Chapter XXI.

11 Apr

Both Dey and Veta realized they were under unseen surveillance.

Examining chambers, as always, were equipped with hidden wires and recorders. This one could not be an exception to that. Captain Kont would certainly know every word that was said between them.

The journalist rose as Veta entered the room and extended her hand to him.

“How are you being treated?” she asked as the two of them sat down opposite each other.

“Not too badly for a person under constant suspicion,” he answered with a slight wink of his right eye. That was his cryptic way of saying he and she were being listened to at that moment.

“I flew here on a gyroplane furnished by the Clandestine Service,” began the slender young woman. “It was an exciting adventure I never expected to experience.” (It was not my free choice, but something brutally coerced from me.)

Both of them realized they would have to communicate in an indirect manner. Their conversing would have to be encoded.

“What has happened to me is beyond anything my imagination could ever have conceived,” continued the prisoner. “Here I am, being held in a cell in the inner, maximum security section of a police headquarters. I don’t have any idea of what I am suspected of having done. This Captain Kont will not tell me the specific accusations against me. He asks for information concerning people I am not familiar with, about matters I know nothing of.

“It appears I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. That is the extent of my offense. I know nothing of these other people who happened to be arrested at the same time. They are total strangers to me, all of them. How could I be connected in any way to them? I came to Landia only days ago. The only person I am familiar with is my guide from the Department of Information.” (She is the one who must extricate me from this perilous captivity. My survival is in her hands.)

Veta reached across the table with her right hand, placing it atop his left one.

“Do not be disturbed or distracted by fear,” she murmured to him. “We Landians are not a cruel people. There is no reason for anyone to cause you any hurt or pain at the present time. You will come out of this trouble.” (There are no immediate plans to torture you, as far as I know.)

Dey could feel her heart pulsing through the long, thin fingers lying on top of his.

“I know not what lies that others under arrest may tell concerning me. There may be individuals who will decide to incriminate me. My hope is that no one tries to gain favor by defaming me.” (Do not betray my trust, dear Veta.)

She suddenly gave a radiant grin, surprising him. “I know this Captain Kont. He is a veteran with many years experience capturing subversives and criminals. No one can fool him with libels about you, Dey.” (Kont is very clever, so admit nothing at all to him. He will use any bit of information given him to pry more out of you.)

“What shall I do?” he said pleadingly. “How can I tell what I don’t know about these other people he is so interested in?” (How long can I continue to claim ignorance?)

“You must maintain your honor, Dey.” (Do not submit to Kont. Confess nothing, reveal nothing.)

“I don’t know what to expect.”

“Do what is right, Dey, and you will come out completely unscathed. I have been assured that the Clandestine Service holds no grudge against you personally. They are only willing to release you under what they consider appropriate conditions.” (There is a chance of getting out, but I am not sure yet how it can be done. Yet there is some chance.)

Dey smiled at her. “You have taken me to so many interesting places, Veta. If only we had stayed at one of them during this time of social conflict.” (Would you try to make contact with those persons who might provide me some help in getting out of here?)

“I remember our experiences together,” she said with a purr. (Yes, attempts at contact will be made on my part. That will be my responsibility and I will carry it out. Do not worry yourself about it.)

She pulled back her hand and abruptly rose from the chair she sat on.

“By morning, there could be an important development, Dey.” (You and the others arrested are to be transported out of Glucinium.)

“Letting me freely leave?”

“If you cooperate and do the right thing.” (Be prepared for an unexpected development in your behalf and that of the others. Maintain your readiness for a sudden attempt to liberate you and your group.)

The prisoner got up and shook her hand once again.

After she had left the room, he was taken back to his small dark cell.

A short, nervous man in a black raincoat entered the Glucinium Hotel’s rear service entrance. He was brazenly breaking the night curfew of the city. His darting green eyes surveyed the empty kitchen where only one figure was still at work. The fat cook in apron and chef’s cap beamed a broad smile as he put down the pot he was washing and moved toward the intruder.

“You are late,” said the hotel employee bluntly. “I expected to see someone here well before dusk. It will now be impossible for me to get home on time. I’ll have to spend all night here in this kitchen, which has no bed or cot.”

The green-eyed one grinned sardonically. “Do not fret or worry. I shall have someone see that you are able to get home to your wife and family. Curfews, even the tightest, are meant to be broken by people with brains and audacity. Trust me, my friend. We will get you where you most want to be at night. Our people have planned and provided for everything ahead of time.”

Stepping closer, the cook peered at the stranger, surveying him from rain hat to shoes.

“Who are you, exactly? I called a miners’ leader who is a first cousin of mine on the wire and asked him to send someone here to talk to and advise me on what I should do.”

“Yes, I know,” nodded the visitor to the hotel kitchen. “You serve our movement as its eyes and ears in this place, and you are of great value to us in providing information of vital importance. The specific names that you reported as arriving today were of enormous interest to me.”

“You are not from the Glucinium district, I can tell by how you pronounce words when you speak.”

“I am a member of the Central Crew of our organization,” said Taval Renda. “My arrival here came late this morning, after the police raid on the warehouse serving as headquarters for the miners’ movement in your town.”

The cook gulped, impressed by the rank and influence of the small man standing before him.

“The desk clerk, an old friend of mine, keeps me informed on arrivals of interest to the movement. This afternoon there arrived a person known to be a captain in the Clandestine Service. He has traveled to our city many times, always bringing trouble with him. We have no question at all concerning his true identity.

“There is a young woman with him. She identified herself as an employee of the Department of Information. Her name is Vermilion, Veta Vermilion. She is the person who let it be known that she wishes to make contact with local leaders of the Miners Organization. Through one of the chamber maids, I was summoned up to her room. She informed me that the Clandestines are holding important prisoners in Glucinium who must be freed as soon as possible. I was told to do what I can to connect her with the miners’ underground. That is the reason I decided to act on my own.”

“I once had the opportunity of meeting Veta Vermilion,” recalled Renda. “What room is the young lady staying in?”

“Up on the top floor, in 841.”

“Is the Clandestine officer anywhere near her?”

“No. There were only a few vacancies when he arrived. He was put on the seventh floor.”

Taval Renda licked his lips for a second. “I have to speak with this woman at once. Are there back stairs that I can use to reach her room without being noticed?”

The cook took him to the stairwell that no one used during the night hours. Within a minute, Renda was on the eighth floor of the Glucinium Hotel.

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