"I don't know," Malone said. "But we can sure as hell find out."
Dorothea blinked. "What can you do?" she said. "I mean, to find out. You can't force them to drink or anything, can you?"
"No," Malone said. "I can't do that. But it does give me an idea."
Boyd held his untasted drink in his hand, staring at Malone and the girl. "What are you two talking about?" he said. "Or is this the special Captain Midnight code? I left my code ring home this week."
"Boyd," Malone snapped, "get on the phone."
"Are you sure it will hold me?" Boyd said.
"I want you to call Dr. O'Connor at Yucca Flats," Malone said. "Shut up and listen."
There was silence.
Finally Boyd said, "I don't hear anything."
"Never mind," Malone said. "I mean listen to me. I know it's pretty early out where O'Connor is, but that doesn't matter now. Wake him up. Wake everybody up, for all I care."
"Malone," Boyd said carefully, "are you sure you haven't gone nuts?"
Malone grinned cheerfully. "No," he said. "Are you? Now listen: find out what effect drugs have on psionic abilities."
"Drugs?" Boyd said, and then his eyes lit up. "My God!" he said. "We might have something, at that!"
"Get the Queen up too," Malone said. "Ask her the same question. I hope we do have something."
"So do I," Dorothea said.
"And if we get the information we're hoping to get, I want Her Majesty on the first plane to New York," Malone said. "I don't care what strings you have to pull to get that done. Call Burris if you have to. It'll be worth it." Malone paused. "Hell," he said, "call him anyway and tell him what's happened. But get the Queen here!"
"Right!" Boyd said. He dove for the phone and started dialing. Suddenly he looked around. "Hey!" he yelled. "Where are you going?"
Malone, one hand on the door, turned. "Down to see Fernack," he said. "I've got to make some arrangements. I'm betting we're right, Tom!" He charged out the door, slamming it. A second passed and it opened again. Malone's head popped back in. "Dorothea," he said. "When Tom gets off the phone call your mother. Tell her you're going to be away for a day or two—two at the most—and she's not to worry. We'll need you, and her, too, to talk to Mike when the time comes. So stick around."
Then he was gone.
* * * * *
Twelve hours later, Kenneth J. Malone was sitting quietly in a small room at the rear of a sporting-goods store on upper Madison Avenue, trying to remain calm and hoping that the finest, most beautiful hunch he had ever had in his life was going to pay off. With him were Boyd and two agents from the 69th Street office. They were sitting quietly too, but there was a sense of enormous excitement in the air. Malone wanted to get up and walk around, but he didn't dare. He clamped his hands in his lap and sat tight.
They waited in silence, not daring to talk. There was no sound except for the faint whoosh of their breathing through the gas masks they were wearing, and the muffled hiss from a tank nearby.
There was no reason why the plan shouldn't work. Malone told himself.
It looked foolproof. But he didn't believe it would work. This was the time, he assured himself, that his luck ran out. He'd been lucky for too long, and now the wheel was going to turn and he'd be lost. All he could do was wait for it, and hope.
Her Majesty had said definitely that this would be the place the Spooks would hit tonight. She had no doubts about it. And Malone couldn't think of a single reason why she might be wrong. But maybe he'd got the address mixed up. Maybe the Spooks were somewhere else right now, robbing what they pleased, safe from capture....
His hunch about drugs had been correct, or at least everybody had said it was correct. Dr. O'Connor had assured Boyd that the deleterious effects of drugs on psionic abilities had been known ever since the early days of Dr. Rhine's pioneering work, more than twenty years before. And Good Queen Bess had admitted the same thing. She never drank, she said, because on the one occasion when she'd tried it, she'd lost her telepathic ability, and "My goodness, it was just like going blind."
Burris had had to put on the pressure, but it had worked. The Queen had been flown to New York, under psychiatric guard just as soon as possible after Boyd's phone call, and she'd been able to pick up Mike Fueyo without any trouble at all as soon as she was within the same city, and close enough to him.
It doesn't do much good to know where a teleporter is, Malone thought. But it's extremely handy to know where he's going to be. And if you also know what he plans to do when he gets where he's going, you've got an absolute lead-pipe cinch to work with.
The Queen had provided that lead-pipe cinch. Reading Mike's mind, she'd told Malone that he planned to raid the sporting-goods store with the rest of the Spooks that night. Lucky again, Malone thought; he might have had to wait two or three days before the Spooks set up a robbery.
But, of course, he might just be riding for some kind of horrible, unforeseen fall.
The main part of the sporting-goods store was fairly well lit, even at night, though it was by no means brightly illuminated. There were show-window lights on, and the street lamp from outside cast a nice glow. But the back room was dark, and the four men there were well concealed. A curtain closed the room off, and Malone watched the front of the store through a narrow opening in it. He stared through it until his eyes ached, afraid to blink in case he missed the appearance of the Spooks. Everything had to go off just right, precisely on schedule.
And it was going to happen any minute, he told himself nervously. In just a few minutes, everything would be over.
Malone held his breath.
Then he saw the figure walk slowly by the glass front of the shop, looking in with elaborate casualness. He was casing the joint, making sure there were none left in it.
Malone tried to breathe, and couldn't.
Seconds ticked by.
And then—almost magically—they appeared. Eight of them, almost simultaneously, in the center of the room.
Mike Fueyo spoke in a low, controlled voice. "Okay, now," he said. "Let's move fast. We—"
And that was all he said.
The odorless anesthetic gas that filled the room had its sudden effect. Fueyo dropped out like a light.
The other seven followed him within seconds. Ramon Otravez, the tallest of them, stayed on his feet a little longer than the rest, obviously trying with all his strength to teleport himself out of danger, but the effects of the fast-working gas had already been felt. He was, literally, too stunned to move.
He too slumped to the floor.
For a second after that, none of the men in the rear room moved.
Then Malone said, "All right, boys. Let's get them out of here. They can't stay too long in this atmosphere." The men started forward into the front room, toward the still bodies. "Boyd," Malone said. "Get out front and wave the ambulance over here. I'll get the air-conditioners working and stop the gas."
He reached down and turned off the valve on the gently hissing tank of anesthetic gas that sat on the floor near him. "You guys get the kids," he said. "And let's make it fast, okay?"
"The one thing we had to worry about," Malone said, pouring some more champagne into the two hollow-stemmed glasses, "was whether it was possible to give them just enough synthecaine. Too little, and they'd still be able to teleport. Too much, and they'd be too groggy."
Dorothea relaxed in her chair and looked around at the hotel room walls with contentment. She looked like the proverbial cat who has swallowed the cream. "It looked to me as if it worked," she said. "Mike seemed pretty normal—except that he had that awful trapped feeling."
Malone handed her one of the filled glasses with an air. He was beginning slowly to feel less like the nervous, uncertain Kenneth J. Malone, and more and more like Sir Kenneth Malone. "I can see why he felt trapped," he said. "If a guy's been unhampered by four walls all the time, even only for a year or so, he's certainly going to feel penned in when he loses the ability to get through them. It might be just a little claustrophobic." He grinned, proud of himself. "Claustrophobic," he said again. "My tongue and palate are in excellent condition."
"The main thing is," Dorothea said, "that everybody's so happy. Commissioner Fernack, even—with Mr. Burris promising to give him a medal."
"And Lynch," Malone said reflectively. "He'll get a promotion out of this for sure. And good old Kettleman."
"Kettleman?" Dorothea said. "Oh, the funny fat man. He's some kind of social worker or something."
"And now he's getting a scroll from the FBI," Malone said. "A citation for coming up with the essential clue in this case. Even though he didn't know it was the essential clue. You know," he added reflectively, "one thing puzzles me about that man."
"Well," Malone said, "he worked in your neighborhood. You knew him."
"Of course I did," Dorothea said. "We all knew Kettleman."
"He said he had a lot of success as a social worker," Malone said. "Now, I've met him. And talked with him. And I just can't picture—"
"Oh," Dorothea said. "We keep him around—kept him around, I mean—as a sort of joke. A pet, or a mascot. Of course, he never did catch on. I don't suppose he has yet."
Malone laughed. "Nope," he said. "He hasn't."
"And even your friend is happy," Dorothea said.
"Boyd?" Malone said. "Sure. He called his blonde and she was just thrilled at the adventures of an FBI agent, and he's with her now."
"You sound jealous," Dorothea said.
"The hell I am," Malone said, and proceeded to prove his point. Some minutes later they relaxed.
"Mike," Dorothea said. "What?"
"Mike," she said. "He's probably the happiest of all. After Mom and I talked to him for a while, anyhow, and he began to lose that—that trapped feeling. Now he's all excited about being an FBI man." She looked worriedly at Malone for a second. "You weren't kidding about that, were you?" she said.
She looked very pretty when she was worried. Malone leaned over and kissed her with great care. After a second, the kiss seemed to gain momentum on its own, and all restraint went by the wayside. A long time passed.
Then, as Malone pulled away and began to recover his breath, he said weakly, "You were saying?"
"Was I?" Dorothea said. "Oh, yes. I was. About Mike being an FBI man."
"Oh," Malone said. "Well, normally you've got to be a lawyer or an accountant, but there are a few special cases. And maybe Mike would fit into the special-case bracket. If he doesn't—well, he'll be doing some sort of official work for the Government. You can be sure of that."
"That woman in the costume—the one you call Your Majesty—certainly threw a scare into the boys," Dorothea said.
"Well," Malone said, "we had to prove one thing to them. We can pick them up at any time. You see, they've got to think about where they're teleporting, and as soon as they do that one of our telepaths—like the Queen—will know where they're going to be. And we can crack down."
"That's what she said," Dorothea said.
"Right," Malone said. "After all, we did them quite a favor—getting them out of all the trouble they'd gotten themselves into. If they try to—"
"That reminds me, Ken," Dorothea said. "All the things that were stolen. The liquor and all of that, Money. What's going to happen to that?"
"Well," Malone said, "everything that can be returned—and that includes most of the liquor, because they hadn't had a chance to get rid of it to the bootleggers around this area—will be returned. What can't be returned—money, stuff that they've used, broken, or sold—well, I don't exactly know about that. It might take a special act of Congress," he said brightly.
"All for the boys?" Dorothea said.
"Well, they'll be at Yucca Flats, and they'll be pretty useful," Malone said. "And, as I was saying, if they try to run away from Yucca Flats, we'll just have to keep them drugged all the time, little as we want to. They can be of some use that way, too. The Government isn't doing all this for nothing."
"But keeping them drugged—"
"I said we didn't want to do it. And I don't think we'll have to. They'll be well taken care of, don't worry. Some of the best psychiatrists and doctors are out there. And Mike and the others—if they can show they're trustworthy—can come home every weekend, or even every night if they can teleport that far." Malone paused. "But it isn't charity," he added. "We need people with specialized psionic abilities—and, for a variety of reasons, they're pretty hard to find."
"You know," Dorothea said, "you're pretty wonderful, Mr. Malone."
Malone didn't answer her. He just kissed her again, not caring particularly whether or not the kiss went wild.
Dorothea pushed him gently away. "I'm envious," she announced. "Everybody gets a reward but me. Do I get left out just because I swiped your notebook?"
Malone kissed her again. "What kind of a reward do you want?" he asked.
She sighed. "Oh, well," she said. "I suppose this is good enough."
"Good enough?" Malone said. "Just good enough?"
His lips met hers for the fifth time. She reached one hand gently out to the light switch and pushed it.
The lights went out.