What manner of man

has the Lotus-Eaters Spa

unleashed upon us?


Juno's moderate albedo and rust-red colour revealed it to be an S-type asteroid, consisting of iron- and magnesium-bearing silicates mixed with pure metallic nickel-iron. Its surface was scarred and pitted and its interior honey-combed with mines, some of which had been sealed and turned into living quarters. In orbit about it were three artificial satellites--a typical Titanic Industries mobile factory-town, a small marina of the sort that appears everywhere ships gather, and the Wily Odysseus itself under construction. The Project had come up in the worlds, Shagrug thought; it had outgrown the small asteroid Heracles and become part of the Juno Conglomerate.

The supply-ship drifted cautiously through the traffic, closing with the toroidal colony. Shagrug peered out through the port. A p-suited figure zipped by astride a broomstick-scooter. Another hovered outside the port for a moment on an E-Z chair, then darted away. A roustabout in shirtsleeves waved to him through the bay-window of his free-flier workstation. Shagrug waved back, amused by the owner's customizing: in addition to the standard solar-panel dragon-fly wings, dish antenna, and crab-pincers, it boasted a bizarre collection of fins, false rocket-nozzles, and flame-decals.

The supply-ship nosed into the colony docking-module and Shagrug cycled through the lock with the rest of the crew. After the guards had checked his credentials, photographed his retinas, and fastened a pass to his ship-suit, he pulled himself down the corridor to the elevator and rode the shaft to the torus.

There were six levels within the torus--Agriculture, Residence, Shelters, Industrial, Stores, and Mains. He had punched for residence, but the car stopped at Agriculture and a lab-coated farmer boarded. Through the iris, Shagrug glimpsed rows of plants suspended in the air, water misting over their roots, translucent ceiling-panels bathing their leaves in sunlight.

The residence level was another sort of garden--one long strip of parkland arcing up and vanishing around the curve of the torus beneath a cathedral ceiling and lined on either side by something like an endless English country house. Shagrug rang a bell beside a lead-came door adorned with a simple brass plaque: PROF. C. KELLEY. The door was opened by a house-rover whose name, according to the lettering on its titanium chest, was Frodo.

"Would you tell the Professor that Shagrug is here?"

"I have orders to admit Shagrug," Frodo warbled. "Please come in."

There was harpsichord-music in the air--the Goldberg Variations, in fact. The walls of the hallway were covered with shelves laden with spools and cubes and even paper books in what appeared to be perfect disorder. The same was true of every room he passed, including the bathroom. And there were cats everywhere, sleeping, washing, and sleeping.

A long-haired Himalayan appeared to Shagrug, mewed a greeting, and danced away to the end of the hall, showing him the way.

"Who is it, Faith?" said a familiar baritone voice.

The Professor was sitting at a console, barefoot and dressed in a faded Japanese silk robe, surrounded by what looked like a tornado-struck bookshop. He turned to greet his visitor and Shagrug recognized the sharp green eyes, the thick head of white hair, the beard still bearing a few red hairs among the grey.

He rose to his two-meter height and came forward. His handshake was firm, and when his sleeves fell back, Shagrug noted the still-powerful arms decorated with age-old scars and radiation-burns.

"Shagrug! I heard you signed aboard one of our supply-ships. In fact, I gave you a reference. You've met Faith?"

Shagrug bent down and the cat nuzzled his hand.

"Her show-name was Al Chahhat al-Ameen, which according to Karil means The Faithful Beggar, but we just call her Faith. How's your mother?"

"Uh--she's fine, Professor."

"Good. Good." His eyes sparkled for a moment with amused suspicion, and then he turned and strode through a snowdrift of computer printouts to an antique cabinet. "Your parents were my best students, you know." He took out a decanter and two glasses. "And among my last. Between one thing and another, I haven't had much time for teaching the last few years. Still, the Odysseus is nearly completed now."

He handed Shagrug a glass of wine and sat down with his own. "Just dump some books on the floor and find a seat, will you? I had hoped to see the data coming back before I died. That was the idea, you know--a probe to the nearest stars within a human lifetime. Unfortunately, I don't have a human lifetime left any more."

He sipped his wine. "It's not a new idea, you know. As far back as the British Interplanetary Society's Daedalus project in the 20th Century, there were plans to probe Barnard's Star, where planets had been discovered. It was calculated that a probe accelerating to 12% of light-speed would be capable of sending back pictures in fifty years. At the time, of course, they lacked the fusion-drive, had no way to mine Jupiter's atmosphere for fuel, and their computers were incapable of self-repair.

"Now, we not only have dozens of solar-systems in near space to choose from, but we have the annihilation-drive. Technically speaking, we could put human beings on orbit around a near star in twelve years. But antimatter is still too expensive to produce in the necessary quantities. Titan certainly couldn't afford such a project, neither could the Galilean Libertaria, and I've given up trying to convince the Terran High Companies to help us.

"Ironically, though, it's the annihilation drive that made the Odysseus Project feasible. The big antimatter-driven super-freighters have changed the interplanetary transport market, driving down the cost of helium, throwing hundreds of cloud-miners, Free Traders, and cyborg roustabouts out of work, and creating a market of fusion-drive equipment at near-scrap rates. If I retire to some low-gravity colony with the reading I've been neglecting and live to be 130 or so, I still have hopes of seeing the data coming in, and then I might be able to shame Earth into backing a companied mission."

The Professor looked just about ready for retirement, Shagrug thought. He seemed tired. Perhaps all those frustrating meetings with High Company bureaucrats under Earth's punishing gravity had taken their toll.

"But we've had delay after delay," Kelley went on. "First there was the Martian Rebellion heating up again. The High Companies used it as an excuse to tie up much of my fuel and materiel, and the Martians, most of my crew at the time, quit to a man. Many of the Free Traders went with them to provide support. And now that an accommodation has been reached between the High Companies and the Martian Heterogeny, and I finally have my crew back, there have been these hijackings."

"Hijackings? In space?"

The Professor nodded. "About two years now, shipments of fuel from Jupiter have been going astray--vanishing without a trace--in the Belt. It was baffling; after all, a kilometre-wide solar sailer doesn't just disappear. We found only one or two later, more or less by accident, on their way out of the solar-system--the sail shredded to chaff, the gondola smashed, all hatches open, cargo gone. Derelict. You know how superstitious spacers can be; there were all kinds of stories going around.

"We got some of the Free Traders to ride shotgun for a while, and that helped, but at terrific expense. After all, the great advantage of the solar-sail is that it burns no fuel, carries no life-support, operates on the simplest robotics. Put a free-trader alongside and there goes all your savings. So, I sent Loris and Karil back into the Galilean, hoping they can use Loris' old police- and criminal-contacts to ferret something out."

"Is that where they are now?"

"The last message I had was from Ganymede. Why? Are you looking for them?"

"That's why I'm here."

"I see. You didn't happen to run away from home, did you?"

Shagrug dropped his gaze. "Something like that. The commune, except for Johanna, thinks I'm at school."

"That's what I thought. Well, Shag, you put me in a difficult position. Your mother and all the elders will expect me to call her immediately and send you home. And I'm certainly not going to send you on to Ganymede. Karil and Loris have enough on their plate without taking care of you."

"Couldn't I wait here till they show up or contact you? It's kind of important that I talk to them."

"Hmm." The Professor stroked his beard for a moment. "Well, Shag, I'm not too old to remember running away to space myself. And I could use a sharp mind like yours around here."

"I'd really appreciate it, Professor."

"Let me try and talk Terry into letting you stay for a while. Call it part of your education. But if you think it's going to be a lark, you'd better think again. She'll expect me to work your ass off for your keep, and I won't disappoint her."

Shagrug grinned.


The crowd at Ciccone's Tavern was, as usual, mostly spacers. They were easily spotted by their free-fall attire, their distinctive walk, and the lasers on their hips. Karil and Loris sat nursing their drinks in a corner, where there was a wall for each of their backs.

"Let's face it, Lor," Karil said. "Half your old contacts are dead, and another quarter are in jail, including some of the cops. The rest of them would just as soon sell us out as look at us. The next shipment's leaving in a few days and we've gotten exactly nowhere."

"We know the Poseidon's registered to Feronia Company."

"So what? They own half the solar system."


"Is it? They've got the rights to a good part of the Belt, they own most of the Lunar far side, the Venus prison facilities... They practically own the Professor, for God's sake. He owes them thirty billion credits."

"Exactly. If he folded, they could get their hands on the starship."

"Not necessarily. Titan owns a good chunk of it. Aeolus has a major interest. Trans-Belt. Half a dozen others. He practically stood on a corner with a tin cup to finance the damn thing. Everybody's got a piece of it."

"What are you saying? You're not suspicious of Feronia?"

"Of course I am. That ship purposely ran me down. Obviously, there's something going on inside Jupiter that they didn't want publicized. But it doesn't mean they're behind the hijackings too."

"So, what do you suggest?"

Karil grinned. "Nothing. I'm just bitching, that's all."

"You've been doing a lot of that lately. Look, if we can't get a good lead by tomorrow, we'll ship out."


"Jupiter. We'll supervise the whole shipping procedure, follow the shipment home like we planned. At least that one will get through."

"Frankly, I'd rather let them grab it, if we could catch them at it."

Loris gave him a funny look. "Maybe you've got something there."


"Let me think about it for a while. We'd better get back."

They paid the tab, left the tavern, and walked through the seedy corridors of the Rim District. The walls and ceiling rippled with advertising; the crowd flowed around and through holographic barkers; the sound of voices and laughter, music and passion, the smell of food and drink and sweat poured from doorways. In the crowd were Belters and spacers in free-fall attire, Ganybabes with bare breasts, tourists in casual clothes, Hassidic Jews in black and Arab women veiled from head to foot, partygoers in capes, suits, robes, loin-cloths, tattoos, body-paint--every conceivable colour of skin and hair and fabric.

They stopped before the elevator to the spaceport level and waited for its descent.

"We're being followed," Loris said.

"What? Are you sure?"

"Of course I'm sure."

"One of your contacts?"

"Never saw him before. Big fellow. Two-arm cyborg."

Karil turned to watch a girl walk by in formal Japanese dress--the fact that her body was entirely covered was attracting attention all down the corridor--and let his glance brush over the man Loris had described. He was huge, with the roustabout's usual massive shoulders and close-cropped hair. His arms were made of steel, and he wore a belt of attachments.

The elevator arrived and took them to the first sub-surface level, where Atalanta was berthed. A sensor outside her access lock blinked at their retinas and the hatch opened. They climbed into the ship.

"Hi, Atty. Any news?"

"A message from someone calling himself Alfred. He wants you to meet him at a place called the Lotus-Eaters, on level four, corridor six."

"That's something, at least. Atty, can you get me the records on the cyborg roustabouts in town?"

"I believe so. May I ask why?"

"We were being tailed by one. Mean-looking customer."

"If he's been hired to follow you, he may not be looking for other work. There would be no records."

"Try anyway."

Loris went forward to the bridge, climbed down the well and sat at Karil's station. Pictures of cyborgs flashed across the screen. They were a rough lot--broken-nosed and battered, scarred and burned, some with one and some with two bionic arms. After a moment, Loris said, "Stop."

She studied the picture. "Karil, come here. Is this him?"

Karil climbed down beside her, munching on a sandwich. "That's him, all right. Mostly synthetic skin over a bad burn, a real quack job. He is registered."

"He's been here for several months," Loris added, studying the figures on the screen, "but his work-record's not right. He couldn't even pay his air-tax with that income. Obviously, he's got another source."

"Look. He worked for the Professor a few years ago."

"That's very interesting indeed. We'll have to get in touch with the Prof and check him out. See if he got into any trouble there, find out who else was in his work-gang, etc. See to it, will you, Atty?"

"Yes, Loris."

"Come on. Let's see what Alfred has to say."

They left the ship and took an elevator to level four, then a slidewalk to corridor six. The Lotus-Eaters was on the corner. The attendant's face was the picture of boredom as he collected their credits and a deposit on the towel and locker-keys, then checked their weapons. As they turned over their lasers, Karil couldn’t help thinking it was a bad idea.

Karil and Loris climbed a ramp and stopped at the locker-room to undress. They could hear music from the depths of the complex--Karil recognized the Ugandan Bwala dance-rhythms--and he was already in a bouncy mood. He watched as Loris stripped off and stood in naked, long-legged magnificence.

"We're here on business, remember?" she said, grinning. "Christ, give you a chance to take your clothes off and you're happy."

Karil grinned back and stripped. They walked down the corridor, past rooms in which figures loomed in a haze of smoke or steam. There were saunas and steam-baths, smoking rooms in which people sat about huge hookahs in clouds of hashish or opium smoke, other rooms in which naked bodies writhed together in semi-darkness.

The Lotus-Eaters Club dated back to the ice-rush days and catered to a mixed clientele--Belters on leave from the boredom of asteroid-mining, tourists escaping Earth's rigid morality, Martians there to enjoy the sinful waste of water as much as anything else. There was talent both male and female, amateur and professional available--you could tell the professionals by their guild tattoos.

By the time they had checked out several rooms in search of the mysterious Alfred, Karil was dewed with perspiration and half stoned. The last room in the complex contained a huge, shallow, steaming pool in a false greenhouse. People of all ages, sexes, and types lay drowsing in the water, alone or talking in groups in the bays formed by the pool's irregular contours. A few people looked up as Karil and Loris entered, but most were too stoned or sated to respond to their dark beauty.

Loris slipped into the water in an isolated bay and sat opposite a middle-aged man with a chubby, dissolute look about him, tight golden curls, and what actually appeared to be a duelling scar. Karil sat next to her. He had seen this man before, if memory served. He recalled a figure with a limp, dressed in a ruffled blouse, high riding-boots, and a great, swirling cape--something of a cross between Lord Byron and Harpo Marx.

Alfred leaned forward. "Who's this?" he asked.

"This is my astrogator, Karil."

"Oh yes, I remember. He's beautiful. You've always had the best taste, Loris." He turned to Karil. "Pardon me if I don't get up. It seems you've given me..."

"Never mind that," Loris said. "What have you got for me?"

"You're always so businesslike. All right. It appears that certain parties have inquired about your last shipment, which is now leaving the Kirkwood Gap and entering the Inner Belt."

"What parties?"

"That I don't know. I was given some names, but I investigated, and they're phoney."

"That's not worth very much, Alfred."

He shrugged. "What can I say? For some reason, people are reluctant to confide in me. It is interesting, though, is it not, that these parties know precisely where the shipment is at the moment? Surely this is privileged information."

"That's true, Alfred. At least we're not completely wasting our time here. We know..."

Alfred’s eyes flicked toward the doorway. For an instant his eyes were hard as steel, and then he remembered his role and smiled amiably. "Tell you what, though. Would you be interested in someone trying not to seem interested in you?"

"Description, please."

"Big fellow. A cyborg. Hell of a laser-burn on his chest. I'm surprised he's still in the land of the living. Both arms, part of his chest and part of his skull are artificial. Some of his equipment is original, but frankly, I don't see why he bothered. Way too many steroids."

Karil felt the hairs stir on the back of his neck. If Alfred had not been sitting with his back to the wall himself, he and Loris would never have turned theirs to the door. Still, to the cyborg they would be little more than indistinct silhouettes in the steam.

"Is he coming this way?"

"No, he's loitering by the entrance."

"Karil, see if you can get on the other side of the room. Get him between us."

Karil slipped down into the water until his head was hidden by the edge of the pool. Loris turned and began talking to the place where his head no longer lay as he crept away through the water. Invisible in the steam at the far side of the pool, he climbed out and padded along the slippery deck, then slid into the water again beside a young woman.

"Hi," he said. "My name is Ali Karil."

She turned heavy-lidded eyes toward him. There was no reaction in her dilated pupils; he might as well be talking to a potted plant. The cyborg was making his way through the steam, coming closer. Karil turned to the girl to hide his face.

"You come here often?" he asked. "What's your name? You like Fourteenth-Century Arabic poetry?"

At the sound of a body being immersed in water, Karil glanced up and saw the cyborg sitting opposite him. He laid his arms along the edge of the pool with a clank. There was no expression on the synthetic skin of his face. His eyes were as hard as his steel chest.

"Aren't you afraid you'll rust in here?" Karil asked. He could see Loris' lithe figure in the distance, moving like a shadow through the steam-clouds.

"Are you Karil Stilbon?" the cyborg asked. His voice was artificial too. The slight hesitation before each sound, the slight echo in his chest, gave it an ominous quality.

His words were ominous as well. Free Traders did not use their last names--there could not be more than a dozen people in the solar system who knew Karil's--and it was obvious that someone had done some serious research on him.

"That's me. Do you want an autograph? I don't have a pen on me, I'm afraid. Don't you have to check your arms at the..."

Swift as lightning, a gleaming titanium fist shot toward him. Karil threw himself to one side. A sledgehammer blow whipped by his ear and struck the edge of the pool. Shattered tiles exploded in all directions.

Instantly, Karil was crouching on the deck beside the pool. The cyborg lurched to his feet and reached for him. Karil leaped back and hit the wall with a thud. Arms of steel rod and cable closed on nothing, centimetres from his legs.

Suddenly, as if forewarned, the cyborg spun about. A lean brown body catapulted through the mist, Loris' tiny, calloused foot whipping toward his head. With incredible swiftness, the cyborg's arm shot out and his claw-like hand closed on her ankle in mid-air. He twisted. She spun and fell to the deck with a thud as her other foot was yanked out from under her.

Loris' head bounced on the edge of the pool as she was dragged forward into the water, an expression of astonishment on her face. The cyborg's other claw clamped her shoulder and she shrieked in sudden pain. Her head was thrust beneath the surface.

Karil was just as shocked: the cyborg looked clumsy, but he had blocked Loris' attack and turned the tables on her in an instant. Karil leaped to her aid--something he never expected to do against a lone assailant--but again, as if forewarned, the giant swung toward him. A steel forearm struck Karil in mid-air, and he was hurled to the deck with a bone-jarring thud. The great fist came down like a pile-driver.

Karil rolled away and the fist struck the deck with a crash. Shattered bits of tile rained down about him. Karil leaped to his feet and crouched just out of reach.

There were people rising and shouting throughout the room, but many, like the girl nearby, lay in a torpor, oblivious to the fight. Loris' hair rippled on the surface of the water as she thrashed in the cyborg's grip. Bubbles spread about her.

Karil darted forward, ducked as the cyborg's arm swung by, darted forward again, and his fist connected with the giant's jaw with all the force he could muster. Pain exploded like a ball of fire in Karil's hand and raced up his arm. The man's jaw was also steel, beneath synthetic skin. Karil tried to shake the numbness out of his arm as he danced back out of reach again.

A figure flashed by and collided with the cyborg. It was Alfred. The great arm brushed him off like an insect and threw him against the wall. He went limp and slid to a sitting position.

A crowd gathered, mumbling, hesitating. Loris thrashed like a speared fish. Tears of rage in his eyes, Karil stepped forward and the cyborg reached for him. He fell back, ducking beneath his grasp, and kicked his opponent in the balls with both feet.

There was a bellow of rage and pain, and the cyborg staggered back, doubled over. His hand released Loris' shoulder as he clutched his groin. She lifted her head above the water, gasping for breath. Karil bent toward her, then backed away suddenly as the cyborg straightened up and lunged for him.

Where the hell were the bouncers?

There they were--two huge men in white uniforms and an Amazon of a nurse with a hypodermic syringe. The bouncers dove to tackle the cyborg like football players. He whirled to face them, snatched them out of the air, cracked their heads together, and tossed them away.

Loris scrambled to her feet in the water, breasts heaving, as he turned again. The air fairly whistled with the force of her blow, her rigid knuckles thrust viciously into his kidney. She gasped with pain and her arm went limp.

Was there no flesh at all to this man? Loris threw herself to one side, but the steel fingers closed on her once again, gripping her hair, twisting. Karil had one quick glimpse of pain on her face before it was thrust into the water again.

He started forward, but the free arm was reaching for him again, claws snapping, holding him at bay. The nurse was standing by, dumbfounded, hypo in her hand.

With a leap possible only to earthborn muscles in Ganymede's lesser gravity, Karil vaulted over the pool and snatched the hypo from her. The cyborg turned to face him, dragging Loris through the water. The crowd fell back, screaming, stumbling.

Karil approached, ducking and weaving, looking for an opening. Too close! A metal hand closed on his arm, dragged him forward, and thrust him down into the water. Face pressed to the pool-bottom, lungs aching for breath, he felt about with his hands, found the cyborg's foot, felt his way up the calf.

Allah, Most Merciful, he thought, let his leg be made of flesh. With a silent exultation, he found a vein pulsing amid the rock-hard, but human, muscles, jabbed the hypo into the vein, and pressed the plunger.

The cyborg lifted Karil from the water and hurled him aside, reached down and snatched the hypo from his leg. Karil struck the edge of the pool, spluttering, and shook the water from his eyes. He saw the cyborg reaching for him again, saw Loris' body floating face down in the pool. With a scream of rage, he grabbed the arms as they closed on him and began ripping at wires and cables.

The tranquillizer would be strong enough to counteract the most powerful hallucinogens. But this was a big man, and he didn't seem to be slowing down. Karil felt himself lifted into the air, felt the arms encircle him, crush him against the steel chest.

Pain arced like lightning through his body. He felt his ribs cracking, his lungs compressing. His breath was forced from his body. He stared into the cyborg's face as a hideous grin spread crookedly across the half-synthetic features. Karil showered blows upon the face until his knuckles ran with blood, tore at the arms until his fingertips were equally bloody, searching for some vital wire or cable that would loosen the vise-grip on his body.

Suddenly the cyborg's eyes began to daze. Karil felt the grip loosen and he slid down the huge body into the water, gasping. The giant towered over him for a moment, tottered, arms twitching, and then he toppled forward.

Karil scrambled out of the way, and the huge body came crashing down beside him. The cyborg's head struck the edge of the pool with a crack and slid into the water. His claws continued to open and close for a moment at the bottom of the pool, and then he lay still.

Karil was already dragging Loris from the water. He bent over her to breathe air into her lungs, and in a moment, she was spitting and coughing. Alfred was crawling toward them, shaking his head, dazed but alive.

Karil put his hand on Loris' shoulder, tried to speak, slipped into unconsciousness, and sprawled on the blood-soaked deck.


He awoke to see doctors and nurses bending over him. His upper torso was wrapped in bandages and he was lying on a bed in one of the Lotus-Eaters’ back rooms.

"He's awake," someone said.

He saw Loris' face, a grin splitting it from ear to ear. "About time you woke up. I'm tired of answering all the questions myself."

Karil groaned in pain. "I'm ashamed of both of us, Lor. One lone cyborg between us. We were pitiful."

"I think we did pretty well against that killing machine."

"Machine? That was no robot."

"No, there was a man in there somewhere, but not much of him left. He had eyes in the back of his head, incidentally."


"Sensors in the back of his neck. And the most sophisticated arms I've ever seen. Computer-enhanced for quick reflexes. Fortunately, most of his lower body was the original equipment."

"He's dead, I take it."

"Well, his heart's still humming, they tell me, but his brain was crushed by his own artificial skull in the fall."

"Doctor," said a voice, "is he in shape to answer a few questions now?"

Karil turned to the one who spoke--a middle-aged Asian in an expensive-looking suit.

"You're Galilean Security, I suppose."

"Lieutenant Soon. Why were you attacked?"

"I guess he didn't like us. What do you think, Lor?"

"I think you're right. Frankly, I was getting a bit tired of him myself, toward the end."

"We can skip the space-opera banter, Loris," the Lieutenant said. "I know who you are. Both of you. I know you used to work for Galilean Security and now you work for Professor Charles Kelley, as trouble-shooters on the Odysseus Project. Your attacker had been working for the Project too, until he was fired for general nastiness. So, let's not play games. Did he have some personal grudge against you?"

"The truth is, Lieutenant," Karil said, glancing at the voice-analysis equipment nearby, "I have no idea why he attacked us. If you want to chalk it up to hatred of the Professor and all his friends, that's fine with me."

"I presume you're investigating the recent hijackings. Do you think there could be a connection?"

Karil turned and spoke to the machine. "I don't know," he said clearly. "If you find one yourself, perhaps you'll tell us."

The Lieutenant looked far from satisfied. "All right. Two dozen witnesses say you were attacked without provocation, so you're free to go, both of you. But do me a favour. If you're going to get yourselves killed, do it somewhere else. I don't like people dying in my district. Now get out of here. And I suggest you ship out as soon as possible. Your attacker may have friends."

"Hard to believe," Karil said. "But a frightening thought." Painfully, he rose, and Loris helped him dress.

"Atty's really going to give us shit about this," she told him. "She'll have us sparring every day."

"You're right. I'll tell her I took on six big guys defending your honour."

"It would take more than six guys to defend my honour."


"Never mind. Let's go."

Leaning on each other, the battered pair hobbled off to get their lasers back from the front desk. The management refused to refund their deposit, citing damages, but returned their weapons in exchange for a promise never to come back.

Alfred, Loris noted, had disappeared shortly before the arrival of the authorities. He had always been allergic to police.


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