Zeah Korlann watched as Miss Dechantagne spoke to the policeman. If he had come home covered in blood, and then called the policeman to tell him that he had just shot two men in an alley, he would be sitting in the deepest darkest cell in Ravendeep by now. Miss Dechantagne on the other hand, took a careful sip of her tea, keeping her pinky straight, from a teacup that matched her dressing gown, as she told the blue-clad officer of her “adventure.” She then told him about how she had driven herself home and taken a long hot bath, after ordering her steam carriage cleaned and her clothing disposed of. Maybe the key was not being nervous. Policemen were used to dealing with guilty, twitchy, little people. Miss Dechantagne never felt guilty about anything, she never twitched, and she was most definitely not one of the little people. Then again, the policeman probably wasn’t listening to a word she said. She sat there with her luxurious auburn hair hanging loosely about her shoulders, her skin the very picture of porcelain perfection, her lips painted luscious red, and those unusual aquamarine eyes. And she was wearing what? Certainly not a bustle or a corset, just yard after yard of violet and silver silk dressing gown, from her neck to the floor. Maybe the key was that, as far as the policemen knew, there were no underclothes at all under that dressing gown.
“Normally in these situations,” said the policeman, “we would bring the journeyman wizard from Mernham Yard to cast a truth spell, but I really don’t see the need. Everything seems to be straight-forward enough.”
“Thank you officer,” said Miss Dechantagne. “You have been most considerate.”
“My pleasure, Miss.”
“Would you please leave your name and address with my man before you leave? I would like to send you a thank-you gift for your kindness in this trying time.”
“That won’t be necessary, Miss,” said the policeman, clicking his heels and bowing before he left, but he gave his name and address to Zeah anyway, revealing the true key to living an existence free from police trouble. The officer would receive a gift basket filled with fresh fruit, expensive jams and jellies, canned kippers, loaves of rosemary and garlic bread, some very nice cheese, a sausage, and four or five hundred one mark banknotes.
When the head butler had closed the front door behind the policeman, he turned on a heel and walked back into the parlor. Miss Dechantagne already seemed to have forgotten that she had been dealing with police business. She continued to sip her tea, but now she did so while reading the latest issue of Brysin’s Weekly Ladies’ Journal. Yuah entered carrying a small plate with three carefully arranged peppermint candies upon it. She gave Zeah a quick wink. It was just like the girl to get cheeky on her birthday.
“Are you ready to go about your duties for the day, Zeah?” asked Miss Dechantagne.
“A little birdie has reminded me that it is your daughter’s birthday,” said Miss Dechantagne, biting into one of the peppermints candies. “I do hope you have plans to celebrate it.”
“The staff will be presenting her with a cake at dinner,” said Zeah.
“Excellent,” said Miss Dechantagne, then turning to Yuah. “Take the rest of the evening off. I shan’t need you.”
“Very good, Miss,” said Yuah.
“Birthdays are important,” said Miss Dechantagne. “They come only once every three hundred seventy-five days.”
“Yes, Miss,” said Yuah, and exited the room.
“Do you have a gift for her?” the lady asked the head butler.
“I’m picking up a scarf for her today.”
“Excellent. Pick up something appropriate from my brothers and me. Charge it to my account.”
“I’m sorry to ask you to make an additional stop today, Zeah. I had planned on stopping by the docks this afternoon to consult with Captain Gurrman on how much space still remains in the cargo hold and what other equipment that we might need. Unfortunately, my ‘adventure’ pushed those plans completely out of my mind. I need you, after you have completed your other duties, to stop at the docks and complete this mission in my stead. I trust this will not make you late for your daughter’s birthday party.”
“I’m sure it will be fine, Miss,” he said. He well knew that taking a side trip to the docks, in addition to everything else he had to do, would make him miss any birthday celebrations entirely. What he couldn’t figure out was whether Miss Dechantagne didn’t understand the constraints of time on his schedule, or did understand and simply didn’t care.
Zeah left the house on foot. Anyone else might have called the abode a mansion, or a manse, or possibly even a palace, but Miss Dechantagne called it a house, and so it was a house. He walked with the brisk pace of a much younger man. He could have taken the steam carriage if he had wanted. Miss Dechantagne would have allowed it without a second thought. He had her complete confidence, as his family had held the complete confidence of her family for five generations. But he had never learned to drive, and he was too old to learn now. It didn’t matter. With the breadth of the horse-drawn trolley system in the great city, under normal conditions, he didn’t have to have to walk very far. Going to the docks in the evening would complicate things of course. He had carefully planned out his journey in his mind, to minimize his travel time and allow him the efficiency that always gave him comfort. He would follow that plan to the exact step. The first stop had to be the bank, and so he traveled due west.