not to convert you if you promise not to convert me. Needless to say, my department isn't happy about your presence in this country. You'll be watched from now on. We've been busy with other matters...."

Here the Russian laughed.

"... Or we'd already have flushed you." He allowed his voice to go curious. "We've wondered about your interest in this phase of our internal affairs."

The Russian agent let his facade slip over farther, his heavy lips sneering. "We are interested in all phases of your antiquated socio-economic system, Mr. Woolford. In the present peaceful economic competition between East and West, we would simply loathe to see anything happen to your present culture." He hesitated deliberately. "If you can call it a culture."

Larry said, unprovoked, "If I understand you correctly, you are not in favor of the changes the Movement advocates."

The Russian shrugged hugely. "I doubt if they are possible of achievement. The organization is a sloppy one. Revolutionary? Nonsense," he scoffed. "They have no plans to change the government. No plans for overthrowing the regime. Ultimately, what this country needs is true Communism. This so-called Movement doesn't have that as its eventual goal. It is laughable."

Larry said, interestedly, "Then perhaps you'll tell me what little you've found out about the group."

"Why not?" The Russian pursed his lips. "They are composed of impractical idealists. Scientists, intellectuals, a few admitted scholars and even a few potential leaders. Their sabotage of your Department of Records was an amusing farce, but, frankly, I have been unable to discover the purpose of their interest in rockets. For a time I contemplated the possibility that they had a scheme to develop a nuclear bomb, and to explode it over Greater Washington in the belief that in the resulting confusion they might seize power. But, on the face of it their membership is incapable of such an effort."

"Their interest in rockets?" Larry said softly.

"Yes, as you've undoubtedly discovered, half the rocket technicians of your country seem to have joined with them. We got the tip through"—the Russian cleared his throat—"several of our converts who happen to be connected with your space efforts groups."

"Is that so?" Larry said. "I wondered what you thought about their interest in money."

It was the other's turn to look blank. "Money?" he said.

"That's right. Large quantities of money."

The Russian said, frowning, "I suppose most citizens in your capitalist countries are interested largely in money. One of your basic failings."

——————————————————-

Driving back to the office, Larry Woolford let it pile up on him.

Ernest Self had been a specialist in solid fuel for rockets. When Larry had questioned Professor Voss that worthy had particularly stressed his indignation at how Professor Goddard, the rocket pioneer, had been treated by his contemporaries. Franklin Nostrand had been employed as a technician on rocket research at Madison Air Laboratories. It was too darn much for coincidence.

And now something else that had been nagging away at the back of his mind suddenly came clear.

Susan Self had said that she and her father had seen the precision dancers at the New Roxy Theater in New York and later the Professor had said they were going to spend the money on chorus girls. Susan had got it wrong. The Rockettes—the precision chorus girls. The Professor had said they were going to spend the money on rockets, and Susan had misunderstood.

But billions of dollars expended on rockets? How? But, above all, to what end?

If he'd only been able to hold onto Susan, or her father; or to Voss or Nostrand, for that matter. Someone to work on. But each had slipped through his fingers.

Which brought something else up from his subconscious. Something which had been tugging at him.

At the office, Irene Day was packing her things as he entered. Packing as though she was leaving for good.

"What goes on?" Larry growled. "I'm going to be needing you. Things are coming to a head."

She said, a bit snippishly, Larry thought, "Miss Polk, in the Boss' office, said for you to see her as soon as you came in, Mr. Woolford."

"Oh?"

He made his way to LaVerne's office, his attention actually on the ideas churning in his mind.

She looked up when he entered.

Larry said, "The Boss wanted to see me?"

LaVerne ducked her head, as though embarrassed. "Not exactly, Larry."

He gestured with his thumb in the direction of his own cubicle office. "Irene just said you wanted me."

LaVerne looked up into his face. "The Boss and Mr. Foster, too, are boiling about your authorizing that Distelmayer man to bill this department for information he gave you. The Boss hit the roof. Something about the Senate Appropriations Committee getting down on him if it came out that we bought information from professional espionage agents."

Larry said, "It was information we needed, and Foster gave me the go ahead on locating Frol Eivazov. Maybe I'd better see the Boss."

LaVerne said, "I don't think he wants to see you, Larry. They're up to their ears in this Movement thing. It's in the papers now and nobody knows what to do next. The President is going to make a speech on TriD, and the Boss has to supply the information. His orders are for you to resume your vacation. To take a month off and then see him when you get back."

Larry sank down into a chair. "I see," he said, "And at that time he'll probably transfer me to janitor service."

"Larry," LaVerne said, almost impatiently, "why in the world didn't you take that job Walt Foster has now when the Boss offered it to you?"

"Because I'm stupid, I suppose," Larry said bitterly. "I thought I could do more working alone than at an administrative post tangled in red tape and bureaucratic routine."

She said, "Sorry, Larry." She sounded as though she meant it.

Larry stood up. "Well, tonight I'm going to hang one on, and tomorrow it's back to Florida." He said in a rush, "Look LaVerne, how about that date we've been talking about for six months or more?"

She looked up at him. "I can't stand vodka martinis."

"Neither can I," he said glumly.

"And I don't get a kick out of prancing around, a stuffed shirt among fellow stuffed shirts, at some goings-on that supposedly improves my culture status."

Larry said "At the house I have every known brand of drinkable, and a stack of ... what did you call it? ... corny music. We can mix our own drinks and dance all by ourselves."

She tucked her head to one side and looked at him suspiciously. "Are your intentions honorable?"

"We can even discuss that later," he said sourly.

She laughed. "It's a date, Larry."

——————————————————-

He picked her up after work, and they drove to his Brandywine auto-bungalow, largely quiet the whole way.

At one point she touched his hand with hers and said, "It'll work out, Larry."

"Yeah," he said sourly. "I've put ten years into ingratiating myself with the Boss. Now, overnight, he's got a new boy. I suppose there's some moral involved."

When they pulled up before his auto-bungalow, LaVerne whistled appreciatively. "Quite a neighborhood you're in."

He grunted. "A good address. What our friend Professor Voss would call one more status symbol, one more social-label. For it I pay about fifty per cent more rent than my budget can afford."

He ushered her inside and took her jacket. "Look," he said, indicating his living room with a sweep of hand. "See that volume of Klee reproductions there next to my reading chair? That proves I'm not a weird. Indicates my culture status. Actually, my appreciation of modern art doesn't go any further than the Impressionists. But don't tell anybody. See those books up on my shelves. Same thing. You'll find everything there that ought to be on the shelves of any ambitious young career man."

She looked at him from the side of her eyes. "You're really soured, Larry."

"Come along," he said. "I want to show you something."

He took her down the tiny elevator to his den.

"How hypocritical can you get?" he asked her. "This is where I really live. But I seldom bring anyone here. Wouldn't want to get a reputation as a weird. Sit down, LaVerne, I'll make a drink. How about a Sidecar?"

She sank onto the couch, kicked her shoes off and slipped her feet under her. "I'd love one," she said.

His back to her, he brought brandy and cointreau from his liquor cabinet, lemon and ice from the tiny refrigerator.

"What?" LaVerne said mockingly. "No auto-bar?"

"Upstairs with the rest of the status symbols," Larry grunted.

He put her drink before her and turned and went to the record player.

"In the way of corny music, how do you like that old-timer, Nat Cole?"

"King Cole? Love him," LaVerne said.

The strains of "For All We Know" penetrated the room.

Larry sat down across from her, finished half his drink in one swallow.

"I'm beginning to wonder whether or not this Movement doesn't have something," he said.

She didn't answer that. They sat in silence for a while, appreciating the drink. Nat Cole was singing "The Very Thought of You" now. Larry got up and made two more cocktails. This time he sat next to her. He leaned his head back on the couch and closed his eyes.

Finally he said softly, "When Steve Hackett and I were questioning Susan, there was only one other person who knew that we'd picked her up. There was only one person other than Steve and me who could have warned Ernest Self to make a getaway. Later on, there was only one person who could have warned Frank Nostrand so that he and the Professor could find a new hideout."

She said sleepily, "How long have you known about that, darling?"

"A while," Larry said, his own voice quiet. "I figured it out when I also decided how Susan Self was spirited out of the Greater Washington Hilton, before we had the time to question her further. Somebody who had access to tapes made of me while I was making phone calls cut out a section and dubbed in a voice so that Betsy Hughes, the Secret Service matron who was watching Susan, was fooled into believing it was I ordering the girl to be turned over to the two Movement members who came to get her."

LaVerne stirred comfortably and let her head sink onto his shoulder. "You're so warm and ... comfortable," she said.

Larry said softly, "What does the Movement expect to do with all that counterfeit money, LaVerne?"

She stirred against his shoulder, as though bothered by the need to talk. "Give it all away," she said. "Distribute it all over the country and destroy the nation's social currency."

It took him a long moment to assimilate that.

"What have the rockets to do with it?"

She stirred once again, as though wishing he'd be silent. "That's how it will be distributed. About twenty rockets, strategically placed, each with a warhead of a couple of tons of money. Fired to an altitude of a couple of hundred miles and then the money is spewed out. In falling, it will be distributed over cities and countryside, everywhere. Billions upon billions of dollars worth."

Larry said, so softly as hardly to be heard, "What will that accomplish?"

"Money is the greatest social-label of them all. The Professor believes that through this step the Movement will have accomplished its purpose. That people will be forced to utilize their judgment, rather than depend upon social-labels."

Larry didn't follow that, but he had no time to go further now. He said, still evenly soft, "And when is the Movement going to do this?"

La Verne moved comfortably. "The trucks go out to distribute the money tonight. The rockets are waiting. The firing will take place in a few days."

"And where is the Professor now?"

"Where the money and the trucks are hidden, darling. What difference does it make?" LaVerne said sleepily.

"And where is that?"

"At the Greater Washington Trucking Corporation. It's owned by one of the Movement's members."

He said. "There's a password. What is it?"

"Judgment."

Larry Woolford bounced to his feet. He looked down at her, then over at the phone. In three quick steps he was over to it. He grasped its wires and yanked them from the wall, silencing it. He slipped into the tiny elevator, locking the door to the den behind him.

As the door slid closed, her voice wailed, still sleepily husky, "Larry, darling, where are you—"

He ran down the walk of the house, vaulted into the car and snapped on its key. He slammed down the lift lever, kicked the thrust pedal and was thrown back against the seat by the acceleration.

Even while he was climbing, he flicked on the radio-phone, called Personal Service for the location of the Greater Washington Trucking Corporation.

Fifteen minutes later, he parked a block away from his destination, noting with satisfaction that it was still an hour or more to go until dark. His intuition, working doubletime now, told him that they'd probably wait until nightfall to start their money-laden trucks to rolling.

He hesitated momentarily before turning on the phone and dialing the Boss' home address.

When the other's face faded in, it failed to display pleasure when the caller's identity was established. His superior growled, "Confound it, Woolford, you know my privacy is to be respected. This phone is to be used only in extreme emergency."

"Yes, sir," Larry said briskly. "It's the Movement—"

The other's face darkened still further. "You're not on that assignment any longer, Woolford. Walter Foster has taken over and I'm sympathetic to his complaints that you've proven more a hindrance than anything else."

Larry ignored his words, "Sir, I've tracked them down. Professor Voss is at the Greater Washington Trucking Corporation garages here in the Alexandria section of town. Any moment now, they're going to start distribution of all that counterfeit money on some scatterbrain plan to disrupt the country's exchange system."

Suddenly alert, the department chief snapped, "Where are you, Woolford?"

"Outside the garages, sir. But I'm going in now."

"You stay where you are," the other snapped. "I'll have every department man and every Secret Service man in town over there within twenty minutes. You hang on. Those people are lunatics, and probably desperate."

Inwardly, Larry Woolford grinned. He wasn't going to lose this opportunity to finish up the job with him on top. He said flatly, "Sir, we can't chance it. They might escape. I'm going in!" He flicked off the set, dialed again and raised Sam Sokolski.

"Sam," he said, his voice clipped. "I've cornered the Movement's leader and am going in for the finish. Maybe some of you journalist boys better get on over here." He gave the other the address and flicked off before there were any questions.

——————————————————-

From the dash compartment he brought a heavy automatic, and checked the clip. He put it in his hip pocket and left the car and walked toward the garages. Time was running out now.

He strode into the only open door, without shift of pace. Two men were posted nearby, neither of them truckmen by appearance. They looked at him in surprise.

Larry clipped out, "The password is Judgment. I've got to see Professor Voss immediately."

One of them frowned questioningly, but the other was taken up with the urgency in Woolford's voice. He nodded with his head. "He's over there in the office."

Now ignoring them completely, Larry strode past the long rows of sealed delivery vans toward the office.

He pushed the door open, entered and closed it behind him.

Professor Peter Voss was seated at a paper-littered desk. There was a cot with an army blanket in a corner of the room, some soiled clothing and two or three dirty dishes on a tray. The room was being lived in, obviously.

At the agent's entry, the little man looked up and blinked in distress through his heavy lenses.

Larry snapped, "You're under arrest, Voss."

The professor was obviously dismayed, but he said in as vigorous a voice as he could muster, "Nonsense! On what charge?"

"Counterfeiting, among many. Your whole scheme has fallen apart, Voss. You and your Movement, so-called, are finished."

The professor's eyes darted, left, right. To Larry Woolford's surprise, the Movement's leader was alone in here. Undoubtedly, he was awaiting others, drivers of the trucks, technicians involved in the rockets, other subordinates. But right now he was alone.

If Woolford correctly diagnosed the situation, Voss was playing for time, waiting for the others. Good enough, so was Larry Woolford. Had the Professor only known it, a shout would have brought at least two followers and the government agent would have had his work cut out for him.

Woodford played along. "Just what is this fantastic scheme of yours for raining down money over half the country, Voss? The very insanity of it proves your whole outfit is composed of a bunch of nonconformist weirds."

The Professor was indignant—and stalling for time. He said, "Nonconformists is correct! He who conforms in an incompetent society is an incompetent himself."

Larry stood, his legs apart and hands on hips. He shook his head in simulated pity at the angry little man. "What's all this about raining money down over the country?"

"Don't you see?" the other said. "The perfect method for disrupting our present system of social-labels. With billions of dollars, perfect counterfeit, strewing the streets, the fields, the trees, available for anyone to pick up, all social currency becomes worthless. Utterly unusable. And it's no use to attempt to print more with another design, because we can duplicate it as well. Our experts are the world's best, we're not a group of sulking criminals but capable, trained, dedicated men.

"Very well! We will have made it absolutely impossible to have any form of mass-produced social currency."

Larry stared at him. "It would completely foul the whole business system! You'd have chaos!"

"At first. Private individuals, once the value of money was seen to be zero, would have lost the amount of cash they had on hand. But banks and such institutions would lose little. They have accurate records that show the actual values they held at the time our money rains down."

Larry was bewildered. "But what are you getting at? What do you expect to accomplish?"

The Professor, on his favorite subject, said triumphantly, "The only form of currency that can be used under these conditions is the personal check. It's not mass produced, and mass-production can't duplicate it. It's immune to the attack. Business has to go on, or people will starve—so personal checks will have to replace paper money. Credit cards and traveler's checks won't do—we can counterfeit them, too, and will, if necessary. Realize of course that hard money will still be valid, but it can't be utilized practically for any but small transactions. Try taking enough silver dollars to buy a refrigerator down to the store with you."

"But what's the purpose?" Larry demanded, flabbergasted.

"Isn't it obvious? Our whole Movement is devoted to the destruction of social-label judgments. It's all very well to say: You should not judge your fellow men but when it comes to accepting another man's personal check, friend, you damn well have to! The bum check artist might have a field day to begin with—but only to begin with."

Larry shook his head in exasperation. "You people are a bunch of anarchists," he accused.

"No," the Professor denied. "Absolutely not. We are the antithesis of the anarchist. The anarchist says, 'No man is capable of judging another.' We say, 'Each man must judge his fellow, must demand proper evaluation of him.' To judge a man by his clothes, the amount of money he owns, the car he drives, the neighborhood in which he lives, or the society he keeps, is out of the question in a vital culture."

Larry said sourly, "Well, whether or not you're right, Voss, you've lost. This place is surrounded. My men will be breaking in shortly."

Voss laughed at him. "Nonsense. All you've done is prevent us from accomplishing this portion of our program. What will you do after my arrest? You'll bring me to trial. Do you remember the Scopes' Monkey Trial back in the 1920s which became a world appreciated farce and made Tennessee a laughingstock? Well, just wait until you get me into court backed by my organization's resources. We'll bring home to every thinking person, not only in this country, but in the world, the fantastic qualities of our existing culture. Why, Mr.-Secret-Agent-of-Anti-Subversive-Activity you aren't doing me an injury by giving me the opportunity to have my day in court. You're doing me a favor. Newspapers, radios, TriD will give me the chance to expound my program in the home of every thinking person in the world."

There was a fiery dedication in the little man's eyes. "This will be my victory, not my defeat!"

There were sounds now, coming from the other rooms—the garages. Some shouts and scuffling. Faintly, Larry Woolford could hear Steve Hackett's voice.

He was staring at the Professor, his eyes narrower.

The Professor was on his feet. He said in defiant triumph, "You think that you'll win prestige and honor as a result of tracking the Movement down, don't you, Mr. Woolford? Well, let me tell you, you won't! In six months from now, Mr. Woolford, you'll be a laughingstock."

That did it.

Larry said, "You're under arrest. Turn around with your back to me."

The Professor snorted his contempt, turned his back and held up his hands, obviously expecting to be searched.

In a fluid motion, Larry Woolford drew his gun and fired twice. The other with no more than a grunt of surprise and pain, stumbled forward to his knees and then to the floor, his arms and legs akimbo.

The door broke open and Steve Hackett, gun in hand, burst in.

"Woolford!" he barked. "What's up?"

Larry indicated the body on the floor. "There you are, Steve," he said. "The head of the counterfeit ring. He was trying to escape. I had to shoot him."

Behind Steve Hackett crowded Ben Ruthenberg of the F.B.I. and behind him half a dozen others of various departments.

The Boss came pushing his way through.

He glared down at the Professor's body, then up at Larry Woolford.

"Good work, Lawrence," he said. "How did you bring it off?"

Larry replaced the gun in his holster and shrugged modestly. "The Polk girl gave me the final tip-off, sir. I gave her some Scop-Serum in a drink and she talked. Evidently, she was a member of the Movement."

The Boss was nodding wisely. "I've had my eye on her, Lawrence. An obvious weird. But we will have to suppress that Scop-Serum angle." He slapped his favorite field man on the arm jovially. "Well, boy, this means promotion, of course."

Larry grinned. "Thanks, sir. All in a day's work. I don't think we'll have much trouble with the remnants of this Movement thing. The pitch is to treat them as counterfeiters, not subversives. Try them for that. Their silly explanations of what they were going to do with the money will never be taken seriously." He looked down at the small corpse. "Particularly now that their kingpin is gone."

A new wave of agents, F.B.I. men and prisoners washed into the room and Steve Hackett and Larry were for a moment pushed back into a corner by themselves.

Steve looked at him strangely and said, "There's one thing I'd like to know: Did you really have to shoot him, Woolford?"

Larry brushed it off. "What's the difference? He was as weird as they come, wasn't he?"

THE END

Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse