Getting back on track, Tanya hasn't been found yet:
"Or water. It doesn't look like anyone ever used it for anything." Keiq held her light up and looked at the arches. "This is what they ought to have used as a ballroom."
"Yeah. Plaster over the concrete, flooring, good lighting . . . I don't know about the acoustics, though."
Keiq laughed, stopped at the echoes. "Yes. It would need absorptive surfacing."
Ice nodded. "Let's take another look at that formerly very fancy bathroom. Then I need to think about the windows."
Apart from a few holes in the floor and the steps up into and down into what had once been a bath that could have held Mikel and all three of his older wives . . . none of the records actually mentioned a divorce . . . maybe Tanya was the junior of four wives? From the holes in the wall, it must have also been a shower. With solid gold fixtures. Amazing what people do when they have money. He grinned. Like buying an old wreck of a house?
"Right. The toilet was in a little closet there. Sink along here. Bath taking up the whole end there . . ." Ice poked at the back wall. "It just looks--and feels--like solid concrete."
Keiq snickered and stepped over what was probably the remains of wall board and into the toilet closet. She put out a hand and pushed it through the illusion.
Ice snorted. "Is that any place to put a secret entrance?"
Keiq felt carefully. "Still full of metal stuff." She pulled her hand out and dusted off rust. "How about upstairs?"
Upstairs, another illusion around small room he'd dismissed as a closet.
He picked up a pole he hadn't used yet and poked carefully. The rusty rubbish wasn't resting on a floor, but at least there wasn't much of it. He looked up, at the bottom side of the tiled roof. "I wonder what the original roof looked like? There are steel-in-concrete cross beams every few meters. Surely he didn't remove a concrete roof?"
"I'll bet he did." Keiq grinned. "There's a couple of references to high ceilings in the women's and children's quarters, and high windows for ventilation and air flow."
Ice nodded. "There at the end, which I had to reinforce, since the top part is wood. Added when they put on the new roof. I'm going to guess he had a lot of money, and did whatever he pleased, however unnecessary."
"Most of the walls up here were wood framed, and I suspect they were shifted around a lot." Ice stepped carefully out to the front wall. "Three doors out to the balcony, I'm guessing three rooms for the three wives Mikel had when he started building the house."
Keiq looked around. "Well, they'd have been good sized rooms, what, maybe six meters wide, and however deep they wanted, I suppose. But still . . ."
"Have no fear. I have zero interest in a harem. In fact I seem to having trouble acquiring a single wife." Ice eyed the rest of the space. "I don't think he had any minor children at the start of construction."
"And his old wives told him to take a hike. I wonder if they liked each other?"
"Or him. He's the one with the big suite with the fancy bathroom downstairs." Ice eyed the floor around the tower. "I don't see any holes for water or drains."
Keiq walked back at the tower closet and looked upward. "You do know we're going to have to talk to the Historical Society about which version we're restoring it to?"
Ice started laughing. "You want a tower, don't you? Or should I say, sniper's nest?"
"That is not a . . . Oh One, it was, wasn't it." She started laughing. "I'll spend some time at the museum and dig into their archives."
"Yeah, and find out if we can just strip everything out of here and start from scratch." Ice looked around . . . Windows one point two meters wide and high? He fished out a measuring tape and walked to a doorway. One meter wide. Surely that rule is just for windows? Otherwise . . . He put his hand on the wall and felt for the metal skeleton of the house . . . Shouldn't be a problem enlarging the hole, I'll only have to mold the concrete. Of course, the shear number of windows in a house this size . . . I need to take a look at replacement windows and so forth. Find out how big the rough holes need to be to put in windows the fire marshal will approve of . . .
He looked over at the tower wreckage. "I can use the iron scrap to repair the metal supports for those ridiculous stairs in the entry . . . And if we're restoring the house, it ought to be as close as possible to what it looked like in Mikel's time, don't you think? Emre and Jeb are sure he put the roof on, before he toook out the tower, so the version with both the roof and the tower would be good."
"Except for the water leaks?" Keiq eyed him. "Wolfson teach you any anti-roof-leak spells, Hot Shot?"
Ice grinned. "Not yet."
And no time soon, as the Council voted to create a Special Taskforce to look into the entirety of the Drei Mächte Bündnis interaction.
Ox received the briefing from the young man he had monitoring the Council. "Thank you Advo. So they expect us to be a part of it. And I'm going to drop it all in your lap, Ice, since you've probably got everything they need at your fingertips. Talk to them, find some office space closer in, if you need to be be there regularly. One knows Facilities will snap up your space here before you're out the door."
"Yes, sir. I expect they'll be wanting to get to work quickly in case they need information for the trial."
"Exactly. So . . . work out what's needed, and what you need to do it."
Advo, once the meeting was over, looked horrified. "Do you have any idea how tight office space downtown is, right now?"
"Yeah, my former colleagues tell me all about how the people packed into their conference rooms gaze enviously at their cubicles. So, do we know who's in charge, on the Council side?"
"One help us, they've put this under the Ministry of War's Intel Division. Let me see if they've named someone . . . Looks like a Senior Inspector Erzo Withione is going to be in charge. Let's see if he's got room for us."
Once through the disapproving security in the lobby, they were escorted to a small conference room. Small enough that adding them to the eighteen men and women there made it standing room only.
They all boggled at Ice.
The fellow at the head of the table cleared his throat. "Well . . . we were just wondering how much trouble we were going to have getting the Presidential Directorate to give us access to you. Umm, welcome to the gang. Our other queston was where we could meet. The Ministries are all packed, and office space is at a premium, right now."
Ice nodded. "And probably for the next five years. How much flexibility do you have, as to the type and location of space?"
"Within ten kilometers of the Council Hall. All the rest of the usual restrictions have been temporarily waived." He eyed Ice curiously. "You have any ideas?"
"I know of some empty apartments around Twenty-first and Turner, but it's, as they say, a bit of a run down area."
A lot of negative expressions, fading into resignation.
Senior Inspector Erzo grimaced. "Get me a cost and square feet, we need to get working immediately."
"Right. Have you all got my reports?"
Shaken heads. "We've got a request in for everything on the Drei Mächte Bündnis and specifically including everything you've written on the subject." A woman down the table smiled nicely. "Can you get them?"
"Got them right here. Let's do a transfer, then I'll check out those apartments . . ."
Alfred had four empty apartments. Gulped a bit at the thought of them being used for offices. "But they can be worse than the Butt-nothings, can they? Jerks clear out of 1a and 1c last night and took everything with them. Including the kitchen from 1a!"
"Yikes. Well, four apartment would be close to 270 square meters, total? How much do you want a month?"
"Fifty-four hundred a month. I can have them spiffy in a week."
"Let me check . . . " Ice stuck his head back into the room. Everyone, including Advo, was reading. "Erzo? Is 270 square meters enough? 5400 a month, and if that in the ballpark . . ."
"Perhaps we should take a look. They're being worked over after abuse by the last residents, so this would be a good time to jump in and get it set up more like an office."
"Right. So, you playing guide? Yep."
They were all a bit worried about the location, so he wound up leading a twenty-person strong parade in through the entry on Turner. Alfred was in 1a with the door open.
Ice walked in and boggled. "I thought you were kidding when you said they'd taken the kitchen. Cupboards and all, eh?"
Alfred sighed. "At least they turned off the water before they took the sink out." He eyed the crowd. "I see why you wanted all four apartments."
"Yeah . . ." Ice looked over at Erzo as he walked back from the bedroom.
"Right. We could put a receptionist in this missing kitchen, two people each in the living room and bedroom, and if we get desperate, someone in the laundry room."
"Which other apartments? 1c you said?"
"Yep. And 2a and 2c. C'mon, I'll show you."
A nice tidy block; the four at the north end of the first two floors. In 1c the departing renters had only taken the washer, dryer, refrigerator, and oven-stove.
Alfred huffed out an irritated breath. "At least the folks upstairs gave notice and didn't steal anything!"
Erzo eyed the kitchen dubiously. "Well, we'll need a kitchenette, but three's a bit much. Let's see the other two."
Up the stairs, the two apartments had been cleaned, and the windows were open, dissipating fumes from the slightly worm and stained, but now clean carpets.
Alfred shot a glance toward Ice. "I was thinking I'd just replace the carpets down below. Kin I show them your floor?"
"Sure, umm, let me make this blunt and clear." He eyed his new colleagues. "I do not do office romances or even flirting, and sure as hell not sex. This is the only time any of you will cross my threshold."
"You are trying to get us to open an office in your apartment building?" Senior Analyst Advo was snickering."
"These are the only apartments I know anything about." Icce shrugged and headed up to the next--top--floor. 3d was the southeast apartment. He flicked off all of the illusions as he walked in. "Alfred was repairing this one when I leased it, and I paid for some upgrades. Flooring like this, which is mid-grade fake hardwood, would be good for at least the reception area of 1a, then more, umm, office type carpeting for the rest?"
"Damn, you've got a pretty good view from just three floors up." One of the inspectors, Wkmi, looked around. "But then we're on a hill. Two blocks from the metro station. I say we go for it."
Nods of agreement.
Erzo looked over at Alfred. "Let me get a recommendation in, and a standard one year lease form. We'll want you to not replace the kitchen in 1a, maybe bring one of the refrigerators down to 1c, for a break room there. And we don't need the bathtubs. I wonder if we could put supply cabinets over them . . ."
They walked away discussing the costs and timing of various things, and move in dates . . . Ice chivied the rest out after them.
Two of the women had their heads together, giggling.
Inspector Wgor looked around, shook his head. "You pay half what I do for half the space."
Ice grinned. "I leave my pretensions of High Oner Snobbery at the office." Damn, the Paris accent crept back in automatically, didn't it? "And probably have a longer commute than you. Till now. I've bought and am renovating an old house in Argent Enclave. Handy to commute to Versalle. All I have to do is try to get assigned there, after they get Government House rebuilt."
"And inbetween, you'll commute from there to here?"
"Much though I hate to admit it, Government House may be rebuilt before we finish that wreck of mine. Historically significant." He sighed. "The Society has to approve everything. I have to satisfy the Building Inspectors and the Fire Marshal, and then go back to the Historical Society for them to usually not approve the necessary changes . . ."
That got snickers.
Should be a nice group of people to work with.
"So, I'll leave you all to get back to your reading. Take notes, and at need or when I've wrapped up my current stuff at Versalle, I'll come in and answer questions. Erzo will have my comm number, if you need me in haste."
"You're actually going to commute to Versalle from here?" One of the two older women looked around. Loel, pronounced Loyal, if he was remembering right. The group secretary.
"That's what I've been doing for five months, now." Ice shrugged. "I'll be glad for any space Eroz rents in the central area."
"This isn't central."
"It's right on the edge. Another block west and any potential offices would, technically, be too far away."
"Hmph. Well, it will work for now. I hope."
"Me too."Ice poked his head into 1a where Alfred was staring at his comm.
He sidled over to Ice, and dropped his voice to a gleeful whisper. "First month's rent and two thou to meet their special needs! I'm calling the boys and we'll have these fellows all set up in a couple of days!"