The book ... businessman dealt the cards. The reporter picked his up and arranged them in his hand, he discarded one; the businessman ignored it and drew from the deck, he discarded; the reporter picked the discard and threw away a card from his hand; the businessman drew from the deck and discarded the same card he'd drawn; the reporter picked it up, tapped it slowly in place with his elbow, placed his discard face down, and spread his hand.
"Gin," he said.
"Arrrgh," said the businessman. "Damn it, you play good. You play real good."
A light on the deAngelis flashed red and showed a reading of 65.4 on the dial.
"Can't beat skill," said the reporter. "Count!"
"Fifty-six," said the businessman. "That's counting gin," he added.
"Game," the reporter announced. "I'll figure the damage."
"You play good," said the businessman in disgust.
"You only say that 'cause it's true," the reporter said. "But it's sweet of you all the same."
"Shut up!" said the businessman.
The reporter looked up, concerned. "You stuck?" he asked solicitously. He seemed sincere.
"Certainly I'm stuck," the businessman snarled.
"Then stay stuck," said the reporter in a kindly tone. He patted the businessman on the cheek.
The same light on the deAngelis flashed red. This time the dial registered eighty-two. The operator chuckled and looked over at the gamblers, where the reporter was still adding up the score.
"How much you down, Bernie?" he asked the businessman.
"Four dollars and ninety-six cents," the reporter answered.
"You play good," Bernie said again.
The deAngelis went back to normal, and the operator went back to his magazine. The bulb at the end of the second row turned from a light pink to a soft rose, the needle on its dial finally flickered on to the scale. There were other lights on the board, but none called for action. It was still just a quiet night in the middle of the week.
The room was filthy. It had a natural filth that clings to a cheap room, and a man-made, careless filth that would disfigure a Taj Mahal. It wasn't so much that things were dirty, it was more that nothing was clean. Pittsburgh was no longer a smokey city. That problem had been solved long before the mills had stopped belching smoke. Now, with atomics and filters on every stack in every home, the city was clean. Clean as the works of man could make it, yet still filthy as only the minds of man could achieve. The city might be clean but there were people who were not, and the room was not. Overhead the ceiling light still burned, casting its harsh glare on the trashy room, and the trashy, huddled figure on the bed.
He was an old man, lying on the bed fully clothed, even to his shoes. He twisted fretfully in his sleep; the body tried to rise, anticipating nature even when the mind could not. The man gagged several times and finally made it up to a sitting position before the vomit came. He was still asleep, but his reaction was automatic; he grabbed the bottom of his sweater and pulled it out before him to form a bucket of sorts. When he finished being sick he sat still, swaying gently back and forth, and tried to open his eyes. He could not make it. Still asleep, he ducked out of the fouled sweater, made an ineffectual dab at his mouth, wadded the sweater in a ball, and threw it over in front of the bathroom door.
He fell back on the bed, exhausted, and went on with his fitful sleep.
At 4:15 in the morning a man walked into the station house. His name was Henry Tilton. He was a reporter for the Evening Press. He waved a greeting to the desk sergeant and went over to kibitz the card game.
Both players looked up, startled. The reporter playing cards said, "Hello, Henry." He looked at his watch. "Whoosh! I didn't realize it was that late." He turned to the businessman. "Hurry up, finish the hand. Got to get my beauty sleep."
"Whaddaya mean, hurry up," said Bernie, "you're into me for fifteen bucks."
"Get it back from Hank here," the reporter said. He nodded at the newcomer, "Want this hand? You're fourteen points down. Lover boy's got sixty-eight on game, but you're a box up."
"Sure," said Tilton. He took the cards.
The morning news reporters left. The businessman dealt a new hand. Tilton waited four rounds, then knocked with ten.
Bernie slammed down his cards. "You lousy reporters are all alike! I'm going home." He got up to put on his coat. "I'll be back about ten, you still be here?"
"Sure," said Tilton, "... with the score." He folded the paper and put it in his pocket.
The businessman walked out and Tilton went over to the deAngelis board. "Anything?" he asked.
"Nah," said King. He pointed to the lights, "Just lovers' quarrels tonight; all pale pink and peaceful."
Tilton smiled and ambled back to the cell block. The operator put his feet up on his desk, then frowned and put them down again. He leaned toward the board and studied the light at the end of the second row. The needle registered sixty-six. The operator pursed his lips, then flicked a switch that opened the photo file. Every five minutes an automatic camera photographed the deAngelis board, developed the film, and filed the picture away in its storage vault.
King studied the photographs for quite awhile, then pulled his log book over and made an entry. He wrote: 8:20:19:3142:1x. The last three digits meant that he wasn't sure about the intensity, and the "x" signified a continuous reading.
King turned to the audio controller, "Do me a favor, Gus, but strictly unofficial. Contact everybody around us: Oakland, Squirrel Hill, Point Breeze, Lawrenceville, Bloomfield ... everybody in this end of town. Find out if they've got one low intensity reading that's been on for hours. If they haven't had it since before midnight, I'm not interested."
"Something up?" the controller asked.
"Probably not," said the operator. "I'd just like to pin this one down as close as I can. On a night like this my screen shows nothing but milk."
"Give you a lift home?" the older reporter asked.
"Thanks," said the cub shaking his head, "but I live out by the Youghiogheny River."
"So?" the older man shrugged. "Half hour flight. Hop in."
"I don't understand," the cub said.
"What? Me offering you a lift."
"No," said the cub. "Back there in the station house. You know."
"You mean the deAngelis?"
"Not that exactly," said the cub. "I understand a deAngelis board; everybody broadcasts emotions, and if they're strong enough they can be received and interpreted. It's the cops I don't understand. I thought any reading over eighty was dangerous and had to be looked into, and anything over ninety was plain murder and had to be picked up. Here they been ignoring eighties and nineties all night long."
"You remember that children's story you wrote last Christmas about an Irish imp named Sean O'Claus?" his companion asked him.
"Certainly," the cub said scowling. "I'll sell it some day."
"You remember the Fashion Editor killed it because she thought 'See-Ann' was a girl's name, and it might be sacrilegious."
"You're right I remember," the cub said, his voice rising.
"Like to bet you didn't register over ninety that day? As a matter of fact, I'll head for the nearest precinct and bet you five you're over eighty right now." He laughed aloud and the young man calmed down. "I had that same idea myself at first. About ninety being against the law. That's one of the main troubles, the law. Every damn state in the dominion has its own ideas on what's dangerous. The laws are all fouled up. But what most of them boil down to is this--a man has to have a continuous reading of over ninety before he can be arrested. Not arrested really, detained. Just a reading on the board doesn't prove a thing. Some people walk around boiling at ninety all their lives--like editors. But the sweet old lady down the block, who's never sworn in her life, she may hit sixty-five and reach for a knife. And that doesn't prove a thing. Ninety sometimes means murder, but usually not; up to a hundred and ten usually means murder, but sometimes not; and anything over one-twenty always means murder. And it still doesn't prove a thing. And then again, a psychotic or a professional gunsel may not register at all. They kill for fun, or for business--they're not angry at anybody."
"It's all up to the deAngelis operators. They're the kingpins, they make the system work. Not Simon deAngelis who invented it, or the technicians who install it, or the Police Commissioner who takes the results to City Hall. The operators make it or break it. Sure, they have rules to follow--if they want. But a good operator ignores the rules, and a bad operator goes by the book, and he's still no damn good. It's just like radar was sixty, seventy years ago. Some got the knack, some don't."
"Then the deAngelis doesn't do the job," said the cub.
"Certainly it does," the older man said. "Nothing's perfect. It gives the police the jump on a lot of crime. Premeditated murder for one. The average citizen can't kill anyone unless he's mad enough, and if he's mad enough, he registers on the deAngelis. And ordinary robbers get caught; their plans don't go just right, or they fight among themselves. Or, if they just don't like society--a good deAngelis operator can tell quite a bit if he gets a reading at the wrong time of day or night, or in the wrong part of town."
"But what about the sweet old lady who registers sixty-five and then goes berserk?"
"That's where your operator really comes in. Usually that kind of a reading comes too late. Grandma's swinging the knife at the same time the light goes on in the station house. But if she waits to swing, or builds herself up to it, then she may be stopped.
"You know those poor operators are supposed to log any reading over sixty, and report downtown with anything over eighty. Sure they are! If they logged everything over sixty they'd have writer's cramp the first hour they were on watch. And believe me, Sonny, any operator who reported downtown on every reading over eighty would be back pounding a beat before the end of his first day. They just do the best they can, and you'd be surprised at how good that can be."
The old man woke up, but kept his eyes closed. He was afraid. It was too quiet, and the room was clammy with an early morning chill. He opened his eyelids a crack and looked at the window. Still dark outside. He lay there trembling and brought his elbows in tight to his body. He was going to have the shakes; he knew he'd have the shakes and it was still too early. Too early. He looked at the clock. It was only a quarter after five. Too early for the bars to be open. He covered his eyes with his hands and tried to think.
It was no use; he couldn't think. He sobbed. He was afraid to move. He knew he had to have a drink, and he knew if he got up he'd be sick. "Oh Lord!" he breathed.
The trembling became worse. He tried to press it away by hugging his body with his arms. It didn't help. He looked wildly around and tried to concentrate. He thought about the bureau ... no. The dresser ... no. His clothes ... he felt feverishly about his body ... no. Under the bed ... no ... wait ... maybe. He'd brought some beer home. Now he remembered. Maybe there was some left.
He rolled over on his stomach and groped under the bed. His tremulous fingers found the paper bag and he dragged it out. It was full of empty cans; the carton inside was ripped. He tore the sack open ... empty cans ... no! there was a full one ... two full ones-- He staggered to his feet and looked for an opener. There was one on the bureau. He stumbled over and opened his first beautiful, lovely can of beer. He put his mouth down close to the top so that none of the foam could escape him. He'd be all right 'til seven, now. The bars opened at seven. He'd be all right 'til seven.
He did not notice the knife lying beside the opener. He did not own a knife and had no recollection of buying one.
It was a hunting knife and he was not a hunter.
The light at the end of the second row was growing gradually brighter. The needle traveled slowly across the dial, 68.2, 68.4, 68.6....
King called over to the audio controller. "They all report in yet?"
The controller nodded. "Squirrel Hill's got your signal on, same reading as you have. Bloomfield thinks they may have it. Oakland's not too sure. Everybody else is negative." The controller walked over. "Which one is it?"
King pointed to the end of the second row.
"Can't you get it on your screen?"
"Hell, yes, I've got him on my screen!" King swiveled in his chair and turned on the set. The scope was covered with pale dots. "Which one is he? There?" He pointed to the left. "That's a guy who didn't get the raise he wanted. There?" He pointed to the center. "That's a little girl with bad dreams. She has them every night. There? That's my brother! He's in the Veteran's Hospital and wanted to come home a week ago."
"So don't get excited," said the controller. "I only asked."
"I'm sorry, Gus," King apologized. "My fault. I'm a little edgy ... probably nothing at all."
"Well you got it narrowed down anyway," Gus said. "If you got it, and Squirrel Hill's got it, then he's in Shadyside. If Oakland doesn't have him, then he's on this side of Aiken Avenue." The controller had caught King's fever; the "it" had become a "him". "And if Bloomfield doesn't have him, then he's on the other side of Baum Boulevard."
"Only Bloomfield might have him."
"Well what the hell, you've still got him located in the lower half of Shadyside. Tell you what, I'll send a man up Ellsworth, get Bloomfield to cruise Baum Boulevard in a scout car, and have Squirrel Hill put a patrol on Wilkens. We can triangulate."
"No," said King, "not yet. Thanks anyway, Gus, but there's no point in stirring up a tempest in a teapot. Just tell them to watch it. If it climbs over 75 we can narrow it down then."
"It's your show," said Gus.
The old man finished his second can of beer. The trembling was almost gone. He could stand and move without breaking out in a cold sweat. He ran his hand through his hair and looked at the clock. 6:15. Too early. He looked around the room for something to read. There were magazines and newspapers scattered everywhere; the papers all folded back to the sports section. He picked up a paper, not even bothering about the date, and tried to interest himself in the batting averages of the Intercontinental League. Yamamura was on top with .387; the old man remembered when Yamamura came up as a rookie. But right now he didn't care; the page trembled and the type kept blurring. He threw the paper down. He had a headache.
The old man got up and went over to the bathroom. He steadied himself against the door jamb and kicked the wadded sweater out of sight beneath the dresser. He went into the bathroom and turned on the water. He ran his hands over his face and thought about shaving, but he couldn't face the work involved. He managed to run a comb through his hair and rinse out his mouth.
He came back into the room. It was 6:30. Maybe Freddie's was open. If Freddie wasn't, then maybe the Grill. He'd have to take his chances, he couldn't stand it here any longer. He put on his coat and stumbled out.
At eight o'clock the watch was changed; Matesic replaced King.
"Anything?" asked Matesic.
"Just this one, Chuck," said King. "I may be a fool, but this one bothers me." King was a diplomat where Blaney was not.
King showed him the entry. The dial now stood at 72.8. "It's been on there all night, since before I had the watch. And it's been climbing, just slow and steady, but all the time climbing. I locked a circuit on him, but I'll take it off if you want me to."
"No," said Matesic, "leave it on. That don't smell right to me neither."
The old man was feeling better. He'd been in the bar two hours, and he'd had two pickled eggs, and the bartender didn't bother him. Beer was all right, but a man needed whiskey when he was sick. He'd have one, maybe two more, and then he'd eat some breakfast. He didn't know why, but he knew he mustn't get drunk.
At nine o'clock the needle on the dial climbed past seventy-five. Matesic asked for coverage. That meant that two patrolmen would be tied up, doing nothing but searching for an echo. And it might be a wild goose chase. He was explaining to the Captain, but the Captain wasn't listening. He was looking at the photographs in the deAngelis file.
"You don't like this?" the Captain asked.
Matesic said he didn't like it.
"And King said he didn't like it?"
"King thinks the same way I do, he's been on there too damn long and too damn consistent."
"Pick him up," the Captain turned and ordered the audio controller. "If we can't hold him, we can at least get a look at him."
"It's not too clear yet," said Matesic, "it'll take a spread."