Ohls stood looking down at the boy. The boy sat on the couch leaning sideways against the wall. Ohls looked at him silently, his pale eyebrows bristling and stiff.

He asked the boy: "Do you admit shooting Brody?"

The boy said his favourite three words in a muffled voice.

Ohls sighed and looked at me. I said: "He doesn't have to admit that. I have his gun."

Ohls said: "I wish I had a thousand dollars for every time I've had that said to me. What's funny about it?"

"It's not meant to be funny," I said.

"Well, that's something," Ohls said. He turned away. "I've called Wilde. We'll go over and see him and take this punk. He can ride with me and you can follow on behind in case he tries to kick me in the face."

"How do you like what's in the bedroom?"

"I like it fine," Ohls said. "I'm kind of glad that Taylor kid went into that asteroid. I'd hate to have to send him to the death-house for rubbing that skunk."

I went back into the small bedroom and blew out the black candles and let them smoke. When I got back to the living-room Ohls had the boy up on his feet. The boy stood glaring at him with sharp black eyes in a face as hard and white as cold animal fat.

"Let's go," Ohls said and took him by the arm as if he didn't like touching him. I put the lights out and followed them out of the house. Ohls got the boy into his cruiser and I kicked my rickshaw bot awake. I followed Ohls's twin exhausts down the long curving hill, taking it easy to give the robot a chance to keep up. I hoped this would be my last visit to Lunar Terrace.

Arnold Wilde, the Habitat Attorney, lived in a white frame house the size of a palace, with a red sandstone porte-cochere built on to one side and a couple of hectares of soft rolling lawn in front. It was one of those old-fashioned houses which it used to be the thing to move bodily from old Earth when people emigrated. Wilde came from an old Californian family and his grandfather had probably been born in the house when it had stood in the foothills around Los Angeles.

There were two vehicles in the driveway already, a big private cruiser and a police cutter with a uniformed pilot who leaned smoking against the rear carapace and admired Saturn's rings. Ohls went over and spoke to him and the pilot looked in at the boy in Ohls's cruiser.

We went up to the house and rang the bell. A household automaton - much more modern than the Sternwood's butler - opened the door jerkily and led us down the hall and through a huge sunken living-room on the far side of it. The robot knocked at a door and stepped inside, then held the door wide and we went into a panelled study with an open french door at the end and a view of dark garden and mysterious trees. A smell of wet earth and flowers came in at the window. There were large dim oils on the walls, easy chairs, books and smell of good cigar smoke which blended easily with the smell of wet earth and flowers.

Arnold Wilde sat behind a desk, a middle-aged plump man with clear blue eyes that managed to have a friendly expression without really having any expression at all. He had a cup of black coffee in front of him and he held a dappled thin cigar between the neat careful fingers of his left hand. Another man sat at the corner of the desk in a blue leather chair, a cold-eyed hatchet-faced man, as lean as a rake and as hard as the manager of a loan office. His neat well-kept face looked as if it had been shaved within the hour. He had the long nervous fingers of a man with a quick brain. He looked ready for a fight.

Ohls pulled a chair up and sat down and said: "Evening, Cronjager. Meet Phil Marlowe, a private eye who's in a jam." Ohls grinned.

Cronjager looked at me without nodding. He looked me over as if he were studying a museum hologram of a long-dead animal. Then he nodded his chin about a centimetre. Wilde said: "Sit down, Marlowe. I'll try to handle Caption Cronjager, but you know how it is. This is a big habitat now."

I sat down and lit a cigarette. Ohls looked at Cronjager and asked: "What did you get on that killing?"

The hatchet-faced man pulled one of his fingers until the knuckle cracked. He spoke without looking up. "A stiff, two slugs in him. Two guns that hadn't been fired. Down on the street we got a blonde trying to get into a car that didn't belong to her. Hers was right next to it, the same model. She acted rattled so the boys brought her in and she spilled. She was in there when this guy Brody got it. Claims she didn't see the killer."

Part 2