“Nice job of repair,” I said.
“Thank God,” said the landlord.
What, I often wonder, ever happened to Gustav Von Seyfertitz? Did he move to Vienna, to take up residence, perhaps, in or near dear Sigmund’s very own address? Does he live in Rio, aerating fellow Unterderseaboat Captains who can’t sleep for seasickness, roiling on their waterbeds under the shadow of the Andes Cross? Or is he in South Pasadena, within striking distance of the fruit larder nut farms disguised as film studios?
I cannot guess.
All I know is that some nights in the year, oh, once or twice, in a deep sleep I hear this terrible shout, his cry,
“Dive! Dive! Dive!”
And wake to find myself, sweating, far under my bed.
ZAHAROFF/RICHTER MARK V
In the twilight just before sunrise, it was the most ordinary-looking building he had seen since the chicken farm of his youth. It stood in the middle of an empty field full of cricket weeds and cacti, mostly dust and some neglected footpaths in the half darkness.
Charlie Crowe left the Rolls-Royce engine run-fling at the curb behind him and babbled going along the shadowed path, leading the way for Rank Gibson, who glanced back at the gently purring car.
“No, no,” Charlie Crowe cut in. “No one would steal a Rolls-Royce, now, would they? How far would they get, to the next corner? Before someone else stole it from them! Come along!”
“What’s the hurry, we’ve got all morning!”
“That’s what you think, chum. We’ve got-‘ Charlie Crowe eyed his watch. “Twenty minutes, maybe fifteen for the fast tour, the coming disaster, the revelations, the whole bit!”
“Don’t talk so fast and slow down, you’ll give me a heart attack.”
“Save it for breakfast. Here. Put this in your pocket.”
Hank Gibson looked at the coupon-green diploma.
“On your house, as of yesterday.”
“But we don’t need-“
“Yes, you do, but don’t know it. Sign the duplicate. Here. Can you see? Here’s my flashlight and my pen. Thatsa boy. Give one to me. One for you-“
“No swearing. You’re all protected now, no matter what. Jig time.”
And before he knew it, Hank Gibson was elbow-fetched through a paint-flaked door inside to yet another locked door, which opened when Charlie Crowe pointed his electric laser at it. They stepped into-
“An elevator! What’s an elevator doing in a shack in an empty lot at five in the morning-“
The floor sank under them and they traveled what might have been seventy or eighty feet straight down to where another door whispered aside and they stepped out into a long hall of a dozen doors on each side with a few dozen pleasantly glowing lights above. Before he could exclaim again, Hank Gibson was hustled past these doors that bore the names of cities and countries.
“Damn,” cried Hank Gibson, “I hate being rushed through one god-awful mystery after an-other. I’m working on a novel and a feature for my newspaper. I’ve no time-“
“For the biggest story in the world? Bosh! You and I will write it, share the profits! You can’t resist. Calamities. Chaos. Holocausts !”
“You were always great for hyperbole-“
“Quiet. It’s my turn to show and tell.” Charlie Crowe displayed his wristwatch. “We’re wasting time. Where do we start?” He waved at the two dozen shut doors surrounding them with labels marked CONSTANTINOPLE, MEXICO CITY, LIMA, SAN FRANCISCO on one side.
Eighteen ninety-seven, 1914, 1938, 1963 on the other. Also, a special door marked HAUSSMANN, 1870.
“Places and dates, dates and places. How in hell should I know why or how to choose?”
“Don’t these cities and dates ring any bells, stir any dust? Peek here. Glance there. Go on.”
Hank Gibson peeked.
To one side, through a glass window on the topmost part of a door marked 1789, he saw:
“Looks like Paris.”
“Press the button there under the glass.”
Hank Gibson pressed the button.
Hank Gibson looked.
“My God, Paris. In flames. And there’s the guillotine!”
“Correct. Now. Next door. Next window.”
Hank Gibson moved and peeked.
“Paris again, by God. Do I press the button?”