Lord Dechantagne walked through the doors of the new bookstore, followed by Walworth Partridge. What they found inside was a veritable wonderland for bibliophiles of every stripe. It was as bigger than any store in the colony with the possible exception of some of the larger purveyors of dry goods and sundries. More than a dozen tall counters were filled to capacity with books of all varieties. At least half that many tables were dispersed among the shelves with stacked displays of new editions.
Half a dozen people called to him, and we waved back, smiling.
Within a few minutes he had found a copy of his cousin’s new novel. He scanned the blurb, but didn’t find anything about her he didn’t already know, and didn’t find out anything about the book that particularly made him want to read it.
“Lord Dechantagne, how lovely to see you in our store,” said Sherree McCoort, sliding up next to him.
“You’ve certainly gone all out. This has to be the preeminent bookstore in the world.”
“Especially now that you’re here,” she gushed.
“I see you have a good selection.”
“The best,” she agreed.
“Good. I would like to purchase a collection of books.”
“What genre were you interested in, My Lord.”
“Oh, that doesn’t matter. I want one hundred books. They must all be recent printings of editions from the last decade or so, have well-constructed leather covers, and the print on the spines should be clear and legible.”
“That’s it? You don’t care what they’re about?”
“Well, they should be good books,” he said. “But their primary purpose is to fill in some holes in our library shelves. Take Walworth with you and see what you can gather together.”
Augie turned around to find Sherree’s husband.
“Mr. McCoort, what a pleasure to see you up and around. No lingering effects?”
“I’ve fully recovered, thank you. I have a young man here with a um…difficult question—nothing scandalous, I assure you. It’s just that he needs some advice and I could think of no one better to offer it to him. If you wouldn’t mind, he’s seated at the tete-à-tete along the back wall.”
“All right,” said Augie walking to the area indicated.
A heavyset blonde man, a few years older than himself, sat nervously fidgeting with a pocket watch. When the young lord approached, he jumped to his feet.
“I know you,” said Augie. “Your Mr. Buttermore’s son.”
“Yes, sir. Easton Buttermore.
“Let’s sit and you can explain to me your problem. I can’t promise I have all the answers, but I am happy to listen.”
“It’s about this watch,” said Buttermore.
“It looks very fine and expensive.”
“It was a gift, from Senta.”
“Your girlfriend?” Augie asked. There were probably, at that moment, about two hundred young women and girls in Port Dechantagne with that famous first name.
“No. The, um, Drache Girl.”
“Really?” Lord Dechantagne suddenly sat up straight in his chair. “I have to tell you I have no way at all of determining what magic might be on it.”
“No, no. It’s not that. It’s the inscription.”
He slid the watch across the table. Augie hesitated only a moment before picking it up and turning it over in his hands. It was antique and beautifully decorated on front and back. He flipped the lid open. The watch face was a work of ultimate craftsmanship, obviously a precision timepiece. There was a small separate seconds dial on the right, and the phases of the moon on the left. Turning it around, he read the engraved message. To Grand Master Wizard Cavendish from Lord Callingham on behalf of a grateful empire.
“What do you think, My Lord?”
“I think on the one hand you have a very, very fine watch—better than mine, I can tell you that. On the other hand this rather makes you an accessory after the fact to murder.”
“Mother of Kafira,” gasped Buttermore, his lip starting to sweat.
“I suppose the first question is: do you want to keep it or sell it. If it’s the latter, I would gladly purchase it from you for oh… let’s say five thousand marks.”
“That’s too generous, My Lord. But, um… some people get upset with you when you give away a gift… and I don’t ever, I mean ever, want her upset with me.”
“Well, that is good thinking,” agreed Augie. “I’ll tell you what. Do you know Yulia’s Fine Jewelry over in Zaeritown?”
“Take the watch there. Tell Mr. Yulia that I sent you, and that you want the inscription removed completely. If you want a new inscription, perhaps with your name, have him do it. He’s very good. And have him charge it all to my account.”
“But… but why, My Lord?”
“Because we’re friends. Isn’t that enough? We are friends, aren’t we, Mr. Buttermore?”
“Excellent. Now be on your way. I would have that done sooner rather than later, if I were you.”
“Thank you, sir.” Buttermore got up and hurried from the bookstore.
Augie leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head, as he waited for Walworth and Mrs. McCoort to finish his shopping.