The Road Of Danger – Snippet 47


          “He’ll have a headache when he wakes up,” Tovera said. “And a hundred pesetas in his pocket. He’ll be fine so long as things go well. If they don’t–“


          She shrugged, smiling.


          “He takes his chances with the rest of us,” Adele said without concern. They hadn’t asked the boy’s opinion, because they didn’t care. They needed bait of a particular type, and the boy had been drawn from the bait bucket.


          Why would a Mundy of Chatsworth care what a feral youth thought about a necessary action? In the longer term it would benefit him and his fellows, but that had very little to do with Adele’s fierce determination either.


          I couldn’t save my sister Agatha.


          Adele reached for her data unit to check how far they were from their destination; the borrowed trousers covered the unit’s pocket. She pressed her lips tightly together, more in irritation at herself than because she couldn’t get the information.


          She had the information: when she looked out the window, she saw that they were turning north off the Harborfront and onto the street where the former warehouse was located. A repair garage on the corner was unmistakable: it had walls of pinkish-beige.


          I have to be willing to accept information directly though my eyes and ears. I’m nervous, and I’m letting reflex rather than intellect control my behavior.


          She looked at Tovera and said, “I’m not an animal! That is, I’m not only an animal.”


          Her servant raised an eyebrow but didn’t turn her head. “No, mistress,” she said.


          She was smiling. She was a sociopath without true emotions anyway.


          Tovera turned the car toward the gate in the brick facade and stopped in the street. The wall was a little lower than Adele had guessed from the imagery, closer to nine feet than ten; the guard tower projected another four feet above it. The guard had a window of armored glass. The three gunports below it were flared to provide full coverage of the street.


          Theoretical coverage, that is. Adele doubted that anybody could hit a target from the port while aiming through the glass panel. Certainly not with a carbine.


          After waiting a moment with no response, Tovera depressed the van’s attention signal, which turned out to be a high-pitched bell. No one appeared at the window; Tovera rang again.


          Adele grimaced. The bell was unpleasant, and Adele of course could open the gate herself with a moment’s business with her personal data unit.


          She didn’t need to do that; she was just impatient. She should be thankful that the guards were somnolent.


          The gate slid sideways, jerking and squealing on its track. Tovera drove in, scraping the van’s left fender on the post because she was concentrating on the gate itself on the right side. There were enough dents and scratches in the vehicle’s finish that this wouldn’t arouse the guards’ suspicion.


          There were four surface cars in the courtyard; there had been only three nondescript sedans when Adele had last checked satellite imagery. The new vehicle was a small three-wheeler with flowers stencilled onto a bright yellow background.


          The gate banged shut and a heavy crossbar slid into place. Adele got out her door and walked to the back of the van where Tovera met her. Tovera wasn’t carrying her attaché case.


          The door in the back of the gate tower was open, as it had been on the imagery. The guard, a paunchy man, stepped onto the landing. He hadn’t bothered to bring his carbine.


          “We didn’t get a call about you this time?” he said. There was doubt in his voice.


          “Well, we’re here anyway,” Adele snapped without looking up at the fellow.


          Tovera opened the back of the van. Adele waited a moment for her to unhook the elastic cords holding the boy in place, then leaned in to help pull him out. He was as limp as a half-full bladder of water.


          “How come he’s not tied?” the guard said. “Say, did you drug him? Why’d you drug him?”


          “Don’t worry about it,” Adele said. “He’ll scream just fine when the knife goes in. Now, tell them to open the bloody door so that we can get out of here, okay?”


          Her back was to the tower. She brought out her data unit under cover of her body. When she heard the door into the one-story building start to rise, she switched off the security cameras.


          Tovera held the boy up by the collar with her left hand. She had taken the sub-machine gun from her waistband where the sweater had concealed it. Two guards stood in the doorway; they didn’t step into the courtyard


          Leaving her data unit on the floor of the van, Adele turned to the tower. The guard had gone back inside. The staff knew what went on here. At least the man at the gate tonight was squeamish about it.


          “Hey, fatty!” Adele shouted. “Come give us a hand, lard-ass!”


          The guard stepped onto the landing again. He shouted, “Who the bloody hell do you–“


          Adele shot him twice in the throat. She didn’t aim at his head silhouetted against the evening sky for fear that her light pellets would hit the cranial vault instead of the eyesockets and perhaps not penetrate.


          The tower guard grabbed his throat with both hands, gagging in blood. His feet twisted under him so that he fell back on his side. His legs kicked for a time as his body ran down.


          Tovera’s weapon had snapped out two short bursts. When Adele turned, one of the two guards in the doorway was sprawled limply while the other one had stiffened like a mannequin. The sub-machine gun’s muzzle glowed red.


          Adele and Tovera stepped over the bodies; they didn’t need to discuss the plan.


          The drugged boy lay on the pavement at the back of the van. From any distance he would look identical to the three guards. The difference between life and death might be no more than a faint breath–or a few ounces’ pressure on a trigger.