"Give me the money." The motor of the grey ground-car throbbed under her voice and the rain pounded above it. The lights of downtown, under the centre of the dome, glowed fitfully through the downpour, violet and green reflected from a million windows. Her black-gloved hand reached out and I put the bills in it. She bent over to count them under the dim light of the dash. A bag clicked open, clicked shut. She let a spent breath die on her lips. She leaned towards me.
"I'm leaving, copper. I'm on my way. This is a get-away stake and God knows how I need it. What happened to Harry?"
"I told you he ran away. Canino got wise to him somehow. Forget Harry. I've paid and I want my information."
"You'll get it. Joe and I were riding Foundation Boulevard Sunday before last. It was late and the lights were coming up and the usual mess of cars. We passed a brown convertible and I saw the girl who was driving it. There was a man beside her, a dark short man. The girl was blonde. I'd seen her before. She was Eddie Mars's wife. The guy was Canino. You wouldn't forget either of them, if you ever saw them. Joe trailed the convertible from the front. He was good at that. Canino, the watch-dog, was taking her out for air. A kilometre or so spinwards of Realito a road turns towards the dome foundations. That country's as bare as hell's back yard and smack up against the dome there's a general chemical plant, one of the few that still works, mostly. Just off the highway there's a small garage and paint-shop run by a guy named Art Huck. Hot car drop, more likely. There's an imported frame house beyond this, and beyond the house there's nothing but the foothills and the bare rock outcrop of the dome supports, and the chemical plant further on. That's the place where she's holed up. They turned off on this road and Joe swung around and went back and we saw the convertible turn off the road where the frame house was. We sat there half an hour looking through the cars going by. Nobody came back out. When it was quite dark Joe snuck up there and took a look. He said there were lights in the house and recorded music was playing and just the one vehicle out in front, the convertible. So we beat it."
She stopped talking and I listened to the swish of tyres on Calypso Boulevard. I said: "They might have shifted quarters since then but that's what you have to sell - that's what you have to sell. Sure you know her?"
"If you ever see her, you won't make a mistake the second time. Good-bye, copper, and wish me luck. I got a raw deal."
"Like hell you did," I said, and walked away across the road to my rickshaw.
The grey ground-car moved forward, gathered speed, and darted around the corner. The sound of its motor died, and with it blonde Agnes wiped herself off the slate for good, as far as I was concerned. Three men dead, Geiger, Brody and Harry Jones, and the woman was riding off in the rain with my two hundred thou in her bag and not a mark on her. I kicked my rickshaw bot and rode on down-town to eat. I ate a good dinner. Forty kilometres in the rain is a hike by robot-powered rickshaw, and I hoped to make it a round trip.
I rode on hubwards, across the river, as much an artificially contrived feature as the dome's weather. The tumbling rain was solid while spray in the bot's headlights. I hoped its infrared sensors were working, I could hardly see anything through the rickshaw's windshield. But not even the drenching darkness could hide the flawless lines of the robot-tended food plantations wheeling away like endless spokes into the night.
Ground-cars and convertibles passed with a tearing hiss and a wave of dirty spray. It was not a night for flying. The highway jerked through a little township that was all packing houses and sheds. The groves thinned out and dropped away and the road climbed and it was cold and the black done foundations crouched closer and sent a bitter wind whipping down their flanks. Then faintly out of the dark two holo projectors showed up high in the air, the message between them read "Welcome to Realito".
Imported frame houses were spaced far back from a wide main street, then a sudden knot of stores, the lights of a drugstore behind fogged glass, the fly-cluster of cars in front of a theatre, a dark bank on a corner with a clock sticking out over the pavement and a group of people standing in the rain looking at its windows, as if they were some kind of a show. I went on. Empty fields closed in again.
Fate stage-managed the whole thing. Beyond Realito, just about a kilometre beyond, the highway took a curve and the rain fooled the robot and we went right over the shoulder. The right rickshaw tyre let go with an angry hiss. Before the bot could stop the left one went with it. The bot slammed to a stop, mostly on the shoulder, and I got out and flashed a spotlight around. I had two flats and one spare. The flat butt of a heavy galvanised tack stared at me from the right tyre. The edge of the pavement was littered with them. They had been swept off, but not far enough off.
I snapped the flash off and stood there breathing rain and looking up a side road at a yellow light. It seemed to come from a skylight. The skylight could belong to a garage, the garage could be run by a man named Art Huck, and there could be a frame house next door to it. I tucked my chin down in my collar and started towards it, then went back to unstrap the robot ownership certificate from the rickshaw side bar and put it in my pocket. I leaned low in the rickshaw. Behind a weighted flap, directly under my right leg as I sat in the vehicle, there was a hidden compartment. There were two guns in it. One belonged to Eddie Mars's boy Lanny and one belonged to me. I took Lanny's. It would have had more practice than mine. I stuck it nose down in an inside pocket and started up the side road.