Lord Axel nudged him out of the way and led him down the hall to the first room.
This one was more what he'd expected. A couple of big wardrobes and cabinets, one that looked like it might hide a bed. A table and chairs, a sofa angled toward the windows, a big wall screen. Nothing special, the table sturdy but obviously not new.
Where an unwanted, poor, relative would be put.
"No connecting door?"
"No, they think the other rooms are empty, and poor me! I have to walk across the hall to use a 'public' bathroom." Another snort. "It's a useful image. They leave me alone."
Barf balanced his tray and set the teapot and cups on the table. "The tea's cold by now."
"Ah, well, I've taught you how to collect power and concentrate it. But for a pot of tea, you collect the power but barely concentrate it." He swooped his hands through the air and cupped the tea pot. And snatched his hands back. "Like that and watch that you don't burn your hands."
He eyed them. "Now get."
Dimitri set a plate of cheese and crackers on the table, took the trays and they all left. Nastasya whisking her feather duster over a few things on the way out.
"Those four are utterly wasted here. So, tea?"
Vlad sighed. "Sure. Then I'll haul my totally befuddled self home to rethink everything."
"Well, I have a vague plan to pickup all the paperwork--Notarized death certificates, a dozen copies. Council certified Executor papers, Manager of the two Trusts, and so forth. With luck, I can get to the central office of the Imperial Bank and Trust before the scandal sheets hit the streets with all the twins' bloody stupid . . ." Lord Axel shook his head. "Well, a man can dream."
A knock on the door was Forty-one, a glimpse of Nastasya skipping away.
The Cyborg looked at the cup in his hand. "That girl said to bring this. The night team is here and will keep the dining room untouched."
Lord Axel snickered. "The cup is a dare. So sit and have some tea and munchies. Is the night team just to secure the evidence, or is one or more of your superiors going to . . . supervise?"
"Yes, they'll just watch the room, until ordered otherwise. I hope my superiors won't butt in, and I work with a team of detectives, who will all want a toe in, and I'll be getting . . . an . . ." Vlad watched in astonishment as Lord Axel Ivan Vinogradov, descendant of the two most famous men in Siberia Max history nudged a chair out and signaled a Cyborg to sit. Hefted a tea pot and poured.
The expression on Forty-one's face was priceless.
"uh . . . an accountant."
Lord Axel nodded. "Maybe someone familiar with fraud?"
"You are the strangest High Society Mentalist I've ever even heard of, let alone met."
It was five in the morning before he made it home. His parent's home. Not that he couldn't have afforded an apartment closer to HQ, but he'd have been serious short on money for anything else, and his parents, living on his Dad's retired policeman's pension with a handicapped daughter, would have been seriously short on money for anything beyond the basics.
Renting their spare bedroom worked quite well for all of them.
His dad and his sister were up early.
His sister smiled vaguely. "Red and brown," she waved and wandered off.
My big sis. I looked up to her all my young life . . . I didn't realize how bad a bad grow-in could be.
His dad sighed. "I wish she'd get a new catch phrase. C'mon in, both of you. I hope you haven't been up all night?"
"I have. I was trying to finish up a report and then a call for a senior officer at Central Mercy came in at midnight."
"They needed a Senior? What happened?" His dad tossed ham in a pan, grabbed a carton of eggs.
"A Councilman, Lord Vladimir Vinogradov had a stroke and the doctor was recommending removing life support. They got a Council Observer in, then a Records fellow and a man from Intel, because of the Councilman was on the Intel committee. But mainly because Lord Vladimir's two sons were accusing their cousin of murdering him." Vlad snorted. "They figured--probably correctly--that the average patrolman would get steamrollered."
Forty-one nodded. "I've got to say Vinogradov House is really impressive in person."
Vlad nodded. "And the twin sons were both solidly in the spoiled nobles category. The nephew, on the other hand . . . scared the hell out of me . . . then baffled me . . . and . . . baffled the hell out of me."
Forty-one nodded. "I did not expect to be invited to sit down and have a cup of tea. I liked those kids though."
"Yeah. I'd like to recruit all four of them." He caught an inquiring look from his dad. "Three boys and a girl. Servants' kids, but they all four have executive plates. Swear Lord Axel's training them to be domestic spies or somesuch."
"Axel Vinogradov!" His dad tossed food on three plates and they sat. "I always wondered what happened to that boy. Redhead, right?"
"Right . . . so how did you meet him?"
"Heh. You remember I told you about the Ogre?"
"The serial murderer? Your story gave me nightmares, what's that got to do with Lord Axel?"
"When we finally caught him . . . good grief. Six foot eight of muscle and mean. A seventy year old Mentalist. One of the Putins. Well, two days after we caught him, the council grabbed him for a Challenge."
"You are kidding me!"
"Nope. I blasted down there, madder than hell, intending to tear into them, murdering an eighteen year old in order to get their fellow mentalist freed . . . I got there in time to see this knobby kneed skinny redhead--five foot eight or nine, look more like he was fifteen than eighteen--standing there as the Ogre rushed him."
Dad shook his head. "He dodged at the last minute, and side-kicked the Ogre's knee. Didn't break it, but it sure slowed the son of a bitch down. The boy dodged him for a while, blocked Mentalist attacks--the sand flew, fireballs--the boy got in a few more kicks. Kept his eyes on the man the whole time . . . and suddenly the Ogre just stops. Hands to throat, to diaphram, pushes it to try and get a breath . . . that's went I realized the boy'd grabbed the brain center that controlled breathing. And the Ogre collapsed, and the boy held it until he was dead. I'm no great shakes as far as power's concerned, but the Ogre was strong. Once we identified him, we had to get an Inquisitor in to control him.
"And that scrawny boy beat him physically and mentally. When he walked up to the judges, I swear a couple of them were sweating. They passed him, of course."
"Huh. You never told me that part."
"Well, you were seventeen. I didn't want to worry you." Dad grinned wryly. "I had nightmares enough for both of us."
Forty-one looked at him. "What did they throw against you?"
Vlad winced. "A Cyborg, an old guy with brain fever. I . . . it felt horrible. He had no defenses."
Forty-one thumped his shoulder. "Because he wanted you to kill him. I've seen it enough times to know that. It's a horrible way to die, and cutting it short is a mercy."
"Yeah. That what everyone says. But it was still horrible."
"Yeah." Dad stabbed his breakfast. "Just . . . if Lord Axel turns out to be a bad one . . . get an Inquisitor. You're going to need one badly. Maybe two."
"Huh. Well, he's an inch or so taller than me, and looks fit. I didn't see much mentalist talent on display." He bit his lip. "But he wasn't the least bit worried. Exasperated over his idiot cousins, definitely."
"They set an example for why Young Mentalists are kept on a leash. Mouthy and rude, not thinking, yelling accusations of murder, and that he was scheming to steal the Trusts and all that."
"Ah, emotional diarrhea we used to call it."
"Unsavory, and usually only useful in that by saying too much they gave themselves away." Dad grinned. "Well, it sounds like you two are going to be busy."