“Think she might pop in on you here?”
Gonwil nodded. “The whole family plans to show up at Pehanron this evening. Malrue will be battling with Eulate—and I’ll be in the middle! And there’s no way I can stop it.”
“You wouldn’t be in the middle,” Telzey observed, “if you weren’t here.”
“If I weren’t . . .” Gonwil glanced sharply over at her, lowered her voice to a whisper. “How . . . when Eulate’s got those people staring at my front and back doors? I’m confined to quarters.”
“First step,” Telzey whispered back, “we move your chips and stuff to my side. Eulate said under the circumstances it’d be all right if I helped you a little on the tests.”
“They can see your front and back doors too, dopey!” Gonwil pointed out. “What good will that do?”
“They can’t see inside my carport.”
“Huh? No!” Gonwil grinned. “The shower window . . .” She looked doubtfully at Chomir. “Can we boost Musclehead through it?”
“We can try. Want to?”
“Right now. Before Eulate realizes you’ve got a loophole left.”
“I should leave her a note,” Gonwil remarked. “Something reassuring. I simply had to get away for a few days—or suffer a nervous breakdown. . . .”
“Sounds fine,” Telzey approved.
“Then, perhaps I should call Malrue and tell her, so . . .”
“Are you out of your mind?”
Gonwil looked reluctant. “You’re right. Me being at Pehanron is bad, but going off by myself would be worse. If we didn’t agree to wait till she could pick us up outside, she’d be perfectly capable of tipping off Eulate!”
* * *
Some minutes later, Telzey came out the back door on her side of the bungalow, dressed for a town trip again. The two Pehanron guards stationed across the traffic lane eyed her as she started towards the enclosed carport, but made no move. They hadn’t been instructed to keep watch on Telzey.
Inside the stall and out of their sight, she slid behind the Cloudsplitter’s hood, roared the main engine experimentally a few times, glanced up. The shower window already stood open. Chomir’s big white head appeared in it now, pointed ears tipped questioningly forwards, broad brow wrinkled in concentration. He had grasped that something unusual was required of him—but what? To look out of Telzey’s shower window?
“Down here, Brainless!”
She couldn’t hear Gonwil’s voice above the noise of the engine, but Chomir’s air of well-meaning bewilderment increased. Why, his eyes inquired of Telzey, was Gonwil shoving around at his rear? Then his forepaws came into view, resting on the window sill. Telzey gestured violently, pointing at the ground below the window.
Urged on from in front and behind, Chomir suddenly got the picture. He grinned, lolled out his tongue, sank back, came up and out in a flowing, graceful leap, clearing the window frame by a scant half-inch on all sides. He landed and waved his tail cheerfully at Telzey.
She caught his collar and patted him, while Gonwil, red-faced from her effort to lift more than her own weight in dog straight up, came wriggling through the shower window after him with an overnight bag containing the Finance Eleven chips and her library. Telzey slid open the Cloudsplitter’s luggage compartment.
A minute later, she turned the little car out into the traffic lane. She had barely been able to shove the luggage compartment’s door shut on her two passengers; but they were safely out of sight. The two guards stared thoughtfully after the car as it went gliding down the lane. They could hear the music of a newsviewer program within the duplex. It might be a good half-hour before they got the first proddings of suspicion about Telzey and her aircar.
Coming up to the force-screen exit she’d used in the morning, Telzey snapped the Star Honor Student pass back on her hat. The guards were screening incoming visitors with unusual care today, but students going out were a different matter. They glanced at the pass, at her, waved her through.
As she lifted the car over the crest of the wooded hills north of the college area, a big green airvan veered out of the direction in which it was headed and turned north ahead of her, picking up speed. Fifteen miles on and a few minutes later, Telzey followed the van down to the side of an isolated farm building. En route, there had been a few cautiously questioning knocks from the inside of the luggage compartment. But Telzey ignored them and Gonwil, puzzled, no doubt, about the delay in being let out but trustful as ever, had subsided again.
In the shadow of the farm building, Telzey set the Cloudsplitter down behind the van. Gilas Amberdon clambered out of the front section of the big vehicle and met her beyond hearing range of the luggage compartment.
“Not so far,” Telzey said. “They’re both inside. Has the Kyth Agency found out where the Parlins are?”
“No,” Gilas said. “The calls they’ve made were routed through Orado City but apparently didn’t originate there. The chances are they aren’t hiding deliberately and will disclose their whereabouts as soon as they hear Gonwil has disappeared from the college.”
He studied her a moment. “I realize we’re working you a little hard, Telzey. If you take six hours off and catch up on some sleep after we get to the Kyth hideout, it shouldn’t make any difference.”
She shook her head. “I don’t feel particularly tired. And I want to finish up with Chomir. I’ve got a hunch what he knows will be really important when we get it figured out.”
Gilas considered. “All right. Dasinger would like to have that. We’ll be there shortly. You’ll get separate quarters as you specified—close enough to Gonwil and Chomir to let you work your mental witchcraft on them. And you’ll be completely undisturbed.”
“That will be fine,” Telzey said.
Her father smiled. “Then let’s go!”
He started towards the front of the van. Telzey walked back to the Cloudsplitter and slipped into her seat. Half a minute later, the end of the van opened out. She slid the car up and inside and shut off its engine. Benches lined this section of the vehicle. Aside from that, it was empty.
The loading door slammed shut again and the section lights came on overhead. Telzey waited until she felt the van lift creakily into the air. Then she opened the luggage compartment and let her rumpled passengers emerge.
“What in the world,” Gonwil inquired bewilderedly, straightening up and staring around as Chomir eased himself out of the Cloudsplitter behind her, “are we doing in this thing?”
“Being scooted off to a safe hiding place,” Telzey said. “That was all arranged for in advance.”
“Arranged for—safe . . .” Gonwil’s voice was strained. “Telzey! Whose idea was this?”
“The Bank of Rienne’s.”
* * *
The room they’d put her in here, Gonwil acknowledged, was, though not very large, comfortable and attractively furnished. If, nevertheless, it gave her a somewhat oppressive feeling of being imprisoned, that could be attributed to the fact that it was windowless and lacked means of outside communication.
The only way to leave would be to go through a short corridor and open a door at the far end, which let into an office where a number of people were working. So she couldn’t have slipped away unnoticed, but there was no reason to think the people in the office would try to detain her if she did decide to leave. She’d simply been asked to stay here long enough to let the Bank of Rienne determine whether there could be any sinister significance to the appearance of the inquisitive strangers at the Tayun consulate that morning.
During the brief ride in the airvan, Telzey had explained that the bank felt its investigation would be greatly simplified if it could be carried out in complete secrecy. Pehanron College did not seem a safe place to leave Gonwil if somebody did intend to harm her; and to avoid revealing that it was taking a hand in the matter, the bank had called on Telzey, through her father, to spirit Gonwil quietly away from the campus,
Allowing for the fact that, at the moment, everybody appeared obsessed by the notion that Tayun vendettists were after her, it wasn’t an unreasonable explanation. The Bank of Rienne did have some grounds to consider itself responsible for her here. “But why,” Gonwil had asked, “didn’t you tell me all this before we left?”
“Would you have come along if I had?” Telzey said.
Gonwil reflected and admitted that she probably wouldn’t have come along. She didn’t want to appear ungrateful; and she had now begun to feel the first touches of apprehension. When so many people, including Telzey’s eminently practical father, were indicating concern for her safety, the possibility couldn’t be denied that there was more to the old vendettist stories than she’d been willing to believe. Cousin Malrue, after all, was no fool; perhaps she had done Malrue an inexcusable injustice in belittling her warnings! Gonwil had only a vague idea of the methods a capable murderer might use to reach his victim; but it was generally accepted that he had a frightening array of weapons to choose from, and that every precaution must be taken in such situations.