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Книга A Scanner Darkly. Содержание - 11

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And Fred the other day possibly almost got it with toxic mushroom fragments, he realized. He almost didn’t make it here to this safe apartment to get these holos going. But now he has.

Now Fred has a chance. But only barely.

Crazy goddamn job they gave me, he thought. But if I wasn’t doing it someone else would be, and they might get it wrong. They’d set him up—set Arctor up. They’d turn him in for the reward; they’d plant dope on him and collect. If anyone, he thought, has to be watching that house, it better ought to be me by far, despite the disadvantages; just protecting everybody against kinky fucking Barris in itself justifies it right there.

And if any other officer monitoring Barris’s actions sees what I probably will see, they’ll conclude Arctor is the biggest drug runner in the western U.S. and recommend a—Christ!—covert snuff. By our unidentified forces. The ones in black we borrow from back East that tiptoe a lot and carry the scope-site Winchester 803’s. The new infrared sniperscope sights synched with the EE-trophic shells. Those guys who don’t get paid at all, even from a Dr. Pepper machine; they just get to draw straws to see which of them gets to be the next U.S. President. My God, he thought, those fuckers can shoot down a passing plane. And make it look like one engine inhaled a flock of birds. Those EE-trophic shells—why fuck me, man, he thought; they’d leave traces of feathers in the ruins of the engines; they’d prime them for that.

This is awful, he thought, thinking about this. Not Arctor as suspect but Arctor as … whatever. Target. I’ll keep on watching him; Fred will keep on doing his Fred-thing; it’ll be a lot better; I can edit and interpret and do a great deal of “Let’s wait until he actually” and so on, and, realizing this, he tossed the Dixie cup away and emerged from the safe apartment’s bathroom.

“You look done in,” one of the scramble suits said to him.

“Well,” Fred said, “funny thing happened to me on the way to the grave.” He saw in his mind a picture of the supersonic tight-beam projector which had caused a fortynine-year-old district attorney to have a fatal cardiac arrest, just as he was about to reopen the case of a dreadful and famous political assassination here in California. “I almost got there,” he said aloud.

“Almost is almost,” the scramble suit said. “It’s not there.”

“Oh,” Fred said. “Yeah. Right.”

“Sit down,” a scramble suit said, “and get back to work, or for you no Friday, just public assistance.”

“Can you imagine listing this job as a job skill on the—” Fred began, but the two other scramble suits were not amused and in fact weren’t even listening. So he reseated himself and lit a cigarette. And started up the battery of holos once more.

What I ought to do, he decided, is walk back up the street to the house, right now, while I’m thinking about it, before I get sidetracked, and walk in on Barris real fast and shoot him.

In the line of duty.

I’ll say, “Hey, man, I’m hurtin’—can you lay a joint on me? I’ll pay you a buck.” And he will, and then I’ll arrest him, drag him to my car, throw him inside, drive onto the freeway, and then pistol-whip him out of the car in front of a truck. And I can say he fought loose and tried to jump. Happens all the time.

Because if I don’t I can never eat or drink any open food or beverage in the house, and neither can Luckman or Donna or Freck or we’ll all croak from toxic mushroom fragments, after which Barris will explain about how we were all out in the woods picking them at random and eating them and he tried to dissuade us but we wouldn’t listen because we didn’t go to college.

Even if the court psychiatrists find him totally burned out and nuts and toss him in forever, somebody’ll be dead. He thought, Maybe Donna, for instance. Maybe she’ll wander in, spaced on hash, looking for me and the spring flowers I promised her, and Barris will offer her a bowl of Jell-O he made himself special, and ten days later she’ll be thrashing in agony in an intensive-care ward and it won’t do any good then.

If that happens, he thought, I’ll boil him in Drano, in the bathtub, in hot Drano, until only bones remain, and then mail the bones to his mother or kids, whichever he has, and if he hasn’t either then just toss the bones out at passing dogs. But the deed will be done to that little girl anyhow.

Excuse me, he rolled in his head in fantasy to the other two scramble suits. Where can I get a hundred-pound can of Drano this time of night?

I’ve had it, he thought, and turned on the holos so as not to attract any more static from the other suits in the safe room.

On Monitor Two, Barris was talking to Luckman, who apparently had rolled in the front door dead drunk, no doubt on Ripple. “There are more people addicted to alcohol in the U.S.,” Barris was telling Luckman, who was trying to find the door to his bedroom, to go pass out, and having a terrible time, “than there are addicts of all other forms of drugs. And brain damage and liver damage from the alcohol plus impurities—”

Luckman disappeared without ever having noticed Barris was there. I wish him luck, Fred thought. It’s not a workable policy, though, not for long. Because the fucker is there.

But now Fred is here, too. But all Fred’s got is hindsight. Unless, he thought, unless maybe if I run the holo-tapes backward. Then I’d be there first, before Barris. What I do would precede what Barris does. If with me first he gets to do anything at all.

And then the other side of his head opened up and spoke to him more calmly, like another self with a simpler message flashed to him as to how to handle it.

“The way to cool the locksmith check,” it told him, “is to go down there to Harbor tomorrow first thing very early and redeem the check and get it back. Do that first, before you do anything else. Do that right away. Defuse that, at that end. And after that, do the other more serious things, once that’s finished. Right?” Right, he thought. That will remove me from the disadvantage list. That’s where to start.

He put the tape on fast forward, on and on until he figured from the meters that it would show a night scene with everyone asleep. For a pretext to sign off his workday, here.

It now showed lights off, the scanners on infra. Luckman in his bed in his room; Barris in his; and in his room, Arctor beside a chick, both of them asleep.

Let’s see, Fred thought. Something. We have her in the computer files as strung out on hard stuff and also turning tricks and dealing. A true loser.

“At least you didn’t have to watch your subject have sexual intercourse,” one of the other scramble suits said, watching from behind him and then passing on by.

“That’s a relief,” Fred said, stoically viewing the two sleeping figures in the bed; his mind was on the locksmith and what he had to do there. “I always hate to—”

“A nice thing to do,” the scramble suit agreed, “but not too nice to watch.”

Arctor asleep, Fred thought. With his trick. Well, I can wind up soon; they’ll undoubtedly ball on arising but that’s about it for them.

He continued watching, however. The sight of Bob Arctor sleeping … on and on, Fred thought, hour after hour. And then he noticed something he had not noticed. That doesn’t look like anybody else but Donna Hawthorne! he thought. There in bed, in the sack with Arctor.

It doesn’t compute, he thought, and reached to snap off the scanners. He ran the tape back, then forward again. Bob Arctor and a chick, but not Donna! It was the junkie chick Connie! He had been right. The two individuals lay there side by side, both asleep.

And then, as Fred watched, Connie’s hard features melted and faded into softness, and into Donna Hawthorne’s face.

He snapped off the tape again. Sat puzzled. I don’t get it, he thought. It’s—what they call that? Like a goddamn dissolve! A film technique. Fuck, what is this? Pre-editing for TV viewing? By a director, using special visual effects?

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