The Gracious Palms is in chaos, with the prostitutes mobbing a weeping and apologetic Vantagio, who is trying and failing to remain in control of the situation. The girls are threatening to walk out or turn him in to the cops after hearing how one of their number was nearly killed by the hotel's staff for being too popular with clients. Heller in particular is being spat on by betrayed and furious women... yeah, right. Maybe in a rational universe, but not in this book.
No, what Gris sees when he turns on the HellerVision is a New York street from twenty stories up, causing the agent to go into nervous shock. Wimp. I'm terrible with heights too, but not so much that I can't watch TV. Yes, Heller's up on the Gracious Palms' roof erecting a HANDY JIM-DANDY FULLY-AUTOMATIC INSTALL-IT-YOURSELF RADIO-CONTROLLED REMOTE TV ANTENNA WITH SIGNAL BOOSTER. Gris takes some comfort in the fact that Heller's having signal problems too, but wonders what the girls were doing in his room if his TV wasn't working. He's really curious about what Heller's getting up to with those hookers... and there was something else... ah, yes, he needs to find that platen too!
He figures that Heller's discovered the source of the interference and is trying to counteract it, so Gris continues to watch as Heller climbs around and runs lines with the help of a whore named Martha. The old "code break!" angle pops up again when Gris spots Heller using a hand-held disintegrator drill and a toolkit with his full name and rank written on it in Voltarian, even though the Apparatus doesn't want to cart Heller off to face charges for fear of getting a more competent replacement. Martha the whore does not ask about this strangely effective drill or notice the weird text on the toolkit, so Heller's secret identity remains secure.
After that, Heller gets undressed and takes a shower. Gris watches without a trace of disgust or hesitation. He matter-of-factly reports how Heller shucks his "baseball exercise suit" and steps into the massage shower. Shortly afterward, Martha the whore, sans jumpsuit, slips in with him, holding some soap and offering to wash Heller's back, aaaaaaand interference strikes again.
The first bout of Convenient Censor Interference was silly. The second was suspicious. Now it's getting stupid, and it leaves the reader with little choice but to conclude that the interference really is coming from Heller's groin.
Gris is, of course, annoyed to no end. Now he can't check out Heller's platen. He's been curious about what it looks like ever since he's heard of it, and is desperate to see how Heller puts it to use.
The interference stops a half-hour later, revealing Heller slacking on his couch, watching TV. Someone knocks on the door, he bids them enter, and in comes a team of tailors to take his measurements for those outfits Vantagio promised him. And of course that damned collar is going to be incorporated into Heller's "college" outfit.
Gris doesn't think much of the styles being offered, except for one outfit that reminds him of something Humphrey Bogart would wear... argh... but then he realizes that there's something else going on here that's annoying him.
It wasn't the styles, it was the tailor. He was a homo. If there is anything I can't stand, it's a gay!
Yes, though Gris is absolutely fine with watching his hated foe strip down and take showers, and is disappointed at missing opportunities to see him spending quality time with women, he hates those gays. And once again we get to play the award-winning game, Was It Intentional? Is the "bi-curious Gris in denial" angle something Hubbard intended to create, or a delightful accident? Are we supposed to agree with Gris' view or feel contempt for his bigotry? And how can Gris be a bad guy for these offensive views given the author's disgusting gay caricatures from the previous book?
Also, how the hell did Gris know the guy was gay? He didn't lisp or simper or anything. Is Hubbard suggesting that gays can act normal until you've invited them into your room and it's too late? Insidious!
Gris' sudden hunch turns out to be correct when one haberdasher kneels down before Heller to take his measurements.
He seemed to be having trouble with his tape. He kept stretching it.
"Oh," said the lead tailor, giggling, "you're really built!"
"What's the matter?" said Heller. "Hips too narrow?"
"Oh, no, young sir, I wasn't talking about hips!"
On went the interference!
Well that's interesting. Didn't know Heller swung that way.
It's at this point that Gris is handed anther communique from Raht and Terb, who inform him that they're staking out the shoreline in case Heller surfaces. Gris finally snaps, bursts out of his room, encounters a singing canary in the garden, gets his shotgun, and blows the bird away, cage and all. Having exorcised his inner demons in this manner, he sends a "brutal" message to the Apparatus' New York office, ordering that his incompetent henchmen be dragged in to be given less useless orders. So sending secret transmissions to an office is perfectly fine, but you're not allowed to give portable receivers to your actual operatives. You just hope they're near the office when you have orders to give them.
Once he's done with this, Gris goes back to his room to watch more HellerVision. 95% of this book is basically some jackass watching TV and telling us what he sees on it. Which makes 95% of this blog some smartass telling you what a jackass said he watched on TV.
Back to Chapter Four