The Road to Port Haven (Chapter 6­, page 1 of 10)

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Roman arrived as the last deep blue light in the western horizon faded to concealing darkness and the bright points of stars glittering coldly like the reflections of daggers in a killer's eyes. There was about him something just as dark and dangerous, and Kara's fear for his safety evaporated, replaced by an odd admixture of awe and something akin to trust. He took the news of the presence of the two trespassers without expression, though he watched Kara all the while as Anana and Santiago filled him in.

He sighed as Santiago finished the narrative, muttered 'Gracias' to Theresa as she handed him a cup of hot coffee, lighted one of his small black cheroots with a match which he tossed into the fire, stretched out his long legs and crossed his booted feet, and thought a long moment in silence.

'I will have Ricardo and his network of "friends" picked up and brought in for questioning the next time they are in Port Haven,' he said at last. 'I should have put an end to Ricardo's mischief long ago. It could be that my leniency has contributed to his boldness of late, and that of his associates, though he particularly is notorious for having little or no sense, regardless the sort of treatment he receives when he runs afoul of the law.'

'In the old days he would have been flogged,' Pietro grumbled.

'In the old days, my friend,' Roman said quietly with a wry smile, 'he would have been subjected to various forms of unspeakable torture until death occurred, because in those days even the law was lawless and unjust. What passed for law was meted out by a caste of thugs whose code of conduct had little or nothing to do with the law in principle. This code of conduct was the weapon of men whose corrupt and capricious whims were given every precedence over the innocents they terrorized with impunity, and though the recorded law of the land was otherwise, those men were given carte blanch by virtue of unwritten state licence, and this licence, not the law, was their true power of life and death over the hapless serfs of our by then anachronistically feudal society.

'Regardless, Ricardo must be caught and questioned, and punished if he is found to be complicit in this matter. And now that I think about the matter, it can be no coincidence that he would bring Kara to the Casa, minus the money she would need to travel elsewhere.'

'What do you mean?' Kara asked him. 'Why there and not someplace else?'

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