Authors: Jack L. Chalker
"I will give you all that when I find them," the Master responded. "They can and will will themselves to death before your machines and probes can even be turned on, but they can not do so with me. You see, I can control which Hell they go to when they die, and they know this. To die under your questioning would be a release. To die in my presence would avail them nothing."
It was said so matter of factly that Sam was certain that at least the Master believed it-and if
believed it, then the warriors would believe it, too. If the Master wasn't in on it, if he wasn't putting them on, he'd find the answers.
"Very well," Prang sighed. "All that you require will be provided and I will postpone a vote until we have information. But we can tolerate nothing less than the full truth in this. Otherwise we must assume that there are no loyal friends of the Company left in your domain."
It was a simple, understated, and rather elegant threat, Sam thought. "Now-Brandy?"
"Oh, yes. You heard what was done. Can you bring her out of it?"
"Depends," the Master responded curtly. "Let me take a look at her." And, with that, he proceeded up the stairs and turned correctly towards the master bedroom.
"How did he know where she was?" Sam asked, wondering.
"Forty years ago I learned to stop asking things like that," responded Aldrath Prang. "Come on- let's see what's what."
"Maybe I should have
find Dash," Sam suggested, and they mounted the stairs.
The Ginzu Master was poking and probing Brandy's neck as they entered the room. He rose, turned, and said, "I would flay alive the one who did this."
Sam felt sudden panic. "You mean it's not reversible?"
"No, of course not. I mean that it is reversible," he grumbled. "It is just-amateurish. Incompetent. Either you use
to totally paralyze an enemy or you use the sixth degree maneuver to have them come out of it in a specified amount of time. This is neither. I have done what I can here. She will be able to eat and move her head, and very slowly all of the body functions will return to her, but it will be a slow process and she might not be totally right for weeks."
He felt sudden tremendous relief.
She was going to be all right! She was going to come out of it!
With that thought, his mind switched back into its more analytical mode, but the interest and the
questions were not clinical. This was personal.
"Tell me-would you say that a Ginzu did that? Or perhaps someone who had been taught Ginzu holds and pressure points and perhaps wanted to make us
it was Ginzu."
Prang gave Sam a quizzical look. "But on the tape Bond said it was Ginzu."
"No, he said he had escaped from Ginzu," Sam reminded him. "That's not the same thing. We don't know where Bond was or what he was doing. We
the cause and effect-he'd escaped from the Ginzu, therefore the Ginzu did this. What do the Ginzu who work for the Company do except make and export knives?"
"Knives!" the Master hissed. "Mere cheap imitations! Why they only even guarantee them a mere ten years! We have nothing to do with them."
"Except collecting a royalty," Prang noted. "It's a licensing thing that allows them to maintain their private lands and school. But to answer your question, we do employ Ginzu for temporary security."
"Huh? Like what?"
"Well, under normal circumstances, they'd be in charge of my security right now. The only reason they aren't is because they are involved and thus suspect in this. That's only one example. When we must secure a facet for some purpose we use them, and we also use them to guard maintenance and repair projects just in case, since the kind of things we'd be dealing with there are some of the Company's most classified secrets."
Sam thought about that. "Then if they were discredited you'd have to find alternate security. They'd be pulled off all the nasty jobs immediately
and effectively neutralized. Someone just might be being very clever here, Aldrath."
"Possibly," Prang replied, noting the smugness of the Master at Sam's theory, "but we can take no chances. Master, how hard would it be to learn that nerve paralyzing trick to this degree and perhaps sufficient others, including some of the language, to pass as Ginzu?"
"Some training by a Ginzu warrior would be required," the Ginzu Master told him. "Such things as these are easy to learn, difficult to master, and require constant practice and supervision, but it is possible. The language-less likely. They might be ones who washed out of the training regimen-only one in perhaps eighty makes it even to Third Degree-or they might be from a parallel world where the Art does not exist but my people do. It is hard to tell from the tape."
"Work on that angle," Prang told him. "All of your people are to be on this exclusively. I want to know who these people were, where they came from, the lot."
"That goes without saying," the Master responded. "The honor of our Order and Art demands it."
It wasn't enough for Sam. "Now we have to find out why as well as who. This is more than Bond. I feel certain that they'll contact me. They wanted me, that's clear from the tape. They couldn't get me so they took Dash as a hold on me and left Brandy as an example. I'd like to work on that angle."
"Do you wish us to move Brandy to a Company facility for care?" the CEO asked him.
"No. Not unless it's necessary. If you can get
some nurses and the right equipment in here so that someone will be with her, feed her, wash her, all that, and help her get back on her feet when it starts wearing off, I think it'd be better if she stayed here. She can't tell us right now, but I think she'd go nuts with me off all over the place and Dash missing and her in some hospital worlds away."
"I'll see to it," Prang told him. "As for now, I've already violated three dozen regulations by being here at all and I must get back before I am thrown out because of it. We'll work on all levels-finding the ones who broke in here, using our considerable resources here to find Dash, and also locating and scouting the world from which the dead ones came. I'll make certain you are fully informed."
Sam nodded. "We'll need a good crew out here and fast, too. I want to know why the security system on the substation failed to block unauthorized access and why it didn't flag security up here. Until we hear something about Dash, that's all I can do."
Aldrath Prang paused and looked at him a bit strangely. "You know, for a man whose only child is kidnapped and in the hands of who knows what villainy, you are remarkably calm and composed. I had expected to have to keep you from tearing after them with weapons blazing."
The detective shrugged. "Tearing after who? After all this time, Aldrath, I'm a pro. I have to be. Amateurs get their clients killed, their quarries killed, and themselves killed as well. You're right -if I had anybody, particularly that whispery voiced bastard, in my hands right now I would be slowly and cheerfully choking him to death, but I don't. If I knew who had Dash, I'd go after
them-but I don't. I have no control over these things. The best way to handle this now is to control whatever I can and do whatever I can coldly, as if this was just another case for some other client. Frankly, this whole thing stinks to high heaven. Until I get their game figured out, I'm going to play my game."
Prang clapped him on the shoulder. "Take care, my friend. These are very dark forces that come and go through our system and which mock our 'foolproof' security efforts. We have a new enemy, and we do not know his face."
Sam scratched his chin and sighed. "Or an old one. This whole new career of mine has involved peeling an onion. Every time you remove a layer, you find another, smellier one beneath."
Sam Horowitz waited until the big shots were gone and the new medical staff had checked in to see to Brandy. Only then did he go into his study, which they hadn't touched, sat down, turned on the personal computer on one desk, and called up his special name and numbers file, the one that you had to have a lot of passwords to get to and which would give you a lot of wrong information even then if you didn't know how to use it just right.
It was going to be a long afternoon of phone calls. Lieutenant McCabe of the Pennsylvania State Police might be the best to call first, but there was also Louie "Cement Shoes" Gigliani in Philadelphia, Al "The Turtle" Snyder in Pittsburgh, and many more. Local cops and middle level gangsters in five states, all of whom owed him one or ones he wouldn't mind owing. It was time to call in all his chips on this one.
By eleven that night the various phone lines began to bring him a great deal of information. Three mini-vans had been rented in Harrisburg by a company called Villahermosa Ltd., which turned out to be a New York based subsidiary of an import-export business chartered in the Dominican Republic. No one seemed too clear on what they imported and exported but a security squad checked their New York offices and found an empty warehouse with no particular signs it had ever been used as more than a garage and a mail drop. Other Company security was now checking the other end down in Santo Domingo but it was unlikely they'd have much luck before morning, when places with records and people who could get at them were open and available.
The mini-vans were of greater interest since as of now they had not yet been turned back in in Harrisburg or in any other rental location. The company credit card they'd used was valid and active, though; a call down to Florida resulted in his computer printer spewing out a very long list of transactions on that account the oldest of which was only five months ago, when they had leased the New York warehouse. The credit report also gave the name of Villahermosa's New York bank, and before morning he'd have a list of all the checks they'd written, to whom, and when.
As he'd expected, all three driver's licenses used in the rental were total forgeries. Hell, one of 'em was to Mr. Juan Valdez of Colombia. Maybe they exported coffee or something. Of course, number two was driven by Mr. Pancho Villa of El Paso, and the third was Simon Bolivar of New York. Spanish Harlem, no doubt. These guys weren't even trying
hard to disguise their phonyness, and that worried him. It also bothered him that all three were using Hispanic names, and from their descriptions looked it. The rental people usually wouldn't remember anybody in particular, but when you rent three mini-vans on a Spanish-sounding corporation to three South American types in Harrisburg, they tend to notice.
He doubted if the man behind this was anywhere around, or even in this world, but he suspected who it was and he very much wanted to meet him. Preferably in a dark alley of Sam's own choosing. They had never met, but even without all this Sam owed him a very slow, lingering death.
The phony licenses were enough to get an APB out on the vans in all states around Pennsylvania. They didn't want to report the kidnapping; that would bring in the F.B.I., phone taps, and all the rest and might cause a lot of trouble as well as a great many embarrassing questions. But now the cops would be on the lookout for those vans, and even if they'd changed vehicles by now the pursuers would be one step closer.
The checks proved very illuminating as well, particularly when matched against the charge records. Airplane tickets, rental houses, you name it. By morning the grocery stores where these guys had bought food would be canvassed, and within a day he would know more about at least the leaders of this band than they probably knew about themselves.
Within that same period of time, Brandy had started slowly coming out of it. She could move her head, although she had a general headache, and could be hand-fed food and drink. She really wasn't up for much talking, but it was impossible to keep her from doing so and he had to report his progress regularly.
"Sam, I don't understand," she said hoarsely. "I mean, why not take me? Why Dash? God, Sam, he's only a kid!"
"He'll figure out what's going on and play along," Sam tried to assure her. "He's a smart kid, too. As to why him and not you-I'm expecting to learn that in another day or two, after they make us sweat."
"You think they're gonna call?"
"Or something. Dash only has value to us, and even then only if he's alive and well. They want something-apparently from me. Sooner or later they're going to have to ask for it."
He kissed her and left her and walked down the hall where it had all happened. The workmen were even now repairing the attic area and he cursed himself for not having put more up there. There was always a weak point no matter how good the system, damn it!
As usual around the house he was in his stocking feet, and when he turned to go back down stairs he stepped on something and felt real pain shoot through his foot. Hopping to the staircase, he sat down and carefully removed a shard of thick glass which had been just lying in wait for him all this time. He was about to toss it, then stopped, examined it again, and soon forgot that his foot was still bleeding. He crawled around, found more, did some figuring, made it downstairs while limping, and checked again on the downstairs carpet. The results were inconclusive, but he put the small pieces in an envelope and called security. He
wanted to know, if possible, just what that glass had come from.
The fact was, he wanted to keep busy and to keep doing all that he could, overlooking nothing. Outwardly he was calm and professional, but inside the fact that Dash was missing had torn him up. The more he slowed down, the more he relaxed, the more he saw Dash in his mind; coloring in the books, playing with his toys, sitting in his Dad's lap while Daddy read him a story . . . Worse, it was nearly impossible to avoid physical signs of the boy even though Sam did avoid his son's room. The toys, large and small, were everywhere, and on the door of his office was a crude sign in block letters in giant green crayon that said "I LOVE YOU DAD." It was the most gut-wrenching thing of all but he couldn't bring himself to touch it.
Deep down, too, there was also some guilt. Guilt that he'd been away when this all happened, although it wasn't too clear what the hell he Could have done against them that Brandy didn't. Hell, he almost never carried a gun. He spent part of his police career faking his pistol scores; he never could hit the broad side of a barn with one. And these fancy Company auto-aim jobs scared him shitless; he had a nightmare of flipping one on and having it shoot Dash or Brandy or some other innocent; And Brandy was far better at this karate and judo stuff. He could hold his own against a scared street punk lashing out with fists or a knife but he would be dead meat in two seconds against anybody who knew their stuff.