“What are you on about now, Loana?” asked Saba Colbshallow.
“You, discussing those horrible books.”
“Well at least I didn’t bring up Sable Agria. Why don’t you go on up to your room before you get yourself any more worked up than you are already?”
Saba’s mother had turned in an hour earlier, and the remainder of the family had sat quietly listening to the mechanical music box as DeeDee’s eyes slowly glazed over. Now she was asleep in her father’s arms.
“Aren’t you coming up?”
“Yes, I’ll be along shortly. I just want to listen to this song one more time.”
Loana gave a curt nod before turning and starting up the stairs. Saba watched her enormous bustle, sway from left to right as she negotiated the steps. As soon as she was out of eyesight, he raised his hand and snapped his fingers. Risty, their lizzie butler, quickly slipped a cold bottle of Billingbow’s into his hand, the cork already removed. Then he rewound the music box and placed the needle back at the start of the cylinder. Saba finished his soda water just as the music finished, and Risty was there to take the bottle away. Rising to his feet, only difficult because of the added weight of his daughter, Saba headed for the stairs. DeeDee had her arms around his neck and her legs wrapped around his waist. Placing a hand under her bottom, he stepped slowly upward.
Sandy, the nurse lizzie, was there to change DeeDee into her night clothes when Saba set her on her bed. He kissed her on the forehead and rounded the corner to his own room. Slipping into his nightshirt, he slid beneath the cool sheets, not even glancing at the door to his wife’s adjoining room.
Saba left early the next morning, before anyone in his family was stirring, including his mother. Even the five-story police station was quiet. The night shift was still on duty, and it would be another hour before the morning shift arrived. The desk sergeant, Corman, leaned against the counter, half asleep. A PC, Loewy, was taking notes from two women, apparently working girls, seated on the bench in the lobby. He gave a sloppy salute as Saba passed him on the way to the elevator. Throwing the lever, Saba sent the elevator car upwards to the second floor.
The chief inspector’s office was a large, beautifully paneled room with several huge windows along the outside wall. Another wall, this one behind the desk, was covered with photographs of Saba with various city officials at groundbreaking ceremonies and the like. Walking around the large desk, he sat down on the plush leather chair. Sitting on the right corner of the otherwise mostly clear wooden surface was a stack of folders. Each held the case files for an unfinished investigation. He pulled the top one from the stack and opened it, skimming the summary.
Nothing new had been discovered about the bomb that had been set off at the shipyard. Constables had found and questioned the lizzie that had placed it. He couldn’t identify the human that had hired him. To most of the lizzies, the humans were just as hard to tell apart as the lizzies were to most humans. Pieces of the bomb had been recovered, but they had led to nothing. All they had to go on was Wizard Bell’s description of a man about forty, with dark hair, whose name began with an “s” sound.
A knock at the door was quickly followed by it opening and Wizard Bell sticking his head inside.
“Are you busy, Chief Inspector?”
“Come in,” said Saba. “Now I know you’re a wizard, Bell. I was just thinking about you and here you are.”
“Fortunate happenstance,” replied the wizard, closing the door and starting across the room.
Bell wasn’t wearing his helmet and his uniform seemed, if anything, even looser than the last time that Saba had seen him. He sat down in one of the two chairs in front of the desk.
“I was just going over the case file for the bombing,” said Saba.
“Nothing new on that front.”
“Do you think our Mr. S managed to get out of the colony? Maybe he was on his way before the blast.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Have you learned anything else with your magic?”
“I have scried several times but haven’t been able to find out anything more,” said the wizard. “It’s more of a feeling that I have. I think he’s still here in Port Dechantagne.”
“I just hope we can find him before anyone else gets killed.”
Bell nodded his agreement.
“Have you eaten?”
“This year. You look thin.”
“I’ve lost a bit of weight. It’s the magic. It puts me off my meals.”
“What would you say to a bit of breakfast now.”
“I suppose that would be all right.”
Stepping around the desk and walking to the door, Saba grabbed his coat and hat from the rack where they had been hanging for several days. He usually wanted them on the way to work this time of year, but didn’t need them in the afternoon when he went home, and so often forgot to take them. Bell followed as they travelled the length of the hallway and stepped into the elevator. At the bottom of the stairs they ran into Eamon Shrubb.
“We’re going to breakfast,” said Saba. “Interested?”
“I’m just coming on. I’ve got to take the desk.”
“Get Wilkes to take it,” said Saba.
“Well, if it’s an order.”