The Road Of Danger – Snippet 76

CHAPTER 20: Halta City on Cremona

“I don’t see that a wicker cage would add significant weight,” Adele said as she pulled the cord firmly. The elevator groaned to a halt. The cable was wound on a drum, as she had expected, but the teeth of the gears driving the drum were each the size of her thumbs.

“Brock will ride it more than anyone else,” Tovera said as they stepped off the platform. “If he wants to kill himself, why should anyone care?”

She paused and added, “Or kill the boy. Who isn’t my type.”

Tovera’s face was deadpan. Of course her only two expressions were that deadpan–and a grin that would etch glass.

Brock’s secretary had been waiting in a folding chair leaned against the shaded west end of the so-called penthouse. As the elevator trembled to a halt he got to his feet and executed a very respectable bow.

“The boss told me to send you through and then stay out of the way,” the young man said. “We also serve who only stand and wait, I like to say. Or sit and wait, in this case.”

He opened the door; Adele bobbed her head to acknowledge the courtesy, making a mental note to learn more about the secretary. He was certainly more than he had seemed initially.

The partition between the inner and outer offices had been removed, turning the penthouse into a single long room. Brock was at his desk. The three partners who owned Santina Warehousing, and the Cortons–husband and wife–who owned Loeser Brothers, sat behind the two folding tables which had been set up facing the doorway.

“Mistress Hrynko or whatever your name is,” Brock said, “you know my colleagues since you’ve talked to them too. We decided to handle this together, instead of you dicking around from one of us to the next.”

“I’m glad to see you all,” Adele said, taking the straight chair which had been left for her beside the door. Sitting, she placed her data unit on her lap and brought up its display. “Will you tell me your decision, please?”

This whole business was mummery. She knew that the outfitters had agreed to the loan on her terms and knew also that they would be together in Brock’s office when she arrived this morning.

Her tendency as a librarian was to lay all her information out immediately. The intelligence mindset to which she had been exposed if not trained in demanded that she conceal her sources and methods so that she could continue to use them.

In the end Adele had pretended to be ignorant, not because she was thinking like a spy but because she was Mundy of Chatsworth. Esme Rolfe Mundy would have been distressed to learn that her daughter was boasting of her skills–and to a gathering of tradesmen besides!

Adele felt her mouth twitch into a hint of a smile. Her mother had lived in a very simple, black and white, world. To a considerable degree, that two-value logic carried Adele through life as well. It wasn’t so very different from Daniel’s, “Cinnabar, right or wrong!” attitude, after all.

“We’ll subscribe the loan,” Brock said, looking across the line of his fellows. “On your terms.”

“We should get at least another point of interest for the risk, though!” said Addersheim. He glared at Adele, then at Brock. He had started thirty years before as Santina’s accountant and still looked the part, though he was now the senior partner.

“As I said, Lady Hrynko,” Brock said wearily. “On your terms.”

Addersheim muttered something, only half-audible and not a word anyway. Adele knew from her electronic eavesdropping that he hadn’t been able to convince even his two partners that they should press the point: they and the other outfitters understood that this was not a normal business transaction.

He’s the sort who would refuse to open the ammunition locker during a surprise attack unless he were given the correct authorization

, Adele thought as she looked at the accountant.

She was more amused than not by the situation, but when Addersheim met her eyes again he started back. Well, she couldn’t help it if people misread her expressions. They tended to misunderstand her words also, despite the fact–or perhaps because of it–that she was extremely precise in picking the words she used.

Aloud she said, “Since you’re all in agreement, I propose that each firm now transfer its portion of the loan to an account under my control at the Venture Bank of Cremona. I chose the Venture Bank because you all have accounts there already.”

That was true, but it was one of two reasons. Unusually for this region, the Venture Bank had links with Cinnabar rather than with one of the Alliance core worlds. Adele doubted that it mattered, but she had made this choice in case it did.

It was very possible that Speaker Leary, the man who had ordered the massacre of the Mundy family, was the bank’s ultimate backer. Well, Adele herself kept her now-considerable prize money account in a Leary bank also. It paid a good rate of interest to RCN officers.

Brock looked at his fellows, shrugged, and said, “I have no objection.”

Mistress Corton was three years older than her husband and had provided the money for the purchase of Loeser Brothers. According to Cazelet, Master Corton made all the business decisions though his wife was the public face of the company.

Now she leaned forward and stared piercingly at Adele. Instead of answering Brock’s implied question, she said, “You’ve already bought ships and hired the crews, even though you think we don’t know that. What were you going to do if we refused to give in to your extortion?”