The Road Of Danger – Snippet 44


          “No idea at all, Hogg,” Daniel said with an appearance of calm. Hogg had been drinking off and on all day. The alcohol had apparently affected him enough that he apparently hadn’t noticed Adele’s expression when she strode off the ship.


          Daniel had seen his friend’s face change when she saw Tovera driving the van which had just pulled up. He didn’t question Adele about her business anyway, but nobody who’s seen her eyes at that moment would have chosen to speak to her.


          The aircar cut the corner over the adjacent slip and slanted down as it drove along the quay toward the Princess Cecile. The vehicle had a windscreen but not a roof. The driver was a middle-aged woman in a business suit, a stranger to Daniel, but her passenger was Kiki Lindstrom.


          “Come along, Hogg,” Daniel said, scooping up the barracks bag which held the personal effects of Kirby Pensett. “It isn’t Adele, but it seems to be our business somehow.”


          He started toward the companionway. The only others on the bridge were Sun and a rigger named Wesley who was striking for gunner’s mate; they were practicing deflection shots on the gunnery console.


          “You hook ’em for us, sir!” Wesley called. “And you can count on us to set the gaff!”


          “The lad was raised a fisherman,” Hogg explained over the echo of their boots on the companionway treads. “On the east coast where it’s nothing like the seas we get off Bantry; but he’s got promise, I do believe.”


          Daniel reached the entry hold as Lindstrom started across the catwalk. He dropped his bag on the deck–it was little beyond toiletries and a spare set of utilities–and said over his shoulder, “Watch the gear, Hogg. And come when I call you.”


          The guard had changed since he’d addressed the crew; Barnes, Dasi’s partner, was in charge now. He bobbed his head as Daniel went past, an acknowledgment somewhere between a salute–which spacers didn’t attempt on shipboard–and a tenant’s bow to the squire.


          Daniel grinned as he started down the ramp, waving Lindstrom back toward the quay. Nobody was going to touch his bag, but he didn’t want Hogg with him while he learned what the shipowner wanted.


          The trouble with Petrov had keyed up Hogg and had also supported his jaundiced view of the operation. Nothing he added to the coming discussion would be helpful.


          Lindstrom frowned for a moment, but her face cleared and she stepped back onto the concrete to wait. Daniel judged the period of the catwalk’s wobble–three pontoons supported the surface; the structure was safe enough, but it certainly wasn’t stable–and hopped to the quay as it rose.


          “I hadn’t expected you to come for us, mistress,” Daniel said with an engaging smile. “Though I suppose we’re ready to go, if that’s what this is.”


          “Not ‘with me,'” Lindstrom said, “and not your man–“


          She nodded toward Hogg, standing in the hatchway with his hands in his pockets.


          “–this time either. There’s a man wants to talk to you, one of our backers. He sent the car and driver to take you to him. And bring you back.”


          “I see,” said Daniel, who was sure only that he didn’t see. His tone was mild. “Who is this man, precisely?”


          “Look,” Lindstrom said in frustration. “It doesn’t matter who he is. We just do what he says. You were Cinnabar navy, right?”


          “Yes,” said Daniel.


          “Then he’s a friend of yours, that’s all you need to know,” she said. “That’s all I know. I don’t know his name and it doesn’t matter. His money’s good and he supplies stuff we get top dollar for.”


          Daniel considered the situation. “All right,” he said. “I’ll go, but Hogg will accompany me.”


          He gestured. “There’s enough room in the car.”


          “No,” Lindstrom said, irritation showing in her voice and scowl. “He said you were to go alone. I told you that.”


          “Yes,” said Daniel. “And I’m telling you that anonymous strangers don’t get to set the terms for a meeting which they want and I see no need for. I think that’s simple enough.”


          “Are you afraid?” Lindstrom said. “Is that it, you need that yokel to hold your hand?”


          “Master Petrov used the term ‘hobby’ to describe Hogg,” Daniel said, grinning in the direction of his servant. “That turned out to be an unfortunate choice of words.”


          His humor dropped away. “I’ll be clear: I am your astrogator and shipmate, mistress. I am not your flunky, and I am certainly not a dancing monkey to entertain your unnamed friend.”


          The shipowner snorted, then let her expression soften. “I’ll make a call,” she said.


          She walked back to the aircar and got in. After a few words with the driver, she unclipped the handset of the communicator and touched a preset. She spoke into it, paused, then closed the connection and returned to Daniel.


          “Have it your way, Pensett,” she said. She looked tired and a little disgusted. “And you might as well take your traps along. Watchly says she’ll take you both to the ship when you’ve had your talk.”


          Daniel looked at the driver, presumably named Watchly, and nodded. “All right,” he said.


          He waved toward the Sissie‘s hatch. “Bring our bags, Hogg,” he called. “We’re travelling in style.”


          He watched the shipowner trudging down the quay toward the Savoy. He wondered why she didn’t want a ride back with them. Maybe despite her protestations she wasn’t really sure what kind of a meeting was planned.


          And maybe she did know….