Author’s Note: For a complete list of links to prior installments visit Part VII.
Paul was then distracted by Henricks’s mouth falling agape.
“That is Banwick, he works for me. He’s a burglar. I don’t think he’s a member of the Burglar’s Union but this very well suggests that he is.” Henricks said this fastly. He was in shock.
“I cannot believe that one of my oldest employees would betray me.”
You are either naïve or completely blind to the fact that it makes sense. Perfect sense. He knows your strengths and weaknesses. And he likely knew we were coming. You see he had the opportunity and the foresight to plan for this. His motive remains unknown.
Paul broke the silence and looked at Henricks.
“Is he coming to work today?”
“Yes, he’ll be here in two hours.”
“Good. If he doesn’t come in we’ll go to his address. Have that ready for us.”
Estalwyn put her hand on his shoulder.
“You can go home if you want, Sir Henricks. We’ll stay here and keep watch over the place while you can rest some more. When you come in you can point us out to Banwick. From there we can conduct our interview. We’ll recover the wood and from there we’ll stop these burglars from ever being a problem for you again.”
She spoke with gentleness and conviction, but there was also a reinforced authority in her words. Henricks nodded.
“I’ll go home as you suggested. But I won’t be gone for long I’ll be back wearing a sword underneath my cloak if Banwick does not talk, I’ll make him talk.”
Rilles said nothing, Estalwyn nodded, Paul piped in.
“Friend Henricks, hopefully it does not come to that at all. You see we have the evidence. He cannot deny it. He can deal with us or he can deal with the city watch. You see they don’t know yet about the Telaspi Globe. This evidence can put Banwick away in a dungeon or a work camp for more than a year. And frankly, I’m sure he’s reasonable if he’s been one of your longest employees. Am I right?”
“I suppose so, Paul.”
Henricks grunted this and then turned away to walk out of the stable.
“Hopefully, you can take care of this problem. Otherwise, I cannot say I will have the patience to call for the guard. This betrayal has me seething with a boiling rage. I will point him out to you, but do not have me near him. As I will certainly be tempted to pin him with my sword to the wall.”
His walking out turned into storming out. One he exited four guards entered with wheelbarrows. A sergeant smiled and nodded at the three of them.
“Beggin your pardon. We’re here for the bodies. Don’t mind us.”
“No problem, Sirs.”
After Paul said this he turned to his two companions to discuss with them the next steps ahead.
“We won’t wait for Henricks to point him out. We’ve seen what we need to see. The moment he comes in, is the moment we seize him and pull him in for an interview. At this point we cannot have Henricks kill him. Our client will then have his reputation sullied for being a short tempered buffoon. Since he’s associated with us now our reputation will be sullied as well. We must not have that at all. Rilles, I know well you can grab him. We’ll take him to the lumber area by the office.”
Rilles simply nodded. He understood what to do without a doubt.
Paul turned to Estalwyn.
“Keep Henricks in the front part of his business away from the office. Let him know we’re working on something. Don’t tell him what.”
“I’ll let him know and inform him were doing maintenance on the control box. We’ll need privacy.”
She spoke with a charm in her voice.
“I like that. Good.”
“No problem. I’ll join you two afterwards in the office.”
“Good. He’ll need to see everything in action. Especially, your mirror. We’ve got everything we need to prove he was here. Now all that is left is getting him to confess.”
After Estalwyn said this Rilles started for the front employee entrance.
“I’ll set up in the shadows. When he arrives I’ll grab him and haul him back under the folds of my cloak.”
“We all know our jobs. Let’s get them done.”
As Paul said this, their job began. Paul waited in the office. Estalwyn was up front in the store, and Rilles waited by the employee entrance where if and when Banwick would enter he’d push him against the wall, cover him with the cloak and pull him out of sight to the office where the three of them would see to it that he confessed his acts against the store and Henricks. If he didn’t well, it was simple they’d take him over to the city guard where the dungeons awaited him and likely actual prison afterwards. The sentence would either have him working on a bireme galley or in a salt or diamond mine. Things did not look good for Banwick either way. But at least one way led to some sort of freedom.
Confession would be his ticket away from prison. He’d lose his job but he could always ply his trade in a different city.
The wait was not long at all. Within an hour and ten minutes, Banwick entered the shop. In seconds Rilles had pounced on Banwick. He did not struggle whatsoever. Nor did he make any whimper of defeat or exclaimed a protest. He knew it was over. Rilles dragged him back to the office area where Paul watched as Rilles forced him into a chair and removed the black sack he had put over his head. As he did so Paul shackled Banwick to the chair with iron manacles. Rilles replaced the loose sack with his paw-like hand with his claws under Banwick’s ear. Rilles then spoke in a soft, slow voice.
“You may not want to be here, but you are. You need to tell us exactly how the burglary happened. What you took and how much stuff you stole from your employer. You see we have the upper hand. We have an Elven Engineer-Mage with us along with our devices. We know exactly how to stop people like you. If you cooperate we won’t go to the city guard. If you don’t cooperate we will go to the city guard. And you make keep your job. Either way you need to comply with us if you expect to keep living in this city. Do you understand?”
He just nodded yes. That was not good enough for Rilles. The Houndsman took off his hood and clawed at Banwick’s shoulder, just grazing it.
That interjection was met with the claw just above his lip.
“You’ll have a worse time screaming next time if you don’t cooperate. Unlike the City Guard we play by our own rules. Now do you understand me?”
His response was shy and timid compared to Rilles’s show of force as he got the yes, Estalwyn arrived. Paul smiled.
“Good timing. Show our friend what the globes picked up. That may spur what he needs to tell us.”
Estalwyn activated the mirror-like screen adjacent to them. She positioned it in front of Banwick and the three of them watched his reactions as the burglars penetrated the defenses of the wagon shop. Finally he watched as they were slain by the razor plates of the security system. The fast blades tearing through the air could hardly be seen by Banwick as he was becoming shocked by the carnage the system had wreaked. The blades could be seen on the now dead bodies of the burglars. Banwick appeared more shocked as the lone survivor him approached the blessed wood.
He’s so guilty. Those were his troops, his apprentices likely. He’s probably the field trainer of the local Union Chapterhouse. We’ve got him nailed. His jaw’s not dropping. His expression is blank at the sight of himself pulling off his hood and revealing himself to the whole world. Not an ounce of shame.
“You can stop it now, Estalwyn.”
Paul looked at Banwick.
“Banwick, we need you to apologize to your boss and tell us everything now.”
“I’ll apologize but I really don’t know anything.”
Before Paul or Estalwyn could say a word, Rilles backhanded Banwick with his paw and used a little pit of claw to open up the man’s skin. Banwick grunted in pain. Rilles repeated the action on Banwick’s back. Staining Banwick’s clothes with light bleeding and ripping his tunic into shreds of wool.
Rilles spoke into Banwick’s ear.
“Cooperate. Or you’ll be done with this job or done for any future jobs in a dungeon. Lest you want to spend your life on a galley rowing too. As that’s what it looks like. We have all the evidence we need to ruin your life and damn your future. Confess.”
Banwick was in shock.
He’s hiding something.
“Please, Lords, and, milady. I did not participate in this act.”
Banwick spoke in a voice pained by shame and detained by shock. He was hiding something. His tone was almost incoherent. It could have been the blows from Rilles’s claws. Or it could just be the shock of Estalwyn’s devices.
Estalwyn replied to his denial in a gentle but firm tone.
“This equipment doesn’t lie. You must be. Maybe about something. Not yourself though. Explain yourself, please Banwick. You are hiding something. Have you an alibi?”
“They’ll kill me If I talk. They’re evil men.”
The Burglar’s Union is not shy about killing but they have to go through a ridiculous bureaucracy to sanction it.
Paul was too busy thinking this as Rilles clawed open the back of Banwick’s tunic. The damage dealt was the equivalent to a blow from a cat of nine tails whip. Rilles walked in front of Banwick and then ripped open the front of the tunic and left a series of massive gashes.
Banwick cried out in pain.
“You can’t do this to me. The City Guard will not allow this.”
Rilles struck another blow with his claw. This time more lighter and looked in the eyes of Banwick.
“Do I look like a guardsman to you?”
“No. You look like a talking dog.”
Rilles growled deeply and raised his claw up parallel to Banwick’s face. His claws could tear a human being’s face off.
Estalwyn spoke firmly to Rilles.
Estalwyn approached Banwick.
“We explained ourselves earlier, Banwick. We aren’t the city guards. We’re a private organization.”
“Mercenaries, Banwick.” Paul said this as he got closer as well.
“I am two hundred and ninety years old, Banwick. I’ve borne six children. I know a few things about humans as much as I do my own people. Frankly, I know you aren’t telling us the truth about anything because you are scared. I understand why you would be. The Burglar’s Union makes the Thieves Guild look like clumsy amateurs no better than an orc village’s slinger auxiliaries. I’ll be frank. I cannot stand dishonesty. I know how to treat liars. And I simply don’t have the time to anymore. The answer is simple these days. I let Rilles take care of it. Now for the last time, tell us the truth.”
Rilles loosed a low growl and bared all of his canines and raised his left claw. He spoke loudly to Banwick.
“Don’t want to get any infections in the dungeon before you go to sea do you?”
“All right. I’ll talk. I’ll talk.”
Banwick let out a sigh that was either one of relief, fatigue, or defeat.
The jury’s out.
“Banwick looked down at his chest. Grab my necklace and open it. There’s a clasp at the bottom.”
Estalwyn did so. Paul observed her closely as she did so.
A triptych necklace-locket.
Estalwyn opened it and told the gathered what she observed.
“A woman, likely your mother, you, and another picture of you. Or is that a twin brother?”
“Yes, it is.”
Okay. So that explains it.
Paul broke his silence and took over.
“His name, occupation, and whereabouts?”
Banwick sighed again. Estalwyn was suspecting him of being scared. Scared of them and scared of the Burglar’s Union if they were to know of his betrayal.
“He is a Foreman for the Burglar’s Union. He’s been in the Union for 16 years. He is supervising some kind of project with the wood. I’m unsure of what it is. They don’t work in the local chapterhouse. It is secret. I used to be a member of the Union. I quit though. I married a woman and we have young daughter. If I didn’t cooperate they would leak my past to the City Guard and I’d lose all that I love. Forgive me.”
“Your repentance is honorable. But that is not what we are looking for. Where did they take the lumber and it’s spirit?”
The moment of truth. Hopefully he talks.
“I don’t know where they tracked the lumber but I do know the City Guard knows my brother’s movements. He’s a frequent flyer to the Port House Tavern near the Nautical Quarter of Red Spire. You may be able to find him there tonight or at least find someone who does.”
“Good. Now, you are no longer our problem.”
Paul bellowed for George Henricks. In a single minute he arrived. Henricks appeared flabbergasted at the sight of Banwick. Rilles had covered his head with his cloak, although he himself doubted if Henricks would have minded anything. He had done this more for the sake of other employees following the call from Paul.
Paul pointed to Banwick.
“This is a confederate of the Burglar’s Union. His story likely checks out, he can explain it to you. We’re off to catch the thief and recover your assets as the city guard will be to slow to do anything. You can decide this man’s fate.
“Very well, Paul. Good hunting.”
The hunt has only begun. This will be a long one.