The Case of the Misplaced Hero
by Camille LaGuire
Episode 27 - Which Side Are You On, Kinchin?
ROZINSHURA THOUGHT FAST. He couldn't let the moment slip. How to get Pookiterin to say more? The man was a lap dog. He loved to feel important. Pressure him and he might shut up. Stroke his ego, and he'd bay like a hound.
So Rozinshura leaned forward.
"Is that true?" he said, his eyes wide with slavish astonishment. "The Cussars did this?"
Pookiterin preened. "We are quite certain."
"But why would the Cussars do such a thing?"
"They were paid. Their loyalty has been bought by certain factions."
Rozinshura did not believe this for a minute. Oh, a band of Cussars could be paid to do anything, but it was not at all in their favor to attack an Awarshi train. This story had the stink of a scape-goat. The question was whether Pookiterin knew it, or if he were just repeating what he was told.
"So there is a plot," said Rozinshura. He uncapped the brandy again and poured a little more, and offered a little more verbal bait to go with it. "That would explain why Vshtin decided not to come here after all."
Now Pookiterin sat forward. Yes, he was interested. It meant something to him. But he waited for Rozinshura to say more.
"We are told he must keep to his schedule in the capital," said Rozinshura. "So I am sorry, but when you have me shot for insolence it will not be in his presence. You'll have to make do with a mere emmissary."
The colonel gave a benevolent wave, as if all insults were forgotten.
"We will all miss his presence, but his work in the capital is too important, of course," said Pookiterin. He paused. "He is keeping to his schedule then?"
"That is what we were told."
Pookiterin took the brandy and drank, and smiled a private little smile that sent chills up Rozinshura's back. A man like him normally loves important visitors. He should not be so happy that Vshtin was not coming. What did it mean?
If Vshtin were to change his schedule, that would disrupt the coup attempt. Could it be that Pookiterin knew of the coup and wanted it to go forward? Or did he think that a return to the regular schedule meant the coup had already been foiled?
Or did that smile only mean that Pookiterin wanted Rozinshura to think he knew something?
Rozinshura poured himself another drink and dropped another bit of bait.
"And now the lines are down again," he said. "No more communications."
"The lines are down?" said Pookiterin, and he smiled a huge smile, as though it were the news he had been waiting for.
In a coup, the first thing they would do was cut the telegraph lines.
Rozinshura drank down his brandy, but barely tasted it.
"Captain, all is forgiven," said Pookiterin benevolently. "Let me have my spy back, and we can all go about our business."
He stood, but Rozinshura sat where he was. It was too late to take back the upper hand, but he had to know more.
"Why do you think he is a spy?"
"That's none of your business!"
If it was none of Rozinshura's business, then it was something more than Pookiterin rounding up suspicious characters. There was a description. Orders. Rozinshura decided to shut up. Now that he let the colonel believe the coup was going forward, he couldn't go back and blackmail him for misbehavior with the girl. Pookiterin was full of confidence again.
"Where is he?" said Pookiterin. He pointed tot he larder door. "Is he in there?"
Rozinshura put on his best look of confusion and gave the man a wild goose.
"Why would he be there?" said Rozinshura. "He's a doctor! I sent him to tend the wounded at the school."
"You fool!" cried Pookiterin, and he shoved Rozinshura aside, and ran out of the kitchen.
Stay Tuned for Episode Twenty-Eight: "The Girl With The Sword"
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