"You--cast spells. You make things happen."
"That's right," Jonas said, smiling again. "I'm a wizard. A warlock. That's what they say, isn't it?"
"You--make things happen," the bald man said.
But he had the basic idea; Jonas checked that in his mind. "Very well," he said. "Now, I wish to see Herr Knupf."
"The Inquisitor calls you when he wants you," the bald man said.
"Now," Jonas said.
"When he wants--"
"If I am a wizard," Jonas said, "I have powers. Strange powers. I could make you--" He reflected for a minute. "I could make you into a beetle, and squash you underfoot. As a matter of fact, I think I will." He gazed reflectively at the bald man, who gulped and turned a little pale.
"You ... you are in a cell," he said at last. "Locked up."
"Do you think that will stop me?" Jonas said. He came to the barred door, still smiling.
"You would not dare--"
"Why not?" Jonas asked. "What have I got to lose?"
He raised one hand, clawing the fingers slightly. He took a deep breath, as if he were about to spit out an incantation. His eyes glittered. The smile broadened.
A long second passed.
"I will tell the Inquisitor you wish to see him," the bald guard said.
Jonas relaxed and stepped back. "I shall be most grateful," he said formally. The guard turned and started to walk away. Five paces down the corridor, the walk turned into a run. Jonas watched him go, and then sat down on his louse-infested cot to await developments.
The minutes ticked by endlessly. He thought of trying to reach Claerten, but decided, not entirely with regret, that the contact would use up too much energy. And he needed all the energy he could conserve now. The second step had been taken--the fact that he sat in a cell in prison was proof of that.
The third step--the all-important final step--was about to begin.
Georg Knupf was a tall man with skin the color and apparent texture of good leather. He had a face like an eagle, and his eyes were ice-blue. He moved his thin, strong hands gently back and forth on the table that held his papers, inkstand and pen, and said in a voice like audible sandpaper: "You wanted to see me."
"True," Jonas said pleasantly. Knupf was sitting behind the table. Jonas had not been asked to sit; he remained standing, and he was reasonably sure that his feet were going to hurt in a minute. He tried not to let the thought disturb him.
The man's mind was like his office in the Town Hall: sparsely furnished, almost austere, but with all the necessaries laid out for easy access. Underneath the strength and iron of the mind Jonas caught the spark glowing, and nearly smiled. In spite of the reports, in spite of logic, there had been a chance the Brotherhood had guessed wrongly about this man.
Now that chance was gone, and the Brotherhood was right again.
"Not many ask to see me," Knupf said in the same voice. He went on looking at his hands. There was bitterness in his mind, bitterness that had changed to hate. "Their pleas tend to be exactly the opposite."
"I did not plead," Jonas pointed out. "It was necessary that I come to see you."
The question was, he told himself, exactly what were the Inquisitor's real beliefs? His public professions were well-known; Jonas searched and found the answer. Knupf was an honest man.
That, of course, made matters simpler.
"Necessary?" Knupf said, looking up for the first time. His gaze stabbed like a sword. He was uneasy, Jonas knew; with another mind probing his, he could not help but be uneasy. But he could not find a cause; it would never occur to him. And he controlled his feelings superbly.
"You believe that I am a wizard," Jonas said.
Knupf waited a bare second, and then nodded.
"I can do many things," Jonas went on. "It was necessary that I bring these to your attention--and prove to you that they are not wizardry, or magic."
"Many have told me," Knupf muttered, "that their feats were natural. It is a common defense."
"So I have heard," Jonas said easily. "But I shall prove what I say."
"I am under no compulsion to listen to you," Knupf said after a pause.
Jonas shrugged. His feet were beginning to hurt, he realized; he sighed briefly, but there was no time or attention to spare for them. "I could only see you by having myself accused of witchcraft," he said. "In that way, you would be forced to listen to me. You may listen now, or later at a full hearing of the Inquisitor's Court."
"And I am to take my choice?" Knupf said. He smiled briefly; his face remained cold. The strong hands moved on the tabletop.
"It is a matter of indifference to me," Jonas said. "But the wait becomes boring, after a time."
Knupf's eyebrows went up. "Boring is--hardly the word others would use."
"I am not like others," Jonas said. He wished for Claerten suddenly, but there was no way to reach him safely. He had to make his move alone.
Well, he told himself, that was what he had wanted.
"I can tell you what is in your mind," he said.
The words hung in the air of the room for a long time. At last Knupf nodded. "The Devil grants to many his power of seeing the minds of men," he said quietly.
"This is not Devil's work--as I shall prove," Jonas said. He shifted his feet. "But let me establish one point at a time, in the most scholastic manner; if you will permit."
"I permit," Knupf said. There was interest in his mind, overlaid with skepticism, of course, but interest all the same. That, Jonas thought, was a better sign than he had dared to hope for.
"Very well," he said. "Think of a word. Think of any single word. I shall tell it to you."
"As any wizard might do, who had the help of his lord the Devil," Knupf muttered. "Do you expect this to prove--"
"One thing at a time," Jonas said.
Knupf nodded. A second passed.
Jonas licked his lips. The possibilities paraded before him; on one hand, success. On the other there was the torture and death of the Inquisition. Jonas took a deep breath; there was no way to back out now. Heroism looked a little empty, though.
He closed his eyes. "Cabbages," he said.
Knupf neither applauded, nor looked surprised. "As I have said," he murmured, "that which the Devil can grant--" He paused and looked down at his hands. "Am I to take this as a confession?" he said. "Do you wish to hurry your own death?"
"I am no wizard," Jonas said.
"A stranger," Knupf said, "who enters a small city, is seen at mysterious undertakings, plucks words out of the center of a man's mind ... why, the picture is a classic one. Del Rio himself, Holzinger or any of the others could not describe a better."
"Yet all this was done to draw your attention, to fix it on what I have to tell you," Jonas said, shifting his feet again. "I am no wizard, but a man who may do certain things. And here is my proof: you may do the same yourself."
The silence was a long one, and at the end of it Knupf rose. He walked to the door of the room and opened it, and the bald-headed guard came in. "He has tried to tempt me to pact with Satan," the Inquisitor said.
"Take him away."
Some day, Jonas thought, back in his cell, there would be a method of controlling minds that did not require the willing co-operation of the two parties. Some day the man who reads minds would be more than a passive onlooker.
But the talent was new; it needed practice, it needed training.
The cell grew dark as night came, and the dampness seemed to increase. Jonas heard squeaking and thought of the rats, but he couldn't even summon up enough energy to try for them. He sat crosslegged in a corner of the cell and closed his eyes.
He sighed once, deeply. This was what a hero came to, he told himself. This was the end of heroics and playing a lone hand. Why, if he had it to do over again, he would-- "You would do exactly the same thing," Claerten's voice said.
Jonas grinned suddenly, and sat straighter. "I should have known you'd be getting into contact sooner or later," he thought.
"I try to keep track of all our men," Claerten thought. "In a case like yours, I try harder."
"My foolishness," Jonas thought, "sometimes works to my benefit."
Claerten's thought was wry. "If you hadn't got impatient and tried to hurry things," his voice said in Jonas' mind, "you wouldn't be back in your cell now. There is a time and a place for your disclosure--"
"Another day in here would have driven me out of my wits," Jonas thought.
"Better out of your wits than dead," Claerten thought.
"However," Claerten went on, "there is still a way out for you. I have read the situation in your mind, and your next move will have to be rather more spectacular than usual."
"So long as it works," Jonas said, "I will be satisfied."
"It will work," Claerten said. "At least--I think it will."
Another day dragged by. Jonas put in his time alternately going over the new plan and feeling more frightened than he had ever believed possible. Claerten reached him once, but the contact was weak and fleeting; the director hadn't enough strength to reach him again, at least not for a day or so. Jonas was exactly where he'd wanted to be: on his own.
He hated the idea.
Time passed, somehow. When morning dawned, Jonas awoke to find the door of his cell being unlocked. The bald man and the black-haired man were both there. He looked up at them with distaste.
Then he saw what was in their minds, and the distaste changed to fear.
"You have confessed," the bald one said. "It is necessary that you ratify your confession. Come with us."
Jonas knew what that meant: ratification of a free confession took place under torture. He wiped his face with one hand, but he hardly thought of escaping.
He had to go through with the plan.
The two guards came into the cell and gripped his arms. Jonas allowed himself to be carried out into the corridor, and down it to a great wooden door. The guards opened it, and dragged him through.
The torture chamber was brightly lit, with torches in brackets along the walls that gave off, by a small fraction, more light than smoke. In one corner the rack itself stood, and there were other tools of the trade scattered around the room.
Jonas found that he was sweating.
The guards brought him to the center of the room. Knupf was standing near him, a perfectly blank expression on his face. His voice was the same rough rasp, but it seemed almost mechanical.
"You have confessed to me," he said, "your heresy. Now, you will be made to ratify your confession. That done, your penalty will be exacted."
And the penalty, of course, would be death--death at the stake.
He forced himself to remain calm. Now was the time for his play. He took a deep breath and felt the strength in him gather to a single point and flow outward. The two men suddenly seemed to stagger; there was a second of confusion and they had let him go. He stood alone in the room. He turned and walked to the door, but he did not open it. Instead, he leaned against it.
He forced his voice into the patterns of calmness and ease. "Your men cannot touch me," he said.
"No," Jonas said. The confusion he was broadcasting kept the men from doing anything that required even a simple plan, but he couldn't keep it up for long. "A man like yourself, a man with a particular talent, given by God."
"The name of God--"
"I can say that name," Jonas told the Inquisitor. "No wizard may say it."
"It is a trick," Knupf said.
Jonas shook his head. "Not at all. I will ask you to do nothing against the Faith; I will merely ask you to test for yourself what I say."
"You are a heretic," Knupf said stubbornly. "I can not--"
"You can pray," Jonas said.
Knupf blinked. "Pray?" he said.
"Meditate on a prayer," Jonas said. "Keep your mind open, keep yourself ready for the gift of God. It will descend on you."
Knupf shook his head. "It is a trick--" he began.
"A trick?" Jonas said. "With the prayers of God and His Church?"
And that was the unanswerable question. For no wizard could use the name of God, no wizard could pray. So the Inquisition said; so Knupf said, so Knupf had to say, and so he had to believe.