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IV. Without Lucy

1.

Lucy was gone, that much was sure. They hadn’t seen her two suitcases come in, but here they were, one full of clothes befitting a young-looking nonagenarian, the other, smaller one holding a mix of dirty clothes, toiletries, books, papers and assorted souvenirs. The three detectives sorted through it all and repacked, under the nervous eyes of the secretary.

“Is this all on the up and up?” asked Marius. “I mean, what if she—?”

“I’d be delirious if she did,” said Lilah, looking through a brochure. “She was definitely at a conference in Llanduvar.”

“But really,” said Marius.

“Look. You wanted detectives. We’re detectives. This is what detectives do. Well, Rob’s new to the job, he wasn’t really a detective before, but he’s picking it up, aren’t you, Robby?”

“What was he before?” asked Annelise.

“I was a criminal,” said Rob. “Then I was a sort of undercover double agent type of thing.”

“For the frickin’ Elves of North Land,” said Lilah. “So it’s a similar kind of milieu.”

“Well, if you’re sure,” said Marius.

“Tell you what. You could help by going out there and bravely having another cup of coffee. That way if she comes back from, I don’t know, the souvenir shop, you can intercept her before she discovers us rifling her undies. This place have newspapers? Do we get a newspaper?”

“I’m afraid not. I wish it did, I always liked the newspapers in Kalain, they were great for a laugh and also an excellent way to wrap one’s fried fish or bacon. Here, I doubt the hilarity would be the same without Kalain’s famously interesting politics.”

“Thought you were from Tympest,” said Lilah, holding up a girdle.

“I’m serious,” said Lilah. “Why don’t you go on out there and keep an eye out? Thanks.”

“Nothing in the undies,” said Annelise as Marius shrugged, smiled defensively and went out.

Ten minutes later the three detectives were out in the front office as well. “We didn’t find anything we didn’t expect to find,” said Lilah. “She was packed for a conference. She was packed for going home from a conference.”

“No, ah, signs of an extramarital tryst or anything?” asked Marius. “I mean, since you looked.”

“Nope. And we were looking for that.”

“She was very normal,” said Rob. “I didn’t get any feeling that wasn’t what you’d expect with a successful older alchemist and scholar.”

“So,” said Lilah, “we’re planning on heading off on a fact-finding trip, the three of us. You stay here? In case she comes back?”

“That is, uh, consistent with my plans for the day,” said Marius. “You’re going with just the two of them? You don’t want to think about hiring a couple more?”

Lilah looked at Annelise and Rob. “Two’s enough for now,” she said. “When I find out what these guys don’t do well, I’ll know what else we might need. Hey, I could use some spending money too. Got anything along that line?”

“Here,” said Marius, reaching into that jacket pocket of his. He tossed her a little sack with a cloth tie. It held a few dozen gold and silver pieces, dirty or tarnished enough not to attract attention.

“Okay, that’s all fine. You guys ready?”

“Excited,” said Annelise. She looked at Rob. “You excited?”

“Sure,” said Rob.

“And off we go,” said Lilah. “Gonna have a look at pre-Lucy Olvar. Toodles!”

“Toodles,” said Marius without enthusiasm.

Lilah, Rob and Annelise stood in a circle, or a triangle. They held their joined hands up and looked at their rings. Lilah looked at Marius. “These things work—how?”

“Look into the little gem,” said Marius. “Try and see the place. Can you—? It may help to—!”

“Ohhh,” said Annelise. She was looking into Rob’s ring, as was Rob. “He’s got a picture of Lucy and now he’s sort of running it backwards and—!”

“And that’s how the Elves taught me to—!” said Rob, but before he finished, they were gone.

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