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The Delegate from Venus   By: (1927-2002)

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Everybody was waiting to see what the delegate from Venus looked like. And all they got for their patience was the biggest surprise since David clobbered Goliath.

"Let me put it this way," Conners said paternally. "We expect a certain amount of decorum from our Washington news correspondents, and that's all I'm asking for."

Jerry Bridges, sitting in the chair opposite his employer's desk, chewed on his knuckles and said nothing. One part of his mind wanted him to play it cagey, to behave the way the newspaper wanted him to behave, to protect the cozy Washington assignment he had waited four years to get. But another part of him, a rebel part, wanted him to stay on the trail of the story he felt sure was about to break.

[Illustration: The saucer was interesting, but where was the delegate?]

"I didn't mean to make trouble, Mr. Conners," he said casually. "It just seemed strange, all these exchanges of couriers in the past two days. I couldn't help thinking something was up."

"Even if that's true, we'll hear about it through the usual channels," Conners frowned. "But getting a senator's secretary drunk to obtain information well, that's not only indiscreet, Bridges. It's downright dirty."

Jerry grinned. "I didn't take that kind of advantage, Mr. Conners. Not that she wasn't a toothsome little dish ..."

"Just thank your lucky stars that it didn't go any further. And from now on " He waggled a finger at him. "Watch your step."

Jerry got up and ambled to the door. But he turned before leaving and said:

"By the way. What do you think is going on?"

"I haven't the faintest idea."

"Don't kid me, Mr. Conners. Think it's war?"

"That'll be all, Bridges."

The reporter closed the door behind him, and then strolled out of the building into the sunlight.

He met Ruskin, the fat little AP correspondent, in front of the Pan American Building on Constitution Avenue. Ruskin was holding the newspaper that contained the gossip column item which had started the whole affair, and he seemed more interested in the romantic rather than political implications. As he walked beside him, he said:

"So what really happened, pal? That Greta babe really let down her hair?"

"Where's your decorum?" Jerry growled.

Ruskin giggled. "Boy, she's quite a dame, all right. I think they ought to get the Secret Service to guard her. She really fills out a size 10, don't she?"

"Ruskin," Jerry said, "you have a low mind. For a week, this town has been acting like the 39 Steps , and all you can think about is dames. What's the matter with you? Where will you be when the big mushroom cloud comes?"

"With Greta, I hope," Ruskin sighed. "What a way to get radioactive."

They split off a few blocks later, and Jerry walked until he came to the Red Tape Bar & Grill, a favorite hangout of the local journalists. There were three other newsmen at the bar, and they gave him snickering greetings. He took a small table in the rear and ate his meal in sullen silence.

It wasn't the newsmen's jibes that bothered him; it was the certainty that something of major importance was happening in the capitol. There had been hourly conferences at the White House, flying visits by State Department officials, mysterious conferences involving members of the Science Commission. So far, the byword had been secrecy. They knew that Senator Spocker, chairman of the Congressional Science Committee, had been involved in every meeting, but Senator Spocker was unavailable. His secretary, however, was a little more obliging ...

Jerry looked up from his coffee and blinked when he saw who was coming through the door of the Bar & Grill. So did every other patron, but for different reasons. Greta Johnson had that effect upon men. Even the confining effect of a mannishly tailored suit didn't hide her outrageously feminine qualities... Continue reading book >>

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