She stretched voluptuously ‘Are you sure that you won’t change your mind?’ she asked. ‘Now that you’ve taken care of your business?’
‘Sorry, little sister,’ Sparhawk declined. ‘I’ve got a great deal left to do today. Besides, I’ve already paid Shanda your price Why work if you don’t have to?’
‘Professional ethics, I suppose. Besides, I sort of like you, my big broken-nosed friend.’
‘I’m flattered.’ He reached into his pocket, took out a gold coin, and gave it to her. She stared at him in amazed gratitude. ‘I’ll slip out of the front door before Krager’s friend gets ready to leave,’ he told her. He went to the door.
‘Come back sometime when your mind’s not so occupied,’ she whispered.
‘I’ll think about it,’ he promised. He tied the bandage over his eyes again, opened the door, and stepped quietly into the hall. Then he went on down into the dimly lit lower hall and back out to the street.
Talen was leaning against the wall beside the door, trying to stay out of the rain. ‘Did you have fun?’ he asked.
‘I found out what I needed to know’
‘That’s not what I meant. Naween’s supposed to be the best in Cimmura.’
‘I really wouldn’t know about that. I was there on business.’
‘I’m disappointed in you, Sparhawk.’ Talen grinned impudently ‘But probably not nearly so much as Naween was. They say that she’s a girl who likes her work.’
‘You’ve got a nasty mind, Talen.’
‘I know, and you’ve got no idea how much I enjoy it.’ His young face grew serious, and he looked around cautiously. ‘Sparhawk,’ he said, ‘is somebody following you?’
‘It’s possible, I suppose’
‘I’m not talking about a church soldier. There was a man at the far end of the street – at least I think it was a man. He was wearing a monk’s habit, and the hood covered his face, so I couldn’t be sure’
‘There are a lot of monks in Cimmura.’
‘Not like this one. It made me cold all over just to look at him.’
Sparhawk looked at him sharply. ‘Have you ever had this kind of feeling before, Talen?’
‘Once Platime had sent me to the west gate to meet somebody Some Styrics were coming into the city, and after they passed, I couldn’t even keep my mind on what I was supposed to be doing. It was two days before I could shake off the feeling.’
There was not really any point in telling the boy the truth about the matter. Many people were sensitives, and it seldom went any further. ‘I wouldn’t worry about it,’ Sparhawk advised. ‘We all get these peculiar feelings now and then.’
‘Maybe,’ Talen said dubiously
‘We’re finished here,’ Sparhawk said. ‘Let’s go back to Platime’s place.’
The rainy streets of Cimmura were a bit more crowded now, filled with nobles wearing brightly coloured cloaks and with workmen dressed in plain brown or grey. Sparhawk was obliged to grope his way along, swinging his blindman’s stick in front of him to avoid suspicion. It was noon by the time he and Talen descended the steps into the cellar again.
‘Why didn’t you wake me up?’ Kalten demanded crossly. He was sitting on the edge of his cot holding a bowl of thick stew
‘You needed your rest.’ Sparhawk untied the bandage from his eyes. ‘Besides, it’s raining out there’
‘Did you see Krager?’
‘No, but I heard him, which is just as good.’ Sparhawk went on around the fire pit to where Platime sat. ‘Can you get me a wagon and a driver?’ he asked.
‘If you need one.’ Platime lifted his silver tankard and drank noisily, spilling beer on the front of his spotted orange doublet.
‘I do,’ Sparhawk said. ‘Kalten and I have to get back to the chapterhouse. The primate’s soldiers are probably still looking for us, so I thought that we could hide in the back of a wagon to stay out of sight.’
‘Wagons don’t move very fast. Wouldn’t a carriage with the curtains drawn be faster?’
‘Do you have a carriage?’
‘Several, actually. God’s been good to me lately.’
‘I’m delighted to hear it.’ Sparhawk turned. Talen,’ he called.
The boy came over to where he was standing.
‘How much money did you steal from me this morning?’
Talen’s face grew cautious. ‘Not too much. Why?’
‘Be more specific’
‘Seven coppers and one silver piece. You’re a friend, so I put the gold coins back in your pocket.’
‘You want the money back, I suppose.’
‘Keep it as payment for your services.’
‘You’re generous, my Lord.’
‘I’m not finished yet. I want you to keep an eye on Krager for me I think I’m going to be out of town for a while, and I want to keep track of him. If he leaves Cimmura, go to the inn on Rose Street. Do you know it?’
‘The one that’s run by the Pandions?’
‘How did you find out about that?’
‘Everybody knows about it.’
Sparhawk let that pass. ‘Knock on the gate three times, then pause. Then knock twice more. A porter will open the gate. Be polite to him because he’s a knight. Tell him that the man Sparhawk was interested in has left town. Try to give him the direction Krager took. Can you remember all that?’
‘Do you want me to recite it back to you?’
‘That won’t be necessary. The knight porter at the inn will give you half a crown for the information.’
Talen’s eyes brightened.
Sparhawk turned back to Platime. ‘Thank you, my friend,’ he said. ‘Consider your debt to my father paid.’
‘I’ve already forgotten it.’ The fat man grinned.
‘Platime’s very good at forgetting debts,’ Talen said. ‘The ones he owes, anyway’
‘Someday your mouth is going to get you in serious trouble, boy.’
‘Nothing that my feet can’t carry me away from.’
‘Go and tell Sef to hitch the grey team to the carriage with the blue wheels and to bring it to the alley door.’
‘What’s in it for me?’
‘I’ll postpone the thrashing I’m just about to give you.’