The main floor of the old Elysium Financial Corp. building was littered with banknotes. Ellison stopped to pick one up. It was slightly bigger than what he expected paper money to look like, stamped with the bank’s logo, and bore a hand-written note promising the bearer the sum of 100 gold coins. It was signed by an Ezekiel Englysche. Ellison had heard of him. Elysium promised to protect depositors accounts in the event of their untimely death while offering a paper money alternative to Krim’s official metal-based currency. The founders disappeared with all their customers’ deposits a year ago, and the building had been vacant ever since. But it was before his time, so nobody had asked Ellison to find the guy. Ellison pocked the bank note. In case he ever needed it, it could be helpful to have an example of the crook’s signature.
Matilda appeared from around a hallway. “I found it, this way.”
Ellison followed her to a staircase that led all the way to the roof.
Slithering Nyle, the best assassin Matilda could find on short notice, was crouched behind a chimney, looking through a spyglass.
“Do you see my guys?” she asked him.
Nyle passed the spyglass over. “They’re getting into place now.” Nyle turned to Ellison. “After I followed your guards to this building, I sent word back to Matilda. I’ve been watching her fighter friends getting into position ever since.” He pursed his lips. “I still think assassins would have been better at this,” he said. “We’re good at making sure our targets don’t get away.”
“I wanted to use people I’ve known the longest,” Matilda said, not taking eye from the spyglass. “No offense, but I didn’t want word to get out. If they got wind we were coming, they might have moved their captives before we were in place.”
“I haven’t seen anyone go in or out during the past hour,” he said. “Just your two guards. They came in, stayed for a few minutes, then left. But there’s a back entrance I can’t see from here.”
“I’ve got that covered,” said Matilda. She pointed to a watch tower near the docks. The warehouse that Slithering Nyle had been keeping his spyglass on was directly between the bank and the tower. It was a squat, ugly structure, nestled among other warehouses and smaller office buildings. Ellison could see people walking on the surrounding streets, but nobody went inside or even looked at it as they passed.
“A couple of my guys know the area well,” Matilda said. “But they thought this place was empty. One of them just walked past the front entrance. The doors are wide open, he could see the whole interior and there was nobody there.”
“That can’t be right,” said Nyle. “I saw movement earlier. There are definitely people inside.”
“We’ll know soon enough.” She pointed at the buildings around the warehouse. “I’ve got a dozen people ready. We’ll go in through the front and back entrances simultaneously. Nyle, look for anyone getting away. I’ll have someone watching for your signal.”
Since most people on Krim didn’t have watches residents generally told the time by checking the nearest clock tower or listening for bells. The docks’ watch tower had two clock faces, one pointed towards the docks themselves and the other in towards the warehouses.
As its bells started ringing the hour, Matilda passed the spyglass back to Nyle. “Let’s go. We’ve got fifteen minutes to get in place,” she told Ellison.
The two of them went back down to the street and took a parallel street to get into position at the warehouse’s rear entrance. They got there with five minutes to spare and huddled in an alleyway across the street from the back doors. There was a heavy chain and a lock on them, but Ellison didn’t think that it would keep out Matilda’s mercenaries. Or even just Matilda on her own.
“So, listen,” he said. “About that restraining order…”
“It’s a long story, and I’d rather not talk about it now,” said Matilda.
“I just want to be sure that if we find the prisoners and Finnbogi is one of them — or one of the captors — that you don’t kill him before we get a chance to talk to him.”
“Why would I kill him?”
“Kill, torture, whatever.”
“I don’t want to hurt him,” said Matilda. “I just want to find him and talk to him.”
“That’s what all the stalkers say,” said Ellison.
“I’m not a stalker. I’m his cousin. We were best friends growing up. Anyway, things happened just before he disappeared. I may have overreacted slightly.”
“And now you just want to apologize, right?”
She looked away. “Well…”
“The court records said that you were supposed to get anger management counseling, but never did.”
“I’m dealing with it,” said Matilda. “I’m sublimating my anger constructively.”
“How? By killing everyone who looks at you funny?”
“Yes. I feel much more relaxed after a good stabbing.”
“Have you stabbed anyone this morning?”
“No, I haven’t. Good point.” She leaned out of the alley and grabbed a passing pedestrian by the back of his collar. “Do I know you?” she asked him.
“No,” the man stammered. “Do you want money? I’ve got…”
“So you take one look at me and automatically assume I’m a criminal?” she asked. “Is that it?” She took out a dagger. “I hate prejudiced people.”
Her victim shook his head, eyes wide with panic. Ellison stepped back and the man looked in his direction. “Help me,” he whispered.
Ellison took another step back and Matilda put her hand over the man’s mouth then slid her dagger in under the his ribcage and into his heart. He barely had a chance to try to scream before he died. She pulled out the dagger, wiped it on the back of his coat, and threw the body down the alley.
“I feel better now,” she said and the clock on the watch tower rang once. It was fifteen minutes past the hour. Time to go in.