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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOut Like A Light - Chapter 6
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Out Like A Light - Chapter 6 Post by :PlayersGolf Category :Long Stories Author :Randall Garrett Date :May 2012 Read :1761

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Out Like A Light - Chapter 6


The building was just off Amsterdam, in the Eighties. It had been a shining new development once, but it was beginning to slide downhill now. The metal on the windowframes was beginning to look worn, and the brickwork hadn't been cleaned in a long time. Where chain fences had once protected lonely blades of grass, children, mothers and baby carriages held sway now, and the grass was gone. Instead, the building was pretty well surrounded by a moat of sick-looking brown dirt.

Malone went into the first building and checked the name against the mailboxes there, trying to ignore the combined smells of sour milk, red pepper and here and there a whiff of unwashed humanity.

It was on the tenth floor: _Fueyo, J. That, he supposed, would be Mike's widowed mother; Lynch had told him that much about the boy and his family. He found the elevator, which was covered with scribbles ranging from JANEY LOVES MIGUEL to startling obscenities, and rode it upstairs.

Apartment 1004 looked like every other apartment in the building, at least from the outside. Malone pressed the button and waited a second to hear the faint buzzing at the other side of the door. After a minute, he pressed it again.

The door swung open very suddenly and Malone stepped back.

A short, wrinkled, dark-eyed woman in a print housedress was eying him with deep suspicion. "My daughter is not home," she announced at once.

"I'm not looking for your daughter," Malone said. "I'd like to talk to Mike."

"Mike?" Her expression grew even more suspicious. "You want to talk to Mike?"

"That's right," Malone said.

"Ah," the woman said. "You one of those hoodlum friends he has. I'm right? You can talk to Mike when I am dead and have no control over him. For now, you can just--"

"Wait a minute," Malone said. He pulled out his wallet and flipped it open to show his badge, being very careful that he made the right flip this time. He didn't know exactly how this woman would react to The Queen's Own FBI, but he didn't especially want to find out.

She looked down at the badge without taking the wallet from him. "Hah," she said. "You're cop, eh?" Her eyes left the wallet and examined Malone from head to foot. It was perfectly plain that they didn't like what they saw. "Cop," she said again, as if to herself. It sounded like a curse.

Malone said: "Well, I--"

"You want to ask me stupid questions," she said. "That is what you want to do. I'm right?"

"I only--"

"I know nothing," she said. "Nothing of any kind." She closed her mouth and stood regarding him as if he were a particularly repulsive statue. Malone looked past her into the living room beyond the door.

It was faded, now, but it had once been bright and colorful. There was an old rug on the floor, and tables were everywhere. The one bright thing about the room was the assortment of flowers; there were flowers everywhere, in vases, in pots and even in windowboxes. There was also a lot of crockery statuary, mostly faded, chipped or worn in some way. The room looked to Malone as if its last inhabitant had died ten years before; only the flowers had been renewed. Everything else had not only the appearance of age, but the look of having been cast up as a high-water mark by the sea, which had receded and left only the tangled wreckage.

The woman cleared her throat and Malone's gaze came back to her. "I can tell you nothing," she said.

"I don't want to talk to you," Malone said again. "I want to talk to Mike."

Her eyes were very cold. "You from the police, and you want to talk to Mike. You make a joke. Only I don't think the joke is very funny."

"Joke?" Malone said. "You mean Mike's not here?"

Her gaze never wavered. "You know he is not," she said. "Ten minutes ago the policemen were taking him away to the police station. How then could he be here?"

"Ten minutes ago?" Malone blinked. Ten minutes ago he had been looking for this apartment. Probably it hadn't taken Lynch's men ten minutes to find it; they weren't strangers in New York. "He was arrested?" Malone said.

"I said so, didn't I?" the woman said. "You must be crazy or else something." Her eyes were still cold points, but Malone saw a glow of tears behind them. Mike was her son. She did not seem surprised that the police had taken him away, but she was determined to protect him.

Malone's voice was very gentle. "Why did they arrest him?" he said.

The woman shrugged, a single sharp gesture. "You ask me this?"

"I'm not a cop," Malone said. "I'm from the FBI."

"FBI?" the woman said.

"It's all right," Malone said, with all the assurance he could muster. "I only want to talk to him."

"Ah," the woman said. Tears were plain in her eyes now, glittering on the surface. "Why they take him away, I do not know. My Mike do nothing. Nothing."

"But didn't they say anything about--"

"They say?" the woman cried. "They say only they have orders from this Lieutenant Lynch. He is lieutenant at police station."

"I know," Malone said gently.

"Lieutenant Lynch wants to ask Mike questions, so police come, take him away." Her English was beginning to lose ground as tears came.

"Lynch asked for him?" Malone said. He frowned. Whatever that meant, he wanted to be there himself. And perhaps he could help the old woman in some way. Anyhow, he would try. She stared up at him Stonily. "Look, Mrs. Fueyo," he said. "I'm going down there to talk to Mike right now. And if he hasn't done anything, I'll see that he goes home to you. Right away."

Her expression changed a trifle. She did not actually soften, but Malone could feel the gratitude lurking behind her eyes as if it were afraid to come out. She nodded gravely and said nothing at all. He stepped away, and she closed the door without a sound.

He stood staring at the door for a few seconds. Then he turned and punched the elevator button savagely.

There wasn't any time to lose.

He walked back to the precinct station. Knowing the way, it took him about five minutes instead of the fifteen it had taken him to find the Fueyo residence. But he still felt as if time were passing much too fast. He ran up the steps and passed right by the desk sergeant, who apparently recognized him, and said nothing as Malone charged up the stairs to Lynch's office.

It was empty.

Malone stared at it and started down the hall again without knowing where he was heading. Halfway to the stairs he met a patrolman. "Where's Lynch?" he asked.

"The lieutenant?"

Malone fumed. "Who else?" he said. "Where is he?"

"Got some kid back in the tank, or somewhere," the patrolman said. "Asking him a couple of questions, that's all." He added: "Hey, listen, buddy, why do you want to see the lieutenant? You can't just go charging in to--"

Malone was down the stairs before he'd finished. He went up to the desk.

The desk sergeant looked down. "What's it this time?" he said.

"I'm in a hurry," Malone said. "Where are the cells? I want to see Lieutenant Lynch."

The desk sergeant nodded. "O.K.," he said. "But the lieutenant ain't in any of the cells. He's back in Interrogation with some kid."

"Take me there," Malone said.

"I'll show you," the sergeant said. "On duty. Can't leave the desk." He cleared his throat and gave Malone a set of directions.

* * * * *

There was a door at the end of a corridor at the back of the station. It was a plain wooden door with the numeral _1 stenciled on it. Malone opened it and looked inside.

He was staring into a rather small, rather plain little room. There were absolutely no bright beam lights burning, and there didn't seem to be any rubber hoses around anywhere. There were only four chairs.

Seated in three of the chairs were Lieutenant Lynch and two other police officers. In the fourth chair, facing them, was a young boy.

He didn't look like a tough kid. He had wavy black hair, brown eyes and what Malone thought looked like a generally friendly appearance. He was slight and wiry, not over five feet five or six. And he wore an expression that was neither too eager nor hostile. It wasn't just blank, either; Malone finally pinned it down as Receptive.

He had the strangest impression that he had seen the boy somewhere before. But he couldn't remember when or where.

Lieutenant Lynch was talking.

"... All we want, Mike, is a little information. We thought you'd be able to help us, if you wanted to. Now, how about it?"

"Sure," Mike Fueyo said. His voice was a little high, but it was well controlled and responsive. "Sure, lieutenant. I'll help if I can--but I just don't dig what you're giving me. It doesn't make sense."

Lynch stirred a little impatiently, and his voice began to carry a new bite. "I'm talking about Cadillacs," he said. "1972 Red Cadillacs."

"It's a nice car," Mike said.

"What do you know about them?" Lynch said.

"Know about them?" Mike said. "I know they're nice cars. That's about it. What else am I going to know, lieutenant? Maybe you think I own one of these big red 1972 Caddies. Maybe you think I got that kind of money. Well, listen, lieutenant, I'd like to help you out, but I'm just not--"

"The Cadillacs," Lynch said, "were--"

"Just a minute, lieutenant," Malone said. Dead silence fell with great suddenness. Lynch and all the others looked around at Malone, who smiled apologetically. "I don't want to disturb anything," he said. "But I would like to talk to Mike here for a little while."

"Oh," Lynch said sourly. "Sure. Sure."

"I'd like to ask him a couple of questions," Malone said. "Alone."

"Alone." Lynch said. "Oh." But there was nothing for him to do, Malone knew, except bow to the inevitable. "Of course," he said. "Go right ahead."

"You can stand outside the door," Malone said. "He won't get away. And you'd better hold this." Malone, knowing perfectly well that staying armed and alone in a room with a suspect was something you just did not do--for very good reasons--unstrapped his .44 Magnum and handed it to the lieutenant.

He left reluctantly, with his men.

Malone could understand Lynch's attitude. If Malone solved the case, Lynch would not get any credit. Otherwise, it might go down in his personal record. And, of course, the NYPD would rather wrap the case up themselves; the FBI was treated as a necessary interference. Unfortunately, Malone thought, Lynch had had absolutely no choice. He sighed gently, and turned his attention to Mike Fueyo, who was still sitting in his chair.

"Now, Mike--" he began, and was interrupted.

The door opened. Lieutenant Lynch said: "If you need us, Malone, just yell."

"You'll hear me," Malone promised. The door shut.

He turned back to the boy. "Now, Mike," he began again, "my name is Malone, and I'm with the FBI. I'd like to ask you a few--"

"Gee, Mr. Malone," Mike broke in eagerly. "I'm glad you're here."

Malone said: "Well, I--"

"These cops here have been giving me a pretty rough deal, you know?" Mike said.

"I'm sure they--" Malone began.

"But I've been looking for you," Mike went on. "See, I wanted to say something to you. Something real important."

Malone leaned forward expectantly. At last he was going to get some information--perhaps the information that would break the whole case wide open. He said: "Yes?"

"Well--" Mike began, and stopped.

"You don't have to be afraid of me, Mike," Malone said. "Just tell me whatever's on your mind."

"Sure," Mike said. "It's this."

He took a deep breath. Malone clenched his fists. Now it was coming. Now he would hear the all-important fact. He waited.

Mike stuck out his tongue and blew the longest, loudest, brassiest and juiciest Bronx cheer that Malone had ever heard.

Then, almost instantly, the room was empty except for Malone himself.

Mike was gone.

There wasn't any place to hide, and there hadn't been any time to hide in. Malone looked around wildly, but he had no doubts at all.

Mike Fueyo had vanished, utterly and instantaneously. He'd gone out like a light.

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CHAPTER VThe 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