Dan gaped at a head the size of a beachball, mounted on a torso like a hundred-gallon bag of water. Two large brown eyes blinked at him from points eight inches apart. Immense hands with too many fingers unfolded and reached to open a brown paper carton, dip in, then toss three peanuts, deliberately, one by one, into a gaping mouth that opened just above the brown eyes.
"Who're you?" a bass voice demanded from somewhere near the floor.
"I'm ... I'm ... Dan Slane ... your honor."
"What happened to Manny and Fiorello?"
"They--I--There was this cop. Kelly--"
"Oh-oh." The brown eyes blinked deliberately. The many-fingered hands closed the peanut carton and tucked it into a drawer.
"Well, it was a sweet racket while it lasted," the basso voice said. "A pity to terminate so happy an enterprise. Still...." A noise like an amplified Bronx cheer issued from the wide mouth.
"How ... what...?"
"The carrier returns here automatically when the charge drops below a critical value," the voice said. "A necessary measure to discourage big ideas on the part of wisenheimers in my employ. May I ask how you happen to be aboard the carrier, by the way?"
"I just wanted--I mean, after I figured out--that is, the police ... I went for help," Dan finished lamely.
"Help? Out of the picture, unfortunately. One must maintain one's anonymity, you'll appreciate. My operation here is under wraps at present. Ah, I don't suppose you brought any paintings?"
Dan shook his head. He was staring at the posters. His eyes, accustoming themselves to the gloom of the office, could now make out the vividly drawn outline of a creature resembling an alligator-headed giraffe rearing up above scarlet foliage. The next poster showed a face similar to the beachball behind the desk, with red circles painted around the eyes. The next was a view of a yellow volcano spouting fire into a black sky.
"Too bad." The words seemed to come from under the desk. Dan squinted, caught a glimpse of coiled purplish tentacles. He gulped and looked up to catch a brown eye upon him. Only one. The other seemed to be busily at work studying the ceiling.
"I hope," the voice said, "that you ain't harboring no reactionary racial prejudices."