2-Monitors (Laumer)

CHAPTER TWO

Twenty minutes later, Blondel swung a curve that afforded him a view of gas stations and
motels and a clock tower in the distance — and the big gold bulge of a blimp swelling up above a
row of red- and- green- shingled housetops. He took the first right, went four blocks to a wire fence
lining a field of dry cornstalks, turned left again — and saw the police car blocking the road ahead.
Blondel swore silently and pulled off on the right shoulder. The patrol car was a regulation State
Patrol Chevrolet, but with a gold skunk- stripe painted down the back. Two yellow uniforms
emerged from it, came up, one on either side of the Mustang, looking like fraternity brothers of
the last pair he had seen at close range, complete with confident smiles. He cranked the window
down.
“Say, those are right pretty new uniforms you fellows are wearing.” He took the offensive.
“How much did they cost the taxpayers?”
“Thank you for stopping, sir.” The Monitor gave Blondel a two-fingered salute and a neat little
smile. Cool blue eyes flicked over the inside of the car. “The uniforms are provided by the
Authority. All taxes have been voided, retroactive to last midnight, as you perhaps – – ”
“Yeah, that’s a cute one.” Blondel nodded as if in agreement with a jest. “That’ll be the day. Ah
… was I doing something wrong, officer?”
“This is merely a routine counselling check, sir. May I have your ignition key?”
“My keys? Maybe I’d better see a badge first. I mean, what are you boys, some kind of special
deputies or something?”
“We’re your Monitors, sir. You’ve heard the announcements during the last eighty minutes.” It
was not a question.
“Ah … my radio’s on the blink – – ”
“Testing – – one, two, three, four,” the radio said clearly.
“Well, can you beat that … ?”
“Will you step out of the car, please, sir?” The Monitor opened the door.
“What for?” Blondel demanded. “What did I do … ?”
A tingly feeling went over Blondel; his muscles twitched; his left leg slid out and felt for the
ground. He was leaning, sliding across the seat, grabbing the door for support, standing up – – with
no more volition on his part than it took to fall off a cliff.
“Heyyy … ” The quaver in his voice was real.
“Don’t be alarmed, sir. But all instructions of Monitors must be complied with promptly, you
know.”
“What is this? I’m an American citizen! What’s this all about?”
“American and other national citizenships have been voided,” the Monitor said as casually as if
he were giving directions to the men’s room. “All citizens of the planet now enjoy equal status
before the Authority.”
The other Monitor had walked to the back of the car. He stood there, looking at the license
plate in an offhand way. Blondel felt his stomach tightening.
“Sir,” the Monitor said reproachfully, “thirty-seven minutes ago you were requested to stop for
Monitors’ counselling, but instead you damaged their vehicle and fled. Please tell me why you did
this.”

“Well, it was like this,” Blondel said hastily. “I thought they were stick- up men.”
“The vehicle you are driving is registered in the name of Mr. Chico Y. Lipschultz,” the Monitor
stated. “Have you his permission to make use of the vehicle?”
“Sure, good old Chick lets me take it any time I like.”
“I’ll have to ask you to accompany us into the village,” the Monitor said. “I’ll arrange for the
return of the auto to Mr. Lipschultz.”
“What about my date? She’ll be expecting me, and has she got a temper!”
The Monitor gave Blondel a sad look, as though he were mildly disappointed. He stepped back,
and Blondel went along to the patrol car without any heelkicking.
They rode in silence for five minutes, past the assortment of Flats Fixed, Clean Rooms, and
Good Eats signs that adorned the approaches to the town. Ahead a heavy- duty traffic light
dangled over an intersection; it changed just as the car reached it. The Monitor at the wheel
worked the stick shift awkwardly, braked. The car bucked, and for an instant his eyes flicked down
toward the dash. Blondel reached, grabbed the man’s yellow pillbox cap and yanked it down hard
over his face, then whirled for the door just in time to meet the other Monitor diving forward. The
latter bounced backward into his seat. Blondel shook his head, then slammed the door open and
was out and running.
A pair of whiskery citizens in soiled undershirts and lived- in overalls gave Blondel the full
benefit of four bloodshot eyeballs as he raced past them, but the shock was insufficient to unhook
their thumbs from their shoulder-straps. There was an alley ahead; Blondel cut into it, picked out
a gray board fence fronting it thirty feet along, made a running jump and got a grip on the top
board just before it gave way. He struck on his back with the approximate impact of Steve Brodie
hitting the East River, groped his way to his feet, heard other feet pounding, and tried it the easy
way — through the gate he hadn’t seen the first time.
He was in a weed- grown back yard with a cracked walk leading to a back porch with sagging screens and a trapezoidal door. He took the steps in a wobbly jump, banged a fist through the
rotted wire, raked the hook free from its eyelet and was inside, sniffing a sour odor of decayed
wood and imperfectly preserved pears. The door to the interior looked solid; he tried the knob,
and it opened. The inside hall was dark, papered in a puce and pale green pattern that was almost
invisible under the grease layer. There was a door at the far end under a fanlight that shed a glow
like a sunken ship on a strip of worn carpet that hadn’t been pretty even when it still had its hair.
Just as he reached the big brass knob, a door banged open on his left and a bald- domed
gentleman in galluses and armbands flapped a newspaper at him.
“Don’t ask,” he barked with a rasp like Edison’s original recording. “Told you fellers fifty times if
I told you once — no use coming around before five pee emm, ’cause she ain’t in! And if I hear
any more o’ that unchristian screeching and hollering you fellers call singing, I’m telephoning
Sheriff Hoskins quicker’n Ned Spratt got religion!”
“I’m with you, pop,” Blondel reassured him. “I just came to tell you there’s a couple of young
fellows on the way over to serenade her with steel guitars. They said you were scared to call
Hoskins. Said you were picking up KGAS in Peoria on your upper plate. Said you had women in
your room, and kept a bottle hidden under the slipcover on the divan. Watch out for ’em. They’re
tricked out fit to kill in a couple of dandelion- yellow zoot suits, and I’ll tell you one more thing,”
Blondel leaned close enough to get a whiff of Sen- Sen, “they been drinking!”
Blondel got the door open and was out on the sidewalk before his new acquaintance had
recovered enough breath to yell “Whippersnapper.” There were a few people in sight, looking
ordinary enough to be secret agents. Blondel set off at a brisk walk, got as far as the Rexall on
the corner before a squad car pulled into sight a block down. He ducked back, heard loud voices,
saw a small crowd gathering in front of the house from which he had come. The front door was

open, and two tall men in yellow appeared to be having an altercation of some sort with an elderly
gentleman wielding a folded newspaper.

There was a neat flush-panel door set in the imitation stone wall beside Blondel bearing a
polished brass panel with names on it. He palmed it open, was in an asbestos tile and
plasterboard hall with a menu- board directory of room numbers and names. Tan- carpeted stairs
led up. He took them three at a time, whirled around a landing, up more stairs, and was looking
out a wide nailed-shut double- hung window at the street below. The squad car was at the curb
with the doors hanging open. Down the block, two Monitors were advancing at a brisk stride
under the stares of the townsfolk. Blondel ran past closed doors to the far end of the hall, found a
dead end, ran back. The sounds of efficient feet were audible now coming up the steps. A door
ahead of Blondel opened and a lean woman with wide bony hips stepped out, dragging a lad in a
shirt with horizontal stripes — probably a hint of things to come, Blondel judged from the kick the
tot swung at his ankle as he slid past into an odor of iodoform and closed the door with his hip.
The room was ten feet by twenty. There was a row of hard chairs along one wall, a table with
magazines with torn covers, a desk decorated by a wilted rosebud, a couple of ashtrays on
stands, a clothes tree bearing a coat and hat. Framed diplomas from a dental college made out to
“Rodney H. Maxwell” hung on the pale green wall behind the desk. There was also an inner door,
closed and – – he tried it – – locked. In the hall a shrill female voice seemed to be objecting to
something. The feet sounded closer.
Blondel snatched the hat from the rack, slapped it on the back of his head; he tore a strip from
an issue of Time, with a picture of a ball player who had been dead for three years, wadded it and
jammed it into his right cheek; it made a satisfactory bulge. He dropped into the chair and got a
magazine open just as the door swung back.
A clean-cut, young America face gave him an interested look, glanced around the room.
“Sir, have you seen anyone enter this room during the last minute or two?” His voice was of
the type favored by soap manufacturers.
Blondel gave him a look like a seasick tourist turning down a pork chop.
“You’re waiting for the dentist?” the Monitor persisted.
“Wha’ ya ‘hink, I’m wa’in fer a bus?”
“How long have you been here, sir?” The Monitor came into the room, polite but insistent. His
partner was right behind him.
“Who wan’s to know? Ge’ lost.”
“Your name please, sir?”
The locked door behind Blondel opened. He looked up to see a youngish, suntanned face with
wavy black hair, a tight line of mouth and heavy- rimmed glasses above starched whites. The
newcomer gave the two Monitors an impersonal look, glanced down at Blondel without surprise.
“You can come in now, Mr. Frudlock,” he said and held the door open. Blondel stood, holding
his jaw in place with one hand.
“That biscuspid’s giving you trouble again, eh, Mr. Frudlock?” The dentist looked solemn.
“Maybe we’d better just go ahead with an extraction.” Their eyes met; Blondel thought he saw the
flicker of an eyelid.
“Wha’ever you say, Doctor, eh, Maxwell.” Blondel went past him into a tight little room filled
with glassfronted cases surrounding a chair that made the one at San Quentin look like Granny’s
rocker. Over the graymetal bulk of an air conditioner set in the window he could see the street
below, with clumps of townfolk gathered here and there to watch the excitement. Only one
Monitor was in sight, standing on the corner opposite. Beyond the door he could hear well-
modulated voices exchanging highly civilized questions and answers. Then doors clicked and the
man in white was sliding inside, looking like a youth who has just set fire to a policeman.
“They’re gone,” he said, and did something with his right ear.
“Thanks, Doc,” Blondel started. The dentist twiddled his ear again. Blondel ignored the
eccentricity. “What’s the best way out of here?” He motioned to the window. “That route seems a
little exposed.”

“Who sent you?” The dentist was giving him a one- eyebrow- up look now.
“The yellowjackets chased me in here. They’re mad at me because I broke a couple of their
toys and then ran out on them. There aren’t too many ways to run in your town.”
The dentist frowned. “And you just … happened along here to my office?”
“That’s right.”
The dentist moved casually around the table and stationed himself near a filing cabinet. The
manner in which his hand hovered near the lock suggested that it contained something besides
files.
“Look, Doc,” Blondel said hastily. “I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I’m just a guy who
wandered in off the street. I’m grateful to you for shaking those two goons, but now I’ll just get
on with my paper route.” He stepped toward the door.
“Just a minute.” The dentist nipped at his lower lip with a tooth that had obviously been
brushed twice a day and had seen its dentist twice a year! “What did you do to attract their
attention?”
Blondel gave him a brief rundown on his activities. Maxwell smiled when he described the
accident to the heli and said “Ah!” when he reached the break from the squad car. “I had a kind of
vague idea of making it to some town they haven’t hit yet,” Blondel concluded. “But it looks like
they planned this thing right down to the cheese in the mousetrap.”
The dentist nodded. “All right, I’ll take a chance on you,” he said crisply. “You may be a plant,
but if you are, you’ll live to regret it — just barely.” He turned and opened a drawer marked KIL-
KUR, twiddled things, and slipped out a soft- leather holster with a small shiny gun with a long slim
barrel. It disappeared under his left arm. “Come on.” Blondel followed him into the outer office;
Maxwell paused long enough to make a minute adjustment to the angle at which his second- best
diploma hung, then eased ope n the door and slid out. They went along the hall, in through a door,
just like the others, that concealed a narrow stair that led down to a fire door opening on a parking lot occupied by three nondescript sedans and a pearl- gray custom bodied Mercedes 300

SL. Maxwell slid behind the wheel of the latter, and Blondel climbed in the other side in a heady
perfume of glove leather and waxed inlay work. The door closed with a click like a watchcase.
“Where are we going?” Blondel inquired.
“My place,” Maxwell said shortly and dug off with a soft rhoom! like a secret weapon leaving
the launching pad. A block up the street they passed a gold-striped Monitors’ car parked in a gas
station. Nobody appeared to notice them, except an expensively corseted middle-aged matron
who gave Maxwell a wave and a smile that suggested that Doc had that first million made, if he
stuck around town long enough to collect it.
It was a breezy ten-mile drive north along the kind of winding, tree- hung road that suggested
picnic baskets in the rumble seats of Model A Fords. They made it in nine minutes by the dash
clock, topped a rise, and saw a spread of neatly- tended acreage with a brick glass house that
could have been lifted from any professional- class suburban street in the country. Blondel could
see a long graveled drive leading up a slope of lawn past a stretch of wall behind which a stray
shaft of late sun struck a patch of yellow.
He grabbed the wheel, hauled it back as Maxwell swung out to turn in.
“Gun it!”
Maxwell’s reactions were quick; he straightened the Mercedes out with no more than a little
slithering of loose shoulder- gravel and booted her hard.
“It was a stake-out,” Blondel yelled over the roar of the wind. “Unless you’ve got a houseboy
who wears yellow.”
Maxwell’s eyes went to the rear- view mirror; they tightened at the corners. He said something
under his breath. Blondel looked back. The garage door was up and a police car was just poking
its snout out; a yellow-clad figure was running toward it fro m the house.

“I wonder how … ” Maxwell cut his eyes at Blondel.
“They traced me to your office,” he said, “and called for the ambush as soon as they found you
gone. Keep your eyes on the road. I’m not going to jump – – in either direction.” The little car
howled around a curve, straightened out in time to enter another. Maxwell was staring straight
ahead, his lips parted, eyes bright. “Fasten your belt,” he said. “This may be a little hectic.”
“You think you can outrun them?”
“I may not be faster — but I know the roads.”
“They’ve got helis.”
Maxwell glanced at the sun, just above treetop level now. “I have a few tricks, too.” His tone
suggested that he was pretty well satisfied with the way things were going.
“For a quiet little hometown dentist you’re full of surprises, Doc.”
“Not all of us were as somnolent as the enemy imagined,” Maxwell said. “We knew this day was
coming. We’re not entirely unprepared.”
“Who’s ‘we’?”
Maxwell ignored the question, drifted the SL around another ungraded turn, kicked out of it.
went away wide open, did what the British call a racing change through a wobbly S curve that had
been designed to save a tree that had quite probably been a sapling when Pocahontas was selling
trade goods to John Smith. Blondel got a flash of the Interceptor just coming into the
straightaway half a mile behind.
“They’re gaining,” he said.
“Open the top boot.” Maxwell nodded at the black mohair cover buttoned down behind them
with big chrome snaps. Blondel lifted a corner; Maxwell poked something on the dash and a panel
slid back, exposing the gleaming walnut butt of a rifle nestled down under the parcel tray. Blondel
looked at him and shook his head. Maxwell turned the corners of his mouth down.
“This isn’t a game of cops and robbers,” he barked. “It’s war!”
“So far, all they’ve got on me is resisting arrest, grand larceny, and assault and battery,”
Blondel called over the racket of the slip cover. “I believe I’ll pass up the murder rap, if it’s all the
same to you.”
“Start facing realities!” Maxwell twisted the wheel hard, slithered fifty yards on two wheels,
straightened out with out a pause in the flow of his rhetoric. “Principles don’t exist in a vacuum. If
you believe in a thing you either fight for it, or stand by and watch it die.”
“I’m not sure killing people is exactly what my principles have in mind,” Blondel protested.
“Scruples are fine – – if you live to use them! Survival comes first!”
“Yeah – – but me minus my scruples is just a hundred and eighty pounds of unsatisfied appetites
for all the wrong things.”
“Dead appetites — unless you’re willing to stand up for what you believe!”
“What I believe seems to vary. Right now I believe I won’t shoot at those boys unless they
shoot first.”
“Very well.” Maxwell was watching the rear- view alertly. “Anything to be obliging … ” There
was a gentle curve coming up ahead, lined with amber- leaved trees silhouetted against a meadow
that sloped up to a stand of second- growth oak. Maxwell swung wide – – too wide. The right wheels
chopped underbrush. Blondel winced at the sound of untrimmed jimson weed whipping at the
paint job. Behind them the pursuit car was coming up fast, attempting to close. The curve
tightened; Maxwell fought the Mercedes, still watching the mirror. They were in a skid, howling
along at a forty- five degree angle to the direction of travel. Ahead, heavy sawhorses stood across
the road before a raw slash of dug- up pavement between big trees. Blondel braced himself for the
imminent crash —
Maxwell hit the gas pedal and the SL veered, leaped st raight for the dense undergrowth to the
left of the road. Blondel ducked as the car bounced hard, raking her bottom, and shot between
thick trunks, crashed through brush, bucking up a ragged rise to burst out in the clear on a

potholed and weed- grown single lane road. The screech of its brakes mingled with a similar howl
behind. Blondel winced at the smash that came then, followed by crashing sounds, metallic pings,
a crackling. He let out a long breath.
“You’re a fast man back of a wheel, Maxwell.” The dentist looked smug.
“Week-end rally driving has its uses,” he said.
Blondel opened his door. “Let’s go down and take a look.”
“Never mind that.” Maxwell backed the Mercedes, preparing to drive on. Blondel stepped out,
headed for the rough path the car had cut, without waiting to see whether the other followed.
He emerged on the road below, fifty feet from where the police car lay on its side beyond what
was left of the barricade, its front wheels angled hard left and spinning out of round. Dusky
orange flames were licking up around the twisted front bumper. Maxwell came up behind Blondel.
“Looks as though they missed the turn,” he said in a tone as elaborately casual as a pool
hustler’s. “Now let’s get out of here — ”
“They’re still in there!” Through the starred windshield one of the Monitors was groping at the
door above him. A quick ripple of fire ran back along the underside of the car, leaped high with a
whoof! when it hit puddled gas under the tank. Blondel sprinted for it, came around on the upwind
side, reached in over the dented top for the door handle. It was wedged tight. He scrambled up on
top of the wreck, tried again; it was jammed as solid as the main vault door at Fort Knox.
“Come on, you fool!” Maxwell yelled.
Blondel tried the rear door. The frame was twisted out of line. He stamped smashed glass from
the rear frame, reached down for a grip on a slack arm, hauled hard. The Monitor, he discovered,
was heavier than he looked – – a good two hundred pounds, as limp as a wet sail. The fire was
booming up behind Blondel now; paint crackled like hot fat.
” … a car,” Maxwell shouted. “Leave them and come on!”
Blondel got a grip under the Monitor’s arms and heaved him out on the side. There was a snarl of a double- clutched engine, then a skreel of brakes and a second police car shot into view,
pushing a spray of dust beside it. It rocked to a stop half through the broken barricade and the
doors popped wide. Maxwell whirled and disappeared into the brush. Four tall, long- legged men in
yellow came pelting up toward the burning car. Blondel shoved the man he had gotten out down across the side of the car.
“Jump, sir!” one of the Monitors called, and a gust whirled fire around the seat of Blondel’s
pants. He jumped. Two Monitors closed in on him, held him up while he coughed smoke and
knuckled pain tears into his eyeballs. He looked back and saw two men on top of the car, passing
down the second man. Then they were all running. In the distance Blondel caught the roar of
Maxwell’s SL gunning up to speed just as the tank blew. Fire fountained over half an acre of
woods. Three of the Monitors went trotting off, efficiently aiming little gadgets like pen-cell
flashlights at the blazes. The one who was still holding Blondel’s arm cleared his throat as
deferentially as a waiter presenting a padded bar bill.
“Sir, I must ask you to go with us back to the village.”
The other Monitors were coming back now. They ringed Blondel in. Their manner, while not
precisely ominous, invited no liberties.
“Sure,” Blondel said wearily. “I guess we were bound to get together sooner or later.”

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