“Why take care of her at all?”
“Because not everyone in COS is going to believe Osselin’s version of what happened. They don’t dare do anything about him, but there was enough to show Uspurul was involved somehow in what went on tonight. She’s a rotten little creature in some ways, but I’d sooner not think of her being worked over by COS interrogation methods. They can break down amnesia treatments sometimes, so Osselin wanted to have her killed immediately to be on the safe side.” Telzey added, “Uspurul’s got a really good brain, and you’d be surprised at the things she’s learned working for COS Services! Adacee should find her an asset. Give her half a chance, and she might make a great newscaster!”
“Adacee and I thank you,” said Keth.
Telzey checked in at the Morrahall Hotel in Orado City that evening, had an early dinner, and thereupon locked herself into her room. The impression she’d left at Pehanron College was that she would be spending the night with her family. Her parents, on the other hand, naturally assumed she was at the college. She’d programmed the ComWeb to have calls coming in at the college, at home, or to her car, transferred to the hotel room—if the caller, having been informed that she was busy and much preferred not to be disturbed before morning, felt there was justification enough for intruding on her privacy.
The semifinals of the annual robochess district championship series had begun, and she was still well up among the players. There should be two or three crucial games tonight, very little sleep. She wanted all the seclusion she could get.
She got into a casual outfit, settled down at the set, dialed herself into the series. Five minutes later, she was fed an opening move, an easy-looking one. She countered breezily. Six moves on, she was perspiring and trying to squirm out of an infernally ingenious trap. Out of it, though not unscathed, just ahead of deadline, she half closed a rather nasty little trap of her own.
Time passed in blissful absorption.
Then the ComWeb rang.
Telzey started, frowned, glanced at the instrument. It rang again. She pushed the Time Out button on the set, looked at her watch, switched on the ComWeb. “Yes?” she said.
“A caller requests override, Miss Amberdon,” the ComWeb told her.
“Who is it?”
“The name is Wellan Dasinger.”
“All right.” Telzey clicked in nonvisual send, and Dasinger’s lean tanned face appeared in the screen. “I’m here,” she said. “Hello, Dasinger.”
“Hello, Telzey. Are we private?”
“As private as we can be,” she assured him. Dasinger was the head of Kyth Interstellar, a detective agency to which she’d given some assistance during the past year, and which in turn was on occasion very useful to her.
“I need information,” he said. “Quite urgently—in your special study area. I’d like to come out to Pehanron and talk to you. Immediately, if possible.” This was no reference to her law studies. Dasinger knew she was a psi; but neither he nor she referred to psi matters directly on a ComWeb. He added, “I realize it can’t be the most convenient hour for you.”
Dasinger wasn’t given to overstatement. If he said a matter was quite urgent, it was as urgent as matters could get. Telzey depressed the Concede button on the robochess set, thereby taking herself out of the year’s series. The set clicked off. “The hour’s convenient, Dasinger,” she said. “So is the location.”
“I’m not at the college. I took a room at the Morrahall for the night. You’re at the agency?”
“I am.” The Kyth offices were four city block complexes away. “Can I send someone over for you?”
“I’ll be down at the desk in five minutes,” Telzey told him.
She slipped into sportswear, fitted on a beret, slung her bag from her shoulder, and left the room.
* * *
There were three of them presently in Dasinger’s private conference room. The third one was a Kyth operator Telzey hadn’t met before, a big blond man named Corvin Wergard.
“What we want,” Dasinger was saying, “is a telepath, a mind-reader—the real thing. Someone absolutely dependable. Someone who will do a fast, precise job for a high fee, and won’t be too fussy about the exact legality of what he’s involved in or a reasonable amount of physical risk. Can you put us in contact with somebody like that? Some acquaintance?”
Telzey said hesitantly, “I don’t know. It wouldn’t be an acquaintance; but I may be able to find somebody like that for you.”
“We’ve tried the listed professionals,” Wergard told her. “Along with some unlisted ones who were recommended to us. Mind-readers; people with telepathic devices. None of them would be any good here.”
Telzey nodded. No one like that was likely to be much good anywhere. The good ones stayed out of sight. She said, “It might depend on exactly what you want the telepath to do, why you want him to do it. I know it won’t be anything unethical, but he’ll want to be told more than that.”
Dasinger said, “It may concern a murder already carried out, or a murder that’s still to come. If it’s the last, we want to prevent it. Unfortunately, there’s very little time. Would you like to see the file on the case? It’s a short one.”
Telzey would. It was brought to her.
The file was headed: Selk Marine Equipment. Which was a company registered on Cobril, the water world eighteen hours from Orado. The brothers Noal and Larien Selk owned the company, Larien having been involved in it for only the past six years. For the past four years, however, he alone had been active in the management. Noal, who’d founded the company, had been traveling about the Hub during that time, maintaining a casual connection with the business.
A week ago, Noal had contacted the Kyth Agency’s branch on Cobril. He’d returned unexpectedly, found indications that Larien was siphoning off company funds, and apparently investing them in underworld enterprises on Orado. He wanted the agency to start tracing the money on Orado, stated he would arrive there in a few days with the evidence he’d accumulated.
He hadn’t arrived. Two days ago, Hishee Selk, Larien’s wife, appeared at the agency’s Cobril branch. She said Larien had implied to her that Noal had tried to make trouble for him and would pay for it. From his hints, she believed Larien had arranged to have Noal kidnapped and intended to murder him. She wanted the agency to find Noal in time to save his life.
The Selk file ended there. Visual and voice recordings of the three principals were included. Telzey studied the images, listened to the voices. There wasn’t much obvious physical resemblance between the brothers. Larien was young, athletically built, strikingly handsome, had an engaging smile. Noal, evidently the older by a good many years, seemed a washed-out personality—slight, stooped, colorless. Hishee was a slender blonde with slanted black eyes and a cowed look. Her voice matched the look; it was low and uncertain. Telzey went through that recording again, ignoring Hishee’s words, absorbing the voice tones.
She closed the file then. “Where’s the rest of it?”
“The rest of it,” said Dasinger, “is officially none of the Kyth Agency’s business at the moment. Hence it isn’t in the agency files.”
“You know a place called Joca Village, near Great Alzar?”
She nodded. “I’ve been there.”
“Larien Selk acquired an estate in the Village three months ago,” Dasinger said. “It’s at the northeast end, an isolated cliffside section overlooking the sea. We know Larien is there at present. And we’ve found out that Noal Selk was in fact kidnapped by professionals and turned over to Larien’s people. The probability is that he’s now in Larien’s place in Joca Village. If they try to move him out of there, he’ll be in our hands. But that’s the only good prospect of getting him back alive we have so far. Larien has been given no reason to believe anyone is looking for his brother, or that anyone but Hishee has begun to suspect Noal is missing. That’s our immediate advantage. We can’t afford to give it up.”
Telzey nodded, beginning to understand. Joca Village was an ultraexclusive residential area, heavily guarded. If you weren’t a resident or hadn’t been issued a pass by a resident, you didn’t get in. Passes were carefully checked at the single entrance, had to be confirmed. Overhead screens barred an aerial approach. She said, “And you can’t go to the authorities until you have him back.”
“No,” Dasinger said. “If we did, we’d never get him back. We might be able to pin murder on Larien Selk later, though that’s by no means certain. In any case, it isn’t what we’re after.” He hesitated, said questioningly after a moment, “Telzey?”
Telzey blinked languidly.
“Telzey—” Dasinger broke off, watching her. Wergard glanced at him. Dasinger made a quick negating motion with his hand. Wergard shifted his attention back to Telzey.