The voice impressions ended. There was a moment’s pause. A sharp surge of uneasiness passed through Chomir.
What did that . . .
Telzey felt the blood drain from her face as she scrambled abruptly out of the chair, reaching for the room communicator. Then her breath caught. She stopped in mid-motion, stood swaying. Electric shivers were racing over her skin. The air seemed to tingle. Psi energy was building up swiftly, oppressively; and she was its focal point.
Fury swept towards her, mindless, elemental, like a roaring wind. She seemed to move, and the room flickered out of existence. Something raged, and about her spun a disk of noise, of shock-distorted faces, of monstrously straining muscles. She moved again, and everything was still and clear.
She was looking into another room, a day-bright room where a man in a yellow suit stood beside a window, studying the small device he held in one hand. Beyond the window, sunlit parkland stretched away in long, rising slopes; and in the far distance, high on the slopes, was the glassy glitter of a familiar cluster of buildings. Pehanron College.
Something appeared to startle the man. His face turned quickly towards her; and as she registered the details of the sharp features and wispy blond mustache, his eyes became round, white-rimmed holes of intense fright.
The room vanished. Then there was one more sensation, remarkably like being slammed several times on top of the head by a giant fist; and a wave of blackness rolled over Telzey and swept her down. . . .
“Oh, he’s admitted it, all right!” Dasinger said, frowning at the solidopic of the man with the thin blond mustache. “In fact, as soon as he was told why he’d been picked up, he became anxious to spill everything he knew. But his confession isn’t going to be of much use against the Parlins.”
“Why not?” Telzey asked.
“Because one thing he didn’t know was who his employers were.” The detective nodded at the chipviewer he’d put on the table before her. “You can get the details from the report faster than I could give them to you. I have some questions myself, by the way.”
“What about, Mr. Dasinger?”
“It seems,” Dasinger said, “that when you sensed the dog was turning on Miss Lodis, you did three things almost simultaneously. You pinned the animal down in some manner . . .”
Telzey nodded. “I kept locking his muscles on him. That’s what it felt like.”
“That’s what it looked like,” Dasinger agreed. “When we got into the room, he was twisting around on the floor and seemed unable to open his jaws. Even so, he gave us one of the most startling demonstrations of animal athletics I’ve seen. It was a good half minute before somebody could line up on him long enough to feed him a stunner! Besides keeping Miss Lodis from getting killed in there, you’ve probably also saved the lives of three or four of my men . . . a detail which the Kyth Agency will remember. Now, as you clamped down on the dog, you also blasted a telepathic warning to your father to let us know Miss Lodis needed immediate help.”
“Uh-huh. I didn’t realize till afterwards I’d done it though.”
“Meanwhile again,” Dasinger said, indicating the solidopic, “you were putting in a personal appearance in the city of Beale, a good thousand miles away, in the room where this gentleman was operating the instrument which was supposed to be accomplishing the murder of Miss Lodis.”
Telzey hesitated, said “I seemed to be there, for just a few moments. He looked scared to death, and I was wondering if he could see me.”
“He saw something,” the detective said, “and he’s described it. The description fits you. The fellow hadn’t been told who the intended victim was, and up to that moment he hadn’t particularly cared. But his conclusion was that the accusing wraith of the person he’d just helped murder had appeared in the room. That left his nerves in pitiable condition, I’m happy to say, and has made him very easy to handle.
“On the other hand, of course, this experience, again limits his usefulness to us. We don’t want him to talk about it, because we don’t want to start speculations about you personally.”
“No, I see.”
“I’m assuming,” Dasinger went on, “that it was also a rather unusual experience as far as you were concerned. If you could do that kind of thing regularly, you obviously wouldn’t need assistance in solving Miss Lodis’s problems.”
Telzey hesitated. It seemed to her there had been, in that instant, a completely improbable combination of factors, resulting in something like a psychic explosion. The fury pouring out of the dog’s mind might have set it off; and she’d been simply involved in it then, doing what she urgently wished to do, but not at all controlling the fact that she was doing it, or how it was done.
It had worked out very well; Gonwil and some other people and Chomir would be dead now if it hadn’t happened in just that way. But she wasn’t eager for another experience of the kind. The next time it might as easily work out very badly.
She explained it to Dasinger as well as she could. He listened attentively, frowning now and then. At last he said, “Perhaps you’d better look over the report on Mrs. Parlin’s hired assassin. Then I’ll explain what the situation seems to be now.”
* * *
Whether or not she’d actually gone to Beale in any physical sense during those few seconds, she hadn’t relaxed her mental hold on Chomir while she was doing it. And while that had saved lives, it had one drawback. When someone finally poured a stunblast into the big dog, the connection between them was strong enough to transmit echoes of the pounding shock to her brain. It knocked her out, but since she hadn’t absorbed the stunner physically the Kyth operatives brought her around again within minutes.
Then, after she’d barely finished giving them the description of the man in Beale, along with the information that Pehanron College could be seen at a certain angle, roughly five miles away, from the window of the room he was in, some well-meaning character slipped her a sedative in a glass of water without stopping to inquire whether she wanted one. Conceivably, she appeared a little feverish and wild-eyed, as who wouldn’t under such circumstances? At any rate, she was unconscious again before she knew what had occurred.
The next time she awoke, eighteen hours had passed and she was in one of the cabins of the spacecruiser maintained by the Bank of Rienne for Gilas Amberdon’s use. They were in space, though not far from Orado; she was in bed, and a large woman in a nurse’s uniform was sitting next to the bed. The large woman informed her firmly that she would remain in bed until Mr. Amberdon’s physician had come out from the planet to examine her again. Telzey, with equal firmness, dismissed the nurse from the cabin, got dressed, and went out to learn what had taken place meanwhile.
In the passage she encountered Dasinger, looking harried. The Kyth chief told her Gilas and Gonwil were in the communications cabin, involved in a ship-to-planet conference with Rienne’s legal department, and offered to bring her up-to-date.
It appeared that the Kyth operatives dispatched to Beale early yesterday to look for Chomir’s menacing stranger had picked up their quarry very shortly after receiving Telzey’s description of him and of the area where he could be found. It had been a lucky break; he was on his way to the nearest spaceport by then. They learned his name was Vingar, that he was a native of Askanam where he had some reputation as a trainer of arena animals; and that he had received an extremely attractive financial offer to come to Orado and apply for work in a high-priced veterinarian establishment in the town of Beale, where he presently would carry out a specific assignment. The vet’s was the place where Gonwil left Chomir regularly for his check-up and shots.
In due time, acting on instructions, Vingar drugged the big dog and planted a device in his brain, of a type sometimes used on Askanam fighting animals when the betting was heavy. Essentially, it was a telecontrolled miniature instrument which produced at will anything from a brief surge of anger to sustained insane fury. Animals so manipulated rarely lost a fight in which they were otherwise evenly matched, and cheating was almost impossible to prove because the instrument dissolved itself after fulfilling its function, leaving only microscopic scars in the brain tissue. After arousing Chomir from his drugged sleep, Vingar tested his device and found it in good working order.
Some months passed without further action. Then Vingar received instructions to check the dog’s response again at the first available opportunity. He had done this from an aircar while Gonwil and Chomir were on one of their customary hikes in the hills. Following his report that the dog had reacted satisfactorily to minimum stimulus, he was told to wait for a signal which would be his cue to employ the instrument at full output for a period of five minutes, after which it was to be destroyed in the usual manner. This would conclude the services for which he had been hired.