Warren Murphy: Midnight Man

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    Midnight Man
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Now you see him, now you don't! Law-enforcement officials think they've see everything until they bump into Elmo Wimpler, the inventor of a substance that can make anything invisible. Wimpler's found his niche in life by dropping out of sight - literally - and killing with a device that crushes skulls. His victims are multiplying, there are no clues in sight, and authorities are groping in the dark. Under suspicion themselves, Remo and Chiun set out to play blindman's buff with the killer no one can see, but they, too, draw a blank. As they stalk their quarry sight unseen, the assassin's ultimate target materializes a deposed Middle Eastern sovereign with a $25 million price tag on his head. The United States has granted him asylum, and it's up to Remo and Chiun to bring the curtain down on Wimpler's operation before he sends the monarch to Kingdom Come . . .

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Warren Murphy

For Trace, whom I never keep up late, and for the

House of Sinanju, P.O. Box 1454,

Secaucus, NJ 07094.


What Elmo Wimpler really wanted to invent was a dry cereal that tasted like ham and eggs. Or pancakes. Or all those other things he couldn't afford and didn't know how to cook.

But he didn't know how to do it, so he was stuck with dry cereal. One day cornflakes, then crisped rice, then that fruity stuff, then that chocolaty stuff. It was funny, he thought. If they could make a cereal taste like chocolate without putting any chocolate in it, why couldn't they make one that tasted like ham and eggs? Or Belgian waffles—with strawberries and whipped cream? Chipped beef on toast?

Why not? Maybe he'd work on that. But only when he was finished with the invention that occupied his mind right now.

Today, Elmo Wimpler had no idea what cereal he was eating. He had just grabbed the box, poured some into a bowl, drowned it with a weak mixture of powdered milk and water, and started eating. After a while they all tasted alike.

As he ate, he read his cyber-psychomatics book, which promised to teach him how to become a stronger-willed person.

Today, his heart wasn't into cyber-psychomatics, so he snapped the paperback closed and took another book from its spot on the kitchen table: How to Be Pushy.

He read two paragraphs and sighed. He just couldn't be pushy. He was too small, too mild-mannered. What would he do if he tried to be pushy and somebody pushed him back?

He closed the book and looked out the dirt-shaded window of the small kitchen. He'd like to try it, though. Just once. Maybe try being pushy with his big-mouth next-door neighbor, the no-talent jock. Just once, he'd like to put the big slob in his place, then make him watch while Elmo put himself right square into Mrs. No-Talent Jock's place. Despite that teased hair and that loud mouth, she was the creature of his dreams and his fantasies, and he would like to give it to her good.

He brought himself back to reality, which was his soggy bowl of cereal. He dumped it into the sink. Today, he felt as if he was getting near a breakthrough with his new invention.

Maybe when it was done. When he was acclaimed and rich and powerful. Maybe then, he'd show Mrs. Jock that men weren't measured by muscles alone.

Elmo Wimpler ran the water until all traces of the cereal had disappeared down the drain. Then he wiped the bowl once with a paper towel and put it on the drainboard. He started to walk back to his bedroom to change from his ratty bathrobe into his equally ratty clothes, but the impulse was too strong. He went back into the kitchen and got the book on being pushy. He read it while he walked down the hall. He bumped his ankle painfully against a cardboard box that was stuck against the wall. He tripped over his cat, who was lying majestically directly in the middle of the hallway. The cat

would like to give it to her good. | Damn.

snarled, lashed out at Wimpler with his claws, and left gouge marks along the top of the man's foot. Wimpler apologized to his cat.

Elmo dressed quickly, hoping that he could make it to his garage workshop without running into his loud-mouthed neighbor, Curt, or his sexy, noisy wife, Phyllis. He didn't feel like dealing with them today, not when he was so close to a breakthrough.

He left his house by the rear door and walked quickly toward his garage. Too late. He heard a high-pitched woman's voice yell, "Hey, Curt. Look at the wimp. He's tryin' to sneak into his garage without us seeing him."

Ignore them.

"Hey, wimp!" Curt yelled. "That light from your goddamned garage is still keeping us awake. You had better do something about it, you hear?"

Elmo looked up. He still didn't see them. He knew the light from his garage didn't bother them because there was no light from his garage. He had covered all the windows with heavy black plastic so no light would leak through. But he knew that would not satisfy Curt, and he was just tired of explaining.

"I'll work on it, Curt," he said. 'Tm sorry."

"He's sorry, he says," Phyllis said. "Make him really sorry, Curt. Punch him out."

"Yeah. Maybe I should. And listen, that damned radio of yours, you're playing it too loud at night. How'd you like me to stuff it down your throat?"

Curt came around the corner of Elmo Wimpler's garage, six-foot-three, bulging biceps, bulging beer belly. He had steel-wool hair and a sneering mouth.

Behind him was Phyllis. She had teased blonde hair and also wore a sneer, but below the sneer, she wore

a halter top over full breasts and a pair of skimpy, « andfortune he deserved.

cutoff jeans that showed her ripe, round thighs. Elmo often saw her out his kitchen window while she was gardening, bent over, as if trying to show him her round, little bottom.

He thought about telling Curt that he didn't have a radio, that the only musical sound Curt might hear coming from the garage would be Elmo humming. But why bother?

"I'll try to keep it down, Curt," he told the big * He«ached out with his hands. He could feel the

man, who blocked his way to the garage.

" Til try to keep it down, Curt,' " Phyllis mim-

icked nastily. "He makes me sick. Belt him." f,

"He ain't worth it," Curt said, hitching up his But he couldn t see the car.

0r• His heart beat a little faster, and he walked

pants, which immediately started their inevitable slide down his burgeoning belly. ¦ "Go ahead, Curt, punch him out. Punch out his pissy little face."

Curt turned to tell Phyllis how he didn't want to dirty his hands on wimpy garbage, and Elmo took the opportunity to slip past the big man and into his garage. He shut and locked the door behind him. Suddenly he felt relief, but it lasted only a few seconds.

"I'll be waiting for you when you come out of there, wimp," Curt yelled. His voice, next to the garage door, sounded as if it might splinter the wood.

Elmo Wimpler put his neighbors out of his mind. He would be in his garage until long after they had gone to sleep. Here, there was peace. Here, where he was surrounded by his inventions, the works of

his life, which would someday bring him the fame

But even as he thought it, he doubted himself. It had been so many years, and now the small estate that his parents had left him when they died was shrinking fast. He would have to make something commercial pretty soon.

He walked to the front of the garage to turn on the overhead light. He bumped his left knee on his car. Funny, he thought, that he hadn't seen it.

car, the hood, the fender, the windshield wipers. But he couldn't see it. All he could see was the dark, car-shaped silhouette in the dimness of his garage.

quickly to the light string, pulled it, and turned around. He almost yelled. The paint had worked.

In the harsh light overhead, the car was a deep black silhouette. But none of its features was visible.

It had worked! This time, he did yell. Let Curt scream. Who cared? Elmo Wimpler was on his way.

He had been testing paints, trying to invent a paint for cars that would defy rust and never need waxing. He had stumbled onto something better. He had mixed a black enamel with a special metallic formula. The paint appeared to be smooth, but under a microscope, the metallic compound was a field of pits and valleys. Light hitting the surface would not reflect back to a viewer's eye but would bounce back and forth inside the paint, from peak to peak. Unable to reflect light, anything coated with that paint would be totally black—100 percent black—and would be visible only in silhouette

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