The boss slumps in a stuffed leather chair by the fire, one knee hooked over the arm. A fine crystal glass full of a concoction he calls Faerie Fire dangles from his long fingers. That’s a bad sign, because the potent liquor puts him in a darker mood when he’s been brooding, as he has ever since the Bonner case.
“I know what will cheer you up,” I say, setting the parcels down on another chair. “We have a new challenge.” The boss doesn’t like “cases,” “jobs,” or “missions.” He likes “problems,” “puzzles,” and “conundrums.”
He sighs and runs a hand through his black hair, thick and long as a horse’s tail. His dark violet eyes are halflidded, and I would almost swear his tapered, half-elven ears are drooping just before he leaps out of the chair.
“They’re here!” He tears open one of the parcels and sets aside a stack of journals. The second is a small crate that he fumbles over for a moment before letting me pry off the lid. He reaches in and from the packing straw withdraws a mask of painted mahogany. It is the face of a Mwangi spirit. This I know because of some of the boss’s previous acquisitions, all of them sent by the so-called Pathfinders who report their excursions to him.
Realizing I’ve lost his attention until he has revealed each of the new treasures and the accompanying reports, I take a seat. When he isn’t looking, I pour the remaining Faerie Fire into a potted Qadiran olive tree. As he reads the letters from his Pathfinders, I light one of those pungent Taldan cigars he detests. At first he is oblivious to the distraction, but then one of my smoke rings passes between his face and the vellum he is reading. He carefully refolds the letter and turns toward me, waving the fumes away until I stub out the cigar on the back of my hand and tuck the butt into a sleeve pocket.
“Out with it.”
I tell him Pavanna’s story.
“She believes her father was murdered despite the ruling of natural death.”
“Which it couldn’t have been,” I say, “because the cleric she hired to contact her father’s spirit can’t reach it.”
“That does not prove murder,” says Jeggare, “but it is an anomaly.”
“The real puzzle is why her brother would inherit the entire estate, after her father announced publicly that his will included a generous legacy for her.”
“It is not unusual for disinherited nobles to make such claims,” he says. “And the executor of Henderthane’s estate is reputable.”
“But there was no bad blood between father and daughter, or even between brother and sister,” I say. “It’s a mystery.”
“No,” says Jeggare. He spots his empty glass and shoots me a suspicious glance. “It is a tedious family squabble.”
“What about the mother?” I say. “In the event of his death, she was to have received an annuity. It is common knowledge.”
“Yes,” says Jeggare, “it is common, tawdry, and completely devoid of gravity.”
He is in a particularly foul mood, and I don’t want to make it worse, but more than that I don’t want to tell Pavanna that I can’t return her favor.
“I suppose you’re right, boss,” I say. “Elliendo said you’d never take up this one.”
Sometimes that ploy works, but not this time. With a bored sigh, Jeggare turns back to pluck at his Pathfinder reports.
“‘What could interest Jeggare about a disinherited opera singer?’ he said.” I think I capture Elliendo’s sneering tone, even if perfect mimicry is not foremost among my talents. While he hasn’t been to the opera for months, it is one of Jeggare’s cyclical passions. “‘To him, thedisgrace of Drulia Henderthane is far too sentimental an affair for him to risk his—’”
“Drulia Henderthane?” says the boss. “You neglected to mention that name.”
“She’s the mother.”
“I was there the night she performed.” His voice takes on a wistful tone, and for a moment I think I’m in for a story. Instead, he stares across the library, forgetting about the Pathfinder reports as his mind drifts back in time. I know better than to interrupt his reverie. It means he is reaching a decision. I thrust my thumbs between my middle fingers for luck. The boss is relentless in his pursuit of justice… when he feels like it.
“Very well,” he says, striding to the wall where he pulls the cord to summon his butler. “I shall send a message to House Henderthane. While we await a reply, wash yourself. You smell of sulfur and the sewers, and also of an expensive Andoren perfume.”
“It was strictly business, boss.”
“Once you are clean, fetch your livery.”
When I wear that ridiculous footman’s costume, I feel I should be grinding one of those dwarven music boxes and capering for coppers in the street.
“No arguments,” he says, and I know this is only the beginning of his revenge.