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Killian Del learned of General Rand’s death as soon as he woke.
Since he had not achieved his bed until well after fourteen midnight, and was thoroughly inebriated at that time, shortly after he woke was close to fourteen noon.
He learned of the tragedy not via the newspaper presented on its tray—the paper was always a day behind events, at best—but rather by the oldest and most effective information delivery service known to humanity…the servants.
In his case, it was his valet, who had it from the downstairs maid, who had it from the cook, who had it from the dairy carter, whose morning delivery to the Rand home had been turned away by the police officers currently investigating the general’s murder.
Upon learning of his friend’s demise, Killian chose to forego his usual second cup of tea, and instead had his valet teleph the city Chief of Police, of whom he demanded a face-to-face meeting, in which he expected all the details of the ongoing investigation, as well as an accounting of how such a thing had been allowed to happen in the first place.
Chief Salla had not been, to Killian’s mind, sufficiently deferential, but she had agreed to stop by at half-one.
The lack of urgency on the chief’s part had Killian rethinking his endorsement of Salla come the next city election.
While it had no doubt looked good to be seen backing a non-corrupt official, he’d never expected non-corrupt to also mean noncompliant.
Determined to rectify the issue, Killian used the time between their teleph conversation and Salla’s arrival to review his personal ledgers, with an eye towards which of the officials listed therein would prove a strong—and more compliant—successor.
He’d just narrowed down the possibilities to a District Commander already in his pocket, and a second cousin who’d served as a captain in the Civil Defense Service, when Chief Salla was announced.
Killian set the books to one side as Salla was shown into the office.
At the same time, the university bells chimed half-one.
“Chief Salla.” Killian nodded a greeting from behind his desk.
He did not rise, nor did he ask the chief to take a seat.
“I trust you had sufficient reason to keep me waiting,” he said, in such a way as to assure Salla no reason would be considered sufficient.
“There was a bit of a crime spree throughout the Ninth District last night,” Salla replied, her umber features indicating a token remorse, at best. “The sort of thing the Chief of Police is expected to attend to.”
“And what of this crime, in this neighborhood?” Killian demanded. “General Rand was murdered, not three blocks from here. Who was attending to General Rand? Where,” he added, leaning back with his hands steepled beneath his chin, “was the police presence on Chaucer Street?”
“According to DS Hama’s report, the usual patrol was working their beat,” she replied, opening the file she’d carried in with her and scanning the top page. “In fact, from what I see here, Officer LaCosta spied your own carriage pulling out of the Rand estate shortly after twenty-eight hundred hours. Is this correct?” She glanced up.
“It is,” Killian said. “The Rands hosted a gathering yesterday evening. I was the last to depart.”
“And did you see anyone or anything suspicious as you departed?”
“It never occurred to me to look,” Killian sniffed. “Though it shouldn’t matter, should it? I was given to understand your officers had the killer dead to rights, and lost him.”
“There is a suspect, and he did flee the scene,” Salla agreed, her eyes returning to the report. “He was identified by Madame Rand as an ex-convict by the name of Gideon Quinn.” She looked up. “You wouldn’t happen to know a Gideon Quinn, would you, Minister?”
Though Killian suspected the Gideon he’d met in the diner was the same Gideon Jessup had feared (for good reason), saying so would only raise questions about Killian’s presence in Kit’s Diner, and his relationship with Jinna Pride. “I’ve never met anyone by that—”
“QUINN!” a voice bellowed from outside the office’s picture window.
A voice that was followed in short order by a rock, which shattered said window, and that was followed by a charging mass of a man, festooned with bits of shrubbery, and armed with an assortment of makeshift weapons which seemed to have started life as plumbing equipment.
From the distant sounds of additional shatterings, Killian thought at least two other intruders were attempting entrance via the kitchen and parlor windows, respectively.
Salla had already drawn her weapon, leaving the report she’d been reading to fall to the carpet at her feet.
“Hold on t’yer britches, Quinn!” the intruder was shouting, and then he froze mid-charge. “Oy!” He glared, looking from Salla to Killian and back. “You ain’t Gideon Quinn.”
“True, we are not,” Salla agreed amiably, though her weapon remained steady on the target. “Any particular reason you’d be looking for Mr. Quinn here?”
“Because here’s where he told us to come,” the man said, then, as if in afterthought, lowered the pipe wrench he’d been brandishing.
From the rest of the house, shouts rose in various levels of protest, from the panicked screams of the butler to the authoritative bark of Salla’s aide, to the shocked cursing of, presumably, the other intruders.
“Did he now?” Salla glanced at Killian, who looked somewhat gray.
“Oy then,” the man said as he finally took note of Salla’s uniform, “you’re the swarmin’ filth!”
“That I am,” Salla agreed. “And you are swarming nicked.” Even as she spoke, the door behind her opened, and her aide entered with his sidearm raised.
“We are quite safe, Gorsky,” Salla assured him. “But this man is to be placed under arrest for trespassing, vandalism, and intended assault.”
“Weren’t nothing intended,” the outraged intruder groused. “I’d’a trounced Quinn for sure if he’d been ‘ere.”
“You’ll want to read Mister—” She paused and looked at the oaf. “I assume you have a name?”
“Wendell,” the oaf muttered.
“Read Mister Wendell his rights,” Salla said to Gorsky. “And we must also declare Minister Del’s home a crime scene, possibly linked to General Rand’s murder.”
“What?” Killian started in surprise. “I can’t imagine why it should—”
“I am certain it’s nothing more than a misunderstanding,” Salla cut in. “But the fact this ruffian was invited to your home by the prime suspect in General Rand’s murder, well…” She shrugged. “You see how it looks.”
“For now, perhaps it is best if you join me at my office, at least until after the search is complete,” Salla offered.
Killian’s face went from ashen to dead white. “I will have your badge of office,” he said under his breath. “I will see you working waste patrol for this.”
Already the room was filling with other members of Salla’s escort, one of whom joined Gorsky in securing Wendell, while the other radioed in a request for additional officers on the scene.
“Stranger things have happened,” Salla agreed calmly. “Such as a district minister facing charges of corruption. Of course, I would never make such an accusation without proof.” She glanced from Killian, to the ledgers sitting on his desk, and back.
For once, Killian Del had no response.