previously: The Institute Rolls
Like most accountants in the city, Mr. George Skipworth had learned his mathematics from the church school as a boy. He was a banker now, a very successful one, and still kept his association with the church as a laymen lampadarios. Skipworth always saw to the brothers’ accounts personally, so when his ever vigilant eye saw the pair of black clad brothers sweep in with the quarterly tuition deposit, he waved them over to the end of the tellers to assist them himself.
“The usual, Brother Rudyard?”
“The usual, Brother Skipworth,” Brother Rudyard said as he brought up the strongbox he had collected the school fees in. Brother Lapis looked around the bank, bored, while Rudyard made small talk with Mr. Skipworth. His gaze came to rest on Mr. Skipworth’s greying head of hair. Something nagged at the back of his thoughts.
“Brother,” said Lapis suddenly, his eyes still on the older man’s hair. “Why did you not take on orders? It is rare to find a layman with natural talent such as yours.”
Mr. Skipworth brushed the air with his hand. “Oh, I would have, but my father died in the great fire. I had to go to work and be the man of my family.”
“You remember the fire?” Lapis asked, his interest growing. Rudyard watched Lapis and wondered what he was up to.
“How could I forget? It changed my whole life.”
“I understand the school was closed for some years afterwards.”
Mr. Skipworth thought for a moment. “Mm, no, there were many who went out of business until they could rebuild, if they could rebuild, but I don’t think the school ever did. Everyone survived, I remember that. Those of us that were able bodied were drafted into the fire brigades. I was seventeen. I remember my group was overcome by the flames after nightfall. Fortunately we were able to make it to the Grand Canal. We spent the night there, holding onto whatever we could so we wouldn’t drown if we fell asleep. There was nothing we could do but wait for the fire to burn itself out.”
“And the school?”
“The school carried on at the cathedral, I think. But I am not certain. Like I said, I had to take care of my family. That was the end of any dream I had of becoming a cleric.”
“Thank you, brother,” said Lapis. “I’d like to hear more sometime. Perhaps we can have a drink after the fast is over.”
“I’d like that,” said Mr. Skipworth as he handed Brother Rudyard a receipt for the deposit.
“What was that about?” demanded Brother Rudyard.
Brother Lapis shot him a look. “Moonwall told me there was an entire class killed in the fire.”
“You heard the story. One of them is lying. Or one of them has edited his memory.”
Brother Rudyard shrugged. “Which one has more to gain by lying?”
“I don’t know. Yet.”
“Well,” said Brother Rudyard. “It should be easy enough to discover the answer. Find the students.”
“You know, Rudy? Sometimes I think you just pretend to be dumb.”
“Of course I do. Look where being the smart one got you.”
“Do me a favor. Find whatever you can about the school in the 4 years following the fire. I don’t think those missing records are an accident.”
“What missing records? Is there something else you are not telling me?”
“Of course there is. I’ll tell you later.”