The Road Of Danger – Snippet 41


          Cory had just sent her a file slugged Doerries. She smiled faintly as she opened it: Cory and Cazelet kept one another very much on their toes when she set them similar tasks. Though either would have been a good assistant regardless.


          The smile faded as she viewed the materiel. Cory had searched the database of the Ashetown police, looking for files which were closed with the slug which they had linked to Doerries.


          In addition to mentions of the black utility van and the converted warehouse, there were nine files concerning the death and mutilation of street children. Some included images of the bodies, which had mostly been found in the harbor. To Adele’s untrained eye, they were not even identifiable as to gender.


          Adele sent a terse message to Tovera, then slipped the data unit into its pocket and turned. Osorio was just past the midway point of the causeway.


          Adele began running, a thing she never did; and shouted, another thing she never did, “Master Osorio! I’ll take a ride after all! Master Osorio!”


          Tovera would need some time, but Adele wanted to be ready to leave the Princess Cecile as soon as her servant arrived with a suitable van. They had work to do.


          “Master Osorio!”


Ashe Haven on Madison


          A taxi which had driven up the quay now stopped beside the Savoy. Daniel was surprised when Kiki Lindstrom got out. The Criterion Hotel was only one further block from the water, on the street which paralleled the Harborfront. That distance scarcely required a–


          Lindstrom staggered. The tall crewman who had gone to fetch her squeezed out of the taxi behind her and gripped her arm for support. The ship-owner might not be falling-down drunk, but she was well on the way there.


          The driver snarled a demand for money. The spacer flung her a bill. Her complaints continued till she looked at it; then she drove off. Daniel wondered how much the crewman had paid in his haste, but that was a problem for a later time.


          Lindstrom had the necessary spacer’s ability to walk a gangplank even when she was too drunk to see straight. She marched onto the boarding ramp where Daniel waited for her. Hogg and the other three crewmen stood behind him in the cabin.


          “All right, Pensett!” she said in a slurred growl. “What the bloody hell is this? Hargate wouldn’t tell me a bloody thing, just that I had to come. I own this bitch! You don’t give me orders!”


          She squinted to take in the group facing her. “And where the bloody hell is Petrov, since everybody else is here?”


          “Captain Petrov has resigned, mistress,” Daniel said. He stood at Parade Rest, with his heels six inches apart and his hands clasped behind his back. He met her eyes without flinching. “I will take over his duties. I’m glad to say that the crew–“


          He nodded over his shoulder. Hogg grinned like a drunken cherub; the other three men stood as closely to attention as fear and their lack of training allowed them to.


          “–have announced their willingness to sail with me as their captain. Under your ultimate command, of course.”


          It occurred to Daniel that the crewmen had expected the laser to incinerate him. They were probably more frightened by what they took as an act of insane courage as they were by the beating he and Hogg had given the former captain.


          “Resigned?” Lindstrom said, puzzlement replacing anger. She reached the compartment and stood without swaying; the situation seemed to have sobered her.


          “He had health problems,” Daniel said, as though he were explaining.


          “He’ll stop having any kind of problem if he shows himself around here again,” Hogg said.


          “Ah,” said Daniel with a nod. “And I should mention that you’ll find your cargo is short by one laser; which I’m afraid is not repairable, since Captain Petrov brought it to the discussion he forced with me.”


          Lindstrom stared as though the words had been in an unfamiliar language; then she began to laugh so violently that she lost her balance again. She would have fallen if Daniel had not held her by the shoulders.


          “Is that so, Pensett?” she said between renewed guffaws. “Is that bloody so?”


          She hugged Daniel, then stepped away to survey him and the others. “Well,” she said, “maybe that isn’t such a bad thing after all. You’re a pretty sturdy lad to’ve seen off Peter if he came looking for you.”


          She pinched him affectionately at the base of the ribs. He grinned but said nothing. Lindstrom was buying only his professional services, and he wasn’t a professional in that field. Still, he saw no need to disabuse the lady until they had lifted from Madison.


          “Before we all leave,” said Hogg, “there’s another piece of business. Which is that now that there’s a berth empty, I’ll be coming along.”


          He had been looking at Mistress Lindstrom, but now he glared straight at Daniel himself. “This ain’t a question, young master,” he said. He didn’t raise his voice, but nobody could have doubted that he meant it. “It got decided when that jumped-up wog pointed a gun at you. Understood?”


          Daniel stood silent for a moment, considering choices. Suddenly he grinned. “Yes,” he said. “Under the circumstances, I think that’s a reasonable decision. As you can see, I’m sure, Mistress Lindstrom.”


          Even half drunk, the ship-owner pursed her lips at the statement; again, it wasn’t a question. Then she guffawed.


          “Call me Kiki and it’s a deal,” she said. “I’ll even feed him.”


          She chucked Daniel under the ribs again.