“What is this opportunity?” Conger asked. “Go on. I’m interested.”
The room was silent; all faces were fixed on Conger – still in the drab prison uniform. The Speaker leaned forward slowly.
“Before you went to prison your trading business was paying well – all illegal – all very profitable. Now you have nothing, except the prospect of another six years in a cell.”
“There is a certain situation, very important to this Council, that requires your peculiar abilities. Also, it is a situation you might find interesting. You were a hunter, were you not? You’ve done a great deal of trapping, hiding in the bushes, waiting at night for the game? I imagine hunting must be a source of satisfaction to you, the chase, the stalking – “
Conger sighed. His lips twisted. “All right,” he said. “Leave that out. Get to the point. Who do
you want me to kill?”
The Speaker smiled. “All in proper sequence,” he said softly.
The car slid to a stop. It was night; there was no light anywhere along the street. Conger looked
Out. “Where are we? What is this place?”
The hand of the guard pressed into his arm. “Come. Through that door.”
Conger stepped down, onto the damp sidewalk. The guard came swiftly after him, and then the
Speaker. Conger took a deep breath of the cold air. He studied the dim outline of the building rising up
“I know this place. I’ve seen it before.” He squinted, his eyes growing accustomed to the dark.
Suddenly he became alert. “This is – “
“Yes. The First Church.” The Speaker walked toward the steps. “We’re expected.”
“Yes.” The Speaker mounted the stairs.
“You know we’re not allowed in their Churches, especially with guns!” He stopped. Two armed
Soldiers loomed up ahead, one on each side.
“I see,” he said.
“It was necessary,” the Speaker said. “As you know, we have been singularly
Unfortunate in the
Past in our relations with the First Church.”
“This won’t help.”
“But it’s worth it. You will see.”
They passed through the hall and into the main chamber where the altar piece was, and the
Kneeling places. The Speaker scarcely glanced at the altar as they passed by. He pushed open a small
Side door and beckoned Conger through.
“In here. We have to hurry. The faithful will be flocking in soon.”
Conger entered, blinking. They were in a small chamber, low-ceilinged, with dark panels of old
Wood. There was a smell of ashes and smoldering spices in the room. He sniffed. “What’s that? The
“Cups on the wall. I don’t know.” The Speaker crossed impatiently to the far side. “According to
Our information, it is hidden here by this – “
Conger looked around the room. He saw books and papers, holy signs and images. A strange
Low shiver went through him.
“Does my job involve anyone of the Church? If it does – “
The Speaker turned, astonished. “Can it be that you believe in the Founder? Is it possible, a
Hunter, a killer – “
“No. Of course not. All their business about resignation to death, nonviolence
“What is it, then?”
Conger shrugged. “I’ve been taught not to mix with such as these. They have strange abilities.
And you can’t reason with them.”
The Speaker studied Conger thoughtfully. “You have the wrong idea. It is no one here that we
Have in mind. We’ve found that killing them only tends to increase their numbers.”
“Then why come here? Let’s leave.”
“No. We came for something important.