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