Ralph opened his eyes slowly as he became aware of someone dabbing his forehead with something moist
and cool. He winced and tried to lift his hand as a sensitive and painful spot was touched but found something was restricting
the movement of his arms.
The dabbing continued as the fog cleared from his eyes and focused. He was sitting on the floor of
the passage with his back leaning against the wall and his feet stretched out in front. Someone was kneeling beside him. A
woman’s hand held a bowl filled with a cloudy liquid in front of his face.
He winced again as the tender spot was touched once more and turned his head to see who was causing
him the pain. When he saw it was Basha his memory flooded back. He remembered the sudden movement as he left Dawson’s
study and the stars he saw as something struck his head.
“I was getting worried that you weren’t going to wake up,” said Basha grinning at
him and placing the bowl of liquid on the floor. “You’ve got a nasty bump on your head.”
Ralph grunted and tried to stand up then realized his hands were tied behind him. He glanced at Basha
with narrowed eyes.
“I had to tie your hands,” she explained with a smile. “After all, you’re a
burglar.” She pushed herself up from the floor and stood waiting for Ralph to reply but he remained silent. Shrugging,
she bent down and picked up the bowl and a cricket bat that was lying nearby. “Good job daddy likes a game of cricket,”
she said. “This came in handy.”
She turned and walked down the passage. Ralph noticed she was still wearing the tan coat and black
boots she wore when she left earlier. Some burglar you are, he thought to himself
as she disappeared into a room at the end of the passage. He should have watched for the pattern of movements before attempting
to break into the house.
He heard water running and the sound of something being washed. He guessed it was the bowl. Ralph wondered
why Basha had bothered to bathe his head. She could have let him suffer. Another thought came to his mind. Had she called
the police? Or perhaps even worse, had she called her father? If Dawson
was responsible for the hijacking and Mick’s murder, he wouldn’t care about killing him. Then again, if Basha
was the murderer, was she just playing with him? When she had her amusement, would she finally kiss him and put a bullet in
his head? Maybe that was some kind of sick kick she got from it? A mental picture of Mick’s horrified face frozen in
death flashed before him and he shuddered.
Basha returned a few minutes later. She had removed her coat and wore a thin sweater and tailored pants.
“Are you comfortable there?” she asked. Ralph glanced up into her eyes, saw the purple
ring around her irises and looked away again quickly. “She’s a freak. She does things with her eyes,” Adrian’s daughter had said. He remembered the look on Mick’s
face when Basha glanced at him in The Half a Mo café. He would have to make sure he didn’t make eye contact with her.
“The strong silent type, are you?” grinned Basha. “Here, let me help you up. You’ll
be more comfortable in a chair.”
She bent down and slipped her arm around his and helped him to his feet. “Down here,” she
said. “Just don’t try anything.” Basha led him down the passage and into a luxuriously furnished living
room. She indicated an armchair. “You can sit there.”
Ralph sank in the simulated leather chair almost gratefully. Basha sat on a sofa and curled her feet
beneath her and leaned languidly on the arm of the sofa. She seemed perfectly relaxed.
“So, Mr. Connor, what’s a trucker doing trying to burgle this house?” she asked.
She saw the surprise on Ralph’s face as she mentioned his name.
“Oh yes. I recognize you from The Half a Mo,” she explained. “I didn’t when
I whacked you with the cricket bat.” She grinned again.
“You’re an amateur, you know. I saw your car yesterday and again this morning. That made
me suspicious and why I came back.”
Ralph fixed his eyes on her breasts thinking he might as well look at those if he was to avoid eye
contact. He thought for a moment and then replied.
“Why did you have to kill Mick?” he asked.
Basha swung her legs off the sofa and put her feet on the floor and sat upright.
“I didn’t kill him!” She exclaimed.
Ralph risked a quick glance at her face. If she was acting, she was good. Her eyes were wide as she
glared at him indignantly.
“Then it was your dad or his cronies that did,” said Ralph. “And your purple lip
paint was on Mick’s lips so you were involved.”
“It wasn’t mine! Purple is the fashion right now!”
Ralph risked another glance at her. She was frowning and her eyes darting over the carpeted floor as
her mind raced. Is she acting or didn’t she really know about the lip paint?
Basha rose from the sofa suddenly and left the room. She returned a minute later with a kitchen knife
in one hand and the cricket bat in the other.
“Holy shit! He thought. She’s gonna beat me to death or slit my throat! Aloud,
he said, “Let’s not be hasty. Maybe I was mistaken.”
“Shut up and stand up!” she said brandishing the bat. Ralph jumped to his feet.
“Okay! Okay! Just take it easy!”
Still brandishing the bat, Basha walked behind him. He braced himself for a blow or a stab. Instead
he felt the knife cut the cord that bound his wrists. As he turned, she jumped back holding the bat high in readiness to strike
“Get out! Go!” she yelled. “Get out and don’t come back!”
“I’m going!” said Ralph walking back to the passage.
“Not that way! The front door.”
“Where’s the front door?”
“Through there! Just get out!” she screamed.
Ralph found the door, opened it and hastened out. The wrought iron gates swung open as he approached
them. Getting into his car, he wasted no time in driving away.
Ralph sat in The Two Pins Tavern sipping a glass of Martian beer cradled in both hands and deep in
thought. His head still ached but the lump on his forehead didn’t bother him as much as before. Ice obtained from the
bar had helped reduce the swelling and numb the pain.
He knew he had had a lucky escape that morning. Things could well have been much worse for him had
Dawson found him trespassing in his house. With his influence
in Liberty and other cities, Dawson
could have had him locked up in some cell in a detention center for an undetermined length of time. Ralph doubted if Dawson would have bathed his forehead while he waited for the police
Unanswered questions chased each other through his mind as he sipped his beer and stared blindly at
the surface of the table. Why had Basha let him go? Why did her mood change so suddenly? What had triggered her mood change?
Why hadn’t she called the police or at least her father?
Basha’s denial of killing Mick appeared genuine. She hadn’t just denied it. She had sat
up and glared at him. She seemed shocked that he believed she had murdered Mick. Then, when he mentioned the lip paint, it
seemed to set her mind thinking. That was when she made up her mind to let him go.
Ralph drained his glass and called over to the bar tender for another. The bar tender was holding a
communicator hand piece, staring at it with a puzzled look on his face. He acknowledged Ralph’s order and a minute later
brought it to him.
“You sure you want this?” he asked. “I think your wife or girlfriend just called.”
Ralph’s brow creased into a frown. “Did she ask for me or leave a name?”
The bar tender shook his head. “Just asked if there was a trucker here. When I said yes she described
you and asked if you looked like that. I said yeah, and she hung up.” He looked at Ralph’s clothes then added,
“You are a trucker, ain’t you?”
Ralph nodded absently. Everyone recognized a roader. Who would want to know if I was in The Two Pins? The only women I know in these parts
are Mrs. Edison and Adrian’s wife and daughter. Then there was Basha but she couldn’t see the back of me fast
Ralph looked around the tavern. It was a quiet period and only four others were drinking. Three men
and a woman. None of them were roaders.
“She didn’t leave a name or number?” he asked.
“Nope. Just hung up.”
“Forget it then. I’ll have the beer and probably another after.”
The barman took the empty glass and replaced it with the fresh beer then pointed at Ralph’s forehead.
“Did she do that?” he asked with a grin.
“Wouldn’t ya like to know?” Ralph said. He didn’t want to explain how he got
the lump on his head and the walking into a door excuse had been killed a century ago. “Cricket’s a dangerous
game,” he smiled cynically.
He was halfway through his third beer when the tavern door opened and Basha entered. She glanced around
quickly, spotted Ralph, walked straight to where he was sitting and sat down opposite him.
Ralph put his beer down and raised his eyebrows in surprise.
“How did ya know I was here?” he asked.
“I was lucky. Fourth tavern I called,” answered Basha. “You’re a trucker. I
guessed you would be in a tavern.”
Ralph glanced over his shoulder. “Brought the police with ya? Your dad?”
“I want to know what you were looking for when you broke into our house,” she said, ignoring
“Why?” Ralph looked up at her and seeing the purple ring immediately dropped his gaze again.
“I’ll put it another way. I need to know,” Basha leaned forward, “Do my eyes
“No, not at all,” replied Ralph taking a sip of beer. “So why do you need to know?”
“Mr. Connor, please don’t play with me. You practically accused me of murdering that trucker.”
Ralph swirled the beer in his glass for a moment as he thought. “I was looking for evidence.”
“What kind of evidence? My lip paint? Look!” Her hand moved to her face but Ralph still
stared at his beer. “Look at me! My lip paint doesn’t come off!”
Ralph glanced up at her. She rubbed her lips again and showed him her fingers. The paint on her lips
wasn’t smudged and there was none on her fingertips.
“I don’t wear the cheap paint that comes off,” she insisted. “If there was
any on that trucker, it wasn’t mine.”
“Then you’ve got nothing to worry about. Why are you trying to convince me?”
“Because I think I know who it might have been,” she said quietly.
Ralph raised his head and peered at her. Her face was serious and her eyes appealed to him to believe
her. He looked into his beer again and swirled it some more.
“Tell the police,” he said.
“Then why tell me?” There was a pause before Basha answered.
“Because you are different.”
The simple statement forced a laugh from Ralph. “Yeah! I’m not the police. I’m just
another trucker that might get hijacked. Expendable.” There was another, longer pause. He sensed her studying him.
“I didn’t mean that. You are different. I thought
it when I first saw you in The Half a Mo. I think you’re
one of the few really decent truckers.”
Ralph squinted at her. Her face was still serious. She means
it, he thought. He felt flattered.
“You did something to Mick with your eyes,” Ralph told her. “What did you do?”
This time the pause lasted almost a minute. Ralph was beginning to think he wasn’t going to be
“So my eyes do bother you,” said Basha. “He molested me. I don’t like being
molested so I showed him a mental picture of him having his testicles ripped off and then I removed any knowledge of him touching
me.” She shook her head at the memory of the incident. “Why should he retain the memory of touching me against
Ralph thought about what she had said. To have a power like that could do a lot of harm to people.
“So you’re a telepath,” he said. “You can read minds, right?”
“No. I pick up bad thoughts against me and can defend myself by putting thoughts in the minds
of those that wish to harm me or do something I don’t like,” she said. “It’s hard to explain. I can’t
read minds but I can take away some memories. It’s more like a defensive action.”
Ralph studied the girl before him. She was beautiful, young and vivacious, yet she had a power that
made him feel uneasy. He had no way of knowing if she was telling him the whole truth about her powers. Ralph recalled that
Jeanette had said Basha’s teachers were afraid of her. He wondered if they had been a threat to her.
“I heard your teachers and school mates were scared of you,” he ventured, trying to draw
Basha smiled. “I was very young and didn’t have control over this ability. When I felt
hostility from the girls I reacted. They reported it to the teachers and the teachers scolded me. That caused me to react
against them. The teachers knew about this gift I have.”
“How did you get this gift?”
Basha’s smile disappeared and was replaced with a look of bitterness. Ralph could sense her pondering
on whether to answer his question. She toyed with a drop of spilt beer on the table, drawing wet circles with her middle finger.
Finally she spoke.
“My mother was exposed to radiation when she was pregnant with me.” She looked at the watch
on her wrist. “Look, I’ve never talked like this to anyone before. I don’t know why I’m telling you
all this. All I wanted to know was what you were looking for in my house.” She looked at her watch again. “I have
to go. Where are you staying?”
Ralph told her the name of the boarding house. He knew she could easily find out if she wanted.
“I was looking for evidence because I believe your father had something to do with the hijacking.”
He expected her to deny Dawson’s involvement. She didn’t
make any protest.
“I have to rush,” she said turning and walking away.
“Wait! Who do you think did it?” Ralph called after her.
“I’ll give you call,” she said. Then without waiting any longer, she left the tavern.