Sunday, September 13, 2009

the sixteenth letter, part 22

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning click here

"we don't want you," little red told lillian russell. she pointed to larry. "we want him."
"i'm insulted," lillian smiled. "but i know my time will come."
larry followed little red down the corridors, with dave behind them.

he kept madame de stael's book in case he had to wait some more wherever they were taking him. but they brought him right in to hopkins' office.
hopkins watched as little red and dave went back down the corridor before closing his office door and limping back to his desk.
larry noticed this. "what's the problem?" he asked hopkins with a smile. "do they listen at the door? must be a pretty advanced operation here."

hopkins didn't smile back. "i doubt if they actually listen at the door. but the woman is a chatterbox. i'm old fashioned, i don't like chatterboxes."
larry didn't comment on this.
"you know who i am, don't you?" hopkins asked.
"i know who you are."
"and you know who i represent?"
"good. you know why you're here?"

"here in the interrogation center or here talking to you?"
hopkins smiled. "an astute question. both."
'i'm here in the interrogation center because my partner was kidnapped, a pretty automatic interrogation and conviction"
"and what were your plans, when they got around to interrogating you?"
"i ain't no fool, i was going to confess everything."
"to everything you might be accused of?"
"what else?"
there was a knock on the door.

"come in!" hopkins shouted.
the door opened and a very nervous little red entered with a small piece of folded paper in her hand. "i was told to give you this, " she managed to say.
"thank you very much. just leave it on the corner of the desk."
hopkins unfolded the paper when she had left, then looked sharply at larry. "you were talking to lillian russell."
"she was talking to me."

"a weak distinction."
larry shrugged. "if you didn't want her talking to anyone, why did you put her out there with the rest of the peasants?'"
'what kind of question is that? did you know who she was?'
"yes, after she told me. i've heard of her, i didn't recognize her."
hopkins tossed the paper on to his desk. "this makes your situation even more serious. but that's enough about lillian russell, let's talk about you." he waited for larry to answer.

"what about me?"
"you're a healthy young man, near the top of the towers. and yet - "
"top of the towers? i'm here, on my way to jupiter or neptune."
"please don't interrupt. you were near the top, a healthy young man but - no sign of an application for an operation."
larry looked uncomfortable. "i wasn't near the top of anything."
hopkins stared at him. "don't act dumb. charlotte likes you, mrs roosevelt likes charlotte, it's the way of the universe."

"i was just a detective, knocking on peoples doors. besides, what difference does it make now?"
"it's not the old universe any more, where people were either born to it or worked hard. it's all lightning striking. look at people like the duc d'otrante, or charlie bates - the slag heaps one day, top of the universe the next."
"i thought they worked pretty hard to get where they were."
hopkins laughed. "the duc maybe, but bates? a race track tout one day, barras picks him out, now look at him."
"what's all this got to do with me?"
"why haven't you put in for an operation?"
"why haven't you? why haven't all these guys you're talking about?"

"look at us. me - a cripple, bates with his one arm, the duc rolling around on a board. do you see a pattern?"
"there's nothing wrong with barras."
"if barras has one more operation, he'll be reclassified as a robot. so, why don't you put in?"

larry avoided hopkins' gaze. "i'm not comfortable with it at this time."
hopkins leaned back. "suit yourself. i was just curious."
"i won't need an operation on jupiter or neptune."

farqhuar was exhausted when he finally reached his grandmother's apartment.

he went in and flopped down on her couch without even saying hello to her. madame was seated at her table lethargically laying out some cards.
'too tired to say hello, francis?"
"exactly. i'm getting too old for this."

"what's 'this' ? living?"
'i hope you don't have anybody coming in for a reading."
'i'm sorry but i do. and i have some new cards that i want to try so i look forward to it - eagerly."
"great. wake me up when she gets here." he rolled over and faced the wall.

the sidewalks leading to madame's apartment were fairly wide and well lit, and lulu and loulou kept several paces apart as they walked along them. there were hardly any other pedestrians, and a few bored patrol robots nodded at them as they walked long. only a few police and delivery vans rolled leisurely through the streets.

they reached a broad intersection and were about to cross it when a police van came hurtling down it at about the maximum allowable speed. though in no danger, they stepped back as it swept around the corner.
'hey!" lulu shouted. '"did you see that?"
"i think that was sally. you know, from work."
loulou smiled. "not likely. you've just got her on your mind."

"well it looked like her."
"even if it was, so what? she got arrested, now the police are taking her somewhere. what's the problem?"
"i guess."
they had drawn together when the van passed them. loulou glanced around but no robots were looking their way. she took a few steps away from lulu.
"come on, forget about her. let's go have some fun with your fortune teller."
lulu laughed. "it's not fun, silly. it's serious."
"of course."

farquhar and madame both had exceptional hearing so they heard the two young women when they were still several floors down.
"on your way," madame told farqhuar.
"sounds like two people," he answered. "police?"
"she talked about bringing another girl from work. i'm sure that's all it is."
'all right." farqhuar said. "i hope mrs nelson is home." he went out into the little hall and knocked on her door. mrs nelson opened it almost immediately.

"oh hello francis. what a pleasure."
"i hope i'm not intruding."
"of course not. come on in." mrs nelson looked at madame.
"i have a customer or two coming up," madame told her. she waited at the head of the stairs after the door closed behind her. lulu appeared a few seconds later,with loulou a few steps behind her.

lulu was a little out of breath. "hello, madame, this is loulou, that i told you about."
"of course, of course. well come on in. make yourself comfortable. lulu, why don't you pull the couch over and sit on it. and you - " she looked at loulou - ' can sit at the table across from me."
"all right."
madame picked up her shiny new deck of cards. "so you two are -"
"coworkers," said lulu. "we work together."

loulou, still standing, laughed. "she's sweet, isn't she?" she asked madame. she leaned over and gave lulu a little kiss on the forehead.

madame dropped all her cards on the floor. "what are you doing?" she screamed. "don't ever do anything like that again - not in my apartment!"

"sorry,' said loulou. "i don't know what came over me."
'how could you do such a thing?"
"i said i was sorry." loulou started to sit down.
"help me pick these cards up."

"i guess i don't need a deck of cards to see that you are one of the bold ones."
"i guess you don't."

the sixteenth letter, part 23

No comments: