Read CHAPTER 7 of Brain Twister , free online book, by Gordon Randall Garrett & Laurence Mark Janifer, on

Yucca Flats, Malone thought, certainly deserved its name. It was about as flat as land could get, and it contained millions upon millions of useless yuccas. Perhaps they were good for something, Malone thought, but they weren’t good for him.

The place might, of course, have been called Cactus Flats, but the cacti were neither as big nor as impressive as the yuccas.

Or was that yucci?

Possibly, Malone mused, it was simply yucks.

And whatever it was, there were millions of it. Malone felt he couldn’t stand the sight of another yucca. He was grateful for only one thing.

It wasn’t summer. If the Elizabethans had been forced to drive in closed cars through the Nevada desert in the summertime, they might have started a cult of nudity, Malone felt. It was bad enough now, in what was supposed to be winter.

The sun was certainly bright enough, for one thing. It glared through the cloudless sky and glanced with blinding force off the road. Sir Thomas Boyd squinted at it through the rather incongruous sunglasses he was wearing, while Malone wondered idly if it was the sunglasses, or the rest of the world, that was an anachronism. But Sir Thomas kept his eyes grimly on the road as he gunned the powerful Lincoln toward the Yucca Flats Labs at eighty miles an hour.

Malone twisted himself around and faced the women in the back seat. Past them, through the rear window of the Lincoln, he could see the second car. It followed them gamely, carrying the newest addition to Sir Kenneth Malone’s Collection of Bats.

“Bats?” Her Majesty said suddenly, but gently. “Shame on you, Sir Kenneth. These are poor, sick people. We must do our best to help them not to think up silly names for them. For shame!”

“I suppose so,” Malone said wearily. He sighed and, for the fifth time that day, he asked: “Does Your Majesty have any idea where our spy is now?”

“Well, really, Sir Kenneth,” the Queen said with the slightest of hesitations, “it isn’t easy, you know. Telepathy has certain laws, just like everything else. After all, even a game has laws. Being telepathic didn’t help me to play poker I still had to learn the rules. And telepathy has rules, too. A telepath can easily confuse another telepath by using some of those rules.”

“Oh, fine,” Malone said. “Well, have you got into contact with his mind yet?”

“Oh, yes,” Her Majesty said happily. “And my goodness, he’s certainly digging up a lot of information, isn’t he?”

Malone moaned softly. “But who is he?” he asked after a second.

The Queen stared at the roof of the car in what looked like concentration. “He hasn’t thought of his name yet,” she said. “I mean, at least, if he has, he hasn’t mentioned it to me. Really, Sir Kenneth, you have no idea how difficult all this is.”

Malone swallowed with difficulty.

"Where is he, then,” said. “Can you tell me that, at least? His location?”

Her Majesty looked positively desolated with sadness. “I can’t be sure,” she said. “I really can’t be exactly sure just where he is. He does keep moving around, I know that. But you have to remember that he doesn’t want me to find him. He certainly doesn’t want to be found by the FBI would you?”

“Your Majesty,” Malone said, “I am the FBI.”

“Yes,” the Queen said, “but suppose you weren’t? He’s doing his best to hide himself, even from me. It’s sort of a game he’s playing.”

“A game!”

Her Majesty looked contrite. “Believe me, Sir Kenneth, the minute I know exactly where he is, I’ll tell you. I promise. Cross my heart and hope to die which I can’t, of course, being immortal.” Nevertheless, she made an X-mark over her left breast. “All right?”

“All right,” Malone said, out of sheer necessity. “Okay. But don’t waste any time telling me. Do it right away. We’ve got to find that spy and isolate him somehow.”

“Please don’t worry yourself, Sir Kenneth,” Her Majesty said. “Your Queen is doing everything she can.”

“I know that, Your Majesty,” Malone said. “I’m sure of it.” Privately, he wondered just how much even she could do. Then he realized for perhaps the ten-thousandth time that there was no such thing as wondering privately any more.

“That’s quite right, Sir Kenneth,” the Queen said sweetly. “And it’s about time you got used to it.”

“What’s going on?” Boyd said. “More reading minds back there?”

“That’s right, Sir Thomas,” the Queen said.

“I’ve about gotten used to it,” Boyd said almost cheerfully. “Pretty soon they’ll come and take me away, but I don’t mind at all.” He whipped the car around a bend in the road savagely. “Pretty soon they’ll put me with the other sane people and let the bats inherit the world. But I don’t mind at all.”

“Sir Thomas!” Her Majesty said in shocked tones.

“Please,” Boyd said with a deceptive calmness. “Just Mr. Boyd. Not even Lieutenant Boyd, or Sergeant Boyd. Just Mr. Boyd. Or, if you prefer, Tom.”

“Sir Thomas,” Her Majesty said, “I really can’t understand this sudden ”

“Then don’t understand it,” Boyd said. “All I know is everybody’s nuts, and I’m sick and tired of it.”

A pall of silence fell over the company.

“Look, Tom,” Malone began at last.

“Don’t you try smoothing me down,” Boyd snapped.

Malone’s eyebrows rose. “Okay,” he said. “I won’t smooth you down. I’ll just tell you to shut up, to keep driving and to show some respect to Her Majesty.”

“I ” Boyd stopped. There was a second of silence.

"That’s better,” Her Majesty said with satisfaction.

Lady Barbara stretched in the back seat, next to Her Majesty. “This is certainly a long drive,” she said. “Have we got much farther to go?”

“Not too far,” Malone said. “We ought to be there soon.”

“I I’m sorry for the way I acted,” Barbara said.

“What do you mean, the way you acted?”

“Crying like that,” Barbara said with some hesitation. “Making an absolute idiot of myself. When that other car tried to get us.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Malone said. “It was nothing.”

“I just made trouble for you,” Barbara said.

Her Majesty touched the girl on the shoulder. “He’s not thinking about the trouble you cause him,” she said quietly.

“Of course I’m not,” Malone told her. “But I ”

“My dear girl,” Her Majesty said, “I believe that Sir Kenneth is, at least partly, in love with you.”

Malone blinked. It was perfectly true even if he hadn’t quite known it himself until now. Telepaths, he was discovering, were occasionally handy things to have around.

“In... love....” Barbara said.

“And you, my dear ” Her Majesty began.

“Please, Your Majesty,” Lady Barbara said. “No more. Not just now.”

The Queen smiled, almost to herself. “Certainly, dear,” she said.

The car sped on. In the distance, Malone could see the blot on the desert that indicated the broad expanse of Yucca Flats Labs. Just the fact that it could be seen, he knew, didn’t mean an awful lot. Malone had been able to see it for the past fifteen minutes, and it didn’t look as if they’d gained an inch on it. Desert distances are deceptive.

At long last, however, the main gate of the laboratories hove into view. Boyd made a left turn off the highway and drove a full seven miles along the restricted road, right up to the big gate that marked the entrance of the laboratories themselves. Once again, they were faced with the army of suspicious guards and security officers.

This time, suspicion was somewhat heightened by the dress of the visitors. Malone had to explain about six times that the costumes were part of an FBI arrangement, that he had not stolen his identity cards, that Boyd’s cards were Boyd’s, too, and in general that the four of them were not insane, not spies, and not jokesters out for a lark in the sunshine.

Malone had expected all of that. He went through the rigmarole wearily but without any sense of surprise. The one thing he hadn’t been expecting was the man who was waiting for him on the other side of the gate.

When he’d finished identifying everybody for the fifth or sixth time, he began to climb back into the car. A familiar voice stopped him cold.

“Just a minute, Malone,” Andrew J. Burris said. He erupted from the guardhouse like an avenging angel, followed closely by a thin man, about five feet ten inches in height, with brush-cut brown hair, round horn-rimmed spectacles, large hands and a small Sir Francis Drake beard. Malone looked at the two figures blankly.

“Something wrong, Chief?” he said.

Burris came toward the car. The thin gentleman followed him, walking with an odd bouncing step that must have been acquired, Malone thought, over years of treading on rubber eggs. “I don’t know,” Burris said when he’d reached the door. “When I was in Washington, I seemed to know but when I get out here in this desert, everything just goes haywire.” He rubbed at his forehead.

Then he looked into the car. “Hello, Boyd,” he said pleasantly.

“Hello, Chief,” Boyd said.

Burris blinked. “Boyd, you look like Henry VIII,” he said with only the faintest trace of surprise.

“Doesn’t he, though?” Her Majesty said from the rear seat. “I’ve noticed that resemblance myself.”

Burris gave her a tiny smile. “Oh,” he said. “Hello, Your Majesty. I’m ”

“Andrew J. Burris, Director of the FBI,” the Queen finished for him. “Yes, I know. It’s very nice to meet you at last. I’ve seen you on television, and over the video phone. You photograph badly, you know.”

“I do?” Burris said pleasantly. It was obvious that he was keeping himself under very tight control.

Malone felt remotely sorry for the man but only remotely. Burris might as well know, he thought, what they had all been going through the past several days.

Her Majesty was saying something about the honorable estate of knighthood, and the Queen’s list. Malone began paying attention when she came to:” and I hereby dub thee ” She stopped suddenly, turned and said: “Sir Kenneth, give me your weapon.”

Malone hesitated for a long, long second. But Burris’ eye was on him, and he could interpret the look without much trouble. There was only one thing for him to do. He pulled out his .44, ejected the cartridges in his palm (and reminded himself to reload the gun as soon as he got it back), and handed the weapon to the Queen, butt foremost.

She took the butt of the revolver in her right hand, leaned out the window of the car, and said in a fine, distinct voice: “Kneel, Andrew.”

Malone watched with wide, astonished eyes as Andrew J. Burris, Director of the FBI, went to one knee in a low and solemn genuflection. Queen Elizabeth Thompson nodded her satisfaction.

She tapped Burris gently on each shoulder with the muzzle of the gun. “I knight thee Sir Andrew,” she said. She cleared her throat. “My, this desert air is dry.... Rise, Sir Andrew, and know that you are henceforth Knight Commander of the Queen’s Own FBI.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” Burris said humbly.

He rose to his feet silently. The Queen withdrew into the car again and handed the gun back to Malone. He thumbed the cartridges into the chambers of the cylinder and listened dumbly.

“Your Majesty,” Burris said, “this is Dr. Harry Gamble, the head of Project Isle. Dr. Gamble, this is Her Majesty the Queen; Lady Barbara Wilson, her uh her lady-in-waiting; Sir Kenneth Malone; and King I mean Sir Thomas Boyd.” He gave the four a single bright impartial smile. Then he tore his eyes away from the others, and bent his gaze on Sir Kenneth Malone. “Come over here a minute, Malone,” he said, jerking his thumb over his shoulder. “I want to talk to you.”

Malone climbed out of the car and went around to meet Burris. He felt just a little worried as he followed the Director away from the car. True, he had sent Burris a long telegram the night before, in code. But he hadn’t expected the man to show up in Yucca Flats. There didn’t seem to be any reason for it.

And when there isn’t any reason, Malone told himself sagely, it’s a bad one.

“What’s the trouble, Chief?” he asked.

Burris sighed. “None so far,” he said quietly. “I got a report from the Nevada State Patrol, and ran it through R&I. They identified the men you killed, all right but it didn’t do us any good. They’re hired hoods.”

“Who hired them?” Malone said.

Burris shrugged. “Somebody with money,” he said. “Hell, men like that would kill their own grandmothers if the price were right you know that. We can’t trace them back any farther.”

Malone nodded. That was, he had to admit, bad news. But then, when had he last had any good news?

“We’re nowhere near our telepathic spy,” Burris said. “We haven’t come any closer than we were when we started. Have you got anything? Anything at all, no matter how small?”

“Not that I know of, sir,” Malone said.

“What about the little old lady what’s her name? Thompson. Anything from her?”

Malone hesitated. “She has a close fix on the spy, sir,” he said slowly, “but she doesn’t seem able to identify him right away.”

“What else does she want?” Burris said. “We’ve made her Queen and given her a full retinue in costume; we’ve let her play roulette and poker with Government money. Does she want to hold a mass execution? If she does, I can supply some Congressmen, Malone. I’m sure it could be arranged.” He looked at the agent narrowly. “I might even be able to supply an FBI man or two,” he added.

Malone swallowed hard. “I’m trying the best I can, sir,” he said. “What about the others?”

Burris looked even unhappier than usual. “Come along,” he said. “I’ll show you.”

When they got back to the car, Dr. Gamble was talking spiritedly with Her Majesty about Roger Bacon. “Before my time, of course,” the Queen was saying, “but I’m sure he was a most interesting man. Now when dear old Marlowe wrote his Faust, he and I had several long discussions about such matters. Alchemy, Doctor ”

Burris interrupted with: “I beg your pardon, Your Majesty, but we must get on. Perhaps you’ll be able to continue your ah audience later.” He turned to Boyd. “Sir Thomas,” he said with an effort, “drive directly to the Westinghouse buildings. Over that way.” He pointed. “Dr. Gamble will ride with you, and the rest of us will follow in the second car. Let’s move.”

He stepped back as the project head got into the car, and watched it roar off. Then he and Malone went to the second car, another FBI Lincoln. Two agents were sitting in the back seat, with a still figure between them.

With a shock, Malone recognized William Logan and the agents he’d detailed to watch the telepath. Logan’s face did not seem to have changed expression since Malone had seen it last, and he wondered wildly if perhaps it had to be dusted once a week.

He got in behind the wheel and Burris slid in next to him.

“Westinghouse,” Burris said. “And let’s get there in a hurry.”

“Right,” Malone said, and started the car.

“We just haven’t had a single lead,” Burris said. “I was hoping you’d come up with something. Your telegram detailed the fight, of course, and the rest of what’s been happening but I hoped there’d be something more.”

“There isn’t,” Malone was forced to admit. “All we can do is try to persuade Her Majesty to tell us ”

“Oh, I know it isn’t easy,” Burris said. “But it seems to me....”

By the time they’d arrived at the administrative offices of Westinghouse’s psionics research area, Malone found himself wishing that something would happen. Possibly, he thought, lightning might strike, or an earthquake swallow everything up. He was, suddenly, profoundly tired of the entire affair.