Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter Twenty



Dr. Cummins wasn't in.  He'd been called to a difficult birth by a local midwife.  I couldn't shake the feeling that time was running out.

The Sheriff asked, "Do you trust me?"

Startled I asked, "I beg your pardon?"

"Do you trust me to do my job?"

"I suppose I must.  I came to you didn't I?"

"Well that's something I suppose.  Go to your meeting with James and I'll nose around and then speak with John.  Perhaps a few more facts and he'll be able to make heads or tails of your concerns."

I nodded and accepted that I was a poor detective as my nerves were shot.  "Just don't leave it for long.  Please."

"I won't," he said patting my shoulder.

I tried to refocus but was still somewhat distracted by the time I got to the Chancellor's suite of rooms.  A woman let me in after my knock and escorted me to what was once called the Green Room.  It had to do with the original purpose of the structure that eventually became Linderhall.  Its history however escaped my memory as I was trying to focus on what was at hand.

"Widow Linder, thank you for joining us.  Let me introduce my wife.  Tosha, this is the Widow Linder."

I bowed and said, "How do you do?"

Barely above a whisper I heard, "Very well thank you.  Won't you please sit down?  I already have the cake ready.  I hope that's all right."

I looked into her worried eyes and smiled.  She reminded me a bit of Rom's sister Beth before she left to be married.  They were both fairy story pale and blonde with perfectly arched brows and pink lips.  She looked like a porcelain doll.

I sampled the cake and it was delicious.  "This is wonderful.  Perfectly moist but not at all squishy ... this is the way a real cake should be."

Her cheeks became a dusky rose and I received a small smile as well.  I had been right, she'd baked it herself.

We made small talk and I did manage to get her to give her opinion on needlework around the Hall.  "I hate to ask not knowing what responsibilities you already have but, would you mind looking around and seeing if there is any serious repair work that needs to be ordered?  I'm trying to prepare schedules for the winter months and that is one thing I know less of than I should."

She glanced at me in surprise and then glanced at the Chancellor who in turn seemed surprised at her obvious happiness at the idea.  "Tosha's very gifted in needlework," he told me.  "Quite well-known for it in fact."

"Surely not," she whispered.

"Surely yes," I said.  "At least so far as the fact that Mizz Marta pointed it out to me in particular and she's not one to praise without there being reason to."

In the end she agreed to have a look around and to actually save me the trouble of making a supply list as well.  I told her, "You're a saint.  That's all there is to it."

She had a pleasing laugh and I was happy that she went to her chambers with a smile while her husband and his scribe stayed to discuss other things with me.

When she had left the Chancellor looked at me and said, "Thank you."

"For what?"

"Tosha misses her family a great deal but they tend to overshadow her when we visit, especially her sisters.  She was worried ... well, she worried for no reason."

"None at all.  Though you may not think as kindly of me when we begin discussing these other cursed lists I hold in my hand."

And with that we were off and running.  The Chancellor surprised me.  He wasn't just an empty shirt with a title, he really knew what he spoke of.

After about an hour the Chancellor leaned back and said, "My father had desired the change from goods to coin in order to build the Hall's coffers back up.  The pomp and circumstance of his predecessor's funeral drained quite a bit off.  We've also found ... gaps ... in the assets where there should be none.  I've been able to find record where an asset came in but not where the asset went out ... and yet there is no corresponding asset in the vaults.  And he also spent an extraordinary amount on his 'medicine'."

I knew the subterfuge was for the benefit of the scribe since apparently the actual content of the medicine was not common knowledge.

He said, "Let me speak with The Linder.  This might actually be a bargaining chip he can use with the towns.  We'll offer them the option of paying their bills, at least in part, with goods."

I nodded.  "I leave that to you.  I'm just the messenger.  However, we have several serious shortages that must be looked at starting with seed for the Spring crops.  Mr. Tosh said he had mentioned it."

"Indeed he had.  He ..."

The door banged open and the Sheriff stormed in.  "John's been attacked."

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