A New Threat
Rosalie Morales was having a morning which could be variously described as horrible, confusing, or promising. She had hardly gotten up when Calvin, the handsome young man who assisted Goodman, called. He wanted to remind her that the experiment in which she was to participate was scheduled for the coming Wednesday. He then went so far as to ask her out to dinner beforehand! That stopped Rosalie. She was sure he wouldn't have done that without Goodman's consent. What did that mean? Had Goodman just off-handedly suggested that he take her out to dinner? That didn't sound like Goodman. Was it his way of dropping her? Either way, it seemed sensible to accept the invitation, which she did.
It wasn't terribly long after she had hung up, while she was still in her nightgown and robe, that Paul Hamilton called and proposed marriage. Rosie almost dropped on the spot and could hardly do more than gurgle into the telephone. She was now sure that Goodman had decided to drop her, but she could hardly vent her fury on Paul. He went on to explain that his pension had an option which would cover her, with an annuity, as long as she lived. She would also become a citizen. Moreover, Paul said that he didn't mean to limit her activities. While he would see her regularly, she could also see other people. Rosalie, sure that Goodman had thought this up, recovered herself enough to tell Paul that she would think about it.
In the next few days, Rosalie didn't answer her phone much, particularly when she thought it might be Goodman. On the second day, she saw him park in his usual place on the other side of Addison and cross to her building. When he rang, she didn't answer, and then peeked out of the window as he crossed back to his car. He didn't look pleased, even from the back, but that was all to the good. As he drove off, with more acceleration than usual, she decided that she had never really trusted him, even at the beginning. It would certainly be a mistake to give him the chance to work on her uncertain resolve.
It was obvious from the moment of his arrival that Calvin was on his best behavior. Rosalie had been afraid that he would know or guess too much, particularly if he knew Paul Hamilton, and that he might show condescension. On the contrary, he acted as if she were a Spanish princess and took her to an excellent restaurant. She did wonder whether Goodman had given him money for this purpose, but there was, of course, no way of finding out. Along toward dessert, he mentioned working with Paul Hamilton, a friend of Dr. Narrison's, and asked her if she had met him. She replied pleasantly,
"Yes. Mr. Hamilton was very much distressed at the death of a lady at the nursing home, and Dr. Narrison took him along with him almost everywhere he went for a few days."
"He also put him to work with us with the idea of taking his mind off things. He acts as my assistant a good deal of the time. He's much older than I am, but he doesn't seem to mind."
"I'm sure you're tactful. He's such a nice old gentleman, but I imagine he's also extremely sensitive."
"In some ways. But he can also be rather tough-minded and adaptable. If he sees that a course of action makes sense, he's not bothered if it's unusual or unconventional."
Calvin went on to describe Mr. Hamilton's role in their product tests, and also his methods of grading when he was a teacher. It was hard to tell if Calvin's remarks were meant to have any wider application, or if they had anything to do with Paul's proposal of marriage. Rosalie decided to venture,
"He does call me often, and he's sent flowers. He seems also to miss his wife a great deal. But, of course, I'm younger than his children would be. He may wish that he'd had a daughter."
Calvin thought that that was quite probable, and then remarked that it was getting on for the time of the experiment.
Floating along the somewhat seedy corridors of the Berwyn Associates, Rosalie, conscious of being elegantly dressed, felt like the princess Calvin had made her out to be visiting a slum. It was interesting, however, to see the place that Goodman had founded. She had supposed that everything would have a professional look, with a reasonably thick carpet in the waiting room and an acceptable couch or two. She was consequently surprised to find that no one had taken even the minimal pains that would have gone so far to achieve respectability. It was probably because the place was run by men who didn't listen to the opinions of the women who worked for them.
Rosalie had met Sandy before, and actually enjoyed taking tests. She particularly liked the intelligence tests that required one to complete progressions, and noticed with pleasure the look on Sandy's face when she reeled off a string of the correct numbers. Even Goodman might think twice when he saw the results.
In the meantime, Rosalie sat somewhat sideways in the swivel chair with her legs crossed. The skirt of her black dress with the bouffant petticoat under it puffed up to reveal her legs and knees, but there was only Sandy to see. Even so, Rosalie was pleased. She was proud of her long slim legs, and she was conscious of Sandy's occasional glances. Admiration from women was likely to be much more selective than admiration from men, and it counted for more.
When they finished, Sandy conducted her to a larger room. Calvin was there, having changed his suit jacket for a white coat, and Paul Hamilton was also there, decked out with a clip-board in addition to his white jacket. Rosalie smiled at him, and Paul, looking a little flustered, returned her smile. At the moment at which Rosalie noticed a group of people sitting in their underwear, Sandy asked her to remove her dress.
It had always been one of Rosalie's great gifts that she could conceal her anger, only reddening a little in an attractive way that might be taken for embarrassment. She was sure that she was being manipulated in a number of ways. The point of the experiment was really just to see if she would undress. The results of her intelligence and other tests were very likely sitting in the waste-basket, never to be read or recorded. Calvin had taken her out to dinner solely in order to set her up for this moment. Moreover, Goodman, for some nefarious purposes of his own, had arranged the whole thing.
Rosalie smiled gently and told Sandy quietly that she didn't undress in public places. There was a little nonsense about the use of electrodes, but Rosalie again smiled as she turned to leave the premises. If Calvin had any gentlemanly feelings at all, he would surely offer to drive her home.
Rosalie had noticed an odd-looking red-haired girl off to the side, and, when she turned away toward the exit, she was conscious of the girl's approach. It was, of course, necessary to make the most dignified and lady-like exit possible. Rosalie walked erectly with her head high, but without any undue haste or show of displeasure. The best thing was simply to treat the whole business as a childish waste of time and money, something only to be expected of supposed psychologists who didn't have the elementary good sense to try to look professional. She was actually half-way to the door when she realized that her skirts had been lifted in back. Whirling furiously, she caught the red-haired girl's bony arm and sank her long nails through the silk sleeve and deeply into the flesh beneath it. The girl paled but didn't scream. Rosalie, regaining control, said quietly,
"Please let me go."
The girl nodded and Rosalie backed away quickly lest the blood flowing from the girl's arm get on her dress.
Calvin caught up with Rosalie as she went down the stairs, and she said to him,
"That experiment wouldn't fool a five-year old. Do you take me for an idiot?"
Calvin was extremely apologetic as he attempted to explain, rather lamely, the purposes of the experiment. He finished,
"Most people do undress when they're asked to. You're very unusual."
"Well, I suppose most people are sheep. Anyway, I'm glad I drew blood on that obnoxious girl. She exposed me to the whole assemblage."
"That's my girl friend, Samantha."
"You could have chosen better."
"I know she does get aggressive. But she's not always like that."
"Normal women don't come up to other women and lift their skirts. It's demeaning and humiliating. She ought to have it done to her."
"Well, that's not entirely her fault. It was part of the design of the experiment."
"Which is to say that it was your idea! You'll have to be extremely nice to me this evening to make up for that."
"I actually have enjoyed being out with someone other than Samantha. She can be difficult."
"Yes, I can imagine that."
"You're much more feminine."
"Thank you. That's perhaps not the greatest compliment I've ever received, but it's better than turning that girl loose on me."
Rosalie smiled, not entirely unhappy that Calvin had gotten a good look at her legs through no conceivable fault of her own."
Samantha was laughing when she came down to Dr. Narrison's office and showed him her bloody arm. As he recoiled with a satisfying show of shock, she said,
"It's a good thing for you that you were hiding out here. I finally got some of my own medicine."
"Did Rosie do that?"
Dr. Narrison was surprisingly adept at first aid. Taking Samantha to the bathroom, he cut away the remains of her sleeve, washed the wounds thoroughly, and treated them with the iodine that he evidently kept for such purposes. There was also a supply of bandages in the cupboard, and, when he was finished, he said,
"We'll get you a new blouse, of course. Have you had dinner yet?"
"Yes, but I'd love to have another one. Calvin's gone off with Rosie."
"Do you mind?"
"Not really. Someone had to mollify her, and I wasn't the one. Sandy might have, but Calvin may be even better at it."
The rather fashionable restaurant seemed to be able to deal with ladies with one long sleeve and one short one, even when they had a certain amount of blood spattered elsewhere on their costumes. Samantha had been prepared to claim that the assault had taken place in the restaurant's own parking lot, but the headwaiter's smile was only a little frosty as he led them to their table. Once seated and eating, Samantha gave Dr. Narrison a more detailed account of the events of the evening. When she had finished, Dr. Narrison said,
"It's a tricky situation. I'm with Susan Gatewood a good deal these days, but I have to make some provision for Rosie. And, of course, she's not happy. Paul Hamilton was there, wasn't he?"
"Did he react in any particular way?"
"I didn't notice."
"Well, he's interested in Rosie, and I thought he might take her home in a taxi afterwards."
"I guess things happened too fast for that. Did you think she'd undress?"
"Yes. In her line of work, you know, it's the usual thing."
"She may make an extra effort to be respectable when she's off duty. Now that she's alone with Calvin, she may gradually become less respectable again."
"I do hope you don't mind."
"Not much. I don't do sex and he's pretty frustrated."
"He did complain about that to me. I thought that, if he saw Rosie, he might be content to play by your rules the rest of the time."
"You do arrange for things, don't you?"
"Yes. I suppose I like order and try to produce it everywhere. Ship captains have to be like that."
"Speaking of ship captains, I've made contact with your old first mate."
Dr. Narrison seemed more shocked and upset than he had been when Samantha appeared with the bloody arm. It took some time to explain.
Knowing that Sandy was going out with Fred two nights previously, Samantha rented a car and parked it a little way down the street from Sandy's apartment. She saw Fred go in, and then followed them at a distance the whole evening. Dr. Narrison broke in,
"That's very dangerous with Fred. Besides, you're much too conspicuous to follow people."
"There wasn't much he could do if he had seen me. Sandy would probably have thought it was funny."
Dr. Narrison grumbled, but Samantha went on brightly,
"The trouble is boredom. They went to a big restaurant, and I hid in the bar. But it took hours. I did take a book to read, but I had to keep an eye out for them, and also fend off men trying to pick me up. It's hard to concentrate on your book in those circumstances."
"That's the least of the potential problems."
"Anyhow, I knew from Sandy that he was staying at the Palmer House. So, when it was obvious that she wasn't going to invite him up to her place, and they were necking on the sidewalk, I beat him back downtown. When he came in, I was walking from the lobby to the bar. He followed me in and chatted me up."
"Did he want you to go off with him?"
"Not seriously. He likes girls, but I think he may be fairly fixed on Sandy. We talked for a while, and he said he was in the commercial air conditioning business. He seemed so ordinary that I wondered if he could be the right man."
On comparing notes further, there seemed to be no doubt. Samantha's acquaintance did have a slight accent, and he volunteered easily enough that he was originally from Germany. Samantha concluded,
"Whatever he may have been once, he seems harmless enough now. He may follow you occasionally just out of curiosity, or because he can't decide whether to renew acquaintances."
Samantha was perfectly aware of angling for new information, and it worked.
The story concerned Surabaya, some forty years previously. Dr. Narrison and Fred had wanted the same girl, the daughter of some local big-wigs. The former had won. He added,
"I was somewhat acceptable to the young lady's family. I was a foreigner, which was bad, but I was better than Manfred at appearing to be the sort of solid and respectable European that even the richest people in poor countries half admire and half envy. It was actually Manfred's family who had wealth and prestige beyond anything the lady's family could have imagined, but he'd done such a good job of rebelling against his own family that he couldn't reverse himself quickly and effectively."
"Just having met him, I would never have taken him for an aristocrat. He seems like a small-town midwesterner who's made a little money and let it go to his head."
"Whereas, in fact, he's more like the people you grew up with. But, anyway, the girl's mother liked me and the girl was young, pretty, and not very bright. She followed her mother's instructions."
"Did you love her?"
"Not really. But I'd been knocking around the seas for a long time. I could've settled there in perfect comfort in some sort of idyllic villa and been waited on for the rest of my life. That's what it meant to have the right connections in the east."
"You would have been bored out of your mind."
"I realize that now, but it's hard to explain such things to a young seafarer."
"Did you make a formal proposal of marriage to her father?"
It seemed all very quaint to Samantha, and she was laughing. Dr. Narrison replied,
"That's exactly what would have been required. Except that it was the mother who really made the decision. She actually attracted me more than the girl. She was hardly older than I was, quite pretty, and very smart. She also spoke good English, so she and I could communicate. She might have had it in mind to have a quiet affair with me later on."
"That would have kept you from being bored. Wouldn't they have beheaded you or something if you'd got caught."
"Things never went that far. It all ended at the grand hotel in Surabaya at a fashion show. The girl was always modelling batik dresses for charity, usually up on a raised platform. Her mother and I were having drinks at a little table and watching. There was some sort of native music being played, but I heard the crack of a shot. It wasn't as loud as usual, perhaps from a silenced pistol, or a rifle at some distance. I should have known and been on my feet, but I was already going soft, and I just sat there with my drink. We were actually looking at the girl at the time, and nothing seemed unusual. She went on taking those funny steps and twirling. Then she collapsed right on the stage.
Even that wasn't such a big thing. Women still wore tight corsets, and they fainted all the time. They were taken to the ladies' room and had their corsets taken off. If that didn't do it, they were given smelling salts. The only thing was that this girl was dead when they got to her. She'd been shot with a small caliber gun."
"And it was Fred, or Manfred, who did it?"
"It must have been. He disappeared immediately, and he took with him the money I'd taken from the ship's safe."
"How could he get away with murder in a public place?"
"It was the Dutch East Indies. The Dutch colonisers were mostly lazy, drunk, and corrupt. The policemen were a long way from Sherlock Holmes, and they had natives doing most of the work. But the whole lot of them were better at directing traffic and taking bribes than in solving a murder. Manfred was a good planner and executor. The wonder is that he took the trouble to kill Naka when he could have just gone off with the money."
"Someone like that doesn't see it as taking trouble or running an unnecessary risk. In backward countries people kill all the time out of vengeance, or to preserve what they call honor."
"Did you learn that in an anthropology course?"
"Actually, yes. But there are lots of people in supposedly civilized countries who are throwbacks to something more primitive. I'm often accused of that."
"Yes, by people who don't know you quite well enough. Anyhow, Manfred somehow got to America, and I suppose he used that money to get started in the air conditioning business."
"Money and success may have mellowed him."
"I doubt it. It's so much a part of his character to destroy something if he sees he can't have it. That's why I'm concerned about Sandy."
"So she's safe as long as she doesn't give him the air?"