The workshop-laboratory was a mess. Sam Bending looked it over silently; his jaw muscles were hard and tense, and his eyes were the same.
To repeat what Sam Bending thought when he saw the junk that had been made of thousands of dollars worth of equipment would not be inadmissible in a family magazine, because Bending was not particularly addicted to four-letter vulgarities. But he was a religious man—in a lax sort of way—so repeating what ran through his mind that gray Monday in February of 1981 would be unfair to the memory of Samson Francis Bending.
Sam Bending folded his hands over his chest. It was not an attitude of prayer; it was an attempt to keep those big, gorillalike hands from smashing something. The fingers intertwined, and the hands tried to crush each other, which was a good way to keep them from actually crushing anything else.
He stood there at the door for a full minute—just looking.
The lab—as has been said—was a mess. It would have looked better if someone had simply tossed a grenade in it and had done with it. At least the results would have been random and more evenly dispersed.
But whoever had gone about the wrecking of the lab had gone about it in a workmanlike way. Whoever had done the job was no amateur. The vandal had known his way about in a laboratory, that was obvious. Leads had been cut carefully; equipment had been shoved aside without care as to what happened to it, but with great care that the shover should not be damaged by the shoving; the invader had known exactly what he was after, and exactly how to get to it.
And he—whoever he was—had gotten his hands on what he wanted.
The Converter was gone.
Sam Bending took his time in regaining his temper. He had to. A man who stands six feet three, weighs three hundred pounds, and wears a forty-eight size jacket can't afford to lose his temper very often or he'll end up on the wrong end of a homicide charge. That three hundred pounds was composed of too much muscle and too little fat for Sam Bending to allow it to run amok.
At last, he took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and let his tense nerves, muscles, and tendons sag—he pretended someone had struck him with a dose of curare. He let his breath out slowly and opened his eyes again.
The lab still looked the same, but it no longer irritated him. It was something to be accepted as done. It was something to investigate, and—if possible—avenge. But it was no longer something to worry about or lose his temper over.
I should have expected it, he thought wryly. They'd have to do something about it, wouldn't they?
But the funny thing was that he hadn't expected it—not in modern, law-abiding America.
He reached over to the wall switch to turn on the lights, but before his hand touched it, he stopped the motion and grinned to himself. No point in turning on the switch when he knew perfectly well that there was no power behind it. Still—
His fingers touched the switch anyway. And nothing happened.
He shrugged and went over to the phone.
He let his eyes wander over the wreckage as his right index finger spun the dial. Actually, the room wasn't as much of a shambles as it had looked on first sight....