An Applewood Gallows; Chapter 4

The outer waiting area of this office was a mirror image to the one next door, but instead of a high little desk with a kobold serving as receptionist, there was a large, low desk with a smiling, middle-aged human female. There were other people waiting here, too, and they seemed to represent a wide swath of society. Hilde wasn’t exactly sure what to do, but the woman behind the desk motioned for her to approach.

Hilde stepped up to the desk, and in a whisper said, “I would like to see Polk, if he is available.”

“Do you have an appointment?” the woman at the desk asked, still smiling graciously.

Hilde shook her head. “It didn’t occur to me that I would need one.” She looked around at the waiting throng. “Are these folks all here to see Polk, too?”

The woman replied, “Him, or one of his associates. Ours is a rather large organization. Would you like to schedule an appointment, or perhaps leave a message?”

Hilde blinked, trying to push her thoughts to the surface of a beery haze that didn’t fight her communicative skills so much as just slow them down. “I thought he was just Polk. He has an organization?”

“Yes, ma’am.” The woman replied. “The largest private detective firm in the Coreland.”

Letting her hands dangle awkwardly at her sides, Hilde said quietly, “I’d like to leave a message, please. Can you tell him that Shar Hilde Eigenblade is staying at the Harpy Nest, and I have a few things to discuss with him. If he wants to pencil me in, I can come in and meet here. Just let him know that, ok?”

The woman wrote everything down with a flourish, her penmanship both flawless and fast. “I’ll see that he gets the message, Shar Eigenblade. Thank you for coming in!” Not once did the woman drop her smile.

Hilde smiled meekly and left the room. Before she closed the door behind her, she took one last look around at the people sitting on the benches along the wall. She tried to remember if Polk had ever said anything about running the biggest private investigating firm in the Coreland. Nothing popped into her mind. What else had he not told her? Of course, he may have said something, and she just didn’t catch it. Belynda would have, though. Belynda caught everything.

Opening the door to Rackerby’s office, Hilde walked in to find Belynda sleeping against Trangdor, who was sitting on the bench talking to the kobold on the high little chair. Cinder was sitting next to Belynda on the other side, busily washing her face with her tiny rat hands. The rodent looked up when Hilde walked in, and then resumed washing.

Trangdor stopped his conversation with the kobold, and if one could have seen past his mustache they would have known he was grinning. “Hello, Hilde. That was quick.” He said, patting Belynda gently on the knee. “Wake up, Belynda.” He said. “Hilde is back.”

Belynda rubbed her eyes, and sat upright, a brief look of confusion on her face as she tried to remember where she was and how she got there. Hilde had been gone for less than ten minutes, so the little xvart had really crashed hard. Hilde laughed, and said, “I think we need to serve your beer in thimbles, Belynda. Let’s go back to the inn and snooze off lunch.”

Trangdor bid the old kobold a fond farewell, and the small clerk grinned and waved. Belynda clutched Cinder in both hands, and the friends returned to their room at the inn to enjoy a pleasant nap. Before they drifted off to sleep, Hilde asked with a yawn, “Did Polk ever mention that he ran a huge detective thing?”

Trangdor laughed, and said sleepily, “A huge what now?”

“Not you, Belynda.” Giggled Hilde. “Did he ever mention that?”

But Belynda was already out cold. Cinder curled up near her mistress’s face, and soon she was asleep, too. Hilde pondered her next move. A good deal would hinge on what her brother was able to uncover today. Nothing to do but wait and might as well sleep rather than twiddle her thumbs. Soon she too was dozing happily. It was blissful having so much time to do nothing in particular.

They slept away a good portion of the day, and when Trangdor awoke the sun was setting. Had he not been hungry, he might well have slept through to the following day, but he woke up Belynda and tasked her with rousing Hilde. “Oskar should be leaving work soon, and I don’t know if we are meeting him at his place or here. Either way, we should get ready.”

It didn’t take long for the three of them to get themselves presentable, and they were pondering their options for contacting Oskar when he began knocking on their door, calling out Hilde’s name. Trangdor let the Lieutenant Colonel in to their room, and Oskar removed his kepi. In his other hand was a leather briefcase, and his unsmiling face looked around the room at his sister and her friends.

“It didn’t take long to find what you wanted.” Oskar said with a sigh. “I found the report written out by your Major Hossler on his final inspection tour of Vorkelburg. It bore his signature, and was properly dated and signed by father, as well as a Major Deckler.” Oskar set the briefcase down on Hilde’s bed. “I also found the death notice for Major Hossler, filled out by the same Major Deckler and signed by father. I copied all of it and brought it for you to look at. By the way, Hossler’s first name was Karl.”

Oskar sat down on the bed and closed his eyes. “I had the original documents checked with sorcery, and scrying was employed to detect if any of the reports were tampered with. They were not. However, the death notice gave our resident mage a sense of being at least partially deceptive. That doesn’t mean much by itself, but whoever filled it out was deliberately misleading in some aspect.”

Hilde watched her brother intently. “Major Deckler?” she asked.

Her brother nodded his head. Oskar looked tired, as if the day had dragged out five hours longer than necessary. “There isn’t enough here to take official action. You’ll have to dig up more than this before anyone in the Judicial Corp will take it seriously.”

Hilde picked up the briefcase. “Let’s go to your house and look over these. Maybe we can come up with an idea.”

Oskar put his kepi back on, and the four of them left the room, and when they reached the lobby of the inn, the human behind the main desk called out to Hilde. “Shar Eigenblade!” he shouted. “I have a message for you, ma’am.” He handed an envelope to Hilde and smiled. “Delivered a few hours ago.”

Hilde opened the envelope, and quickly read over the note inside. “Can you send somebody to reply to this?” she asked the man behind the main desk.

“Certainly, Shar Eigenblade. I’ll send a page over immediately if it is here in the city.” The clerk answered.

Hilde took the pen and paper he offered and scrawled a short letter. “Take this to the Polk Detective Agency. Here is the address.” She wrote down the information and handed the clerk the folded letter.

The clerk rang a bell, and a young goblin dressed as a bellhop came trotting around the corner. Handing the letter to the goblin, the clerk told him the address, and sent him running off into the night.

Hilde whispered to her brother, “I have somebody that might be able to help. Told him to meet us at your house.” Turning to Trangdor, she said, “Would you mind helping make dinner at Oskar’s house? Polk is coming over, and we might as well eat.”

The dwarf’s smile was hidden behind his mustache, and replied cheerfully, “Of course! Take me to the kitchen!”

The four of them headed into the night shrouded streets, the corner lampposts aglow with magical fairy fire. The air was cold and wet tonight, a thick fog was beginning to form in the swamps far below the city and the clouds above the mountains seemed intent to descend until the two met. It was a fine night for conspiring.

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