"Three jobs." He took the handkerchief from her and went to the hall door, still dizzy and, now, feeling nausea.
"Good luck," Iran said.
"I didn't get anything from holding onto those handles," Rick said. "Mercer talked to me but it didn't help. He doesn't know any more than I do. He's just an old man climbing a hill to his death."
"Isn't that the revelation?"
Rick said, "I have that revelation already." He opened the hall door. "I'll see you later." Stepping out into the hall he shut the door after him. Conapt 3967-C, he reflected, reading it off the back of the contract. That's out in the suburbs; it's mostly abandoned, there. A good place to hide. Except : or the lights at night. That's what I'll be going by, he thought. The lights. Phototropic, like the death's head moth. And then after this, he thought, there won't be any more. I'll do something else, earn my living another way. These three are the last. Mercer is right; I have to get this over with. But, he thought, I don't think I can. Two andys together - this isn't a moral question, it's a practical question.
I probably can't retire them, he realized. Even if I try; I'm too tired and too much has happened today. Maybe Mercer knew this, he reflected. Maybe he foresaw everything that will happen.
But I know where I can get help, offered to me before but declined.
He reached the roof and a moment later sat in the darkness of his hovercar, dialing.
"Rosen Association," the answering-service girl said.
"Rachael Rosen," he said.
Rick grated, "Get me Rachael Rosen."
"Is Miss Rosen expecting - "
"I'm sure she is," he said. He waited.
Ten minutes later Rachael Rosen's small dark face appeared on the vidscreen. "Hello, Mr. Deckard."
"Are you busy right now or can I talk to you?" he said. "As you said earlier today." It did not seem like today; a generation had risen and declined since he had talked to her last. And all the weight, all the weariness of it, had recapitulated itself in his body; he felt the physical burden. Perhaps, he thought, because of the rock. With the handkerchief he dabbed at his still-bleeding ear,
"Your ear is cut," Rachael said. "What a shame."
Rick said, "Did you really think I wouldn't call you? As you said?"
"I told you," Rachael said, "that without me one of the Nexus-6s would get you before you got it."
"You were wrong."
"But you are calling. Anyhow. Do you want me to come down there to San Francisco?"
"Tonight," he said.
"Oh, it's too late. I'll come tomorrow; it's an hour trip."
"I have been told I have to get them tonight." He paused and then said, "Out of the original eight, three are left."
"You sound like you've had a just awful time."
"If you don't fly down here tonight," he said, "I'll go after them alone and I won't be able to retire them. I just bought a goat," he added. "With the bounty money from the three I did get."
"You humans." Rachael laughed. "Goats smell terrible."
"Only male goats. I read it in the book of instructions that came with it."
"You really are tired," Rachael said. "You look dazed. Are you sure you know what you're doing, trying for three more Nexus-6s the same day? No one has ever retired six androids in one day."
"Franklin Powers," Rick said. "About a year ago, in Chicago. He retired seven."
"The obsolete McMillan Y-4 variety," Rachael said. "This is something else." She pondered. "Rick, I can't do it. I haven't even had dinner."
"I need you," he said. Otherwise I'm going to die, he said to himself. I know it; Mercer knew it; I think you know it, too. And I'm wasting my time appealing to you, he reflected. An android can't be appealed to; there's nothing in there to reach.
Rachael said, "I'm sorry, Rick, but I can't do it tonight. It'll have to be tomorrow."
"Android vengeance," Rick said.
"Because I tripped you up on the Voigt-Kampff scale."
"Do you think that?" Wide-eyed, she said, "Really?"
"Good-by," he said, and started to hang up.
"Listen," Rachael said rapidly. "You're not using your head."
"It seems that way to you because you Nexus-6 types are cleverer than humans."
"No, I really don't understand," Rachael sighed. "I can tell that you don't want to do this job tonight - maybe not at all. Are you sure you want me to make it possible for you to retire the three remaining androids? Or do you want me to persuade you not to try?"
"Come down here," he said, "and we'll rent a hotel room."
"Something I heard today," he said hoarsely. "About situations involving human men and android women. Come down here to San Francisco tonight and I'll give up on the remaining andys. We'll do something else."
She eyed him, then abruptly said, "Okay, I'll fly down. Where should I meet you?"
"At the St. Francis. It's the only halfway decent hotel still in operation in the Bay Area."
"And you won't do anything until I get there."
"I'll sit in the hotel room," he said, "and watch Buster Friendly on TV. His guest for the last three days has been Amanda Werner. I like her; I could watch her the rest of my life. She has breasts that smile." He hung up, then, and sat for a time, his mind vacant. At last the cold of the car roused him; he switched on the ignition key and a moment later headed in the direction of downtown San Francisco. And the St. Francis Hotel.