Imager’s Intrigue ip-3, page 13part #3 of Imager's portfolio Series
“You got word about the explosion at the Banque D’Excelsis in District Three, the one just off the Midroad?”
“You’re following up?”
“We got a tip that one of the clerks might be involved. The only problem is that he drowned before the explosion. I was talking to his family and friends…”
Bolyet nodded. “You’ll keep me informed?”
“Of course, but I have to say it’s not looking very promising.”
“You do have a way of making the unpromising promising, Rhenn.”
I shrugged. “I’m just telling you. I will let you know if something turns up.” I paused. “Have you heard anything about Cydarth pushing to become Commander?”
Bolyet laughed, sarcastically. “He’s never said anything to me, but it’s no secret that’s what he wants. He’s mentioned it to some of the lieutenants, including Yerkes. Yerkes doesn’t think I know that. Alsoran mentioned it to me, just before he left to come back to Third District. Good man, Alsoran.”
“I know. I was fortunate to get him.”
“No…Cydarth let you have him because he didn’t understand how solid Alsoran is. He thought that Alsoran would be in effective because he doesn’t speak unless he has something to say.” After a moment, he asked, “Anything I should know?”
“You might watch out for elveweed among the wealthier students at Jainsyn’s.”
“That’s in Third District.”
“It is, but half the students come from Fifth District,” I pointed out. “I thought you might like to know, given the subcommander’s directives.”
“What about things I can do something about, Rhenn?”
I had to think for a moment. “Well…that’s a problem. There’s someone running around setting explosions, but I don’t know who or why, except that whoever it is happens to be an expert. There’s the stronger elveweed, but I only know it has to be grown under glass or in the south of Solidar, and I have no leads on who’s behind that.” I shrugged. “I don’t know what else.”
“What about the banque case?”
“Explosion, but no one stole anything. The only tip we got was that a drowned clerk had embezzled funds. The records show he did.”
“That stinks worse than a week-old mackerel in midsummer.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Someone thinks he was framed,” Bolyet said.
“I suspect they do, and what exactly can I do, except watch and try to run down leads?”
He shook his head. “As if we didn’t have enough else to do.”
I decided against eating in Fifth District and caught a hack back to Third District station. On the way back, my thoughts went back to the picture Lacques had drawn. The side that had been a young man resembled the miniature I’d seen of Kearyk, but the other side suggested something very different. Yet…even with that insight, I didn’t know what else I could do.
Once I reached the station, I headed for Alsoran’s study. He was about to leave.
“Do you have a moment?”
“I do. I was just going to change the night rounds. Joran is going to fill in for Severyn.”
“How is he?”
“The slash he took from putting down the brawl at Semplex is finally healing.”
“Good.” I followed him back into the study, but didn’t sit down. “I followed up on the business with Kearyk. He had a lover, not a woman, and the lover thinks Kearyk was drowned. The clerk was terrified of water. But one other thing came up. The lover’s a street chalker, and he claims he went down to headquarters to tell them Kearyk had to have been drowned on purpose. Merolyn dissuaded him and offered a veiled threat. So when I talked with Captain Bolyet I asked a bit about Cydarth, and…” I looked to Alsoran.
“From the way you referred to the subcommander, sir, I thought you knew. He’s been trying to get all the lieutenants behind him for years. I guess he figured most would become captains. He wasn’t real pleased when you forced Warydt into a stipend, you know?”
“His displeasure was rather obvious, but I didn’t know that was part of the reason. I just thought he didn’t like the amount of control I had over Third District.”
“No, sir. He doesn’t. He’s just waiting for your last term to end.”
Or until he could find a way to oust Artois.
“What are you going to report on the bank explosion?” Alsoran asked.
“I’m not going to report anything for a bit. We’ll leave the case open for now. If nothing turns up in a month or so, I’ll report it as a failed robbery. I don’t know what else I can do.”
“It wasn’t ever intended to be a robbery, was it?”
“I strongly doubt it. They want someone to look into things at the banque, matters that involve the dead clerk…maybe more.” I shrugged. “Without proof, though, I don’t know what else we can do.”
The rest of the day was held to a mugging, two thefts, another wagon smash, another elver death, and a husband beating his wife so badly she might not live. All in all, close to a typical Vendrei.
When I reached NordEste Design and Seliora opened the door, I could tell something had happened from the look on her face.
Her first words confirmed it. “Haerasyn stole all of Odelia’s jewelry and all their golds. He ran off. No one knows where.”
I couldn’t say that I was surprised. “I hope it wasn’t too much.” I stepped inside the foyer and closed the door behind me.
“The jewelry bothers her more than the golds. One of the brooches came from Grandmama’s mother.”
“He’s likely already fenced or pawned it. Or he will soon. If someone gives me a description, I can circulate it to the goldsmiths who handle pawned goods. They’d hold it, but Odelia would have to pay…”
“Aunt Aegina would pay…”
And that was how the occupational events of the day ended, not that we didn’t have to get on with returning home, feeding and getting Diestrya ready for bed, and all the other details of domestic life.
Because it was my turn for Samedi duty at Third District, I got up in the darkness before dawn, made my way to the exercise facility, and endured Clovyl’s tortures…and the run, which was always a relief of sorts, after strenuous exercise, practice in hand-to-hand combat, and defense against weapons. Seliora was still asleep when I returned. I was grateful for that, because we hadn’t gone to bed that early. She’d needed to talk about how upset Odelia had been.
I actually had to wake Seliora after I showered and shaved, not that we had time for anything besides a quick embrace, because Diestrya was already awake, and we struggled through the rest of the morning routine, including a hurried breakfast. Because of the consternation created by Haerasyn’s thefts, by the time we finished eating Seliora had decided that she and Diestrya would spend the day with her family, and I’d join them after I finished at Third District.
“You already told your family, didn’t you?” I asked.
“I told Mother we would, unless you had other plans.” She gave me a sideways smile.
I just shook my head as I rose from the table. “I can probably be there by fifth glass.”
“We won’t eat until sixth.”
“I’ll try not to be late…but it is Samedi.”
“Can you do something about the brooch and the other jewelry?”
“I can circulate the word among the goldsmiths in Third District and ask them to pass it to others.”
“Do you think it will work?”
I shrugged. “It just depends.”
“It would be nice, but we won’t count on it.”
That was the best attitude, unhappily.
Before long, we hurried out the door, leaving the house to Klysia, who would soon be leaving it even emptier, since she had most of the weekend off and to herself. The duty coach ride to NordEste Design was uneventful, except when Diestrya saw a pair of matched tans, and began to chatter about “pretty horsies.”
After I walked them to the door at NordEste Design, still holding my shields, and then walked back to the duty coach, I scanned the newsheets on the ride to the station, but there was nothing new, except for a report that the Ferrans were sending more land-cruisers to the border with Jariola.
I wasn’t looking forward to duty, not at all, but I would be able to start circulating a description of Haerasyn and the stolen jewelry, both to Third District patrollers and to all the other districts. The Third District patrollers were more likely to keep an eye out for him, but it was always possible patrollers in other districts might see him. If Haerasyn happened to be smart about it, he’d stay well away from Third District. But then, stealing from a relative of a Civic Patrol officer wasn’t the brightest of acts.
Delanyn smiled as I walked into the station. “Good morning, Captain.”
“Good morning. Quiet so far?”
I hadn’t expected anything else. Very little happened early on Samedi, except for the business of making sure that the offenders brought in on Vendrei evening were secure for the weekend, since they stayed at the station until Lundi morning, when they’d be sent to headquarters for charging, or quietly released if their only offense had been being too rowdy.
I stood at the duty desk reading the log and round reports. There had been three more elver deaths since I’d left the station on Vendrei, one in the taudis and two in other areas. A tinsmith’s apprentice had been found dead in the alley behind the shop, at Sudroad and the Avenue D’Artisans, and the body of a well-dressed young woman had been found seated on a bench in the gardens behind the Anomen D’Este.
The second case seemed odd, and I went over Freasyn’s report. There was absolutely nothing that would identify the woman, who was reported as being in her early twenties, but Freasyn had noted that her wrists appeared bruised, and that she barely smelled of elveweed, although a smoked pipe had been found just beyond her hand, and the remnants of elveweed had been the greener and stronger variety.
I looked to the duty patroller. “Delanyn…has the body wagon been here yet?”
“No, sir. Should be any moment, though.”
I turned and headed toward the rear of the station. “I’m going to look at the woman elver.”
The body room was the last chamber in the station, with thick walls, and in fall and winter the barred windows were opened to keep it cool. I opened the door, ready for anything, but the day was early and cool, and the only smells were that of faint decay and stale elveweed. Three bodies lay on the long tables, uncovered. There wasn’t any sense in covering them. I moved to the body in the gray woolen suit on the second table.
The woman hadn’t been all that much older than my sister Khethila, but she’d been attractive, possibly beautiful when animated by that spirit we call life, with lustrous shoulder-length blonde hair. From the piercings in her earlobes, she’d been wearing earrings, but they were missing. I studied her hair, and there was something like lint in it. A red woolen scarf with a weave pattern I didn’t recognize was arranged around her neck. A scarf, and it was still largely in place? I eased it away from her neck, revealing an abrasion on the left side, as if a chain or necklace had been roughly removed. There were ring marks on her fingers, but not where a wedding band would have rested.
Most important, every elver I’d ever run across, dead or alive, had reeked of the weed. This one didn’t. Oh, there was a faint odor, but nothing like the overpowering stench that emanated from them. There was another odor, even fainter, that I recognized from my training with Master Dichartyn. That was pitricin-a poison that also sent a victim into convulsions if administered orally. That explained the bruises on her wrists. She’d been restrained forcibly, probably with a towel across her clothes, while someone had squirted the poison down her throat. But why would anyone do it that way? Pitricin could easily be added to wine or other liquids that would mask its taste…at least for long enough that the victim wouldn’t be able to do much about it.
I could see trying to cover a murder with the idea of elveweed excess, but there was something else about it…
I studied the body again. She’d been wearing a long skirt, but I didn’t see any shoes or boots. Then I looked at her feet. They were cut and bruised in places. I checked the skirt. The seams near the bottom had been strained and stretched. She’d been running, barefoot.
For all that, there was still something I was missing. Even if I couldn’t figure it all out, I had an idea who might be able to help.
I eased the woolen jacket and the scarf off the body and draped them loosely over my arm, then walked from the chill of the body room, closing the heavy door behind me, back to the duty desk.
Delanyn looked up as I stopped in front of the high counter.
“We’re going to hold the woman elver’s body until tomorrow.”
“She’s not that far gone, and it was cold last night. I need to check on something. Put it down in the logs as my orders.”
“Yes, sir.” He shifted his weight on the tall stool and looked inquiringly at me.
“She was murdered. Most likely pitricin poisoning. I’m going to see someone who might be able to tell me about her…or at least where she might be from.”
My words got a nod and a “Yes, sir.”
As I headed out to hail a hack, I had no doubt that at least a few patrollers would hear about what I’d said. I’d have preferred not to explain, even as much as I had, but Patrol Captains who did strange things without explanations created rumors more destructive than the disclosure of information could ever be. That had been what I’d observed.
It took me half a glass to get a hack and to travel to Alusine Wool. There were only two carriages waiting outside. I stepped out of the hack, alert and shields held firmly, as they always were from the time I woke until the time I went to sleep.
The factorage remained the same old one-story yellow-brick structure I’d always known, a long building stretching close to eighty yards and fronting West River Road. Khethila had nagged Father to enlarge the covered entry in the middle of the building to make it more impressive, and he’d finally given in, just before he’d agreed to let her take over the factorage in Kherseilles. I still wasn’t certain how much of her pressure for improvements had come from a desire to improve the image and the clientele and how much had been part of her stratagem to pressure Father to let her take over running the Kherseilles factorage. Still, even Father had admitted the improvements in the entrance and the more open space just inside the doors seemed to have improved business.
The loading docks were out of sight in the rear, as they always had been. As I hurried up the three steps to the double oak doors, I noted that it was about time to re-varnish them and repaint the dark green casement trim, but I wasn’t about to suggest that at the moment. Once inside, I crossed the open space to the racks that held the swathes of various wools. To the left were the racks with the lighter fabrics-muslin, cotton, linen. Despite the factorage’s name, Father had always carried a considerable range of fabrics.
“Master Rhennthyl, what a surprise!” Eilthyr was now totally bald, but his smile was welcoming and genuine. After ten years, he remained in charge of the day-to-day work on the floor.
“I was looking for Father.” The raised platform at the back, from where Father could sit at his desk and survey everything, was empty.
Culthyn saw me coming and hurried across the floor from behind the racks to the left. “Rhenn…what are you doing here?”
“I need to talk over something with Father. About wool.”
“He’s in the small storeroom in the back.”
I was all too familiar with that part of the factorage, since it had been fire-bombed years before in the events that had led to Rousel’s death. “Thank you.” I turned and nodded to Eilthyr. “It’s good to see you again, Ei
“And you, too, Master Rhennthyl.”
I walked to the small storeroom.
Father was indeed there, checking one of the permanent wall racks. He looked up, surprised, then smiled. “I didn’t think I’d see you here on a Samedi.”
“Patrol business.” I held up the jacket and the scarf. “They’re not from here, but I was hoping you could tell me something about them.”
He stepped forward and took the garments, laying the red scarf across a rack gently, and then began to study the gray wool jacket for several moments, murmuring and mumbling to himself. Then he straightened. “The jacket is southern mountain wool…likely from the hills north of Ferravyl…”
Ferravyl…what was it about Ferravyl, except that it was a major barge and transport nexus? I forced myself back to concentrating on Father’s explanation.
“…We don’t buy any of that. It’s soft enough, like top Glacian, but it doesn’t wear all that well. The only factorage I know that deals with much of it is a place in Ruile…” He paused. “Chaeran Woolens…that’s it. He uses it for the southerners who like things soft and don’t wear wool day in and day out.”
“Can you tell me anything else about it?”
“It’s a one-off, done by a seamstress, probably the second or third one in a High Holder’s estate.”
“You can tell that?” I had to say I was impressed.
Father shrugged. “That’s a guess, but the inside trimming is just a touch off, and the stitching thread is Parmian cotton, the kind that lasts forever. Street seamstresses don’t use it. Now…I wouldn’t swear to the Nameless on that, but that’s what I’d judge.” After a moment, he asked, “Where did you get it? It smells…sort of…off.”
“The odor is elveweed, and the garments belonged to a dead woman who was supposed to have died of elveweed excess. I don’t think she did. She was probably poisoned, but someone tried to make it look like elveweed.” I paused. “What about the scarf?”
L. E. MODESITT SERIES:
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