The Case of the Misplaced Hero
by Camille LaGuire
Episode 26 - Pookiterin In The Corner
If his bad leg had not prevented Rozinshura from leaping across the room and throttling Pookiterin with his bare hands, he would certainly have done so. But a warning pain in the knee slowed him down enough to consider his options.
Pookiterin was vulnerable. If Rozinshura pushed too hard, he'd fight back, but if he just let the situation do the pushing for him....
Rozinshura stepped into the alcove and looked around, at the jacket hanging in the corner, at the upturned chair, and the small glass that lay on its side on the table. He picked up the chair and then sat in it with a heavy sigh, and looked at Pookiterin.
"Why are you here?" he asked.
Pookiterin bristled. "How dare you question me?"
Rozinshura waved a hand and pulled the good bottle of brandy from the large pocket of his overcoat. He showed Pookiterin the label. The colonel calmed and tilted his head in a superior way.
"Thinking twice about your actions now?" said Pookiterin, with just a slight shake to his voice to say he was not as confident as he seemed.
"I always think three or four times at least, Kinchin Colonel," said Rozinshura politely. He pulled a pair of tea cups from the shelves behind him, and poured. "You know, it's in the rules. Seduction and sexual coercion are not to be used with detainees. It's rule four of the interrogation code. Right near the top."
Pookiterin made a derisive sound. Rozinshura slid the cup across the table to him, leaning forward to make his point.
"I know. Nobody cares, as long as you get results. But when you are alone with a detainee and she escapes, taking your weapon with her, people want to know why your pants were down."
"My pants were not down," said Pookiterin.
"I'm speaking metaphorically, of course," said Rozinshura.
He shrugged apologetically. The colonel took the cup and drank. Rozinshura poured a little more.
"But I have to make a report. The witnesses, who knows what they'll say? And the woman--" He paused and tilted his head. "The way she twirled that sword.... You know, I think she is a Cussar. She must be. They will be upset when she gets back to them and tells them of this."
"You think I care about a bunch of moutain goats and refugees?" said Pookiterin derisively.
"Perhaps not. But I know I would not relish it if Commander Zuzo were to come and demand justice for his kinchin tomorrow." In truth, Rozinshura would relish it greatly. Zuzo was fierce and uncompromising and frightening to poseurs like Pookiterin. The province of Cussaria had been lost to a neighboring country in the previous war -- surrendered by men like Pookiterin -- but the Cussars were Awarshi to their souls and kept fighting. Zuzo lead one of the more formidable partisan bands.
"We don't know that she is Cussar," said Pookiterin. "And how likely is it that she belongs to Zuzo?"
"They're right across the river. They come here to resupply."
Pookiterin sat still for a moment and then suddenly he burst out angrily.
"They came here to derail the train!" he declared. "They are part of a plo--"
He caught himself a moment too late. He did know something of a plot. And that plot involved the train.
No one had been to the wreck site except for Rozinshura's people. Whatever Pookiterin knew, it was knowledge he got before the wreck. He might even have known it would happen before it did -- or that it was likely to.
But was his mission to foil the plot, or help it along? That was the question.
Stay Tuned for Episode Twenty-Seven: "Which Side Are You On, Kinchin "
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