Walter was stretched out full length on the bed, his arms above his head, his mind going over recent events and trying to shuffle them into an order that might clarify his purpose for being there. But they remained elusive and disjointed, a shapeless bundle that kept slipping and sliding against the pattern of water stains clinging to the slopes on either side of the dusty window; incongruous against the bare walls of old and flaking wallpaper. They became even more irrelevant compared with the neat pile of his clothes sitting on the small chest of drawers, the only other piece of furniture in the room apart from the chair in which sat a thin man who Walter, with absolute certainty, knew from somewhere, except, just at the moment that also eluded him. The man was gazing intently at him over the sharp end of a hypodermic needle.
Walter had a momentary vision of being exceptionally careless and had to smile, which was also very unusual since normally he would have been very angry with himself. He could vaguely remember that it had been dark when he had climbed into his car, just a short distance from Hogbin's place, yet now bright sunlight was slanting through the dusty air and sharpening the wall beside the thin man's head, highlighting the gauntness of his features. And yet there seemed to be no mystery. For some reason, everything was exactly as it should be; nothing needing to be questioned; no other reality; all else that had gone before, merely a dream. He chuckled out loud:
"That's it, that's where it was — Liza! Sure, that's where I've seen you!"
Lutzin nodded and smiled:
"Yes, but this is the first time that we've actually met in person, I believe, mister Smith."
"Yes... Walter. I'm Lutzin: I think that Liza may have mentioned me."
Walter looked doubtful:
"Probably! Hey, I must'ave been here for days, I could eat a donkey — how long is it pal?"
Lutzin laid the syringe on the chest of drawers next to him and gazed dispassionately at Walter's genitals:
"I'm not really an authority but I should say hardly more than the average; Liza said that it ought to be made shorter! If I hadn't stopped her..!" he shrugged.
Walter accepted Lutzin's reply as perfectly ordinary, the only one possible under the circumstances. He lifted his head and looked down anxiously at himself, then at his ankles that were bound separately to either side of the metal bedstead; then at his wrists in turn, each similarly held.
"Maybe if you untie me while she's not here, we could go out and have a meal somewhere?"
"I shall look forward to that, Lutzin smiled. "I'll do it in a minute... as soon as I've recovered... I'm feeling very tired just now."
Once again, it sounded entirely reasonable to Walter. He laid his head back and gazed contentedly at the ceiling — what was the hurry!
"The next time I do it," he said, solemnly, "I'll be thinking of you pal. Did she really want to do that!"
"She would still like to."
"But you won't let her," Walter said, confidently.
"Not if I can stop it."
Walter's eye had settled on a dark and subtle jewel. It was sitting by the window playing a beautiful and intricate instrument, just like a harp: Walter thought he could hear the notes. Although this was probably the most enchanting creature he had ever met, the thing which most impressed him was its independence: no need for this little feller to chop trees for a roof or sew seed, no, he was entirely self sufficient, a serene and noble personality just waiting away the lonely hours in brave and hopeless isolation.
"Why make unnecessary enemies?" Lutzin said, softly; "we should all try to help each other... life is difficult enough without making extra trouble for ourselves."
Walter could remember hearing a similar argument some time earlier. He tried to think of anything that might have helped poor old Hogbin but decided that nothing was that important so pulled a face and tried to laugh instead. But the spider's solitude and Hogbin's demise had brought a lump to his throat and a great sadness welling into his heart. He turned his head towards Lutzin again:
"The world would be a much nicer place if only people could understand that!" he confided, tears in his eyes."
"Yes, that's what I think as well. We have a great deal in common, you and I... I shall definitely untie you as soon as I can."
"That's okay pal. you just sit there a bit longer and get your strength back first, you don't look very well. Where did you say Liza was?"
"She won't be back yet, she's just popped out for a few things."
"She's gone shopping?"
"Yes, that's it, shopping."
Walter nodded but looked doubtful:
"Are the shops far?"
"Oh, I suppose, about ten minutes walk from here. But she always takes her time shopping, so there's no need to worry just yet."
"You're not going anywhere are you?"
"Not for the moment; not while we can work together and can help each other. Of course, there may be areas that we would prefer to keep secret, concerning our private lives for instance. Can you think of any such things... things that you would rather not discuss with anyone?"
Walter nodded, anxiously:
"Private areas," he confirmed
"Good, that settled it, we'll just confine ourselves to everyday matters. For myself, I can think of nothing of that nature that I should be unwilling to share... if it will help you... anything at all that might bring us closer to beloved Claud... in fact, whatever it is you want to know. Of course, I could go on my own and you could tell Liza where I've gone. But since we both want the same thing, it makes sense that we leave here together. I don't like the idea of you being here on your own when she returns. But tell me first exactly what it is that you would like to know..?"
Walter could hardly believe his ears, everything was so wonderful, it almost made him forget the nasty pain in his shoulder joints. It seemed unfair that he should be receiving so much, especially for so little in return and from a man who was obviously not in the best of health. The protection from Liza alone, until he was set free, was enough, but then to be told where Filey was hiding — it was unfair! He gazed warmly at the thin man, slowly shaking his head in wonder at such generosity. He could hardly remember ever having felt more content or wanting so little for himself, and from such a wonderful guy. But Lutzin insisted:
"There must be something?"
"A cheese sandwich… pickle — hey'n, lettuce, tomato sauce. And you could open the window and let in some flies."
Lutzin pulled a face:
"Flies are unhealthy," he advised, gently.
"They're for my friend!" Walter explained, gazing fondly towards the spider.
Lutzin paused a moment, suppressing a smile:
"Yes, obviously you are a man who cares much about his friends; which is why I intend to help you as much as I can to find Filey. So perhaps we should just concentrate on him for a short while, before Liza gets back and wants to spoil everything. Tell me, what exactly would you like to know?"
"Nothing..." Walter said, worrying about the pallor of Lutzin's thin face and the tremor in his hands; "except maybe where he is?"
Lutzin's breathing sounded loud in his nose as he nodded contentedly:
"Is that all? Nothing else? Well, that's simple enough to satisfy. Have you really no idea where?"
"Only a rough one," Walter admitted.
"Then, let's share what we know..." The chair creaked as Lutzin settled further back in it; "then I can easily fill in the gaps for you. Where do you think, just approximately, he is?"
"I guess it has to be somewhere around Levanport," Walter assured him, anxiously; "that's the nearest town to where the island is."
"Yes, that's very good. How did you find that out — did I mention it to you earlier?"
Walter grinned, indulgently;
"It's where the box number is."
Lutzin smiled back:
"The box number?"
"One that dear old Hoggy used to use." Walter explained.
"Oh yes, that one... very good, I'd nearly forgotten about it. But it must have a number: you will need that as well."
"Sixteen." Walter replied, confidently. "Name of English."
"Very good, Walter. Is that all you know... nothing else that might help us?"
"That's plenty for me to find him!"
"Yes, of course..."
Lutzin rose from his chair, a faintly compassionate smile on his lips as he lifted a small automatic pistol from inside his jacket.
"...then that will do."
Lutzin felt no particular intolerance or animosity towards Walter, no anger or bitterness. Liza had described the way the dumb ox had made suggestions to her on the boat but that was understandable and quite forgivable; she was a beautiful woman and they had known each other in the past. He stood next to Walter, looking down thoughtfully at him for several moments while he attached the silencer. Then, with the barrel placed against Walter's temple, he looked away disinterestedly towards the spider and pulled the trigger.
It was always best not to take chances. He could have left him alive and he would probably have starved up there. But one could never be certain of things like that. If any problems should happen to arise then there could easily be delays during which he might have escaped and stumbled along just at the wrong moment. Apart from those things, in truth, Lutzin had felt nothing, nor would he do so. It was because of this detachment that it took a second or two before he realized that the muffled explosion, in fact, was no more than a hollow click without any recoil. Walter's eyes had been tightly closed, waiting for the loud bang, but now he opened them and gazed up sympathetically at Lutzin:
"It's not working."
Lutzin nodded and inspected the weapon.
"I'll try again, perhaps the next will be better."
"Perhaps they sold you a bad clip," Walter suggested, worriedly.
Lutzin eyed him patiently:
Walter closed his eyes again and waited, controlling his curiosity but not his anxiety:
"You won't forget to open the window..!"