night was falling, and jody could just make the police car out from the tenth floor window.
the police car had not had its siren on and it did not have any lights flashing. maybe those were good signs.
jody watched as two police got out of the car.
one, getting out of the driver's side, looked like an original human, kind of short, and from the distance looked female.
the other was a robot, very tall, apparently of the old r-7 class that you did not see so much of any more.
they disappeared from sight as they entered the front door.
jody went over to the refrigerator and took put a can of mountain dew, and popped the top and started drinking it while waiting for the knock on the door.
it came quickly enough, before jody finished the can of mountain dew.
one thing you had to say about the building , it was quiet.
if you listened really carefully, you could hear the ding of the arriving elevator, but not the elevator doors opening. jody did not bother trying.
the police made no sound coming down the corridor.
the knock came, not too loud or soft, and jody opened the door.
the shorter one was indeed a human female. she looked jody straight in the eyes.
they both walked in past jody. the robot had to duck to get in the door.
the female sat down and made herself at home at the kitchen table. she took what looked like a small old fashioned paper spiral notebook and and a lead pencil out of her pocket.
"would you like something?" jody asked her. "i have mountain dew, classic coke -"
"yeah, i'll take a classic coke. thank you. that's very thoughtful."
"your records show that you are very polite," the robot said.
"can i get you anything?" jody asked the robot.
"no thank you."
"would you like a chair? i can get one from nikki's old room."
"no, i'm good." the robot looked around.
jody got the female her classic coke and sat down across from her at the kitchen table.
"let's get started. i'm suzi, by the way, and this is robbie."
"what do i call you? officer? sergeant?"
"we're all friends here. suzi and robbie are good." suzi took a sip of her classic coke. "you know why we're here, right?"
"i understand nikki's mom is very concerned."
"uh - yes. speaking of nikki's mom, she called us about a note. do you have it?"
"right here." jody handed her the note, neatly folded.
she unfolded it and started to read it. "pretty good handwriting. you can actually read it." she began reading - "jody i am sorry to leave so suddenly - but - ". she looked at jody. "could you make out any more than that?"
"no, that's what i read too."
suzi handed the note to robbie. "how about you?"
the robot studied it. "it might be 'i have -' after that. maybe. we will just have to have it analyzed."
"yeah." suzi took the note back. she folded it up and stuck it in the spiral notebook.
"there's not much else there," said robbie. "it can't be more than a word or two."
"no." suzi took another sip of coke.
"maybe it says ' i have dobo'".
dobo was a new disease.
suzi nodded. "could be. could be 'i have - any disease'. i have the hiccups."
"i got the blues."
"by the way," robbie asked jody, "do you know why the note is smudged? t looks like it was wet, and then dried."
"there was a beer bottle on top of it."
"do you still have the bottle?"
jody thought for a second. "it must still be in the recycle bin. trash day is tomorrow."
"but you didn't keep it separate?" robbie asked.
"no, i didn't think of that. i'm sorry."
suzi glanced at robbie. "no problem, we'll just take all the bottles."
"um - there's a lot of bottles," jody told her.
"yes, we know. or we figured."
"nikki liked lowenbrau, you are a rheingold person," robbie added.
"yeah, that's right. sometimes i like genesee bock."
suzi flipped her notebook open. "back to serious business. what was the relationship between you and nikki?"
"we were just roommates."
"that tracks with the records we checked. we have no record of you or nikki applying to have totally hot sex with each other, or even grade b or c sex."
"and nikki had a lot of applications for all sorts of sex."
jody shrugged. "if you say so."
"anything else you can tell us about that?"
"why don't you ask the people nikki applied for?"
"don't worry," said robbie. "we will. they are being asked even as we speak."
jody was surprised after waking up and discovering that nikki had left during the night, leaving a note on the kitchen table that said,
"jody i am sorry to leave so suddenly but - " the note had been placed under a half empty beer bottle and the moisture from the bottle had made the rest of the note illegible.
jody was delighted. the month's rent had just been paid. there was no need to look for a new roommate for almost three - well, maybe two - weeks. jody knew some people who might be interested - in fact, a couple of people who were desperate.
unless the obscured words in the note made some reference to nikki getting back the half of the rent already paid.
but there did not seem to be enough words to say that.
and even if there was, tough shit. it wasn't jody's fault that the note could not be read.
if nikki called, time enough to worry then.
meanwhile - at least two weeks before even looking for a new roommate.
how good could life get?
2. the phone call
jody was lying in bed, reading a stephen king novel.
five days of the two or three weeks had passed.
like a dream.
suddenly the phone rang. this was unusual. jody took maximum precautions against junk calls.
"is this jody? jody garrett?"
"yes. who is this? i don't want to buy anything."
"this is alma bonney, nikki's mom."
"how do you do?"
"i am doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances, thank you. you sound very polite. nikki always said you were very polite."
"i try to be."
"i assume nikki is not there."
"no, nikki left a note five days ago and disappeared."
"with no indication of a destination?"
"that is correct. the note gave no indication of a destination."
"that is what we expected."
"i should tell you that the note was a bit smudged. there might have been something i couldn't read. but it was only a few words."
"that is the first glimmer of hope we have had. i hope you did not throw the note away."
"actually i did throw it in the trash."
"but i have not emptied the trash, as tomorrow is weekly trash day."
"oh, thank goodness!"
jody thought "thank goodness" was a curious expression, but was too polite to say so.
"i will let the police know," nikki's mom went on.
jody felt a sudden panic. "the police?"
"yes, they should be in to see you some time today."
jody groaned inwardly. "was that really necessary?"
"we certainly thought so. we are very worried about nikki."
"but it has only been five days."
"five days of worry."
"but - but - people just like to disappear sometimes. you know how it is."
"no, i am sorry but i do not know how it is."
"people just like to - to kick back and get away from things - blow off a little steam."
"that sounds like a terrible, cynical thing to say. you may be polite, but you do not sound like a very nice or sympathetic person."
"i am sorry. i was trying to be helpful and supportive. in my way."
"very well, then. i accept your apology. it is just that we are very worried about nikki."
"i will hang up now. please dig the note out of the trash and have it ready for the police when they arrive."
"do you know when the police are going to get here?"
"no, they did not give us a detailed itinerary of their investigations."
"they are contacting all of nikki's friends and acquaintances , and everybody that ever had any contact with nikki."
"everybody who ever had any contact? that sounds like a tall order."
"they are the police. they have their resources. i am sure they will do a very thorough job."
"i suppose they will."
"as you may have been the last person to see nikki, i would suspect you would be one of the first on their list. but of course i can't make any promises."
"i will hang up now, unless you have anything else to tell me."
"i am sorry, i don't."
"goodbye." jody switched the phone off.
what the fuck! couldn't the fucking world ever leave you alone?
fucking nikki! jody hoped the police would show up soon and get this sorry ass business over with. otherwise worrying about it would ruin the whole beautiful two weeks of freedom.
originally printed in the june 1951 issue of slam bang science fiction stories
illustrated by danny delacoix
he woke up and brushed his teeth like a real human, and shined his shoes and knotted his tie carefully in front of the mirror in his room in mrs prescott's boarding house, and combed his hair.
today was the day.
mrs prescott had been feeling a mite poorly during the last week, but she greeted him with a smile when he arrived at the breakfast table.
"good morning, andy." that was the name they knew him as, andy johnson. he told everybody to call him andy, not mr johnson.
mr wilson and mr gunther were also at the table, and nodded at him, barely looking up from mrs prescott's bacon and eggs and hot biscuits. they preferred to be addressed as "mr wilson" and "mr gunther" when they absolutely had to converse with their fellow creatures at all.
mr wilson, in his usual fashion, was reading the morning paper neatly folded over in the middle. he would leave it on the table when he was through and mr gunther would then take it and read the comics pages.
the dining room window was open, and a gentle breeze rustled the clean white curtains.
mrs prescott pushed a pitcher of orange juice toward andy. "fresh squeezed, andy. got a new batch of oranges at the market just yesterday."
"why thank you, mrs prescott. it looks delicious," andy replied. " mr gunther, could i trouble you to pass the coffee?"
breakast proceeded in the routine he had grown used to in the three months since he had arrived in martinville and found a job at the hardware store.
once outside, he recognized the day as one of the type the humans called "beautiful" and he referred to it as such at his first encounter on the street, with mr abbott, the banker.
mr abbott seemed a bit preoccupied, and responded to andy's comment about the beauty of the day with a barely perceptible smile amounting to little more than a grimace.
the excellence of the morning was appreciated more enthusiastically by mike, at the fruit stand in front of his grocery store, when andy stopped to buy his daily two apples. the last food he would ever eat on the planet.
"beautiful day! i'll say! be like this every day, i wouldn't mind!" mike agreed happily.
andy smiled and passed on to his next destination, the flower stand.
daisy coleman presided at the flower stand. she was the prettiest girl in martinville and at least the next two counties, and her smile was even brighter than her freshest cut flowers.
yes sir, she was going to make some lucky fellow the happiest man in the world one of these days.
that is, she would have.
andy purchased his flowers and headed for the hardware store. he encountered no one else on his way, except a little girl dragging a book bag behind her, who ignored his smile.
and a dog, whom he barely noticed, and who only glanced at him.
andy took the front door key out of his pocket as he approached the store. after the first three weeks on the job, mr harris had trusted him to open up in the morning.
andy felt almost sorry for the humans and other earth creatures, who had never done anything to him (and could not have, if they tried). but he had a job to do, and what else could he do except do it?