Rytel had requested that Wilom meet her at the office, so for the first time in Wilom’s entire time on the company books, he went to his supposed workplace.
It was a tall office building, like all the ones around it. There was a reception desk and an elevator in the back of the room next to the stairs, and doors leading to the first floor offices on either side of the room. Wilom didn’t really see how it was all that different from any other office building, but he supposed he didn’t have much experience with them to make that judgement.
He gave his name to the receptionist, and she made a phone call. A few moments later, Rytel came down, pulling a pen from behind her ear and tucking it into her breast pocket.
“Wilom,” she greeted him. “Please, this way.”
Wilom followed her to the side of the room.
She handed a piece of paper over to him. It had a name and an address on it.
“He knows us,” she said. “If you could visit him, he might be useful. I don’t know how it would fit into your plan, but it seems to me like … well …”
Wilom read the paper but didn’t say the name or the address aloud. “I will,” he said. “Thank you.”
Rytel nodded. “Thank you. Just … don’t tell Vicdra.”
Wilom gave her a half salute with the piece of paper. “Not a word,” he said.
She nodded, held out her hand for him to shake, and returned to the elevator.
Wilom read the name again, tucked the paper into his pocket, and left.
Vanda returned from her errands and met Wilom at Marc’s house. Or rather, she stood outside his bedroom window and tapped on the pane of glass until Wilom came out to meet her.
“Got a letter,” she said, jogging over to meet him. “You?”
Wilom shook his head. “No.”
Vanda pushed the piece of paper into his hands and waited while he read it.
“Pounds of seed grain … lumber … piping … wait … ‘as far as we know. Your activities are not unnoticed, and it is not hard to guess your purpose’?”
Vanda nodded, her face sombre.
“Unlikely. Been called in for any interrogations?”
Wilom made a ‘fair enough’ expression. “ Good point. I’m nobody important — they’d only need to say they suspected a discrepancy in my papers and they wanted to take me in for questioning, and nobody would ever see me again.”
“I’d see you again,” Vanda muttered. “But that’s not the point.”
“Should we tell the Heads?”
Vanda bit her lip.
“You don’t want to,” Wilom guessed.
Vanda shook her head. “No. No, I don’t want to. They’ll … Rytel and Manda will pull out. We’ll have wasted so much money …”
“It might be wasted anyway.”
“Well,” Vanda said, “I don’t know who did send this, so it’s not like there’s anything we can do. Except hope that they haven’t found out where we’re going to start build.”
“Move Rickart, Inushi and Keri, just in case,” Wilom said. “If we use that old farm for storage, maybe we can trick them into thinking we’re building there. Or at least make it hard to tell where we are building.”
Vanda nodded. “Yes. Good idea.”
Wilom shrugged. “Move them to the building site,” he suggested.
Vanda looked at him in mild shock.
“What? It makes sense. We can be reasonably sure – until we get more information – that the site hasn’t been discovered yet. We nearly have all our materials together – we’re only waiting on a few things. We need hands to work the site. We can tell the Heads that they were excited to see it and wanted to start the building work. They’re too busy arguing with themselves to question us.”
“No, it’s a good idea,” Vanda said. “I just … didn’t expect you to suggest it. Usually that sort of idea is my job.”
Wilom shrugged. “Maybe I’m just feeling in an adventurous sort of mood.”
Vanda grinned. “Or maybe I really am a bad influence, like you always said.”
“Hopefully. I think I need more influences like you in my life.”
“That’s a change in tune.” Vanda thought for a moment. “There are a few others we should bring, too. Some of the people you placed, and some of the ones we placed before you … they might need to get out now.”
Vanda shrugged. “People know you’re here without papers … some of them have been under a bit of pressure, you know.”
Wilom nodded. “Yes. Best get them out, then, if we can.”
“I’ll go now, then. You take the letter, see if it matches any handwriting you recognise.”
“I don’t recognise it,” Wilom said. “But I’ll see what I can find.”
Vanda nodded. “Good. I’ll get going. See you soon. Oh – just a moment. Speaking of adventures, how did you get along with Mr Treene?”
Wilom winced. “You know, I’m still trying to decide on that myself.”
Vanda gave him a long look.
“Well.” Wilom tried for a mischievous grin. “Worth it to see him actually speechless for once.”
“From what you’ve told me, that would be a sight to see.”
“Oh, it was.”
“But you’re not sold.”
Wilom shook his head. “I just … think I might have miscalculated. I mean, for us it wasn’t such a big thing, but the way he reacted? I can’t help but think it might have been a bit cruel.”
“I didn’t think so,” Vanda said. “But you’re the better judge of him.”
“I’m still not sure. He could just have been surprised. I could be overthinking it.”
Vanda shrugged. “I’m sure he’s had worse. You’ll work it out with him.”
“You’re probably right.”
Vanda gave him a grin. “You know … even if it was the wrong thing to do, it was nice to see Adventurous Wilom again, for a while.”
Wilom grinned. “I could stand to keep him around a while, yeah.”
As he and Vanda shared a grin, suddenly a line of bold, black text caught Wilom’s eye from a newspaper box on the street.
He fumbled a coin into the slot and pulled the paper out.
“What is it?” Vanda asked. “I can’t see round your shoulder.”
Wilom passed over one side of the paper, and they read it.
“They’re not serious,” Vanda said.
“We always knew they had to do something,” Wilom said quietly.
“Military service now compulsory for the unemployed?”
Wilom had a thought. “That … that doesn’t include you, technically, does it?”
“Technically? No, don’t worry about me.”
Wilom nodded. “Well, that’s alright, then. Still … looks like they’re getting serious.”
“Getting serious? I should think it means they’re getting desperate.”
2 thoughts on “An Eye on the Times”