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   Chapter 5 No.5

Supermind By Randall Garrett Characters: 28631

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Malone stared. He tried to say something but he couldn't find any words. The telephone rang again and he pushed the switch with a sense of relief. The beard-fringed face of Thomas Boyd appeared on the screen.

"You're getting hard to find," Boyd said. "I think you're letting fame and fortune go to your head."

"I left word at the office that I was coming here," Malone said aggrievedly.

"Sure you did," Boyd said. "How do you think I found you? Am I telepathic? Do I have strange powers?"

"Wouldn't surprise me in the least," Malone said. "Now, about those spies-"

"See what I mean?" Boyd said. "How did you know?"

"Just lucky, I guess," Malone murmured. "But what about them?"

"Well," Boyd said, "we picked up two men working in the Senate Office

Building, and another one working for the State Department."

"And they are spies?" Malone said. "Real spies?"

"Oh, they're real enough," Boyd said. "We've known about 'em for years, and I finally decided to pick them up for questioning. God knows, but maybe they have something to do with all this mess that's bothering everybody."

"You haven't the faintest idea what you mean," Malone said. "Mess is hardly the word."

Boyd snorted. "You go on getting yourself confused," he said, "while some of us do the real work. After all-"

"Never mind the insults," Malone said. "How about the spies?"

"Well," Boyd said, a trifle reluctantly, "they've been working as janitors and maintenance men, and of course we've made sure they haven't been able to get their hands on any really valuable information."

"So they've suddenly turned into criminal masterminds," Malone said.

"After being under careful surveillance for years."

"Well, it's possible," Boyd said defensively.

"Almost anything is possible," Malone said.

"Some things," Boyd said carefully, "are more possible than others."

"Thank you, Charles W. Aristotle," Malone said. "I hope you realize what you've done, picking up those three men. We might have been able to get some good lines on them, if you'd left them where they were."

There is an old story about a general who went on an inspection tour of the front during World War I, and, putting his head incautiously up out of a trench, was narrowly missed by a sniper's bullet. He turned to a nearby sergeant and bellowed: "Get that sniper!"

"Oh, we've got him spotted, sir," the sergeant said. "He's been there for six days now."

"Well, then," the general said, "why don't you blast him out of there?"

"Well, sir, it's this way," the sergeant explained. "He's fired about sixty rounds since he's been out there, and he hasn't hit anything yet. We're afraid if we get rid of him they'll put up somebody who can shoot."

This was standard FBI policy when dealing with minor spies. A great many had been spotted, including four in the Department of Fisheries. But known spies are easier to keep track of than unknown ones. And, as long as they're allowed to think they haven't been spotted, they may lead the way to other spies or spy networks.

"I thought it was worth the risk," Boyd said. "After all, if they have something to do with the case-"

"But they don't," Malone said.

"Damn it," Boyd exploded, "let me find out for myself, will you?

You're spoiling all the fun."

"Well, anyhow," Malone said, "they don't."

"You can't afford to take any chances," Boyd said. "After all, when I think about William Logan, I tell myself we'd better take care of every lead."

"Well," Malone said finally, "you may be right. And then again, you may be normally wrong."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Boyd said.

"How should I know?" Malone said. "I'm too busy to go around and around like this. But since you've picked the spies up, I suppose it won't do any harm to find out if they know anything."

Boyd snorted again. "Thank you," he said, "for your kind permission."

"I'll be right down," Malone said.

"I'll be waiting," Boyd said. "In Interrogation Room 7. You'll recognize me by the bullet hole in my forehead and the strange South American poison, hitherto unknown to science, in my esophagus."

"Very funny," Malone said. "Don't give up the ship."

Boyd switched off without a word. Malone shrugged at the blank screen and pushed his own switch. Then he turned slowly back to Her Majesty, who was standing, waiting patiently, at the opposite side of the desk. Interference, he thought, located around him…

"Why yes," she said. "That's exactly what I did say."

Malone blinked. "Your Majesty," he said, "would you mind terribly if I asked you questions before you answered them? I know you can see them in my mind, but it's simpler for me to do things the normal way, just now."

"I'm sorry," she said sincerely. "I do agree that matters are confused enough already. Please go on."

"Thank you, Your Majesty," Malone said. "Well, then. Do you mean that I'm the one causing all this mental static?"

"Oh, no," she said. "Not at all. It's definitely coming from somewhere else, and it's beamed at you, or beamed around you."

"But-"

"It's just that I can only pick it up when I'm tuned to your mind," she said.

"Like now?" Malone said.

She shook her head. "Right now," she said, "there isn't any. It only happens every once in awhile, every so often, and not continuously."

"Does it happen at regular intervals?" Malone asked.

"Not as far as I've been able to tell," Her Majesty said. "It just happens, that's all. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. Except that it did start when you were assigned to this case."

"Lovely," Malone said. "Perfectly lovely. And what is it supposed to mean?"

"Interference," she said. "Static. Jumble. That's all it means. I just don't know any more than that, Sir Kenneth; I've never experienced anything like it in my life. It really does disturb me."

That, Malone told himself, he could believe. It must be an experience, he told himself, like having someone you were looking at suddenly dissolve into a jumble of meaningless shapes and lights.

"That's a very good analogy," Her Majesty said. "If you'll pardon me speaking before you've voiced your thought."

"Not at all," Malone said. "Go right ahead."

"Well, then," Her Majesty said. "The analogy you use is a good one.

It's just as disturbing and as meaningless as that."

"And you don't know what's causing it?" Malone said.

"I don't know," she said.

"Nor what the purpose of it is?" he said.

Her Majesty shook her head slowly. "Sir Kenneth," she said, "I don't even know whether or not there is any purpose."

Malone sighed deeply. Nothing in the case seemed to make any sense. It wasn't that there were no clues, or no information for him to work with. There were a lot of clues, and there was a lot of information. But nothing seemed to link up with anything else. Every new fact was a bright, shiny arrow pointing nowhere in particular.

"Well, then-" he started.

The intercom buzzed. Malone jabbed ferociously at the button. "Yes?" he said.

"The ghosts are here," the agent-in-charge's voice said.

Malone blinked. "What?" he said.

"You said you were going to get some ghosts," the agent-in-charge said. "From the Psychical Research Society, in a couple of large bundles. And they're here now. Want me to exorcise 'em for you?"

"No," Malone said wearily. "Just send them in to join the crowd. Got a messenger?"

"I'll send them down," the agent-in-charge said. "About one minute."

Malone nodded, realized the man couldn't see him, said: "Fine," and switched off. He looked at his watch. A little over half an hour had passed since he had left the Psychical Research Society offices. That, he told himself, was efficiency.

Not that the books would mean anything, he thought. They would just take their places at the end of the long row of meaningless, disturbing, vicious facts that cluttered up his mind. He wasn't an FBI agent any more; he was a clown and a failure, and he was through. He was going to resign and go to South Dakota and live the life of a hermit. He would drink goat's milk and eat old shoes or something, and whenever another human being came near he would run away and hide. They would call him Old Kenneth, and people would write articles for magazines about The Twentieth Century Hermit.

And that would make him famous, he thought wearily, and the whole circle would start all over again.

"Now, now, Sir Kenneth," Queen Elizabeth said. "Things aren't quite that bad."

"Oh, yes, they are," Malone said. "They're even worse."

"I'm sure we can find an answer to all your questions," Her Majesty said.

"Sure," Malone said. "Even I can find an answer. But it isn't the right one."

"You can?" Her Majesty said.

"That's right," Malone said. "My answer is: to hell with everything."

* * * * *

Malone's Washington offices didn't look any different. He sighed and put the two big packages from the Psychical Research Society down on his desk, and then turned to Her Majesty.

"I wanted you to teleport along with me," he said, "because I need your help."

"Yes," she said. "I know."

He blinked. "Oh. Sure you do. But let me go over the details."

Her Majesty waved a gracious hand. "If you like, Sir Kenneth," she said.

Malone nodded. "We're going on down to Interrogation Room 7 now," he said. "Next door to it, there's an observation room, with a one-way panel in the wall. You'll be able to see us, but we won't be able to see you."

"I really don't require an observation panel," Her Majesty said. "If I enter your mind, I can see through your eyes."

"Oh, sure," Malone said. "But the observation room was built for more normal people-saving your presence, Your Majesty."

"Of course," she said.

"Now," Malone went on, "I want you to watch all three of the men we're going to bring in, and dig everything you can out of their minds."

"Everything?" she said.

"We don't know what might be useful," Malone said. "Anything you can find. And if you want any questions asked-if there's anything you think I ought to ask the men, or say to them-there's a non-vision phone in the observation room. Just lift the receiver. That automatically rings the one in the interrogation room and I'll pick it up. Understand?"

"Perfectly, Sir Kenneth," she said.

"Okay, then," Malone said. "Let's go." They headed for the door.

Malone stopped as he opened it. "And by the way," he said.

"Yes?"

"If you get any more of those disturbances, let me know."

"At once," Her Majesty promised.

They went on down the hall and took the elevator down to Interrogation Room 7, on the lowest level. There was no particular reason for putting the interrogation section down there, except that it tended to make prisoners more nervous. And a nervous prisoner, Malone knew, was very possibly a confessing prisoner.

Malone ushered Her Majesty through the unmarked door of the observation chamber, made sure that the panel and phone were in working order, and went out. He stepped into Interrogation Room 7 trying hard to look bored, businesslike and unbeatable. Boyd and four other agents were already there, all standing around and talking desultorily in low tones. None of them looked as if they had a moment's worry in their lives. It was all part of the same technique, of course, Malone thought. Make the prisoner feel resistance is useless, and you've practically got him working for you.

The prisoner was a hulking, flabby fat man in work coveralls. He had black hair that spilled all over his forehead, and tiny button eyes. He was the only man in the room who was sitting down, and that was meant to make him feel even more inferior and insecure. His hands were clasped fatly in his lap, and he was staring down at them in a regretful manner. None of the agents paid the slightest attention to him. The general impression was that something really tough was coming up, but that they were in no hurry for it. They were willing to wait for the third degree, it seemed, until the blacksmith had done a really good job with the new spikes for the Iron Maiden.

The prisoner looked up apprehensively as Malone shut the door. Malone paid no attention to him, and the prisoner unclasped his hands, rubbed them on his coveralls and then reclasped them in his lap. His eyes fell again.

Boyd looked up too. "Hello, Ken," he said. He tapped a sheaf of papers on the single table in the room. Malone went over and picked them up.

They were the abbreviated condensations of three dossiers. All three of the men covered in the dossiers were naturalized citizens, but all had come in as "political refugees" from Hungary, from Czechoslovakia, and from East Germany. Further checking had turned up the fact that all three were actually Russians. They had been using false names during their stay in the United States, but their real ones were appended to the dossiers.

The fat one in the interrogation room was named Alexis Brubitsch. The other two, who were presumably waiting separately in other rooms, were Ivan Borbitsch and Vasili Garbitsch. The collection sounded, to Malone, like a seedy musical-comedy firm of lawyers: Brubitsch, Borbitsch and Garbitsch. He could picture them dancing gaily across a stage while the strains of music followed them, waving legal forms and telephones and singing away.

Brubitsch did not, however, look very gay. Malone went over to him now, walking slowly, and looked down. Boyd came and stood next to him.

"This is the one who won't talk, eh?" Malone said, wondering if he sounded as much like Dick Tracy as he thought he did. It was a standard opening, meant to make the prisoner think his fellows had already confessed.

"That's him," Boyd said.

"Mmm," Malone said, trying to look as if he were deciding between the rack and the boiling oil. Brubitsch fidgeted slightly, but he didn't say anything.

"We didn't know whether we had to get this one to talk, too," Boyd said. "What with the others, and all. But we did think you ought to have a look at him." He sounded very bored. It was obvious from his tone that the FBI didn't care in the least if Alexis Brubitsch never opened his mouth again, in what was likely to be a very short lifetime.

"Well," Malone said, equally bored, "we might be able to get a few corroborative details."

Brubitsch swallowed hard. Malone ignored him.

"Now, just look at him," Boyd said. "He certainly doesn't look like the head of a spy ring, does he?"

"Of course he doesn't," Malone said. "That's probably why the Russians used him. They figured nobody would ever look twice at a fat slob like this. Nobody would ever suspect him of being the head man."

"I guess you're right," Boyd said. He yawned, which Malone thought was overacting a trifle. Brubitsch saw the yawn, and one hand came up to jerk at his collar.

"Who'd ever think," Malone said, "that he plotted those killings in

Redstone-all three of them?"

"It is surprising," Boyd said.

"But, then," Malone said, "we know he did. There isn't any doubt of that."

Brubitsch seemed to be turning a pale green. It was a fascinating color, unlike any other Malone had ever seen. He watched it with interest.

"Oh, sure," Boyd said. "We've got enough evidence from the other two to send this one to the chair tomorrow, if we want to."

"More than enough," Malone agreed.

Brubitsch opened his mouth, shut it again and closed his eyes. His lips moved silently.

"Tell me," Boyd said conversationally, leaning down to the fat man. "Did your orders on that job come from Moscow, or did you mastermind it all by yourself?"

Brubitsch's eyes stirred, then snapped open as if they'd been pulled by a string. "Me?" he said in a hoarse bass voice. "I know nothing about this murder. What murder? I know nothing about it."

There were no such murders, of course. But Malone was not ready to let

Brubitsch know anything about that. "Oh, the ones you shot in

Redstone," he said in an offhand way.

"The what?" Brubitsch said. "I shot people? Never."

"Oh, sure you did," Boyd said. "The others say you did."

Brubitsch's head seemed to sink into his neck. "Borbitsch and

Garbitsch, they tell you about a murder? It is not true. Is a lie."

"Really?" Malone said. "We think it's true."

"Is a lie," Brubitsch said, his little eyes peering anxiously from side to side. "Is not true," he went on hopefully. "I have alibi."

"You do?" Boyd said. "For what time?"

"For time when murder happened," Brubitsch said. "I was someplace else."

"Well, then," Malone said, "how do you know when the murders were done? They were kept out of the newspapers." That, he reflected, was quite true, since the murders had never happened. But he watched Brubitsch with a wary eye.

"I know nothing about time," Brubitsch said, jerking at his collar. "I don't know when they happened."

"Then how can you have an alibi?" Boyd snapped.

"Because I didn't do them!" Brubitsch said tearfully. "If I didn't, then I must have alibi!"

"You'd be surprised," Malone said. "Now, about these murders-"

"Was no murder, not by me," Brubitsch said firmly. "Was never any killing of anybody, not even by accident."

"But your two friends say-" Boyd began.

"My two friends are not my friends," Brubitsch said firmly. "If they tell you about murder and say it was me, they are no friends. I did not murder anybody, I have alibi. I did not even murder anybody a little bit. They are no friends. This is terrible."

"There," Malone said reflectively, "I agree with you. It's positively awful. And I think we might as well give it up. After all, we don't need your testimony. The other two are enough; they'll get maybe ten years apiece, but you're going to get the chair."

"I will not sit down," Brubitsch said firmly. "I am innocent. I am innocent like a small child. Does a small child commit a murder? It is ridiculous."

Boyd picked up his cue with ease. "You might as well give us your side of the story, then," he said easily. "If you didn't commit any murders-"

"I am a small child," Brubitsch announced.

"Okay," Boyd said. "But if you didn't commit any murders, just what have you been doing since you've been in this country as a Soviet agent?"

"I will say nothing," Brubitsch announced. "I am a small child. It is enough." He paused, blinked, and went on, "I will only tell you this: no murders were done by our group in any of our activities."

"And what were your activities?" Malone asked.

"Oh, many things," Brubitsch said. "Many, many things. We-"

The telephone rang loudly, and Malone scooped it up with a practiced hand. "Malone here," he said.

Her Majesty's voice was excited. "Sir Kenneth!" she said. "I just got a tremendous burst of static!"

Malone blinked. Is my mind acting up again? he thought, knowing she would pick it up. Am I being interfered with?

He didn't feel any different. But then, how was he supposed to feel?

"It's not your mind, Sir Kenneth," Her Majesty said. "Not this time.

It's his mind. That sneaky-thinking Brubitsch fellow."

Brubitsch? Malone thought. Now what is that supposed to mean?

"I don't know, Sir Kenneth," Her Majesty said. "But get on back to your questioning. He's ready to talk now."

"Okay," Malone said aloud. "Fine." He hung up and looked back to the Russian sitting on his chair. Brubitsch was ready to talk, and that was one good thing, anyhow. But what was all the static about?

What was going on?

"Now, then," Malone said. "You were telling us about your group activities."

"True," Brubitsch said. "I did not commit any murders. It is possible that Borbitsch committed murders. It is maybe even possible that Garbitsch committed murders. But I do not think so."

"Why not?" Boyd said.

"They are my friends," Brubitsch said. "Even if they tell lies. They are also small children. Besides, I am not even the head of the group."

"Who is?" Malone said.

"Garbitsch," Brubitsch said instantly. "He worked in the State

Department, and he told us what to look for in the Senate Office

Building."

"What were you supposed to look for?" Boyd said.

"For information," Brubitsch said. "For scraps of paper, or things we overheard. But it was very bad, very bad."

"What do you mean, bad?" Malone said.

"Everything was terrible," Brubitsch said mournfully. "Sometimes Borbitsch heard something and forgot to tell Garbitsch about it. Garbitsch did not like this. He is a very inflamed person. Once he threatened to send Borbitsch to the island of Yap as a spy. That is a very bad place to go to. There are no enjoyments on the island of Yap, and no ones likes strangers there. Borbitsch was very sad."

"What did you do with your information?" Boyd said.

"We remembered it," Brubitsch said. "Or, if we had a scrap of paper, we saved it for Garbitsch and gave it to him. But I remember once that I had some paper. It had a formula on it. I do not know what the formula said."

"What was it about?" Malone said.

Brubitsch gave a massive shrug. "It was about an X and some numbers," he said. "It was not very interesting, but it was a formula, and Garbitsch would have liked it. Unfortunately, I did not give it to him."

"Why not?" Boyd said.

"I am ashamed," Brubitsch said, looking ashamed. "I was lighting a cigarette in the afternoon, when I had the formula. It is a very relaxing thing to smoke a cigarette in the afternoon. It is soothing to the soul." He looked very sad. "I was holding the piece of paper in one hand," he said. "Unfortunately, the match and the paper came into contact. I burned my finger. Here." He stuck out a finger toward Malone and Boyd, who looked at it without much interest for a second. "The paper is gone," he said. "Don't tell Garbitsch. He is very inflamed."

Malone sighed. "But you remember the formula," he said. "Don't you?"

Brubitsch shook his massive head very slowly. "It was not very interesting," he said. "And I do not have a mathematical mind."

"We know," Malone said. "You are a small child."

"It was terrible," Brubitsch said. "Garbitsch was not happy about our activities."

"What did Garbitsch do with the information?" Boyd said.

"He passed it on," Brubitsch said. "Every week he would send a short-wave message to the homeland, in code. Some weeks he did not send the message."

"Why not?" Malone said.

"The radio did not work," Brubitsch said simply. "We received orders by short-wave, but sometimes we did not receive the orders. The radio was of very poor quality, and some weeks it refused to send any messages. On other weeks, it refused to receive any messages."

"Who was your contact in Russia?" Boyd said.

"A man named X," Brubitsch said. "Like in the formula."

"But what was his real name?" Malone said.

"Who knows?" Brubitsch said. "Does it matter?"

"What else did you do?" Boyd said.

"We met twice a week," Brubitsch said. "Sometimes in Garbitsch's home, sometimes in other places. Sometimes we had information. At other times, we were friends, having a social gathering."

"Friends?" Malone said.

Brubitsch nodded. "We drank together, talked, played chess. Garbitsch is the best chess player in the group. I am not very good. But once we had some trouble." He paused. "We had been drinking Russian liquors. They are very strong. We decided to uphold the honor of our country."

"I think," Malone murmured sadly, "I know what's coming."

"Ah?" Brubitsch said, interested. "At any rate, we decided to honor our country in song. And a policeman came and talked to us. He took us down to the police station."

"Why?" Boyd said.

"He was suspicious," Brubitsch said. "We were singing the Internationale, and he was suspicious. It is unreasonable."

"Oh, I don't know," Boyd said. "What happened then?"

"He took us to the police station," Brubitsch said, "and then after a little while he let us go. I do not understand this."

"It's all right," Malone said. "I do." He drew Boyd aside for a second, and whispered to him: "The cops were ready to charge these three clowns with everything in the book. We had a hell of a time springing them so we could go on watching them. I remember the stir-up, though I never did know their names until now."

Boyd nodded, and they returned to Brubitsch, who was staring up at them with surly eyes.

"It is a secret you are telling him," Brubitsch said. "That is not right."

"What do you mean, it's not right?" Malone said.

"It is wrong," Brubitsch went on. "It is not the American way."

He went on, with some prodding, to tell about the activities of the spy ring. It did not seem to be a very efficient spy ring; Brubitsch's long sad tale of forgotten messages, mixed orders, misplaced documents and strange mishaps was a marvel and a revelation to the listening officers. "I've never heard anything like it," one of them whispered in a tone of absolute wonder. "They're almost working on our side."

Over an hour later, Malone turned wearily away from the prisoner. "All right, Brubitsch," he said. "I guess that pretty much covers things for the moment. If we want any more information, though-"

"Call on me," Brubitsch said sadly. "I am not going anyplace. And I will give you all the information you desire. But I did not commit any murders."

"Goodbye, small child," Malone said, as two agents led the fat man away. The other two left soon afterward, and Malone and Boyd were alone.

"Think he was telling the truth?" Boyd said.

Malone nodded. "Nobody," he said, "could make up a story like that."

"I suppose so," Boyd said, and the phone rang. Malone picked it up.

"Well?" he asked.

"He was telling the truth, all right," Her Majesty said. "There are a few more details, of course, like the girl Brubitsch was involved with, Sir Kenneth. But she doesn't seem to have anything to do with the spy ring, and besides, she isn't a very nice person. She always wants money."

"Sounds perfectly lovely," Malone said. "As a matter of fact, I think I know her. I know a lot of girls who always want money. It seems to be in fashion."

"You don't know this one, Sir Kenneth," Her Majesty said, "and besides, she wouldn't be a good influence on you."

Malone sighed. "How about the static explosions?" he said. "Pick up any more?"

"No," she said. "Just that one."

Malone nodded at the receiver. "All right," he said. "We're going to bring in the second one now. Keep up the good work."

He hung up.

"Who've you got in the observation room?" Boyd asked.

"Queen Elizabeth I," Malone said. "Her Royal Majesty."

"Oh," Boyd said without surprise. "Well, was Brubitsch telling the truth?"

"He wasn't holding back anything important," Malone said, thinking about the girl. It would be nice to meet a bad influence, he thought mournfully. It would be nice to go somewhere with a bad influence (a bad influence, he amended, with a good figure) and forget all about his job, about the spies, about telepathy, teleportation, psionics and everything else. It might be restful.

Unfortunately, it was impossible.

"What's this business about a static explosion?" Boyd said.

"Don't ask silly questions," Malone said. "A static explosion is a contradiction in terms. If something is static, it doesn't move- whoever heard of a motionless explosion?"

"If it is a contradiction in terms," Boyd said, "they're your terms."

"Sure," Malone said. "But I don't know what they mean. I don't even know what I mean."

"You're in a bad way," Boyd said, looking sympathetic.

"I'm in a perfectly terrible way," Malone said, "and it's going to get worse. You wait and see."

"Of course I'll wait and see," Boyd said. "I wouldn't miss the end of the world for anything. It ought to be a great spectacle." He paused. "Want them to bring in the next one?"

"Sure," Malone said. "What have we got to lose but our minds? And who is the next one?"

"Borbitsch," Boyd said. "They're saving Garbitsch for a big finish."

Malone nodded wearily. "Onward," he said, and picked up the phone. He punched a number, spoke a few words and hung up.

A minute later, the four FBI agents came back, leading a man. This one was tall and thin, with the expression of a gloomy, degenerate and slightly nauseated bloodhound. He was led to the chair and he sat down in it as if he expected the worst to start happening at once.

"Well," Malone said in a bored, tired voice. "So this is the one who won't talk."

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