Today’s blog is a section from The Darned Conspiracy, the sequel to my first novel In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
Sills ended the call with Grimby and Fineflin and leaned back in her chair, cup of coffee in hand. She rocked for a bit as she sipped and then sighed.
“I suppose there’s no avoiding it, I’ve got to make the call.”
The director pressed the comm button on her desk and when the confirmation bell rang she spoke, “Zach, get me the head of the intelligence sub-committee on the line. And use alternative routing, I don’t want people knowing we talked if I can help it.”
“You sure, Ma’am? Last time you called him you told me to never let you do it again.”
“I know what I said. Get him on the line please. Now.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” The speaker went silent and Sills again leaned back in her chair. It wasn’t long before her intercomm buzzed again.
“Governor Wednesday Isme on line two, Director.”
“Thanks, Zach.” The speaker went dead and Sills activated line two on her phone before picking up the receiver.
“This is Director Masterful. Thank you for taking my call, Governor.”
“This better be a secure line, Sills, with all that’s going down a phone call probably wasn’t the best choice.”
Sills sighed. Isme had been the Commander-in-Chief for The Realm’s armed forces during the Copyright War and often acted like he’d never retired from service. As an IBI liaison officer, she’d never been officially under his command, but Isme tended to make most people feel as though they should be. A great many predicted that he was going to be named Sovereign after the war’s conclusion 1.
“Yes, Governor, it is a secure line. And I realize the issues with phone calls, but I thought better this than getting eyeballs on us meeting. My office did route my call as though it were from another office, correct?”
Isme grunted. “Yes. I do have to say I was impressed by that, given the circumstances. At any other time I might consider investigating such actions as contrary to the public good.”
“I understand, Governor. And normally I wouldn’t do such a thing, but these are difficult circumstances.”
There was a moment of pause before the old general responded. “Understood. So, let me ask you, “Just how are Sintelis and Firetrodder wrapped up in all this?”
“I never said they were.”
Isme grunted. “You didn’t have to. They’ve been working against the Throne since Sovereign Moume was elevated. But this seems way beyond their normal schemes–they’re connivers, not sabatours.”
“I have to agree, but our forensic accountants are noticing some odd sources of funding for both the Classics and Darned Elvish delegations. We’re not sure where it came from, but some of it got tracked back to Great Roll.”
“So that’s why you sent Bug to make sure your two friends got though gnomish customs.”
Sill’s eyes narrowed. “That information isn’t public, Governor. Are you spying on my agents?”
“Whoa there, Director. We’re on the same side here. I just happen to have friends scattered throughout The Realm. And when something notable happens, like the spouse of the Sovereign showing up at a custom’s office in No Entry, they let me know. Whey they mentioned he’d bailed two IBI agents out of trouble, an Elf and a Dwarf, I could guess who it was.”
“That’s fine, Governor. Though if we’re on the same side I do expect that any actionable intelligence be forwarded to the IBI for investigation. You oversee us, you aren’t supposed to be doing our jobs. Withholding actionable intelligence could be considered obstruction.”
There was another pause, rather longer the first. Isme was not used to being told what to do. At last he responded with a single word, “Understood.”
“Thank you. And as Director of the IBI I am duty bound to let you know that we do, indeed, have Governor’s Sintelis and Firetrodder under investigation for crimes against The Throne. As these are two of the most notable politicians in The Realm I hope you can understand that I must ask you to not divulge this information at this time. Not even with your sub-committee.”
“I do understand, Director. And I acknowledge your prudence in not doing this at a face to face meeting. Tipping off the rats is never a good idea. In war or in politics.”
“Or law enforcement, Governor.”
“I have no experience with the last so I’ll take your word on it. Thank you for your call, Director.”
“Thank you, Governor. And we will keep you informed.”
“Yes you will. Just how big is this?”
“Sir, I’m not at liberty to discuss specifics but I can say an informant has passed on some information we are now trying to confirm. If it pans out, The Realm could be at risk.”
“Understood. And in light of our cooperation please allow me to pass on some information my…informal contacts…have passed on to me. At least some of the money being used to finance whatever Sintelis and Firetrodder are up to is coming through a shell company based out of The Royal Port of Merchants.”
Sill’s brow wrinkled. That was something they had not come across. “What’s the name, and how do you know this?”
“Regal Imports. If you check it out you’ll see that it’s got an office and three employees, but no revenu stream at all. One of my former aids runs a bank down there. She’s been watching some odd transactions for me and these floated to the top of the list.”
“Thank you Governor, we’ll look into it.”
“Good. I’ve taken enough of your time, Director. Good hunting, for all our sakes.”
“Thank you, Governor. Good day.”
Sills hung up the phone and stood up to stretch her legs. She picked up her coffee mug, but found it to be empty. She glanced at her phone, which read 10:28, and nodded. It was time for her mid-morning refill. Apollo’s called. She exited her office and turned toward the elevators.
“You want anything today, Zach?”
The Dwarf shook his head. “No, thanks. I’m trying to cut down. I couldn’t sleep the last couple of night.”
The gnome nodded. “I understand. Be back in ten.”
She pressed the call button for the elevator and waited for the car to arrive. At last she heard the “ding” and grinned as the doors opened. Her mid-morning ritual was her escape from the stresses of leadership. But before she could step inside Zach peaked around the corner and shouted, “Director, sorry, but the Sovereign is on line one!”
Sills sighed. Sometimes the job never let her take a moment’s rest. She turned back to her office, and the doors closed behind her. As she stepped away she heard a violent groan coming from the elevator shaft, followed by a mechanical shriek as the car fell through the shaft. This was followed a few seconds later by a violent crash as the elevator car reached the bottom.
Sills stood there for a several heartbeats, her eyes fixed on the elevator door, and then blinked her way to clarity.
“Zach, put this building on lockdown now! And bring me a cup of coffee!”
- From what I understand, ninety percent of the pools on who would be chosen were blown up so bad everyone’s money was refunded. ↩