The Case of the Misplaced Hero
by Camille LaGuire
Episode 21 - The Coup in the Kitchen
NO NEED TO panic yet. Niko knew Alex's name, but he didn't know anyone was looking for him, and he was too busy to care, right?
Niko went across the kitchen and unlocked a door to one of the larders. It was an L-shaped room, but Alex could see, against the far wall, a bench with a bundle on it. He leaned to get a better look. He caught a glimpse of wild, damp gray hair.
It was Thorny. He was asleep on a bench with a blanket over him
Niko touched a finger to his lips to indicate they should not disturb his sleep, and then picked up large basket of eggs, and handed it to Alex.
"Who is that?" asked Alex.
"He is drunk," whispered the cook. He paused to tuck a bottle under his arm and pick up a large crock of something. "He is sleeping it away."
Niko herded Alex out of the room, and set down the crock to lock the door back up.
"But why is he locked up?"
"Rozinshura does not want him to talk to Pookiterin."
Before he could answer, there was the sound of boots in the hall. Then in walked security officer from the parlor. He was a tall, balding man in a fancy gray uniform with medals and braid, and shiny boots. He had a pointy waxed mustache which poked out from his face like a pair of darts.
Niko stood suddenly at attention, and nodded with little jerk that looked formal, like a salute. Since Alex was hoping to be taken as a soldier, he did the same.
The officer barely acknowledged them. He surveyed the kitchen from the doorway, and then declared:
"Yes. This will do."
He stepped across the room and behind him came two soldiers in long gray coats, and the girl. The one from the parlor. The soldiers gave her a shove. She sidestepped the shove and managed to keep her dignity as they hurried her across the room.
"I am commandeering your kitchen," said the officer.
"But Kinchin Colonel, we have orders to feed these people," protested Niko.
"You may work on that side, and you may have that table, but we will take the rest. These tables, the alcove, the pantries," said the colonel, and he turned to Niko with a casual, almost sly look. "Where are your keys?"
Niko paused, and then put on a look of confusion. He patted his pockets.
"Oh, Rozinshura took the keys. He was worried about thieves with so many people here. But it's all right, everything in here is unlocked except the larder."
The officer glanced at the larder door and then said sharply to Niko, "A cook without keys to the larder?"
"I have everything I need for now. I'm making blootchkes. You like apple?"
The officer, apparently, did not like apple. His eyes narrowed, and he turned to one of his minions.
"That is not necessary," said Niko. "We'll open it!" He put a hand on Alex's shoulder. With his other hand, out of sight, he slipped something heavy into the pocket of Alex's jacket -- the keys. "Get Rozinshura. He will bring the keys."
Alex started for the door.
"Never mind!" said the officer, like he was just testing Niko's truthfulness. He retreated to the alcove with the girl. His guards settled at a table in the middle of the kitchen, right in front of the larder. Niko let out a long, slow breath.
"That is Colonel Pookiterin," he said, and he took up his tub of sour cream and headed for his side of the kitchen.
Alex stood still a moment. The captain was hiding Thorny from the colonel, and the way the colonel backed off... it was like he was avoiding the captain.
Thorny had somehow got himself into the center of a power struggle, it seemed.
But Alex now knew where he was, and where the girl was. He even had the keys.... and two armed, if unwitting, guards and an officer in his way. Not to mention Niko, who probably wouldn't help. This was going to be interesting.
Stay Tuned for Episode Twenty-two: "Alex Plots a Counter Coup"
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