Come dance with the Wanderers... Circulation: 193,302,509 Issue: 682 | 21st day of Hunting, Y17
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The Prophetess's Tale: Part Five

by encroached


"It was weird," Emilia said for the twenty fourth time. She lounged on Wentworth's bed; he shuddered to think of the lingering prison smell. He had just washed those sheets the other day.

     "You don't have enough evidence," the detective said. He often believed in his hunches, but would not go after them without enough information. "Just a detective you've never heard of before."

     "I haven't just 'not heard of' him, Mr. Wentworth." She leaned over and grabbed a bottle with a little, intricate ship in it from the corner of his desk and tossed it in the air repeatedly. "He supposedly contributed to Yafda's peace."

     Wentworth traced yesterday's newspaper with his webbed hand. Emilia had helped him countless times in the past, but she was only on-task when she meant to be. "Maybe he did," Wentworth said absently. He looked up at her and his eyes widened at the bottled ship. "Put that down, will you? That took hours to assemble!"

     She obeyed with a sly grin. "Never understood people who collect these. Seems like too much of a hassle."

     Sometimes I think you're too much of a hassle, Wentworth thought, but he was too compassionate to say it out loud. Still irritated at Emilia's mishandling of his crafts, he returned to his work instead. The titles "LOST PRINCE LEAD" and "CYODRAKE SCANDAL" blared out at him from the page. He clipped the prince article and continued to browse the paper.

     "If someone had done something so big for Yafda, don't you think we would have heard of them?"

     Suddenly exhausted, Wentworth rubbed at his eyes. "Maybe I have. What was his name again?"

     Emilia rolled her eyes. "I know more detectives than you do," she said shortly.

     Detective Wentworth looked up over his reading glasses condescendingly.

     "Grite Lomne. Who even names their kid Grite?"

     "Maybe someone thought it was pretty. Or it's an alias. Some detectives have quite dangerous enemies, you know." The detective cleared his throat. "Now, if you don't mind, can we get back on task?"

     Sending a different ship-bottle rolling to the floor, Emilia swung herself around into a sitting position. "We're not going to get anything out of a newspaper. Those people just make up whatever they want for the sake of popularity."

     "It hasn't failed me yet," Wentworth replied. Emilia was starting to grate on him, and she'd barely been out two days.

     She had been so much help to him, with some of his biggest cases, and she never asked for anything in return. He always let people know he used a criminal for the workings of criminal minds, but she never wanted to be credited with helping. All she wanted was a breath of fresh air. He pitied her, and felt ashamed for doing so. She would not appreciate pity.

     No, the only thing she could ever truly appreciate was freedom. Regardless, she was a good partner to have on the case. Perhaps she was getting tired of being used like this. Wentworth tried his best to be pleasant and accommodating for her, in order to keep her in good spirits. He did not sympathize with her criminal past, but he did with her apparent reformation.

     Emilia snatched the newspaper from him and flipped to a page at random. "'Lady Ramilla purchases new sundress, starts trend' and 'Tigermelon Princes Rising,'" she read aloud. "You're right, this is some really relevant stuff."

     Wentworth suppressed a groan. This was going to be a long case.



     Audley applied a generous helping of butter to his dinner roll. Waving the butter knife in Cheyenne's direction as she approached his booth seat, he grinned. "Nice of you to join me."

     Avoiding eye contact, Cheyenne slid into the booth across from him with obvious discomfort. She smoothed down the bottom of her dress before sitting in the greasy diner booth. Today, she was all decked out—rings, bracelets, earrings, an obnoxiously large and sparkly dress, and a bandana to boot. Basically, everything Audley could think of that reminded him of the stereotypical fortuneteller. It looked quite convincing, in his opinion.

     "Where's Charlie?" she asked.

     Audley waved to the waiter. "Please bring my guest a burger," he said. The waiter nodded and ran off in the opposite direction. Turning back to Cheyenne, Audley said, "Busy with his family, I suspect."

     Cheyenne's jaw tightened. It was usually easy for Audley to win people over, but his charm did nothing for her. Besides the negative way he'd initially greeted her, there had to be something in his future that was nigh unforgivable. The thought pleased and scared him.

     "You did a great job the other day," Audley said. The roll melted in his mouth pleasantly. "Marvelous. I could not have done better myself."

     Her face blanked. "I forgot everything you told me."

     Audley reassuringly patted her paw, which she quickly withdrew. "Not at all! You remembered everything I needed you to. I overloaded you with a long, elaborate speech so that you had more information than you needed. You said everything perfectly." He narrowed his eyes for a moment and then cleared his throat. "Well, perhaps except for the 'familiar with the sea' bit. I'd been hoping you would mention something about ships. Thought I drilled that one in." He shrugged. "It was good enough to function, though. Bravo."

     He could feel rather than see the anger rolling off of her in waves. "So you made me memorize that speech for nothing?"

     The waiter scurried toward them with a plate. Audley had offered him a large enough tip for him to take the rest of the day off. The waiter set the burger gently in front of Cheyenne, who wrinkled her nose at it. "Thank you," she said anyway, with the politeness of one who cannot offend without suffering personal cost.

     "Enjoy," the waiter responded, eyeing her clothing.

     She stood out. Good.

     "You don't strike me as the type of person to do well under pressure," Audley said, "and certainly not the type to remember a speech when presented to royalty."

     "Then why didn't you just...? I'm lost."

     "I would've sounded eloquent. He would know I was behind it. Can't have that. You sounded like a true messenger, with all the proper nervousness included. Really, it felt more like reality than a performance."

     She watched her fries and swallowed. "So, these clothes."

     "Yes?" Audley asked. He reveled in the way she squirmed, though he knew it wasn't good of him. She had so much improvement to go through. He couldn't wait to see it.

     "I'm not going to ask why, because they're obviously intended to make me look like a cheap carnival seer. What exactly am I doing with this disguise?"

     Audley buttered his next roll. "What I'm going to ask you to do is fairly easy. You just have to be yourself. You're going to be my detective alias's 'partner.' You work with the future, and I use your clues to detect what to do next." He shrugged. "It would actually be a fairly useful team, if you're ever considering that position in real life."

     "What's the catch?" she asked.

     "No catch," he said. "Except for the fact that you'll be fabricating the future whenever you 'see' it. Tell the king what I want him to hear, and that's it. You just have to be yourself, the seer you were born as."

     Reluctantly, Cheyenne ate a fry.

     "The only thing I ask is that you try to hide your nervousness. It worked last time, but now you need to be a little more confident. This is your job. Working with me on cases is what you've been doing for years, right?" He winked. "Wouldn't make sense to be nervous about it. Feign confidence."

     The relief on her face was nearly tangible. "I can do that," she said.

     "Great," Audley said.

     Cheyenne munched on another fry. Good. A sign of compliance, if not trust. "What do I do if I mess up?"

     "We treat it like it was meant to happen and cover it up. Not a big deal. Just do as I say, and you shouldn't have problems." Movement caught Audley's attention; he searched for its source through the window and found a striped Meerca sitting at an outdoor table at a café across the street. There was something intelligent about the way she perused the newspaper, about the cock of her head and the placement of her hands.

     She looked awfully familiar.

     When he turned back to Cheyenne, he nearly started. The intensity of her gaze was unnatural, uncomfortable. "What?" he blurted unprofessionally.

     "Do you ever mess up?"

     Audley thought of Polly's blouse, and how he'd brought it to Cheyenne under the pretense of a joke. She was supposed to be impressed with his acting, his charisma, and then when she touched Polly's blouse, she would see the kind, maternal bond her friend had for Audley, and agree to come along with him. She would see that Polly trusted him, and she should trust him, too.

     "No, almost never."

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» The Prophetess's Tale: Part One
» The Prophetess's Tale: Part Two
» The Prophetess's Tale: Part Three
» The Prophetess's Tale: Part Four

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