Read CHAPTER 4 of Brain Twister , free online book, by Gordon Randall Garrett & Laurence Mark Janifer, on

“You’re where?” Andrew J. Burris said.

Malone looked at the surprised face on the screen and wished he hadn’t called. He had to report in, of course but, if he’d had any sense, he’d have ordered Boyd to do the job for him.

Oh, well, it was too late for that now. “I’m in Las Vegas,” he said. “I tried to get you last night, but I couldn’t, so I ”

“Las Vegas,” Burris said. “Well, well. Las Vegas.” His face darkened and his voice became very loud. “Why aren’t you in Yucca Flats?” he screamed.

“Because she insisted on it,” Malone said. “The old lady. Miss Thompson. She says there’s another telepath here.”

Burris closed his eyes. “Well, that’s a relief,” he said at last. “Somebody in one of the gambling houses, I suppose. Fine, Malone.” He went right on without a pause: “The boys have uncovered two more in various parts of the nation. Not one of them is even close to sane.” He opened his eyes. “Where’s this one?” he said.

Malone sighed. “In the looney bin,” he said.

Burris’ eyes closed again. Malone waited in silence. At last Burris said: “All right. Get him out.”

“Right,” Malone said.

“Tell me,” Burris said. “Why did Miss Thompson insist that you go to Las Vegas? Somebody else could have done the job. You could have sent Boyd, couldn’t you?”

“Chief,” Malone said slowly, “what sort of mental condition are those other telepaths in?”

“Pretty bad,” Burris said. “As a matter of fact, very bad. Miss Thompson may be off her trolley, but the others haven’t even got any tracks.” He paused. “What’s that got to do with it?” he said.

“Well,” Malone said, “I figured we’d better handle Miss Thompson with kid gloves at least until we find a better telepath to work with.” He didn’t mention Barbara Wilson. The chief, he told himself, didn’t want to be bothered with details.

“Doggone right you’d better,” Burris said. “You treat that old lady as if she were the Queen herself, understand?”

“Don’t worry,” Malone said unhappily. “We are.” He hesitated. “She says she’ll help us find our spy, all right, but we’ve got to do it her way or else she won’t cooperate.”

“Do it her way, then,” Burris said. “That spy ”

“Chief, are you sure?”

Burris blinked. “Well, then,” he said, “what is her way?”

Malone took a deep breath. “First,” he said, “we had to come here and pick this guy up. This William Logan, who’s in a private sanitarium just outside of Las Vegas. That’s number one. Miss Thompson wants to get all the telepaths together, so they can hold mental conversations or something.”

“And all of them batty,” Burris said.

“Sure,” Malone said. “A convention of nuts and me in the middle. Listen, Chief ”

“Later,” Burris said. “When this is over we can all resign, or go fishing, or just plain shoot ourselves. But right now the national security is primary, Malone. Remember that.”

“Okay,” Malone sighed. “Okay. But she wants all the nuts here.”

“Go along with her,” Burris snapped. “Keep her happy. So far, Malone, she’s the only lead we have on the guy who’s swiping information from Yucca Flats. If she wants something, Malone, you do it.”

“But, Chief ”

“Don’t interrupt me,” Burris said. “If she wants to be treated like a Queen, you treat her like one. Malone, that’s an order!”

“Yes, sir,” Malone said sadly. “But, Chief, she wants us to buy her some new clothes.”

“My God,” Burris exploded. “Is that all? New clothes? Get ’em. Put ’em on the expense account. New clothes are a drop in the bucket.”

“Well she thinks we need new clothes, too.”

“Maybe you do,” Burris said. “Put the whole thing on the expense account. You don’t think I’m going to quibble about a few dollars, do you?”

“Well ”

“Get the clothes. Just don’t bother me with details like this. Handle the job yourself, Malone you’re in charge out there. And get to Yucca Flats as soon as possible.”

Malone gave up. “Yes, sir,” he said.

“All right, then,” Burris said. “Call me tomorrow. Meanwhile good luck, Malone. Chin up.”

Malone said: “Yes, sir,” and reached for the switch. But Burris’ voice stopped him.

“Just one thing,” he said.

“Yes, Chief?” Malone said.

Burris frowned. “Don’t spend any more for the clothes than you have to,” he said.

Malone nodded, and cut off.

When the Director’s image had vanished, he got up and went to the window of the hotel room. Outside, a huge sign told the world, and Malone, that this was the Thunderbird-Hilton-Zeckendorf Hotel, but Malone ignored it. He didn’t need a sign; he knew where he was.

In hot water, he thought. That’s where he was.

Behind him, the door opened. Malone turned as Boyd came in.

“I found a costume shop, Ken,” he said.

“Great,” Malone said. “The Chief authorized it.”

“He did?” Boyd’s round face fell at the news.

“He said to buy her whatever she wants. He says to treat her like a Queen.”

“That,” Boyd said, “we’re doing now.”

“I know it,” Malone said. “I know it altogether too well.”

“Anyhow,” Boyd said, brightening, “the costume shop doesn’t do us any good. They’ve only got cowboy stuff and bullfighters’ costumes and Mexican stuff you know, for their Helldorado Week here.”

“You didn’t give up, did you?” Malone said.

Boyd shook his head. “Of course not,” he said. “Ken: this is on the expense account, isn’t it?”

“Expense account,” Malone said. “Sure it is.”

Boyd looked relieved. “Good,” he said. “Because I had the proprietor phone her size in, to New York.”

“Better get two of ’em,” Malone said. “The Chief said anything she wanted, she was supposed to have.”

“I’ll go back right away. I told him we wanted the stuff on the afternoon plane, so ”

“And give him Bar Miss Wilson’s size, and yours, and mine. Tell him to dig up something appropriate.”

“For us?” Boyd blanched visibly. “For us,” Malone said grimly.

Boyd set his jaw. “No,” he said.

“Listen, Tom,” Malone said, “I don’t like this any better than you do. But if I can’t resign, you can’t either. Costumes for everybody.”

“But,” Boyd said, and stopped. After a second he went on: “Malone Ken FBI agents are supposed to be inconspicuous, aren’t they?”

Malone nodded.

“Well, how inconspicuous are we going to be in this stuff?”

“It’s an idea,” Malone said. “But it isn’t a very good one. Our first job is to keep Miss Thompson happy. And that means costumes.”

Boyd said: “My God.”

“And what’s more,” Malone added, “from now on she’s ‘Your Majesty.’ Got that?”

“Ken,” Boyd said, “you’ve gone nuts.”

Malone shook his head. “No, I haven’t,” he said. “I just wish I had. It would be a relief.”

“Me too,” Boyd said. He started for the door and turned. “I wish I could have stayed in San Francisco,” he said. “Why should she insist on taking me along?”

“The beard,” Malone said. “My beard?” Boyd recoiled.

“Right,” Malone said. “She says it reminds her of someone she knows. Frankly, it reminds me of someone, too. Only I don’t know who.”

Boyd gulped. “I’ll shave it off,” he said, with the air of a man who can do no more to propitiate the Gods.

“You will not,” Malone said firmly. “Touch but a hair of yon black chin, and I’ll peel off your entire skin.”

Boyd winced.

“Now,” Malone said, “go back to that costume shop and arrange things. Here.” He fished in his pockets and came out with a crumpled slip of paper and handed it to Boyd. “That’s a list of my clothing sizes. Get another list from B Miss Wilson.” Boyd nodded. Malone thought he detected a strange glint in the other man’s eye. “Don’t measure her yourself,” he said. “Just ask her.”

Boyd scratched his bearded chin and nodded slowly. “All right, Ken,” he said. “But if we just don’t get anywhere, don’t blame me.”

“If you get anywhere,” Malone said, “I’ll snatch you baldheaded. And I’ll leave the beard.”

“I didn’t mean with Miss Wilson, Ken,” Boyd said. “I meant in general.” He left, with the air of a man whose world has betrayed him. His back looked, to Malone, like the back of a man on his way to the scaffold or guillotine.

The door closed.

Now, Malone thought, who does that beard remind me of? Who do I know who knows Miss Thompson?

And what difference does it make?

Nevertheless, he told himself, Boyd’s beard (Beard’s boyd?) was really an admirable fact of nature. Ever since beards had become popular again in the mid-sixties, and FBI agents had been permitted to wear them, Malone had thought about growing one. But, somehow, it didn’t seem right.

Now, looking at Boyd, he began to think about the prospect again.

He shrugged the notion away. There were things to do.

He picked up the phone and called Information.

“Can you give me,” he said, “the number of the Desert Edge Sanatorium?”

The crimson blob of the setting sun was already painting the desert sky with its customary purples and oranges by the time the little caravan arrived at the Desert Edge Sanatorium, a square white building several miles out of Las Vegas. Malone, in the first car, wondered briefly about the kind of patients they catered to. People driven mad by vingt-et-un or poker-dice? Neurotic chorus ponies? Gambling czars with delusions of non-persecution?

Sitting in the front seat next to Boyd, he watched the unhappy San Francisco agent manipulating the wheel. In the back seat, Queen Elizabeth Thompson and Lady Barbara, the nurse, were located, and Her Majesty was chattering away like a magpie.

Malone eyed the rearview mirror to get a look at the car following them and the two local FBI agents in it. They were, he thought, unbelievably lucky. He had to sit and listen to the Royal Personage in the back seat.

“Of course, as soon as Parliament convenes and recognizes me,” she was saying, “I shall confer personages on all of you. Right now, the best I could do was to knight you all, and of course that’s hardly enough. But I think I shall make Sir Kenneth the Duke of Columbia.”

Sir Kenneth, Malone realized, was himself. He wondered how he’d like being Duke of Columbia and wouldn’t the President be surprised!

“And Sir Thomas,” the Queen continued, “will be the Duke of what? Sir Thomas?”

“Yes, Your Majesty?” Boyd said, trying to sound both eager and properly respectful.

“What would you like to be Duke of?” she said.

“Oh,” Boyd said after a second’s thought, “anything that pleases Your Majesty.” But apparently, his thoughts gave him away.

“You’re from upstate New York?” the Queen said. “How very nice. Then you must be made the Duke of Poughkeepsie.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” Boyd said. Malone thought he detected a note of pride in the man’s voice, and shot a glance at Boyd, but the agent was driving with a serene face and an economy of motion.

Duke of Poughkeepsie! Malone thought. Hah!

He leaned back and adjusted his fur-trimmed coat. The plume that fell from his cap kept tickling his neck, and he brushed at it without success.

All four of the inhabitants of the car were dressed in late Sixteenth Century costumes, complete with ruffs and velvet and lace filigree. Her Majesty and Lady Barbara were wearing the full skirts and small skullcaps of the era (and on Barbara, Malone thought privately, the low-cut gowns didn’t look at all disappointing), and Sir Thomas and Malone (Sir Kenneth, he thought sourly) were clad in doublet, hose and long coats with fur trim and slashed sleeves. And all of them were loaded down, weighted down, staggeringly, with gems.

Naturally, the gems were fake. But then, Malone thought, the Queen was mad. It all balanced out in the end.

As they approached the sanitarium, Malone breathed a thankful prayer that he’d called up to tell the head physician how they’d all be dressed. If he hadn’t....

He didn’t want to think about that.

He didn’t even want to pass it by hurriedly on a dark night.

The head physician, Dr. Frederic Dowson, was waiting for them on the steps of the building. He was a tall, thin, cadaverous-looking man with almost no hair and very deep-sunken eyes. He had the kind of face that a gushing female would probably describe, Malone thought, as “craggy,” but it didn’t look in the least attractive to Malone. Instead, it looked tough and forbidding.

He didn’t turn a hair as the magnificently robed Boyd slid from the front seat, opened the rear door, doffed his plumed hat, and in one low sweep made a great bow. “We are here, Your Majesty,” Boyd said.

Her Majesty got out, clutching at her voluminous skirts in a worried manner, to keep from catching them on the door-jamb. “You know, Sir Thomas,” she said when she was standing free of the car, “I think we must be related.”

“Ah?” Boyd said worriedly.

“I’m certain of it, in fact,” Her Majesty went on. “You look just exactly like my poor father. Just exactly. I dare say you come from one of the sinister branches of the family. Perhaps you are a half-brother of mine removed, of course.”

Malone grinned, and tried to hide the expression. Boyd was looking puzzled, then distantly angered. Nobody had ever called him illegitimate in just that way before.

But Her Majesty was absolutely right, Malone thought. The agent had always reminded him of someone, and now, at last, he knew exactly who. The hair hadn’t been black, either, but red.

Boyd was, in Elizabethan costume, the deadest of dead ringers for Henry VIII.

Malone went up the steps to where Dr. Dowson was standing.

“I’m Malone,” he said, checking a tendency to bow. “I called earlier today. Is this William Logan of yours ready to go? We can take him back with us in the second car.”

Dr. Dowson compressed his lips and looked worried. “Come in, Mr. Malone,” he said. He turned just as the second carload of FBI agents began emptying itself over the hospital grounds.

The entire procession filed into the hospital office, the two local agents following up the rear. Since they were not a part of Her Majesty’s personal retinue, they had not been required to wear court costumes. In a way, Malone was beginning to feel sorry for them. He himself cut a nice figure in the outfit, he thought rather like Errol Flynn in the old black-and-white print of The Prince and the Pauper.

But there was no denying that the procession looked strange. File clerks and receptionists stopped their work to gape at the four bedizened walkers and their plainly dressed satellites. Malone needed no telepathic talent to tell what they were thinking.

“A whole roundup of nuts,” they were thinking. “And those two fellows in the back must be bringing them in along with Dr. Dowson.”

Malone straightened his spine. Really, he didn’t see why Elizabethan costumes had ever gone out of style. Elizabeth was back, wasn’t she either Elizabeth II, on the throne, or Elizabeth I, right behind him. Either way you looked at it....

When they were all inside the waiting room, Dr. Dowson said: “Now, Mr. Malone, just what is all this about?” He rubbed his long hands together. “I fail to see the humor of the situation.”

“Humor?” Malone said.

“Doctor,” Barbara Wilson began, “let me explain. You see ”

“These ridiculous costumes,” Dr. Dowson said, waving a hand at them. “You may feel that poking fun at insanity is humorous, Mr. Malone, but let me tell you ”

“It wasn’t like that at all,” Boyd said.

“And,” Dr. Dowson continued in a somewhat louder voice, “wanting to take Mr. Logan away from us. Mr. Logan is a very sick man, Mr. Malone. He should be properly cared for.”

“I promise we’ll take good care of him,” Malone said earnestly. The Elizabethan clothes were fine outdoors, but in a heated room one had a tendency to sweat.

“I take leave to doubt that,” Dr. Dowson said, eyeing their costumes pointedly.

“Miss Wilson here,” Malone volunteered, “is a trained psychiatric nurse.”

Barbara, in her gown, stepped forward. “Dr. Dowson,” she said, “let me assure you that these costumes have their purpose. We ”

“Not only that,” Malone said. “There are a group of trained men from St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington who are going to take the best of care of him.” He said nothing whatever about Yucca Flats, or about telepathy.

Why spread around information unnecessarily?

“But I don’t understand,” Dr. Dowson said. “What interest could the FBI have in an insane man?”

“That’s none of your business,” Malone said. He reached inside his fur-trimmed robe and, again suppressing a tendency to bow deeply, withdrew an impressive-looking legal document. “This,” he said, “is a court order, instructing you to hand over to us the person of one William Logan, herein identified and described.” He waved it at the Doctor.

“That’s your William Logan,” he said, “only now he’s ours.”

Dr. Dowson took the papers and put in some time frowning at them. Then he looked up again at Malone. “I assume that I have some discretion in this matter,” he said. “And I wonder if you realize just how ill Mr. Logan is? We have his case histories here, and we have worked with him for some time.”

Barbara Wilson said: “But ”

“I might say that we are beginning to understand his illness,” Dr. Dowson said. “I honestly don’t think it would be proper to transfer this work to another group of therapists. It might set his illness back cause, as it were, a relapse. All our work could easily be nullified.”

“Please, Doctor,” Barbara Wilson began.

“I’m afraid the court order’s got to stand,” Malone said. Privately, he felt sorry for Dr. Dowson, who was, obviously enough, a conscientious man trying to do the best he could for his patient. But-

“I’m sorry, Dr. Dowson,” he said. “We’ll expect that you send all of your data to the government psychiatrists and, naturally, any concern for the patient’s welfare will be our concern also. The FBI isn’t anxious for its workers to get the reputation of careless men.” He paused, wondering what other bone he could throw the man. “I have no doubt that the St. Elizabeth’s men will be happy to accept your cooperation,” he said at last. “But, I’m afraid that our duty is clear. William Logan goes with us.”

Dr. Dowson looked at them sourly. “Does he have to get dressed up like a masquerade, too?” Before Malone could answer, the psychiatrist added: “Anyhow, I don’t even know you’re FBI men. After all, why should I comply with orders from a group of men, dressed insanely, whom I don’t even know?”

Malone didn’t say anything. He just got up and walked to a phone on a small table, near the wall. Next to it was a door, and Malone wondered uncomfortably what was behind it. Maybe Dr. Dowson had a small arsenal there, to protect his patients and prevent people from pirating them.

He looked back at the set and dialed Burris’ private number in Washington. When the Director’s face appeared on the screen, Malone said: “Mr. Burris, will you please identify me to Dr. Dowson?” He looked over at Dowson. “You recognize Mr. Andrew J. Burris, I suppose?” he said.

Dowson nodded. His grim face showed a faint shock. He walked to the phone, and Malone stepped back to let him talk with Burris.

“My name is Dowson,” he said. “I’m psychiatric director here at Desert Edge Sanatorium. And your men ”

“My men have orders to take William Logan from your care,” Burris said.

“That’s right,” Dowson said. “But ”

While they were talking, Queen Elizabeth I sidled quietly up to Malone and tapped him on the shoulder.

“Sir Kenneth,” she whispered in the faintest of voices, “I know where your telepathic spy is. And I know who he is.”

“Who?” Malone said. “What? Why? Where?” He blinked and whirled. It couldn’t be true. They couldn’t solve the case so easily.

But the Queen’s face was full of a majestic assurance. “He’s right there,” she said, and she pointed.

Malone followed her finger.

It was aimed directly at the glowing image of Andrew J. Burris,
Director of the FBI.