Little Fuzzy – Day 37 of 77

“Jack! Watch out! Behind you!”

He let go of Kellogg’s shirt and jumped aside, turning and reaching for his gun. Kurt Borch, twenty feet away, had a pistol drawn and pointed at him.

His first shot went off as soon as the pistol was clear of the holster. He fired the second while it was still recoiling; there was a spot of red on Borch’s shirt that gave him an aiming point for the third. Borch dropped the pistol he hadn’t been able to fire, and started folding at the knees and then at the waist. He went down in a heap on his face.

Behind him, Gerd van Riebeek’s voice was saying, “Hold it, all of you; get your hands up. You, too, Kellogg.”

Kellogg, who had fallen, pushed himself erect. Blood was gushing from his nose, and he tried to stanch it on the sleeve of his jacket. As he stumbled toward his companions, he blundered into Ruth Ortheris, who pushed him angrily away from her. Then she went to the little crushed body, dropping to her knees beside it and touching it. The silver charm bell on the neck chain jingled faintly. Ruth began to cry.

Juan Jimenez had climbed down from the airboat; he was looking at the body of Kurt Borch in horror.

“You killed him!” he accused. A moment later, he changed that to “murdered.” Then he started to run toward the living hut.

Gerd van Riebeek fired a bullet into the ground ahead of him, bringing him up short.

“You’ll stop the next one, Juan,” he said. “Go help Dr. Kellogg; he got himself hurt.”

“Call the constabulary,” Mallin was saying. “Ruth, you go; they won’t shoot at you.”

“Don’t bother. I called them. Remember?”

Jimenez had gotten a wad of handkerchief tissue out of his pocket and was trying to stop his superior’s nosebleed. Through it, Kellogg was trying to tell Mallin that he hadn’t been able to help it.

“The little beast attacked me; it cut me with that spear it was carrying.”

Ruth Ortheris looked up. The other Fuzzies were with her by the body of Goldilocks; they must have come as soon as they had heard the screaming.

“She came up to him and pulled at his trouser leg, the way they all do when they want to attract your attention,” she said. “She wanted him to look at her new jingle.” Her voice broke, and it was a moment before she could recover it. “And he kicked her, and then stamped her to death.”

“Ruth, keep your mouth shut!” Mallin ordered. “The thing attacked Leonard; it might have given him a serious wound.”

“It did!” Still holding the wad of tissue to his nose with one hand, Kellogg pulled up his trouser leg with the other and showed a scar on his shin. It looked like a briar scratch. “You saw it yourself.”

“Yes, I saw it. I saw you kick her and jump on her. And all she wanted was to show you her new jingle.”

Jack was beginning to regret that he hadn’t shot Kellogg as soon as he saw what was going on. The other Fuzzies had been trying to get Goldilocks onto her feet. When they realized that it was no use, they let the body down again and crouched in a circle around it, making soft, lamenting sounds.

“Well, when the constabulary get here, you keep quiet,” Mallin was saying. “Let me do the talking.”

“Intimidating witnesses, Mallin?” Gerd inquired. “Don’t you know everybody’ll have to testify at the constabulary post under veridication? And you’re drawing pay for being a psychologist, too.” Then he saw some of the Fuzzies raise their heads and look toward the southeastern horizon. “Here come the cops, now.”

However, it was Ben Rainsford’s airjeep, with a zebralope carcass lashed along one side. It circled the Kellogg camp and then let down quickly; Rainsford jumped out as soon as it was grounded, his pistol drawn.

“What happened, Jack?” he asked, then glanced around, from Goldilocks to Kellogg to Borch to the pistol beside Borch’s body. “I get it. Last time anybody pulled a gun on you, they called it suicide.”

“That’s what this was, more or less. You have a movie camera in your jeep? Well, get some shots of Borch, and some of Goldilocks. Then stand by, and if the Fuzzies start doing anything different, get it all. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.”

Rainsford looked puzzled, but he holstered his pistol and went back to his jeep, returning with a camera. Mallin began insisting that, as a licensed M.D., he had a right to treat Kellogg’s injuries. Gerd van Riebeek followed him into the living hut for a first-aid kit. They were just emerging, van Riebeek’s automatic in the small of Mallin’s back, when a constabulary car grounded beside Rainsford’s airjeep. It wasn’t Car Three. George Lunt jumped out, unsnapping the flap of his holster, while Ahmed Khadra was talking into the radio.

“What’s happened, Jack? Why didn’t you wait till we got here?”

“This maniac assaulted me and murdered that man over there!” Kellogg began vociferating.

“Is your name Jack too?” Lunt demanded.

“My name’s Leonard Kellogg, and I’m a chief of division with the Company—”

“Then keep quiet till I ask you something. Ahmed, call the post; get Knabber and Yorimitsu, with investigative equipment, and find out what’s tying up Car Three.”

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