Monday, September 17, 2012

Misplaced Hero - Episode 39

Episode 39 - Rozinshura vs. The Plot
by Camille LaGuire

Rozinshura hardly paid attention as High Commissar Vshtin greeted him effusively.

"Kosha!  My kinchura!" the commissar cried, and he took Rozinshura by the shoulders and gave him a kiss on each cheek.

They were not kinchura -- that is, not close -- though they had been kinchin, back in the First Revolution.  Rozinshura had been an awe-struck boy, fetching water and carrying messages for the band of men who led the revolution.  Vshtin had not been so much older, a young professor who out-shone the old men with his cold but clear ideas about how to use bureaucracy to make anarchism work.

But now it seemed the cold intellectual had learned to be a politician, smiling and flattering local officials... or perhaps he was just nervous of those around him, and seeking an ally.

Rozinshura might have been flattered in other circumstances, but just now, he could only think of one thing:

There were three dozen security men on the platform, crowding around, and listening to everything they said to each other.  Who knew if they could be trusted?  Perhaps some of them, but if there were a coup planned, perhaps none.

Vshtin had his own bodyguards, wary men dressed just like him in cloth caps and canvas coats. They could probably be trusted, but there were only four of them.

Rozinshura needed to change the odds.  He needed an escape, a fortified room, a bunker, something to separate them from the others.

Rozinshura needed a car.

A car had only so much room; with Rozinshura, Vshtin, a bodyguard, and Tralkulo driving, there would be hardly any room for enemies.  The odds would be even enough for a short time so Rozinshura could speak.

And a car could flee, if that turned out to be best.

So Rozinshura smiled and dissembled like a flattered official and then said quickly:

"You will want to see the Ambassador, of course. He is injured, you know, but doing well."  Then he shouted for Tralkulo to get the car and turned back apologetically to Vshtin.   "My leg.  I am very slow on foot."

"Perhaps you should stay behind, then," said one of the security officers with a sneer.

"No, no, Colonel Sochir," said the High Commissar.  "This man stopped a runaway caisson with that leg. Have respect."

Rozinshura looked closely at Sochir. His name was one of those on the list, set aside a little by itself, as though it were important.  The man studied Rozinshura just as shrewdly, and then gave a little nod of respect, and began to gather his men to provide security for the short trip to the inn.  And Rozinshura heard him tell one man to drive.  He planned to take control of the car when it arrived.

It took longer than expected for Tralkulo to get the car.  Rozinshura filled the time by starting his report to Vshtin. He listened for the rattle of the old engine, in hopes of beating Sochir to the car.  But then just as he heard it, he also happened to see something else.

Down the road, two figures stepped out of the shadows and made their way along the road.  It looked like Pookiterin and the old drunk.  Or almost like them.  Rozinshura squinted closer, and in a moment everyone was looking at the two figures who quickly disappeared down a side road toward the river.

"Was that Pookiterin?" said Sochir, suddenly distracted from his plans.

"I think so," said Rozinshura.  But then another figure appeared, in a drab brown uniform.  But he walked with excessive price -- upright, strutting -- and there was no mistaking him.  "No, I think that's Pookiterin."

Sochir jumped down the steps to get a closer look.  Rozinshura took advantage of the distraction to launch himself down the stairs and greet Tralkulo as she jumped out of the car to greet them.  He tried to hurry her back to the driver's seat, but she paused to stammer out an apology.

"I am sorry I took so long, Kinchin Captain," she said.  "There were two security men who tried to take the car from me.  But they were drunk so I was able to push them aside."

"Security men?" said Sochir, who had now returned. He looked at his own men, who shook their heads and looked surprised.  "Who were they?"

"They were Pookiterin's men," said Tralkulo.

Sochir took a sharp breath and glanced at his own lieutenants and then at Vshtin.

"This is not...," he stammered.  "This is not... right, Commissar."  But then he pulled himself together.  "Pookiterin has behaved strangely lately."  He glanced uneasily at Rozinshura as if unwilling to say much in front of him.

"That is true," said Rozinshura. "He has been behaving strangely. Perhaps you should investigate."

Vshtin said, simply: "Go."

Sochir nodded his respect and took some men with him.  Vshtin sent the rest ahead to the inn to meet them.  Then he and Rozinshura and two of the bodyguards got into the car.

"Now," said the High Commissar, "what is it you wanted to tell me in private?"

"Someone wants to kill you," said Rozinshura.  "Tomorrow, with a bomb, in Marvu."

"Then it is good that I am not in Marvu.," said Vshtin slowly.  He thought a moment and then nodded to Tralkulo.  "Let us take the long way, so you can tell me more."

The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- now available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

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