“So let me get this straight,” said Ellison, looking around the office. “You want us to find evidence that Krim World administrators kidnapped your leader…”
“Brother Fulke,” said Brother Linota.
“…And are keeping him trapped in some kind of secret dimension where they keep everyone who disagrees with them.”
“So that you can sue Krim and get him released.”
“And expose what they’re doing,” said Linota. “People have been disappearing from Krim for years, never to be heard from again. They can’t tolerate it when anyone goes against them.”
“Maybe those people just got tired of being here and left,” said Ellison.
“Maybe some of them. But there were others, committed to the truth. But we knew that this might happen, and we’ve got a plan.”
Ellison glanced at Matilda, who rolled her eyes.
“I know Brother Fulke’s real-world identity,” Linota said. “And power of attorney. As soon as there’s any evidence that Fulke didn’t disappear on his own accord but do to some deliberate action by Krim administrators, I can file suit.”
“What if he was grabbed by someone else?” asked Ellison. “I mean, you share this place with a sex cult. The Krim terms of service specifically lists being kidnapped by a sex cult as one of the risks of being on the grid.”
“Don’t call it a grid,” said Linota. “Grid implies that Krim is flat. But if Krim was flat, then gravity would be pulling people sideways, not straight down, everywhere except the very center.” She lowered her voice. “We were raising money to conduct the Eratosthenes well experiment calculate the actual size of Krim. We’d have proof not just that the world is round, but exactly how big it is.”
“And the admins are keeping it a secret why?”
“We don’t know,” said Linota. “We have suspicions, but it’s a reason important enough for them to have maintained the fraud for a whole decade, and disappeared dozens, maybe hundreds, of people to keep the truth from getting out.”
She must have seen the incredulity on his face.
“You don’t have to believe us,” she said. “Just find Brother Fulke. Matilda says you can find anyone.”
Ellison glared at Matilda, who grinned and shrugged.
“Are you sure he hasn’t left Krim?” Ellison asked.
“Yes. But I’ll give you his real world details if it makes you feel better.”
Ellison nodded. He can have his brother’s investigation firm do a check.
“But I know that Fulke wouldn’t leave us right now, not when we’re so close,” said Linota. “We need him back.”
“So take me through what happened,” said Ellison.
“We know that Funke had lunch yesterday with Remember,” said Linota. “That’s the owner of the community center. Remember Keturah Bohannon. She and Fulke are seeing each other. After lunch, he came back to his office to work. The minstrels were downstairs, rehearsing. They didn’t see him come down. Nobody came in and went up to see him. I got here as they were finishing up. We have the whole place to ourselves for the whole evening. When Fulke didn’t show up, we went upstairs to check his office. I had to unlock the door — I’m the only other person who has a key. And this is exactly what we found.”
She gestured at the mess. “We didn’t touch anything. There’s blood on the broken staff. Oh, we did touch one thing.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a flat piece of metal about the size of her palm. “It’s an admin badge.” She passed it to Ellison.
The badge had the Krim crest, an elephant standing on a checkerboard. A flat checkerboard. Below it was a name, Weldon Layton, and the words “assistant grid manager.”
“He must have lost it in the struggle,” said Linota.
“So if Weldon kidnapped your leader, how did he get him out?”
“He teleported in and out, of course. He’s a grid admin. World admin. He probably has the power to do anything he likes. He was probably listening in on our conversations.”
“So he could be listening to us now?”
“Probably,” she said. “But don’t worry. They’re not going to disappear you. You work for an investigations firm. It would bring too much heat.”
“But you’re not worried about your own safety?”
“No,” she said. “I’m not going to let them scare me off. Sure, I could leave Krim. Go hang out on Facepage and eat potatoes and drink coffee. But then they’ll have won. And somebody has to be willing to fight for the truth.” She squared her shoulders. “I’m not going to back down. Will you help us? Matilda said you will.”
Matilda shrugged. “Remember is a friend of mine. She wants Fulke back. She doesn’t think he left on his own accord, either.”
“Sure,” said Ellison. “Why not. It’s a light week.”
“Will you need to do anything here?” Linota looked around at the office. “Dust for fingerprints, or test the blood, that kind of thing?”
“No point,” said Ellison. “People can change their fingerprints. But we will want to talk to the minstrels.”
“Taenaran the Bard has an office down the hall,” she said. “I think he’s still there. He’s the head of the Bannerhands Minstrel Fellowship.”
“We’ll talk to him,” said Ellison. “Then to Welton.”
“You can’t do that! Then he’ll know that you’re on to him. You won’t be safe.”
“I’m sure I’ll manage somehow,” said Ellison.
“Well, if you’re sure…” Linota looked around the office. “I guess if you don’t need anything here, I’ll start getting things organized.”
Ellison and Matilda left her to it and walked to Taenaran’s office.
“So how does this place work?” he asked her once they were outside, in the hallway.
“Remember Keturah Bohannon runs the place,” said Matilda. “I don’t know if she owns it or not, but she collects the rent and schedules the meeting rooms. And there are a bunch of small offices here on the second floor. I occasionally substitute teach a knifing class here. Not every guild has the money or enough members to have a place just for themselves. This place is convenient. Marylebone Place is just half a block away, and there’s rooming houses, and wenches, and the Butt and Oyster. It’s far enough away from the city center that the rents are reasonable and there aren’t too many noobs.”
“Does Linota seriously believe that Krim is round?”
“I think so,” said Matilda. “She and Fulke both do. But I got the sense that a lot of their members think the society if a joke. I mean, anyone can take a cruise to the edge of the world and see for themselves.”
“How do they explain that?”
“They claim its an elaborate fake,” she said. “Do not get them started on it. They have diagrams. And here’s Taenaran ‘s office.”
“Well, let’s start investigating.”