Heart, p.1Henry Slesar
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This etext was produced from Amazing Stories January 1957. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.
By HENRY SLESAR
_Monk had three questions he lived by: Where can I find it? How much will it cost? When can you deliver? But now they said that what he needed wasn't for sale. "Want to bet?" He snorted._
* * * * *
_Systole_ ... _diastole_ ... the Cardiophone listened, hummed, andrecorded; tracing a path of perilous peaks and precipices on the whitepaper.
"Relax!" Dr. Rostov pleaded. "Please relax, Mr. Monk!"
The eyes of Fletcher Monk replied. Rostov knew their language wellenough to read the glaring messages they transmitted. Indignation ..."_Don't use that commanding tone with me, Doctor!_" Protest ... "_I amrelaxed; completely relaxed!_" Warning.... "_Get me out of thiselectric chair, Rostov!_"
The physician sighed and clicked the apparatus off. Swiftly, but withknowing fingers, he disengaged his patient from the wire and rubberencumbrances of the reclining seat. Fletcher Monk sat up and rubbedhis forearms, watching every movement the doctor made as he preparedto study the results of his examination.
"You're fussing, Rostov," he said coldly. "My shirt."
"In a moment."
"_Now,_" said Monk impatiently.
The physician shook his head sadly. He handed Monk his shirt andwaited until the big man had buttoned it half way down. Then hereturned to the Cardiophone for a more critical study. A fine analysiswas hardly necessary; the alarming story had been told with the firstmeasurements of the heart machine.
Money buys anything, I tell you--anything!]
"Cut it out," said Monk brusquely. "You've got that death's-headlook again, Rostov. If you want to say something, say it."
"You were tight as a drum," said the doctor. "That's going toinfluence my findings, you know. If you hadn't refused the narcotic--"
Fletcher Monk barked: "I won't be drugged!"
"It would have relaxed you--"
"I was as relaxed as I ever am," the other man said candidly, andRostov recognized the truth of his analysis. Monk lived in a world oftaut muscles and nerves stretched out just below the breaking point.Tenseness was his trademark; there was no more elasticity in Monk'sbody than there was in the hard cash he accumulated so readily.
"Well?" the patient jeered. "What's the verdict, you damned sawbones?Going to throw away my cigars? Going to send me on a long sea voyage?"
"Don't look so smug!" Monk exploded. "I know you think there'ssomething wrong with me. You can't wait to bury me!"
"You're sick, Mr. Monk," said the doctor. "You're very sick."
Monk glowered. "You're wrong," he said icily. "You've made a lousydiagnosis."
"What was that feeling you described?" asked Rostov. "Remember whatyou told me? Like a big, black bird, flapping its wings in your chest.Didn't that mean something to you, Mr. Monk?"
* * * * *
The industrialist paled. "All right. Get to the point," he saidquietly. "What did that gadget tell you?"
"Bad news," said the doctor. "Your heart's been strained almost tobursting. It's working on will power, Mr. Monk; hardly anything else."
"_Get to the point!_" Monk shouted.
"That _is_ the point," Rostov said stiffly. "You have a serious heartcondition. A dangerous condition. You've ignored eight years of myadvice, and now your heart is showing the effects."
"What can it do to me?"
"Kill you," said the doctor bluntly. "Frankly, I can't even promisethat the usual precautions will do any good. But we have no otherchoice than to take them. The human body is a miraculous affair, andeven the most desperate damages sometimes can't prevent it from goingon living. But I won't mince words with you, Mr. Monk. You're a directsort of person, so I'm telling you directly. Your chances are slim."
Monk sat down and put his black tie on distractedly. He sat deep inthought for a while, and then said:
"How much would it cost to fix it?"
"Money!" the big man cried. "How much money would it take to get merepaired?"
"But it's not a matter of money--"
"Don't give me that!" Monk put his jacket on with a violent motion."I've learned better than that in my fifty years, Dr. Rostov. Moneyfixes everything. Everything! I could curdle your milk by telling yousome of the things I've fixed with money!"
The physician shrugged. "Money doesn't buy health."
"Doesn't it?" The patient gave an abrupt laugh. "Money buys people,Dr. Rostov. It buys loyalty and disloyalty. It buys friends and sellsenemies. All these are commodities, Doctor. I found that out--the hardway."
"Mr. Monk, you don't know what I'm telling you. Your heart action isunreliable, and no amount of dollars can bring it back to normal--"
The industrialist stood up. "You think the heart is incorruptible,eh?" He snorted. "Well, I think different. Someplace on earth there'sa man or a method that can fix me up. It'll take money to find theanswer, that's for sure. But I'll find it!"
Rostov put out his hand helplessly. "You're being unreasonable, Mr.Monk. There is nothing on earth--"
"_All right!_" Fletcher Monk shouted. "So maybe there's nothing onEarth!" His body trembled with his emotion. "Then I'll go to thestars, if I have to!"
* * * * *
Rostov started. "If you mean this gravity business--"
"What's that?" Monk froze. "What's that you said?"
"This gravity thing," the doctor said. "This silly story about theMars Colony they've been spreading--"
"What silly story?" asked Monk, narrowing his eyes. "I haven't heardit. What do you mean?"
Rostov regretted his words. But he knew it was too late to stop theindustrialist from extracting the details from him. He made adespairing gesture and went over to his desk. From the top drawer, hewithdrew a folded sheet torn from the pages of a daily newspaper thatspecialized in lurid articles and wild imaginings.
* * * * *
Monk snatched it from the doctor's hand. "Let me see that!" he said.He turned the paper over in his hand until he found the red-pencilledarticle the doctor had referred to.
"MARS BOON TO HEART CASES, SAYS SPACE DOCTOR." Monk read the headlinealoud, and then looked at Rostov.
"It's a misquotation," the physician said. "Dr. Feasley never madesuch a bald statement. They've taken something out of context to makea sensational story--"
"Let me see for myself," snapped Monk.
He began to read. "... 'Space Medicine Association ... Dr. SamuelFeasley, renowned' ... here it is!... 'the effects of Earth'sgravitational pull on the body versus the relatively light gravitationencountered by the members of the Martian Colony ... two-fifths thepull of Earth ... interesting speculation on the heart action...!'" Hecrushed the paper in his hands. "By God!" he cried. "Here's my answer,you gloomy old fool!"
"No, no!" said Rostov hurriedly. "You don't know what you're saying--"
Fletcher Monk laughed loudly. "I always know what I'm saying, DoctorRostov. Here it is in black and white! Why should I die on Earth--whenI can live on Mars?"
"But it's impossible! There are so many problems--"
"Money solves problems!"
"Not this one!" said the doctor heatedly. "Not the problem ofacceleration! You'll never reach Mars alive!"
Monk paused. "What do you mean?" he blinked
"The acceleration will kill you!" Rostov said in a shaking voice."Three G's are enough to burst that sick heart of yours. And theacceleration reaches a gravity of _nine_ at one point. You'd nevermake it!"
"I'll never make it _here_," said Monk, biting out the words.
Heart by Henry Slesar / Science Fiction have rating 4.5 out of 5 / Based on18 votes