The Salmon Of Doubt - Unofficial Continuation Thingie
Intro and Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14 & 15
Chapter 12

Dirk looked at the man in the kangaroo costume carefully. It really was a most exceptional costume, one of the true masterpieces of the kangaroo costume designers art. Somewhere, for reasons unknown, someone with an awful lot of time and kangaroo costume-making experience had put his gifts together and had created this entirely convincing suit, into which he had inserted an actor who seemed specially trained to match the poise, motion, even the ear movements of a slightly angry adult male kangaroo, and then had told him to stand in the hallway and stare at Dirk. The only thing that gave the whole deception away - and Dirk could not help but feel that this was a major oversight on the part of the wizard who had orchestrated this otherwise breathtaking illusion - was the apparent failure by the world to explain to the actor in the suit that kangaroos do not, as a fairly sound rule, carry machine guns, or wear an earring.

"What are you staring at?" growled the man. Dirk was impressed to notice that he actually did sound much as he had imagined a slightly angry adult male kangaroo would do.

Dirk now faced a dilemma for which he had received no formal training. It had never crossed his mind to get annoyed about this in the past of course, but right now he was given to wonder why, in all the years he had spent at school, college, and then at university - Cambridge University no less - no-one had ever thought to tell him, "Oh, and by the way, if you ever have an altercation with a heavily-armed man in a kangaroo costume, this is what you should do." Bloody teachers, always whining on about more pay. And they call themselves professionals!

Was it covered in biology? He had doubts. No, everyone had merely banged on and on about physics, and Pavlov's dogs, and Schrodinger's cat, and the metaphysical consequences of the plural diversion of artificial existence theory. He felt, possibly for the first time, that his education had failed him. His mind raced. Saying, "Well, I can't help but notice that you seem to be wearing what can only be called a kangaroo costume and you are pointing an AK-47 at my chest," somehow did not seem like the most positive move, no matter how accurate it was, so he chose instead to gibber total nonsense in an effort to distract the kangaroo impersonator until he could gain control of the situation.

"Oh, it's really nothing much. It's just that I've always loved those earrings, you know, the... hoopy ones." Damn. It had been going so well until the end of the sentence. He should have left it at 'earrings' but no, he'd had to try and push it. Now this nutter would think he was taking the piss, and would shoot him out of hand.

The Kangaroo continued to look at him down its nose in a highly unamused manner. "So it doesn't bother you in the slightest that I'm a talking kangaroo then?"

Dirk had wanted to avoid questions like this for at least another two minutes, by which point he would be over the initial shock of the gun/kangaroo combination, and could confidently seize control of the situation. However, he had to do something or he was going to get himself shot, so he answered, with a slightly manic grin, "Are you really? But how did you get a gun licence then?" Silently he cursed. This utter madman would think he was laughing at him. If he'd just been able to think for another five, no, maybe ten seconds, he'd have come out with an absolute gem to bring the whole thing round to his advantage. But instead he'd come out with an atrociously sarcastic-sounding remark born of panic and indecision. He almost deserved to be the first recorded instance of kangaroo-related gun crimes in history.

"Mail order, mate. This is the land of the free, after all." 'Kangaroo-suit' lowered the machine gun and stuck out an awesomely realistic paw. Dirk wondered how anyone could fit their limbs into the costume. "They call me Mad Jimmy. Me actual name's 'Hoppy', but no-one ever calls me that." Dirk shook the paw. He felt the bone structure under the skin, felt the way that the suit felt. It wasn't a suit. Jimmy actually was a kangaroo. Dirk lit another of his dwindling supply of tactical cigarettes, and decided to promise himself a selection of tactical cocktails at a selection of strategic bars around Santa Fe. Briefly, he wondered what happened to people who called Jimmy 'Hoppy', and then chose to have a very stiff, very tactical drink as soon as he found out why he was here. It was time to find out. He pulled out his notepad, and held his pen poised and ready.

"So, H-... Jimmy, why exactly did you hire me?"

"Actually, I didn't. I was kind of hired with you. About eight weeks ago. It's all rather complicated. You can probably tell you more."

Dirk stared at Jimmy and was about to ask him if he was clinically insane, but decided on reflection not to. Asking anyone carrying a machine gun if they were mad would itself be mad. Asking a talking kangaroo if it were mad would be just hypocrisy. Before he could make up his mind, the door in front of him opened, and much to Dirk's surprise Dirk Gently came through and grinned weakly at him. He switched his stare to the other him, promised himself a few bottles of tactical vodka, and then neatly passed out in a crumpled heap next to the other him's coat.

Jimmy turned to the other Dirk and said, "I think that went quite well, don't you?"

 

When Dirk awoke he was on a bed in a small, darkened room. He looked down, straight into the oddly-familiar hindquarters of a cat. Swift examination showed no front quarters, but before he could begin looking for an explanation for this he remembered Jimmy and so chose to avoid asking any suspicious questions about reality for a while, just in case he'd gone totally barmy. He could cope with the backside of a cat for at least a few minutes without having to upset himself asking where the front was. Then he remembered the tactical cocktails, and resolved to find them as quickly as possible so he could look at things in a sensible way again.

It was then that Dirk remembered himself. The main reason for this was that, at this point, 'himself' entered the room and offered him a large bottle of vodka, saying, "Don't worry, I did the same thing myself when I was you. You'll probably want this. I know I did. Oh, and I'm from the future, by the way."

Now, readers may be steeling themselves for an absurdly complicated conversation involving two people both called Dirk. I don't want this to confuse you as the entire story is confusing enough. The reason there are two Dirks hanging around with a talking kangaroo is flummoxing and bamboozling aplenty, and such niggling confusions irritating. Working them out is tricky because it isn't easy to grasp who is being talked about at any particular point. If confusion is a necessity, and in this story, alas, it is, we should reserve the confusion for the effects of time travel, extensive discussions on the subject of nostrils, and... well, you'll find out more shortly. To avoid the needless irritation of unclear storytelling, I will be referring to the Dirk we've been following all through the book so far as 'Dirk', and to the future version as 'Gently'. Thank goodness we've sorted that out.

"The cat's arse belongs to Gusty, by the way. It's not meant to be in here, but it's quite hard to control half a cat. I can't actually tell you anything you don't already know, but I can put a few things into perspective for you." Gently beamed at Dirk (hey, that was easier than I thought it would be!) amiably, "You were hired eight weeks ago. I can't hire you because it makes a paradox, and Jimmy can't because he's a kangaroo and doesn't have five thousand dollars a week to spare, so you still don't know who hired, um, us. I tricked you into coming here, and yes, I was in your house about three days ago. I had to get that Melinda woman's phone number. I can't hang around here, because I might tell you something you can't know yet. Oh, and write most of this down. You'll be telling you this at some point."

Dirk dutifully wrote this down. "I take it you got me to come all this way for a good reason?"

"Yes. Think about it and I can confirm your answer, but remember, neither me nor Jimmy can actually tell you anything you don't know or suspect."

"Right. You are the future me. I know this because I've not been in this situation from your point of view before, so it's yet to happen to me. I'm assuming therefore that you have finished the case that you got hired for."

"You can assume that's right"

"OK, so you solve the case, then go back in time and get hired to do it eight weeks before I know anything about it. Then, because you're only back in time because you solved the case, you cannot solve it again without creating a time paradox."

"Good, good," Gently nodded encouragingly.

"And a time paradox would create an unstable loophole in causality which could destroy everything ever. Yes?"

"Yes!" Gently beamed again. Dirk realised how much he hated his own gloaty smile. He had some vodka, knowing instinctively that it would help him.

"So, I've been hired by someone I don't know, to do something which I don't know, and I'll only find these things out when I've succeeded. And the only people who do know can't help me because they will destroy the universe if they do." Dirk sighed and took a hefty pull on the vodka. Gently nodded and smiled. Dirk wanted to hit the smile with a wooden mallet.

"It's not that bad. Think about it. Whatever you do, you will actually solve the case. It's kind of in reverse. And you'll really enjoy it when you get to the end. Just follow your hunches. And follow the rhinoceros." Gently lifted Gusty's derriere into a cat box, and beamed again. "Right, I'm off anyway. I'll ring you at some point to see how you get on. Oh, and take Jimmy with you whenever it's dark."

"Off? But I've only just got here! Where are you going?" Dirk's stomach was getting exceptionally well-acquainted with the vodka now. In fact, the undulations he could feel in his stomach suggested that they were getting on very well indeed. Well, they were certainly exchanging fluids anyway...

"I'm going to take this half cat back home and then I'm going to go out to dinner with that Melinda woman. I can't stay here, the consequences would be unthinkable."

"How so?"

"Well I wouldn't be able to go out to dinner if I was here, would I? Come on, you'll thank me when you're in my position." He thought about this for a second. "Thank you. See?" He grinned again. Dirk swore never to grin in the future again. "And you will grin in the future again," Gently added with a knowing grin.

"At least explain a little about the cat."

"Dusty is a metaphysical anomaly created by the power of an unstable nostril interacting with overly philosophical road signs. I promise that this will all make sense to you later, but if I explained it properly everything would go wrong. Just trust Jimmy and follow your instincts. You must follow the rhino." And with that, Gently departed to resume Dirk's future life. All right, it had been his first, and he had given Dirk 22,000 and the world's only talking kangaroo, but he still felt rather like he'd been ripped off a bit. Jimmy ambled in, grinning homicidally.

"All right, sport. Looks like we're gonna be roomies. I don't understand any of that nostril baloney you kept yappin' about, all I know is that's how I'm here and you've got to take me back there."

Dirk looked at the kangaroo one more time, and finished off the vodka.