dimecres, 3 d’agost de 2016

All the intricate, electronic witchery of the 21st century could not pin guilt on fabulous Lonnie Raichi, the irreproachable philanthropist. But Jason, the cop, was sweating it out ... searching for that fourth and final and all-knowing rule that would knock Lonnie's "triple ethic" for a gala loop. LONNIE RAICHI was small, heavily built, wet-eyed, dapper and successful. His success he attributed entirely to his philosophy. Not knowing about Lonnie's philosophy, the whole twenty-odd years of Lonnie's success was the abiding crux of Jason's disgust. And this, in spite of the more and more men Jason came to control and the fitful stream of new techniques and equipment Gov-Pol and Gov-Mil Labs put at his disposal. Jason was a cop. In fact, by this Friday the thirteenth in the fall of 2009, squirming on what had come to be his pet Gov-Park bench right across from the Tiara of Wold in the Fane, he was only one step short of being the Head Cop of Government City. He was good. Gathering in a lot of criminals was what had brought him up the steps. But he hadn't gathered in Lonnie. It wasn't for lack for trying. Way back, when Lonnie was known simply as "Lonnie," Jason managed to get a little help from his associates and superiors. Sometimes. But as Lonnie came to be known as Lon Raichi, then Mr. Raichi, and finally as "THE Launcelot Raichi" (to Everyone Who Mattered), and as Jason's promotions kept pace with his widening experience and painstakingly acquired knowledge; peculiarly, there seemed to be fewer and fewer persons around who could be made interested in "Lonnie." Inside Government and Gov-Pol-Anx as well as among the general Two-Worlds public. So Jason got less and less help, or even passive cooperation, from his superiors. As a matter of fact, the more men he could command, the fewer he could use on anything that could be construed as concerning Lonnie. Equipment, though, was a little different matter. There was usually enough so that one unit of a kind could be unobtrusively trained on Mr. Raichi under the care of Jason's own desk sergeant. In 1999, for example, Moglaut, that erratic and secretive genius in Physlab Nine, came out with a quantum analyzer and probability reproducer. The machine installed in Pol-Anx, reconstructed crimes and identified the probable criminals by their modus operandi and the physical traces they couldn't avoid leaving at the un-mercy of any of its portable data accumulators. On Jason's first attempt it almost came close to Lonnie. It did gather in the hidden, dead, still twitching, completely uncommunicative carcasses of the five men who actually relieved the vault of the Citizen's Bank of Berlin of its clutch of millions. It even identified the body of the rocopilot found floating in the Potomac a few days later as being one of the group, and the killer. It did not locate the arsonized remnants of the plane, though, nor the currency; and only achieved the casting of a slight, or subsidiary, third-hand aspersion in the direction of THE Launcelot Raichi. But Lonnie came up with an irrefutable alibi, somehow, and the hassle that followed made Jason's luck run out. And on Jason's stubborn, secret, subsequent tries, all the analyzer could produce was a report of zero data whenever Jason, reasonably or unreasonably, believed that Lonnie was involved. Every time. Zero data when Schicklehitler's marshal's baton disappeared from the British Museum. Lonnie on his dream throne ... Jason at his instruments. Was the struggle endless between these two? Zero data when Charlemagne's Crown lapsed unobtrusively from its shrine in Vienna during the Year 2000 Celebration. Subsequently, Jason realized that the Berlin job in 1999 had marked Lonnie's last essay after money. Other things seemed to occupy Lonnie's mind after he'd sprouted publicly into the status of full-fledged, hyper-respectable, inter-planetary business tycoon; complete with a many-tentacled industrial organization in Moon Colony and a far-flung prospecting unit headquartering at Mars Equatorial. Tycoonship was a status with which Everyone Who Mattered was always pleased. Jason's next attempt on Lonnie had to wait until 2005 and was the result of two unconnected circumstances. The first was Physlab Nine's secretive genius, Moglaut, evolving another piece of equipment, a disarmer, which, subsequent to its first use, saved countless cops' lives. The second was the discovery in the Valley of Kings, of Amenhotep III's own personal official Uraeus. Positively identified beyond the shadow of doubt. Jason, playing the hunch he'd built up about Lonnie, rushed a man, armed with the brand new disarmer, instantly to the scene. The next morning, Amenhotep's Uraeus was gone and the corpse of Jason's man was found—part of it. The right hand, arm, shoulder, and most of the head were missing; burned away. And of the disarmer, only a fused hunk of mixed metals and silver helix remained. And the analyzer reported zero data. Lab Nine's taciturn and exasperating Moglaut failed to derive an explanation for either circumstance. "I won't shut up," Jason said, standing on the carpet in front of his superior. "He did it. I don't know how, but he did." Another spasm of frustration shook him and he slammed his fist down on the sacred desk. "I've known Lonnie all my life. I know he doesn't know phfut about anything scientific, and yet he makes a horse's—" "Captain Jason, I insist that you stop referring to—" "Makes a—" Jason raised his voice, "horse's—" "CAPTAIN JASON!" Jason subsided. "Captain, Annex has been most forbearing all these years. We've overlooked your incomprehensible phobia—this—this confoundedly unfounded impossible bias against such an irreproachable philanthropist as Launcelot Raichi—because of the sterling quality of your ... ah ... other work. However—" On the desk, the Commissioner's fingers took up a measured tattoo. "—should this fixed idea begin to encroach on—uh—uh—" "All right ... Sir." Sullenly, Jason submitted. "I understand." With a self-congratulatory smirk up at the ceiling that separated them from Executive Level, the bland face of the Commissioner smoothed out. "All right, Captain, as long as we understand each other ..." Sourly, Jason got himself back to his own office. Drumming his own fingers on his own desk and glaring at his own desk sergeant, he purged his soul. "—damned equipment would only work, I'd gather him in! They couldn't stop me, then! But—" Jason choked. When he could speak again, "He's never studied a lick in his life, I tell you! Yet he makes a he-cow's behind out of the best man and the best scientific equipment Annex can provide! How? How, I ask you! He doesn't know the first blasted thing about any blasted thing in any blasted science!" THAT was true. Conversely, Jason didn't know about Lonnie's philosophy. Nowadays, Lonnie called it a "philosophy." He told reporters it was "based on a triple ethic." (Inside his skull, a small boy jumped up and down in glee over the magnificent language he was able to use.) But he always replied only with a superior smile when asked by reporters to put the philosophy and the triple ethic into words. If pressed, he paraphrased an Ancient Man: "You know my works. Judge by them." He was referring, of course, to his having branched out into patronizing the Arts. He'd even erected Raichi Museum just across the velvety green circle of Gov-Park from Government's own Fane of Artifacts. The reporters would go away and write more articles about his modesty and the superlative treasures of Earth, Moon and Mars that were gathered in the Raichi Galleries; protected, the papers always boasted, by the same ultra-safety mechanisms that guarded the mile-long, one-gallery-wide, glass-fronted Fane itself. Government affably made up two of every anti-break-and-entry device nowadays. One for the Fane and the other for Raichi Museum. Despite occasional grumbles in the letters-to-the-editor columns, the papers never seemed to inquire into why so many priceless trans-worlds artifacts got into Lonnie's private ownership instead of Government's public Fane. And while some artists and architects (unendowed by Lonnie) succeeded in publicly proclaiming Raichi Museum gaudy, such carpings were but to be expected, particularly from modernists. Actually, Everyone Who Mattered felt Raichi Museum's granite walls were much more dignified than the narrow, glass-faced arcade that was the Fane, wide open to the most disrespectfully casual public inspection all the time. Why, even late at night gawking loiterers pressed their noses against the glass; black, clumsy images pinned to the blazing whiteness hurled by radionic tubes against the back wall of snowy marble from Mars' arctic quarries. Besides, that glass, proof though it was against anything but an atomic explosion, still made every true art lover feel disquietingly insecure. No, on the whole, the papers and reporters and true art lovers who felt the Public's treasures should be more secure than visible, never questioned Lonnie's doing good to so much Art. Thus, nowadays, nobody did anything but accept Lonnie. Except Jason. And he, perforce, took out his disgust not on hounding the sacrosanct Lonnie, but on that crackpot, mumchance, captive genius of Physlab Nine. With the result that, late in 2007, Pol-Anx had an electronic servo-tracer. Pending construction of sufficient hundreds of thousands more for full Anx use, Jason swore Lab Nine to secrecy and installed the pilot model in his own office. He had enough authority for that. It was a hellishly unbuildable and deceptively simple gadget, that tracer. Simply tune it in on the encephalo-aura, the brain wave pattern of any individual ... and monitor. It never let go until deliberately switched off by the operator. It tracked; pinpointed the subject accurately up to twenty thousand miles. It stopped humming and started panting in proportionately ascending decibels when the subject became tense, nervous, afraid. It also directed pocket-sized trackers of its own Damoclean beam. It made it a cinch to gather in known criminals in the very midst of their first subsequent flagrante delicto. Jason latched the servo-tracer on Lonnie and settled down to wait. At 10 p.m., local mean time, January 25, 2008, the tracer hiccupped and, all by itself, went to sleep! Jason blinked. Jiggled the gadget. Swore. Either the gadget was haywire or Lonnie was up to something, and, as usual, was making a— Jason bawled for four reliable squad men he'd mentally selected before. If he could find Lonnie—catch Lonnie in actual performance of an act—then Commissioner or no Commissioner, Executive Level or no Executive Level...! He roared from Pol-Anx with the men, past the flank of Government Fane, across the Park and around the bulk of Raichi Museum to Lonnie's mansion in its shadow. Leaped from the gyro-van, sweeping his men out into a fan for the neighborhood. Nothing. Placid. Tree-shadowed, lawn-swept streets, ebony and silver in the light the moon reflected from solar space. He'd missed. Too late. Lonnie was gone ... or was he? Jason didn't give himself time to think; his men time to get even a momentary hesitation started. He shoved his thumb hard against the door chimes and his shield under the butler's nose. Yes, Mr. Raichi was at home. Then, after an interval nicely calculated to allow Jason to feel how acutely precarious his position stood, "Mr. Raichi is accessible." Lonnie was bland. Blandly accepting Jason's urgent story of a known ... er ... jewel thief traced to the neighborhood. Blandly amenable to Jason's suggestion that his men be permitted to go over the mansion (once he'd started this damfool caper, he had to go through with it). Lonnie so bland that Jason felt a skitter of perspiration down his backbone while his men hustled up the soaring circle of the stair. II "SINCE I've been disturbed anyway," Lonnie offered, "I'll show you around." "Thanks," Jason shook his head stiffly. "I'll just wait." "I think you should come." Shrugging, Jason followed, eyes stubbornly downcast. "... my library ... my den ... bar. Care for a drink? Well, suit yourself." As the lights of the den dimmed and one wall swooshed smoothly into the ceiling. "My theatre ... The usual tri-di stereo, of course, but I've had a couple of the new tight beams installed to channel Moon and Mars on the cube. Much better than the usual staged bilge. Say, that reminds me, a couple hours ago Mars projector had a scanner on one of the exploration parties caught out in a psychosonic storm. Jove, did they wriggle! Even in atomsuits they were better than Messalina Magdalen working on her last G-string. Here, I'll switch it on. Maybe the rescue team's—" Building up inside the hundreds of thousands of layers of crystallized plastic came a reddish, three-dimensional landscape, as if viewed from a height. Orange dust swirled across a gaunt, clawed plain under a transparent pink haze. A feeling as of sub-visual vibration, emanating from the cube, tugged at Jason's eyelids. No life. "—Nope; they've cleaned up the carcasses already. Too bad. Tell you what, though. Next time I catch it happening, I'll phone you and—" "Don't bother." "Suit yourself." Lonnie shifted and went on, lightly. "I'm not at all satisfied with the color, are you? It's off a little, don't you think?... Well?... Well!" Unwillingly, Jason moved his attention to the cube. Eyes widening, he studied it. "No. You're wrong. That's good! The tech who poured that stereo did a damned good job. It's—" "Not good enough for me! That's not exactly what I saw up at Vulcan City. If those lazy—" "Look, you can't expect exactly the same reflectivity from crystallized plastic that you get from molecules of atmosphere, no matter how scientifically the pouring and layering is controlled. It's—they're two different materials. Leaving aside the ion-index differential and quality of incident light, you still can't—" "I can ..." As the pause lengthened, Jason's gaze was finally drawn to Lonnie's face. "You still haven't changed a bit, have you, Jasey? Still all wrapped up in how any collection of doodads work instead of just for what it'll do. You know, I wouldn't be surprised if that hasn't always been the difference between us. Where's it got you?" Jason strode for the door. "Wait a minute." Lonnie's voice came louder. "Better wait, copper. I'm not through ... That's better." From behind Jason came the sound of rubbing palms. "We've come a long way from Gimlet Street, haven't we, Jasey? You particularly. Captain. Promotions. Pay raises ..." Then Lonnie was in front of him, staring up. "You're quite a substantial citizen now. Yes? Well, look at that. Go on, look at it." Against the side wall stood a gigantic triptych. More than life size, the central panel canopied the statue of a Mongol potentate; the two side wings, a pair of guards in bas-relief. All three wrought in chryselephantine gold and ivory; the gold with flowing pallid highlights. Damascened armor, encrusted with jewels, girdled the chest of the Asiatic Prince; helmeted the sullen head carved from a single immensity of ivory. Ruby eyes glared arrogantly under ebon brows. Against the statue's folded shins, its pommel negligently gripped by one immovable, ivory hand, leaned a short Turkish scimitar of watered steel. Beneath the carved hassock upon which the statue sat, a dais of three steps fell away to the floor. "That's Genghis Khan," Lonnie said. "I had him made. That isn't gold he's made of; that's aureum—and it cost plenty to have the silver mixed in. It makes it better. And I get the best! A hundred thousand, it cost me. And thirty-six thousand more to brace the wall and floor. It's good. It's the best that's made!" He came up on tiptoe, thrusting his chin as close as possible to Jason's averted face. "Why don't you buy one for your place, Captain?" JASON stared into the malevolent eyes of the statue. "Huh ... hu-hu ... hu-ha-ha-ha ..." At the dais, Lonnie put his foot on the second step and patted Genghis Khan familiarly on one ivory knee. "I like this old boy. He had the right idea. I have it. You haven't. You never had. If you had, you'd'a listened to the proposition I made you way back then. Remember when Aggie told you about it? Say, I wonder what's become of her, anyway. Do you know? What? What'd you say?" Jason cleared his throat. Hard. "Well?" Jason swallowed. Blood pounded in his temples. "Jasey, you're stupid." Jason made his eyes close. Let them re-open slowly. "You were born stupid and you've stayed stupid." Still Jason held back an answer. "You're nothing but a stupid, go-where-you're-sent, do-what-you're-told cop! What do you say to that! If you want to keep on being one, answer me! Answer me!" Deliberately, Jason jerked his chin at the statue. "That's another example of what I mean." "What?!!" screamed Lonnie.

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