9-Monitors (Laumer)

CHAPTER NINE

Blondel dropped the padded coat. It hit with a thump like wet laundry. For a second or two it
seemed to him that his stomach was attempting to squeeze itself into a ball small enough to toss
up with one heave. His next impulse was to run, but a form of shock- paralysis made his legs
quiver like bass- viol strings. He took a shaky step back, and stumbled over the Monitor’s gold-

booted foot. At the jar, the Monitor’s face tilted and fell off. Blondel saw a hollow shell like a
Halloween mask dangling by a cluster of wires, exposing a head like a hairless seal, except that
the eyes were below the mouth.
And, suddenly, it was all right. He was looking, not at a mutilated human but at an animal of a
strange species. He let out a long breath, feeling his face muscles relax from the unconscious
grimace in which they had been set.
He stood over the alien, listening. The campus- like park around him was still and peaceful. No
other Monitors were in view along the curving walks. He licked his dry lips, pulled the unconscious
alien farther back into the shadows, and set to work.
It was a difficult chore, stripping the remainder of the uniform from the fallen Monitor, because
of the maze of wires, springs, and ducts that almost filled the pseudolegs. The main power pack
was built into the lower torso, with the organic body of the alien squatting on its dish- like upper
surface. There was a snug little harness of woven metal around the thing, with leads running off in
all directions, Unking up what appeared to be servounits built inside the knees and ankles. There
were also a pair of electronic – looking devices, nestled where the armpits should have been, with
connections to the mask. Some sort of sense boosters, Blondel decided. The mask itself was an
intricate-looking piece of equipment, thick and heavy. The back was a porous gray ma terial laced
with color- coded filaments and bead- sized fittings, moulded to fit over the seal- head, but from the
front it looked real enough to breathe. Every pore and eyelash was perfect; someone, Blondel
reflected, had done a good job of costume design.
The uniform seemed to be a perfectly ordinary suit of clothes, once the muscle- shaped foam –
rubber pads had been stripped from it. The hands had metal rod and spring cores, with padding,
and outer gloves the color and texture of human skin lined on the inside with a fabric of metallic
weave. They felt strange when he handled them, as though they were in business for themselves.
Obeying the kind of impulse that makes a boy thrust a finger into an electric socket, Blondel tried one on. It snugged to his hand like a coat of paint. He flexed his fingers; the glove gave without
strain. It was a perfect counterfeit.
He took the glove off and checked the remainder of the outfit. There were a number of apparati
worked into the pads whose function was obscure. But a grain- of-rice hearing aid that tucked into
his ear brought in the sound of moths flying fifty yards away; and a little device, fitted into a shirt
button, kicked his hands away from the suit like an invisible rubber wall until he found the control
in the heel of the left boot.
“A repellor field,” Blondel muttered aloud. “No wonder nobody seems to be able to clobber a
Monitor. And this is the outfit Blackwish wants to drop bombs on.” He pocketed his finds and
emerged from the concealment of the bushes. All around, the fairy lights twinkled across the
peaceful gardens. He turned up his coat collar in a vague instinct for anonymity and set off at a
brisk walk toward the nearest clump of trees.
From a semiconcealed position behind a Dempster-dumpster unit canted at the edge of a
weed- grown vacant lot Blondel discerned the sagging contours of an independent cab parked at
the curb, garish in purple and pink, blazoned with the mystic heraldry of fare formulae.
He took out Blackwish’s bundled instructions, leafed past the countersigns and code data,
found the alternate address for use in the event the Nixon Avenue headquarters had fallen to the
foe: 72813 W. G. Harding Way, Room 213.
He checked the landscape again for hostile yellow figures, then nipped across through the tin
cans and dead soldiers, leaned down beside the cab driver’s window.
“You know where W. G. Harding Way is?” he hissed. The cabby sprang straight up, emitted a
hoarse yell, and dived for the floor.
“Come up,” Blondel urged. “This is no time to go to pieces. I need a cool driver who can get me
across the city with important information.”
The hackie showed Blondel a length of one- inch iron pipe. “The last wisey braced me from

behind got twelve stitches,” he stated truculently. “What are you, some kind of flatfoot?”
“Not exactly.” Blondel opened the rear door and got in. “Number 72813,” he directed. “I’ll lie
on the floor. Don’t waste any time.”
The driver reared up and looked over the back of the seat.
“If you’re tired, I’ll take you to a hotel, Jack,” he offered.
“I told you, I’ve got hot news to deliver! Let’s get going!”
The driver shook his head sadly. “The town’s gone nuts,” he stated. “Ever since these Israelis
taken over.”
“What Israelis?”
“You know – – the guys with the yellow suits.”
“Oh, those Israelis — ”
“Don’t get me wrong,” the cabby cautioned. “I’m Joosh myself. And you know the old saying – –
it takes one to know one.”
“Security considerations prevent me from saying more,” Blondel said. “But these Monitors are a
lot more alien than — ”
“I mean, in a way, you can’t blame ’em. After two thousand years of being shoved around and
with guys like Einstein on the team, it figures after a while they hadda make a move – – you know
what I mean?”
“Right,” Blondel agreed. “If you see any Israelis, just wave and keep going. It wouldn’t be
convenient for me to be delayed right now.”
“Hey!” The cabby eyed him sharply. “You ain’t one of them anti-Semites?”
“Certainly not! It’s just that this is private business — ”
“You know, it’s a funny thing, but some of my best friends are anti- Semitic,” the cabby
reflected. “Take O’Houlihan, my relief. For a lousy Mick, he ain’t a bad guy — know what I mean?”
“Uh- huh. Look let’s get moving – – ”
“Now, you take the Eyetalians. Catholics, just like the Irish, but with them we get along good.”
“You do know where W. G. Harding Way is?”
“Now the Ayrabs – – did you know the Ayrabs are Semites? But with them we don’t get along
good at all.”
“There’s no accounting for taste,” Blo ndel pointed out.
“I know what you mean – – you know what I mean?”
“Absolutely. Could we get started now?”
The cabby frowned down at him. “You with the CIA?”
“In a sense.”
“Then you can count on me, pal. Like I says, I don’t exactly blame them Israelis for getting a
little fed up, but after all, this is the USA, right?”
“Right.”
“And we don’t need any bunch of foreigners telling us how to run the place, right?” “Right. And
if you’d – – ”
“Even if they are good Jewish boys.”
“Exactly, so — ”
“So let’s get going, pal.”
The cabby resumed normal driving position, clacked the flag down and pulled out into the
empty street. The sound of the engine echoed off abandoned-looking storefronts.
“Them Israelis are making plenty changes,” the cabby announced. “You know what they done?
They give me another thirty-six hours in the hack game; then – – phhht!”
“Don’t keep slowing down,” Blondel called.
“You want me to have a accident?” the driver inquired.
“Maybe later,” Blondel muttered. “Can’t you get a little more speed out of this hulk?”
“Nix, kid. I got a license to protect. By the way, what’s this hot info you got?”

“Classified,” Blondel said shortly.
“Oh. OK. I was in the Army, I know all about that kind of stuff.”
“Good.”
“I can keep my lip buttoned.”
“Swell, so — ”
“You can trust me.”
“Great. Now if – – ”
“Like, if you was to tell me — ”
“Not a chance.”
“OK, OK, I ain’t nosey! But like, if something was to happen to you — ”
“No.”
“Hah! Who needs it? The stuff I could tell you, pal!”
“Just drive,” Blondel directed.
“For example, you know the mark-up on color television sets? I got a cousin — ”
“I hate television,” Blondel interrupted.
Several blocks passed in silence. Blondel, crouched awkwardly on the floor, raised his head and
stole a glimpse from the window as the cab sped past a broad swathe of leveled ground where tall
machines worked smoothly, erecting fragile- looking columns.
“Look at that,” the cabby invited, staring at him in the rear- view mirror. “New synagogs going
up all over town. Who says the Israelis got no engineering genius?”
“Not me,” Blondel stated firmly. “Faster, please.”
“Look, the way I see it, us American citizens got to stick together, right?”
“Right.”
“So if you want to tell me — ”
“Forget it.”
The cabby sighed. “I got to hand it to you, Jack, you don’t give away much. Here you are.” He
braked to a halt. Blondel peered out at the grim facades of empty stores under lightless walk- ups.
One dim-lit entrance had the number 72813 lettered over it in peeling gilt. He stepped out.
“How much?”
“On the house,” the hackie said. “My pleasure, pal. If I wasn’t the father of nine, I’d side your
play. Anyways, God Bless America.” The hackie gunned away from the curb.
Blondel eyed the silent building front, looked both ways along the street. There was no one in
sight. The cool evening air smelled of creosote and diesel fuel. He pushed through an imitation
bronze door into a small vestibule containing a half – full rubbish can and a sway- backed bicycle.
Narrow stairs upholstered in perished black rubber led upward. At the first landing, a massive
gray door swung open with a lugubrious groan. In the hall, a dim light at the far end showed a
rank of closed and silent doors. A faint light behind one threw a weak fan of yellow on the floor.
Blondel cocked his head, listening. There was no sound. He went along the corridor softly,
paused at the lighted door. It bore the numerals 213 above letters that spelled out: P. Gimlet.
Importers. He put an ear to the door, heard a sharp bonk! followed by a clink of glass and a
gurgling sound.
Gently, Blondel tried the knob. Locked. He hesitated, then tapped lightly.
There was an interrogatory grunt from beyond the door, then footsteps. The latch rattled and
the door swung wide. The angry face of General Blackwish stared out at him. “So there you are!”
he barked.
“General! How did you get here? I thought — ”
Maxwell’s alert features appeared over the general’s shoulder.
“Colonel,” Blackwish snapped. “Arrest this man and prepare for a summary court martial!”
Roped to a wooden arm chair with a dozen turns of sash cord, Blondel looked around at the
granite features of Blackwish, Maxwell, and two anonymous heavies with impact-thickened ears

and fine scars on the cheekbones.
“I don’t get it,” he stated. “I spent the whole day scooting up and down back alleys and
creeping through the underbrush looking for your loyal lieutenants so I could deliver your
message, and when I find the place — you’re there ahead of me, yelling treason!”
“Never underestimate a Blackwish,” the general intoned.
“I thought Maxwell was plotting to kick you out and take over,” Blondel reminded him.
“Don’t attempt to sow dissension in the ranks.” The general rocked back on his heels, showing
his teeth. “We’re a small band, perhaps, but our hearts are true.”
“You said yourself — ”
“Quiet, Blondel,” Maxwell snapped. “You’re only making it worse for yourself. Stealing an
official copter was bad enough — ”
“He gave it to me!”
“What did you do with the young woman you forced to accompany you?” Blackwish demanded.
“Murder her and dump the violated body from the hijacked machine?”
“Nuts,” Blondel said. “You know perfec — ” The room erupted in a striking display of roman
candles. Blondel admired them dizzily until they faded to reveal one of the muscle- men standing
before him, smiling happily and rubbing his knuckles.
” … tly well she went voluntarily,” he finished groggily.
“It’s apparent to me that the man’s an arrant treacher,” Blackwish said in a tone of finality.
“Entrusted with the sacred obligation to carry forward the good fight, he defected to the borsht-
and-vodka- swilling enemy – – ”
“I didn’t,” Blondel said.
“Yes, you did,” Blackwish contradicted swiftly.
“I did not.”
“You did, too.”
“Did not!”
“You did, you did!”
“I didn’t, I didn’t.”
“You did, you – – ”
“General,” Maxwell interposed. “I think the man’s presence here, after you personally locked
him in the cellar, is prima jade evidence of his guilt. I think we’d better get on with the distasteful
business of carrying out sentence — ”
“Distasteful! Since when has the execution of traitors to the flag of this nation been
distasteful?”
“Well, as you know, sir, I’d love to do it, but I’ve got this blister on my trigger finger from
addressing all those invitations to the Victory Ball.”
“That may have been a trifle premature, Colonel. We’re not out of the woods yet.”
“But you specifically ordered me to — ”
“Don’t quibble. Now about Blondel. Are we in agreement, then? I certainly don’t want to seem
arbitrary where a man’s life is at stake.”
“You’re out of your minds!” Blondel protested. “All I did was — ”
“As for disposal of the body,” Blackwish said thoughtfully, “what would you think of drawing
and quartering, as a warning to other would – be traitors?”
“General!” Blondel shouted. “I did my best to deliver your ridiculous message — ”
“Too time consuming,” Maxwell judged. “I’d recommend a simple dismemberment, with the
head impaled on a pole above the city gates.”
“The city doesn’t have any gates,” Blondel interrupted. “And – – ”
“Fine idea, Colonel,” Blackwish nodded. “I can see you’re getting your old stuff back.”
“Listen,” Blondel appealed. “I’ve got some important information about the Monitors. They’re – –

“Well, then, let’s get it over with,” Maxwell said. “I think pe rhaps Lance-Corporal Clinch here is
the best man for the actual coup de grace. Kenny, is your piece in order?” Maxwell looked
inquiringly at one of the thugs.
“My what?” The man scowled.
“He means your gun, Kenny,” Blackwish clarified.
“You didn’t give me no bullets fer it,” Kenny replied sullenly. “I ast you fer ’em plenty times,
but no, you wouldn’t — ”
“Give Kenny some bullets, Colonel!” Blackwish snapped.
Maxwell checked his coat pockets, blew lint from the cartridges he found there, handed them
across.
“You’re not really going through with this?” Blondel inquired incredulously.
“My boy, you’ll find, as you journey on through life, that the supreme penalty can be as easily
administered by a small cadre of devoted patriots as by a giant totalitarian Empire. Kenny, load
your piece.”
“My what?”
“He means your gun,” Maxwell said.
“Listen to me!” Blondel tugged at the ropes. “I made a discovery this evening, about the
Monitors! They’re not human! I don’t know what they are, but under those yellow uniforms – – ”
“Treated you as scurvily as you deserve, did they?” Blackwish curled his lip. “Sic semper
tyrannis!”
“No – – they treated me fine. As a matter of fact, I was right on the verge of starting to believe
what they said. And then — ”
“Note how coolly the swine confesses his guilt.” Blackwish wagged his head “Boasts of it,
even.”
“He’s a cool devil in the face of the firing squad,”
Maxwell said grimly. “A pity he couldn’t have been true blue.”
“Look, I’m as true blue as the next guy! I’m trying to tell you, the Monitors are aliens! That’s
why — ”
“Don’t think to postpone your fate by a d isplay of red herrings,” Blackwish cautioned. “Of
course the borsht- and- vodka- swilling invaders are aliens!”
“I mean really aliens! They have these little tentacles, and their heads are like upside- down
seals, and – – ”
“Silence!” Blackwish shrilled. “The strain seems to have snapped your wits! The least you could
do, as a former American, is to face your end like a man!”
“Of course,” Maxwell put in over the exchange, “there is the alternative … ”
“I tell you, they’re not human!” Blondel persisted. “They’re intelligent aliens!”
“I’m not interested in the intellectual capacities of immigrants!” Blackwish countered.
“Democracy will prevail no matter what weight of devilish ingenuity her enemies seek to employ
against the defenders of the Republic!”
“About the alternative,” Maxwell interjected.
“They’re not just foreigners,” Blondel insisted at the top of his voice. “They’re inhuman! They
came here from Mars – – ”
“A plea of insanity at this point will avail you nothing,” Blackwish announced. “Kenny, do your
duty!”
“The alternative.” Maxwell tugged at the general’s arm. “You’re forgetting about the
alternative!”
“There is no alternative to duty,” Blackwish keened.
“Why don’t you listen to me?” Blondel yelled.
“These bullets won’t go in my piece,” Kenny announced.
“Your what?” Blackwish roared.

“He means his gun,” Blondel elucidated. “But if you shoot me — ”
“We wanted to tell Blondel about the alternative.” Maxwell was jumping up and down in front of
the general. “The alternative, sir!”
“Americanism or nothing! T hat’s the alternative!”
“I mean the alternative for Blondel! – – instead of being shot!”
“What’s that? You mean hanging?”
“General, I’m afraid in your zeal you’ve forgotten what we, er, I mean, there is another course
open to Blondel, in case he decides to come to his senses!”
“What’s that?” Blackwish looked suspicious.
“If he’ll agree to fly the copter on the you- know-what mission, we won’t have to carry out the
sentence. Remember?” Maxwell said rapidly.
“Fly the copter?”
“You remember, General: When I discovered he was gone, and reminded you that we needed
him to fly a certain very important mission, you agreed that we’d, ah, attempt to persuade him …

“Hmmm … I seem to recall something of the sort. Escaped, didn’t he? After I had personally
locked him in the research lab?”
“Right, sir! And then you shrewdly guessed he might come here! Our ambush was successful,
and now it’s time to tell him about the alternative!”
“Very well. Tell him.”
“Blondel,” Maxwell faced him sternly, “there is one way in which you can avoid a traitor’s
death.”
“If you’re still thinking about your idiotic scheme to bomb their headquarters, forget it!” Blondel
yelled. “If you’d just listen to what I’m trying to tell you — ”
“OK if I just pound his brains out?” Lance- Corporal Clinch asked. “I can’t get none of these here bullets in my gun.”
“Piece,” Blackwish corrected. “No, not just yet, Kenny.”
“Nuts,” Kenny said. “I never have no fun.”
“We have at last,” Maxwell said solemnly, “after seventy- two hours of round- the-clock
espionage activity by a number of intrepid SCRAG agents, discovered the location of the enemy
headquarters.”
“Yeah, I seen that on the telly,” Kenny nodded. “Boy- oh- boy, some layout, huh, Blackwish?”
“General Blackwish to you, Lance Corporal!”
“As I said,” Maxwell continued hastily, “we have pinpointed the target — ”
“How come he gets to call me by my first name, and I got to call him General?” Kenny inquired
loudly. “What kind of chicken — ”
“That’s enough, Kenny,” Maxwell interrupted. “Having determined the co ordinates of the

Monitor HQ, it remains now for us to eliminate it. For this task we require a volunteer pilot.”
“Where it’s at,” Kenny announced, “is out in the ocean, like. You ever heard of a place named
Tortuga?”
“Kenny, why don’t you go to the toilet while you have a chance?” Maxwell suggested.
“Gee, yeah.” Kenny went away.
“Now, then.” Maxwell rubbed his hands together briskly. “If you’d feel impelled to demonstrate
your patriotism by offering your services for this glorious mission, I feel sure that the matter of
your execution can be successfully deferred.”
“At least until he gets back,” Blackwish amended.
“Go rub salt in your nose,” Blondel said loudly. “These Monitors aren’t just a bunch of Russian
commandos! I have proof that they’re representatives of a superior culture from some planet out
in space! Don’t you realize what that means? If they have the technology for interstellar travel,

they could squash anything we might throw at them like you’d step on a cockroach!”
“Oh- oh.” Maxwell looked worried. “We went too far. He’s cracked under the strain.”
“He looks all right to me,” Blackwish said. “I think the man’s malingering!”
“If you start shooting, they’ll take the wraps off and blow the planet right out of orbit!”
“Now, now, Blondel,” Maxwell soothed, “don’t be worried. We know just how to deal with little
green men. We’re just going to send a nice little bomb over that will blow them up before they
can blow us up; you see?”
“I tell you, I know what I’m talking about! I’m not crazy! I saw one, with his disguise off! He
was dark brown and shiny – – ”
“What did I tell you?” Blackwish crowed triumphantly. “Negroes in white- face, gentlemen! My
worst fears realized! Inspired by the masters in the Kremlin, the Africans have at last emerged
into the open!”
“They’re not Africans! They’re aliens! If you’d just look in my pocket — ”
“Colonel,” Blackwish said sternly, “I sense somehow that this man is not SCRAG timber. Keeps
telling me the enemy is first one thing, and then another!”
“He’s just upset, General,” Maxwell said worriedly. “He’ll be all right as soon as he sees that he
has an alternative — ”
Blackwish stepped back, crooked a finger at Maxwell. “You and I had better have a little talk,”
he said darkly. “I’m beginning to see the pattern” here. The man’s an obvious agent provocateur,
sent in by the borsht- and- vodka-swilling enemy to confuse the clear issues of Americanism versus
Red domination.”
“But, General — ”
“Just step out in the corridor with me for a moment, Colonel.” Blackwish jerked his head at the
silent heavyweight who had been standing by during the proceedings. “Oscar, place the Colonel
under arrest until we’ve had time to go over his security record.”
“But, General — ”
“Outside.” Blackwish stalked away, followed by Maxwell and silent Oscar.
Alone, Blondel tugged at the ropes binding his arms and legs to the chair. There seemed to be
a little give in the loops thrown around his left wrist. He strained, wormed his hand free with no
more than the loss of a little skin. Out in the hall, Blackwish’s voice droned on, counterpointed by
Maxwell’s protestations.
The knots securing the right hand were almost out of reach. Blondel broke two fingernails
before worrying the first strands free. Two minutes later he was massaging his numbed wrists.
Then he bent to start in on the cords securing his ankles.
The side door clicked and swung open. Kenny entered, looking pleased. He held a 9mm Beretta
in his right fist.
“I finally got a couple bullets in my gun,” he announced. “Where do you want it, chum?
Between the eyes OK?”
For a moment Blondel sat frozen, looking down the gaping barrel of the weapon in the Lance-
Corporal’s hand. He swallowed. His ears made a distinct popping noise, and the thought of the
wonderful intricacy of the mechanism that was a human body flitted through his brain.
“Kenny,” he heard hims elf saying carefully. “I think the general has changed his mind about
shooting me. You see, he needs me to do a job — ”
“Some guys is fussy about messing up the face,” Kenny confided. He looked Blondel’s features
over critically. “But in your case, I guess it don’t matter.”
“Now, Kenny, the general’s just stepped out. Why don’t you just check with him – – ”
“Personal, I like the old beanshot because it’s like quick, you know? A wrong slug in the gut,
maybe a guy can kick around a while before he croaks.” Lenny shook his head. “Sloppy, very
sloppy.”
“You see, we’re all friends again, Kenny.” Blondel managed a sickly grin. “He just forgot to

have me untied — ”
“So you can take your choice. Personal, I’d go for the knob, but you might be one of them guys
likes a nice open- box funeral.”
“Kenny, the general will be very upset if you shoot me now, because — ”
“Don’t yell,” Kenny warned. “Now, snap it up before the old coot comes back and louses up the
whole caper.” He lowered his voice. “The way he changes his mind all the time, I got a idea his
marbles is loose, you know?”
“Yes, Kenny, you’re right. Now, I have a proposal for you. How would you like to see something
very unusual?”
Kenny nodded. “OK. But look, I got a job to do — ”
“It’s something I want you to have. I’d hate to think of the general getting it. Now don’t shoot
me before I can show you.”
Kenny frowned. “You got dough on you?” He shifted the gun to his left hand.
“Not exactly money; something much better. Just let me get it out of my pocket — ”
“Watch it!”
“No guns, Kenny. Just a little souvenir I picked up. … ” He groped in his pocket, brought out
the grain-of- rice hearing aid he had taken from the fallen Monitor.
“Now, Kenny.” Blondel licked dry lips. “This little device will enable you to hear flies walking on
the ceiling.”
“So?” Kenny raised his shoulders. “Who wants to hear flies walking?”
“How about this?” Blondel tried again, found the button- sized repellor- field generator. “You just
twiddle this, and nobody can get near you.”
“Yeah, I seen stink- bombs before. That ain’t worth no big dough.”
Blondel was frantically rummaging for the control unit from the Monitor’s boot-heel, instead
encountered the gloves.
“What’s that?” Kenny leaned forward.
“These are, ah, gloves.” Sparring for time, Blondel pulled one on. “Nice, don’t you think?” He
displayed the gloved hand. “Just the thing for special occasions — ”
“Nuts,” Kenny said. “I think you’re stalling, Bo – – ”
“Now, Kenny … ” Blondel gripped the arms of the chair. “Don’t do anything hasty … ” His
hands closed, tensing for the impact as Kenny raised the pistol. “If you’ll just wait a couple of
seconds, we’ll both avoid a big mistake … ”
“Hey!” Kenny was frowning darkly at Blondel’s right hand. “What you doing to the chair?”
Blondel looked down, only then noticing a curious sensation in his right hand. The left,
ungloved hand was gripping the polished hardness of oak; but under the right hand, snugged into
the Monitor’s glove, the wood had collapsed like damp papie r- mache.
“What’s the idea busting up the furniture?” Kenny demanded.
Blondel opened his hand. The glove seemed a trifle warm to the touch, but otherwise was as
light and supple as a silk driving glove. He poked at the wood. It felt as hard as wood usually felt.
He cautiously squeezed the chair arm again. There was a soft crunching sound, as the tough
material yielded into splinters. It felt, Blondel decided, like undercooked spaghetti.
“Geeze!” Kenny gaped at the spectacle.
Blondel gripped the edge of the wooden seat and squeezed. The wood went flat, with a sound
like walnut shells underfoot. Kenny stepped closer, his mouth open, his eyes fixed on the
enchanted hand. Blondel reached, gripped the muzzle of the gun between thumb and forefinger,
and pinched it flat. Kenny hardly noticed. He watched dumbly as Blondel nipped off the ropes on
his legs and stood.
“Just go stand in the corner, now, Kenny,” Blondel directed. “When the general comes back,
tell him I had to hurry along to a magician’s convention. He needn’t bother to chase me, because
I’ll be using my cloak of invisibility and my flying carpet. Be good, now.” He edged around the

paralyzed Lance Corporal and exited through the side door.

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