“Otori’s teats,” I whisper, barely audible even to me. I pretend to scan some more posters before moving on out of the Hall. My thoughts whirl with the many implications of who she is. Vernon knows and isn’t telling. She’s hiding from more than just Vernon. She was in the Keep as a child, maybe when it fell. Who are the Clun? I hope she likes the chocolate. Does the pettyfogger know who she is? Where did the horse come from? It seems important to her that it got back to where it belongs.
I find myself wending my way back to Strawley’s for more chocolate.
The morning crush at the docks is dizzying near the offices and warehouses of the traders. The ships here are bigger, more numerous and more varied than anything you’ve seen in Tarrish. The staff to support the ships and cargo is likewise multiples of what you know. You have to shoulder your way through, dodging carts.
The offices are busier as well, people running in and out, shouting commands. But when you announce yourself, the response is quick. While you wait, you listen to all the conversations and orders. Ac ouple of well-to-do young perfumed gentlemen sit at one desk corner, joking with each other about how their friend is so focused on developing his business.
” – so I told Mike I would put some money in,” one of them says as he taps tobacco into his pipe.
“If it does well, you might recover some of your losses in Chatterton,” the other says, before his companion shushes him.
I mosey up to them, a curious frown on my face. “Did you say you were investing? Because I’d like to get my family in, but my da says no one serious is going to invest. If I could tell him someone as important as you obviously are is putting money in, it might change his mind.”
The first man, the one with the pipe, obviously born to wealth and already going to seed, gives you an indulgent look. “Well, you can tell your …. Da… that Roy Simons says it is a wise investment.”
“Yes, sir, I will, sir. Thank you.” I move away to wait patiently for my pound of chocolate, then go directly back to the Chattering Ass to wait for Kaz.
You get your second pound. Kaz arrives at the mid-morning hour, looking like he’s had little sleep. “The trophy wife shops a lot.”
“Did the name ‘Simons’ come up at all?” I explain why I am asking.
“Simons?” He pats his vest pockets, then pulls out a folded piece of parchment covered in coded scribbles. “Ummm … had some businesses in Chatterton, bit proponent of the League. Deborah Clausen, one of the Six, managed a couple of them, but broke from him for the town’s independence when the League moved in.” He looks up at you. “Think Strawley is his patsy?”
I shrug. “What does he get out of it? The League has Chatterton now, right? His businesses are still his. Revenge on Clausen? He might be petty and vindictive enough. Did someone else tell him he could recoup his losses from the struggle? They seem like lousy motives to me, but who can tell what goes on in the heads of rich folk?”
“I don’t know,” he concedes. “It doesn’t make much sense. But this Tessa Carle came into Darilei and left Darilei without any meaningful connection to anything going on in the city. I’ve found nothing to implicate the secretary. And the rich old goat with the pretty young wife and the nervous adult children seems to be a dead end…” His voice trails off. “What if someone in the old bastard’s family was wonderin’ how he might be changing the disposition of his assets when he finally croaks?” He shakes his head. “I should’ve gotten more sleep. I’m tyin’ myself up in plots on plots now. This ain’t my sort o’ work – I’m better at gettin’ something back from folk that they ain’t supposed to have than I am at tryin’ to figure out who left somethin’ where it wasn’t supposed to be.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. When you aren’t a plotter, it’s hard to know what people would plot.” A thought occurs to me. “Hey, lawyers are good at planning for how people might react. You have to report to him anyway. Lay it out and see what he thinks.”
“That might be the best thing to do. Either his client Strawley was duped by his friend an’ investor, or planted the bug for ‘im, or Becker’s kids, thinkin’ they’re about to be disowned, worked it somehow.” Kaz shrugs. “Gilford won’t want us tryin’ to beat a confession out of anybody, so we might be at the end of what we can do for him here.”
“Which might be just as well. If I stay here any longer, I’m gonna fuckin’ give all my money to Strawley for chocolate.” Although, I noticed last night, it doesn’t go well with beer.
“See, he got ya hooked with that first free sample.” He sighs. “I might be able to catch him at the lunch hour and tell him he needs to have some serious discussions with two of his clients. He’ll at least be glad the secretary turned out clean – it’s tough not being able to trust the folks you work with.” Kaz grins and claps you on the shoulder as he stands. “But if I get addicted to chocolate, I’m blamin’ you.”
“Hah!” my laugh is short and sharp. “You want me to book you passage back to Tarrish?”
“Sure, why not. I’ll pick up the second half of the payment while I’m there.” He drains his mug before he leaves.
I head back to the docks to find a ship back to Tarrish with two open berths, then go back and wait for Kaz to finish up.
You have time to for lunch before Kaz shows back up. With a jerk of his head he indicates he’ll first go up to his room to retrieve his belongings. On the way to the docks, he passes the money over to you. “Jury’s deliberating,” he says. “I expect we might want to be out of town before any verdict comes in.” He doesn’t seem to relax until the ship pulls away from the dock.
We play cards most of the voyage back, patiently waiting out the several hops along the way. Coming up to Halveet, I briefly consider visiting Hugh Vernon and trying to warn him off “Tessa Carle,” but I decide it may be better to think everything through first. Back in Tarrish, I visit my parents and drop off some gold at an orphanage.
Then, I spend some time sleeping.
_DM’s Note: This photograph used under Creative Commons license.