"if you don't mind my asking, belinda, what exactly are you going to the colosseum for?"
belinda didn't react to country girl's question, but kept staring dreamily out the window at the side of the long, curving freeway. "this looks familiar," she said.
"have you ever been to the colosseum?" country girl asked. "will it look familiar when you get there?"
"oh, i don't think so."
"do you have a job, belinda?"
"no, that's why i'm going to the colosseum, to apply for one."
"ah, i see." suddenly the road straightened out and country girl increased the van's speed.
"to sell flowers," said belinda. "there might be a job out there selling flowers."
"that sounds exciting. did the employment agency send you out there?"
"they sent me to a place that sent me to a place, that sent me out here." belinda turned from the window. "i have the paperwork. would you like to see it?"
"no, i believe you."
"thank you. have you looked for a job lately?"
"no, i've been on the police for a while now."
"how do you like it?"
" a lot. it's very satisfying."
with twelve minutes to go on his shift, captain kidd emerged from the commanders office, a little bleary eyed, but not actually stretching and yawning.
"everything under control, sergeant?" he asked giselle.
"good." captain kidd glanced back at the officers benches, where only two robots were sitting, and then at the log on the front desk. "my, my, i see you have no hesitation in sending the troops far and wide."
"the old 1473rd will get quite a reputation at this rate. well done, sergeant."
"thank you, sir. but it's not about the 1473rd, its about the whole force, the whole mission."
"of course, of course. well said."
"did you have a chance to consider my request, sir?"
"my request to monitor corporal -"
"oh, yes. sorry. i -"
"it can wait another day, sir."
"dreyfus will be here in a few minutes, why not ask him about it?'
"an excellent suggestion, sir." giselle had no intention of asking major dreyfus for anything relating to country girl.
"speaking of dreyfus, no reason to think he won't arrive on time, do you think?"
"major dreyfus is the apotheosis of punctuality," giselle answered. "as you are yourself, captain."
"in that case i'll be getting along. no sense standing here, getting in your way, when you have everything under such good control."
"have a pleasant evening, sir."
"do you believe this?" bates asked barras.
"we take off one afternoon, one, and who do we run into - the master criminal of the universe."
"i'm just a stable boy," said jojo. "trying to earn an honest penny to buy an honest orange and pineapple drink.'
bates laughed. "just don't try to sell me a pamphlet, ok?"
"how about a pamphlet on how to pick winners?"
"i'm not proud," said barras, "i'll take a pamphlet on how to pick winners."
jojo reached under a pile of hay and produced a pamphlet. barras gave him a tiny coin and he put it in his pocket without looking at it.
"don't give him anything!" said bates, but the deed was done.
barras pointed to the title of the pamphlet - "how to pick winners at the track - and everywhere else." he and bates both laughed.
"so how's things up in the tower?" jojo asked bates.
"what do you care? you thinking of moving in?"
bates reached down with his one arm and pulled jojo's hat down over his eyes. bobo and lobo had been watching the exchanges silently but jumped back at this.
jojo straightened his hat back on his head. "i was just asking."
"about the tower? it's still standing, no thanks to you." bates looked over at bobo and lobo. "who are these two desperadoes?"
"who are you?" bobo stared back at bates.
"director of security for the universe."
"don't let him scare you," barras said. "he's only temporary."
"we're just here to relax and enjoy the beautiful afternoon," bates said.
"the major said we could come down here, so we did."
"we wouldn't want to abuse his hospitality," said barras, "by causing a commotion." he looked around the stable. "no matter how many master criminals he's harboring in his unsuspecting bosom."
'sounds good," said jojo.
"i'm in population anyway," barras told jojo. "i don't concern myself with police matters."
bates had moved over to the horses. "look at these poor beasts," he said.
'what are you feeding them?"
"we still have a little hay," lobo told him. "mostly they get the same stuff the poor humans get - mush and gruel."
bates shook his head. "that's sad."
"who's going to win the next race?" barras asked. "we came down here to get some inside information."
left alone with monsieur forge, tania leaned back against the couch and closed her eyes and exhaled.
"police work is strenuous?" monsieur forge asked politely.
tania quickly opened her eyes and straightened up. "i apologize, monsieur. that was very rude."
"not at all. not at all." m forge took another sip of his tea. "tell me, do you ever have occasion to encounter the present holder of my old family title - the duc d'otrante? he has some high position in the police, does he not?"
"i - and detective st teresa - work for charlotte corday in unspeakable crimes. she keeps her office separate from the operations in the tower."
"really? and why is that. i wonder?"
"i don't mean to be rude - again -monsieur - "
"of course, of course, it's no business of mine. i misspoke, in my attempt to make polite conversation."
tania nodded, and picked her teacup back up.
"we have so few visitors these days - and make so few visits - the old art of conversation has quite decayed."
"but do you encounter the present duc?"
"i found him a thoroughly detestable individual." tania flushed slightly.
m forge brightened at this.
'i shouldn't have said that. that was my turn to misspeak." tania looked out the window. "these long afternoons cause one to become drowsy, don't you agree? and lose one's train of thought."
"if you don't mind my saying so, mademoiselle, i can see that you are indeed from the old families." m forge smiled. "charlotte corday - quite a formidable personage. destined for great things, supposedly . working for her must be interesting indeed."
tania looked m forge directly in the eyes. "charlotte has always been kind enough to show great confidence in me. and i repay that confidence with absolute loyalty."
"of course." m forge's hand trembled slightly as he put his cup down on the table.
josephine reappeared. "is everything satisfactory here?" she asked.
belinda barber hadn't turned turned out to be much of a conversationalist, and country girl was concentrating on her driving when the light on her dashboard flashed.
she pressed the intercom button.
"are you on schedule for the waterfront?"
"maybe a little ahead. martindale was diverted -"
"i'm aware of that. anything unusual to report?'
"well yes, something very unusual." giselle didn't respond, so country girl went on to describe picking up belinda, concluding, "what do you think i should do?"
"this person is - and was - all alone?"
"she's not part of a group, a mob, a gathering, a conspiracy?"
"no, there's just her."
"she hasn't threatened you?"
"very curious. where's leslie?"
"in the back."
"i don't know, i can't see her."
"studying for the police exams, no doubt."
country girl rolled her eyes at giselle's attempt at humor. "i cant see her. " she glanced over at belinda, who wasn't showing any interest in the conversation.
"what did you call about, sergeant? we are on schedule."
"when you finish at the waterfront, proceed to the 252nd. there is a disturbance reported there."
"are you objecting, corporal?"
"no. no. i was just - surprised. you surprised me, sergeant, the 252nd is a bit out of the way. i'm sorry i shouted."
"so you will proceed to the 252nd?"
"of course. and we'll do whatever has to be done, and stay until it is done."
"good. that's the kind of attitude i like, corporal."
"so what should i do with our hitchhiker?"
"use your own judgment."
"carry on, corporal."