"Sir," the animal salesman said, "our asking price is already a thousand dollars under book. Check your Sidney's; I'll hang on. I want you to see for yourself, sir, that our price is fair."
Christ, Rick thought. They're standing firm. However, just for the heck of it, he wiggled his bent Sidney's out of his coat pocket, thumbed to ostrich comma male-female, old-young, sick-well, mint-used, and inspected the prices.
"Mint, male, young, well," the salesman informed him. "Thirty thousand dollars." He, too, had his Sidney's out. "We're exactly one thousand under book. Now, your down payment - "
"I'll think it over," Rick said, "and call you back." He started to hang up.
"Your name, sir?" the salesman asked alertly.
"Frank Merriwell," Rick said.
"And your address, Mr. Merriwell? In case I'm not here when you call back."
He made up an address and put the vidphone receiver back on its cradle. All that money, he thought. And yet, people buy them; some people have that kind of money. Picking up the receiver again he said harshly, "Give me an outside line, Miss Marsten. And don't listen in on the conversation; it's confidential." He glared at her.
"Yes, sir," Miss Marsten said. "Go ahead and dial." She then cut herself out of the circuit, leaving him to face the outside world.
He dialed - by memory - the number of the false-animal shop at which he had gotten his ersatz sheep. On the small vidscreen a man dressed like a vet appeared. "Dr. McRae," the man declared.
"This is Deckard. How much is an electric ostrich?"
"Oh, I'd say we could fix you up for less than eight hundred dollars. How soon did you want delivery? We would have to make it up for you; there's not that much call for - "
"I'll talk to you later," Rick interrupted; glancing at his watch he saw that nine-thirty had arrived. "Good-by." He hurriedly hung up, rose, and shortly thereafter stood before Inspector Bryant's office door. He passed by Bryant's receptionist - attractive, with waist-length braided silver hair - and then the inspector's secretary, an ancient monster from the Jurassic swamp, frozen and sly, like some archaic apparition fixated in the tomb world. Neither woman spoke to him nor he to them. Opening the inner door he nodded to his superior, who was busy on the phone; seating himself he got out the specs on Nexus-6, which he had brought with him, and once more read them over as Inspector Bryant talked away -
He felt depressed. And yet, logically, because of Dave's sudden disappearance from the work scene, he should be at least guardedly pleased.
Maybe I'm worried, Rick Deckard conjectured, that what happened to Dave will happen to me. An andy smart enough to laser him could probably take me, too. But that didn't seem to be it.
"I see you brought the poop sheet on that new brain unit," Inspector Bryant said, hanging up the vidphone.
Rick said, "Yeah, I heard about it on the grapevine. How many andys are involved and how far did Dave get?"
"Eight to start with," Bryant said, consulting his clipboard. "Dave got the first two."
"And the remaining six are here in Northern California?"
"As far as we know. Dave thinks so. That was him I was talking to. I have his notes; they were in his desk. He says all he knows is here." Bryant tapped the bundle of notepaper. So far he did not seem inclined to pass the notes on to Rick; for some reason he continued to leaf through them himself, frowning and working his tongue in and around the fringes of his mouth.
"I have nothing on I my agenda," Rick offered. "I'm ready to take over in Dave's place."
Bryant said thoughtfully, "Dave used the Voigt-Kampff Altered Scale in testing out the individuals he suspected. You realize - you ought to, anyhow - that this test isn't specific for the new brain units. No test is; the Voigt scale, altered three years ago by Kampff, is all we have." He paused, pondering. "Dave considered it accurate. Maybe it is. But I would suggest this, before you take out after these six." Again he tapped the pile of notes. "Fly to Seattle and talk with the Rosen people. Have them supply you a representative sampling of types employing the new Nexus-6 unit."
"And put them through the Voigt-Kampff," Rick said.
"It sounds so easy," Bryant said, half to himself.
Bryant said, "I think I'll talk to the Rosen organization myself, while you're on your way." He eyed Rick, then, silently. Finally he grunted, gnawed on a fingernail, and eventually decided on what he wanted to say. "I'm going to discuss with them the possibility of including several humans, as well as their new androids. But you won't know. It'll be my decision, in conjunction with the manufacturers. It should be set up by the time you get there." He abruptly pointed at Rick, his face severe. "This is the first time you'll be acting as senior bounty bunter. Dave knows a lot; he's got years of experience behind him."
"So have I," Rick said tensely.
"You've handled assignments devolving to you from Dave's schedule; he's always decided exactly which ones to turn over to you and which not to. But now you've got six that he intended to retire himself - one of which managed to get him first. This one." Bryant turned the notes around so that Rick could see. "Max Polokov," Bryant said. "That's what it calls itself, anyhow. Assuming Dave was right. Everything is based on that assumption, this entire list. And yet the Voigt-Kampff Altered Scale has only been administered to the first three, the two Dave retired and then Polokov. It was while Dave was administering the test; that's when Polokov lasered him."