Tenk stormed into his office in search of his Personal Assistant. He found him there, enjoying a cigar while surveying the city from the balcony.
Underby turned slowly. “Yes, Mr. Tenk?”
“What is Ashiko Kuroe doing at the Militia Headquarters?”
“Why shouldn’t he be there?”
“In a uniform?!?”
“Of course in a uniform. You would not be expecting to have your new Captain to be behind bars? Or were you.” Underby soothed in his oiliest tones.
“Captain? CAPTAIN?! Who authorized that?”
“You did, sir.”
“I did not!”
“Oh, but you did. I told you that you needed to pay more attention to your duties and not that silly clock that Mornington gave you.”
Tenk gave Underby a dangerous look.
“The paperwork is right here… let us see,” Underby pulled a stack of papers towards himself. “You don’t suppose….”
“Suppose what,” said Tenk, impatiently.
Underby continued leafing through the stack, one page at a time, leisurely making a discard pile of the unwanted documents. “I can’t help but think of the Sheriff of Nottingham’s archery tournament.” Underby paused to let his words set. “You don’t suppose Mornington might have been trying to distract you from your civic duties with that clock?”
Underby watched Tenk with the practiced eye of a cardsayer. The little man was hard to read. Such a stoic face. He continued the sham of sorting the stack of papers, extending the moment expertly.
“Ah, here it is. All is in order. Your signature, on Captain Kuroe’s commission.”
Mr. Underby had spent years perfecting that signature. 1He had sold it to Kuroe for a tidy sum, in addition to a supply of top shelf liquors to be delivered regularly to the Bucket of Blood, and the pledge to keep militia attention steered away from the premises.
“See to it, Mr. Underby.” Tenk stalked into the elevator and pushed the button, glaring at Underby through the gilded grill that closed between them. Underby held Kuroe’s commission aloft between his long bony fingers and inclined his head politely in salute, a slight smirk crouching in the corner of his mouth as Tenk dropped out of sight. He relit his cigar and stepped back out onto the balcony. Such a rare day, when the blustery fall breezes had blown the sky blue, affording a singularly stunning view of the city.
Mr. Underby had been a very patient man.
1. see Early Morning Practice