The shuttle from New York City touched down at Washington National at
10:37. Pablo got his 6.3 Mercedes out of the parking area. The driving was fairly easy that late at night; he turned into his two miles of driveway a few minutes before eleven. It was very late for Padeyevsky to be up; he ran down like a clock during the day, and was ill fit for these late hours. But the job had had to be done. He had wanted to set things up so they were unstoppable. He had succeeded.
He passed the road that turned off his driveway, the mailbox at its head marked “Mathpart Fendler.” There was a Cadillac limousine parked almost out of sight down Mathpart’s drive. Pablo’s warning system began to twitch a little. Mathpart wouldn’t know anyone with a limousine. If he was getting a visit, and at this hour of the night … He thought back to his visit to New York. He had done his business there openly, for his adversaries to see. Could they be responding? He hadn’t expected them to do anything; had expected them simply to concede defeat. It was obvious that he had moved them irretrievably into a corner.
He drove the rest of the way to the farm, his mind puzzling over it. It was thirty years too late for the sort of violent business doings that had characterized them at a more primitive time in their organization’s history. They didn’t take revenge any more. Did they?
He didn’t like it. After he had seen that all was well at home, perhaps he would go back to Fendler’s place and look around. Without being seen.
The dark house looked quiet and comfortable. It creaked occasionally, in the chill of the October night, its bones settling. It creaked, in small noises, more rapidly as Pablo’s weight was set down on each of the steps that rounded gracefully up and past the second floor. The hall light had been left off. Pablo stopped by the first door on his left at the top of the stairs: that was the room designated for the space girl’s use when she came. The door was half-open and Pablo listened at it. He thought he could hear breathing, slow and quiet. He looked in at the sleeping form, but he did not enter the room.
The room across from hers was Esmerelda’s. The door was wide open and the bed was still made up. Hmmm.
He went into the room, verified the fact that she was not home, glanced at the door that connected Theodore’s and Esmerelda’s dressing rooms, then went back out into the hall. Theodore’s door was open, and he was there. He was also alone. Pablo determined that to his own satisfaction, and then went over to Theodore’s bed and woke him, very gently. Theodore’s eyes opened immediately. “Hi, Pablo. How was your trip?” Then sleep left him entirely. He sat up. “Hey, we got the two space people! Joshua and Esmerelda kept the man at the temple, and I brought the girl here. She’s asleep.”
Pablo’s black eyes softened in the dim moonlight coming in the windows. “That’s just great! Tell me about it!”
Theodore recapitulated the events of the evening, Pablo nodding and grinning from ear to ear with the satisfaction and excitement. After he had heard it all, and pounded Theodore’s sleepy shoulders a few times, he rose to take his leave. “Well, Ted, I’ll see you in the morning. See you both in the morning. Will Esmerelda come home tonight? What about the man who came?”
“Well, Josh said he was going to send the man on a tour of the planet’s mental planes, with his guide. And he said he’d bring Esmerelda home himself around one or two, after they see the man from space off, so to speak.”
Pablo nodded. He considered telling Theodore that he was going out again, then decided against it. Better to let the boy sleep. It was too difficult to explain why he was going out, anyway. “See you in the morning, Ted,” he repeated.
Theodore, eyes already closing, nodded into his pillow and Pablo went out, shutting his door behind him. He pulled the girl’s door shut too, as he passed it, and then went down the front staircase. Through the front windows he could see the lawn. It lay empty of human habitants. He listened. All was quiet.
He went back into his den, and shut the door. There was a massive mahogany desk that dominated the room; he went to it and unlocked one of its drawers. Inside was a long-barreled Smith and Wesson revolver. At first glance, the purpose of the weapon seemed to be target shooting, but a careful look found this to be a far more specialized weapon: a Smith and Wesson.357 magnum with an inlaid ramp-type Baughman front sight, and a micrometer rear sight. The barrel was six inches long. It was a very modern, exquisitely crafted combination of gunman’s companion and target piece.
It was loaded with target wadcutters, which Pablo removed and replaced with 158 grain ammunition. The rotund, cheerful-faced man snapped the cylinder shut and looked at his weapon with the eye of one glancing at a valued friend; it would seem that he had spent much time with it, for his handling of it was easy, flawless, and affectionate.
He inhaled, pulled his trousers away from his portly middle, and stuck the long-barreled weapon in to his waistband. There was a moment of reflection; then he closed the drawer which he had relieved of its singular contents, opened the study door, and walked very quietly from the sleeping house to his Mercedes. The slight downhill grade of the circular driveway and the access road allowed him to roll out of earshot of the house’s inhabitants before he shifted out of neutral and engaged the clutch. The winding road led in hesitant fashion through the creek that marked the boundary between his place and Mathpart’s; briefly past the creek bed he swung the car up the embankment to a hiding place that was totally out of the way to any stranger and quite inaccessible to anyone who didn’t know the land as Pablo did.
He got out of the car. He was approaching Mathpart’s property from the rear fence row; ahead were the windows across the back of the farmhouse. Light showed in a vertical splinter on either side of two of the drawn shades; someone was in the kitchen. The rest of the house was dark. Pablo approached the side of the house very stealthily, and put his eye to one of the splinters of light. Mathpart Fendler was sitting at the kitchen table engaged in conversation with a man whose face could not be made out, being partially hidden from view by his position, and thrown into shadow by the lighting. Mathpart’s face, however, was clear to Pablo, and on it he read a mixture of agitation and fear. Pablo could hear Mathpart’s words: he was refusing to talk about the arrangement of bedrooms in Padeyevsky’s house. His access to that knowledge came legitimately enough: he was employed by Esmerelda twice a week to do the outdoor work, and to help indoors with any heavy work that needed to be done. Fendler had obviously been refusing this information for some time before Pablo’s arrival, for blood was dripping slowly onto his shirt from the side of his mouth. There was a cut on his cheek too; it was badly swollen. Mathpart stopped speaking, and when the other man prompted him, he shook his head. The man got up and came around to Mathpart’s side, raising his hand slowly, threatening him with both the gesture and the words. Pablo could easily make them out; “Listen, friend, we’re gonna pull this off about an hour from now-with you, or without you. You get what I mean?”
Mathpart cowered, but shook his head again, and the hand started down.
Padeyevsky had planned to discover what the mission of the strangers was and then leave anonymously, but he couldn’t stand by and let Mathpart be killed. There was the sound of a blow, and Mathpart had another cut on his cheek. The man must have a ring on. Padeyevsky removed the magnum from his waistband, putting pressure on the trigger and the hammer spur at the same time and bringing the revolver to the full cock position, making only the slightest clicking noise. He moved as quietly as he could to the porch and stepped up on it, moving over to the door by taking small steps along the house wall, where the boards didn’t squeak under his weight.
The doorknob rotated very slowly, very carefully, so that the man inside would not see the knob turning; then Pablo pushed the door open and lowered his revolver until it aimed steadily at the middle of the man with the ring. The stranger’s face was as surprised as Mathpart’s. He started to move his ringed hand, but he was looking directly into the barrel of the .357. He changed his mind. The motion of the hand stopped; the mouth moved instead. “Who are you?”
Fendler answered, in a blurting, out-of-control voice. “Dr. Padeyevsky!”
The cunning in the man’s face softened a little; surprise was edging more into its lines. He stayed quite still, looking into the barrel of Padeyevsky’s gun. He knew that gun very well; he admired it. He was all too aware of the sort of punch it had. He was also aware of the steadiness of the gun’s aim.
Dr. Padeyevsky was standing on his dignity. “Now, sir. Please be aware that I am a nervous person. You could humor me by moving very slowly. Because I have a nervous condition, and my fingers are so likely to twitch at any sudden movement. Very slowly, with your left hand, remove your weapon.”
“But I’m not armed.”
Pablo’s gun hand twitched slightly.
The man’s ringed hand moved again, very slowly, towards his waist.
“I said the left hand.” Pablo’s voice was very quiet. The left hand did as it had been told.
“Now. Put it on the floor, and kick it over this way with your foot.”
The man did so.
Padeyevsky’s aim did not waver, nor did his eye leave the stranger, as he stooped over slowly and retrieved the short-barreled revolver. He put it in his sports coat pocket and looked at Mathpart briefly; he had managed to save him from too much damage, apparently; his face seemed swollen but relatively intact. However, his eyes were fixed, and his mouth was hanging open. He was breathing with difficulty, taking very short breaths.
Pablo gestured with his gun. “Now look what you’ve done to my friend. You shouldn’t have done that. You go back to Russo and tell him to pull off his dogs, do you hear me? He’s not dealing with an idiot. And I’ll tell you personally, if you show up here again, I shall not be so courteous. I have a very short temper.”
The tight threat was broken by the sound of a horn; car headlights flashed on and off again seventy or so yards down the hill, from the approximate location of the Cadillac Pablo had seen earlier. He glanced through the open door, and the man surprised him. He buckled and rolled like a hedgehog, and by the time Padeyevsky had seen him go down, he had almost reached Mathpart’s double-barreled shotgun, propped in the corner.
Padeyevsky snapped a shot at the moving figure; he put a small hole in Mathpart’s wall, but missed the man entirely. Before he could realign his weapon, the professional gunman had swung the L.C. Smith, aimed it squarely at Pablo’s belt, and pressed the trigger. His firing pin snapped on an empty chamber: Mathpart never kept his shotgun loaded around the house.
Pablo had his .357 leveled again at the man sprawled so clumsily against the wall, holding the empty shotgun. “I wouldn’t try the other barrel, if I were you.”
The man put the shotgun down.
Pablo glanced at Mathpart again; he was in a bad way, his face grey, his position frozen on his chair. A bullet splintered the door frame two inches from Pablo’s ear, and the report of the weapon that had fired it sounded down the driveway. Pablo stayed vertical long enough to pump two shots back in the direction of the headlights that he had seen a minute before, then he dropped to the floor behind the door. His.357 was stubbornly pointing at the man in the corner.
He sat there, he heard the engine of the car down the driveway start. It retreated. He knew the access road like the back of his hand, and he listened to the limousine as it reached the head of Mathpart’s driveway and slowed for the turn onto the road that led to the highway.
Then he stood up, really shaken. The car had not turned left; it had turned right. The only possible objective was the farm. The Cadillac was heading towards the girl from space and Theodore.
Pablo had no more business here; he had to get back to the farm. He found a heavy door with his eye; it turned out to be a utility room. The gunman in the corner went into it, motioned on by Pablo’s persuasively eloquent revolver. Pablo turned to communicate with Mathpart. “You come with me. I can’t leave you here with him.” Mathpart nodded in dazed agreement.
Padeyevsky shot the heavy bolt on the utility room, standing aside in case the man had another weapon. A half-used box of shotgun shells lay on a shelf above the empty shotgun; Pablo dumped its contents into his other coat pocket, grabbed the L.C. Smith, and they ran for his car.
The engine started, and he pulled it back along the road to his house faster than he had ever driven on this road. The careening Mercedes went directly across the carefully planted lawn, into the peony border which Esmerelda had nurtured for years. The Cadillac was not in sight. Pablo jumped over the low bushes, moving into the ominously open front door of his house. It was still completely dark; no one had turned on a light. He listened briefly: No footfalls at all, no movement on the first floor. He ran up the steps two at a time, his short legs stretched hard. The door to the space girl’s room was open.
He turned on a light: she had gone quietly. They had taken her. He heard the sudden sound of an engine starting up, a car turning around; it was coming from the rear of the house. Padeyevsky took the stairs back down, almost running over Mathpart, who had fallen in a dead faint in the front hall, just inside the door. He heard the car slow as it reached the front of the house; there was the sound of several shots. Pablo was through the front door just in time to see them drive away from their short stop in front of the peonies. He ran to his Mercedes: one flat tire greeted his gaze. Theodore’s car? No, that was much worse, for the angle of the neatly parked vehicle made it even easier to attack, and two of his tires were gone, the radiator was pouring liquid onto the driveway. Pablo turned and ran back into the house again. He met Theodore on the steps, wide awake from the sound of the shots.
“What’s going on?”
“The girl from space has been kidnapped. Call Joshua and tell him to bring Esmerelda and the man from space over here right away. We’ve got to get her back.”
“What about going after …”
Pablo waved one grim hand. His voice was clipped. “They shot both our tires out. And your radiator. After you call Josh, come outside and help me change tires on the Mercedes. Oh, and see if you can get Mathpart there onto a couch, or maybe into the guest room next to the den. He’s just fainted.”
Pablo went back outside as Theodore sat by the downstairs extension of the telephone and called Joshua’s house. He found Josh just preparing to leave with Esmerelda; they had left the space man with their teacher for his tour through the mental planes.
Joshua grasped the realities of the kidnapping quickly, told Theodore they would all be there in ten minutes, and hung up. Theodore found this estimated time of arrival unlikely; Joshua’s house was fifteen miles away over country road.
He went outside after getting Mathpart comfortable, and when Joshua’s Muira rolled into the farm’s circular drive ten minutes later, Theodore was just tightening the lug nuts on the Mercedes’ wheel; Pablo was putting his ruined tire into the trunk.
The Muira stopped, and the sardine tin opened slowly. The Lamborghini was a small two-seater, and all three of its occupants were six feet tall or more. It was painful to see, Esmerelda had borne the brunt of the bending and folding and the space man had been sat upon severely. The discomfort was about even. They extricated themselves.
“Inside,” said Joshua.
All present trooped inside. They sat. Esmerelda gave a glance around, and went briefly out of the room to get coffee. Her uncle seemed much in need of coffee.
“Well, uh,” said Pablo.
He sat down. Then he stood up again, pockets sagging, a dull clicking of cartridges accompanying his movements.
“Well,” he said. It was most unlike him to be at a loss for words. Starr watched with compassion. His gentle voice tried to encourage. “Go ahead, Pablo. You’re among friends.”
The man from space sat, holding a cup of the black liquid in his hands, not drinking it; he had not liked the taste of it. His new teacher had only just begun to speak with him, to guide him through the Akashic Record. But the beginning was enough for him to have become very aware of a feeling of unease about the mission that he and his sister were to perform upon this planet. From the little that he had seen, this planet was not at all in union with the one who is all. Not at all a planet of positivity. He had not known, before he came, how far towards the negative polarization this planet was. Now his main thought was that, very possibly, there was nothing he could do here to serve these people. For, if they had chosen separation from the light, it seemed to him an obvious infringement upon the collective free will of the planet to attempt to change the polarity it enjoyed. His brothers here could serve in their wisdom; they were native here, and had proper voice in the collective polarity of the planet. But his homeland was elsewhere.
His mind moved back to the present situation.
Pablo finally found enough of a tongue to ask, a little plaintively, what they wanted to know first.
“Who kidnapped her?” asked Joshua. “Uh.”
Esmerelda leaned over the man from space and patted Pablo’s shoulder. “It’s all right, Uncle Pablo. I know you’ve been mixed up in something. That was why you were on the phone that day I came in and saw your aura, wasn’t it?”
Pablo looked at her. “Yes.”
“And was that why you were in New York today, too?”
“All right. Yes, Esmerelda, it was.” Pablo took a deep breath, and some of the petulant confusion left his expression. He was resigning himself to telling the whole story. It was a shame that the man from space had to hear it. It was a shame that Esmerelda had to hear it. But they had to find the girl from space. “I think they were working for the biggest handicapping organization in the country.”
Joshua looked a little puzzled, not shocked. “What’s your connection? ”
Both Esmerelda and Joshua looked puzzled now. Theodore’s expression was inward-looking as though he were reassessing the personality of the man who had drawn him into this close companionship. He was somewhat young to be discovering how much room there is in the human personality for contradiction, a little too full yet of the tendency towards hero-worship. This would take time. “Gambling?” prompted Josh.
“That’s right. Most of my money has been made at the track.” Esmerelda put lips together, trying to sort it out. “Then all that consulting you did wasn’t real?”
“No, that was legitimate. But that would have only made me comfortable. I am more than comfortable; I am very, very rich. It started about five years ago. You know the work I’ve been doing with animal language. Well, about five years ago, I found an interesting detail while I was studying the complexities of animal motivations. Joshua and I had been watching horses, among other animals.”
Joshua nodded; he remembered that; he had helped Padeyevsky considerably, with several different animals, in the early days of Pablo’s animal research.
“I discovered that I could trace one emotional tendency in horses that seemed always evident in the winner of a race. At first I noticed this by accident. Then I got interested, and discovered that if I observed all the animals in any race, the winning-oh, say, half of the field would have this emotional tendency. The losing half would not.
“So, I started betting, in a small way, just to test my theory. At first I did only fairly well, about six wins out of ten. Then I started refining the methods I used, and after a couple of years I found the average increasing to the point where I was winning almost every time I bet. Well, I didn’t get greedy until last year. Then Padeyevsky looked sheepish-I did start betting rather large sums. Placing them with bookies, spreading them around. But someone in the organization finally deduced that they were losing too much money; they put men on it and traced the constant flow of funds to me. They threatened me. I told them that if they continued to harass me, I’d ruin them. I could do it, you know. Just by letting certain people know my methods. I went to New York to arrange that very thing today. A rather complex arrangement, and, if the man I had my little discussion with doesn’t back off, quite inexorable.”
“You mean you can’t stop it at all? Could we get the girl back if we stopped it?” Joshua began to comb his hair with his fingers. “I don’t think it can be stopped. I haven’t tried, of course. But I set it up to be unstoppable. The thing now is to get the girl back ourselves. The organization has no intention of letting her go. I’m sure of that. They don’t want my money. They just want me stopped.”
“Well, go try and untangle it.”
Pablo got up, heavily, and went into the hallway to use the telephone. He was on the phone for twenty minutes, and he came back looking grim. “No, I can’t stop it. Not fast enough, anyway.”
He stood, a dejected and ungainly figure in the middle of the pleasant room.
Joshua stood up. “Well then, we’ll have to try and retrieve the girl ourselves. They think she’s Esmerelda, of course.”
Esmerelda looked up, startled. That was really obvious, but she hadn’t thought of it that way.
Joshua looked at her. “Esmerelda, you’re closer in thought to the girl than anyone here except our brother. Can you contact her in thought?”
Esmerelda looked at the man from space. “Can you find your sister?”
The man from space closed his eyes and almost immediately said, “Yes.”
“Can you lead us to her, then?”
The man from space had no idea what that question meant, and sat confused and silent. Esmerelda herself closed her eyes and sat for several minutes, then turned to Josh. “Yes, we can do it.”
It looked like they could at least find where the kidnappers had taken the girl from space. That was a beginning. Joshua went out the big front door. “Come on, let’s go.”
They filed out of the house together, into the darkness of the autumn night, Pablo still laden with the arsenal, and Esmerelda and the man from space hand in hand.