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3.

“Well, I have to go get my stuff,” said George. “And I’m gonna need a couple of rooms.”

“A couple of rooms?” asked Rob.

“Sure, pal,” said George. “I gotta sleep in one, and the other is for my stuff.”

“We have plenty of space, George,” said Marius. “If you find you need more than we have in this, ah, complex, you can expand into another apartment on the floor. One is told that there are plenty of places.”

George grinned. “The city,” he said. “Always wanted a reason to move here. My other place is a boat. Okay, let’s have a look.”

Marius and George went back into the living quarters. Rob said to Annelise, “He must have a lot of stuff. I only need the one room.”

“You’re not a time tech,” said Lilah. “You’re a wizard on the run. And you have that place in the Blue City of Delevara. That’s where all your stuff is, right?”

“Piles of it,” said Rob. “I used to be quite the collector of crap. Okay, you’re right, boss lady, I got everything I need right here in the city of city.”

“What about you, Annelise? All your stuff here?”

“All my stuff,” said Annelise, “is in two bags. And the two bags are in my room. Mr. Marius helped me magic them here the night you hired me.”

“Were you between jobs?” asked Rob.

“Between jobs. I guess.” She looked at Lilah. “You?”

“Me?” said Lilah. “I didn’t own anything. Didn’t I tell you how he hired me? It’s quite the story. I’ll tell you all about it when I remember any of the stuff that happened right before he hired me. I’m kind of a clean slate.”

“So you don’t have a place to go on your days off.”

“What days off? Why would I want a day off?”

“And Rob? How much of your time do you expect to spend in your little house in the Blue City of Delevara?”

“Oh, uh,” said Rob. After a moment, he said, “None.”

“None?” Lilah repeated.

“None. If I go back there I would stand a high probability of becoming dead.”

“Fact?” asked Annelise.

“Fact,” said Rob. “Someone tried to kill me last time I slept there. They were watching the hold place where my stuff is stored.”

“You have enemies,” said Lilah.

“You do too,” Annelise pointed out. Her blue eyes held Lilah’s. “You just don’t know who they are because you’ve forgotten them.”

Lilah was thinking of Elio, and then for a moment she glimpsed the dark woman in the hooded robe, and the faint glow in front of her. “Yeah,” said Lilah. “Thanks for pointing that out.”

“Then speaking for myself,” Annelise went on, “isn’t it interesting that none of us has anywhere else to go, anything else to do but solve the next case, anywhere else to live but back in that little warren of flats back there, we don’t get paid because no one needs more money than we already have, but we’re all looking over our shoulders because someone did something really bad to us and it didn’t kill us and they might want to finish the job, and, um, here we are trying to solve a case?”

“It’s weird,” said Lilah. “Moving right along, if we need more room, or if you’d like to get another employee in here, I think we can make that happen. Either of you need another room or two? We got ‘em.”

“Sure,” said Rob.

“We need a library too,” said Annelise. “So, one for Rob, one for me, one for you obviously, and one for a library: that makes four rooms we’re requisitioning, and not big ones.” She looked around. “So whoever the spooks are who enforce the rules in this place, you know, whoever passes out the keys to the offices, that doesn’t seem like to much to ask.” She looked at Lilah. “Lilah,” she said, “where do the rooms come from? Who does run this city thing?”

“Not,” said Lilah, “a, clue.”

“Lilah,” said Annelise in a low voice, “do we need to know who the Violet Council is?”

“I don’t know who the Violet Council is,” said Lilah, in her best sotto voce.

“Should we ask,” said Rob, “what you think about Marius?”

“You have to trust someone,” said Lilah. “And that’s a problem. All the people I trusted were horribly killed. Every single one.” She looked off into space. They thought she was going to cry. “I never had that many friends, fortunately.” She looked Rob in the eye. “I trust you as much as I trust anyone. That’s not saying much, is it?”

“No, it’s not,” said Rob.

“I encourage you to adopt the same attitude,” said Lilah. “I’ll look into the room thing. Let’s go see how George is doing, and maybe I can drag Marius away for some office allocation talk.”

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