DaVic stayed on the ground for a few moments, expecting a goon to grab him — it was better to be compliant in these situations, he knew from past experience. He was sure that RaBlu’s guys had found him despite everything and were on the verge of bundling him away to who-knew-where.
[Under RaBlu’s regime, who-knew-where was an actual place. But nobody knew where it was — people who criticized RaBlu suddenly disappeared and were said to have been taken to who-knew-where, but nobody ever heard from them after that.]
After a while, when nothing happened, DaVic looked up cautiously. Nobody seemed to be even close to him, except perhaps for JaPok, who was probably still sitting down behind him.
But there certainly was a commotion in front of him. He cautiously got up off the floor and looked in the direction of the uproar.
He saw three Guild seniors — you could tell they were senior thieves by their paunch, and by the fact that they wore special headbands — struggling with what looked like a howling, screaming, kicking whirlwind. By the fact that one of the guys was clutching his face with one hand, it was possible that the whirlwind also bit and scratched.
It took a moment for DaVic to realize that the whirlwind was actually a girl — an apprentice thief by the looks of since she wore the greyish tunic of an apprentice. All the apprentices wore less darker colored tunics. The Guild said that this was to teach them to blend into the darkness even under difficult circumstances and to excel at their craft, but DaVic suspected that the guild just wanted to create a hierarchy.
After all, human societies were built (and maintained) on hierarchies — you always had the people at the top who enjoyed everything and told people what to do. And then you had the hoi-polloi at the bottom who got told what to do and how to do it, but never got to enjoy any of the results of their labours. So why should the Guild be any different?
The girl eventually stopped screaming and howling, but it was evident that she continued to kick and scratch because the three hapless senior thieves held her as far away from themselves as possible while still trying to restrain her.
DaVic looked back at JaPok and noticed that he was watching the display with a smirk that seemed to say, “Better you than me!”
“So what’s going on over there?” he asked JaPok.
“Oh, pay no mind. This happens at least every few days with KarJa.”
“Is KarJa the girl?”
“Yeah, she’s a trouble magnet that one — and it’s always something new.”
“Umm … but why are they chasing her in here? I thought the apprentices were generally restricted to their training barracks …”
“Well, they’ve been trying to get this one to stay out of mischief by giving her some work here in the offices. They can’t really get rough with her since she’s NaPosy’s daughter.”
“Ah,” said DaVic instantly realizing why the apprentice was being treated with kid gloves. [“Well, she’s a kid, so they should be using kid gloves, right?” chuckled his inner voice.]
NaPosy was another one of the heavy hitters in the Thieves Guild. NaPosy’s father was MaLim, one of the longest serving chairmen in the Guild. Also, the chairman before RaBlu. Things in Sir Lanka generally running along — and being run by — familial lines, it was expected by all that NaPosy would eventually be running things.
Given that one single fact, nobody really wanted to be the one to even scuff the polish on NaPosy’s darling daughter’s boots, DaVic figured. If they did, they probably would end up being sent to who-knows-where.
“But what does she want?” DaVic asked, idly curious.
“Who knows. Yesterday she was talking about some alien conspiracy and how aliens were hiding among us…”
DaVic pricked up his ears. Had she somehow discovered something about the Obnitorians?
“Conspiracy? What conspiracy?”
“Who knows! You know how kids are. The kids of the bigwigs are the worst! They have all these notions …”
“But don’t you think that maybe you want to find out what she’s talking about?”
“What? Why would I do that? You know I try to avoid work as much as possible …”
“But think of it, if there really was something going on and you discovered it, you were the one who actually listened to NaPosy’s kid, think how grateful her dad would be …”
That seemed to get the wheels turning in JaPok’s head. But in case this was about the Obnitorians, DaVic didn’t really want JaPok to be poking into things too much.
“Why don’t I talk to her? I’ll find out what’s going on and if there’s anything to it, I’ll pass it on to you so that you can get the credit for it.”
“Why would you do that?” asked JaPok, eyeing DaVic suspiciously.
“Have you forgotten about my little request?” asked DaVic, winking disarmingly. “I scratch your back, you scratch mine …”
“I’d rather not,” grimaced JaPok. “Plus, you aren’t getting out of paying me a fee that easily …”
DaVic decided that it was time to give JaPok a little more incentive. “Look, you know RaBlu doesn’t like NaPosy. So you probably don’t want to be seen as doing something for NaPosy unless something concrete comes out of it. But you also don’t want to be the one who got on NaPosy’s bad side. I’ll handle things for you and if things go wrong, you can blame me and wash your hands of it. But if there’s something there, then you can take the credit for it.”
JaPok seemed to mull this over for a bit. He nodded and said, “OK, fine. If there’s something to the kid’s story and you get me something that I can work with, then I’ll do your job for free. But if nothing comes of it and she’s just making up stuff … and I bet you that’s what it is … I’ll do the job for our standard fee. Fair enough?”
DaVic figured that that was probably the best deal he was going to get today from JaPok. Plus, he really wanted to know what the kid knew and if the Obnitorians were in danger of being discovered. He didn’t want his cash-cow being slaughtered before he was done milking it!
He nodded and held out his hand. JaPok shook it cursorily.
“OK, can I talk to the kid somewhere private?” asked DaVic.
“Yeah, why don’t you use the interview cubicle over there?” asked JaPok, pointing to a closed door a few cubicles away. “I’ll ask them to bring the kid over there.”
DaVic nodded and stood up.
“But mind you, no funny business,” warned JaPok. “That’s NaPosy’s kid and if something goes wrong, it’s going to be my neck on the line. She can be a handful, but don’t you go laying hands on her, you hear me?”
DaVic nodded breezily and headed toward the cubicle that JaPok had pointed to.
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