Книга A Scanner Darkly. Содержание - 11

Again he ran the tape back, then forward; when he first came to the alteration in Connie’s features he then stopped the transport, leaving the hologram filled with one freeze-usframe.

He rotated the enlarger: All the other cubes cut out; one huge cube formed from the previous eight. A single nocturnal scene; Bob Arctor, unmoving, in his bed, the girl unmoving, beside him.

Standing, Fred walked into the holo-cube, into the threedimensional projection, and stood close to the bed to scrutinize the girl’s face.

Halfway between, he decided. Still half Connie; already half Donna. I better run this over to the lab, he thought; it’s been tampered with by an expert. I’ve been fed fake tape.

Who by? he wondered. He emerged from the holo-cube, collapsed it, and restored the small eight ones. Still sat there, pondering.

Somebody faked in Donna. Superimposed over Connie. Forged evidence that Arctor was laying the Hawthorne girl. Why? As a good technician can do with either audio or video tape and now—as witness—with holo-tapes. Hard to do, but …

If this was a click-on, click-off, interval scan, he thought, we’d have a sequence showing Arctor in bed with a girl he probably never did get into bed and never will, but there it is on the tape.

Or maybe it’s a visual interruption or breakdown electronically, he pondered. What they call printing. Holoprinting: from one section of the tape storage to another. If the tape sits too long, if the recording gain was too high initially, it prints across. Jeez, he thought. It printed Donna across from a previous or later scene, maybe from the living room.

I wish I knew more about the technical side of this, he reflected. I’d better acquire more background on this before jumping the gun. Like another AM station filtering in, interfering—

Crosstalk, he decided. Like that: accidental.

Like ghosts on a TV screen. Functional, a malfunction. A transducer opened up briefly.

Again he rolled the tape. Connie again, and Connie it stayed. And then … again Fred saw Donna’s fact melt back in, and this time the sleeping man beside her in the bed, Bob Arctor, woke up after a moment and sat up abruptly, then fumbled for the light beside him; the light fell to the floor and Arctor was staring on and on at the sleeping girl, at sleeping Donna.

When Connie’s face seeped back, Arctor relaxed, and at last he sank back and again slept. But restlessly.

Well, that shoots down the “technical interference” theory, Fred thought. Printing or crosstalk. Arctor saw it too. Woke up, saw it, stared, then gave up.

Christ, Fred thought, and shut off the equipment before him entirely. “I guess that’s enough for me for now,” he declared, and rose shakily to his feet. “I’ve had it.”

“Saw some kinky sex, did you?” a scramble suit asked. “You’ll get used to this job.”

“I never will get used to this job,” Fred said. “You can make book on that.”


The next morning, by Yellow Cab, since now not only was his cephscope laid up for repairs but so was his car, he appeared at the door of Englesohn Locksmith with forty bucks in cash and a good deal of worry inside his heart.

The store had an old wooden quality, with a more modern sign but many little brass doodads in the windows of a lock type: funky ornate mailboxes, trippy doorknobs made to resemble human heads, great fake black iron keys. He entered, into semigloom. Like a doper’s place, he thought, appreciating the irony.

At a counter where two huge key-grinding machines loomed up, plus thousands of key blanks dangling from racks, a plump elderly lady greeting him. “Yes, sir? Good morning.”

Arctor said, “I’m here …

Ihr Instrumente freilich spottet mein,
Mit Rad und Kämmen, Walz’ und Bügel:
Ich stand am Tor, ihr soiltet Schlüssel sein;
Zwar euer Bart ist kraus, doch hebt ihr nicht die Riegel.

… to pay for a check of mine which the bank returned. It’s for twenty dollars, I believe.”

“Oh.” The lady amiably lifted out a locked metal file, searched for the key to it, then discovered the file wasn’t locked. She opened it and found the check right away, with a note attached. “Mr. Arctor?”

“Yes,” he said, his money already out.

“Yes, twenty dollars.” Detaching the note from the check, she began laboriously writing on the note, indicating that he had shown up and purchased the check back.

“I’m sorry about this,” he told her, “but by mistake I wrote the check on a now closed account rather than my active one.”

“Umm,” the lady said, smiling as she wrote.

“Also,” he said, “I’d appreciate it if you’d tell your husband, who called me the other day—”

“My brother Carl,” the lady said, “actually.” She glanced over her shoulder. “If Carl spoke to you …” She gestured, smiling. “He gets overwrought sometimes about checks. I apologize if he spoke … you know.”

“Tell him,” Arctor said, his speech memorized, “that when he called I was distraught myself, and I apologize for that, too.”

“I believe he did say something about that, yes.” She laid out his check; he gave her twenty dollars.

“Any extra charge?” Arctor said.

“No extra charge.”

“I was distraught,” he said, glancing briefly at the check and then putting it away in his pocket, “because a friend of mine had just passed on unexpectedly.”

“Oh dear,” the lady said.

Arctor, lingering, said, “He choked to death alone, in his room, on a piece of meat. No one heard him.”

“Do you know, Mr. Arctor, that more deaths from that happen than people realize? I read that when you are dining with a friend, and he or she does not speak for a period of time but just sits there, you should lean forward and ask him if he can talk? Because he may not be able to; he may be strangling and can’t tell you.”

“Yes,” Arctor said. “Thanks. That’s true. And thanks about the check.”

“I’m sorry about your friend,” the lady said.

“Yes,” he said. “He was about the best friend I had.”

“That is so dreadful,” the lady said. “How old was he, Mr. Arctor?”

“In his early thirties,” Arctor said, which was true: Luckman was thirty-two.

“Oh, how terrible. I’ll tell Carl. And thank you for coming all the way down here.”

“Thank you,” Arctor said. “And thank Mr. Englesohn too, for me. Thank you both so much.” He departed, finding himself back out on the warm morning sidewalk, blinking in the bright light and foul air.

He phoned for a cab, and on the journey back to his house sat advising himself as to how well he had gotten out of this net of Barris’s with no real overly bad scene. Could have been a lot worse, he pointed out to himself. The check was still there. And I didn’t have to confront the dude himself.

He got out the check to see how closely Barris had been able to approximate his handwriting. Yes, it was a dead account; he recognized the color of the check right away, an entirely closed one, and the bank had stamped it ACCOUNT CLOSED. No wonder the locksmith had gone bananas. And then, studying the check as he rode along, Arctor saw that the handwriting was his.

Not anything like Barris’s. A perfect forgery. He would never have known it wasn’t his, except that he remembered not having written it.

My God, he thought, how many of these has Barris done by now? Maybe he’s embezzled me out of half I’ve got.

Barris, he thought, is a genius. On the other hand, it’s probably a tracing reproduction or anyhow mechanically done. But I never made a check out to Englesohn Locksmith, so how could it be a transfer forgery? This is a unique check. I’ll turn it over to the department graphologists, he decided, and let them figure out how it was done. Maybe just practice, practice, practice.

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