When Eni awakened, Stavo had a lavish breakfast ready and they sat and enjoyed it and each other, ignoring a buzzing tension in the air. When Eni returned to the station house, it was quiet as a grave. Bill Condry manned the day desk and sent her out on patrol. She checked on Stento before she left, but he appeared asleep on the bunk attached to the wall. Perhaps he only stared at the wall. Eni couldn’t tell for sure, though he didn’t respond to a yell near the front door.
She walked the streets and did a perimeter of the border, more for animal signs than expected trouble. She followed her usual routine, her orders, but remained vigilant and focused. When she returned to Hopkins Crossing opposite the end where she had started, Eni heard talk of the coming trial. Most smiled and nodded to Eni as she passed them. Others, more paranoid by nature, grew silent when she approached, though she nodded to them anyway. She could guess who had them stirred up and certain they would die in their beds at the hands of the savages. It had all been a ploy by the Eg’glis to lull the settlers, to make them drop their guard. This incident involving Stento and Joy’s horse, she knew, might prove the flashpoint. These people believed they needed payback for the injustice, real or imagined, that had befallen them since the landed on Arcadia.
Eni approached several groups where she knew at least one of them would listen to reason and did her best to calm their fears. When she returned to the station she almost wished she had stayed on patrol. Susan Crowell, who had taken over the day desk earlier, had stayed late to torment Stento.
“We’re going to hang your Ugly ass, boy,” she taunted him from in front of the bars. “Steal from one of us and see what happens.”
“By us, you mean your gang of three,” Eni asked, her voice raised. Before Susan could reply, Fargo North, another member of the gang, arrived for his shift.
“Doesn’t that just put the shine on the shit,” Eni said, turning from Crowell to North and back. Susan moved toward her, clearly angry.
“Just stay out of this. Everyone knows you’re an Ugly lover.”
Eni smiled. “I certainly like the Eg’glis better than some people I know.” She stood at the apex of a small triangle, with Crowell and North for the other angles. North’s hands had curled into fists. Susan glared at her.
“You bitch,” she said.
None of them had noticed Bill Condry come out of his office, drawn by the commotion.
“Go home, Susan. You’re shift ended quite awhile ago,” he said in a stern voice.
“She started it,” Susan whined.
“This is the Peacekeeper’s Station not a nursery school and we are not going to get into the circular argument ‘did not, did so.’ Grow up, Susan and go home.”Bill turned to Eni. “Write your report, but see me before you leave.”
As Eni wrote her report at the other desk, she glanced repeatedly at Stento. If he’d been aware of any of the commotion, he made no sign. When she went to see Bill and turn in her report, he shooed her home. He’d clearly realized how upset Eni had been and wanted to give her time to cool off, as well as time for Susan to get away from the station. She took the back way out of town to avoid any chance of running into Susan on the way home.
When she showed up for work later the next morning, Fargo North swore that the Ugly had overpowered him. There were papers scattered around, but North didn’t have a mark on him. Since the ball Stento had been wearing to prevent escape was locked around North’s ankle, his story became questionable. A rumor started going around, that North had fallen asleep. Susan, ever eager to one-up anyone, including North, had told someone that he’d continued Stento-baiting after Bill left, but received the same response. He fell to napping after dinner, his head pillowed on his arms. This was his usual practice, but he didn’t realize that Stento had gotten a key to the cell somehow. With North, that probably wouldn’t have made a difference.
Stento slowly unlocked the door to his cell, to minimize the noise. He moved silently from his cell, despite carrying the one hundred pound ball, attached to a chain and locked around his ankle. He set the ball down near the desk and located the key to the cuff in North’s coat pocket and chained to ball to North without disturbing his snooze.
Unfortunately, as the Eg’glis would confirm later, the story was true. Stento had snuck out, leaped the six-foot, spiked wall as if it were a drainage ditch and ran to his village. He collected the gear and supplies he would need and prepared to set off. Two younger males volunteered to accompany him on his great escape. This new adventure in the Game would be legend among the Eg’glis. The settlers would never understand what a deep thrill and great honor this strategy would bestow upon the three Eg’glis. Eni thought she understood a little, but saw it only as a waste.