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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK DON'T LOOK NOW *** Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
Don't Look Now


Illustrated by WOOD

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Galaxy Magazine April 1960.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

The Royalty Party wasn't what you would
imagine—it stood for a great deal, but
there was as much it wanted no part of!

"You're not allowed in the ambulance," Miss Knox said.

They were both typical advertising men, down to the motorskates strapped beneath their shoes. Their faces were so utterly undistinctive as to seem fuzzy. Each carried a large flat briefcase with a coil antenna sticking out.

"Watch it!" the attendant growled, and they skated aside with a whir.

Big Carl came driving up the ramp, ducked his head to enter, and brought the bed to a stop in the belly of the ambulance. Miss Knox pressed the button and the door closed in the admen's faces.

When Mr. Barger was lowered from the hovering ambulance, his swollen, tearful eyes were sun-blind. Square hands clenched over and over with pain. Above the rotors' rackety-rackety-rack, Miss Knox shouted soothing things. She didn't wait for an answer. He was the worst case of laryngitis she had ever known—the only case, really, in her professional experience. Abolished diseases always came back virulently.

She and the bed sank between white hospital walls and landed in the room with a bump. The waiting attendant walked around the platform, folding the safety gates. He unhooked the four support cables, each vanishing out of his grasp like spaghetti slurped from a plate.

Just as the ceiling closed overhead, cutting off sight and sound of the whirlybird against the sun, Brooks, the radiologist, came in through the door, shepherding an entire class of medical students. Then two nurses seemed to clear an inoffensive path through the chemically tainted air of the corridor—and after them came Dr. Gesner, the greatest throat man in the country. Miss Knox knew him from his portrait in the Mushroom.

Brooks winked her an "At ease!" with a shaggy eyebrow and followed the fat man through the crowd. Dr. Gesner went to the bed and sat down. He was Barger's weight, with the same sort of elephantine bones, but he was almost two feet shorter. He stared at the nose and cheeks protruding from the bedclothes, and opened a fat black bag.

A bell rang three times in the corridor. Five interns scurried into the room and stopped still, watching Dr. Gesner as though he were a golden calf. On each side of the doorway stood a student nurse at attention.

Mr. Barger stopped twitching and opened one eye wide. His chin lifted, and his other chins came out from under the sheet's folded edge.

One of Dr. Gesner's hands felt through the black bag. It emerged dragging a mutape by one wire. Brooks leaned forward and took out the rest of the apparatus. Shaking the hair off his forehead, he plugged into the bedside computer relay and placed the rubber-rimmed cup against the patient's skull, just over the Broca convolution.

Mr. Barger remained staring at the doctor through a gray film. The mutape chattered rapidly. Miss Knox craned her neck, deciphering the punched tape as it unrolled from the recorder in Brooks' hands. Sweat popped out on Mr. Barger's forehead.

"Help me, damn it," read Mr. Barger's tape. "I know you. You abolished laryngitis; why should it come to me now? I have a right to stop misuse of my work and to be free from pain—my patent is vital—free from pain. I want to be free...." His face turned pink in a new contortion and the hands folded over.

"Yes," Dr. Gesner said as the chatter stopped. "I know it hurts." He smiled gently in the middle of his face. He was writing on an index card, but his main effort was devoted to getting up from the bed with the help of two internes. "It will hurt this badly for twenty-four hours. Then the injection will have the upper hand." He turned to Brooks. "Please pass the tape around, Doctor. If any students haven't seen the X-rays yet, they're in my file."

Mr. Barger's face grayed a little; the sweat had turned to patches of crust against his skin. Dipping cotton in alcohol, Miss Knox bathed his forehead.

"That's all," said Dr. Gesner, handing her the card as the students began to vanish.

She stalked after him. "No examination, Doctor?" she asked, ignoring Brooks' horrified expression.

"Unnecessary, Nurse." He backed away from her and the door slid open. "I've already seen the X-rays and charts you phoned from the ambulance. And the patient cannot open his mouth. His intravenous menu is all here...."

"Yes, Doctor."

Three bells sounded in the corridor. "Calling Dr. Gesner. Emergency. Please come to the telephone. Emergency. Calling Dr. Gesner...."

He rolled his eyes at the index card in her hand. "You yourself are to take the shots prescribed for you, to prevent your catching or carrying the disease. In that bed, but for the grace of God...." He was crying softly.

"Doctor!" said Brooks, and the internes and nurses gasped.

"After all," said Dr. Gesner, "I did abolish laryngitis."

Miss Knox walked back up the drive and struck a cigarette on one of the stone lions. It glowed in the dark, but the river breeze blew it out before she could draw. She snorted in annoyance.

Miss Erwin looked up sharply.

"Is there anywhere where you can still buy matches?" asked Miss Knox.

"Not in New York City. Why?"

"We used to just try again when a cigarette didn't light. Now we have to throw it away."

"Of course," said Miss Erwin. "That's how they train us to be right the first time."

"Ridiculous. That's how they sell more cigarettes."

"Why, Miss Knox! You sound like Royalty!"

Miss Knox laughed. "I'm not ready to join the British Commonwealth yet. No fooling, Hilda, you see the Silvertongue cigarette factory across the river?"

Miss Erwin twisted white-gloved hands in the dark. "Why, no ... mmm, smell that spray." An ocean-breathing tugboat passed, its complicated silhouette blocking the view. "No-oooooo," the whistle blew.

"Just wait till that tug is gone. There, Miss Erwin. Do you see the Silvertongue factory? Just before the Williamsburg Bridge."

"Is it the one with the new radio—the radio-thing on top?"

"Radiocompressor. Yes."

"They used to put names on those factories. All lit up."

"Well, ladies—ladies," said a gravel voice beyond the entrance lights. "How is life in the Toadstool?"

"Boney!" said Miss Knox.

"The what?" asked Miss Erwin.

"That's what Dr. Brooks called it. Now you tell me what he meant—he wouldn't say. Toadstool."

"Come into the light, Boney—you frighten us," said Miss Erwin.

The man appeared, smiling, and climbed the first stone step. Resting his elbows on the lion and his chin in his hand, he looked down on them sideways.

"Not another new suit," said Miss Knox.

It was an archaic double-breasted suit in good condition. Where the jacket hiked up in back, a wide expanse of extra trouser seat had been folded over and tucked beneath the belt.

"Hundred-fifty-dollar suit," he said.

"With or without the bottle?" asked Miss Knox.

"What bottle?"

"The one that bangs on your ribs when the breeze blows."

"Now listen here, lady...." He came down the step.

"Boney, I'm only kidding. You know that."

"Kidding. Kidding. And here I was giving you inside information. Inside information."

"What information?"

Bringing his drawn face so close that they could smell the wine, he gave both women a look of scorn. Then he backed away and leaned his padded shoulder against the lion.

"Boney, she's sorry," said Miss Erwin.

"I am not," said Miss Knox.

He glowered at her and walked away into the dark, his spider legs dissolving sooner than expected. Then he marched back.

"Sorry," he said. "Ha. I won't tell you. I'm going to tell it to the Director himself."

"Forget it, Boney. He'd throw you out again. You'd better just tell us."

His skeleton hand stretched toward the water. "You see that radio presser?"

"You mean the new radiocompressor on the Silvertongue factory?"

"Radiocompressor. All right. Do you ladies know what it does?"

"Anything," Miss Knox said. "Our patient, Mr. Barger, builds them. He told us all about it the moment he came. In Greek."

"Not—not all about it. I know all about it. I had a big deal going—my Armenian partner and me, we were buying up neckties to sell in the hospital...."

"What do you know? And will you stop blowing in my face?"

He glowered.

"I'm sorry, Boney."

"Radiocompressors can do things—any things—without touching. Like rolling cigarettes or chopping up tobacco. The radio waves are so small they—push things." He pushed the air with his left hand. "Not just go through them." He wiggled the brittle fingers of his right.

"Everyone knows that," said Miss Knox. "What you mean is that the supra-short wave has an intense direct effect on matter. It was in all the papers."

"Oh, is that so? Is that so? Well, you listen to me. This isn't in all the papers."

"All right, go on." Miss Knox struck a cigarette, which blew out. She threw it down and succeeded in lighting another.

"You can fool people, also, with the same radio waves," said Boney.

"You mean hide behind the door with a wave compressor and push chairs around? Like that?"

"Don't be silly. Nothing like that. Dr. Brooks told me today, when I was sweeping his private lab in the Toadstool, he told me they make one kind where if you put it on a table, say, no one can see what else is there. You could put—a cat on the table, and anyone would think it was just a table with a radio presser. Until the cat jumped off. Then you could see it."

"Can it jump off?" asked Miss Knox.

"Can it jump off? Did you ever see a cat that couldn't jump? And that's not all—"

"Quite a trick," she said.

"No trick. You could rule the world with that, ladies. Think about it. Rule the world. Got a cigarette? After all, I always get you coffee."

She handed him one.

Miss Erwin stared across the river. "I hope it isn't a new kind of bomb," she said.

Boney pulled out a stick match and struck it on the stone lion. Cupping his hands around the flame, he lit up and walked away.

"But, Dr. Brooks, when you tell Boney things like that," said Miss Knox, "he believes them, and he quotes you like mad. Don't you care about your reputation at all?"

"My dear woman," Dr. Brooks replied, "I've been interested in many things in my years, but getting my portrait in the Mushroom has never been one of them—"

Mr. Barger's legs spasmed suddenly and shot straight out, jerking the covers from his fat-layered neck. But the pink shut eyelids hadn't quivered.

"—and, anyway, Boney is right," Dr. Brooks finished. "Why do you think the Royalties want government control of the whole invention?"

Miss Knox was tucking the covers around his warm, sticky jowls. "But he said you said—"

"I said she said we said." Brooks grabbed her chin between his thumb and forefinger. "Did you know that machine on the Silvertongue roof could get at us inside our own homes?"

She shook her head, swinging his arm from side to side.

"If you know nothing about it, girlie, let me explain." He squeezed her chin tighter. "You saw those two men from the Christian E. Lodge Corporation—Silvertongue, that is—who came this afternoon to see Barger? The ones on motorskates?"

"They shouldn't allow those buzzing things in the hospital. They make more noise than a whirlybird." She backed away, tugging at the white-coated arm until her chin was released. "I mean I saw them yesterday. They tried to get in the bird. I don't know why they visit him—he can't say a word. Doesn't he have a family?"

"No, but the Silvertongue men love him like a brother. Barger designed their radiocompressor—the one in all the newspapers. Here, you can see it from the window if you—"

"I know, Dr. Brooks."

"Do you know what that machine can really do, girlie?"

"When I was your age—" Miss Knox began.

"You are. I just look young. That machine can cure and shred tobacco with supra-short waves on a polished magnesium bowl, just the way the papers say, but they have cheaper ways to process their tobacco. They really use the machine for guided tours of the factory. Public relations."

"You mean float visitors through the air?"

"No. You'd need the power of ten maritime atomic piles in series just to lift Dr. Gesner to the height of—"

"Very funny!"

"—his own square root. What they can do with that machine is to disguise an object—say the incoming leaf tobacco. They can make it look firm, golden,

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