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Modus Vivendi

3rd November 2017

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I beat him to it. “Take that injured glower off your puss,” I snapped. “Your business is testing people for their Psi powers. Why shouldn’t I call on you for help? What are friends for?”

“For a friend I might,” Lindstrom said. “You don’t rate that well with me any more.”

“I’ll try to bear up under it,” I told him. “In the meantime, this is Mary Hall, a reputed Psi. Her power is HC.”

He was interested in spite of himself. “Hallucination?” he said. “We don’t see much of that, Miss Hall. And you claim you can demonstrate this power under controlled conditions?” These eggheads all talk alike.

Mary shook her head. “No, I certainly do not. I’m as Normal as you are, Professor.” He sagged slightly in disappointment.

“Well,” Lindstrom said. “This is going to be difficult to prove, Miss Hall. Merely by withholding your HC ability, you can act Normal—but what would that prove?”

She turned to me. “I thought you said you had a way to get me off the hook,” she protested. “How are we—?”

“Quiet,” I told her. “I didn’t come up here for a lecture in logic. Especially from a dumb blonde.” She started to bristle, but thought better of it.

“It goes like this, Prof,” I said. “This innocent looking piece of fluff was caught slipping a five-dollar bill to a teller at a bank down town, and asking for change for a hundred dollar bill. She says it was nothing more than sleight of hand. You are an experienced observer. I want you to watch her work her little trick. If she can fool us, and not use Psi, the legal position is that she didn’t need Psi to fool the teller.” I turned to her. “And the logical principle, Miss Aristotle,” I told her, “is equally simple: Occam’s Razor. Prefer the simpler explanation. Can you show us how you palmed the hundred and slipped the teller a five?”

“You’ll be watching for it,” Mary protested, letting those ripe lips pout.

“I suppose the teller wasn’t? It’s his business to watch the bills when he’s making change.” I took out my wallet and handed her a one and a five. “Hand me the one and make me think it’s the five,” I said.

Lindstrom leaned his elbows on the black composition top of the lab bench, watching her narrowly. Mary got down off her stool and came over closer to me, smoothing the two bills in her fingers. The five was on top.

“I’d like change for a five,” she said, handing it to me. She worked it three times while we watched.

“Utterly smooth,” Lindstrom said. “I didn’t see her make the switch.”

“Me, too,” I agreed. I could see the tension drain from Mary’s face. She was prettier when she wasn’t worried. She was pretty all the time, when you got right down to it. No wonder she could fool a teller. He probably hadn’t taken his eyes off that dazzling smile.

“Is that all?” Lindstrom asked.

“Would you certify that you saw her make these switches, and that Psi was not involved?” I asked him.

“Of course. I don’t want to, but, if you call me as a witness, I’ll testify to what I saw,” he said glumly.

“It may not be necessary,” I said. “I really ought to call you, just to teach you some manners, Prof. But then, we all have a right to be a little yellow.”

Mary would have preferred to remain in silence as we rode a cab back to the Moldy Fig, and huddled over in her corner of the bubble. There wasn’t enough light, that high over the city, to read her expression.

“Here’s the strategy,” I said, about midtown. “If we can get the Bank to agree to restitution, and to sign an admission that you did not use HC or any other Psi powers to work your theft, I think you’ll be off the hook. I doubt the Federal Jury will listen to an information.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“This is my business,” I growled. “Do you want me to represent you?”

She didn’t answer that until the ‘copter had grounded in front of the Fig. “All right,” she said. “I don’t know what you’re so mad at all the time, but it doesn’t seem to be me. I’d like you to represent me.”

I watched her scoot across the sidewalk and run up the stairs to Elmer’s place. For some screwy reason I hoped she had another place to hole up for the night. I was getting as bad as Renner—looking lecherously at the raffish display of shapely leg as the blond bombshell beat it.

I directed my hacker to my apartment, and grabbed the phone in the bubble. The Mobile Operator got me Vito Passarelli at his home. He sounded as if he had already retired.

“This is you know who,” I said. “It’s late, I know, but we’d better talk before morning. My apartment is the safest spot I can think of. I’m in the Directory.”



I beat His Honor to my apartment by long enough to hang up my jacket, turn the ceiling on to a dim but friendly glow and get out a bottle of Scotch. Judges don’t drink bourbon.

I let Passarelli in when the buzzer sounded. “I’m reasonably sure there are no microphones in this place,” I said. “This Mary Hall thing is getting hot—we’d better start taking precautions.”

“Always,” he said, running a hand over his balding head. His eyes saw the bottle and asked me a question. I threw some of the Pinch Bottle over ice and handed it to him, taking mine neat.

“Here’s to crime,” he said, sipping the liquor. “What happened?”

I poked a finger at my favorite easy-chair, which Passarelli took. I stood in front of him, still holding my drink. “I got myself in a jam.”

“You’re talking to the wrong man,” he said coldly. “Get yourself a lawyer—a good Lawyer.”

“You’re in it with me, Passarelli.”

“Never met you,” he said, getting up. “Thanks for the drink.” He started for the door.

“That witch has the Stigma after all,” I said to his back. That stopped him. He came back and poked his angry face into mine.

“You had her tested?”

“Professor Lindstrom, at Columbia,” I told him. “She is slick as a whistle. Lindstrom fell for her yarn that it was sleight of hand—but it was HC. I’d have sworn it didn’t exist.”

“Well,” he said. “Well, well. All right, Maragon. What’s the jam you’re in?”

“You suggested I should represent her, and I’m going to. But with the Stigma? That’s more than I bargained for. You know no reputable attorney can afford to represent a Psi. Not if he wants any Normal business. Too much feeling.”

“Going to duck out on her?”

“Damned if I’ll welch!” I said, more hotly than I had meant to. “You sure don’t seem very shaken up by the news.”

“It’s not any news to me,” Passarelli said tightly. “You forget that I’ve had first-hand experience with that little lady. She gave me the business right in my courtroom. I’m no credulous egghead like Lindstrom. I know the difference between sleight of hand and an hallucination. She made me see just what she wanted me to see.”

“Now you know why I think you’re in the same jam, Judge,” I said. “You’ll look great running for office, with your opposition telling the public how a Psi foozled your vision. They’ll stomp on the loud pedal about how you let her get away with it and wangle a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict when she was guilty as sin.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “It’s a hot potato, all right.”

“There’s just one out,” I insisted. “That girl would have made restitution long ago if the Bank would have permitted it. And I’ve been asking myself how come—why should the Bank get sniffy and not want its money back?” That was the right question. He went back to the easy-chair and sat down. His eyes came up to meet mine, and then he held out his glass. I splashed some more Pinch in it.

“Politics, politics,” he mourned. “The social workers are after me on this thing. They want that girl to be in a jam. They’ve asked me to work on the Bank, asked that I make sure restitution can’t be made. They want the threat of a Federal indictment to hang over her head.”


“So she’ll agree to my committing her to their care. You know what they try to do—it’s the doctrine of sterilization. Remove young Psis from the Psi society—cut them loose from their natural contacts, force them to quit using their powers. It’s the same technique they use on narcotic violators, if they aren’t too deeply committed to drugs.”

“And you are really resisting that?”

“Wouldn’t you? Of course I had to tell the Bank to refuse restitution. But do you think Psi is a sickness, like narcotic addiction? Nonsense. Telepathy is no more sickness than the ability to discriminate colors, or hear the tones of a scale. This is equivalent to the color-blind and tone-deaf asking that the rest of us stop perceiving color or hearing the pitch of sound. Ridiculous.”

“What is the cure?”

“We could argue all night,” he said wearily. Then my buzzer sounded. “Expecting anybody else?” he said, alarmed in an instant.

“I can’t think of anybody I’d like to find out that you were here,” I said. “Get out of sight.” He carried his drink into my bedroom.

Mike Renner was at the door. For a fat-faced bookkeeper with a law degree, he looked pretty grim and formidable.

“You rotten double-crosser,” he greeted me. I was the darling of practically everybody in New York that night.

“It happens every time. Now what do you want, Renner?”

“To break your neck,” he said. “You have found that Psi, Mary Hall, and you haven’t turned her over to Dunn. That’s a dirty double—”

“With good reason,” I cut in on him. “Do we both have to be idiots? I’ve just finished having the girl tested. She hasn’t got the Stigma, Mike. Dunn will look like a fool trying to pin anything on the Judge.”

“That’s not our business. Our fee depends on giving her to Dunn!” He shook a fist in my face when he said that. He just doesn’t look the part.

“And the reputation of our firm can very well depend on my successfully representing her, and proving that she hasn’t got the Stigma.”

“You don’t honestly mean you’re going to represent that Psi!”

“I just told you she hasn’t got the Stigma!”

“You are a rotten lair,” Renner said, getting dangerously red in the face. “What kind of games are you playing with Passarelli? What has he got to do with the reputation of our firm? Don’t try to lie,” he said sharply. “I know he’s here. He’s been tailed all night.”

That was enough for Passarelli. He came out of the bedroom and walked up to Renner. “Forgive me for saying this, Renner,” he said. “But I just hope you have a case in my court. I’ll find some way to pin one of your slippery tax frauds to you!”

Renner grew pale. He’s conditioned to toady to judges. He didn’t have the guts to answer Passarelli, and took it out on me, instead. “Our partnership is dissolved, as of right now,” he seethed. He dragged some money out of his pocket and threw it on the rug. “There’s your share of the rent. I’m throwing your stuff out in the hall in the morning. The auditors will be there at nine o’clock for an accounting. You won’t need that address any longer—only reputable people come to our building.” He stormed out.

Passarelli and I faced each other in silence. “Jerk!” I raged at him at last. “You couldn’t check to see if you were being followed!”

“I regret that,” he said. “But you invited me.”

“Don’t remind me,” I snarled. “What now?”

“I don’t know about you,” Passarelli said. “But I’m going to start looking out for myself. You’re too tricky, Maragon.”

“And I suppose you think it’s time I ditched Mary Hall, eh?”

“What for?” he said mildly. “You’re just one more Criminal Court shyster now—Renner gave you the heave-ho. You might as well defend her, even if I can’t work with you.”

I could feel my belly tighten with rage. “I thought you’d welcome a reputable attorney who would represent Psis,” I reminded him.

“Yes, I suppose I would. Very much.”

“All of a sudden I’m not reputable?”

“Reputable?” he sneered. “You’ve been on every side of this thing. Would you like to explain why you told Renner one thing and me another?”

“Same reason you’ve been going through some contortions yourself—trying to save my profession and occupation.”

“Too tricky for me,” Passarelli said.

I measured him with my eyes. “That’s not the reason you’re walking out of here. What’s bugging you?”

“Reading my mind?” he said coldly. It wasn’t the first time I’d been accused of it. “But you’re right. You lied to me.”

“To you? Not so.”

“Oh, yes. How do you know that Mary Hall used HC on you in Lindstrom’s laboratory? Nothing but Psi could detect that. You had a TK there with you. Admit it.”

“Never,” I said. “How did you spot it in your courtroom? If I needed a TK, so did you. What about that?”

“That was different,” he argued. “I had the—”

“Nuts,” I told him. “Just because I have made as much of a study of Psi as you have, don’t blackball me. You going to act the same way if I decide to specialize in Stigma cases?”

“Are you going to?”

“What else is left? I’ll never get Normal trade after Renner finishes with me. I come back to it: A reputable attorney representing Psis.”

Passarelli paused with his hand on the door. “It would have some interest, I guess,” he conceded, “if I thought for a moment you could guarantee the behavior of your clients. But no Normal can, Maragon. That’s the curse of the Logan Stigma. Normals are panicked by it. Look at the Bar Association and all the trouble that’s gone to just to make sure no one with the Stigma is ever admitted to the Bar. Look at those pathetic social workers—trying to control what they can’t even perceive. The color-blind man trying to make sure no one else sees red. No, only Psis will ever be able to make Psis behave. They will have to police themselves, and society is unwilling to give them any standing to do it. This I believe is called a dilemma.”

“It’s a mess, that’s for sure,” I said gloomily as he left.

Well, what do you do when the props have been pulled out from under your world? I like to believe that the reasonable man sits down and thinks. That’s what I did, anyway. I was a guy with very little left to lose. It was time I bet the limit—shot my wad. There was one possibility….

I looked at my watch. It was well after one in the morning. Still, I tried Elmer’s place again. He came sleepily to the phone.

“Mary there?”

“Of course not.”


“What if he is?”

“Put him on.”

There was a delay, but Keys’ romantic good looks replaced Elmer’s left-tackle belligerence. “What now?” he asked.

“Do you know where Mary is?” I started.


“She tell you I’m her attorney?”


“I just found out that she’s in twice the trouble I thought before. The kid’s a pawn in a fight for power between political oppositions. They’ll crucify her gladly, without respect to the merits of the case. Too much is riding on it for justice to wind up triumphant.”

“That’s what I thought,” he said. “She stays under cover.”

“Think it over,” I suggested. “I’m going to bed, but I’m leaving my door unlocked—at my apartment. Dig her up, if you start making any sense, and both of you beat it over here. Before dawn. Do you hear me?”

“Oh, I hear you,” he said sourly. “I just don’t know whether to trust you.”

“We all have the same trouble,” I said, cutting the image.

They showed up about three o’clock. I hadn’t been able to go back to sleep—feeling almost sure Keys would bring her there—and had spent the time with the weights. I was back to strength. The surprise was that Elmer came with them. Well, perhaps it was a help.

Nobody wanted a drink. Mary looked around the apartment a little—it is a nice place, restful and homey, if you can ever achieve that in an apartment fifty floors up.

“A Psi decorated this place,” she said. Well, she was right, and I admitted it to her with a nod. “What couldn’t wait until morning, Maragon?” she asked me.

“First, Mary, I want you to know that while you fooled Lindstrom, you didn’t fool me. You have the Stigma. Wait,” I said, raising my hand as she started to protest. “Lies won’t do any longer. The chips are down. You wouldn’t even be here if the Council of the Lodge hadn’t decided it was time to protect you.”

Keys took it away from her. “Lodge? What Lodge?”

“We’ll come to that,” I promised. “First, let’s cut away the underbrush. Yes or no. Does she have the Stigma?”

He sought out her eyes, and the way they dropped to my rug I knew that the subterfuge was over. “Yes,” he said in a strained, thin voice. “Mary has the Stigma.”

“And it is HC?”

All three of them nodded, and Mary’s head came up with an odd sort of pride. Well, she should have been proud—for all I could find out, she was unique.

“All right,” I said. “And now you can get out of my easy-chair, Elmer. I’d like to sit there.” He was obviously surprised by my bad manners. “Get out!” I growled. “It’s time you pups got used to taking orders. You’ll get your bellies full of it from now on.”

“From you?” Elmer scoffed. “Ah reckon not, suh!” But he got out of the chair, and I sat in it.

“Oh, yes you will,” I said. “The Lodge will see to that.”

“The Lodge again,” Keys protested.

“Never heard of it, did you?” I taunted him. “Proof positive that you’re small potatoes in Stigma circles. Well, get set for a shock: I represent an organization of Psis—an organization devoted to protecting Stigma cases from Normal society, an organization devoted to establishing discipline among Psis so that our conflicts with Normals are kept to a reasonable minimum.”

“And you call this a Lodge?” Mary Hall said. “What’s its full name?”

“No other,” I said. “It’s … well, it’s a sort of benevolent and protective order. It’s as secret as Psis can make anything—a select group.”

“I’ll bet,” Keys sneered. “No TP’s in it,” he said, reminding me that telepaths can’t close their minds to the peeping of other TP’s.

“Unfortunately, none,” I agreed. “We are getting ready, however, to extend membership beyond the TK’s, CV’s and HC’s who are now enrolled.”

“I don’t believe it,” Mary said. “There aren’t any other hallucinators!”

“None foolish enough to reveal it,” I conceded. “You had to louse us up there—I wonder if any other Stigma power is as feared by Normals? Certainly they’re making a Roman circus over you.”

Elmer stood up. “Ah’ve had enough,” he said.

“One thing,” I said to him. “The Lodge has a rule that no Psi may use his powers to the detriment of a Normal, or reveal the existence of the Lodge. Our discipline is formidable, Elmer. Remember what I say.”

Keys was frowning in thought. “Wait a minute, Elmer,” he said. “Let me try this one on him for size.” He turned to me. “Are you trying to tell me that you are a part of this Lodge, Maragon?”

“I’m their counsel,” I said.

“A Normal?” he demanded. “It would make sense for Psis to get together—I’ve often wondered why it has never worked out more formally than it has. But to trust a Normal to represent them? Never!”

I grinned at him. “Know any attorneys with the Stigma?” I demanded. “I know darned well you don’t. The Bar Association screens every would-be lawyer from the moment he enters law school. No, sir. The Lodge had no choice. They picked on me as an attorney sympathetic with Stigma Troubles, and trustworthy.”

“You make it sound good,” Keys admitted. “But then I know you are a liar.” He looked over at Mary Hall. “Although you can prove different if you’re able.”

I raised an eyebrow at him.

“Tell me how you knew Mary hadn’t used sleight of hand in Lindstrom’s laboratory,” he demanded.

There was nothing I could say. I bit down on my teeth. Well, I had decided to shoot the wad if I had to. He’d called my bet.

“I’ll tell you, Maragon,” he said. “I hate to admit it of a skunk like you, but you’ve got the Stigma. You kept a TK grip on those bills she shuffled. Her hallucination is too good for you not to think it was sleight of hand.”

“No!” Mary shrieked.

“Not him!” Elmer said.

I stood up to face them. “Yes,” I said. “I do have the Stigma. The only lie was that I was the Lodge’s counsel. I’m not.”

“What then?” Keys demanded.

“I’m Grand Master of the Manhattan Chapter,” I told him. “And you, like every Psi who is made aware of the existence of the Lodge, are now subject to my orders.”

“Not me,” Elmer said. “You ain’t got the Stigma.”

I fired a lift at an ashtray on the table beside him, and it sailed in an arc toward the kitchen and crashed against the wall. My TK was certainly a lot better than it had been in the morning. Well, I’d spent an hour or so warming up before they had come in.

Who hasn’t got the Stigma?” I said.

He looked at Keys. “You didn’t do that,” he said. “You couldn’t!”

Keys was openmouthed. “What a bruiser!” he marveled.

“So I’ve got the Stigma, Elmer,” I said quietly. “Now why won’t you do what I tell you?”

“Ah don’t do what anybody tells me!”

“What do you hate and fear the most?” I asked him.

“Snakes, ah reckon,” he decided.

“Show him a snake, Mary,” I said. Her face twisted in indecision. I rammed a lift in under her heart—I know it hurt her. “Show him!” I snapped.

Elmer didn’t jump more than three feet. Mary gave all of us the same hallucination. Her first try was a pretty sad kind of a snake, but it was bigger than the nine-by-twelve rug it squirmed on, and was making right for Elmer’s legs, hissing in a horrible fashion.

“Enough,” I said. “That’s how, Elmer. And if that doesn’t trouble you, how about this?” I gave him a sample of what TK means when it’s clamped on the mitral valve. A heart attack is no joking matter, and just before he hit the deck I eased off.

“Now,” I said, “will you do what I tell you, or do I have to kill you outright?”

He sank down to his knees, resting his palms on the carpet so recently vacant of illusory snake. “Yo’ got me convinced, suh,” he admitted. “No mo’, you hear?”

“Any more protests?” I said. I got none. “Here’s what we have to do,” I went on, and spelled it out for them. At last they were ready to go, three shaken young people. “I repeat—absolute secrecy—none of you is a telepath, so only your lips can give you away if you keep your thoughts screened around TP’s. Later that may change—the Lodge is preparing to come a little more into the open with Psis.”

My whole membership nodded and left me. I was shaking from head to foot.

We had things to do in the forenoon, and I didn’t try to see His Honor Judge Vito Passarelli until after lunch. But the docket was crowded, and there was no chance until after court had adjourned, which was well on toward four o’clock. His Honor was hanging his robes on a clothes-tree as I came into his Chambers, and he nodded me politely to a chair, just as if our last words hadn’t been pretty heated.

“Mary Hall?” he asked, fumbling around to find his in-Chambers glasses. He’s too vain to wear them on the bench.

I nodded an answer to his question as he came back to take a creaky horse-hair swivel, relic of more judges and years than I like to think about. “I’m here as her counsel,” I said.

“What else?” he asked mildly, taking the lid off a big humidor on his desk and starting to fill a pipe.

“We’d like you to know that Mary has joined an organization that should do for her all that the social workers would like to see done for her. She’s no longer a behavior problem for Normal society.”

“Quite some organization,” he said, showing interest. “What one?”

“It has no formal name,” I said. “Being a secret organization. In point of fact, it’s an organization of Psis that is revealing itself for the first time.”

“Odd that I never heard of it,” Passarelli said, looking at his fingernails. He puffed smoke around the stem of his pipe. His coolness bothered me. He should have been much more excited about what I was saying. I threw my high hard one.

“This organization exercises a formidable discipline over its members,” I went on. “One of its firm rules is that no Psi may use his powers to the detriment of a Normal.”

He chuckled softly. “You’re taking advantage of what I told you yesterday, Maragon,” he said calmly. “You know, and I know, that Psis have never done any such thing. And if they had, why would they pick you to run their errands? What Psi would ever trust a Normal?”

It was getting sticky. I was skating perilously close to the brink—once I revealed to a Normal that I had the Stigma, my days as an attorney were done. “This organization—I’ll call it the Lodge, if I may—has to have an attorney to represent it in Court. And you know as well as I do they can’t hire a Psi attorney—the Bar Association has taken care of that. They came to me because….”

“Yes, yes,” he interrupted, taking his eyes off his nails, and showing some real interest at last. “If you only knew how much I want to believe you, Maragon. But I will never believe that Psis would permit themselves to be represented by a Normal. Too bad, but the social workers, and not your mythical Lodge, will get Mary Hall. That or a Federal Grand Jury.”

Well, this was the fork in the road, I had been kidding myself, and now I knew it. Persist in my masquerade as a Normal, and I’d never get Mary off the hook. But reveal myself as a Psi, and I was through as an attorney. It really wasn’t much of a decision—I had made it when I revealed myself to Keys, Mary and Elmer.

I looked at the humidor of tobacco on his desk. Without changing expression, I aimed a lift at it. The container came up smoothly from the polished walnut and hovered in the air before us.

Passarelli looked at it blandly. I don’t think anything in my life has ever been a greater shock than his unconcern. He should have dropped his teeth. Slowly I let the lift break, and lowered the humidor to his desk.

“Fairly good TK, if that’s all you’re capable of,” Passarelli said. “Or can you do better, Maragon?”

“You slimy Normal!” I exploded. “You tricked me into exposing myself!”

“What am I, an idiot?” he snapped. “I had to know.”

I stood up. “Until now, I never really hated Normals,” I began.

“Oh, sit down, for Heaven’s sake,” he said testily. “Now don’t get emotional and lose all your perspective. Doesn’t it occur to you that there’s been just too much coincidence in this whole thing?”

I think the word for it is “collapsed.” I fell back into my chair. “You’ll have to spell it out,” I said.

Passarelli leaned forward, his face concentrated, almost angry. “You have the Stigma, you admit it?”

“Of course I admit it.”

“You think any other attorney is a Psi?”

“No. I certainly do not. It’s only a miracle that I ever got through the screening and made it.”

“And yet you, the only attorney with the Stigma, gets tapped to be Public Defender for a Stigma case—Keys Crescas. Doesn’t this strike you as more than coincidence can account for?”

“Now it does,” I admitted. “Are you trying to tell me….”

“I’m telling you I’ve been suspicious of you for a long time, Pete,” Passarelli said. “Perhaps you didn’t know it, but I was one of the young attorneys on the Committee from the Bar Association that checked your heredity. No, you were born in San Francisco. No, your parents didn’t live in the Logan Ring—their home was in Sausalito. But—the day that neutron bomb was accidentally fired and started the rash of Psi mutations in the ring outside the fatal area centering on Logan, your parents were in a jet airliner. I found that out—and kept my mouth shut. I never told the rest of the Committee that on the 19th of April in ’75 that jet was over Iowa, en route to San Francisco, and possibly close enough to Logan for its passengers to have been affected by the neutron spray. Even then I knew the law was painting itself into a corner with its attitude toward Psi. I hoped. I hoped you did have the Stigma, and I’ve waited my time to force you into the open.”

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