Dirk gentlys holistic de.., p.18
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       Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, p.18
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         Part #1 of Dirk Gently series by Douglas Adams
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  He let himself in as quietly as possible so as not to disturb her concentration.

  He tiptoed past the small room she practised in, but the door was open so he paused and looked at her, with the slightest of signals that she shouldn't stop. She was looking pale and drawn but gave him a flicker of a smile and continued bowing with a sudden intensity.

  With an impeccable timing of which it is very rarely capable the sun chose that moment to burst briefly through the gathering rainclouds, and as she played her cello a stormy light played on her and on the deep old brown of the wood of the instrument. Richard stood transfixed. The turmoil of the day stood still for a moment and kept a respectful distance.

  He didn't know the music, but it sounded like Mozart and he remembered her saying she had some Mozart to learn. He walked quietly on and sat down to wait and listen.

  Eventually she finished the piece, and there was about a minute of silence before she came through. She blinked and smiled and gave him a long, trembling hug, then released herself and put the phone back on the hook. It usually got taken off when she was practising.

  "Sorry," she said, "I didn't want to stop." She briskly brushed away a tear as if it was a slight irritation. "How are you Richard?"

  He shrugged and gave her a bewildered look. That seemed about to cover it.

  "And I'm going to have to carry on, I'm afraid," said Susan with a sigh "I'm sorry. I've just been..." She shook her head. "Who would do it?"

  "I don't know. Some madman. I'm not sure that it matters who."

  "No," she said. "Look, er, have you had any lunch?"

  "No. Susan, you keep playing and I'll see what's in the fridge. We can talk about it all over some lunch."

  Susan nodded.

  "All right," she said, "except..."

  "Yes?"

  "Well, just for the moment I don't really want to talk about Gordon. Just till it sinks in. I feel sort of caught out. It would be easier if I'd been closer to him, but I wasn't... and I'm sort of embarrassed by not having a reaction ready. Talking about it would be all right except that you have to use the past tense and that's what's..."

  She clung to him for a moment and then quieted herself with a sigh.

  "There's not much in the fridge at the moment," she said, "some yoghurt, I think, and a jar of roll-mop herrings you could open. I'm sure you'll be able to muck it up if you try, but it's actually quite straightforward. The main trick is not to throw them all over the floor or get jam on them."

  She gave him a hug, a kiss and a glum smile and then retreated back to her music room.

  The phone rang and Richard answered it.

  "Hello?" he said. There was nothing, just a faint sort of windy noise on the line.

  "Hello?" he said again, waited, shrugged and put the phone back down.

  "Was there anybody there?" called Susan.

  "No, no one," said Richard.

  "That's happened a couple of times," said Susan. "I think it's a sort of minimalist heavy breather." She resumed playing.

  Richard went into the kitchen and opened the fridge. He was less of a health-conscious eater than Susan and was therefore less than thrilled by what he found there, but he managed to put some roll-mop herrings, some yoghurt, some rice and some oranges on a tray without difficulty and tried not to think that a couple of fat hamburgers and fries would round it off nicely.

  He found a bottle of white wine and carried it all through to the small dining table.

  After a minute or two Susan joined him there. She was at her most calm and composed, and after a few mouthsful she asked him about the canal.

  Richard shook his head in bemusement and tried to explain about it, and about Dirk.

  "What did you say his name was?" said Susan with a frown when he had come, rather lamely, to a conclusion.

  "It's, er, Dirk Gently," said Richard, "in a way."

  "In a way?"

  "Er, yes," said Richard with a difficult sigh. He reflected that just about anything you could say about Dirk was subject to these kind of vague and shifty qualifications. There was even, on his letter heading, a string of vague and shifty-looking qualifications after his name. He pulled out the piece of paper on which he had vainly been trying to organise his thoughts earlier in the day.

  "I..." he started, but the doorbell rang. They looked at each other.

  "If it's the police," said Richard, "I'd better see them. Let's get it over with."

  Susan pushed back her chair, went to the front door and picked up the Entryphone.

  "Hello?" she said.

  "Who?" she said after a moment. She frowned as she listened then swung round and frowned at Richard.

  "You'd better come up," she said in a less than friendly tone of voice and then pressed the button. She came back and sat down.

  "Your friend," she said evenly, "Mr Gently."

  The Electric Monk's day was going tremendously well and he broke into an excited gallop. That is to say that, excitedly, he spurred his horse to a gallop and, unexcitedly, his horse broke into it.

  This world, the Monk thought, was a good one. He loved it. He didn't know whose it was or where it had come from, but it was certainly a deeply fulfilling place for someone with his unique and extraordinary gifts.

  He was appreciated. All day he had gone up to people, fallen into conversation with them, listened to their troubles, and then quietly uttered those three magic words, "I believe you."

  The effect had invariably been electrifying. It wasn't that people on this world didn't occasionally say it to each other, but they rarely, it seemed, managed to achieve that deep timbre of sincerity which the Monk had been so superbly programmed to reproduce.

  On his own world, after all, he was taken for granted. People would just expect him to get on and believe things for them without bothering them. Someone would come to the door with some great new idea or proposal or even a new religion, and the answer would be "Oh, go and tell that to the Monk." And the Monk would sit and listen and patiently believe it all, but no one would take any further interest.

  Only one problem seemed to arise on this otherwise excellent world. Often, after he had uttered the magic words, the subject would rapidly change to that of money, and the Monk of course didn't have any--a shortcoming that had quickly blighted a number of otherwise very promising encounters.

  Perhaps he should acquire some--but where?

  He reined his horse in for a moment, and the horse jerked gratefully to a halt and started in on the grass on the roadside verge. The horse had no idea what all this galloping up and down was in aid of, and didn't care. All it did care about was that it was being made to gallop up and down past a seemingly perpetual roadside buffet. It made the best of its moment while it had it.

  The Monk peered keenly up and down the road. It seemed vaguely familiar. He trotted a little further up it for another look. The horse resumed its meal a few yards further along.

  Yes. The Monk had been here last night.

  He remembered it clearly, well, sort of clearly. He believed that he remembered it clearly, and that, after all, was the main thing. Here was where he had walked to in a more than usually confused state of mind, and just around the very next corner, if he was not very much mistaken, again, lay the small roadside establishment at which he had jumped into the back of that nice man's car--the nice man who had subsequently reacted so oddly to being shot at.

  Perhaps they would have some money there and would let him have it. He wondered. Well, he would find out. He yanked the horse from its feast once again and galloped towards it.

  As he approached the petrol station he noticed a car parked there at an arrogant angle. The angle made it quite clear that the car was not there for anything so mundane as to have petrol put into it, and was much too important to park itself neatly out of the way. Any other car that arrived for petrol would just have to manoeuvre around it as best it could. The car was white with stripes and badges and important looking lights.

  Arri
ving at the forecourt the Monk dismounted and tethered his horse to a pump. He walked towards the small shop building and saw that inside it there was a man with his back to him wearing a dark blue uniform and a peaked cap. The man was dancing up and down and twisting his fingers in his ears, and this was clearly making a deep impression on the man behind the till.

  The Monk watched in transfixed awe. The man, he believed with an instant effortlessness which would have impressed even a Scientologist, must be a God of some kind to arouse such fervour. He waited with bated breath to worship him. In a moment the man turned around and walked out of the shop, saw the Monk and stopped dead.

  The Monk realised that the God must be waiting for him to make an act of worship, so he reverently danced up and down twisting his fingers in his ears.

  His God stared at him for a moment, caught hold of him, twisted him round, slammed him forward spreadeagled over the car and frisked him for weapons.

  Dirk burst into the flat like a small podgy tornado.

  "Miss Way," he said, grasping her slightly unwilling hand and doffing his absurd hat, "it is the most inexpressible pleasure to meet you, but also the matter of the deepest regret that the occasion of our meeting should be one of such great sorrow and one which bids me extend to you my most profound sympathy and commiseration. I ask you to believe me that I would not intrude upon your private grief for all the world if it were not on a matter of the gravest moment and magnitude. Richard--I have solved the problem of the conjuring trick and it's extraordinary."

  He swept through the room and deposited himself on a spare chair at the small dining table, on which he put his hat.

  "You will have to excuse us, Dirk--" said Richard, coldly.

  "No, I am afraid you will have to excuse me," returned Dirk. "The puzzle is solved, and the solution is so astounding that it took a seven-year-old child on the street to give it to me. But it is undoubtedly the correct one, absolutely undoubtedly. "What, then, is the solution?" you ask me, or rather would ask me if you could get a word in edgeways, which you can't, so I will save you the bother and ask the question for you, and answer it as well by saying that I will not tell you, because you won't believe me. I shall instead show you, this very afternoon.

  "Rest assured, however, that it explains everything. It explains the trick. It explains the note you found--that should have made it perfectly clear to me but I was a fool. And it explains what the missing third question was, or rather--and this is the significant point--it explains what the missing first question was!"

  "What missing question?" exclaimed Richard, confused by the sudden pause, and leaping in with the first phrase he could grab.

  Dirk blinked as if at an idiot. "The missing question that George III asked, of course," he said.

  "Asked who?"

  "Well, the Professor," said Dirk impatiently. "Don't you listen to anything you say? The whole thing was obvious!" he exclaimed, thumping the table, "So obvious that the only thing which prevented me from seeing the solution was the trifling fact that it was completely impossible. Sherlock Holmes observed that once you have eliminated the impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible. Now. Let us go."

  "No."

  "What?" Dirk glanced up at Susan, from whom this unexpected--or at least, unexpected to him--opposition had come.

  "Mr Gently," said Susan in a voice you could notch a stick with, "why did you deliberately mislead Richard into thinking that he was wanted by the police?"

  Dirk frowned.

  "But he was wanted by the police," he said, "and still is."

  "Yes, but just to answer questions! Not because he's a suspected murderer."

  Dirk looked down.

  "Miss Way," he said, "the police are interested in knowing who murdered your brother. I, with the very greatest respect, am not. It may, I concede, turn out to have a bearing on the case, but it may just as likely turn out to be a casual madman. I wanted to know, still need desperately to know, why Richard climbed into this flat last night."

  "I told you..." protested Richard.

  "What you told me is immaterial--it only reveals the crucial fact that you do not know the reason yourself! For heaven's sake I thought I had demonstrated that to you clearly enough at the canal!"

  Richard simmered.

  "It was perfectly clear to me watching you," pursued Dirk, "that you had very little idea what you were doing, and had absolutely no concern about the physical danger you were in. At first I thought, watching, that it was just a brainless thug out on his first and quite possibly last burgle. But then the figure looked back and I realised it was you--and I know you to be an intelligent, rational, and moderate man. Richard MacDuff? Risking his neck carelessly climbing up drainpipes at night? It seemed to me that you would only behave in such a reckless and extreme way if you were desperately worried about something of terrible importance. Is that not true, Miss Way?"

  He looked sharply up at Susan, who slowly sat down, looking at him with an alarm in her eyes which said that he had struck home.

  "And yet, when you came to see me this morning you seemed perfectly calm and collected. You argued with me perfectly rationally when I talked a lot of nonsense about Schrodinger's Cat. This was not the behaviour of someone who had the previous night been driven to extremes by some desperate purpose. I confess that it was at that moment that I stooped to, well, exaggerating your predicament, simply in order to keep hold of you."

  "You didn't. I left."

  "With certain ideas in your head. I knew you would be back. I apologise most humbly for having misled you, er, somewhat, but I knew that what I had to find out lay far beyond what the police would concern themselves with. And it was this--if you were not quite yourself when you climbed the wall last night...then who were you,--and why?"

  Richard shivered. A silence lengthened.

  "What has it got to do with conjuring tricks?" he said at last.

  "That is what we must go to Cambridge to find out."

  "But what makes you so sure--?"

  "It disturbs me," said Dirk, and a dark and heavy look came into his face.

  For one so garrulous he seemed suddenly oddly reluctant to speak.

  He continued, "It disturbs me very greatly when I find that I know things and do not know why I know them. Maybe it is the same instinctive processing of data that allows you to catch a ball almost before you've seen it. Maybe it is the deeper and less explicable instinct that tells you when someone is watching you. It is a very great offence to my intellect that the very things that I despise other people for being credulous of actually occur to me. You will remember the... unhappiness surrounding certain exam questions."

  He seemed suddenly distressed and haggard. He had to dig deep inside himself to continue speaking.

  He said, "The ability to put two and two together and come up instantly with four is one thing. The ability to put the square root of five hundred and thirty-nine point seven together with the cosine of twenty-six point four three two and come up with... with whatever the answer to that is, is quite another. And I... well, let me give you an example."

  He leant forward intently. "Last night I saw you climbing into this flat. I knew that something was wrong. Today I got you to tell me every last detail you knew about what happened last night, and already, as a result, using my intellect alone, I have uncovered possibly the greatest secret lying hidden on this planet. I swear to you that this is true and that I can prove it. Now you must believe me when I tell you that I know, I know that there is something terribly, desperately, appallingly wrong and that we must find it. Will you go with me now, to Cambridge?"

  Richard nodded dumbly.

  "Good," said Dirk. "What is this?" he added, pointing at Richard's plate.

  "A pickled herring. Do you want one?"

  "Thank you, no," said Dirk, rising and buckling his coat. "There is," he added as he headed towards the door, steering Richard with hi
m, "no such word as "herring" in my dictionary. Good afternoon, Miss Way, wish us God speed."

  CHAPTER

  25

  There was a rumble of thunder, and the onset of that interminable tight drizzle from the north-east by which so many of the world's most momentous events seem to be accompanied.

  Dirk turned up the collar of his leather overcoat against the weather, but nothing could dampen his demonic exuberance as he and Richard approached the great twelfth-century gates.

  "St Cedd's College, Cambridge," he exclaimed, looking at them for the first time in eight years. "Founded in the year something or other, by someone I forget in honour of someone whose name for the moment escapes me."

  "St Cedd?" suggested Richard.

  "Do you know, I think it very probably was? One of the duller Northumbrian saints. His brother Chad was even duller. Has a cathedral in Birmingham if that gives you some idea. Ah, Bill, how good to see you again," he added, accosting the porter who was just walking into the college as well. The porter looked round.

  "Mr Cjelli, nice to see you back, sir. Sorry you had a spot of bother, hope that's all behind you now."

  "Indeed, Bill, it is. You find me thriving. And Mrs Roberts? How is she? Foot still troubling her?"

  "Not since she had it off, thanks for asking, sir. Between you and me, sir, I would've been just as happy to have had her amputated and kept the foot. I had a little spot reserved on the mantelpiece, but there we are, we have to take things as we find them.

  "Mr MacDuff, sir," he added, nodding curtly at Richard. "Oh that horse you mentioned, sir, when you were here last night, I'm afraid we had to have it removed. It was bothering Professor Chronotis."

  "I was only curious, er, Bill," said Richard. "I hope it didn't disturb you."

  "Nothing ever disturbs me, sir, so long as it isn't wearing a dress. Can't abide it when the young fellers wear dresses, sir."

  "If the horse bothers you again, Bill," interrupted Dirk, patting him on the shoulder, "send it up to me and I shall speak with it. Now, you mention the good Professor Chronotis. Is he in at the moment? We've come on an errand."

  "Far as I know, sir. Can't check for you because his phone's out of order. Suggest you go and look yourself. Far left corner of Second Court."

 
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