Our Lady of Darkness

Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber Read Free Book Online

Book: Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber Read Free Book Online
Authors: Fritz Leiber
used to pray to Emerson and swear by Robert Ingersoll. While my mother was, rather frivolously, into Bahai. And I don’t own a couple of window dummies, or I might use them. No, no pot, thank you. I have to hold myself intact until tomorrow night. Gun, thanks for humoring me. It does help to have people in the room, even when I’m incom-municada. It helps especially when evening begins to close in. That ale smells wonderful, but alas…same reason as no pot. Franz, you’re looking quietly prodigious. What happened at Corona Heights?”
    Pleased that she had been thinking about him and observing him so closely and accurately, Franz told the story of his adventure. He was struck by how in the telling it became rather trivial-seeming and less frightening, though paradoxically more entertaining—the writer’s curse and blessing.
    Gun happily summed up. “So you go to investigate this apparition or what-not, and find it’s pulled the big switch and is thumbing its nose at you from your own window two miles away. “Taffy went to my house’—that’s neat.”
    Saul said, “Your Taffy story reminds me of my Mr. Edwards. He gets the idea that two enemies in a parked car across the street from the hospital have got a pain-ray projector trained on him. We wheel him over there so he can see for himself there ain’t no one in any of the cars. He’s very much relieved and keeps thanking us, but when we get him back to his room, he lets out a sudden squeal of agony. Seems his enemies have taken advantage of his absence to plant a pain-ray projector somewhere in the walls.”
    “Oh, Saul,” Cal said in mildly scathing tones, “we’re not all of us your hospital people—at least yet. Franz, I wonder if those two innocent-seeming little girls may not have been involved. You said they were running around and dancing, like your pale brown thing. I’m sure that if there’s such a thing as psychic energy, little girls have lots of it.”
    “I’d say you have a good artistic imagination. That angle hadn’t even occurred to me,” Franz told her, acutely aware that he was beginning to disparage the whole incident, but unable to help himself. “Saul, I may very well have been projecting—at least in part—but if so, what? Also, the figure was nondescript, remember, and wasn’t doing anything objectively sinister.”
    Saul said, “Look, I Wasn’t suggesting any parallel. That’s your idea, and Cal’s. I was just reminded of another weird incident.”
    Gun guffawed. “Saul doesn’t think we’re all completely crazy. Just fringe-psychotic.”
    There was a knock and then the door opened as Dorotea Luque let herself in. She sniffed and looked at Saul. She was a slender version of her brother, with a beautiful Inca profile and jet-black hair. She had a small parcel-post package of books for Franz.
    “I wondered you’d be down here, and then I heard you talk,” she explained. “Did you find thee-scary things to write about with your…how you say…?” She made binoculars of her hands and held them to her eyes, and then looked questioningly around when they all laughed.
    While Cal got her a glass of wine, Franz hastened to explain. To his surprise, she took the figure in the window very seriously.
    “But are you e-sure you weren’t ripped off?” she demanded anxiously. “We had an e-stealer on the second floor, I think.”
    “My portable TV and tape recorder were there,” he told her. “A thief would take those first.”
    “But how about your marrowbone?” Saul put in. “Taffy get that?”
    “And did you close your transom and double-lock your door?” Dorotea persisted, illustrating with a vigorous twist of her wrist. “Is double-lock now?”
    “I always double-lock it,” Franz assured her. “I used to think it was only in detective stories they slipped locks with a plastic card. But then I found I could slip my own with a photograph. The transom, no. I like it open for ventilation.”
    “Should always

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