Friday, p.14
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       Friday, p.14

           Robert A. Heinlein
 

  I answered just as quietly, “Do they know that I’m here?”

  “Don’t know yet.”

  “Let’s be sure. If they know I’m here and they can’t find me, you’ll be in trouble.”

  “We are not afraid of trouble.”

  “Thanks. But let’s listen.”

  Ian was saying to the face in the screen, “Mel, come off it. Georges is not an enemy alien and you damned well know it. As for this—‘Miss Baldwin,’ did you say?—why are you looking here for her?”

  “She left the port with you and your wife yesterday evening. If she’s not still with you, then you certainly know where she is. As for Georges, any Kaybecker is an enemy alien today no matter how long he has been here or what clubs he belongs to. I assume that you would rather have an old friend pick him up than a trooper. So switch off your sky guard; I’m ready to land.”

  Janet whispered, “‘Old friend’ indeed! He’s been trying to get into bed with me since high school; I have been telling him no the same length of time—he’s slimy.”

  Ian sighed. “Mel, this is a hell of a funny time to talk about friendship. If Georges were here, I’m sure he would rather be arrested by a trooper than be taken in under the guise of friendship. So go back and do it the right way.”

  “Oh, so it’s that way, is it? Very well! Lieutenant Dickey speaking. I’m here to make an arrest. Switch off your sky guard; I’m landing.”

  “Ian Tormey, householder, acknowledging police hail. Lieutenant, hold your warrant up to your pickup so that I may verify it and photograph it.”

  “Ian, you are out of your silly mind. A state of emergency has been declared; no warrant is required.”

  “I can’t hear you.”

  “Maybe you can hear this: I am about to lock onto your sky guard and burn it out. If I set fire to something in doing so, that’s too damn bad.”

  Ian spread his hands in disgust, then did something at the keyboard. “Sky guard is off.” He then switched to “hold” and turned to us. “You two have maybe three minutes to get down the Hole. I can’t stall him very long at the door.”

  Georges said quietly, “I shall not hide in a hole in the ground. I shall insist on my rights. If I do not receive them, at a later time I shall sue Melvin Dickey for his hide.”

  Ian shrugged. “You’re a crazy Canuck. Put you’re a big boy now. Marj, get undercover, dear. It won’t take too long to get rid of him as he doesn’t really know that you are here.”

  “Uh, I’ll go down the Hole if necessary. But can’t I simply wait in Janet’s bath? He might go away. I’ll switch the terminal there to pick up what goes on here. All right?”

  “Marj, you’re being difficult.”

  “Then persuade Georges to go down the Hole, too. If he stays, I might be needed here. To help him. To help you.”

  “What in the world are you talking about?”

  I was not sure myself what I was talking about. But it did not seem like anything I had been trained for to declare myself out of the game and go hide in a hole in the ground. “Ian, this Melvin Dickey—I think he means harm to Georges. I could feel it in his voice. If Georges won’t go with me into the Hole, then I should go with him to see to it that this Dickey does not hurt him—anyone in the hands of the police needs a witness on his side.”

  “Marj, you can’t possibly stop a—” A deep gong note sounded. “Oh, damn! He’s at the door. Get out of sight! And go down the Hole!”

  I got out of sight, I did not go down the Hole. I hurried into Janet’s big bath, switched on the terminal, then used the selector switch to place the living room pickup on screen. When I turned up the sound, it was almost as good as being there.

  A banty rooster strutted in.

  Actually it was not Dickey’s body but his soul that was small. Dickey had a size-twelve ego in a size-four soul, in a body almost as big as Ian’s. He came into the room with Ian, spotted Georges, said triumphantly, “There you are! Perreault, I arrest you for willfully failing to report for internment as ordered by the Decree of Emergency, paragraph six.”

  “I have received no such order.”

  “Oh, piffle! It’s been all over the news.”

  “I do not make a practice of following the news. I know of no law requiring me to. May I see a copy of the order under which you propose to arrest me?”

  “Don’t try to come the shyster on me, Perreault. We’re operating under National Emergency and I’m enforcing it. You can read the order when I get you in. Ian, I’m deputizing you to help me. Take these nips”—Dickey reached behind himself, pulled out a pair of handcuffs—“and put them on him. Hands behind his back.”

  Ian did not move. “Mel, don’t be more of a fool than you have to be. You have no possible excuse to put handcuffs on Georges.”

  “The hell I don’t! We’re running shorthanded and I’m making this arrest without assistance. So I can’t take a chance on him trying to pull something sneaky while we’re floating back. Hurry up and get those cuffs on him!”

  “Don’t point that gun at me!”

  I was no longer watching. I was out of the bath, through two doors, down a long hall, and into the living room, all with a frozen motion feeling I get when I’m triggered into overdrive.

  Dickey was trying to cover three people with his gun, one of them being Janet. He should not have done that. I moved up to him, took his gun, and hand-chopped his neck. The bones made that unpleasant crunching noise neck bones always make, so unlike the sharp crack of fractured tibia or radius.

  I eased him to the rug and placed his pistolet by him, while noting that it was a Raytheon five-oh-five powerful enough to stop a mastodon—why do men with little souls have to have big weapons? I said, “Jan, are you hurt?”

  “No.”

  “I got here as fast as I could. Ian, this is what I meant when I said that my help might be needed. But I should have stayed here. I was almost too late.”

  “I’ve never seen anyone move so fast!”

  Georges said quietly, “I have seen.”

  I looked at him. “Yes, of course you have. Georges, will you help me move this”—I indicated the corpse—“and can you drive a police APV?”

  “I can if I must.”

  “I am about at that level of skill, too. Let’s get rid of the body. Janet told me a bit about where bodies go, did not show me the spot. Some hole just off the escape tunnel, isn’t it? Let’s get busy. Ian, as soon as we dispose of this, Georges and I can leave. Or Georges can stay and sweat it out. But once the body and the APV are gone, you and Jan can play dumb. No evidence. You never saw him. But we must hurry, before he is missed.”

  Jan was down on her knees beside the late police lieutenant. “Marj, you actually did kill him.”

  “Yes. He hurried me. Nevertheless I killed him on purpose because in dealing with a policeman it is much safer to kill than to hurt. Jan, he should not have pointed his burner at you. Otherwise I might merely have disarmed him—then killed him only if you decided that he needed to be dead.”

  “You hurried, all right. You weren’t here and then you were and Mel was falling. ‘—needed to be dead’? I don’t know but I won’t grieve. He’s a rat. Was a rat.”

  Ian said slowly, “Marj, you don’t seem to realize that killing a police officer is a serious matter. It is the only capital crime that British Canada still has on the books.”

  When people talk that way, I don’t understand them; a policeman isn’t anybody special. “Ian, to me, pointing a pistol at my friends is a serious matter. Pointing one at Janet is a capital crime. But I’m sorry I upset you. Right now here is a body to dispose of and an APV to get rid of. I can help. Or I can disappear. Say which but be quick; we don’t know how soon they will come looking for him—and for us. Just that they will.”

  While I spoke, I was searching the corpse—no pouch, I had to search his pockets, being very careful with his trouser pockets because his sphincters had cut loose the way they always do. Not much, thank Bas
t!—he had barely wet his pants and he did not yet stink. Or not badly. The important items were in his jacket pockets: wallet, buzzer, IDs, money, credit cards, all the walk-around junk that tells a modern man that he is alive. I took the wallet and the Raytheon burner; the rest was trash. I picked up those silly handcuffs. “Any way to dispose of metal? Or must these go down the same hole as the body?”

  Ian was still chewing his lip. Georges said gently, “Ian, I urge you to accept Marjorie’s help. It is evident that she is expert.”

  Ian stopped jittering. “Georges, take his feet.” The men carried the body into the big bath. I hurried ahead and dropped Dickey’s gun, cuffs, and wallet on the bed in my room, and Janet put his hat with these items. I hurried into the bath, undressing as I went. Our men, with burden, had just reached it. Ian said, as they put it down, “Marj, you don’t need to peel down. Georges and I will take it through. And dispose of it.”

  “All right,” I agreed. “But let me take care of washing it. I know what needs to be done. I can do it better naked, then a quick shower afterwards.”

  Ian looked puzzled, then said, “Oh, hell, let him stay dirty.”

  “All right if you say so, but you aren’t going to want to use this pool or even go through it getting in and out of the Hole until the water has been changed and the pool basin itself scrubbed. I think it is faster to wash the body. Unless—” Janet had just come in. “Jan, you spoke of emptying this plunge into a holding tank. How long does that take? Full cycle, in and out.”

  “About an hour. It’s a small pump.”

  “Ian, I can get that body clean in ten minutes if you will strip it and stick it into the shower. How about his clothes? Do they go down your oubliette, whatever you call it, or do you have some way to destroy them? Do they have to go through the pool tunnel?”

  Things moved fast then, with Ian being fully cooperative and all of them letting me lead. Jan stripped down, too, and insisted on helping me wash the corpse, while Georges put the clothes through their home laundry and Ian went through the water tunnel to make some preparations.

  I did not want to let Janet help me because I have had mind control training and I was fairly sure that she had not. But, trained or not, she is tough. Aside from wrinkling her nose a couple of times she did not flinch. And of course, with her help, it went much faster.

  Georges brought the clothes back, dripping. Janet put them into a plastic sack and pressed the air out. Ian reappeared up out of the pool, with the end of a rope. The men hitched it under the body’s armpits and shortly it was gone.

  Twenty minutes later we were clean and dry, with no trace of Lieutenant Dickey left in the house. Janet had come into “my” room while I was transferring items from Dickey’s wallet into the plastic money belt she had given me—primarily money and two credit cards, American Express and Maple Leaf.

  She didn’t make any silly remarks about “robbing the dead”—and I would not have listened if she had. These days, operating without a valid credit card and/or cash is impossible. Jan left the room, came back quickly with twice as much cash as I had salvaged. I accepted it, saying, “You know that I have no notion as to how and when I can repay this.”

  “Certainly I know it. Marj, I’m wealthy. My grandparents were; I’ve never been anything else. Look, dear, a man pointed a gun at me…and you jumped him, with your bare hands. Can I repay that? Both of my husbands were present…but you were the one who tackled him.”

  “Don’t feel that way about the men, Jan; they don’t have my training.”

  “I could see that. Someday I would like to hear about it. Any chance you will go to Québec?”

  “An excellent chance if Georges decides to leave.”

  “I thought so.” She offered me more money. “I don’t keep Q-francs in the house, much. But here is what I have.”

  At that point the men came in. I glanced at my finger, then at the wall. “Forty-seven minutes since I killed him so he has been out of touch with his headquarters one hour, more or less. Georges, I am about to attempt to pilot that police APV; I have the key right here. Unless you are coming with me and will pilot. Are you coming? Or are you going to stay and wait for the next attempt to arrest you? Either way, I am leaving now.”

  Janet said suddenly, “Let’s all leave!”

  I grinned at her. “Swell!”

  Ian said, “You really want to do that, Jan?”

  “I—” She stopped and looked frustrated. “I can’t. Mama Cat and her kittens. Black Beauty and Demon and Star and Red. We could close this house, certainly; it winterproofs on only one household Shipstone. But it would take at least a day or two to make arrangements for the rest of our family. Even one pig! I can’t just walk out on them. I can’t.”

  There wasn’t anything to say, so I didn’t. The coldest depth of Hell is reserved for people who abandon kittens. Boss says that I am stupidly sentimental and I’m sure he is right.

  We went outside. It was just beginning to get dark and I suddenly realized that I had entered this household less than a day earlier—it seemed like a month. Goodness, just twenty-four hours ago I had still been in New Zealand…which seemed preposterous.

  The police car was sitting on Jan’s vegetable garden, which caused her to use language I did not expect from her. It had the usual squatty oyster shape of an antigrav not intended for space and was about the size of our family farm wagon in South Island. No, that did not make me triste; Jan and her men—and Betty and Freddie—had replaced the Davidson Group in my heart—donna e mobile; that’s me. Now I wanted very badly to get back to Boss. Father figure? Probably—but I’m not interested in shrink theories.

  Ian said, “Let me look at this bucket before you lift it. You babes in the wood could get hurt.” He opened the lid, got in. Presently he got out again. “You can float it if you decide to. But hear me. It’s got an identification transponder. It almost certainly has an active beacon, too, although I can’t find it. Its Shipstone is down to thirty-one percent, so, if you are thinking of Québec, forget it. It will seal but you can’t maintain cabin pressure above twelve thousand meters. But, worst of all, its terminal is calling Lieutenant Dickey.”

  “So we ignore it!”

  “Of course, Georges. But, as a result of the Ortega trials last year, they’ve been installing remote-control destruction packs in police cars. I searched for signs of one. Had I found it, I would have disarmed it. I did not find it. That does not mean that it isn’t there.”

  I shrugged. “Ian, necessary risks never bother me. I try to avoid the other sort. But we still have to get rid of this heap of tin. Fly it somewhere. Leave it.”

  Ian said, “Not so fast, Marj. Go-buggies are my business. This one—Yes! It’s got the standard military AG autopilot. So we’ll send it for a ride. Where? East, maybe? It would crash before it reaches Québec…and that could cause them to assume that you are headed home, Georges—while you are safe in the Hole.”

  “I do not care, Ian. I shall not hide in the Hole. I agreed to leave because Marjorie needs someone to care for her.”

  “More likely she’ll take care of you. You saw how she polished off Soapy.”

  “Agreed. But I did not say ‘take care of’—I said that she needs someone to care for her.”

  “Same thing.”

  “I will not argue it. Shall we make it march?”

  I chopped that off by saying, “Ian, is there enough power in its Shipstone to take it south to the Imperium?”

  “Yes. But it’s not safe for you to float it.”

  “Didn’t mean that. Set it on course south and maximum altitude. Maybe your border guard will burn it down, maybe the Imperium will. Or maybe it will get through but be blown by remote. Or it might just run out of juice and crash from maximum altitude. No matter which, we are free of it.”

  “Done.” Ian jumped back in, was busy at the board, the craft started to float—he dived out, dropping three or four meters. I gave him a hand. “You all right?”

&
nbsp; “Just fine. Look at her go!” The police car was rapidly disappearing above us while slanting south. Suddenly it broke out of the gathering dusk into the last of the sunlight and was very bright. It dwindled and was gone.

  XIV

  We were back in the kitchen, half an eye on the terminal, our attention on each other and on highballs Ian had served, discussing what if anything to do now. Ian was saying,

  “Marj, if you will just sit tight this silly season will be over and you can then go home comfortably. If there is another flap, you can dive down the Hole. At worst you have to stay indoors. Meanwhile Georges can paint nudes of you, as Betty ordered. Okay, Georges?”

  “That would be most pleasing.”

  “Well, Marj?”

  “Ian, if I tell my boss that I couldn’t come back when I was supposed to because a twenty-five-hundred kilometer stretch of border was nominally closed he simply would not believe me.” (Tell them that I am a trained courier? No need to. Or not yet.)

  “What are you going to do?”

  “I think I have been enough trouble to you folks.” (Ian dear, I think you are still in shock from seeing a man killed in your living room. Even though you straightened up afterward and behaved like a pro.) “I now know where your back door is. When you get up tomorrow morning it is possible that I won’t be here. Then you can forget a disturbance in your life.”

  “No!”

  “Jan, once this mess is over, I will call you. Then, if you want me to, I’ll come back to visit just as soon as I have some vacation time. But now I must leave and get back to work. I’ve said so all along.”

  Janet simply would not hear of my setting out alone to crack the border (whereas I needed someone with me the way a snake needs shoes). But she did have a plan.

  She pointed out that Georges and I could travel on their passports—I was her size, near enough, and Georges matched Ian in size and weight. Our faces did not match but the differences weren’t major—and who really looks at passport pictures anyhow?

 
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