Spy Glass Page 92

“How is your brother doing?” I asked.

She crinkled her forehead. “Which one?”

“Walker. Do you have another brother at the Keep?”

“No. My older brother also attended, but he graduated the season before I started. I guess Walker’s doing okay. He hasn’t written to say otherwise. Have you met him?”

I smiled, thinking about his attack. “Briefly.”

“Don’t mind him. He’s a hothead like all the male members of my family. They get all high and mighty about honor and family and duty.”

“Your uncle Hans seemed nice,” I said.

“They’re all nice as long as you play their game. Once you cross them, look out. They think it’s a personal assault.”

“Does your older brother work here, as well?”

“Sort of. My father calls him his secret weapon. He sends him off on missions and to strong-arm the people who owe my father money.”

Interesting. He would have enough money to purchase my blood. As for motive, he could want revenge. “What type of missions?”

“I don’t know and I don’t care. I never wanted to be involved in the family business, but…” Pazia drained her wine, then changed the subject. “So what’s new in the Keep’s glass shop?”

I filled her in on the new kiln and water system. As we talked, Nic and Eve entered the inn’s common room and flagged down Carleen. They rented a room and followed the innkeeper up the stairs. Eve had signaled me her room number, and after a few minutes I excused myself to meet up with them.

Nic bounced on the edge of the bed. “I think you have more pillows,” he said to Eve.

“She also has the best mattress in the house,” I said.

“It’s discrimination. All this pink is unfriendly to men.”

“At least she didn’t tell you to take a bath,” I offered, but he wrinkled his nose.

I tried to stifle a laugh. “She’s concerned about your health.”

“She’s concerned about her clean sheets,” Eve said.

He crossed his arms and continued to look sour. “Should I be listening for anything in particular at the bathhouse?”

“Good idea. I think there’s a bathhouse over by the miners’ village,” I said. “They’re basically barracks for the underground workers. Listen for any comments about black coal or black diamonds from the miners.”

“Do they know what’s going on?” Eve asked.

“They’re not supposed to, but…”

“It’s hard to keep something that big a secret,” Nic finished for me. “I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them smuggled a few stones out.”

“It would be difficult.” I explained about the search.

“But not impossible,” he said.

I recalled what I had been able to carry into Wirral with me. “You’re right. Nothing’s impossible.”

“We should make that our motto.” Nic surged to his feet.

“This is probably a waste of time,” I said. “So far, everything appears to be legitimate.”

“Nothing wrong with good news,” Eve said. “It would be refreshing.”

I felt a small twinge of guilt as I crept from the guesthouse. My actions were not exactly proper guest behavior. Oh well. A half-moon hung high in the sky, illuminating the buildings. Even at this late hour, armed guards patrolled the walkways and a dozen guarded the main house.

Avoiding Vasko’s residence—I needed more training to slip past so many watchers—I sneaked into a couple of the utilitarian structures. Conveyor belts from underground brought up crushed rock, dumping it into piles. Workers shoveled the rock into screens and sifted the material. Others watched.

Interesting how all the sorting was done inside. Even the wagons filled with rejected material were taken to another building. I found a couple of open mine shafts, but they were too small to be anything but air vents and they had protective walls around them.

From my nighttime explorations, I couldn’t find another way into or out of the mines. Before stopping, I circled the command center. Guards had been stationed next to the two entrances, but no one bothered to watch the sides of the building. With no windows on the first two floors, there wasn’t a reason to be concerned. Unless the thief’s teacher happened to be Valek, who delighted in climbing up sheer walls. And most people didn’t bother to lock shutters on windows above the fourth floor.

I kicked off my boots, tied the laces together and looped them around my neck. Using fingers, toes and a mortar crumbler invented by Valek, I scaled the side of the building. Bypassing the third and fourth floors, I found an open window on the top level and entered a dark office.

I poked around the offices on the fifth floor, read a few papers by moonlight and worked my way down. All the offices looked the same, and I found nothing out of the ordinary. Even Vasko’s spacious work area held nothing incriminating.

After searching a few more rooms, I decided to exit the building through Vasko’s office on the third floor. Unlocking the shutters, I pushed them wide. The light from the moon pierced the darkness and shone on the desk. Metal glinted from under the wooden top. I pulled the chair back and ran a hand along the wood. Encountering a small lock, I crawled under and used my picks. A small panel clicked open.

Inside the hidden drawer were stacks of files. I brought them out into the moonlight and skimmed the papers. About three files down, I hit the jackpot.

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