Little Fuzzy – Day 52 of 77

“Oh, Mr. Holloway!” somebody shouted as he entered. “Have you found them yet?”

“No; we’ve been all over Science Center from top to bottom. We know they went down a few floors from where they’d been caged, but that’s all. I don’t think they could have gotten outside; the only exit on the ground level’s through a vestibule where a Company policeman was on duty, and there’s no way for them to have climbed down from any of the terraces or landing stages.”

“Well, Mr. Holloway, I hate to suggest this,” somebody else said, “but have you eliminated the possibility that they may have hidden in a trash bin and been dumped into the mass-energy converter?”

“We thought of that. The converter’s underground, in a vault that can be entered only by one door, and that was locked. No trash was disposed of between the time they were brought there and the time the search started, and everything that’s been sent to the converter since has been checked piece by piece.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear that, Mr. Holloway, and I know that everybody hearing this will be glad, too. I take it you’ve not given up looking for them?”

“Are we on the air now? No, I have not; I’m staying here in Mallorysport until I either find them or am convinced that they aren’t in the city. And I am offering a reward of two thousand sols apiece for their return to me. If you’ll wait a moment, I’ll have descriptions ready for you….”


Victor Grego unstoppered the refrigerated cocktail jug. “More?” he asked Leslie Coombes.

“Yes, thank you.” Coombes held his glass until it was filled. “As you say, Victor, you made the decision, but you made it on my advice, and the advice was bad.”

He couldn’t disagree, even politely, with that. He hoped it hadn’t been ruinously bad. One thing, Leslie wasn’t trying to pass the buck, and considering how Ham O’Brien had mishandled his end of it, he could have done so quite plausibly.

“I used bad judgment,” Coombes said dispassionately, as though discussing some mistake Hitler had made, or Napoleon. “I thought O’Brien wouldn’t try to use one of those presigned writs, and I didn’t think Pendarvis would admit, publicly, that he signed court orders in blank. He’s been severely criticized by the press about that.”

He hadn’t thought Brannhard and Holloway would try to fight a court order either. That was one of the consequences of being too long in a seemingly irresistible position; you didn’t expect resistance. Kellogg hadn’t expected Jack Holloway to order him off his land grant. Kurt Borch had thought all he needed to do with a gun was pull it and wave it around. And Jimenez had expected the Fuzzies to just sit in their cages.

“I wonder where they got to,” Coombes was saying. “I understand they couldn’t be found at all in the building.”

“Ruth Ortheris has an idea. She got away from Science Center before Fane could get hold of her and veridicate her. It seems she and an assistant took some apparatus out, about ten o’clock, in a truck. She thinks the Fuzzies hitched a ride with her. I know that sounds rather improbable, but hell, everything else sounds impossible. I’ll have it followed up. Maybe we can find them before Holloway does. They’re not inside Science Center, that’s sure.” His own glass was empty; he debated a refill and voted against it. “O’Brien’s definitely out, I take it?”

“Completely. Pendarvis gave him his choice of resigning or facing malfeasance charges.”

“They couldn’t really convict him of malfeasance for that, could they? Misfeasance, maybe, but—”

“They could charge him. And then they could interrogate him under veridication about his whole conduct in office, and you know what they would bring out,” Coombes said. “He almost broke an arm signing his resignation. He’s still Attorney General of the Colony, of course; Nick issued a statement supporting him. That hasn’t done Nick as much harm as O’Brien could do spilling what he knows about Residency affairs.

“Now Brannhard is talking about bringing suit against the Company, and he’s furnishing copies of all the Fuzzy films Holloway has to the news services. Interworld News is going hog-wild with it, and even the services we control can’t play it down too much. I don’t know who’s going to be prosecuting these cases; but whoever it is, he won’t dare pull any punches. And the whole thing’s made Pendarvis hostile to us. I know, the law and the evidence and nothing but the law and the evidence, but the evidence is going to filter into his conscious mind through this hostility. He’s called a conference with Brannhard and myself for tomorrow afternoon; I don’t know what that’s going to be like.”

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