Saba Colbshallow stirred a spoonful of sugar into his tea as he bent his head over the Birmisia Gazette. The paper was dated the previous day—Octuary 15th. The headline read Velociraptor Bounty Announced. Saba didn’t give a fig about velociraptors or any bounty on them. It had been fourteen days, two weeks, and nothing—no message, no invitation, no visit. He scooped another spoonful of sugar and stirred his cup.
“Isn’t that enough sugar, dear?” asked his wife from across the table.
He glanced up at her with his eyes, his head still bent over the table. She blanched.
“If you want something sweet, we have some strawberry jam in the froredor,” said his mother. “You could have some on your scones.”
“No thank you, Mother.”
He flipped the paper over. There was nothing that interested him—council meetings, a fire, traffic, crime, building projects. At the bottom of the second page were three advertisements, side by side—ladies’ hats, Major Frisbee’s chutney, and Café Etta. He pushed his chair back and stood up, walking away from the table without a word and having not touched his sugary tea. No one spoke as he left the dining room, but when he was halfway across the kitchen, he heard a small voice calling after him.
Stopping, he turned around and looked at his daughter. She wore a red and white striped dress that made her look like a miniature version of her mother.
“What is it, DeeDee?”
“Are you angry at Nan?”
“No dear, I’m not angry with your nan.”
“Are you angry at me?”
With a sigh, he knelt down so that he could look her in the face.
“No, I’m not angry with you. You’re my good girl.”
“Mummy’s a good girl too.”
“Yes, Mummy is a good girl too. Are you going to your lessons across the street today?”
“Uh-huh. I’m going to learn to read today. Iolana has a book about a pig that doesn’t like to get dirty.”
“Well, that sounds a lovely book. When you’ve learned to read, you can read it to me.”
“You think you’ll have learned how to read in one day?”
She nodded her head earnestly.
“All right, then one of us will read to the other tonight. Now, Daddy has to go to work.”
The little girl nodded once again and then turned back to the dining room. Saba stood up, crossed the kitchen, and was out the door. He climbed into the car, which the lizzies had already started up and a minute later he was cruising down First Avenue.
When he got to work, he went directly up to his office without stopping to talk to the constables at the desk. He buried himself in paperwork and didn’t look up until his stomach growled. Checking the clock, he saw that it was almost 1:00. As he stepped out his door, he ran into Justice of the Peace Lon Fonstan.
“Good afternoon, Chief Inspector.”
“I wanted to speak to you.”
“What about?” wondered Saba with a frown.
“The benefit for the Police Constables Widows and Orphans Fund.”
“Yes, what about it?”
“I just wanted to let you know that we have Colonial Hall for Novuary sixth. It should be quite an event with you and your lovely wife hosting.”
“Yes, well.” Saba looked at the man for a moment. “All right then.”
Leaving the justice of the peace where he stood, Saba took the elevator downstairs. He started past the desk and just happened to look up into Eamon Shrubb’s face. Eamon paused amid filling out several forms in front of him. He wore his police sergeant’s uniform.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m filling out forms.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I’m afraid I don’t,” said Eamon.
“Why are you in uniform? And it’s the wrong rank.”
“No. Dot and I decided that being an inspector wasn’t right for me.”
“What the hell does Dot have against it? It’s better money and better hours.”
“Actually, it’s not Dot. It’s me. I don’t think I care to be an inspector. There’s nothing wrong with it, mind. It’s just not for me.”
“Fine,” said Saba. “Stay here and fill out your paperwork then.”
Stepping out the front door and down the walk, Saba made for his steam carriage parked, along with several dozen other vehicles, in the vacant lot next door. Just before he reached it, he stopped to think. He was hungry, but he couldn’t decide if he wanted to drive to the bakery or turn the other way around and walk to the beanery. He thought he might treat himself at Café Ada, but decided he didn’t want to waste the money. Finally, he turned and crossed the street, heading for the Gurrman Building.
Just outside the large stone edifice, which was the headquarters for the colonial government, was a fish and chips kiosk. Shortly after his arrival in Birmisia Colony, Landon Kordeshack had begun selling his battered fish and golden chips at the shipyard. He still plied his trade there, but had expanded the business. The eldest Kordeshack son Talen now ran a kiosk at the train station and younger son Taber ran one here in the center of the government district. Saba stepped into the queue and waited for his turn.
“Xiphactinus,” he said when he reached the front.
“Chips with that, Chief Inspector?”
“That has to be the stupidest question of the day.”