The four thieves laughed in relief when Matilda left with the two other warrior women and ordered another round of beers for the road. Then Gervis stood up and walked over to Ellison.
“I saw you sitting over here with Matilda,” the stablemaster said. “At first I thought you guys were here to arrest me, but then I realized that you could have done that anytime at the guild. I guess you weren’t kidding when you said you suspected someone else. You weren’t just stringing me along.” Gervis clapped Ellison on the shoulder. “And listen, if you want me to keep an eye out for that lady for you, I can do that.”
“Thanks, man.” Ellison looked down at his beer.
“No, I appreciate you being straight with me.”
Ellison nodded, not looking up.
“Hey, don’t be glum,” said Gervis. “I’m sure you’ll catch her soon. The lady’s bound to slip up sometime. What’s her name again?”
Gervis snapped his fingers. “Right. The charity woman. I’ll keep an eye for her. Because we’re pals, right, and that’s what pals do.”
The four thieves finished up their beers, paid their bill, and left.
Ellison picked up his bag of loot and wondered and walked out to the door, where he waited for a few seconds then slowly eased it open. The four thieves were standing a few feet away, under a street light.
“I told you guys, they don’t suspect a thing,” Gervis said. “Scarletstrike didn’t even give us a second look. And the idiot detective? He suspects some charity lady did it.”
“Let me tell you, it gave me the creeps when I saw the detective in the alley earlier,” said Trozganoth the Anointed, the knitter of wooly mittens. “First trash chute I saw, I jumped into it.”
“Wait,” said Gervis. “I thought you went out through the gate. What about the stuff?”
“I didn’t want to risk getting caught. I figured, the quicker I got out of that body, the better. And don’t worry about the loot. I hit it well. We can come back for it anytime.”
“I think we need to hit pause for a few days, until things die down,” said Gervis. “Besides, we got most of the valuable stuff out already.”
The other two thieves began to grumble when Matilda and the two warrior women emerged from the shadows on the other side of the narrow street. The three women were spread out to block their escape.
The thieves looked back as Ellison stepped down from the bar’s entrance.
“Don’t kill them! We need them alive,” Ellison yelled.
“Aw, what fun is that?” asked Matilda, closing in, knives out. Betty, a few feet to her left, swung a giant spiked club. The other woman, over to the right, put her sword away with a disappointed look on her face.
One of the thieves, the tapestry weaver, tried to make a run for it and she knocked him out with a single blow with her fist. Then she closed in on Gervis while Matilda and Betty incapacitated the other two.
Gervis spun around, panicked. “You won’t take me alive!” he yelled and ran straight at Ellison, knocked him aside, and leapt up the front steps and into the bar.
Ellison dropped Matilda’s bag of stolen loot, and chased Gervis through the bar, then through the staff door at the back, down a short hallway, and out through the rear exit into an alley.
Gervis had one leg over the side of the garbage chute when Ellison caught up to him. Ellison tried to grab the man by his coat, but the stablemaster easily pushed Ellison away and fell backwards down the chute.
Ellison stared down into the darkness, restraining the urge to jump in after him. He knew who he was after now. If Gervis left Krim for good, well, there was nothing he could do. It wasn’t a crime to steal stuff in a place like Krim. There was no legal recourse to be had.
If Gervis left, Rodge would just have to be satisfied with the other three thieves.
“You’ve got to stop letting people do that,” said Matilda, standing in the rear doorway.
“At least we’ve got some of them,” said Ellison.
When they returned back to the street, all three thieves were securely trussed up.
As they were pulling the two conscious men up to their feet, a little weaselly character appeared from around the corner. He spotted the sack Ellison was holding.
“I believe that belongs to me,” he said.
“Ellison, this is Shanwei,” said Matilda. “Shanwei, Ellison.”
“Hey, weren’t you at the Happy Hog earlier tonight?” said Betty.
“Nope, must have been someone else,” said Shanwei, grabbed the bag and darted away.
“I could have sworn…” said Betty.
“Well, I, for one, am severely disappointed that we didn’t get to kill anyone,” said her friend.
“Want to help me get them back to the Armforge Guild and watch them get tortured?” Matilda asked, and the friend cheered up.
Matilda threw the unconscious Vaganath the tapestry weaver over her shoulder and they set off.
The nightly rains had started by the time they made it all the way back, the two conscious thieves kicking and screaming the whole way there.
Rodge Bannister was disappointed that they didn’t bring all the stolen property back.
“We’re going to have to search their houses tomorrow, and hope that they haven’t sold it off yet,” he said.
Matilda threw Vaganath down on the ground, then turned to Trozganoth. “I suggest you tell them where you hid the stuff. Otherwise they’ll tear your homes and shops apart looking for it.”
“Don’t say anything,” said Tarantula Dave. “They’ll rip our places apart, anyway.”
Matilda slapped him.
“Hey,” said Rodge. “Save something for the torturer.”
“It’s in the storage room in the back of the Knitted Kitten,” said Trozganoth. “There’s a stack of boxes, and if you move them aside, there’s a hatch that goes down to a root cellar. My whole share is down there. I haven’t sold any of it yet.”
“Don’t I know you?” asked Rodge. He snapped his fingers. “The family picnic this summer, right?”
“He’s married to Gervis,” Ellison said. “Gervis was in on it. He was the inside man.”
Two Teeth Tom gasped.
“I can’t believe it,” said Rodge, in a flat voice. “He’s one of our most loyal guild members. There has to be another explanation. And how did they get the stuff out?”
“I can probably explain that,” said Ellison.