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Chapter Thirteen:


"I've never seen so damn many Indians."

—G. A. CUSTER

THE words of alarm had an interesting effect on the

crowd below. After a brief glance to see us descending

into their midst, to a man they turned and ran. In a

twinkling, the street was empty.

"What's going on?" I called to Aahz, unable to

believe our good fortune.

"Beats me!" my partner shouted back. "I guess none

of the normal citizenry want to tangle with an escaped

murderer. Better get us down fast before they figure out

how badly outnumbered we are."

I didn't have to be told twice. Our escape had just

gotten an unexpected blessing, but I wasn't about to

make book on how long it would last. I cut my magical

support, and we dropped swiftly toward the pavement.

"What was that that blew the whistle on us?" Massha

said, peering up into the darkness where our mysterious

saboteur had disappeared.

"I think it was that Vic character," Guido answered

from below me. "I got a pretty good look at him when

113

114 Robert Asprin

he bolted past me back at the Woof Writers."

"Really?" I asked, half to myself, twisting around to

look after the departed villain. "That's one more we

owe him."

"Later," Aahz commanded, touching down at last.

"Right now we've got to get out of here."

Guido was beside him in a second. I had to drop a

ways, as with the extra weight removed from the rope,

we had ceased to sink.

"C'mon, Massha!" I called. "Cut the power in that

thing. It's not that far to fall."

"I'm trying!" she snapped back, fiddling with the

belt buckle once more. "The flaming thing's malfunc-

tioning again!"

The belt setting had changed. Holding the rope, I

could feel that there was no longer an upward pull.

Unfortunately, Massha wasn't sinking, either. Instead,

she hovered in mid-air about fifteen feet up.

"Hey, Boss! We got company!"

I followed my bodyguard's gaze. There was a mob

forming down the street to our left, and it didn't look

happy. Of course, it was hard to tell for sure, but I had

the definite impression that their eyes were glowing red-

der than normal, which I was unable to convince myself

was a good sign.

"Maasshhhha!" I nagged, my voice rising uncon-

trollably as I tugged on the rope.

"It's jammed!" she whimpered. "Go on, take off,

Hot Stuff. No sense in all of us getting caught."

"We can't just leave you here," I argued.

"We don't have time for a debate," Aahz snarled.

"Guido! Get up there ahead of us and keep the street

open. We can't afford to get cut off. Okay, let's go!"

With that, he snatched the rope out of my hand and

took off running down the street away from the crowd

with Guido out front in point position and Massha

MYTH-ING PERSONS 115

floating over his head like a gaudy balloon. For once, I

didn't object to him giving orders to my bodyguard. I

was too busy sprinting to keep up with the rest of my

group.

If the watching mob was having any trouble deciding

what to do, the sight of us fleeing settled it. With a

howl, they swarmed down the street in pursuit.

When I say "with a howl," I'm not speaking figura-

tively. As they ran, some of the vampires transformed

into large, fierce-looking dogs, others into bats, pre-

sumably to gain more speed in the chase. While Aahz

and I had been chased by mobs before, this was the first

pack of pursuers who literally bayed at our heels. I must

say I didn't care much for the experience.

"Where are we going, Aahz?" I panted.

"Away from them!" he called back.

"I mean, eventually," I pressed. "We're heading the

wrong way to get back to our hideout."

"We can't hole up until we've shaken our fan club,"

my partner insisted. "Now shut up and run."

I had certain doubts about our ability to elude our

pursuers while towing Massha overhead to mark our

position, but I followed Aahz's instructions and

pumped the pavement for all I was worth. For one

thing, if I pointed out this obvious fact to my partner,

he might simply let go of the rope and leave my appren-

tice to fend for herself. Then again, the option to run-

ning was to stand firm and face the mob. All in all,

running seemed like a real good idea.

Guido was surprisingly good at clearing a path for us.

I had never really seen my bodyguard in action, but with

his constant carping and allergy problems throughout

this venture, I was tending to discount his usefulness.

Not so. The vampires we encountered in our flight had

not heard the alarm and were unprepared for the whirl-

wind that burst into their midst. Guido never seemed to

116 Robert Asprin MYTH-ING PERSONS 117

break stride as he barreled into victim after victim, but

whatever he did to them was effective. None of the

fallen bodies which marked his progress attempted to

interfere with Aahz or I ... heck, they didn't even

move.

"River ahead. Boss!" he called over his shoulder.

"What's that?" I puffed, realizing for the first time

how out of shape I had grown during my prosperous

stay at the Bazaar.

"A river!" he repeated. "The street we're on is going

to dead-end into a river in a few blocks. I can see it'from

here. We're going to have to change direction or we'll

get pinned against the water."

I wondered whether it wouldn't be a good idea for us

to just plunge into the river and put some moving water

between us and the vampires, as I seemed to recall a

legend that that was one of the things that could stop

them. Then it occurred to me that my bodyguard prob-

ably couldn't swim.

"Head right!" Aahz shouted. "There! Up that

alley."

Guido darted off on the indicated course with my

partner and I pounding along about fifteen paces

behind him. We had built up a bit of a lead on our pur-

suers, though we could still hear their cries and yelps a

block or so back, and for the first time I started to have

the hope that we might actually elude them. Now that

we were out of their line of sight....

"Lookout. ..."

There was a sudden cry from above, and Massha

came crashing to the ground, gaming the dubious

distinction of being the first person I've ever witnessed

doing a belly-flop on dry land. I'm sure the ground

didn't actually shake, but the impact was enough to

leave that impression. I experienced a quick flash of

guilt, realizing that my first thought was not for the

well-being of my apprentice, but rather unbridled relief

that she hadn't landed on one of us.

"I think the controls just came unstuck," Aahz said,

rather unnecessarily to my thinking.

"Are you all right, Massha?" I said, crouching over

her.

"Wha—ha ..." came the forced reply.

"Of course, she's not all right," Aahz snapped,

assuming translator duties. "At the very least she's got

the wind knocked out of her."

Whatever the exact extent of the damages suffered

from her fall, my apprentice wasn't even trying to rise. I

would have liked to give her a few minutes recovery

time, but already the sounds of our pursuers were draw-

ing closer.

"Can you carry her, Aahz?"

"Not on my best day," my partner admitted, eyeing

Massha's sizable bulk. "How about you? Have you got

enough juice left to levitate her?"

I shook my head violently.

"Used it all supervising our aerial maneuvers back at

the jail."

"Hey. Boss!" Guido hissed, emerging from the

shadows behind us. "The alley's blocked. This is the

only way out!"

And that was that. Even if we got Massha up and

moving, all it meant was that we'd have to retrace our

steps right back into the teeth of the mob. We had run

our race... and were about to lose it rather spectacu-

larly.

The others knew it, too.

"Well, it's been nice working with you, Guido,"

Aahz said with a sigh. "I know I've gotten on your case

a couple of times, but you're a good man to have

around in a pinch. You did some really nice crowd work

getting us this far. Sorry about that last turn call."





118 Robert Asprin MYTH-ING PERSONS 119

"No hard feelings," my bodyguard shrugged. "You

gave it your best shot. This alley would have been my

choice, too, if I'd been workin' alone. Boss, I warned

you I was a jinx when it came to jailbreaks. I gotta ad-

mit, though, for a while there I really thought we were

goin' to pull this one off."

"It was a long shot at best." I grinned. "At least you

can't say that this one suffered from over-planning."

Aahz clapped a hand on my shoulder.

"Well, partner?" he said. "Any thoughts on how to

play this one? Do we try to surrender peacefully, or go

down swinging?"

I wasn't sure the crowd would give us a choice. They

were almost at our alley, and they didn't sound like they

cared much for talking.

"NOT THIS WAY! THEY'RE DOUBLING BACK

TOWARD THE JAIL!"

This unexpected cry came from the street near the

mouth of our alley.

I.couldn't believe it, but apparently the mob did.

There were curses and shouted orders, but from their

fast-fading manner it was plain that the crowd had

turned and was now heading back the way they had

come.

"What was that?" Massha managed, her voice re-

turning at last.

I motioned her to be silent and cocked an eyebrow at

Aahz, silently asking the same question.

He answered with an equally silent shake of the head.

Neither of us knew for sure what was going on, but

we both sensed that the timely intervention was neither

accidental nor a mistake. Someone had deliberately

pulled the crowd off our backs. Before we celebrated

our good fortune, we wanted to know who and why.

A pair of figures appeared at the mouth of the alley.

"You can come out now," one of them called.

"Sorry to interfere, but it looked like so much fun we

just had to play, too."

I'd know that voice anywhere, even if I didn't

recognize the figure as well as the unmistakable form of

her brother.

"Tananda! Chumley!" I shouted, waving to pinpoint

our position. "I was wondering when you'd show up."

The sister-brother team of Trollop and Troll hastened

to join us. For all their lighthearted banter, I can think

of few beings I'd rather have on or at my side when

things get tight.

"Are you all right?" Tananda asked, stopping to help

Massha to her feet.

"Really never had much dignity," my apprentice

responded, "and what little I did have is shot to hell.

Except for that I'm fine. I'm starting to see why you Big

Leaguers are so down on mechanical magic."

Chumley seized my hand and pumped it vigorously.

"Now don't be too rough on your little gimmicks,

ducks," he advised. "That little ring you left us was just

the ticket we needed to get here in time for the latest in

our unbroken string of last-minute rescues. Except for

the typical hash you've made of your end-game, it looks

like you've done rather well without us. We've got all

present and accounted for, including Aahz, who seems

remarkably unscathed after yet one more near-brush

with disaster. Seems like all that's left is a hasty retreat

and a slow celebration ... eh, what?"

"That's about the size of it," I agreed. "It's great

having the two of you along to ride shotgun on our exit,

though. Speaking of which, can you find the castle from

here? I've gotten a little turned around...."

"Hold it right there!" Aahz broke in. "Before we get

too wrapped up in congratulating each other, aren't

there a few minor details being overlooked?"

The group looked at each other.





120

Robert Asprin

"Like what?" Tananda said at last.

"Like the fact that I'm still wanted for murder, for

one," my partner glared. "Then again, there's the three

fugitives we're supposed to be bringing back to Deva

with us."

"Oh, come on, Aahz," the Trollop chided, poking

him playfully in the ribs. "With the reputation you

already have, what's a little thing like a murder war-

rant?"

"I didn't do it," Aahz insisted. "Not only didn't I

kill this Vic character, nobody did. He's still around

somewhere laughing down his sleeve at all of us. Now

while I'll admit my reputation isn't exactly spotless, it

doesn't include standing still for a bum rap ... or let-

ting someone get away with making a fool of me!"

"Of course, saving the money for paying the

swindlers' debts plus the fines involved has nothing to

do with it, eh, Aahz?" Chumley said, winking his larger

eye.

"Well... that, too," my partner admitted. "Isn't it

nice that we can take care of both unpleasant tasks at

the same time?"

"Maybe we could settle for just catching Vic and let

the others go," I murmured.

"How's that again, partner?"

"Nothing, Aahz," I said with a sigh. "It's just that

... nothing. C'mon everybody. If we're going to go

hunting, it's going to require a bit of planning, and I

don't think we should do it out here in the open."



Chapter Twelve: | Mything Persons | Chapter Fourteen:



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