Nahum’s guts turned. He ignored the smirk on Vashti’s face and scrambled to come up with a reason for them to be in Theopolis that didn’t involve an untimely death of a certain priest.
“Um, we’re, um, we’re on an errand for Kane, seeing as he’s stuck on Shechem for a while.” Nahum rubbed his upper lip.
Vashti stepped forward. “Terribly sorry about what happened to Dave. Those asteroids got to stampeding, and he just couldn’t shake loose of them. Such a tragedy.”
Ma Baruch’s eyes teamed up and she took an embroidered handkerchief from her purse.
“Thank you.” Ol’ Man Baruch drew his wife into a one-armed hug. “So, what are your plans now?”
“At loose ends for a while.” The tension in Nahum’s stomach faded. “If Kane finds decent quarters on Shechem, we’ll probably keep our mining business afloat. We’ll know more once this errand’s done.”
An announcement over the PA called all passengers to Gibeah for boarding.
Old Man Baruch looked up at the ceiling for a moment. “That’s us. You two have a good trip now.”
“You the same,” Nahum said.
As the pair walked off, Vashti back-handed Nahum’s arm. “‘We’re on an errand?’ That’s the best you could do?”
He scowled at her. “It worked, didn’t it? Now let’s go. We need to do some data collection before we finish the errand.’
Vashti shrugged. “I guess everyone’s vulnerable somewhere. We just have to figure out where.”
Jer settled his weight on his stronger leg and raised the head of his cane above his shoulder. “Now, I told you I’ve got nothing of value in my pockets today. I don’t want trouble, and you can’t afford trouble, so let’s just part ways.”
“Mister, if you don’t hand over what you got, I’m gonna break that cane over your head and take what I want,” the guy in front said.
“This cane?” Jer triggered the LEDs built into cane just below the handle.
Fiercely bright light cut through the smog like a laser. The thugs cried out and so did a few others nearby.
Jer swung the cane like a bat, catching the spokesman twice above the ear with the metal cap on the cane. Before the spokesman hit the ground, Jer pivoted and jabbed the other one in the belly. When the guy doubled over, Jer slammed the cane against the back of the mugger’s head. He dropped to the pavement. Both moaned and rubbed their heads. Jer switched off the LEDs. Blinking away after images, he stepped around his would-be attacker and continued on his way.
The remaining couple blocks passed without incident. In fact, many people gave him more space as he passed. Jer entered the hangar complex and hobbled around to the bay where he’d left Ethan and Tamar keeping an eye on Yireh.
A man leaned against the door. Unlike the usual denizens of the area, he wore a uniform. The patch on his arm identified him as an employee of Grace Interstellar Works, the biggest commercial passenger carrier in the region.
The man pushed off from the wall and looked Jer up and down, taking particular notice of the cane.
You looking for a headache, too?
The man snorted. “You the kin of Dave Baruch?”
“Who’s asking?” Jer stopped and planted the cane directly in front of him, leaning on it with both hands.
“My name don’t matter.” He came a step or two closer but stayed out of arm’s reach. “I got important information for the kin of David Baruch.”
“All right. I’m Jer Baruch. What’s the problem?”
“It’ll cost you twenty-four shekels.”
Jer frowned.” what will?”
“Mister, I ain’t never bought anything sight unseen. My daddy taught me better’n that.”
The spaceline worker shook his head. “I could get in trouble just talking to you. Pay up front or I walk.”
Should Jer pay for the information?
Where should Nahum and Vashti start their search?