Gris is still feeling the injuries sustained from walking around the beach without shoes following his escape from the Golden Sunset, and the wounds are starting to fester. So he goes to Dr. Prahd, who is decidedly unhelpful since Gris still hasn't paid him, or paid the kaffarah to the raped women, or funded his disease eradication campaign, and on top of it all his dowry check to Nurse Bildirjin bounced. He advises Gris to steal some crutches, because "Nobody around here would even lend you any." So take that, Gris! Not only are you left in physical pain, but you're unpopular!
After Gris goes home, Raht reports in. He hasn't killed Heller yet because he had to drive even further to find a rental boat, and the guy's in the middle of a mob of Italian navy personnel. The "Royal officer" has been scuba diving down to the plane wreck and bringing up bodies. Raht notes that there sure were a lot of little kids on that plane, and that Heller seemed to lose interest in his work after finding Krak's luggage in the debris.
In other words, there's a touching, emotional scene going on in this story, and we're only going to get a brief second-hand description of it.
Raht explains that Heller's headed back to New York, and if Gris is willing to coordinate things with the bugging equipment, that's where the hit will go down. Gris cheers up, convinced that Heller has no chance to survive "with me directing the assassin every step of the way, right up to the final, fatal shot from a well-planned ambush." I can't help but notice that the only time Gris successfully dealt with one of his foes (Krak) he ended up sitting back and watching professionals handle it.
But wait a moment - Raht only said he "thinks" Heller is heading back to New York. Gris decides that there's a possibility Heller could be headed to Turkey, which means he has to hide any evidence linking him to Krak's plane before Heller arrives. So he scuttles about, checking on Krak and trying to cover his tracks, inventing busywork for himself to add another three page chapter to this story.
His prisoner is reading the section on "Royal Proclamations" from the Voltar Confederacy Combined Compendium, and Gris reminds the reader that book after book after book ago he gave Krak some forged proclamations clearing her name in exchange for... well, now I've forgotten. Was it to try to make Heller get on with the mission? Or to get her to go to Earth? Something like that. Another subplot required to jolt the main plot into shuddering forward.
Then Gris checks on Captain Stabb and his space pirates, who are ready and raring to properly rob a bank. Before Gris can stall, Stabb shows him his share of the loot - all that jewelry and whatnot grabbed from the plane's passengers - which they plan to take apart and melt down. And I don't think they plan on taking the goods back to Voltar, where gold isn't anything special now that Science! can mass-produce it. So I guess they're going to pawn all the gems and gold bars somewhere on Earth, for cash, which they'll use to buy... stuff? Are they even allowed off the base? Only that one guy can even pass for human, right?
Here's your problem, Hubbard - you obviously like gold, and similarly your bad guys have a gold-lust. But to bring it into this story you used a sci-fi process that renders it worthless, which causes this whole piracy thing to break down. Your space pirates just made a haul of alien currency and worthless yellow rocks. Their best bet is to somehow exchange it for something they could sell back home, but the Apparatus probably will frown on competition in the drug trade, and there's not much else Earth has to offer. Maybe blue jeans?
Anyway, Gris wants the pirates to get rid of their loot in case Heller comes by and sees a pile of jewelry and traveler's checks and realizes that Gris and the space pirates used the line-jumper to kidnap Krak out of the airliner and rob its passengers before dumping the plane in the ocean. Stabb is confused since he thought Gris was going to kill Heller. Gris explains that Heller might come to the base before he can kill the guy. Stabb says that he'll just tell his pirates to be on guard. I once again wonder why they couldn't do that for Krak. At some point during all this Stabb forgets about robbing banks altogether, saving Gris the trouble of delaying their next action.
Thus reassured, Gris gives up his share of the loot in exchange for Krak's purse, the most important piece of evidence of all. I'm assuming he's going to leave it in his room for Heller to find next book.
Back in my room I went through it.
MY SQUEEZA CREDIT CARD!
After all the trouble that had caused, I had it back!
It cheered me up for hours.
I regarded it as a portent, an omen of good fortune. To me it looked like things were really on the mend.
The return of the thing that caused an enormous amount of problems for Gris is a good omen. I'm bracing for a subplot where Gris uses it a few times before remembering his credit is maxed out or something.
Back to Chapter Three