Even though he and Vanda had agreed to do nothing about the mysterious letter, Wilom couldn’t help feeling useless. Being patient was easy. Being unable to do anything was different. However, a contingency plan? That, at least, felt productive.
Wilom ignored the square and most of the usual cafés. He skirted around the edge of the Capital, looking for the hotels.
Finally, he arrived at the address that Rytel had given him. Inside, there were several refugees already and the man sitting behind the reception desk (name was Laen) already knew about all of them.
So that is what she had meant.
Wilom opened the door. Nobody was watching him.
For once, he decided it was best not to fight the Ferryman’s Knowledge. He didn’t want to admit it, but the letters had rattled him. He could have personal ideologies later.
Though the fixtures were old and worn, they were well-kept, and there were enough windows to keep it well-lit. The reception area was very small, just large enough for the reception desk and a set of stairs behind him, leading up to the rooms. On the left, there was a locked door with a plaque that read “DINING ROOM”.
Laen looked up at Wilom and nodded.
Wilom leaned on the counter.
“How many nights?”
How best …?
The Ferryman’s Knowledge answered for him. Nervous, but discreet and professional. Too unsure to be police, not amateurish enough to be dangerous.
“Not for me,” Wilom said. “I hear … you don’t ask too many questions about the people who stay here?”
The expression on Laen’s face didn’t change.
“Well, Rytel did say something about certain questions,” Wilom said.
Laen relaxed. He knew the name.
“Well,” Laen said. “I trust our diligent and dedicated police force to keep miscreants and spies out of the city.”
“Of course,” Wilom said, relaxing into a smile. “Of course, they are doing such a good job.”
They shared a quick grin.
“So, Rytel sent you?” Laen asked. “Tell me about it.”
“It’s a contingency plan,” Wilom said. “It may be that we need to lodge some people. On short notice.”
“They won’t be looked for,” Wilom said quickly. “Nobody even knows they’re in the Capital. If any of them get caught, it’ll be because they were caught with us. I just want to make sure that most of them are far away if something goes wrong.”
Laen sighed. “How many?”
Wilom shrugged. “Three for sure, but there may be a few more. Definitely no more than six or seven.”
Laen made a note, then slid the piece of paper under the signing book. “I’ll keep it in mind,” he said. “No promises. But for a friend of Rytel’s, I’ll see what I can do.”
Wilom bought his pastry and sat on a bench in the park, waiting until it was time to go home.
Vanda dropped onto the bench beside him. “Find something to occupy yourself with today?” she asked.
“Better. Something useful. You know that letter we got?”
Vanda sat forward. “You know who’s been sending them?”
“No. But I made a contingency plan. You know — for if we do get into trouble with the government.”
Vanda frowned. “Contingency plan? What do you mean, contingency plan?”
“Rytel gave me a tip. I found them somewhere to stay, if the rest of us get investigated and they might be exposed.
Vanda looked down. “It’s a good idea,” she said. “I just … don’t like having a contingency plan before having an actual plan.”
“What’s so bad about that?”
Vanda shrugged. “I don’t know, OK?”
“No,” Wilom said, turning more to face her. “I want to know why this bothers you.”
“I told you, I don’t really know! It shouldn’t bother me, so I’m trying not to let it. I suppose it just … making a new plan always feels like giving up on the first one, to me.”
Wilom nodded. “OK. I’ll drop it.”
Vanda was silent for a long time.
“But that isn’t what’s happening,” Wilom said, to fill the silence. “We’re …”
“Wilom,” Vanda said. “You’re being condescending. Stop talking.”
“You got it.”
They sat in silence for a moment, then Vanda sighed. “And besides … I guess having a contingency plan feels like admitting that we’re in trouble.”
Wilom put an arm around her and rested his head against her shoulder. “We’re always in trouble. But we’ve got a way out, remember? And now the others do, too.”
Vanda sighed. “I wish the terms were different sometimes.”
“Of my deal with the lighthouse keeper. I wish the terms were different.”
Wilom nodded. “I’m sorry.”
Vanda stood up suddenly. “We’re being far too morose for such a nice day. You’re right – we have a contingency plan now, and we can make sure at least some of those people are safe. And that’s a good thing.”
“So, what are we doing?”
“We’re going for a walk,” Vanda announced. She put her hands on her hips and swiveled so she could see the whole park. “That way.”
Wilom stood up, crumpled the pastry bag and threw it in a nearby bin. “Got it. That way it is.”