Dirk gentlys holistic de.., p.17
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       Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, p.17

         Part #1 of Dirk Gently series by Douglas Adams
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  Gilks raised his eyebrows, looked at his watch, and made a note on his pad.

  Both Dirk and the police sergeant experienced a chill as the dead man's voice filled the room.

  "--it's a wonder I don't end up dead in the ditch, that would be something wouldn't it, leaving your famous last words on somebody's answering machine, there's no reason--"

  They listened in a tense silence as the tape played on through the entire message.

  "That's the problem with crunch-heads--they have one great idea that actually works and then they expect you to carry on funding them for years while they sit and calculate the topographies of their navels. I'm sorry, I'm going to have to stop and close the boot properly. Won't be a moment."

  Next came the muffled bump of the telephone receiver being dropped on the passenger seat, and a few seconds later the sound of the car door being opened. In the meantime, the music from the car's sound system could be heard burbling away in the background.

  A few seconds later still came the distant, muffled, but unmistakable double blam of a shotgun.

  "Stop the tape," said Gilks sharply and glanced at his watch. "Three minutes and twenty-five seconds since he said it was 8.47." He glanced up at Dirk again. "Stay here. Don't move. Don't touch anything. I've made a note of the position of every particle of air in this room, so I shall know if you've been breathing."

  He turned smartly and left. Dirk heard him saying as he went down the stairs, "Tuckett, get on to WayForward's office, get the details of Way's carphone, what number, which network..." The voice faded away downstairs.

  Quickly Dirk twisted down the volume control on the hi-fi, and resumed playing the tape.

  The music continued for a while. Dirk drummed his fingers in frustration. Still the music continued.

  He flicked the Fast Forward button for just a moment. Still music. It occurred to him that he was looking for something, but that he didn't know what. That thought stopped him in his tracks.

  He was very definitely looking for something.

  He very definitely didn't know what.

  The realisation that he didn't know exactly why he was doing what he was doing suddenly chilled and electrified him. He turned slowly like a fridge door opening.

  There was no one there, at least no one that he could see. But he knew the chill prickling through his skin and detested it above all things.

  He said in a low savage whisper, "If anyone can hear me, hear this. My mind is my centre and everything that happens there is my responsibility. Other people may believe what it pleases them to believe, but I will do nothing without I know the reason why and know it clearly. If you want something then let me know, but do not you dare touch my mind."

  He was trembling with a deep and old rage. The chill dropped slowly and almost pathetically from him and seemed to move off into the room. He tried to follow it with his senses, but was instantly distracted by a sudden voice that seemed to come at him on the edge of his hearing, on a distant howl of wind.

  It was a hollow, terrified, bewildered voice, no more than an insubstantial whisper, but it was there, audible, on the telephone--answering machine tape.

  It said, "Susan! Susan, help me! Help me for God's sake. Susan, I'm dead--"

  Dirk whirled round and stopped the tape.

  "I'm sorry," he said under his breath, "but I have the welfare of my client to consider."

  He wound the tape back a very short distance, to just before where the voice began, twisted the Record Level knob to zero and pressed Record. He left the tape to run, wiping off the voice and anything that might follow it. If the tape was going to establish the time of Gordon Way's death, then Dirk didn't want any embarrassing examples of Gordon speaking to turn up on the tape after that point, even if it was only to confirm that he was, in fact, dead.

  There seemed to be a great eruption of emotion in the air near to him. A wave of something surged through the room, causing the furniture to flutter in its wake. Dirk watched where it seemed to go, towards a shelf near the door on which, he suddenly realised, stood Richard's own telephone-answering machine. The machine started to jiggle fitfully where it sat, but then sat still as Dirk approached it. Dirk reached out slowly and calmly and pushed the button which set the machine to Answer.

  The disturbance in the air then passed back through the room to Richard's long desk where two old-fashioned rotary-dial telephones nestled among the piles of paper and micro floppy disks. Dirk guessed what would happen, but elected to watch rather than to intervene.

  One of the telephone receivers toppled off its cradle. Dirk could hear the dialling tone. Then, slowly and with obvious difficulty, the dial began to turn. It moved unevenly round, further round, slower and slower, and then suddenly slipped back.

  There was a moment's pause. Then the receiver rests went down and up again to get a new dialling tone. The dial began to turn again, but creaking even more fitfully than the last time.

  Again it slipped back.

  There was a longer pause this time, and then the entire process was repeated once more.

  When the dial slipped back a third time there was a sudden explosion of fury--the whole phone leapt into the air and hurtled across the room. The receiver cord wrapped itself round an Anglepoise lamp on the way and brought it crashing down in a tangle of cables, coffee cups and floppy disks. A pile of books erupted off the desk and on to the floor.

  The figure of Sergeant Gilks stood stony-faced in the doorway.

  "I'm going to come in again," he said, "and when I do, I don't want to see anything of that kind going on whatsoever. Is that understood?" He turned and disappeared.

  Dirk leapt for the cassette player and hit the Rewind button. Then he turned and hissed at the empty air, "I don't know who you are, but I can guess. If you want my help, don't you ever embarrass me like that again!"

  A few moments later, Gilks walked in again. "Ah, there you are," he said.

  He surveyed the wreckage with an even gaze. "I'll pretend I can't see any of this, so that I won't have to ask any questions the answers to which would, I know, only irritate me."

  Dirk glowered.

  In the moment or two of silence that followed, a slight ticking whirr could be heard which caused the sergeant to look sharply at the cassette player.

  "What's that tape doing?"

  "Rewinding."

  "Give it to me."

  The tape reached the beginning and stopped as Dirk reached it. He took it out and handed it to Gilks.

  "Irritatingly, this seems to put your client completely in the clear," said the sergeant. "Cellnet have confirmed that the last call made from the car was at 8.46 pm last night, at which point your client was lightly dozing in front of several hundred witnesses. I say witnesses, in fact they were mostly students, but we will probably be forced to assume that they can't all be lying."

  "Good," said Dirk, "well, I'm glad that's all cleared up."

  "We never thought he had actually done it, of course. Simply didn't fit. But you know us--we like to get results. Tell him we still want to ask him some questions, though."

  "I shall be sure to mention it if I happen to run into him."

  "You just do that little thing."

  "Well, I shan't detain you any longer, Sergeant," said Dirk, airily waving at the door.

  "No, but I shall bloody detain you if you're not out of here in thirty seconds, Cjelli. I don't know what you're up to, but if I can possibly avoid finding out I shall sleep easier in my office. Out."

  "Then I shall bid you good day, Sergeant. I won't say it's been a pleasure because it hasn't."

  Dirk swept out of the room, and made his way out of the flat, noting with sorrow that where there had been a large chesterfield sofa wedged magnificently in the staircase, there was now just a small, sad pile of sawdust.

  With a jerk Michael Wenton-Weakes looked up from his book.

  His mind suddenly was alive with purpose. Thoughts, images, memories, intentions, all crowded in upo
n him, and the more they seemed to contradict each other the more they seemed to fit together, to pair and settle.

  The match at last was perfect, the teeth of one slowly aligned with the teeth of another.

  A pull and they were zipped.

  Though the waiting had seemed an eternity of eternities when it was filled with failure, with fading waves of weakness, with feeble groping and lonely impotence, the match once made cancelled it all. Would cancel it all. Would undo what had been so disastrously done.

  Who thought that? It did not matter, the match was made, the match was perfect.

  Michael gazed out of the window across the well-manicured Chelsea street and did not care whether what he saw were slimy things with legs or whether they were all Mr A. K. Ross. What mattered was what they had stolen and what they would be compelled to return. Ross now lay in the past. What he was now concerned with lay still further in it.

  His large soft cowlike eyes returned to the last few lines of "Kubla Khan", which he had just been reading. The match was made, the zip was pulled.

  He closed the book and put it in his pocket.

  His path back now was clear. He knew what he must do. It only remained to do a little shopping and then do it.

  CHAPTER

  22

  "You? Wanted for murder? Richard what are you talking about?"

  The telephone wavered in Richard's hand. He was holding it about half an inch away from his ear anyway because it seemed that somebody had dipped the earpiece in some chow mein recently, but that wasn't so bad. This was a public telephone so it was clearly an oversight that it was working at all. But Richard was beginning to feel as if the whole world had shifted about half an inch away from him, like someone in a deodorant commercial.

  "Gordon," said Richard, hesitantly, "Gordon's been murdered--hasn't he?"

  Susan paused before she answered.

  "Yes, Richard," she said in a distressed voice, "but no one thinks you did it. They want to question you of course, but--"

  "So there are no police with you now?"

  "No, Richard," insisted Susan, "Look, why don't you come here?"

  "And they're not out searching for me?"

  "No! Where on earth did you get the idea that you were wanted for--that they thought you had done it?"

  "Er--well, this friend of mine told me."

  "Who?"

  "Well, his name is Dirk Gently."

  "You've never mentioned him. Who is he? Did he say anything else?"

  "He hypnotised me and, er, made me jump in the canal, and, er, well, that was it really--"

  There was a terribly long pause at the other end.

  "Richard," said Susan at last with the sort of calmness that comes over people when they realise that however bad things may seem to be, there is absolutely no reason why they shouldn't simply get worse and worse, "come over here. I was going to say I need to see you, but I think you need to see me."

  "I should probably go to the police."

  "Go to the police later. Richard, please. A few hours won't make any difference. I... I can hardly even think. Richard, it's so awful. It would just help if you were here. Where are you?"

  "OK," said Richard, "I'll be with you in about twenty minutes."

  "Shall I leave the window open or would you like to try the door?" she said with a sniff.

  CHAPTER

  23

  "No, please," said Dirk, restraining Miss Pearce's hand from opening a letter from the Inland Revenue, "there are wilder skies than these."

  He had emerged from a spell of tense brooding in his darkened office and there was an air of excited concentration about him. It had taken his actual signature on an actual salary cheque to persuade Miss Pearce to forgive him for the latest unwarrantable extravagance with which he had returned to the office and he felt that just to sit there blatantly opening letters from the taxman was to take his magnanimous gesture in entirely the wrong spirit.

  She put the envelope aside.

  "Come!" he said. "I have something I wish you to see. I shall observe your reactions with the very greatest of interest."

  He bustled back into his own office and sat at his desk.

  She followed him in patiently and sat opposite, pointedly ignoring the new unwarrantable extravagance sitting on the desk.

  The flashy brass plaque for the door had stirred her up pretty badly but the silly phone with big red push buttons she regarded as being beneath contempt. And she certainly wasn't going to do anything rash like smile until she knew for certain that the cheque wouldn't bounce. The last time he signed a cheque for her he cancelled it before the end of the day, to prevent it, as he explained, "falling into the wrong hands". The wrong hands presumably, being those of her bank manager.

  He thrust a piece of paper across the desk.

  She picked it up and looked at it. Then she turned it round and looked at it again. She looked at the other side and then she put it down.

  "Well?" demanded Dirk. "What do you make of it? Tell me!"

  Miss Pearce sighed.

  "It's a lot of meaningless squiggles done in blue felt tip on a piece of typing paper," she said. "It looks like you did them yourself."

  "No!" barked Dirk, "Well, yes," he admitted, "but only because I believe that it is the answer to the problem!"

  "What problem?"

  "The problem," insisted Dirk, slapping the table, "of the conjuring trick! I told you!"

  "Yes, Mr Gently, several times. I think it was just a conjuring trick. You see them on the telly."

  "With this difference--that this one was completely impossible!"

  "Couldn't have been impossible or he wouldn't have done it. Stands to reason."

  "Exactly!" said Dirk excitedly. "Exactly! Miss Pearce, you are a lady of rare perception and insight."

  "Thank you, sir, can I go now?"

  "Wait! I haven't finished yet! Not by a long way, not by a bucketful! You have demonstrated to me the depth of your perception and insight, allow me to demonstrate mine!"

  Miss Pearce slumped patiently in her seat.

  "I think," said Dirk, "you will be impressed. Consider this. An intractable problem. In trying to find the solution to it I was going round and round in little circles in my mind, over and over the same maddening things. Clearly I wasn't going to be able to think of anything else until I had the answer, but equally clearly I would have to think of something else if I was ever going to get the answer. How to break this circle? Ask me how."

  "How?" said Miss Pearce obediently, but without enthusiasm.

  "By writing down what the answer is!" exclaimed Dirk. "And here it is!" He slapped the piece of paper triumphantly and sat back with a satisfied smile.

  Miss Pearce looked at it dumbly.

  "With the result," continued Dirk, "that I am now able to turn my mind to fresh and intriguing problems, like, for instance..."

  He took the piece of paper, covered with its aimless squiggles and doodlings, and held it up to her.

  "What language," he said in a low, dark voice, "is this written in?"

  Miss Pearce continued to look at it dumbly.

  Dirk flung the piece of paper down, put his feet up on the table, and threw his head back with his hands behind it.

  "You see what I have done?" he asked the ceiling, which seemed to flinch slightly at being yanked so suddenly into the conversation. "I have transformed the problem from an intractably difficult and possibly quite insoluble conundrum into a mere linguistic puzzle. Albeit," he muttered, after a long moment of silent pondering, "an intractably difficult and possibly insoluble one."

  He swung back to gaze intently at Janice Pearce.

  "Go on," he urged, "say that it's insane--but it might just work!"

  Janice Pearce cleared her throat.

  "It's insane," she said, "trust me."

  Dirk turned away and sagged sideways off his chair, much as the sitter for The Thinker probably did when Rodin went off to be excused.

  He su
ddenly looked profoundly tired and depressed.

  "I know," he said in a low, dispirited voice, "that there is something profoundly wrong somewhere. And I know that I must go to Cambridge to put it right. But I would feel less fearful if I knew what it was..."

  "Can I get on now, please, then?" said Miss Pearce.

  Dirk looked up at her glumly.

  "Yes," he said with a sigh, "but just--just tell me--" he flicked at the piece of paper with his fingertips--"what do you think of this, then?"

  "Well, I think it's childish," said Janice Pearce, frankly.

  "But--but--but!" said Dirk thumping the table in frustration. "Don't you understand that we need to be childish in order to understand? Only a child sees things with perfect clarity, because it hasn't developed all those filters which prevent us from seeing things that we don't expect to see?"

  "Then why don't you go and ask one?"

  "Thank you, Miss Pearce," said Dirk reaching for his hat, "once again you have rendered me an inestimable service for which I am profoundly grateful."

  He swept out.

  CHAPTER

  24

  The weather began to bleaken as Richard made his way to Susan's flat. The sky which had started out with such verve and spirit in the morning was beginning to lose its concentration and slip back into its normal English condition, that of a damp and rancid dish cloth. Richard took a taxi, which got him there in a few minutes.

  "They should all be deported," said the taxi driver as they drew to a halt.

  "Er, who should?" said Richard, who realised he hadn't been listening to a word the driver said.

  "Er--"said the driver, who suddenly realised he hadn't been listening either, "er, the whole lot of them. Get rid of the whole bloody lot, that's what I say. And their bloody newts," he added for good measure.

  "Expect you're right," said Richard, and hurried into the house.

  Arriving at the front door of her flat he could hear from within the sounds of Susan's cello playing a slow, stately melody. He was glad of that, that she was playing. She had an amazing emotional self sufficiency and control provided she could play her cello. He had noticed an odd and extraordinary thing about her relationship with the music she played. If ever she was feeling emotional or upset she could sit and play some music with utter concentration and emerge seeming fresh and calm.

  The next time she played the same music, however, it would all burst from her and she would go completely to pieces.

 
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