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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 86: Brown 174
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Previous chapter: Chapter 85: Hastings 159
As the meeting broke up, Derek walked slowly from the room; others were rushing past him, but for Vashti, who walked with him. “What bothers me,” he said, “is that they apparently knew we were going to be there before we did. Why did we go there?”
There was a moment of silence before Vashti answered. “I remember that Leah wanted a bracelet,” she ventured hesitantly.
“Right; Leah is Green Eyes?” She nodded. “But before that, Elf Ears wanted to replace her lost scarf,” he continued.
“Yes, that’s right. Ketty lost the scarf a couple weeks ago. She always loved that scarf.”
“Ketty is Elf Ears.”
“It’s short for Keturah.”
“I suppose I should call you Vashti?”
“Or Vash, for short. But it’s all right--I like Button Nose.”
Derek shrugged. “But why did she want to go today?”
“She? Oh, Ketty? I don’t know. Someone said something about it.”
“Right. Pink Cheeks said that someone told her they’d seen it.”
“Yes. Her maid, Billy.”
Derek pondered for a moment as they walked together in silence. The others had left them behind. He stopped walking. “We need to talk to Billy,” he said.
“Someone knew we were going to be on that street before we did. They had to have guessed that Elf Ears--that is, Ketty--would want to replace her scarf, and that Pink Cheeks--”
“Sch’hery. It’s short for Scheherazade.”
“Sch’hery would lead us there.” He resumed walking, then continued. “Tell me about Sch’hery.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Well, who is she? Who is her family?”
“She’s some kind of cousin to Princess Rathi. That is, her father is the Caliph’s cousin. As far as I know, she’s her closest relative.”
“Bilhah is Sch’hery’s maid. Most of us are attended by the palace servants when we’re here, but because she’s so close to royalty she brings her own maid with her. She’s just a slave, though, of Sch’hery’s family.”
Derek nodded. “Have you ever met her family?”
“No, but she talks about them sometimes. She has a younger sister and a younger brother, and talks about how annoying they can be, and how her father favors her little brother because he’s a boy. Her mother almost died giving birth to the boy, and doesn’t go out any more.
“So, why do you want to talk to Bilhah?”
Derek was still puzzling through the matter himself. “Well, maybe she actually did see the scarf, and told Sch’hery it was there. But that is a rather weak starting point for a well-planned ambush. Whoever planned this had to be very certain that Sch’hery would lead us down that street that morning. That means we were manipulated: someone knew that we would probably go there if Elf Ears--Ketty--thought she could replace her scarf. The question is, is Sch’hery the one manipulating us, or was she also manipulated?”
“Which means,” Vash said, “if Bilhah didn’t actually tell her the scarf was there, then she’s part of the plot.”
“What in the spy business we’d call the mole.”
“What’s a mole?”
“Doesn’t matter. Of course, Sch’hery may have covered her tracks, telling Bilhah that if anyone asks she saw that scarf and mentioned it to her.”
“Oh. I hadn’t thought of that.”
“It’s all right, but it’s why I have to talk to her. I should be able to tell if she lies.”
“You can do that?”
“Well, not always. But I read minds, and someone lying usually is thinking about the truth they’re trying to avoid saying, or at least thinking about repeating the lie in a way that’s different from when they’re remembering the truth.”
He quickened his pace. “Come,” he said. “We need to talk to Joe.”
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twelve other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #306: Versers Refocused. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: