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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOut Like A Light - Chapter 15
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Out Like A Light - Chapter 15 Post by :PlayersGolf Category :Long Stories Author :Randall Garrett Date :May 2012 Read :965

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Out Like A Light - Chapter 15

CHAPTER XV

It is definitely not usual for the Director of the FBI to come stalking into a local office of that same FBI without so much as an advance warning or a by-your-leave. Such things are simply not done.

Andrew J. Burris, however, was doing them.

Three days after the Great Warehouse Fiasco, a startled A-in-C looked up to see the familiar Burris figure stalk by his office, growling under its breath. The A-in-C leaped to the interoffice phone, wondered whom he ought to call first, and subsided, staring dully at the telephone screen and thinking about retiring.

The next appearance of the head of the FBI was in the office assigned to Malone and Boyd. Burris came through the doorway without warning, his countenance that of a harried and unhappy man.

Malone looked up, blinked, and then readjusted his features to what he imagined was a nice, bright smile. "Oh," he said. "Hello, chief. I've been sort of expecting you."

"I'll bet you have," Burris said. He set his brief case on Malone's desk and pulled a sheaf of papers from it. "Do you see these?" he said, waving them. "Inquiries. Complaints. Demands. From everybody. I've been getting them for three days."

"Sure are a lot of them," Malone said at random.

"From Police Commissioner Fernack," Burris said. "From the mayor. From the governor, in Albany. From everybody. And they all want an explanation. They demand one."

He sat down suddenly on Malone's desk, his anger gone.

"Well--" Malone began.

"Malone," Burris said plaintively, "I can stall them off for a while. I can tell them all kinds of fancy stories. I don't mind. They don't really need any explanation. But--" He paused, and then added: "I do!"

Malone closed his eyes, decided things looked even worse that way, and opened them again. "Just what sort of an explanation did you have in mind, chief?" he said.

"Any kind," Burris said instantly, "so long as it explains. I ... no."

"No?"

"No," Burris said. "I want the truth! Even if it doesn't explain anything! Preferably, I want both--the truth and some explanations. If possible. For three days, now, this area has been haunted by the Silent Spooks. They've been stealing everything they could carry off! They've got the whole city in an uproar!"

"Well," Malone said. "Not exactly. The papers--"

"I know," Burris said. "You've kept it out of the news. That's fine, and I appreciate it, Malone. I really do. But I can't sit around and appreciate it much longer. You've got to get those boys!" He bounced off the desk and stood up again. "The longer they keep this up," he said, "the harder it's going to be to square everything with the courts. Those kids may end up getting killed! And how would that be?"

"Terrible," Malone said honestly.

"Something," Burris summed up, "has to be done."

Malone thought for a second. "Chief," he said at last, "if you can think of any way to nab them, I'll certainly be grateful."

"Oh," Burris said. "Oh. No. No, Malone. This is your baby." He leaned over and clapped Malone on the shoulder. "I have faith in you," he said. "You cleared up that nutty telepath case and you can clear this one up, too. But you've got to do it soon!"

"I'm working on it," Malone said helplessly. "We might get a lead any time now."

"Good," Burris said. "Meanwhile, let's sit down and see if we can't figure out a way to pacify the local bigwigs."

Malone sighed wearily.

* * * * *

An hour later, he was even more tired. Letting himself into his room at the hotel, he felt completely exhausted. He had spent most of the hour tactfully trying to get away from Burris. It had not been the world's easiest job.

Dorothea Fueyo was sitting on the couch, waiting for him.

Immediately, he felt much better.

"You're late," Dorothea said accusingly. "I had to come up with the duplicate key you gave me. And what are the bellboys going to think?"

"They're going to think you had a duplicate key," Malone said. "Anyhow, I'm sorry. I got delayed at the office. Burris came to town--delivering seventeen ultimatums, forty-nine conflicting sets of orders and a rousing lecture."

"I could have come up to your office, then," Dorothea said, "instead of compromising my reputation by sneaking up to your hotel room."

"And what about _my reputation?" Malone said. "Besides, the office is no place for what I have in mind."

"Why, Mr. Malone!"

Malone ignored the comment. "Did you bring the notebook?" he said.

"Certainly." Dorothea handed a black, plastic-bound notebook over to Malone. "But what's all this with a notebook? Going to keep score?"

"Not exactly," Malone said. He took the notebook and leafed through it idly. It was not Mike Fueyo's book; the boy himself had that now, and there was little chance of getting it back again. This one belonged to Dorothea--but, Malone thought, it could serve the same purpose.

"What I have in mind," he said, "is something Mike said the other night, just before the cops barged in. He said something about having tried to teach you the Vanish. And that's why I asked you to come here. Did he teach you?"

"Well, he tried," Dorothea said. "But I couldn't do anything with it. I haven't got the Talent, Mike says." She paused. "Is that why you figured I had a notebook like his?"

"Sure," Malone said. "It's the only thing that makes sense. Mike's notebook was full of symbols--and that was all they could be. Symbols. If you see what I mean."

"Not exactly," Dorothea said.

"Symbolism--anyhow, that's what Dr. O'Connor says--is one of the primary factors in psionics."

"Dr.... oh, yes," Dorothea said. "Westinghouse. I've heard about him."

"Good," Malone said. "Anyhow, I decided the pictures in Mike's notebook were just that--symbols. Things he wanted. And the little squiggles after the names were symbols, too. You know," Malone said, "the boy's pretty smart. Nobody else that I know of has ever figured out a way to teach psionics--at least, not on that level. But Mike has."

"He's a good boy," Dorothea said. "Basically."

"Fine," Malone said. "Anyhow, if that were true, then the notebook was some sort of guide. And if he tried to teach you the technique, then you had to have a notebook, too. Clear?"

"Perfectly," Dorothea said, "so what do you want me to do?"

"Teach me," Malone said.

There was a silence.

"That's silly," Dorothea said. "How can I teach you something I can't do myself? Besides, how do you know you have the Talent?"

"As far as the second question goes, I don't know. But I can try, can't I? And as far as the first question goes, that might not be so simple. But I think it can be done--if you remember what Mike tried to teach you."

"Oh, I can remember all of that," she said, "but it's just that it didn't do me any good. I couldn't use it."

"A man who's paralyzed from the waist," Malone said hopefully, "can't play football. But if he knows how the game's played, he can teach others--anyhow, he can teach the fundamentals. Want to try?"

Dorothea smiled. "All right, Ken," she said. "It's a great idea, at that: the blind teaching the possibly-blind to read. Give me the notebook, and I'll explain the first principles. Later, you'll have to get a notebook of your own, because these symbols are very personalized."

Malone grinned and pulled a black book from his pocket. "I thought they might be," he said. "I've already got one. Let's go."

* * * * *

Sweating, Malone stared grimly at the picture he had drawn on a page of his notebook. He'd been trying the stunt for four days, and so far all he had achieved was a nice profusion of perspiration. He was beginning to feel like an ad for a Turkish bath.

"No, Ken," Dorothea said patiently. "No. You can't do it that way. You've got to _visualize it. That's how Mike could find red Cadillacs so easily. All he had to do was--"

"I know," Malone said, impatiently. "That's what the pictures are for. But I'm no artist. This doesn't even look much _like my office."

"It doesn't have to, Ken," Dorothea said. "All it has to do is give you enough details to enable you to visualize your destination. The better your memory is, the less detail you need. But you've got to grasp the whole area in your mind."

Malone lifted his eyes from the book and stared into the darkness outside the window without seeing it. Midnight had come and gone a long time ago, and he was still working.

"If I don't crack this case pretty soon," he muttered, "Burris is going to find a special new assignment for me--like investigating the social life of a deserted space station."

"Now, that's just what's bothering you," Dorothea said. "Get your mind off Burris. You can't teleport when your mind is occupied with other things."

"Then how did the kids hop around so much during the fight at the warehouse?"

"Plenty of practice," Dorothea said. "They've been doing it longer than you have. It's like playing the piano. The beginner has to concentrate, but the expert can play a piece he's familiar with and hold a conversation at the same time. Now stop worrying--and start concentrating."

Malone looked at the book again. With an effort, he forced everything out of his mind except the picture. Burris' face came back once or twice, but he managed to get rid of it. He looked at the lopsided drawings that represented various items in the room, and made himself concentrate solely on visualizing the objects themselves and their surroundings.

Then, as the picture became clearer and achieved more reality, he began going over the other mental exercises that Dorothea had taught him.

He heard a clock tick.

It was gone.

There was nothing but the picture, and the room it stood for ... nothing ... nothing....

The lights went out.

* * * * *

Malone blinked and jerked his head up from the notebook. "What hap--" he began.

And then he stopped.

He was no longer in his hotel room at the Statler-Hilton. He was standing in the middle of his office at FBI headquarters, Washington, D.C.

It had worked!

Malone walked over to the wall switch and turned on the lights in the darkened room. He looked around. He was definitely in his office.

He was a teleport.

He blinked and wondered briefly if he were dreaming. He pinched himself, said: "Ow," and decided that the pain offered no certain proof.

But he didn't feel like part of a dream.

He felt real. So did the office.

Just as he had promised Dorothea, he went to the phone and dialed the Statler-Hilton.

It took a minute for the long-distance circuits to connect him with Manhattan. Then the pretty operator at the hotel was smiling at him from the screen. "Statler-Hilton Hotel," she said. "May we help you?"

"Ring Room 814," Malone said. "I'm probably asleep in it."

"What?" the operator said.

"Never mind," Malone said. "Just ring it."

"Yes, sir." The screen went blank.

The screen stayed blank for a long time.

And then the operator was back. "I'm sorry, sir," she said. "That room doesn't answer."

"You're sure?" Malone said.

"Certainly."

"Try it again," Malone said.

The operator did so. She returned with the same answer.

Malone frowned and hung up. It didn't sound right. Even a dream was supposed to make more sense than this was making. There was something wrong.

He had to get back to the hotel room.

There was only one trouble. He didn't have a picture of the room in his notebook.

Dorothea had said that it was almost impossible to go to a place one hadn't been to before. Mike Fueyo had been able to pick up any red Cadillac in the city because he'd concentrated solely on the symbol of a red Cadillac. But he never knew which Cadillac he'd end up at.

Malone closed his eyes and tried to remember the hotel room. He half-wished he had a photograph of it, but Dorothea had told him that photos wouldn't work. They were too complete; they required no effort of the mind. Only a symbol would do.

Of course, the job could be done without a symbol by somebody who'd had plenty of practice. But Malone had made exactly one jump. Could he do it the second time with nothing to work with except his own recollection and visualization of the room?

He didn't know, but he was certainly going to try. He had to.

Something was wrong; something had happened to Dorothea.

He tried to imagine what it could be, and then realized that such thoughts were only delaying him by distracting his mind from its main job.

He kept his eyes tightly closed and tried to form the picture in his mind. The couch--there. The dresser--over there. The easy-chair, the rug, the walls, the table--wait a minute: he was losing the couch. There. Now. The table, the desk--all there. In color. And in detail.

Slowly they came, and he held them in place, visualizing his hotel room just as he had visualized his office minutes before. He concentrated. Harder. Harder. _Harder. HAR--

"Sir Kenneth!" a voice said. "Will you please stop standing there with your eyes closed and help me with this poor child? She's fainted."

Malone's eyes popped open, but for a minute he wasn't entirely sure he'd opened them. His visualization blended almost perfectly with the reality of the room around him. There was only one jarring difference.

He had certainly never visualized the richly-dressed figure of Queen Elizabeth I standing in the center of the room.

"Now, now," she said. "Thinking like that can only lead to confusion. Come over here and help me."

* * * * *

Dorothea was on the couch. Between them, they managed to wake her gently, and she sat up and stared around at them and the room. "I'm sorry," she said dazedly. "It's just that I didn't expect you to turn into a little old lady in Elizabethan costume. Just a bit disconcerting." She blinked. "By the way, who is she?"

"This," Malone said with a sense of some foreboding, "is Queen Elizabeth I."

"She's dead," Dorothea said decisively.

"Not really, my dear," the Queen said. "Actually, you see ... well, it's too long to explain now." She gave everybody a bland smile.

"She's nuts, then," Dorothea said. "She is nuts, isn't she? Because if she isn't, I am."

"You're not crazy," Malone told her diplomatically. "But she--" He stopped. How could he explain everything, in front of the Queen herself?

"Don't worry about it," Her Majesty said. "Dorothea is a little confused--but it hardly matters. Perhaps there are other things to do."

"Sure," Malone said uncertainly. "By the way, how did you get here?"

"Now, why do you ask that?" the Queen said. "You've already figured it all out, Sir Kenneth."

"I don't get it," Dorothea put in.

"Simple," Malone said. "She's telepathic. She's been listening in on our sessions for the past four days--she must have been. So now she can teleport, too."

Dorothea looked at the little old lady in awe. "But how could you come to a place you'd never been to before?"

"I got all the information I needed, my dear, out of Sir Kenneth's mind."

"Sir Kenneth?" Dorothea said. "Sir ... Ken? His mind?"

"Never mind it," Malone said. "What do I do now?"

Her Majesty said: "Don't worry about anything. And use your own psionic talents. You can catch those dear boys now, you know. You're better than they are."

"Me?" Malone said. "But they've had--"

"Practice, of course," the Queen said. "But you have a talent they don't."

"I do?"

"Well," the Queen said, "you've been calling it 'luck' for years. You're much too modest, Sir Kenneth. If you'll think back, you'll remember that every time you had a bit of your so-called luck, it was because you were at the right place at the right time. There's no other way to explain the fact that you wandered at random through Greenwich Village--of all places!--and just happened to end up at the very same red Cadillac that young Mike was going to come to--_before he got there_!"

Malone felt the back of his head. "That," he said, "was luck?"

"You got the notebook, didn't you?" the Queen said. "But of course it wasn't luck. It's prescience--the ability to predict the future. You've had it all along, but you haven't been consciously using it. The only way you'll ever catch those boys is to know where they're going to be before they get there."

Malone sat down heavily on the couch next to Dorothea. His mind was whirling with a fine, dizzy rapidity. In a few seconds he was going to try and grab the brass ring.

"Oh, I'll help you," the Queen added. "Don't worry about that. I think I can pick up Mike's mind, now that I'm closer to him. And if we can figure out what their plans are, and where they're going to be, we can nab them all, Sir Kenneth. Won't that be nice?"

"Ducky," Malone said. "Simply ducky. All I have to do is predict the future while you read minds and we both teleport. And Dorothea can sit around sticking pins in dolls, I guess. Or--"

"Well, now," the Queen said, "I don't know. Perhaps she just doesn't have that talent. Besides, why would we want to do anything like that? It seems to me--"

"Never mind," Malone said hopelessly. "If we're going to do anything, let's get started."

* * * * *

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 and complete hunch--only now it wasn't a "hunch" any more, he reminded himself; now it was prescience--was going to pay off. With him were Boyd and two agents from the Sixty-ninth 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 wasn't a sound in the room. Malone felt like screaming, but he managed to control himself with an effort.

There was no reason why the plan shouldn't work, Malone told himself. According to all the theory he knew, it was fool proof. Her Majesty had no doubts about it, either. She assured him that he had prescience, and several other powers as well. Unfortunately, Malone wasn't quite as sure as she was.

Even if the theory seemed to back her up, he thought, there was still a chance that she was wrong, and the theory was wrong, and everything was wrong. His hunch--prescience, if you wanted to call it that, he amended--said definitely that this would be the place the Spooks would hit tonight. Her Majesty was quite sure of it. And Malone couldn't think of a single really good reason why either of them 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--

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 and Malone had provided that lead-pipe cinch. They were sure that Mike planned to raid the sporting-goods store with the rest of the Spooks that night.

But, of course, they might all 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. Malone was grateful for that. 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 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 over-elaborate casualness. He was casing the joint, making sure there was no one left in it.

Mike Fueyo.

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. "O.K., now," he said. "Let's move fast. We haven't got much time. We--"

And that was all he said.

Malone concentrated on just one thing: holding an image of the room, with the eight Spooks in it.

There was a long second of silence.

Malone felt a bead of sweat trickle down his cheek. He held the image.

"What's wrong?" the tallest boy said suddenly--Ramon Otravez, Malone remembered. "What's wrong, Mike?"

Mike let out his breath in a ragged sigh. "I ... don't know," he said slowly. "I can't move--"

"It's a trap!" another boy shouted.

Malone bore down. He could feel power draining out of him, but he held on, willing the boys to remain in the room, blanking out their own teleportative abilities with his stronger ones.

The eight boys stood, frozen, in the center of the lit room.

Malone let another second go by, and then he stepped out from behind the curtains.

"Hello, boys," he said casually.

Mike stared at him. "It's Malone," he said.

"That's right," Malone said. "Hello, Mike. I've been waiting for you."

Mike gulped. "You found us," he said. "Somebody talked."

Malone shook his head. "Nobody talked," he said. Concentration was getting easier; the longer the situation remained the same, the less power it took to keep it that way. He wished he had brought a cigar, and compromised by fishing out a cigarette and lighting it.

Mike said: "But--" and was silent.

"I knew where you were going to be," Malone said. "You see, I've got a few--powers of my own, Mike."

Ramon Otravez said: "He's kidding. It's some kind of a trick."

"Shut up," Mike told him.

"It's no trick," Malone said. "I've been waiting for you for quite a while, boys." He paused. "And you can't move, can you? I've taken care of that."

"Some kind of gas," Mike said instantly.

"Gas?" Malone said. "Nope." He shook his head.

"Electricity," Mike said. It sounded desperate. "Some gimmick you've got set up back there behind the curtain, to--"

"No gimmick," Malone said. "It's just that I know a couple of tricks, too--and I'm a little better at them than you are." The next minute was going to be difficult, he knew, but it had to be done. He "froze" the picture of the room in his mind and, at the same time, pictured himself at the other side of the room. He made the effort, and at first nothing happened. Then--

"You can do the Vanish," Mike said, very slowly and softly.

"Oh, I can do more than that," Malone said cheerfully from the other side of the room. "I can do the Vanish, and I can also keep you from doing it. Right?"

It hung in the balance for a second, but Malone was barely worried about the final outcome. He'd beaten the boys, not with scientific gadgetry or trickery, but at their own game. He'd done it simply, easily and completely. And for boys who were sure they were something very special, boys who'd never been beaten on their own grounds before, the shock was considerable.

Malone knew, even before Mike said: "I guess so," in a defeated voice, that he had won.

"Now," he said briskly, "you boys are going to come down to the FBI offices with me. And you're not going to try any tricks--because you can't get away with a thing, and you know you can't. I've just proven that to you."

"I guess you have," Mike said.

Malone beckoned the three other men out of the back room and then, under his watchful guidance, the procession started for the street.

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