Dirk gentlys holistic de.., p.14
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       Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, p.14

         Part #1 of Dirk Gently series by Douglas Adams
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  18

  Dirk Gently briefly ran over the salient facts once more while Richard MacDuff's world crashed slowly and silently into a dark, freezing sea which he hadn't even known was there, waiting inches beneath his feet. When Dirk had finished for the second time the room fell quiet while Richard stared fixedly at his face.

  "Where did you hear this?" said Richard at last.

  "The radio," said Dirk, with a slight shrug, "at least the main points. It's all over the news of course. The details? Well, discreet enquiries among contacts here and there. There are one or two people I got to know at Cambridge police station, for reasons which may occur to you."

  "I don't even know whether to believe you," said Richard quietly. "May I use the phone?"

  Dirk courteously picked a telephone receiver out of the wastepaper bin and handed it to him. Richard dialled Susan's number.

  The phone was answered almost immediately and a frightened voice said, "Hello?"

  "Susan, it's Ri--"

  "Richard! Where are you? For God's sake, where are you? Are you all right?"

  "Don't tell her where you are," said Dirk.

  "Susan, what's happened?"

  "Don't you--?"

  "Somebody told me that something's happened to Gordon, but..."

  "Something's happened--? He's dead, Richard, he's been murdered--"

  "Hang up," said Dirk.

  "Susan, listen. I--"

  "Hang up," repeated Dirk, and then leaned forward to the phone and cut him off.

  "The police will probably have a trace on the line," he explained. He took the receiver and chucked it back in the bin.

  "But I have to go to the police," Richard exclaimed.

  "Go to the police?"

  "What else can I do? I have to go to the police and tell them that it wasn't me."

  "Tell them that it wasn't you?" said Dirk incredulously. "Well I expect that will probably make it all right, then. Pity Dr Crippen didn't think of that. Would have saved him a lot of bother."

  "Yes, but he was guilty!"

  "Yes, so it would appear. And so it would appear, at the moment, are you."

  "But I didn't do it, for God's sake!"

  "You are talking to someone who has spent time in prison for something he didn't do, remember. I told you that coincidences are strange and dangerous things. Believe me, it is a great deal better to find cast-iron proof that you're innocent, than to languish in a cell hoping that the police--who already think you're guilty--will find it for you."

  "I can't think straight," said Richard, with his hand to his forehead. "Just stop for a moment and let me think this out--"

  "If I may--"

  "Let me think--!"

  Dirk shrugged and turned his attention back to his cigarette, which seemed to be bothering him.

  "It's no good," said Richard shaking his head after a few moments, "I can't take it in. It's like trying to do trigonometry when someone's kicking your head. OK, tell me what you think I should do."

  "Hypnotism."

  "What?"

  "It is hardly surprising in the circumstances that you should be unable to gather your thoughts clearly. However, it is vital that somebody gathers them. It will be much simpler for both of us if you will allow me to hypnotise you. I strongly suspect that there is a very great deal of information jumbled up in your head that will not emerge while you are shaking it up so--that might not emerge at all because you do not realise its significance. With your permission we can short--cut all that."

  "Well, that's decided then," said Richard, standing up, "I'm going to the police."

  "Very well," said Dirk, leaning back and spreading his palms on the desk, "I wish you the very best of luck. Perhaps on your way out you would be kind enough to ask my secretary to get me some matches."

  "You haven't got a secretary," said Richard, and left.

  Dirk sat and brooded for a few seconds, made a valiant but vain attempt to fold the sadly empty pizza box into the wastepaper bin, and then went to look in the cupboard for a metronome.

  Richard emerged blinking into the daylight. He stood on the top step rocking slightly, then plunged off down the street with an odd kind of dancing walk which reflected the whirling dance of his mind. On the one hand he simply couldn't believe that the evidence wouldn't show perfectly clearly that he couldn't have committed the murder; on the other hand he had to admit that it all looked remarkably odd.

  He found it impossible to think clearly or rationally about it. The idea that Gordon had been murdered kept blowing up in his mind and throwing all other thoughts into total confusion and disruption.

  It occurred to him for a moment that whoever did it must have been a damn fast shot to get the trigger pulled before being totally overwhelmed by waves of guilt, but instantly he regretted the thought. In fact he was a little appalled by the general quality of the thoughts that sprang into his mind. They seemed inappropriate and unworthy and mostly had to do with how it would affect his projects in the company.

  He looked about inside himself for any feeling of great sorrow or regret, and assumed that it must be there somewhere, probably hiding behind the huge wall of shock.

  He arrived back within sight of Islington Green, hardly noticing the distance he had walked. The sudden sight of the police squad car parked outside his house hit him like a hammer and he swung on his heel and stared with furious concentration at the menu displayed in the window of a Greek restaurant.

  "Dolmades," he thought, frantically.

  "Souvlaki," he thought.

  "A small spicy Greek sausage," passed hectically through his mind. He tried to reconstruct the scene in his mind's eye without turning round. There had been a policeman standing watching the street, and as far as he could recall from the brief glance he had, it looked as if the side door of the building which led up to his flat was standing open.

  The police were in his flat. In his flat. Fassolia Plaki! A filling bowl of haricot beans cooked in a tomato and vegetable sauce!

  He tried to shift his eyes sideways and back over his shoulder. The policeman was looking at him. He yanked his eyes back to the menu and tried to fill his mind with finely ground meat mixed with potato, breadcrumbs, onions and herbs rolled into small balls and fried. The policeman must have recognised him and was at that very moment dashing across the road to grab him and lug him off in a Black Maria just as they had done to Dirk all those years ago in Cambridge.

  He braced his shoulders against the shock, but no hand came to grab him. He glanced back again, but the policeman was looking unconcernedly in another direction. Stifado.

  It was very apparent to him that his behaviour was not that of one who was about to go and hand himself in to the police.

  So what else was he to do?

  Trying in a stiff, awkward way to walk naturally, he yanked himself away from the window, strolled tensely down the road a few yards, and then ducked back down Camden Passage again, walking fast and breathing hard. Where could he go? To Susan? No--the police would be there or watching. To the WFT offices in Primrose Hill? No--same reason. What on earth, he screamed silently at himself, was he doing suddenly as a fugitive?

  He insisted to himself, as he had insisted to Dirk, that he should not be running away from the police. The police, he told himself, as he had been taught when he was a boy, were there to help and protect the innocent. This thought caused him instantly to break into a run and he nearly collided with the proud new owner of an ugly Edwardian floor lamp.

  "Sorry," he said, "sorry." He was startled that anyone should want such a thing, and slowed his pace to a walk, glancing with sharp hunted looks around him. The very familiar shop fronts full of old polished brass, old polished wood and pictures of Japanese fish suddenly seemed very threatening and aggressive.

  Who could possibly have wanted to kill Gordon? This was the thought that suddenly hammered at him as he turned down Charlton Place. All that had concerned him so far was that he hadn't.

  But wh
o had?

  This was a new thought.

  Plenty of people didn't care for him much, but there is a huge difference between disliking somebody--maybe even disliking them a lot--and actually shooting them, strangling them, dragging them through the fields and setting their house on fire. It was a difference which kept the vast majority of the population alive from day to day.

  Was it just theft? Dirk hadn't mentioned anything being missing but then he hadn't asked him.

  Dirk. The image of his absurd but oddly commanding figure sitting like a large toad, brooding in his shabby office, kept insisting itself upon Richard's mind. He realised that he was retracing the way he had come, and deliberately made himself turn right instead of left.

  That way madness lay.

  He just needed a space, a bit of time to think and collect his thoughts together.

  All right--so where was he going? He stopped for a moment, turned around and then stopped again. The idea of dolmades suddenly seemed very attractive and it occurred to him that the cool, calm and collected course of action would have been simply to walk in and have some. That would have shown Fate who was boss.

  Instead, Fate was engaged on exactly the same course of action. It wasn't actually sitting in a Greek restaurant eating dolmades, but it might as well have been, because it was clearly in charge. Richard's footsteps drew him inexorably back through the winding streets, over the canal.

  He stopped, briefly, at a corner shop, and then hurried on past the council estates, and into developer territory again until he was standing once more outside 33, Peckender Street. At about the same time as Fate would have been pouring itself the last of the retsina, wiping its mouth and wondering if it had any room left for baklavas, Richard gazed up at the tall ruddy Victorian building with its soot-darkened brickwork and its heavy, forbidding windows. A gust of wind whipped along the street and a small boy bounded up to him.

  "Fuck off," chirped the little boy, then paused and looked at him again.

  "'Ere, mister," he added, "can I have your jacket?"

  "No," said Richard.

  "Why not?" said the boy.

  "Er, because I like it," said Richard.

  "Can't see why," muttered the boy. "Fuck off." He slouched off moodily down the street, kicking a stone at a cat.

  Richard entered the building once more, mounted the stairs uneasily and looked again into the office.

  Dirk's secretary was sitting at her desk, head down, arms folded.

  "I'm not here," she said.

  "I see," said Richard.

  "I only came back," she said, without looking up from the spot on her desk at which she was staring angrily, "to make sure he notices that I've gone. Otherwise he might just forget."

  "Is he in?" asked Richard.

  "Who knows? Who cares? Better ask someone who works for him, because I don't."

  "Show him in!" boomed Dirk's voice.

  She glowered for a moment, stood up, went to the inner door, wrenched it open, said "Show him in yourself," slammed the door once more and returned to her seat.

  "Er, why don't I just show myself in?" said Richard.

  "I can't even hear you," said Dirk's ex-secretary, staring resolutely at her desk. "How do you expect me to hear you if I'm not even here?"

  Richard made a placatory gesture, which was ignored, and walked through and opened the door to Dirk's office himself. He was startled to find the room in semi-darkness. A blind was drawn down over the window, and Dirk was lounging back in his seat, his face bizarrely lit by the strange arrangement of objects sitting on the desk. At the forward edge of the desk sat an old grey bicycle lamp, facing backwards and shining a feeble light on a metronome which was ticking softly back and forth, with a highly polished silver teaspoon strapped to its metal rod.

  Richard tossed a couple of boxes of matches on to the desk.

  "Sit down, relax, and keep looking at the spoon," said Dirk, "you are already feeling sleepy..."

  Another police car pulled itself up to a screeching halt outside Richard's flat, and a grim-faced man climbed out and strode over to one of the constables on duty outside, flashing an identity card.

  "Detective Inspector Mason, Cambridgeshire CID," he said. "This the MacDuff place?"

  The constable nodded and showed him to the side-door entrance which opened on to the long narrow staircase leading up to the top flat. Mason bustled in and then bustled straight out again.

  "There's a sofa halfway up the stairs," he told the constable. "Get it moved."

  "Some of the lads have already tried, sir," the constable replied anxiously. "It seems to be stuck. Everyone's having to climb over it for the moment, sir. Sorry, sir."

  Mason gave him another grim look from a vast repertoire he had developed which ranged from very, very blackly grim indeed at the bottom of the scale, all the way up to tiredly resigned and only faintly grim, which he reserved for his children's birthdays.

  "Get it moved," he repeated grimly, and bustled grimly back through the door grimly hauling up his trousers and coat in preparation for the grim ascent ahead.

  "No sign of him yet?" asked the driver of the car, coming over himself. "Sergeant Gilks," he introduced himself. He looked tired.

  "Not as far as I know," said the constable, "but no one tells me anything."

  "Know how you feel," agreed Gilks. "Once the CID gets involved you just get relegated to driving them about. And I'm the only one who knows what he looked like. Stopped him in the road last night. We just came from Way's house. Right mess."

  "Bad night, eh?"

  "Varied. Everything from murder to hauling horses out of bathrooms. No, don't even ask. Do you have the same cars as these?" he added, pointing at his own. "This one's been driving me crazy all the way up. Cold even with the heater on full blast, and the radio keeps turning itself on and off."

  CHAPTER

  19

  The same morning found Michael Wenton-Weakes in something of an odd mood.

  You would need to know him fairly well to know that it was an especially odd mood, because most people regarded him as being a little odd to start with. Few people knew him that well. His mother, perhaps, but there existed between them a state of cold war and neither had spoken to the other now in weeks.

  He also had an elder brother, Peter, who was now tremendously senior in the Marines. Apart from at their father's funeral, Michael had not seen Peter since he came back from the Falklands, covered in glory, promotion, and contempt for his younger brother.

  Peter had been delighted that their mother had taken over Magna, and had sent Michael a regimental Christmas card to that effect. His own greatest satisfaction still remained that of throwing himself into a muddy ditch and firing a machine gun for at least a minute, and he didn't think that the British newspaper and publishing industry, even in its current state of unrest, was likely to afford him that pleasure, at least until some more Australians moved into it.

  Michael had risen very late after a night of cold savagery and then of troubled dreams which still disturbed him now in the late morning daylight.

  His dreams had been filled with the familiar sensations of loss, isolation, guilt and so forth, but had also been inexplicably involved with large quantities of mud. By the telescopic power of the night, the nightmare of mud and loneliness had seemed to stretch on for terrifying, unimaginable lengths of time, and had only concluded with the appearance of slimy things with legs that had crawled on the slimy sea. This had been altogether too much and he had woken with a start in a cold sweat.

  Though all the business with the mud had seemed strange to him, the sense of loss, of isolation, and above all the aggrievement, the need to undo what had been done, these had all found an easy home in his spirit.

  Even the slimy things with legs seemed oddly familiar and ticked away irritably at the back of his mind while he made himself a late breakfast, a piece of grapefruit and some China tea, allowed his eyes to rest lightly on the arts pages of the Daily Telegrap
h for a while, and then rather clumsily changed the dressing on the cuts on his hand.

  These small tasks accomplished, he was then in two minds as to what to do next.

  He was able to view the events of the previous night with a cool detachment that he would not have expected. It had been right, it had been proper, it had been correctly done. But it resolved nothing. All that mattered was yet to be done.

  All what? He frowned at the odd way his thoughts ebbed and flowed.

  Normally he would pop along to his club at about this time. It used to be that he would do this with a luxurious sense of the fact that there were many other things that he should be doing. Now there was nothing else to do, which made time spent there, as anywhere else, hang somewhat heavy on his hands.

  When he went he would do as he always did--indulge in a gin and tonic and a little light conversation, and then allow his eyes to rest gently on the pages of the Times Literary Supplement, Opera, The New Yorker or whatever else fell easily to hand, but there was no doubt that he did it these days with less verve and relish than previously.

  Then there would be lunch. Today, he had no lunch date planned--again--and would probably therefore have stayed at his club, and eaten a lightly grilled Dover sole, with potatoes garnished with parsley and boiled to bits, followed by a large heap of trifle. A glass or two of Sancerre. And coffee. And then the afternoon, with whatever that might bring.

  But today he felt oddly impelled not to do that. He flexed the muscles in his cut hand, poured himself another cup of tea, looked with curious dispassion at the large kitchen knife that still lay by the fine bone china teapot, and waited for a moment to see what he would do next. What he did next, in fact, was to walk upstairs.

  His house was rather chill in its formal perfection, and looked much as people who buy reproduction furniture would like their houses to look. Except of course that everything here was genuine--crystal, mahogany and Wilton--and only looked as if it might be fake because there was no life to any of it.

  He walked up into his workroom, which was the only room in the house that was not sterile with order, but here the disorder of books and papers was instead sterile with neglect. A thin film of dust had settled over everything. Michael had not been into it in weeks, and the cleaner was under strict instructions to leave it well alone. He had not worked here since he edited the last edition of Fathom. Not, of course, the actual last edition, but the last proper edition. The last edition as far as he was concerned.

 
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