Now that the pleasant business of talking about Sandy Banatoni was concluded-and a solution had been provided to his problems, none the less-Ben felt that there was a far less pleasant matter they would have to discuss.
So, as they walked back down the dock, he looked over at Johnny Five and asked,“Do you want me to get rid of Fred?”
The robot’s head jerked around quick enough to give anyone else whiplash, and he stared at Ben with wide blue eyes.
“Get rid of him?” he asked.
“Yes, send him away. Tell him our partnership has been defused. That it is now ka-blooey.”
That was his initial instinct, after all; just remembering how Fred had tried to sell Number Johnny Five, despite his express wishes, made anger boil in his chest and stomach. But Number Johnny Five was the one Fred had wronged; what the consequence was really ought to be his decision.
Johnny’s eyebrow plates furrowed in a thoughtful frown, and he leaned against the railing of the dock. Ben stood next to him in a similar pose, waiting patiently to hear what he thought. After a moment, he put a comforting hand on the robot’s shoulder.
“He bought me two excellent books,” Johnny finally said. “And he talks to me like a human being, even if he’s not very polite. But he still tried to sell me.”
Ben nodded. “All true.”
“...Why did you allow him to help you with selling the toys then? Why is he your partner, associate, colleague, if he is such a disagreeable person? I do not understand.”
The human sighed, and adjusted his glasses. “He did not give me much choice in the matter. He told Sandy that together we would be giving her the robot toys by the middle of October, and procured our warehouse, and tried to hire people to work for us, until those masked men came the first time and chased them away-”
“He was there when you met Sandy?” Johnny interrupted.
Ben glanced at him. “Yes.”
“And he helped you to do business with her, so you have a reason to see her more often?”
“I suppose that you could put it like that,” said Ben with a slight frown, wondering what he was getting at.
“Do you know the only reason why you are not being thrown out on your ear right now?”
Fred jerked awake, and looked up in surprise at the Indian man glaring down at him.
Amazing. You actually got the phrase right this time.
Before he could say that, or any similarly smart-alecky remark, Ben went on coldly, “Because Number Johnny Five decided to allow you to stay. He is being far more merciful to you than I would wish, even though you have stabbed him in the back. So you may stay here, and continue our partnership.”
He crouched down, bracing his hands on the side of the bed. “But listen to what I have to say, very closely. If you try to sell Number Johnny Five again, or make any attempt to exploit him, you are leaving here before you can say Knife Robinson. And you are not getting a half penny of the money Sandy is giving us for the robots.”
That hit the nail right between the eyes, as Ben would have put it. Fred’s eyes visibly widened, and he actually found himself gulping a little at the thought of having to explain to his shark friend that he’d had the money, but he’d lost it.
Without waiting for him to try to bargain or weasel his way out of this, Ben stood up and walked down the steps towards his truck, and the hammock therein.