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Authors: William Shatner

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BOOK: Tek Kill
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“Nope, just a simple filial grin,” Dan assured him. “It probably has nothing to do with the fact that you didn't return from your date with Bev Kendricks until nearly two A.M.”

“Wasn't exactly a date.” Jake poured himself a cup of nearcaf. “Bev and I attended a symposium on the latest developments in forensic robots and—”

“That's some symposium that lasted until the wee hours.”

“There were a lot of audience questions afterward.”

“Well, if you're not seriously romancing Bev by this time, Dad, you ought to be.”

“Bev's a private investigator and I'm a private investigator, and that gives us a basis for a friendship.” He shook his head. “This isn't exactly a romance yet.”

“You've been using that ‘we're just colleagues' dodge for months.”

Jake sipped his nearcaf. “What about you and Molly Fine? Is that still a romance?”

Smiling, Dan answered, “It sure is. We're colleagues, too—both police acad cadets—but I don't hide behind that.”

“Proving that youth is not as complicated as age.”

“We're more honest and open, sure.”

Jake rested an elbow on the table. “I really am making an effort to get socially involved with people,” he quietly told his son. “To you it probably seems that Beth Kittredge has been dead for a hell of a long time. To me, though … I still sometimes have the feeling she was killed only a few days ago.”

Dan nodded, saying, “I know, Dad. And I'm not trying to interfere in your life. It's only that—”

“I'm still moping and brooding too much.”

“Somewhat,” agreed his son.

“I really am working at it.” Jake leaned back in his chair, looked up into the hazy morning, and then grinned. “It appears Gomez is descending on us.”

His partner's familiar skycar was dropping down toward the landing area beside the condo building.

“Good,” said Dan. “He'll cheer you up.”

But that didn't turn out to be so.

3

“BASCOM wouldn't murder anybody,” observed Jake as the skycar climbed up through the hazy morning. “No, let's amend that. He wouldn't murder anybody in such a clumsy, unsubtle way. Hell, there wouldn't be clues, wouldn't be sectapes of his doing the deed.”


Sí
, exactly,” agreed Sid Gomez, who was in the pilot seat. “However, your old
compañero
Lieutenant Drexler believes otherwise. Which is why our esteemed
jefe
is residing in the hoosegow at the moment.”

“It's got to be a frame-up.”

Gomez, who was roughly ten years younger than his partner, nodded. “A very thorough one, though,” he pointed out. “From what I've been able to glean, the security camera stuff looks
and
tests absolutely authentic. Far as the minions of the law can tell, anyway.”

“But that security footage can't be legit.” Slouching in his seat, Jake absently massaged the knuckles of his left hand.

“Proving that is only one of several jobs facing the Cosmos Detective Agency.”

“Now, about some more background on this emergency meeting you're dragging me to?”

“A strategy session,
amigo
. We have to start working on this whole mess even while Bascom is still in the clink.”

“You haven't mentioned,” said Jake, “who's running the agency while Bascom's away.”

Stroking his bushy mustache, Gomez squinted out at the brightening morning. “I was hoping I could get you safely delivered to work without that particular name crossing my rose-petal lips.”

Jake sat up. “Bascom put Roy Anselmo in as acting chief, huh?”

“Well,
sí
. I know you think Roy is a pompous, egotistic putz, yet he—”

“You,” reminded Jake, “share my opinion of the guy, Sidney.”

“Okay, we're unanimous as to his being a pompous putz. But the
hombre
, even you must admit, is an efficient operative and a damn good administrator.”

“Maybe.”

“You weren't expecting the
jefe
to put you in charge, were you?”

“Jesus, no.” Jake stiffened further, shaking his head and frowning. “But I can sure as hell think of a lot of people at the Cosmos Agency I'd rather have bossing me. I can even draw up a list of lesser assholes I'd prefer.”

“Well,
amigo
, we must repress our true feelings and concentrate on saving Bascom's ass,” urged his partner. “So,
por favor
, control your dislike for Roy when we arrive at this get-together.”

“I'll behave,” promised Jake with minimal conviction.

4

DAN narrowed his left eye and studied the slim, dark-haired young woman who stood beside the skycar. “You don't believe any of that, do you, Molly?”

“I sort of think I do. Especially after last night.” Molly Fine made an impatient gesture that urged him to climb aboard. “Get in or we'll be late.”

Dan circled the vehicle and climbed into the passenger seat. “This Susan Grossman is a recovering Tek addict, isn't she?”

“She is, yes,” admitted Molly as she took the controls of the skycar. “But she's off Tek now and what she—”

“Go back, slowly,” requested Dan, “and explain just what went on last night.”

The car quietly rose up off the morning beach.

Molly said, “Just shy of midnight Sue saw this image. Well, it was some kind of telepathic vision, sort of.”

“Okay, let's pause for comments from the audience,” Dan cut in. “I don't believe there's any such thing as a telepathic vision.”

“Sure, there is. Matter of fact, Sue's experienced several over the past few weeks. Just about all of them, from what I've been able to determine, turned out to be accurate.”

“You never mentioned any of this to me, Molly.”

“Well, that's mostly because I anticipated your skeptical reaction.”

“And this vision she claims to have had last night isn't the only one, then?”

“Susan seems to have developed an ability a few weeks ago. She confided in me about what was happening to her,” explained Molly as the skycar climbed to an altitude of 5,000 feet.

“This time she saw her brother being murdered?”

Molly answered, “That's what I've been telling you. Sue still isn't in terrific shape and she's pretty much afraid of her father and the dreadful woman he's got living with him. That's why she waited awhile before getting up the nerve to go downstairs to phone her brother and check on—”

“She doesn't have a phone in her room?”

“Her father doesn't think she's ready for one yet.”

“How old is she?”

“Around twenty.”

“What you're putting your faith in is a full-grown woman who isn't trustworthy enough to be allowed near a vidphone or—”

“You have to know her father to understand the setup. He's extremely protective of her.”

Dan said, “Okay, go back to what happened.”

“Susan tried to phone her brother's place, twice. But there was no answer, not even from a bot servant.”

The car sped on across the morning, aimed for the SoCal Police Academy.

“Did she call the law next?”

“No, she phoned me,” replied Molly. “She knew they'd react the way you have. You know, decide this was just a Tekkie having another hallucination.”

“Then you sent the police to Dwight Grossman's?”

“Actually, I only asked somebody to check and see if her brother was okay,” she said. “They went there and found he'd been killed.”

“You know they arrested Walt Bascom, my dad's boss, for the killing, don't you?”

“Yes, but Bascom didn't have a darn thing to do with it,” she assured him. “Sue saw the killers.”

“In this mystical vision, huh?”

“She clearly saw two men, neither one of them Bascom, do away with Dwight Grossman.”

“Somebody going into a trance,” mentioned Dan, “and having hallucinations doesn't make for the sort of evidence that stands up in court, Molly.”

Molly gave him a corrective jab in the ribs with her right fist. “Don't be so darned narrow-minded, Daniel dear,” she advised. “The point to grasp with your peanut brain is that Susan
saw
these guys. We'll be able to provide your father with identifications and holographic mug shots.”

“Oh, so? How do we do that? More hoodoo?”

Molly made an impatient noise. “I love you, but sometimes I really wonder about your reasoning abilities,” she admitted. “As soon as we arrive at the police academy, we'll drop in at the Background & ID room and consult with our robot buddy, Rex/GK-30. Working with the detailed descriptions I got out of Sue, Rex'll be able to tap police files and—”

“We're not supposed to use Rex that way anymore. Remember what—”

“Hooey,” observed Molly. “If we're going to help get Bascom out of the jug, we'll have to take a few small risks.”

“Getting expelled isn't exactly a small risk,” he told her. “Besides, we have classes all—”

“We can miss Lieutenant Cutler's Electronic Forensics 22B lecture today,” Molly said confidently.

“I suppose,” said Dan, slumping in his seat.

The skycar flew on toward the Santa Monica Sector.

5

THE top of Bascom's desk looked much neater than usual and all the windows of his large tower office had been unblanked, affording an unobstructed view of the metal-and-plastiglass buildings rising up all around out in the early-morning haze. Seated at the desk of the absent chief of the Cosmos Detective Agency was a husky man with feathery blond hair. He held his voxwatch to his ear as Gomez and Jake made their way up to take seats facing the desk. “This emergency meeting was scheduled for 8:15 on the nose, fellas,” he mentioned.


¡Caramba!
And here we come dragging in at the ungodly hour of 8:22.” Gomez slumped into a tin slingchair.

“In point of fact, it's almost 8:30, but we'll let that pass.” Anselmo smiled a forgiving smile. “We have considerable ground to cover, so let's not waste any more time getting under way.”

“In point of fact,” offered Jake from the plastiglass chair he'd settled into, “it's my fault we're so late, Roy. I was the one who insisted we get into a drag race with a skyvan that was done up to resemble a tofu burger and—”

“Your flippant attitude is really out of place at a serious meeting like this, Jake,” Anselmo told him.

Gomez leaned back and rested a booted foot on the edge of the hologram projection stage. “Get on with your sermon,
por favor
.”

A slim Japanese woman sitting immediately to the rear of Gomez made an annoyed clucking sound. “Get your feet off the equipment.”

“You need a lube job, Karin,” he said, not bothering to look over his shoulder at her. “That's what's causing that rusty noise you're continually—Ah, I forgot. You're not really a robot or an andy, you merely behave like one.”

“Sid,” said Anselmo from behind his boss's desk, “we're all here this morning to help Walt Bascom out of this little jam he's—”

“Getting tossed in the
calabozo
and charged with murder ranks a shade higher than a little jam.”

Karin Tanoshi made her noise again. “I was against Cardigan and Gomez being invited,” she said, anger in her thin voice. “They're both behaving like—”

“Please, Karin,” Anselmo came in. “Keep in mind, dear, that I'm following Walt Bascom's wishes in all this.”

There were three other Cosmos operatives at the meeting, two men and a woman. The larger of the men said now, “Why don't you quit the bickering, Roy, and get on with it?”

“A good suggestion, Anson.” The thickset blond detective rose to his feet, rested his palms atop the freshly polished desk. “Let me reiterate the fact that this is an extremely serious situation we find ourselves in. The seven of us will comprise the core team that will investigate the Dwight Grossman killing.” He paused to cough into his fist. “I'll remind you, so as to make my own position crystal clear, that you were, each one of you, personally selected by Walt. Your names were given to me during the brief vidphone conversation I was allowed to have with the chief earlier this morning.”

“He's obviously not thinking clearly.” Karin was sitting uneasily on the edge of her chair, fingers twisting around each other.

“Don't fret,
chiquita
,” said Gomez. “My name always makes it onto any list of crackerjack private ops.”

Anselmo continued, “I also want to assure you folks that I, as I'm completely certain you do, believe completely and totally in Walt Bascom's innocence. We're going to have ourselves, however, one hell of a time proving he didn't commit this brutal murder.”

“The SoCal Police already have considerable damning evidence against Mr. Bascom.” Karin made her way over to one of the large wall viewscreens.

Anselmo told them, “We've been able to get hold of copies of all the security camera tapes that the police have acquired. Karin, hon, let's see the stuff from the murdered man's home first off.”

Karin bent to touch a control panel.

And there was Bascom on the wall, nearly life size. Hair rumpled, suit wrinkled and baggy, he was standing in the middle of a black-and-silver living room. His fists were clenched and Bascom was yelling at the lean, dark younger man facing him a few yards away.

“That's Grossman,” said Anselmo.

“I deduced that,” said Gomez.

“Pay attention, you crazy bastard,” shouted the angry Bascom. “You're going to leave Kay Norwood totally alone. You understand me, asshole?”

“My relationship with Kay is none of your goddamn business,” Grossman told him disdainfully.

Moving closer, shoulders hunched in anger, Bascom said, “It is my business. I don't give a shit whether you love her or hate her. But if you ever call her again or threaten her in any way, I'll fix you so you won't be able to bother anybody. Ever.”

BOOK: Tek Kill
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