The long room with the east facing windows, he'd expected. And the comfortable chair angled to catch the best reading light was ordinary enough. The sheer number of books, and the number of book cases, mismatched, stuffed full, and covering the entire length of one wall was a bit surprising. But the wide doorway into the next room with the wall of electronics, the big work table . . .
Lord Axel pushed away from the big desk that was up against the front wall. "Come in. Pauli, grab chair from the workroom for the Senior Detective." He stood up and stretched. "I think I've talked to, or left messages for, all the people who'll get their noses out of joint that they weren't important enough to get a personal call from the family. God knows what sort of zoo the funeral is going to wind up being."
He glanced at Pauli as he rolled a chair in. "Better go try to sleep. This week's going to have everyone hopping."
Pauli grinned and headed out.
"So you like those kids?" Vlad eyed the man. "What are you going to do when they get chipped?"
"They already have Executive Plates. Nastasya's is no-show. The twin cousins don't know, and I'd appreciate you're not telling them."
Vlad blinked. "How did you manage that? Or . . . are they part of your Father's Trust?"
"Unfortunately no. They're Dear Uncle's. Were. Now they're in the Family Trust, and I just need to take them as part of my fee and get them out of here."
"Even Pauli, the stutterer?"
"Especially Pauli. He's a tech genius." a nod toward the roomful of electronics. "Those are his builds not mine. "I just provide the money and help him scrounge."
Vlad looked back at the roomful. "I . . . see. So, first question. You knew how to arrange for a Council Observer?"
"I called the Council Hotline. I looked it up for something years ago. Hard to forget six nines in a row. I don't have a perfect memory, but I do have a well trained good memory."
"I see. And you deliberately stalled the death declaration past midnight? So you could get control of the Trust?"
"Yes. For several reasons. One, to get my father's Trust out from under the threat of a Council Appointed manager. Even for a single hour, they can take twenty percent. There is no legal recourse, for me, if they chose to do that.
"Two, to keep the Historical Trust out of Council control. Again, they'd could take twenty percent, by law, and the Trust flat cannot afford that. It runs pretty tight, as it is. And they could, legally, hand the property to the Government and kick the family out. Not that I'd have let them have the time, but it's better this way. I'm going to take a good hard look at it and see if I can organize it a bit better.
"Three, to take a good hard look at Dear Uncles finances. Yes, because I hate his guts, and want to see if he's messed with my father's Trust. Four, to split the investments equally and fairly between the twins, and set up their own Trusts. Five, to get the idiots to understand the finances. And six, rescue a few people."
"And . . . half of that out of the goodness of your heart?"
Lord Axel snorted. "I haven't got any. I have outrage, irritation, and frustration. I'll do my damnedest, save what I can, then sit back and watch the idiots destroy themselves."
"You think so?"
"Yep. The Historical Trust pays all utilities, insurance, maintenance and repairs . . . even remodeling and furniture. Cars. All they have to pay for is food, and clothes, for themselves and their servants. And if they don't stop the 'whose got the most servants, valuable artwork, and jewelry' competition, they're going to go broke."
Vlad eyed him. "Just in rough, rounded figures, how much money are we talking about here?"
"Vinogradov House is valued at a hundred million rubles. That's not what it would sell for mind you. The history associated with it would probably double that . . . but it's tied up and cannot be sold. The thirty million in investments brings in three million a year. Barely covers everything, so the portfolio isn't growing. If they'd stop redecorating every other year, it'd help.
"Well, Dear Uncle's Trust . . . I will find out about later today. Judging from the spending I see, it must produce an income of about a million a year. Only the free housing enables three families to live at high society levels. If I can get them to cut down immediately on some things, and they actually behave, they can keep it up. Anyway, the trust's balance must be in the vicinity of ten to fifteen million.
"Now, my Father's Trust . . . Dear Uncle took twenty percent of the market value the day my Father died. And on the last business day of every year, the annual increase in value is calculated. He gets twenty percent of that and I get ten percent.
"If that is all being calculated honestly, judging from my annual stipend, that trust should be worth at least five million, and growing, because only thirty percent of profit is being taken out every year. I'll find out later today."
"Then, of course, there's all the money outside of the various Trusts. Since I've got three separate accounts myself, I suspect Dear Uncle had a dozen, minimum. It may take some work to find them."
Vlad blinked and thought that through. "So, Lord Vladimir has a net worth of less than twenty million? I . . . am actually a bit shocked at how low that is."
"It's the House. When you can live rent free at the most prestigious place in town, you can really strut on what else you make." Lord Axel shrugged. "And then there's his Council salary, which is hefty, and any outside property and investments."
"Huh. And you're more-or-less on par with the twins, for total worth, but kept short on ready cash?"
Lord Axel snickered. "I'm sure everyone's told you that I run off with loose women on a regular basis. Disappear for weeks at a time?"
Vlad nodded. "Even your henchmen claim to be ignorant."
"Well, don't tell anyone the embarrassing truth--but I actually work. I contract out for short jobs, for, gasp! Money!" He grinned. "Oh, finally shocked you didn't I? Just so you know, I'm actually competent to analyze these trusts, run down hidden accounts and otherwise save my idiot cousins' asses."
"How . . . unexpected."
"Yes. Probably just utterly flummoxed my minions, who are probably listening at the door. Unless Pauli's bugged the room. Again."
Vlad stepped to the door and opened it.
Nastasya looked around innocently, feather duster in hand. Dimitri was walking toward him, dishes on a tray, behind him Barf had a tray with a teapot and cups.
Pauli looked out of the door across the hallway. "N-nuthin' w-wrong w-with the w-wiring in there." He sent a hurt look past Vlad. "An' I w-wouldn't bug you. A-again. It w-was t-too emb-barrassing w-when you caught m-me so quick."
"If I remember correctly, you were twelve years old. Credible attempt though." Lord Axel pointed at the other two boys. "If that's actual food and drink, put it in the first room, then you lot please go get some sleep. Which is what I'm going to do as soon as the Senior Detective is done with me."