Imager’s Intrigue ip-3, page 12part #3 of Imager's portfolio Series
When I picked up Seliora, she looked concerned, but I didn’t ask about what, just helped her and Diestrya to the duty coach and boosted my daughter inside.
As the coach began the trip to Imagisle, Seliora asked, “What was your day like?”
“Another elveweed death and another explosion. This one was at the Banque D’Excelsis near Plaza D’Este. We’ll need to talk about that later, and I’ll need to tell Master Dichartyn when we get to Imagisle. What about your day?”
Seliora’s eyes widened slightly, but she nodded and said, “Odelia didn’t come to work today.”
“Do you know why?”
“Even Aunt Aegina doesn’t know. She left to go over to Kolasyn and Odelia’s place just before you came.”
I did know that, after Kolasyn and Odelia had gotten married, less than six months after Seliora and I had, Odelia had moved to the quarters over the small metal-working shop Kolasyn had inherited from his uncle, for whom he’d been an apprentice. “I hope everything’s all right.”
“It’s my fault. Yesterday, she was complaining about Haerasyn again. I said that, if he wanted to destroy his life, she and Kolasyn couldn’t do much to stop him. She said that I was cold and hard-hearted, and that she didn’t see how you could stand me.”
I managed not to swallow. “You didn’t tell me that.”
“It hurt too much. I wanted to think about it.”
I put my arm around her. “You were right about Haerasyn. It’s not as though he doesn’t know the dangers. He’s ignoring them, and he’s using Kolasyn’s coins to buy elveweed.”
“I think Haerasyn’s pilfered coins from Odelia’s wallet, too. That’s from what she’s sort of said at times.”
“Pilfer…pilfer…” contributed Diestrya.
“Pilfer means to take from someone,” Seliora said. “You shouldn’t pilfer. It’s not good.”
Diestrya nodded. “Not good.”
Once we reached Imagisle, I left Seliora and Diestrya and walked swiftly to and across the quadrangle to the administration building. Dichartyn’s door was closed. I knocked. “Rhennthyl here.”
Master Dichartyn opened the door.
I saw a young imager seated before his desk, as I once had been.
“It’s urgent?” He raised his eyebrows.
“Relatively. It’s about an explosion at the Banque D’Excelsis.”
He turned. “Eamyn…we’ll have to cut this short. Read the next section of the anatomy text and the next chapter in the history.”
Eamyn rose quickly and scooped up his books. He was around seventeen and had just made tertius. I recalled that, because Dichartyn had asked me to spend several glasses with the young man in the spring, telling him about how the Civic Patrol worked.
“Sirs,” he said as he left, inclining his head.
I closed the door and launched into briefing the Collegium’s head of security, a position listed nowhere. When I finished, I waited for the inevitable set of questions.
Instead, Dichartyn nodded and simply asked, “What do you think?”
“All I can surmise is that the explosion and the alteration of the ledger were set purposely to establish the credibility of the note I received…and to create enough of a crime to allow me the legal ability to question the branch director.”
“You didn’t ask about Caartyl or Cydarth?”
“No. It struck me that a tip about missing funds could have a legal tie to an explosion, enough to warrant questions, but that wouldn’t allow me to look for perfectly legal fund transfers.” I paused. “I mean that the mechanism of the transfer was legal.”
“I understood what you meant.” Dichartyn nodded. “There are two possibilities. First, someone wanted you to overreach and to embarrass the Collegium and the Patrol. I doubt it, but that is a possibility to be considered. The second is that the plotter wanted to call the Collegium’s attention to Caartyl and yours to Cydarth. Did you enter the note as evidence?”
“I haven’t yet.” I knew that withholding it was scarcely legal, and that not turning it in represented another possible trap, but so did turning it in, under the circumstances.
“There’s some danger in that, but I’d agree. Just keep it safe.”
I nodded. “Could it be an attempt to remove Caartyl from the Council for misfeasance or malfeasance?”
“Whether it is either would depend on the source of the funds. What if it’s simply an inheritance or the payment of an old debt that someone is trying to characterize as something untoward by linking it to an actual embezzlement?”
“And what if someone, knowing that Cydarth is not among my most favorite of superiors, is trying to get me to act against him?”
“Or…both could be true…and that is the most disturbing of possibilities.”
“Because only the Collegium could discover such and that would drag us into it all?” I asked.
“Precisely. Still, as I told you earlier, Caartyl pushed through the cartage reform bill. I wouldn’t be surprised if he received some reward.”
“From Broussard? Or from the Ferrans? Or both?”
“Broussard’s too smart to pay anything even remotely close to a reward.”
“Is he getting support from the Ferrans?” I knew the Ferrans had a long-standing agenda to undermine the High Holders, for philosophical, political, and practical reasons.
“Not a chance. Caartyl hates them as much as the Jariolans and the High Holders.”
“That sounds like someone wants to cause trouble for Caartyl.”
“Who doesn’t?” Dichartyn’s laugh was soft and dry.
“We’ll never be able to discover who’s really trying to do that, let alone prove it.”
“That’s very true. That’s why you’re in the Civic Patrol, and why I’m doing what I do in the ways open to us.”
There wasn’t much else that I could say to that.
Dichartyn shook his head. “There’s one aspect of this that bothers Schorzat immensely, and that’s the fact that the Ferrans haven’t attacked the Jariolans yet.”
“They’re waiting for something, reinforcements from somewhere? Who would see an advantage in joining them?”
“I was thinking about hostilities elsewhere, as in Otelyrn, so that the Council will be reluctant to get more involved in Cloisera.”
“Didn’t Schorzat take care of the Caenenan situation already?”
“That doesn’t mean that something couldn’t erupt in Stakanar or Tiempre or Gyarl. Schorzat doesn’t have enough field operatives to cover everything. We’ve had word that Tiempre has moved troops toward the border with Gyarl. They’re claiming that the followers of Puryon are persecuting the Duodeusans in Gyarl. Stakanar is also calling up troops.”
That wasn’t good, and it certainly would make the Council leery of committing more ships to the northern ocean.
“What do you suggest I do?” I asked.
“What you’ve been doing. Watch for signs of anything else unusual…and be alert for anything that affects either Artois or Cydarth.”
“What exactly is going on there?”
Dichartyn paused, then finally said, “Councilor Reyner is pressing to have Artois replaced on the grounds that he has been Commander for too long.”
“Fifteen years is a long time.”
“You’d want Cydarth as commander?” His voice was wry.
“Does anyone on the Council besides Reyner want Cydarth?”
“Most factor councilors, except they won’t admit it.”
“Because the Civic Patrol also runs the piers and the river patrol, and Artois enforces things like wagon weight limits and safety rules.”
“Any wagon accident, and we have to check for any weight and safety violations.” I paused. “The factoring associations are really upset about that?”
“They don’t like the Council interfering in trade, and they see that as the first step toward a return of High Holder control, where the High Holders don’t get ci
“So their right of low justice effectively exempts them.”
As I walked back across the quadrangle and north to the house, I wondered if Solidar would ever escape from the abusive remnants of the times of the Rex and High Holders.
When I reached Third District on Vendrei, I checked the duty logs immediately. There were two more deaths-one a homeless beggar found in an alleyway off Elsyor and another elver. The old beggar died from “natural” causes, such as neglect and poor health. Then I began to assemble the information that had come in on the banque clerk.
According to the reports, Kearyk was older than I’d assumed, four years younger than I was. His father was a baker who had a shop on Sage Lane, right off North Middle to the east of Martradon, and Kearyk had lived there with his parents. If I’d gone by the procedures, I should have informed Bolyet, but the parents weren’t perpetrators or suspects, and I just wanted information. So I took a hack out to Sage Lane. The shop wasn’t hard to find, since it was near the corner-not quite classy enough to qualify as a patisserie, nor pedestrian enough to be the corner bakery. The name over the window was Bakery D’Rykker. The air around the shop carried the odor of baking, of fresh loaves more than pastries.
I stepped inside.
A short but rotund woman looked at me with wide eyes that darted from the grays to the imager emblem on my visored cap. “Sir…?”
“I’m Civic Patrol Captain Rhennthyl.”
Her eyes went back to the imager pin, questioningly.
“I’m also a master imager. Are you Madame D’Rykker?”
“Kearyk D’Cleris was your son, then.”
“He was. Why are you here, Captain?”
“Did you hear about the explosion at the Banque D’Excelsis? When we looked into it, we discovered some interesting things that might have involved your son, and I wanted to talk to you about him.”
A man who appeared too angular to be a baker stepped through the archway that led to the rear of the shop and the ovens. He brushed his hands on his smudged whites, then looked up as if he hadn’t seen me before. He started to glare, then recognized the uniform and glanced at his wife. “What have you done now?”
“He’s a Patrol Captain. He’s here about Kearyk. I told you it wasn’t an accident. I told you he didn’t kill himself. So did Kleinryk.”
Why would Kearyk want to kill himself? “Why didn’t you think his death was an accident?”
“He didn’t like the water. He was always afraid of it. He was a good boy…a good man. Handsome as he was, he was kind and gentle,” said Giseylle.
“He was the oldest, wasn’t he? But you sent him all the way through grammaire. He didn’t join you here in the bakery.”
“He didn’t want to be a baker,” Rykker said.
“He did well at grammaire, and he was a very good clerk. He never got married, though, and he lived with you.” I had an idea, but I wanted to see if their reaction would support it.
The two exchanged glances.
“He had a very fine hand,” I added. “I’ve seen some of what he wrote. Did he leave any indication that he was discouraged or upset before he drowned?”
“When did you see him last? The night before he died?”
They looked at each other again. I waited.
“No,” she finally replied. “He did not stay here all the time.”
“He never stayed here,” added Rykker. “He had a friend.”
“Do you know her name? I’d like to talk to her. It’s important.” I doubted strongly that the friend was female, but I could have been wrong.
“His name is Lacques. He’s a…street artist,” replied Giseylle.
“A chalker?” I asked. “Do you know where I could find him?”
“Him?” Rykker snorted. “He practices his…art…all around the Plaza D’Este.”
“Kearyk never told us where he lived,” added Giseylle.
“Did Kearyk ever say anything that suggested he might be in any sort of trouble?” I pressed.
“He never talked about his work,” replied the mother.
“Numbers and figures…I wish he had stayed here,” said Rykker. “He was good with the pastries, but he said he didn’t like it.”
I talked with them for three-quarters of a glass, but I didn’t learn any more about why Kearyk drowned…or had been drowned. They did show me a miniature portrait of him, and it showed an extremely handsome young man with short curly blond hair and fine features.
After that I walked up North Middle toward the Plaza D’Nord, thinking over what I’d found out so far, and studying the neighborhood. I was a block from the Plaza when a patroller stepped from a side street-Silvers Lane-and hailed me.
I turned, but didn’t recognize the man. “Yes?”
“Sir…I just wondered…”
“I’m over here to talk to someone who might be a witness in a case that happened the other day in Third District.” I didn’t want to explain even that much, but refusing to say anything would have suggested I was up to no good, rather than just trying to avoid burdensome procedures.
I smiled politely. “If anyone has any questions, they know where to find me.”
“Yes, sir.” He stepped away.
I kept walking.
It wasn’t hard to find Lacques, a thin blond man with short curly beard and a receding hairline. Not only was he one of the few chalkers around in late morning, but he had just finished signing a long mural on the stone in front of a boarded-up building a half block off the Plaza. He saw the uniform and stiffened.
“I wouldn’t run, Lacques. I’m also an imager. Besides, I only want to ask you a few questions.
His eyes took in the imager emblem on my cap and the pin on my grays. He didn’t relax, much as he slouched as I walked toward him. I looked over the chalk drawing of an abandoned building, with a figure peering over broken and uneven stones. The figure had a face that was split into two sides. One side showed a cherubic blond young man with an innocent blue eye and a happy half-smile framed with pinkish lips. The other side of the face depicted an angular and hard-eyed young woman with high cheekbones and a deep-set eye with a black iris. Her hair was swept back and curled over a bare shoulder, her mouth outlined in slashing red. It wasn’t bad.
“Did you ever study with a Guild artist?”
“Hand me the red and the pink chalks,” I said.
“I’ll give them back.”
After a moment, he handed them over.
It took me longer than I’d thought it would, but when I finished, the female half-face of the figure held a rose, with its green stem caught by white teeth, a single drop of blood seeming to hang in mid-air above the uncovered shoulder. I handed back the green chalk. “I think that fits in with what you had in mind.”
He looked at the rose and then at me.
“Some of the Guild artists aren’t pretenders.” I couldn’t deny that there were some, like Aurelean, who had aspects of pretenders, because Aurelean was a competent artist who pretended he was great.
“You…oh…you’re the one.”
I didn’t bother to ask for a clarification. We both knew what he meant.
“I understand you were a very good friend of Kearyk. Why did he drown?”
“He didn’t drown. I walked all the way down to Patrol headquarters. I told them he was drowned.” Lacques’s voice turned bitter. “They didn’t listen.”
“Do you remember who didn’t listen?”
“It was a patroller. He said his name was Merolyn.”
Merolyn was Cydarth’s assistant. “What else did he say?”
“What else did the patroller say?”
“He started asking about why I was interested. I knew what he had in mind. If I pressed, he’d drag me in, say we had a lover’s quarrel.”
Lacques shook his head. His eyes were bright. “Kearyk was supposed to meet me for dinner at Felter’s. He never showed. I never saw him again.”
“Did he ever mention that he had any troubles at the banque?”
The chalker tilted his head, and his brow furrowed. “No…well…not exactly. He did say something about the director badgering him about a ledger page missing from his desk, but it was a blank page. It bothered him. Little details, those bothered him. Fire could be raining down from Erion, and he’d be worried about whether he’d capped his inkwell tightly enough.”
At that moment, I wished I’d actually insisted on looking at the altered page that Tolsynn had mentioned. I’d have wagered that the entire page had been forged, probably carefully and over time. “Did he mention anything else?”
“No. I don’t remember anything. I just remembered that because it was so odd. A blank ledger page. Who would even care?” He shook his head again.
As with the Rykkers, I went back over everything and added questions. After half a glass, I hadn’t learned anything else.
As I walked away from Lacques, I was debating whether to get something to eat at a bistro near the Plaza because I’d sampled all of those in easy walking distance in my own district. At that moment, a hack pulled up, across the square, and a figure in the bluish grays of a patroller stepped out. He hadn’t taken three steps before I recognized Bolyet. So I just waited for him.
The Fifth District captain grinned as he walked up. “Morrsyn sent word that you were headed toward the Plaza D’Nord. I thought it might be a good idea to see what you were following. Do you care to tell me?” His tone was easy.
L. E. MODESITT SERIES:
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