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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOut Like A Light - Chapter 14
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Out Like A Light - Chapter 14 Post by :PlayersGolf Category :Long Stories Author :Randall Garrett Date :May 2012 Read :2997

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Out Like A Light - Chapter 14

CHAPTER XIV

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 lookout?"

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. "O.K., Tom," he whispered. "This is H-hour--M-minute--and S-second."

"I can spell," 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.

"O.K.?" 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 fat-headed 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."

"Really?"

Boyd whispered: "Malone, what is this? It's no 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."

"But you--"

"Please," Malone said. "Believe me."

"Oh, Ken," Dorothea said, raising her head. "Do you ... do you mean it?"

"Sure I mean it," Malone said. "What have I been saying? The Government needs these kids."

"The Government?"

"It's nothing to worry about," Malone said. "Just go on home now, all right? I'll call you tomorrow. Late tonight, if I can. All right?"

"No," Dorothea said. "It's not all right. Not at all."

"But--"

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. But 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 across the roof quickly under the cold stars, 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 explosives 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 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 on to 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 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. Smart. Sure, you get 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 it.

"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'd have happened if he'd found all that stuff?"

"So what happened anyway?" another voice--Ramon?--said. "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 difference?"

"Shut up!" Mike roared.

"You ain't telling me to shut up!" (That was the third voice. Malone thought; possibly Ramon Otravez.)

"Me either!" Silvo yelled. "You think you're a great 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!"

A voice said, "Any dame with a little--"

"Shut your 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 invectives 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-bluing epithets out 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 a while."

"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.

Cops?

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 campatriots 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 reformed 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 vanish 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, hit and 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 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 would appear just in front of Boyd, who rushed at him, arms outstretched. As Boyd had 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.

The lieutenant suddenly 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 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 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: "Yi!" 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! 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 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 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 everybody."

"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."

"But--"

"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 round, 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."

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