Chapter VIII

Public Domain

“Look, Gorman,” Carmody said, “I’m not working for you; I’m working for Lockard. What’s the idea of sending for me this hour of the night?”

“Then why did you come this hour of the night when I asked you to?” the lawyer inquired, leaning back in his chair and smiling.

The big man hesitated and shrugged. “Can’t say, myself. Curiosity, maybe ... But you can hardly expect me to violate my employer’s confidence?”

Gorman laughed. “You get your ideas from the viddies, don’t you? Only don’t forget that you’re the villain, not the hero, of this piece, fellow-man.”

Carmody, completely taken aback, stared at him--the little alien couldn’t know! And, furthermore, he was mistaken--Carmody, Lockard, the dutchman, had done nothing wrong, committed no crime, violated no ethic. On the other hand, he had done nothing right either, nothing to help himself or any other. “What do you mean?” he finally temporized.

“Tell me this--Lockard hired you to kill the man who goes under the name of John Keats, didn’t he?”

“Yes, but how did you know that?” He was beginning to have the same primitive fear of Gorman that he had of the Vinzz; only it was more natural for an extraterrestrial to have apparently supernatural powers.

“Keats told me--and Keats, of course, is the real Carmody.”

“So you found out?”

“Found out!” Gorman laughed. “I knew it all along. Does a man keep any secrets from his lawyer?”

“If he’s smart, he does.” Carmody absently beat his hand on the desk. “This Keats isn’t too smart, though, is he?”

“No ... he isn’t a very bright guy. But it was his idea that this would be a fine method of getting you out of the way. And not too bad an idea, either ... You had to be disposed of, you know,” he explained winningly. “And how nice to have hounds do it for us. Of course we had no idea of who your quarry was.”

“I can see your point of view,” Carmody said ironically. “But why tell me now?” And then he thought he saw the answer. “Are you afraid I’ll really kill him?”

The lawyer shook his head and smiled back. “Afraid you really won’t.” He placed the tips of his fingers together. “I am prepared to double whatever Lockard is offering you to make sure that Keats, with Carmody inside him, is definitely put out of the way forever.”

So even here there was no basis of trust--none of the reverse honor that legend commonly assigned to extralegals. Carmody got up. Even seated, he had towered above the lawyer. Standing, he was like a larger-than-life statue of doom--of doom, Gorman nervously hoped, pointing in the desired direction.

“And if I refuse?” Carmody asked.

Gorman moved his chair back uneasily. “I might persuade Keats that he could risk one murder in his present shape, if it was to insure his ultimate safety.”

“Meaning it would be a good idea for him to kill me?”

“Meaning it would be an excellent idea for him to kill you.”

“Look here, Gorman,” Carmody said, in a low voice that gradually increased in volume. He could no longer restrain the anger that had been seething up in him for all the years of his wandering. “I’ve had enough of all this, hiding, running, shifting bodies and now hiring out as a killer. Because I’m an honest man. Maybe you’ve never seen one before, so take a good look at me. You may never have the chance again.”

“I am looking and I see Jed Carmody. Not my idea of the prototype of honesty.”

“But I don’t feel like Jed Carmody.”

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