Episode 30 - Lina's Story
by Camille LaGuire
FOR A MOMENT, Lina evaded his gaze, as if she were afraid to tell him about it. Then she finally just took a deep breath and started talking.
"We were in the woods," she began. "We had heard there were bandits around, so we were scouting for them. Then I heard the train wreck." She looked up finally and continued earnestly. "It was so loud. And there was shooting. I sent my little brother to tell the village, and I stayed low until the shooting stopped. Then I went to see, and I found a man who was shot and dying. He had unruly gray hair like your friend."
"He was the spy?" prompted Alex.
"He said that there would be a bomb at the council in Marvu, tomorrow. And that Vshtin would be assassinated."
She gave him a sidelong glance, and frowned. Obviously he should know who the guy was, but Alex wasn't even sure he could pronounce the name. Alex struggled for a reason for his ignorance, but she suddenly gave him a knowing look.
"You are Freedonian, aren't you?" she said. "You people listen to nothing but yourselves!"
"Sorry," he replied. "So this Vush-teen is--"
"Vshtin!" she said, somehow getting all the sounds into one syllable. "He is our High Commissar. He is popular, but there are some who think he has too easily made friends with Imperia. Assassination will incite all sides. And if they blame it on foreign elements, the whole continent would be at war."
"But this spy said it's not foreign elements? It's an internal plot?"
"Yes, and the spy told me who was good and who was bad in this plot. I wrote them down, but I can't remember them without the paper."
"And where is the paper?"
"I put it in a book. Pookiterin took it when he arrested us. But he didn't ask any questions about it. I wrote the names backwards, so perhaps he thought it was nonsense."
Alex sat back. "I didn't see a book when you guys came into the kitchen. Could he have left it in the parlor?"
She shook her head. "He left it in the tavern when the captain took your friend away. He wasn't interested in my things, only me."
"So it could be still in the tavern with your papers and stuff," said Alex. If the captain wasn't in the tavern, Alex could pretend he was sent to fetch them, and....
"I didn't have any papers," said Lina. "Just the book."
Alex paused. Awarshawa didn't seem like the sort of place people went around without papers. And it was funny how she'd evaded his eyes when she told the start of her story. Was she lying about why she was in the woods? He thought about how she had brandished that sword.
"Lina," he said. "Are you one of the bandits?"
Her jaw dropped for a second, and then she covered her face and started to snort in a goofy laugh that didn't match her beauty -- but it made him laugh too.
"Seriously, Lina, you brandish that sword like a pirate, and you don't have papers."
"In the woods you don't need papers!" she protested. "Awarshawa is not totalitarian! Is Anarcho-bureaucracy."
"Anarcho-bur.... What does that even mean?"
"It means in the woods you don't need papers." She shook her head, and then she looked closely at him. "And what about you Mr. Nobody? You are not from the train!"
"Why do you say that?"
"Because the captain kept asking and nobody knows who Alex is."
"They wouldn't know," said Alex. "We... stowed away. That is, Thorny did. He ... had a nervous breakdown and ran away. I followed him to keep him out of trouble."
"Where did you get on the train? What town?"
"I... have no idea. I've been chasing him around for days."
"Did you get on in Ertusk?"
Alex was too smart to fall for that trick -- Ertusk, wherever or whatever it was, was probably no where near where the train was coming from.
"I told you, I don't know."
"I think you're a bandit too."
"I won't tell if you don't," he said. She shrugged, so he went on. "So you need your book, and I need Thorny, and we both want to avoid the authorities. I think I have a plan."
Stay Tuned for Episode Thirty-One: "There Once Was a Man From Michigan"
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