...               From the half-open oak door at the far end
of the passage came a voice, loud and slurred, like the voice
of a drunk. Case thought the language might be French, but it
was too indistinct. Molly took a step, another, her hand sliding
into the suit to touch the butt of her fletcher. When she stepped
into the neural disruptor's field, her ears rang, a tiny rising
tone that made Case think of the sound of her fletcher. She
pitched forward, her striated muscles slack, and struck the door
with her forehead. She twisted and lay on her back, her eyes
unfocused, breath gone.
"What's this," said the slurred voice, "fancy dress?" A trem-
bling hand entered the front of her suit and found the fletcher,
tugging it out. "Come visit, child. Now."
She got up slowly, her eyes fixed on the muzzle of a black
automatic pistol. The man's hand was steady enough, now; the
gun's barrel seemed to be attached to her throat with a taut,
invisible string.
He was old, very tall, and his features reminded Case of
the girl he had glimpsed in the Vingtieme Siecle. He wore a
heavy robe of maroon silk, quilted around the long cuffs and
shawl collar. One foot was bare, the other in a black velvet
slipper with an embroidered gold foxhead over the instep. He
motioned her into the room. "Slow, darling." The room was
very large, cluttered with an assortment of things that made no
sense to Case. He saw a gray steel rack of old-fashioned Sony
monitors, a wide brass bed heaped with sheepskins, with pil-
lows that seemed to have been made from the kind of rug used
to pave the corridors. Molly's eyes darted from a huge Tele-
funken entertainment console to shelves of antique disk re-
cordings, their crumbling spines cased in clear plastic, to a
wide worktable littered with slabs of silicon. Case registered
the cyberspace deck and the trodes, but her glance slid over it
without pausing.
"It would be customary," the old man said, "for me to kill
you now." Case felt her tense, ready for a move. "But tonight
I indulge myself. What is your name?"
"Molly. Mine is Ashpool."

                                      © William Gibson, Neuromancer