While Stonewall Biggs tries to explain that the cops have instead killed Dr. Graves and ruined Dr. Price's coat, the actual blond fugitive sneaks up behind Harvey Lee, who is lurking behind the three policemen because it saves time for him to be around now so we don't have to spend a chapter or two later hunting him down to give him his comeuppance. With a lunge, Heller puts Lee in a painful hold, one arm keeping his hostage under control, the other holding a gun pointed at the police.
The cops whirled. They raised their guns.
Heller said, "Go ahead and shoot Lee. He's a thief, aren't you, Lee?"
And car theft is apparently a shooting offense.
"I'm a thief! screamed Lee. "Please let go my arm!"
Not sure if typo or just Hubbard's idea of a Virginia accent.
Our hero puts Lee through the wringer, getting him to confess to selling Heller a car without a bill of sale, then trying to get it back by reporting it stolen. Then he explains the situation to the local law enforcement.
"Chief," said Heller, his automatic trained on Fawg from under Lee's armpit, "this is a Mexican standoff. Now, do we flip a coin to see whether I shoot you or you shoot Lee?"
I always thought of a Mexican Standoff as a bunch of gun-toting varmints pointing their weapons at each other, each refusing to be the first to back down. This is more like a hostage situation involving a human shield. But Heller's an alien, so he's bound to get some things wrong.
Fawg is torn with indecision, rather than just taking the shot because Lee is after all an expendable car thief, but then Biggs yells to remind the "hospital shootah" how the FBI chaps declared the suspect from last year's crimes to be dead, and even compensated them for any losses. Before Fawg remembers that Heller would still be wanted for assaulting police officers this year, Biggs pulls the connections card and tells everyone that Heller is Delbert John Rockecenter Jr. Krak even comes out of the hospital, leads the cops into the land yacht, and with a "ghoulish grin" shows them the registration card with Rockecenter (Sr.)'s signature.
Fawg and his deputies drop to their knees in supplication to their liege, Heller asks "What's customary heahabouts?" and is told by Biggs that the usual sentence for this kind of thing is lynching, and Biggs already has a tree in mind - I'm not sure if he's joking here. But Heller is of course merciful, and sets the cops free if they promise to put their time and money towards rebuilding the courthouse. Lee is terrified that he tried to con the son of the most powerful man on the planet, and begs for someone to shoot him.
And for all I know, they do shoot him in the head and dump his corpse by the river. Because I've looked ahead and can't find any further mention of Harvey Lee. As far as I can tell, he completely disappears from the story. Think he'll turn up in a later book? There's four more to go.
Biggs shoos the mollified cops out with an "ah got blackmail material on you fo' th' rest of yo' days. Po' Doctah Graves." Evidently on this planet, crimes are never actually reported per se, instead people threaten to blackmail others over them. So even though the police chief just accidentally shot a sick old man, the murder will remain unsolved until Biggs gets tired of extorting favors from Fawg. Po' Doctah Graves.
Gris ends the chapter wondering about Torpedo. He missed a great opportunity to hit Krak when she was haranguing the cops, but Gris reasons that the killer might have been scared off by all the other shooting going on. I'd say that would be a great time to assassinate someone, so that nobody even realizes there's a second shooter, but then again I'm not a corpse-raping hired killer. Torpedo probably knows what's he's doing. Gris takes comfort in the fact that Torpedo might still be around, so if Heller decides to leave his girlfriend completely unguarded, she'll be easy prey. "This very night!"
Spoiler: Krak isn't going to get assassinated that very night.
Back to Chapter Three