"Well," Malone said. "Hello there, Lieutenant."
Lynch looked up, his face a mask of surprise. "Oh," he said. "It's you. Through with Kettleman?"
"I'm through," Malone said. "As if you didn't know." He looked at Lynch for a long minute, and then said, "Lieutenant..."
Lynch had gone right back to his papers. He looked up again with a bland expression. "Yes?"
"Lieutenant, how reliable is Kettleman?" Malone said.
Lynch shrugged. "He's always been pretty good with the kids, if that's what you mean. You know these social workers—I've never got much information out of him. He feels it's his duty to the kids—I don't know. Some such thing. Why do you ask?"
"Well," Malone said, "what he told me. Was he kidding me? Or does he know what he's talking about? Was what he said reasonably accurate?"
"How would I know?" Lynch said. "After all, you were down there alone, weren't you? I was up here working. If you'll tell me what he said, maybe I'll be able to tell you whether or not I think he was kidding."
Malone placed both his palms on the lieutenant's desk, mashing a couple of piles of papers. He leaned forward slowly, his eyes on Lynch's bland, innocent face. "Now look, Lynch," he said. "I like you. I really do. You're a good cop. You get things done."
"Well, thanks," Lynch said. "But I don't see what this has to do with—"
"I just don't want you trying to kid your buddy-boy," Malone said.
"Kid you?" Lynch said. "I don't get it."
"Come on, now," Malone said. "I know that room was bugged, just as well as you do. It was the sensible thing for you to pull, and you pulled it. You've got the whole thing recorded, haven't you?"
"Me?" Lynch said. "Why would I—"
"Oh, cut it out," Malone said impatiently. "Let's not play games, okay?"
There was a second of silence.
"All right," Lynch said. "So I recorded the conversation. Kill me. Crucify me. I'm stealing FBI secrets. I'm a spy secretly working for a foreign power. Take me out and electrocute me."
"I don't want to fight you," Malone said wearily. "So you've got the stuff recorded. That's your business."
"Sure," Malone said cheerfully. "As long as you don't try to use it."
"Now, Malone—" Lynch began.
"This is touchy stuff," Malone said. "We're going to have to take a lot of care in handling it. And I don't want you throwing raids all over the place and mixing everything up."
"Eventually," Malone said, "I'm going to need your help with these kids. But for right now, I want to handle this my way, without any interference."
"I wouldn't think of—"
"You wanted information," Malone said. "Fine. That's all right with me. You got the information, and that's okay too. But if you try to use it before I say the word, I'll—I'll talk to good old Uncle John Henry Fernack. And he'll help me out; he'll give you a refresher course on How To Be A Beat Cop. In Kew Gardens. It's nice and lonely out there now, Lynch, You'd love it."
"Malone," Lynch said tiredly.
"Don't give me any arguments," Malone said. "I don't want any arguments."
"I won't argue with you, Malone," Lynch said. "I've been trying to tell you something."
Malone stepped away from the desk. "All right," he said. "Go ahead."
Lynch took a deep breath. "Malone, I'm not trying to queer your pitch," he said. "If I were going to pull a raid, here's what I'd have to do: get my own cops together, then call the precinct that covers that old warehouse. We don't cover the warehouse from here, Malone, and we'd need the responsible precinct's aid in anything we did down there."
Malone said, "Well, all I—"
"Not only that," Lynch said. "I'd have to call Safe and Loft, and get them in on it. A warehouse raid would probably be their baby first of all. That means it takes this precinct, the warehouse precinct, and the Safe and Loft Squad, all together, to raid that warehouse. Malone, would I pull a raid at this stage, if I had to go through all that, without knowing what the hell I was going to find down there?"
"Oh," Malone said.
"If those kids can just appear and disappear at will," Lynch said, "I'm not going to pull a raid on them, and end up looking like a damn fool, until I've got some way of making sure they're there when the raid goes through."
Malone coughed gently. "Okay," he said at last. "Sorry."
"There's only one thing I want," Lynch said. "I want to be able to move as soon as possible."
"Well, sure," Malone said apologetically.
"And that means I'm going to have to be informed," Lynch said. "I want to know what's going on, as fast as possible."
Malone nodded gently. "Sure," he said. "I'll tell you everything that happens—as soon as I know myself. But right now, I haven't got a thing for you. All I have is a kind of theory, and it's pretty screwy."
He stopped. Lynch looked up at him. "How screwy can it get?" he said. "The facts are nutty enough."
"You have absolutely no idea," Malone assured him. "I'm not even saying a word about this, not until I prove it out one way or another. I'm not even thinking about it—not until it stops sounding so nutty to me."
"Okay, Malone," Lynch said. "I can see a piece of it, if no more. The Fueyo kid vanishes mysteriously—never mind all that about you getting him out of the interrogation room by some kind of confidential method. There isn't any confidential method. I know that better than you do."
"I had to say something, didn't I?" Malone asked apologetically.
"So the kid disappears," Lynch said, brushing Malone's question away with a wave of his hand. "So now I hear all this stuff from Kettleman. And it begins to add up. The kids can disappear somehow, and reappear some place else. Walk through walls?" He shrugged. "How should I know? But they can sure as hell do something like it."
"Something," Malone said. "Like I said, it sounds screwy."
"I don't like it," Lynch said.
Malone nodded. "Nobody likes it," he said. "But keep it under your hat. I'll give you everything I have—whenever I have anything. And by the way—"
"Yes?" Lynch said.
"Thanks for giving me and Kettleman a chance to talk," Malone said. "Even if you had reasons of your own."
"Oh," Lynch said. "You mean the recording."
"I was a little suspicious," Malone said. "I didn't think you'd give Kettleman to me without getting something for yourself."
"Would you?" Lynch said.
Malone shrugged. "I'm not crazy either," he said.
Lynch picked up a handful of papers. "I've got all this work to do," he said. "So I'll see you later."
"Okay," Malone said.
"And if you need my help, buddy-boy," Lynch said, "just yell. Right?"
"I'll yell," Malone said. "Don't worry about that. I'll yell loud enough to get myself heard in Space Station One."
The afternoon was bright and sunny, but it didn't match Malone's mood. He got a cab outside the precinct station and headed for 69th Street, dining off his nails en route. When he hit the FBI headquarters, he called Washington and got Burris on the line.
He made a full report to the FBI chief, including his wild theory and everything else that had happened. "And there was this notebook," he said, and reached into his jacket pocket for it.
The pocket was empty.
"What notebook?" Burris said.
Malone tried to remember if he'd left the book in his room. He couldn't quite recall. "This book I picked up," he said, and described it. "I'll send it on, or bring it in when the case is over."
"All right," Burris said.
Malone went on with his description of what had happened. When he'd finished, Burris heaved a great sigh.
"My goodness," he said. "Last year it was telepathic spies, and this year it's teleporting thieves. Malone, I hate to think about next year."
"I wish you hadn't said that," Malone said sadly.
Burris blinked. "Why?" he said.
"Oh, just because," Malone said. "I haven't even had time to think about next year yet. But I'll think about it now."
"Well, maybe it won't be so bad," Burris said.
Malone shook his head. "No, Chief," he said. "You're wrong. It'll be worse."
"This is bad enough," Burris said.
"It's a great vacation," Malone said.
"Please," Burris said. "Did I have any idea—"
"Yes," Malone said.
Burris' eyes closed. "All right, Malone," he said after a little pause. "Let's get back to the report. At least it explains the red Cadillac business. Sergeant Jukovsky was hit by a boy who vanished. Vanished. My God."
"I was hit by a boy who vanished, too," Malone said bitterly. "But of course I'm just an FBI agent. Expendable. Nobody cares about—"
"Don't say that, Malone," Burris said. "You're one of my most valuable agents."
Malone tried to stop himself from beaming, but he couldn't. "Well, Chief," he began, "I—"
"Vanishing boys," Burris muttered. "What are you going to do with them, Malone?"
"I was hoping you might have some kind of suggestion," Malone said.
"Well," Malone said, "I suppose I'll figure it out. When I catch them. But I did want something from you, Chief."
"Anything, Malone," Burris said. "Anything at all."
"I want you to get hold of Dr. O'Connor, out at Yucca Flats, if you can. He's the best psionics man Westinghouse has right now, and I might need him."
"If you say so," Burris said doubtfully.
"Well," Malone said, "these kids are teleports. And maybe there's some way to stop a teleport. Give him a good hard kick in the psi, for instance."
"In the what?"
"Never mind," Malone said savagely. "But if I'm going to get any information on what makes teleports tick, I'm going to have to get it from Dr. O'Connor. Right?"
"Right," Burris said.
"So get in touch with Dr. O'Connor," Malone said.
"I'll have him call you," Burris said. "Meanwhile—well, meanwhile just carry on, Malone. I've got every confidence in you."
"Thanks," Malone growled.
"If anybody can crack a case like this," Burris said, "it's you."
"I suppose it had better be," Malone said, and rang off.
Then he started to think. The notebook wasn't in his pockets. He checked every one, even the jacket pocket where he usually kept a handkerchief and nothing else. It wasn't anywhere on his person.
Had he left it in his room?
He thought about that for several minutes, and finally decided that he hadn't. He hadn't taken it out of his pocket, for one thing, and if it had fallen to the ground he couldn't have helped seeing it. Of course he'd put his wallet, keys, change, and other such items on the dresser, and then replaced them in his pockets in the morning. But he could remember how they'd looked on the dresser.
The notebook hadn't been there among them.
Now that he came to think of it, when had he seen the notebook last? He'd shown it to Lieutenant Lynch during the afternoon, and then he'd put it back in his pocket, and he hadn't looked for it again.
So it had to be somewhere in one of the bars he'd visited, or at the theater where he and Dorothy had seen The Hot Seat.
Proud of himself for this careful and complete job of deduction, he strolled out and, giving Boyd and the Agent-in-Charge one small smile each, to remember him by, he went into the sunlight, trying to decide which place to check first.
He settled on the theater because it was most probable. After all, people were always losing things in theaters. Besides, if he started at the theater, and found the notebook there, he could then go on to a bar to celebrate. If he found the notebook in a bar, he didn't much relish the idea of going on to an empty theater in the middle of the afternoon to celebrate.
Shaking his head over this flimsy structure of logic, he headed down to The Hot Seat. He banged on the lobby doors for a while without any good result, and finally leaned against one of the side doors, which opened. Malone fell through, recovered his balance, and found himself facing an old bewhiskered man with a dustpan, a broom, and a surprised expression.
"I'm looking for a notebook," Malone said.
"Try a stationery store, youngster," the old man said. "I thought I'd heard 'em all, but—"
"No," Malone said. "You don't understand."
"I don't got to understand," the old man said. "That's what's so restful about this here job. I just got to sweep up. I don't got to understand nothing. Good-bye."
"I'm looking for a notebook I lost here last night," Malone said desperately.
"Oh," the old man said. "Lost and Found. That's different. You come with me."
The old man led Malone in silence to a cave deep in the bowels of the theater, where he went behind a little desk, took up a pencil as if it were a club, held it poised over a sheet of grimy paper, and said, "Name?"
Malone said, "I just want to find a notebook."
"Got to give me your name, youngster," the old man said solemnly. "It's the rules here."
Malone sighed. "Kenneth Malone," he said. "And my address is—"
The old man, fiercely scribbling, looked up. "Wait a minute, can't you?" he said. "I ain't through 'Kenneth' yet." He wrote on, and finally said, "Address?"
"Hotel New Yorker," Malone said. "In Manhattan?" the old man said. "That's right," Malone said wearily.
"Ah," the old man said. "Tourist, ain't you? Tourists is always losing things. Once it was a big dog. Don't know yet how a dog got into this here theater. Had to feed it for four days before somebody showed up to claim it. Fierce-looking animal. Part bloodhound, part water spaniel."
Fascinated in spite of himself, Malone said, "That's impossible."
"Nothing's impossible," the old man said. "Work for a theater long enough and you find that out. Part bloodhound, I said, and part water spaniel. Should have seen that dog before you start talking about impossibilities. Hell of a strange-looking beast. And then there was the time—"
"About the notebook," Malone said.
"Notebook?" the old man said.
"I lost a notebook," Malone said. "I was hoping that—"
"Description?" the old man said, and poised his pencil again.
Malone heaved a great sigh. "Black plastic," he said. "About so big." He made motions with his hands. "No names or initials on it. But the first page had my name written on it, along with Lieutenant Peter Lynch."
"Who's he?" the old man said.
"He's a cop," Malone said.
"My, my," the old man said. "Valuable notebook, with a cop's name in it and all. You a cop, youngster?"
Malone shook his head.
"Too bad," the old man said obscurely. "I like cops." He stood up. "You said black plastic? Black?"
"That's right," Malone said. "Do you have it here?"
"Got no notebooks at all here, youngster," the old man said. "Empty billfold, three hats, a couple of coats, and some pencils. And an umbrella. No dogs tonight, youngster, and no notebooks."
"Oh," Malone said. "Well—wait a minute."
"What is it, youngster?" the old man said. "I'm busy this time of day. Got to sweep and clean. Got work to do. Not like you tourists."
With difficulty, Malone leashed his temper. "Why did I have to describe the notebook?" he said. "You haven't got any notebooks at all."
"That's right," the old man said cheerfully.
"But you made me describe—"
"That's the rules," the old man said. "And I ain't about to go against the rules. Not for no tourist." He put the pencil down and rose. "Wish you were a cop," he said. "I never met a cop. They don't lose things like people do."
Making a mental note to call up later and talk to the manager, if the notebook hadn't turned up in the meantime, Malone went off to find the bars he had stopped in before the theater.
Saving Topp's for last, he started at the Ad Lib, where a surprised bald-headed man told him they hadn't found a notebook anywhere in the bar for something like six weeks. "Now if you'd been looking for umbrellas," he said, "we could have accommodated you. Got over ten umbrellas downstairs, waiting for their owners. I wonder why people lose so many umbrellas?"
"Maybe they hate rain," Malone said.
"I don't know," the bald man said. "I'm sort of a psychologist—you know, a judge of people. I think it's an unconscious protest against the fetters of a society which is slowly strangling them by—"
Malone said good-bye in a hurry and left. His next stop was the Xochitl, the Mexican bar on 46th Street. He greeted the bartender warmly.
"Ah," the bartender told him. "You come back. We look for you."
"Look for me?" Malone said. "You mean you found my notebook?"
"Notesbook?" the bartender said.
"A little black plastic book," Malone said, making motions, "about so big. And it—"
"Not find," the bartender said. "You lose him?"
"Sure I lost him," Malone said. "I mean it. Would I be looking for it if I hadn't lost it?"
"Who knows?" the bartender said, and shrugged.
"But you said you were looking for me," Malone said. "What about?"
"Oh," the bartender said. "I only say that. Make customer feel good, think we miss him. Customers like, so we do. What your name?"
"Pizarro," Malone said disgustedly, and went away.
The last stop was Topp's. Well, he had to find the notebook there. It was the only place the notebook could be. That was logic, and Malone was proud of it. He walked into Topp's, trying to remember the bartender's name, and found it just as he walked into the bar.
"Hello, Wally," he said gaily.
The bartender stared at him. "I'm not Wally," he said. "Wally's the night barman. My name's Ray."
"Oh," Malone said, feeling deflated. "Well, I've come about a notebook."
"Yes, sir?" Ray said.
"I lost the notebook here yesterday evening, between six and eight. If you'll just take me to the Lost and Found—"
"One moment, sir," Ray said, and left him standing at the bar, all alone.
In a few seconds he was back. "I didn't see the notebook myself, sir," he said. "But if Wally picked it up, he'd have turned it over to the maitre d'. Perhaps you'd like to check with him."
"Sure," Malone said. The daytime maitre d' turned out to be a shortish, heavy-set man with large blue eyes, a silver mane, and a thin, pencil-line mustache. He was addressed, for no reason Malone was able to discover, as BeeBee.
Ray introduced them. "This gentleman wants to know about a notebook," he told BeeBee.
"Notebook?" BeeBee said.
Malone explained at length. BeeBee nodded in an understanding fashion for some moments and, when Malone had finished, disappeared in search of the Lost and Found. He came back rather quickly, with the disturbing news that no notebook was anywhere in the place.
"It's got to be here," Malone said.
"Well," BeeBee said, "it isn't. Maybe you left it some place else. Maybe it's home now."
"It isn't," Malone said. "And I've tried every place else."
"New York's a big city, Mr. Malone," BeeBee said.
Malone sighed. "I've tried every place I've been. The notebook couldn't be somewhere I haven't been. A rolling stone follows its owner." He thought about that. It didn't seem to mean anything, but maybe it had. There was no way to tell for sure.
He went back to the bar to think things over and figure out his next move. A bourbon and soda while thinking seemed the obvious order, and Ray bustled off to get it.
Had he left the notebook on the street somewhere, just dropping it by accident? Malone couldn't quite see that happening. It was, of course, possible; but the possibility was so remote that he decided to try and think of everything else first. There was Dorothy, for instance.
Had he got stewed enough so that he'd showed Dorothy the notebook?
He didn't remember doing it, and he didn't quite see why he would have. Most of the evening was more or less clear in his mind; he hadn't apparently, forgotten any other details, either.
All the same, it was an idea. He decided to give the girl a call and find out for sure. Maybe she remembered something that would help him, anyway.
He took the drink from Ray and slid off the bar stool. Two steps away, he remembered one more little fact.
He didn't have her number, and he didn't know anything about where she lived, except that it could be reached by subway. That, Malone told himself morosely, limited things nicely to the five boroughs of New York.
And she said she was living with her aunt. Would she have a phone listing under her own name? Or would the listing be under her aunt's name, which he also didn't know?
At any rate, he could check listings under Dorothy Francis, he told himself.
He did so.
There were lots and lots of people named Dorothy Francis, in Manhattan and in all the other boroughs.
Malone went back to the bar to think some more. He was on his second bourbon and soda, still thinking but without any new ideas, when BeeBee tapped him gently on the shoulder.
"Pardon me," the maitre d' said, "but are you English?"
"Am I what?" Malone said, spilling a little of his drink on the bar.
"Are you English?" BeeBee said.
"Oh," Malone said. "No. Irish. Very Irish."
"That's nice," BeeBee said.
Malone stared at him. "I think it's fine," he said, "but I'd love to know why you asked me."
"Well," BeeBee said, "I knew you couldn't be American. Not after the phone call. You don't have to hide your nationality here; we're quite accustomed to foreign visitors. And we don't have special prices for tourists."
Malone waited two breaths. "Will you please tell me," he said slowly, "what it is you're talking about?"
"Certainly," BeeBee said with aplomb. "There's a call for you in the upstairs booth. A long-distance call, personal."
"Oh," Malone said. "Who'd know I was—" He stopped, thinking hard. There was no way for anybody in the world to know he was in Topp's. Therefore, nobody could be calling him. "They've got the wrong name," he said decisively.
"Oh, no," BeeBee said. "I heard them quite distinctly. You are Sir Kenneth Malone, aren't you?"
Malone gaped for one long second, and then his mind caught up with the facts. "Oh," he said. "Sure." He raced upstairs to the phone booth, said, "This is Sir Kenneth Malone," into the blank screen, and waited.
After a while an operator said, "Person-to-person call, Sir Kenneth, from Yucca Flats. Will you take this call?"
"I'll take it," Malone said. A face appeared on the screen, and Malone knew he was right. He knew exactly how he'd been located, and by whom.
Looking only at the face in the screen, it might have been thought that the woman who appeared there was somebody's grandmother, kindly, red-cheeked, and twinkle-eyed. Perhaps that wasn't the only stereotype; she could have been an old-maid schoolteacher, one of the kindly schoolteachers who taught, once upon a time that never was, in the little red schoolhouses of the dim past. The face positively radiated kindliness, and friendship, and peace.
But if the face was the face of a sentimental dream, the garb was the garb of royalty. Somebody's grandmother was on her way to a costume party. She wore the full court costume of the days of Queen Elizabeth I, complete with brocaded velvet gown, wide ruff collar, and bejeweled skullcap.
She was, Malone knew, completely insane.
Like all the other telepaths Malone and the rest of the FBI had found during their work in uncovering a telepathic spy, she had been located in an insane asylum. Months of extensive psychotherapy, including all the newest techniques and some so old that psychiatrists were a little afraid to use them, had done absolutely nothing to shake the firm conviction in the mind of Miss Rose Thompson.
She was, she insisted, Elizabeth Tudor, rightful Queen of England.
She claimed she was immortal, which was not true. She also claimed to be a telepath. This was perfectly accurate. It had been her help that had enabled Malone to find the telepathic spy, and a grateful government had rewarded her.
It had given her a special expense allotment for life, covering the clothing she wore, and the style in which she lived. Rooms had been set aside for her at Yucca Flats, and she held court there, sometimes being treated by psychiatrists and sometimes helping Dr. Thomas O'Connor in his experiments and in the development of new psionic machines.
She was probably the happiest psychopath on Earth.
Malone stared at her. For a second he could think of nothing to say but, "My God." He said it.
"Not at all, Sir Kenneth," the little old lady said. "Your Queen."
Malone took a deep breath. "Good afternoon, Your Majesty," he said.
"Good afternoon, Sir Kenneth," she said, and waited. After a second Malone figured out what she was waiting for.
He inclined his head in as courtly a bow as he could manage over a visiphone. "I am deeply honored," he said, "that Your Majesty has called on me. Is there any way in which I might be of service?"
"Oh, goodness me, no," said the little old lady. "I don't need a thing. They do one very well here in Yucca Flats. You must come out soon and see my new throne room. I've had the decorations done by—but I can see you're not interested in that, Sir Kenneth."
"But—" Malone realized it was useless to argue with the old lady. She was telepathic, and knew exactly what he was thinking. That, after all, was how he had been located; she had mentally "hunted" for him until she found him.
"I'll tell you why, Sir Kenneth," the little old lady said. "I'm worried about you."
"Worried? About me, Your Majesty?"
"Certainly," the little old lady said, inclining her head just the proper number of degrees, and raising it again. "You, Sir Kenneth, and that silly little notebook you lost. You've been stewing about it for the last hour."
It was obvious that, for reasons of her own, the Queen had seen fit to look into Malone's mind. She'd found him worrying, and called him about it. It was, Malone thought, sweet of her in a way. But it was also just a bit disconcerting.
He was perfectly well aware that the Queen could read his mind at any distance. But unless something reminded him of the fact, he didn't have to think about it.
And he didn't like to think about it.
"Don't be disturbed," the Queen said. "Please. I only want to help you, Sir Kenneth; you know that."
"Well, of course I do," Malone said. "But—"
"Heavens to Betsy," she said. "Sir Kenneth, what kind of a detective are you?"
"What?" Malone said, and added at once, "Your Majesty." He knew perfectly well, of course, that Miss Thompson was not Queen Elizabeth I—and he knew that Miss Thompson knew what he thought.
But she didn't mind. Politeness, she held, was the act of being pleasant on the surface, no matter what a person really thought. People were polite to their bosses, she pointed out, even though they were perfectly sure that they could do a better job than the bosses were doing.
So she insisted on the surface pretense that Malone was going through, treating her like a Queen.
The psychiatrists had called her delusion a beautifully rationalized one. As far as Malone was concerned, it made more sense than most of real life.
"That's very nice of you, Sir Kenneth," the Queen said. "But I ask you again, what kind of detective are you? Haven't you got any common sense at all?"
Malone hated to admit it, but he had always had just that suspicion. After all, he wasn't a very good detective. He was just lucky. His luck had enabled him to break a lot of tough cases. But some day people would find out, and then—
"Well," the Queen said, "at the very least you ought to act like a detective." She sniffed audibly. "Sir Kenneth, I'm ashamed that a member of my own FBI can't do any better than you're doing now."
Malone blinked into the screen. He did feel ashamed in a vague sort of way, and he was willing to admit it. But he did feel, wistfully, that it would be nice to know just what he was being ashamed of. "Have I been missing something?" he said.
"Outside of the obvious," the Queen said, "that you've been missing your notebook—or rather Mike Fueyo's notebook—"
"Yes?" Malone said.
"You certainly have," the Queen said. "Don't you see what happened to that notebook? You've been missing the only possible explanation."
"But there isn't any," Malone said. "Unless Miss Francis has it."
Her Majesty gave him a bright smile. "There!" she said.
"There, what?" Malone said.
"I knew you could do it," the Queen said. "All you had to do was apply your intelligence, and you'd come up with just the fact you needed."
"What fact?" Malone said.
"That Miss Francis has your notebook," the Queen said. "You just told me."
"All right," Malone said, and stopped and took a deep breath. "My God," he said after a pause. "What is that supposed to mean? Did I give it to her after all?"
"No," the Queen said.
"Did I lose it, and did she pick it up?"
"No," the Queen said.
"My God," Malone said again. "All right. I give up. Is this Twenty Questions?"
"Sir Kenneth!" the Queen said. "What a way to talk to your Queen!"
Malone took another breath. "I'm sorry," he muttered. "But—"
"Yes, I know," the Queen said sympathetically. "You're upset. But you didn't give Miss Francis the notebook, and she didn't find it after you'd lost it."
"Then—" Malone stared. "She stole it. She stole it from me."
"I imagine she took it right from your jacket pocket," the Queen said. "Now, if you'd only wear proper clothing, and a proper pouch at your belt—"
"I'd be stared at," Malone said. "In court clothing."
"No one in New York would stare at you," the Queen said. "They'd think it was what they call an advertising stunt."
"Anyhow," Malone said, "I wasn't wearing court clothing. So that made it easy for her to steal the notebook. But why, for God's sake? Why?"
"Because," the Queen said, "she needed it."
"Needed it?" Malone shrieked.
"Please, Sir Kenneth," the Queen said. "Don't talk to your Sovereign in that manner. And I do wish you'd stop thinking of that girl as Dorothy Francis. She isn't at all, you know."
"No," Malone said. "I don't know. If she isn't Dorothy Francis, who in hell is she?"
"Don't swear, Sir Kenneth," the Queen said. "She's Dorothea Francisca Fueyo, if you want to know."
Malone gulped. "Then she's—"
"That's right," the Queen said. "She's little Miguel Fueyo's older sister."
Malone put in a great deal of time, he imagined, just staring at the face of the little old lady on the screen. At last he spoke. "My God," he said. "Her name is Fueyo. I'll be damned."
"I've told you," the Queen said with some asperity, "not to swear, Sir Kenneth."
"I know," Malone said. "But—"
"You're excited," the Queen said. "You're stunned. Goodness, you don't need to tell me that, Sir Kenneth. I know."
"But she's—" Malone discovered that he couldn't talk. He swallowed a couple of times and then went on. "She's Mike Fueyo's sister."
"That's exactly right, Sir Kenneth," the Queen said. "That's just what I told you."
"Then she swiped the book to protect her little brother," Malone said. "Oh, boy."
"Exactly, Sir Kenneth," the Queen said.
"And she doesn't care about me at all," Malone said. "I mean, she only went out with me because I was me. Malone. And she wanted the notebook. That was all there was to it." He added an expletive. The Queen frowned, but said nothing about it.
"I wouldn't say that if I were you," she went on. "Quite the contrary. She does like you, you know. And she thinks you're a very nice person." The Queen beamed. "You are, you know," she said.
"Oh," Malone said uncomfortably. "Sure."
"You don't have to think that she merely went out with you because of her brother's notebook," the Queen said. "But she does have a strong sense of loyalty—and he is—her younger brother, after all."
"He sure is," Malone said. "He's a great kid, little Mike."
"You see," the Queen continued imperturbably, "Mike told her about losing the notebook the other night—when he struck you."
"When he struck me," Malone said. "Oh, yes. He struck me, all right."
"He guessed that you must have it when you started asking questions about the Silent Spooks, you see," the Queen said. "That was the only way you could have found out about him—unless you were telepathic. Which, of course, you're not."
"No," Malone said.
"Now, understand me," the Queen said. "I do not think that his striking you was a very nice act."
"I don't either," Malone said. "It hurt like—it hurt quite a lot."
"Certainly," the Queen said. "But he didn't hurt the car any, and he didn't want to. He just wanted to ride around in it for a while."
"He likes red Cadillacs," Malone said.
"Oh, yes," the Queen said. "He thinks they're wonderful."
"Good for him," Malone said sourly.
"Well, now," the Queen said. "You just go right on over to her house. Of course she doesn't live with an aunt."
"No," Malone said. "She lives with Mike and his mother."
"Why not?" the Queen said. "She's part of the family."
Malone nodded silently.
"She'll give you the book, Sir Kenneth. I just know that she will. And I want you to be very nice to her when you ask for it. She's a very nice girl, you know."
"She's a swell girl," Malone said morosely. "And I'll—hey. Wait a minute."
"Yes, Sir Kenneth?"
"How come you can read her thoughts?" Malone said. "And Mike's? I thought you had to know somebody pretty well before you could read them at a distance like this. Do you? Know them, I mean."
"Oh, no," the Queen said. "But I can read you, of course." Malone could see that the Queen was trying very hard not to look proud of herself. "And last night," she went on, "you two were—well, Sir Kenneth, you had a real rapport with each other. My goodness, yes."
"Well," Malone said, "we—"
"Don't explain, Sir Kenneth," the Queen said. "It really isn't necessary; I thought it was very sweet. And, in any case, I can pick her up now. Because of that rapport. Not quite as well as I can pick you up, but enough to get the strong surface thoughts."
"Oh," Malone said. "But Mike—"
"I can't pick him up at all, this far away," the Queen said. "There is just a faint touch of him, though, through the girl. But all I know about him is what she thinks." She smiled gently. "He's a nice boy, basically," she said.
"Sure he is," Malone said. "He's got a nice blackjack, too—basically." He grimaced. "Were you reading my mind all last night?" he said.
"Well," the Queen said, "no. Toward morning you were getting so fuzzy I just didn't bother."
"I can understand that," Malone said. "I nearly didn't bother myself."
The queen nodded. "But toward afternoon," she said, "I didn't have anything to do, so I just listened in. You do have such a nice mind, Sir Kenneth. So refreshing and different. Especially when you're in love."
Malone blushed quietly.
"Oh, I know," the Queen said. "You'd much rather think of yourself as a sort of apprentice lecher, a kind of cynical Don Juan, but—"
"I know," Malone said. "Don't tell me about it. All right?"
"Of course, Sir Kenneth," the Queen said, "if you wish it."
"Basically, I'm a nice boy," Malone said. "Sure I am." He paused. "Do you have any more pertinent information, Your Majesty?"
"Not right now," the Queen admitted. "But if I do, I'll let you know." She giggled. "You know, I had to argue awfully hard with Dr. Hatterer to get to use the telephone," she said.
"I'll bet," Malone said.
"But I did manage," she said, and winked. "I won't have that sort of trouble again."
Malone wondered briefly what dark secret Dr. Hatterer had, that Her Majesty had discovered in his mind and used to blackmail him with. At last he decided that it was probably none of his business, and didn't matter too much anyway.
"Quite right, Sir Kenneth," the Queen said. "And good bye for now."
"Good-bye, Your Majesty," Malone said. He bowed again, and flipped off the phone. Bowing in a phone booth wasn't the easiest thing in the world to do, he thought to himself. But somehow he had managed it.
He reached into his pocket, half-convinced for a moment that it was an Elizabethan belt-pouch. Talks with Her Majesty always had that effect; after a time, Malone came to believe in the strange, bright world. But he shook off the lingering effects of her psychosis, fished out some coins and thought for a minute.
So Dorothy—Dorothea—had lifted the notebook. That was some help, certainly. It let him know something more about the enemy he was facing. But it wasn't really a lot of help.
What did he do now?
Her Majesty had suggested going to the Fueyo house, collaring the girl (but treating her nicely, Malone reminded himself) and demanding the book back. She'd even said he would get the book back, and since she knew some of what went on in Dorothea Fueyo's mind, she was probably right.
But what good was that going to do him?
He knew everything that was in the book. Getting it back was something that could wait. It didn't sound particularly profitable, and it didn't even sound like fun.
What he needed was a next move. He thought for a minute, dropped the coins into the phone and dialed the number of the Police Commissioner's office. After a brief argument with a secretary, he had Fernack on the phone. And this time, Malone told himself, he was going to be polite.
"Good afternoon, John Henry," he said sunnily, when the commissioner's face was finally on the screen. "Can you get me some more information?"
Fernack stared at him sourly. "Depends," he said.
"On what?" Malone said, telling himself he wasn't going to get irritated, and knowing perfectly well that he was lying.
"On what kind of information you want," Fernack said.
"Well," Malone said, "there's a warehouse I want to know some more about. Who the owner is, for one thing, and—"
Fernack nodded. "I've got it," he said. He fished around on his desk, and brought up a sheet of paper. He held it up to the screen while Malone copied off the name and address. "Lieutenant Lynch told me all about it."
"Lynch?" Malone said. "But he—"
"Lynch works for me, Malone," Fernack said. "Remember that."
"But he said he'd—"
"He said he wouldn't do anything, and he won't," Fernack said. "He just reported it to me for my action. He knew I was working with you, Malone. And I am his boss, remember."
"Great," Malone said. "Now, John Henry—"
"Hold it, Malone," Fernack said. "I'd like a little information too, you know. I'd like to know just what the hell is going on, if it isn't too much trouble."
"It's not that, John Henry," Malone said earnestly. "Really. It's just that I—"
"All this about vanishing boys," Fernack said. "Disappearing into thin air. All this nonsense."
"It isn't nonsense," Malone said.
"All right," Fernack said indulgently. "Boys disappear every day like that. Sure they do." He leaned toward the screen and his voice was as hard as his face. "Malone, are these kids mixed up with those impossible robberies you had me looking up?"
"Well," Malone said, "I think so. But I doubt if you could prove it."
Fernack's face had begun its slow climb toward purple again. "Malone," he said, "if you're suppressing evidence, even if you are the FBI, I'll—"
"I'm not suppressing any evidence," Malone said. "I don't think you could prove a connection. I don't think I could prove a connection. I don't think anybody could—not right now."
Fernack leaned back, apparently mollified.
"John Henry," Malone said, "I want to ask you to keep your hands off this case. To let me handle it my way."
Fernack nodded absently. "Sure, Malone," he said.
"I said sure," Fernack said. "Isn't that what you wanted?"
"Well, yes," Malone said, "but—"
Fernack leaned all the way back in his chair, his face a mask of disappointment and frustration. "Malone," he said, "I wish I'd never heard of this case. I wish I'd been retired or died before it ever came up. I've been a police officer in New York for a long time, and I wish this case had waited a few more years to happen."
He stopped. Malone leaned against the back wall of the phone booth and lit a cigarette.
"Andy Burris called me less than half an hour ago," Fernack said.
"Oh," Malone said.
"That's right," Fernack said. "Good old Burris of the FBI. And he told me this was a National Security case. National Security! It's your baby, Malone, because Burris wants it that way." He snorted. "So don't worry about me," he said. "I'm just here to co-operate. The patriotic, loyal, dumb slave of a grateful government."
Malone blew out a plume of smoke. "You know, John Henry," he said, "you might have made a good FBI man yourself. You've got the right attitude."
"Never mind the jokes," Fernack said bitterly.
"Okay," Malone said. "But tell me, did you actually make arrangements for me to get into that warehouse? I suppose you know that's what I want."
"I guessed that much," Fernack said. "I haven't made any arrangements at all yet, but I will. I'll have Safe and Loft get the keys, and a full set of floor plans to the place while they're at it. Will that do, Your Majesty?"
Malone choked on his smoke and shot a quick look over his shoulder. There was nothing there but the wall of the booth. Queen Elizabeth I was nowhere in evidence. Then he realized that Fernack had been talking to him.
"Don't do that," he said.
"What?" Fernack said.
Malone realized in one awful second how strange the explanation was going to sound. Could he say that he thought he'd been mistaken for an old friend of his, Elizabeth Tudor? Could he say that he'd just had a call from her?
In the end he merely said, "Nothing," and let it go at that.
"Well, anyhow," Fernack said, "do you want anything else?"
"Not right now," Malone said. "I'll let you know, though And thanks, John Henry. No matter why you're doing this, thanks."
"I don't deserve 'em," Fernack muttered. "And I hope you get caught in some kind of deadfall and have to come screaming to the cops."
That, Malone reflected, was the second time a cop had suggested his yelling if he got into trouble. Hadn't the police force ever heard of telephones?
He said good-bye and flipped off.
Then he stared at the screen for a little while, as his cigarette burned down between his fingers. At last he put the cigarette out and went downstairs again to the bar.
If he had to do some heavy thinking, he told himself, there was absolutely no reason why he couldn't enjoy himself a little while doing it.
The evening rush had begun, and Malone found himself a stool simply by slipping into one while a drinker's back was turned. Once ensconced, he huddled himself up like an old drunk, thus effectively cutting himself off from interruptions, and lit another cigarette. Ray was down at the other end of the bar, chatting with a red-headed woman and her pale, bald escort. Malone sighed and set himself to the job of serious, constructive thinking.
How, he asked himself, do you go about catching a person who can vanish away like so much smoke?
Well, Malone could think of one solution, but it was pretty bloody.
Nailing the kids to a wall would probably work, but he couldn't say much else for it. There had to be another way out. For some reason, Malone just couldn't see himself with a mouthful of nails, a hammer, and a teen-ager.
It sounded just a little too messy.
Then, of course, there were handcuffs.
That sounded a little better. The trouble was that Malone simply didn't have enough information, and knew it. Obviously, the kids could carry stuff with them when they teleported; the stuff they stole proved that. And their clothes, Malone added. Apparently the kids didn't arrive at wherever they went stark staring naked.
But how close to a teleport did the things he carried have to be?
In other words, Malone thought, if you put handcuffs on a teleport, would the handcuffs vanish when the teleport did? And did that include the part of the cuff you were holding?
What happened if you snapped half the cuff around your own wrist first? Did you go along with the teleport? Or did your wrist go, while you stayed behind and wondered how long it would take to bleed to death?
All the questions were intriguing ones. Malone sighed, wishing he knew the answer to even one of them.
It was somewhat comforting to think that he'd managed to progress a little, anyway. The kids hadn't meant anybody to find out about them; but Malone had found out about them, and alerted all the cops in town, as well as the rest of the FBI. He knew just who they were, and where they lived, and how they performed the "miracles" they performed.
Anyhow, he knew something about that last item.
He even knew who had his notebook.
He tabled that thought, and went back to feeling victorious. Within a few seconds, the sense of achievement was gone, and futility had come in its place. After all, he still didn't know how to catch the kids, did he?
He thought about handcuffs some more and then gave up. He'd just have to try it and see how it worked. And if the teleports took his wrist away he'd—he'd go after them and make them give it back.
Sure he would.
That reminded him of the notebook again, and since the thing was being so persistent, he decided he might as well pay some attention to it.
Dorothea had the notebook. Malone tried to see himself barging in on her and asking for it, and he didn't care for the picture at all—no matter how Good Queen Bess felt about it.
After all, she thought Mike Fueyo was basically a nice kid.
So what did she know?
He closed his eyes. There he was, in the Fueyo apartment, talking to Dorothea.
"Dorothea," he muttered. "You filched my notebook."
That didn't sound very effective. And besides, it wasn't really his notebook. He tried again.
"Dorothea, you pinched your brother's notebook."
Now, for some reason, it sounded like something covered by the Vice Squad. It sounded terrible. But there were other ways of saying the same thing.
"Dorothea," he muttered, "you borrowed your brother's notebook."
That was too patronizing. Malone told himself that he sounded like a character straight out of 3-D screens, and settled himself gamely for another try.
"Dorothea, you have your brother's notebook."
To which the obvious answer was, "Yes, I do, and so what?"
Or possibly, "How do you know?"
And Malone thought about answering that one. "Queen Elizabeth told me," was the literal truth, but somehow it didn't sound like it. And he couldn't find another answer to give the girl.
"Dorothea," he said, and a voice from nowhere added:
"Will you have another drink?"
"Damn it," Malone exploded, "that's not the question. Drinks have nothing to do with notebooks. It's notebooks I'm after. Can't you understand..." Belatedly, he looked up.
There was Ray, the barman. "Oh," he said.
"I just came over," Ray said. "And I figured if you couldn't find your notebook, maybe you'd like a drink. So long as you're here."
"Ray," Malone said with feeling, "you are an eminently reasonable fellow. I accept your solution. Nay, more. I endorse your solution. Wholeheartedly."
Ray went off to mix, and Malone stared after him happily. This was really a nice place, he reflected; almost as nice as the City Hall Bar in Chicago, where he'd gone long ago with his father.
But he tore his mind away from the happy past, and concentrated instead on the miserable present. He decided for the last time that he was not going to ask Dorothea for the book—not just yet, anyhow. After all, it wasn't as if he needed the book; he knew his own name, and he knew Lynch's name, and he knew the names on the second page. And he didn't see any particular need for a picture of a red Cadillac, no matter how nicely colored it was.
So, he asked himself, why embarrass everybody by trying to get it back?
Of course, it was technically a crime to pick pockets, and that went double or triple for the pockets of FBI agents. But Malone told himself that he didn't feel like pressing charges, anyhow. And Dorothy probably didn't make a habit of pocket-picking.
He sighed and glanced at his watch. It was fifteen minutes of six.
Now he knew what his next move was going to be.
He was going to go back to his hotel and change his clothes.
That is, he amended, as soon as he finished the drink that Ray was setting up in front of him.
By the time Malone reached the Hotel New Yorker it was six-twenty. Malone hadn't reckoned with New York's rush-hour traffic, and, after seeing it, he still didn't believe it. Finding a cab had been impossible, and he had started for the subway, hoping that he wouldn't get lost and end up somewhere in Brooklyn.
But one look at the shrieking mob trying to sardine itself into the Seventh Avenue subway entrance had convinced him it was better to walk. Bucking the street crowds was bad enough. Bucking the subway crowds was something Malone didn't even want to think about.
He let himself into his room, and was taking off his shoes with a grateful sigh when there was a rap on the door of the bathroom that connected his room with Boyd's. Malone padded over to the door, his shoes in one hand. "Tom?" he said.
"You are expecting maybe Titus Moody?" Boyd called.
"Okay," Malone said. "Come on in."
Boyd pushed open the door. He was stripped to the waist, a state of dress which showed the largest expanse of chest Malone had ever seen, and he was carrying the small scissors which he used to trim his Henry VIII beard. He stabbed the scissors toward Malone, who shuffled back hurriedly.
"Listen," Boyd said. "Did you call the office after you left this afternoon?"
"No," Malone admitted. "Why? What happened?"
"There was a call for you," Boyd said. "Long distance, just before I left at five. I came on back to the hotel and waited until I heard you come in. Thought you might want to know about it."
"I do, I guess," Malone said. "Who from?" Looking at Boyd, a modern-day Henry VIII, the association was too obvious to be missed. Malone thought of Good Queen Bess, and wondered why she was calling him again.
And—more surprising—why she'd called him at FBI headquarters, when she must have known that he wasn't there.
"Dr. O'Connor," Boyd said.
"Oh," Malone said, somewhat relieved. "At Yucca Flats."
Boyd nodded. "Right," he said.
"You're to call operator nine."
"Thanks." Malone went over to the phone, remembered his shoes and put them down carefully on the floor. "Anything else of importance?" he asked.
"On the Cadillacs," Boyd said. "We've got a final report now. Leibowitz and Hardin finally finished checking the last of them; there weren't quite as many as we were afraid there were going to be. Red isn't a very popular color around here."
"Good," Malone said.
"And there isn't a doggone thing on any of 'em," Boyd said. "Oh, we cleared up a lot of small-time crime, one thing and another, but that's about all. No such thing as an electro-psionic brain to be found anywhere in the lot. Leibowitz says he's willing to swear to it."
Malone sighed. "I didn't think he'd find one," he said.
"No," Malone said.
Boyd stabbed at him with the scissors again. "Then why did you cause all that trouble?" he said.
"Because I thought we might find electro-psionic brains," Malone said wearily. "Or one, anyhow."
"But you just said—"
Malone picked up the phone, got long distance, and motioned Boyd to silence in one sweeping series of moves. The long-distance operator said, "Yes, sir? May we help you?"
"Give me operator nine," Malone said.
There was a buzz, a click, and a new voice which said, "Operator ni-yun. May we help you?"
"All nine of you?" Malone muttered. "Never mind. This is Kenneth Malone. I've got a call from Dr. Thomas O'Connor at Yucca Flats. Please connect me."
There was another buzz, a click and an ungodly howl which was followed by the voice of operator ni-yun saying, "We are connecting you. There will be a slight delay. We are sor-ree."
Malone waited. At last there was another small howl, and the screen lit up. Dr. O'Connor's face, as stern and ascetic as ever, stared through at Malone.
"I understand you called me," Malone said.
"Ah, yes," Dr. O'Connor said. "It's very good to see you again, Mr. Malone." He gave Malone a smile good for exchange at your corner grocery; worth, one icicle.
"It's good to see you too," Malone lied.
"Mr. Burris explained to me what it was that you wanted to talk to me about," O'Connor said, "Am I to understand that you have actually found a teleport?"
"Unless my theories are away off," Malone said, "I've done a lot better than that. I've found eight of them."
"Eight." Dr. O'Connor's smile grew perceptibly warmer. It now stood at about thirty-four degrees Fahrenheit. "That is really excellent, Mr. Malone. You have done a fine job."
"Thanks," Malone muttered. He wished that O'Connor didn't make him feel quite so much like a first-year law student talking to an egomaniacal professor.
"When can you deliver them?" O'Connor said.
"Well," Malone said carefully, "that depends." O'Connor seemed to view the teleports as pieces of equipment, he thought. "I can't deliver them until I catch them," he said. "And that's why I wanted to talk to you."
"Some slight delay," Dr. O'Connor said, "will be quite understandable." His face left no doubt that he didn't like the necessity of understanding anything that was going to keep him and the eight teleports apart for even thirty seconds longer, now that he knew about them.
"You see," Malone said, "they're kids. Juvenile delinquents, or something like that. But they are teleports, that's for sure."
"I see," Dr. O'Connor said.
"So we've got to nab them," Malone said. "And for that I need all the information I can get."
Dr. O'Connor nodded slowly. "I'll be happy," he said, "to give you any information I can provide."
Malone took a deep breath, and plunged. "How does this teleportation bit work, anyhow?" he said.
"You've asked a very delicate question," Dr. O'Connor said. "Actually, we can't be quite positive." His expression showed just how little he wanted to make this admission. "However," he went on, brightening, "there is some evidence which seems to show that it is basically the same process as psychokinesis. And we do have quite a bit of empirical data on psychokinesis." He scribbled something on a sheet of paper and said, "For instance, there's this." He held the paper up to the screen so that Malone could read it.
(m*d)/(f*t**2) = 1/k
Malone looked at it for some seconds. At last he said, "It's very pretty. What the hell is it?"
"This," Dr. O'Connor said, in a condescending tone of voice that meant, You should have known all along, but you're just hopeless, "is the basic formula for the phenomenon, where m is the mass in grams, d is the distance in centimeters, f is the force in dynes, and t is the time in seconds. K is a constant whose value is not yet known, and the numeral 1 is unity."
Malone said, "Hmm," and stared at the equation again. Somehow, the explanation was not very helpful. The numeral 1 was unity. He understood that much, all right, but it didn't seem to do him any good.
"As you can see," Dr. O'Connor went on, "the greater the force, and the longer time it is applied, the greater distance any given mass can be moved. Or, contrariwise, the more mass, the greater mass, that is, the easier it is to move it any given distance. This is, as you undoubtedly understand, not at all in contradistinction to physical phenomena."
"Ah," Malone said, feeling that something was expected of him, but not being quite sure what.
Dr. O'Connor frowned. "I must admit," he said, "that the uncertainty as to the constant k, and the lack of any real knowledge as to just what kind of force is being applied, have held up our work so far." Then his face smoothed out. "Of course, when we have the teleports to work with, we may derive a full set of laws which—"
"Never mind that now," Malone said.
"But our work is most important, Mr. Malone," Dr. O'Connor said with a motion of his eyebrows. "As I'm sure you must understand."
"Oh," Malone said, feeling if he'd been caught without his homework, "of course. But if you don't mind—"
"Yes, Mr. Malone?" Dr. O'Connor said smoothly.
"What I want to know," Malone said, "is this. What are the limitations of this—uh—phenomenon?"
Dr. O'Connor brightened up thoroughly. "Well, theoretically," he said, "there do not appear to be any limitations. However, practical limitations do exist. If the process is at all parallel with psychokinesis, or with levitation"—he stared at Malone, as if daring him to say that it wasn't—"if that parallel exists, then the subject is mentally limited by his own physical strength."
Malone said, "What?"
"Try and be patient, Mr. Malone," O'Connor said calmly. "Please. As I was saying, the subject is limited by his own physical strength. In other words, he cannot move psionically any subject larger than he can lift physically. This appears to be a psychological limitation which—"
"Oh," Malone said. "You mean he couldn't carry off a building, or anything like that?"
"Of course not," Dr. O'Connor said. "Nor, as a matter of fact, could he carry off anything that was securely bolted down. I hope you follow me."
"I think so," Malone said. "But look here. Suppose you handcuffed him to, say, a radiator, or a jail cell bar."
"Could he get away?"
Dr. O'Connor appeared to consider this with some care. "Well," he said at last, "he certainly couldn't take the radiator with him, or the cell bar. If that's what you mean." He hesitated, looked slightly shamefaced, and then went on: "But you must realize that we lack any really extensive data on this phenomenon."
"Of course," Malone said.
"That's why I'm so very anxious to get those subjects," Dr. O'Connor said.
"Dr. O'Connor," Malone said earnestly, "that's just what I had in mind from the start. I've been going to a lot of extra trouble to make sure that those kids don't get killed or end up in reform schools or something, just so you could work with them."
"I appreciate that, Mr. Malone," O'Connor said gravely.
Malone felt as if someone had given him a gold star. Fighting down the emotion, he went on: "I know right now that I can catch one or two of them. But I don't know for sure that I can hold one for more than a fraction of a second."
"I see your problem," Dr. O'Connor said. "Believe me, Mr. Malone. I do see your problem."
"And is there a way out?" Malone said. "I mean a way I can hold on to them for—"
"At present," Dr. O'Connor said heavily, "I have no suggestions. I lack data."
"Oh, fine," Malone said. "We need the kids to get the data, and we need the data to get the kids." He sighed. "Hooray for our side," he added.
"There does appear to be something of a dilemma here," Dr. O'Connor admitted sadly.
"Dilemma is putting it mildly," Malone said.
Dr. O'Connor opened his mouth, shut it, opened it again and said, "I agree."
"Well," Malone said, "maybe one of us will think of something. If anything does occur to you, let me know at once."
"I certainly will," Dr. O'Connor said. "Believe me, Mr. Malone, I want you to capture those kids just as badly as you want to capture them yourself."
"I'll try," Malone said at random. He flipped off and turned with a sense of relief back to Boyd. But it looked as if Henry VIII had been hit on the head with a cow, or something equally weighty. Boyd looked glassy-eyed and slightly stunned.
"What's the matter with you?" Malone said. "Sick?"
"I'm not sick," Boyd said carefully. "At least I don't think I'm sick. It's hard to tell."
"Teleporting!" Boyd said. "Juvenile delinquents!"
Malone felt a sudden twinge in the area of his conscience. He realized that he had told Boyd nothing at all about what had been going on since the discovery of the notebook two nights ago. He filled his partner in rapidly, while Boyd stood in front of the mirror and rather shakily attempted to trim his beard.
"That's why I had the car search continue," Malone said. "I was fairly sure the fault wasn't in the cars, but the boys. But I had to make absolutely sure."
Boyd said, "Oh," chopped a small section out of the center of his beard and added, "Damn. My hand's shaky."
"Well," Malone said, "that's the story."
"It's a hell of a story," Boyd said. "And I don't want you to think I don't believe it. Because I don't."
"It's true," Malone said.
"That doesn't affect me," Boyd said. "I'll go along with the gag. But enough is enough. Vanishing teenagers. Ridiculous."
"Just so you go along with me," Malone said.
"Oh, I'll go along," Boyd said. "This is my vacation too, isn't it? What's the next move, Mastermind?"
"We're going down to that warehouse," Malone said decisively. "I've got a hunch the kids have been hiding there ever since they left their homes yesterday."
"Malone," Boyd said. "What?"
"You mean we're going down to the warehouse tonight?" Boyd said.
"I might have known," Boyd said. "I might have known!"
"Tom," Malone said. "What's wrong?"
"Oh, nothing," Boyd said. "Nothing at all. Everything's fine and dandy. I think I'm going to commit suicide, but don't let that bother you."
"What happened?" Malone said.
Boyd stared at him. "You happened," he said. "You and the teen-agers and the bloody damn warehouse happened. Three days' work—ruined."
Malone scratched his head, found out that his head still hurt and put his hand down again. "What work?" he said.
"For three days," Boyd said, "I've been taking this blonde chick all over New York. Wining her. Dining her. Spending money as if I were Burris himself, instead of the common or garden variety of FBI agent. Night clubs. Theaters. Bars. The works. Malone, we were getting along famously. It was wonderful."
"And tonight—" Malone said.
"Tonight," Boyd said, "was supposed to be the night. The big night. The payoff. We've got a date for dinner—T-bone steak, two inches thick, with mushrooms. At her apartment, Malone. She will probably—"
"You'll have to break it," Malone said sympathetically. "Too bad, but it can't be helped now. You can pick up a sandwich before you go."
"A sandwich," Boyd said with great dignity, "is not my idea of something to eat."
"Look, Tom—" Malone began.
"All right, all right," Boyd said tiredly. "Duty is duty. I'll go call her."
"Fine," Malone said. "And meanwhile, I'll get us a little insurance."
"John Henry Fernack," Malone said, "and his Safe and Loft Squad."
The warehouse was locked up tight, all right, Malone thought. In the dim light that surrounded the neighborhood, it stood like a single stone block, alone near the waterfront. There were other buildings nearby, but they seemed smaller; the warehouse loomed over Malone and Boyd threateningly. They stood in a shadow-blacked alley just across the street, watching the big building nervously, studying it for weak points and escape areas.
Boyd whispered softly, "Do you think they have a look-out?"
Malone's voice was equally low. "We'll have to assume they've got at least one kid posted," he said. "But they can't be watching all the time. Remember, they can't do everything."
"They don't have to," Boyd said. "They do quite enough for me. Do you realize that, right now, I could be—"
"Break it up," Malone said. He took a small handset from his pocket and pressed the stud. "Lynch?" he whispered.
A tinny voice came from the earpiece. "Here, Malone."
"Have you got them located yet?" Malone said.
"Not yet," Lynch's voice replied. "We're working on a triangulation now. Just hold on for a minute or so. I'll let you know as soon as we've got results."
The police squads—Lynch and his men, the warehouse precinct men, and the Safe and Loft Squad—had set up a careful cordon around the area, and were now hard at work trying to determine two things.
First, they had to know whether there was anybody in the building at all.
Second, they had to be able to locate anyone in the building with precision.
The silence of the downtown warehouse district helped. They had several specially designed, highly sensitive directional microphones aimed at the building from carefully selected spots around the area, trying to pick up the muffled sounds of speech or motion within the warehouse. The watchmen in buildings nearby had been warned off for the time being so that their footsteps wouldn't occlude any results.
Malone waited, feeling nervous and cold. Finally Lynch's voice came through again. "We're getting something, all right," he said. "There are obviously several people in there. You were right, Malone."
"Thanks," Malone said. "How about that fix?"
"Hold it a second," Lynch said. Wind swept off the river at Malone and Boyd. Malone closed his eyes and shivered. He could smell fish and iodine and waste, the odor of the Hudson as it passes the city. Across the river lights sparkled warmly. Here there was nothing but darkness.
A long time passed, perhaps ten seconds.
Then Lynch's voice was back. "Sergeant McNulty says they're on the top floor, Malone," he said. "Can't tell how many for sure. But they're talking and moving around."
"It's a shame these things won't pick up the actual words at a distance," Malone said.
"Just a general feeling of noise is all we get," Lynch said. "But it does some good."
"Sure," Malone said. "Now listen carefully. Boyd and I are going in. Alone."
Lynch's voice whispered, "Right."
"If those mikes pick up any unusual ruckus—any sharp increase in the noise level—come running," Malone said. "Otherwise, just sit still and wait for my signal. Got that?"
"Check," Lynch said.
Malone pocketed the radiophone. "Okay, Tom," he whispered. "This is it."
"Right," Boyd muttered. "Let's move in."
"Wait a minute," Malone said. He took his goggles and brought them down over his eyes, adjusting the helmet on his head. Boyd did the same. Malone flicked on the infrared flashlight he held in his hand.
"Okay?" he whispered. "Check," Boyd said.
Thanks to the goggles, both of them could see the normally invisible beams of the infrared flashlight. They'd equipped themselves to move in darkness without betraying themselves, and they'd be able to see where a person without equipment would be blind.
Malone stayed well within the shadows as he moved silently around to the alley behind the warehouse, and then to a narrow passageway that led to the building next door. Boyd followed a few feet behind him along the carefully planned route.
Malone unlocked the small door that led into the ground floor of the building adjoining. As he did so, he heard a sound behind him and called, "Tom?"
"Hey, Malone," Boyd whispered. "It's—"
Before there was any outcry, Malone rushed back. Boyd was struggling with a figure in the dimness. Malone grabbed the figure and clamped his hand over its mouth. It bit him. He swore in a low voice, and clamped the hand over the mouth again.
It hadn't taken him more than half a second to realize what, whoever it was who struggled in his arms, it wasn't a boy.
"Shut up!" Malone hissed in her ear. "I won't hurt you."
The struggle stopped immediately. Malone gently eased his hand off the girl's mouth. She turned and looked at him.
"Kenneth Malone," she said, "you look like a man from Mars."
"Dorothea!" Malone gasped. "What are you doing here? Looking for your brother?"
"Never mind that," she said. "You play too rough. I'm going home to Mother."
"Answer me!" Malone said.
"All right," Dorothea said. "You must know anyhow, since you're here.... Yes, I'm looking for that fatheaded brother of mine. But now I suppose it's too late. He'll—he'll go to prison."
Her voice broke. Malone found his shoulder suddenly occupied by a crying face.
"No," he said quickly. "No. Please. He won't."
Boyd whispered: "Malone, what is this? It's a hell of a place for a date. And I—"
"Oh, shut up," Malone told him in a kindly fashion. He turned back to Dorothea. "I promise he won't," he said. "If I can just talk to your brother, make him listen to reason, I think we can get him and the others off. Believe me."
"Please," Malone said. "Believe me."
"Oh, Ken," Dorothea said, raising her head. "Do you mean it?"
"Sure I mean it," Malone said. "What have I been saying? The Government needs these kids."
"It's nothing to worry about," Malone said. "Just go on home now, and I'll call you tomorrow. Late tonight, if I can. All right?"
"No," Dorothea said. "It's not all right. Not at all."
Boyd hissed, "Malone!"
Malone ignored him. He had a bigger fight on his hands. "I'm not going home," Dorothea announced. "I'm going in there with you. After all," she added, "I can talk more sense into Mike's head than you can."
"Now look," Malone began.
Dorothea grinned in the darkness. "If you don't take me along," she said quietly, "I'll scream and warn them."
Malone surrendered at once. He had no doubt at all that Dorothea meant what she said. And, after all, the girl might really be some use to them. And there probably wouldn't be much danger.
Of course there wouldn't, he thought. He was going to see to that.
"All right," he said. "Come along. Stick close to us, and don't worry about the darkness. We can see, even if you can't, so let us guide you. And for heaven's sake be quiet!"
Boyd whispered, "Malone, what's going on?"
"She's coming with us," Malone said, pointing to Dorothea.
Boyd shrugged. "Malone," he said, "who do you think you are? The Pied Piper of Hamelin?"
Malone wheeled and went ahead. Opening the door, he played his I-R flashlight on the room inside and he, Boyd, and Dorothea trailed in, going through rooms piled with huge boxes. They went up an iron stairway to the second floor, and so on up to the roof.
They moved quickly across the roof to the wall of the warehouse, which was two stories higher than the building they were on. Of course there were no windows in the warehouse wall facing them, except on the top story.
But there was a single, heavy, fireproof emergency exit. It would have taken power machinery or explosive to open that door from the outside without a key, although from the inside it would open easily. Fortunately, Malone had a key.
He took it out and stepped aside. "Give that lock the works," he whispered to Boyd.
Boyd took a lubricant gun from his pocket and fired three silent shots of special oil into the lock. Then he shot the hinges, and the cracks around the door.
They waited for a minute or two while the oil, forced in under pressure, did its work. Then Malone fitted the key carefully into the lock and turned it, slowly and delicately.
The door swung open in silence. Malone slipped inside, followed by Boyd and Dorothea Fueyo.
Infrared equipment went on again, and the eerie illumination spread over their surroundings. Malone tapped Boyd on the shoulder, and jerked his thumb toward the back stairs. This was plainly no time for talk.
From the floor above, they could hear the murmur of youthful voices.
They started for the stairway. Fortunately, the building was of the steel-and-concrete type; there were no wooden floors to creak and groan beneath their feet.
At the bottom of the stairs, they paused. Voices came down the stairwell clearly, even words being defined in the silence.
"...and quit harping on whose fault it was." Malone recognized Mike Fueyo's voice. "That FBI guy was onto us, and we had to pull out; you know that. We always figured we'd have to pull out some day. So why not now?"
"Yeah," another voice said. "But you didn't have to go and vanish right under that Fed's nose. You been beating it into our heads not to do that sort of stuff ever since we first found out we could make this vanishing bit. And then you go and do it in front of a Fed. Sure, you got a big bang out of it, but is it smart? I ask you—"
"Yeah?" Mike said. "Listen, Silvo, they never would've got onto us if it hadn't been for your stupid tricks. Slugging a cop on the dome. Cracking up a car. You and your bug for speed!"
Malone blinked. Then it hadn't been Miguel Fueyo who'd hit Sergeant Jukovsky, but Silvo. Malone tried to remember the list of Silent Spooks. Silvo Envoz—that was his name.
"You slugged the FBI guy, Mike," Silvo said. "And now you got us all on the run. That's your fault, Mike. I want to see my old lady."
"I had to slug him," Mike said. "Listen, all Ramon's stuff was in that Cadillac. What would've happened if he'd found all that stuff?"
"So what happened anyway?" a third voice said (That was probably Ramon Otravez, Malone thought.) "He found your stupid notebook, didn't he? He went yelling to the cops, didn't he? We're running, ain't we? So what's the difference?"
"Shut up!" Mike roared.
"You ain't telling me to shut up!"
"Me either," Silvo yelled. "You think you're a great big big-shot! You think you're king of the world!"
"Who figured out the Vanish?" Mike screamed. "You'd all be a bunch of bums if I hadn't showed you that! And you know it! You'd all—"
"Don't give us that," Silvo said. "We'd have been able to do it, same as you. Like you said, anybody who's got talent could do it. There were guys you tried to teach—"
"Sure," said a fourth voice. "Listen, Fueyo, you're so bright—so why don't you try teaching it to somebody who don't have the talent?"
"Yeah," said voice number five. "You think you could teach that flashy sister of yours the Vanish?"
"You shut up about my sister, Phil!" Mike screamed.
"So what's so great about her?"
"She got that book back from the Fed," Mike said. "That's what. It's enough!"
"Hell," a voice said, "any dame with a little—"
"Shut your goddamn face before I shut it for you!"
Malone couldn't tell who was yelling what at who after a minute. They all seemed unhappy about being on the run from the police, and they were all tired of being cooped up in a warehouse under Mike's orders. Mike was the only person they could take it out on—and Mike was under heavy attack.
Two of the boys, surprisingly, seemed to side with him. The other five were trying to outshout them. Malone wondered if it would become a fight, and then realized that these kids could hardly fight each other when the one who was losing could always fade out.
He leaned over and whispered to Dorothea and Boyd, "Let's sneak up there while the argument's going on."
"But—" Boyd began.
"Less chance of their noticing us," Malone explained, and Started forward.
They tiptoed up the stairs and got behind a pile of crates in the shadows, while invective roared around them. This floor was lit by a single small bulb hanging from a socket in the ceiling. The windows were hung with heavy blankets to keep the light from shining out.
The kids didn't notice anything except each other. Malone took a couple of deep breaths and began to look around.
All things considered, he thought, the kids had fixed the place up pretty nicely. The unused warehouse had practically been made over into an apartment. There were chairs, beds, tables, and everything else in the line of furnishings for which the kids could conceivably have any use. There were even some floor lamps scattered around, but they weren't plugged in. Malone guessed that a job would have to be done on the warehouse wiring to get the floor lamps in operation, and the kids just hadn't got around to it yet.
By now the boys were practically standing toe-to-toe, ripping air-blueing epithets at each other. Not a single hand was lifted.
Malone stared at them for a second, then turned to Dorothea. "We'll wait till they calm down a little," he whispered. "Then you go out and talk to them. Tell them we won't hurt them or lock them up or anything. All we want to do is talk to them for awhile."
"All right," she whispered back.
"They can vanish any time they want to," Malone said, "so there's no reason for them not to listen to—"
He stopped suddenly, listening. Over the shouting, screaming, and cursing of the kids, he heard motion on the floor below.
It couldn't be, he told himself. But when he took out his radiophone, his hands were shaking a little.
Lynch's voice was already coming over it when Malone thumbed it on.
"...so hang on, Malone! I repeat: We heard the ruckus, and we're coming in! We're on our way! Hang on, Malone!"
The voice stopped. There was a click.
Malone stared at the handset, fascinated and horrified. He swallowed. "No, Lynch!" he whispered, afraid to talk any louder for fear the kids would hear him. "No! Don't come up. Go away. Repeat: Go away! Stay away, Lynch!"
It was no use. The radiophone was dead.
Lynch, apparently thinking Malone's set had been smashed in the fight, or else that Malone was unconscious, had shut his own receiver off.
There was absolutely nothing that Malone could do.
The kids were still yelling at the top of their voices, but the thundering of heavy, flat feet galumphing up from the lower depths couldn't be ignored for long. All the boys noticed it at about the same time. They jerked their heads round to face the stairway. Malone and his compatriots crouched lower behind the boxes.
Mike Fueyo was the first to speak. "Don't vanish yet," he snapped. "Let's see who it is."
The internal dissent among the Silent Spooks disappeared as if it had never been, as they faced a common foe. Once again they fell naturally under Fueyo's leadership. "If it's cops," he said, "we'll give 'em the grasshopper play we worked out. We'll show 'em."
"They can't fool with us," another boy said. "Sure. The grasshopper play."
It was cops, all right. Lieutenant Lynch ran up the stairs waving his billy in a heroic fashion, followed by a horde of blue-clad officers.
"Where's Malone?" Lynch shouted as he came through the doorway.
"Where's your what?" Mike yelled back, and the fight was on.
Later, Malone thought that he should have been surprised, but he wasn't. There wasn't any time to be surprised. The kids didn't disappear.
They spread out over the floor of the room easily and lightly, and the cops charged them in a great blundering mass.
Naturally, the kids winked out one by one—and re-formed in the center of the cops' muddle. Malone saw one cop raise his billy and swing it at Mike. Mike watched it come down and vanished at the last instant. The cop's billy descended on the head of another cop, standing just behind where Mike had been.
The second cop, blinded by the blow on his head, swung back and hit the first cop. Meanwhile, Mike was somewhere else.
Malone stayed crouched behind the boxes. Dorothea stood up and shouted, "Mike! Mike! We just want to talk to you!"
Unfortunately, the police were making such a racket that this could not be heard more than a foot or so from the speaker. Lynch himself charged into the mass, swinging his billy and his free fist, and laying others out one after the other. Pretty soon the floor was littered with cops. Lynch was doing yeoman duty, but it was hard to tell what side he was on.
The vanishing trick Mike had worked out was being used by all of the kids. Cops were hitting other cops, Lynch was hitting everybody, and the kids were winking on and off all over the loft. It was a scene of tremendous noise and carnage.
Malone suddenly sprang to his feet and charged into the melee, shouting at the top of his lungs and swinging both fists. The first person he saw was one of the teen-agers, and he charged him with abandon.
He should, he reflected, have known better. The kid disappeared. Malone caromed off the stomach of a policeman, received a blow on the shoulder from his billy, and rebounded into the arms of a surprised police officer at the edge of the battle.
"Who're you?" the officer gasped.
"Malone," Malone said.
"You on our side?"
"How about you?" Malone said.
"I'm a lieutenant here," the officer said. "In charge of the warehouse precinct. I—"
Malone and the lieutenant stepped nimbly aside as another cop careened by them, waving his billy helplessly. They looked away as the crash came. The cop had fallen over a table, and now lay with his legs in the air, supported by the overturned table, blissfully unconscious.
"We seem," Malone said, "to be in an area of some activity. Let's move."
They shifted away a few feet. Malone looked into the foray and saw Boyd at work, roaring and going after the kids. One of them had established a kind of game with him. He appeared just in front of Boyd, who rushed at him, arms outstretched. As Boyd almost reached him, the kid disappeared, and reappeared again just behind Boyd. He tapped the FBI agent gently on the shoulder; Boyd turned and the process was repeated.
Boyd seemed to be getting winded.
"Damn kids," the lieutenant muttered suddenly, and dashed back into the fray. Malone looked around, saw Mike Fueyo flickering in and out at the edges, and headed for him.
A cop swung at Mike, missed, and hit Malone on the arm. Malone swore. The cop backed off, looking in a bewildered fashion for his victim, who was nowhere in sight. Then Malone caught sight of him, at the other edge of the fight. He started to work his way around.
He tried to avoid blows, but it wasn't always possible. A reeling cop caught his lapel and tore it, and Lynch, indefatigable in battle, managed to graze his chin with a blow meant for one of the disappearing boys. Other cops were battling each other, going after the kids and clutching empty air, cursing and screaming unheard orders in the fracas.
Malone ducked past Lynch, rubbed at his chin and looked for Mike. In the tangle of bodies it was getting hard to see. There was the sound of breaking ceramics as a floor lamp went over, and then a table followed it, but Malone avoided both. He looked for Mike Fueyo.
A cop clutched him around the middle, out of nowhere, said, "Sorry, buddy. Who the hell are you?" and dove back into the mass of bodies. Malone caught his breath and forged onward.
There was Mike, at the edge of the fight, watching everything coolly. No cop was near him. In the dim light the place looked like a scene from hell, a special hell for policemen.
Malone wove through battling hordes to the edge, and came out a few feet away from Mike Fueyo.
Fueyo didn't see him. He was looking at Boyd instead—still stumbling back and forth as the teen-ager baiting him winked on and off in front of him and behind him. He was laughing.
Malone came up silently from behind. The trip seemed to take hours. He was being very quiet, although he was reasonably sure that even if he yelled he wouldn't be heard. But he didn't want to take the slightest chance.
He sprang on Mike, and attached the handcuffs to his wrist and to Mike's wrist within ten seconds.
"Ha!" he said involuntarily. "Now come with me!"
He gave his end of the handcuffs a tremendous yank.
He started to stagger, trailing an empty cuff behind him, flailing his arms wildly. Ahead of him he could see a big cop with an upraised billy. Malone tried to alter his course, but it was too late. He skidded helplessly into the cop, who jerked round and swung the billy automatically. Malone said: "Ugh," as he caught the blow on the cheekbone, bounced off the cop and kept going.
He careened past a blur of figures, trying to avoid hard surfaces and other human beings. But there was—
Oh, no, Malone thought. Lynch.
Lynch was ready to swing. His fist was cocked, and he was heading for one of the teen-agers with murder in his eye. Malone knew their paths were going to intersect. "Watch out," he yelled. "Watch out, it's me! Stop me! Somebody stop me!" He went completely unheard.
Lynch swung and missed, hitting a cop who had been hiding behind the teen-ager. The cop went down to join the wounded, and Lynch roared like a bull and swung around, looking for more enemies.
That was when Malone hit him.
Long afterward, he remembered Lynch's hat sailing through the air, and landing in the center of a struggling mass of policemen. He remembered Lynch saying, "So there you are!" and swinging before he looked.
He remembered the blow on the chin.
And then he remembered falling, and falling, and falling. Somewhere there was a voice: "Where the hell are they? They've disappeared for good."
And then, for long seconds, nothing.
He woke up with a headache, but it wasn't too bad. Surprisingly, not much time had passed; he got up and dusted off his trousers, looking around at the battlefield. Wounded and groaning cops were lying all over. The room was a shambles; the walking wounded—which comprised the rest of the force—were stumbling around in a slow, hopeless sort of fashion.
Lynch was standing next to him. "Malone," he said, "I'm sorry. I hit you, didn't I?"
"Uh-huh," Malone said. "You seemed to be hitting every body."
"I was trying for the kids," Lynch said.
"So was I," Malone said. "I got the cuffs on one and yanked him along, but he disappeared and left me with the cuffs."
"Great," Lynch said. "Hell of a raid."
"Very jolly," Malone agreed. "Fun and games were had by all."
A cop stumbled up, handed Lynch his cap and disappeared without a word. Lynch stared mournfully at it. The emblem was crushed, and the cap looked rather worn and useless. He put it on his head, where it assumed the rakish tilt of a hobo's favorite tam-o'-shanter, and said, "I hope you're not thinking of blaming me for this fiasco."
"Not at all," Malone said nobly. He hurt all over, but on reflection he thought that he would probably live. "It was nobody's fault." Except, he thought, his own. If he'd only told Lynch to come in when called for—and under no other circumstances—this wouldn't have happened. He looked around at the remains of New York's Finest, and felt guilty.
The lieutenant from the local precinct limped up, rubbing a well-kicked shin and trying to disentangle pieces of floor lamp from his hair. "Listen, Lynch," he said, "What's with these kids? What's going on here? Look at my men."
"Some days," Lynch said, "it just doesn't pay to get up."
"Sure," the local man said. "But what do I do now?"
"Make your reports."
"To the Commissioner," Lynch said, "and to nobody else. If this gets into the papers, heads will roll."
"My head is rolling right now," the local man said. "Know what one of those kids did? Stood in front of a floor lamp. I swung at him and he vanished. Vanished! I hit the lamp, and then the lamp hit me."
"Just see that this doesn't get out," Lynch said.
"It can't," the local man said. "Anybody who mentioned this to a reporter would just be laughed out of town. It's not possible." He paused thoughtfully, and added, "We'd all be laughed out of town."
"And probably replaced with the FBI," Lynch said morosely. He looked at Malone. "Nothing personal, you understand," he said.
"Of course," Malone said. "We can't do any more here, can we?"
"I don't think we can do any more anywhere," Lynch said. "Let's lock the place up and leave and forget all about it."
"Fine," Malone said. "I've got work to do." He looked around, found Dorothea and signaled to her. "Come on, Dorothea. Where's Boyd?"
"Here I am," Boyd said, walking slowly across the big room to Malone. He had one hand held to his chin.
"What's the matter with you?" Malone asked.
Boyd took his hand away. There was a bald spot the size of a quarter on the point of his chin. "One of those kids," he said sadly, "has a hell of a strong grip. Come on, Miss Fueyo. Come on, Malone. Let's get out of here."
"Logically," Malone said, "there has to be some way to catch them." He looked around the hotel room as though he expected to find an answer painted in big black letters on the wall. "Logically," he said again, and tried to think of what came next. He liked the sound of the word, but that was as far as it went.
"That's fine," Boyd said. He sat on a chair, staring gloomily at the floor and rubbing the bald spot on his chin with a single, sad, inquisitive forefinger. "There has to be an answer. You're probably right. But what the hell is it?"
Malone started to answer, and then wondered what he had been going to say. He sunk himself in thought. There was a knock at the door. "Who's there?" he called, glad of any relief at all.
"It's me," a small voice said. "Dorothea."
"Come in," Malone said.
The door opened. Dorothea came in, shut the door behind her, and looked around the room a little awkwardly.
"Did you get a good night's sleep?" Malone said.
She nodded. "I guess so," she said. "Sure. It was nice of you to get me a room for the night. I mean, I guess I was—well..."
"Forget it," Malone said grandly. "You were upset and tired, that's all. Hell, in the car on the way back here last night, you fainted."
"I did not faint," she said.
"Well," Malone said, "you sure looked like—"
"I was tired," Dorothea said.
Malone shrugged. "Okay. You were tired."
"You're not mad, are you," she said, "because I stole your notebook?"
"Of course not," Malone said. "I said forget it, didn't I? Sit down and help us out."
"Help you?" she said.
"That's right," Boyd said. "Help us figure out how to catch this bunch of maniacs before they steal everything in New York."
Dorothea said, "Maniacs? I—" and Malone interrupted her in a hurry.
"Police Commissioner Fernack has called twice this morning already," he said. "He's screaming about all the burglaries that have been occurring since midnight last night."
"Oh," Dorothea said. "You mean the Spooks? Mike and the others? They've been stealing again?"
"They sure have, Miss Fueyo," Boyd said.
"I guess they're furnishing their new hideout," Malone said. "Wherever it is. Only God knows."
"And even if He told us," Boyd said, "it wouldn't do us any good. Chase 'em out of there, and they'd go somewhere else."
Malone stood up, fished for his cigarettes and lit one. "What we need," he said, blowing out smoke, "is some way to trap 'em and hold 'em. And I don't see how we can do either."
"After last night," Dorothea said, "I really don't see—"
"Wait a minute," Boyd said. "You said trap, didn't you?" He looked slowly and speculatively at Dorothea Fueyo.
A second passed.
"Oh, no, you don't!" she said. "Oh, no. Not on your life. I'll help catch him if I can, because I know you don't mean to hurt him or the others. But I wouldn't want Mike to know about it. You're not using me as bait in any trap."
Boyd looked at Malone, shook his head slowly, and said disconsolately, "Well, it was an idea." He returned his gaze to the floor.
The furtive gleam of the half bottle of bourbon on Malone's dresser caught his eye. He'd had it sent up the night before, feeling the need of some medicinal refreshment. Now it winked at him. He ignored it resolutely. "Dorothea," he said.
"Dorothea, do you have any idea how far one of those kids can go when he teleports?"
"No," Dorothea said. "I really haven't any idea about any of it. Mike tried to teach me once, but I guess I just don't have the talent."
"Oh," Malone said.
"I wish I could help," Dorothea said.
Silence fell, and gloom followed it.
Time ticked by. The bourbon bottle resumed its seductive winking.
"There is one thing," Dorothea said suddenly. "He did say one thing about it."
"What?" Malone said eagerly.
"He said you couldn't teleport to some place you haven't been before. You've got to be able to visualize where you're going."
Malone said, "Hmm." It seemed like the right answer. Dorothea's statement was a fact, certainly, but he didn't see how the fact fit in anywhere.
"He didn't mention anything about distance, and I don't think any of the Spooks ever tested it for that," Dorothea said.
"There probably is a distance limit," Malone said. "At least if Dr. O'Connor's theories are right. I just wish I knew what the limit was."
Silence fell again. Malone sighed. Dorothea sighed. Boyd sighed, looked around at the others and muttered, "Damn thing's catching." He got up and walked over to the dresser and picked up the bottle of bourbon.
"You, too?" Malone murmured, but Boyd didn't hear him.
"I don't care if it is early in the morning," he said, resolutely. "I need a drink. I need something to take the fog out of my head, anyhow." He poured himself a shot, held the bottle aloft, and said, "Dorothea? Malone?"
The girl shook her head.
Malone was tempted but he put Satan behind him with decision. "No," he said firmly. "The way I feel now, one drink would probably immobilize me."
Dorothea chuckled. "You sound just like Mike," she said.
"Mike doesn't drink in the morning either?" Malone said.
"Of course he doesn't," Boyd said. "Mike is a nice kid. A swell kid."
"You keep quiet," Dorothea shot at him. She turned back to Malone. "Mike never drinks at all," she said. "He says it immobilizes him—just what you said."
Somewhere in the black galactic depths of Malone's mind, a very small hot star gulped, took a deep breath and became a supernova.
The light was tremendous! It shed beams over everything, beams of a positively supernal brilliance. And in the all-pervasive brightness of that single inner light, bits of data began to fall into place with all the precision of aerial bombs, each falling neatly and exactly into its own little predetermined bomb crater.
It was beautiful. It was magnificent. Malone felt all choked up.
None of the Silent Spooks drank. He remembered Kettleman telling him that. And the Queen never touched the stuff either.
"What's wrong?" Boyd said.
"Malone, you look green."
"I feel green," Malone said. "I feel like newly sprung grass. I feel as if I had just hatched out of something. I feel wonderful."
"It's the strain," Boyd said. "That's what it is, strain. You've cracked at last."
Malone ignored him. "Tell me," he said to Dorothea with elaborate casualness, "when your brother says that, what does he mean?"
"What?" she said. "Oh, I don't know. I—" She stopped and her eyes widened. "You don't think that—"