Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chapter Fifty-One



The Sheriff started his reports.  As he wrote on one side the duplication machine made an exact duplicate on another sheet of paper.

"Wish they could rig the typewriter up to do this," the Sheriff complained.  "My handwriting is damned awful."

"Do you wish me to take your dictation?" I asked.

"No because then Tomas and James would ask far too many damned questions.  They are already pinching at me.  You heard how he instructed those Guards to stick to us like burrs.  Blasted bunch of busy-bodies."

Ignoring his remarks about busy-bodies I asked, "You remember that Nat's order specializes in ancient texts?"  At his nod I told him, "Well before he became too busy to do it, Nat used to tell me about things he learned about the Lost Technologies.  One of the things he said were quite common up until the Days of Destruction was a device much as you described.  There was a machine that you typed on and it contained some form of internal memory ... like a book but ... well not like a book precisely ... but it stored what was typed on it so that it could be duplicated over and over again as many times as you wished on a machine similar to a printing press."

"Dear Martyrs that must have been useful."

"Nat says the same thing but doesn't do so in mixed company.  The Regional University still considers them a forbidden technology since how they work has been lost to the ages.  They weren't mechanical so ..."

"So those old fussbudgets deem them demonic or something as asinine."

"Shhhh.  Someone will hear you," I said glancing around guiltily.  Then felt silly for doing so.

"Which reminds me ... let's go take care of that passage way."

"What?"

Out of the satchel he pulled a padlock and a few other things.  "The idea of just anyone being able to breeze into this place while you are here and unprotected freezes my blood.  Come along.  I may not be able to do much about other things but this I can and will."

It took far less time than I expected and soon the Sheriff had drilled several holes in the plaster and installed a hasp lock that prevented the passage way door from opening.  He also slid a large shelf in front of it so the lock itself would draw no questions.  "Here," he said.  "You keep this key and no one will be able to come and go from here without your say so.  I've got a duplicate but to get in I'd have to come through this side and unlock that hasp first ... and I won't."  He looked at me and asked, "Do you believe me Leeda?"

"Yes, I suppose I must.  Thank you."

"You are welcome.  And now back to those reports or I'll be up until the dawn because Tomas wants to see me smartly soon thereafter."

"A bear for work is your brother?"

"Yes but this time it is mostly because his wife has social events scheduled all day tomorrow and while he'd like to beg off of them in truth they are useful at getting to know people."

"Hmmm."

"You don't agree?"

"It is that I already have met many of those people and ... I did not impress them."

"Then they're idiots and I'll ignore them."

He said it so seriously I did not know whether to believe him or not and right as we reached the head of the cellar stairs I heard insistent knocking.  I ran to answer the door and the Sheriff pulled me up short and pushed me behind him then nodded for me to call out.

"Who is it?"

"Chancellor Linder."

In exasperation the Sheriff wrenched open the front door and snapped, "What the hell do you want James?"

"Good heavens Man, that's a fine way to ..."  He stopped and looked closer at his brother.  "What have you been up to?" he asked suspiciously.

"Putting a lock where," he slowed down when he spotted John and Kate Cummins behind him.  "... one was needed," he finished slightly cryptically.  "Why?"

"You're a mess.  And what is that smell?"

The Doctor, Kate, and I all said, "Garlic."  The Chancellor blinked in surprise and then smiled.  "Getting dosed are you?"

"Aw shut up," the Sheriff grumped.  "If John's potions all tasted as good as this he wouldn't have to beg his patients to be good and take them."

I crossed my arms and said to him, "You are being silly once again.  I suspect that had you minded the Doctor to begin with you would not be getting 'dosed' now.  And have you finished your mug?"

In a singsong voice the Sheriff said, "Yes Widow Linder, I've been a good boy."

I snorted.  "I doubt anyone has ever said that to you."

Everyone laughed, including the Sheriff and I invited the others in.  In a quandary because I needed to check the processing pot but didn't think it was quite the thing to have them come into the kitchen Kate Cummins saved me by saying, "Please don't stand on ceremony.  I heard April mention that you were going to cook up a healthy broth to tempt Daren into a better mood and I'm anxious to have the recipe."

I led them to the kitchen and quickly looked around to see that things were neat and tidy ... except for the mess on the table and that belonged to the Sheriff.  The man, being incorrigible asked, "I've drunk my medicine Ma'am so now do I get my cookies?"

I wanted to fling the tea towel at him but decided to save the violence until there were no pacifists around and instead offered tea and cookies to those that might care for them.

"We can take them ... hmmm ..."

"Let 'em flop here," the Sheriff said using his boot to push a bench in their direction.  The others he said, "I gather you are all escaping the madness at the Hall."

Unashamedly all three nodded.  I asked, "Where's Tosha?"

"Put to bed with a raging headache.  There was something in the smoke this afternoon that didn't agree with her at all."

"Is she alright?"

"She will be.  It wasn't the smoke by itself ... her mother showed up unexpectedly this afternoon and made a hysterical fuss over what happened in Little Linderton.  Said she is sending for all of my sister in laws because of course I must be incapable of tending to Tosha properly."

"Good heavens," I whispered.  "At what point did she remember that you are now the Chancellor of Tentuckia?"

He got a rather satisfied smile on his face and answered, "About the time that Tomas walked in the room with some of the other guests wondering what all the to do was about.  One of these days I am going to be able to replicate that stare of Tomas', it is just going to take practice."

The stare must be well known because the others all grinned.  Since I hadn't been faced with it yet I shrugged and passed around a plate of cookies.

After a few munches and some light and general conversation the Chancellor said, "Well I suppose we better let you return to your reports."

The Sheriff groaned. "Yes, please.  As it is I still haven't taken the Widow's deposition and I've got to add it in to all of the other mishmash that Tomas wants before the a ... er crack of dawn."

The Chancellor looked at him in sympathy and then they left.  The Sheriff maintained an affable look on his face until the door closed and then he almost snarled.  "Damn busybodies.  Let's get this started before Tomas sends a contingent of the Guard next ... or worse ... he sends April over to play third wheel."

"Surely that was just ..."

"He's a Linder ... The Linder ... remember?  Nothing ever just has one purpose.  They might have been out for a walk as they stated but I'm positive that it will get back to my brother that I was actually doing what I said I was going to do and not just ... er ... uh ..."

A little indignantly I said, "We have never er'd or uh'd and how dare he think I would.  I didn't even do that when I was married.  I ... oh ... oh I ... hmmm ..."

The Sheriff smiled gently.  "It's alright.  Tomas doesn't mean to be a pain in the backside, he is simply genetically predisposed to it.  He's been ordering my life nearly as long as Father did.  And while it is a bad habit I wish he would break I'm sure he did not mean to insult you so much as to remind me of my duty and honor."

"Phhhtttt.  Tell him to go mind someone else's duty and honor that needs it minded.  Even if you forget yours I can't forget mine.  My status ..."  I stopped shaking my head.

"Then let us both tell him to take one of John's powders and get back to our business.  And don't put that plate away ... I want another cookie."

"You've had four already."

"Stop counting and it won't bother you as much.  Now sit and let us return to what we must."

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