Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter Twenty-Eight



"Mrs. Kinsey, I'm afraid I simply do not have time to discuss this with you at the moment.  I am on my way to a meeting with Dr. Cummins and the Sheriff."

"Why?"

It was her tone as much as the question that surprised me.  "I beg your pardon?"

"Why do the likes of you need to meet with those two great men?"

I could have handled her questions multiple ways but instead I merely stated, "If you feel you have the status for it, perhaps you should proffer your question in their direction."  I turned and left feeling her eyes boring into my back.  I felt like a character in a bad theatrical.

I had never thrown my status around in Linderhall.  I could have - fat lot of good it would have done me at the time - but I never did.  It seemed so rude and abusive.  And then when I went home to Harper none of it seemed to matter overly much any longer except as a way to complicate my life and make people think even less of me than they already did.  My training had taught me the skill to be tall and starchy in my position but I preferred other methods of getting things done.  But every time I turned around it seemed someone was poking at my status and even someone as unconcerned with it as I will get a bit touchy after a while ... and in my case with Mrs. Kinsey a rather short while.  It was very difficult not to get some satisfaction out of putting her in her place, but my commonsense if not my compassion prevented me from seeking such a solution.  My satisfaction would be short-lived once I began to face all of the repercussion of such an action.

And I did have a meeting with the Doctor and the Sheriff.  It wasn't quite as important as I had made it sound but I would take any excuse to not have to deal with her on a day after no sleep especially as her behavior left me only more suspicious of her motivations.

I carried in my hand what I had gone to the staffing area to collect.  It seemed an odd thing to carry down the hall and several people stopped and stared before going back to their duties but no one said anything; the Widow Linder was already getting the reputation for being odd.  I knocked on the Doctor's suite and was admitted by the older woman I had met the night before.

"Thank you ... and thank you for your help last night as well.  I'm afraid I neglected to say so."

She smiled a friendly smiled and said, "Oh you said so.  Cleaning up after yourself you know expresses gratitude as nothing else can."

I smiled in understanding and turned to find the doctor scowling and his wife looking harried.  Even the Sheriff was beginning to look irritated.  I walked forward and handed what I carried to his wife.

Hesitantly she asked, "Wh .. what are these?"

"Packing straps.  The Sisters at the hospital in Harper found them very useful when dealing with the doctors when they became ill.  They are very strong and unlike ropes will not leave unsightly marks when you use them to confine him to bed where his otherwise good sense would keep him.  Unfortunately for some unfathomable reason doctors become churlish and unexpectedly infantile when they are ill, even more so than the average man becomes.  And clinically hard headed, let's not leave that out.  And since I heard that you are Pacifists I thought this would serve better than a hammer and nails at keeping him where he should remain for at least another day."

Everyone in the room fell absolutely silent then the doctor's wife couldn't seem to look at me and covered her mouth with her hand, then turned her head, but I caught her shoulders shaking.  I told her, "Go ahead and let it out before you cause some internal disruption.  Trust me when I say dealing with men seems to require an inordinate amount of humor and commonsense since there are times when they seem to lack both."

I turned to find the older woman practically stuffing her apron in her mouth and the Sheriff looking like he'd been clubbed.  I asked him, "Are you ill?"

"By all the martyred saints of the Destruction no!  And praying I never get that way anytime soon.  I've been under your ministrations once and have absolutely no desire to experience it again.  Scooping me off the ground like I was a babe.  Forcing me to be covered in goop made from daisies.  Witching me with your hazel.  Leave a man some pride woman, leave a man some pride."

There was a strange noise from the bed and I turned.  I thought at first that the doctor was experiencing a seizure then he started laughing.  "You ... you ... you used daisy salve on him?!"  He was laughing so hard he had to hold his bruised side.

I lifted my chin and said, "I had already packed my salves that smell more ... er ... manly."  When the doctor kept laughing I added, "Well his horse liked it much better than the liniment the innkeeper's wife had used."

There was a great deal of laughter all around and even the Sheriff finally capitulated and smiled.  A few more pleasantries were exchanged and I left.  I was halfway to the corridor I needed to turn down to see Mr. Tosh and give him an update when the Sheriff caught up with me.

"You don't move slow do you?"

"Somehow I do not think you are speaking of the speed at which I walk."

"I'm not.  I need a few moments of your time to clarify a few things from this morning.  Please come to my office."

I followed him there and while there were a few glances I'm sure most people would assume it was about the doctor's condition or the attack last night about which most of the staff were extremely upset.  Mizz Marta was gray before I could get to her and show her myself that all was well.  She knew I was upset but I didn't disabuse her of the notion that it was from the two incidences.

We walked into his office and rather than ask me to sit down he asked, "Are there any secret passageways in this office?"

"I don't know of any personally but if you know what you are looking for you should be able to find them.  That's why it was always supposed to be such a secret ... so that the average person wouldn't know the clue to look for."

We looked and I had almost given up until I spotted the design in a wood on wood decoration of his desk.  It took some investigating but we finally figured out how to make it open.  "I don't know where the key would be," I told the Sheriff.

"You don't?" the Sheriff asked.

I shook my head almost stupid with fatigue.  "I don't know what you think Sheriff but the information I have about the Hall is miniscule compared to what the Secretary would have imparted to your father."

"It wasn't meant as a complaint.  You know enough," he said gruffly.  "Here.  Sit down and rest.  There are a couple of things that were in the previous Sheriff's belongings that haven't been identified as belonging any certain place yet.  Perhaps you'll recognize them."

My elbow slid off the chair arm causing me to jump awake before he could come back and find me dozing.  I stood and stretched to get the blood flowing to my brain.

"I've tried that a time or two myself."

I jumped a bit at the Sheriff's silent re-entrance but took the box he handed me.  I opened it and there were several rings of keys.  I rifled through them and then pulled out one that I definitely recognized.  "This is a duplicate of Mizz Marta's key ring.  See this symbol?  It is the stamp of the Linderhall Housekeeper.  And this ring either belongs to the Head Gardener or is a duplicate of his ring of keys.  These go to the various sheds and storage bunkers, the symbols on the keys indicate which ... rose shed, kitchen garden shed, tool shed, etc.  I think these are like the keys that Mr. Holman has ... those large keys are for the exterior doors and the wine cellar primarily though I think he may have one to ... to my husband's suite of rooms.  I don't recognize these other rings."

"Good or I would wonder why.  This ring of keys is a duplicate of the one that the Captain of the Guards carries.  And these are for the armory."

"If you knew why ask me?"

"I only just figured it out once you started pointing out the details.  I've been so busy I honestly hadn't considered this a priority until the issue with ... accessibility came to the forefront.  Which leaves this set of keys.  Do you recognize these symbols?"

"It is the Linder crest but ..."  I stopped and looked more closely.  "Actually that isn't the Linder crest that is the ..." I dropped the keys and brushed off my hands.

"What?"

"Nat would skin me if he finds out I read the manuscripts he kept locked away."

"Your cousin?"

"Aye.  He would bring them home sometimes when he was uncomfortable with me staying by myself.  This was some project he got involved with after I returned to Harper.  I'd asked him some questions about Ceena and Tonya's religious practices and he went off on a tangent and then wouldn't talk to me about it anymore except to say that it was an improper subject."

"So you went snooping."

I sighed and admitted, "So I went snooping.  And frankly wished I had not.  Have you heard of the Darkfriars?"

"That old story they used to tell us to keep us in line?  'If you don't behave the darkfriars will think you are one of them and they'll come take you away and we'll never see you again.'  Load of rubbish."

"Only in part, at least according to the manuscripts that Nat had brought home to read.  Do you know the history of the Days of Destruction?"

"What there is left of it."

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