Nicholas Martin felt like a man suddenly thrust under an ice-cold shower. No, not cold—steaming hot. Perfumed, too. The wind that blew in from the open window bore with it a frightful stench of gasoline, sagebrush, paint, and—from the distant commissary—ham sandwiches.
"Drunk," he thought frantically. "I'm drunk—or crazy!" He sprang up and spun around wildly; then catching sight of a crack in the hardwood floor he tried to walk along it. "Because if I can walk a straight line," he thought, "I'm not drunk. I'm only crazy… ." It was not a very comforting thought.
He could walk it, all right. He could walk a far straighter line than the crack, which he saw now was microscopically jagged. He had, in fact, never felt such a sense of location and equilibrium in his life. His experiment carried him across the room to a wall-mirror, and as he straightened to look into it, suddenly all confusion settled and ceased. The violent sensory perceptions leveled off and returned to normal.
Everything was quiet. Everything was all right.
Martin met his own eyes in the mirror.
Everything was _not_ all right.
He was stone cold sober. The Scotch he had drunk might as well have been spring-water. He leaned closer to the mirror, trying to stare through his own eyes into the depths of his brain. For something extremely odd was happening in there. All over his brain, tiny shutters were beginning to move, some sliding up till only a narrow crack remained, through which the beady little eyes of neurons could be seen peeping, some sliding down with faint crashes, revealing the agile, spidery forms of still other neurons scuttling for cover.
Altered thresholds, changing the yes-and-no reaction time of the memory- circuits, with their key emotional indices and associations … huh?
Martin's head swung toward the closed office door. But he made no further move. The look of blank panic on his face very slowly, quite unconsciously, began to change. The robot … could wait.
Automatically Martin raised his hand, as though to adjust an invisible monocle. Behind him, the telephone began to ring. Martin glanced at it.
His lips curved into an insolent smile.
Flicking dust from his lapel with a suave gesture, Martin picked up the telephone. He said nothing. There was a long silence. Then a hoarse voice shouted, "Hello, hello, hello! Are you there? You, Martin!"
Martin said absolutely nothing at all.
"You keep me waiting," the voice bellowed. "Me, St. Cyr! Now jump! The rushes are … Martin, do you hear me?"
Martin gently laid down the receiver on the desk. He turned again toward the mirror, regarded himself critically, frowned.
"Dreary," he murmured. "Distinctly dreary. I wonder why I ever bought this necktie?"
The softly bellowing telephone distracted him. He studied the instrument briefly, then clapped his hands sharply together an inch from the mouthpiece.
There was a sharp, anguished cry from the other end of the line.
"Very good," Martin murmured, turning away. "That robot has done me a considerable favor. I should have realized the possibilities sooner. After all, a super-machine, such as ENIAC, would be far cleverer than a man, who is merely an ordinary machine. Yes," he added, stepping into the hall and coming face to face with Toni LaMotta, who was currently working for Summit on loan.
"' _Man is a machine, and woman—_ '" Here he gave Miss LaMotta a look of such arrogant significance that she was quite startled.
"' _And woman—a toy_ ,'" Martin amplified, as he turned toward Theater One, where St. Cyr and destiny awaited him.
Summit Studios, outdoing even MGM, always shot ten times as much footage as necessary on every scene. At the beginning of each shooting day, this confusing mass of celluloid was shown in St. Cyr's private projection theater, a small but luxurious domed room furnished with lie-back chairs and every other convenience, though no screen was visible until you looked up. Then you saw it on the ceiling.
When Martin entered, it was instantly evident that ecology took a sudden shift toward the worse. Operating on the theory that the old Nicholas Martin had come into it, the theater, which had breathed an expensive air of luxurious confidence, chilled toward him. The nap of the Persian rug shrank from his contaminating feet. The chair he stumbled against in the half-light seemed to shrug contemptuously. And the three people in the theater gave him such a look as might be turned upon one of the larger apes who had, by sheer accident, got an invitation to Buckingham Palace.
DeeDee Fleming (her real name was impossible to remember, besides having not a vowel in it) lay placidly in her chair, her feet comfortably up, her lovely hands folded, her large, liquid gaze fixed upon the screen where DeeDee Fleming, in the silvery meshes of a technicolor mermaid, swam phlegmatically through seas of pearl-colored mist.
Martin groped in the gloom for a chair. The strangest things were going on inside his brain, where tiny stiles still moved and readjusted until he no longer felt in the least like Nicholas Martin. Who did he feel like, then?
What had happened?
He recalled the neurons whose beady little eyes he had fancied he saw staring brightly into, as well as out of, his own. Or had he? The memory was vivid, yet it couldn't be, of course. The answer was perfectly simple and terribly logical. ENIAC Gamma the Ninety-Third had told him, somewhat ambiguously, just what his ecological experiment involved. Martin had merely been given the optimum reactive pattern of his successful prototype, a man who had most thoroughly controlled his own environment. And ENIAC had told him the man's name, along with several confusing references to other prototypes like an Ivan (who?) and an unnamed Uighur.
The name for Martin's prototype was, of course, Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. Martin had a vivid recollection of George Arliss playing the role. Clever, insolent, eccentric in dress and manner, exuberant, suave, self- controlled, with a strongly perceptive imagination… .
"No, no, no!" DeeDee said with a sort of calm impatience. "Be careful, Nick.
Some other chair, please. I have my feet on this one."
"T-t-t-t-t," said Raoul St. Cyr, protruding his thick lips and snapping the fingers of an enormous hand as he pointed to a lowly chair against the wall.
"Behind me, Martin. Sit down, sit down. Out of our way. Now! Pay attention.
Study what I have done to make something great out of your foolish little play. Especially note how I have so cleverly ended the solo by building to five cumulative pratt-falls. Timing is all," he finished. "Now—SILENCE!"
For a man born in the obscure little Balkan country of Mixo-Lydia, Raoul St.
Cyr had done very well for himself in Hollywood. In 1939 St. Cyr, growing alarmed at the imminence of war, departed for America, taking with him the print of an unpronounceable Mixo-Lydian film he had made, which might be translated roughly as _The Pores In the Face of the Peasant_.
With this he established his artistic reputation as a great director, though if the truth were known, it was really poverty that caused _The Pores_ to be so artistically lighted, and simple drunkenness which had made most of the cast act out one of the strangest performances in film history. But critics compared _The Pores_ to a ballet and praised inordinately the beauty of its leading lady, now known to the world as DeeDee Fleming.
DeeDee was so incredibly beautiful that the law of compensation would force one to expect incredible stupidity as well. One was not disappointed. DeeDee's neurons didn't know _anything_. She had heard of emotions, and under St.
Cyr's bullying could imitate a few of them, but other directors had gone mad trying to get through the semantic block that kept DeeDee's mind a calm, unruffled pool possibly three inches deep. St. Cyr merely bellowed. This simple, primordial approach seemed to be the only one that made sense to Summit's greatest investment and top star.
With this whip-hand over the beautiful and brainless DeeDee, St. Cyr quickly rose to the top in Hollywood. He had undoubted talent. He could make one picture very well indeed. He had made it twenty times already, each time starring DeeDee, and each time perfecting his own feudalistic production unit.
Whenever anyone disagreed with St. Cyr, he had only to threaten to go over to MGM and take the obedient DeeDee with him, for he had never allowed her to sign a long-term contract and she worked only on a picture-to-picture basis.
Even Tolliver Watt knuckled under when St. Cyr voiced the threat of removing DeeDee.
"Sit down, Martin," Tolliver Watt said. He was a tall, lean, hatchet-faced man who looked like a horse being starved because he was too proud to eat hay.
With calm, detached omnipotence he inclined his grey-shot head a millimeter, while a faintly pained expression passed fleetingly across his face.
"Highball, please," he said.
A white-clad waiter appeared noiselessly from nowhere and glided forward with a tray. It was at this point that Martin felt the last stiles readjust in his brain, and entirely on impulse he reached out and took the frosted highball glass from the tray. Without observing this the waiter glided on and presented Watt with a gleaming salver full of nothing. Watt and the waiter regarded the tray.
Then their eyes met. There was a brief silence.
"Here," Martin said, replacing the glass. "Much too weak. Get me another, please. I'm reorienting toward a new phase, which means a different optimum,"
he explained to the puzzled Watt as he readjusted a chair beside the great man and dropped into it. Odd that he had never before felt at ease during rushes.
Right now he felt fine. Perfectly at ease. Relaxed.
"Scotch and soda for Mr. Martin," Watt said calmly. "And another for me."
"So, so, so, now we begin," St. Cyr cried impatiently. He spoke into a hand microphone. Instantly the screen on the ceiling flickered noisily and began to unfold a series of rather ragged scenes in which a chorus of mermaids danced on their tails down the street of a little Florida fishing village.
To understand the full loathsomeness of the fate facing Nicholas Martin, it is necessary to view a St. Cyr production. It seemed to Martin that he was watching the most noisome movie ever put upon film. He was conscious that St.
Cyr and Watt were stealing rather mystified glances at him. In the dark he put up two fingers and sketched a robot-like grin. Then, feeling sublimely sure of himself, he lit a cigarette and chuckled aloud.
"You laugh?" St. Cyr demanded with instant displeasure. "You do not appreciate great art? What do you know about it, eh? Are you a genius?"
"This," Martin said urbanely, "is the most noisome movie ever put on film."
In the sudden, deathly quiet which followed, Martin flicked ashes elegantly and added, "With my help, you may yet avoid becoming the laughing stock of the whole continent. Every foot of this picture must be junked. Tomorrow bright and early we will start all over, and—"
Watt said quietly, "We're quite competent to make a film out of _Angelina Noel_ , Martin."
"It is artistic!" St. Cyr shouted. "And it will make money, too!"
"Bah, money!" Martin said cunningly. He flicked more ash with a lavish gesture. "Who cares about money? Let Summit worry."
Watt leaned forward to peer searchingly at Martin in the dimness.
"Raoul," he said, glancing at St. Cyr, "I understood you were getting your—ah—your new writers whipped into shape. This doesn't sound to me as if—"
"Yes, yes, yes, yes," St. Cyr cried excitedly. "Whipped into shape, exactly! A brief delirium, eh? Martin, you feel well? You feel yourself?"
Martin laughed with quiet confidence. "Never fear," he said. "The money you spend on me is well worth what I'll bring you in prestige. I quite understand.
Our confidential talks were not to be secret from Watt, of course."
"What confidential talks?" bellowed St. Cyr thickly, growing red.
"We need keep nothing from Watt, need we?" Martin went on imperturably. "You hired me for prestige, and prestige you'll get, if you can only keep your big mouth shut long enough. I'll make the name of St. Cyr glorious for you.
Naturally you may lose something at the box-office, but it's well worth—"
" _Pjrzqxgl!_ " roared St. Cyr in his native tongue, and he lumbered up from the chair, brandishing the microphone in an enormous, hairy hand.
Deftly Martin reached out and twitched it from his grasp.
"Stop the film," he ordered crisply.
It was very strange. A distant part of his mind knew that normally he would never have dared behave this way, but he felt convinced that never before in his life had he acted with complete normality. He glowed with a giddy warmth of confidence that everything he did would be right, at least while the twelve-hour treatment lasted… .
The screen flickered hesitantly, then went blank.
"Turn the lights on," Martin ordered the unseen presence beyond the mike.
Softly and suddenly the room glowed with illumination. And upon the visages of Watt and St. Cyr he saw a mutual dawning uneasiness begin to break.
He had just given them food for thought. But he had given them more than that.
He tried to imagine what moved in the minds of the two men, below the suspicions he had just implanted. St. Cyr's was fairly obvious. The Mixo- Lydian licked his lips—no mean task—and studied Martin with uneasy little bloodshot eyes. Clearly Martin had acquired confidence from somewhere. What did it mean? What secret sin of St. Cyr's had been discovered to him, what flaw in his contract, that he dared behave so defiantly?
Tolliver Watt was a horse of another color; apparently the man had no guilty secrets; but he too looked uneasy. Martin studied the proud face and probed for inner weaknesses. Watt would be a harder nut to crack. But Martin could do it.
"That last underwater sequence," he now said, pursuing his theme. "Pure trash, you know. It'll have to come out. The whole scene must be shot from under water."
"Shut up!" St. Cyr shouted violently.
"But it must, you know," Martin went on. "Or it won't jibe with the new stuff I've written in. In fact, I'm not at all certain that the whole picture shouldn't be shot under water. You know, we could use the documentary technique—"
"Raoul," Watt said suddenly, "what's this man trying to do?"
"He is trying to break his contract, of course," St. Cyr said, turning ruddy olive. "It is the bad phase all my writers go through before I get them whipped into shape. In Mixo-Lydia—"
"Are you sure he'll whip into shape?" Watt asked.
"To me this is now a personal matter," St. Cyr said, glaring at Martin. "I have spent nearly thirteen weeks on this man and I do not intend to waste my valuable time on another. I tell you he is simply trying to break his contract—tricks, tricks, tricks."
"Are you?" Watt asked Martin coldly.
"Not now," Martin said. "I've changed my mind. My agent insists I'd be better off away from Summit. In fact, she has the curious feeling that I and Summit would suffer by a mesalliance. But for the first time I'm not sure I agree. I begin to see possibilities, even in the tripe St. Cyr has been stuffing down the public's throat for years. Of course I can't work miracles all at once.
Audiences have come to expect garbage from Summit, and they've even been conditioned to like it. But we'll begin in a small way to re-educate them with this picture. I suggest we try to symbolize the Existentialist hopelessness of it all by ending the film with a full four hundred feet of seascapes—nothing but vast, heaving stretches of ocean," he ended, on a note of complacent satisfaction.
A vast, heaving stretch of Raoul St. Cyr rose from his chair and advanced upon Martin.
"Outside, outside!" he shouted. "Back to your cell, you double-crossing vermin! I, Raoul St. Cyr, command it. Outside, before I rip you limb from limb—"
Martin spoke quickly. His voice was calm, but he knew he would have to work fast.
"You see, Watt?" he said clearly, meeting Watt's rather startled gaze.
"Doesn't dare let you exchange three words with me, for fear I'll let something slip. No wonder he's trying to put me out of here—he's skating on thin ice these days."
Goaded, St. Cyr rolled forward in a ponderous lunge, but Watt interposed. It was true, of course, that the writer was probably trying to break his contract. But there were wheels within wheels here. Martin was too confident, too debonaire. Something was going on which Watt did not understand.
"All right, Raoul," he said decisively. "Relax for a minute. I said relax! We don't want Nick here suing you for assault and battery, do we? Your artistic temperament carries you away sometimes. Relax and let's hear what Nick has to say."
"Watch out for him, Tolliver!" St. Cyr cried warningly. "They're cunning, these creatures. Cunning as rats. You never know—"
Martin raised the microphone with a lordly gesture. Ignoring the director, he said commandingly into the mike, "Put me through to the commissary. The bar, please. Yes. I want to order a drink. Something very special. A—ah—a Helena Glinska—"
"Hello," Erika Ashby's voice said from the door. "Nick, are you there? May I come in?"
The sound of her voice sent delicious chills rushing up and down Martin's spine. He swung round, mike in hand, to welcome her. But St. Cyr, pleased at this diversion, roared before he could speak.
"No, no, no, no! Go! Go at once. Whoever you are— _out_!"
Erika, looking very brisk, attractive and firm, marched into the room and cast at Martin a look of resigned patience.
Very clearly she expected to fight both her own battles and his.
"I'm on business here," she told St. Cyr coldly. "You can't part author and agent like this. Nick and I want to have a word with Mr. Watt."
"Ah, my pretty creature, sit down," Martin said in a loud, clear voice, scrambling out of his chair. "Welcome! I'm just ordering myself a drink. Will you have something?"
Erika looked at him with startled suspicion. "No, and neither will you," she said. "How many have you had already? Nick, if you're drunk at a time like this—"
"And no shilly-shallying," Martin said blandly into the mike. "I want it at once, do you hear? A Helena Glinska, yes. Perhaps you don't know it? Then listen carefully. Take the largest Napoleon you've got. If you haven't a big one, a small punch bowl will do. Fill it half full with ice-cold ale. Got that? Add three jiggers of creme de menthe—"
"Nick, are you mad?" Erika demanded, revolted.
"—and six jiggers of honey," Martin went on placidly. "Stir, don't shake.
Never shake a Helena Glinska. Keep it well chilled, and—"
"Miss Ashby, we are very busy," St. Cyr broke in importantly, making shooing motions toward the door. "Not now. Sorry. You interrupt. Go at once."
"—better add six more jiggers of honey," Martin was heard to add contemplatively into the mike. "And then send it over immediately. Drop everything else, and get it here within sixty seconds. There's a bonus for you if you do. Okay? Good. See to it."
He tossed the microphone casually at St. Cyr.
Meanwhile, Erika had closed in on Tolliver Watt.
"I've just come from talking to Gloria Eden," she said, "and she's willing to do a one-picture deal with Summit _if_ I okay it. But I'm not going to okay it unless you release Nick Martin from his contract, and that's flat."
Watt showed pleased surprise.
"Well, we might get together on that," he said instantly, for he was a fan of Miss Eden's and for a long time had yearned to star her in a remake of _Vanity Fair_. "Why didn't you bring her along? We could have—"
"Nonsense!" St. Cyr shouted. "Do not discuss this matter yet, Tolliver."
"She's down at Laguna," Erika explained. "Be quiet, St. Cyr! I won't—"
A knock at the door interrupted her. Martin hurried to open it and as he had expected encountered a waiter with a tray.
"Quick work," he said urbanely, accepting the huge, coldly sweating Napoleon in a bank of ice. "Beautiful, isn't it?"
St. Cyr's booming shouts from behind him drowned out whatever remark the waiter may have made as he received a bill from Martin and withdrew, looking nauseated.
"No, no, no, no," St. Cyr was roaring. "Tolliver, we can get Gloria and keep this writer too, not that he is any good, but I have spent already thirteen weeks training him in the St. Cyr approach. Leave it to me. In Mixo-Lydia we handle—"
Erika's attractive mouth was opening and shutting, her voice unheard in the uproar. St. Cyr could keep it up indefinitely, as was well known in Hollywood.
Martin sighed, lifted the brimming Napoleon and sniffed delicately as he stepped backward toward his chair. When his heel touched it, he tripped with the utmost grace and savoir-faire, and very deftly emptied the Helena Glinsak, ale, honey, creme de menthe, ice and all, over St. Cyr's capacious front.
St. Cyr's bellow broke the microphone.
Martin had composed his invention carefully. The nauseous brew combined the maximum elements of wetness, coldness, stickiness and pungency.
The drenched St. Cyr, shuddering violently as the icy beverage deluged his legs, snatched out his handkerchief and mopped in vain. The handkerchief merely stuck to his trousers, glued there by twelve jiggers of honey. He reeked of peppermint.
"I suggest we adjourn to the commissary," Martin said fastidiously. "In some private booth we can go on with this discussion away from the—the rather overpowering smell of peppermint."
"In Mixo-Lydia," St. Cyr gasped, sloshing in his shoes as he turned toward Martin, "in Mixo-Lydia we throw to the dogs—we boil in oil—we—"
"And next time," Martin said, "please don't joggle my elbow when I'm holding a Helena Glinska. It's most annoying."
St. Cyr drew a mighty breath, rose to his full height—and then subsided. St.
Cyr at the moment looked like a Keystone Kop after the chase sequence, and knew it. Even if he killed Martin now, the element of classic tragedy would be lacking. He would appear in the untenable position of Hamlet murdering his uncle with custard pies.
"Do nothing until I return!" he commanded, and with a final glare at Martin plunged moistly out of the theater.
The door crashed shut behind him. There was silence for a moment except for the soft music from the overhead screen which DeeDee had caused to be turned on again, so that she might watch her own lovely form flicker in dimmed images through pastel waves, while she sang a duet with Dan Dailey about sailors, mermaids and her home in far Atlantis.
"And now," said Martin, turning with quiet authority to Watt, who was regarding him with a baffled expression, "I want a word with you."
"I can't discuss your contract till Raoul gets back," Watt said quickly.
"Nonsense," Martin said in a firm voice. "Why should St. Cyr dictate your decisions? Without you, he couldn't turn out a box-office success if he had to. No, be quiet, Erika. I'm handling this, my pretty creature."
Watt rose to his feet. "Sorry, I can't discuss it," he said. "St. Cyr pictures make money, and you're an inexperien—"
"That's why I see the true situation so clearly," Martin said. "The trouble with you is you draw a line between artistic genius and financial genius. To you, it's merely routine when you work with the plastic medium of human minds, shaping them into an Ideal Audience. You are an ecological genius, Tolliver Watt! The true artist controls his environment, and gradually you, with a master's consummate skill, shape that great mass of living, breathing humanity into a perfect audience… ."
"Sorry," Watt said, but not, bruskly. "I really have no time—ah—"
"Your genius has gone long enough unrecognized," Martin said hastily, letting admiration ring in his golden voice. "You assume that St. Cyr is your equal.
You give him your own credit titles. Yet in your own mind you must have known that half the credit for his pictures is yours. Was Phidias non-commercial?
Was Michaelangelo? Commercialism is simply a label for functionalism, and all great artists produce functional art. The trivial details of Rubens'
masterpieces were filled in by assistants, were they not? But Rubens got the credit, not his hirelings. The proof of the pudding's obvious. Why?" Cunningly gauging his listener, Martin here broke off.
"Why?" Watt asked.
"Sit down," Martin urged. "I'll tell you why. St. Cyr's pictures make money, but you're responsible for their molding into the ideal form, impressing your character-matrix upon everything and everyone at Summit Studios… ."
Slowly Watt sank into his chair. About his ears the hypnotic bursts of Disraelian rhodomontade thundered compellingly. For Martin had the man hooked.
With unerring aim he had at the first try discovered Watt's weakness—the uncomfortable feeling in a professionally arty town that money-making is a basically contemptible business. Disraeli had handled tougher problems in his day. He had swayed Parliaments.
Watt swayed, tottered—and fell. It took about ten minutes, all in all. By the end of that time, dizzy with eloquent praise of his economic ability, Watt had realized that while St. Cyr might be an artistic genius, he had no business interfering in the plans of an economic genius. Nobody told Watt what to do when economics were concerned.
"You have the broad vision that can balance all possibilities and show the right path with perfect clarity," Martin said glibly. "Very well. You wish Eden. You feel—do you not?—that I am unsuitable material. Only geniuses can change their plans with instantaneous speed… . When will my contract release be ready?"
"What?" said Watt, in a swimming, glorious daze. "Oh. Of course. Hm-m. Your contract release. Well, now—"
"St. Cyr would stubbornly cling to past errors until Summit goes broke,"
Martin pointed out. "Only a genius like Tolliver Watt strikes when the iron is hot, when he sees a chance to exchange failure for success, a Martin for an Eden."
"Hm-m," Watt said. "Yes. Very well, then." His long face grew shrewd. "Very, well, you get your release— _after_ I've signed Eden."
"There you put your finger on the heart of the matter," Martin approved, after a very brief moment of somewhat dashed thought. "Miss Eden is still undecided.
If you left the transaction to somebody like St. Cyr, say, it would be botched. Erika, you have your car here? How quickly could you drive Tolliver Watt to Laguna? He's the only person with the skill to handle this situation."
"What situa—oh, yes. Of course, Nick. We could start right away."
"But—" Watt said.
The Disraeli-matrix swept on into oratorical periods that made the walls ring.
The golden tongue played arpeggios with logic.
"I see," the dazed Watt murmured, allowing himself to be shepherded toward the door. "Yes, yes, of course. Then—suppose you drop over to my place tonight, Martin. After I get the Eden signature, I'll have your release prepared. Hm-m.
Functional genius… ." His voice fell to a low, crooning mutter, and he moved quietly out of the door.
Martin laid a hand on Erika's arm as she followed him.
"Wait a second," he said. "Keep him away from the studio until we get the release. St. Cyr can still out-shout me any time. But he's hooked. We—"
"Nick," Erika said, looking searchingly into his face. "What's happened?"
"Tell you tonight," Martin said hastily, hearing a distant bellow that might be the voice of St. Cyr approaching. "When I have time I'm going to sweep you off your feet. Did you know that I've worshipped you from afar all my life?
But right now, get Watt out of the way. Hurry!"
Erika cast a glance of amazed bewilderment at him as he thrust her out of the door. Martin thought there was a certain element of pleasure in the surprise.
"Where is Tolliver?" The loud, annoyed roar of St. Cyr made Martin wince. The director was displeased, it appeared, because only in Costumes could a pair of trousers be found large enough to fit him. He took it as a personal affront.
"What have you done with Tolliver?" he bellowed.
"Louder, please," Martin said insolently. "I can't hear you."
"DeeDee," St. Cyr shouted, whirling toward the lovely star, who hadn't stirred from her rapturous admiration of DeeDee in technicolor overhead. "Where is Tolliver?"
Martin started. He had quite forgotten DeeDee.
"You don't know, do you, DeeDee?" he prompted quickly.
"Shut up," St. Cyr snapped. "Answer me, you—" He added a brisk polysyllable in Mixo-Lydian, with the desired effect. DeeDee wrinkled her flawless brow.
"Tolliver went away, I think. I've got it mixed up with the picture. He went home to meet Nick Martin, didn't he?"
"See?" Martin interrupted, relieved. "No use expecting DeeDee to—"
"But Martin is _here_!" St. Cyr shouted. "Think, think!"
"Was the contract release in the rushes?" DeeDee asked vaguely.
"A contract release?" St. Cyr roared. "What is this? Never will I permit it, never, never, never! DeeDee, answer me—where has Watt gone?"
"He went somewhere with that agent," DeeDee said. "Or was that in the rushes too?"
"But where, where, where?"
"They went to Atlantis," DeeDee announced with an air of faint triumph.
"No!" shouted St. Cyr. "That was the _picture_! The mermaid came from Atlantis, not Watt!"
"Tolliver didn't say he was coming from Atlantis," DeeDee murmured, unruffled.
"He said he was going to Atlantis. Then he was going to meet Nick Martin at his house tonight and give him his contract release."
"When?" St. Cyr demanded furiously. "Think, DeeDee? What time did—"
"DeeDee," Martin said, stepping forward with suave confidence, "you can't remember a thing, can you?" But DeeDee was too subnormal to react even to a Disraeli-matrix. She merely smiled placidly at him.
"Out of my way, you writer!" roared St. Cyr, advancing upon Martin. "You will get no contract release! You do not waste St. Cyr's time and get away with it!
This I will not endure. I fix you as I fixed Ed Cassidy!"
Martin drew himself up and froze St. Cyr with an insolent smile. His hand toyed with an imaginary monocle. Golden periods were hanging at the end of his tongue. There only remained to hypnotize St. Cyr as he had hypnotized Watt. He drew a deep breath to unlease the floods of his eloquence—
And St. Cyr, also too subhuman to be impressed by urbanity, hit Martin a clout on the jaw.
It could never have happened in the British Parliament.