Why would Rodge hire someone to steal a blank notebook?
Ellison stopped under a streetlight and pulled it out of his pocket. He felt the pages. There was still nothing hidden in them or between them.
He put the notebook away and continued down Leadenhall back to the Barley Mow Inn.
Maybe Harmen Chapman stole a blank notebook by mistake. But then why would have Rodge paid him for it? And paid enough that Chapman could quit his job and start a new business?
Back in his room at the inn, he threw the notebook in with his box of pornographic woodcuts.
Late the next morning, he stopped by the King’s Armpit and learned that Matilda had been busy, tracking down various rumors of people who’d been looking for or selling anything that could potentially be the Jewel of Rhotarr, but hadn’t been successful.
“We found one guy,” she said. “He bought a crystal off of Norbert Hawkins which could have been it, though his description didn’t match. Anyway, he says he gave it to a waitress who collects healing crystals. Same waitress who was at the party. Same waitress who was at the Barley Mow with Gervis. But I think the guy was just a noob who didn’t know anything.” She shook her head. “Anyway, Norbert confirmed that he sold him the crystal, and that it was pretty much worthless. Trust me, if it had been the real Jewel of Rhotarr, Norbert would have gotten top dollar for it.”
“Well, I’ve got a lead that Rodge might actually be looking for something else,” he told her. “Some notebook he hired a guy to steal from Elea Carlyle. An empty notebook.”
“Maybe there’s a secret microscopic code in it? Or it actually is a blank notebook and was stolen by mistake? I don’t know. I’m about to go ask Rodge about it.”
“So now we’re going to have to find the jewel and a notebook, too?”
“I may have already found the notebook.” He took it out and passed it to her.
“Maybe the doodles mean something,” she said, rifling through the pages.
“The waitress, Donna? She accidentally took it and drew in it. Those are her doodles.”
Matilda frowned. “That woman keeps popping back up. I wonder if she’s the secret mastermind behind the whole thing.”
“I really doubt it. She can’t even light a fire or kill a spider. I think she’s a complete innocent.”
“Well, she won’t be too innocent for much longer,” said Matilda. “If Rodge finds out she took something from him, she’s going to be in for a world of pain.”
Ellison sighed. “Maybe we can keep her name out of it.” But then he remembered that the guards had seen Donna’s drawing. Once he turned the notebook over, there was a good chance that Rodge would quickly learn that she had taken it. And the caricature of him was extremely unflattering.
Matilda put money down on the bar.
“Well, I’ve got to get going,” she said. “I’m going to head back to Lifeworks, see what work they’ve got for me.”
She stood up from the bar stood and turned to leave when Donna walked into the bar, holding one of the reward posters.
“Oh, I’m so glad I caught you!” Donna said. “The bartender at the King’s Arms said that you would be here.” Donna gave the poster to Matilda. “I think I’ve got it. I thought it was just a crystal.” She reached into a pocket and took out a jewel.
Matilda took it from her and held it up, then compared it to the drawing on the poster.
“This certainly looks like it,” she said.
“A customer at the Barley Mow gave it to me,” said Donna. “But I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I actually didn’t like its energy. Now that I know it was stolen, I understand why. I’m sure it will be happy to be back with its rightful owner.”
“Do you buy her story?” Matilda asked Ellison.
“Sure, why not,” he said. “It’s as likely as anything else.”
They walked her to the Armforge Guild to get the reward.
“I’m so glad that nice Mr. Bannister will be able to get it back,” she said.
“You think he’s nice?” Matilda asked her.
“Well, he can be a little gruff sometimes. But he’s got a good heart underneath. And I feel so guilty for getting annoyed at him and drawing that picture. I don’t know what came over me. But I’m sure he won’t mind. He seems like a very kind, understanding man.”
Matilda glanced at Ellison. He rolled his eyes.
“The important thing is that Rodge gets the jewel back,” said Matilda. “And we’ll be done with this job. Whether he comes through with the reward or not, though…”
“Oh, I don’t care about that,” said Donna. “I mean, the money would be nice. I could start my own crystal shop. But really, doing the right thing is more important. And I do feel so guilty about the notebook. Really, I honestly thought it was just a blank notebook that had been thrown away.”
“That’s probably all it is,” said Ellison. “Just a blank notebook. You know, Donna,” he added, while looking at Matilda. “You might not want to mention the notebook at all when you see Rodge. In fact, you might want to forget ever having seen it.”
At the guild, Two Teeth Tom led the three of them straight into Rodge’s office.
Matilda put the jewel on the desk in front of him.
“Gervis gave it to a waitress right before we captured him,” she said.
“Ah, so that’s what he was talking about,” said Rodge, picking up the jewel. “Last night, Gervis finally broke down and confessed that he gave it to an angel.” He looked up at Donna. “I guess that’s you.”
He tossed the jewel aside. “Tom, take her to see Albert. Tell him to take care of getting her paid.”
“So we’re done?” Ellison asked. “Or is there anything else missing?”
“No, that’s it,” said Rodge. “Tom, get these guys paid, too.”
Matilda followed Donna and Tom out of Rodge’s office, but Ellison stayed behind.
“Are you sure there’s nothing else?” he asked. “I heard from a couple of people that you might also be looking for a notebook.”
“Close the door,” said Rodge.
Ellison turned and closed the door.
“What have you heard?” Rodge asked.
“I heard that you might have hired someone to steal a notebook from Elea Carlyle, and it turned out to be blank.”
Rodge ran a hand over his face.
“I may have overreacted a little bit when Elea and I had our falling out,” he said. “How many people know?”
“Just a handful.”
“So she’s going to find out.” Rodge sighed. “I had been thinking of giving it back to her, telling her that I found it. Maybe I found it in the thieves’ possession. It would make sense for thieves to have it, right? She’d be grateful I got it back.”
“Sure,” said Ellison. “But why would she care about an empty notebook?”
“It’s not empty,” said Rodge. “It’s got a secret code in it. Listen, if you’re able to find it, I’ll double your fee. Elea will still want it back.” He lowered his voice. “And whoever will took it from me… they’ll never see daylight again. “
Ellison felt the weight of the notebook in one of his many coat pockets.
“You know what?” Rodge said. “Name your price. What do you want? Money? A job with my moon mining company? I know your history. I’m willing to look past it, help you get your career back.” Rodge gestured around him. “I don’t know what you’re doing here on Krim, but to be honest, you don’t look like you belong here.”
And there it was. Ellison’s way back to his old life.