Mack Reynolds: The Best Ye Breed

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Mack Reynolds The Best Ye Breed
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    The Best Ye Breed
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The Best Ye Breed: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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The third part of the series written 17 years later.

Mack Reynolds: другие книги автора

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The Best Ye Breed

by Mack Reynolds



Happily, it was a grim night. It was cloudy and there was a fine drizzle. Paul Kosloff didn’t know whether or not the grounds of the mansion were patrolled, either by men or by dogs, but, if they were, either man or beast was going to be shelter-conscious.

Most likely, the grounds were so patrolled. His target was known to be security-conscious almost to the point of phobia.

The iron picket fence surrounding the estate was his first hurdle. There were no trees near it and it was too high to climb easily. Besides, undoubtedly it was gimmick-wired at the top in such manner as to tip off the guards—either that or electrocute him. He was going to have to go through it.

The main gate was out of the question. He had seen the two men stationed there, one to each side in armored booths and undoubtedly armed to the molars. He continued to stroll along, on the other side of the street, following the fence. And, yes, behind the house was a smaller gate which was unattended.

Paul Kosloff crossed over to it. It had a heavy lock. He brought a scrambler from his pocket and activated it, then an electronic lock pick which he had gotten from the boys in the Rube Goldberg department. Its magnets sucked up to the lock, over the keyhole, and he slowly rotated it. When the lock reluctantly gave up its secrets, he pushed the gate open and slipped through. He relocked it, then deactivated the scrambler.

Thus far things were going better than he had hoped. Bending almost double, he scurried toward the rear of the mansion.

Luckily, this part of the estate was mostly gardens, complete with trees, complete with shrubs. He had a good chance of going undetected, certainly until he got reasonably near the house.

The dog, running hard, a brown streak with distended, slavering jaws, was upon him almost before he spotted it. A Doberman pinscher, recognizable even in this light by its long forelegs and wide hindquarters.

Paul Kosloff had worked out with war dogs while taking commando training long years before. He had just time to fling himself into position before the dog jumped. He spun sideward to the left and his right hand shot out and grabbed the right paw of the large smooth-coated terrier. He continued to swing mightily. The dog had time for only one loud yelp of confusion, before he smashed it into the trunk of a tree.

It fell to the ground, momentarily, at least, stunned. Paul Kosloff, to make sure, kicked it twice in the side of the head, immediately behind the clipped ears.

He wiped the back of his left hand over his forehead, finding a beading of cold sweat there. He shook his head and continued on his way toward the house.

A chink of light began to manifest itself, and a door was opening. He dodged behind the bole of a large tree, and flattened himself against it.

A voice called, “Roger! Is that you, boy?”

Paul Kosloff held his breath.

“Roger! What have you got, boy?”

A few moments later, there was a curse and Paul Kosloff could hear someone approaching.

The voice was closer this time. “Here boy, here boy. Damn it, what were you yelping about?”

As the footsteps came closer, Paul Kosloff slithered around the tree trunk, keeping it between himself and the other.

Completely on the other side, he bent double once again and headed for the house and the open door. It was all in the laps of the gods now. Was there anyone else inside? Behind him, he could still hear the guard, still calling the Doberman. The fat was going to be in the fire if he discovered the unconscious watchdog.

Paul Kosloff hurried into the interior of the large house and found himself in a small guardroom, furnished only with a single table and two chairs. On the walls were flac rifles, shotguns and laser beam pistols.

There was another door at the far side of the room. He got through it in a hurry and closed it behind him before speeding down the dimly lit hall beyond. Given luck, he wouldn’t run into any servants. Not at this time of the night. It was past two o’clock.

He came to a small elevator and looked at it for a moment, but then shook his head. The man he was seeking was noted as a nut on burglar alarms and related devices. He might even have something like an elevator rigged.

He found a flight of narrow circling stairs slightly beyond. A servant stairway by the looks of it. He started up. His destination was on the third floor. He wondered if there were any more guards.

At the third floor, he peered cautiously down the ornate hallway. And, yes, there was a guard before the door that was his goal.

The other’s back was turned. Paul Kosloff took a desperate chance and sped across the heavily carpeted hall to the room opposite. The chance paid off. The door was unlocked. He entered the room beyond quickly, closed the door behind him.

He fumbled at the wall for a light switch and found it. The plans of the mansion he had studied had been correct. It was a billiards room, the table in the exact center. He strode over to it, took up the eight ball and then returned to the door and flicked off the light.

He had to gamble now that the guard’s back was still turned. If it wasn’t, he’d had it. He opened the door a narrow crack and rolled the ball toward the circular staircase. It began to bounce down the stairs, at first slowly, then faster. It didn’t sound much like footsteps to him, but it would have to do.

He kept the door open, the slightest crack, and watched as the guard came hurrying up and hesitated, looking down the stairwell. The ball was well along by now and going faster. At this distance it sounded more like a person descending as fast as possible.

The guard suddenly flicked his hand inside his coat to emerge with a laser pistol, and began hurrying down.

Paul Kosloff gave him a few moments, then left his hiding place and hustled along the hall. He gently tried the doorknob of the room that was his destination. It wasn’t locked. He pulled a comb from his pocket, drew it through his hair a couple of times and returned it. He straightened his suit, moistened dry lips, then opened the door and walked through, nonchalantly.

The man reclining on the bed, reading, looked up at him.

“Paul Kosloff?” he said.

“Well, I’m not the ghost of Spiro Agnew,” Paul Kosloff said, closing the door behind him. “What in the hell is this all about?”

“How did you get in without detection?”

“I didn’t completely. You’ve either got a dead dog or one with a whale of a headache out in your garden. Again, what’s this all about?” Kosloff pulled up a chair without invitation and sat down.

“A double motive,” the man in the bed said. “First, I wanted to find out whether you’re as good as you’re supposed to be as an espionage-counter-espionage agent. And, second, I wanted to give you an assignment without anyone, anyone at all, even knowing we’ve ever met. Do you know who I am?”

“You’re the head of what some of us field men call the Commission of Dirty Tricks of the State Department, often working hand in glove with the CIA.”

The other looked at him. “Very few people know of me. In my section, we need publicity like a broken leg.”

Paul Kosloff said evenly, “Yes, I know. I was just a child when the Bay of Pigs took place, but there have been other farces since. Publicity doesn’t help.”

The man in the bed was obviously not pleased at that. He said, “Kosloff, do you consider yourself a patriotic American?”

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