Dirk gentlys holistic de.., p.16
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       Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, p.16

         Part #1 of Dirk Gently series by Douglas Adams
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  "What?"

  "--but I think I would do better to question the fellow directly. Except..." He frowned deeply in concentration. "Except," he added, "that being rather vain in these matters I would prefer to know the answers before I asked the questions. And I do not. I absolutely do not." He gazed abstractedly into the distance, and made a rough calculation of the remaining distance to the nearest lifebelt.

  "And the second impossible thing," he added, just as Richard was about to get a word in edgeways, "or at least, the next completely inexplicable thing, is of course the matter of your sofa."

  "Dirk," exclaimed Richard in exasperation, "may I remind you that Gordon Way is dead, and that I appear to be under suspicion of his murder! None of these things have the remotest connection with that, and I--"

  "But I am extremely inclined to believe that they are connected."

  "That's absurd!"

  "I believe in the fundamental inter--"

  "Oh, yeah, yeah," said Richard, "the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. Listen, Dirk, I am not a gullible old lady and you won't be getting any trips to Bermuda out of me. If you're going to help me then let's stick to the point."

  Dirk bridled at this. "I believe that all things are fundamentally interconnected, as anyone who follows the principles of quantum mechanics to their logical extremes cannot, if they are honest, help but accept. But I also believe that some things are a great deal more interconnected than others. And when two apparently impossible events and a sequence of highly peculiar ones all occur to the same person, and when that person suddenly becomes the suspect of a highly peculiar murder, then it seems to me that we should look for the solution in the connection between these events. You are the connection, and you yourself have been behaving in a highly peculiar and eccentric way."

  "I have not," said Richard. "Yes, some odd things have happened to me, but I--"

  "You were last night observed, by me, to climb the outside of a building and break into the flat of your girlfriend, Susan Way."

  "It may have been unusual," said Richard, "it may not even have been wise. But it was perfectly logical and rational. I just wanted to undo something I had done before it caused any damage."

  Dirk thought for a moment, and slightly quickened his pace.

  "And what you did was a perfectly reasonable and normal response to the problem of the message you had left on the tape--yes, you told me all about that in our little session--it's what anyone would have done?"

  Richard frowned as if to say that he couldn't see what all the fuss was about. "I don't say anyone would have done it," he said, "I probably have a slightly more logical and literal turn of mind than many people, which is why I can write computer software. It was a logical and literal solution to the problem."

  "Not a little disproportionate, perhaps?"

  "It was very important to me not to disappoint Susan yet again."

  "So you are absolutely satisfied with your own reasons for doing what you did?"

  "Yes," insisted Richard angrily.

  "Do you know," said Dirk, "what my old maiden aunt who lived in Winnipeg used to tell me?"

  "No," said Richard. He quickly took off all his clothes and dived into the canal. Dirk leapt for the lifebelt, with which they had just drawn level, yanked it out of its holder and flung it to Richard, who was floundering in the middle of the canal looking completely lost and disoriented.

  "Grab hold of this," shouted Dirk, "and I'll haul you in."

  "It's all right," spluttered Richard, "I can swim--"

  "No, you can't," yelled Dirk, "now grab it."

  Richard tried to strike out for the bank, but quickly gave up in consternation and grabbed hold of the lifebelt. Dirk pulled on the rope till Richard reached the edge, and then bent down to give him a hand out. Richard came up out of the water puffing and spitting, then turned and sat shivering on the edge with his hands in his lap.

  "God, it's foul in there!" he exclaimed and spat again. "It's absolutely disgusting. Yeuchh. Whew. God. I'm usually a pretty good swimmer. Must have got some kind of cramp. Lucky coincidence we were so close to the lifebelt. Oh thanks." This last he said in response to the large towel which Dirk handed him.

  He rubbed himself down briskly, almost scraping himself with the towel to get the filthy canal water off him. He stood up and looked about. "Can you find my pants?"

  "Young man," said the old lady with the dog, who had just reached them. She stood looking at them sternly, and was about to rebuke them when Dirk interrupted.

  "A thousand apologies, dear lady," he said, "for any offence my friend may inadvertently have caused you. Please," he added, drawing a slim bunch of anemones from Richard's bottom, "accept these with my compliments."

  The lady dashed them out of Dirk's hand with her stick, and hurried off, horror-struck, yanking her dog after her.

  "That wasn't very nice of you," said Richard, pulling on his clothes underneath the towel that was now draped strategically around him.

  "I don't think she's a very nice woman," replied Dirk, "she's always down here, yanking her poor dog around and telling people off. Enjoy your swim?"

  "Not much, no," said Richard, giving his hair a quick rub. "I hadn't realised how filthy it would be in there. And cold. Here," he said, handing the towel back to Dirk, "thanks. Do you always carry a towel around in your briefcase?"

  "Do you always go swimming in the afternoons?"

  "No, I usually go in the mornings, to the swimming pool on Highbury Fields, just to wake myself up, get the brain going. It just occurred to me I hadn't been this morning."

  "And, er--that was why you just dived into the canal?"

  "Well, yes. I just thought that getting a bit of exercise would probably help me deal with all this."

  "Not a little disproportionate, then, to strip off and jump into the canal."

  "No," he said, "it may not have been wise given the state of the water, but it was perfectly--"

  "You were perfectly satisfied with your own reasons for doing what you did."

  "Yes--"

  "And it was nothing to do with my aunt, then?"

  Richard's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What on earth are you talking about?" he said.

  "I'll tell you," said Dirk. He went and sat on a nearby bench and opened his case again. He folded the towel away into it and took out instead a small Sony tape recorder. He beckoned Richard over and then pushed the Play button. Dirk's own voice floated from the tiny speaker in a lilting sing-song voice. It said, "In a minute I will click my fingers and you will wake and forget all of this except for the instructions I shall now give you.

  "In a little while we will go for a walk along the canal, and when you hear me say the words "my old maiden aunt who lived in Winnipeg"--"

  Dirk suddenly grabbed Richard's arm to restrain him.

  The tape continued, "You will take off all your clothes and dive into the canal. You will find that you are unable to swim, but you will not panic or sink, you will simply tread water until I throw you the lifebelt..."

  Dirk stopped the tape and looked round at Richard's face which for the second time that day was pale with shock.

  "I would be interested to know exactly what it was that possessed you to climb into Miss Way's flat last night," said Dirk, "and why."

  Richard didn't respond--he was continuing to stare at the tape recorder in some confusion. Then he said in a shaking voice, "There was a message from Gordon on Susan's tape. He phoned from the car. The tape's in my flat. Dirk, I'm suddenly very frightened by all this."

  CHAPTER

  21

  Dirk watched the police officer on duty outside Richard's house from behind a van parked a few yards away. He had been stopping and questioning everyone who tried to enter the small side alley down which Richard's door was situated, including, Dirk was pleased to note, other policemen if he didn't immediately recognise them. Another police car pulled up and Dirk started to move.

  A police officer climbed
out of the car carrying a saw and walked towards the doorway. Dirk briskly matched his pace with him, a step or two behind, striding authoritatively.

  "It's all right, he's with me," said Dirk, sweeping past at the exact moment that the one police officer stopped the other.

  And he was inside and climbing the stairs.

  The officer with the saw followed him in.

  "Er, excuse me, sir," he called up after Dirk.

  Dirk had just reached the point where the sofa obstructed the stairway. He stopped and twisted round.

  "Stay here," he said, "guard this sofa. Do not let anyone touch it, and I mean anyone. Understood?"

  The officer seemed flummoxed for a moment.

  "I've had orders to saw it up," he said.

  "Countermanded," barked Dirk. "Watch it like a hawk. I shall want a full report."

  He turned back and climbed up over the thing. A moment or two later he emerged into a large open area. This was the lower of the two floors that comprised Richard's flat.

  "Have you searched that?" snapped Dirk at another officer who was sitting at Richard's dining table looking through some notes. The officer looked up in surprise and started to stand up. Dirk was pointing at the wastepaper basket.

  "Er, yes--"

  "Search it again. Keep searching it. Who's here?"

  "Er, well--"

  "I haven't got all day."

  "Detective Inspector Mason just left, with--"

  "Good, I'm having him pulled off. I'll be upstairs if I'm needed, but I don't want any interruptions unless it's very important. Understood?"

  "Er, who--"

  "I don't see you searching the wastepaper basket."

  "Er, right, sir. I'll--"

  "I want it deep-searched. You understand?"

  "Er--"

  "Get cracking." Dirk swept on upstairs and into Richard's workroom.

  The tape was lying exactly where Richard had told him it would be, on the long desk on which the six Macintoshes sat. Dirk was about to pocket it when his curiosity was caught by the image of Richard's sofa slowly twisting and turning on the big Macintosh screen, and he sat down at the keyboard.

  He explored the program Richard had written for a short while, but quickly realised that in its present form it was less than self--explanatory and he learned little. He managed at last to get the sofa unstuck and move it back down the stairs, but he realised that he had had to turn part of the wall off in order to do it. With a grunt of irritation he gave up.

  Another computer he looked at was displaying a steady sine wave. Around the edges of the screen were the small images of other waveforms which could be selected and added to the main one or used to modify it in other ways. He quickly discovered that this enabled you to build up very complex waveforms from simple ones and he played with this for a while. He added a simple sine wave to itself, which had the effect of doubling the height of the peaks and troughs of the wave. Then he slid one of the waves half a step back with respect to the other, and the peaks and troughs of one simply cancelled out the peaks and troughs of the other, leaving a completely flat line. Then he changed the frequency of one of the sine waves by a small extent.

  The result of this was that at some positions along the combined waveform the two waves reinforced each other, and at others they cancelled each other out. Adding a third simple wave of yet another frequency resulted in a combined wave in which it was hard to see any pattern at all. The line danced up and down seemingly at random, staying quite low for some periods and then suddenly building into very large peaks and troughs as all three waves came briefly into phase with each other.

  Dirk assumed that there must be amongst this array of equipment a means for translating the waveform dancing on the Macintosh screen into an actual musical tone and hunted among the menus available in the program. He found one menu item which invited him to transfer the wave sample into an Emu.

  This puzzled him. He glanced around the room in search of a large flightless bird, but was unable to locate any such thing. He activated the process anyway, and then traced the cable which led from the back of the Macintosh, down behind the desk, along the floor, behind a cupboard, under a rug until it fetched up plugged into the back of a large grey keyboard called an Emulator II.

  This, he assumed, was where his experimental waveform has just arrived. Tentatively he pushed a key.

  The nasty farting noise that surged instantly out of the speakers was so loud that for a moment he didn't hear the words "Svlad Cjelli!" that were barked simultaneously from the doorway.

  Richard sat in Dirk's office and threw tiny screwed-up balls of paper at the wastepaper bin which was already full of telephones. He broke pencils. He played major extracts from an old Ginger Baker solo on his knees.

  In a word, he fretted.

  He had been trying to write down on a piece of Dirk's notepaper all that he could remember of the events of the previous evening and, as far as he could pinpoint them, the times at which each had occurred. He was astonished at how difficult it was, and how feeble his conscious memory seemed to be in comparison with his unconscious memory, as Dirk had demonstrated it to him.

  "Damn Dirk," he thought. He wanted to talk to Susan.

  Dirk had told him he must not do so on any account as there would be a trace on the phone lines.

  "Damn Dirk," he said suddenly, and sprang to his feet.

  "Have you got any ten-pence pieces?" he said to the resolutely glum Janice.

  Dirk turned.

  Framed in the doorway stood a tall dark figure.

  The tall dark figure appeared to be not at all happy with what it saw, to be rather cross about it, in fact. To be more than cross. It appeared to be a tall dark figure who could very easily yank the heads off half a dozen chickens and still be cross at the end of it.

  It stepped forward into the light and revealed itself to be Sergeant Gilks of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary.

  "Do you know," said Sergeant Gilks of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary, blinking with suppressed emotion, "that when I arrive back here to discover one police officer guarding a sofa with a saw and another dismembering an innocent wastepaper basket I have to ask myself certain questions? And I have to ask them with the disquieting sense that I am not going to like the answers when I find them.

  "I then find myself mounting the stairs with a horrible premonition, Svlad Cjelli, a very horrible premonition indeed. A premonition, I might add, that I now find horribly justified. I suppose you can't shed any light on a horse discovered in a bathroom as well? That seemed to have an air of you about it."

  "I cannot," said Dirk, "as yet. Though it interests me strangely."

  "I should think it bloody did. It would have interested you strangely if you'd had to get the bloody thing down a bloody winding staircase at one o'clock in the morning as well. What the hell are you doing here?" said Sergeant Gilks, wearily.

  "I am here," said Dirk, "in pursuit of justice."

  "Well, I wouldn't mix with me then," said Gilks, "and I certainly wouldn't mix with the Met. What do you know of MacDuff and Way?"

  "Of Way? Nothing beyond what is common knowledge. MacDuff I knew at Cambridge."

  "Oh, you did, did you? Describe him."

  "Tall. Tall and absurdly thin. And good-natured. A bit like a preying mantis that doesn't prey--a non-preying mantis if you like. A sort of pleasant genial mantis that's given up preying and taken up tennis instead."

  "Hmm," said Gilks gruffly, turning away and looking about the room. Dirk pocketed the tape.

  "Sounds like the same one," said Gilks.

  "And of course," said Dirk, "completely incapable of murder."

  "That's for us to decide."

  "And of course a jury."

  "Tchah! Juries!"

  "Though, of course, it will not come to that, since the facts will speak for themselves long before it comes to a court of law for my client."

  "Your bleeding client, eh? All right, Cjelli, where is he?"

>   "I haven't the faintest idea."

  "I'll bet you've got a billing address."

  Dirk shrugged.

  "Look, Cjelli, this is a perfectly normal, harmless murder enquiry, and I don't want you mucking it up. So consider yourself warned off as of now. If I see a single piece of evidence being levitated I'll hit you so hard you won't know if it's tomorrow or Thursday. Now get out, and give me that tape on the way." He held out his hand.

  Dirk blinked, genuinely surprised. "What tape?"

  Gilks sighed. "You're a clever man, Cjelli, I grant you that," he said, "but you make the same mistake a lot of clever people do of thinking everyone else is stupid. If I turn away it's for a reason, and the reason was to see what you picked up. I didn't need to see you pick it up, I just had to see what was missing afterwards. We are trained you know. We used to get half an hour Observation Training on Tuesday afternoons. Just as a break after four hours solid of Senseless Brutality."

  Dirk hid his anger with himself behind a light smile. He fished in the pocket of his leather overcoat and handed over the tape.

  "Play it," said Gilks, "let's see what you didn't want us to hear."

  "It wasn't that I didn't want you to hear it," said Dirk, with a shrug. "I just wanted to hear it first." He went over to the shelf which carried Richard's hi-fi equipment and slipped the tape into the cassette player.

  "So do you want to give me a little introduction?"

  "It's a tape," said Dirk, "from Susan Way's telephone answering machine. Way apparently had this habit of leaving long..."

  "Yeah, I know about that. And his secretary goes round picking up his prattlings in the morning, poor devil."

  "Well, I believe there may be a message on the tape from Gordon Way's car last night."

  "I see. OK. Play it."

  With a gracious bow Dirk pressed the Play button.

  "Oh, Susan, hi, it's Gordon," said the tape once again. "Just on my way to the cottage--"

  "Cottage!" exclaimed Gilks, satirically.

  "It's, er, Thursday night, and it's, er... 8:47. Bit misty on the roads. Listen, I have those people from the States coming over this weekend..."

 
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