“I dragged him into the foyer and strangled him to death.”

Alarmed, Bucky got up from his desk. “Show me.”

He followed her out to the foyer. A twenty-something man lay dead on the floor.

“The pizza’s in the kitchen if you want some,” Janet said.

Bucky said, “You’re awfully calm about this.”

“I am, aren’t I? It was really fun. I’ve never felt so good.”

Although he should have been wary of her, afraid for himself, and concerned about the effect of this on their maker’s master plan, Bucky was instead in awe of her. And envious.

“You’ve definitely dropped some lines of program,” he said. “I didn’t know that was possible. What’re you going to do now?”

“I think I’m going to go next door and kill the Bennets. What are you going to do?”

“What I should do is report you for termination,” Bucky said.

“Are you going to?”

“Maybe there’s something wrong with me, too.”

“You’re not going to turn me in?”

“I don’t really feel like it,” he said.

“Do you want to come with me and help kill the Bennets?”

“We’re forbidden to kill until ordered.”

“They’re Old Race. I’ve hated them for so long.”

“Well, I have, too,” he said. “But still…”

“I’m so horny just talking about it,” Janet said, “I’ve got to go over there right now.”

“I’ll go with you,” Bucky said. “I don’t think I could kill anybody. But it’s funny… I think I could watch.”

After a while the naked albino dwarf came across the dark lawn to the big porch window directly in front of Erika, and peered in at her.

Dwarf wasn’t the correct word for it. She didn’t think a right word existed, but troll seemed more accurately descriptive than dwarf.

Although the thing in the glass case had scared her, she had no concern about this creature. Her lack of fear puzzled her.

The troll had large, unusually expressive eyes. They were both eerie and beautiful.

She felt an inexplicable sympathy for it, a connection.

The troll leaned its forehead against the glass and said quite distinctly, in a raspy voice, “Harker.”

Erika considered this for a moment. “Harker?”

“Harker,” the troll repeated.

If she understood it correctly, the required reply was the one she gave: “Erika.”

“Erika,” said the troll.

“Harker,” she said.

The troll smiled. Its smile proved to be an ugly wound in its face, but she didn’t flinch.

Part of her duties was to be the perfect hostess. The perfect hostess receives every guest with equal graciousness.

She sipped her cognac, and for a minute they enjoyed staring at each other through the window.

Then the troll said, “Hate him.”

Erika considered this statement. She decided that if she asked to whom the troll referred, the answer might require her to report the creature to someone.

The perfect hostess does not need to pry. She does, however, anticipate a guest’s needs.

“Wait right there,” she said. “I’ll be back.”

She went into the kitchen, found a wicker picnic hamper in the pantry, and filled it with cheese, roast beef, bread, fruit, and a bottle of white wine.

She thought the troll might be gone when, she returned, but it remained at the window.

When she opened the porch door and stepped outside, the troll took fright and scampered across the lawn. It didn’t run away, but stopped to watch her from a distance.

She put down the hamper, returned to the porch, sat as before, and refreshed her glass of cognac.

Hesitantly at first, then with sudden boldness, the creature went to the hamper and lifted the lid.

When it understood the nature of the offering, it picked up the hamper and hurried toward the back of the property, vanishing into the night.

The perfect hostess does not gossip about a guest. She never fails to keep secrets and honor confidences.

The perfect hostess is creative, patient, and has a long memory — as does a wise wife.

Вы читаете City of Night
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату