Dark Stag Ch. 09

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He was one of the little mongrels running around town that I desperately tried to keep out of trouble! However, today was a bit different. My ass was on the line! He saw me, growing exited.

“Mercury!” He smiled, rushing over to give me a hug.

“Hey, Preston! How’ve you been? Keeping out of trouble?” I asked.

“Eh, ‘ve been trying but um… People are stupid.” He said scratching his head.

“Why?” I laughed, not expecting the response.

“Just, okay… I’ve been trying to do better, living in the shelter to stay off the streets. But not everyone in those shelters want better for themselves! A lot of my shit has gotten stolen, stuff I’ve actually worked for and you know how I get…” Preston said, those grey eyes expressing just how he felt!

“That’s definitely fucked up. Walk with me…” I said to him. He looked at me peculiarly.

“Don’t you have to go to work?” He asked.

“Yeah, but I still have an hour. Want something to eat?” I asked him.

“Sure.” He said, following. The boy could tell something was up, “How’ve you been?”

“Good, just busy… So,” I said, wanting to focus on his issues rather than mine for now, “Have you told the shelter supervisors what has been happening?”

“I have but you know, I don’t have the best history so it’s like trying to talk to a brick, pretty much. They just nod, say they’ll see what they can do about it and do absolutely nothing about it.” He said, “I’m just going to concentrate on saving up to get my own place. I’m worried that they’re gonna steal my money though…” This was a shock to me.

“You’re really are pushing for a change aren’t you?” I asked.

“Yeah. But I can’t have nice things! As soon as people learn you have money, they want it!” He said, seemingly shocked.

“Well I could have told you that.” I said, as we entered the vending market, “I’m in the mood for some crepes.”

“You always are…” Preston said, rolling his eyes.

“Don’t act like you’re not…” I laughed. A smile began to spread across his face.

“How’ve you been, Mercury?” Preston asked again.

“I told you good!” I said. He cocked his head, looking through me.

“Not so… I’ve known you since you first joined the Officer Academy. You’re… not!” He said.

“Damn, this is a long line…” I sighed, as we arrived at the pastry stand.

“Yep, all the more time you have to spill.” He said.

Preston was like my little brother. Though he was a thief, and in some extremes even a murderer, he had a special place in my heart! No one looked out for him or his friends like I did so it was about time he returned the favor.

“I might be in trouble…” I sighed.

“Does it have something to do with that really bright skinned Illisian boy you were with the other day?” He asked.

“It has all to do with him… I was told that officials will be using tracking hounds to scent him. They could possibly scent him back to my location… I need someone to take out those hounds for me… do it without a trace.” I said.

“Damn, just throw this on me, will ya.” He said, not pleased, “This Illisian boy better be worth it!”

“He is!” I said, caring for Kijus deeply.

“You know I can’t do this, right?” He said. My eyes darted back and forth before landing on him.

“I didn’t ask you to…” I said back.

“But you were! I’m trying to stay out of trouble! You’ve been trying to keep me out of trouble since I was eleven! Why all of a sudden you want me to drop all I’ve been doing and risk my life over some stupid dogs?” He asked.

“Because I’m in this shit neck deep!” I said as the line moved up. Preston’s arms folded as those eyes began to pierce me.

“Why’d you do it?” He asked.

“What do you mean?” I responded.

“Why’d you go out of your way for that Illisian boy?” Preston wondered.

“I don’t know… He’s just… If you knew him, you would too.” I said back.

“I probably wouldn’t…” Preston said shaking his head, “I can’t believe you want me to revert back to my old ways over someone you haven’t known for long…”

“I’ve known him for a while!” I argued back.

“No you haven’t,” Preston said, again seeing straight through me, “A few months at best…”

“Okay, you’ve got me. I haven’t known him long… But I haven’t met a person like him!” I said in my defense.

“Are you two in love?” Preston asked, concern written all over his face.

“I don’t know… It’s complicated.” I shrugged.

“Where is this guy now?” Preston continued.

“He’s…” I began, unsure if I could trust Preston with this valuable amount of information. The boy folded his arms and rolled his eyes.

“Let me guess… you can’t tell me?” He said.

“Yeah, I can’t.” I said, feeling awful.

“You’re gonna get hurt fucking with him…” Preston said, shaking his head. It made me look at him peculiarly.

“Why do you say this?” I asked.

“I don’t have to know much to see casino şirketleri plainly that you’re in this neck deep in shit. Whatever it is, he’s gonna walk away from this and you’re gonna be the one with shit on your face…” He said.

“No, no! Kijus isn’t like that! He’s honest, naively so! All he has is his morals…” I said, defending him.

“I’m not talking about Kijus. I’m talking about everything else around you! He might not get you fucked up, but this place will.” Preston said, deeply worried.

“Well, if you don’t want to do it then that is fine…” I sighed.

“Oh no… I’m going to do it.” He smiled, “Killing some dogs sounds fun… Can I take a few shots at the officials too?”

“Try not to um… bring too much attention to yourself. I’d like you to stay alive.” I chuckled.

“What ever…” He said, just as we made it to the front of the line.

“Hi, what will you be having today sir?” The cashier asked, pen and notepad in hand.

“I’ll take a cinnamon brown sugar crepe with sweet cream cheese on the side.” I said, turning to face Preston, “And what about you?”

“I’m good…” He smiled cheaply, arms folded. They boy was obviously upset.

“Really…” I offered, looking at him with concern.

“I said I’m good…” He shrugged. I turned back to the cashier.

“That’ll be all.” I smiled. The cashier wrote down the order as I paid, “You know, I can never tell what you usually like… You switch it up so often…” There was no response, “Preston?” I said, turning around. The boy was gone.

It made my heart twist. The boy was good at keeping his word, but it felt so damn wrong having him do this for me when he didn’t want to. He also was trying to change his ways for the better. If anything happened to him because of this, it’d be devastating. I scanned the horizon for the boy seeing no signs of him. My pockets were still full so he didn’t steal anything. I wanted to search for him but I had little time. There was a lot to be done at work today.

The walk to work was short. I entered the office seeing everyone busy on their grinds. Chief Loka was also just getting in. He smiled, always loving to see the officials busy.

“Good morning sir.” I said. He gave a delayed smile before nodding.

“Good morning.” He finally said back. It was strange but the man had a tough job. He was over the audit and inspection order which was a lot of paperwork.

As soon as I sat down, my group supervisor plopped a huge heap of paperwork on my desk.

“Can I get comfortable first?” I asked.

“Sorry, we got a caravan coming in in a few days and we’re backed up. You do filing the best so…” He smiled, walking away.

“Fine…” I sighed, opening the folders. Sitting before me was all the paperwork we ran for the last audit, the audit that brought Kijus to these lands. It was a daunting task… That day, several caravan companies were inspected bringing the number of slaves we had up to seven hundred.

The initial paperwork we did was to segregate the slaved from each caravan to not get them mixed up. The first caravan to come across the audit that day was High Pansum… They passed the inspection, not bringing anyone within the city walls that didn’t qualify to be slaves. The next to arrive after them was the Ambient Doll House, probably the most responsible of the all the brothels. In there six years of operation, they have never received a violation or sanction. Last to come was Felker Distribution, the biggest and most powerful brothel in the Southern Ziggurat. They themselves brought in over fifty percent of the slaves we had to inspect. One of the captives were Kijus.

Once we sorted through the slaves, found Kijus and deemed him unqualified for being a

slave. We came down on Felker Distribution hard! It was their second offence this year. The first time we hit them with a sanction that they easily paid off. This time, we hit them with operational restriction and an even harder sanction to pay off. As a result, it brought their income down for the quarter due to a lack of leeway to operate.

That in itself was an enormous amount of paperwork since my superiors were too lazy to write a summons for court. That would mean the law offices across the hall would have to deal with this paperwork and not us, something Supervisor Licho wasn’t counting on and why I was sitting here having to sort through all of this shit… And it wasn’t organized at all! The nearly thousand pages of paperwork was all jumbled up across three binders.

“Who the hell fucked this up?” I sighed, incredibly daunted by the task.

Nonetheless, I began sorting through the documents, separating all the audit information by brothel house owner. That alone took several hours. Then came the documents from Kijus’s case which I realized were copies and not the original documents… This could explain why the binders were so unorganized if someone got the documents. But why?

“Licho…” I called out.

“Yes?” casino firmaları he said, coming over from his cubicle, “Damn, you’ve gotten far!”

“Yeah okay, but these,” I said holding up the Kijus case documents, “Are not the original files! They’re copies…”

“What? Really?” Licho said, coming over to inspect them, “Well damn… I’ll run these by Chief…” He left, leaving me to sort through the documents for the Felker Distribution sanctions.

“Why the hell didn’t we just court martial them?” I asked myself. This was beyond frustrating have to sift through this jumble of files, put them in chronological order when they have no date or time on them then separate them for filing.

“Okay,” Licho said coming back, “Chief said, it’s fine… just keep them…”

“Why would someone put copies in here and take the originals? That’s just strange…” I asked.

“Damn, you’re almost finished?” He asked.

“Yeah… Just gotta do the Kijus case documents…” I responded, taking the files from Licho. They were already chronalized, so all they had to be done was stapled and placed on top of the Felker Distribution audit and sanction files. Licho stood to watch.

“Damn you’re a hell of a little yeoman…” Licho smiled. I just glared at him.

“I hate you!” I said plainly, “How the hell did you let this shit get this unorganized?”

“I’m sorry!” Licho chuckled, “We should have court martialed! They specialize in that type of paper work…”

“I might fucking crossover…” I said under my breath.

“No don’t do that! I’ll tell your father!” Licho threatened.

“My father?” I laughed, “Actually, he’d be mad… He was so hurt when I didn’t make it to be an interceptor. Going from yeoman to courthouse squire would piss him off…”

“I’ve seen you ride…” Licho said, “You can easily be an interceptor…”

“It’s not just riding. I’d have to be an expert marksman which I’m not, I’d also have to take swordsmanship which I hate, and I’d have to be a falconer, which I just loathe…” I laughed.

“You’re an oddity… Everyone loves having a raptor…” Licho responded.

“I’m always doing paper work and roves… When would I have time to take care of one?” I asked.

“Then get you something like a bay-wing. They’re light, don’t need to be flown daily and are extremely social. They actually seek human attention…” Licho enlightened.

“But still… It’s something I’d have to feed and take care of which I don’t want to do.” I shrugged.

I understand… ” Licho smiled, “I’m putting you on a ninety minute lunch break. Go do you, boy.” He walked away, heading back to do his work.

“Alright, thank you.” I said.

I got up, heading out into the town. There was a lot running through my mind. I hadn’t stopped thinking about Kijus since he left. It had only been a few days. Just thinking about what he’d have to face in the brothel made me shutter. It was not a very kind place and there typically was a breaking down process. Since Kijus was a very strong person, they’d more than likely have to go to extremes to get inside his head.

These thoughts prevailed as I picked up some lunch for this late shift. I sat there eating it, wondering of Preston’s whereabouts. They boy just had vanished so quickly earlier. I had no doubts he’d go through with it but still, he was like a little brother. Knowing he was safe would have been nice.

I went to a pastry shop, picking up several dozen donuts for the guys back at the station. SP. Loka liked raspberry filled donuts, while Chief prefered mini donuts with french vanilla glazing. I personally liked mine with good old fashion glazing with milk to dunk on the side. And that was precisely what I got.

Upon entering the headquarters, everyone gave me prolonged glances. Something felt off.! Maybe I was being paranoid but it was hard to shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. I placed the boxes of donuts in the lounge before taking Chief’s personal selection to him. His door was cracked, he and someone else having a conversation in the office.

“We can’t catch him…” Someone said, to Chief.

“I’m so confused…” Chief responded, sounding very upset, “What do you mean?”

“Someone has been taking out our scent dogs with toxins in their kennels and even using blow darts to kill them. They’re doing everything they can to throw the chase off their tail.” The official in the office responded.

“I can’t believe you think he is behind it!” Chief said back, still stuck on a previous matter.

“He is and you must accept it! I don’t know who he knows, but he’s obviously willing to go to lengths to make sure his trail can’t be followed. With our scent hounds gone, the trail goes cold. However, we got to find the person responsible for killing our dogs… They will pay!” The official countered.

“He is one of my best most workers! You’re saying what he did was treason? As a member of the Official Guard, he’d know the consequences for those actions. güvenilir casino He doesn’t even fly raptors or even jockeys. You expect him to put himself in this type of danger?” Chief argued.

They were talking about me. I walked away from the door, heading back to my work station. I placed Licho’s donuts on his desk, the man looking quite stressed.

“Thank you…” He said.

“No problem.” I responded, sitting at my desk. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the oddities of this day alone. The thing that I couldn’t get out of my mind were Kijus’s missing case files. Crude copies were left in it’s place for some reason and that was just odd. This office kept all original documents and sent out copies. Not to mention, everyone in the office seemed to know something was wrong, and it was clear they could tell I was involved. Chief and Licho obviously knew, however they said nothing. The official in the office was obviously from the upper royal court or the crime investigative service. To know his dog’s had been poisoned was a definitive sign of Preston’s work. He loved himself some poison to kill others with. How he managed to slip the poison into the dog’s food is beyond me but the boy undoubtedly was capable of such.

It also made me worry for him. Like Kijus claimed to be, Preston was desensitized to killing others and had indiscriminately done it before! If anything went wrong, Preston wouldn’t hesitate to take a life. Considering the Ziggurat law officials valued their hounds as much as they valued each other, they wouldn’t hesitate to go after Preston. It was a sad reality but one I was willing to accept, need be. Better him than me.

Cheif came over, pausing as he could see the worry on my face. I smiled, holding his bag of donuts.

“Thank you…” Chief smiled, “You okay!”

“Yeah, I’m fine!” I said back swiftly. He nodded, continuing to the rear to where Licho was. He and Licho talked discretely. I tried my hardest to listen but I couldn’t tell what was being said.

This all made me wonder why I’d go to such extremes to help someone. In all honesty, Kijus was extremely selfish for this! He dragged me and a number of other people into this mess and it was starting to boil over faster than it could simmer down.

Hours of assisting with paperwork later, the shift was over. I left, mounting my horse beginning the long ride home as the sun rose. The middle ring gait seemed daunting, as though something was preventing me from passing. I just couldn’t go home without checking to see if Preston was alright. I turned the horse around, heading back through the slums to the group home.

The receptionist seemed friendly enough.

“How may I help you?” She asked, looking at me from up and down. She could tell I was an official with the long trench coat and badge on my chest. The floppy brimmed hat didn’t hide it well either.

“I’m here to see a friend. Preston Akigan?” I smiled.

“Give me a moment.” She smiled back, going to a rear room. She returned seconds later as we both waited. A staff member returned, shaking his head, “He’s not here.”

“That’s fine…” I smiled leaving.

Worry began to consume me as fears of what I brought upon the boy lurked around in my mind. I searched his normal hideouts, unable to find him anywhere. However, the boy also was very good at disappearing when he didn’t want to be found. I was counting on this being the case, however it was completely impossible to rid the worry from my mind.

Upon returning home, something definitely wasn’t right. The fields were generally filled with falconers and jockeys, but this morning it was empty. I reached my stables, looking around before entering. My door hadn’t been latched the same way it was when I left it yesterday evening. Someone definitely had been tampering with it. I took one quick glance over the fields before I entered, tying my horse up to the paddock.

I was careful to make sure I did this quietly. As I did, I went to the rear of the stable, searching for the weapons vault hidden behind the stairs. It was relieving to see this hadn’t been tampered with. I put in the combination, taking off the holster buckled around my waist. There were some daunting decisions left ahead. Typically, I’d put my weapons up for the night but not today. I was changing my normal holsters out for my wrist mounted holsters.

These were weapons that all the officials were trained to use, having two tiny revolvers for close range fire. Killing someone was something I never thought I’d have to do, but need be, I would! I closed the safe, making my way up the stairs. Slowly I crept, reaching the door. Surely this was all for nothing, I hoped. I unlocked the door, entering the home.

Sitting on the couch was a official, one I had seen a few times in the palace. There were a number of other officials in my home as well. My stomach twisted into knots as I realized just how screwed I was. The official sitting on my couch turned to me.

“You had a good run.” He smiled, “You had it all thought out but I’ve been in this game longer than you’ve been born. You can’t outsmart me!”

“What are you talking about?” I asked, not trying to play dumb but to see what evidence he had stacked up against me.

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