Free Frogmouth by William Marshall

Book: Frogmouth by William Marshall Read Free Book Online
Authors: William Marshall
    Ivan, nodding at them as they stood at their section of the counter watching, said to introduce them, "Sergei, Igor, Nicholas and Natasha." They nodded. Spencer looked to see which one was the girl. Ivan, still nodding, said, "The bank feels Russian names give a certain feeling of Zurich bank vaults to a small bank." He asked, "How's Mr. Auden?" He had redeemed the customer's lost money from the autobank. He began counting what was left. There wasn't much. Ivan, glancing over at Auden sitting in one of the chairs by the deposit and withdrawal form counter by the door, said in a whisper, "If Mr. Nyet were here, he'd fire me for saying it, but I went outside after the hit and saw the race." In the chair, Auden had his shoes off and was looking at his socks. They seemed to be making pulsing whoom, whoom noises. From the look on his face, he seemed to be thinking as he looked. Ivan said, "He must have feet made of pure rawhide."
    If he hadn't, he did now. Auden, looking up at the sound of a human voice, said, "Hee . . ." His shoes were laid out side by side on the floor next to him. He looked at his feet and thought he would have to get new shoes. His shoes seemed to have shrunk. Auden, with a strange, odd, funny sort of totally destroyed feeling that, in its own way, had a sort of sensuous glow about it, said to acknowledge the presence of the voice, "Ha . . . he . . . ah . . ."
    Spencer said intimately to Ivan, "He's in a bad way."
    "He almost got him."
    Spencer said, "Yes." He felt responsible. Spencer said with what he thought was a Russian accent, "The nature of man is to suffer." It was Tolstoy.
    Ivan said with another nod, "Then you've come to the right place." The whoom, whoom pulsing sound was getting louder from Auden's feet and there was a peculiar reddening coming to his face. The man just sat there rubbing, staring at his shoes and making occasional pee-wit sounds. Ivan, finishing counting, said, "According to the computer, the Tibetan got away with three thousand dollars of our customer's money. You've recovered just over two thousand." He looked across at Auden and said on behalf of the absent Mr. Nyet, "Well done." Judging from his portrait, it wasn't what Mr. Nyet would have said at all. Ivan, glancing to Natasha to offer the bank's full hospitality to one of its most favorite sons, asked Spencer, "Do you think he'd like a glass of water?"
    Auden said from nowhere, "You're not Russians! You're Chinese! I thought the Chinese had broken with the Russians and they were pursuing their own brand of Communism!" All he got from the outside world through the pain was a hazy red blur. Auden, letting go of his foot and looking worried, said anxiously, "Bill? Bill, are you there?"
    "It's all right." Spencer, going over and laying his hand gently on Auden's shoulder, said, "Don't worry." He smiled back at the androids behind the counter. The androids were all looking at Auden and looking worried. Spencer said gently, "We're back in the bank now. The bank has redeemed the customer's money and what we're doing now is counting it so the bank can make the adjustments in its bookkeeping and—"
    Auden said, "It blew away. It blew away and then there were lots of people grabbing at it and then—" Once he'd built a railroad—he'd made it run. Auden said sadly, in tatters, "I almost did it. I was close. Just an inch or two more and I could have—" He had Spencer by the coat lapels. He pulled him down. Auden, lowering his voice, said as the greatest secret of the twentieth century, "I could have done it. If I'd had the breaks I could have done it."
    "You were great."
    "I was." Auden, rolling on the chair and almost toppling off, said, "I was." All the Chinese looked the same. Why were they Russians? Maybe he was dead. He was staring at a portrait of someone who looked like God. God had a batwing collar and mustache. He looked like Simon Legree looking like God. Auden, moving his hands in front of him to clear the red haze,

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