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Rosamond vs Marlin Tagley (Maltruism)

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Rosamond
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The Second Coming

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The Second Coming
Date: 3 Ymiden 716

OOC: This was first written in the city thread for jobs, housing and advice. As the topic continues in a new thread, some of the text is on repeat in this post.

Rosamond had arrived to Etzos the previous day and had a first meeting with the advisor Marlin Tagley at The Office of The Citizen’s Committee.

At first he had seemed a bit confused and generally overworked, but when Rosamond had shown him her letter of recommendation from Ettore Lorca, Tagley’s behavior had changed.

He had said something about “their foreign agents” and told her there would be someone who would be interested in the letter. In lieu of the letter, he had given her a thumbtack to fasten under her shoe, which she had done. He had told her that if she came back tomorrow at tenth break, he might have a job for her.

She had felt relieved and went to arrange somewhere to live. Her plans to hire somewhere had been changed due to the dog, the horse and the mute errand boy she had acquired during the journey. Instead renting of a cheap room in a tavern, she had bought a simple by decent adobe cottage in the Eastern Civilian Housing in the Outer Ring of Etzos.

Rosamond was back in The Office of the Citizen’s Committee today, as agreed. She was alone this time. The horse was in a paddock. The dog had stayed in the cottage with the mute errand boy; the two of them seemed to get along surprisingly well. But this wasn't the time and place to think of household issues. She dismissed the thoughts of her home and her companions, and focused the things to do right now.

First she went to settle the housing arrangements, and get the final paperwork done. She hoped it would be a quick fix, although she couldn’t be sure. But as it turned out, the housing lady had no objections and they were soon done.

It was time for her to visit Mister Tagley again. Rosamond knocked on the door, but there was no answer. Not a sound! Anxiety flooded her. What if she had misunderstood Tagley’s words? What if something had happened to him, or if there was something else that would make her hopes of quickly finding a job via contacts come to nothing ... then she would be in dire straits indeed, as she had already bought the cottage ...

She opened the door and stepped in. It seemed like the only sensible thing to do.
Last edited by Rosamond on Sat Aug 27, 2016 1:35 pm, edited 4 times in total. word count: 436
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Marlin Tagley marveled at the work of the Qi'ora glassworker, Kae'Eloon. It was not terribly obvious what level of craftmanship was at work here, as Tagley did not allow it to become known. But the craftsman had been commissioned to create a spy window for him, and he had done a superlative job.

A combination of a large, but simple oil lamp, the convex bell of which was strategically placed to align with a small mirror recessed into the wall behind it. Someone unfamiliar with Mr. Tagley's ingenuity would gain nothing from looking into it, but the distorted blurb reminiscent of an old portrait set before a fun house mirror. The real craft at work here though, was the countering concave item that reversed the distortion when set on a certain spot on the shelf in the hidden nook which allowed him to spy on his office.

It was nothing more than a paper weight as far as anyone would know from looking at it. But from the far side of the wall, he could check out all the goings-on his his office, by looking through the combined counteractive distortions. Of course, he had to take the item with him, when he went around to the other side of the building to the access the door into his little spy chamber. He had to take both items with him when he went to conduct similar surveillance on other offices at the bidding of the Tower. But for now, his instructions were to watch his own office and see what sort of behavior this new prospect, Rose Bruac, displayed when seemingly abandoned.

Miss Bruac had shown enough initiative to enter the office. That was a good start. Tagley had no doubt she was experiencing some real conflicting urges right now. She'd been given permission to be where she was. But without further instruction or explanation, she would have no idea what was expected. 'How would she handle this?' was the question both Mr. Tagley and his superior in the Tower wanted to know.

She'd been given a pass by Ettore Lorca, an Etzori agent in Ne'Haer, as a person of "qualifying political philosophies" and versatility. So now was the test. Was she capable of making such a bold decision as to search the office for clues as to her own predicament? For all she knew, Mr. Tagley had been kidnapped by pro-Immortal deviants, and she alone was in a position to discover this truth. Or perhaps Tagley himself was a traitor to "The Human Cause" and she alone was in a position to find the evidence and expose him.

There would be nothing 'wrong' if she decided to simply sit tight and show remarkable patience by sitting for a break, waiting for Mr. Tagley's return. And he too was prepared to wait that long if necessary to gauge what sort of person she was. Was she meek but loyal? Bold but clumsy? Impatient and cowardly? Indecisive and flighty? Or was she what he hoped to see in her - decisive, intelligent, bold and zealous?

Time would tell, if she did nothing but sit quietly for a break, touching nothing, he would know that she was suitable for menial tasks involving nothing of a volatile nature. Patience was a virtue, but it was not the virtue his orders called for. If she began searching the office for clues as to her own disposition, that would be another matter. That would call for a second test.
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For a moment she considered to go out and ask Tagley’s colleagues in the other departments of The Office of The Citizen’s Committee if they knew where he was. Perhaps he had sent them a message if he wasn’t going to show up this day? She felt unsure if it was smart to ask them though. Hesitating about what she ought to do, she started to think of her options systematically. In her own office, back in Ne’haer, she would have written the options and their pros and cons on paper, but she didn’t feel entitled to use the office materials here. Instead she thought loudly, still in the same low voice.

“I could go out and ask the colleagues in the other departments if they know anything about where Tagley is. In case they have information this can spare me more waiting. But in case they don’t know a thing ... I’ll be expected to wait outside this room, without even knowing if he has forgotten the whole thing, or if he’s coming to the office or not today ... “The importance of this thought sank in at once: “So, I’ll check his ledger first, and see if there’s a note about a meeting with me.”

Once Rosamond had taken this decision she acted at once. But she didn’t rush to the other side of the desk. She walked there with the very cautious steps of a visitor who is starting to take liberties in somebody else’s place. For all she knew, Tagley could come rushing into the room any moment, and she didn’t want to be found rummaging through his things. That would for sure be detrimental to her chances at getting a job via him. All she wanted was a quick look in the ledger.

She didn’t want to turn the piles of documents into a paper avalanche, so she moved carefully, with measured movements, as she opened the ledger and browsed quickly, until she found the entries from the previous day. There she found a short and cryptic note, among lots of other cryptic notes. It seemed like Mister Tagley was fond of abbreviations, or maybe he just found it a time saver to code things.

RB, L-letter 2Y, J-Checking, Rtrn 10B0B 3Y

She read this, her gaze darting between the ledger and the door. Then she repeated it to herself in a hushed voice, several times, in order to memorize it. She closed the ledger again, and immediately took a step back from the desk, but she didn’t return to sit on the visitor’s chair.

“RB ..” she mumbled, as she started to attempt to decipher the entry. She felt like she was very far out on a branch to be honest, but as there were no other notes and the elements seemed to form a meaningful context, she settled for a possible interpretation. “Rosamond Bruac, Letter from Lorca, 2nd Ymiden, Checking the job options, Returns at 10:00 3rd Ymiden.”

Rosamond mumbled this to herself. Nobody outside the room would be able to hear anything. And even people inside the room might perhaps have found it hard to figure out what she was mumbling about, if there had been anybody there, if they didn’t have really good hearing and paid lots of attention to her.

It seemed like she was in the right place at the right time, but the man she had a meeting with hadn’t turned up as planned. She glanced at the hourglass. As she had already noticed, it must have been turned earlier in the morning, to judge from the amount of sand still in the upper part of it. Marlin Tagley wasn’t there, but somebody had been there, and turned the hourglass. Perhaps Tagley had done it, and went out on some errand and would soon be back? Or maybe somebody working in the location had done it? Or ... odd as it was, it struck her that Tagley could also still be there after all, but busy with something and so not aware that she had arrived, or just not bothering to answer. Or even, he could be ... she could hardly believe she was thinking this, but in the very worst case his dead body might be somewhere in the room.

The ominous thoughts that started to brew in her mind felt slightly insane. But there was no denying the things Tagley had said yesterday. He had spoken about foreign agents, and he had made her promise to never mention it to other people. There was also the thumbtack he had asked her to wear under her shoe, “in lieu of the letter”. This was far from what people used to think of as “normal”. It definitely seemed like the man was dealing with something much more than average dangerous. Once upon a time she would have dismissed this trail of thought as too unlikely. But after her experiences in Ne'haer she had learnt that very unlikely and unbelievably bad things could happen.

“Mister Tagley?” she said again, loudly now. She bent down and looked under the desk. There was nothing. She started to walk around and search the room, but there was not a trace of Mister Tagley. Rosamond returned to the desk and looked at the hourglass again. The sand was now under the first thin line but not yet at the next thin line; it wasn’t half past ten yet. It seemed like the tension she had felt had made her feel like the time had passed quicker than it really had.

She had come to a crossroad, sort of. She couldn’t just stay in the room and wait, it was ... She walked a bit again and stopped in front of a mirror. Looking at her mirror image she pushed away a thin strand of hair that had escaped from the hairdo. While she took out one of the hairpins and put the hair in place, she muttered rhetorically to the picture of herself. “Well Rose. Mister Tagley isn’t here. And your letter is gone, and you don't even know what was written in it. It’s time to either give up and leave, or stay and search much more thoroughly. What will you do?”

She sighed. Speaking with her mirror image wasn’t ideal, but it was better than having nobody at all to discuss with. “I could go out and ask his colleagues if they know something. This would be the first thing people would normally think of doing, wouldn't it? Or I could just leave and go home without speaking with anybody, in the hopes that nothing serious has happened and I'll find Tagley another day. But ... what if it turns out something really bad has happened, what if they find ... things ... in this office and they know I was here for half a break or so ? What if he’s ... gone ... and they find that letter Ettore gave me, and there’s something in it that will get me into serious trouble? Most of all: what if Tagley has been assaulted and he is here somewhere, still alive? Wouldn’t this be the first priority to check up? Make sure he isn’t in the large cupboards over there ... or behind the curtains ... slowly perishing and going to die if nobody finds him ...“

Her mirror image was just a useless mirror image. It had no answers or advice to give her.

“I should first check behind the cupboards and behind the curtains” she murmured. And if there’s nothing there ... the desk drawers can be checked quickly by just pulling them out ... and after this, the paper piles.”

She looked at her mirror image a last time. Her hairdo was immaculate. There was nothing more she needed to say. She had decided to stay and search the office. It was time to start. Steeling herself for what she might find in worst case, she headed to the cupboards.
Last edited by Rosamond on Fri Aug 26, 2016 9:04 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1351
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The old spymaster watched the new prospect begin to take some cautious initiative, urging her silently. Her first call out loud was to be expected, though it would be something she'd need to avoid in the future. He hoped she would not continue to call out, expecting a different result than the first lack of a response. That should tell her enough to know it would be futile.

He was pleased to see that all her future comments were just barely perceptible mutterings, the kind people did when they were trying to focus their own thoughts. He saw her take note of the amount of time-sand which had passed through the glass. He hoped she would make the connection that it indicated that the glass had to have been turned just a bare bit before she'd first arrived. He saw nothing to suggest she'd put this detail together, but when she looked toward the office door, he held his breath. There were too many reasons why a covert investigator should not do that.

He let it out again as she talked herself out of it. Though her muttering was too low for him to hear, he was a skilled lip-reader, and smiled at her logic, adding a silently pumped fist as she turned decisively to his appointment ledger. That was good. He was only slightly disappointed that she'd taken this long to do it. But was in turn delighted to see how quickly she grasped the gist of his shorthand coding. That was excellent! True, she had basic knowledge of what sorts of things the numbers and letters might stand for, but she did NOT know that the entire page, save for that one entry, was just random gibberish. But she'd still made the connection. The markings in the positive column of the notebook he held as he watched her were far outnumbering those in the negative column.

He cringed a bit when she called out more loudly a second time, putting another of only a very few marks on the negative side. But her search was performed admirably once she got down to it. There was only one spot in the entire office that held the clue she'd need. the fact that she was now searching was a big positive, but if she never found the clue it would be disappointing. It was in plain sight, though not out in the open.

He was glad to see her only check the neat stacks of paper, and only where a sheet was not jogged with the rest. That was a classic way of noting where a single important page was located among many. A single disorganized heap was of no use. There was no way, besides an off color, to mark a location when every page was unjogged. And a colored edging caught attention far too easily.

Everything showed a determination to be silent as she went through his office, the way she tested the floor for creaks, the test of door hinges before swinging them wide quickly to generate the least possible squeaks. She even lifted the drawers slightly as she pulled them to avoid the bulk of grating sounds, and shut them with equal silent efficiency.

He almost forgot himself and cheered aloud when she started to close the bottom left door of a second cabinet, but paused at the last moment, her brow furrowing in curiosity. Her eyes looked directly at the thumbtack stuck into the inner face of the wooden door. It was identical to the one he'd given her to stick into the sole of her shoe the day before. Now the test of her observance and intuition. Would she notice the small pinhole in the wood just a couple of inches away? Would she think to take her own tack and stick it into this pinhole? Or would she simply remove the one currently in the door to examine it?

It was already a considerable success that she'd noticed it at all, but the fact that nothing was attached to the tack already there might be enough to give her the clue she needed to go on to her second test. He bit his lip with anticipation as Rose stared at the tack in the door...and at her shoe...and back at the door...
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There was a thumbtack in the door, and so what? What she could see was a typical metal grey thumbtack head. There was nothing special with finding this on the inside of an office cabinet. The opposite. This was exactly how it used to be. The thumbtack had probably been used to fasten a slip of paper with a note about something, and this had later been torn away when it wasn’t important anymore, and nobody had bothered with pulling out the thumbtack.

So why had she reacted to it? At first she couldn’t understand it. Perhaps it was just the complete lack of any other things to react to that had made her prone to react to anything she could find? She didn’t know what to think. But as a matter of fact, she had reacted. And as she had reacted, the human tendency to want things to make a meaningful pattern kicked in. She had searched for some kind of clue, and she had found this thumbtack, and it was all she had to try to make sense of. And the only thing she could think of that had anything with thumbtacks to do was another thumbtack; the one Marlin Tagley had given her the previous day.

That thumbtack was now fastened under the sole of her left shoe. She had found it best to not question the instructions Tagley had given her. But she sure had found it mysterious that he wanted her to walk around with a thumbtack under her shoe, and this “in lieu of a letter”. Rosamond had never heard of anything like this before. In the evening, when she had been sitting in her new adobe cottage in the Eastern Civilian Housing, and Sandro had fallen asleep beside the dog on the mattress she had made of a blanket and some hay, she had studied the small item closer. This hadn’t made her any wiser. It was a thumbtack. The head was typical metal-grey, but the shaft was red. Finally she had just put it back under her shoe and went to bed.

A thumbtack. Another thumbtack. A thumbtack in lieu of a letter. Wasn’t that exactly what she saw there on the inside of the cabinet door, a thumbtack in lieu of the piece of paper she assumed had been fastened with it once upon a time?

Unsure of what to do she ran her fingertips over the head of the thumbtack in the cabinet door. It felt just like metal use to feel, but as her fingers moved on a few inches further she felt an irregularity in the otherwise smoot surface of the wood. She leaned closer and saw that there was a pinhole, like there had been another thumbtack there, once upon a time. This seemed to confirm the idea that a piece of paper had once been fastened there ... This made her think that this cabinet door was maybe not the only one that had been used this way, and there could be something useful pinned up inside the other cabinet door. A quick investigation told her it wasn’t so. The inside of the other door were perfectly smooth. There was only one that had a thumbtack, and an empty pinhole to match it.

Match. Somehow the thumbtack under her shoe ought to be used for something else than just walking around on. At least her natural tendency to look for meaning told her so. What could a thumbtack be used to match? Another thumbtack. Or a pinhole. Or both. In lieu of a letter. It would make two thumbtacks, in the place of a letter. It seemed utterly farfetched, but this seemed sort of meaningful in the sense that there was only thumbtacks to find and no message.

Make them match. Ruled by a vague instinct to complete what little pattern and meaning she could see in all this, she took off her shoe, pulled out the thumbtack Tagley had given her and looked at it. She could hardly believe she really was doing this, but she put her own thumbtack in the empty pinhole.

As she pushed it in, the other thumbtack was pushed out slightly and now it was visible that the shaft was red on this one too. She heard a sound so low that it would have seemed like pure imagination if it hadn’t been followed by a small panel moving in the door. She had opened a secret compartment. A shimmering feeling of excitement shot through her, when she found a letter there. But she forced herself to calm down. She drew her breath and composed herself, and then she unfolded the letter to read it.

The message was: Room #14 at "Inn for Dinner". And it was signed “Good job.”

One mystery had been replaced with another mystery. She folded the paper and put it in a pocket inside her cloak. She didn’t know who this message was meant for, but as she had been able to use the thumbtack to open the cabinet chances were the message was for her. Tagley had spoken about foreign agents and told her what he said was to be kept secret. Perhaps his absence and this message was part of the secretiveness and so she would meet him at an inn instead? To be honest, if this was the case, it was secretive and complicated on a level she hadn’t been prepared for. I made her feel wary. As she carefully closed the secret compartment and closed the cabinet door, then put the thumbtack back under her left shoe, she pondered the ramifications. A very high degree of secretiveness was normally associated with a high degree of danger.

There could be no harm in meeting mister Tagley in another place though. She would follow the instructions and find the right inn and room. Hopefully the message meant that he had found a job for her.
Last edited by Rosamond on Fri Aug 26, 2016 9:19 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1001
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Marlin Tagley sat in the back chamber of the inn, waiting to see how this young lady, Rose, would respond to the instructions he'd left. He had little doubt she would find them; she'd already shown an ability to do that. And the format for that little task was identical to the first, save for the thumbtack being sunk into a window frame in room #14, rather than a cabinet door in his office.

No, it was more in how she would deal with the obstacle he would place in her path. Mr. Sej'lehna, the proprietor of the inn was an old hand of his, and had even arranged to have the evening's normally scheduled entertainment switched with a trio of musicians that were also on the payroll. Having been given her description, the horn player would hit a particular sour note upon Rose's arrival. If he should hit it by legitimate mistake, he would make an identical mistake with the next measure of whatever they were playing. It was not as if they were concerned about losing their hire, after all.

But this also was not really the issue as far as Rose's requirements went. She would get the note in the window frame, and follow it to table #B-7. Except that Mr. Sej'lehna, also being alerted by the sour note on the horn, would be sure to intervene, telling the young lady she was not allowed in the back rooms; that they were specially reserved for a select group, to which she did not belong.

She'd already shown an ability to follow simple instructions given previously by someone who would not be present when she completed them. This was done with the delivery of the letter from Ettore Lorca. She'd then shown an ability to adapt to instructions that met with a disruption involving the lack of the person she was to meet with. She'd passed both those tests with more than a merely passing grade; though neither scenario involved an opposing and imposing figure. Now it was to be dealing with overt prevention of her ability to complete a task.

She would have no way of knowing that the innkeeper was in on the scenario, though Tagley would be impressed in the extreme if she allowed for the possibility. He wanted to know how she would try to get past the man. Would she try to sweet talk him? He hoped she would be more inventive than that. Were she to try that with a total stranger, in a rough town like Etzos, that may well lead to rape for being a "tease".

Would she subtly make the presence of her thumbtack known to Sej'lehna? That could well work, but that was a perilous course to take with the hostility of some factions. It would presume his being in on the arrangement; and Sej'lehna himself would not be pleased to have his connections possibly compromised if it was done too clumsily. Would she create a diversion and slip in when she had the chance? It stood to reason that she might assume that Tagley would protect her from whatever repercussion might result. But after he'd failed to meet her in his office, she could not be all that sure that he'd really be here this time either.

As far as Tagley was concerned, Miss Bruac was already up for a "research" position. But would she merit an "investigative researcher" position? He hoped so.
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After finding the message that would eventually send her to Inn For Dinner, Rosamond had left The Office of The Citizen’s Committee and blended in with the pedestrians on the street outside. As she didn’t want to just walk around at random and didn’t know the name of the place she was supposed to head to, she had asked the guards at the gate for advice. This was how she had found out that “Inn For Dinner” meant more than just words; it really was an inn. Her first impulse had been to rush there at once, but thinking twice she had decided to wait and arrive at dinner time instead. This was the only indication of a meeting time she had.

The smell of horse manure outside Inn For Dinner didn’t bother her, as she was used to it. But she had washed her clothes the day before, in order to be presentable at what she had assumed to be a job interview and she wanted to stay clean. She grabbed her skirt and lifted it up to calf height, in order to protect it from dirt, as she cruised carefully between the horse droppings on the street in front of the inn. A few lazy louts lounging nearby cheered stupidly at the sight, but Rosamond ignored them.

She stepped into the inn. A rich smell of food and spices dominated the air. Staying in the shadow right inside the door she looked around at the walls of wood and brick, and the sturdy furniture. It was quite dark in there, but small, cylindrical lanterns of punched metal lit the place up a bit. Guests were gathered around the tables. Some of them were eating and drinking, others just waiting, or shouting out for attention from the staff.

There was a counter directly inside the door, to the right side. Further to right there was a stairwell to the next floor. Rosamond assumed they offered rooms for rent upstairs, and room fourteen could be found up there. If she had found the right place. If she wasn’t on a fool’s errand. If, if, if ...

It was a day of endless tactical thinking. If she asked for number fourteen she would lose her room for maneuver. She might get instant escort to said room, which wasn’t guaranteed to be a good thing. Or if she was told all rooms were taken it would be hard to find an excuse if she was caught trespassing. Saying she had a meeting would require her to tell with whom, and after the events in Tagley’s office in the morning it felt best to not mention his name.

If she instead tried to get upstairs by asking to hire a room, she would have to pay, and she would need to give them her name. If something was amiss in room fourteen this evening, she could find herself on a list of suspects and be taken in for interrogation. Lie about her name? Sometimes in the past she had used a false identity. But now she wasn’t disguised, and people would recognize her later. So the best was maybe to simply sneak upstairs? Rosamond hesitated for a trill and then she walked into the faint lamplight, taking a step to the right.

The sound level in the room was high. It wasn’t only due to the guests chatting and laughing, but also to a group of musicians doing their best to keep the atmosphere vivacious. They played well, so it was a surprise to suddenly hear a particularly false horn tone. She shot the horn placer a somewhat annoyed glance and steeled herself for more noise from the abused instrument, but now they played quite well again. The sour tone seemed like a onetime gaffe.

But, it had the pro of making everybody look at the musicians. This made it possible for Rosamond to quickly stealth to the stair and climb it. Upstairs, she stealthed slowly and silently along the corridor, making her steps as soundless as she could... She pulled down one of the sparse metal lanterns and inspected the doors closer; the numbers were carved into the wood. She found what seemed like room number fourteen. Tracing the carved numbers with her fingertip for added confirmation, she could feel the forms of a one and a four. It was the right room.

Perhaps. It could also be just the right number. As Rosamond was well aware after participating in the bookkeeping of the family’s firm in Ne’haer, numbers didn’t necessarily always represent the reality one assumed. Pondering this sad fact, Rosamond looked at the closed door and felt uneasy. She put her ear against the door and listened but didn’t hear a sound. Then she gave the door a very small push and felt it move inwards; it wasn’t locked. Tense but composed, Rosamond held the skirt up with her left hand and prepared to run if needed, and then she pushed the door open with her foot. Kick!

An anticlimax followed. The room was empty, clean and well ordered. Feeling ridiculous, she searched everywhere, until she eventually discovered a new thumbtack, this time in the window frame. Just like in the cabinet door in Tagley’s office, she found a second pinhole nearby. Once again, Rosamond put her own thumbtack in the empty pinhole. Again, a secret compartment opened. There she found a new cryptic message: Table #B-7.

She stood there for a few bits, pondering the message and its implications. Next to nobody would have reason to look the inside of a cabinet door in Tagley’s office, and even if somebody did, the presence of a thumbtack would probably not make them react. That made more sense than a secret compartment in a window frame in an inn. Every random guest who went to the window had a chance to notice the thumbtack, and try to pull it out. People didn’t even need a reason; some did things like pull out thumbtacks automatically, without even thinking.

For this reason, Rosamond found it logical to think the room was simply never rented out to random guests. It was used as secret letterbox. This meant the innkeeper must be involved. She bet the room was “permanently rented out” and the owner didn’t even let a maid in to clean but did it himself. If somebody ever lived there this must be people who were also involved in the ... confidential ... postal ... services...

After checking that her hairdo was perfect, Rosamond went downstairs again.

She sauntered into the big room, looking for table numbers. There were none. She assumed the table she was searching for must be located in a private dining room. One of the two doors in the back were obviously the door to the kitchen. Staff ran in with food and drink and out with dishes. She suspected the closed door was the entrance to a private dining section and went there. But when she was about to open it and enter, a man stepped in between her and the door. He was tall and had pointed ears that told her he was biqaj.

“I’m Sej'lehna, the owner of this humble inn” he said politely. “I’m sorry miss. The back room is reserved for a select group, and I’m afraid you aren’t one of them. I’m sorry. Only for the very few. But I’m sure we can find somewhere to sit out here in our public room.”

The apology sounded genuine. But beneath the pleasantness was a firmness she didn’t fail to notice. If she hadn’t already thought this through upstairs and concluded he was involved somehow, she would have assumed he was just keen on protecting his business and she would have started to think of how to persuade him from that point of view.
But now ...

It was mysterious, just like the whole day had been chain of tricky mysteries to solve. When she thought this, her take of the situation seemed to turn inside out, and show her a brand new mental picture. She was a person being sent through a series of mysteries, dealing with things outside of what people normally needed to deal with. From this point of view it could make sense that the innkeeper represented the current mystery to solve, and the back room would be the next secret chamber to unlock.

She was cautious though. The mind searches for meaning and tends to make up a consistent context of the available pieces of information. This can be an asset if the construction equals the reality and you are first to understand a new opportunity, but a great threat if it’s not true and you are out on a branch. She had learnt this during her time in the family business. It was always important to be aware of the risks for wishful thinking. Rash action based on overestimation of her own smartness would be stupid. Rosamond knew she couldn’t just openly tell the innkeeper what she was thinking. She had promised Tagley to not say a word. If the innkeeper too had promised to keep everything secret, chances were he would just end the conversation and shoo her away.

The only other thing she could think of was the thumbtack.

The thumbtack was how she had unlocked the secret compartments, so maybe I would also unlock the backroom if she showed it to the innkeeper? But how would she do it? If she would take off her shoe to pull out a thumbtack and show it to the innkeeper, people would for sure have fun watching it and commenting on it. The innkeeper could hardly change his mind in public due to being shown a thumbtack, in what could look as an exotic attempt at seduction. She would have to think of something better ... and she thought quickly, and put out her foot out and tripped a bypassing waitress who carried a big load of dishes. Chaos ensued when the woman fell and pottery crashed. Rosamond pretended to have been pushed by the waitress, so she was on the floor too, and took the opportunity to pull out the thumbtack from the sole. With a small scream of pain that wasn’t faked, she pushed the thumbtack pin into the palm of her hand.

And then Rosamond stumbled up, ranted like crazy, and indignantly showed the innkeeper her hand, where only the head of the thumbtack could be seen, in the middle of her left palm. What kind of inn was this, really! Look what his clumsy staff had done to her! She was injured and wanted compensation!

This would maybe give her access to the back room, she thought. If not, she wouldn't openly have said or done anything that outed any of them. If the innkeeper still refused, she would simply stay in the inn, and try to find some other way into the back room and table #B-7 ... assuming the table was in there, which she actually didn't know yet.
Last edited by Rosamond on Fri Aug 26, 2016 9:40 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1873
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For just a brief pair of ticks, the innkeeper, Mr. Sej'lehna, looked at the indicator of association with Tagley's network, embedded in the palm of the woman's hand. There was just a hint if anger, as if he was weighing the possibility of this tactic blowing his cover, as well as the ruin of several nels' worth of crockery. Then a smile made a flash appearance, disappearing immediately in the face of his playacting, both in Rose's interests and his own.

"Oh my, you've cut yourself!" The biqaj innkeeper exclaimed, nudging momentum in the direction of the previously off-limits room. It was a strange phenomenon how a sudden influx of something greatly resembling blood seemed to spurt across her hand, possibly from some small reservoir up Sej'lehna's cuff. But it not only gave credence to the cry of injury, it also completely covered the presence of the thumbtack in Rose's palm.

"I believe one of the gentlemen reserving this chamber is a doctor. Come with me, and we'll get this all taken care of." His voice seemed to carry a wink as he led her through the door, into the back room. There was only one table at which any one was seated, and that table accommodated only a single gentleman. The two made a moderate show of haste towards him. Even with the increase in visibility as they neared this person, there was little doubt who it would turn out to be.

Marlin Tagley...

The old Counselor looked up with a grin, but one that held a note of apology in its crinkled eyelids. But if Rose thought this apology was directed at her for the maneuvers she'd been put through, she was soon to learn otherwise. "I'm terribly sorry about all those broken dishes, Ludie...And how are you, Miss Bruac? Please sit down. No more games." he said, his gaze shifting from one to the other. He indicated the empty seat across from him, which was, coincidentally, of all the seats at all the tables, the only other one that was pulled out.

The innkeeper, Mr. Sej'lehna, smirked, "Those dishes and bowls will be coming out of your cash reserves...Mr. Tagley. The young lady should probably have a bottle of my finest brandy, as well. For medicinal purposes, of course." the biqaj ribbed, with a sudden exaggerated look of seriousness at her "wounded' hand. "You can pay for that as well."

"Oh, I quite agree. Certainly. Only the best, mind. It's the least I can do." The old spymaster went on to Mr. Sej'lehna. He then turned back to Rose, "How about an early supper, my dear? You must be hungry after all this orchestration." he said this last word with a conductor's flourish of his fork and faced back to the now-retreating innkeeper, "A menu? if you would, good sir?"

The biqaj made a waving gesture back without looking, and Tagley promptly slipped his napkin into his lap. "The food here is excellent. Velvessa is truly the "Mistress of Seasonings". Mah'ludre often caters meetings at the Tower." his look became sly. "You should probably make a note of that." he settled comfortably into his seat, and now focused on his impending conversation, "So now, where were we?"
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Rosamond had already figured out that Sej'lehna must be involved, so she followed the conversation between Tagley and the innkeeper without feeling surprised. She noticed the contrast between Tagley’s cordial style, using first names, and the innkeepers more formal style, keeping to title and surname. From this small observation she drew the conclusion that Tagley seemed like the one with the higher position here, no matter how he seemed to treat Sej'lehna as a good friend and the innkeeper seemed to reciprocate. The two men seemed get along well, she thought, but the inn keeper knew the hierarchy.

So, the apologetic grin and the excuses she had at first though were meant for her, had been for the innkeeper. Where did that put her in the invisible hierarchy? Easy to guess, as she was a new person who had only just managed to be let in.

As she sat down on the chair that had been pulled out for her, she made a mental note of the fact that the innkeeper often catered meetings at The Tower. But maybe it was just an extra addition to the praise of the inn’s food. Anyways. Luckily there was a napkin. She put it under her hand to avoid smearing the read stuff on her clothes. She didn’t know what it was, but she wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible, as you could never know the effect of unknown substances. She wiped it away.

“Where were we?” asked Tagley, who seemed to be in a good and cheery mood and thinking of brandy and good food. His readiness to pay things without even speaking about the cost made her wonder how much an adviser at The Office of the Citizens’ Committee earned. If he was the one who payed? He had answered like he didn’t care how much was taken out of those “cash reserves”. An interesting fact to her, as it made her wonder how much she could ask to get paid without Tagley even raising and eyebrow ... but it was a bit early to think of that, as she didn’t even know yet what all this was about.

Orchestrated. No more games. He had intentionally sent her through all the tricky mystery solving.

“Just a moment Mister Tagley ... “ Instead of answering at once Rosamond steeled herself and then she pulled out the thumbtack from the palm of her hand. Blood trickled out, real blood this time. She pressed a corner of the napkin over the small wound, waiting for the bleeding to stop. Then she put her left foot over her right knee and pushed the thumbtack into the sole. It was maybe not the most proper thing she could have done, but it was practical.

“I understand that you set this up” she said to Tagley, smoothing her skirt out again. “But you asked where we were. Well. We had a meeting. You told me to come back today as you would maybe be able to tell me about a job. So I think that is where we were. But instead you have sent me from mystery to mystery this whole day, and now this is where we are ... we have been playing hide and seek, I have found you, and you have invited me to dine with you. I’m looking forward to the dinner.“ She smiled, because she really was hungry.

She stopped there as she didn’t want to assume too much or accuse Tagley of something. Perhaps he would offer more information on his own initiative? In her experience men liked to speak in situations when they were sure they knew more. She guessed she would soon see if it was so with Tagley too.

Though in her thoughts she suspected that her options were limited. She knew a lot of things now, didn’t she? She knew about the thumbtack and how to use it to open secret compartments and as a sign to identify herself to other people associated with Tagley. She had seen that the seemingly confused adviser wasn’t what he looked to be. She also knew about the connection between him and the innkeeper. She knew too much.

She also knew ... she knew about her own letter, the letter of recommendation from Lorca, and Tagley’s reaction to it, the things he had said, how he had made her promise to keep it secret. Some would maybe have though the events of the day so absurd that it must be a joke. But she doubted the man at the other side of the table would have went to so much trouble just for a prank or in order to get dinner company. Would the people at his workplace even recognize him now, self-assured and in control of the situation instead of seeming like a natural born threat to bureaucracy and administrative paper piles ... he looked the same way he had looked yesterday, but her impression of his personality was vastly different now.

Logic reasoning told her the knowledge she held meant she would come out of this room allied with Tagley, or not at all. But it wasn't total news to her. She had sort of ... understood what she was gambling for. These thoughts passed by unseen behind her pleasant smile, or so she hoped. There had maybe been a glimpse of something slipping out in her expression or gaze, despite her efforts to seem unmoved. At this point the innkeeper returned with a menu and a bottle. She hoped it was the brandy.
Last edited by Rosamond on Fri Aug 26, 2016 9:51 pm, edited 2 times in total. word count: 936
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Mr. Tagley watched Rose pull the tack from her palm without expression. When she'd replaced it in the sole of her shoe, he sat back, "You know, when I was growing up and learning my trade, I knew a man that was searching a very dangerous office. By that, I mean dangerous for him to be discovered there. It involved some very bad people. Suddenly the doorknob rattled and he knew he had mere ticks to somehow justify his presence. He pulled his knife and slammed it through his hand into the desk top."

He was impressed to see only curiosity on the face of the woman before him, no horror or nausea. "He did this so he could claim that he was brought and kept there against his will, due to them having pinned his hand there. He had done enough research to have a good deal of incriminating information. So he now presented these details as stuff his captors had blabbed in front of him, adding that this other gang had anticipated that he would now be killed. He spiced up his tale with exaggerated accounts of relationships with highly placed members of the political scene, and how the entire scenario was to lift the gang now before him into a far higher level of priority with the local guard."

The brandy arrived, with a plate of rolls and butter. "Aaah, yes. Do please help yourself. Anyway, where was I?" he said with the muffled tone of one enjoying a buttered roll. "Oh yes. The gang before him became quite angry with this "other gang". Of course Ferris was able...oh yes, Ferris was the man's name...Anyway, he was able to give convincing descriptions of these other men, and the gang war was on!" he waved with a flourish.

"Of course, the others had no idea there was any change in the level of rival feelings directed at them and fell victim to a crushing ambush. Virtually no collateral damage at all. And Ferris was invited into the gang as a scout and political liaison. He was of course, first required to show his willingness to kill. This was done easily enough upon one of the three survivors of the other gang. And he had now infiltrated the only major criminal group in that town. Quite a coup for an investigator." Again, he had newfound respect for the woman's lack of sermonizing over the admittedly questionable morality of Ferris' tactics. However, Idalos was a world that quickly taught one the entire kill-or-be-killed policy of survival. And she appeared to accept this. All the better.

"So anyway, I just wanted to be sure that you don't consider a tack in the palm to be justification for sympathy. Or this runaround you've been given, by way of a test of your resourcefulness and resolve. I must say you pass with flying colors!" He clapped his hands several times and then leaned forward, all business. "But I also want to be sure that you still want this job. Everyone needs money, and a job is the best method for gaining it. But it doesn't do you much good if it gets you killed. Now I have no intention of sending you up against the Fence or the Cauldron. And if an investigation of something first deemed far safer should start to hint at such connections, I will pull you in immediately. Right now, I would just have you familiarize yourself with the..."surface" of Etzos. It would not surprise me if even this task might draw unfriendly eyes. I will start you at 4 gold nel per day, with a promise of many promotions if you continue to show the cleverness you have graced me with thus far. I also promise you that you have friends in very high places. Much higher than scatter-brained old Mr. Tagley. But they can not reveal themselves openly. The job is yours if you want it, Miss Bruac. Research Investigator."
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