Sariah’s Story chapter 13

The silence after that exchange dragged on for a while as the three people focused on different parts of the room waiting till emotional echoes died away.  Sariah fiddled with a hat that had the trademark purple along the wide asymmetrical brim.  Asopt took out a set of prayer beads and began running through them.  Kegan collected the empty brandy glasses and put them and the brandy away.  After that Kegan turned back to the other two and decided to break the silence.  “Sariah we might have a problem.”

This caused both Asopt and Sariah to laugh, breaking the tension even more.  “You think so Kegan?” she asked.

“The person who hired those thugs was Duchess Lyda,” Kegan said.

“Really?” asked Sariah.  She turned to Asopt.  “Are you sure?”

Asopt nodded.  “I was there when she hired out some of Gordo’s thugs to take care of a couple of easy targets,” he said.

“She was wrong about that,” Sariah said.

“Wait, I thought you said the ones killed were Warbashes’ goons,” Kegan said.

“Exactly!  Gordo’s thugs killed Warbashes’ thugs.  The Duchess was brilliant,” Asopt said.

Sariah groaned.  “Okay, she wasn’t wrong about that, and here I was hoping,” she said.

“What were you hoping?” Asopt asked.

“Oh nothing,” Sariah replied, “I was just hoping the Duchess might have grown senile.”

“Do you know the Lyda?” asked Kegan.

“A long time ago,” Sariah said.

“I wonder why she would test you like that.” Asopt said.

Sariah placed the hat she had been playing with low on her face, covering most of it from the guys in the room.  “I don’t have a clue.  I’m surprised she even remembers me. ”

Asopt perked up.  “I can ask around to find out,” he said.  “I have people close to her that I can collect favors from.”

Sariah stood up quickly causing the hat to fall to the floor.  “Sorry about that,” she said to Kegan.  Sariah picked it back up.  “No, don’t do that.  We have a much more important fish to gut.  We need to remove Duke Hurris from his ability to breath in a way that does not scream murder.”

“I think I better get out the brandy again,” muttered Kegan.  “The king wants his own cousin murdered?”

“At least Kilncare does,” said Sariah, “and he has both the authority and pays the bills.”

“I don’t like it Sariah.  It smells like a bad glordo carcass,” Kegan said.

“For once Kegan and I agree.  Kilncare doesn’t want it to look like an assassination, but what about a different form of murder?” asked Asopt.

Sariah shrugged her shoulders.  “I don’t know.  He definitely said no murder.  He wanted an accident.”

“I hate it when people try to tell you how to do your job,” Kegan said.

“You do it all the time,” Sariah replied while she gestured at the hats scattered around the shop.

“You have that all wrong,” Kegan said.  “I talk my customers into what I know is best for them.”

“So in other words you charm them into getting your way,” Sariah said.

“No!  Don’t go there again Sariah.  Now you’re being mean,” Kegan said.

“Never?” Sariah asked.

“Fine, once in a great while, but they are foolish not to listen to my advice,” Kegan replied.

“Exactly.  That’s why we need to do it Kilncare’s way.  Asopt, can you get a map of Hurris’ estate and any schedules of people who work there?” asked Sariah.

“That is quite achievable.  Do you have a plan?” asked Asopt.

Sariah shook her head.  “How can there be a plan?  This is going to be an accidental death.”

Complimentary Sisters

I find it interesting how I react to my children when they are in public.  Growing up going to school you learn social norms that help society move along its merry way.  My kids are homeschooled and some of those norms are not infused into their daily behavior.  Now before you scream they need socialization I want to ask you a question.  When was the last time you were complimented by a total stranger, and they mean it?

My kids make it a habit of not only saying hello to most people they meet, or just walk by, they also try to give a compliment to the person they are talking to.  The compliment might be about the clothes the person is wearing or the way their hair looks.  People seem to be taken aback when this happens, but they soon recover since the comment was given by an innocent child who doesn’t have an alternative motive behind the use of flattery.  My kids honestly want you to feel happy.

Initially I would be embarrassed that they would do this.  People just don’t compliment others out of the blue, well except when it comes to children.  What would happen if we were allowed to honestly give a compliment to a person we know, much less one that we have just met?  In my job as a professor I would be worried that I would face harassment if I complimented a female student on her hair.  For that matter I could see it happening with a male student as well with the same exact hair compliment.  I would complain that we have lost a little bit as a society because of this.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand how it could be perverted, and has been for a large number of years.  I am just saddened that we have allowed the poison to kill what could be such an uplifting.

While I try to point out to my children what is socially good behavior, this little bastion of good will I will not dissuade.  It reminds me of what could be, and maybe will be with the help of more innocence and good will.

Fallen From Mercy chapter 4

The third floor of LaSin was almost a caricature of a four star hotel, except the glitz and glitter had begun to wear off and was swept away with the used condoms and needles that Dan imagined were being used behind these closed doors.  Dan walked along the hallway and was surprised at how quiet it was.  After everything he had heard about this place, he thought it would be more alive.  The silence was almost the antithesis of life and pulled at his very essence in a way the subwoofers down below hadn’t.  He couldn’t lose the feeling that someone was waiting for him, and that a lot of things hung in balance.  Dan tried to shake off the paranoia by putting faith in the steel and oil of his nine millimeter that he pulled out of its holster.

The door Dan was directed to was nothing special to look at, but Dan’s pulse seemed to double.  His heart kept repeating Zoey’s prophesy.  “You are going to die.”  Dan slowly tried the doorknob, but nothing moved.  He pulled out the key and eased it into the lock.  It made the smallest of clicks as Key pushed the pin tumblers out of the way, but that sound seemed to echo down the hall.  “You are going to die.”  Dan took his hand off of the door and looked back the way he came.  Dan stared at his gun then reached into his duster and pulled out the swatch of robe.  He hefted it once before putting it around the grip of his firearm.  With the saint of lost causes helping hold his gun, what could go wrong?  The key turned and the door opened a crack and Dan pushed it open with his foot, gun at the ready, all doubt left behind.

The room was mostly a disappointment.  It had a single bed against the right wall and was lit by a floor lamp positioned to the left and behind a chair that tried to be pretentious but had to settle for just obnoxious.  The person sitting in the chair on the other hand was worth the price of admission.  He was carved of ebony and extremely angular.  This contrasted with his stark white hair that went around his face.  The top was cut close to his head, but he allowed himself a bit more length in his beard.  His eyes had a richness of worn leather complete with flecks of gold that seemed to sparkle as he smiled.  The rest of his build was hidden in a long sleeved casual shirt and khakis.  What surprised Dan was when he was taking this all in, he almost missed the machete the man had in his lap.

The old man spoke, his voice a deep rich baritone.  “Mr. Cunningham.  Please come in and have a seat.  I’ve been told you wanted to meet with me.”

Dan was at a loss at how to proceed.  He eased himself through the door and it closed slowly behind him on its own.  Dan kept his gun pointed at the old man while making sure there was no one else in the room.  There was a closed door behind the old man, to what Dan assumed was a bathroom.  Dan eased over to stand in front of the bed, his instincts screaming at him that this was all wrong.  The voice in his head was practically screaming “You are going to die.”

The old man kept watch of Dan, a smile never leaving his lips, but never really warming his eyes.  “Please put away your weapon Mr. Cunningham.  There is no need for it here.”

Dan waved the gun at the machete.  “Oh yeah?  What a big sword you have there grandpa.”

“What do you want me to say?  The better to eat you with?  Please Mr. Cunningham. Surely you have better wit than that.”

“I kid grandpa, because I care.”  Dan slowly sat down on the bed then lowered the gun, but he didn’t put it away.

“Fair enough Mr. Cunningham.  Fair enough, but please don’t call me grandpa.  Call me Reverend Sean.”

“Sean, you don’t seem to remind me of a man of any cloth to be honest.”

“I represent a higher power Mr. Cunningham, no matter what you think.”

“A higher power Sean, or the higher power?  Oh, and call me Dan since we’re on a first name basis.”

Reverend Sean tried to hide the disgust from his face, but wasn’t quite successful.  “I would say the higher power, but some people disagree.  I am trying to convert as many as I can so they won’t be lost.”

“So why did you decide to convert Jorge?  He doesn’t seem too happy about it.”

“People don’t always like being shown the truth.  As for the why, that is between he and I.  While we are asking questions I have one for you.  How did you know I was going to be here tonight?”

“I’m not a guy who kisses and tells Sean.  If I did that how would the ladies respect me in the morning?”

“Do you know how to harvest sugarcane, Mr. Cunningham?”

“No, but I have a feeling you’re about to enlighten me about it.”

Reverend Sean ignored the sarcasm and continued.  “First you set fire to the fields.  It gets rid of the leaves on the cane since you don’t care about them.  It also gets rid of the venomous snakes and vermin that hide in the foliage and overgrowth.  The cane itself is unharmed by the flames because it is so wet.  Then you go into the fields using a machete like this and cut it just above the ground.”

“Sounds like tough work.”

“It is.  There are times when the simplicity of it still calls to me.”

“So what stops you from going back?”

True mirth of spread across Reverend Sean’s face.  “You don’t know how funny that question is.  Going back.  No, no going back.”

“If not going then what are you going to do now?”

“That is the crux of our conversation, isn’t it.  Consider this the warning to leave my fields.  You’ve confirmed I have rats and more on my land.  I know how to handle that.  Now if you’ll excuse me.”

“No.  We’re not done here.”

“But I am Mr. Cunningham.  Without me there is no we.”  With that Reverend Sean got up.

Dan picked back up his gun.  “Sit your ass back down Sean.  I have so much more I want to discuss with you.”

Reverend Sean looked straight at Dan.  “Mr. Cunningham.  Do you know you are staring at a choice that could affect you for the rest of your life?  Ponder that before you do, or say, anything else.”

“Sean, if that’s the best sermon you’ve got, then your flock must be pretty damn mangy.”

“Mr. Cunningham.”

“Shut the hell up and sit down.  I want to know why you’re moving in here.”

Reverend Sean laughed.  “Maybe you were right.  I think the answer is the better to eat you,” he said.  The Reverend took a step towards Dan.

Dan stood quickly and took aim.  “Step back. and drop the weapon”

Reverend Sean stopped and smiled.  “You’re worried about this?”  The Reverend dropped the machete which made a dull thud as it hit the carpet.  “Does that make you feel better?”

Dan nodded.  “Now sit back down.”

“You sheep all worry about the wrong thing.”

“Sheep?  What do…”

With speed that Dan could barely register Reverend Sean reached out and twisted Dan’s gun away from him and threw it across the room.  The swatch of Saint Jude’s robe hit Reverend Sean’s hand, causing him to wince in real pain.  He flung the cloth away and it fell to the floor.  Dan was stunned at how fast he had been disarmed.  Flexing his hand Reverend Sean said, “You worry about mere tools, when you need to worry about the hunter.”  Dan was finally starting to retaliate when the Reverend lashed out with a quick punch to Dan’s midsection, knocking the air out of Dan.  Reverend Sean then round house kicked Dan to the head, sprawling him onto the bed.

“Keep out of my business.  This is your only warning.  Mess with me and I will own your life.”  Reverend Sean turned his back to Dan and bent to pick up his machete.

“You are under arrest for assaulting an officer.”

The Reverend snatched up the machete and turned around to see Dan jump off the bed and throw a vicious kick that Reverend Sean barely blocked, but it cost him the machete as that fell to the ground once more. Dan pressed the attack with a punch towards the Reverend’s throat, but Reverend Sean ducked underneath and barely missed with a counter uppercut.

Both men paused for a second, sizing up what just happened.  To Dan’s surprise Reverend Sean didn’t look even a bit out of breath, while Dan was still recovering from the first kick to the head.  Dan smiled.  “You have the right to remain silent,” Dan said.

The Reverend growled an inhuman cry and began throwing punch after punch, but Dan was able to block every one, but as the flurry increased in tempo and strength more and more of them found their way to Dan’s ribs and head.  Dan abandoned defense and lashed out at The Reverend’s knee with a stiff kick.  A sickening snap told Dan he struck home as Dan paused, gasping for breath, bleeding and head ringing.

The Reverend fell to the floor holding his ruined knee.  “Now you have pissed me off!”

Dan spit some blood from his split lip.  “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law,” Dan said.  Dan was amazed as he watched Reverend Sean growl and twist his knee back into something that almost looked right.  Dan looked around for where his gun had fallen.  “You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.”

The Reverend slowly stood up.  Dan was shocked as he watched the Reverend’s knee heal in front of his own eyes.  Reverend Sean smiled as he watched Dan’s realization of what just happened.  “I told you to worry about the hunter,” Reverend Sean said.

Dan took a shaky step onto the bed.  “Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?” Dan asked.

The Reverend laughed.  “Pity you don’t.”

With that Reverend Sean moved faster than he had yet in the fight, leaping at Dan, but Dan was playing possum and had jumped over the leaping Reverend and rolled along the floor.  He saw the swatch of fabric and his gun, and decided to go for the gun.  He was just about to reach it when the sound of the springs of the mattress creaking announced Reverend Sean.  Dan grabbed the gun just as the Reverend drove him into the floor landing on Dan’s back with his knees.  Dan somehow managed to keep the gun, but not the air in his lungs.  For the second time of the fight he had to fight to breathe.

Dan turned the gun and fired blindly over his left shoulder at the Reverend.  The shot deafened him, but what really grabbed his attention was the bite he felt at the back of his right shoulder.  Dan felt a bit dizzy, and his body felt a bit lighter, but sweet air poured back into his lings.  Dan shifted the gun to shoot over his right shoulder and Reverend Dan recoiled off of Dan and fled towards the door.  Dan rolled to his back and braced his gun the best he could, getting off three more shots watching two strike home.  A pain exploded throughout Dan and he almost dropped his gun.  The bullets didn’t really slow Reverend Sean as he threw open the door and fled.  Dan fired twice more, but missed.

Dan didn’t have the energy to get up and chase after him.  Instead he winced as he pulled out his cell phone and dialed.  “Officer hurt at LaSin, room three twenty four.”

Sariah’s Story Chapter 12

Sariah sat down heavily on a chair in the back room of the Purple Feather.  Kegan and Asopt had just beaten her back to the shop. She took the glass of brandy being offered by Kegan.  She sipped it as Kegan and Asopt told her of their adventures this morning.  “All that to steal money that you gave to your boss to pay a debt from a baker?” she asked.

Asopt smiled.  “Isn’t it brilliant?” he asked.

“Bloody crazy,” muttered Kegan.  “Still, I understand why.”

Sariah looked back and forth at the two men.   Asopt interpreted her unsaid question.  “Simple really,” he said.  “Now the baker owes me something big.  When I call in the favor he will do it.  Much better than beating the man for just a small bit of money.”

As Sariah drank her brandy in contemplation Kegan continued.  “But what if the man doesn’t do your request?”

Asopt shrugged.  “Then he gets the beating he deserves,” Asopt said.

“How is that different then you beating him for the money owed to Gordo?” asked Kegan.

“Simple,” said Asopt, “if he doesn’t do my favor he is taking from me.  That becomes personal.  The other is strictly business.”

Sariah finished her brandy.  “How often does it get personal?” she asked.

“About once in twenty.  It has gotten better once rumor spread that I mean what I say,” said Asopt.

Kegan saw that Sariah had finished her glass and went to refill it.  She waved away another shot of the brandy.  “I need to be able to think,” she said.

Asopt shot his glass right back.  That made Kegan cough in disbelief.  “Man, that stuff is too expensive to do that,” Kegan said.

Asopt waved Kegan to fill his glass again.  “Did you buy it from Old Man Jankins over on Minor Street?” Asopt asked.  When Kegan didn’t pour, Asopt grabbed the bottle and did it himself.

“Wait.  How did you?” asked Kegan.

“It isn’t magically aged.  He buys good stuff and then cuts it a bit of malmoth ichor.  It gives it that extra kick,” Asopt said.

Kegan’s eyes bulged out.  He looked at his glass a second time then poured it on the floor.  “That bastard of a sandshark.  I am going to make sure he gets a piece of my mind.”

Asopt started laughing so hard he almost dropped his drink.  Sariah finally figured it out and joined in.  Kegan started to get mad.  “What’s so funny with you two?  Enjoying a guy when he’s been taken?” Kegan asked.

Sariah nodded through the tears.  “Especially when you poured it out.”

Kegan looked back at Asopt.  “Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  I’ll have another bottle sent over.  Jankins owes me a favor or two,” Asopt said.

Kegan looked like he was about to have an aneurism, but then watched Sariah laugh an honest laugh and his anger evaporated.  He refilled his glass and lifted it to Sariah.  “For coming home and beginning life anew,” he said.

Asopt echoed him, “Agreed.”

Sariah shook her hand.  “Sorry boys.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this woman is working solo.  I have too much invested in this to worry about the two of you,” she said.  Kegan and Asopt looked ready to protest, but Sariah tried to cut it off.  “There is a reason I’m my own fixer.  Tomais ended up not being, well he.”

“I am not Tomais,” said Kegan.  “Besides, you need a wee bit of the magical on your jobs, and I am half a wee, so that is better than nothing.”

“And you owe me this Sariah,” said Asopt.

Sariah looked at Asopt with a bit of scorn.  “I owe you?” she asked.  “I didn’t want to even find you.  If Kegan hadn’t opened his big mouth you wouldn’t even be here.”

Asopt turned to Kegan.  “She’s still sore I broke up with her,” he said.

Kegan for the second time that day spilled his brandy.  “Really?” Kegan asked.

Sariah interrupted Kegan with a fierce stare.  “No, not really,” she said.  “It was just something that sometimes happens between master and apprentice.”  She snapped back to Asopt.  “You stopped your training.  I stopped the other.”

Asopt smiled, but a lot of the humor had evaporated out of it.  “I think you have that backwards my Sariah,” Asopt said.  “After kicking me out you poofed and left me to my own wilds.”

Sariah sat quiet staring at Asopt.  Asopt returned her glare with a hint of contempt thrown in.  Kegan broke the awkward silence.  “Anyone want more brandy?”

“You would have never made it,” Sariah said, ignoring Kegan.

Asopt nodded.  “You are right.  I do not have the ruthlessness that you obviously do,” Asopt said.  Sariah’s eyes closed to slits, but that didn’t stop Asopt from continuing.  “But I did learn, and learn well.  That’s why you need me.  You may not need a fixer, but I have one thing that Tomais did that you can’t replace.  I have connections.”

“Connections?” Sariah asked.

“Favors my dear Sariah, favors,” Asopt said.  “The question is are you willing to deal with the devil you know, or find a devil that you don’t?”

Sariah smiled her hard smile.  “That is what you should be asking Asopt.”

Five girls, five lessons

I am the father of five daughters, four of which are under the age of eight.  I have learned many lessons from each and every one of my children.  Now I realize not everyone has been blessed as I am with a multitude of children, so I have decided to record a top five list of lessons learned so those of you looking to have children can be prepared, and those of you that have children can laugh and nod your heads.

Lesson #1:  Nothing will strike fear in your heart than when you see your baby concentrate then the fountain erupts.  I purposely left this more to imagination, because it can rain and pour out of every orifice, sometimes all at once.  It escalates when done in public, especially when you have forgotten the quintessential backup outfit.  Or even better, it happens when you have already called in the relief outfit.  How do you protect the car seat?  What about the stroller?  Do you have enough baby wipes to handle it all?  I promise you, it can wake you up from a dead sleep dripping in sweat when you have that nightmare.  Oh, and you will have that nightmare.

Lesson #2:  You will hear that one child is hard, two children even harder, but three is easier, and four is even easier, unless there are multiples.  Okay, this is mostly true, but there will be days where this rule is a BIG FAT LIE.  There are times when all four explode at once, and with only two adults possible in the mix there is no way to deal with all the fires at once.  You might have to put one in a room and let them scream while dealing with another, while allowing the third to just go outside, and have the fourth getting a snack to keep them quiet.  And if that works, you are a ROCK STAR.  Most of the time you will be found in a fetal position waiting for the crying/yelling/craziness to stop.  Like I said, this will not happen often, but be prepared for when it does and try to have a plan in case, like a favorite video or ice cream.  It will not make you less a parent, and it will help with your coping skills.

Lesson #3:  Each child is a wonderful, complex, maddening puzzle.  The best part of all of this, they will know how to game you, get away with things, before you figure out how to game them, get them to do what you want them to do.  In the beginning you are the master of your domain.  They cannot lie well.  They are eager to please you.  They listen to what you say.  Then on day two they unlearn all of that.  Oh and now they have figured out your buttons, all of them.  I try to get my six year old not to hit her sister.  I have tried showing her proper ways to handle her anger.  I have talked about her triggers.  I have gotten her to self-identify what is causing her to get angry.  I have tried swatting.  Now I have a girl how when she hurts her sister has a story to tell, most of the time the truth, and tells me what triggers it and what she should have done to stop it.  Notice I did not once say she didn’t hurt her sister.  She is just better at knowing the why, the how, and what should be done next time.  Like I said, she knows all my buttons.

Lesson #4:  Adding a baby to the fix is giving permission to your other children to treat her as 1) a puppy, 2) a doll, and 3) a mostly deaf and mostly blind person moving into your house.  The amount of time patting her on the head, moving her arms every which way, and singing which sounds like screaming at her while pushing toys and any other object within arm’s reach into her face amazes me.  I feel sorry for the little one as she must be overstimulated by the cacophony.  The good thing is the baby has a great self-defense mechanism, the shriek.  This will cause the other children to run off looking for a bomb shelter since the London blitz must have been resurrected in my house.  This gets the added bonus of a parent flying in for a rescue of the infant, much to the detriment of getting things like laundry or food preparation done.

Lesson #5:  This one is specific to my circumstance of having girls.  I didn’t think of the notion that ‘unless you see it yourself it cannot really exist’ was so important in my girls’ lives.  I have to accept things sight unseen with respect to my job as a physicist, but that does not come naturally to my girls.  I could talk about the why question, but I have a different concern here.  I always tell my daughters that they can do whatever they want, except easily peeing standing up and probably playing linebacker in the NFL.  They always agreed with me and seemed to accept this at face value.  Then one night, while watching TV we saw a woman in a profession.  I wish I had written this down sooner to remember exactly what it was.  It really isn’t too important, but what my oldest said next saddened me a bit and made me understand a bit more being a privileged white male in society.  She turned to me and said, “Daddy, girls can be X?”  I told her yes, of course and I reiterated my quote about peeing and linebackers.  She nodded, but I could see that seeing it on TV allowed that one possibility to be more real than just dad’s platitudes.  It made me more aware of what having role models in the world’s workplaces really means.

Do you have more wisdom to share?  Leave me a blurb in the comments.  Together we can help the next generation of parents, or at least maybe curb population growth.

100 Days

Is humanity inherently evil?  That is a loaded question for sure, but something I thought about today when I saw a blog post about the 100 day anniversary of the abduction of the school girls from Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria.  Their cause has been blunted by the news cycle and the attention span of a public that sees a new tragedy daily.  I shudder to think of what these girls have gone through, and still face, and it  leaves me wanting to either scream or take all my girls up in a big hug then lock them in a room.  Why do we do things like this to each other?  Why can’t we respect individual differences, may they be in race, religion, sex, or ideals?

That is one of the problems of course.  The people who abducted those girls do not see themselves as monsters.  They have a way of justifying what they have done.  I will not speculate motive, other than the obvious of wanting the girls under their control, but whatever the motivation they see at as doing “right” on some level.  Because of this, why do I have the right to condemn them for following their differences in ideals?  The answer I hope is obvious.  They are imposing their ideals in such a way that it takes away other’s rights to the same.

This is especially true when it comes to kids.  These girls have done nothing wrong.  They wanted an education and a chance to make something of their journey through this world.  They ended up being easy targets.  We as a world community are accessories to the crime.  We will send troops in for regime change and to restore governments, but why not for restoring humanity?  The group holding the girls have a “justification”, but do we for our lack or response?  Maybe there are teams on the ground that I do not know about, looking for the girls.  Maybe one day soon we will find out about the heroes that went quietly about their job while the world cried out why nothing more is being done.  I can only pray for that.

Going back to my original question, are we inherently evil?  I would like to answer we are not.  I would like to say that the evilness is just seeing the world through distorted lenses, and that maybe the “bad people” can wake up one day and find their humane compassion restored.  Days like today, though, I find it hard.  Instead of doing something about the missing girls, we will to them slowly decay into history.  The additional tragedy of this situation is that I am sure that if we had used ten percent of the intelligence used to stomp out terrorism on this problem, we could have accomplished something meaningful, like the restoration of the young ladies’ freedom.  That would have struck a blow against evil and showed our true humanity.

Fallen From Mercy chapter 3

Ruthie’s squeal of delight broke the silence as Dan double parked.  “We’re going to LaSin?” she asked, already reaching for her seatbelt.  Dan shook his head.

“I’m going into LaSin.  Business, remember?  That, and you’re under twenty one,” he said in his dad will get his way voice.

Ruthie didn’t buy into the voice.  “But you’re a cop.,” she reasoned.  “You could get me in.”  She saw she wasn’t winning, so she turned it up to eleven.  “It’s my birthday,” she continued, but saw even less hope.  “Come on Dad!  I just want to dance.  I have friends in school that got in a couple of weeks ago and they told me all about it.”

Dan shook his head no and got out of the car.  “Ruthie, I’m a cop which means I uphold the law.”

Ruthie gestured to the car.  “By double parking?”

Dan smiled his most pleasant cop smile.  “Yes.  It’s for the greater good.”

Ruthie didn’t want to give up yet.  “But-”

Dan interrupted.  “Reservations are at seven.”

Ruthie pulled out her cell phone and started to text.  “Then hurry up,” she said.

Dan smiled a real smile at Ruthie, and then fixed on his official policeman glare as he approached LaSin.  LaSin was an old mill along the river that had been converted over to so many different things in the past twenty years that the building could be said to have an identity crisis.  The fact that LaSin had become the hottest nightclub four years ago and remained that way was a bit of a mystery to most people in the city.  Dan knew the real secret.  That’s why he was here tonight.

The bouncer didn’t look happy when Dan cut to the front of the line.  Of course with the face he had, the bouncer probably never looked happy.  “Hey, you got a note from your mommy?” the bouncer asked.

Dan pulled out his badge and flashed it to the bouncer.  “I got one from yours.  She told me to remind you to wash behind your ears.”

The bouncer growled, but moved out of the way.  A pretend goth trying to impress his girl cried out, “What the hell!  We’ve been here for a half an hour.”

Dan paused before opening the door.  “Do you want me to handle him?”

The bouncer gave what must have passed as his million dollar smile.  It was about nine hundred thousand dollars or so short.  “Why don’t you go in for a while?  Don’t worry about anything out here.”

“Wouldn’t think of it.”  Dan opened the door and the cacophony made him pause a second before taking the plunge.

As the doors closed Dan found himself on a balcony overlooking the main dance floor before.  Most people were moving with the beat, but there were still a few that couldn’t find it even though the beat was humping them with every thump-thump-thump of the hidden subwoofers.  The colors from the roving strobes enhanced the effect of chaos to the point where there was almost a primal beauty that pulled Dan in.  He had to shake his head to separate himself from the group experience.

LaSin had an interesting layout.  The dance floor took up most of the first floor a couple steps down from the entrance balcony, except for the slick black mirrored bar that took up the whole back wall.  The second floor for the most part had been cut out to give the place a cavernous feel.  The only place where it still existed was above the bar.  That was where the main office was and allowed a bird’s eye view to the festivities below.  The stairs to the office also led the third floor.  The third floor was where there were private VIP suites and who knows what else.

Dan scanned the crowd, looking for his target.  He saw him standing along the bar and smiled at his luck.  Dan descended into the sea of gyrating humanity and made for his prey.  A redheaded woman dressed in crimson with a long plunging neckline and even longer legs materialized in front of him, suggesting with her dancing that she would like nothing better than to swallow up Dan whole.  He smiled at her and tried to get around, but she wouldn’t let him past.  Dan shouted in her ear, “I’m sorry, I don’t have time for this.”

She leaned in and purred, “Are you sure?”

Dan smiled and shook his head yes.  She pouted and leaned in one more time.  “You’ll be back.”  She then gave him a playful kiss to his ear before she spun away form him and into a African American man that looked like he walked off the cover of GQ.  Still she gave him one more look of promise that made Dan almost forget what he was doing.

Dan made good time through the throng, but upon departing the sea of human flesh he realized his query had moved.  Dan began scanning again, but his hopes began to deflate when after a couple of minutes he couldn’t catch a glimpse.  Looking at the bar one more time he noticed the bartender trying to get his attention.  Dan moved closer to see what the bartender wanted.  The bartender tried to hand him a drink, form the looks of it a rum and Coke.  That was his drink of choice, but…  “I didn’t order this,” Dan shouted.

The bartender shouted back, “On the house.  He’s in the office.”  He then pointed up above and Dan finally understood.  He took the drink and made his way to the stair.   Another bouncer located at the foot of the stairs didn’t even look twice at him before pulling aside the velvet rope.  Dan wondered if he should tip him but decided against it and moved upstairs.

The door to the office was slightly ajar so he let himself in.  There behind the mahogany desk was Jorge Pereira, resident filth, but filth that had some conscience, and Dan could work with that.  Jorge was wearing his all black outfit today.  He believed in monochrome if he could help it.  He had something about keeping the choices simple.  Jorge hated complications.  He was looking a bit under the weather tonight.  His normally jet black hair had a bunch of grey making inroads, and his eyes looked a bit haunted.  He even had a large bandage on his left forearm.  Dan closed the door behind him and the sound was muted to where two people could have a conversation without losing their voices after three sentences, though the beat still threatened to turn into a real earthquake up here.

“Thanks for the drink, man,” said Dan as he sat down in the only other chair in the room, across the desk from Jorge.

Jorge raised a shot glass full of whisky.  “Here’s to your health.”  With that Jorge threw the shot back and poured himself from the almost empty bottle that was the only other thing on the desk.

“No offense, but you need it,” said Dan, “You look like crap.  What happened?”

Jorge gave out a course laugh and then was quiet for a bit.  “Just business woes.  This bull is catching up to me.  I wish I had gotten out sooner, but what ya gonna do?”  Jorge slouched back and ran his hands through his hair.

“You could just walk away now,”  Dan said as he sipped his drink.  “Move to Minnesota, pick up fishing, buy a snowmobile.”

Jorge gave another course laugh.  He waved his shot glass at Dan.  “You know why I like you Cunningham?”

“My impeccable taste in clothes.”

“You’re such an asshole.  You know that?”  Jorge pounded back another shot, then reloaded.

Dan put his drink on the desk and leaned back.  Something heavy was going on.  “That’s why you like me?” Dan asked.  “Most people don’t find that part of me a positive.”

“They’re idiots.  Trust me on this.  I know people.”  Jorge almost took the shot but put it down and looked Dan in the eye.  “I know why you’re here.  Just go away.  Trust me on that one.  It isn’t worth it.”

“Why am I here Jorge?  I didn’t know you can read minds.”

Jorge leaned forward across his desk to get closer to Dan.  The smell on his breath put Jorge at about a blood alcohol content of oh point two or so.  Dan had to fight a reflex to lean away and instead leaned closer.

Jorge practically whispered.  “You’re here to find out what happened to Bobby Gleason.”  Jorge sat back with a triumphant look on his face.

Dan smiled a bit.  “Close but no cigar Jorge.  I know what happened to Bobby Gleason.  He was killed pushing weed in territory he wasn’t supposed to be in.”

Jorge smiled.  “That’s a good story, isn’t it?”

Dan nodded.  “Good enough for me.”  Dan stood up and leaned across Jorge’s desk to imitate what Jorge did earlier.  “What I was more interested was meeting your new boss.”

Jorge lost what little color he had and he downed the rest of the bottle, leaving the shot glass where it was.  “How screwed up are you to want that?”

Dan took a seat on the desk.  “Simple, screwed up enough to want to meet the new man in town.”

Jorge shook his head violently.  “No, no, no!  No way.  I told you I liked you.  Why do you want to do this?  Why do you hate me?”

Jorge had a great idea about opening this place seven years ago.  When traditional funding sources had all said no, he resorted to untraditional ones.  The people whom he borrowed the money from thought he was a fool, but his dream was contagious.  He paid them all back before it was time, with interest.  The bad thing is people like that don’t like being cut off from the cash cow.  They also like the cover it gave them for pushing drugs, prostitution, and especially laundering massive amounts of dirty money through Jorge’s use of consultants and contractors.  They gave Jorge a small percentage and allowed him to have his day job.  Dan allowed Jorge to exist because Jorge always let him know when someone was trying to go big time.  Dan got publicity, Jorge got rid of trouble, and the mayhem that lived under the surface had a stable place to play.  Nobody really liked the solution, but it was one food chain that worked for all involved and no one wanted to rock the boat.  That is until someone new had come to town.

“I don’t hate you,” said Dan.  “I’m your biggest fan.  Remember I even sent you those ascots for Christmas.  I don’t do that for everybody.”

“You’re quite the comedian.  Trust me, you mess around with him and he’ll have your balls in a vise and he’ll never stop turning the crank.”

Dan shook his head.  “I know he’s here tonight,” Dan said.  “Just arrange a short face to face.  I want to make sure he understands the rules.”

Jorge got up and into Dan’s personal space.  “I’m doing this because you’re still my favorite jerk.  Go away.  Check out Minnesota for me.  Just run.”

Dan put the police stare on.  “Calm down or I’m going to call in the cavalry and shut this place down.  What would your boss say then?”

Jorge sat back down in the chair and slumped down, his energy poured out of him leaving him as empty as the whiskey bottle that he was staring at.  “You know your signing your own death certificate.  I’m not going to do nothing.”

Dan paused and just starred at the man in front of him.  “Are you sure you want to go there?”  Jorge didn’t move a muscle.  Dan yelled, “What the hell has gotten into you?”, but there was still no response.  “If that’s the way you want to play it.”  Dan left the room and slammed the door closed.

Jorge picked up the full shot glass and hurled it into the door, shattering it.  He sat there looking at the empty bottle for a while and then got to his feet and wandered the best he could to the door.  He pulled it open just in time to see Dan about to brave the dance floor again.

Dan sensed something and turned around and saw Jorge in the door.  Dan shrugged his shoulders in a way of asking if he should continue.  Jorge waved him to go on.  Dan shook his head and plunged back into the dancing throng.  Jorge could see the woman in the scarlet dress dance her way directly towards Dan while she was watching Jorge.  Jorge willed her to stop, but he was as powerless in that as he was walking away from this dream that had turned into a waking nightmare.  Why was he always sucking on the wrong end of the cigar of life?

Dan saw the woman in the scarlet dress and tried to avoid her, but the woman was not going to be denied.  She used the wave of humanity around her to pin him in a small space of relative calm.  Dan was hoping the riptide would come back soon and rip her away.

She danced along his body and yelled in his ear, “I knew you’d be back.”

Dan went rigid so he wouldn’t encourage her.  “Please move out of the way.  I’m really not interested.”

The lady in scarlet ran her hand down his crotch.  He snatched her hand away but she just smiled at him.  “Me thinks you are lying to me.”

Dan didn’t let go of her wrists right away.  “Don’t do that.  I’m a police officer.”

She licked her lips.  “Nice to meet you Mr. Cunningham.  My name is Mandy.  It rhymes with candy.  If you want to see how many licks…”

Dan let her go with a bit of a shove.  “Excuse me.”  Dan began to move on in a straight line, shoving whomever was in his way and wearing his “try it and I’ll kick you back into your mother’s womb” look.

He was half way across the floor when someone grabbed his shoulder.  Dan spun around, his fist raised when he noticed it was Mandy.  Dan yelled at her, “What part of no don’t you understand.”

Mandy cracked a grin and pointed at his crotch.  “You may say no, but he said says yes.”

Dan couldn’t help but look down.  He realized it wasn’t showing anything and looked back at Mandy, but this time she was pulling a key out of her cleavage.  Dan had had enough.  He went to reach for his cuffs when Mandy yelled, “He’s waiting in the three twenty four.”  Dan stood there poleaxed as Mandy gave him the key and kissed him on the cheek.  “Don’t keep him waiting.”  She rubbed against him one more time.  “Maybe next time you won’t be in such a hurry.”  She then made a bit of room between the two of them and was swept away in the human current.  Dan looked to the office and saw Jorge walk into his office a broken man and slam close the door.  Dan looked back at the key and wondered if it was really worth it.

Sariah’s Story Chapter 11

Sariah looked at the note again to verify she had the right place.  It wasn’t too hard to find The Lazy Wench, but Sariah couldn’t fathom who would want to meet her in such a place.  The note had been tucked among her weapons when she had retrieved them from the closet after her meeting with Kilncare.  The note had asked her to come here around noon to discuss old and new business.  Sariah didn’t recognize the handwriting, but if the person who wrote the note could get it smuggled into the king’s back door they must be a power in the area and that meant Sariah needed to keep this meeting.

As she entered The Lazy Wench she immediately looked around the room to see who might have been the author.  The room was pretty empty because of the time of day, but a few women and a couple of men were still lounging about looking for work.  This was the type of place that you could rent a room, or more, for an hour.  Definitely not a place where a big mover and shaker would be usually found, but that made it even more ideal.

The woman behind the small bar looked up from his tidying to see Sariah.  “What are you up for my dear?” she asked.  “There are more guys in the kitchen working.  Or would you rather-“

Sariah held up her hand to cut the woman off.  “I’m here to meet someone.”

The woman shrugged her shoulders.  “They’re upstairs.  Second door on the left.”

Sariah nodded to the woman and headed up the stairs.  At the top there was a man dressed in casual clothes, but he was anything but casual.  He screamed danger, and Sariah respected that screaming.  He looked hard at Sariah, noting her weapons that he could see, as well as a couple of places where she had hidden ones.  Sariah’s opinion of the man increased.  He was definitely military, or fresh out of an elite group.  “You’re late,” he said as he stepped aside.

This took Sariah by surprise.  She was certain that the man would want her disarmed.  What was going on?  She tried to keep her concern off her face as she walked up to the door.  She paused with her hand on the door knob.  “King’s corp?” Sariah asked.

“The Black Fist,” he replied.

The Black Fist were an elite group of almost fanatics who were used in truly desperate battle situations.  They almost always completed their objectives, but they always needed fresh recruits to refill their ranks.  This man would not think twice about sacrificing himself, as long as the objective is met.  This man must have served the six years and gotten out, both extremely rare in such an intense and deadly unit.

Sariah flashed him a smile.  “You coming in?” she asked.

“I don’t do three ways,” he responded.  “Either go in or leave.”

Sariah was even more confused, which wasn’t good going into a blind meeting.  She tried to center herself and prepare for what was behind the door.  She turned the handle, and moved with her enhanced speed into the room, closing the door on the ex-Black Fist, hopefully starling him with quickness.  Then again, he was Black Fist, so probably not.

For the second time that day she was surprised at what she saw when she entered the room.  There, naked in the large bed was a woman she didn’t think she would ever see again.  “My dear,” the woman said.  “You look as beautiful as the last time I saw you.  Motherhood suits you.”

That last line hurt more than Sariah thought it would.  “Duchess Lyda, you look different from last time,” Sariah said.

“I hope that is for the better,” Lyda said.  “I would hate to think that all these beauty treatments I’ve been using have gone for naught.”

Sariah picked up the dress the duchess must have been wearing and tossed it to Lyda.  “You were dressed last time, Lyda.  I would prefer you resume that,” Sariah said.

Lyda laughed and threw the dress onto the floor on the side of the bed away from Sariah.  “Don’t be a prude, Sariah,” Lyda said.  “I was so happy to hear you were back in the city.  I almost couldn’t believe you were back.  Actually, I didn’t believe you were back.  When I was told you were here I knew I had to arrange something special.”  She waved her hands to encompass the room.  “So what do you think?”

“Lyda, please,” Sariah said.

Lyda grew serious.  “Why are you back my dear?”

Sariah walked over to the only chair in the room and sat down.  “I was asked to do one last job.  I found out I missed the work.”

Lyda patter the bed.  “Don’t sit over there.  Come here next to me.  We have so much to catch up on,” Lyda said.

Sariah crossed her arms.  “What is there to catch up on?”

Lyda rolled forward on the bed, laying on her chest.  She dropped her voice.  “Remember how we discussed a path for me to step to the head of the succession line?” Lyda asked.

“That was talk for younger, more foolish days,” Sariah said.

Lyda smiled.  “You are right of course.”  Lyda blew her a kiss.

Sariah stood up.  “If that’s all you wanted I think I will leave,” Sariah said.  “I have work to do.”  She moved towards the door.

Lyda whispered, “I know who the Keeper of Shadows is.”

Sariah stopped in her tracks.  “What do you want?” she asked.

Lyda sat up, all business now.  “Finish your job for Kilncare.  Then you can help me kill the Keeper.  I’ll take over the role and you will become my instrument.  It will be like our dreams, Sariah.  Or at least like your dreams,” Lyda said.  She put back on her mischievous smile.  “We can do my dreams if you would just come sit next to me.”

Sariah continued to the door and then stopped.  She laid her forehead on the door.  “Are you sure you know?” Sariah whispered.  “Once we start down that path there is no turning back.”

“Finish your job then come back to me, Sariah.  You’ll see.  It can be like old times,” Lyda said.  “Oh, and send in Geraud.”

Sariah turned toward Lyda.  “Really?”

Lyda laid back and spread her limbs.  “I paid for this room for two hours.  I want to get my money’s worth.”

Sariah smirked.  “Two hours?  You think he will last that long?” Sariah asked.

Lyda laughed, her eyes glittering slightly mad.  “He is Black Fist.  They always complete their mission, or die trying.”

Fallen From Mercy Chapter 2

The trunk of Dan’s car slammed shut and Ruthie opened the passenger side door.  Dan kept watch in his rear view mirror, making sure Agatha hadn’t moved from her front porch.  “Hey Dad, thanks for all the help,” said Ruthie sarcastically as she climbed in the car.

“You’re young, you’ll adjust,” Dan said.  As soon as Ruthie’s door closed he eased the Camaro from the curb.

“She wanted to talk to you, you know.”  Ruthie said.  She folded her arms and gave him the same evil eye her mother did.  The same evil eye he was avoiding by not getting out of the car.

Dan sighed.  “Yeah, I did,” he said.

Dan looked at her out of the corner of his eye.  Ruthie was definitely her father’s daughter.  She had his dark brown hair that on her ran to the middle of her back in a thick French braid.  Her broad face was pretty in a bit of a handsome way, and her eyes were his same piercing green.  Poor Agatha carried her for nine months, but no one would know it except for the dimple on her chin.  That is until you talked to the both of them.  They could mirror each other’s movements almost eerily.  It was the one thing that kept Dan a bit on edge around his daughter.  Too many memories of what once was would come to the surface.  A wry smile spread on his face.

“What’s so funny?”  Ruthie asked as she folded her arms and slouched in the seat.

This wasn’t going well, and the night was still young.  “Just thinking about the present I had for you in the glove box there,” Dan said.

Ruthie reached out to open it and then remembered herself.  She slumped back down in the seat.  “That still wasn’t cool what you did to mom.”

Dan shook his head.  “I promise to talk to her when I drop you back off on Sunday.  Does that make you happy?”

Ruthie answered by opening the glove compartment and saw the bright pink wrapped present inside.  She took it out and gave it a shake.

Dan was amused.  “Hey, how old do you think you are, six?”

Ruthie pointed at the gift.  “You think so.”

“Ah, the pink is a bit much?” Dan asked.

“Ya think?”

“I’ll file that away for next year.  Go on, open it.  It’s something you asked for.”  Ruthie began to peal back the paper.  “And don’t worry, it’s not a Barbie.”

Ruthie gave him one more evil look before devoting her interest in the gift.  She finally got the last of the tape off and opened the box.  Immediately there was a flash of disappointment before a smile took its place.  Dan didn’t miss the look though.  “What’s wrong?  I thought I got the one you pointed out.”

Ruthie took out the necklace with the three onyx pendants shaped as little tears with accent diamonds at the bottom or each drop.  “You did.  It’s just…”

“Just what?”

“It is my sixteenth birthday.”

Dan gestured for her to continue.  “Yeah, and…”

Ruthie looked out the window.  “You know.”

“No I don’t.  What?”  Dan asked.

“I was kinda hoping.”

“Hoping?”

Ruthie mumbled in a small girl voice.  “That it was keys to the Camaro.”

Dan let out a laugh and spared a quick look at Ruthie.  “Now you’re dreaming.”

Ruthie immediately got defensive.  “That’s not fair

“Oh, it is too fair.”  Before she could continue to protest Dan continued.  “That’s just one part.  I also have reservations at Mina’s as well as tickets for Spamalot.  Is that better?”

“That’s awesome.”  Ruthie put on the necklace and put the box and wrapping paper back into the glove box.  Dan filed that away so he could get rid of the pink paper before Gary went looking next time they took his car.  He didn’t want to live that one down, no matter how innocent it was.  Real men weren’t afraid of pink, but real men were afraid of wise cracking partners.

Now it was Dan’s turn to be a bit meek.  “The only thing is I need to make one stop on the way to Mina’s.”

Ruthie sighed.  “Not work.”

“Yes work.  Don’t worry.  We have plenty of time.  The reservation isn’t until seven.”

“I’ve heard that before.”  Dan was losing Ruthie to the crossed arms pose again.

“Really.  It’ll be okay.  Trust me.”

Ruthie decided to finger the necklace instead of crossing her arms.  “Okay, we’ll see.”  She then let out a small laugh.  “If not you know what I’ll want.”

Dan groaned.  “Not that.”

Ruthie stuck out her tongue at him.  “You better believe it.”

“Not over my dead body.”  Dan then realized what he said and fell into a silence.

Sariah’s Story Chapter 10

Horses were a rare commodity in Ferngreen.  There just wasn’t that much space for a horse to work in.  Donkeys and ithacs, large domesticated flightless birds, were used for most cargo transport around the city.  The only places you found horses were the king’s stables and around the single racetrack within the city limits.  The track was home to various forms of racing such as dog and turtle as well as the only sanctioned spot for other types of betting establishments.  It made the district that contained it loud, noisy, and a bit on the smelly side.  This did not act as a deterrent to the people who were looking for games of chance and so the place was crowded all day and night.

Kegan stepped in something and made a disgusted face.  “Why am I doing this again?” he asked.

Asopt either ignored the question, or decided that he didn’t have a good question to give in return.  Kegan tried to fling the excrement off his boot and onto Asopt.  Asopt didn’t notice since he kept looking around like he was trying to find someone.  Suddenly his face lit up and he was off at almost a running pace.  Of course it was a running pace Kegan with his shorter legs which made him even more disgusted.  “Why are you moving so fast?” he asked.

Asopt suddenly stopped and Kegan almost ran into him.  “I needed to see where that stable hand went,” Asopt said.  “Some days he plays cards, other days he partakes in more base needs.  I needed to know which it was today to know how much time we had.”

“And the verdict?” asked Kegan.

Asopt grinned at Kegan.  “Luckily for us he went to play cards.  That should give us plenty of time.  Oh, and since we are going to the stables, watch where you step.”

Kegan punched Asopt’s arm causing Asopt to giggle as he started off.

The stables were inside a large fence with a single gate entrance.  That gate was manned by two hulking brutes with arms crossed.  As Asopt and Kegan approached the gate the two men moved closer to each other, cutting off the entrance. “Where do you think you two are going?” asked the guard to the left.

Asopt smiled as charmingly as he could.  “My good sir, I am here to inspect Mr. Peepers before I place my bet on today’s race.”

The guard didn’t seem impressed.  “Only owners and people who work here are allowed past that gate,” he said.  “So keep moving.  You can see your Mr. Peepers when he is on the way to the gate like everyone else.”

Asopt looked at Keegan.  “Can you reason with these gentlemen?” Asopt asked.

“Really?” Kegan replied.  “You brought me for this?”

Asopt smiled.  “I would have used a different means, but here you are and you need something from me.”

The talking guard spoke up.  “Hey, I told you to move it.  Now get going or else I’ll move you for you.”

Kegan scowled at Asopt.  “I hate you,” Kegan said.  Kegan then turned to the guards.  “My apologies for my friend here, he is very rude, crude, and overall a bad man.”

The two guards zoned in on Kegan and began to nod in agreement.  Kegan continued.  “I would appreciate it though if you could let us in there for a look around.  It would be a huge help.”

The guard who didn’t talk opened the gate and moved out of the way.  The other guard, while nodding, wasn’t ready to give up yet.  “Maybe I should escort you to make sure you don’t get into any trouble,” he said.

Kegan shook his head and twinkled his eyes more.  “No cares my friend.  We wouldn’t want to impose.  Here.”  Kegan produced two small pieces of paper with the name of his shop and its location on it.  “Take this and bring it buy sometime and I will make sure you have a better hat to stand in the sun with.”

The two guards took the papers and the talking guard moved out of the way.  Kegan tipped his hat to the two men.  “Have a nice day,” Kegan said.

After they passed out of earshot of the guards, Asopt grabbed Kegan by the arm and spun Kegan around.  “Do you really hate me?” Asopt asked.

“What?” said Kegan.

“You told me you hated me, then said bad things about me to the guards.  That was hurtful,” Asopt said.

Kegan felt his jaw drop.  “You really want me to answer that?”

Asopt was silent.

Kegan continued.  “Fine!  I don’t hate you.  I hate you used me to charm those guards into doing something that will probably get them fired depending on what other shenanigans you have us do.  I do think you can be crude and rude, and if the situation is right a bad man.  That being said, I am with you aren’t I?”

Asopt thought for a minute.  “You didn’t need to use hateful words while performing your magic.”

Kegan sighed.  “Let’s keep moving, shall we?”  Asopt nodded and headed off reading signs posted on each grouping of stalls.  Kegan fell into step and continued.  “I need to use some truth to make the spell work.  That’s why the fae are so good at lying.  They mix in just enough truth to help you believe.  Would you rather me tell them we are here to fix a race?”

Asopt stopped and pointed to a sign marking Stable 4.  “There we go.  Oh, and we are not fixing a race.”  Asopt took off at that fast walk again.

Kegan hurried to catch up.  “Why are we going to see a racing horse if we are not going to fix a race?”

They entered the building.  A couple of grooms looked at them funny, and Asopt yelled at them, “Get out.  This is a robbery.”

The grooms looked at each other then back at Asopt and Kegan.  Kegan groaned and whipped out his wand.  “Sorry guys, but enjoy your rest.”  With that a blue haze billowed out of the wand, enveloping the grooms and putting them to sleep.

“Great.  How am I supposed to explain this to the city guard?” asked Kegan.

“Nobody will say anything,” replied Asopt as he began peering into the stalls.  “They won’t want to make themselves look like a fool.”

But I thought we were robbing a horse?” asked Kegan.

“Nope, said Asopt, open an empty stall.  He cleared out the hay from one side and poked around with a short metal post he pulled out of his sleeve.  Suddenly there was a soft click and one of the boards came loose.  Inside was a large amount of coins and a few gems.  Asopt grabbed a bunch of the coins and a couple of gems then closed the board back up.

“What was that?” asked Kegan.

“There is a jockey who takes bribes to fix races,” Asopt said.  “This is his stash.”

“What a dumb place to keep them.”

“Dumb?” Asopt asked.  “Behind a locked gate with guards and hidden in shite?”

“Okay, maybe not,” Kegan said.

As they headed out of the stable Asopt stopped suddenly.  “Duchess Lyda,” he said.

That caused Kegan to stop and stare at Asopt.  “Why?”

“That’s who put you to the test,” Asopt said.

Kegan groaned.  “Of course.  That is definitely trouble.”