Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In the Dark, Part Eight: Calculations

I expected to have some trouble entering the Councilman Mario's dungeons. I was right. It was hard to find. Asking questions would have raised suspicions, but wandering aimlessly was just as dangerous. After a few minutes of searching, I found a pair of district policemen, going to relieve the last shift. I figured that the only thing down here that warranted even one policeman was either the dungeon or the treasury, and I remembered passing that a few minutes ago. I followed the police, keeping a safe distance. Turned out I was right.

They were suspicious of me. I was a new face, though thankfully they hadn't seen me enter. (They wouldn't have seen me in the newspapers. I keep a low profile.) They didn't want to let me enter. I presented them with the chief sheriff's badge, spun them a story about being delegated for a check-up on the prisoners while the chief sheriff was detained. Quickly figured out that the police didn't know he was imprisoned - didn't tell them.

Needed some luck here. If they didn't buy it, things could get nasty. Fingered my flechette gun.

They weren't taking the bait. One of them was going off on a tangent, while the other one watched me. Needed an opportunity to get my gun out.

Ah! No. They wanted a bribe! Never a more oblique request I'd ever heard.

Paid them in forged coin. It might spread a bit of confusion to get that circulating. One bit it to test purity, then they let me in.

The dungeons of the Councilman were the same as the others I'd been in. Dark. Dank. Noisy. Generally unpleasant. This one was deep enough that you could hear the gears of the city grinding away, probably no more than two hundred feet down. Constantly. A bonus for interrogation, probably. I didn't want to stay any longer than I had to.

Most of the cells were empty. No common criminals here - the aboveground jails held those. These were political criminals, disloyal to the Councilman, or loyal to his enemies. The same thing, really. I looked for the chief sheriff - stepped in something en route. Euch. Vowed to take another route out.

Found him. He seemed mostly intact. Mario probably didn't want any marks on him, just in case he needed to show off to the Council. The sheriff was hung up on the wall, in chains, behind bars. His eyes were closed. I shouted at him a little, woke him up. He didn't seem inclined to talk much. Shocking. I managed to get what he'd already confessed to, though. He'd carefully overlooked the thugs, destroying any reports of their presence. Been paid through an intermediary. He wanted promises before he'd say anything about the go-between, which I gave him after a suitable display of reluctance. Wasn't anything useful. Average height, average complexion, average voice. Worthless.

I asked the sheriff if he'd thought anything was unusual about the currency. He shook his head. Not as though he intended to get caught. Idiot. The least he could have done was to ensure that when he got caught, he dragged his employer down with him. Some people just aren't cut out to betray.

Took another route out. Found a surprise on the way out. Alex Brandon, the thug who I'd questioned briefly before he vanished. No qualms here about leaving marks. I prodded him. He jerked, whispered "It wasn't real! I told you! We wouldn't have blown up the city! It was a trick!" He didn't seem to recognize me. His eyes were fevered, didn't focus. I left.

Spotted three policemen on the way out. They were searching for someone. Questioning people, watching. I ducked around a corner just in time. Didn't want them to see me. Too many awkward questions were I found here. Managed to get to the front entrance without more trouble. Got some looks, but no-one stopped me. Just as well. After the last encounter, I had my flechette gun aimed beneath my coat. Anyone who tried to stop me from less than fifteen feet away would have gotten a shower of razors for their trouble.

Stopped by at the Tyrant's Palace, to see if the night staff had anything new for me. They did. Some industrious fellow had found some information on Alex Brandon. He was registered as a taxi driver in District Five. Adrianus's. Not incriminating, but interesting.

I asked if there was any news of the Franks. Had they taken any stance on the bomb? No. The head ambassador was gone. He'd left after a phone call in the afternoon, earlier today.

The time of the call was after Adrianus had assured me that the ambassador had already left.

Why would he lie about that?

Two more loose ends I could think of to investigate.

The staff could help me with one. They had a forging expert. She told me she'd already looked at the coins. They were forgeries, all right, and pretty poor quality ones. The only way someone who was familiar with the original coins could miss it was if they weren't looking, or just didn't care. She also gave me a list of known mints in the city that could have produced the coins.

Mario's was not on the list. I asked why.

She told me that his mint was set up differently. It could only produce coins of a different thickness and width. There was some flexibility, but the forged coins fell well outside the parameters. It would take weeks to reconfigure the mint, and there was no sign that such a reconfiguration had ever taken place.

I asked her if there could be other mints.

She gave me a lecture. Price, size, complexity. I won't repeat it. But: probably not.

I fled. There was one last thing I could think of. I went to the nearest library. Closed! Damn. I presented my badge. They opened.

Newspaper archives. Why would the Councilman of District Two have "a great deal of money coming in?" Properties, investments... what would make him so certain? He had rights to geothermal vents, the type that powered the City...

Including the nearest ones currently active.

Aha. If he had inside knowledge that the geothermal vents beneath the City were giving out, he would be indeed in a position to make a great deal of money, by owning the site of the City's likely next destination. And, of course, were that so, he would have no interest in destroying the City.

I checked Adrianus's public holdings. Did a little map-work, exercised my long-forgotten trig. He owned the rights to the second-nearest geothermal vents.

And, with that, I had the information I needed to crack the case open.

1 comment:

King Kessler said...

There were a lot of cool things in here, but I feel compelled to comment on the trig.


(Also, apparently Blogger supports OpenID now! A victory for open standards!)