The story so far: By helping the Earl and Lady Haulloran escape the royal will, Tollon has become a fugitive. One of the well-known ways to trap a fugitive is to round up his associates. Now read on . . .
It takes three palace guards to restrain and tie up Evana in the middle of the street. Her father is sprawled in his shop door, with a black eye and blood running from his mouth, under the watchful eye of another guard. They’ve put up a good fight. It probably helped that the guards didn’t expect old men and short, teenaged girls to put up much of a fight.
We’re watching this from a window across the street and up two houses from the shop. It’s a great view. My companion is switching his glance from the scene down below and to me. He asks, “This does not bother you?”
In a flat voice, I say, “I recognize the guards. I’ll remember who they are. Our job is to help your associates, not to harm them.”
My companion is Eschehedion Charmaxan Sput, “Sput” for short. He’s a resident of Gehulia and a member of the secret society the watchmaker belongs to. Zilla vouched for me, so he’s working with me on this. He is not entirely happy with what I’m saying, but he nods and returns to gazing out the window.
The guards leave. The watchmaker slowly sits up in his door, tears streaming down his face.
I turn to Sput. “Get down there and tell him what to do, as I explained.”
Sput worries. “You’re sure this will work?”
“It can’t make him any worse off, can it?” I reply.
Sput chews his moustache, nods, and heads out of the room to go down and talk to the watchmaker.
I figured once they knew I’d been with the Haullorans, they’d come for Evana. I wasn’t going to make Evana, or her father, a prisoner or a criminal on the run on my account. So I had Zilla get me in touch with Sput. He’s going down there to tell the watchmaker to get himself cleaned up, prepare a basket of clothes and food for his daughter, prepare another basket of goods to bribe the captain of the guards, and take them both to the palace. There, he will explain to the captain of the guards that he’s sorry he interfered when they arrested his daughter, but that she’s a young thing, and he wants to make sure she is comfortable. And could they pass his name along to Sarton, who is an old friend?
I’m trusting that Sarton doesn’t know what to make of my situation, but is privately withholding judgment. He’ll want to interrogate Evana, and her father when he shows up. When he finds out they haven’t seen me, he’ll avoid looking into their secret society background. They’ll be let go sooner than later. But I suspect someone will be posted to watch them. Telling Sput that is another reason he’s willing to trust me.
Sput rejoins me after a while. He’s smiling. He sits down and shakes his head at me. “I had more trouble convincing him to apologize to the palace guard than to shut up about you. I’m pretty sure he thinks I’ve been talking to you.”
“That’s okay,” I reply. “He’s never liked my relationship with his daughter. If it comes out, he won’t have to hide his anger at me. It’ll actually make him seem a more convincing innocent.” And if Sarton figures out what I’ve done, he’ll know I’m trying to signal him that I’m all right, well, as all right as being a wanted criminal can be. “Just so long as he hasn’t seen me today, he can’t be arrested for being a co-conspirator.”
Sput grins, and then sighs. “He’s a tough old bird, and the daughter’s quite the fighter, too. Pity we’re going to have to cut him out of the society for this. Can’t have the guard on our tails.”
I even have an answer to that, I’ve been thinking so hard. “You sure there isn’t a place in your organization for someone who has been identified as a suspicious person, but not arrested for anything?”
“What do you mean?” Sput’s genuinely curious.
“Don’t tell me there aren’t times you’d like to send a message to the palace.”
Sput rubs his stubbly chin. “Got a point there. I’ll talk to people.” He stands up. “And now I’d better go, and you’d best not follow immediately.” He laughs and shakes his head. “Strange sort of business.” And then he leaves.
(To be continued . . .)