HALF ALIEN by EW Farnsworth
Colin and Harriet were pleased to announce the conception of their first baby to Fatty Millstone in their favourite pub on Picklock Lane. The married couple had waited for their second round to arrive before they divulged the news. Naturally, Fatty was congratulatory and volunteered to buy their third pint by way of celebration. He was startled by Harriet’s tentacle stroking the back of his right thigh under the table. Surely, she was not making advances right under the nose of her husband at this special time! Fatty turned their conversation from the happy announcement to the current posture of the police force about illicit traffic in liquor and drugs, both of which were Millstone’s financial concerns.
“Fatty, as Deputy Chief, I cannot reveal the classified work my department does. I can say that refocusing police work from aliens to the normal kinds of criminality has not been a difficult task. My chief is pleased with my efficiency, and I have scored a number of key successes, largely thanks to intelligence you have provided.” Fatty shook his head in feigned modesty.
“I want no credit for performing my civic duty. Do you mean to tell me that your officers are no longer looking for aliens among the citizenry?”
“For all intents and purposes, yes. Between us, though, I have a small contingent carrying on that good work quietly. I suspect that the furor about alien invasions will rise again, and I want to be ready to answer inquiries about our vigilance in respect of all that. The yellow press still keeps the thread of interest going. You may have seen that article quoting an Oxford Don: ‘Aliens are surely among us.’ Because the public have exhausted themselves over the issue, they’re not ready to hearken.”
“Is there an internal police report about the case work on aliens?”
Harriet blurted out, “Of course, there’s a report. And it does full credit to my husband’s central role in that. I am so proud of him I could burst.” Her tentacle stroked his calf faster to emphasize her excitement.
Colin reddened with embarrassment and looked around to see who had been overhearing them. “Wife, please keep confidential police matters quiet. I could lose my post if the chief had overheard your last statement.”
“I gave away no secrets, Darling. I merely stated the truth—that you were the hero of that whole operation. A wife is entitled to brag about her mate in public. There’s no harm done, I warrant.”
Colin shook his head and rolled his eyes. He leaned over the table and placed a photograph in front of Fatty. “What do you see in that ultrasound image of our little tyke?”
Millstone could see little on the black and white print in the dim light of the pub. “I have no training in reading medical imagery. Tell me what’s there.”
Colin took a deep breath and exhaled. With his index finger he traced the outline of the foetus. “Can you see his outline now?”
“I think so, yes. What’s this long curving piece here?”
Harriet grabbed the print and held it to her bosom. “Don’t be looking too carefully at my darling. It’s early still. She has a lot of growing to do. I found a female physician who satisfies all my requirements.”
Colin said, “That’s what she says. I say the woman is more an alien than a physician.”
Fatty looked from one of them to the other. He reasoned that his friend the policeman had used a figure of speech, but he wanted to be certain. “Colin, do you really think she’s an alien?”
“Of course he doesn’t, Fatty. At least he shouldn’t say or even think such things under the circumstances.”
“What circumstances, Harriet?” Fatty asked innocently.
“The recent troubles. The future possibilities. Who knows what file that insight might be recorded in? Dr Erblick could be arrested one day. Her practice could be ruined by foul rumours.”
Colin seemed exasperated, but he held his peace. Fatty decided to order their next round by raising his hand. The tapster responded almost immediately. When he brought their brews to the table, Fatty said, “We’re having a quiet celebration. Put this round on my personal tally.”
The tapster nodded and retired. Meanwhile, Harriet slipped the photo into her bra. Fatty toasted his three companions (including the coming arrival) before he got to the business of this Tuesday night.
Millstone drew a list of suspects in the illicit liquor and drugs trades and passed it to the policeman. “My street contacts have certain information confirming the criminality of the people on that list. Please don’t impart my role in finding the people; my life might be forfeit if that should happen.”
“Fatty, we have had a deal for a very long time. Haven’t I kept your name out of the picture throughout the alien scare?”
“You have, and I’m grateful for your courtesy.”
“I’m always careful about my sources. Harriet is the only one who knows how close we are and how important your information has been for my success.”
Fatty breathed a sigh of relief. He sat up straight and sipped his pint. “Not on my list is the name of the criminal who is backing the scoundrels on the list. I did not want to include that one name on account of its sensitivity. As a former detective, I thought you would want to work this specially with your chief.” Colin licked his lips and leaned forward so Fatty could whisper the name, as he thought it might be his stepping stone to promotion to chief.
Fatty whispered, “Hamlin Foreground.” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Harriet was annoyed not to be included in the sharing of a secret.
“Great Zeus,” Colin said. “The man is a Member of Parliament. It’s going to take some effort to bring him down even if we should be lucky enough to take him down in the act. In fact, I doubt he is ever near enough the deeds to be captured in that way.”
Fatty nodded. “I will do a little more digging to get the contact data on the two men who do the front work for the MP.”
“You can do that?” Harriet asked.
“Good wife, please don’t interfere in this business, or I’ll leave you home next Tuesday.”
Colin laughed and indicated his spouse with his thumb. “The soon-to-be-mum is mum. Ha-ha. Well, Harriet, see that you keep this quiet. I’ll be chief with this information—and soon.”
When Closing Time was announced, the couple had wandered out the back door into the foggy night. Fatty sat brooding on their conversation for a long time in silence. I have the MP’s intermediaries’ names. They are wily blokes. What I don’t yet have are the best places to arrest them doing their criminal work. I’ll set my clones on discovery. Then my detective friend can devise the best way to skewer their mastermind.
Millstone left his pub and went through the maze of streets and lanes to his crowded apartment. Many of his clones were doing their nefarious jobs throughout the city. His main helper was still awake, poring over the map that showed their enterprise operations. Two of his assistants were reading stacks of papers looking for clues. One was assigned to scour the press for indications of police actions pertinent to their businesses. The other was tasked to track the activities of the criminal networks that competed with Fatty’s.
“Good evening, Fatty. Things are quiet tonight for a change. On the map you will see the tracks of your MP and his two minions.” He indicated the intersections of the tracks and made an observation. “Here and here are the best places for making an arrest. Those meetings happen only on Wednesdays at midnight and one o’clock respectively. That’s when the men exchange their accounts for gold coins.”
“Can we count on the MP being present at both meetings? I don’t want the police to catch a substitute.”
“When gold is in the picture, the MP will be there—guaranteed.”
“I want to shadow the meetings this week to be sure. Will you please arrange cover for me in case I need it?”
“I’m at your pleasure. Sam, Willie and I will show you where to stand so you will not be seen while they make their exchanges.”
Fatty nodded. “For your information, the deputy chief has a small group of police officers still employed on the alien angles. I’d like you to discover who those officers are and where and when they meet. Will you do that?”
“Is my name not Smee?”
In fact, the man’s nickname was Smee after the character in Peter Pan. Fatty clapped the alien on the back.
“I want you to put one of ours on a female obstetrics doctor named Erblik. I want to know her pedigree. Is she an alien, or not?”
“That will be easy. I suspect we’ll have an answer by tomorrow at noon.”
“Good lad. Now I’m going to my room for some heavy reading. It seems burst transmissions from our home are being monitored by the global astronomer community.”
“Is there any danger that we’ve been discovered?”
“I don’t think so. The maths men among them have not been able to make sense of the signals.”
“That topic will be the grist for dissertations for the next century.”
“Let’s hope so. Meanwhile, I’ll keep track of their state-of-the-art. I don’t want to be unpleasantly surprised.”
Fatty lumbered off to his room and read abstruse tomes and articles until noon the next day. It was his way of relaxing as he had no need for sleep or company. A knock on his door brought the news that Dr Erblik was, indeed, an alien who had been practicing in the city for decades. Fatty went to her office right away.
“Dr Erblik can’t see you now. She has back-to-back appointments until nine o’clock tonight.”
“Please let her know that I have information relating to her security, I won’t take much of her time, but I may be able to help.”
The receptionist went into the clinic to confer with her boss. When she returned, she ushered Fatty into a small room where he waited for three minutes for the doctor to appear.
“What is this about my security?”
Millstone whispered, “It has come to the attention of the authorities that you are an alien. I’m not here to blackmail you, but I do want to alert you to take better care of your medical imagery, particularly ultrasound imagery of foetuses.”
The doctor at first screwed up her face as in outrage, but she must have seen the earnest concern in Millstone’s eyes—or saw unmistakable signs that he too was an alien. “Yes, of course. I’ll take care. Do you have anything else to tell me?”
“Only that I’ll be back if you are in danger of imminent arrest.”
“Are you a policeman?”
“I am no policeman, but I am an acquaintance of the deputy chief of police of this city. Believe me, I can give you good, current information.”
“I’m most grateful. How can I contact you?”
“It’s best that you don’t try to do that. It might compromise both of us. I’ll have to go now. Just take care, and you’ll be fine.”
Fatty’s afternoon was full of the minutiae of managing a large criminal enterprise. He toyed with the idea of crashing meetings with the two men who worked with the MP. He did not want to spook their organizations, so he waited for dark to review his midnight surveillance plans with his number two. The four men decided that Sam and Willie would form an overwatch at each location well in advance of the meeting time. Fatty would be positioned so he could witness the meeting and overhear what was said. They reasoned that the heavens would be propitious for surveillance. A thick fog prevailed, and the moon was to be dark.
By midnight, a light, driving rain was falling. Fatty positioned himself within a few yards of the corner on which the first meeting was to occur. The MP’s contact arrived four minutes before the MP, who lugged a heavy bag, presumably containing the gold coins. The exchange was made, but the contact man mumbled something that disconcerted both the MP and Fatty.
“Sir, I have good information that a trap is being set for us. We’ll have to change our next time and place for meeting.”
The MP said, “Nonsense. I am invulnerable. We’ll meet as planned. Be here, or risk not receiving your gold.”
When the two conspirators had parted, Fatty walked to the second meeting place and stepped into a grove near the corner where the MP would show up. This time, the exchange went exactly as planned. There was no alarm from the contact man. Instead, the MP made a remark that alarmed Fatty.
“I want you to take extreme measures to confound anyone trying to follow you here for our next meeting.”
The contact man said, “Are we being watched? I thought you said we’d be safe.”
“I don’t think we’re being watched by police. Anyway, just take care.”
After the meeting concluded, Fatty waited five minutes before he went to his apartment. He conferred with his clones about both meetings.
“We may have two problems,” he said to his number two. “The first meeting time or place may be changed on account of suspicions. It’s uncanny, but the second meeting may also be rescheduled too. The MP is a subtle player. I’m not sure why he considers himself invulnerable. And if he’s so sure of himself, why would he be anxious about discovery? Next week I want you three to stand ready to provide overwatch at both locations. I won’t be able to come, but you should be ready to tell me exactly what happened at those meetings.”
Fatty had a busy week until his Tuesday night rendezvous with Colin the deputy chief. This time, Harriet had remained at home as she felt ill.
“What can you tell me about our friend the MP?”
“Last week I personally observed both meetings where the MP exchanged gold for accounting, respectively, of illegal liquor sales and illicit sales of drugs.”
Colin sat on the edge of his chair as Fatty spread a copy of his map on the table. Fatty showed the policeman where the meetings had taken place and where he stood to observe them. He told the detective what he had overheard at each meeting.
“What do you deduce from what they said?”
“Tell me the odds that someone in the police organization has signalled to the MP that plans are afoot to interrupt their activities.”
Colin thought about that for a moment. “The only person I have told about the MP’s activities is the chief. I can take no independent moves without his permission. You don’t suppose he is the source of the leak?”
“Have you broached the subject with your spouse?”
“Good grief, do you think she has contact with common criminals? I am insulted for you to even suggest the idea.”
Fatty held up both his palms in supplication. “You must be right. Anyway, I’ve given you good intelligence. Just don’t let anyone know I gave it to you.”
Colin folded the map and put it in the inside pocket of his coat. As it was raining outside, he had brought an umbrella. He shook it open as he stepped out the back door of the pub. Then he was gone.
The next night Fatty went to his pub. He felt close surveillance of his movements. When he sat as his favourite table, he was joined by two rough workmen, who merely sat and drank without speaking. At Closing Time Fatty Millstone departed via the back door and made his way to his apartment. He heard behind him the footfalls of two men, who never threatened him. When he entered his apartment, he breathed a sigh of relief to be safe. Of course, his clones were doing overwatch and surveillance of the MP’s meetings.
Around three o’clock the three clones arrived. They reported that the deputy chief of police had stood where Fatty had done his surveillance. He had brought no other officers with him. The exchanges were witnessed by the deputy chief. No extraneous conversations had taken place. Nothing to change the venue was discussed. Fatty felt he had fulfilled the objective he had set for himself. He went back to his administrivia, confident that his friend the deputy chief could handle the arrests just fine.
The next Tuesday, he sat at his table in the pub with Colin and Harriet. The woman seemed unsettled right from the start. She was surly and she looked at her pint with pain in her eyes. Colin looked troubled too.
“Why are my two favourite people so glum this evening? Is it because of the weather?”
Colin said, “It may be the weather, but it’s really because I’ve been threatened.”
“Why ever so? Can you tell me?”
“He’s been told that he’ll be sacked if he moves against the MP you fingered for him.”
“She is right, Fatty. The chief told me I’d be fired forthwith if I arrest the MP. I’m not sure why this is so. I suspect he is part of the mischief.”
“It seems to me that your mission is even more critical than we suspected. Let’s discover a way to do the job without the chief’s permission.”
“No!” Harriet screamed, bringing the entire crowd in the pub to look their way.
“All right. Let me ask you something. If this problem just went away, would you just let it go quietly?”
“I have no idea what you are suggesting.”
“Good. I have nothing further to add tonight.”
The rest of their carousal went by with a little chitchat and a few rumours. Harriet’s tentacle did not visit Fatty’s calf—to his immense relief. When the married couple left and braved the rain with their umbrellas, Fatty sat silently pondering his next moves.
I can drop everything pertaining to the MP and let his criminal enterprises continue to thrive. Or I can get involved to my advantage. Of course, the chief—and probably the deputy chief—will feel obligated to track down anyone who interferes with the MP’s criminal business. I’ll have to feel my way into a resolution to all issues. Still, I like the idea of driving the MP out of business and taking his customers into my own organization.
Fatty did not like to withdraw from an operation he had scoped out. Still, he contemplated possible ventures. Gradually, it occurred to him that gold coins were being carried off by the MP’s contacts once each week. Near Closing Time, he thought, “What do I care if the MP is not arrested? Then his mind began to gyre in another direction.
When he arrived at his apartment, he gathered the aliens who knew the drill with the MP’s meetings.
“I want you to relieve the MP’s contacts of the gold they have received from him tomorrow night. Make your work quick and clean. Do not do any more harm to the contacts than, perhaps, a knock-out blow to the skull. Bring the gold coins here but make sure you aren’t followed. Any questions?” There were no questions. The game was afoot.
Through Wednesday night Fatty went through his usual routine. He was followed by the two rough men who never spoke. He arrived at his apartment well before his fellow aliens brought the gold. By three o’clock, they arrived with the two heavy bags and a report that no problems had been encountered. Counting the pelf was a pleasure for all of them. They stowed the gold with their other stores. Fatty felt satisfied only when he saw no report of their robberies in the morning papers.
Almost a week later, there were still no signs that robberies had been committed against agents of an MP. On Tuesday, Colin and Harriet seemed to be happy for a change. They presented an ultrasound image of their foetus, which now appeared to be taking a normal human form. Fatty was relieved not to see any signs of the tentacle he had discerned in the former picture they had shown him. He congratulated the couple for their good progress toward their goal.
While Harriet went to the ladies’ room, Colin confided that the criminal MP had resigned his post because of compromising financial reversals. “You see, my friend, there is Karma.”
“By that, I presume you mean, a kindly fate that shapes our ends for the better.”
“In this case, yes. Don’t say anything to Harriet. She is still thinking we can use the MP’s criminality to make our platform for my promotion. Here she comes. Keep our private comments under your hat.”
Harriet was not focused on promotions. She had slipped on the floor of the ladies’ and gotten herself smeared with shit and worse. She stank and shrieked. The woman shook her fists at the tapster. Fatty gestured for a waitress to tend to the muck in the restroom. Meanwhile, Colin escorted his pregnant wife home.
Not satisfied that he had heard the whole story from his friend, Fatty Millstone sent his clones to do a repeat of their heist. When they arrived with the two bags of gold at three o’clock on Wednesday morning, Fatty was confused. He resolved to continue harvesting the gold in that way until the supply ran out. Only then would he investigate how to take over the criminal enterprises that used to be the provenance of the MP.
One thing more he wanted to have resolved. He went to see Dr Erblik, who played no games but saw him immediately in the small side room.
“Haven’t I done well with the imagery?” she asked right away.
“The last picture was an ultrasound of a perfect human foetus.”
“Yes. It was. I had used it before. I thought it would serve. Do you want to see what the machine really saw?”
“That won’t be necessary. I’m just glad things worked out. Out of curiosity, though, when the birth occurs, what happens then?”
“It gets a little sporty then, but we’ll manage. You’d be surprised how many half breeds wander the streets of this city, and no one is aware of them. Why, one Member of Parliament—the one who recently resigned, in fact—had a wife with the same problem. Aside from his unfortunate degradation, they’re doing fine. With his connections, I would not be surprised if the son became a politician or a judge.”
“Thank you, Dr Erblik, for taking the time to see me. Again, I’ll let you know of anything I hear about the enforcers becoming wise to your identity.”
“I’m sure you will. And remember me as a physician who can help you as well as damsels in distress. If we don’t hang together, we’ll surely ...”
“...hang separately. A very American sentiment.”
“I’ve always suspected they, too, are aliens.”
That was the signal for Fatty Millstone to return to his business ventures. He thought he might only have a few more weeks of easy gold. Then he would have to use his head and resources to do another kind of harvest.