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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOut Like A Light - Chapter 5
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Out Like A Light - Chapter 5 Post by :PlayersGolf Category :Long Stories Author :Randall Garrett Date :May 2012 Read :849

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Out Like A Light - Chapter 5

CHAPTER V

The door didn't say anything at all except "Lt. P. Lynch." Malone looked at it for a couple of seconds. He'd asked the Desk Sergeant for Lynch, shown his credentials and been directed up a set of stairs and around a hall. But he still didn't know what Lynch did, who he was, or what his name was doing in the little black notebook.

Well, he told himself, there was only one way to find out.

He opened the door.

The room was small and dark. It had a single desk in it, and three chairs, and a hatrack. There wasn't any coat or hat on the hatrack, and there was nobody in the chairs. In a fourth chair, behind the desk, a huskily-built man sat. He had steel-gray hair, a hard jaw and, Malone noticed with surprise, a faint twinkle in his eye.

"Lieutenant Lynch?" Malone said.

"Right," Lynch said. "What's the trouble?"

"I'm Kenneth J. Malone," Malone said. "FBI." He reached for his wallet and found it. He flipped it open for Lynch, who stared at it for what seemed a long, long time and then burst into laughter.

"What's so funny?" Malone asked.

Lynch laughed some more.

"Oh, come on," Malone said bitterly. "After all, there's no reason to treat an FBI agent like some kind of a--"

"FBI agent?" Lynch said. "Listen, buster, this is the funniest gag I've seen since I came on the Force. Who told you to pull it? Jablonski downstairs? Or one of the boys on the beat? I know those beat patrolmen, always on the lookout for a new joke. But this tops 'em all. This is the--"

"You're a disgrace to the Irish," Malone said tartly.

"A what?" Lynch said. "I'm not Irish."

"You talk like an Irishman," Malone said.

"I know it," Lynch said, and shrugged. "Around some precincts, you sort of pick it up. When all the other cops are ... hey, listen. How'd we get to talking about me?"

"I said you were a disgrace to the Irish," Malone said.

"I was a--what?"

"Disgrace." Malone looked carefully at Lynch. In a fight, he considered, he might get in a lucky punch that would kill Malone. Otherwise, Malone didn't have a thing to worry about except a few months of hospitalization.

Lynch looked as if he were about to get mad, and then he looked down at Malone's wallet again and started to laugh.

"What's so funny?" Malone demanded.

He grabbed the wallet and turned it toward him. At once, of course, he realized what had happened. He had not flipped it open to his badge at all. He'd flipped it open, instead, to a card in the card-case:


KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE
PRESENTS THAT Sir Kenneth
Malone, Knight, is hereby formally
installed with the title of
KNIGHT OF THE BATH
and this card shall signify his right
to that title and his high and respected
position as officer in and of
THE QUEENS OWN F.B.I.


In a very small voice, Malone said: "There's been a terrible mistake."

"Mistake?" Lynch said.

Malone flipped the wallet open to his FBI shield. Lynch gave it a good long examination, peering at it from every angle and holding it up to the light two or three times. He even wet his thumb and rubbed at the badge with it. At last he looked up.

"I guess you are the FBI," he said. "But what was with the gag?"

"It wasn't a gag," Malone said. "It's just--" He thought of the little old lady in Yucca Flats, the little old lady who had been the prime mover in the last case he and Boyd had worked on together. Without the little old lady, the case might never have been solved--she was an authentic telepath, about the best that had ever been found.

But with her, Boyd and Malone had had enough troubles. Besides being a telepath, she was quite thoroughly insane. She had one fixed delusion: she believed she was Queen Elizabeth I.

She was still at Yucca Flats, along with the other telepaths Malone's investigation had turned up. And she still believed, quite calmly, that she was Good Queen Bess. Malone had been knighted by her during the course of the investigation. This new honor had come to him through the mail; apparently she had decided to ennoble some of her friends still further.

Malone made a note mentally to ask Boyd if he'd received one. After all, there couldn't be too many Knights of the Bath. There was no sense in letting _everybody in.

Then he realized that he was beginning to believe everything again. There had been times, when he'd been working with the little old lady, when he had been firmly convinced that he was, in fact, the swaggering, ruthless swordsman, Sir Kenneth Malone. And even now....

* * * * *

"Well?" Lynch said.

"It's too long a story," Malone said. "And besides, it's not what I came here about."

Lynch shrugged again. "O.K.," he said. "Tell it your way."

"First," Malone said, "what's your job?"

"Me? Precinct Lieutenant."

"Of this precinct?"

Lynch stared. "What else?" he said.

"Who knows?" Malone said. He found the black notebook and passed it across to Lynch. "I'm on this red Cadillac business, you know," he said by way of introduction.

"I've been hearing about it," Lynch said. He picked up the notebook without opening it and held it like a ticking bomb. "And I mean hearing about it," he said. "We haven't had any trouble at all in this precinct."

"I know," Malone said. "I've read the reports."

"Listen, not a single red Cadillac has been stolen from here, or been reported found here. We run a tight precinct here, and let me tell you--"

"I'm sure you do a fine job," Malone said hastily. "But I want you to look at the notebook." He opened it to the page with Lynch's name on it.

Lynch opened his mouth, closed it and then took the notebook. He stared at the page for a few seconds. "What's this?" he said at last. "Another gag?"

"No gag, lieutenant," Malone said.

"It's your name and mine," Lynch said. "What is that supposed to mean?"

Malone shrugged. "Search me," he said. "The notebook was found only a couple of feet away from another car theft, last night." That was the simplest way he could think of to put it. "So I asked the Commissioner who Peter Lynch was, and he told me it was you."

"And it is," Lynch said, staring at the notebook. He seemed to be expecting it to rise and strike him.

Malone said: "Have you got any idea who'd be writing about you and me?"

Lynch shook his head. "If I had any ideas I'd feel a lot better," he said. He wet his finger and turned the notebook pages carefully. When he saw the list of names on the second page he stopped again, and stared. This time he whistled under his breath.

Very cautiously, Malone said: "Something?"

"I'll be damned," Lynch said feelingly.

"What's wrong?" Malone said.

The police lieutenant looked up. "I don't know if it's wrong or what," he said. "It gives me sort of the willies. I know every one of these kids."

Malone took out a pill and swallowed it in a hurry. He felt exactly as if he had been given another concussion, absolutely free and without any obligation. His mouth opened but nothing came out for a long time. At last he managed to say: "_Kids?_"

"That's right," Lynch said. "What did you think?"

Malone shrugged helplessly.

"Every single one of them," Lynch said. "Right from around here."

There was a little silence.

"Who are they?" Malone said carefully.

"They're some kind of kid gang, social club, something like that," Lynch said. "They call themselves the Silent Spooks."

"The what?" It seemed to Malone that the name was just a little fancy, even for a kid gang.

"The Silent Spooks," Lynch said. "I can't help it. But here they are: Ramon Otravez, Mario Grito, Silvo Envoz, Felipe Altapor, Alvarez la Barba, Juan de los Santos and Ray del Este. Right down the line." He looked up from the notebook with a blank expression on his face. "There's only one name missing, as a matter of fact. Funny it isn't there."

Malone tried to look as if he knew what was going on. "Oh?" he said.

"Yeah," Lynch said. "The Fueyo kid--Miguel Fueyo. Everybody calls him Mike."

While interesting, this did not provide much food for thought. "Why should his name be on it especially?" Malone said.

"Because he's the leader of the gang," Lynch said. "The boss. The big shot." He pointed to the list of names. "Except for him, that's all of them--the Silent Spooks."

Malone considered the missing Mike Fueyo.

He knew perfectly well, now, why Fueyo's name was not in the book.

Who puts his own name on a list?

The notebook was Fueyo's. It had to be.

* * * * *

Lynch was looking at him expectantly. Malone thought of a question and asked it. "They know you?" he said.

"Sure they do," Lynch said. "They all know me. But do they know you?"

Malone thought. "They could have heard of me," he said at last, trying to be as modest as possible.

"I guess," Lynch said grudgingly.

"How old are they?" Malone said.

"Fourteen to seventeen," Lynch said. "Somewhere in there. You know how these kid things run."

"The Silent Spooks," Malone said meditatively. It was a nice name, in a way; you just had to get used to it for a while. When he had been a kid, he'd belonged to a group that called itself the East Division Street Kids. There just wasn't much romance in a name like that. Now, the Silent Spooks--

With a wrench, he brought his mind back to the subject at hand. "Do they get into much trouble?" he said.

"Well, no," Lynch said reluctantly. "As a matter of fact, they don't. For a bunch like that, around here, they're pretty well-behaved, as far as that goes."

"What do you mean?" Malone said.

Lynch's face took on a delicately unconcerned appearance. "I don't know," he said. "They just don't get into neighborhood trouble. Maybe a scrap now and then--nothing big, though. Or maybe one of them cuts a class at school or argues with his teacher. But there's nothing unusual, and little of anything." He frowned.

Malone said: "Something's got to be wrong. What is it?"

"Well," Lynch said, "they do seem to have a lot of money to spend."

Malone sat down in a chair across the desk, and leaned eagerly toward Lynch. "Money?" he said.

"Money," Lynch said. "New clothes. Cigarettes. Malone, three of them are even supporting their parents. Old Jose Otravez--Ramon's old man--quit his job a couple of months ago, and hasn't worked since. Spends all his time in bars, and never runs out of dough--and don't tell me you can do that on Unemployment Insurance. Or Social Security payments."

"O.K.," Malone said. "I won't tell you."

"And there's others. All the others, in fact. Mike Fueyo's sister--dresses fit to kill, like a high-fashion model. And the Grito kid--"

"Wait a minute," Malone said. "From what you tell me, this isn't just a little extra money. These kids must be rolling in the stuff. Up to their ears in dough."

"Listen," Lynch said sadly. "Those kids spend more than I do. They do better than that--they spend more than I _earn_." He looked remotely sorry for himself, but not for long. "Every one of those kids spends like a drunken sailor, tossing his money away on all sorts of things."

"Like an expense account," Malone said idly. Lynch looked up. "Sorry," Malone said. "I was thinking about something else."

"I'll bet you were," Lynch said with unconcealed envy.

"No," Malone said. "Really. Listen, I'll check with Internal Revenue on that money. But have you got a list of the kids' addresses?"

"I can get one," Lynch said, and went to the door.

It closed behind him. Malone sat waiting alone for a few minutes, and then Lynch came back. "List'll be here in a minute," he said. He sat down behind his desk and reached for the notebook again. When he turned to the third page his expression changed to one of surprise.

"Be damned," said. "There does seem to be a connection, doesn't there?" He held up the picture of the red Cadillac for Malone to see.

"Sure does," Malone said. "That's why I want those addresses. If there is a connection, I sure want to find out about it."

Ten minutes later, Malone was walking out of the precinct station with the list of addresses in his pocket. He was heading for his Great Adventure, but he didn't know it. All he was thinking about was the red Cadillacs, and the eight teen-agers. "I'm going to get to the bottom of this if it takes me all summer," he said, muttering to himself.

"That's the spirit," he told himself. "Never say die."

Then, realizing he had just said it, he frowned. Perhaps it hadn't really counted. But, then again....

* * * * *

He was on his way down the steps when he hit the girl.

The mutual collision was not catastrophic. On the other hand, it was not exactly minor. It fell somewhere between the two, as an unclassifiable phenomenon of undoubted potency. Malone said: "Oog," with some fervor as the girl collided with his chest and rebounded like a handball striking a wall. Something was happening to her, but Malone had no time to spare to notice just what. He was falling through space, touching a concrete step once in a while, but not long enough to make any real acquaintance with it. It seemed to take him a long time to touch bottom, and when he had, he wondered if _touch was quite the word.

_Bottom certainly was. He had fallen backward and landed directly on his _glutei maximi_, obeying the law regarding equal and opposite reaction and several other laws involving falling bodies.

His first thought was that he was now neatly balanced. His tail had received the same treatment as his head. He wondered if a person could get concussion of the tail bones, and had reached no definite conclusion when, unexpectedly, his eyes focused again.

He was looking at a girl. That was all he saw at first. She had apparently fallen just as he had, bounced once and sat down rather hard. She was now lying flat on her back, making a sound like "_rrr_" between her teeth.

Malone discovered that he was sitting undignifiedly on the steps. He opened his mouth to say something objectionable, took another look at the girl, and shut it with a snap. This was no ordinary girl.

He smiled at her. She shook her head and sat up, still going "_rrr_." Then she stopped and said, instead: "What do you think--"

"I'm sorry," Malone said in what he hoped was a charming, debonair and apologetic voice. It was quite a lot to get into one voice, but he tried his very hardest. "I just didn't see--"

"You didn't?" the girl said. "If you didn't, you must be completely blind."

Malone noticed with hope that there was no anger in her voice. The last thing in the world he wanted was to get this girl angry at him.

"Oh, no," Malone said. "I'm not blind. Not blind at all." He smiled at her and stood up. His face was beginning to get a little tired, but he retained the smile as he went over to her, extended a hand and pulled her to her feet.

She was something special. Her hair was long and dark, and fell in soft waves to her shoulders. The shoulders were something all by themselves, but Malone postponed consideration of them for a minute to take a look at her face.

It was heart-shaped and rather thin. She had large brown liquid eyes that could look, Malone imagined, appealing, loving, worshiping--or, like a minute ago, downright furious. Below these features, she had a straight lovely nose and a pair of lips which Malone immediately classified as Kissable.

Her figure, including the shoulders, was on the slim side, but she was very definitely all there. Malone could not think of any parts the Creator had left out, and if there were any he didn't want to hear about them. In an instant, Malone knew that he had met the only great love of his life.

Again.

His mind was whirling and for a second he didn't know what to do. And then he remembered the Queen's Own FBI. Phrases flowered forth in his mind as if it were a garden packed corner to corner with the most exquisite varieties of blooming idiots.

"My deepest apologies, my dear," Sir Kenneth Malone said gallantly, even managing a small display bow for the occasion. "May I be of any assistance?"

The girl smiled up at him as she came to her feet. The smile was radiant and beautiful and almost loving. Malone felt as if he couldn't stand it. Tingles of the most wonderful kind ran through him, reached his toes and then ran back the other way, meeting a whole new set going forward.

"You're very nice," the girl said, and the tingles became positive waves of sensation. "Actually, it was all my fault. Please don't apologize, Mr.--" She paused, expectantly.

"Me?" Malone said, his gallantry deserting him for the second. But it returned full force before he expected it. "I'm Malone," he said. "Kenneth Joseph Malone." He had always liked the middle name he had inherited from his father, but he never had much opportunity to use it. He made the most of it now, rolling it out with all sorts of subsidiary flourishes. As a matter of fact, he barely restrained himself from putting a "Sir" before his name.

The girl's brown eyes widened just a trifle. Malone felt as if he could have fallen into them and drowned. "Oh, my," she said. "You must be a detective." And then, like the merest afterthought: "My name's Dorothy."

_Dorothy. It was a beautiful name. It made Malone feel all choked up, inside. He blinked at the girl and tried to look manly and wonderful. It was an effort, but he nearly carried it off.

* * * * *

After a second or two he realized that she had asked him a question. He didn't want to disillusion her in any way, and, after all, an FBI agent was a kind of detective, but he thought it was only fair that she should know the whole truth about him right from the start.

"Not exactly a detective," he said.

"Not exactly?" she said, looking puzzled. She looked positively glorious when puzzled, Malone decided at once.

"That is," he said carefully, "I do detect, but not for the city of New York."

"Oh," she said. "A private eye. Is that right?"

"Well," Malone said, "no."

She looked even more puzzled. Malone hastened to explain before he got to the point where conversation was impossible.

"Federal Bureau of Investigation," he said. After a second he thought of a clarification and added: "FBI."

"Oh," the girl said. "_Oh._"

"But you can call me Ken," Malone said.

"All right--Ken," she said. "And you call me Dorothy."

"Sure," he said. He tried it out. "Dorothy." It felt swell.

"Well--" she said after a second.

"Oh," Malone said. "Were you looking for a detective? Because if I can help in any way--"

"Not exactly," Dorothy said. "Just a little routine business. I'll go on in and--"

Malone suddenly found himself talking without having any idea why he'd started, or what he was going to say. At first he said: "_Urr_," as if the machine were warming up, and this stopped Dorothy and caused her to give him a rather sharp, baffled stare. Then he found some words and used them hurriedly, before they got away.

"Dorothy," he said, "would you like to take in a show this evening? I think I can get tickets to ... well, I guess I could get tickets to almost anything, if I really tried." His expression attempted to leave no doubt that he would really try.

Dorothy appeared to consider for a moment. "Well," she said at last, "how about 'The Hot Seat'?"

Malone felt just the way he had several years before when he had bluffed his way into a gigantic pot during a Washington poker game, with only a pair of fours to work with. At the last moment, his bluff had been called.

It had, he realized, been called again. "The Hot Seat" had set some sort of record, not only for Broadway longevity, but for audience frenzy. Getting tickets for it was about the same kind of proposition as buying grass on the Moon, and getting them with absolutely no prior notice would require all the wire-pulling Malone could manage. He thought about "The Hot Seat" and wished Dorothy had picked something easy, like arranging for her to meet the Senate.

But he swallowed bravely. "I'll do my best," he said. "Got any second choice?"

"Sure," she said, and laughed. "Pick any one you want. I haven't seen them all, and the ones I have seen are worth seeing again."

"Oh," Malone said.

"I really didn't expect you to get tickets for 'The Hot Seat,'" she said.

"Nothing," Malone said, "is impossible." He grinned at her. "Meanwhile, where can I pick you up? Your home?"

Dorothy frowned and shook her head. "No," she said. "You see, I'm living with an aunt, and I ... well, never mind." She thought for a minute. "I know," she said. "Topp's."

"What?" Malone said.

"Topp's," Dorothy said. "On Forty-second Street, just East of Broadway? It's a restaurant."

"I don't exactly know where it is," Malone said, "but if it's there, I'll find it." He looked gallant and determined. "We can get something to eat there before the show--whatever the show turns out to be."

"Fine," Dorothy said.

"How about making it at six?" Malone said.

She nodded. "Six it is," she said. "Now bye-bye." She touched her forefinger to her lips, and brushed Malone's cheek with the kissed finger.

By the time the new set of tingles had begun to evaporate, she had gone into the police station. Malone heaved a great sigh of passion, and held down a strong impulse to follow her and protect her. He wasn't quite sure what he was going to protect her from, but he felt certain that that would come to him when the time arrived.

Nevertheless, he had work to do, unpleasant as the idea had suddenly begun to seem. He pulled the list of addresses out of his pocket and looked at the first one.

_Mike Fueyo.

Mike was the leader of the Silent Spooks, according to Lieutenant Lynch. Logically, therefore, he would be the first one to talk to. Malone tried to think of some good questions, but the best one he could come up with was: "Well, what about all those red Cadillacs?"

Somehow he doubted that this would provide a satisfactory reply. He checked the address again and started firmly down the street, trying to think of some better questions along the way.

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