Chapter 45:

Chapter 45 - Milk and Honey Detective Agency


Beretta caught up to them shortly after they’d left, having weaved her chaotic way through the city streets in an effort to come up even with her long-legged quarry. Roulette had heard the little girl’s approach before she saw it; the merchants and fisherman she’d jostled along the way were quite vocal in their displeasure, and she had to wave a few of them off when the girl arrived, panting, before them.

“Beretta? What are you doin’ here?” she asked.

“Where are you going, Roulette?” the girl chirped. “I want to come too!”

Roulette and Mimi exchanged a glance. Though they were unlikely to run into any trouble on their little errand, it was a possibility… And having Beretta along was sure to complicate matters, anyway. How were they supposed to explain things if–heaven forbid–they found Morgan dead?

Roulette sighed and got down on her haunches. “Berry, you know I’d love nothin’ better than to spend a day out in Sebastopol with you,” she said. “But what about your daddy? He missed you so much while you were gone! Shouldn’t you spend that time with him instead?”

Beretta made a face. “He and Anua are busy talking about boring things.”

“Then you should go back and tell ‘em somethin’ interesting,” Roulette suggested, reaching out to ruffle her hair. “Tell ‘em we’re out lookin’ for Morgan. That should liven up the conversation a little.”

“And let Anua know we’ll be back by dinnertime,” Mimi added.

Beretta looked down at her feet in a sulk, prompting Roulette to meet Mimi’s eyes in a bid for more support.

“I’ll tell you what, Beretta,” she said. “Normally I don’t allow anyone in my room. But I have a trunk full of clothes and fancy things in there. If Marka and Anua still won’t pay attention to you after passing on our message, you can try some of them on. But be very gentle, okay? Some of those things are very expensive.”

The little girl’s eyes lit up at that. Roulette had to respect the ploy; what young lady didn’t love to play dress-up every now and again?

“Okay, I will go back,” she promised. “But I want to do something fun tomorrow!”

“I think that can be arranged,” Roulette replied, getting back to her feet. “But run along now, okay? Before your daddy gets to worryin’.”

Beretta nodded and took off back toward the gunsmithy. Roulette watched her go with her hands on her hips, smiling in satisfaction.

“That was a neat little trick you pulled,” she said. “You’re pretty good with kids.”

Mimi snorted. “Of course. Children are like magpies–dangle something shiny in front of them, and you’ll win them over every time.”

They turned about and continued on their way, proceeding down the pier with a spring in their step. Despite her rapidly-improving mood, though, Roulette was careful to watch the water for some sign of Morgan's whereabouts.

“You sound like you know that from experience. Got any siblings?” she inquired. If she and Mimi were going to be friends, she figured she might as well make a little small talk.

“I had a little brother. Nick.” Mimi fell silent for a little while before continuing, the shuffling of their boots and the ambient noise of the busy port serving to fill in the gap. “He was born sickly. My parents got him the best treatment money could buy, but it wasn’t enough. He had some kind of fit just shy of his sixth birthday… He never recovered.”

Roulette bowed her head. “I’m sorry, Mimi. That’s awful.”

The girl flashed a watery smile. “Yeah. He’s the one I learned that dress-up trick from,” she admitted. “Such a sweet kid. I still miss him all the time. It would have been nice to have someone in my corner growing up, you know? My parents weren’t exactly what you would call supportive.”

Looking ahead, Roulette saw the scaffolding Mimi had mentioned coming into view beyond the shanties and stalls. It wouldn’t be long, now, before they finally had some answers… Or so she hoped.

“Sounds rough,” she observed. “Tell me about ‘em.”

Mimi shook her head. “Nothing personal, but I’d rather not. It’s an exhausting topic,” she said. “What about your family? Any stories to share?”

Roulette’s heart panged with sorrow. Her tear ducts ached in protest, threatening to set her mascara running again.

“Oh, look,” she croaked, desperate for a diversion. “We’re almost there. That spot next to the stairs is where you said he might’ve confronted Diallo, right?”

Fortunately, Mimi made no attempt to press her further. “That’s right. If he wanted to avoid Morgan, he would have either come out of the water there or swam out beyond the city walls… And that is a long swim.”

“The open water was well-lit last night too, if I recall.” Roulette looked over her sunglasses at the great arch leading out to the Difucian proper. “If he’d made for the wider sea, he’d have opened himself up to potshots from the shore.”

“He would have wanted to stay under the shadow of the eastern wall,” Mimi agreed. “It’s got to be that area by the stairs. And if there was a struggle, chances are good that they left something behind.”

Roulette peered around at the docks as they approached the scene, trying her best to imagine how Diallo might have exited the water. The pier itself looked to be too high above the surface, so it must have been a dock, but too much time had passed for the girl to be sure; any trail of water he might have left would have long since evaporated.

Mimi stooped to the ground near the stairs, combing the slats of the boardwalk for some sign of Diallo’s passing. From the look of it, though, she wasn’t having much luck.

“You reckon these lanterns would have been lit last night?” Roulette asked, gesturing toward their wrought-iron frames.

“Definitely. The city watch lights them every night,” Mimi confirmed.

“The city watch?”

Mimi nodded. “Czar Turu’s men–Sebastopol’s de facto police force,” she explained. “They’ve been patrolling the streets for as long as I’ve lived here. Blue coats, blue uniforms, silly hats–you can’t miss them.”

Roulette looked up from her examination of the lanterns. “One’s missing a candle.”


“The lantern, here. Third from the right–it’s missing a candle.”

“Oh? That’s odd,” Mimi replied, looking back at the boardwalk. Her eyes swept over it for a second before she leaned down to fish something from between the slats. “This candle?”

She held it up: a small, circular metal tray with an unlit candle inside.

Roulette eyeballed it. “Must be,” she said. “But that doesn’t help us much. I don’t imagine either Morgan or Diallo would’ve been too concerned with candles last night.”

“Oy!” called a stranger from a fishing boat nearby. He was bare-chested and had long, matted dreadlocks that resembled the messy pile of netting he had in his lap. “What are you girls poking around here for? You got something to do with my net?”

“Mind your own business!” Mimi snapped. Roulette frantically threw up a hand to calm her, inserting herself between the man and her overly aggressive comrade.

“We’re lookin’ for someone,” she clarified, looking back to give Mimi a reassuring nod. “What were you sayin’ about your net?”

“It is a damn mess!” he complained, throwing it to the floor of his tiny vessel. “Tangled–Useless! I have been un-snarling it all morning. Some fool took it and left it on the pier like this.”

Roulette nodded along with his griping, trying her best to look sympathetic. “That’s a pain, alright. Any idea why somebody would go and do that?”

The man shook his head. “Who knows? All I can say is I will be here for many hours fixing it,” he groaned. “The soldiers told me nothing. ‘Mind my business’ they said, like your friend there. But I am not an idiot. I saw that candle you hold, there, when I came out to my boat. There was some commotion last night–I know it. But of course the morning patrol would say nothing. They never tell us anything.”

“Do you often get troublemakers like that around here?” Roulette asked, fishing for further details.

“Oh yes. Drunks. Youths. Real criminals sometimes, too,” he said. “I do not come around the docks at night. Too dangerous. That, and the watch may think I was a criminal myself.”

“So they’re quick to make arrests at nighttime,” she concluded. “What do they do when they catch someone? Do you know?”

He shrugged. “I try not to think about it. But they are quartered in the palace–this I know. Many years ago, before the soldiers came, the king’s men would bring lawbreakers to the palace dungeons. I would guess the watch does the same.”

“Thanks. Mighty kind of you to tell us all that,” Roulette said with a smile. “I hope you get your net fixed.”

He made a face and reached for his net, returning to the task of getting all the knots out. Roulette turned to Mimi with a finger to her chin, her mind already seeking for a way of putting the fisherman’s information to use.

Mimi folded her arms, plainly skeptical. “You think he got picked up by the watch, then?”

“If he didn’t, he’s probably dead,” she reasoned. “Might as well follow up on the most promisin’ lead first.”

“Heh. ‘Promising’,” Mimi chuckled. “You haven’t seen the palace up-close. It’s a fortress. If Morgan’s in there, he’s as good as dead. They’ll have him locked up in a cell right near the barracks.”

Roulette cocked a brow. “And how would you know that?”

“Please. I’m Anua’s apprentice–you know, the most famous Gunsmith in Truvelo? We make deliveries to the palace all the time.”

“Glad to hear it,” Roulette said with a smirk. “You can be our mole then. As for the cell… You leave that to me.” The girl took off down the boardwalk, then, forcing Mimi to give chase.

“Wait! Roulette!” Mimi called, jogging along behind her. “You want me to be a mole? I never said– Wait, what are you doing?!”

Roulette basked in Mimi’s incredulity as she climbed down onto the first beach they came across, kicked off her boots, and waded into the water.

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