8-Monitors (Laumer)

CHAPTER EIGHT

After a brisk chase lasting half an hour, during which Blondel’s well- developed instincts
indicated pursuit close behind, he went to ground in a dim- lit chili and tequila house peopled by
furtive persons of unmistakably nonMonitorial appearance.
“What’s fer you, gringo?” a large man with thin reddish hair and pale blue eyes demanded
when Blondel had settled himself in a rear booth with a view of the door.
“Una cerveza, muy frio,” Blondel specified.
“Huh?”
“Pronto, por favor, amigo.”
“Jist a minute. I better get one o’ these greasers to translate. I don’t savvy that wetback lingo.”
“Never mind,” Blondel said. “Just get me a beer.”
The large man gave Blondel a suspicious look and went away. Moments later a shadow fell
across his shoulder. He looked up. A tall preternaturally lean man, with a face like saddle leather
and a patch over one eye, silently took the seat across from him.
“Uh … buenos dias,” Blondel said cautiously.
The newcomer shot a keen look at him, took a folded newspaper from his pocket and began to
read.
S-v- e-n- s- k- a D a- g-b- l- a- d- e-t, Blondel spelled out. The waiter returned with the beer; the

stranger ignored him. He ignored the stranger. Blondel took a swallow. His mouth seemed drier
than ever. He checked his pulse. It was still racing from the run. He cleared his throat.
“Los Monitoros,” he began, “esta usted … ” The stranger shot him a piercing glance above the
paper.
“Forbannade Amerikanerna,” he said in a gravelly tone. “Prata, prata, som en papegoja!”
“Forlat,” Blondel muttered. “Det var fel.” He finished his beer hurriedly and rose. A leather-
jacketed man seated at the bar caught his eye. He hesitated, then went over, took the stool
beside him. The man leaned casually closer.
“Lefty send you?” he murmured.
“No.”
The man pondered that. “Good,” he said. “Never did trust that Lefty.”
“Still,” Blondel said on impulse, “maybe you could help me.”
“Yeah?” the other said guardedly.
“Where’s, ah, 2378 1/2. South Nixon Avenue?”
“That in Chi?”
“Sure.”
The dark man finished his drink – – a murky, dark green fluid in an old-fashioned glass – – and
gave Blondel a quick look. “Got two bits?” he inquired from the corner of his mouth.
“Yeah,” Blondel whispered back. He fished the coin from his pants pocket and handed it over.
The man looked at it carefully, rose and started for the door.
“Hey! Where are you going with my quar – – ” Blondel caught himself as numerous sets of dark

eyes as impassive as olive pits turned his way. He dropped a bill on the bar, halted at a growl
from the bartender.
“That’ll be a buck- fifty for the brew, gringo.”
“Kind of high, isn’t it?”
“It’s imported.”
“From where?”
“Jersey City.”
“Oh.” Blondel added a Kennedy half dollar to the bill and hurried after his new contact. Outside,

he caught sight of him rounding a corner thirty feet distant. He ran for it, but the man had
disappeared from view.
“Damn!” Blondel muttered, ducking under a string of nudie magazines festooned across the
front of a modest stall. “It was my 1912 D, too … ” He turned back and collided with a man who
gave him a warning look.
“Oh, there you are.” Blondel fell silent as the man hooked a finger at the news vendor.
“Got a map of the city?” he muttered.
“Two bits.” The vendor handed across a garishlyprinted document. The man turned, poked it
into Blondel’s flaccid hand, and disappeared into the crowd.
“Wow, what an organization,” Blondel murmured admiringly.
Half a block further, in a small park apparently devoted to wastepaper collection and pigeon
culture, Blondel took a bench, scanned the brush for observers, then unfolded the map. Nixon
Avenue was clearly marked as lying in square B- 4.
At that moment a large bus of the old type thundered up, belching fumes. Blondel hurried to it,
clambered aboard as it surged ahead.
“Does this bus go anywhere near B- 4?” he asked the driver, a squatty, morose- looking man in
a gray windbreaker and a warped billcap.
“Before what, Jack? How’s about moving back in the bus.”
“I mean Nixon Avenue,” Blondel corrected.
“East or West?”
“South,” he said.
“Nope,” the driver said.
“Nope what?”
“Nope it don’t.”
“It doesn’t go to square B- 4 – – I mean South Nixon?”
“Goes to East Nacton, that any help?”
“No,” he said.
“No, what?”
“No, it isn’t.”
“Tough.”
“What?”
“Skip it, Jack. Go sit down, OK?”
Muttering, Blondel found a seat between a large colored lady who was carrying on a spirited
conversation with an unseen friend, and a lean white-haired little man who planted a rubber-
tipped cane on Blondel’s foot and exerted a surprising amount of pressure.
“Ah — would you mind, sir?” Blondel tried to extricate his foot.
“Mind what, buster?” The oldster clacked his plates at Blondel and indicated a multicolored
World War One Victory ribbon dangling from a curled lapel. “I took a Jerry 88 millimeter right
through the gonads. I guess I got a few rights.”
“Sure, but your cane – – ”
” … and I says to that lady,” the mutter on Blondel’s right rose in volume, “back home ole
Missy never mind a little totin; and she say … ”
“When the call came, we was the ones went, but nowadays that don’t mean doodley- squat, the
way some people talk.”
” … so I say, way some peoples ack, seem like they got some wrong notions bout who runnin’
this country … ”
” … was down to the VA just Monday a week. Some young fairy in a purple necktie tried to tell
me what the law meant. Hell, I was peeling spuds at Fort Bliss while he was still on the tit!”
“My foot — ”
The cane lifted momentarily and came down hard. “I didn’t get this here medal reading no

lawyers’ fine print, I told him. And … ”
” … and she say, she goin’ call the policemen, and I say, I goin’ call the NAAC of P, and she say
… ”
“If you’d lift your cane, sir – – ”
” … ain’t my fault if I didn’t happen to come under fire, was it? I give up a swell job in the A &
P to go to war, and what I say is … ”
” … and I say, how did I know the family prefer the white meat, and she say her husband say
he done forgot a chicken had laigs, been so long since he seen anything but necks and backs, and
I say … ”
” … ready to go to war tomorrow, if duty calls! Sure, I got a little forty per cent disability, but,
hell, I always say a little dose ain’t no worse than a bad cold!”
“Pardon me, Colonel, would you mind taking your cane off my foot?” Blondel inserted the
request in the cross fire.
“Sure, son. I’m getting off here.” The old fellow rose, leaning heavily on the cane. The colored
lady gestured, driving a large elbow in under Blondel’s fifth rib. “..’. and I say, I guess I has no
choice but to resign my position, and she say, ‘But Pulchritude, how I goin’ do without you,’ and I
say, ‘I goin’ to miss them babies somethin’ dreadful,’ and she fix to cry, and I fix to cry — ”
“So long, junior.” The vet saluted Blondel. “Your fly’s open.”
By the time Blondel had investigated an d found the remark groundless, the bus was again in
motion.
“Mister.” The dark lady leaned toward Blondel. “That old gemmun a bad influence; way he talk
all the time a pusson can’t hear herself think.”
“Funny,” Blondel said, “I could hear you clearly.” He peered out the window, seeking to identify
a landmark.
“You one of them telempaths?” his neighbor inquired suspiciously.
“No, I’m a more of psychopath. Either that, or everyone else is.”
“Ummm, ummm … you in a bad way,” his new friend opined. “That one of the first signs.”
“What about you?” Blondel wagged a finger. “Don’t you care that the country’s been invaded?”
“It is?”
“Of course! Who do you think knocked down half the city and ordered private vehicles off the
streets and took over the radio and TV stations and fired the cops and, and … ” He waved a hand
at a stretch of cleared ground the bus was passing. “And all the rest of it.”
“I figure that them Republicans.”
“The Monitors said over the radio they were taking over! They announced it publicly!”
“I never listens to them commercials; I is learned to just naturally tune ’em out.”
Blondel waved a hand at his fellow passengers, slumped complacently in their seats. “I don’t
understand. You all act as though nothing had happened!”
The bus slowed, and the lady rose. “Trouble with you, you one of them radicals,” she stated
disapprovingly. “You needs to get together with Jesus and talk things over.”
Blondel got hastily to his feet. “Say, I wonder if you could tell me which bus to catch for Nixon
Avenue – – ” He broke off short and retreated to the back of the bus as two smiling young Monitors
swung aboard the vehicle. From a new seat between a pair of glowering bearded teen- agers, he
observed them as they exchanged familiar greetings with the driver, bypassed the fare box and
took seats near the front.
For the next forty minutes Blondel sat pressed back unobtrusively in his seat, now burying
himself in a newspaper picked up from the seat beside him, now pretending deep interest in the
laxative ads above the windows after his concealment was abruptly reclaimed by its owner. The
bus was almost empty by the time the pair stood, sauntered to the rear door and looked him over
with friendly smiles, preparing to descend. Blondel braced himself, belatedly remembering
Blackwish’s instructions regarding the documents he had entrusted to him.

The bus halted; the first Monitor stepped down; the second nodded, said: “Nice morning, Mr.
Blondel,” and followed. Blondel was still staring after them as the bus pulled away from the curb.
Blondel left the bus at the next stop, a bleak, windswept intersection fronted on one side by the
grim bulks of warehouses, on the other by the desolation of railroad yards behind which a single
slender tower loomed in evidence of Monitorial activity in the area. A thin woman in a flimsy print
dress above knobby, nylon-clad knees gave him a speculative look, detached herself from the
lamp post against which she had been leaning and gave her brillo-like hair a pat.
“You looking for some action, sweetie?” She had a voice like a cracked beer stein.
“I’m looking for Nixon Avenue.” “What’s there, some o’ them cut- rate houses?” “Just looking up
a friend,” Blondel reassured her. “You see, I got on the wrong bus and – – ”
“Them damned amateurs are wrecking the trade,” the woman said sadly.
“Sure, but what I wanted to know was — ”
” ‘Course, you boys are always on the lookout for something free – – ”
“Oh.” Blondel offered a dollar bill. The woman eyed it dubiously.
“May be some dollar stuff over there on Nixon Avenue, but around here it’ll run you five, plus
sales tax.”
“Just for giving me directions?”
“Directions? You mean you need lessons?”
“I want to know where Nixon Avenue is!”
“Back to that, huh? Well, there ain’t nothing they can teach you over there you can’t learn
quicker right here, honey.”
“You mean – – you’re … ah … ?”
“Let your hair down, sugar. I’m a professional, go ahead and say it.”
“Amazing,” Blondel shook his head. “Blackwish must have a better organization than J. Edgar
Hoover.”
She backed away. “Now, hold on, brother, let’s leave them boys out of this.”
“I guess you’re right; discretion pays.” Blondel lowered his voice. “But the point is, I have a
message to deliver. They’re holding him – – ”
“Who?”
“You think I should mention his name?”
“Suit yourself. Holding him where?”
“In the house, of course.”
“It figures. But why come to me? A independent ain’t got a chance up against the big chains.”
“He says they’re watching every move he makes,”
“One o’ them kind of places, hey?”
“They’ve got him outnumbered about twenty to one, of course.”
“The poor feller.” She clucked in sympathy.
“And he thought maybe you – – ”
“Not me. One trick at a time, that’s what mother taught her girls.”
“But if you got a few men together – – you know, rugged types … ”
“I don’t like the sound o’ that, feller,” the woman said severely.
” … you could all sneak into the woodshed and come up in his bedroom.”
“You can have your buck back, mister. That ain’t my kind of party.” She turned and retreated
hastily around the corner.
“Everybody in SCRAG is out of his or her mind,” Blondel complained aloud. He looked around,
spotted a faded street sign dangling under a shattered luminaire. Half a minute’s research with his
map indicated that he was now two and one- quarter inches north northeast of the 2000 block of
South Nixon. He tightened his belt and set out on foot.
The sun was low above the city’s oddly punctuated skyline when Blondel, after half a dozen
narrow escapes from Monitor patrols, dodged past the last knot of idlers, took a short -cut through

an alley and emerged on the home stretch. Nixon Avenue, the map indicated, lay just beyond the
next open expanse which reached to a b elt of newly placed trees, incongruous in the aroma of
stockyard wafted by the evening breeze.
For the moment there were no Monitors in view. Blondel, wincing at the pain in his blistered
feet, skirted the cleared acreage, keeping in the deepening shadows of the tottering structures
which ringed it.
Taking his bearings on an illuminated green minaret towering in the distance, he entered a gap
in the hedge, ducking under boughs heavy with night- blooming flowers. Shortly thereafter he
made the discovery that the blossoms were accompanied by thorns. After a short pause, during
which he turned up his coat collar and wrapped his hands in handkerchiefs, he pressed on.
It was a difficult quarter hour in the thorn bushes. But at the end lights showed, glowing dimly
ahead. Flat on the ground now, Blondel wriggled under a last set of barbs, poked his head out into
the clear. Across a wide lawn, the dark shapes of lacy buildings loomed, sparkling with tiny lights
that glowed on balconies, towers, aerial walkways – –
“My God, Blondel!” a familiar voice yapped from close at hand. “Are you still skulking around
here?”
Sitting morosely on the far end of the marble bench occupied by Nelda, now clad in a flowing
robe of gossamer white, Blondel massaged his feet.
“I did not come here to beg for a second chance,” he stated firmly. “As a matter of fact, I
thought Nixon Avenue was somewhere around here.”
“It was,” Nelda said carelessly. “They removed it to make room for the Aspiration Building.”
“Great! Why didn’t you tell me that this morning?”
“I had other things on my mind.” She gave him a disapproving look. “Where have you been all
day?”
“Making valuable contacts,” he said shortly. “But I still have the problem of delivering the general’s distress call.”
“I suggest you take it and sho – – ”
“Ah, there you are, dear lady,” a smooth voice called. Blondel stared through the gloom at a
yellow- clad figure approaching through the dusk.
“I’m too tired to run any more,” Blondel groaned. “I’ll stall him while you ma ke your escape.”
“Don’t talk like a complete cretin, Blondel. I’ve changed my mind about the Monitors – – ”
“You don’t understand, Nelda! You didn’t kick me in the belly today because you wanted to;
they took over your muscles and made you do it! Now’s your chance to make a run for it!”
“Why, Pecky, you dear!” Nelda crooned. “Were you looking for me?”
“Yes — and Mr. Blondel!” The Monitor’s face lighted as he saw the latter. “Miss Monroe and I
are about to run over to our evening orientation session; won’t you join us, Mr. Blondel?”
“Come on,” Nelda urged. “You can’t go running around rabble- rousing forever.”
“I thought we agreed about the necessity for certain, er, measures,” Blondel said guardedly.
“Thank heaven I’ve thrown off conventionalized thinking, and perceived the necessity for
externalization of our societal mechanisms!” Nelda declared.
“Is that what they call defecting to the enemy?”
“Please, sir, cease regarding us as enemies … ”
“You’ve been hounding me from one hiding place to another all day,” Blondel retorted. “I don’t
call that evidence of friendly intentions.”
“Oh?” Pekkerup seemed to confer briefly with unseen voices. “Ah, yes,” he said. “You were an
elusive chap today … ” Footsteps sounded, closing in along the walk. Blondel sat listlessly, waiting
for the inevitable. A Monitor, indistinguishable from Pekkerup in the fading light, hove into view.
“Here you are, sir.” He handed over a bundle of folded papers. “You dropped these here this

morning. Sorry about the delay in returning them, but you seem to have a knack for dropping out
of sight from time to time.”

Blondel patted his pockets hastily, then accepted the offering. “My laundry list,” he explained
lamely.
“Why not come along with me, sir?” the newcomer suggested. “I’m about to conduct a little
question and answer period for a small group of citizens who’ve expressed special interest in the
new programs.”
“Will I get to sit down?”
“Of course — and refreshments will be served.”
“It’s a deal – – but I’m not making any promises.”
“Excellent, sir.” The Monitor led Blondel, hobbling painfully, along a walk past a lantern- hung
terrace, up broad steps and into a cosy amphitheater where half a dozen men in shabby garments
sat huddled in a tight cluster in the far corner.
“Let’s all gather round the table here,” the Monitor called gaily, indicating a polished board
surrounded by soft leather chairs. Blondel sank into one with a groan. A thin fellow in a worn
turtle- neck slid into place on his right. A stolid thug, with hands like catcher’s mitts projecting
from an undersized pin stripe, creaked the chair on the left.
“Where’s the eats?” the latter growled.
“Yes,” Blondel echoed. “Where are the eats?”
The heavyweight cocked a scarred eyebrow at him. “Wisenheimer?” he inquired.
“Knackwurst,” Blondel retorted.
His interrogator subsided, baffled. The Monitor was looking over his charges brightly.
“Gentlemen, the Tersh Jetterax recognizes that the little problem of communication of ideas
lies at the bottom of the somewhat, ah, cool reception we Monitors have received among you. It is
our hope, in little, informal, voluntary gatherings like this one, to put your minds at ease as to the
ethical basis for the many improvements which are now being made in your lives. Who would like
to lead off the discussion?”
“What about dames?” a grizzled man with one ear rumbled.
“Alas, no ladies chose to join us this evening.”
“Don’t rib me, bo. You said if I come, there’d be some kicks.”
“Dames is poison,” another veteran of life on a hostile planet offered. “No dames, I say. Cards,
dice, ponies, plenty booze — that’s fer me.”
“Likker’ll rot yer insides,” a small, peppery derelict predicted. “You boys need to get on some
good stuff.” He winked a fluttery wink which triggered a tic in his left cheek which occupied his
attention for the remainder of the session.
“Where’s the eats?” the big man demanded loudly.
“Yes, where are the eats?” Blondel echoed.
“Gentlemen, the food will be served presently,” the Monitor soothed. “First, let us deal with the
problem uppermost in all our minds.” He looked at a roundshouldered youth with pale stubble and
a slack jaw who had so far not spoken. “You, sir: What troubles you, with reference to our
presence among you?”
The youth stirred. His mouth closed and opened. “Huh?” he managed.
“Can you state what, precisely, interposes itself between you and a rational acceptance of your
good fortune?”
“I got like a low IQ,” the lad stated positively. He bobbed his head and grinned briefly,
exposing widespaced teeth and a pink cud of bubble gum.
“Be of good cheer! As soon as your testing is complete you’ll be trained for work well within
your capabilities – – ”
“Nope,” the youth stated flatly.
“What he needs,” the peppery man declared, “is a stiff jolt right in the carotid. Fixes ’em every
time.”
“Where’s the eats?”

“You give me the dames, you keep the booze.”
“Surely you prefer productive work at a useful occupation to a drone’s existence?” the Monitor
inquired patiently.
“Nope.”
“Doesn’t the prospect of a spacious new apartment, comfortable and attractive clothing,
improved health, greater intellectual vigor, and a meaningful role in the world’s affairs attract
you?”
“Nope.”
“Hey! He’s going to try to make us take some kind of bath,” the little fellow on Blondel’s right
predicted. “And prob’ly preaching afterwards.”
“I don’t need no pansy in yeller britches telling me when to bathe off,” the hungry one
announced. “Where’s the eats?”
“Surely you’re excited by the prospect of participation in the great things happening about you
today!” The Monitor radiated enthusiasm. “Picture it! A continentwide program of landscape
improvement which will convert the wilderness into parks and gardens! The deserts will be
irrigated, new lands opened up for settlement, and new bright houses for all! In place of the
clusters of dreary, unsightly constructions in which you’ve been crowded like beasts, radiant
towers will rise among the lawns! The natural resources will be identified and put to use, power
will be supplied free, from nuclear, tidal, and solar sources! All drudgery will be automated, and
underground factories will produce endless streams of the goods required to make life more
joyous! New highway systems, twenty lanes wide, one way, will link all major centers, and on
them, improved, fail- proof vehicles will cruise at incredible speeds in perfect safety! A subsurface
vacuum tube system will speed heavy cargo from coast to coast! Every citizen will thrill to new-
found abilities at sports, sciences, the arts! Official programs of achievement in every field of
human activity will uncover and develop every hidden talent; and the vast, untapped reservoir of genius latent in the undiscovered masses will be opened, freed to produce new symphonies, new
sculptures, new formulae, new recipes for the delight of all!”
“If you guys don’t want the dames,” the girl-fancier proposed, “I’ll take ’em.”
“Where’s the eats?”
“Heck, a little horse don’t hurt a man none – – and that pot, why that’s downright beneficial!”
“Yep, it’s the old soap- and- salvation pitch,” the antiablution man rose. “I knew it soon’s I seen
them brandnew store clothes he was wearing.” He departed, muttering.
“Gentlemen, are your imaginations not fired by the prospect?” the Monitor called over the
rising tide of comment.
“Nope,” the dull youth stated.
“But — what does arouse your enthusiasm?” the Monitor appealed. “Surely there are ideals that
move you more than the mere satisfaction of bodily hungers!”
“I like cars,” the slack- jawed lad stated.
“Now you take snow, cut fifty to one … ”
“Redheads – – and blondes, and maybe a few blackheaded ones, too — ”
“But I can’t get no driver’s license.”
“Boy, I can almost feel the old ten cc slipping in now,” the addict said dreamily.
“I knew one dame was white- headed, premature. But don’t kid yourself, Bub, her axles was
greased … ”
“So I got a couple chasses without no wheels set up in the side yard.”
“Sirs! The discussion is wandering far afield! I’m here to put your minds at ease — ”
“If there ain’t no eats, I’m dusting.” The large man got to his feet.
“Let’s skip the chin- music and get on with the cure.” The narcotics fan rubbed horny hands
together. “Let me tell you, I tapered off in some o’ the best sanitariums in the country. My niece –
-”

“What I say is, baths is OK, if they got dames to scrub yer back, like in Japan. I seen this here
movie — ”
“Gentlemen – – ”
“Pa likes refrigerators. He’s got twelve of ’em out back.”
“Ain’t no action here, I can see that,” the sport declared. “Maybe if I hustle I can get me a
bolita ticket before Manny closes down fer the evening.” He exited hurriedly.
“How about it, you going to let me down easy?” the junky called, still fight ing the tic. “If you’re
reneging, speak up. I’m overdue for my fix.”
“You know, I ain’t seen a dame since I hit this joint,” the one- eared man said in a tone of
dawning comprehension. “I think this is one of them homo joints!” He got to his feet and stamped
out of the hall. The Monitor darted back and forth in agitation.
“Please, gentlemen, don’t go — ”
“Never mind them,” Blondel advised him. “I wanted to ask you — ”
“Come back!” the Monitor called as the twitching man groped his way doorward.
“Now maybe we can talk,” Blondel suggested. “You said – – ”
“Only two of you left, out of seven.” The Monitor shook his head sadly. “I had such high hopes
— ”
“I guess I’ll go sit in one of my car bodies,” the dull youth announced, rising abruptly.
“Sir – – don’t leave now, I beg of you! I can arrange for your potentiality testing, and synaptic
acceleration therapy, at once! I guarantee you an increase in effective IQ of at least — ”
The boy had blundered past him and was halfway to the steps. The Monitor hurried after him,
pleading.
“Don’t waste your time,” Blondel called after him. “Tell me more about this subterranean
factory idea, and — ”
Halfway down the steps the Monitor overtook his quarry, jumped in front of him, and grasped his arm with both hands. “Sir, think what it could mean to you – – ”
The flimsy sleeve ripped free as the youth tugged against the restraint. The Monitor stumbled
back, missed his footing, and fell. Blondel heard his head strike pavement with a sound like a
dropped cantaloupe. The slender, gold- clad body curled on its side, making scratchy noises. Then
it stiffened and was still.
“Oh- boy- oh- boy- oh- boy!” The youth circled the body.
“Pa told me next time it was the state farm fer sure.” He fled at a shambling run.
Blondel stopped, put a hand to the fallen Monitor’s chest. The pulse seemed strong, but
strangely rapid. And there was something odd about the feel of the chest …
He grabbed the casualty under the arms, laid him out face down in the shadow of a flowering
shrub. The uniform, he found, was not secured by buttons. Instead, a pull at just the right angle
caused it to open down the back. He turned the limp body over, and tugged, peeling the jacket off
over the arms. It was stiff and bundlesome. It came clear suddenly and Blondel was staring
blankly down at what was left lying on the walk.
The face was still the same, and the neck; but just below the collar line the texture changed.
The thorax was lumpy, pigeon- chested, a shiny dark brown in color. And the arms had come off
with the blouse. All that was left were a pair of limp, soft- looking grayish flippers, like baby
elephants trunks.

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