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   Chapter 6 No.6

Supermind By Randall Garrett Characters: 42378

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Midnight.

Kenneth J. Malone sat at his desk, in his Washington office, surrounded by piles of papers covering the desk, spilling off onto the floor and decorating his lap. He was staring at the papers as if he expected them to leap up, dance round him and shout the solution to all his problems at him in trained choral voices. They did nothing at all.

Seated cross-legged on the rug in the center of the room, and looking like an impossible combination of the last Henry Tudor and Gautama Buddha, Thomas Boyd did nothing either. He was staring downward, his hands folded on his ample lap, wearing an expression of utter, burning frustration. And on a nearby chair sat the third member of the company, wearing the calm and patient expression of the gently-born under all vicissitudes: Queen Elizabeth I.

"All right," Malone said into the silence. "Now let's see what we've got."

"I think we've got cerebral paresis," Boyd said. "It's been coming on for years."

"Don't be funny," Malone said.

Boyd gave a short, mirthless bark. "Funny?" he said. "I'm absolutely hysterical with joy and good humor. I'm out of my mind with happiness." He paused. "Anyway," he finished, "I'm out of my mind. Which puts me in good company. The entire FBI, Brubitsch, Borbitsch, Garbitsch, Dr. Thomas O'Connor and Sir Lewis Carter-we're all out of our minds. If we weren't, we'd all move away to the moon."

"And drink to forget," Malone added. "Sure. But let's try and get some work done."

"By all means, Sir Kenneth," Her Majesty said. Boyd had not included her in his list of insane people, and she looked slightly miffed. It was hard for Malone to tell whether she was miffed by the mention of insanity, or at being left out.

"Let's review the facts," Malone said. "This whole thing started with some inefficiency in Congress."

"And some upheavals elsewhere," Boyd said. "Labor unions, gangster organizations."

"Just about all over," Malone said. "And though we've found three spies, it seems pretty obvious that they aren't causing this."

"They aren't causing much of anything," Boyd said. "Except a lot of unbelieving laughter further up the FBI line. I don't think anybody is going to believe our reports of those interviews."

"But they're true," Her Majesty said.

"Sure they're true," Boyd said. "That's the unbelievable part. They read like farce, and not very good farce at that."

"Oh, I don't know," Malone said. "I think they're pretty funny."

"Shall we get back to the business at hand?" Her Majesty said gently.

"Ah," Malone said. "Anyhow, it isn't the spies. And what we now have is confusion even worse compounded."

"Confounded," Boyd said. "John Milton. Paradise Lost, I heard it somewhere."

"I don't mean confounded," Malone said. "I mean confusion. Anyhow, the Russian espionage rings in this country seem to be in as bad a state as the Congress, the labor unions, the syndicates, and all the rest. And all of them seem to have some sort of weird tie-in to these flashes of telepathic interference. Right, Your Majesty?"

"I believe so, Sir Kenneth," she said. The old woman looked tired and confused. Somehow, a lot of the brightness seemed to have gone out of her life. "That's right," she said. "I didn't realize there was so much of it going on. You see, Sir Kenneth, you're the only one I can pick up at a distance who has been having these flashes. But now that I'm here in Washington, I can feel it going on all around me."

"It may not have anything to do with everything else," Boyd said.

Malone shook his head. "If it doesn't," he said, "it's the weirdest coincidence I've ever even dreamed about, and my dreams can be pretty strange. No, it's got to be tied in. There's some kind of mental static that is somehow making all these people goof up."

"But why?" Boyd said. "What is it being done for? Just fun?"

"God only knows," Malone said. "But we're going to have to find out."

"In that case," Boyd said, "I suggest lots and lots of prayers."

Her Majesty looked up. "That's a fine idea," she said.

"But God helps those," Malone said, "who help themselves. And we're going to help ourselves. Mostly with facts."

"All right," Boyd said. "So far, all the facts have been a great help."

"Well, here's one," Malone said. "We got one flash each from Brubitsch, Borbitsch and Garbitsch while we were questioning them. And in each case, that flash occurred just before they started to blab everything they knew. Before the flash, they weren't talking. They were behaving just like good spies and keeping their mouths shut. After the flash, they couldn't talk fast enough."

"That's true," Boyd said reflectively. "They did seem to give up pretty fast, even for amateurs."

Malone nodded. "So the question is this," he said. "Just what happens during those crazy bursts of static?"

He looked expectantly at Her Majesty, but she shook her head sadly. "I don't know," she said. "I simply don't know. It's just noise to me, meaningless noise." She put her hands slowly over her face. "People shouldn't do things like that to their Sovereign," she said in a muffled voice.

Malone got up and went over to her. She wasn't crying, but she wasn't far from it. He put an arm around her thin shoulders. "Now, look, Your Majesty," he said in gentle tones, "this will all clear up. We'll find out what's going on, and we'll find a way to put a stop to it."

"Sure we will," Boyd said. "After all, Your Majesty, Sir Kenneth and I will work hard on this."

"And the Queen's own FBI," Malone said, "won't stop until we've finished with this whole affair, once and for all."

Her Majesty brought her hands down from her face, very slowly. She was forcing a smile, but it didn't look too well. "I know you won't fail your Queen," she said. "You two have always been the most loyal of my subjects."

"We'll work hard," Malone said. "No matter how long it takes."

"Because, after all," Boyd said in a musing, thoughtful tone, "it is a serious crime, you know."

The words seemed to have an effect on Her Majesty, like a tonic. For a second her face wore an expression of Royal anger and indignance, and the accustomed strength flowed back into her aged voice. "You're quite correct, Sir Thomas!" she said. "The security of the Throne and the Crown are at stake!"

Malone blinked. "What?" he said. "Are you two talking about something?

What crime is this?"

"An extremely serious one," Boyd said in a grave voice. He rose unsteadily to his feet, planted them firmly on the carpet, and frowned.

"Go on," Malone said, fascinated. Her Majesty was watching Boyd with an intent expression.

"The crime," Boyd said, "the very serious crime involved, is that of Threatening the Welfare of the Queen. The criminal has committed the crime of Causing the Said Sovereign, Baselessly, Reasonlessly and Without Consent or Let, to Be in a State of Apprehension for Her Life or Her Well-Being. And this crime-"

"Aha," Malone said. "I've got it. The crime is-"

"High treason," Boyd intoned.

"High treason," Her Majesty said with satisfaction and fire in her voice.

"Very high treason," Malone said. "Extremely high."

"Stratospheric," Boyd agreed. "That is, of course," he added, "if the perpetrators of this dastardly crime are Her Majesty's subjects."

"My goodness," the Queen said. "I never thought of that. Suppose they're not?"

"Then," Malone said in his most vibrant voice, "it is an Act of War."

"Steps," Boyd said, "must be taken."

"We must do our utmost," Malone said. "Sir Thomas-"

"Yes, Sir Kenneth?" Boyd said.

"This task requires our most fervent dedication," Malone said. "Please come with me."

He went to the desk. Boyd followed him, walking straight-backed and tall. Malone bent and removed from a drawer of the desk a bottle of bourbon. He closed the drawer, poured some bourbon into two handy water-glasses from the desk, and capped the bottle. He handed one of the water-glasses to Boyd, and raised the other one aloft.

"Sir Thomas," Malone said, "I give you Her Majesty, the Queen!"

"To the Queen!" Boyd echoed.

They downed their drinks and turned, as one man, to hurl the glasses into the wastebasket.

In thinking it over later, Malone realized that he hadn't considered anything about that moment silly at all. Of course, an outsider might have been slightly surprised at the sequence of events, but Malone was no outsider. And, after all, it was the proper way to treat a Queen, wasn't it?

And…

When Malone had first met Her Majesty, he had wondered why, although she could obviously read minds, and so knew perfectly well that neither Malone nor Boyd believed she was Queen Elizabeth I, she insisted on an outward show of respect and dedication. He'd asked her about it at last, and her reply had been simple, reasonable and to the point.

According to her-and Malone didn't doubt it for an instant-most people simply didn't think their superiors were all they claimed to be. But they acted as if they did, at least while in the presence of those superiors. It was a common fiction, a sort of handy oil on the wheels of social intercourse.

And all Her Majesty had ever insisted on was the same sort of treatment.

"Bless you," she'd said, "I can't help the way you think, but, as

Queen, I do have some control over the way you act."

The funny thing, as far as Malone was concerned, was that the two parts of his personality were becoming more and more alike. He didn't actually believe that Her Majesty was Queen Elizabeth I, and he hoped fervently that he never would. But he did have a great deal of respect for her, and more affection than he had believed possible at first. She was the grandmother Malone had never known; she was good, and kind, and he wanted to keep her happy and contented. There had been nothing at all phony in the solemn toast he had proposed, nor in the righteous indignation he had felt against anyone who was giving Her Majesty even a minute's worth of discomfort.

And Boyd, surprisingly enough, seemed to feel the same way. Malone felt good about that; Her Majesty needed all the loyal supporters she could get.

But all of this was later. At the time, Malone was doing nothing except what came naturally. Nor, apparently, was Boyd. After the glasses had been thrown, with a terrifying crash, into the metal wastebasket, and the reverberations of that second had stopped ringing in their ears, a moment of silence had followed.

Then Boyd turned, briskly rubbing his hands. "All right," he said.

"Let's get back to work."

Malone looked at the proud, happy look on Her Majesty's face; he saw the glimmer of a tear in the corner of each eye. But he gave no indication that he had noticed anything at all out of the ordinary.

"Fine," he said. "Now, getting on back to the facts, we've established something, anyhow. Some agency is causing flashes of telepathic static all over the place. And those flashes are somehow connected with the confusion that's going on all around us. Somehow, these flashes have an effect on the minds of people."

"And we know at least one manifestation of that effect," Boyd said.

"It makes spies blab all their secrets when they're exposed to it."

"These three spies, anyhow," Malone said.

"If spies is the right word," Boyd said.

"Okay," Malone said. "And now we've got another obvious question."

"It seems to me we've got about twelve," Boyd said.

"I mean, who's doing it?" Malone said. "Who is causing these telepathic flashes?"

"Maybe it's just happening," Boyd said. "Out of thin air."

"Maybe," Malone said. "But let's go on the assumption that there's a human cause. The other way, we can't do a thing except sit back and watch the world go to hell."

Boyd nodded. "It doesn't seem to be the Russians," he said. "Although, of course, it might be a Red herring."

"What do you mean?" Malone said.

"Well," Boyd said, "they might have known we were on to Brubitsch, Borbitsch and Garbitsch-" He stopped. "You know," he said, "every time I say that name I have to reassure myself that we're not all walking around in the world of Florenz Ziegfeld."

"Likewise," Malone said. "But go on."

"Sure," Boyd said. "Anyhow, they might have set the three of them up as patsies, just in case we stumbled on to this mess. We can't overlook this possibility."

"Right," Malone said. "It's faint, but it is a possibility. In other words, the agency behind the flashes might be Russian, and it might not be Russian."

"That clears that up nicely," Boyd said. "Next question?"

"The next one," Malone said grimly, "is, what's behind the flashes?

Some sort of psionic power is causing them, that much is obvious."

"I'll go along with that," Boyd said. "I have to go along with it. But don't think I like it."

"Nobody likes it," Malone said. "But let's go on. O'Connor isn't any help; he washes his hands of the whole business."

"Lucky man," Boyd said.

"He says that it can't be happening," Malone said, "and if it is we're all screwy. Now, right or wrong, that isn't an opinion that gives us any handle to work with."

"No," Boyd said reflectively. "A certain amount of comfort, to be sure, but no handles."

"Sir Lewis Carter, on the other hand-" Malone said. He fumbled through some of the piles of paper until he had located the ones the president of the Psychical Research Society had sent. "Sir Lewis Carter," he went on, "does seem to be doing some pretty good work. At least, some of the more modern stuff he sent over looks pretty solid. They've been doing quite a bit of research into the subject, and their theories seem to be all right, or nearly all right, to me. Of course, I'm not an expert."

"Who is?" Boyd said. "Except for O'Connor, of course."

"Well, somebody is," Malone said. "Whoever's doing all this, for instance. And the theories do seem okay. In most cases, for instance, they agree with O'Connor's work, though they're not in complete agreement."

"I should think so," Boyd said. "O'Connor wouldn't recognize an astral plane if TWA were putting them into service."

"I don't mean that sort of thing," Malone said. "There's lots about astral bodies and ghosts, ectoplasm, Transcendental Yoga, theosophy, deros, the Great Pyramid, Atlantis, Mu, norns, and other such ridiculous pets. That's just silly, as far as I can see. But what they have to say about parapsychology and psionics as such does seem to be reasonably accurate."

"I suppose so," Boyd said tiredly.

"Okay, then," Malone said. "Did anybody notice anything in that pile of stuff that might conceivably have any bearing whatever on our problems?"

"I did," Boyd said. "Or I think I did."

"You both did," Her Majesty said. "And so did I, when I looked through it. But I didn't bother with it. I dismissed it."

"Why?" Malone said.

"Because I don't think it's true," she said. "However, my opinion is really only an opinion." She smiled around at the others.

Malone picked up a thick sheaf of papers from one of the piles of his desk. "Let's get straight what it is we're talking about," he said. "All right?"

"Anything's all right with me," Boyd said. "I'm easy to please."

Malone nodded. "Now, this writer-what's his name?" he said. He glanced at the copy of the cover page. "Minds and Morons," he read. "By Cartier Taylor."

"Great title," Boyd said. "Does he say which is which?"

"Let's get back to serious business," Malone said, giving Boyd a single look. There was silence for a second, and then Malone said, "He mentions something, in the book, that he calls 'telepathic projection.' As far as I understand what he's talking about, that's some method of forcing your thoughts on another person." He glanced over at the Queen. "Now, Your Majesty," he said, "you don't think it's true-and that may only be an opinion, but it's a pretty informed one. It seems to me as if Taylor makes a good case for this 'telepathic projection' of his. Why don't you think so?"

"Because," Her Majesty said flatly, "it doesn't work."

"You've tried it?" Boyd put in.

"I have," she said. "And I have had no success with it at all. It's a complete failure."

"Now, wait a minute," Boyd said. "Just a minute."

"What's the matter?" Malone said. "Have you tried it, and made it work?"

Boyd snorted. "Fat chance," he said. "I just want to look at the thing, that's all." He held out his hand, and Malone gave him the sheaf of papers. Boyd leafed through them slowly, stopping every now and again to consult a page, until he found what he was looking for. "There," he said.

"There what?" Malone said.

"Listen to this," Boyd said. "'For those who draw the line at demonic possession, I suggest trying telepathic projection. Apparently, it is possible to project one's own thoughts directly into the mind of another-even to the point of taking control of the other's mind. Hypnotism? You tell me, and we'll both know. Ever since the orthodox scientists have come around to accepting hypnotism, I'm been chary of it. Maybe there really is an astral body or a soul that a person has stashed about him somewhere-something that he can send out to take control of another human being. But I, personally, prefer the telepathic projection theory. All you have to do is squirt your thoughts across space and spray them all over the other fellow's brain. Presto-bingo, he does pretty much what you want him to do.'"

"That's the quote I was thinking of," Malone said.

"Of course it is," Her Majesty said. "But it really doesn't work. I've tried it."

"How have you tried it?" Malone said.

"There were many times, Sir Kenneth," Her Majesty said, "when I wanted someone to do something particular for me or for some other person. After all, you must remember that I was in a hospital for a long time. Of course, that represents only a short segment of my life-span, but it seemed long to me."

Malone, who was trying to view the years from age fifteen to age sixty-odd as a short segment of anybody's lifetime, remembered with a shock that this was not Rose Thompson speaking. It was Queen Elizabeth I, who had never died.

"That's right, Sir Kenneth," she said kindly. "And in that hospital, there were a number of times when I wanted one of the doctors or nurses to do what I wanted them to. I tried many times, but I never succeeded."

Boyd nodded his head. "Well-" he began.

"Oh, yes, Sir Thomas," Her Majesty said. "What you're thinking is certainly possible. It may even be true."

"What is he thinking?" Malone said.

"He thinks," Her Majesty said, "that I may not have the talent for this particular effect-and perhaps I don't. But, talent or not, I know what's possible and what isn't. And the way Mr. Taylor describes it is simply silly, that's all. And unladylike. Imagine any self-respecting lady 'squirting' her thoughts about in space!"

"Well," Malone said carefully, "aside from its being unladylike-"

"Sir Kenneth," Her Majesty said, "you are not telepathic. Neither is

Sir Thomas."

"I'm nothing," Boyd said. "I don't even exist."

"And it is very difficult to explain to the non-telepath just what Mr. Taylor is implying," Her Majesty went on imperturbably. "Before you could inject any thoughts into anyone else's mind, you'd have to be able to see into that mind. Is that correct?"

"I guess so," Malone said.

"And in order to do that, you'd have to be telepathic," Her Majesty said. "Am I correct?"

"Correct," Malone said.

"Well, then," Her Majesty said with satisfaction, and beamed at him.

A second passed.

"Well, then, what?" Malone said in confusion.

"Telepathy," Her Majesty said patiently, "is an extremely complex affair. It involves a sort of meshing with the mind of this other person. It has nothing, absolutely nothing, in common with this simple 'squirting' of thoughts across space, as if they were orange pips you were trying to put into a wastebasket. No, Sir Kenneth, I cannot believe in what Mr. Taylor says."

"But it's still possible," Malone said.

"Oh," Her Majesty said, "it's certainly possible. But I should think that if any telepaths were around, and if they were changing people's minds by 'squirting' at them, I would know it."

Malone frowned. "Maybe you would at that," he said. "I guess you would."

"Not to mention," Boyd put in, "that if you were going to control everything we've come across like that you'd need an awful lot of telepathic operators."

"That's true," Malone admitted. "And the objections seem to make some sense. But what else is there to go on?"

"I don't know," Boyd said. "I haven't the faintest idea. And I'm rapidly approaching the stage where I don't care."

"Well," Malone said, heaving a sigh, "let's keep looking."

He bent down and picked up another sheaf of copies from the Psychical

Research Society.

"After all," he said, without much hope, "you never know."

* * * * *

Malone looked around the office of Andrew J. Burris as if he'd never seen it before. He felt tired, and worn out, and depressed; it had been

a long night, and here it was morning and the head of the FBI was giving him instructions. It was, Malone told himself, a hell of a life.

"Now, Malone," Burris said, "this is a very ticklish situation. You've got to handle it with great care."

"I can see that," Malone said apprehensively. "It certainly looks ticklish. And unusual."

"Well, we don't want any trouble," Burris said. "We have enough trouble now."

"Sometimes I think we have too much," Malone said.

"That's our job," Burris said, looking grim.

Malone blinked. "What is?" he said.

"Having trouble," Burris said.

There was a short silence. Malone broke it. "Anyhow," he said, "you feel we have enough trouble, so we're trying to make things easy for everybody."

Burris nodded. "I've talked with the president," he said, "and he feels this is the best way to handle matters."

Malone tried to imagine Burris explaining the incredible complexities of the situation to the president, and was torn between relief that he hadn't been there and a curious wish to have heard the scrambled conversation that must have taken place. "The way it seems to me," he said cautiously, "shipping those spies back to Russia is a worse punishment than sending them to the federal pen."

"Maybe it is," Burris said. "Maybe it is. How would you feel if you were being sent to jail?"

"Innocent," Malone said instantly.

"But that isn't the point," Burris went on. "You see, Malone, we don't really have much damaging evidence against those spies, except for their confessions. During all the time we were watching them, we took care that they never did come up with anything dangerous; we weren't fishing for them but for their superiors, for the rest of the network."

"There doesn't seem to be any more network," Malone said. "Not in this country, anyhow."

"Sure," Burris said. "We know that now, thanks to the confessions, and to Her Majesty. But we can't prosecute on that sort of evidence. You know what a good defense attorney could do with unsupported confessions-and even if we wanted to take the lid off telepathy for the general public, it would be absolute hell bringing it into court."

"So," Malone said, "we can't put them in prison, even if we want to."

"Oh, I didn't say that," Burris said hastily. "We could probably win, even against a good defense. But they wouldn't get much time in prison, and we'd only end up deporting them in any case."

Malone fished for a cigarette, lit it and blew out smoke. "So we're going to save the taxpayers some money," he said. "That'll be nice for a change."

"That's right," Burris said, beaming. "We're going to save Federal funds by shipping them back to their motherland now. After all, they did take out their naturalization papers under false names, and their declarations are chockfull of false information. So all it takes is a court order to declare their citizenships null and void, and hand all three of them back to the Soviets."

"A nice, simple housecleaning," Malone said. "All open and above-board. And the confessions will certainly stand up in a deportation hearing."

"No question of it," Burris said. "But the reason I called you here,

Malone, is that there's still one thing bothering me."

Malone blew out some more smoke, thought wistfully about cigars, and said: "What? Everything seems simple enough to me."

Burris frowned and leaned back in his chair. "It's this notion of yours, Malone," he said.

"Notion?"

"About going over there," Burris said. "Now, I can understand your wanting some facts on Moscow, current background and all that sort of thing. So far, everything makes sense."

"Fine," Malone said warily.

"But, after all, Malone," Burris said, "we do have such a thing as the Central Intelligence Agency. They send us reports. That's what they're for. And why you want to ignore the reports and make a trip over there to walk around and see for yourself-"

"It's because of everything that's happening," Malone said.

Burris looked puzzled. "What?" he said.

"Because of all the confusion," Malone said. "Frankly, I can't trust the CIA, or any other branch of the government. I've got to see for myself."

Burris considered this for a second. "It's going to look very peculiar," he said.

Malone shrugged. "Everything looks peculiar," he said. "A little more won't hurt anything. And if I do turn up anything we can use, the whole trip will be worth it."

"But sending an FBI man along with Brubitsch, Borbitsch and Garbitsch is a little strange," Burris said. "Not to mention Her Majesty."

"There is that," Malone said. "I wonder what our Red friends are going to think of the Queen."

"God knows," Burris said. "If they take her seriously, they're liable to call her some sort of capitalist deviationist."

"And if they don't take her seriously?" Malone said.

"Then they're going to wonder why she's pretending to be a capitalist deviationist," Burris said.

Malone flicked his cigarette at an ashtray. "You can't win," he said.

"Frankly," Burris said, "I wouldn't allow Her Majesty to go along under any circumstances-except that there is an excuse for having an older woman around."

"There is?" Malone said.

Burris nodded. "As a chaperone," he said.

"Now, wait a minute," Malone said. "Brubitsch, Borbitsch and what's-his-name don't need a chaperone."

"I didn't say it was for them," Burris said.

"Me?" Malone asked in a tone of absolute wonder. "Now, Chief, I don't need a chaperone. I'm a grown man. I know my way around. And the idea of having Her Majesty along to chaperone me is going to make everything look even stranger. After all, Chief-"

"Malone," Burris said, in a voice of steel.

"Sorry," Malone mumbled. "But, really, I'm not some young, innocent girl in a Victorian novel."

"No," Burris said, a trifle sadly, "you're not. But there is one going along on the trip with the rest of you."

"There is?" Malone said. "Who is she? Rebecca?"

"Her name's Luba," Burris said. "Luba Garbitsch."

"Garbitsch's wife?" Malone said.

Burris shook his head. "His daughter," he said. "And don't tell me there isn't any such name as Luba. I know there isn't. But what would you pick to go with Garbitsch?"

"Wastepaper basket," Malone said instantly. "Grapefruit rinds. Lemon peels. Coffee grounds."

"Damn it, Malone," Burris said, "this is serious."

"Well," Malone said, "it doesn't sound serious. What are we doing, deporting the entire family?"

"I suppose we could," Burris said, "if we really wanted to get complicated about it. What with Garbitsch's false declaration, I haven't the faintest idea what his daughter's status would be-but she was born here, Malone, and as far as we can tell she's perfectly loyal to the United States."

"Fine," Malone said. "So you're sending her to Russia. This is making less and less sense, you know."

Burris rubbed a hand over his face. "Malone," he said in a quiet, patient voice, "why don't you wait for me to finish? Then everything will make sense. I promise."

"Well, all right," Malone said doubtfully. "Luba Garbitsch is going along to Russia, in spite of the fact that she's perfectly loyal."

"True," Burris said. "You see, Malone, she loves her traitorous old daddy just the same. Family affection. Very touching."

"And if he's going to Moscow-"

"She wants to go along," Burris said. "That's right."

"And you're going to send her along," Malone said, "out of the goodness of your kindly old heart. Just like Santa Claus. Or the Easter bunny."

Burris looked acutely uncomfortable. "Now, Malone," he said. "It's not exactly that, and you know it."

"It isn't?" Malone said, trying to look surprised.

Burris shook his head. "If we send Luba Garbitsch along," he said, "that gives us a good excuse for Her Majesty. As a chaperone."

"Are you sure," Malone asked slowly, "that anybody with a name like Luba Garbitsch could plausibly need a chaperone? Even in a den of vice? Because somehow it doesn't sound right: Luba Garbitsch, chaperoned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I."

"Well," Burris said, "it won't be the Queen. I mean, she won't be known as the Queen."

"Incognito?" Malone said.

Burris shrugged. "In away," he said. "What do you think would be a good name for her to travel under?"

Malone considered. "I don't know," he said at last. "But no more

Lubas."

"I was thinking," Burris said carefully. "How about Rose Thompson?"

There was a long silence.

"I don't know whether she'll go for the idea," Malone said. "But I'll try it."

"You can do it, Malone," Burris said instantly. "I know you can. I just know it."

"Your faith," Malone said with a sigh, "is going to be too much for me one of these days."

Burris shrugged. "Just take it easy, Malone," he said. "You said you wanted to have Her Majesty over there to read a few minds, and you've got her. But remember, don't get involved in anything complicated. Don't start any fireworks."

"I hope not," Malone said.

"Stay out of political arguments," Burris said.

Malone blinked. "What do you think I'm going to do?" he said. "Bring along a soapbox?"

"You never know," Burris said. "Just keep quiet, and don't go prowling around where you're not wanted."

"That," Malone said decisively, "would keep me out of Russia entirely."

"Damn it," Burris said, "you know what I mean. We don't want any international incidents, understand?"

"Yes, sir," Malone said.

Burris nodded. "All right, then," he said. "Your plane leaves from the airport in an hour. You'd better go and talk to Her Majesty first."

"Right," Malone said.

"And I hope you know what you're doing," Burris said.

So do I, Malone thought privately. Aloud, he said, "I just want to get the feel of things over there, that's all, sir. I won't cause any more trouble than an ordinary tourist."

"Malone," Burris said, "don't be an ordinary tourist. They're empty-headed morons and they do make trouble. Be an invisible tourist. Be nice to everybody. Be polite and kind. Don't step on any toes, no matter whose and no matter why."

"Yes, sir," Malone said.

"Remember, they're going to know who you are," Burris said.

"It's not as if we could keep it a secret."

"Yes, sir," Malone said. "I'll remember."

"All right." Burris extended his hand. "Good luck, Malone," he said, with a deeper feeling of sincerity than Malone had experienced from him in months.

Malone shook the hand. "Thank you, sir," he said.

* * * * *

A little less than an hour later, Malone sat on the steps of the landing ramp that led up to the open door of the big Air Force transport plane on the runway. The plane was waiting, and so was Malone. He didn't feel confident, or even excited. He felt just a little bit frightened. Burris' complicated warnings had had some effect, and Malone was fighting down a minor case of the shakes.

Next to him, her face wreathed in happy smiles, sat a smartly-dressed grey-haired woman in her sixties. She wore an unobtrusive tailored suit and a light jacket, and she looked as if she might be one of the elder matrons of the society set, very definitely an upper-crust type. In spite of the normality of her clothing, Her Majesty looked every inch a Queen, Malone thought.

"And that, Sir Kenneth, is only natural," she said sweetly. "Even when traveling incognito, one must retain one's dignity. And I don't object at all to using the name of Rose Thompson in a good cause; it was used for so many years it almost feels like part of me."

"I shouldn't be at all surprised," Malone said mildly.

A voice from above and behind him interrupted his worried thoughts.

"Mr. Malone!" it said. "Mr. Malone?"

Malone screwed his head around and looked up. An Air Force colonel was standing in the doorway of the plane, looking down with a stern, worried expression. "Yes?" Malone said. "What is it?"

"Takeoff, Mr. Malone," the colonel said. "We're due to go in fifteen minutes, and our clearance has been established."

"Fine," Malone said.

"But your passengers," the colonel said. "Where are they?"

Malone tried to look calm, cool and collected. "They'll be here," he said. "Don't worry about a thing." Privately, he hoped he was right. Boyd hadn't shown up yet, and Boyd was bringing the musical-comedy spy trio. It wasn't, Malone thought, that Boyd was usually late. But with Brubitsch, Borbitsch and Garbitsch in tow, almost anything could happen, he thought. He hoped fervently that it wouldn't.

"It won't," Her Majesty said. "At least, it hasn't so far. They're all in a car, and they're driving right here. Boyd is thinking that he ought to be here within five minutes."

Malone nodded, wiping his forehead. "Five minutes, Colonel," he called back to the figure at the door. The colonel nodded efficiently at him, turned and disappeared inside the plane. Malone looked at his watch. The second hand was going around awfully fast, he thought. He wondered if it were possible for time to speed up while he waited, so that by the time Boyd arrived he would be an old, old man. He felt about eight years older already, he told himself, and a minute hadn't even passed.

He forced his eyes away from the moving second hand. Looking at it, he knew, would only make him more nervous. Maybe there was some scenery around that he could stare at. He raised his eyes and looked out toward the gates that led to the interior of the air terminal.

Scenery, he told himself in sudden wonder, was no word for it.

He stared. He wanted to blink, but at the same time he felt that it would be a shame to close his eyes for even a tenth of a second. He held his eyelids apart by main force and went right on staring.

The girl walking toward him across the field was absolutely beautiful. She seemed to make everything light up and start singing. Malone was sure that, somewhere, he could hear birds plugging their favorite numbers, and the soft rustle of the wind through pine branches. He could feel the soft caress of the wind on his face, and he could smell the odor of lilacs and honeysuckles and violets and whatever all those other flowers were. They had all different colors and shapes, and he couldn't remember many of their names, but he could tell they were all around him. They had to be all around him. Especially all the red ones.

The girl had red hair that tossed gently in the wind. The bottom two-thirds of her figure, Malone was happy to note, was not only as good as the top third but a good deal better. It took him several seconds to reach this conclusion, because at first he was willing to swear that he had never seen such a beautiful girl before.

But, he told himself with a shade of apprehension, he had.

As she approached, he stood up. "Well, well," he said brightly. "If it isn't the Lady That's Known as Lou. Did the Psychical Research Society give you the day off, or are you here to see about a misplaced broom?"

The girl beamed at him. "My, my," she said. "How are you?"

"Fine," Malone said. "And-"

"And how are the others?" she said.

Malone blinked. "Others?" he said.

She nodded. "Grumpy, Sleepy, Happy, Dopey, Bashful and Doc," she said.

Malone opened his mouth, shut it again, and thought for a second.

"Now, wait a minute," he said at last. "That's not fair. I-"

"Oh," she said. "And I nearly forgot. I owe you one from last time: gesundheit."

"And many happy returns," Malone said. "Seriously, what are you doing out here?"

"Talking," the girl said. "To you. Or hadn't you noticed?"

"I mean in general," Malone said desperately.

"In general," she said agreeably, "I'm here to take a little trip."

"Oh," Malone said. "By plane?"

She smiled sweetly and shook her head. "Not at all," she said. "I'm waiting for the next scheduled broomstick."

Malone took a deep breath. "When does your plane leave?" he said doggedly.

"In ten minutes or so," she said.

"Then you'd better hurry and get on," he said.

She nodded. "That's what I thought," she said.

A second passed.

"Did you want to say something?" Malone said uncomfortably.

She shook her head. "Not particularly," she said.

"Well, then-"

"The time is growing short," she said.

"Isn't it, though?" Malone said, feeling a little mystified. "Well, now. Goodbye. I'll see you soon."

"Goodbye," she said.

Another second passed.

"Your plane-" Malone started.

"How about yours?" she said.

"I'm all right," Malone said nervously. "But if your plane's leaving in ten minutes you'd better get on it."

"I intend to," she said, without moving.

"Well-" Malone started.

"As soon as you quit blocking the ramp," she said. "Would you mind terribly if I climbed over your head? Because I do have to get on board."

"Now wait a minute," Malone said. "This isn't your plane."

"How do you know?" she said. "Do you own it? Are you flying it away?"

"Well," Malone said helplessly, "it's my plane, and there's nobody going on it but-"

He paused. A great light seemed to burst in his mind, shedding a perfectly horrible glow over the wreck of his mental processes. "You know," he said in a tentative tone, "we never have been properly introduced. I only know your name is Lou."

"That's what people call me," the girl said. "For short. I'm Luba

Garbitsch."

"And I'm Kenneth Malone," Malone said. "Kenneth J. Malone. Of the

FBI."

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

"Your father-"

"My father is going to Russia," she said, "and I am going along with him."

"Oh," Malone said. "Sure. Sure. Oh."

There was a longer silence.

"Can I get on board now?" Luba said.

"There isn't any hurry," Malone said. "We're still waiting for-for passengers. And this is one of them." He turned and indicated the Queen. "This is Her-Rose Thompson. She'll be traveling along with us."

Her Majesty was wearing a broad, broad grin, Malone noticed nervously as he turned. Undoubtedly she had been tuned in to the whole conversation, and knew just what had gone on in both minds. But she only said, "I'm very pleased to meet you, my dear."

Lou blinked, smiled and stretched out her hand. "Well, then," she said. "Hello. And let's all have a happy trip."

"By all means," Malone said. "And the trip seems to be about to start."

He could hear the tramping of a lot of feet coming across the field toward them. He looked and saw that the feet were all neatly attached to bodies, two to a body. There were Thomas Boyd's feet, the assorted twelve feet of six FBI agents, and three pairs that belonged to Alexis Brubitsch, Ivan Borbitsch and Vasili Garbitsch. Brubitsch looked even fatter than ever, Borbitsch even thinner. Garbitsch was of an indeterminate middling shape; he had grey hair and a pair of pince-nez, and he walked a trifle unevenly, like a duck, with his hands clasped low in front of him. He was looking down at the ground as the crowd shoved him along.

When the crowd neared the steps, Luba went over to him. Garbitsch looked up, with a pleasant, somehow wistful smile on his face. "Hello, Luba, my child," he said.

Luba smiled, too. "Hello, Dad," she said. "All ready to go?"

"Certainly I am ready," he said. "I am all packed. We take off in a few minutes. And you, Luba, my child?"

"Fine, Dad," she said.

She looked down. "They've got handcuffs on you," she said. "Why, that's-"

Garbitsch shrugged. He looked even more wistful. "A formality," he said. "It makes no difference."

"Okay," Boyd said suddenly. "We've got to get out of here pretty soon, and you'll be taking off. Let's break it up. Miss Thompson, you and Luba go aboard. Malone, you follow with the others."

Malone rounded up Brubitsch, Borbitsch and Garbitsch and followed the ladies aboard.

He came back to the door then, and stuck his head out. "The keys," he said.

Boyd stared. "What?"

"The keys to the handcuffs," Malone said. "I'll need 'em."

"You're going to take them off when they get to Russia?" Boyd said.

Malone shook his head. "No," he said. "Now."

"But-"

"I think we'll have plenty of warning if they decide to try anything, Tom," Malone said quietly. "Her Majesty, after all, is keeping them under surveillance."

Without another word, Boyd tossed up the keys. Malone caught and pocketed them. "I'll be back as soon as possible," he said. "Meanwhile, you can keep digging on other stuff-what we've discussed and anything it seems to lead into."

"Right," Boyd said. "Stay out of trouble, Ken. So long."

Malone nodded and ducked back into the plane. He unlocked the handcuffs, and Brubitsch and Borbitsch immediately went and sat down mournfully together at the back of the plane. Malone looked for Lou, but she was already seated-with Her Majesty, naturally. He sighed briefly and sat down, at last, next to the wistful Garbitsch.

"It will be nice to see Russia again," Garbitsch said. "I hardly hoped to do so."

The plane shuddered, roared and took off. Then it settled down to its normal state of unnatural quiet. Malone sat back and tried to relax.

It was impossible.

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