Episode 29 - Thorny Revealed
by Camille LaGuire
Throughout the interview, Rozinshura had been sitting lazily, as if he were indeed a fool. But as soon as Pookiterin was gone, he launched himself to his feet, and made his way across the kitchen with surprising speed to where Niko and Lady Featherdale were waiting.
"Quickly," he said. "That won't keep him long. Where are my keys?"
"Pookiterin threatened to search me, so I gave them to the boy to hold," said Niko. Rozinshura swore softly, and looked at the door. He wondered how much trouble it would be to remove the hinges.
"But I do have my own keys," said Niko, and he produced them from a shelf behind some pots and pans.
"Good man!" said Rozinshura. "Fetch some of your hangover cure too. He will need it."
Rozinshura unlocked the door and roused the old man. Thornton was hard to wake, but between the captain and Niko, they got him upright and had him drinking the cure, and moaning. When he was awake enough, they stepped aside and pointed him to the doorway, where Lady Featherdale waited.
When her ladyship saw his face, she gasped.
For a moment Rozinshura's spirits lifted. She knew him! But then he saw she was not looking at the old man. She stumbled into the larder as though pushed.
Pookiterin was standing behind her with a pistol. Behind him were his two guards -- the worse for drink but upright.
"You think I am an idiot?" snarled Pookiterin.
"I hoped you thought I am an idiot," he said.
"I knew you had the spy here. I knew it! So I waited to see what you would do when I left, and here he is!"
"My orders are--" began Rozinshura.
"Your orders are worthless!" said Pookiterin. "I heard the whistle of a train when I went outside. Whoever is on that train will be no friend of yours. That emissary will come from General Bargellin, my superior."
"Are you sure?" said Rozinshura.
"Of course I'm sure! What am I telling you?"
"Are you sure it's not Vshtin himself on that train?"
"But you said..."
It was as though Rozinshura had dumped a bucket on Pookiterin's head. The colonel seemed to struggle for breath, but it was no time to celebrate victory. Pookiterin still had the gun and he was pointing it at Rozinshura's heart.
"And the telegraph lines?" stammered the colonel.
"They've been down for a month now. They're always down. It means nothing."
"How did you hear he was coming, then?" said Pookiterin, suspicious.
"We go down to Vinschke every day for orders and messages."
The fact was Rozinshura was lying again; the lines were fine. But he hoped Pookiterin would run to town to ask his masters for instructions.
But Pookiterin only licked his lips in desperation and waggled the gun.
"You and your cook are still under arrest," he said, his gaze darting back and forth, as if he were making up his story on the spot. "You helped the Cussar girl escape. And... and yes, you tried to shelter this spy!"
Was he just planning how to cover his tracks, or was he building up courage to shoot them all? As he dithered, Rozinshura decided to help him make up his mind. The space was small, but he and Niko were to either side.
"If you shoot me now, Niko will kill you," said Rozinshura. "If you shoot Niko, I will kill you."
Pookiterin drew himself up, looking slightly more panicked, as if that had been his plan, but he recovered well.
"You will be shot by firing squad, according to rules. For now, you are all under arrest."
"But what about me?" said Lady Featherdale.
"You will be detained!" shouted Pookiterin. "As a matter of security! Now give me my spy!"
"Why shouldn't he be detained with us?" tried Rozinshura, but Pookiterin swung his gun to Rozinshura's face and seemed ready to shoot in spite of himself.
Rozinshura surrendered Professor Thornton, along with his keys. In only a moment the three of them were locked in the larder.
Stay Tuned for Episode Twenty-30: "Lina's Story"
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