The police rolled up to the hospital emergency door, and opened the back door of the car to two orderlies, who had come rolling a stretcher out the door to meet them. They picked up the man from space, very efficiently, and rolled him through the doorway into a hall at the near-head of which was a tall desk and an overflowingly fat, dark woman with a typewriter. She rolled forms into the typewriter and put fingers ready over keys.
“Name,” she said.
The policeman looked at each other and shrugged, turning to the obviously upset Theodore Behr. “He doesn’t have a name,” said Theodore.
“Punk. This kid’s a punk, Charlie.”
“What’s your friend’s name, kid? Don’t tell me that he never told you his name.” The taller of the two policemen exaggerated his disbelief and nudged Charlie, who obviously was enjoying the gibe. “But he doesn’t have a name, that I know of.”
An intern came down the hall towards them, a very young, tired white coat in a white and old-paint-yellow hall.
“General condition … breathing abnormally slow … pulse slow …” The intern started to wheel him past the admissions desk.
“But Doctor …” The high-pitched, sweet voice did not sound as though it came from such a massive bulk of femininity. “I haven’t even got his name yet.”
“Admit him on a John Doe. I want to look at him now.” The young, slight figure disappeared into one of the doors off the main hallway. The two policemen rushed after the intern, but failed to be first into the examining room after him, because of a mishap with a cart of oxygen bottles as the two tried to turn into the door at once. In the confusion of mutual recoil and recovery of balance, Theodore slipped through.
“Doctor, I have to talk with you. Please don’t do anything to this patient. You might kill him!”
“Kill him? That’s hardly what I’m here for.”
Theodore was very frightened. He had no idea what the space man’s body chemistry was like, and what might be of harm to it while it was in this state. He had no idea, really, of what jeopardy the man might be in because of the negativity of the hospital atmosphere against which Esmerelda had warned. The one thing he was sure of was that he couldn’t say, “My friend is an alien, and he’s healing himself from dying of a gunshot wound.”
“I don’t mean that you would do it on purpose, Doctor. I happen to...”
“Look, buddy.” Charlie was in the room, and threateningly close. “You let the doc look after this friend of yours. You just butt out. Sit over there,” motioning to a chair by the cabinets on the outer wall of the room, “and shut up, or we move you out altogether.”
“Can I talk to the Doctor just a minute first, please? This could be a matter of life and death.”
Charlie looked at his taller partner. “What do you think, Al?” The senior officer scratched his ear. It certainly was serious, this guy being in a deep coma. Maybe the young punk did know something that would clarify the situation. Be nice of him to speak up for a change, instead of being such a little punk. He didn’t want to have anything happen to harm anyone, didn’t want the man lying so still there to die. What harm could it do? “OK, sure. Why not. But make it short.”
“I happen to know,” Theodore started again, “that this man has a very unusual medical history. He has been part of an experimental program at one of the universities in the area. There have been complications, and he has been under the care of a research physician and biophysicist who is the only one who knows precisely what the experiments and their complications were. His body is in very delicate balance, right now, and if you do anything to it at all, I don’t know what might happen. You might kill him. Absolutely all he needs is rest. He’ll be waking up, perfectly well again, as soon as he’s had enough rest.”
The young, almost unformed face above the white jacket had an expression of puzzlement. “Where did you pick up these men?” The senior policemen stepped forward. “We got them on the expressway, at the request of the military police. They should be here any time now, and can give you more information. The guy was just like that when we first saw him.”
The young doctor ran one hand through hair that already stood away from his forehead, its short ends looking wispy, pre-bald. “Well, I’d like to talk to whomever is responsible for bringing you in in the first place, but until he gets here I don’t see any reason to do anything drastic. But I will examine him. It won’t hurt him to be looked at, or poked for a little blood, will it?”
Theodore’s blue eyes were very dark, almost black, with worry as he made a gesture of ignorance. “I really don’t know what might hurt him, and I really urge that you do nothing at all. As I said, he’s not in need of anything.”
“We’ll examine him, nevertheless. He’s in coma, and I can’t stand here for the rest of the morning waiting for the medical answers to fall from the sky. Nurse!”
A nurse came in and, when told what was needed, left again and returned immediately with a metal basket of equipment. She drew some blood into a test tube, and left to make the tests the intern had requested. The ineffectual looking young doctor, meanwhile, began intoning, to himself and to a woman in nurse’s uniform who had come in and sat next to Theodore. “Bradycardia and bradypnea indicated,” he said conversationally. “Expect a neurologic problem here, something in the brain. Suggestive of uncal herniation, which has led to ischemia of the brain stem.” He opened one of the space man’s closed eyes and shined a small light into it, while Theodore squirmed with worry. “Eye is normal!” The intern’s voice was surprised. “Thought it would be arreactive,” he explained to the recording secretary, who nodded in competent agreement.
“That’s all we do here.” The intern spoke to the thoroughly unsettled Theodore. “We’ll wait here until those lab reports come back, but I’ll be going. I have …”
There were voices, then shouts in the hall. “In here, you say?” came the husky voice of Sgt. Armstrong.
“Yes, but …” quivered the voice of the overweight receptionist, as he burst through the door.
“And who are you?” The young doctor was not diffident. This was, after all, his office, for the moment.
“John L. Armstrong, Criminal Investigations Division, United States Army.” Armstrong sounded as if he were reading it off a card. “These are my prisoners.”
“You’re the MP we picked these two up for?” asked the larger policeman.
“Correct. But I’m C.I.D., not MP.”
The policeman reappraised the Sergeant. C.I.D. sounded impressive.
“Maybe you can tell me more about this man’s condition,” said the intern. “I have examined him, but I can’t find any reason for the coma. And his eyes …”
“I put a .45 slug in him,” spoke the Sergeant unhesitatingly. “Gunshot wound?” The intern was even more puzzled. He had seen gunshot cases, and they didn’t put a man in a coma, unless they were in the vital organs, or unless the bullet had glanced off his head. This man didn’t have a mark on him, as far as he could determine.
“That’s right.” The Sergeant stuck out his big jaw a little defensively.
“How did it happen?” asked the doctor.
“I shot him in the line of duty. Listen, these men are spies.” The intern looked with considerably more respect at the utterly undone figure of Theodore. “He gave me some story about how I shouldn’t touch him, that he’d get better all by himself. Gunshot wound?” The doctor was checking carefully all over the space man’s body. “Where?”
“Should be right about in the middle of the back. I don’t group more than three inches at that range.”
The doctor called for an orderly, and they turned the man from space on the table so that he was lying on his stomach. There was an obvious hole in his shirt, right where the Sergeant had said there would be. It was stained slightly with blood. The man’s back itself was without blemish. Neither the Sergeant nor the doctor could see any damage at all.
“Listen, now, that’s the man I shot. I’m sure of that.” Sgt. Armstrong turned narrowed eyes to Theodore. Maybe these guys were on the level after all.
The intern was carefully, slowly, going over the man’s back. “I find basal rales on the left side. He could have inflammation there.” He searched the back very thoroughly for evidence of any other discomfort, and could find none at all. “I don’t know what to tell you, Sergeant, but this is not the man you shot. There is no evidence of gunshot wound, or any wound at all, except for slight inflammation on the left side of the diaphragm here.”
The Sergeant’s jaw was clenched. “I would stake my life that I shot this man.”
The intern was older in his profession than he was in his emotional life, and his pride was stung. “Sergeant, there is no bullet in this man.”
“I’ll prove it to you,” the Sergeant said in loud and ringing tones. “Just put him under the X-ray machine. That’ll show bullets, won’t it.
“It certainly would, if there were any bullet to show. But there isn’t and I’ll stake my professional reputation on that. For that matter, any fool can see that this man doesn’t have a scratch on him.”
“You’re just afraid I’m right. Don’t you care more about your patient than you do about being right?” The Sergeant was thrusting his jaw quite close to the insignificant face of the poor intern. “Listen, you give this boy an X-ray, and you’ll find out what’s wrong with him.”
The intern looked at the red face in front of his for a few seconds, then pulled the cumbersome X-ray equipment from the ceiling and manipulated it briefly, taking the picture the Sergeant had requested, removing a hastily-labeled plate from the slot under the table, and sending it to be developed.
It came back in a few minutes and was handed to the doctor, who held it up to the light and stared, mouth gawking open.
“There it is,” said Sgt. Armstrong. “Right where I said it was going to be.”
Both of them looked for a minute at the X-ray. There was definitely a bullet there, in the diaphragm. It looked like it might have nicked the stomach, but it was lodged safely away from vital organs or bones. That must have been why there was so little blood, thought the intern. Missed the great vessels.
“Hey!” Sergeant Armstrong was puzzled in his turn. “Are those pictures accurate as to size? How big is that bullet?”
“These X-rays are very accurate.” The doctor took an instrument from one of the drawers in the wall cabinet. “That bullet is almost exactly a quarter of an inch in diameter.”
“But listen. I shot that man with this.” The Sergeant produced his .45. “And the bullet is almost twice that big. Could you have gotten the thing on a slant, so it would distort the size?”
The intern looked dubiously at the sergeant’s automatic. It was very obviously a .45. He pulled the equipment down again, taped another plate, and made a zzap sound; the negative came back in another five minutes. There was no bullet on it at all.
Theodore had retreated to the very edge of the room, and watched the brightly lit occupants cluster around the negatives and the examining table, talking, gesturing, looking strained and yellowed in the light, like men in a boxing ring, or people reciting in a classroom. He was the first to see the man from space open his eyes and then move to get up, and was on his feet instantly to give support. None seemed needed, however. As he had when he awakened in the country meadow earlier, the space man looked carefully all around the small room, examining its citizens.
Theodore told him, “We’re not at Joshua’s because the Sergeant here decided to have us picked up and sent to a hospital. Now that you’re up again, though, I don’t see how they can keep us here. See, Doctor?” Theodore nodded towards his friend, now calmly sitting and looking around, seemingly as healthy as anyone else in the room. “I told you he would be all right if you just let him sleep. And he is.”
The intern quickly checked the vital signs: pulse, temperature, breathing rate. All were perfectly normal now, no longer slowed. The nurse who had drawn blood came in, as if on cue. And, as if expecting her to speak her lines next, the rather dazed group silently waited. The audience rather disconcerted her, but she rallied, and read from her paper. “‘Crit 50%. Glucose 100. No ketone bodies. CBC is 6,000, with 68% poly’s; no left shift noted. Lymphs and mono’s 25%. That all, Doctor?”
The intern took the paper from her hand and looked it over again. There was no evidence in any of the tests that there had ever been anything wrong with the patient. No evidence of any gunshot wound, or loss of blood. “That’s all, thank you. No, wait a minute. Could you please get me a test for lead?”
“Spectroscopy?” The nurse looked surprised. “That’s right.”
“Well …” The nurse hesitated. She wasn’t qualified on that equipment. “I’ll have to hunt up Dr. Price.”
The very large lady in white came through the door as the lab technician went out of it. “Doctor, I still haven’t admitted this patient.”
“Ask him whatever you want to, Maude. He’s awake now.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” The small, rather pretty mouth gleamed teeth at the pale, handsome man from space. “Now then. Name, please.”
Theodore jumped into the verbal gap. “He’s a friend of mine, and …”
“I have no name.”
The doctor began raising his wispy, thin eyebrows and watching closely. He was attending a seminar on psychiatric techniques. The plump cheeks quivered into speech again. “But everybody has a name.”
“I have no name.”
“Well, what’s your address?”
There was silence. The man from space regarded Maude’s bewildered face and poised pencil with grave detachment.
Theodore cut through the daunted silence. “Please, don’t question him. You’ll not need that now. When this is straightened out, I can answer any questions you need …”
The intern interrupted. “Wait. I believe we have some difficulty here. I’m going to put him in observation overnight.
The Sergeant pushed forward, getting ready to object. He was overridden.
“And we’ll have a psychiatrist’s report. But right now …,” the intern turned to the coquettish woman overflowing the chair next to the table, “I’ll have the psychiatrist ask the questions, Maude. He’s not responding to you.”
Maude arranged herself with injured dignity, and left.
“Now, let’s look at this.” The doctor was getting more and more excited by the X-rays and by the man’s recovery. “You say he was under treatment by a biophysicist?” he said to Behr. “Was the treatment, all or in part, for this gunshot wound?”
Behr considered and nodded affirmatively. “That’s right. He was treated so that his own body would assimilate the bullet, and get rid of it internally. That’s why he was asleep like that.”
The doctor was nodding. “And that was why the bullet got smaller, and then disappeared on the X-rays.”
He sat and thought, looking reflectively at the still-motionless man from space and thinking hard, trying to remember what he had learned in his courses about the body. Could the body be put into some sort of hypnotic state and, somehow suggestible, did it have the ability to remove a bullet?
“Mister Armstrong, what’s in a .45 bullet?” asked the intern. “Lead, and some copper.”
Hmmm. The copper was easy enough. There was a protein in the blood, ceruloplasm, which could dissolve copper and pass the ions to … where would it go? It would be passed out through the feces. That could be checked. Now the lead. That was harder. That was a poison to the system. But-yes, the bullet had nicked the stomach, almost surely. There was plenty of acid there to reduce the lead to double-plus ions. That would get it as far as the kidney, and-yes, there was an enzyme in the kidney that recognized lead. Then the active transport system of the proximal convoluted tubule of the kidney would move it out of the basi recti to the lumen. It could pass from there as urine. That could be checked too, lead in the urine.
“Please tell the nurse on duty to come in here,” said the doctor to one of the policemen. The smaller obliged.
“Nurse, could we please find a room for this gentleman? I want some additional tests too, please. Check the stool for copper traces, and run a midstream urine sample to test for lead.”
These were most peculiar orders, and the Doctor was only an intern. “Yes, all right,” said the nurse, looking askance at the young face.
“And, nurse, see if you can get Dr. Harvey in here as soon as possible, for a preliminary interview with the patient.” Dr. Harvey was the staff psychiatrist; they shared him with another regional hospital in the next county.
“Just a minute.” The Sergeant had been watching the apparently fully recovered “space man,” and he had reconsidered his former silent agreement to letting the man stay overnight. “I’m ready to take him with me now. He’s got no need to stay here.”
The intern could see the paper he would write as a result of brilliantly diagnosing this case going out the window. “No, Sergeant, the patient will remain here overnight for further tests.”
The door opened again. “Dr. Harvey!” The intern rushed into speech, quickly outlining the case to the psychiatrist.
“Where’s the patient’s information?” The mild, competent looking man, speaking quietly and briskly, looked around at the nurse with pad and pencil who was trailing him.
“We haven’t been able to get any, Doctor. That’s why you were called.”
“Very well then.” Dr. Harvey took the chair that Maude had vacated, closest to the examining table. “Hello there. What’s your name, please?”
The calm, pleasant face, wide-set eyes gravely fixed on this new questioner, answered, “I do not have a name.”
“What are you called?”
“I do not have a name.”
Harvey looked closely at the man’s face; it seemed perfectly congenial; no hostility. “Have you forgotten your name? I mean, there has to be something, some heading, that gets put on this paper.” Harvey waved the admissions sheet. “What name do you suggest I put on it?”
The space man remembered well the difficulty he had caused others by initiating actions, and was not going to get up and leave, as he would otherwise have done, in the face of this utter confusion. He simply sat, trying very hard, and failing, to make any sense at all out of these questions.
“How about Charlie? Would you just as soon have the name, Charlie, for the time being? We’re going to have to have your name for the record before long, but will Charlie do for now?”
There was a pause. The man from space attempted to find some meaning in those words. He could not. He sat quietly, smiling the universal small smile of well-meaning and slight embarrassment.
“Say,” said the psychiatrist. “Do you feel OK? We can do this another day, if you’d rather.” He ignored frantic signals from the intern.
Silence from the space man.
“Look, this is part of my job, that’s all. I ask the questions, you answer them. If I ask the questions and you don’t answer them, then I can’t do my job.”
He waited. No response.
“All right. We’ll do it tomorrow. I’m glad to have met you.” He stood up. “Good day.”
“Don’t quit yet, Dr. Harvey!” The intern was most unhappy over the brevity of the interview. “I had hoped for a diagnosis of condition, and a report, sir, so that I could work better with this patient from a medical point of view.”
Harvey grinned; he hadn’t seen any evidence of anything medically wrong. He said so. “However, I’ll give you that report now. I’m just not going to push that boy. I want to be friends with him so that he’ll talk to me, eventually, when he’s ready to.”
He sat back down, and the nurse hovered. “I was going to do this in my office, but I’ll do it right here, if you’re anxious to know what I think. You’ll have to clear the room, though. Patient goes too.”
“Could you wait in the hall, please?” The intern opened the door and shooed everyone through it. The space man followed, at Theodore’s suggestion, and quietly took his place with the little group outside the door.
The psychiatrist dictated to the nurse: “Subject is an adult male. He appeared normal in every possible way. The only noted abnormality was a complete absence of responsive speech; he refused to respond when asked his name and, while remaining relatively pleasant, remained completely uncommunicative. The possibility of catatonic schizophrenia, or a form of other neurotic, or possibly psychotic, reaction, with catatonic symptomatology, remains a very strong possibility. A neurological work-up is strongly indicated here, particularly testing for brain damage. Affect appeared bland. There was no apparent hostility; however, it was impossible to achieve rapport with the subject.”
Dr. Harvey rose and smiled at the young intern. “Will that do, Doctor?”
As the unfinished face collected itself to say ‘thank you,’ the older man turned and walked out the door, trailing his secretary. The Sergeant poked his head through to say, “We’ll be going now, Doctor.”
“Wait! I haven’t …”
“Nothing wrong with him any more, is there?” The Sergeant’s jaw was shoving forward again.
“No, not that I can see. But …”
“This is a matter of national security. Thank you for your help. Good-bye.”
The Sergeant walked past the admissions desk, Theodore and the man from space right beside him, and the two policemen following closely. As the emergency door closed shut behind them, there was one last wail from Maude. “I never did admit that man!” The plump cheeks quivered with the anticipated trouble from her supervisor. “How’m I ever going to make that right? Huh?”
The intern came over. “Maude, tell you what. Forget about the whole episode. I’ll take the record myself. OK?”
She nodded, fluttering her lashes. The ineffectual intern walked sadly down the dingy hall. Nothing like this would ever happen again. He would never be famous after all. He lay down on the examining table the space man had just left, and closed his eyes.
Sgt. Armstrong closed the emergency door, the intern, the whole episode out of his mind and herded Theodore and the man from space back into the police car that had brought them to the hospital.
“Better snap the cuffs on this one. He’s a troublemaker. Last time he got in a car, he stole it.”
The senior officer nodded agreement. “Yeah. I spotted him as a punk when I picked him up, didn’t I, Charlie?” The cuffs went on. “What about this guy here?” asked Charlie.
Sgt. Armstrong looked at the so-called space man. He remembered the man’s miraculous recovery, and wondered what other supernatural powers he had. “Yeah, better put them on him, too.”
Charlie did so, and the metal was suddenly cold and hard against the space man’s wrists. He tested his gleaming bracelets; there was almost no opportunity for movement with this device on, making it very difficult for him to serve himself or his fellow man. He puzzled this over in his mind, and found it surprising and incomprehensible. It would be a great pleasure to complete his tour of the mental planes of this planet, and find the explanation for the motives behind this rather peculiar action.
The whole ride was a series of inexplicable scenes and actions, especially after the police car was admitted through the main gate at Fort Benson and Sgt. Armstrong had given instructions on how to get to the Provost Marshall’s office. The man from space sat enthralled by the various units they passed; many devices which he saw were large and complex, and yet seemed to have no meaning or purpose whatever; he was completely bewildered by the objects that passed his line of vision as they drove by part of an armored division’s motor pool. The M-60 tanks seemed somehow attractive to him, with their long, slender 105-millimeter guns projecting so high and far above the stubby, heavy undercarriages; perhaps, he thought, these are art forms, and the long projecting tubes, lifted skyward, represent man’s eternal seeking of truth.
This thought pleased him greatly, and he considered it for some few seconds, hopeful that he had penetrated one of the myriad mysteries that he was encountering on this planet.
He watched as a group of recruits in basic training marched by in almost perfect step, rifles carried at sling-arms, canteens and bayonets slapping rhythmically and tunefully against their thighs. They seemed most cheerful, and he wondered what possible objective could create such a unity of purpose in the entities involved. He envisioned some very complete gathering and uplifting of these men’s spirits, and he rejoiced with them at their being linked so in brotherhood. How closely they moved, how complete a unity of mind and thought must exist, for they all knew what each of the other entities was about to do, and moved in harmony. Just as their police car passed the head of the column, at the command of the drill sergeant, the recruits broke into the chant so common to training units:
Left, right, left,
You had a good home, but you left.
This was a beauty of harmony between spirits that the man from space wished to express, and he turned to Theodore with eyes shining with happiness. “Those who dwell here are truly at one with themselves and with the creation. They enjoy great unity!”
Theodore turned slightly green. He could not speak in answer to the space man, but the big policeman responded. “Is this guy still on dope,
Meanwhile the man from space had eagerly turned his head again, drinking in the sight of brotherhood as they passed other marching units. When the car came to a stop in front of the building which housed the Provost Marshall’s office, the big policeman took him by one arm and pulled him into the front office, right behind the Sergeant and Theodore.
“I’ve got to see Major Harris,” said Sgt. Armstrong to the desk sergeant.
“He’s expecting you.”
Sgt. Armstrong turned to the policemen. “Thanks a lot. We really appreciate your cooperation. We can take care of these prisoners now with no trouble.”
“Glad to have been of service. Any time,” said the big policeman, under the permanent impression that Behr and the man from space were military personnel. “We’ll take these cuffs with us, if you don’t mind.”
“No problem,” said Armstrong. “Go right ahead. They’re on a military post now.”
The cuffs were retrieved and, with his head bent, the senior officer grinned somewhat indulgently at the obvious twenty-year army man. He’d been in the army himself, and recognized the philosophy common to such men as Sgt. Armstrong. He departed, the sets of handcuffs ringing together as he and his fellow officer went through the door.
“Go right on in, Sgt. Armstrong,” said the desk sergeant, motioning Theodore and the space man to seats along the front wall of the waiting area.
Armstrong did so, coming through the Provost Marshall’s door and stopping the correct three paces from the rather plain wooden desk, behind which sat Major Harris. He saluted sharply. “Sir. Sgt. First Class John Armstrong to see the Provost Marshall.”
“Yes, Sergeant. Sit down.” Harris returned the salute. “Now, suppose you tell me what this is all about. We were very sorry to hear about Capt. Crouse.”
“Yes, sir. Well, I really don’t know where to begin. But, listen, first I want to tell you about Capt. Crouse. I was worried …”
“We have a fairly full report on Capt. Crouse. Lt. Sheridan went down to pick up his body, and made a preliminary investigation, and the civil authorities have taken that deputy sheriff’s wife who shot him into custody. Although, from what I hear, the whole thing sounds like a ridiculous mistake.”
“Yes, sir. It certainly was. But I have brought in the two .. . well, the, ah—” Armstrong realized suddenly that his superior officer might think it a bit odd for him to claim the possession of two interplanetary spies, one of them from another planet.
“Well, sir, I’ve got … well, I’ve got two men out there …” The Major waited until it was obvious the Sergeant needed more prodding. “I gathered that you had two men to bring in from your telephone call earlier. Now, what are their units?”
“Ah … well, sir, they don’t have any units. In fact, they’re not in the military at all.”
“Not in the military?” The Major’s face underwent a swift change from interest to the beginning of anger. “Then what are we doing with them? Do you realize what trouble you could get us into if these two men are civilians, and they can prove we detained them? This is serious, Sergeant.”
“Yes, sir, I know,” said Armstrong. “I thought it was, too, and that’s why I sort of took matters into my own hands. Listen, just let me tell it from the beginning.”
“You’d better,” said Major Harris grimly. “And I do hope it’s good.”
Sgt. Armstrong twisted nervously in his chair, one hand going to pull at his collar. “Well, sir, it all began when Capt. Crouse and I were assigned to help Col. Church investigate the leakage of certain information about experimental work. This was all top secret. We were watching Padeyevsky because he had personally set up some of the experimental program.” The sergeant took a breath. “So I was watching the Padeyevsky place, well, not the house, exactly, it’s a long driveway, real long, and you can’t see the house. But it’s the only way you can get to the house.”
He paused. The Major nodded his understanding.
“So, anyway, I saw this Cadillac go up the driveway. I didn’t know who they were. But they didn’t come back out, and then Padeyevsky’s car went into the driveway. So I wondered whether the Cadillac had gone to the other house. There are two houses off that driveway, sir. But I went to this other place, and no Cadillac. So I thought I would walk back to the Padeyevsky place, to see if I could find out anything that way. Well, sir, just as I got fairly close to the house, here comes the Cadillac, and I can see that they’re shooting at Padeyevsky’s tires. So I ran back to my car and called Capt. Crouse to tell him that something was up. I guess he must have called Col. Church, because he showed up with the Captain. They both live on post, see, and I guess it would have been fairly easy
“Yes, Sergeant, said Major Harris. “Go on.”
Yes, sir. Well, they both got into my car, and I was starting to tell them about the situation when a little sports car turned into the drive. We were off the road, hidden. Well, anyway, it was just a few minutes before Padeyevsky’s car came out of the driveway. They must have changed the tire that was shot out. We decided to follow it, since it looked like everyone that had been at the house was in the car. The Colonel stayed with me, because he wanted to ask me some more questions, and Captain Crouse got back into his own car, and we started out following them. It ended up at this deputy’s house. We missed them when they ducked into the garage, but Capt. Crouse backtracked and found them.”
“Now you’re getting to the killing of Captain Crouse,” said the Major. “I want to see how your story compares with Lt. Sheridan’s.”
“Yes, sir. Well, as I understand it, it was one big foul-up. The deputy’s wife just shot him before she knew what was going on. She thought Captain Crouse had his gun out and was going to shoot her husband. She thought he was a criminal. I guess she was just upset.”
Major Harris nodded. “Yes, that matches the Lieutenant’s story so far. But what in the world are you doing with two civilians?”
“Well, sir, I was just coming to that. You see, the Colonel started questioning the Padeyevsky group-there were five of them: Padeyevsky himself, an actor named Joshua Starr, a fantastic looking blonde named Esmerelda-would you believe that, a young guy named Behr, and another guy who looked a lot like Behr, maybe they were related, only he never said anything, and it seemed like he was crazy, or on some kind of trip. He just sat around with his eyes closed. Anyway the colonel started questioning this group, and I was just listening, until the space man just got up and walked out of the house. And of course …”
“The WHAT, Sergeant?”
“The space man, sir. The man from space. That’s why I brought these two in. I’ve got him out in the front office there …” There was stony silence from the Major.
“Well, he just got up and walked out, and Col. Church tells him to halt or he’ll shoot, you know, and he doesn’t. So the Colonel shoots him, or shoots at him; he said it was a warning shot, but I didn’t know that. So I backed him up. When the Colonel was starting to shoot at him, sir, that’s when they let it out that he’s from another planet. One of them says, ‘We’ve got to stop the space man,’ or something. That’s when we found out. Anyway, the Colonel starts shooting at him;, and what am I to do but back up the Colonel, so I let him have it in the middle of the back with my .45 Gold Cup.”
“Wait a minute, Sergeant. You shot the man that’s sitting in the front office right now with a .45?”
“Yes, sir. Right square in the middle of the back.”
The Major went to the door of his office and looked around the edge of it, trying to spot the victim. “I don’t see any casualties out there, Sergeant. Just two youngsters, who look like they’re brothers. Both healthy as horses, from the looks of them.”
“The one on the right, sir. That’s the space man.”
“Then you missed him. Is that right?”
“Oh, no, sir. I got him right in the middle of the back. I never group more than three inches at that range.”
“Sergeant, I have never heard of a man that was hit in the middle of the back with a .45 recovering, if he lived at all, in less than a month or six weeks. This man is in good shape.”
“Well, sir, I know. It’s one for the medics, sir. I told you it was going to be a funny story. That’s why I began to believe that he really was a space man. Because he did recover.”
The Major looked at Sgt. Armstrong. He looked at him long and hard. The harsh color in his cheeks, the shiny, over-bright look in his eyes-the Sergeant could be having a nervous breakdown. He walked slowly back to his seat and sat behind it. “Go on, Sergeant.”
“Yes, sir. Well, the gorgeous blonde came running up after the man from space hit the dirt, and the Colonel had examined him and said he was dead, and she said, no, that he wasn’t dead, and could they bring him back to life. Well, they talked for a while, and the Colonel said they could, so they picked him up-and he was a dead one too, Major-and took him down behind the house into this field, and then they did a lot of mumbo-jumbo over him, and the girl and the actor …”
“Where was the Colonel all this time?”
“Well, I was back at the house with the rest of the party, but the Colonel went down to the field with them, and watched real close.”
“Well, they’re waving their hands around in the air, and saying these foreign words, and after a while, they come back, and the space man’s walking with them, under his own steam. They just brought him back to life, somehow. We could sure use that in combat. Anyhow, after they all came back to the house, I could see that they’d done something to the Colonel while he was down there, hypnotized him or something, because he was believing everything they said, and he did whatever they wanted him to. They wanted him to go off and rescue the space girl, who …”
“Yes, sir, you see they had been driving so early because the girl from space, the one that had come with the space man, had been kidnapped, and …”
“That’s right, sir. She had been kidnapped by these syndicate people, and the Padeyevsky group was after them to get her back. Anyway, that’s what they told Col. Church, and he believed them right down the line, and said he would help them any way he could. Well, Sir, I could tell that the Colonel wasn’t right any more, you know, that he wasn’t in control of the situation. I mean, you had to be there to get the feel of the thing, if you see what I mean. Anyway, he told me to just let the man from space and this young fellow Behr go back to their temple …”
“TEMPLE?” The Major’s face had given up trying to reflect all that he heard, and a curious anarchy reigned, each feature twisting a little, in independence from the others. With its color, it was bearing more and more resemblance to a bowl of chili con carne “What temple?”
“The actor, Starr, he had a temple, apparently, sir. And we were supposed to go to it. It’s very near here.”
“Yes, I know of Mr. Starr. I’ve seen him on television. He has a temple? Well, never mind. Go on, Sergeant.”
“Yes, Sir. Like I said, you had to be there, really, to get just how everything happened …”
“I know this is a difficult story, Sgt. Armstrong. Just go on.”
“All right, sir. Anyway, normally, sir, I would have respected the Colonel’s orders, of course, but the Colonel had this far-off look to him, and his eyes were real glazed, if you see what I mean. And, really he’s in the Signal Corps, and I’m in the C.I.D., and I thought maybe I knew more about criminal investigations than he did, because he sure was letting this situation get out of hand. I mean, to let a spy from another planet just go off to some temple, if you see what I mean. So I thought I’d better bring them here, instead of going to the temple.”
Major Harris seemed to be having difficulty breathing. Armstrong swallowed. “Don’t you see, sir, I couldn’t let these spies get away. It was the only thing to do, to bring them in here for questioning. I mean, I really don’t know whether they had anything to do with the deputy’s shooting Capt. Crouse, but I bet they have military information that we need.”
“All right, Sergeant. So you phoned me?”
“Yes, sir. And they escaped right after I called you, but we got them anyway, and took them to the hospital. The space man was still recovering from being killed, see, and he was in a coma or something.”
“And the space m …” The Major caught himself. “And this man recovered in the hospital, then?”
“Yes, sir, that’s where he was, but they didn’t do anything to cure him, give him any medicine or anything; they just let him sleep there for an hour or so, and did some tests with his blood, and examined him the way doctors do, you know, with a stethoscope and stuff, and then he just got up from where he was lying, and he was perfectly all right. Just like that Behr guy said he’d be.”
“He was up and about with a .45 slug in him?”
“By that time, he didn’t have a .45 in him, sir. It was a .25 on the first X-ray, and by the time he got up, it wasn’t there at all.”
“And then you took the two men and brought them here. Is that right? Is that the whole story?”
“Yes, sir that’s it. So now we’ve got an interplanetary scout out there, and …”
“Thank you, Sergeant. That will be all for now. If you could just wait outside, while I talk to these people.” Major Harris got up and escorted the Sergeant to the door of his office. He was severely doubting the Sergeant’s competence at this point, for the whole story was unbelievable, and that last part made absolutely no sense at all. None. “These men are civilians, Sgt. Armstrong. I wish you had thought of that earlier. Unless they are both very kind to us, we may be in very hot water.”
“But, sir, one of them’s an advance scout from another planet, so he must be in the military there. So that puts him under our jurisdiction, doesn’t it? And Behr is his accomplice, so that makes him an accessory, doesn’t it, sir?”
The Major ushered Sgt. Armstrong through the door without answering these queries. Spy from another planet! Any fool could see that these were just two normal boys, college kids, probably. He beckoned the man from space into his office, and with Theodore’s prompting, the man complied cheerfully and sat down, at the Major’s invitation, in the chair that Sgt. Armstrong had just vacated.
The Major cleared his throat. “Before you speak, I would like to read from the Uniform Code of Military Justice.” The Major had absolutely no rights of jurisdiction over this man, and he knew it.
But he thought that perhaps, by reading this as was routine with military personnel, the boy would be soothed into compliance. He was reading Article 31, the part informing any accused of his right to counsel and his right to remain silent, since anything that he might say could be used against him in court.
The space man looked at him steadily as the words were read to him, trying to fathom their meaning. As far as he knew, words could not be used as tools on the physical plane, for the power they set in motion was mental. Perhaps the man in front of him was giving him some sort of information about artificial elementals and other summoned forces from the mental planes. This was very interesting; he had not known that the people of this planet were this much aware of any but the physical plane. It was good news. This was truly a fine place, this Provost Marshall’s place. The brotherhood of the people who walked about the grounds, and their harmonious songs, and now evidence of knowledge of the higher planes.
“Is that clear?” asked the Major.
“Yes,” said the space man, smiling eagerly at this man, who might be a teacher. He hoped that he could be of service to him. Now that his metal bracelets were off, he was more than happy to help in whatever way might be necessary.
“What is your name?” asked the Major. “I have no name.”
“Well, then … how does Mr. Behr call you?”
“I am not called with words.”
“I am called with thought.”
“Oh boy,” thought Major Harris. The Sergeant was right about one thing, at least. We have a weird one here. He’d have to try a different approach.
“I understand that Sgt. Armstrong shot you with his pistol.”
Harris stared. “You were shot, then?”
The space man stared silently at the major, not recognizing the words as a question.
“Where did the bullet hit you?”
The man from space put one hand behind his back and, as well as he could, touched the place where the bullet had entered his body. Harris walked over behind his chair, leaned over the man, and started tugging at his shirt. “Do you mind?” he asked. Although the man had no reaction to this query at all, not understanding its meaning, the Major went ahead and pulled the slightly stained shirt up anyway. There was no evidence at all of any wound; the fair skin was as smooth as a child’s. It seemed obvious to Harris that the Sergeant had somehow brought in the wrong man. Maybe someone had substituted this boy for Armstrong’s victim. He wondered how they managed to do it. Perhaps Armstrong had been right about the hypnosis. Perhaps these people had managed to hypnotize not only Col. Church, but Sgt. Armstrong as well. That was really weird. He shook his head, went back to his desk, and asked several more questions of the man from space, but they didn’t seem to mean anything to him, for he sat silently, not answering or saying a word. Finally he gave up. Perhaps he could get more out of the other one. “That’ll be all, thank you. Could you send Mr. Behr in, and stay out in the front office while I talk to him?”
The man from space did so with cheerful alacrity. Behr walked in looking sour, distinctly sour. Major Harris read the same words to him, and motioned for him to sit down. Theodore did so.
“Now, what’s your name?” asked the Major.
“Sorry, Major, but I’m not saying anything. And I’ve seen enough television to know that I’m entitled to call my lawyer right now.” He had Pablo’s lawyer’s phone number very handy.
Oh boy, thought Harris. First a nut, and now a guardhouse lawyer. But he was a good officer, and had had a long time to learn how to keep his temper while talking to witnesses and suspects. He would be kind to this one. Maybe that might help. It often did. Appeal to sympathy and all that. “Look, son, I don’t want to hurt you or your friend. I really want to help you. This seems so mixed up; I just want to get to the bottom of it, so that we can all go home. Off the record, I’m rather confused as to what happened out there and, frankly, your version of the story would be of great help to me.”
“Major, I’ll be glad to give you my version of this, just as soon as my lawyer arrives.”
The Major squirmed inwardly. The boy had him. He wasn’t going to be bluffed. He’d better give up, and get these two off his hands before the whole business went up in smoke, which it would as soon as a lawyer found out that civilians were being detained by the army. “Just a minute,” he said and went through the door of his office, found Sgt. Armstrong’s eye, and beckoned. Armstrong came quickly. “Yes, sir?”
“I can’t keep them any longer, Sergeant. That Behr fellow called my bluff. I’m either going to let them go or turn them over to the civilian police right now. Do you want to press charges against them?”
“Yes, sir. I certainly do.”
Harris walked back behind his desk, and smiled a hearty smile at Behr. “You can call your lawyer from my phone, right here. Tell him to meet you at the police station in town. We’re going there right now.”
Theodore did just that, and then, for what seemed to be the seventy-fifth time that day, he was hustled into a car with the man from space: this time a military police sedan, with an MP driving. The Major and the Sergeant were both along; the Major did not really trust Armstrong to remain rational, and wanted to know firsthand anything that might have repercussions in his department. In fifteen minutes, they were standing in front of the desk sergeant at the police station.
“Names,” droned the desk sergeant.
“This one’s Theodore Behr, and this one doesn’t have a name.” The desk sergeant entered Behr’s name on a piece of paper. “Alias on the other one?”
“No alias, either,” said Armstrong.
“John Doe,” droned the desk man. “What are the charges?” Sgt. Armstrong was ready for that one. “Interplanetary espionage,” he said loudly.
The desk sergeant came to life for the first time, looking up from his papers and squinting in disbelief. “Did you say interplanetary espionage?”
“That’s exactly right.”
“You can’t charge him with that. There’s no law against interplanetary espionage. There is no such thing as interplanetary espionage. Give me something there’s a law against!”
“But there’s got to be a law against it. These men are spies!”
“Look, I don’t care what there’s got to be. There’s no law on the books anywhere about interplanetary espionage, for Christ’s sake. Make some charge we got a law for.”
“But I’m telling you, these men are spies,” said Armstrong. “It’s treason. I had to shoot one of them for it.”
“Oh, yeah? Where’s he shot? Which one? Do we need a doctor?”
“No, he’s OK now.”
“Just nicked him, eh? Bounce off his head, or some freak thing?”
“No, I shot him right square in the middle of the back. I group about three inches at …”
The Major cut in. “Sergeant, this is a very unusual case,” he said to the desk sergeant. “It’s pretty obvious that we can’t charge these men with interplanetary espionage, and-he twinkled professionally I’m not very sure they’re guilty of that. But they were present at a very nasty little incident earlier today, the shooting of Capt. Crouse.”
“A shooting? Where’d it happen?”
“Out in Spencer County,” volunteered Armstrong. “Oh, that’s out of our jurisdiction.”
Major Harris turned to Sgt. Armstrong. “Is there anything else that you can possibly charge them with?”
The Sergeant thought as fast as he could, trying to come up with a charge, any charge at all, to hold them with while he somehow convinced someone that they were passing up the chance to get information about an interplanetary war. “Vagrancy?” he said, a little wildly. “How about vagrancy? I bet neither one of them has a dime on him.”
“We are the guests of Pablo Padeyevsky,” said Theodore, “and I should imagine that he is one of the richest men in this county.” The desk sergeant recognized that name. The man was indeed an important resident, and the source of a great deal of tax income. He had no desire to mix with him. “If he and his friends are with Padeyevsky, they’re not vagrants,” he told Major Harris.
“Well, wait a minute. I know. Resisting arrest. They resisted arrest.”
“What arrest, Sergeant?” asked the man behind the desk. “We haven’t arrested anyone, and you can’t arrest non-military personnel.”
“Well, they stole the car that I was driving.”
“That was Professor Padeyevsky’s car,” said Behr, “and we were simply driving it home.”
“Is that right? Did he drive away in his own car?”
“Ah ... yes, I guess so …”
Padeyevsky’s lawyer came through the door of the police station at this point, and it was all over in a few minutes. After a very short battle, marked by several outbursts of “But these men are interplanetary SPIES.” from Sgt. Armstrong, and several placating speeches by Major Harris, Theodore and the man from space walked out the door of the station, got in the lawyer’s car, and drove off towards Pablo Padeyevsky’s house. Theodore was very tired and very hungry, but they were free. Scot free.