Book: A Kind of Murder

Larry Niven – A Kind of Murder

"You are constantly coming to my home!" he shouted. "You never think of calling first. Whatever I'm doing, suddenly you're there. And where the hell do you keep getting keys to my door?"

Alicia didn't answer. Her face, which in recent years had taken on a faint resemblance to a bulldog's, was set in infinite patience as she relaxed at the other end of the couch. She had been through this before, and she waited for Jeff to get it over with.

He saw this, and the dinner he had not quite finished settled like lead in his belly. "There's not a club I belong to that you aren't a member too. Whoever I'm with, you finagle me into introducing you. If it's a man, you try to make him, and if he isn't having any you get nasty. If it's a woman, there you are like the ghost at the feast. The discarded woman. It's a drag," he said. He wanted a more powerful word, but he couldn't think of one that wouldn't sound overdramatic, silly.

She said, "We've been divorced six years. What do you care who I sleep with?"

"I don't like looking like your pimp!"

She laughed.

The acid was rising in his throat. "Listen," he said, "why don't you give up one of the clubs? We, we belong to four. Give one up. Any of them. Give me a place of refuge," he prayed.

"They're my clubs too," she said with composure. "You change clubs."

He'd joined the Lucifer Club four years ago, for just that reason. She'd joined too. And now the words clogged in his throat, so that he gaped like a fish.

There were no words left. He hit her.

He'd never done that before. It was a full-arm swing, but awkward because they were trying to face each other on the couch. She rode with the slap, then sat facing him, waiting.

It was as if he could read her mind. We've been through this before, and it never changes anything. But it's your tantrum. He remembered later that she'd said that to him once, those same words, and she'd looked just like that: patient, implacable.

The call reached Homicide at 8:36 P.M., July 20, 2019. The caller was a round-faced man with straight black hair and a stutter. "My ex-wife," he told the desk man. "She's dead. I just got home and f-found her like this. S-someone seems to have hit her with a c-c-cigarette box."

Hennessey (Officer-2) had just come on for the night shift. He took over. "You just got home? You called immediately?"

"That's right. C-c-could you come right away?"

"We'll be there in ten seconds. Have you touched anything?"

"No. Not her, and not the box."

"Have you called a hospital?"

His voice rose. "No. She's dead."

Hennessey took down his name—Walters—and booth number and hung up. "Line, Fisher, come with me. Torrie, will you call the City Hospital and have them send a 'copter? If Walters hadn't touched her he could hardly be sure she was dead."

They went through the displacement booth one at a time, dialing and vanishing. For Hennessey it was as if the Homicide room vanished as he dialed the last digit, and he was looking into a porch light.

Jeffrey Walters was waiting in the house. He was medium sized, a bit overweight, his light brown hair going thin on top. His paper business suit was wrinkled. He wore an anxious, fearful look—which figured, either way, Hennessey thought.

And he'd been right. Alicia Walters was dead. From her attitude she had been sitting sideways on the couch when something crashed into her head, and she had sprawled forward. A green cigarette box was sitting on the glass coffee table. It was bloody along one edge, and the blood had marked the glass.

The small, bloody, beautifully marked green malachite box could have done it. It would have been held in the right hand, swung full-armed. One of the detectives used chalk to mark its position on the table, then nudged it into a plastic bag and tied the neck.

Walters had sagged into a reading chair as if worn out. Hennessey approached him. "You said she was your ex-wife?"

"That's right. She didn't give up using her married name."

"What was she doing here, then?"

"I don't know. We had a fight earlier this evening. I finally threw her out and went back to the Sirius Club. I was half afraid she'd just follow me back, but she didn't. I guess she let herself back in and waited for me here."

"She had a key?"

Walters' laugh was feeble. "She always had a key. I've had the lock changed twice. It didn't work. I'd come home and find her here. 'I just wanted to talk,' she'd say." He stopped abruptly.

"That doesn't explain why she'd let someone else in."

"No. She must have, though, mustn't she? I don't know why she did that."

The ambulance helicopter landed in the street outside. Two men entered with a stretcher. They shifted Alicia Walters' dead body to the stretcher, leaving a chalk outline Fisher had drawn earlier.

Walters watched through the picture window as they walked the Stretcher into the portable JumpShift unit in the side of the 'copter. They closed the hatch, tapped buttons in a learned rhythm on a phone dial set in the hatch. When they opened the hatch to check, it was empty. They closed it again and boarded the 'copter.

Walters said, "You'll do an autopsy immediately, won't you?"

"Of course. Why do you ask?"

"Well ... it's possible I might have an alibi for the time of the murder."

Hennessey laughed before he could stop himself. Walters looked puzzled and affronted.

Hennessey didn't explain. But later, as he was leaving the station house for home and bed, he snorted. "Alibi," he said. "Idiot."

The displacement booths had come suddenly. One year, a science fiction writer's daydream. The next, A.D. 1992, an experimental reality. Teleportation. Instantaneous travel. Another year and they were being used for cargo transport. Two more, and the passenger displacement booths were springing up everywhere in the world.

By luck and the laws of physics, the world had had time to adjust. Teleportation obeyed the Laws of Conservation of Energy and Conservation of Momentum. Teleporting uphill took an energy input to match the gain in potential energy. A cargo would lose potential energy going downhill. And it was over a decade before JumpShift Inc. learned how to compensate for that effect. Teleportation over great distances was even more heavily restricted by the Earth's rotation.

Let a passenger flick too far west, and the difference between his momentum and the Earth's would smack him down against the floor of the booth. Too far east, and he would be flung against the ceiling. Too far north or south, and the Earth would be rotating faster or s1ower; he would flick in moving sideways, unless he had crossed the equator.

But cargo and passengers could be displaced between points of equal longitude and opposite latitude. Smuggling had become impossible to stop. There was a point in the South Pacific to correspond to any point in the United States, most of Canada, and parts of Mexico.

Smuggling via the displacement booths was a new crime. The Permanent Floating Riot Gangs were another. The booths would allow a crowd to gather with amazing rapidity.

Practically any news broadcast could start a flash crowd. And with the crowds the pickpockets and looters came flicking in.

When the booths were new, many householders had taken to putting their booths in living rooms or entrance halls. That had stopped fast, after an astounding rash of burglaries. These days only police stations and hospitals kept their booths indoors.

For twenty years the booths had not been feasible over distances greater than ten miles. If the short-distance booths had changed the nature of crime, what of the long distance booths? They had been in existence only four years. Most were at what had been airports, being run by what had been airline companies. Dial three numbers and you could be anywhere on Earth.

Flash crowds were bigger and more frequent.

The alibi was as dead as the automobile.

Smuggling was cheaper. The expensive, illegal transmission booths in the South Pacific were no longer needed. Cutthroat competition had dropped the price of smack to something the Mafia wouldn't touch.

And murder was easier, but that was only part of the problem. There was a new kind of murder going around.

Hank Lovejoy was a tall, lanky man with a lantern jaw and a ready smile. The police had found him at his office—real estate—and he had agreed to come immediately.

"There were four of us at the Sirius Club before Alicia showed up," he said. "Me, and George Larimer, and Jeff Walters, and Jennifer—wait a minute—Lewis. Jennifer was over at the bar, and we'd like asked her to join us for dinner. You know how it is in a continuity club: you can talk to anyone. We'd have picked up another girl sooner or later."

Hennessey said, "Not two?"

"Oh, George is a monogamist. His wife is eight months pregnant, and she didn't want to come, but George just doesn't. He's not fey or anything, he just doesn't. But Jeff and I were both sort of trying to get Jennifer's attention. She was loose, and it looked likely she'd go home with one or the other of us. Then Alicia came in."

"What time was that?"

"Oh, about six fifteen. We were already eating. She came up to the table, and we all kind of waited for Jeff to introduce her and ask her to sit down, she being his ex-wife, after all." Lovejoy laughed. "George doesn't really understand about Jeff and Alicia. Me, I thought it was funny."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, they've, been divorced about six years, but it seems he just can't get away from her. Couldn't, I mean," he said, remembering. Remembering that good old Jeff had gotten away from her, because someone had smashed her skull.

Hennessey was afraid Lovejoy would clam up. He played stupid. "I don't get it. A divorce is a divorce, isn't it?"

"Not when it's a 'friendly divorce'. Jeff's a damn fool. I don't think he gave up sleeping with her, not right after the divorce. He wouldn't live with her, but every so often she'd, well, she'd seduce him, I guess you'd say. He wasn't used to being alone, and I guess he got lonely. Eventually he must have given that up, but he still couldn't get her out of his hair."

"See, they belonged to all the same clubs and they knew all the same people, and as a matter of fact they were both in routing and distribution software; that was how they met. So if she came on the scene while he was trying to do something else, there she was, and he had to introduce her. She probably knew the people he was dealing with, if it was business. A lot of business gets done at the continuity clubs. And she wouldn't go away. I thought it was funny. It worked out fine for me, last night."


"Well, after twenty minutes or so it got through to us that Alicia wasn't going to go away. I mean, we were eating dinner, and she wasn't, but she wanted to talk. When she said something about waiting and joining us for dessert, Jeff stood up and suggested they go somewhere and talk. She didn't look too pleased, but she went."

"What do you suppose he wanted to talk about?"

Lovejoy laughed. "Do I read minds without permission? He wanted to tell her to bug off, of course! But he was gone half an hour, and by the time he came back Jennifer and I had sort of reached a decision. And George had this benign look he gets, like Bless you my children. He doesn't play around himself, but maybe he likes to think about other couples getting together. Maybe he's right; maybe it brightens up the marriage bed."

"Jeff came back alone?"

"That he did. He was nervous, jumpy. Friendly enough; I mean, he didn't get obnoxious when he saw how it was with me and Jennifer. But he was sweating, and I don't blame him."

"What time was this?"

"Seven twenty."

"Dead on?"


"Why would you remember a thing like that?"

"Well, when Jeff came back he wanted to know how long he'd been gone. So I looked at my watch. Anyway, we stayed another fifteen minutes and then Jennifer and I took off."

Hennessey asked, "Just how bad were things between Jeff and Alicia?"

"Oh, they didn't fight or anything. It was just ... funny. For one thing; she's kind of let herself go since the divorce. She used to be pretty. Now she's gone to seed. Not many men chase her these days, so she has to do the chasing. Some men like that,"

"Do you?"

"Not particularly ... I've spent some nights with her, if that's what you're asking. I just like variety. I'm not a heartbreaking man; I run with girls who like variety too."

"Did Alicia?"

"I think so. The trouble was, she slept with a lot of guys Jeff introduced her to. He didn't like that. It made him look bad. And once she played nasty to a guy who turned her down, and it ruined a business deal."

"But they didn't fight."

"No. Jeff wasn't the type. Maybe that's why they got divorced. She was just someone he couldn't avoid. We all know people like that."

"After he came back without Alicia, did he leave the table at any time?"

"I don't think so. No. He just sat there, making small talk. Badly."

George Larimer was a writer of articles, one of the few who made good money at it. He lived in Arizona. No, he didn't mind a quick trip to the police station, he said, emphasizing the quick. Just let him finish this paragraph—and he breezed in five minutes later.

"Sorry about that. I just couldn't get the damn wording right. This one's for Viewer's Digest, and I have to explain drop ship technology for morons without talking down to them or the minimal viewer won't buy it. What's the problem?"

Hennessey told him.

His face took on an expression Hennessey recognized: like he ought to be feeling something, and he was trying, honest. "I just met her that night," he said. "Dead. Well."

He remembered that evening well enough. "Sure, Jeff Walters came back about the time we were finishing coffee. We had brandy with the coffee, and then Hank and, ah, Jennifer left. Jeff and I sat and played dominos over Scotch and sodas. You can do that at the Sirius, you know. They keep game boxes there, and they'll move up side tables at your elbows so you can have drinks or lunch."

"How did you do?"

"I beat him. Something was bothering him; he wasn't playing very well. I thought he wanted to talk, but he wouldn't talk about whatever was bugging him."

"His ex-wife?"

"Maybe. Maybe not. I'd only just met her, and she seemed nice enough. And she seemed to like Jeff."

"Yah. Now, Jeff left with Alicia. How long were they gone?"

"Half an hour, I guess. And he came back without her."

"What time?"

"Quarter past seven or thereabouts. Ask Hank. I don't wear a watch." He said this with a certain pride. A writer doesn't need a watch—he sets his own hours. "As I said, we had dessert and coffee and then played dominos for an hour, maybe a little less. Then I had to go home to see how my wife was getting along."

"While you were having dessert and coffee and playing dominos, did Jeff Walters leave the table at any time?"

"Well, we switched tables to set up the game." Larimer shut his eyes to think. He opened them. "No, he didn't go to the bathroom or anything."

"Did you?"

"No. We were together the whole time, if that's what you want to know."

Hennessey went out for lunch after Larimer left. Returning, he stepped out of the Homicide Room booth just ahead of Officer-1 Fisher, who had spent the morning at Alicia Walters' place.

Alicia had lived in the mountains, within shouting distance of Lake Arrowhead. Property in that area was far cheaper than property around the Lake itself. The high rent district in the mountains is near streams and lakes. Her own water supply had come from a storage tank kept filled by a small JumpShift unit.

Fisher was hot and sweaty and breathing hard, as if he had been working. He dropped into a chair and wiped his forehead and neck. "There wasn't much point in going," he said.

"We found what was left of a bacon and tomato sandwich sitting on a placemat. Probably her last meal. She wasn't much of a housekeeper. Probably wasn't making much money, either."

"How so?"

"All her gadgetry is old enough to be going to pieces. Her Dustmaster skips corners and knocks things off tables. Her chairs and couches are all blow-ups, inflated plastic. Cheap, but they have to be replaced every so often, and she didn't. Her displacement booth must be ten years old. She should have replaced it, living in the mountains."

"No roads in that area?"

"Not near her house, anyway. In remote areas like that they move the booths in by helicopter, then bring the components for the house out through the booth. If her booth broke down she'd have had to hike out, unless she could find a neighbor home, and her neighbors aren't close. I like that area," Fisher said suddenly. "There's elbow room."

"She should have made good money. She was in routing and distribution software." Hennessey pondered. "Maybe she spent all her time following her ex-husband around."

The autopsy report was waiting on his desk. He read through it.

Alicia Walters had indeed been killed by a single blow to the side of the head, almost certainly by the malachite box. Its hard corner had crushed her skull around the temple. Malachite is a semiprecious stone, hard enough that no part of it had broken off in the wound; but there was blood and traces of bone and brain tissue on the box itself.

There was also a bruise on her cheek. Have to ask Walters about that, he thought.

She had died about 8:00 P.M., given the state of her body, including body temperature. Stomach contents indicated that she had eaten about 5:30 P.M.: a bacon and tomato sandwich.

Hennessey shook his head. "I was right. He's still thinking in terms of alibis."

Fisher heard. "Walters?"

"Sure, Walters. Look: he came back to the Sirius Club at seven twenty, and he called attention to the time. He stayed until around eight thirty, to hear Larimer tell it, and he was always in someone's company. Then he went home, found the body and called us. The woman was killed around eight, which is right in the middle of his alibi time. Give or take fifteen minutes for the lab's margin of error, and it's still an alibi."

"Then it clears him."

Hennessey laughed. "Suppose he did go to the bathroom. Do you think anyone would remember it? Nobody in the world has had an alibi for anything since the JumpShift booths took over. You can be at a party in New York and kill a man in the California Sierras in the time it would take to go out for cigarettes. You can't use displacement booths for an alibi."

"You could be jumping to conclusions," Fisher pointed out.

"So he's not a cop. So he reads detective stories. So someone murdered his wife in his own living room. Naturally he wants to know if he's got an alibi."

Hennessey shook his head.

"She didn't bleed a lot," said Fisher. "Maybe enough, maybe not. Maybe she was moved."

"I noticed that too."

"Someone who knew she had a key to Walters' house killed her and dumped her there. He would have hit her with the cigarette box in the spot where he'd already hit her with something else."

Hennessey shook his head again. "It's not just Walters. It's a kind of murder. We get more and more of these lately. People kill each other because they can't move away from each other. With the long distance booths everyone in the country lives next door to everyone else. You live a block away from your ex-wife, your mother-in-law, the girl you're trying to drop, the guy who lost money in your business deal and blames you. Any secretary lives next door to her boss, and if he needs something done in a hurry she's right there. God help the doctor if his patients get his home number. I'm not just pulling these out of the air. I can name you an assault rap for every one of these situations."

"Most people get used to it," said Fisher. "My mother used to flick in to visit me at work, remember?"

Hennessey grinned. He did. Fortunately, she'd given it up. "It was worse for Walters," he said.

"It didn't really sound that bad. Lovejoy said it was a friendly divorce. So he was always running into her. So what?"

"She took away his clubs."

Fisher snorted. But Fisher was young. He had grown up with the short-distance booths.

For twenty years passenger teleportation had been restricted to short hops. People had had time to get used to the booths. And in those twenty years the continuity clubs had come into existence.

The continuity club was a guard against future shock. Its location was ... ubiquitous: hundreds of buildings in hundreds of cities, each building just like all the others, inside and out. Wherever a member moved in this traveling society, the club would be there. Today even some of the customers would be the same: everyone used the long distance booths to some extent.

A man had to have some kind of stability in his life. His church, his marriage, his home, his club. Any man might need more or less stability than the next. Walters had belonged to four clubs ... and they were no use to him if he kept meeting Alicia there. And his marriage had broken up, and he wasn't a churchgoer, and a key to his house had been found in Alicia's purse. She should at least have left him his clubs.

Fisher spoke, interrupting his train of thought. "You've been talking about impulse murders, haven't you? Six years of not being able to stand his ex-wife and not being able to get away from her. So finally he hits her with a cigarette box."

"Most of them are impulse murders, yes."

"Well, this wasn't any impulse murder. Look at what he had to do to bring it about. He'd have had to ask her to wait at home for him. Then make some excuse to get away from Larimer, shift home, kill her fast and get back to the Sirius Club before Larimer wonders where he's gone. Then he's got to hope Larimer will forget the whole thing. That's not just cold-blooded, it's also stupid."

"Yah. So far it's worked, though."

"Worked, hell. The only evidence you've got against Walters is that he had good reason to kill her. Listen, if she got on his nerves that much, she may have irritated some other people too." Hennessey nodded. "That's the problem, all right." But he didn't mean it the way Fisher did.

Walters had moved to a hotel until such time as the police were through with his house. Hennessey called him before going off duty.

"You can move home," he told him.

"That's good," said Walters. "Find out anything?"

"Only that your wife was murdered with that selfsame cigarette box. We found no sign of anyone in the house except her, and you." He paused, but Walters only nodded thoughtfully. He asked, "Did the box look familiar to you?"

"Oh, yes, of course. It's mine. Alicia and I bought it on our honeymoon, in Switzerland. We divided things during the divorce, and that went to me."

"All right. Now, just how violent was that argument you had?"

He flushed. "As usual. I did a lot of shouting, and she just sat there letting it go past her ears. It never did any good."

"Did you strike her?"

The flush deepened, and he nodded. "I've never done that before."

"Did you by any chance hit her with a malachite box?"

"Do I need a lawyer?"

"You're not under arrest, Mr. Walters. But if you feel you need a lawyer, by all means get one." Hennessey hung up.

He had asked to be put on the day shift today, in order to follow up this case. It was quitting time now, but he was reluctant to leave.

Officer-1 Fisher had been eavesdropping. He said, "So?"

"He never mentioned the word alibi," said Hennessey. "Smart. He's not supposed to know when she was killed."

"You're still sure he did it."

"Yah. But getting a conviction is something else again. We'll find more people with more motives. And all we've got is the laboratory." He ticked items off on his fingers. "No fingerprints on the box. No blood on Walters or any of his clothes, unless he had paper clothes and ditched 'em. No way of proving Walters let her in or give her the key ... though I wonder if he really had that much trouble keeping her out of the house.

"We'd be asking a jury to believe that Walters left the table and Larimer forgot about it. Larimer says no. Walters is pretty sure to get the benefit of the doubt. She didn't bleed much; a good defense lawyer is bound to suggest that she was moved from somewhere else."

"Its possible."

"She wasn't dead until she was hit. Nothing in the stomach but food. No drugs or poisons in the bloodstream. She'd have had to be killed by someone who—" He ticked them off. "Knew she hid Walters' key. Knew Walters' displacement booth number. And knew Walters wouldn't be home.

"Maybe. How about Larimer or Lovejoy?"

Hennessey spread his hands in surrender. "It's worth asking Larimer's alibi is as good as Walters', for all that's worth. And we've still got to interview Jennifer ... Lewis."

"Then again, a lot of people at the Sirius Club knew Walter. Some of them must have been involved with Alicia. Anyone who saw Walters halfway through a domino game would know he'd be stuck there for awhile."

"True. Too true." Hennessey stood up. "Guess I'll be getting dinner."

Hennessey came out of the restaurant feeling pleasantly stuffed and torpid. He turned left toward the nearest booth, a block away.

The Walters case had haunted him all through dinner. Fisher had made a good deal of sense ... but what bugged him was something Fisher hadn't said. Fisher hadn't said that Hennessey might be looking for easy answers.

Easy? If Walters had killed Alicia during a game of dominos at the Sirius Club, then there wouldn't be any case until Larimer remembered. Aside from that, Walters would have been an idiot to try such a thing. Idiot, or desperate.

But if someone else had killed her, it opened up a bag of snakes. Restrict it to members of the Sirius Club who were there that night, and how many were left? They'd both done business there. How many of Jeffrey Walters' acquaintances had shared Alicia's bed? Which one would have killed her, for reason or no reason? The trouble with sharing too many beds was that—one's chance of running into a really bad situation was improved almost to certainty.

If Walters had done it, things became simplier. But she hadn't bled much.

And Walters couldn't have had reason to move the body to his home. Where could he have killed her that would be worse than that?

Walters owned the murder weapon ... no, forget that. She could have been hit with anything, and if she were in Walters' house fifteen seconds later she might still be breathing when the malachite box finished the job.

Hennessey slowed to a stop in front of the booth. Something Fisher had said, something that had struck him funny. What was it?

"Her displacement booth must be ten years old—" That was it. The sight of the booth must have sparked that memory. And it was funny. How had he known?

JumpShift booths were all alike. They had to be. They all had to hold the same volume, because the air in the receiver had to be flicked back—to the transmitter. When JumpShift improved a booth, it was the equipment they jmproved, so that the older booths could still be used.

Ten years old. Wasn't that—yes. The altitude shift.

Pumping energy into a cargo, so that it could be flicked a mile or a hundred miles uphill, had been an early improvement. But a transmitter that could absorb the lost potential energy of a downhill shift, had not become common until ten years ago.

Hennessey stepped in and dialed the police station. Sergeant Sobel was behind the desk. "Oh, Fisher left an hour ago," he said. "Want his number?"

"Yes ... No. Get me Alicia Walters' number."

Sobel got it for him. "What's up?"

"Tell you in a minute," said Hennessey, and he flicked out.

It was black night. His ears registered the drop in pressure. His eyes adjusted rapidly, and he saw that there were lights in Alicia Walters' house. He stepped out of the booth. Whistling, he walked a slow circle around it.

It was a JumpShift booth. What more was there to say? A glass cylinder with a rounded top, big enough for a tall man to stand upright and a meager amount of baggage to stand with blur—or for a man holding a dead woman in his arms, clenching his teeth while he tried to free one finger for dialing. The machinery that made the magic was buried beneath the booth. The dial, a simple push-button phone dial. Even the long distance booths looked just like this one, though the auxiliary machinery was far more complex.

"But he was sweating—" Had Lovejoy meant it literally?

Hennessey was smiling ferociously as he stepped back into the booth.

The lights of the Homicide room flashed in his eyes. Hennessey came out tearing at his collar. Sweat started from every pore. Living in the mountains like that, Alicia should certainly have had her booth replaced. The room felt like a furnace, but it was his own body temperature that had jumped seven degrees in a moment. Seven degrees of randomized energy, to compensate for the drop in potential energy between here and Lake Arrowhead.

Walters sat slumped, staring straight ahead of him. "She didn't understand and she didn't care. She was taking it like we'd been all through this before but we had to do it again but let's get it over with." He spoke in a monotone, but the nervous stutter was gone. "Finally I hit her. I guess I was trying to get her attention. She just took it and looked at me and waited for me to go on."

Hennessey said, "Where did the malachite box come in?"

"Where do you think? I hit her with it."

"Then it was hers, not yours."

"It was ours. When we broke up, she took it. Look, I don't want you to think I wanted to kill her. I wanted to scar her."

"To scare her?"

"No! To scar her!" His voice rose. "To leave a mark she'd remember every time she looked in a mirror, so she'd know I meant it, so she'd leave me alone! I wouldn't have cared if she sued. Whatever it cost, it would have been worth it. But I hit her too hard, way too hard. I felt the crunch."

"Why didn't you report it?"

"But I did! At least, I tried. I picked her up in my arms and wrestled her out to the booth and dialed for the Los Angeles Emergency Hospital. I don't know if there's any place closer, and I wasn't thinking too dear. Listen, maybe I can prove this. Maybe an intern saw me in the booth. I flicked into the Hospital, and suddenly I was broiling. Then I remembered that Alicia had an old booth, the kind that can't absorb a difference in potential energy."

"We guessed that much."

"So I dialed quick and flicked right out again. I had to go back to Alicia's for the malachite box and to wipe off the sofa, and my own booth is a new one, so I got the temperature shift again. God, it was hot. I changed suits before I went back to the Club. I was still sweating."

"You thought that raising her temperature would foul up our estimate of when she died."

"That's right." Walters' smile was wan. "Listen, I did try to get her to a hospital. You'll remember that, won't you?"

"Yah. But you changed your mind."

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