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Chapter 3


9:58 PM-10:22 PM

They had proceeded for another block when Mallory noticed that his surroundings were getting brighter.

"I must have gotten turned around," he remarked to Mürgenstürm. "I could have sworn we were going back the way we had come."

"We are, John Justin," said the elf.

Mallory shook his head. "The street was dark before. Now look at it. The streetlamps are starting to glow, and a number of the apartments are lit up."

"They always were," Mürgenstürm assured him.


"They were," repeated the elf. "You simply couldn't see it before."

"Why not?"

Mürgenstürm scratched his head. "I suppose it's because you were an intruder who had wandered over from your Manhattan. Now, for better or worse, you're a participant."

"That makes a difference?"

"All the difference in the world."


"Excellent question."

"You don't know," said Mallory.

"I have never pretended to be anything other than what I am: a devilishly handsome elf of normal intelligence and sexual needs—"

"And severely diminished expectations of longevity," interjected Mallory.

"True," agreed Mürgenstürm unhappily. "At any rate, I have never claimed to be a scholar or a clairvoyant, and I find it thoroughly ungracious of you to constantly belittle me for these shortcomings."

Mallory was about to answer him, but at that moment they followed Felina around a corner and he realized that Mürgenstürm's Manhattan had come fully to life. It was still cold and raining, but the street was bustling with elves, gnomes, goblins, trolls, and even less human passersby, as well as an assortment of men and women. Sturdy multihued elephants and draft horses pulled an endless stream of carts and carriages, while odd little street vendors who were neither men nor elves were hawking everything from toys to mystical gemstones.

A large man with scaly skin and strange, staring eyes stood in front of a clothing store, slowly turning the crank on a music box with long, webbed fingers, while a little blond boy on a leash walked up to Mallory with a cup in his hand and a hopeful smile on his face. Mallory tossed him a coin, which he caught in the cup, and, after bowing deeply, he cartwheeled up to a passing woman and did a little jig until she, too, had made a contribution.

"I'm on retainer plus expenses, right?" said Mallory suddenly.

"That's right, John Justin," replied Mürgenstürm.

"I just wanted to make sure you remembered."

"Why?" asked the elf.

"Because I'm soaked to the skin and freezing my ass off," said Mallory, striding toward the front door of the clothing store. The organ grinder stepped out of his way, and Mallory noticed that he had a row of gills running up each side of his thick neck.

"Don't overdo it, John Justin," Mürgenstürm cautioned him. "My funds are quite limited."

"Then pull some more out of the air."

"That money's no good."

"What?" said Mallory ominously.

"Oh, it's perfectly good in your Manhattan," the elf assured him. "But where would we be if anyone in my world who needed money could simply produce it out of empty air?"

"Then give me some money that works here." Mürgenstürm begrudgingly counted out $500 and gave it to him, along with a handful of change. Mallory inspected the money briefly, then placed it in his pocket and entered the store, which was surprisingly crowded given the time of night. The clientele wore everything from tuxedos to suits of armor, except for a portly, middle-aged man who wore nothing except a bowler hat and a gold-handled umbrella. Most of the mannequins displayed various satin and velvet robes and gowns, though a handful sported chain mail, and one was equipped with jodhpurs and a pith helmet. Two live models, one well over seven feet tall and the other shorter than Mürgenstürm, walked up and down the aisles showing off marked-down seersucker suits.

"Interesting," remarked Mallory.

"Pedestrian," replied Mürgenstürm, obviously unimpressed.

"May I help you?" asked a smartly dressed man, approaching them.

"Yes," replied Mallory. "I need an overcoat, preferably something with a fur collar."

"I'm afraid that's out of the question, sir," replied the man.

"How about a fleece-lined ski jacket?"

The man looked mildly distressed and shook his head. "I'm terribly sorry, sir, but we simply don't carry anything that exotic."

"You don't carry anything exotic?" repeated Mallory. "What the hell have you got on display?"

"You refer, doubtless, to our safari outfit," replied the man, gesturing toward the mannequin with the pith helmet. "I'm afraid that's our only truly outré outfit, sir."

"Look," said Mallory. "All I want is something that will keep me warm and reasonably dry."

"And it shouldn't be too expensive," added Mürgenstürm hastily.

"Well, let me take your measurements, and I'll see what we can do for you, sir," said the man, whipping out a pen and a note pad.

"Don't you need a tape measure?" asked Mallory.

The man looked amused. "Whatever for?"

"Damned if I know," admitted Mallory.

"Shall we begin, sir?"

"Go right ahead."


"Thirty-seven," said Mallory, puzzled.



The man tried to hide his annoyance. "How many, sir?"

"Two," said Mallory.

"Eye color?"


"Any scars?"

"Any scars?" repeated Mallory, puzzled.

"Please, sir. Others are waiting."

Mallory shrugged. "One, from an appendectomy."

"Are you right-handed or left-handed?"


The man looked up and smiled. "I believe that's everything. I'll be right back."

"Strange," muttered Mallory as he watched the man scurry across the store.

"Why should you say that, John Justin?"

"You didn't find that unusual?" asked Mallory.

"Not really. He should have asked about cavities and fillings, of course, but they're obviously understaffed."

Just then a woman screamed at the far end of the store, and a moment later Mallory saw Felina leap up onto a display counter, hissing furiously. She was wearing a hat that seemed to be composed entirely of bananas, grapes, and oranges, and it was apparent that she was prepared to fight to the death for it.

"If you won't pay for it, you must give it back!" said a saleswoman, approaching her.

Felina hissed again and leaped lightly to a chandelier.

"Cat-people really aren't at their best in places like this," said Mürgenstürm sadly. "They simply don't understand the capitalist ethic."

"Go buy the damned thing for her and get her out of here before she kills someone," said Mallory.

"She's not on an expense account," protested Mürgenstürm.

"Just do it," said Mallory. "You can take it out of my pay."

Satisfied, the little elf walked over to pay for the hat. A moment later Mallory's salesman returned, carrying a red satin robe with a coal black cape.

"How do you like it, sir?" he said, holding it up to the light.

"It's lovely," said Mallory. "But it's not what I asked for. I've got to wear it outside."

"Certainly," said the man. "That's why I chose red and black. They won't show the dirt as much as our more popular gold-and-white combination."

"I'm not so much concerned with the dirt as I am with the cold and the rain."

"Ah, you must be referring to the belt!" said the salesman. "Not to worry, sir. The new XB-223 belt has a much better control system." He held up the belt for Mallory's inspection.

"Mostly, I was referring to the fabric."

"Just try it on, sir," said .the salesman, holding it out for him. Mallory decided that he would waste less time by humoring the man than by arguing with him, and allowed the salesman to help him into the robe.

"Oh, it's you, sir, no doubt about it! Are you ready for our free field-testing?"


"Certainly. We stand behind all our products. Come this way, sir."

He led Mallory to a small, transparent booth, and ushered him inside.

"Put the belt on the first notch," he instructed the detective.

Mallory did so, and a moment later he was bombarded by water from half a dozen hidden spray nozzles. The torrent continued for thirty seconds, then stopped abruptly.

"How do you feel, sir?" asked the salesman.

"Dry," said Mallory, surprised.

"Now, if you'll draw the belt into the second notch  . . ."

Mallory did so, and the compartment quickly filled with snow. Then, a moment later, it vanished.

"Warm and cozy?" asked the salesman.

Mallory nodded.

"It's those XB-223 belts," said the salesman. "Absolutely fabulous!" He paused. "Would you care to field-test it for deserts, tropical rain forests, or mine shafts?"

"No," said Mallory, stepping out of the booth. "This will be fine."

"Shall I gift wrap it, sir?"

"No, I'll wear it. How much do I owe you?"

"Two hundred seventy-three rupees, sir."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Two hundred seventy-three rupees, with tax."

"How much is that in dollars?"

"It's an Indian product, sir. I'm afraid we can't accept American money for it."

"But I don't have any rupees."

"No problem, sir. Shall we bill it to your account?"

"Why not?" said Mallory with a shrug.

"I'll need your address," said the salesman.

Suddenly an idea struck Mallory. "Do the Grundy or Flypaper Gillespie have accounts here?"

The salesman turned pale. "The Grundy?" he whispered.

"Or Flypaper Gillespie."

"Why do you want to know?" stammered the man.

"They're old friends of mine, but I've misplaced their addresses."

"They're your friends?" repeated the salesman, horrified. "Take the robe! There's no charge!"

"How can I find them?"

"I don't know," whimpered the salesman, backing away from him. "But when you do, remember to tell them that I gave you the robe for free!"

He turned and rushed off into the crowd of shoppers. Mallory watched him for a moment, then walked out of the store, where he found Mürgenstürm and Felina waiting for him on the sidewalk. The cat-girl was smiling, showing off her hat to any and all passersby.

"You owe me one hundred fifty-six pesos," announced Mürgenstürm.

"We're even," said Mallory, setting the belt on the first notch and marveling at the way it instantly protected him from the rain. "I got the robe for free."

"How did you manage that?"

"I have friends in high places," said the detective dryly. "All right, Felina—can you pick up Larkspur's scent?"

The cat-girl walked up to Mallory, rubbed up against him, and purred.

"Don't do that," said the detective, looking around uncomfortably.

"Scratch my back," she said.

"Not in front of everyone."

She rubbed against him again. "Scratch my back or I'm leaving," she said insistently.

He grimaced and began rubbing her back. A blissful smile spread across her face, and she began writhing sinuously beneath his hand.

"Enough?" asked Mallory after a moment.

"For now," she replied smugly, starting off again with one hand securing her hat, and Mallory and Mürgenstürm fell into step behind her. She remained on the thoroughfare for two blocks, then turned onto a narrow street. She proceeded for a few yards, then paused, puzzled, looked around, walked over to a mailbox, jumped atop it, and began licking the outside of her left thigh. "What's wrong?" asked Mallory. She continued licking herself for another moment, then turned to him.

"I've lost the scent," she announced.

"But Larkspur definitely entered this street?"

She shrugged. "I think so."

"You think so?" he demanded, as she went back to licking her thigh.

"He came this far, but there have been too many people passing by. I don't know where he went next."

"Wonderful," muttered Mallory. He walked a few feet down the street. "How about here?"

She jumped off the mailbox, walked over to where Mallory was standing, sniffed the air, and shrugged again.

Mallory looked down the dimly lit street, which was practically devoid of pedestrians. A number of the buildings fronting it had been rehabilitated, and one of them boasted a brightly illuminated open-air restaurant. Due to the icy rain most of the tables were deserted, but one of them was occupied by two men. The man with his back to Mallory was wearing a trenchcoat and a felt hat, while the man seated opposite him, far smaller in size, wore a shopworn double-breasted suit and was continually wiping the rain from his face with a large silk handkerchief. As Mallory drew closer he saw that they were playing chess.

"Well, we've got to start somewhere," said Mallory, approaching the two chessplayers. He stood there for a moment while they continued staring intently at the board, then cleared his throat. "I beg your pardon."

"No offense taken," answered the man in the trenchcoat, without looking up from the chessboard. "Now, go away."

"I wonder if I might ask you a question," persisted Mallory.

"You might," said the man. "I probably wouldn't answer you, though."

"It'll only take a second."

The man looked up irritably. "It's already taken twenty seconds." He turned to his opponent. "This had better not be coming off my time."

"Of course it is," said the smaller man in a slightly nasal accent that Mallory couldn't identify. "Remember V-J Day? I stood up and cheered, and you took a whole minute off my time."

"That was different," said the man in the trenchcoat. "Nobody said you had to get up."

"It was patriotic."

"It was your decision to be patriotic. I, on the other hand, was minding my own business when this inconsiderate dolt approached me."

"Thirty-nine days, eight hours, six minutes, sixteen seconds, and counting," said the smaller man firmly.

The man in the trenchcoat glared furiously at Mallory. "Now see what you've done!" he snapped.

"I heard you say something about V-J Day," said Mallory. "Have you guys really been playing since World War II?"

"Since February 4, 1937, to be precise," said the smaller man.

"Who's ahead?"

"I'm down one pawn," said the man in the trenchcoat.

"I mean, how many games have each of you won?"

"What a damnfool question! I hope you don't think I'd be sitting here in the rain on New Year's Eve if I'd already beaten him."

"You've never beaten him?" said Mallory. "Then why keep trying?"

"He's never beaten me either."

"You two must have set a record for consecutive draws," remarked Mallory.

"We've never played to a draw."

Mallory blinked the rain from his eyes. "Let me get this straight," he said at last. "You've been playing the same game of chess for half a century?"

"Give or take," acknowledged the man in the trenchcoat.

"Chess doesn't take that long," said Mallory.

"When we play it, it does," said the smaller man with a touch of pride.

"Right," agreed his opponent. "The game's the thing—at least the way me and the Weasel play it."

"The Weasel?" asked Mallory.

"That's me," said the smaller man with a self-effacing smile. "And he's Trenchcoat."

"Don't you have real names?"

"We know who we are," said Trenchcoat, lighting up a bent Camel cigarette.

"And you've been sitting right here for fifty years?"

"Not really," replied Trenchcoat. "We began in the back of a saloon down in the Village, but they lost their lease about thirty years ago."

"Thirty-two years, to be exact," corrected the Weasel.

"So we've actually only been here about a third of a century."

"Non-stop?" asked Mallory.

"Barring calls of nature," said the Weasel.

"We eat right at the table," added Trenchcoat. "It saves time."

"And of course I catch up on my sleep when it's his move," said the Weasel.

"Don't either of you ever wonder what's been going on in the world for the past half century?" asked Mallory.

"Every now and then," admitted the Weasel. "Are any wars still being fought?''

"Thirty or forty," replied Mallory.

"And is there crime in the streets?"

"Of course."

"What about the Yankees?" asked Trenchcoat. "Are they still winning pennants?"

"From time to time."

"Well, there you have it," said Trenchcoat with a shrug. "Nothing's changed."

"Think of all the money we've saved by not buying newspapers," added the Weasel.

"But you can't just drop out of the world and play chess for the rest of your lives," persisted Mallory.

"Of course we can," said Trenchcoat.

"At least until the game is over," said the Weasel.

"Will it ever be over?"

"Certainly," said the Weasel confidently. "I'll have him in another fifteen years or so."

"Dream on," said Trenchcoat contemptuously.

"It seems like such a waste," remarked Mallory. "You're just sitting here vegetating."

"He's vegetating," replied the Weasel. "I'm formulating a plan to break through his Indian defense."

Trenchcoat turned to stare at Mallory. "And what are you doing that's so important?"

"Hunting for a unicorn."

"Well, you won't find it in the city," said Trenchcoat. "Unicorns need water and green things. If I were you, I'd look in Africa or Australia or someplace like that."

"This one was stolen," explained Mallory.

"Is it yours?"

"No. I'm a detective."

"You know, it's funny that you should say that," said Trenchcoat.

"Oh? Why?"

"Because I used to be a detective."

"What about you?" Mallory asked the Weasel. "Were you a detective too?"

"Au contraire. I was a criminal."

"More to the point," added Trenchcoat, "he was my criminal."

"I don't think I understand you," said Mallory.

"It's really quite simple," said Trenchcoat. "What is the one thing that detectives absolutely cannot do without? Criminals!"

"And I needed him just as badly," continued the Weasel. "In fact, we defined each other. You can't have a criminal without laws, and you can't work at enforcing laws without criminals. You might say that we had a symbiotic relationship. I'd clock in every morning at eight o'clock and go out to rob, pillage, and loot  . . ."

"And I'd clock in at nine—it seemed only fair to give him enough time to break some laws—and then I'd try to apprehend him." Trenchcoat paused, a pleasant smile of reminiscence on his face. "We'd go at it hot and heavy all day long, him putting on disguises and ducking in and out of shadows, me gathering clues and trying to track him down  . . ."

"Taking an hour off for lunch  . . ." interjected the Weasel.

"And then we'd clock out at five, get together for a drink, and prepare for the next day."

"We even coordinated our sick time and vacations."

"Right," said Trenchcoat. "And then one day it dawned on us that the game was more important than the rewards."

"I realized that matching wits with him was more gratifying to me than stealing things. After all, I had a warehouse full of toasters and I never ate at home."

"And I didn't really care about catching murderers and bank robbers; most of them didn't present any kind of a challenge—and besides, the courts kept turning them loose anyway."

"We also realized that we were both getting a little old to be chasing around the city and shooting at each other  . . ." said the Weasel.

"Not that we ever aimed to actually hit one another  . . ."

"So, since it was the battle of wits that excited us, we decided to rid ourselves of all the peripherals and get down to the basic contest."

"I found another job for my secretary, Velma," said Trenchcoat as Mallory winced, "and then the Weasel and I sat down and began discussing creative alternatives  . . ."

"We gave serious consideration to cards—there's a poker game over on the next block for the ownership of Lincoln, Nebraska, that's been going on even longer than we have—but we wanted something where chance didn't enter into it  . . ."

"So we hit upon chess," concluded Trenchcoat.

"And here we are. I strike in the dead of night and steal his pawn  . . ."

"And I trail him down dark twisting alleys between bishops and rooks," concluded Trenchcoat with a contented sigh. "It's really much more satisfying than hunting for murderers. Or unicorns, for that matter."

"Speaking of unicorns  . . ." began Mallory.

"I thought we were speaking of chess," said Trenchcoat.

"Only some of us were," said Mallory. "Some of us are looking for a stolen unicorn."

"I hardly see how we can help you."

"We tracked him to this street, and then we lost his trail. Has he passed by in the last few hours? He would have had a leprechaun with him."

"Who knows?" replied Trenchcoat with a shrug. "I've been concentrating on my next move for two days now."

"How about you?" asked Mallory.

"I was watching him to make sure he didn't try to cheat," answered the Weasel.

"At any rate, I wouldn't be in such a hurry to catch him if I were you," remarked Trenchcoat.

"Why not?"

"Take it from a fellow detective: you're viewing this from the wrong perspective. One unicorn, properly and thoroughly stolen, can provide a man with a lifetime's employment."

"Thanks for your suggestion," said Mallory. "But the lifetime is his''—he jerked a thumb toward Mürgenstürm—"and it ends tomorrow morning if I don't find the unicorn."

"Who's going to kill him?" asked Trenchcoat.

"I have a feeling that it's going to be a race between his guild and the Grundy."

"The Grundy?" asked Trenchcoat, arching an eyebrow. "Is he involved in this?"


"Watch out for him," warned Trenchcoat. "He's a mean one."

"Can you tell me anything about him?" asked Mallory.

"I just did," said Trenchcoat.

"Do you know anything about a leprechaun named Flypaper Gillespie?"

"Just genetically."

"Generically?" repeated Mallory.

"Leprechauns are a vicious and surly race."

"I don't suppose you'd care to join in the hunt?"

Trenchcoat surveyed the chessboard for a moment, then sighed and shook his head. "Not when I'm closing in for the kill."

"In that case, you could leave now," said the Weasel.

"You do seem to have him in a bit of trouble," agreed Mallory, taking a quick glance at the board.

"You think so?" said Trenchcoat triumphantly. "Then watch this!"

He reached forward, picked up his queen, and placed it on the next table, just behind a vase filled with artificial carnations.

"Mon Dieux!" muttered the Weasel, astonished. "The boldness, the effrontery, the sheer brilliance of it!"

He immediately fell silent as he began considering how best to protect his king's bishop from an attack launched from a neighboring table.

"There's no sense hanging around here any longer," said Mallory, shaking his head in disbelief. "Where the hell is our faithful tracker?"

Mürgenstürm pointed down the street to a mesh litter basket with a KEEP OUR CITY CLEAN sign affixed to it, where Felina, bareheaded, was rummaging for edible garbage.

"Call her over and let's get this show on the road," said Mallory. As Mürgenstürm went off to fetch her, the detective leaned over to the Weasel and whispered, "Saltshaker to queen's bishop five."

The Weasel's eyes widened. "You know," he said excitedly, "it's so crazy it just might work!" He went back to studying the board.

"What happened to your hat?" asked Mallory when Felina returned with Mürgenstürm.

"I got tired of it," she said with a shrug.

"What now, John Justin?" asked Mürgenstürm anxiously.

"We keep looking for Larkspur."

"But where? We've lost his trail."

"So much for shortcuts," said Mallory. "It looks like I'm going to have to do it the hard way."

"The hard way?"

Mallory nodded. "Before I go hunting for Larkspur, I've got to know exactly what I'm hunting for. What does a unicorn look like? What does it eat? Does it help to have a virgin handy? Where are they likely to hide it? What kind of trail does it leave besides unicorn shit? Is there a particular sound or scent it will respond to?"

"How should I know?" asked Mürgenstürm. "My job was just to guard the damned thing, not study it."

"Who would know?"

"I have no idea," replied the elf as they reached the corner of the main thoroughfare. While throngs of pedestrians passed by and scores of draft animals traversed the street, paying no attention to the traffic lights, Felina began climbing a lamppost in pursuit of a small bat that was fluttering around the light. "I mean, a person who could speak endlessly about the habits and habitats of unicorns is hardly my idea of good company."

"What about a zoologist?" suggested Mallory.

"Sounds good to me," replied Mürgenstürm.

"Do you know any?" Mallory merely glared at him.

Suddenly the elf snapped his fingers in triumph. "I've got it!"


"The Museum of Natural History! They've got a stuffed unicorn on display there. They're bound to have all kinds of information about them."

"Will it be open?" asked Mallory dubiously.

"I know the night watchman. He'll let us in for a small financial consideration."

"How did a little green wimp like you ever come to spend any time in a museum?"

"There's a gallery there that's been closed for renovation, and the weather being what it is  . . . ah  . . . well, you know how these things are  . . ."

"That's where you take your conquests?" asked Mallory incredulously.

"Sometimes," acknowledged the elf. "Just those who live in the vicinity. No more than three or four an evening." He drew himself up to his full, if minimal, height, "And they're not conquests," he added with dignity. "They're not?"

"Well, not when I take them there," said Mürgenstürm. "Only when I leave."

Just then Felina dropped lightly to the ground beside them and delicately wiped a piece of gray fur from her lips.

"I'm surrounded by appetites," commented Mallory disgustedly. He looked up the broad thoroughfare. "Well, let's be going."

Just then a newsboy, a huge stack of freshly printed papers folded under his arm, walked by.

"Grundy Issues Warning!" he cried, holding a paper above his head with his free hand. "Read all about it! Grundy Issues Warning!"

"See?" said Mallory confidently. "He's so busy with other things he probably hasn't even seen Larkspur since he stole him."

A second newsboy approached them from a different direction.

"Grundy Threatens Mallory!" he hollered. "Extra! Extra! Grundy Threatens Mallory! Props and Midgets Lose Again!"

Mallory walked over to the boy.

"Let me see one of those," he said, pulling some change out of a pocket.

The newsboy handed him a copy, and Mallory opened it up.

"'Mallory, Go Home While You Still Can!' Warns Grundy," he read aloud.

"Does he mean you?" asked Felina.

"I suppose so."

She smiled and rubbed against him. "You're famous!"

Mallory stared at the paper again, then looked at Mürgenstürm. "How the hell did he get a photo of me?" he asked at last.

The little elf shrugged. "He's the Grundy."

Suddenly a small boy wearing an Eastern Union uniform raced up and handed an envelope to Mallory.

"What's this?" asked the detective.

"Telegram, sir."

"You're sure it's for me?"

"You're John Justin Mallory, aren't you?"

Mallory nodded. "How much do I owe you?"

"It's been prepaid."

Mallory flipped him a coin, which the boy caught on the run, then ripped open the envelope.


Mallory handed the telegram to Mürgenstürm, who turned almost white as he read it. A few seconds later it dropped from his trembling fingers and fell to the wet sidewalk.

"We decided to go to the museum less than two minutes ago," said Mallory.

Mürgenstürm gulped. "I know."

"Even if we were wired for sound, it takes longer than that to write and deliver a telegram."

"Obviously not for the Grundy," said Mürgenstürm in a quavering voice.

"I thought you told me he didn't have any magical powers."

"That's absolutely right, John Justin. Magic doesn't work, and I've always held that it's ridiculous for anyone in this enlightened day and age to believe otherwise."

"That how do you explain the telegram?" demanded Mallory.

Mürgenstürm smiled a sickly smile. "Maybe I was wrong."



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