* * * * *
Dan looked about wildly. The voice seemed to be issuing from a speaker.
It appeared Kelly hedged1 his bets.
"Mr. Kelly, I can explain everything!" Dan called. He turned back to Fiorello. "Listen, I figured out--"
"Pretty clever!" Kelly's voice barked. "Inside job. But it takes more than the likes of you to out-fox an old-timer like Eddie Kelly."
"Perhaps you were right, Manny," Fiorello said. "Complications are arising. We'd best depart with all deliberate haste." He edged toward the cage.
"What about this ginzo2?" Manny jerked a thumb toward Dan. "He's on to us."
"Can't be helped."
"Look--I want to go with you!" Dan shouted.
"I'll bet you do!" Kelly's voice roared. "One more minute and I'll have the door open and collar3 the lot of you! Came up through a tunnel, did you?"
"You can't go, my dear fellow," Fiorello said. "Room for two, no more."
Dan whirled to the cot4, grabbed up the pistol Kelly had supplied. He aimed it at Manny. "You stay here, Manny! I'm going with Fiorello in the time machine."
"Are you nuts?" Manny demanded.
"I'm flattered, dear boy," Fiorello said, "but--"
"Let's get moving. Kelly will have that lock open in a minute."
"You can't leave me here!" Manny spluttered5, watching Dan crowd into the cage beside Fiorello.
"We'll send for you," Dan said. "Let's go, Fiorello."
The balding man snatched suddenly for the gun. Dan wrestled with him.
The pistol fell, bounced on the floor of the cage, skidded into the far corner of the vault. Manny charged, reaching for Dan as he twisted aside; Fiorello's elbow caught him in the mouth. Manny staggered back into the arms of Kelly, bursting red-faced into the vault.
"Manny!" Fiorello released his grip on Dan, lunged to aid his companion. Kelly passed Manny to one of three cops crowding in on his heels. Dan clung to the framework as Fiorello grappled with Kelly. A cop pushed past them, spotted Dan, moved in briskly for the pinch. Dan grabbed a lever at random and pulled.
Sudden silence fell as the walls of the room glowed blue. A spectral Kelly capered before the cage, fluorescing in the blue-violet. Dan swallowed hard and nudged a second lever. The cage sank like an elevator into the floor, vivid blue washing up its sides.
Hastily he reversed the control. Operating a time machine was tricky business. One little slip, and the Slane molecules would be squeezing in among brick and mortar particles....
But this was no time to be cautious. Things hadn't turned out just the way he'd planned, but after all, this was what he'd wanted--in a way.
The time machine was his to command. And if he gave up now and crawled back into the vault, Kelly would gather him in and pin every art theft of the past decade on him.
It couldn't be too hard. He'd take it slowly, figure out the controls....
1. hedge to avoid answering a question or making a decision in a definite or direct way
2. ginzo offensive term for a person of Italian descent
3. collar arrest
4. cot camp bed
5. splutter to make noises with your mouth because you suddenly cannot breathe or swallow normally