Little Fuzzy – Day 51 of 77

“You haven’t found them?” he asked Brannhard.

The fluffy-bearded lawyer shook his head. “Jack has a gang down in the cellar, working up. Max is in the psychology lab, putting the Company cops who were on duty last night under veridication. They all claim, and the veridicator backs them up, that it was impossible for the Fuzzies to get out of the building.”

“They don’t know what’s impossible, for a Fuzzy.”

“That’s what I told him. He didn’t give me any argument, either. He’s pretty impressed with how they got out of those cages.”

Ruth spoke. “Gerd, we didn’t hurt them. We weren’t going to hurt them at all. Juan put them in cages because we didn’t have any other place for them, but we were going to fix up a nice room, where they could play together….” Then she must have seen that he wasn’t listening, and stopped, crushing out her cigarette and rising. “Dr. Mallin, if these people haven’t any more questions to ask me, I have a lot of work to do.”

“You want to ask her anything, Gerd?” Brannhard inquired.

Once he had had something very important he had wanted to ask her. He was glad, now, that he hadn’t gotten around to it. Hell, she was so married to the Company it’d be bigamy if she married him too.

“No, I don’t want to talk to her at all.”

She started for the door, then hesitated. “Gerd, I….” she began. Then she went out. Gus Brannhard looked after her, and dropped the ash of his cigar on Leonard Kellogg’s—now Ernst Mallin’s—floor.

Gerd detested her, and she wouldn’t have had any respect for him if he didn’t. She ought to have known that something like this would happen. It always did, in the business. A smart girl, in the business, never got involved with any one man; she always got herself four or five boyfriends, on all possible sides, and played them off one against another.

She’d have to get out of the Science Center right away. Marshal Fane was questioning people under veridication; she didn’t dare let him get around to her. She didn’t dare go to her office; the veridicator was in the lab across the hall, and that’s where he was working. And she didn’t dare—

Yes, she could do that, by screen. She went into an office down the hall; a dozen people recognized her at once and began bombarding her with questions about the Fuzzies. She brushed them off and went to a screen, punching a combination. After a slight delay, an elderly man with a thin-lipped, bloodless face appeared. When he recognized her, there was a brief look of annoyance on the thin face.

“Mr. Stenson,” she began, before he could say anything: “That apparatus I brought to your shop this morning—the sensory-response detector—we’ve made a simply frightful mistake. There’s nothing wrong with it whatever, and if anything’s done with it, it may cause serious damage.”

“I don’t think I understand, Dr. Ortheris.”

“Well, it was a perfectly natural mistake. You see, we’re all at our wits’ end here. Mr. Holloway and his lawyer and the Colonial Marshal are here with an order from Judge Pendarvis for the return of those Fuzzies. None of us know what we’re doing at all. Why the whole trouble with the apparatus was the fault of the operator. We’ll have to have it back immediately, all of it.”

“I see, Dr. Ortheris.” The old instrument maker looked worried. “But I’m afraid the apparatus has already gone to the workroom. Mr. Stephenson has it now, and I can’t get in touch with him at present. If the mistake can be corrected, what do you want done?”

“Just hold it; I’ll call or send for it.”

She blanked the screen. Old Johnson, the chief data synthesist, tried to detain her with some question.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Johnson. I can’t stop now. I have to go over to Company House right away.”

The suite at the Hotel Mallory was crowded when Jack Holloway returned with Gerd van Riebeek; it was noisy with voices, and the ventilators were laboring to get rid of the tobacco smoke. Gus Brannhard, Ben Rainsford and Baby Fuzzy were meeting the press.

“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.”

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