Ellison was in luck. Not only did the depot manager recognize the description of the two delivery guys, but they had just returned from a run.
Samson and Balin were unhitching their horses when Ellison interrupted them to ask about what they saw at the circus. They were both bitter.
“So, we thought, after driving all the way out there and unloading the bags, that at least they’d let us watch the show,” said Samson, the skinnier and smaller of the two men. “But no. Security reasons. Hah! Said we had to wait for the next showing. So we decided to wait. You know, have some lunch, hang out. We were in no rush to get back.”
“We didn’t have another run scheduled that day,” added Balin.
“Why did you give fake name to Clinio Lind?”
“He’s the Royal Season’s security chief. Big guy, shaved head? Wears a business suit?”
“We saw someone like that walking around,” said Balin. “But we didn’t talk to him, did we?”
“No,” said Samson. “We talked to one of the Armforge guys. Didn’t catch his name.”
“Do you remember what he looked like?”
“Beard,” said Balin. “Armforge tatoo on his arm. “And we told him our names, and where to find us.”
“Is that guy trying to sell us out?” asked Samson. “I bet they’re trying to frame us.”
“Probably stole something,” said Balin. “People are always stealing things and blaming the delivery guys. Like we need your stuff.” He spit on the ground.
“Now, maybe if we were carrying a load of gold, that would be something worth stealing,” said Samson.
“Right, or diamonds.”
“Well, sure, we’d steal some beer. But who wouldn’t? And not so much that anyone would notice. We are professionals.”
“So you didn’t have anything to do with the kidnapping?” asked Ellison.
“God, no,” said Balin. “We don’t hold with that.”
“Did you see anything suspicious?”
“No, like we told the Armforge guard. The only thing suspicious was the way they were hounding us.” Balin spit on the ground again.
“They were probably covering for slacking off,” said Samson.
“Yeah, half the time, they weren’t at their posts. We were sitting right there, and first one of them would wander off, then the other.”
“They said they were checking the perimeter,” said Ellison.
“I bet they were.” Balin smirked. “Probably drinking on the job.”
“And then when all the commotion broke out, they both rushed inside,” added Samson. “And I know that one of them was supposed to be on duty at all times.”
“Yeah, I heard the order, too,” said Balin. “That Clinio guy was very insistent.”
“Did you see them come out again? Were they carrying anything?”
“You mean, like two struggling kidnapping victims? Nope.” Balin shook his head. “But they did make us leave the area, said it wasn’t safe.”
“What did you do?”
“We wandered off to the front gate for a little bit,” said Balin. “We didn’t see any tigers or anything, though we heard everyone screaming about them. Then we went back inside.”
“We wanted to watch the show, and they promised us free tickets. Also, our wagon was still there.”
“We sat back down where we were sitting before,” said Balin.
“I think the sacks were moved around a bit,” Samson added. “I guess they already searched them.”
“Anyway, the guards tried to chase us off, but then Clinio came by, ordered them to take our statements, and they let us sit there.”
“But we never did get to see the show. They cancelled the rest of the day.”
“So we hung around for a while, then came back. They searched us before they let us go. Wagon, too. So if anyone is saying we stole anything, we didn’t.” Balin spit on the ground again and Samson punched him.
“Stop with the spitting already,” he said. “People are walking here. It’s disgusting.”
“It’s the pollution here,” said Balin. “All the dust in the air is clogging up my mucous membranes. Have you ever looked at it?”
“Looked at what?”
“The stuff you spit up. It’s brown and gross. I tell you, the air pollution here on Krim is going to kill you. Probably full of carcinogens from all the smoke. Not to mention the aerosolized horse manure.”
Samson groaned. “Not that again.”
“Yes, I keep telling you, we’re breathing in horse dung. All day, every day. I’d wear a face mask but whenever I put one on, people take me for a robber and murder me. Even the one with the embroidered smiley face on it.”
“That one was creepy,” said Samson. “I couldn’t let you walk around wearing that. You looked like a crazy clown. Gave me nightmares.”
“You didn’t have to slit my throat open.”
“And you didn’t have to keep wearing it.”
“Got you to stop, didn’t I?”
Ellison walked away to find the depot manager again.
“Well, now I’m going to have to spit,” he heard Balin say behind them.
The depot manager was happy to give Ellison a character reference, though it wasn’t a very good one.
“They keep fighting with each other,” she told Ellison. “Drink on the job. If Krim had drunk driving laws, they’d have lost their licenses ages ago. If Krim had driving licenses. Oh, and they steal. If their load has any alcohol on it, the customer better send a guard or two along with them.”
“Wouldn’t you do that, anyway?”
“Not necessarily.” She leaned in closer and lowered her voice. “If the customer is cheap about it, we’ll just throw a blanket over the barrels and stick some hay bales around it. Like a disguise, see? Or straw. If it’s really expensive stuff, we can put some manure on there. Keeps the crooks away.”
“So why do you keep them on?”
“Balin and Samson? Because they’re reasonably reliable and willing to do the work. They’ve been here for two years now. You know what the average length of employment is with delivery drivers?”
“One month. They all think it’s romantic and interesting. Travel the world, make some gold. But then they find out how little they get paid. And most of the trips are just back-and-forth to the commercial gate. Then, there’s the traffic. You yell at a pedestrian to get out of the way, they grow rotten fruit at you.” She shook her head. “For most people, it’s just not worth it. These aren’t glamour jobs. Not like… I don’t know… mercenary. Or torturer. I had a guy quit yesterday to go into heritage pot making. So yeah, we’ll keep Balin and Samson around as long as they want.”