Then, for a time, there was a clacking and thumping as he typed random letters, peeping out of the suitcase to see what he had typed, until the sheet I had put in was used up.
I replaced it and waited, as patiently as I could, smoking one of the last of my cigarettes. After fifteen minutes or so, he had the hang of it pretty well. He typed: YOU DAMQXXX DAMN FOOL WHUXXX WHY DID YOU LEAQNXXX LEAVE ME ALONE Q Q.
"Aw, Arthur," I said. "Use your head, will you? I couldn't carry that old typewriter of yours all the way down through the Bronx. It was getting pretty beat-up. Anyway, I've only got two hands--"
YOU LOUSE, it rattled, ARE YOU TRYONXXX TRYING TO INSULT ME BECAUSE I DONT HAVE ANY Q Q "Arthur!" I said, shocked. "You know better than that!"
The typewriter slammed its carriage back and forth ferociously a couple of times. Then he said: ALL RIGHT SAM YOU KNOW YOUVE GOT ME BY THE THROAT SO YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT TO WITH ME WHO CARES ABOUT MY FEELINGS ANYHOW "Please don't take that attitude," I coaxed.
He capitulated. ALL RIGHT SAY HEARD ANYTHING FROM ENGDAHL Q Q "No."
ISNT THAT JUST LIKE HIM Q Q CANT DEPEND ON THAT MAN HE WAS THE LOUSIEST ELECTRICIANS MATE ON THE SEA SPRITE AND HE ISNT MUCH BETTER NOW SAY SAM REMEMBER WHEN WE HAD TO GET HIM OUT OF THE JUG IN NEWPORT NEWS BECAUSE.
I settled back and relaxed. I might as well. That was the trouble with getting Arthur a new typewriter after a couple of days without one--he had so much garrulity stored up in his little brain, and the only person to spill it on was me.
Apparently I fell asleep. Well, I mean I must have, because I woke up. I had been dreaming I was on guard post outside the Yard at Portsmouth, and it was night, and I looked up and there was something up there, all silvery and bad. It was a missile--and that was silly, because you never see a missile. But this was a dream.
And the thing burst, like a Roman candle flaring out, all sorts of comet-trails of light, and then the whole sky was full of bright and colored snow. Little tiny flakes of light coming down, a mist of light, radiation dropping like dew; and it was so pretty, and I took a deep breath. And my lungs burned out like slow fire, and I coughed myself to death with the explosions of the missile banging against my flaming ears....
Well, it was a dream. It probably wasn't like that at all--and if it had been, I wasn't there to see it, because I was tucked away safe under a hundred and twenty fathoms of Atlantic water. All of us were on the Sea Sprite.
But it was a bad dream and it bothered me, even when I woke up and found that the banging explosions of the missile were the noise of Arthur's typewriter carriage crashing furiously back and forth.
He peeped out of the suitcase and saw that I was awake. He demanded: HOW CAN YOU FALL ASLEEP WHEN WERE IN A PLACE LIKE THIS Q Q ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN SAM I KNOW YOU DONT CARE WHAT HAPPENS TO ME BUT FOR YOUR OWN SAKE YOU SHOULDNT "Oh, dry up," I said.
Being awake, I remembered that I was hungry. There was still no sign of Engdahl or the others, but that wasn't too surprising--they hadn't known exactly when we would arrive. I wished I had thought to bring some food back to the room. It looked like long waiting and I wouldn't want to leave Arthur alone again--after all, he was partly right.
I thought of the telephone.
On the off-chance that it might work, I picked it up. Amazing, a voice from the desk answered.
I crossed my fingers and said: "Room service?"
And the voice answered amiably enough: "Hold on, buddy. I'll see if they answer."
Clicking and a good long wait. Then a new voice said: "Whaddya want?"
There was no sense pressing my luck by asking for anything like a complete meal. I would be lucky if I got a sandwich.
I said: "Please, may I have a Spam sandwich on Rye Krisp and some coffee for Room Fifteen Forty-one?"
"Please, you go to hell!" the voice snarled. "What do you think this is, some damn delicatessen? You want liquor, we'll get you liquor. That's what room service is for!"
I hung up. What was the use of arguing? Arthur was clacking peevishly: WHATS THE MATTER SAM YOU THINKING OF YOUR BELLY AGAIN Q Q.
"You would be if you--" I started, and then I stopped. Arthur's feelings were delicate enough already. I mean suppose that all you had left of what you were born with was a brain in a kind of sardine can, wouldn't you be sensitive? Well, Arthur was more sensitive than you would be, believe me. Of course, it was his own foolish fault--I mean you don't get a prosthetic tank unless you die by accident, or something like that, because if it's disease they usually can't save even the brain.
The phone rang again.
It was the desk clerk. "Say, did you get what you wanted?" he asked chummily.
"Oh. Too bad," he said, but cheerfully. "Listen, buddy, I forgot to tell you before. That Miss Engdahl you were expecting, she's on her way up."
I dropped the phone onto the cradle.
"Arthur!" I yelled. "Keep quiet for a while--trouble!"
He clacked once, and the typewriter shut itself off. I jumped for the door of the bathroom, cursing the fact that I didn't have cartridges for the gun. Still, empty or not, it would have to do.
I ducked behind the bathroom door, in the shadows, covering the hall door. Because there were two things wrong with what the desk clerk had told me. Vern Engdahl wasn't a "miss," to begin with; and whatever name he used when he came to call on me, it wouldn't be Vern Engdahl.
There was a knock on the door. I called: "Come in!"
The door opened and the girl who called herself Vern Engdahl came in slowly, looking around. I stayed quiet and out of sight until she was all the way in. She didn't seem to be armed; there wasn't anyone with her.
I stepped out, holding the gun on her. Her eyes opened wide and she seemed about to turn.
"Hold it! Come on in, you. Close the door!"
She did. She looked as though she were expecting me. I looked her over--medium pretty, not very tall, not very plump, not very old. I'd have guessed twenty or so, but that's not my line of work; she could have been almost any age from seventeen on.
The typewriter switched itself on and began to pound agitatedly. I crossed over toward her and paused to peer at what Arthur was yacking about: SEARCH HER YOU DAMN FOOL MAYBE SHES GOT A GUN I ordered: "Shut up, Arthur. I'm going to search her. You! Turn around!"
She shrugged and turned around, her hands in the air. Over her shoulder, she said: "You're taking this all wrong, Sam. I came here to make a deal with you."
"Sure you did."
But her knowing my name was a blow, too. I mean what was the use of all that sneaking around if people in New York were going to know we were here?
I walked up close behind her and patted what there was to pat. There didn't seem to be a gun.
"You tickle," she complained.
I took her pocketbook away from her and went through it. No gun. A lot of money--an awful lot of money. I mean there must have been two or three hundred thousand dollars. There was nothing with a name on it in the pocketbook.
She said: "Can I put my hands down, Sam?"
"In a minute." I thought for a second and then decided to do it--you know, I just couldn't afford to take chances. I cleared my throat and ordered: "Take off your clothes."
Her head jerked around and she stared at me. "What?"
"Take them off. You heard me."
"Now wait a minute--" she began dangerously.
I said: "Do what I tell you, hear? How do I know you haven't got a knife tucked away?"
She clenched her teeth. "Why, you dirty little man! What do you think--" Then she shrugged. She looked at me with contempt and said: "All right. What's the difference?"
Well, there was a considerable difference. She began to unzip and unbutton and wriggle, and pretty soon she was standing there in her underwear, looking at me as though I were a two-headed worm. It was interesting, but kind of embarrassing. I could see Arthur's eye-stalk waving excitedly out of the opened suitcase.
I picked up her skirt and blouse and shook them. I could feel myself blushing, and there didn't seem to be anything in them.
I growled: "Okay, I guess that's enough. You can put your clothes back on now."
"Gee, thanks," she said.
She looked at me thoughtfully and then shook her head as if she'd never seen anything like me before and never hoped to again. Without another word, she began to get back into her clothes. I had to admire her poise. I mean she was perfectly calm about the whole thing. You'd have thought she was used to taking her clothes off in front of strange men.
Well, for that matter, maybe she was; but it wasn't any of my business.
Arthur was clacking distractedly, but I didn't pay any attention to him. I demanded: "All right, now who are you and what do you want?"
She pulled up a stocking and said: "You couldn't have asked me that in the first place, could you? I'm Vern Eng--"
"Cut it out!"
She stared at me. "I was only going to say I'm Vern Engdahl's partner. We've got a little business deal cooking and I wanted to talk to you about this proposition."
Arthur squawked: WHATS ENGDAHL UP TO NOW Q Q SAM IM WARNING YOU I DONT LIKE THE LOOK OF THIS THIS WOMAN AND ENGDAHL ARE PROBABLY DOUBLECROSSING US I said: "All right, Arthur, relax. I'm taking care of things. Now start over, you. What's your name?"
She finished putting on her shoe and stood up. "Amy."
She shrugged and fished in her purse for a cigarette. "What does it matter? Mind if I sit down?"
"Go ahead," I rumbled. "But don't stop talking!"
"Oh," she said, "we've got plenty of time to straighten things out." She lit the cigarette and walked over to the chair by the window. On the way, she gave the luggage a good long look.
Arthur's eyestalk cowered back into the suitcase as she came close. She winked at me, grinned, bent down and peered inside.
"My," she said, "he's a nice shiny one, isn't he?"
The typewriter began to clatter frantically. I didn't even bother to look; I told him: "Arthur, if you can't keep quiet, you have to expect people to know you're there."
She sat down and crossed her legs. "Now then," she said. "Frankly, he's what I came to see you about. Vern told me you had a pross. I want to buy it."
The typewriter thrashed its carriage back and forth furiously.
"Arthur isn't for sale."
"No?" She leaned back. "Vern's already sold me his interest, you know. And you don't really have any choice. You see, I'm in charge of materiel procurement for the Major. If you want to sell your share, fine. If you don't, why, we requisition it anyhow. Do you follow?"
I was getting irritated--at Vern Engdahl, for whatever the hell he thought he was doing; but at her because she was handy. I shook my head.
"Fifty thousand dollars? I mean for your interest?"
"Oh, come on now. A hundred thousand?"
It wasn't going to make any impression on her, but I tried to explain: "Arthur's a friend of mine. He isn't for sale."
She shook her head. "What's the matter with you? Engdahl wasn't like this. He sold his interest for forty thousand and was glad to get it."
Clatter-clatter-clatter from Arthur. I didn't blame him for having hurt feelings that time.
Amy said in a discouraged tone: "Why can't people be reasonable? The Major doesn't like it when people aren't reasonable."
I lowered the gun and cleared my throat. "He doesn't?" I asked, cuing her. I wanted to hear more about this Major, who seemed to have the city pretty well under his thumb.
"No, he doesn't." She shook her head sorrowfully. She said in an accusing voice: "You out-of-towners don't know what it's like to try to run a city the size of New York. There are fifteen thousand people here, do you know that? It isn't one of your hick towns. And it's worry, worry, worry all the time, trying to keep things going."
"I bet," I said sympathetically. "You're, uh, pretty close to the Major?"
She said stiffly: "I'm not married to him, if that's what you mean. Though I've had my chances.... But you see how it is. Fifteen thousand people to run a place the size of New York! It's forty men to operate the power station, and twenty-five on the PX, and thirty on the hotel here. And then there are the local groceries, and the Army, and the Coast Guard, and the Air Force--though, really, that's only two men--and--Well, you get the picture."
"I certainly do. Look, what kind of a guy is the Major?"
She shrugged. "A guy."
"I mean what does he like?"
"Women, mostly," she said, her expression clouded. "Come on now. What about it?"
I stalled. "What do you want Arthur for?"