American library books » Fiction » Modus Vivendi by John Berryman (chrysanthemum read aloud txt) 📕

Read book online «Modus Vivendi by John Berryman (chrysanthemum read aloud txt) 📕».   Author   -   John Berryman

1 2 3 4 5
Go to page:
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK MODUS VIVENDI *** Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, Greg Weeks, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at

Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact & Fiction September 1961. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.








It's undoubtedly difficult to live with someone who is Different. He must, because he is Different, live by other ways. But what makes it so difficult is that, for some reason he thinks you are Different!



Illustrated by Schoenherr


y the time I got to the office, I was jittery as a new bride. The day started out all wrong. I woke up weak and washed out. I was pathetic when I worked out with the weights—they felt as heavy as the Pyramids. And when I walked from the subway to the building where Mike Renner and I have our offices, an obvious telepath tailed me all the way.

I was ready for a scrap. St. Francis himself would have irritated the hell out of me, and I'd have gone speechless with rage at the mere sight of sweet Alice Ben Bolt. The guy sitting with Mike in our law library didn't have a chance.

"What's this?" I growled, seeing Mike seated silent and staring at our caller across the big table. There wasn't a book or sheet of foolscap resting on the walnut. Work hadn't started. They were lying in wait for me. Well, I was lying in wait for the first guy who opened his mouth.

"The Grievance Committee!" Mike said in a tone of stifled fury. "This is Horace Dunn."

"Carpe Diem," I snarled at Horace, a hammered-down heavyweight. "What's Renner done now?"

"Me?" Renner demanded, letting his fat jowls quivver. He's one of those burly types who looks like he should be playing pro ball and instead thrives on showing clients how to keep two sets of books while staying out of jail.

"Not Renner," Horace said. "You, Maragon. The Bar Association gets upset when reputable attorneys successfully defend one of these Stigma cases."

"Forgive me my hobbies," I sneered, sitting down beside my partner. "But I try to win them all. You know I didn't seek that business—Judge Passarelli appointed me Public Defender when that Psi, Crescas, bleated that he was destitute."

Mike Renner apparently decided one of us had to be reasonable. "Coincidence, Dunn," he said. "Pure coincidence. You can't hold it against—"

"No coincidence," I snapped. It wasn't my day to agree with anybody. Renner's fat little eyes opened wide.

"Judge Passarelli knew I'd be in his courtroom," I said. "His Honor wanted to get my views on a point I'd made in that pleading the previous week."

"Passarelli again!" Horace breathed. "Well, well. What do you know? And two weeks ago he found a Stigma case named Mary Hall 'Not Guilty' of bunco game against the 99th National Bank. You know the case?"

Renner was too upset for speech. He shook his head, looking over at me. I didn't give him the satisfaction. Mike hasn't any patience with my interest in keeping abreast of Psi developments anyway.

"This Mary Hall is a hallucinator," Horace said. He leaned forward and gave it to us in not much more than a whisper. "This witch used her HC to pass five dollar bills off as hundreds, getting change. But they caught her at it." He laughed harshly. "And tried her for it," he added. "Get the picture on that 'Not Guilty' verdict?"

"No," Renner admitted. I slouched down, scowling.

"She used HC on Judge Passarelli, too. Foozled his vision, whatever you want to call it. When the 'cutor handed him the evidence, the five dollar bill she had tried to pass for a hundred, all sealed up in plastic, Passarelli saw a hundred, thanks to her Psi powers."

"Get out of here," I told Horace, getting to my feet.

"Pete! For heaven's sake!" Mike protested. You didn't talk like that to the Grievance Committee. Did you ever see a guy wring his hands? Renner was pathetic.

"Can't you quit pussy-footing around, Renner?" I growled. "This comic isn't from the Grievance Committee!"

Horace Dunn paled on that one. "How do you know that?" he said. He sounded a lot more dangerous.

"Too polite," I sneered. "And it ill becomes you. What's going on?"

"So I level," Horace conceded. "So I'm not from the Grievance Committee, and I'm not all hot that Maragon defended Keys Crescas."

"Much better," I said, sitting down again.

"This guy Passarelli is coming up for re-election shortly," our caller said. A light began to dawn. "We're making sure he doesn't make it—and that our man does."

My laugh was more a bark. "He can't find Mary Hall," I told Renner.

Horace's lower jaw shot out at me. "I don't like guys who know what I'm thinking!" he snapped.

I had to laugh in his face. "Who needs TP? You want to tar Passarelli with the brush of Psi—and this hallucinator would be Exhibit 'A'."

He subsided. "So I can't find her. What then?"

I shook my head. "You say it," I suggested. "Too early to have to wash my mouth with soap."

Dunn made his big pitch to Renner. "Maragon has a connection with these Psis—it's all over town that he got Keys Crescas off. This Crescas can find Mary Hall—you know how Psis stick together." Renner nodded rapt agreement. "And," Dunn added, finally sticking it in us, "it would be good politics for Maragon to do it—would kind of sweeten up the stench of his getting Crescas off, eh?"

Renner thought he had to sell me: "Pete," he insisted, "You've got to! Defending Crescas was sure to hurt our reputation. That girl has it coming for—"

I waved a hand in his face, shutting him up. "Why should I care what happens to the girl?" I said, getting up. "Just make sure Horace pays us a fat fee. After all, it's tax exempt."

"Tax exempt?" he asked, frowning.

"Sure," I said, walking out. "Religious contribution. Thirty pieces of silver."

Keys Crescas is the kind of odd-ball you can't find till after dark. Good looking in a romantic, off-beat sort of way. No visible means of support—a typical Psi. Renner made one white-jowled attempt to read me the riot act for failing to plead him guilty when Passarelli had tapped me as Public Defender. I came close to throwing the meat-ball out of my private office.

What could I have done? Sure, Crescas has the Stigma—he doesn't try to hide it. It's only TK, though, and I don't suppose much of that. Just enough, the cops will tell you, to make him a good man at picking locks and earn his nickname—Keys.

People like Crescas run to a pattern. I left my number in about ten of the spots he might turn up, and around six o'clock one of them hit pay dirt.

I pressed the "Accept" key when the phone rang, and Keys Crescas' olive face and curly black hair filled the screen. His black eyes had that lively watchfulness you associate with Psis. He had the gain way down and the aperture wide, so that he wasn't in focus any farther back than his ears. And that scope setting hid from where he was calling as effectively as a veil. Did you ever know a Psi who didn't seem to be harboring a secret?

"Hi, Mouthpiece," he grinned, showing even white teeth. "How'd you know where to find me?"

"Best place for worms is under a manure pile," I said. "I used parallel logic."

That took that smug, Stigma grin off his puss. "What do you want?" he asked, sullen now.

"A lead to a Psi who's gone into hiding."

You know what he told me to do. "Mary Hall," I added. "She's got Stigma Troubles."

"Not even counting you, eh?" Crescas sneered. He made the same suggestion again. I let it ride. "Go on," he dared me. "Make your pitch. I'll laugh later."

"That 'Not Guilty' verdict doesn't mean a thing, Crescas," I told him. "That was a National Bank she tried to rob. There's a Federal rap still to be settled. She has big Stigma troubles and needs counsel—and not one of those shysters who hang around the Criminal Courts building sniffing for Psi business."

"She's in no trouble till they find her," he said accurately, and I could see his hand come up to cut the image. "For my dough they've given up trying to find her and are using you for a stalking horse," he added with fiendish accuracy.

"So don't trust me," I snarled. "You can send her saw blades baked in a cake." I reached up, too.

"Hold it."

I stopped, trying to keep my glower going.

"Passarelli would have to be in on it, too," he decided. "And I can't figure him for a louse. O.K., Maragon. I'll pick you up at your office at about eight o'clock."

With nearly two hours to kill, I went out to eat. I still felt glum and lousy. Part of it was the knifelike penetration of Crescas' intuition—his knowing that I was just a stalking horse so that the big guns could zero in on Mary Hall. And there was that little tremor of fear that comes from knowing that a Psi may think you've doublecrossed him. They have some powerful abilities when it comes to exacting vengeance. Well, if everything about the deal was as much screwed up as the part I had heard so far, I decided, I might get out with a whole skin at that.

That was my attempt at consolation—that and an order of sweet-breads, Financiere, which is a ridiculous dish for a sawed-off shyster tending toward overweight.

I was back in the law library by ten minutes of eight, trying to occupy my mind with the latest Harvard Law Review, when the 'phone rang. Keys' face, a little tight-lipped and bright-eyed, peered at me from the screen, which it completely filled. He must have darned near swallowed the 'scope.

"Ready?" he asked softly.

"Sure. You picking me up?"

His lip curled in half a smile. "What do I look like?" he sneered. "Grab a cab. You know a bar called the Moldy Fig?" I nodded. "That's where." He cut the image.

Well, this was more like it. You can't deal with Psis without the whole affair acting like something out of E. Phillips Oppenheim. I closed up the office, turned out the ceiling, and rode the elevator down to the street.

The night howled and shrieked with air-borne traffic. A hot-rodding kid gunned his fans up the street a way and ripped what silence might have remained to the night into shreds as he streaked past me. The jerk wasn't forty feet off the ground, and was pouring the coal to his turbine. The whine of his impellers sounded a strong down-Doppler as his ripped past me, nose dropped a good thirty degrees and dragging every knot he could get out of his 'copter.

I waved to a cab standing at the rank up the block a way and watched the skim-copter rise a couple inches off the ground as the hacker skimmed on the ground-cushion toward me. City grit cut at my ankles from the air blast before I could hop into the bubble and give him my destination. He looked the question at me hopefully, over his shoulder, his hand on the arm of his meter.

"Oh, what the hell," I said, still sore at the world, and a little worried about what I was trying to do. "Let's 'copter!" He grinned and swung the arm over to the "fly" position with its four-times-higher rate. His turbine screamed to a keener pitch with wide throttle, and he climbed full-bore into the down-town slow lane.

The swift ride down to the Village was long enough to induce that odd motion-hypnosis so common in night flight over a metropolitan area. The dizzy blur of red and green running lights from air-borne traffic at levels above and below us, the shapes of 'copters silhouetted beneath us against the lambent glow of the city's well-lit streets, all wove into a numbing pattern.

"Here's the Fig, Mac," the hacker said as we grounded. I stuck my credit card in the meter and hopped out, not fast enough to duck the fan-driven pin-pricks of sand as he pulled away.

Crescas appeared as if by magic—Psis act like that—and had me by the arm. "Quick!" he said, pushing me back into the spot he had appeared from. It was a doorway beside the Moldy Fig, opening on a flight of steps running to an apartment above the bar. As we climbed the

1 2 3 4 5
Go to page:

Free e-book: «Modus Vivendi by John Berryman (chrysanthemum read aloud txt) 📕»   -   read online now on website american library books (

Comments (0)

There are no comments yet. You can be the first!
Add a comment