Child of the Drenched: Intrigue in Faerieland - Part Four
Jacques pressed his ear against Mara's door. He couldn't hear anything anymore. She had shut herself in and cried when she found out that he uncle was under arrest for stealing Queen Fyora's staff. She must have cried herself to sleep. Mara was very emotional when it came to her family, as he had learned in relation to the Drenched. She had obviously come to care greatly about Howl.
Jacques didn't believe a word of it, he was certain Mara's uncle wouldn't steal the staff. He also knew that he was treading on thin ice. Mara had already revealed that she was Howl's niece; if Brynn did any digging into her background then it could well come up that Mara was a pirate. That would land them all in prison and make things look blacker for Howl.
His first instinct was to pack their bags and get them out of Faerieland and back to Krawk Island before the day was out, but he knew he would never be able to convince Mara to go. Mara believed her uncle's innocence and she wouldn't leave until it was proven. Which meant it was up to Jacques to get to the bottom of the matter.
He left the hotel and went to the palace. Howl was being held in the dungeons. The guards at the front gate eyed him suspiciously. He knew that one of them had been there when they arrested Howl, so it was likely that one remembered him. Brynn had told Mara since she was family she would be allowed to visit. Jacques had stayed silent at her side the entire time; he was hoping that they would have taken it for granted that they were family and let him through.
"What is your business here?" the guard asked.
"I'm here to see my uncle, Howl. He was arrested this morning. I was told I would be allowed to see him if I came," Jacques answered politely.
The guard nodded and soon he was sitting in a room with Howl. Howl was shackled to his chair, but thankfully no one stood guard in the room itself.
"Jacques, where is Delia?" Howl immediately asked.
"Mara's fine, she's back at the hotel," Jacques said in a low voice. "First off, if anyone asks, I'm your nephew. That's why they let me see you."
"I don't believe a word of this and Mara doesn't either. We're going to do everything in our power to help you, but you need to tell me everything you know," Jacques continued.
Howl sighed and made a move to rub his forehead, but was stopped by the shackles, "Really, old boy, I'm not going to be much help. I was completely blindsided by this. I didn't even know someone had stolen the staff. I got to my office today, sat down to grade some tests, and suddenly my door was kicked off its hinges and I was being arrested. According to the people who have interrogated me, there is a witness who saw me with the staff, which is madness since I've never even seen the thing with my own eyes."
Jacques leaned back and sighed, he had hoped that Howl would be able to provide more details. Suddenly he knew who he could get the spill the beans on this case. He leaned forward again and said, "Don't worry, I've got some ideas, and Mara and I aren't leaving until you are free."
"Can you really take that much time off? Don't you have to be back in five days? This could take weeks, or if they continue believing I took it, forever," Howl asked.
"I'm the first mate of the ship Mara and I sail on; I think I can convince the captain to give us a little more time if I need. But I don't intend to take that long. You'll be out of here before the week is up," Jacques said confidently.
Howl managed a weak smile and said, "Delia is lucky to have a friend like you. I'll see you later then?"
"Tomorrow and I'll bring Mara," Jacques promised as he got up.
He left the palace and returned to the hotel. Mara was standing outside. She was dressed in her ship clothes, the white blouse, black pants, and knee length boots, her cutlass very conspicuous on her belt. She looked like she was ready to run off and do something, but she was trying to figure out what that something was. She spotted him walking down the street and hurried down to him.
"Where have you been?" Mara asked.
"I'm not telling you until you go back inside and change into the dress you were wearing this morning. You are going to draw unwanted attention to us. We are not in the islands anymore and if we are going to help Howl we need to be very careful," Jacques replied.
"But it's a dress. What something happens?" Mara asked.
"We're not fighting pirates at sea; we're snooping around the city for information. Oh, sweet Fyora, of course you know nothing about this. Your knowledge is completely confined to the islands and the ocean; you probably don't even know what a detective is. Look, Mara, you're just going to have to trust me." Jacques sighed wearily.
Mara nodded and went back inside the hotel. A few minutes later she came out dressed as she had been that morning. They walked down the street back towards the Academy. Jacques warned Mara just to stay silent and let him handle things and not to say or do anything unless he told her to. Mara agreed, realizing she was hopelessly out of her depth.
There were one or two curious on-lookers milling around still, but most of the faeries had gone to their classes. Outside the doors stood the very Ixi Jacques wanted to see, Hanso. He was looking very bored, obviously having been made to wait there while Howl's office was searched more thoroughly.
Jacques walked up to him and said with a slight bow, "Well, if it isn't the hero of Faerieland himself!"
Hanso grinned. Jacques had said the right thing. "And how do you know that?"
"Who doesn't know the hero of Faerieland?" Jacques replied.
Mara's face must have given her away because Hanso replied, "The cute girl with you, obviously."
"Oh, well, you must forgive my cousin Mara. She's lived a very sheltered life," Jacques answered quickly.
Hanso's face darkened with suspicion. "The old man called her Delia."
Jacques was quick. "Yes, that is her name. Mara, or Delia, was raised by a foster family who gave her a new name; she never knew her name was Delia until recently. She's more used to Mara and so I call her that, but Uncle Howl still calls her Delia."
The suspicion vanished from Hanso's face, Jacques every look and tone radiated sincerity.
"So, I was just wondering if you would be allowed to tell us more about why Uncle Howl was charged with stealing the Staff. I just can't believe Uncle Howl would do such a thing. It seems so impossible," Jacques asked.
Hanso put his hands in his pockets and replied, "Money, that's why your uncle did it; money. Do you know what people would pay for a magical artifact of that magnitude? It's enough to make me want to steal it. Of course, Brynn would totally kill me if I tried that, so I'm keeping my hands a little less sticky these days. Anyway, we have a reliable witness who saw him with it, and we managed to find some documents in his office that are letters from possible buyers. How he got in and out of the palace with the staff and its current location are still unknown. I'm sorry, but it looks really black against your uncle."
Mara looked downcast and Hanso said, "Cheer up, pretty girl! On the bright side, your uncle pulled off the theft of the century."
"I suppose that counts for something," Mara replied with a wry smile. "Especially among thieves."
Hanso laughed, thinking that the comment was directed at him, when really Mara was talking to Jacques about her uncle showing up his pirating niece. Then two detectives came out of the building and told Hanso they were done searching. Hanso bid them good day and his condolences about Howl and left.
"Come on, Mara, let's go talk to Florina. According to her, she was good friends with Howl. Maybe she can help us with our investigation. But, one more thing, remember to be on your guard at all times. We have to be very careful, if there is a witness, then that means either Howl is guilty or someone is setting him up to take the fall. We don't want to attract the attention of these people or they will do everything they can to hinder our investigation," Jacques said as he walked up the stairs of the academy.
Mara nodded as she followed, fear and anger mixing inside her. But, she wouldn't let that stop her; she and Jacques were going to prove Howl was innocent.
To be continued...