The Case of the Misplaced Hero
by Camille LaGuire
Episode 20 - Not There To Save
THE TRAY WAS piled high with plates, and it would be hard to explore while carrying it, so Alex headed straight for the parlor first. Deliver the sandwiches, see about the girl.
But there he found Captain Rozinshura blocking the parlor door as he talked to one of the security men.
"I have no place for you, Kinchin Colonel," Rozinshura was saying. "We are up to our hair in foreigners. You would be better off in the town."
Crap, thought Alex, if the security guys left, they'd take the girl with them. He had to talk to her now.
Alex tried to push past them, but Rozinshura turned and scowled at him. Was it the uniform?
"Niko gave me these clothes," he said, quickly. "I hope it's okay." He lifted the tray of sandwiches. "I told him I'd give some sandwiches to the security guys. Are they still in there?"
"I'll take them," said the Captain, and he picked up a couple plates and returned to his conversation, still blocking the way.
"I need to go in there anyway," said Alex. "Niko didn't know how many blootchkes to make, so I said I'd count the people."
"Fifty-seven," said the captain.
"In the parlor?"
"In the building. Go on." The captain gestured toward the tavern. "You are not a servant. You are a guest. Go sit. Eat."
"He also wanted to know what kind of blootchkes," said Alex, stalling. "Apple? Potato and sour cream, maybe?"
"All of them. Start with what is fastest. He knows this."
Alex had to back off before he made the man too suspicious.
The people in the tavern met him with a chorus of approval. They grabbed up the sandwiches quickly, and asked for more. He promised blootchkes, whatever they were. When people asked, he faked an Awarshi accent and said; "You like! Everybody like blootchkes! You like apple?"
The plates were quickly emptied and he realized that was the perfect excuse: he could go back to the parlor to gather the plates! He hurried across the hall.
There was no one standing in the doorway now. Alex slipped in. Rozinshura was there, sitting on a stool with his back to the door, talking to some bedraggled ladies.
But as Alex looked around, he saw no sign of the security men, or the girl.
She was gone.
To some place unknown, just like Thorny.
How had he managed to completely lose them both? He heard Flavia's voice again. Not there to save, she said. So it's not your job.
The hell it isn't! thought Alex. Besides, Aunt Flavia really had been gone, off to another universe. This girl... this woman... she was here somewhere.
And so was Thorny. That was his first responsiblity, wasn't it? And at least he had some idea how to find Thorny. He could ask Niko. If he could get guy to talk about something other than food.
Alex was distracted with his thoughts, and almost didn't hear the conversation going on between the ladies and Rozinshura.
"Alex?" said one of the women, in a shrill voice. "I don't know anyone named Alex."
Alex straightened. Nobody was looking at him. Rozinshura leaned toward the lady.
"Pehraps I have the name wrong," he said. "We have a discrepancy in our list. Perhaps someone with a name that sounds like Alex? He is young. A student?"
The ladies shook their heads and swore they knew no one on the train whose name was Alex or anything like it.
Alex slipped out into the hall, just out of sight. He listened, but he couldn't hear much from there. He headed back for the kitchen.
Thorny must have mentioned his name, and now they were looking for him. He couldn't remember for sure if he had told Niko his name. If not, he'd give him an alias.
But when he got to the kitchen, Niko greeted him. By name.
"Alex!" he said. "Now we make blootchkes. Come help!"
Stay Tuned for Episode Twenty-one: "A Coup In The Kitchen"
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