15 July, 188x, New Babbage year 5
The grey-eyed man sat back in the wingback chair and looked over the young lady that sat smirking across from him on the sofa. He had hoped to play out the scenario a bit further, to get her to reveal a bit more information to him before he tipped his hand. Fate however had not allowed him this luxury. So instead he opened the slender folio from inside his jacket and withdrew a card highlighted in red. Emmanuelle casually watched him fish for the papers as she dug through the cigars in the barber shop’s humidor. After a few minutes of examining the contents, she settled for a slender maduro wrapped corona and settled back to look at the man who sat patiently waiting for her to finish.
“If you are done playing in the humidor, I suppose we need to get to the matter at hand. I think you have something to say to me, and something to show me?”
Emmanuelle toyed with a match she picked out of the matchsafe as he spoke to her, casually striking it to life. She rolled the match deftly between her fingers to set the flame before lighting the cigar, the spent match then dropping into the ashtray with a near soundless tick. The words he spoke hung there punctuated by the slow exhalation of smoke, almost as if they were lost in the mist. She smiled at him, and the grey-eyed man almost chuckled as the last lingering streamers of smoke crept out of the corner of her mouth. He couldn’t decide if it was more reminiscent of the sphinx or a dragon…
“Mon coeur désire ardemment.” The words made the man involuntarily check his tie. Emmanuelle saw that, and adjusted her position on the sofa ever so slightly just so he knew she noticed. She handed him the playing card and waited, watching him examining the card. He tucked it into his notebook, and then looked at the list on the red notecard.
“Ms. Dagger said that I should ask to see the pistol and the bag. She said you’d understand.” The grey-eyed man noticed that this request was greeted by a quirked eyebrow at first, and then a look that was much more of what he had come to expect from his brief visit with the dark-haired Cajun. Emmanuelle put her foot on the table without breaking the man’s gaze, and reached down to put her hand on her ankle. He tried not to stare at the boot, or the way the smooth leather followed the contour of her calf. Her hand dove under her skirt and quickly produced a small Colt revolver. Emmanuelle spun the pistol over and placed it butt first towards the man. He reached out and picked it up, examining it closely. It was a Colt ’49 Pocket pistol, converted to use cartridges. It was well used, but obviously well cared for. The card specified the hallmarks, and it was just as described. The grip bore the engraved brass inlay, “For glorious service to the regiment, Capt. Henry McElroy, New York Volunteers”. He knew there was a story there, but he thought it more prudent not to ask more at the moment. Once the pistol was placed back on the table and Emmanuelle tucked it safely back under her jacket, she produced a small pouch and put it on the table. The grey-eyed man had watched her carefully, but even under scrutiny he couldn’t be sure where the pouch had been hidden on her person. The pouch was made out of blue wool, and by touch it contained two vaguely cylindrical objects. Again, the man took it as a confirmation of who she was without thinking too deeply on what it was or what it meant. He placed the pouch back on the table and pushed it towards her. She took it and it vanished into her clothing much the same way it had appeared.
“With all the hoops jumped through, let’s get down to the reason you’re here. Ms. Dagger laid out several very specific things she wanted to happen in the case that she went missing. Apparently she had a concern that if she went missing no one would notice, and also that very specific people were notified once it happened. I can say that this was initiated quite a while ago, because I am sure nowadays that there are people who would take notice of her absence.” The man paused for a moment and looked at the woman on the sofa, and just as he finished speaking he could sense a nearly imperceptible shift in her demeanor. Her eyes were now masked from easy scrutiny behind her tinted glasses and somehow he felt that she now knew this was not just some random request. He took a deep breath and continued “When the Commodore approached me to assist in this I was more than glad to help, and I can say that I was not fully told what would happen, only that someone would come looking for the shop, with a card and a passphrase. She told me of possible respondents, what to ask of each of them to insure they were who they claimed to be, and then to offer them any assistance I could.”
“So tell me chere, what do we know about where she went off to?”
The man flipped to another page in his notebook, and scanned down the listed items. “According to the railroad, she booked a ticket to the northern terminus of the railroad, on the other side of Falun, and departed from New Babbage on July 2nd. Her luggage arrived but she did not. The conductor only remembered that a redheaded woman got off the train in Bump, and he did not recall seeing her reboard. He also stated he was otherwise occupied with his duties as well.”
Emmanuelle nodded and leaned her head back. “Reckon there is nothing to do now but get myself a train ticket. I also expect I’m going to make a bill next door.” She stood and the man stood as well.
“Whatever you need miss, I will have it taken care of. Do you have a place to stay for tonight?”
She nodded no, and the man stepped towards a tasseled rope hanging on the wall. A quick tug and a moment later the young man appeared in the back doorway of the shop.
“Steven, we will be having company tonight. Make up one of the spare rooms and fire the boiler in the bathroom in case she would like a bath later, and set an extra place for dinner.” The young man nodded and disappeared out the way he came in. “Just one thing more, before we go. Why did she insist on calling you from so far when I’m sure that someone here could have…” She looked at him in a way that the rest of the sentence trailed off to silence.
“Papere told us that all we have that really matters is blood. He said your people say ‘Viens donc ici’ and there you is. She’s my people, and sometimes only blood can see to blood.”