Warren Murphy: Sue Me

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  • Название:
    Sue Me
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    Детективная фантастика / на английском языке
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    Английский
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Destroyer 66: Sue Me

By Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

Chapter 1

It was easy money. Maybe too easy. But then there was no such thing. Someone was going to make a bundle out of this somehow, although Carl Schroeder couldn't figure out how.

He got free airfare to London and a hundred dollars when he arrived, and all he had to do was loosen a plate behind the coffeepot in the galley of the Gammon 787.

"There's dope there, right?" asked Carl. There was an angle to everything, and he usually found it. "No. There's no dope there," said the man he could not see. The voice seemed to be coming from Carl's park bench. He knew the voice had been following him. It was nothing extraterrestrial though. Nothing ghostly. Just a normal sort of a voice whose owner said he wanted to be hidden. A voice he'd first heard in the lavatory of the poolroom on D Street.

Carl usually spent his mornings there. Pittsburgh was not much of a town in which to do anything else. Then again, in all his twenty-three years the world had not been much more to Carl than an endless series of poolrooms. He ran numbers for a while but the numbers bankers always demanded you show up at the same minute every day. It was worse than a full-time job.

He tried insurance fraud for a while but the third time he suffered whiplash in a single month, the insurance-company computers got the angle on him and he couldn't collect anymore.

Welfare was good, but Carl had made the mistake of listening to his teachers and staying in high school until graduation. If he were illiterate he might have been able to count on the City of Pittsburgh for pocket money. But when you were white and healthy and had a high-school degree, no welfare department would believe that.

And then there was that cursed workfare, which fortunately died under protest from civil-rights groups. Carl Schroeder shuddered to think he could have walked into an unemployment office in the morning and found a broom in his hand by afternoon.

The real problem with unemployment, a problem that Carl Schroeder saw and every commentator missed, was that you had to have a job before you could lose it and be eligible for benefits.

There was dope, of course. Big money in dope. But you could get killed dealing, or worse, be sent to jail for years. And in some jails you had to make license plates. Boring.

So when Carl Schroeder heard the voice in the lavatory telling him there was no work involved, he didn't believe it.

"Carl. There is no one here. I can see you but you can only hear me," came the voice.

Carl checked the booths. He peered behind the cracks in the mirror. He looked under the sinks. No microphones. No cameras. But the voice kept coming.

"Carl, you're not going to find any device. The way I do this is beyond your understanding. You would've had to take physics in high school. Somehow I do not believe you would do so much work in high school as to take physics."

"Who're you?"

"Someone who wants to give you a free trip to London and a hundred dollars to boot."

"Nobody gives something for nothing," said Carl.

"My business is my business," came the voice. "You want me to carry a little package, right? Screw you. I ain't doin' no dope deal for a hundred bucks and a plane ticket. No dope deal, no way." Carl examined the corners of the lavatory carefully. Cameras were often hidden in the corners, he had heard. Sometimes behind mirrors. But he knew there was no way to hide a camera behind the mirrors in this lavatory because there was solid concrete there. He had checked that a long time ago, because payoffs would often be left behind mirrors in public lavatories. While he had only found ten dollars once in what must have been fifteen thousand tries, it was still ten dollars and it sure was not work.

"Carl, this is not a dope deal, and you are no more going to figure it out than you can figure out where the voice is coming from."

"So what's your angle?"

"My angle is my angle, Carl. All you have to do is unscrew two simple Phillips screws."

"And then someone else comes along and picks up the coke or smack, right?"

"I told you, this is not a dope deal."

"Blow it. You're dealing with Carl Schroeder, not some bumpkin from Wheeling." To Carl, Wheeling, West Virginia, represented the height of backwardness.

But later the voice was back, this time from an empty car outside. It pointed out that Carl had nothing to do for a while. He would get a free luxurious meal on the plane and all the champagne he could drink. He was going to go first class.

"Hey, if you're going to spend so much on first class, why not give me the difference and send me tourist?"

"I have my reasons for things. I understand things you don't," came the voice from the empty car. "I understand how things work."

"Bugger off," said Carl Schroeder.

By the time he reached the park he was hungry and when the voice started coming from an empty bench, the thought of a first-class meal was more attractive to him.

"If I say yes, what do I have to do exactly? I mean exactly. "

"Exactly is the only way I work, Carl. When you are over the Atlantic, as the plane begins its descent into Heathrow Airport outside of London, you will take a Phillips screwdriver I will provide, and you will proceed to the rear galley, which services the tourist-class passengers. There you will see a coffeepot. Wait until the flight attendants are working the aisles, move the pot to the left and you will see a metal plate behind it. The first screw opens the plate. The next screw behind the plate holds an aluminum rod. Turn that screw two times to the left, replace the plate, replace the coffeepot in front of it. Go back to your seat and wait until the plane lands, whereupon you will be provided with your hundred dollars and a return ticket."

"I ain't takin' out no insurance policy on my life."

"This is no insurance scam, Carl."

"All right, where's the ticket?"

"Carl, do you really think I would give you a ticket worth eight hundred dollars so you could sell it? The one thing you have to remember about me is that I know how things work. You get your ticket just as you board. I already have your reservation."

"What about the screwdriver?"

"Look under the bench, Carl. Feel around."

Carl Schroeder moved a hand under the wood planking of the park bench, feeling the rough underside until his hand came to tape and a small cylinder. He ripped it out. It was shiny and dark and had a pocket clip.

"Hey, this is a fountain pen."

"Take off the cap, Carl," came the voice from the bench. The voice was somewhat squeaky.

Carl unscrewed the cap, and there looking at him was the crossed head of a Phillips screwdriver.

"Put the cap back on, Carl. By the way, you can only get a buck for it if you sell it on the street, so don't even bother."

"Hey, you've accused me of a lot of low dirt here," said Carl.

"No," came the voice. "I only know how things work. And I know how you work."

"Don't I need papers or something? One of them passport things?"

"Not this trip, Carl. Everything's been taken care of. I don't forget things, Carl. So don't worry about anything. You're the right man for this. Remember, I know how things work."

"Yeah, well look. If I'm gonna be working for you..."

"Not work, Carl. Don't ever think of it as work," came the voice.

"Good. 'Cause I don't relate well to labor. How do you get your voice to came out of things when you ain't there?"

"If it will make you feel better, Carl, I'll explain. Voices are sound waves. These waves can be directed. If you direct them with intensity, any metal object will resonate with the waves. That's how it is done."

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