“We found them.” Ellison Davo walked into Pleasance Pratt’s office on Barking Street followed by Matilda Scarletstrike in all her armored, muscled glory. The room immediately felt smaller when Matilda stepped in.
“We think we found them,” Matilda added.
Pleasance stood up. “How? Where? The whole season has been on hold. We’ve cancelled two balls already. There are only so many museum tours people can go on before they give up and go home.”
“We found a pair of delivery drivers taking construction and other supplies up to a spot west of Sangeries Castle.”
Pleasance looked back at them with a blank face.
“That was the site of the battle last week,” Matilda added. “The one between the Armforge Guild and the Sacred Cult of Qualdir, God of the Underworld.”
“Anyway, the delivery drivers said they saw two prisoners there, a man and a woman. They matched the description of Raphe Faryndon and Wynefrede Aumberden. They were chained up, but otherwise seemed in good health and spirits.”
“So can we just go up there and get them back?” Pleasance asked.
“We’d probably be fighting two separate groups if we do,” said Ellison. “The kidnappers and the Armforge Guild. The guild looks to be building establishing a position there. Probably a launching point for their next attack against the castle.”
“I though they owned the castle,” said Pleasance.
“They did. The cult took it. The guild wants it back.” Ellison glanced at Matilda. “It looks like they’re planning a simultaneous attack from the front and the back, right?”
“The cult destroyed the bridge west of the castle,” said Matilda. “I think the guild is building a new one. I don’t know why they’re keeping Raphe and Wynefrede there, though.”
“That’s where the kidnappers come in,” said Ellison. “For some reason, they’re hanging out in the sample place. The delivery drivers said there’s a heavily-armed squad who mostly stick with each other. They’re the ones guarding the prisoners.”
“This sounds bad,” said Pleasance. She leaned against the back wall of her office, next to the Remburte de Vincenti painting. “What do we do?”
“Whatever it is, we have to act fast,” said Matilda. “They might move the prisoners at any moment. In fact, they might already be gone.”
Pleasance rubbed her face. “This is a nightmare. We shouldn’t have come here.”
“We go in with two teams,” Matilda said. “We leave by the western gate, where Gabar Road starts. It goes along the coast then eventually swings around and joins Gegorport Highway, which goes all the way up to the north mountains. A couple of miles up, it splits off into a narrower road through the forest. I don’t think it has a name. It’s just wide enough for a wagon, and follows the west bank of Krim River all the way to Sangeries Castle and then continues past back up to Gabar Road. We have one team go up the forest road and another team stay on Gabar Road and go up and around and meet the forest road up at the top where it comes out.”
“They’ll probably want to take the prisoners north, further away from the city,” said Ellison. “If we have people blocking that off, we’ll be able to keep them from doing that.”
“But our main force will attack from the south,” said Matilda.
“And you’ll be fighting both the kidnappers, and the Armforge Guild?” asked Pleasance.
“It looks like it,” said Matilda. “Unfortunately, they’re good at fighting.”
“Didn’t the cult beat them?”
“Yeah, that was a surprise,” said Matilda. “I lost some money on that one. But the guild has been bringing more men in. One thing that’s in our favor is that most of their men are gathered at the front entrance — the one where the main battle was fought. There are going to be fewer of them hiding in the woods.”
“And we have guns,” said Ellison.
“Well, technically,” said Matilda. “But we haven’t practiced with them. We’re just as likely to hit the prisoners as the kidnappers. Of course, that’s not a bad thing. If we kill the prisoners, that’s as good as freeing them.”
“I’d rather not have our people killed,” said Pleasance. “Maybe the Armforge Guild will honor their contract and bring Raphe and Wynefrede back to us. Especially if we tell them that we know where they are. They seem like reasonable people.”
“You think Rodge is reasonable?” Ellison asked.
“Rodge Bannister has a very solid reputation out in the real world that I’m sure he’s anxious to protect,” said Pleasance. “This whole situation isn’t making him or his organization look good, and it opens him up to a world of legal liability.” She shook her head. “No. We talk to him first.”
“Fine by me.” Matilda stepped out of the office and looked back at Ellison. “I’m heading back to play with our new guns. Are you coming?”
“Wait,” said Ellison. “If you tell Rodge that we know where Raphe and Wynefrede are being held, he’ll just make sure that they disappear before we get there. He can’t leave any evidence that the guild was involved in the kidnapping. And if you can’t find Raphe and Wynefrede then they can’t testify against him. He’ll just argue that they went off on their own and are having a fun, private time somewhere by themselves.”
Pleasance pursed her lips.
“Look, you had another guy disappear on Krim, right?” He glanced back at Matilda. “A Finnbogi Sturluson? Three years ago? The man hasn’t been seen since. If it’s the same people, they’ve figured out how to keep captives for a long time. You don’t want that to happen to Raphe and Wynefrede.”
“They’re just random criminals, aren’t they?” asked Pleasance. “If they’re just after money, why would they hold them?”
“No, I don’t think they’re random criminals,” said Ellison. “I caught a glimpse of a couple of them down in the tunnels where they were keeping Raphe and Wynefrede. I recognized them.” That wasn’t technically true. Ellison didn’t recognize them. Not then, at least. But when he got back to the Crewe Investigations offices he looked up their real identities. “They’re a couple of guys connected to the Humanists. They’ve been active on Krim lately.”
“So the kidnapping could be political,” said Pleasance. “That puts a different spin on things. We’re going to have to increase security and notify the authorities.”
“Clinio is already doing that,” said Ellison. “But we can’t afford to wait. And we can’t tip the Armforge Guild off to the fact that we know where they are. We need to go in fast, from both sides, and free your people before they’re moved somewhere else.”
“So. How much is this going to cost us?” asked Pleasance.
“How many mercenaries do you want me to hire?”
Pleasance paced back and forth behind her desk, then sat down. “I want all of them,” she said. “I want to get our people back. We’ll add the cost to the lawsuit we’re filing against the Armforge Guild.”
“Matilda?” Ellison turned around to see if she was still there. She was.
“I got it,” she said. “Money’s no object. Hire everyone. It shouldn’t be too hard. The Armforge Guild hasn’t been making a lot of friends lately.”
“Meanwhile, I’ll have our head of security have a talk with the guild,” said Pleasance.
“I’ve already contacted Clinio and brought him up to date,” said Ellison. “I’ve also told him who I think the kidnappers might be. He said he’ll have some of his men meet us at the western gate.”