The Road Of Danger – Snippet 36

 

          He walked toward the door, smiling pleasantly. Keeping the laser aimed at Daniel’s midriff, Petrov backed ahead of him into the alley. He didn’t appear to be concerned by his victim’s attitude. The crewmen followed, bumping over an empty table.

 

          The alley was paved, but the surface was covered with filth which had accumulated since the most recent rainstorm washed the previous load into the harbor. None of the businesses on this section of the waterfront bothered with a latrine. There was no street light, but illumination scattered from the Harborfront and quays where vessels were loading made it brighter than the bar’s interior.

 

          “Now you just stand there, kiddo, and–” Petrov said.

 

          Daniel stepped forward, grasping the laser just behind the mirror array. Petrov pulled the trigger; nothing happened.

 

          “Hey!” Petrov said.

 

          Daniel kicked him in the crotch. Petrov doubled up in pain, and Daniel pulled the weapon away.

 

          Taking the stock with both hands, Daniel clubbed Petrov over the head. There was a loud bong! and the laser array deformed. The mirrors were polished metal, but nobody was going to be using this weapon again except as a club.

 

          Daniel turned to the crewmen. They stood shocked and open-mouthed.

 

          Hogg stepped out of the bar behind them. He held a pistol in his left hand and a knife with a knuckle-duster hilt in his right.

 

          Daniel was gasping and his muscles trembled. “Drop those bloody clubs!” he said in a shrill voice.

 

          Hogg called the crewmen’s attention to his pistol by firing into the coping of the building across the alley. There was a crack from the electromotive pulse and a crunching hammer blow as the osmium pellet blew a chunk of concrete into gravel.

 

          One spacer screamed; the rest threw themselves on the pavement. The fellow who screamed continued to hold his length of pipe, but his legs slowly gave way; he slumped to his knees.

 

          “Pushing your luck, wouldn’t you say, young master?” Hogg said in a conversational voice. He walked through the groveling spacers. The man whose hand he stepped on whimpered but didn’t try to get up. Hogg seemed casual, but the pistol slanted down–not toward the ground, but rather toward the terrified men.

 

          “He’d taken the laser from the cargo after I left the Savoy,” Daniel said. “He couldn’t have charged it this late in the day.”

 

          “You thought he’d just taken it from the cargo,” Hogg said with gentle emphasis. “And it seems you were right. Which I’d give a prayer of thanks for, if I was the sort who prays.”

 

          He turned at Daniel’s side and looked down at the spacers. “How’d you feel about me breaking them up some, young master?” he asked. “Give them something to remember the next time they think about taking pipes to a Leary of Bantry.”

 

          “That won’t be necessary, Hogg,” Daniel said. “They’re the crew of the Savoy, I believe, and I need them healthy.”

 

          He coughed into his cupped palm and added, “You gentlemen are willing to serve me ably and willingly, aren’t you? I’ll be Mistress Lindstrom’s acting captain, you see.”

 

          The answers were muffled by muck and fear, but Daniel was sure that they were all some variation of, “Yes sir!”

 

          “Very good,” he said. “Now, you may stand up.”

 

          The spacers took their time about it. It appeared that they were afraid that the first head to rise was going to be clouted back down as a reminder.

 

          Daniel grinned. He wasn’t that sort of person, but Hogg had been known to deliver lessons of that type. Not now, though.

 

          “Very good,” Daniel repeated. The men wouldn’t meet his eyes, but that would come. “Now, which of you knows where Mistress Lindstrom will be at this time of day?”

 

          The tallest of the four wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “I guess she’d be in the bar of the Criterion,” he mumbled. “I mean, that’s where she is most nights we’re in port here.”

 

          “Then,” said Daniel, “you go and ask her to come back to the Savoy ASAP, where the rest of us will be waiting. Understood?”

 

          “Yessir!” the man said. He looked behind him, then hesitated.

 

          “Hop it, buddy!” Hogg said. “Or I’ll show you how a length of wire can cut your throat right down to the spine!”

 

          The spacer bolted down the alley in the other direction. No doubt he would be able to find Lindstrom’s hotel in good time.

 

          “Now–” said Daniel.

 

          “One moment, young master,” Hogg said. He wasn’t asking permission. “We have one more thing to do. Now, ‘hobby,’ what Petey-boy called me. That’s short for ‘hobnailed booby.’ That’s right, ain’t it?”

 

          “I believe so, yes,” Daniel said. He was being deliberately nonchalant. “A term for a countryman. An insulting term.”

 

          “Right,” said Hogg. “Well, I’m a countryman, sure enough, but I’m not wearing hobnails because they don’t go with steel floors on a ship.”

 

          He drew back his right leg as he turned to the sprawled Petrov. His boots were of the heavy-soled country style–but without the usual cleats, as he had said.

 

          “Which is a bloody shame,” Hogg said. “But we’ll make do.”

 

          He kicked Petrov in the face. It sounded like a maul striking a watermelon.

 

***

 

          The jitney that carried Adele was intended for four passengers but carried a dozen during most of its leisurely course through the city. The seats had been removed, but nonetheless the little vehicle was badly overfilled.

 

          Initially Adele had wrapped her right arm around a window pillar and stood with one leg on the outside foot rail and the other in the air. When a place to stand inside opened, she had taken it despite the determined opposition of a large woman with a day’s shopping in a string bag.