Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

ammed violently behind him.

Dirk turned with another in a long succession of triumphant beams and hurried down the path to Richard.

"Well, that's put a stop to that," he said, patting his hands together, "I think he'd made a start on writing it down, but he won't remember another word, that's for certain. Where's the egregious Professor? Ah, there you are. Good heavens, I'd no idea I'd been that long. A most fascinating and entertaining fellow, our Mr Coleridge, or at least I'm sure he would have been if I'd given him the chance, but I was rather too busy being fascinating myself.

"Oh, but I did do as you asked, Richard, I asked him at the end about the albatross and he said what albatross? So I said, oh it wasn't important, the albatross did not signify. He said what albatross didn't signify, and I said never mind the albatross, it didn't matter, and he said it did matter--someone comes to his house in the middle of the night raving about albatrosses, he wanted to know why. I said blast the bloody albatross and he said he had a good mind to and he wasn't certain that that didn't give him an idea for a poem he was working on. Much better, he said, than being hit by an asteroid, which he thought was stretching credulity a bit. And so I came away.

"Now. Having saved the entire human race from extinction I could do with a pizza. What say you to such a proposal?"

Richard didn't offer an opinion. He was staring instead with some puzzlement at Reg.

"Something troubling you?" said Reg, taken aback.

"That's a good trick," said Richard, "I could have sworn you didn't have a beard before you went behind the tree."

"Oh--" Reg fingered the luxuriant three-inch growth--"yes," he said, "just carelessness," he said, "carelessness."

"What have you been up to?"

"Oh, just a few adjustments. A little surgery, you understand. Nothing drastic."

A few minutes later as he ushered them into the extra door that a nearby cowshed had mysteriously acquired, he looked back up into the sky behind them, just in time to see a small light flare up and disappear.

"Sorry, Richard," he muttered, and followed them in.



"Thank you, no," said Richard firmly, "much as I would love the opportunity to buy you a pizza and watch you eat it, Dirk, I want to go straight home. I have to see Susan. Is that possible, Reg? Just straight to my flat? I'll come up to Cambridge next week and collect my car."

"We are already there," said Reg, "simply step out of the door, and you are home in your own flat. It is early on Friday evening and the weekend lies before you."

"Thanks. Er, look, Dirk, I'll see you around, OK? Do I owe you something? I don't know."

Dirk waved the matter aside airily. "You will hear from my Miss Pearce in due course," he said.

"Fine, OK, well I'll see you when I've had some rest. It's been, well, unexpected."

He walked to the door and opened it. Stepping outside he found himself halfway up his own staircase, in the wall of which the door had materialised.

He was about to start up the stairs when he turned again as a thought struck him. He stepped back in, closing the door behind him.

"Reg, could we make one tiny detour?" he said. "I think it would be a good move if I took Susan out for a meal tonight, only the place I have in mind you have to book in advance. Could you manage three weeks for me?"

"Nothing could be easier," said Reg, and made a subtle adjustment to the disposition of the beads on the abacus. "There," he said, "We have travelled backwards in time three weeks. You know where the phone is."

Richard hurried up the internal staircase to Reg's bedroom and phoned L'Esprit d'Escalier. The maitre d' was charmed and delighted to take his reservation, and looked forward to seeing him in three weeks' time. Richard went back downstairs shaking his head in wonder.

"I need a weekend of solid reality," he said. "Who was that just going out of the door?"

"That," said Dirk, "was your sofa being delivered. The man asked if we minded him opening the door so they could manoeuvre it round and I said we would be delighted."

It was only a few minutes later that Richard found himself hurrying up the stairs to Susan's flat. As he arrived at her front door he was pleased, as he always was, to hear the deep tones of her cello coming faintly from within. He quietly let himself in and then as he walked to the door of her music room he suddenly froze in astonishment. The tune she was playing was one he had heard before. A little tripping tune, that slowed, then danced again but with more difficulty...

His face was so amazed that she stopped playing the instant she saw him.

"What's wrong?" she said, alarmed.

"Where did you get that music?" said Richard in a whisper.

She shrugged. "Well, from the music shop," she said, puzzled. She wasn't being facetious, she simply didn't understand the question.

"What is it?"

"It's from a cantata I'm playing in in a couple of weeks," she said, "Bach, number six."

"Who wrote it?"

"Well, Bach I expect. If you think about it."


"Watch my lips. Bach. B-A-C-H. Johannes Sebastian. Remember?"

"No, never heard of him. Who is he? Did he write anything else?"

Susan put down her bow, propped up her cello, stood up and came over to him.

"Are you all right?" she said.

"Er, it's rather hard to tell. What's..."

He caught sight of a pile of music books sitting in a corner of the room with the same name on the top one. BACH. He threw himself at the pile and started to scrabble through it. Book after book--J. S. BACH. Cello sonatas. Brandenburg Concertos. A Mass in B Minor.

He looked up at her in blank incomprehension.

"I've never seen any of this before," he said.

"Richard my darling," she said, putting her hand to his cheek, "what on earth's the matter? It's just Bach sheet music."

"But don't you understand?" he said, shaking a handful of the stuff. "I've never, ever seen any of this before!"

"Well," she said with mock gravity, "perhaps if you didn't spend all your time playing with computer music..."

He looked at her with wild surprise, then slowly he sat back against the wall and began to laugh hysterically.

On Monday afternoon Richard phoned Reg.

"Reg!" he said. "Your phone is working. Congratulations."

"Oh yes, my dear fellow," said Reg, "how delightful to hear from you. Yes. A very capable young man arrived and fixed the phone a little earlier. I don't think it will go wrong again now. Good news, don't you think?"

"Very good. You got back safely then."

"Oh yes, thank you. Oh, we had high excitement here when we returned from dropping you off. Remember the horse? Well he turned up again with his owner. They'd had some unfortunate encounter with the constabulary and wished to be taken home. Just as well. Dangerous sort of chap to have on the loose I think. So. How are you then?

"Reg... The music--"

"Ah, yes, I thought you'd be pleased. Took a bit of work, I can tell you. I saved only the tiniest tiniest scrap, of course, but even so I cheated. It was rather more than one man could actually do in a lifetime, but I don't suppose anybody will look at that too seriously."

"Reg, can't we get some more of it?"

"Well, no. The ship has gone, and besides--"

"We could go back in time--"

"No, well, I told you. They've fixed the phone so it won't go wrong again."


"Well, the time machine won't work now. Burnt out. Dead as a dodo. I think that's it I'm afraid. Probably just as well, though, don't you think?"

On Monday, Mrs Sauskind phoned Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency to complain about her bill.

"I don't understand what all this is about," she said, "it's complete nonsense. What's the meaning of it?"

"My dear Mrs Sauskind," he said, "I can hardly tell you how much I have been looking forward to having this exact same conversation with you yet again. Where shall we begin today? Which particular item is it that you would like to discuss?"

"None of them, thank you very much, Mr Gently. I do not know who you are or why you should think my cat is missing. Dear Roderick passed away in my arms two years ago and I have not wished to replace him."

"Ah, well Mrs Sauskind," said Dirk, "what you probably fail to appreciate is that it is as a direct result of my efforts that--If I might explain about the interconnectedness of all..." He stopped. It was pointless. He slowly dropped the telephone back on its cradle.

"Miss Pearce!" he called out, "Kindly send out a revised bill would you to our dear Mrs Sauskind. The new bill reads 'To: saving human race from total extinction--no charge.'"

He put on his hat and left for the day.

. . . to be continued


DOUGLAS ADAMS was born in cambridge, England in 1952. He has written for radio, telivision and theatre and has worked as a hospital reporter, barn builder, chicken-shed cleaner, bodygaurd, radio producer, and script editor. His best-selling Hitchhiker's Trilogy: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Restraunt at the End of the Universe, Life, the Universe and Everything, and So Long and thanks for All the Fish (yes, there are four) have over eight million coppies in print worldwide. DIRK GENTLY'S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY is his latest and zaniest intergalactic phenomenom, a whole new galaxy of Adams-mania.

Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
(Series: Dirk Gently # 1)

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