A few minutes later, Shrubb met the other two men outside the front door of the station. They walked down the cement sidewalk to the beanery at the end of the block. There were four eating establishments in Port Dechantagne called beaneries. This one was the original. A single square building served as kitchen, diners eating out front on long wooden tables beneath a large colorful awning. As they took their seats, Bell next to him, and Eamon across, Saba held up three fingers to the lizzie who approached and set down three cups of steaming tea. With a quick nod, the reptilian headed back toward the rear of the restaurant.
“Don’t you usually have breakfast at home?” Eamon asked Saba.
“I was out the door early this morning. How about you?”
“I’ve been leaving before breakfast lately.”
“Your shift isn’t that early, is it?”
“Well, along with taking care of our three boys, Dot’s been watching her sister’s three kids. It tires her out, so she’s been sleeping in.”
“It doesn’t look like you’re going to waste away,” said Saba, looking him up and down. “Unlike our friend Bell here.”
Bell smiled weakly. Compared to Eamon, he did indeed look famished. Though not fat, the police sergeant was a very big man, with broad shoulders and a heavy chest. The wizard was not only thin; he hunkered down like a lizzie, trying to curl up for warmth in his coat. His gaze shifted from Saba to Eamon and back.
“I was just telling the chief inspector that I usually can’t eat on those days I perform my art. Perhaps I need to make more of an effort to take an early breakfast.”
“I’m sorry we haven’t had much of a chance to get to know one another,” said Saba. “I’ve had Wizard Cameron over to the house several times, but he’s been with us longer than either you or Wizard Winton.”
“Yes, I’m not much for social gatherings,” said Bell.
“It would be nice to meet a few people though, eh?” said Eamon. “It’s hard being in a new place and all.”
The lizzie returned with three large platters filled with food, setting them before each of the three men. Though not a place of fine dining, the beanery was well known as somewhere that a man could find a full fry-up—bacon, sausages, black pudding, white pudding, three fried eggs, grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, baked beans, and soldiers. This morning, the tomatoes had been replaced with fried onions, the white pudding had been replaced with potato cakes, and since this was Birmisia, the eggs were from either buitreraptor or mahakala nests. All of the portions were large. Eamon immediately tucked in. Bell picked up his fork and poked at the eggs before finally taking a few bites of potato cake.
“The bacon’s good,” said Saba, waving a piece in his direction. “It’s pork. I know the eggs take getting used to.”
The wizard tried a thick slice of bacon and nodded. “To be honest, I was never too fond of eggs in the first place. I could never eat them if they hadn’t been cooked through.”
“Put them on Eamon’s plate. You’ll never see them again.”
Eamon reached over with his fork and removed the offending ovum. “They are a bit gamey, but you get used to them. So what’s your Kafirite name, Bell, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“It’s um… Obed.”
“You haven’t been here long. I’m guessing you’re from Regencia.”
“No, I’m from Merseyshire.”
“All sort of the same though, isn’t it? Northwesterners, eh?”
“Let the man eat his breakfast,” said Saba.
Bell flashed him a thin-lipped smile, but continued to pick at his food.
“The black pudding is good,” said Saba. “Lots of iron, they say.”
“He knows that already,” said Eamon. “Merseyshire boys had to have been raised on black pudding.”
“You might as well ask me what you want to know,” said Bell, hunkering down a bit more, even though it has slightly warmer than when they had arrived.
“Don’t mind Eamon,” said Saba. “He’s just being friendly.”
“Not him. You. You brought me here to interrogate me. You just asked the sergeant along as a distraction. You knew he’d ask questions and you could gather information without seeming to try.” He looked up at Saba with weary eyes. “It’s a common technique.”
“You learned magic at Académie Argei?”
“No, I didn’t matriculate at Argei. I started my studies at Yoel, but I left after two years.”
“Yoel? That’s a Zaeri school, isn’t it?” asked Saba. “You’re not a Zaeri, are you?”
“My grandmother is, on my father’s side. That was enough to get me in. I was a poor student and lost my sponsorship, so I became an apprentice of Wizard Argol.”
“You must have done well, obviously you are accomplished.”
“Working with Wizard Argol was good for me. He was a great man.”
“You’re more accomplished than either Cameron or Winton. They’re both journeyman wizards.”
“We’re all journeymen wizards. Cameron is fourth level and Winton a third.”
“I’m registered as a fourth level, but I’ve improved. I think I could test out as a master.”
Saba looked over at Eamon, who had been shoveling food into his mouth during the exchange. He speared one of his own sausages on the point of his knife and took a bite. Bell was still looking across at him with hooded eyes.
“So why didn’t you go to work for the war department?” Saba asked.
“I thought there were better opportunities here.”
“What kind of opportunities?”
Bell leaned forward a bit. “What do you mean?”
“Just what kind of opportunities were you looking for?”
Bell stared at Saba, a frown forming on his face.
“Oh, that’s what this is about,” said Eamon.
“Quiet you,” said Saba.
“What is it about?” asked Bell.
“You’re here for the magical opportunities,” said Saba, leaning in to look Bell in the face. “You wouldn’t be the first wizard that thought he could leach magical energy from a powerful sorceress.”
“I… no… I…”
“You see mate,” said Eamon, between bites of toast. “The chief inspector here is the self-appointed guardian of the important women in the colony—kind of their champion you might say. He’d beat you to death and drop you in the bay for insulting the governor. I’d hate to see what he’d do if you threatened the sorceress.”