After talking to Anne-Lise and Ditte, as well as several of the more gossipy Singletons, Ellison found out that Raphe had been the very model of chastity — but there was a whole list of guards, or, at least, their general descriptions, whom Wynefrede might have been involved with.
It was time to talk to an expert.
Matilda wasn’t at the King’s Armpit, but he finally tracked her down at the Mercenary Guild, where she was drinking beer and gossiping with guards at the hiring hall.
It was emptier than usual.
She spotted him as he walked in, then nodded at an empty private table in the corner, said something Ellison couldn’t hear to the fighters she was sitting with, then got up and walked over.
“Where is everyone?” he asked her.
“Most of them are helping the Armforge Guild get their castle back,” she said. “That place is going to be a pile of rubble. And the Royal Season is hiring everyone else because they’ve been stepping up security.” She sat down across from him, threw her feet up on an empty chair, and took a sip of her beer. “What do you have for me?”
“First, any luck catching the Nightingale?”
“No,” she said. “I’ve had guys staking out both the newspaper and the editor himself and no luck so far. We did intercept two assassination attempts, but they were unrelated.”
“Some guy was upset that his name was misspelled and a regional warlord sent an assassin because the paper made her rival sound too reasonable.”
Ellison pulled out his list of names and put it down in front of her. “Wynefrede apparently liked the strong, well-armed type. These are some of the guards she may have been spending personal time with. Do you know any of them?”
She looked the list over. “Sure. That’s Gorehair.” She stabbed a finger at the list.
Gorehair was one of the members of the Armforge Guild, and a suspect in a recent theft. He’d been cleared. Ellison pulled up his mental image of the guy.
“You sure? It says, ‘bearded guy who smells like alcohol and hums a lot.’ Isn’t Gorehair clean-shaven?”
“He’s been growing it out,” said Matilda. She glanced over the rest of the list. “I can probably make guesses about most of them, but let’s start with Gorehair.”
“Because he’s right over there.” She pointed across the room, then grabbed up her beer and stood up. Ellison followed her back to where she’d been sitting before. He couldn’t see Gorehair at first, then realized that the man was passed-out drunk on the floor behind the table.
“He’s been lying there for hours,” Matilda said. “He should probably be sober enough to talk by now.”
It took a bucket of water and some kicks to wake him up, then a promise of more alcohol to get him to talk but when he got started, he turned out to be a goldmine of information.
“She couldn’t get enough of me,” said Gorehair. “Or any of, really. It was like she’d just been released from a nunnery.”
“Some people get that way when they first come to a private grid,” said Ellison. “Especially if they’ve been in the public spotlight all their lives and had to be careful about who they associate with.”
“I have a hard time believing that, in this day and age, there’s anyone left who doesn’t have a few accounts — or a few dozen account — on private grids,” said Gorehair.
“Wynefrede didn’t,” said Matilda. “Pretty much her whole life has been tracked by the media, and there were no chunks of time missing. Looks like the only other people she’s dated have been nice, respectable people, captains of industry, that kind of thing. The time she’d been missing before were times she was known to be in a relationship and the missing hours corresponded to times the other people were out of contact as well. So she was probably out on dates during those periods.”
Ellison glanced at Matilda and wondered how she knew. Did someone here on Krim tell her?
“Well, I guess that explains why she wasn’t interested in polyphonic vocals,” said Gorehair.
“Excuse me?” Ellison asked.
“I offered to take her to a live performance,” said Gorehair. “But she blew me off. At first, I thought she was just blowing me off. I mean, who doesn’t like listening to madrigals? But I guess she might have just been in a hurry. She had a lot of time to make up for.”
“Decades,” said Matilda and Ellison wondered again how she knew that.
Gorehair helped them put names to the other descriptions on the list. “That’s Barret the Beast,” he said, pointing at a description that just said, “eyepatch.” “There are a lot of guys with eyepatches here on Krim, most of them just for show, but Barret’s the only one I saw her spending time with. Mostly guards that lady’s house… what’s her name… Benedicta something.” He dragged his finger down the list. “The scar on his chin? That’s Mad Eyed Brendon. The redhead is Wanda the Weasel.” He went down the list and identified everyone.
“Are you sure about this?” Ellison asked him.
“Yeah. When it’s my shift, I have to keep a close eye on her. I watch who comes close. And we gossip.”
“Is there anyone we’re missing?” asked Ellison.
“I can’t think of anyone else,” said Gorehair. Then he picked up the list held in front of him and squinted his eyes. “Oh, yeah, one more guy. The butler. Sam something. Sam Bewley? Baudelyon? Beldon?”
“Sedgebury?” asked Matilda.
“That’s him,” said Gorehair. “But he got fired a few days back.”
“Two days before the stories started showing up in the newspaper,” said Matilda.
Gorehair snapped his finger. “That’s right. You were asking about him that very night.”
“I tracked him down,” said Matilda. “He’s in the Domestics Guild. Got tired of the sexual harassment, went to work for Valerie Kingston.”
“The head of the grid archives?”
“That’s the one,” said Matilda.
“So he’s probably not driven mad by jealousy,” said Ellison.
“No. When I talked to him, he seemed only mildly annoyed. Said that Valerie not only doubled his salary, but kept her hands off.”
It didn’t sound like Gorehair any more to share, so they let him go off to get cleaned up for his next shift.
Matilda was about to get up and leave as well, but Ellison had something to ask her first.
“It sounds like you were looking into the Royal Season before we got the job,” he told her.
She looked away.
“Are you the Nightingale?”