"He's still not back, but a half dozen police cars just pulled up." Nastasya chewed a knuckle, and leaned to watch all the cops leaving their cars. "About Half Cyborgs, some old guys and the cute cop from this morning."
"D-didn't think he w-was that good l-looking."
"Ooo, Tash has a boy friend!"
"Shut up Barf! The most attractive thing about him is that he doesn't look like a relative of mine!"
"So, let's go assist, and pick up some more policing pointers." Dimitri led the way out.
Nastasya bounced out to follow him, and ignored the snickers from the other two.
The senior detective assigned them to assist different groups. Pauli got sent to help the people taking to Mr. Solovsky, probably to help with the computers, if needed.
Nastsya was stationed out side Lord Andre and Lord Nikoli's offices, in case the police talking to them needed someone to run notes, or guide them anywhere.
She noted other servants hovering around, not sure what to do . . . or possibly enjoying the show.
There were two boys down the hall . . . Lenni and Osip, seventeen years olds, to well behaved to be a Ranger. But . . . She slipped down close to them. "What are you guys doing here?"
"Trying to find out what's happening." Lenni didn't look happy.
Nor did Osip. "And what that means for us. What's going to happen."
Nastasya eyed them. Smart, good manners, dignified bearing . . . "You know, you two ought to grab some tables and pens, and show up and volunteer to take notes when Lord Axel gets back and talks to them."
They looked at her, and back at each other.
"Because if you can establish yourselves as secretaries, they might want you to have executive plates."
Osip nodded. "Yeah. But where . . ."
"Oh." She slipped into Lord Axel's office. Found pads, and two ordinary pens. "It's just like taking notes in class. Just . . . skip the name calling and stuff. Be stiff. 'Lord Axel objected to the idea' instead of Lord Axel called them utter morons and thirty seconds of the twins cussing at him."
They nodded and followed her back down the hall, stopping where they could barely hear the questioning, and were out of sight. And ready to dodge out of sight, as this probably wasn't the sort of thing they wanted a record of.
Nastasya leaned closer to the boys. Barely breathed, "Never, ever, gossip."
And Nikloi's raised voice. "I never touched the chair! I certainly didn't pull it over! Go find out how that good-for-nothing Axel murdered Father!" The sound of chairs scrapping. "I don't have to put up with this! In my own house!"
They all skittered back into Lord Axel's office. And heard Andre yelling, "It's not your house!"
More stomping feet and the raised voices retreated. Nastasya peeked out. Nothing to see but the policemen walking out into the Grand Hall.
". . . passed my challenge a week before you . . ."
". . . doesn't matter since . . ."
Then a pause in the yelling, apparently to redirect it.
"Where the Hell have you been!"
"You said you'd keep us informed, then you ran off without us!"
"What did you do at the bank?"
And Lord Axel's voice. "Showed my credentials, went over the Trusts and accounts. May need an official audit, if I can't straighten out some documentation issues, but it's a small percent of the Historical Trust. The Family Trust . . . we'll talk about."
They started yelling and demanding to know what was wrong and where was their money . . .
Nastasya stood on her toes and spotted Lord Axel shaking his head, but with a little curl of a smile. I wonder what he's so happy about? Humph! Him and his damned secret life. Working? Playing, more like.
And then Lord Axel's raised voice. "If you two would ask your wives to step down to . . . how about the breakfast room? That ought to be about the right size. I'll bring you up to date and tell you what I'll be doing. Then you guys can discuss everything privately."
Nastasya looked back at Lenni and Osip. "If they send someone for their wives, approach them about taking notes. If they go themselves, wait till they come back. Good Luck!"
Over the noise echoing around the Hall, she had trouble separating out Lord Axel's voice once he'd stopped trying to override the twins . . . But the breakfast room . . .
Everyone else migrated to the long, back corridor. Windows and occasional doors to the outside, the high frosted windows of the offices on the other side, and the breakfast room in the corner, sunny with windows on two walls, a table that could hold a dozen if they were friendly . . .
Nastasya dashed up stairs, down the hall and around the corner to the interior stairs that only the servants and Lord Axel used regularly. Then back down to the first floor and crack the door for a view down toward the table.
There was a chair on the landing, for a servant to sit and watch, signaling to the kitchen staff below when it was time to bring up the next course, then scurry out to pick up the used dishes. Unfortunately, by design or accident, the acoustics were such that she wasn't going to be able to hear a thing.
She watched as Lord Axel sat in the center of the long side and opened his computer. The last afternoon sun slanted through the south windows, the lights over the table were on, dispelling the shadows.
Andre, who'd been planning to grab the head of the table, frowned, then circled to sit across the table from Lord Axel. Nikoli sat beside him and their wives flanked them.
The cute . . . He's a Lord. I'd be nothing but a casual bedmate to him. Except Lord Axel told him about my no-show Executive Plate . . . so he wouldn't trust me to not influence him in his sleep. I'd be a quickie and nothing else.
. . . Senior Detective Lord Vlad Gargarin sat next to Lord Axel, probably so he could see both the screen and the people across the table.
Drat. I can't see them from here.
Other policemen were taking notes, and she caught a glimpse of Osip maneuvering himself toward a corner of the room.
As a silent play, it was mostly unedifying. Even if, at one point Andre pounded the table and threw his arms out wide. His wife ducked in time. His brother didn't.
Lord Axel sat back, arms crossed, until the brothers were paying attention again.
Nikoli pointed at Lord Axel, Lord Axel shrugged and brought up something else on his computer.
Then the meeting was over, and Andre and Nikoli stomped off angry. One of the other policemen asked Lord Axel something, nodded at a reply. Then they all left.
Nastasya headed back up . . . decided to not risk meeting the two Ladies and went up to the third floor, which, by dint of having been remodeled fewer times than the first and second floors was less of a maze, and took the front-central hallway back to the front stairs in the Grand Hall.
The senior detective was frowning around the front hall, and spotted her. "All right. Can you explain this house to me? I'm afraid if I go wandering I'll get lost and they'll find my mummified body in a couple of years."
She laughed at that. "It's all the times it's been renovated. Think about two rectangles, or two race tracks, one inside the other. One goes around the outside, windows and glass doors and such. The other goes around the inside. On all four floors, except where the old Council Hall interferes with it all."
He looked both ways. "All right, I see that the outside corridor goes to the Council Hall on the east, and the full length of the front going west and turns the corner to go south. And the stairs run along the corridor both ways."
"Yep. See up there at the top of the stairs? Step left and go in the top tier of Council Hall, step to the right, and there's stairs to the third floor. That whole end of the building was Lord Axel's parents' space. They blocked off the outside corridor, and opened up the rooms that were between the two race tracks to the windows outside."
"Wait . . . no rooms had windows?"
"Yeah. I don't think Ivan the Founder was an architect. At any rate, he was thinking offices, for the government, not places to live. Then when Lord Andre and Lord Nikoli married, they did the same thing to the rooms on the second floor on the south side and around the corner to where the top of the council Hall blocked them."
"So . . . whats on the inside of the smaller racetrack?"
"Offices for clerks and secretaries and such, bathrooms, there are ordinary staircases that mostly only the servants use. All the plumbing and air ducts and . . . stuff. There's a couple of elevators, too, but they really need to be replaced. No body quite dares to use them."
"Yeah. Well, they walled off the inner racetrack on the front--west side. Who knows why? There's a hidden entrance between the small parlor and the large dining room, behind that little table there. And the back corridor got taken out for a bit more room for the large dining room, and, I guess you know about that door."
"It'll be a decade before they find my desiccated bones."
She snickered. "Then they took out the wall to the back corridor so Lord Vladimir's office is larger and has windows and a door to the back garden. I . . . suppose it has a door to the inner corridor . . . I don't actually know much about what's up there, or back there.
"The basement in the east is the kitchens and stuff, on the west there's a huge gym and servants' quarters, but we most live on the fourth floor, for the light. We leave our doors open a lot."
She looked back at the west wing. "Umm, Lord Vladimir didn't let many people go up there. Just the housekeeper and a few maids. I suppose, with just him, most of it was closed up." She bit her lip and looked up at him. "Want to go exploring?"