Read CHAPTER 3 of Brain Twister , free online book, by Gordon Randall Garrett & Laurence Mark Janifer, on

The telephone rang.

Malone rolled over on the couch and muttered four words under his breath. Was it absolutely necessary for someone to call him at seven in the morning?

He grabbed at the receiver with one hand, and picked up his cigar from the ashtray with the other. It was bad enough to be awakened from a sound sleep but when a man hadn’t been sleeping at all, it was even worse.

He’d been sitting up since before five that morning, worrying about the telepathic spy, and at the moment he wanted sleep more than he wanted phone calls.

“Gur?” he said, sleepily and angrily, thankful that he’d never had a visiphone installed in his apartment. A taste for blondes was apparently hereditary. At any rate, Malone felt he had inherited it from his father, and he didn’t want any visible strangers calling him at odd hours to interfere with his process of collection and research.

He blinked at the audio circuit, and a feminine voice said: “Mr. Kenneth J. Malone?”

“Who’s this?” Malone said peevishly, beginning to discover himself capable of semirational English speech.

“Long distance from San Francisco,” the voice said.

“It certainly is,” Malone said. “Who’s calling?”

“San Francisco is calling,” the voice said primly.

Malone repressed a desire to tell the voice that he didn’t want to talk to St. Francis, not even in Spanish, and said instead: "Who in San Francisco?”

There was a momentary hiatus, and then the voice said: “Mr. Thomas
Boyd is calling, sir. He says this is a scramble call.”

Malone took a drag from his cigar and closed his eyes. Obviously the call was a scramble. If it had been clear, the man would have dialed direct, instead of going through what Malone now recognized as an operator.

“Mr. Boyd says he is the Agent-in-Charge of the San Francisco office of the FBI,” the voice offered.

“And quite right, too,” Malone told her. “All right. Put him on.”

“One moment,” There was a pause, a click, another pause and then another click. At last the operator said: “Your party is ready, sir.”

Then there was still another pause.

Malone stared at the audio receiver. He began to whistle When Irish
Eyes Are Smiling.

_... And the sound of Irish laughter...._ “Hello? Malone?”

“I’m here, Tom,” Malone said guiltily. “This is me. What’s the trouble?”

“Trouble?” Boyd said. “There isn’t any trouble. Well, not really. Or maybe it is. I don’t know.”

Malone scowled at the audio receiver, and for the first time wished he had gone ahead and had a video circuit put in, so that Boyd could see the horrendous expression on his face.

“Look,” he said. “It’s seven here and that’s too early. Out there, it’s four, and that’s practically ridiculous. What’s so important?”

He knew perfectly well that Boyd wasn’t calling him just for the fun of it. The man was a damned good agent. But why a call at this hour?

Malone muttered under his breath. Then, self-consciously, he squashed out his cigar and lit a cigarette while Boyd was saying: “Ken, I think we may have found what you’ve been looking for.”

It wasn’t safe to say too much, even over a scrambled circuit. But Malone got the message without difficulty.

“Yeah?” he said, sitting up on the edge of the couch. “You sure?”

“Well,” Boyd said, “no. Not absolutely sure. Not absolutely. But it is worth your taking a personal look, I think.”

“Ah,” Malone said cautiously. “An imbecile?”

“No,” Boyd said flatly. “Not an imbecile. Definitely not an imbecile. As a matter of fact, a hell of a fat long way from an imbecile.”

Malone glanced at his watch and skimmed over the airline timetables in his mind. “I’ll be there nine o’clock, your time,” he said. “Have a car waiting for me at the field.”

As usual, Malone managed to sleep better on the plane than he’d been able to do at home. He slept so well, in fact, that he was still groggy when he stepped into the waiting car.

“Good to see you, Ken,” Boyd said briskly, as he shook Malone’s hand.

“You, too, Tom,” Malone said sleepily. “Now what’s all this about?” He looked around apprehensively. “No bugs in this car, I hope?” he said.

Boyd gunned the motor and headed toward the San Francisco Freeway. “Better not be,” he said, “or I’ll fire me a technician or two.”

“Well, then,” Malone said, relaxing against the upholstery, “where is this guy, and who is he? And how did you find him?”

Boyd looked uncomfortable. It was, somehow, both an awe-inspiring and a slightly risible sight. Six feet one and one-half inches tall in his flat feet, Boyd posted around over two hundred and twenty pounds of bone, flesh and muscle. He swung a pot-belly of startling proportions under the silk shirting he wore, and his face, with its wide nose, small eyes and high forehead, was half highly mature, half startlingly childlike. In an apparent effort to erase those childlike qualities, Boyd sported a fringe of beard and a moustache which reminded Malone of somebody he couldn’t quite place.

But whoever the somebody was, his hair hadn’t been black, as Boyd’s was...

He decided it didn’t make any difference. Anyhow, Boyd was speaking.

“In the first place,” he said, “it isn’t a guy. In the second, I’m not exactly sure who it is. And in the third, Ken, I didn’t find it.”

There was a little silence.

“Don’t tell me,” Malone said. “It’s a telepathic horse, isn’t it? Tom, I just don’t think I could stand a telepathic horse....”

“No,” Boyd said hastily. “No. Not at all. No horse. It’s a dame. I mean a lady.” He looked away from the road and flashed a glance at Malone. His eyes seemed to be pleading for something understanding, possibly, Malone thought. “Frankly,” Boyd said, “I’d rather not tell you anything about her just yet. I’d rather you met her first. Then you could make up your own mind. All right?”

“All right,” Malone said wearily. “Do it your own way. How far do we have to go?”

“Just about an hour’s drive,” Boyd said. “That’s all.”

Malone slumped back in the seat and pushed his hat over his eyes. “Fine,” he said. “Suppose you wake me up when we get there.”

But, groggy as he was, he couldn’t sleep. He wished he’d had some coffee on the plane. Maybe it would have made him feel better.

Then again, coffee was only coffee. True, he had never acquired his father’s taste for gin (and imagined, therefore, that it wasn’t hereditary, like a taste for blondes), but there was always bourbon.

He thought about bourbon for a few minutes. It was a nice thought. It warmed him and made him feel a lot better. After a while, he even felt awake enough to do some talking.

He pushed his hat back and struggled to a reasonable sitting position. “I don’t suppose you have a drink hidden away in the car somewhere?” he said tentatively. “Or would the technicians have found that, too?”

“Better not have,” Boyd said in the same tone as before, “or I’ll fire a couple of technicians.” He grinned without turning. “It’s in the door compartment, next to the forty-five cartridges and the Tommy-gun.”

Malone opened the compartment in the thick door of the car and extracted a bottle. It was Christian Brothers Brandy instead of the bourbon he had been thinking about, but he discovered that he didn’t mind at all. It went down as smoothly as milk.

Boyd glanced at it momentarily as Malone screwed the top back on.

“No,” Malone said in answer to the unspoken question. “You’re driving.” Then he settled back again and tipped his hat forward.

He didn’t sleep a wink. He was perfectly sure of that. But it wasn’t over two seconds later that Boyd said: “We’re here, Ken. Wake up.”

“Whadyamean, wakeup,” Malone said. “I wasn’t asleep.” He thumbed his hat back and sat up rapidly. “Where’s ‘here?’”

“Bayview Neuropsychiatric Hospital,” Boyd said. “This is where Dr. Harman works, you know.”

“No,” Malone said. “As a matter of fact, I don’t know. You didn’t tell me remember? And who is Dr. Harman, anyhow?”

The car was moving up a long, curving driveway toward a large, lawn-surrounded building. Boyd spoke without looking away from the road.

“Well,” he said, “this Dr. Wilson Harman is the man who phoned us yesterday. One of my field agents was out here asking around about imbéciles and so on. Found nothing, by the way. And then this Dr. Harman called, later. Said he had someone here I might be interested in. So I came on out myself for a look, yesterday afternoon after all, we had instructions to follow up every possible lead.”

“I know,” Malone said. “I wrote them.”

“Oh,” Boyd said. “Sure. Well, anyhow, I talked to this dame. Lady.”


“And I talked to her,” Boyd said. “I’m not entirely sure of anything myself. But well, hell. You take a look at her.”

He pulled the car up to a parking space, slid nonchalantly into a slot marked Reserved Executive Director Sutton, and slid out from under the wheel while Malone got out the other side.

They marched up the broad steps, through the doorway and into the glass-fronted office of the receptionist.

Boyd showed her his little golden badge, and got an appropriate gasp. “FBI,” he said. “Dr. Harman’s expecting us.”

The wait wasn’t over fifteen seconds. Boyd and Malone marched down the hall and around a couple of corners, and came to the doctor’s office. The door was opaqued glass with nothing but a room number stenciled on it. Without ceremony, Boyd pushed the door open. Malone followed him inside.

The office was small but sunny. Dr. Wilson Harman sat behind a blond-wood desk, a little man with crew-cut blond hair and rimless eyeglasses, who looked about thirty-two and couldn’t possibly, Malone thought, have been anywhere near that young. On a second look, Malone noticed a better age indication in the eyes and forehead, and revised his first guess upward between ten and fifteen years.

“Come in, gentlemen,” Dr. Harman called. His voice was that rarity, a really loud high tenor.

“Dr. Harman,” Boyd said, “this is my superior, Mr. Malone. We’d like to have a talk with Miss Thompson, if we might.”

“I anticipated that, sir,” Dr. Harman said. “Miss Thompson is in the next room. Have you explained to Mr. Malone that ”

“I haven’t explained a thing,” Boyd said quickly, and added in what was obviously intended to be a casual tone: “Mr. Malone wants to get a picture of Miss Thompson directly without any preconceptions.”

“I see,” Dr. Harman said. “Very well, gentlemen. Through this door.”

He opened the door in the right-hand wall of the room, and Malone took one look. It was a long, long look. Standing framed in the doorway, dressed in the starched white of a nurse’s uniform, was the most beautiful blonde he had ever seen.

She had curves. She definitely had curves. As a matter of fact, Malone didn’t really think he had ever seen curves before. These were something new and different and truly three-dimensional. But it wasn’t the curves, or the long straight lines of her legs, or the quiet beauty of her face, that made her so special. After all, Malone had seen legs and bodies and faces before.

At least, he thought he had. Offhand, he couldn’t remember where. Looking at the girl, Malone was ready to write brand-new definitions for every anatomical term. Even a term like “hands.” Malone had never seen anything especially arousing in the human hand before anyway, not when the hand was just lying around, so to speak, attached to its wrist but not doing anything in particular. But these hands, long, slender and tapering, white and cool-looking....

And yet, it wasn’t just the sheer physical beauty of the girl. She had something else, something more and something different. (Something borrowed, Malone thought in a semidelirious haze, and something blue.) Personality? Character? Soul?

Whatever it was, Malone decided, this girl had it. She had enough of it to supply the entire human race, and any others that might exist in the Universe. Malone smiled at the girl and she smiled back.

After seeing the smile, Malone wasn’t sure he could still walk evenly. Somehow, though, he managed to go over to her and extend his hand. The notion that a telepath would turn out to be this mind-searing Epitome had never crossed his mind, but now, somehow, it seemed perfectly fitting and proper.

“Good morning, Miss Thompson,” he said in what he hoped was a winning voice.

The smile disappeared. It was like the sun going out.

The vision appeared to be troubled. Malone was about to volunteer his help if necessary, for the next seventy years when she spoke.

“I’m not Miss Thompson,” she said.

“This is one of our nurses,” Dr. Harman put in. “Miss Wilson, Mr. Malone. And Mr. Boyd. Miss Thompson, gentlemen, is over there.”

Malone turned.

There, in a corner of the room, an old lady sat. She was a small old lady, with apple-red cheeks and twinkling eyes. She held some knitting in her hands, and she smiled up at the FBI men as if they were her grandsons come for tea and cookies, of a Sunday afternoon.

She had snow-white hair that shone like a crown around her old head in the lights of the room. Malone blinked at her. She didn’t disappear.

“You’re Miss Thompson?” he said.

She smiled sweetly. “Oh, my, no,” she said.

There was a long silence. Malone looked at her. Then he looked at the unbelievably beautiful Miss Wilson. Then he looked at Dr. Harman. And, at last, he looked at Boyd.

“All right,” he said. “I get it. You’re Miss Thompson.”

“Now, wait a minute, Malone,” Boyd began.

“Wait a minute?” Malone said. “There are four people here, not counting me. I know I’m not Miss Thompson. I never was, not even as a child. And Dr. Harman isn’t, and Miss Wilson isn’t, and Whistler’s Great-Grandmother isn’t, either. So you must be. Unless she isn’t here. Or unless she’s invisible. Or unless I’m crazy.”

“It isn’t you, Malone,” Boyd said. “What isn’t me?”

“That’s crazy,” Boyd said.

“Okay,” Malone said. “I’m not crazy. Then will somebody please tell me ”

The little old lady cleared her throat. A silence fell. When it was complete she spoke, and her voice was as sweet and kindly as anything Malone had ever heard.

“You may call me Miss Thompson,” she said. “For the present, at any rate. They all do here. It’s a pseudonym I have to use.”

“A pseudonym?” Malone said.

“You see, Mr. Malone,” Miss Wilson began.

Malone stopped her. “Don’t talk,” he said. “I have to concentrate and if you talk I can barely think.” He took off his hat suddenly, and began twisting the brim in his hands. “You understand, don’t you?”

The trace of a smile appeared on her face. “I think I do,” she said.

“Now,” Malone said. “You’re Miss Thompson, but not really, because you have to use a pseudonym.” He blinked at the little old lady. “Why?”

“Well,” she said, “otherwise people would find out about my little secret.”

“Your little secret,” Malone said.

“That’s right,” the little old lady said. “I’m immortal, you see.”

Malone said: “Oh.” Then he kept quiet for a long time. It didn’t seem to him that anyone in the room was breathing.

He said: “Oh,” again, but it didn’t sound any better than it had the first time. He tried another phrase. “You’re immortal,” he said.

“That’s right,” the little old lady agreed sweetly.

There was only one other question to ask, and Malone set his teeth grimly and asked it. It came out just a trifle indistinct, but the little old lady nodded.

“My real name?” she said. “Elizabeth. Elizabeth Tudor, of course. I used to be Queen.”

“Of England,” Malone said faintly. “Malone, look ” Boyd began.

“Let me get it all at once,” Malone told him. “I’m strong. I can take it.” He twisted his hat again and turned back to the little old lady.

“You’re immortal, and you’re not really Miss Thompson, but Queen Elizabeth I?” he said slowly.

“That’s right,” she said. “How clever of you. Of course, after little Jimmy cousin Mary’s boy, I mean said I was dead and claimed the Throne, I decided to change my name and all. And that’s what I did. But I am Elizabeth Regina.” She smiled, and her eyes twinkled merrily. Malone stared at her for a long minute.

Burris, he thought, is going to love this.

“Oh, I’m so glad,” the little old lady said. “Do your really think he will? Because I’m sure I’ll like your Mr. Burris, too. All of you FBI men are so charming. Just like poor, poor Essex.”

Well, Malone told himself, that was that. He’d found himself a telepath.

And she wasn’t an imbecile.

Oh, no. That would have been simple.

Instead, she was battier than a cathedral spire.

The long silence was broken by the voice of Miss Wilson.

“Mr. Malone,” she said. “You’ve been thinking.” She stopped. “I mean, you’ve been so quiet.”

“I like being quiet,” Malone said patiently. “Besides ” He stopped and turned to the little old lady. Can you really read my mind? he thought deliberately. After a second he added: ... your Majesty?

“How sweet of you, Mr. Malone,” she said. “Nobody’s called me that for centuries. But of course I can. Although it’s not reading, really. After all, that would be like asking if I can read your voice. Of course I can, Mr. Malone.”

“That does it,” Malone said. “I’m not a hard man to convince. And when I see the truth, I’m the first one to admit it, even if it makes me look like a nut.” He turned back to the little old lady. “Begging your pardon,” he said.

“Oh, my,” the little old lady said. “I really don’t mind at all. Sticks and stones, you know, can break my bones. But being called nuts, Mr. Malone, can never hurt me. After all, it’s been so many years so many hundreds of years ”

“Sure,” Malone said easily.

Boyd broke in. “Listen, Malone,” he said. “Do you mind telling me what the hell is going on?”

“It’s very simple,” Malone said. “Miss Thompson here pardon me; I mean Queen Elizabeth I really is a telepath. That’s all. I think I want to lie down somewhere until it goes away.”

“Until what goes away?” Miss Wilson said.

Malone stared at her almost without seeing her, if not quite. “Everything,” he said. He closed his eyes.

“My goodness,” the little old lady said after a second. “Everything’s so confused. Poor Mr. Malone is terribly shaken up by everything.” She stood up, still holding her knitting, and went across the room. Before the astonished eyes of the doctor and nurse, and Tom Boyd, she patted the FBI agent on the shoulder. “There, there, Mr. Malone,” she said. “It will all be perfectly all right. You’ll see.” Then she returned to her seat.

Malone opened his eyes. “My God,” he said. He closed them again but they flew open as if of their own accord. He turned to Dr. Harman. “You called up Boyd here,” he said, “and told him that er Miss Thompson was a telepath. How’d you know?”

“It’s all right,” the little old lady put in from her chair. “I don’t mind your calling me Miss Thompson, not right now, anyhow.”

“Thanks,” Malone said faintly.

Dr. Harman was blinking in a kind of befuddled astonishment. “You mean she really is a ” He stopped and brought his tenor voice to a squeaking halt, regained his professional poise, and began again. “I’d rather not discuss the patient in her presence, Mr. Malone,” he said. “If you’ll just come into my office ”

“Oh, bosh, Dr. Harman,” the little old lady said primly. “I do wish you’d give your own Queen credit for some ability. Goodness knows you think you’re smart enough.”

“Now, now, Miss Thompson,” he said in what was obviously his best Grade A Choice Government Inspected couchside manner. “Don’t ”

“ upset yourself,” she finished for him. “Now, really, Doctor. I know what you’re going to tell them.”

“But Miss Thompson, I ”

“You didn’t honestly think I was a telepath,” the little old lady said. “Heavens, we know that. And you’re going to tell them how I used to say I could read minds oh, years and years ago. And because of that you thought it might be worthwhile to tell the FBI about me which wasn’t very kind of you, Doctor, before you know anything about why they wanted somebody like me.”

“Now, now, Miss Thompson,” Miss Wilson said, walking across the room to put an arm around the little old lady’s shoulder. Malone wished for one brief second that he were the little old lady. Maybe if he were a patient in the hospital he would get the same treatment.

He wondered if he could possibly work such a deal.

Then he wondered if it would be worthwhile, being nuts. But of course it would. He was nuts anyhow, wasn’t he?

Sure, he told himself. They were all nuts.

“Nobody’s going to hurt you,” Miss Wilson said. She was talking to the old lady. “You’ll be perfectly all right and you don’t have to worry about a thing.”

“Oh, yes, dear, I know that,” the little old lady said. “You only want to help me, dear. You’re so kind. And these FBI men really don’t mean any harm. But Doctor Harman didn’t know that. He just thinks I’m crazy and that’s all.”

“Please, Miss Thompson ” Dr. Harman began.

“Just crazy, that’s all,” the little old lady said. She turned away for a second and nobody said anything.

Then she turned back. “Do you all know what he’s thinking now?” she said. Dr. Harman turned a dull purple, but she ignored him. “He’s wondering why I didn’t take the trouble to prove all this to you years ago. And besides that, he’s thinking about ”

“Miss Thompson,” Dr. Harman said. His bedside manner had cracked through and his voice was harsh and strained. “Please.”

“Oh, all right,” she said, a little petulantly. “If you want to keep all that private.”

Malone broke in suddenly, fascinated. “Why didn’t you prove you were telepathic before now?” he said.

The little old lady smiled at him. “Why, because you wouldn’t have believed me,” she said. She dropped her knitting neatly in her lap and folded her hands over it. ’"None of you wanted to believe me,” she said, and sniffed. Miss Wilson moved nervously and she looked up. “And don’t tell me it’s going to be all right. I know it’s going to be all right. I’m going to make sure of that.”

Malone felt a sudden chill. But it was obvious, he told himself, that the little old lady didn’t mean what she was saying. She smiled at him again, and her smile was as sweet and guileless as the smile on the face of his very own sainted grandmother.

Not that Malone remembered his grandmother; she had died before he’d been born. But if he’d had a grandmother, and if he’d remembered her, he was sure she would have had the same sweet smile.

So she couldn’t have meant what she’d said. Would Malone’s own grandmother make things difficult for him? The very idea was ridiculous.

Dr. Harman opened his mouth, apparently changed his mind, and shut it again. The little old lady turned to him.

“Were you going to ask why I bothered to prove anything to Mr. Malone?” she said. “Of course you were, and I shall tell you. It’s because Mr. Malone wanted to believe me. He wants me. He needs me. I’m a telepath, and that’s enough for Mr. Malone. Isn’t it?”

“Gur,” Malone said, taken by surprise. After a second he added: “I guess so.”

“You see, Doctor?” the little old lady said.

“But you ” Dr. Harman began.

“I read minds,” the little old lady said. “That’s right, Doctor. That’s what makes me a telepath.”

Malone’s brain was whirling rapidly, like a distant galaxy. Telepath was a nice word, he thought. How do you telepath from a road?


The road is paved.

Malone thought that was pretty funny, but he didn’t laugh. He thought he would never laugh again. He wanted to cry, a little, but he didn’t think he’d be able to manage that either.

He twisted his hat, but it didn’t make him feel any better. Gradually, he became aware that the little old lady was talking to Dr. Harman again.

“But,” she said, “since it will make you feel so much better, Doctor, we give you our Royal permission to retire, and to speak to Mr. Malone alone.”

“Malone alone,” Dr. Harman muttered. “Hmm. My. Well.” He turned and seemed to be surprised that Malone was actually standing near him. “Yes,” he said. “Well. Mr. Alone Mr. Malone please, whoever you are, just come into my office, please?”

Malone looked at the little old lady. One of her eyes closed and opened. It was an unmistakable wink.

Malone grinned at her in what he hoped was a cheerful manner. “All right,” he said to the psychiatrist, “let’s go.” He turned with the barest trace of regret, and Boyd followed him.

Leaving the little old lady and, unfortunately, the startling Miss Wilson, behind, the procession filed back into Dr. Harman’s office.

The doctor closed the door, and leaned against it for a second. He looked as though someone had suddenly revealed to him that the world was square. But when he spoke his voice was almost even.

“Sit down, gentlemen,” he said, and indicated chairs. “I really well, I don’t know what to say. All this time, all these years, she’s been reading my mind! My mind. She’s been reading ... looking right into my mind, or whatever it is.”

“Whatever what is?” Malone asked, sincerely interested. He had dropped gratefully into a chair near Boyd’s, across the desk from Dr. Harman.

“Whatever my mind is,” Dr. Harmon said. “Reading it. Oh, my.”

“Dr. Harman,” Malone began, but the psychiatrist gave him a bright blank stare.

“Don’t you understand?” he said. “She’s a telepath.”

“We ”

The phone on Dr. Harman’s desk chimed gently. He glanced at it and said: “Excuse me. The phone.” He picked up the receiver and said: “Hello?”

There was no image on the screen.

But the voice was image enough. “This is Andrew J. Burris,” it said. “Is Kenneth J. Malone there?”

“Mr. Malone?” the psychiatrist said. “I mean, Mr. Burris? Mr. Malone is here. Yes. Oh, my. Do you want to talk to him?”

“No, you idiot,” the voice said. “I just want to know if he’s all tucked in.”

“Tucked in?” Dr. Harman gave the phone a sudden smile. “A joke,” he said. “It is a joke, isn’t it? The way things have been happening, you never know whether ”

“A joke,” Burris’ voice said. “That’s right. Yes. Am I talking to one of the patients?”

Dr. Harman gulped, got mad, and thought better of it. At last he said, very gently; “I’m not at all sure,” and handed the phone to Malone.

The FBI agent said: “Hello, Chief. Things are a little confused.”

Burris’ face appeared on the screen. “Confused, sure,” he said. “I feel confused already.” He took a breath. “I called the San Francisco office, and they told me you and Boyd were out there. What’s going on?”

Malone said cautiously: “We’ve found a telepath.”

Burris’ eyes widened slightly. “Another one?”

“What are you talking about, another one?” Malone said. “We have one. Does anybody else have any more?”

“Well,” Burris said, “we just got a report on another one maybe. Besides yours, I mean.”

“I hope the one you’ve got is in better shape than the one I’ve got,”
Malone said. He took a deep breath, and then spat it all out at once: “The one we’ve found is a little old lady. She thinks she’s Queen Elizabeth I. She’s a telepath, sure, but she’s nuts.”

“Queen Elizabeth?” Burris said. “Of England?”

“That’s right,” Malone said. He held his breath.

“Damn it,” Burris exploded, “they’ve already got one!”

Malone sighed. “This is another one,” he said. “Or, rather, the original one. She also claims she’s immortal.”

“Lives forever?” Burris said. “You mean like that?”

“Immortal,” Malone said. “Right.”

Burris nodded. Then he looked worried. “Tell me, Malone,” he said. “She isn’t, is she?”

“Isn’t immortal, you mean?” Malone said. Burris nodded. Malone said confidently: “Of course not.”

There was a little pause. Malone thought things over.

Hell, maybe she was immortal. Stranger things had happened, hadn’t they?

He looked over at Dr. Harman. “How about that?” he said. “Could she be immortal?”

The psychiatrist shook his head decisively. “She’s been here for over forty years, Mr. Malone, ever since her late teens. Her records show all that, and her birth certificate is in perfect order. Not a chance.”

Malone sighed and turned back to the phone. “Of course she isn’t immortal, Chief,” he said. “She couldn’t be. Nobody is. Just a nut.”

“I was afraid of that,” Burris said. “Afraid?” Malone said.

Burris nodded. “We’ve got another one, or anyhow we think we have,” he said. “If he checks out, that is. Right here in Washington.”

“Not at Rice Pavilion?” Malone asked.

“No,” Burris said absently. “St. Elizabeths.”

Malone sighed. “Another nut?”

“Strait-jacket case,” Burris said. “Delusions of persecution, they tell me, and paranoia, and a whole lot of other things that sound nasty as hell. I can’t pronounce any of them, and that’s always a bad sign.”

“Can he talk?” Malone said.

“Who knows?” Burris told him, and shrugged. “I’m sending him on out to Yucca Flats anyhow, under guard. You might find a use for him.”

“Oh, sure,” Malone said. “We can use him as a horrible example. Suppose he can’t talk, or do anything? Suppose he turns violent? Suppose ”

“We can’t afford to overlook a thing,” Burris said, looking stern.

Once again, Malone sighed deeply. “I know,” he said. “But all the same ”

“Don’t worry about a thing, Malone,” Burris said with a palpably false air of confidence. “Everything is going to be perfectly all right.” He looked like a man trying very hard to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to a born New Yorker. “You get this Queen Elizabeth of yours out of there and take her to Yucca Flats, too,” he added.

Malone considered the possibilities that were opening up. Maybe, after all, they were going to find more telepaths. And maybe all the telepaths would be nuts. When he thought about it, that didn’t seem at all unlikely. He imagined himself with a talent nobody would believe he had.

A thing like that, he told himself glumly, could drive you buggy in short order and then where were you?

In a loony bin, that’s where you were.

Or, possibly, in Yucca Flats. Malone pictured the scene: there they would be, just one big happy family. Kenneth J. Malone, and a convention of bats straight out of the nation’s foremost loony bins.


Malone began to wonder why he had gone into FBI work in the first place.

“Listen, Chief,” he said. “I ”

“Sure, I understand,” Burris said quickly. “She’s batty. And this new one is batty, too. But what else can we do? Malone, don’t do anything you’ll regret.”

“Regret?” Malone said. “Like what?”

“I mean, don’t resign.”

“Chief, how did you know you’re not telepathic too, are you?”

“Of course not,” Burris said. “But that’s what I’d do in your place.”

“Well ”

“Remember, Malone,” Burris said. His face took on a stern, stuffed expression. “Do not ask what your country can do for you,” he quoted the youngest living ex-President. “Ask rather what you can do for your country.”

“Sure,” Malone said sadly.

“Well, it’s true, isn’t it?” Burris asked.

“What if it is?” Malone said. “It’s still terrible. Everything is terrible. Look at the situation.”

“I am looking,” Burris said. “And it’s another New Frontier. Just like it was when President Kennedy first said those words.”

“A New Frontier inhabited entirely by maniacs,” Malone said. “Perfectly wonderful. What a way to run a world.”

“That,” Burris said, “is the way the ball bounces. Or whatever you’re supposed to say. Malone, don’t think you haven’t got my sympathy. You have. I know how hard the job is you’re doing.”

“You couldn’t,” Malone told him bitterly.

“Well, anyhow,” Burris went on, “don’t resign. Stay on the job. Don’t give it up, Malone. Don’t desert the ship. I want you to promise me you won’t do it.”

“Look, chief,” Malone said. “These nuts ”

“Malone, you’ve done a wonderful job so far,” Burris said. “You’ll get a raise and a better job when all this is over. Who else would have thought of looking in the twitch-bins for telepaths? But you did, Malone, and I’m proud of you, and you’re stuck with it. We’ve got to use them now. We have to find that spy!” He took a breath. “On to Yucca Flats!” he said.

Malone gave up. “Yes, sir,” he said. “Anything else?”

“Not right now,” Burris said. “If there is, I’ll let you know.”

Malone hung up unhappily as the image vanished. He looked across at Dr. Harman. “Well,” he said, “that’s that. What do I have to do to get a release for Miss Thompson?”

Harman stared at him. “But, Mr. Malone,” he said, “that just isn’t possible. Really. Miss Thompson is a ward of the state, and we couldn’t possibly allow her release without a court order.”

Malone thought that over. “Okay,” he said at last. “I can see that.” He turned to Boyd. “Here’s a job for you, Tom,” he said. “Get one of the judges on the phone. You’ll know which one will do us the most good, fastest.”

“Mmm,” Boyd said. “Say Judge Dunning,” he said. “Good man. Fast worker.”

“I don’t care who,” Malone said. “Just get going, and get us a release for Miss Thompson.” He turned back to the doctor. “By the way,” he said. “Has she got any other name? Besides Elizabeth Tudor, I mean,” he added hurriedly.

“Her full name,” Dr. Harman said, “is Rose Walker Thompson. She is not Queen Elizabeth I, II or XXVIII, and she is not immortal.”

“But she is,” Malone pointed out, “a telepath. And that’s why I want her.”

“She may,” Dr. Harman said, “be a telepath.” It was obvious that he had partly managed to forget the disturbing incidents that had happened a few minutes before. “I don’t even want to discuss that part of it.”

“Okay, never mind it,” Malone said agreeably. “Tom, get us a court order for Rose Walker Thompson. Effective yesterday day before, if possible.”

Boyd nodded, but before he could get to the phone Dr. Harman spoke again.

“Now, wait a moment, gentlemen,” he said. “Court order or no court order, Miss Thompson is definitely not a well woman, and I can’t see my way clear to ”

“I’m not well myself,” Malone said. “I need sleep and I probably have a cold. But I’ve got to work for the national security, and ”

“This is important,” Boyd put in.

“I don’t dispute that,” Dr. Harman said. “Nevertheless, I ”

The door that led into the other room burst suddenly open. The three men turned to stare at Miss Wilson, who stood in the doorway for a long second and then stepped into the office, closing the door quietly behind her.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” she said.

“Not at all,” Malone said. “It’s a pleasure to have you. Come again soon.” He smiled at her.

She didn’t smile back. “Doctor,” she said, “you’d really better talk to Miss Thompson. I’m not at all sure what I can do. It’s something new.”

“New?” he said. The worry lines on his face were increasing, but he spoke softly.

“The poor dear thinks she’s going to get out of the hospital now,” Miss Wilson said. “For some reason, she’s convinced that the FBI is going to get her released, and ”

As she saw the expression on three faces, she stopped.

“What’s wrong?” she said.

“Miss Wilson,” Malone said, “we may I call you by your first name?”

“Of course, Mr. Malone,” she said. There was a little silence.

“Miss Wilson,” Malone said, “what is your first name?”

She smiled now, very gently. Malone wanted to walk through mountains, or climb fire. He felt confused, but wonderful. “Barbara,” she said.

“Lovely,” he said. “Well, Barbara and please call me Ken. It’s short for Kenneth.”

The smile on her face broadened. “I thought it might be,” she said.

“Well,” Malone said softly, “it is. Kenneth. That’s my name. And you’re Barbara.”

Boyd cleared his throat.

“Ah,” Malone said. “Yes. Of course. Well, Barbara well, that’s just what we intend to do. Take Miss Thompson away. We need her badly.”

Dr. Harman had said nothing at all, and had barely moved. He was staring at a point on his desk. “She couldn’t possibly have heard us,” he muttered. “That’s a soundproof door. She couldn’t have heard us.”

“But you can’t take Miss Thompson away,” Miss Wilson said.

“We have to, Barbara,” Malone said gently. “Try to understand. It’s for the national security.”

“She heard us thinking,” Dr. Harman muttered. “That’s what; she heard us thinking. Behind a soundproof door. She can see inside their minds. She can even see inside my mind.”

“She’s a sick woman,” Barbara said. “But you have to understand ”

“Vital necessity,” Boyd put in. “Absolutely vital.”

“Nevertheless ” Barbara said. “She can read minds,” Dr. Harman whispered in an awed tone. “She knows. Everything. She knows.”

“It’s out of the question,” Barbara said. “Whether you like it or not, Miss Thompson is not going to leave this hospital. Why, what could she do outside these walls? She hasn’t left in over forty years! And furthermore, Mr. Malone ”

“Kenneth,” Malone put in, as the door opened again. “I mean Ken.”

The little old lady put her haloed head into the room. “Now, now, Barbara,” she said. “Don’t you go spoiling things. Just let these nice men take me away and everything will be fine, believe me. Besides, I’ve been outside more often then you imagine.”

“Outside?” Barbara said.

“Of course,” the little old lady said. “In other people’s minds. Even yours. I remember that nice young man what was his name? ”

“Never mind his name,” Barbara said, flushing furiously.

Malone felt instantly jealous of every nice young man he had ever even heard of. He wasn’t a nice young man; he was an FBI agent, and he liked to get drunk and smoke cigars and carouse with loose women. Anyway, reasonably loose women.

All nice young men, he decided, should be turned into ugly old men as soon as possible. That’ll fix them!

He noticed the little old lady smiling at him, and tried to change his thoughts rapidly. But the little old lady said nothing at all.

“At any rate,” Barbara said, “I’m afraid that we just can’t ”

Dr. Harman cleared his throat imperiously. It was a most impressive noise, and everyone turned to look at him. His face was a little gray, but he looked, otherwise, like a rather pudgy, blond, crew-cut Roman emperor.

“Just a moment,” he said with dignity. “I think you’re doing the United States of America a grave injustice, Miss Wilson and that you’re doing an injustice to Miss Thompson, too.”

“What do you mean?” she said.

“I think it would be nice for her to get away from me I mean from here,” the psychiatrist said. “Where did you say you were taking her?” he asked Malone.

“Yucca Flats,” Malone said.

“Ah.” The news seemed to please the psychiatrist. “That’s a long distance from here, isn’t it? It’s quite a few hundred miles away. Perhaps even a few thousand miles away. I feel sure that will be the best thing for me I mean, of course, for Miss Thompson. I shall recommend that the court so order.”

“Doctor ” But even Barbara saw, Malone could tell, that it was no good arguing with Dr. Harman. She tried a last attack. “Doctor, who’s going to take care of her?”

A light the size and shape of North America burst in Malone’s mind. He almost chortled. But he managed to keep his voice under control. “What she needs,” he said, “is a trained psychiatric nurse.”

Barbara Wilson gave him a look that had carloads of U235 stacked away in it, but Malone barely minded. She’d get over it, he told himself.

“Now, wasn’t that sweet of you to think of that,” the little old lady said. Malone looked at her and was rewarded with another wink. Good God, he thought. She reads minds!

“I’m certainly glad you thought of Barbara,” the little old lady went on. “You will go with me, won’t you, dear? I’ll make you a duchess. Wouldn’t you like to be a duchess, dear?”

Barbara looked from Malone to the little old lady, and then she looked at Dr. Harman. Apparently what she saw failed to make her happy.

“We’ll take good care of her, Barbara,” Malone said.

She didn’t even bother to give him an answer. After a second Boyd said: “Well, I guess that settles it. If you’ll let me use your phone, Dr. Harman, I’ll call Judge Dunning.”

“Go right ahead,” Dr. Harman said. “Go right ahead.”

The little old lady smiled softly without looking at anybody at all. “Won’t it be wonderful,” she whispered. “At last I’ve been recognized. My country is about to pay me for my services. My loyal subjects....” She stopped and wiped what Malone thought was a tear from one cornflower-blue eye.

“Now, now, Miss Thompson,” Barbara said.

“I’m not sad,” the little old lady said, smiling up at her. “I’m just so very happy. I am about to get my reward, my well-deserved reward at last, from all of my loyal subjects. You’ll see.” She paused and Malone felt a faint stirring of stark, chill fear.

“Won’t it be wonderful?” said the little old lady.