Dirk gentlys holistic de.., p.11
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       Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, p.11

         Part #1 of Dirk Gently series by Douglas Adams
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  Such a simple, simple error, thought Michael, such as anyone could have made, anyone, but the consequences of it were catastrophic. Utterly catastrophic. His father's death, his own loss, the rise of the appalling Ross and his disastrously successful magazine and...

  Tap tap tap.

  He looked at the window, at his own reflection, and at the dark shadows of the bushes on the other side of it. He looked again at the lamp. This was the very object, this the very place, and the error was such a simple one. Simple to make, simple to prevent.

  The only thing that separated him from that simple moment was the invisible barrier of the months that had passed in between.

  A sudden, odd calm descended on him as if something inside him had suddenly been resolved.

  Tap tap tap.

  Fathom was his. It wasn't meant to be a success, it was his life. His life had been taken from him, and that demanded a response.

  Tap tap tap crack.

  He surprised himself by suddenly punching his hand through the window and cutting himself quite badly.

  CHAPTER

  15

  Some of the less pleasant aspects of being dead were beginning to creep up on Gordon Way as he stood in front of his "cottage".

  It was in fact a rather large house by anybody else's standards but he had always wanted to have a cottage in the country and so when the time came for him finally to buy one and he discovered that he had rather more money available than he had ever seriously believed he might own, he bought a large old rectory and called it a cottage in spite of its seven bedrooms and its four acres of dank Cambridgeshire land. This did little to endear him to people who only had cottages, but then if Gordon Way had allowed his actions to be governed by what endeared him to people he wouldn't have been Gordon Way.

  He wasn't, of course, Gordon Way any longer. He was the ghost of Gordon Way.

  In his pocket he had the ghosts of Gordon Way's keys.

  It was this realisation that had stopped him for a moment in his invisible tracks. The idea of walking through walls frankly revolted him. It was something he had been trying strenuously to avoid all night. He had instead been fighting to grip and grapple with every object he touched in order to render it, and thereby himself, substantial. To enter his house, his own house, by any means other than that of opening the front door and striding in in a proprietorial manner filled him with a hurtling sense of loss.

  He wished, as he stared at it, that the house was not such an extreme example of Victorian Gothic, and that the moonlight didn't play so coldly on its narrow gabled windows and its forbidding turrets. He had joked, stupidly, when he bought it that it looked as if it ought to be haunted, not realising that one day it would be--or by whom.

  A chill of the spirit gripped him as he made his way silently up the driveway, lined by the looming shapes of yew trees that were far older than the rectory itself. It was a disturbing thought that anybody else might be scared walking up such a driveway on such a night for fear of meeting something such as him.

  Behind a screen of yew trees off to his left stood the gloomy bulk of the old church, decaying now, only used in rotation with others in neighbouring villages and presided over by a vicar who was always breathless from bicycling there and dispirited by the few who were waiting for him when he arrived. Behind the steeple of the church hung the cold eye of the moon.

  A glimpse of movement seemed suddenly to catch his eye, as if a figure had moved in the bushes near the house, but it was, he told himself, only his imagination, overwrought by the strain of being dead. What was there here that he could possibly be afraid of?

  He continued onwards, around the angle of the wing of the rectory, towards the front door set deep within its gloomy porch wreathed in ivy. He was suddenly startled to realise that there was light coming from within the house. Electric light and also the dim flicker of firelight.

  It was a moment or two before he realised that he was, of course, expected that night, though hardly in his present form. Mrs Bennett, the elderly housekeeper, would have been in to make the bed, light the fire and leave out a light supper for him.

  The television, too, would be on, especially so that he could turn it off impatiently upon entering.

  His footsteps failed to crunch on the gravel as he approached. Though he knew that he must fail at the door, he nevertheless could not but go there first, to try if he could open it, and only then, hidden within the shadows of the porch, would he close his eyes and let himself slip ashamedly through it. He stepped up to the door and stopped.

  It was open.

  Just half an inch, but it was open. His spirit fluttered in fearful surprise. How could it be open? Mrs Bennett was always so conscientious about such things. He stood uncertainly for a moment and then with difficulty exerted himself against the door. Under the little pressure he could bring to bear on it, it swung slowly and unwillingly open, its hinges groaning in protest. He stepped through and slipped along the stone-flagged hallway. A wide staircase led up into the darkness, but the doors that led off from the hallway all stood closed.

  The nearest door led into the drawing room, in which the fire was burning, and from which he could hear the muted car chases of the late movie. He struggled futilely for a minute or two with its shiny brass door knob, but was forced in the end to admit a humiliating defeat, and with a sudden rage flung himself straight at the door--and through it.

  The room inside was a picture of pleasant domestic warmth. He staggered violently into it, and was unable to stop himself floating on through a small occasional table set with thick sandwiches and a Thermos flask of hot coffee, through a large overstuffed armchair, into the fire, through the thick hot brickwork and into the cold dark dining room beyond.

  The connecting door back into the sitting room was also closed. Gordon fingered it numbly and then, submitting himself to the inevitable, braced himself, and slid back through it, calmly, gently, noticing for the first time the rich internal grain of the wood.

  The coziness of the room was almost too much for Gordon, and he wandered distractedly around it, unable to settle, letting the warm liveliness of the firelight play through him. Him it couldn't warm.

  What, he wondered, were ghosts supposed to do all night?

  He sat, uneasily, and watched the television. Soon, however, the car chases drifted peacefully to a close and there was nothing left but grey snow and white noise, which he was unable to turn off.

  He found he'd sunk too far into the chair and confused himself with bits of it as he pushed and pulled himself up. He tried to amuse himself by standing in the middle of a table, but it did little to alleviate a mood that was sliding inexorably from despondency downwards.

  Perhaps he would sleep.

  Perhaps.

  He felt no tiredness or drowsiness, but just a deadly craving for oblivion. He passed back through the closed door and into the dark hallway, from which the wide heavy stairs led to the large gloomy bedrooms above.

  Up these, emptily, he trod.

  It was for nothing, he knew. If you cannot open the door to a bedroom you cannot sleep in its bed. He slid himself through the door and lifted himself on to the bed which he knew to be cold though he could not feel it. The moon seemed unable to leave him alone and shone full on him as he lay there wide-eyed and empty, unable now to remember what sleep was or how to do it.

  The horror of hollowness lay on him, the horror of lying ceaselessly and forever awake at four o'clock in the morning.

  He had nowhere to go, nothing to do when he got there, and no one he could go and wake up who wouldn't be utterly horrified to see him.

  The worst moment had been when he had seen Richard on the road, Richard's face frozen white in the windscreen. He saw again his face, and that of the pale figure next to him.

  That had been the thing which had shaken out of him the lingering shred of warmth at the back of his mind which said that this was just a temporary problem. It seemed terrible in the night hours, bu
t would be all right in the morning when he could see people and sort things out. He fingered the memory of the moment in his mind and could not let it go.

  He had seen Richard and Richard, he knew, had seen him.

  It was not going to be all right.

  Usually when he felt this bad at night he popped downstairs to see what was in the fridge, so he went now. It would be more cheerful than this moonlit bedroom. He would hang around the kitchen going bump in the night.

  He slid down--and partially through--the banisters, wafted through the kitchen door without a second thought and then devoted all his concentration and energy for about five minutes to getting the light switch on.

  That gave him a real sense of achievement and he determined to celebrate with a beer.

  After a minute or two of repeatedly juggling and dropping a can of Fosters he gave it up. He had not the slightest conception of how he could manage to open a ring pull, and besides the stuff was all shaken up by now--and what was he going to do with the stuff even if he did get it open?

  He didn't have a body to keep it in. He hurled the can away from him and it scuttled off under a cupboard.

  He began to notice something about himself, which was the way in which his ability to grasp things seemed to grow and fade in a slow rhythm, as did his visibility.

  There was an irregularity in the rhythm, though, or perhaps it was just that sometimes the effects of it would be much more pronounced than at others. That, too, seemed to vary according to a slower rhythm. Just at that moment it seemed to him that his strength was on the increase.

  In a sudden fever of activity he tried to see how many things in the kitchen he could move or use or somehow get to work.

  He pulled open cupboards, he yanked out drawers, scattering cutlery on the floor. He got a brief whirr out of the food processor, he knocked over the electric coffee grinder without getting it to work, he turned on the gas on the cooker hob but then couldn't light it, he savaged a loaf of bread with a carving knife. He tried stuffing lumps of bread into his mouth, but they simply fell through his mouth to the floor. A mouse appeared, but scurried from the room, its coat electric with fear.

  Eventually he stopped and sat at the kitchen table, emotionally exhausted but physically numb.

  How, he wondered, would people react to his death?

  Who would be most sorry to know that he had gone?

  For a while there would be shock, then sadness, then they would adjust, and he would be a fading memory as people got on with their own lives without him, thinking that he had gone on to wherever people go. That was a thought that filled him with the most icy dread.

  He had not gone. He was still here.

  He sat facing one cupboard that he hadn't managed to open yet because its handle was too stiff, and that annoyed him. He grappled awkwardly with a tin of tomatoes, then went over again to the large cupboard and attacked the handle with the tin. The door flew open and his own missing bloodstained body fell horribly forward out of it.

  Gordon hadn't realised up till this point that it was possible for a ghost to faint.

  He realised it now and did it.

  He was woken a couple of hours later by the sound of his gas cooker exploding.

  CHAPTER

  16

  The following morning Richard woke up twice.

  The first time he assumed he had made a mistake and turned over for a fitful few minutes more. The second time he sat up with a jolt as the events of the previous night insisted themselves upon him.

  He went downstairs and had a moody and unsettled breakfast, during which nothing went right. He burned the toast, spilled the coffee, and realised that though he'd meant to buy some more marmalade yesterday, he hadn't. He surveyed his feeble attempt at feeding himself and thought that maybe he could at least allow himself the time to take Susan out for an amazing meal tonight, to make up for last night.

  If he could persuade her to come.

  There was a restaurant that Gordon had been enthusing about at great length and recommending that they try. Gordon was pretty good on restaurants--he certainly seemed to spend enough time in them. He sat and tapped his teeth with a pencil for a couple of minutes, and then went up to his workroom and lugged a telephone directory out from under a pile of computer magazines.

  L'Esprit d'Escalier.

  He phoned the restaurant and tried to book a table, but when he said when he wanted it for this seemed to cause a little amusement.

  "Ah, non, m'sieur," said the maitre d', "I regret that it is impossible. At this moment it is necessary to make reservations at least three weeks in advance. Pardon, m'sieur."

  Richard marvelled at the idea that there were people who actually knew what they wanted to do three weeks in advance, thanked the maitre d' and rang off. Well, maybe a pizza again instead. This thought connected back to the appointment he had failed to keep last night, and after a moment curiosity overcame him and he reached for the phone book again.

  Gentleman...

  Gentles...

  Gentry.

  There was no Gently at all. Not a single one. He found the other directories, except for the S-Z book which his cleaning lady continually threw away for reasons he had never yet fathomed.

  There was certainly no Cjelli, or anything like it. There was no Jently, no Dgently, no Djently, no Dzently, nor anything remotely similar. He wondered about Tjently, Tsentli or Tzentli and tried Directory Enquiries, but they were out. He sat and tapped his teeth with a pencil again and watched his sofa slowly revolving on the screen of his computer.

  How very peculiar it had been that it had only been hours earlier that Reg had asked after Dirk with such urgency.

  If you really wanted to find someone, how would you set about it, what would you do?

  He tried phoning the police, but they were out too. Well, that was that. He had done all he could do for the moment short of hiring a private detective, and he had better ways of wasting his time and money. He would run into Dirk again, as he did every few years or so.

  He found it hard to believe there were really such people, anyway, as private detectives.

  What sort of people were they? What did they look like, where did they work?

  What sort of tie would you wear if you were a private detective? Presumably it would have to be exactly the sort of tie that people wouldn't expect private detectives to wear. Imagine having to sort out a problem like that when you'd just got up.

  Just out of curiosity as much as anything else, and because the only alternative was settling down to Anthem coding, he found himself leafing through the Yellow Pages.

  Private Detectives--see Detective Agencies.

  The words looked almost odd in such a solid and businesslike context. He flipped back through the book. Dry Cleaners, Dog Breeders, Dental Technicians, Detective Agencies...

  At that moment the phone rang and he answered it, a little curtly. He didn't like being interrupted.

  "Something wrong, Richard?"

  "Oh, hi, Kate, sorry, no. I was... my mind was elsewhere."

  Kate Anselm was another star programmer at WayForward Technologies. She was working on a long-term Artificial Intelligence project, the sort of thing that sounded like an absurd pipe dream until you heard her talking about it. Gordon needed to hear her talking about it quite regularly, partly because he was nervous about the money it was costing and partly because, well, there was little doubt that Gordon liked to hear Kate talking anyway.

  "I didn't want to disturb you," she said. "It's just I was trying to contact Gordon and can't. There's no reply from London or the cottage, or his car or his bleeper. It's just that for someone as obsessively in contact as Gordon it's a bit odd. You heard he's had a phone put in his isolation tank? True."

  "I haven't spoken to him since yesterday," said Richard. He suddenly remembered the tape he had taken from Susan's answering machine, and hoped to God there wasn't anything more important in Gordon's message than ravings about rabbits. He said
, "I know he was going to the cottage. Er, I don't know where he is. Have you tried--" Richard couldn't think of anywhere else to try--" . . . er. Good God."

  "Richard?"

  "How extraordinary..."

  "Richard, what's the matter?"

  "Nothing, Kate. Er, I've just read the most astounding thing."

  "Really, what are you reading?"

  "Well, the telephone directory, in fact..."

  "Really? I must rush out and buy one. Have the film rights gone?"

  "Look, sorry, Kate, can I get back to you? I don't know where Gordon is at the moment and--"

  "Don't worry. I know how it is when you can't wait to turn the next page. They always keep you guessing till the end, don't they? It must have been Zbigniew that did it. Have a good weekend." She hung up.

  Richard hung up too, and sat staring at the box advertisement lying open in front of him in the Yellow Pages.

  DIRK GENTLY'S

  HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY

  We solve the whole crime

  We find the whole person

  Phone today for the whole solution to your problem

  (Missing cats and messy divorces a speciality)

  33a Peckender St., London N1 01-354 9112

  Peckender Street was only a few minutes' walk away. Richard scribbled down the address, pulled on his coat and trotted downstairs, stopping to make another quick inspection of the sofa. There must, he thought, be something terribly obvious that he was overlooking. The sofa was jammed on a slight turn in the long narrow stairway. At this point the stairs were interrupted for a couple of yards of flat landing, which corresponded with the position of the flat directly beneath Richard's. However, his inspection produced no new insights, and he eventually clambered on over it and out of the front door.

  In Islington you can hardly hurl a brick without hitting three antique shops, an estate agent and a bookshop.

  Even if you didn't actually hit them you would certainly set off their burglar alarms, which wouldn't be turned off again till after the weekend. A police car played its regular game of dodgems down Upper Street and squealed to a halt just past him. Richard crossed the road behind it.

 
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