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04 July 2017 @ 06:20 am
_A Little Mystery_ part 5  
 
Chapter Four


Scar took one look at the huddled misery, and veered off to pick up a couple of sodas.

Flopped down in the chair beside hers and held one out. "You look like you need something."

"Oh . . . yes." She took a gulp. "Oh, I needed that. It's just . . . Why me?"

"Eh, we're trained to be over-protective. Don't sweat it. Your problem is just that when Rael was afraid they might need that antidote, she knew your number. But we found her lost card thing, so it doesn't matter any more."

"Oh, oh good. She's, like, my hero, you know? I hated to think she could possibly . . . and I didn't know what to say . . . if I said the wrong thing and it made it worse for her, but I'm no good at all at lying, and I did know what to lie about any way and . . . why are you laughing?"

"Look, we all know Rael. We're her punching bags in the dojo, you know? We didn't really suspect her, but we have to check everyone and everything by the numbers when anything like this happens. See, the reason we over reacted is . . . "

She laughed at his story—barely embellished—about their bet and boggled at the results. "Three? Only three?"

"Well, she concentrated elsewhere. She's got a Masters in Magical Techniques, and like I said, she beats us all up regularly. Poison just aren't her thing. But in discussing the poison she lost, the symptoms were mentioned."

Her eyes widened. "Did the director have those symptoms . . . diarrhea and dehydration!" her voice squeaked.

"Yeah, so we all freaked out. And Rael started calling all the princesses she knows in the building trying to locate the antidote . . . and that's how you got pulled into the whole mess. But obviously, since you had your poison, and now we've found Rael's, so once they calm down a bit more, you can get back to work . . . " He glanced at his watch. "Or head home. You have an apartment down town?"

"Oh, no. I share an apartment with three other women . . . it's . . . cheap. That's why I bring everything with me, or keep it in my locker. Things go missing, at home."

"Oh, sounds worse than the barracks." He glanced toward the bustle down the hall. "Do you know Peic? She's probably having a bad day too, but I'm afraid she won't get any sympathy. We all call her Pique."

Bunny's eyes rounded again. "Oh! She makes us all call her Epic. She thinks she's the Number Two Princess in the Government and we all ought to , I dunno, defer to her or something. We call her Peck, down in the female employees' break room. Because she pecks away at everyone's self esteem. And she's so . . . stupid."

Scar wheezed. "Peck . . . oh that's perfect. She doesn't seem very . . . competent. How the heck did she get assigned to a Presidential Director?"

Bunny sat up and looked around for listeners, then dropped her voice. "Because no one thought the president would win, so his obvious choice of a director didn't need a princess. And when he did, they figured he'd only last one term. Peck was put there to terminate Urfa, if he turned out to be really bad for the Empire. They didn't realize they needed anyone with brains and training in much of anything but fetching coffee." She ducked her head. "Not that she's that bad, she used to teach, at the School. She thought she was taking a five year, at the most, break. And then she go back with all this glory—the Presidential Director's Princess—or better yet, suspected of killing him for the good of the Empire. Oh hey, that's all just gossip! Not, not . . . !"

"Oh, I know. Scary to think back, now. Did you take any of her classes?"

A glum nod. "She taught etiquette and, umm, manipulation." Then a thin smirk broke through. "The gossip here is that she's been completely unable to manipulate the director."

Scar's thoughts bounced from guilt that not only were they being overheard, they were being recorded, to horror that some of the girl's gossip might be accurate. "Hmm, well, I'd much rather sit here and talk to you, but maybe I should go talk to her now. Would you like another soda? Maybe I should get one for her . . . " he had no trouble sounding dubious.

"Oh no! She only drinks tea! From her own china cup! With her favorite blend!"

He grinned. "Something tells me that's a quote. I'll take her some hot water. Soda for you?"

"Yes please . . . and thank you for being so nice of a questioner."

No one came onto his earbud to tell him to do otherwise so he grinned, and headed for the cafeteria.

***

"Miss, er, Princess Peic, er, Epic? Sorry. They said you preferred to make your own tea, so I brought . . . well, it's not boiling any more, but . . . " He ignore the two men keeping an eye on her as a he held out the insulated thermos. "Hot water."

The director's princess looked a very attractive thirty, which meant she was probably pushing a hundred. She sniffed a bit at his diffident approach.
"Put it there, young man. Very thoughtful of you. Oh do sit down, I realize you're the next questioner."

"Thank you, Ma'am."

Her brows rose.

"I mean, Princess."

"Humph! I thought the Black Horse Guards were around Princesses often enough to know how to address them."

Scar shifted uncomfortably. "We mostly just get beat up by them."

That got a thin smile.

He looked around her little office while she pulled out a china cup and saucer. A tea bag from a sealed container. High quality reproductions of famous paintings. The Arrival. The Defense of Kolkutta. "Do the Professors at the Princess School go to Makkah very often?"

She glanced at the art. "We celebrate the One everyday, and feel the whispering of the One at the edges of our minds."

"You must miss it. Not," he added hastily, "that Paris isn't an exciting place to live. But . . . When I was in college, I loved the . . . feeling of being around the best and brightest, the background of deep complex thought and  . . . and . . . elevated consciousness."

She eyed him, then poured hot water.

"Very well put. Yes, that sense of a purpose above mundane cares. I do miss it." her brows came together and lowered. "You didn't stay, did you?"

Scar ducked his head. "No. My sense of adventure got the better of me, and I joined the Army. So here I am, pacing the halls, watching other people doing important things."

He glanced guiltily over his shoulder at the door to the meeting room. "I truly respect the director."

She eyed the door. Shrugged. "He's doing a much better job than we'd ever expected. He's a major prop in the president's peace agenda." She dropped her dripping teabag in the trash, shrugged again. "I never did like him. Never warmed up to him." A careful sip and nod of approval.

"Does the One like him?"

And Onca's voice in his ear bud. "Go ahead, ask her."

"Did the One order you to kill him?"

She stiffened in offense, set her cup down with a clink. "The One approves of him!" Outraged offense in her growl. "And I don't have to sit here being treated like a criminal!"

She stood up, picked up her cup, and looked around, sniffed and dumped the tea all over the desk. Scar jumped back to avoid the flood.

The princess opened a drawer and pulled out a small case and a scarf. Wrapped the cup and saucer carefully and placed them in the case. Closed it and walked out
.
Scar looked from the dripping mess to the guards hustling after the princess.

"That didn't go nearly so well."

A chuckle from his ear bud. "Depends on what we wanted to know. She was so pissed at the One's approval that I think we can relax about it being sanctioned. Can't rule out a personal attack, but that's not nearly as scary."

Onca walked in from the hallway as he finished speaking . . . comm to his ear, listening to something else  . . .

He grinned, then and looked over at the mess on the desk. "Eppa's at the hospital. he says four other people from that Press luncheon are sick, and they've called around and found plenty of other mild cases, and the Health department is all over the caterers. Looks like it's . . .  Well, just the usual hazards of a political diet."

Maids hustled in and Scar picked up the soaked papers that were on the desk.  Stamped top secret. "Guess we'd better dispose of these properly. Are you letting her go?"

"Yes, but followed. Should be interesting to see what she does, when she gets over her pique." Onca grinned. "Take that down to the incinerator. Probably nothing, she just liked to look important and in the know."

"Oh, and send your new buddy home, then you're off duty. See you tomorrow for a wrap up."

"Yes, sir." Scar headed down the hallway.

Bunny was staring the other way, turned back to look at him. "She looked, you know, really angry."

"Yeah. Oh well. Umm, you're free to leave, but I was wondering if you'd like to catch dinner . . . somewhere . . . "

Did I actually just say that?

She bounced out of her chair. "Sure!"

It worked? Holy One!

"I, umm, just need to take this down to the incinerator . . . Do you like Chinese?"




Epilogue


Wsca suppressed a squirm. "I had no idea she'd quit. Sorry, sir."

"Ha! If I'd known that was all it took, I'd have gotten suspiciously sick years ago. There simply isn't anyone they could send who'd be worse. And if I install an actual executive secretary before someone shows . . . up . . . "

Wsca turned to followed the director's gaze.

Tall, elegant, long, long black hair.

Meeting the director's gaze. "I am Puur, assigned by the One. Did you say you needed a secretary?"

 
 
 
muirecanmuirecan on July 4th, 2017 04:47 pm (UTC)
Oh my. Why do I have the image of a long sleek black cat now.
James ResoldierJames Resoldier on July 5th, 2017 09:35 pm (UTC)
Poison just aren't her thing. <-- should be "Poisons" - plural.

Really easy to miss when proofreading, unless you're reading it for the first time.