I didn't go near the Sternwood family. I went back to the office and sat in my swivel chair and tried to catch up on my foot-dangling. There was a gusty wind blowing in at the windows and the dust from the air-conditioning of the hotel next door was down-draughting into the room and rolling across the top of the desk like tumbleweed across the Martian desert. I was thinking about going out to lunch and that life was pretty flat and that it would probably be just as flat if I took a drink and that taking a drink all alone at this time of day wouldn't be any fun anyway. I was thinking this when Norris called up. In his carefully polite robotic manner he said that General Sternwood was not very often warmed but that certain items in the news had been read to him and he assumed that my investigation was now completed.

"Yes, as regards Geiger," I said. "I didn't shoot him, you know."

"The General doesn't suppose you did, Mr Marlowe."

"Does the General know anything about those holograms Mrs Regan was worrying about?"

"No, sir. Decidedly not."

"Did you know what the General gave me?"

"Yes, sir. Three notes and a card, I believe."

"Right. I'll return them. As to the holograms I think I'd better just destroy them."

"Very good, sir. Mrs Regan tried to reach you a number of times last night."

"I was out getting drunk," I said.

"Yes. Very necessary, sir, I'm sure. The General has instructed me to send you a cheque for five hundred thousand. Will that be satisfactory?"

"More than generous," I said.

"And I presume we may now consider the incident closed?"

"Oh, sure. Tight as a time vault with a busted lock."

"Thank you, sir. I am sure we all appreciate it. When the General is next warmed and conscious - possibly tomorrow - he would like to see you in person."

"Fine," I said. "I'll come out tomorrow and drink some more of his brandy, maybe with champagne."

"I shall see that some is properly iced," the old robot said, almost with a smirk in his voice.

That was that. We said goodbye and closed the connection. The coffee shop smell from next door came in at the windows with the hot air but failed to make me feel hungry. So I got out my office bottle and took the drink and let my self-respect ride its own race.

I counted it on my fingers. Rusty Regan had run away from a lot of money and a handsome wife to go wandering with a vague blonde who was more or less married to a racketeer named Eddie Mars. He has gone suddenly without good-byes and there might be any number of reasons for that. The General had been too proud, or, at the first interview he gave me, too careful, to tell me the Missing Persons Bureau had the matter in hand. The Missing Persons people were dead on their feet on it and evidently didn't think it worth bothering over. Regan had done what he had done and that was his business. I agreed with Captain Gregory that Eddie Mars would have been very unlikely to involve himself in a double murder just because another man had been fucking the blonde he was not even living with. It might have annoyed him, but business is business, and you have to hold you teeth clamped shut around this habitat to keep from chewing on stray blondes. If there had been a lot of money involved, that would be different. But fifteen mill would't be a lot of money to Eddie Mars. He was no two-bit chiseller like Brody.

Geiger was dead and Carmen would have to find some other shady character to play exotic games with. I didn't suppose she would have any trouble. All she would have to do was stand on the corner for five minutes and look coy. I hoped that the next grifter who dropped the hook on her would play her a little more smoothly, a little more for the long haul rather than the quick touch.

Mrs Regan knew Eddie Mars well enough to borrow money from him. That was natural, if she played roulette and was a good loser. Any gambling house owner would lend a good client money in a pinch. Apart from this they had an added bond of interest in Regan. He was her husband and he had gone off with Eddie Mars's wife.

Carol Lundgren, the boy killer with the limited vocabulary, was out of circulation for a long, long time, even if they didn't throw him out of an airlock. They wouldn't, because he would take a plea and save the habitat money. They all do when they don't have the price of a big lawyer. Agnes Lozelle was in custody as a material witness. They wouldn't need her for that, if Carol took a plea, ad if he pleaded guilty on arraignment, they would turn her loose. They wouldn't want to open up any angles on Geiger's business, apart from which they had nothing on her.

That left me. I had concealed a murder and suppressed evidence for thirty-two hours, but I was still at large and had a five-hundred-thousand-dollar cheque coming. The smart thing for me to do was to take another drink and forget the whole mess.

Part 2