Use of Weapons | Chapter 20 of 40

Author: Iain M. Banks | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 40899 Views | Add a Review

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The city was built inside a canyon two kilometres deep and ten across; the canyon wound through the desert for eight hundred kilometres, a jagged gash in the crust of the planet. The city took up only thirty of those kilometres.

He stood on the rimrock, looking inwards, and was confronted by a staggered confusion of buildings and houses and streets and steps and storm drains and railway lines, all grey and misty in filmy layers under a foggy-red setting sun.

Like slow waters from a broken dam, nebulous rollers of cloud swung down the canyon; they foundered persistently among the juts and cracks of the architecture, and seeped away like tired thoughts.

In a very few places, the topmost buildings had over-reached the rimrock and spilled onto the desert, but the rest of the city gave the impression that it lacked the energy or the momentum to proceed that far, and so had kept within the canyon, sheltered from the winds and kept temperate by the canyon's own natural microclimate.

The city, speckled with dim lights, seemed strangely silent and motionless. He listened hard, and finally caught what sounded like the high howl of some animal, from deep inside some misty suburb. Searching the skies, he could see the far specks of circling birds, wheeling in the still and coldly heavy air. Gliding in the deep distance over the cluttered terraces, stepped streets and zig-zagging roads, they were the source of a far, hoarse crying.

Further down, he saw some silent trains, thin lines of light, slowly crossing between tunnels. Water showed as black lines, in aqueducts and canals. Roads ran everywhere, and vehicles crawled along them, lights like sparks as they scuttled like the tiny prey of the wheeling birds.

It was a cold autumn evening, and the air was bitter. He'd taken off the combat suit and left it in the capsule, which had buried itself in a sandy hollow. Now he wore the baggy clothes that were popular here again; they had been in fashion when he'd worked here last time, and he felt oddly pleased that he'd been away long enough for the style to cycle round again. He was not superstitious, but the coincidence amused him.

He squatted down and touched the rimrock. He lifted a handful of pebbles and topweeds, then let them sift through his fingers. He sighed and got to his feet, pulling on gloves, putting on a hat.

The city was called Solotol, and Tsoldrin Beychae was here.

He dusted a little sand from his coat - an old raincoat from far away, and of purely sentimental value - placed a pair of very dark glasses on his nose, picked up a modest case, and went down into the city.

'Good afternoon, sir. How may I help you?'

'I'd like your two top floors, please.'

The clerk looked confused, then leaned forward. 'I'm sorry, sir?'

'The two top floors of the hotel; I'd like them.' He smiled. 'I haven't made a reservation; sorry.'

'Aah...' the clerk said. He appeared a little worried as he looked at his reflection in the dark glasses. 'The two...?'

'Not a room, not a suite, not a floor, but two floors, and not any two floors; the two top floors. If you have any guests presently occupying any of the rooms in the top two floors, I suggest you ask them politely to accept a room on another floor; I'll pay their bills up till now.'

'I see...' the hotel clerk said. He seemed unsure whether to take all this seriously or not. 'And... how long was sir thinking of staying?'

'Indefinitely. I'll pay for a month, in advance. My lawyers will cable the funds by lunchtime tomorrow.' He opened the case and took out a wad of paper money, placing it on the desk. I'll pay for one night in cash, if you like.'

'I see,' the clerk said, eyes fixed on the money. 'Well, if sir would like to fill in this form...'

'Thank you. Also, I'll want an elevator for my personal use, and access to the roof. I expect a pass key will be the best solution.'

'Aah. Indeed. I see. Excuse me just a moment, sir.' The clerk went off to get the manager.

He negotiated a bulk discount for the two floors, then agreed a fee for the use of the lift and the roof that brought the deal back to what it had been in the first place. He just liked haggling.

'And sir's name?'

'I'm called Staberinde,' he said.

He chose a suite on the top floor, on a corner which looked out into the great depth of canyon city. He unlocked all the cupboards and closets and doors, window shutters, balcony covers and drug cabinets, and left everything open. He tested the bath in the suite; the water ran hot. He took a couple of small chairs out of the bedroom, and another set of four from the lounge, and put them in another suite alongside. He turned all the lights on, looking at everything.

He looked at patterns of coverings and curtains and hangings and carpets, at the murals and paintings on the walls, and at the design of the furniture. He rang for some food to be delivered, and when it came, on a small trolley, he pushed the trolley in front of him from room to room, eating on the move while he wandered through the quiet spaces of the hotel, gazing all about, and occasionally looking at a tiny sensor which was supposed to tell him if there were any surveillance devices around. There weren't.

He paused at a window, looking out, and rubbed absently at a small puckered mark on his chest that was not there any more.

'Zakalwe?' said a tiny voice from his breast. He looked down, took a thing like a bead out of a shirt pocket. He clipped it to one ear, taking off his dark glasses and putting them in the pocket instead.


'It's me; Diziet. You all right?'

'Yeah. I found a place to stay.'

'Great. Listen; we've found something. It's perfect!'

'What?' he said, smiling at the excitement in Sma's voice. He pressed a button to close the curtains.

'Three thousand years ago here there was a guy who became a famous poet; wrote on wax tablets set in wooden frames. He did a group of one hundred short poems he always maintained were the best things he ever wrote. But he couldn't get them published, and he decided to become a sculptor instead; he melted the wax from ninety-eight of the tablets - keeping numbers one and one hundred - to carve a wax model, made a sand mould around it, and cast a bronze figure which still exists.'

'Sma, is this leading anywhere?' he said, pressing another button to open the curtains again. He rather liked the way they swished.

'Wait! When we first found Voerenhutz and did the standard total scan of each planet, we naturally took a holo of the bronze statue; found some traces of the original casting sand and the wax in a cranny.

'And it wasn't the right wax!

'It didn't match the two surviving tablets! So the GCU waited till it had finished the total scan and then did some detective work. The guy who did the bronze, and who had done the poems, later became a monk, and ended up an abbot of a monastery. There was one building added while he was head man; legend has it he used to go there and contemplate the vanished ninety-eight poems. The building has a double wall.' Sma's voice rose triumphantly; 'Guess what's in the cavity!'

'Walled-in disobedient monks?'

'The poems! The waxes!' Sma yelled. Then her voice dropped a little. 'Well, most of them. The monastery was abandoned a couple of hundred years ago, and it looks like some shepherd lit a fire against a wall sometime and melted three or four of them... but the rest are there!'

'Is that good?'

'Zakalwe; they're one of the great lost literary treasures of the planet! The university of Jarnsaromol, where your pal Beychae's hanging out, has most of the guy's parchment manuscripts, the other two tablets and the famous bronze. They'd give anything to get their hands on those tablets! Don't you see? It's perfect!'

'Sounds all right, I suppose.'

'Damn you, Zakalwe! Is that all you can say?'

'Dizzy, luck this good never lasts long; it'll average out.'

'Don't be so pessimistic, Zakalwe.'

'Okay, I won't,' he sighed, closing the curtains again.

There was a noise of exasperation from Diziet Sma. 'Well; I just thought I'd tell you. We'll be going soon. Sleep well.'

The channel beeped closed. He smiled ruefully. He left the little terminal where it was, like an earring.

He gave orders he was not to be disturbed, and as the night deepened, he turned all the heating up full and opened all the windows. He spent some time testing the balconies and drainage pipes around the outer walls; he climbed nearly to the ground and all the way round the facade as he tested ledges and pipes and sills and cornices for their strength. He saw lights in less than a dozen other guest rooms. When he was satisfied he knew the outside of the hotel, he returned to his floor.

He leant on the balcony, a smoky bowl cradled in his hand. Occasionally he lifted the bowl to his face and inhaled deeply; the rest of the time he looked out over the sparkling city, whistling.

Watching the light-speckled view, he thought while most cities looked like canvases, spread flat and thin, Solotol was like a half-open book; a rippling sculptured V sinking deep into the planet's geological past. Above, the clouds over the canyon and the desert glowed with orange-red light, reflecting the channelled flare of the city.

He imagined that from the other side of the city, the hotel must look rather strange, with its topmost floor fully lit, the others practically black.

He supposed he had forgotten how different the setting of the canyon made the city, compared to others. Still, this too is similar, he thought. All is similar.

He had been to so many different places and seen so much the same and so much utterly different that he was amazed by both phenomena... but it was true; this city was not so different from many others he'd known.

Everywhere they found themselves, the galaxy bubbled with life and its basic foods kept on speaking back to it, just like he'd told Shias Engin (and, thinking of her, felt again the texture of her skin and the sound of her voice). Still, he suspected if the Culture had really wanted to, it could have found far more spectacularly different and exotic places for him to visit. Their excuse was that he was a limited creature, adapted to certain sorts of planets and societies and types of warfare. A martial niche, Sma had called it.

He smiled a little grimly, and took another deep breath from the drug bowl.

The man walked past empty arcades and deserted flights of steps. He wore an old raincoat of a style unknown but still somehow old-fashioned looking; he wore very dark glasses. His walk was economical. He appeared to have no mannerisms.

He entered the courtyard of a large hotel which contrived to look expensive and slightly run-down at the same time. Dully-dressed gardeners, raking leaves from the surface of an old swimming pool, stared at the man as though he had no right to be there.

Men were painting the interior of the porch outside the lobby, and he had to work his way round them to get in. The painters were using specially inferior paint made to very old recipes; it was guaranteed to fade and crack and peel in a most authentic manner within a year or two.

The foyer was rich with decoration. The man pulled a thick purple rope near one corner of the reception desk. The clerk appeared, smiling.

'Good morning, Mr Staberinde. A pleasant walk?'

'Yes, thank you. Have breakfast sent up, will you?'

'Immediately, sir.'

'Solotol is a city of arches and bridges, where steps and pavements wind past tall buildings and lance out over steep rivers and gullies on slender suspension bridges and fragile stone arches. Roadways flow along the banks of water courses, looping and twisting over and under them; railways splay out in a tangle of lines and levels, swirling through a network of tunnels and caverns where underground reservoirs and roads converge, and from a speeding train passengers can look out to see galaxies of lights reflecting on stretches of dark water crossed by the slants of underground funiculars and the piers and ways of subterranean roads.'

He was sitting in the bed, dark glasses on the other pillow, eating breakfast and watching the hotel's own introductory tape on the suite screen. He switched the sound down when the antique telephone beeped.


'Zakalwe?' It was Sma's voice.

'Good grief; you still here?'

'We're about to break orbit.'

'Well, don't wait on my account.' He felt inside a shirt pocket and fished out the terminal bead. 'Why the phone? This transceiver packed up?'

'No; just making sure there are no problems patching into the phone system.'

'Fine. That all?'

'No. We've located Beychae more exactly; still in Jarnsaromol University, but he's in library annexe four. That's a hundred metres under the city; the university's safest safe store. Quite secure at the best of times, and they have extra guards, though no real military.'

'But where does he live; where does he sleep?'

'The curator's apartments; they're attached to the library.'

'He ever come to the surface?'

'Not that we can find out.'

He whistled. 'Well, that might or might not be a problem.'

'How are things at your end?'

'Fine,' he said, biting into a sweetmeat. 'Just waiting for the offices to open; I've left a message with the lawyers to phone me. Then I start causing a fuss.'

'All right. There shouldn't be any problems there; the necessary instructions have been issued, and you should get anything you want. Any problems, get in touch and we'll fire off an indignant cable.'

'Yeah, Sma, I've been thinking; just how big is this Culture commercial empire, this Vanguard Corporation?'

'Vanguard Foundation. It's big enough.'

'Yeah, but how big? How far can I go?'

'Well, don't buy anything bigger than a country. Look, Cheradenine; be as extravagant as you want in creating your fuss. Just get Beychae for us. Quickly.'

'Yeah, yeah; okay.'

'We're heading off now, but we'll keep in touch. Remember; we're here to help if you need it.'

'Yeah. Bye.' He put the phone down and turned the screen sound up again.

'Caves, natural and artificial, are scattered through the rock of the canyon walls in almost as great a profusion as the buildings on the sloping surface. Many of the city's old hydroelectric sources are there, hollowed out into rock and humming; and a few small factories and workshops still survive, hidden away beneath the cliffs and shale, with only their stubby chimneys on the desert surface to show their position. This upward river of warm fumes counterpoints the network of sewage and drainage pipes, which also shows on the surface on occasion, and presents a complex pattern of tracery through the fabric of the city.'

The phone beeped.


'Mr... Staberinde?'


'Ah, yes; good morning. My name is Kiaplor, of...'

'Ah; the lawyers.'

'Yes. Thank you for your message. I have here a cable granting you full access to the income and securities of the Vanguard Foundation.'

'I know. Are you quite happy with this, Mr Kiaplor?'

'Umm... I... yes; the cable makes the position quite clear... though it is an unprecedented degree of individual discretion, given the size of the account. Not that the Vanguard Foundation has ever behaved exactly conventionally at any time.'

'Good. The first thing I'd like is to have funds sufficient to cover a month's hire of two floors of the Excelsior transferred to the hotel's account, immediately. Then I want to start buying a few things.'

'Ah... yes. Such as?'

He dabbed at his lips with a napkin. 'Well, for a start, a street.'

'A street?'

'Yes. Nothing too ostentatious, and it doesn't have to be very long, but I want a whole street, somewhere near the city centre. Do you think you can look for a suitable one, immediately?'

'Ah... well, yes, we can certainly start looking. I...'

'Good. I'll call at your offices in two hours; I'd like to be in a position to come to a decision then.'

'Two...? Umm... well, ah...'

'Speed is essential, Mr Kiaplor. Put your best people on it.'

'Yes. Very well.'

'Good. I'll see you in a couple of hours.'

'Yes. Right. Goodbye.' He turned the screen sound back up again.

'Very little new building has been done for hundreds of years; Solotol is a monument, an institution; a museum. The factories, like the people, are mostly gone. Three universities lend areas of the city some life, during part of the year, but the general air is said by many people to be archaic, even stultified, though some people enjoy the feel of living in what is, in effect, the past. Solotol has no sky-lighting; the trains still run on metal rails, and the ground vehicles must remain on the ground, because flying within the city or immediately above it is banned. A sad old place, in many ways; large sections of the city are uninhabited or only occupied for part of the year. The city is still a capital in name, but it does not represent the culture to which it belongs; it is an exhibit, and while many come to visit it, few choose to stay.'

He shook his head, put his dark glasses on, and turned the screen off.

When the wind was in the right direction he blasted huge netted balls of paper money into the air from an old firework mortar mounted in a high roof garden; the notes drifted down like early snowflakes. He'd had the street decorated with bunting, streamers and balloons and filled with tables and chairs and bars serving free drink; covered ways extended the length of it and music played; there were brightly coloured canopies over the important areas, such as the bandstands and the bars, but they were not needed; the day was bright, and unseasonably warm. He looked out of one of the highest windows in one of the tallest buildings in the street, and smiled at the sight of all the folk.

So little happened in the city during the off season that the carnival had attracted instant attention. He had hired people to serve the drugs and food and drink he had laid on; he had banned cars and unhappy faces, and people who didn't smile when they tried to get into the street were made to wear funny masks until they had livened up a bit. He breathed in deeply from where he leaned on the high window, and his lungs soaked up the heady fumes of a very busy bar just below; the drug smoke made it just this far up and hung in a cloud. He smiled, found it very heartening; it was all perfect.

People walked around and talked together or in groups, exchanging their smoky bowls, laughing and smiling. They listened to the band and watched people dancing. They gave a great cheer each time the mortar fired. Many of them laughed at the leaflets full of political jokes that were given out with every bowl of drugs or food and every mask and novelty; they laughed too at the big, guady banners that were strung across the fronts of the dilapidated old buildings and across the street itself. The banners were either absurd or humorous, too. PACIFISTS AGAINST WALLS! and, EXPERTS? WHAT DO THEY KNOW? were two of the more translatable examples.

There were games and trials of wit or strength, there were free flowers and party hats and a much frequented Compliments stall where one paid a little money, or gave a paper hat or whatever, and was told what a nice, pleasant, good, unshowy, quiet-tempered, undemonstrative, restrained, sincere, respectful, handsome, cheerful, good-willed person one was.

He looked down on all of this, shades pushed up onto the tied-back hair above his forehead. Down there, submerged in it, he knew he would feel somehow apart from it all. But from his high vantage point he could look down and see the people as a mass with different faces; they were far enough away to present a single theme, close enough to introduce their own harmonious variations. They enjoyed themselves, were made to laugh or to giggle, encouraged to get drugged and silly, captivated by the music, slightly deranged by the atmosphere.

He watched two people in particular.

They were a man and a woman, walking slowly through the street, looking all around. The man was tall and had dark hair cut short and kept artificially unkempt and curly; he was smartly dressed and carried a small dark beret in one hand; a mask dangled from the other.

The woman was almost as tall, and slimmer. She was dressed like the man, in unfussy dark grey-black, with a mandala of pleated white at her neck. Her hair was black, shoulder-length, and quite straight. She walked as though there were many admiring people watching her.

They walked side by side, without touching each other; they spoke now and again, merely tipping their heads in the direction of their companion and looking to the other side, perhaps at what they were talking about, as they spoke.

He thought he remembered their photographs from one of the briefings on the GSV. He moved his head a little to one side, to make sure the earring terminal had a good shot of them, then told the tiny machine to record the view.

A few moments later, the two people disappeared beneath the banners at the far end of the street; they'd walked through the carnival without taking part in anything.

The street party went on; a small shower came and drove people under the awnings and covers and into some of the small houses, but it was short, and more people were coming all the time; small children ran with bright streamers of paper, winding coloured trails round posts and people and stalls and tables. Puff-bombs exploded in smoky balls of coloured incense, and laughing, choking people staggered about, thumping each others' backs and shouting at the laughing children who threw the things.

He drew away from the window, losing interest. He sat in the room for a little, squatting on an old chest in the dust, hand rubbing his chin, thoughtful, only raising his eyes when an upward landslide of balloons jostled up past the casement. He brought the dark glasses down. From inside, the balloons looked just the same.

He walked down the narrow stairs, his boots clacking on the old wood; he took the old raincoat up from the rail at the bottom, and let himself out of the rear door into another street.

The driver pulled the car away and he sat in the back as they rolled past the rows of old buildings. They came to the end of the street and turned into the steep road that ran at right-angles to it and the street the party was in. They slid past a long dark car with the man and the woman in it.

He looked round. The dark car followed them.

He told the driver to exceed the speed limit. They sped, and the car following them kept pace. He hung on and watched the city slithering past. They raced through some of the old government areas; the grand buildings were grey, and heavily decorated with wall founts and water channels; elaborate patterns of water ran down their walls in vertical waves, dropping like theatre curtains. There were some weeds, but less than he would have expected. He couldn't remember if they let the water-walls ice up, turned them off, or added antifreeze. Scaffolding hung from many of the buildings. Workmen scratched and scraped at the worn stones, and turned to watch the two big cars go tearing through the squares and plazas.

He clung on to a grab handle in the rear of the car, and sorted through a large collection of keys.

They stopped in an old narrow street, down near the banks of the great river itself. He got out smartly and hurried into a small entrance under a tall building. The following car roared into the street as he closed but did not lock the door. He went down some steps, unlocking several rusting sets of gates. When he got down to the bottom of the building he found the funicular car waiting on the platform. He opened the door, got in and pulled the lever.

There was a slight jerk as the car started off up the incline, but it ran smoothly enough. He watched through the back windows as the man and then the woman came out onto the platform. He smiled as they looked up and saw the car disappearing into the tunnel. The little coach struggled up the smooth slope into the daylight.

At the point where the uphill and the downhill coach passed each other, he got out onto the outer platform of the car and stepped over onto the downhill coach. It ran on, propelled by the extra weight of water that it carried in its tanks, picked up from the stream at the high terminal of the old line. He waited a bit, then jumped out of that car about a quarter of the way down, onto the step? at the side of the track. He climbed up a long metal ladder, into another building.

He was sweating slightly by the time he got to the top. He took off the old raincoat and walked back to the hotel with it over his arm.

The room was very white and modern-looking, with large windows. The furniture was integrated with the plasticised walls, and light came from bulges in the one-piece roof. A man stood watching the first snow of winter as it fell softly over the grey city; it was late afternoon, and getting dark quickly. On a white couch a woman lay face-down, her elbows spread out, but her hands together under her side-turned face. Her eyes were closed and her pale, oiled body was massaged with apparent roughness by a powerfully-built man with grey hair and facial scars.

The man at the window watched the falling snow in two ways. First as a mass, with his eyes on one static point, so that the snowflakes became a mere swirl and the currents of air and gusts of light wind that moved them became manifest in patterns of circling, spiralling, falling. Then, by looking at the snow as individual flakes, selecting one high in the indeterminate galaxy of grey on grey, he saw one path, one separate way down through all the quiet hurry of the fall.

He watched them as they hit the black sill outside, where they grew steadily but imperceptibly to form a soft white ledge. Others struck the window itself, sticking there briefly, then falling away, blown off.

The woman seemed asleep. She smiled slightly, and the exact geography of her face was altered by the forces that the grey-haired man exerted on her back, shoulders and flanks. Her oiled flesh moved this way and that, and the gliding fingers seemed to provide force without causing friction, ribbing and creasing the skin like the smooth action of the sea on underwater grass. Her buttocks were covered by a black towel, her hair was loose and spilling over pan of her face, and her pale breasts were long ovals squashed beneath her trim body.

'What is to be done, then?'

'We need to know more.'

'That is always true. Back to the problem.'

'We could have him deported.'

'For what?'

'We need to give no reason, though we could invent one easily enough.'

'That might start the war before we are ready for it.'

'Shush now; we must not talk of this "war" thing. We are officially on the best of terms with all our Federation members; there is no need for worry. Everything is under control.'

'Said an official spokesperson... Do you think we should get rid of him?'

'It may be the wisest course. One might feel better with him out of the way... I have a horrible feeling he must be here for a purpose. He has been given full use of the Vanguard Foundation's monies, and that... wilfully mysterious organisation has opposed us every step along the road for thirty years. The identity and location of its owners and executives have been one of the cluster's best-kept secrets; unparalleled reserve. Now - suddenly - this man appears, spending with a quite vulgar profligacy and maintaining a high, if still coquettishly shy, profile... just when it might prove extremely awkward.'

'Perhaps he is the Vanguard Foundation.'

'Nonsense. If it's anything appreciable at all, it's some interfering aliens, or a do-good machine, either running on some dead magnate's conscience will - or even running with a transcription of a human personality - or it's a rogue machine, accidentally conscious with no-one to oversee it. I think every other possibility has been discounted over the years. This man Staberinde is a puppet; he spends money with the desperation of an indulged child worried such generosity will not last. He's like a peasant winning a lottery. Revolting. But he must - I repeat - be here for a purpose.'

'If we kill him, and he turns out to have been important, then we might start a war, and too early.'

'Perhaps, but I feel we must do what is not expected. To prove our humanity, to exploit our intrinsic advantage over the machines, if for no other reason.'

'Indeed, but isn't it possible he could be of use to us?'


The man at the window smiled at his reflection in the glass and tapped out a little rhythm on the inside sill.

The woman on the couch kept her eyes closed, her body moving to the steady beat of the hands that plied her waist and flanks.

'But wait. There were links between Beychae and the Vanguard Foundation. If this is so...'

'If this is so... then perhaps we can persuade Beychae to our side, using this person, this Staberinde.' The man put his finger to the glass and traced the path of a snowflake, drifting down the other side. His eyes crossed as he watched it.

'We could...'


'Adopt the Dehewwoff system.'

'The...? Need to know more.'

The Dehewwoff system of punishing by disease; graded capital punishment; the more serious the crime the more serious the disease the culprit is infected with. For minor crimes a mere fever, loss of livelihood and medical expenses; for more damaging misdeeds a bout of something lasting perhaps months, with pain and a long convalescence, bills and no sympathy, sometimes marks to show later on. For really ghastly crimes, infection with diseases rarely survived; near certain death but possible divine intervention and miracle cure. Of course, the lower one's class, the more virulent one's punishment, to allow for the hardier constitutions of the toilers. Combinations, and recurring strains, provide sophistications to the basic idea.'

'Back to the problem.'

'And I hate those dark glasses.'

'I repeat; back to the problem.'

'... we need to know more.'

'So they all say.'

'And I think we should speak to him.'

'Yes. Then we kill him.'

'Restraint. We speak to him. We shall find him again and ask him what he wants and perhaps who he is. We shall keep quiet and be thoughtful and we shall not kill him unless he needs to be killed.'

'We nearly spoke to him.'

'No sulking. It was preposterous. We are not here to chase cars and run after idiot recluses. We plan. We think. We shall send a note to the gentleman's hotel...'

'The Excelsior. Really, one would have hoped such a respected establishment might not have been so easily seduced by mere money.'

'Indeed; and then we shall go to him, or have him come to us.'

'Well, we certainly ought not to go to him. And as for him coming to us, he may refuse. Regret that... Due to an unforeseen... A previous commitment prevents... Feel it would be unwise at this juncture, perhaps another... Can you imagine how humiliating that would be?'

'Oh, all right. We'll kill him.'

'All right we'll try to kill him. If he survives we shall talk to him. If he survives he will want to talk to us. Commendable plan. Must agree. No question, left no choice; mere formality.'

The woman fell silent. The grey-haired man heaved at her hips with his great hands, and strange patterns of sweat broke from the unscarred areas of his face; the hands swirled and swept over the woman's rump, and she bit her bottom lip just a little as her body moved in a sweet impersonation, flat beat on a white plain. Snow was falling.

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user comment image
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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