Part two of the Sonata in Red series.
Part One: A Song of Glory
My first goal upon leaving the meeting is to lose any tails my Lordling-by-proxy may have assigned to me. I would have had little hope to escape were Mason to take the task himself. His presence here thoroughly intrigues me, which toff could boast so fine a man yet require high risk freelancers like myself. Most likely a copper thug, at worst case another Flash Shadow.
Setting foot to the cobbles I dive into the stream of people moving towards the city square. It’s customary in the first steps in the shadow dance the lead will greet his partner. I could not yet recognise my partner in the crowd. Good. A skilled dancer should play hard to get. Blushing sweetly, I wonder if perhaps I may find some pleasure in this union. But I should act too eager, I remind myself firmly, a gentleman does not let his heart be won by the merest hint of flattery.
There. A young man, lithely athletic build, dark hair. I’ve seen him once near the meeting place. Testing his voracity I step through an alley and rejoin the flow of people in the next street. For a moment my heart sinks for I believe I have lost him already. But our song has only just begun. I spot him moving in time with my rhythm. His elegant motion like a bow with a flourish.
My heart pounds in excitement. I have met my partner, but we are yet clumsy and unfamiliar in one another’s arms. The roar of the royal marketplace breaks upon us as we enter the city centre proper, the perfect back drop for a dance. I lure him through a crowd of merchants, doubling back twice in the shadow of the stalls. Our timid adagio growing into a a playful allegro. His grip is firm and he moves with aplomb, but I have much more still to show him.
Through alleys and crowds I lead him, no matter how I twist and pirouette his grip on me remains firm. Comfortable now with his movements, I am ready to test the limits of our pas de deux. Once more I double back through the merchant stalls, then with a burst of speed I take off. The dance has changed now, I hear his footfalls follow me.
I laugh with joy at the sound of the cart crashing behind me, the volume of his pursuit has diminished as I’ve gained ground. Through an unlocked door, past a startled crone and out the window. With no time to see if I’d lost him I dash across the highway, weaving through caravans.
Time and again I nearly lose my footing under the breakneck pace. My attention is entirely focused on the chase, any other thoughts cast aside by the flurry of action. My blood roars in my ears, the wind whipping around me as I move in time with the symphony as it builds ultimately to climax.
Breathing heavily I collapse into the building, closing the door behind me. Confident that I have lost my partner, I silently thank him for his passion. Slumping onto a chair I withdraw the dossier which has been burning a hole of curiosity through my patience with all the insistence of a silver bell ringing in my head. Ignoring the shuffling sounds of the buildings tenant further in, I study the mission properly.
It seems my lordling-by-proxy wants some letter stolen, from another lordling. Not an unusual request, the time frame I was given makes their contents marginally more interesting. Likely a blackmail plot. Simple. Boring.
Turning to the dramatise personae, the letter are held by Baronet Thierris. I am expressly forbidden from bringing any harm to Thierris or his family. I have no death wish to harm even a petty noble. I skip past the Lady Thierris and their son to the subject of my interest Daughter in law, Ava Thierris. I examined her portrait closely, certain it was the same woman as that night. Nothing of interest is contained within, simply stating as one of the family she is to be unharmed. Frankly a terrible job,
Closing the dossier I cross the room and exit from the window before being discovered. The first thing I needed was information and for that I would need to go see Mother Olivia.
A bouquet of lilies on the way, to sweeten her mood. I rap on her door, three sharp knocks, opening the way upon the welcoming shout. Inside Olivia’s home is as crisp and clean as usual, soft light shades cover the walls and furnishings. A hive of greets me, the lilies whisked away and a sleeping takes their place as I am drawn into the whirlwind of people.
I am familiar with child this child, I think. Or another of the same age, all of Olivia’s guests must contribute or there is no room for them. I rock the child gently as Olivia raises her arms warmly greeting me, “Lucas, my handsome boy. Thank you for the lilies, how can mother help you?”
I don’t waste the thought wondering how she’d known about the lilies, they’d vanished at the door and I’d not seen them since. Olivia knew things, rumours claimed she was a psychic though I knew her skill to be far more cultivated than that. Shifting the child in my arms, I hand her the dossier.
“Shy little Lordling sent a crow to hire a flash shadow,” I explain, the child is taken from my arms and I am handed a bowl to mix, “Their stilted tune struck a chord in my heart, and I accepted. What I need to know is who it is who seeks to pull my strings, and Ava Thierris’ identity before she entered the family.”
Olivia nods along to my tale, thumbing briefly through the pages. Her assessment of the pages complete she looks back and asks me, “Just this? Nothing about the job?”
“The job is flash work, not worth your time. Not worth mine either, truth be told, the crow and the girl those are the diamonds in the rough.”
“The daughter in law to a baronet should be simple enough but a crow handler will be well hidden, I can’t say how long it will take”
“I understand, you know how to contact me. I have until the Queen’s return, when you have something I’ll be waiting.”
Olivia bids me farewell with a delicious baked treat. As I stepped into the street, biting into the snack with pleasure, I wonder to myself if Olivia will be able to tell me why Sophia is now Ava, and what has caused her crossed paths with a crow again.