Chapter 10.

4 Feb

Raxis was reluctant to continue conversing with the woman once he was aware of her identity. It was Gaen who felt compelled to carry on an exchange with her in order to maintain some onward motion.

“I have heard of your renowned stable, Miss Lokum. Do you have much need to call for veterinary care for your magnificent equines?”

She ignored his query, addressing Raxis Absum, now that she knew who he was, with matters of personal interest to herself.

“It is so delightful to get out in the open country this time of year, but I do not get all the opportunity I would like. There are so many cares and worries that always come up and prevent me from riding out. It is a shame that I have so few free moments to do as I would wish to. This opening today is my first excursion out in several months.” She turned her eyes on Raxis, sitting next to her on her right. The table was now filled up with visitors and servers were bringing plates of food to them.

“Are you continually busy with your telepathic organization, Mr. Absum?” she inquired.

The Deliverer nodded yes. “I have very little free time at all, unfortunately.”

Xipha, perhaps not knowing or understanding why, plunged forward with a daring proposal.

“Whenever you have the time and opportunity, visit and look over my stable,” smiled the rich spinster. “I can show you some interesting equines of today. You must bring the doctor with you as well, of course.”

“Thank you, Miss Lokum,” smiled Raxis. “Thank you most kindly,” he repeated.

Dzig Geta believed in grabbing hold of a prize when it was clearly available. That was why he summoned the two older Uxor brothers to meet him in his private quarters at the Hippodrome. He got down to business immediately once the three of them were in rattan chairs.

“There is a mountain of profit being lost every day because we lack full ownership of Central Echolines. Control is not enough. We have to win the network in Tinok entirely, lock, stock, and barrel. Do you comprehend the significance of that? Can you see where that can lead us?”

Trino and Orez simultaneously announced that they did.

“Then, listen carefully to what I am going to say next,” declared the gambling tycoon. “This younger brother of yours has lost his golden chance of marrying Miss Lokum and taking over her inheritance. She still has personal ownership of the majority of shares in the company. That is an intolerable situation. The whims and fancies of an aging spinster can become a danger to everything we are attempting to do. They certainly throw a shadow over all my new gambling operations. Central Echolines remains the main point of hazard to my own and our shared interests, gentlemen.

“I want the two of you to order your brother to do what is required of him. Carry my recommendation back to him. He must make an all-out effort to mend relations with the woman and restore the position he once held in connection with her. He must win back the favor that has in recent days declined. I receive constant reports that they are no longer seen in public together. At any price, he has to win back her affections and seal their relationship within wedlock. Only that outcome can guarantee us our financial future. Once he is successful, he can make her sell her inherited shares of Central Echolines to us. You and I ,of course, would volunteer to be the buyers. Together, we could come to exercise full ownership and power over the company and its tubing.

“Am I clear as to what has to be done by your brother?”

Both Uxors replied that they understood and agreed to take action.

Having no more to discuss with Dzig Geta, they rose and crept out in silence.

The milk blue sky was clear and effulgent above the mansion and stables as Xipha walked along a stone path, Raxis at her side. He wore a bright yellow outdoor jaquet and striped red trousers. She had on a riding habit with buckskin jodphurs and a short woolen shrug. They had been out on the trail for over three hours and both were thoroughly tired by this time.

The Deliverer had given her a lengthy explanation of the Generalist arguments against the Focusists, defending his old theories and principles. “The new current accuses me of undervaluing the roots of telepathy in the magnetic fields and poles of planet Velvet, but that is an unfair attack. The nature of our original fight for recognition compelled us to emphasize the psychological factors at the expense of electrico-magnetism, but that sector of psychic linking was never overlooked or denigrated. We realized the influence of the metallic core of the planet and its connection to the psychic capacities of human minds.”

Xipha continued listening attentively to what he was telling her as they approached the rear entrance of the enormous residence. Neither walker noticed a shadow lurking under a shade of a nearby window. Someone was waiting there for their advent, as if ready to pounce on them as they entered the mansion.

Opening the door for his hiking companion, Raxis caught sight of a human shape standing in the adjacent alcove, under the window cover. Xipha was the first to recognize that it was Dawt Uxor. Why would he be here except to produce problems and troubles? She turned stiff and defensive as the two who had been outside stood and stared at the intruder who was disturbing their leisure time with each other.

“Hello, Xipha,” said the visitor with a wan smile that seemed to be forced. “How are you today?” He turned his cobalt eyes on Raxis. “I recognize you from the many public events where I’ve seen you, Mr. Absum. My sincere regards, sir.”

An uneasy quiet fell over the three for a few moments, until Dawt made a statement concerning his intent at this juncture of events.

“I came here to speak with you, Xipha. Could Mr. Absum excuse us so that we may take a walk and talk by ourselves? I do not intend to take a lot of your time.”

“No,” she replied with firmness in her voice. “I am busy and cannot spare you a moment. Sorry.”

Dawt moved forward a step. “But I have something of importance. Please, I beg you.”

He took another step toward her, blocking the space in front of Xipha. His right arm went up as if he planned to take hold of the spinster by force. But Raxis intervened in time to prevent any such threat to her, moving his own body between the two of them.

“I urge you to show the decency not to make a nuisance of yourself, my good man. Since Miss Lokum does not desire to converse any further, I ask you in her behalf to remove yourself immediately. Please, go right now.”

A moment that determined the future course of events then happened. The fate of all three persons present was decided, in almost all respects.

Dawt raised his right arm and slapped the face of the Deliverer. It made a loud, smacking noise.

This sudden blow surprised but did not hurt or injure the one who suffered it. No permanent scar of any physical sort resulted from the unexpected action.

The most serious effect occurred in the mind of Xipha Lokum.

“Be gone! Get out of my home, you fool. Never return or speak to me again!”

The disconcerted interloper hurried around the pair and exited, circling the mansion in order to reach the shay he had come there in. His departure was wrapped in a storm of emotions that he could never describe or define to himself.

Raxis took the hand of Xipha and guided her in to the great parlor.

They sat there a considerable while in silence. Both of them had much to consider.

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