as instructed by benson, goldberg went down to the basement to start taking the names and numbers of any tenants who might be on the premises.
a single bare bulb lit up the short basement corridor. there were two doors on each side and a heavy door at the end of the corridor that looked like it probably had utility and storage areas behind it.
goldberg looked to see if there was any light from under the doors. there didn't seem to be.
she knocked on the first door on the left. no answer.
"police. anybody home?"
no answer. benson had said to "break down" the doors if no one answered. goldberg thought that sounded pretty stupid. she decided to knock on all five doors including the utility looking one before doing anything drastic.
she knocked on the second door, a little louder than on the first.
called again, "police. anybody home?" nothing.
had benson or molligan or anybody else looked up a building owner or management company and tried to contact them? that would have been the obvious thing to do.
goldberg considered calling benson and asking, but she knew benson would probably say something like "why can't you just do what i tell you?"
goldberg hesitated before the second door on the right.
suddenly the door opened in front of her.
a chubby, palefaced old human male stood before her, tightening the cord of a faded purple bathrobe around his waist.
"you are with the police?"
before she could recover from her surprise enough to say yes, the man said, "i don't suppose you are wearing that uniform to go to a costume party, are you?"
"no, sir, i am not."
"sir, is it? i am happy to hear that the police are maintaining standards of civility and politeness these days. it was not always so."
"i am naturally a polite person," goldberg answered. "and in my experience almost all my fellow officers are also."
"that is very reassuring. very reassuring indeed." the chubby man bounced on his feet a little bit. "though i don't know that i have ever seen a police uniform quite like that before. is it the latest fashion?"
"it is the standard uniform of the t-squad, sir. i can't really say how fashionable it might seem to any particular observer."
"t-squad! that sounds menacing! what does the t stand for? terrorism? termination? are you here to terminate me, in your polite and reassuring fashion?"
"the t stand stands for technical, sir."
"how boring. tiresome. t for tiresome, eh? you look a bit uncomfortable standing there. would you like to come in?"
"if you would like to invite me in, sir."
"if, if! politer and politer! curiouser and curiouser." he stood aside and waved goldberg in. "enter, then!"
the room was mostly dark. a single lamp with a reddish bulb sat on a table beside a big old fashioned armchair. there were a couple of fat books beside the lamp. they seemed to be bound in black leather.
the chubby man flipped a switch on the wall beside the door and an overhead light
blazed on, blinding goldberg.
"let there be light!," cried the man. "would you like it turned down a bit?"
the man adjusted the switch and the light dimmed, but remained bright enough to illuminate the whole room. which was bare except for the big chair and the table and two overflowing bookcases. the doors to the single bedroom and the kitchen were closed.
"so, officer - i assume officer is the correct appellation to employ in addressing you - are you a child of the light or a child of the darkness?"
goldberg ignored this and took her phone out of her pocket. "first off, sir, might you happen be the superintendent of this building?"
"do you have any official or supervisory capacity in the building, or are you just a tenant?"
"why do you ask? do i look like i do?"
"i am just asking. it would be helpful to me if i could find such a person."
"i perceive that i have now aggravated you sufficiently that you no longer address me as 'sir'."
"i apologize, sir. i did not mean to be rude. now, do you in fact have any official capacity in the building?"
"to the best of my knowledge i do not."
"thank you - sir."
"is that all you wanted?"
"i just need your name and number."
"may i ask why?"
goldberg decided to humor him. "an ongoing investigation as to possible criminal activity in another apartment in the building. for now, we are just getting the names and numbers of all tenants in case the investigation widens. i hope that answers your question, sir."
"it does not begin to answer my question."
"i am sorry to hear that, sir. now, may i have your name and number?"
"surely in this connected age, there are easier ways to get names and numbers."
"perhaps. but i was told to do it this way."
"and do you always do what you are told?"
"yes, sir. always."
"may i ask your name and number, officer?" the man smiled.
"officer goldberg. my number is 34 -"
"goldberg! goldberg! goldberg as in goldberg variations or goldberg as in, mrs goldberg, your son is a wonderful dentist?"
"i'm sorry, sir, but your cultural references are arcane to me. my number is 341 -"
the man waved his hand. "that's all right, i don't really need your number."
"good." goldberg held up her phone. "so your name is -"
"in a previous life my name was samuel johnson."
"and what might it be in this one?"
"abdul al-jeremiel. the slave of the angel of exaltation."
"thank you. and your number?"
"i am afraid i can never remember my number. i hope that is not a hanging offense."
"no, sir. but you have it somewhere, do you not?"
"i have it written down in a notebook in my bedroom. and in various official papers mandated by the wise laws of our civilization. i will retrieve it if you don't mind."
"please, go right ahead."
goldberg waited while abdul went into the bedroom. he closed the door behind himself.
goldberg was familiar with abdul's type. a lot of old humans liked to talk. not about anything in particular, they just liked to talk.
after giving molligan and jody their cups of coffee, dooley left to knock on doors of other apartments in the building.
leaving jody alone with molligan.
molligan did not seem to be in any hurry. he stared down into his styrofoam cup.
he is torturing me, thought jody. he is deliberately torturing me.
also, and this was very strange to jody, molligan did not show any signs of wanting to fuck jody.
jody felt a little bit hurt.
but these old humans could be strange that way.
after taking a few sips of his coffee, molligan finally took a phone out of his pocket and clicked it on and put it on the table.
great, thought jody, maybe we can finally get this moving. of course, he is probably going to bring me down to a station anyway, and i will spend the night in a cell.
or the rest of my life in a cell.
"so," molligan started. "how long were you and nikki roommates?"
"how long is a while?"
jody thought for a few seconds. "a long time." maybe i can torture him a little too, jody thought.
but molligan did not seem at all annoyed. he took another sip of his coffee. "can you give me some numbers? number of months, number of weeks? years, even?"
"i'm not very good with numbers."
"do what you can."
"six weeks!" molligan laughed. "that's not so long."
"maybe not to you," jody thought. but didn't say anything.
"did you have any contact with nikki's mom in those six weeks?"
"i didn't even know nikki had a mom."
"so the first time you ever heard from her was when she called about nikki's disappearance?
"that's what i thought. just checking. tell me , jody - do you have a mom?"
"isn't that kind of a personal question?"
"yes, but i'm with the police."
"i don't have a mom. i'm free range."
"duly noted. did you and nikki ever discuss your deepest hopes and dreams, or your wildest fantasies?"
"i don't have any hopes and dreams. or fantasies."
"did nikki have any hopes and dreams or fantasies?"
"not that i ever heard. you would have to ask nikki."
"so you never discussed such things?"
"just checking." molligan studied the screen on the phone. "these novels that nikki wrote - you told the responding officers you never knew about them."
"that's right. do we have to go through all this again?"
"no, i have everything here from the responding officers." molligan looked up from the phone. "how did you find the service of the responding officers, by the way? were they polite, professional?"
"what? oh yes - they were - they were very polite and professional."
"even when they found the gun."
"that must have been quite a shock."
"i was surprised."
"i'm not easily surprised."
molligan scrolled down on the phone some more. jody thought he looked like he had seen and done things too terrible to be described.
jody had read about such persons in books by stephen king and james patterson and jeffrey deaver but had never actually seen one before.
"can i ask you a question?" jody asked molligan.
"sure. ask me anything."
"don't you want to fuck me?"
molligan looked up. he seemed slightly surprised. "did i put in a request to have sex with you?"
"no but - "
molligan laughed. "but what -?"
"you being with the police and all - i thought - "
"you thought we didn't have to follow the rules? that we just did whatever we wanted?"
"um - "
molligan smiled. "you watch too many old movies. or read too many old books." his eye fell on the copy of stephen king's the tommyknockers which stlll lay on the couch behind jody. "things aren't like that any more. hey, we get watched even more than regular people."
"if you say so."
molligan tried to change the subject. "so you don't have any hopes and dreams, jody? how about interests?"
"interests?" jody thought, didn't i already have this conversation with the girl and the robot? or with him?
"i already asked you that, didn't i?" molligan asked as if reading jody's mind.
"yes. and i told you all i want is to get fucked."
"i think that's kind of sad. but that's just my opinion."
"who are you to judge me?"
"nobody is judging you. we are not here to judge you. we are just here to keep track of everything you do, and keep you in line."
"you're a bright new human, aren't you? a real bright new human."
"now, now, i don't think brightness is the issue here," said molligan. "i think trust is the issue."
benson didn't bother answering this, but kept staring at jody.
"i am sure we are going to have a very nice conversation," molligan continued.
"we have done what we can here," benson said. "i'd like to get back and start putting what we've got through the labs."
"sure. might as well take this." molligan handed benson the gun he had showed to jody.
"might as well."
"you got two or three techs going through the building counting heads?"
"two of them."
"put a third one on, so we can get this over with. you and the others can go back."
"all right, i'll leave two vehicles."
"one will be enough."
"you're not going to bring our friend here back with you?"
"i haven't decided yet." molligan stared at jody. "if i do, one car will be enough."
"suit yourself." benson took the gun and moved away.
molligan leaned back in his chair. "now," he said to jody, "where were we?"
"you were talking about bonney and garrett - how they were famous outlaws or something."
"oh well, that probably wasn't important - i will have somebody check on it."
"check on 'it'? what exactly is 'it' if you don't mind my asking?
"your and nikki's entire genetic history, what else?"
"but it is nikki who is missing, not me. why not concentrate on nikki?"
molligan sighed. "don't you just want to get this over with?"
"more than anything in the world."
"then why not just answer my questions? maybe, just maybe, if you answer my questions, i won't have to bring you down to a station."
jody did not believe this for a second , but nodded. "all right."
the door opened and dooley returned with three styrofoam cups of coffee in a cardboard tray.
benson and three of the techs had packed up what they were taking, including the gun, nikki's books, the complete contents of the refrigerator and the kitchen cupboards, and the bottles and other trash, and started to move out.
jody watched them leave. "did they take all the food? and all the beer and drinks?"
"i am sure they did," molligan replied. "don't worry, we'll feed you."
"even if you don't take me down to the station?"
"of course. you're in good hands." molligan smiled again.
"the best," dooley added.
when suzi and robbie got back in their car, the green message light was on on the dashboard, which was no surprise and no big deal.
if there had been a priority message, the light would have been blinking.
if there had been anything really urgent, it would have been beamed directly to robbie's brain and to suzi's phone.
suzi rolled down the window and looked out at the night.
there was a dark alley directly across from here.
"did you see something down there?" she asked robbie.
"no, but i wasn't looking."
"you didn't sense anything?"
"no. what did you think it was?"
"probably just a cat or a rabbit." she reached for the dashboard.
"you want to get a cup of coffee or a doughnut first?"
"no, i'm good. thanks for asking." she touched the dashboard. "you spoil me."
"central. you have one message," came the voice from the dashboard.
"this is 52-78."
"thank you 52-78. i have you in c-290."
"please proceed to c-293, structure 67-b - that's a small reinforced cardboard structure."
"an altercation?" suzi asked.
"no, a missing - a missing something - i can't read it. robot, maybe, or rabbit - "
"well, is it robot or rabbit?"
"you don't have to get snippy. why don't you go see what it is? that's your job."
"i know that. i was just asking -"
"it is marked priority 9. repeat, nine. i didn' t think it worth questioning."
"i'm sorry. i apologize. we'll get right on it. i didn't mean to question your efficiency or cause you any undue stress. i'm sorry."
"your apology is accepted," said the voice. "i overreacted. i apologize."
"your apology is accepted. thank you."
the green light clicked off. and stayed off - there were no more messages.
suzi looked over at robbie and raised her eyebrows.
"everything is missing tonight," said robbie.
"probably a rabbit . priority nine."
"or a radish."
"a missing radish?"
"maybe the occupant has a radish patch behind his reinforced cardboard structure."
"and the rabbit got into it."
"right. the same rabbit you just saw in the alley."
"wouldn't that be something, huh?" suzi pressed the ignition and started the car away from the curb.
"wouldn't it?" robbie agreed. "the interactions and integrations in the immensity of the night are incalculable."
suzi made a u-turn and they headed for sector c-293.
"so, the names garrett and bonney don't mean anything to you?"
"no, jody answered. "names don't really mean much, do they?"
"well, people used to think so," molligan said.
"i don't know what you even need names for any more. i mean, people used to need names so they could be found. if there was a crowd of people and you didn't know who was who you would say, where's john smith? and john smith would say, here i am. but now everybody knows where everybody is and who everybody is anyway. and you have your number. names are kind of a fossil."
"people still use names to be friendly, sometimes. or if there are three people in a room and one wants to specifically talk to one other."
"you can just point."
"that used to be considered impolite."
"used to be. anyway, what do you need two names for? that seems like overkill to me."
"people had two or even three or four names."
"four names! maybe, before they had numbers."
"but some people - old humans - have trouble remembering their numbers."
"people sleeping in drainpipes."
"no, like me," molligan smiled.
jody stared at him blankly. "like you? isn't your number hardwired?"
"no, i have a rare neurological condition that makes hardwiring numbers dangerous."
"so what happens if you - uh - forget your number?"
"well, that's probably not going to happen. but just in case, i have my number written down on a piece of paper that i carry around in my pocket."
"wow." jody looked away. "and you're a detective."
"it is pretty unusual."
"why are you telling me this? isn't that kind of personal?"
"i've learned to live with it. where were we?"
" we were talking about names. having two names and stuff."
"about garrett and bonney."
"yeah. you brought the subject up."
"billy bonney was a famous outlaw in history. and pat garrett was a famous sheriff who tracked him down."
"um - that's really interesting."
"and now here you are named garrett and nikki bonney was your roommate. quite a coincidence."
"right. pretty incredible, i guess."
molligan laughed. "you are not much interested in history?"
"but you were taught some in school?"
"yeah." jody was getting restless, and looked around the apartment again. where was this stupid conversation going? and where was the tech with the coffee? the coffee would at least be some kind of diversion. even though jody didn't even like coffee.
molligan pressed on. "you remember any of it?"
"just some names. hitler. confucius. cleopatra. dylan. but there you go - even back in the old days people had only one name."
"no, they had more than one. cleopatra had two names and a number - number seven. hitler had two names - his full name was adolf hitler."
"wow, that's amazing. i never knew that."
"so you are not interested in history. you must be interested in something. astronomy? astrology ? art? botany ?"
"no, i don't care about any of that stuff."
"so what does interest you?"
"the universe is a vast, mysterious place. filled with infinitely expanding mysteries. don't you fell any desire to explore any of them?"
"no, i just want to get fucked."
"that's certainly your prerogative."
how boring was this? why didn't he just ask questions about nikki - or about the gun or whatever it was - so jody could say 'i don't know' to all or most of them and get this over with? please?
jody looked around the room. even though two of the techs had been sent away, there were still a total seven people in the apartment, including jody and molligan.
"this is the most people i've ever seen in one place," jody told molligan, "unless you count shows."
"these are unusual circumstances."
"how unusual? don't people disappear every day? how far can nikki get? with a number and all?"
"probably not very. but we - the t-squad - are only incidentally concerned with nikki at that point. we are here because of the weapon, remember?"
"oh, yeah, right. how could i forget?"
benson reappeared behind jody. "don't worry, we won't let you forget."
"find anything?" molligan asked benson.
"nothing that doesn't need analyzing." benson looked down at jody. "you know what i think?"
"i think we should take this personage down to a station right now."
"no rush," molligan answered.
"let me guess," benson said. "we've got all the time in the world."
"all the time in the world," molligan agreed.
"in this mysterious universe," jody added.
"what did you say?" benson asked. "are you being smart with us again?"
"i didn't mean to be."
"you're a bright new human, aren't you? a real bright new human."