|Posted by Vladimir Mortsgna on September 5, 2016 at 9:25 PM|
....And the conclusion of the excerpt from Space Cadet - if you'd like to read more, look for Vladimir Mortsgna's Herschel's Adventures in SpaceLand on barnesandnoble.com!
Nozzia scurried back to the sewing machine shop trap door without waiting around for witnesses. He lowered himself a little hastily and his right foot broke through the box he had on the top of the tower, like the undertaker in the H P Lovecraft story. That box slid off its perch and crashed to the landing, while he scrambled to get a safe planting on the next box down and he ended up surfing down the tower of crates to reach the landing simultaneous with one of the crates, which landed on his foot, with emphasis on the unseen machine inside. He heard a soft rattle above him as some sort of small box shattered from its trauma and a moment later thread spools of different primary colors began to rain gracefully on his head.
Half an hour later he was back in the first Portuguese bakery, having some coffee and an iced crumb bun. Fifteen minutes more, he was in front of the receptionist at the District Office, introducing himself as Emil Wilder, and asking to speak to the Congressman about the upcoming Sewing Machine legislation (that last was an ad-lib). The receptionist, a pretty redhead, made some calls and established that Mr Clarke would be able to see him in half an hour, Mr Clarke being a highly placed associate. Hammer cooled his heels for twenty minutes waiting for this Mr Clarke until such time as the receptionist was called away. He opened the front door and closed it again to create the impression he had left in disgust, then let himself into the area behind her and took a look around.
The simple expedient of avoiding voices led Nozzia a goodly ways into the guts of the office – he found an internal office directory that led him to the Congressman’s specific room. He walked by casually and saw another redhead at a desk, even prettier than the receptionist, and beyond her a closed mahogany door. Nozzia continued past and tried the handles of the next few doors. They were all locked.
He gauged which one was closest to the room behind the secretary, and blessed for once with some solitude, he picked his way in and then closed the door behind. His flashlight found a blond and apparently unused desk and a nest of Haworth panels, leaning against each other against one wall of the space like scenery flats.
There was a door in the direction of the room behind the attractive secretary, and this door was open a crack. Suddenly, there was a voice from this direction. “Ten minutes, Mr Markham,” boomed the voice, and as Hammer ducked back into the Haworth panels, a burly crew-cutted form bustled through the open door and through the door Hammer had forced. The man had not turned on a light during his brief passage, but Hammer could see well enough to recognize Wainscot Throop, Congressman Hubsch’s Chief of Security. The client had referred to Throop as a veteran of Afghanistan, but not a soldier.
Throop closed the door with a slam and without curiosity about the status of its lock. This left the slice between the other door and the jamb as the only light till Hammer’s eyes adjusted. From that direction, he could hear the murmuring of two voices, but not what was being said. He slid toward the door and listened harder. One of the voices was particularly strident and terse, while the other was pleading and needy.
“I’ve told you already the process is going as fast as it possibly can,” said the mean voice. “Any faster and the role of you and your clients will be obvious. And even if it wasn’t obvious it would scare away the votes I’ve managed to put together.”
“I know, Congressman,” whined the other voice, “but soon it will be too late. The FDA will finish reviewing the alternative use request for Ewing Pharmaceuticals within a month. Our window for putting out our own product goes that far and the week it will take Ewing to gear up when they get the news.”
“The country where your shit is manufactured is still extremely unpopular in DC. I have Wilcockx and Mayaguez, but Herndon is hanging by a thread.”
“I know how Washington feels. But once Ewing comes out with theirs, there will be a Buy American issue on top of all that.”
While he continued to listen, Hammer retrieved his pistol and checked the silencer.
He jumped as a fist pounded a table. “I can’t move any faster!”
“Well, Congressman,” wheedled the quieter voice. “I know these negotiations with your colleagues are consuming a lot of your time and resources. Maybe the stipend I’ve been providing needs to be reviewed? Maybe some of your colleagues who are on the fence could share in the subsidies, to help cover their costs?”
“Get out!” bellowed the harsh voice. “Before I call Mr Throop!”
Hammer listened intently because it seemed like his opportunity was nigh. But nothing was happening – no door opened nor response from the quieter voice. In a moment there were pacing footsteps and the sound of muttering but the conversation did not resume in any obvious way. Nozzia started to think that the argument he had heard might give him the element of surprise if he moved rapidly, but he would still be seen. He immediately ruled out shooting both men because he knew the client would never pay extra.
The itchy silence lingered on for five more minutes, and then he heard the jangle of a phone being picked up. “Shannon, hold my calls,” came the harsh voice. Hammer did not hope for or wait for another chance – he threw the communicating door open and aimed his pistol at the man he saw in the room.
“Congressman, thanks for seeing-“ the man started as Hammer fired instinctively. The voice came from a bulky balding fellow in a lily-pad colored three-piece suit with four or five twists of hair crossing his scalp. Hammer saw all of this in the half-second he fired his gun, and he also saw in that half-second that the Congressman was not in the room, nor was any other person in the room. This surprise threw him off a bit. In the quarter second that came next he realized that the green-suited man had been rehearsing and that Hubsch had never been in the room. He also saw the green-suited man clutch his ass, and then he was aware, sound traveling slower than light, that he had heard a ping as his bullet ricocheted off part of a desk in the office.
The green-suit guy started to look over at the open door and in that instant Nozzia was back through the Haworth panel room and running back into the hall, just as he heard shouts from Hubsch’s office. As he reached the fire stairs he heard shouts there as well, coming from the ground floor. He also noticed a hatch with a deadbolt at the top of the stairwell.
There was no ladder in sight, but Hammer was able to reach the bolt by standing on the railing. The deadbolt was rectangular like a box of fireplace matches – no wonder he couldn’t budge the hatch from the roof. He cut the meat of his fist knocking the rusty bolt out of its slot, and hung on as the hatch fell inward with nothing else supporting it. After he had clambered onto the roof, he pulled the hatch back up and rested the bolt on the lip of the opening – he guessed his pursuers might fail to notice the opened hatch for a good thirty seconds.
Hammer clambered in the direction of the repair shop and fell through the hatch. The steel square, which had been moved more in the last two hours than in ten previous years, gave up the ghost and fell off its hinges, falling on Nozzia’s back just as he fell into a quicksand of parts boxes. The hatch slid quickly downward, just in front of Nozzia for the first flight, though his progress was slowed as his foot became imbedded in some wooden slats and he got turned around, slipping headfirst down to the second landing. He tried to kick the crate away at the second landing, but his agitation dislodged some critical piece of the Jenga tower of sewing machines and a sewing machine tsunami bore him downward to the first landing and beyond.
He ended up two-thirds of the way down the last flight of stairs and took a rusty slash in his right forearm which was better than taking it in the head. The side of the crate was still around his ankle but the rest of the crate was gone – he pried the last panel away from his foot and walked on top of sewing machine corpses to reach the outside door, which had sustained a crack in the pebbled glass. A litter of sewing machine junk was a foot deep inside the door and after Hammer got the door open, he could not close it again and could not waste the time to try again. Instead, he fled pell-mell toward the Walgreen’s.
Hammer drove for an hour with no evidence of vehicular pursuit. His own navigation took him eventually to a pleasant bucolic spot far away from the Parkway, where a small dry meadow stood against a small weir where water tumbled over a ledge composed on rocks that had been collected into rectangular cages. In the summer, wild blueberries would choke the water but in March it flowed without complication. A few Canada geese patrolled the meadow and were unafraid of Hammer’s presence – these were Jersey Canada geese and stayed there all year long. But Hammer wasn’t there to see the flowers or the fowl or the waterfall – he threw his gun into the water collecting at the bottom of the fall and left the meadow.
Categories: Herschel's Adventures in SpaceLand