Harry took another shower, changed his clothes and went down stairs. He found himself alone. Quincey was no where in sight, and Lydia had retreated to her private rooms. Harry thought he heard someone moving around upstairs, but he really didn’t want to talk to anyone at that moment. He found some food in a new storage bin in the “kitchen” and helped himself. Then, he went in search of Allyson.
Harry didn’t know why he wanted to see her, only that he needed to. It was an irresistible impulse that was compelling him to search her out. He found the cable-car too slow. He wondered if he could make better time if he got off and ran all the way to the Lehman office. He ruled that out. The temperature was too hot and that much exercise would reduce him to a ringing rag of sweat which would hardly appeal to the young woman he was trying to impress. But what if she likes sweat? he wondered. Harry shook his head. He had no idea why he was feeling so desperate.
The cable-car, as slow as it was, finally dropped him off in front of the alley that led down to the Lehman office. As before, there were a lot of people moving about. Everyone seemed to be focused on reaching their destination. Harry thought about it for a second and realized that without places to stop and rest, there was no place else for these people to go other than where they were headed. There were no coffee shops, food stands, kiosks, or any of the hundreds of distractions that people at ground level on Earth Prime faced. Harry realized that the streets, like the undecorated hallways, were merely conduits to get people from one point to another and nothing more.
Harry started off down the alley and almost immediately bumped into Allyson heading in the opposite direction. “Well, hello, again,” he said trying to remain calm.
“Well, hello to you too,” Allyson said. “What brings you back down here?”
“You,” Harry said.
“I was just wondering how you were doing,” Harry said.
“I’m doing great,” Allyson said. “That upgrade you made to our computers has taken hours off of our work load. It helped get me out of the office and over to the warehouse. Do you want to come along?”
“Sure,” Harry said. They walked back to the main street of the circle and Allyson steered Harry in the direction of the warehouse.
“What have you been up to?” Allyson asked as they walked along.
Harry told her, only he left out the part about having hours of sex with another woman and reduced it to a rather dull, fact-finding conversation at which he had been very successful. He told her about Diana’s brother and Jane’s involvement in trying to obtain the brother’s release.
“That sounds a lot like Jane,” Allyson said.
“Do you know her?”
“Of course I know her,” Allyson said.
“But Jane told me that the two of you don’t run in the same circles,” Harry said.
“We did when we were younger, but then something came between us,” Allyson said.
“What?” Harry asked.
“John Fitz-Porter,” Allyson said.
Harry bit back a quick remark and thought about it for a moment. Allyson and Jane were about the same age. Fitz-Porter was only a few years older. Harry had not seen many women on the planet, let alone young women, so it did not seem out of the realm of possibility that Fitz-Porter should be attracted to a young woman closer to his age. “What happened... if you don’t mind my asking?”
“I met John when I was seventeen. He was kind of a celebrity and I had a young girl’s crush on him. We started seeing a lot of each other. I thought I had fallen in love with him, but my parents were dead set against it...”
“It seems that he has that affect on parents,” Harry quipped.
“Apparently Steve Somerset wasn’t too thrilled with Fitz-Porter’s attentions towards Jane,” Harry said.
“My father was going to say something to him, but he was killed before he could,” Allyson said. “But then my mother stepped up and spoke to him. She told him that I was too young and that with my father’s murder, he was going to have to back off until a more appropriate time.”
“Did he?” Harry asked.
“He backed off,” Allyson said. “Eventually, he backed all the way off. Then he started seeing Jane.”
“I’m sorry if it hurt you,” Harry said.
“It hurt,” Allyson said. “He was my first crush and for awhile I thought I was going to die. But then, with Dad’s murder and having to help run the business, I guess I grew up. How are John and Jane getting along?”
“He announced his intention to marry her last night at dinner,” Harry said.
“So soon after her own father’s murder?” Allyson asked.
“Apparently he’s worried that the planetary No Work/No Eat law will affect her. He said something about the marriage protecting her from that.”
“That’s just like John,” Allyson said. “When he’s with you, he’s always thinking of how he can protect you.”
“You hardly seem the type who needs protecting,” Harry said.
“Now,” Allyson said.
“How did you and your mother cope with the No Work/No Eat law?” Harry asked.
“Mom was always classified as a laborer. Her marriage to my father didn’t negate that. She worked for Mr. Keith at Communications. When Dad died, she moved into the export/import business as if she had been born to it so the No Work/No Eat law was never invoked. My brother was already working for the firm and I was underage. When I turned 18, I was automatically enrolled on our company’s work roster.”
“I guess Jane’s situation is different,” Harry said.
“Very,” Allyson said. “She has always been under the protection of her father. Now that he’s dead, unless she marries John, she will be asked to leave. Not that that would be any hardship on her.”
“Her father has to be one of the richest men in the parsec if not the galaxy. It’s not like she will ever want for money.”
“I guess not. I wonder if Fitz-Porter is marrying her for her money?”
“I doubt it,” Allyson said.“He may not be as rich as Steve Somerset was, but I’ll guarantee you that his cut of the red-ore would make some of your Directorate weep.”
When they arrived at the warehouse, Allyson immediately handed Harry a hard hat and put him to work. The building was not as big as Harry assumed it would be. The place looked cluttered. There were several floor to ceiling shelves and on each one a kind of conveyer belt. The shelves themselves were on a conveyor. As Allyson worked them, Harry realized that the shelves were several stories high with much of them hidden beneath the floor level. Merchandise had to be unpacked from packing crates. Each piece had to be logged in. The order number crossed referenced to each laborer’s ID number and then each piece had to be placed on the shelves in a specific order. The first thing that Harry got was a box cut and he didn’t like it.
There were several men from one of the mines working along side Harry and Allyson, and between all of them, they were able to unload the crates and catalog and shelve the new orders. It was close to dinner time when Allyson told everyone they could go home and that they would not be needed tomorrow.
“What little that’s left, my brother and I can handle.”
Harry really liked Allyson’s sense of command and independence. On Earth Prime he would have asked her to dinner. But on Magnum-4, he didn’t know where to take her and what with her former relationship with John Fitz-Porter, taking her back to the Somerset estate was probably out of the question.
As Harry and Allyson were leaving, Harry’s PCD began vibrating in his pocket. Quincey was on the line.
“Where are you?” Quincey asked as soon as Harry answered.
“I’m at the Lehman warehouse with Allyson,” Harry said.
“I’m sending you an address. Ask Allyson to tell you how to get there.”
“What’s up?” Harry asked.
“Your friend, Mark Chapman, has been found dead in his apartment.”