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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOut Like A Light - Chapter 10
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Out Like A Light - Chapter 10 Post by :PlayersGolf Category :Long Stories Author :Randall Garrett Date :May 2012 Read :694

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Out Like A Light - Chapter 10

CHAPTER X

By three o'clock, he was again among the living. Maybe his occupations had had something to do with it; he'd spent about four hours supervising Operation Dismemberment, and then listening to the reports on the dismantled Cadillacs. It was nice, peaceful, unimportant work, but there just wasn't anything else to do. FBI work was ninety-five per cent marking time, anyway; Malone felt grateful that there was any action at all in what he was doing.

Dr. Leibowitz had found all sorts of things in the commandeered Caddies--everything from guns and narcotics to pornographic pictures in lots of three hundred, for shipment into New York City from the suburbs where the processing plants probably were. Of course, there had been personal effects, too--maps and lucky dolls and, just once, a single crutch.

Malone wondered about that for quite a while. Who'd just walk off and leave one crutch in a car? But people did things like that all the time, he finally told himself heavily. There wasn't any explanation for it, and there probably never would be.

But in spite of the majestic assortment of valuables found in the cars, there was no sign of anything remotely resembling an electro-psionic brain. Dr. Leibowitz had found just about everything--except what he was looking for.

At a quarter of three, Malone gave up. The search wasn't quite finished, but he'd heard enough to last him for a long time. He grabbed a cab downstairs and went over to Lynch's office to meet Kettleman.

The "social worker or something" was a large, balding man about six feet tall. Malone estimated his weight as close to two hundred and fifty pounds, and he looked every pound of it; his face was round without being chubby, and his body was stocky and hard. He wore black-rimmed glasses, and he was going bald in front. His face was like a mask: it was held in a gentle, almost eager expression that Malone would have sworn had nothing to do with the way Kettleman felt underneath.

Lynch performed the introductions, escorted the two of them to one of the interrogation rooms at the rear of the station, and left them there, with: "If either of you guys comes up with anything, let me know," for a parting shot.

Kettleman blinked slowly behind his glasses. "Mr. Malone," he said, "I understand that the FBI is interested in one of the ... ah ... adolescent social groups with which I work."

"Well, the Silent Spooks," Malone said. "That's right."

"The Spooks," Kettleman said. His voice was rather higher than Malone would have expected, oddly breathy without much depth to it. "My, yes. I did want to talk to somebody about it, and I thought you might be the man."

"I'll be interested in anything you have to say," Malone said diplomatically. He was beginning to doubt whether he'd get any real information out of Kettleman. But it was impossible to tell. He sat back in a hard wooden chair and tried to look fascinated.

"Well," Kettleman said tentatively, "the boys themselves have sort of a word for it. They'd say that there was something ... ah ... 'oddball' about the Spooks. Do you understand? Not just the fact that they never drink liquor, you understand, but--"

"Something strange," Malone said. "Is that what you mean."

"Ah," Kettleman said. "_Strange. Of course." He acted, Malone thought, as if he had never heard the word before, and was both pleased and startled by its sound. "Perhaps I had better explain my position a little more clearly," he said. "That will give you an idea of just where I ... ah ... 'fit in' to this picture."

"Whatever you think best," Malone said, resigning himself to a very dull hour. He tried to picture Kettleman in the midst of a gang of juvenile delinquents. It was very hard to do.

"I'm a social worker," Kettleman said, "working on an individual basis with these--social groups that the adolescents have formed. It's my job to make friends with them, become accepted by them, and try to turn their hostile impulses toward society into more useful, more acceptable channels."

"I see," Malone said, feeling that something was expected of him. "That's fine."

"Oh, we don't expect praise, we social workers," Kettleman said instantly. "The worth of a good job well done, that's enough for us." He smiled. The effect was a little unsettling, as if a hippopotamus had begun to laugh like a hyena. "But to continue, Mr. Malone," he said.

"Of course," Malone said. "Certainly."

"I've worked with many of the organizations in this neighborhood," Kettleman said. "And I've been quite successful in getting to know them, and in being accepted by them. Of course, the major part of my job is more difficult, but ... well, I'm sure that's enough about my own background. That isn't what you're interested in, now, is it?"

He looked penitent. Malone said: "It's all right. I don't mind." He shifted positions on the hard chair.

"Well, then," Kettleman said, with the air of a man suddenly getting down to business. He leaned forward eagerly, his eyes big and bright behind the lenses. "There's something very peculiar about those boys," he said in a whisper.

"Really?" Malone said.

"Very peculiar indeed," Kettleman said. "My, yes. All of the other ... ah ... social groups are afraid of them."

"Big, huh?" Malone said. "Big, strong boys who--"

"Oh, my no," Kettleman said. "My goodness, no. All of the Spooks are rather slight, as a matter of fact. They've got _something, but it isn't strength."

"My goodness," Malone said tiredly.

"I doubt if--in the language of my own groups--any one of the Spooks could punch his way out of a paper bag," Kettleman said. "It's more than that."

"Frankly," Malone said, "I'm inclined to agree with you. But what is this something that frightens everyone else?"

Kettleman leaned even closer. "I'm not sure," he said softly. "I can't say for certain, Mr. Malone. I've only heard rumors."

"Well," Malone said, "rumors might--"

"Rumors are a very powerful force among my groups, Mr. Malone," Kettleman said. "I've learned, over the years, to keep my ear to the ground, as it were, and pay very close attention to rumors."

"I'm sure," Malone said patiently. "But what did this particular rumor say?"

"Well," Kettleman said, and stopped. "Well," he said again. And at last he gulped and got it out: "Magicians, Mr. Malone. They say the Spooks are magicians--that they can come and go at will. Make themselves invisible. All sorts of things. Of course, I don't believe that, but--"

"Oh, it's quite true," Malone said, solemn-faced.

"It's ... what?"

"Perfectly true," Malone said. "We've known all that."

"Oh, my," Kettleman said. His face took on a whitish cast. "Oh, my goodness," he said. "Isn't that ... isn't that amazing?" He swallowed hard. "True all the time," he said. "Magicians. I--"

"You see, this information isn't new to us," Malone said.

"Oh," Kettleman said. "No. Of course not. My. It's ... rather disconcerting to think about, isn't it?"

"There," Malone said, "I agree with you."

* * * * *

Kettleman fell silent. Malone offered him a cigarette, but the social worker refused with a pale smile, and Malone lit one for himself. He took a couple of puffs in the silence, and then Kettleman said: "Well, Mr. Malone, Lieutenant Lynch did say that I was to tell you everything I could about these boys."

"I'm sure we all appreciate that," Malone said at random, wondering exactly what he meant.

"There is ... well, there is one more thing," Kettleman said. "Ordinarily, of course, I wouldn't say anything about this to anyone. In my line of work, Mr. Malone, you learn the need for confidence. For being able to keep one's word."

"Certainly," Malone said, wondering what startling new fact was on its way now.

"And we certainly try to keep the confidence of the boys," Kettleman said maddeningly. "We wouldn't betray them to the police in any way unless it were absolutely necessary."

"Betray them--? Mr. Kettleman," Malone said, "just what are you trying to tell me?"

"It's about their meeting place," Kettleman said. "Oh, my. I'm not at all sure I ought to tell you this." He wrung his pale fat hands together and looked at Malone appealingly.

"Now, now," Malone said, feeling foolish. "It's perfectly all right. We don't want to hurt the Spooks. Not any more than we have to. You can tell me, Mr. Kettleman."

"Oh," Kettleman said. "Well. I--The Spooks do have a sort of secret meeting place, you know. And they meet there."

He stopped. Malone said: "Where is it?"

"Oh, it's a big empty warehouse," Kettleman said. "I really feel terrible about this. They're meeting there tonight some time, or that's what the rumors say. I shouldn't be telling you--"

"Of course you should," Malone said, trying to sound reassuring. "Don't worry about a thing, Mr. Kettleman. Tonight?"

"That's right," Kettleman said eagerly. He grinned and then looked morosely down at his hands.

"Do you know where this warehouse is?" Malone said. "If any of the other little social groups use it--"

"Oh, no, they don't," Kettleman said. "That's what makes it so funny. You see, the warehouse is deserted, but it's kept in good repair; there are bars on the windows, and it's protected by all sorts of alarm systems and things like that. So none of the others can use it. Only the Spooks. You can't get in without a key, not at all."

"But do the Spooks--" Malone began.

"Oh, no," Kettleman moaned. "They don't have a key. At least, that's what the other ... social groups say. The Spooks just ... just melt through the walls, or something like that."

"Mr. Kettleman," Malone said, "where is this warehouse?"

"I shouldn't be telling you this," Kettleman said.

Malone sighed. "Please. Mr. Kettleman. You know we're working for the good of those boys, don't you?"

"Well, I--"

"Sure we are," Malone said. "So you can tell me."

Kettleman blinked behind his glasses, and moaned a little. Malone waited with his hands tense in his lap. At last Kettleman said: "It's on West Street, near Chambers. That's downtown." He gave Malone an address. "That's where it is," he said. "But you won't ... do anything to the boys, will you? They're basically good boys. No matter what. And they--"

"Don't worry about it, Mr. Kettleman," Malone said. "We'll take care of the Spooks."

"Oh," Kettleman said. "Yes. Sure."

He got up. Malone said: "There's just one more thing, Mr. Kettleman."

"Yes?" The big man's voice had reached the high, breathy pitch of a fife.

"Do you have any idea what time the Spooks usually meet?"

"Well, now," Kettleman said, "I don't really know. You see, the reason I wanted to tell you all this was because Lieutenant Lynch was checking up on all those boys yesterday, and I thought--" He stopped and cleared his throat, and when he began again his voice had dropped almost to a whisper: "Well, Mr. Malone, I thought, after all, that since he was asking me questions ... you know, questions about where they were, the Spooks I mean, and all of that ... since he was asking me questions--"

"Yes?" Malone said.

"I thought perhaps I ought to tell you about them," Kettleman said. "Where they were, and all of that."

Malone stood up. "Mr. Kettleman," he said in his most official voice, "I want you to know that the FBI appreciates what you've done. Your information will probably be very helpful to us, and the FBI certainly commends you for being public-spirited enough to come to us and tell us what you know." He thought for a second, and then added: "In the name of the FBI, Mr. Kettleman--well done!"

Kettleman stared, smiled and gulped. "My goodness," he said "Well." He smiled again, a little more broadly. "One has one's duty, you know. My, yes. Duty." He nodded to Malone.

"Of course," Malone said, going to the door and opening it. "Thanks again, Mr. Kettleman."

Kettleman saw the open door and headed for it blindly. As he left he flashed one last smile after Malone, who sighed, shut the door and leaned against it for a second.

The things an FBI agent had to go through!

* * * * *

When he had recovered, he opened the door again and peered carefully down the hallway to make sure Kettleman had gone. Then he left the interrogation room and went down the hall, past the desk sergeant, and up the stairs to Lieutenant Lynch's office. He was still breathing a little hard when he opened Lynch's door, and Lynch didn't seem to be expecting him at all. He was very busy with a veritable snow flurry of papers, and he looked as if he had been involved with them steadily ever since he had left Malone and Kettleman alone downstairs.

"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. But--"

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, O.K.?"

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."

"My 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."

"Malone, I--"

"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 O.K., 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 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 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 fool, until I've got some way of making sure they're there when the raid goes through."

Malone coughed gently. "O.K.," 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. "Just 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. I don't even want me to know about it, until it stops sounding so nutty to me."

"O.K., 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 re-appear some place else. Walk through walls?" He shrugged. "How should I know? But they can sure 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."

"O.K.," 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."

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