Thursday, 8 October 2015

Diamond for Dwarves - A Jasper Blake Mystery (Part 4)

Chapter 6

Jasper opened the door for two short men dressed in suits: dwarves with their stocky builds. One of them wore a suit that was of good quality and had an aura of superiority about him. The other dwarf was about the same height as the first, yet either he was lower in status or played a smaller role, his shoulders were hunched making him smaller than he was. As the visitors were shown their seat on the leather couches, the one in the nicer suit removed his hat and sat down while the other took his place beside the first.
“Thank you for coming, Lord Altberg and Mr. Weizberg,” Jasper addressed to the first dwarf.
Lord Altberg was very good looking with a trimmed beard complimenting his chiseled face and regal nose; his thick dark hair neatly combed back; his eyes were bright with intelligence, but also held a threatening fire that burned if one stood in his way. The dwarf with the hunched shoulders, Mr. Weizberg, was a balding dwarf with a plump round face that was clean shaven, gold rimmed rectangular-shaped spectacles sat on his nose as he wiped his forehead with a handkerchief.
“Allow me to introduce to you my assistant and secretary, Ms. Fullerton. Ms. Fullerton, this is Lord Altberg – Lord Baron Franz Altberg, current president of Nordican Blue Mountain Banks, and his secretary, Mr. Ron Weizberg.”
I nervously served tea to Lord Altberg and Mr. Weizberg. Lord Altberg accepted his cup in silence while Mr. Weizberg thanked me quietly for his own.
“I was told you have received a lead regarding my family diamond.” Lord Altberg spoke with a gruff roll of Dwarvish accent.
“Yes, we have,” Jasper answered, “Presently, it is stowed safely under the care of the Oxen Basin Rangers.”
There was a look of displeasure on the dwarf’s face at the mention of the rangers. “Mr. Blake, I thought we have an understanding that this is something we would like to keep hidden from public.”
“And I assure you that we have. The rangers had been good to their word in keeping the matters private.”
Lord Altberg straightened his back as he looked down at Jasper from this regal nose. “That is if they are good in their promises. You humans tend to make promises you do not intend to keep, let alone bending and breaking rules at your convenience.”
I bristled. At that moment I decided I did not like what our client said, but I remained silent for a deep part of me knew there was some truth in those words.
“Ms. Fullerton, was it?” I snapped to attention at my name.
“Yes, Lord Altberg,” I replied. The president of the bank examined me from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. I felt like a cattle in a livestock auction.
“Tell me, Ms. Fullerton. Let us say there is a piece of land. In this land is a buried treasure. A man enters the land and finds that treasure, knowing it belongs on the property, yet there were no indicated property lines. If you were that man, what would you do?”
The story sounded much like the one Jasper had just told me. I replied, “If I were the man, I would be very tempted to take the treasure. However, because that treasure does not belong to me I would leave it.”
Lord Altberg continued to study me as if he was trying to read past what I have given him. “You said you would be tempted, but chose not to take the treasure because it was not yours. What made you give such an answer?”
“If one had studied history and the mistakes people made in the past surely would come to that conclusion.”
The dwarf sat in silence. I began to wonder if I had said something that would insult him. A smile curled at the corner of his mouth.
“So it is true that these gold-eaters are clever and civilized. I thought those dragon-bellied humans only cared for the gold in their pockets and little for the affairs of the world.”
Gold-eater? Did he just call me by a derogatory word for Darconians (the official word for Eastern Kingdomers)? I bit my tongue as I held back my retort, keeping my face expressionless.
“Lord Altberg,” Jasper stepped in, “We would like to ask in regards of how you came about discovering your loss.”
The dwarven president waved at his secretary. Mr. Weizberg wiped his brow and said, “Lord Altberg visits his family grave twice a year – once in spring and once in fall. It was during his yearly fall visit this past September that the diamond was taken from his family crypt.”
“Where was the diamond cave for the Altberg family located?” Jasper asked.
“The Altbergs have their own places in the diamond caves built inside the Dwarven Orthodox Church. The church has a basement with nine supporting pillars, each bearing the names of the founding dwarven families.” Lord Altberg explained, “It is on one of these pillars that the Altbergs have their family diamonds.”
“Could you please describe in detail what the diamond looked like?”
The dwarven president slammed his fist on the couch arm, both his secretary and I jumped.
“Damn you, human! Read the papers! I did not hire you for your idiocy!”
“With all due respect, Lord Altberg,” Jasper said coolly, “I would much prefer to have my facts clear and straight from the individual – to get accurate and speedy results. If you wish, I’m sure the rangers at Station House 22 would be glad to assist you.”
“Hmph! I would rather be in a dragon’s belly than set foot in a station house filled with bullheaded humans and airheaded elves.” Lord Altberg sat back, “Very well. It is clear white in colour, possesses high clarity with 99 facets, oval shaped, the size of a chicken’s egg, and two merged dwarven runes encased in the gem’s centre. The runes should be S and A.”
After writing down the details, Jasper brought out what looked like a written contract and set it in front of the dwarven president with a pen in hand. “If I could have your signature here, and here,” Jasper pointed on the document, “We will be able to present this to the station house and reclaim your diamond.”
Taking the pen from Jasper, Lord Altberg muttered something about unnecessary human legalities as he signed.
“Thank you, for your time. I will personally deliver the diamond to you.” Jasper strode to the door and opened it.
“We are not done yet,” said the president. “I hope you understand that I want that diamond to be personally delivered by you.”
“Because we have your written agreement to be presented as proof, we will make sure of that.” Jasper said with a nod.
Lord Altberg narrowed his eyes and placed his hat on his head; his secretary nervously gathered his things.
“I will be expecting you tonight at 8:25 sharp at the Masonry Hotel.” Lord Altberg said with a low growl.
“Thank you for the tea, miss. Mr. Blake,” Mr. Weizberg tipped his hat and followed his boss.
The moment Jasper closed the door behind them, I exhaled slowly.
“I know what you are thinking,” Jasper said, as he watched me cross my arms glaring at the door half-expecting Lord Altberg to come back.
“He was rude, Jasper!” I said.
“But you have to understand that these people were treated the same way by humans – and I am not saying just a handful of random humans on occasion. I am talking about dwarves who lived over two hundred years in a country that promised equality amongst races and still are looked down upon because they are dwarves.”
I shook my head in disbelief.
“Cassisa,” his voice was gentle as he took a step closer to me.
I looked up and saw his eyes both sad and kind.
“Please do not hate the dwarves all because of one unpleasant incident. Do remember that there are dwarves of good character as well just as there are humans of good and bad character.”
“I don’t hate them, Jasper,” I assured him as I looked away, “I just feel hurt by how he had treated you.”
He smiled. “You don’t have to worry about me. Now then,” he strode towards our meeting room, “we have an appointment with the Oxen Basin Rangers later this afternoon. In the mean time, let’s finish our meeting, shall we?”
I took my seat with my ledger as Jasper took his place by the blackboard.
“Since we will be working closely together,” Jasper began as he brought out his pocket notebook, “I will give you information of my finds. We will compare notes and our speculations from now on.”
I voiced my agreement.
He flipped open a page. “Let’s start from the beginning: We both know that Gavin Tiller was killed at St. Eleanor’s Chapel on Saturday, October 7th, sometime late at night.”
“Did Merl mention about what time he was killed?” I asked.
Jasper looked at our file on Gavin. “It says here he died between one and two o’clock in the morning that Saturday.”
“That’s rather late to be at a chapel, let alone a church.” I commented.
“True. Unless he was seeking sanctuary,” Jasper mentioned, “I spoke to the priests who ministered at that chapel, they mentioned that Gavin had come to their door begging sanctuary at around midnight. A priest named Brother Ruben said he let Gavin in to the chapel. Gavin asked the priest for some time alone, he thought it was for prayer because Gavin appeared to be disturbed about something – and that was the last time he was seen alive.”
“So who found Gavin after that?”
“Well, that’s where it’s kind of strange. The priests said that it was Brother Simon, another priest who also works at the chapel, that found Gavin, but it was three days later.” Jasper flipped another page in his notes, “The priests work in rotation cleaning and tidying the chapel each day. It was Brother Simon’s turn the morning when he made the grisly discovery. That would mean there was a three day period of the body not being found.”
Three days a body was in the sanctuary and no-one bothered to check. Priests in rotation, one for each day for clean up duty.
“That would mean there should have been two or three rotations in between the days when Gavin was alive and dead.” I calculated, “So who else were on rotation those days? And how come Gavin wasn’t found then?” An idea came to me. I stood up and left the meeting room.
“Cassisa?” Jasper followed me.
I searched for a calendar and found one sitting on Jasper’s desk. “Jasper, may we use this?” I asked. Getting a nod from him, I compared my notes with the dates on the calendar.
I circled Monday, October 2nd and wrote “Gavin left for work”. Then I circled Saturday, October 7th writing “killed between 1-2 AM”. I marked an X on Tuesday, October 10th with “Gavin found dead in Chapel”.
“Could there have been a festival? A large one would be noted by most of us, but one that only a small community would remember.” I suggested.
Jasper’s eyes grew with revelation. “Of course!” He grabbed his coat and hat, making for the door. He stopped. “Aren’t you coming?”
I grabbed my things and followed him.

The place we visited was Lady of Mercy’s Parish, a local parish located in the northwest of our city that had connections with St. Eleanor’s.
“Yes, our parishioners celebrate the Emperor’s Tear Day. On the new moon of October, we take the time to reflect the darkest hour the Emperor’s son, our lord Ishual, had to endure while died on the Iron Tree.” Father Lucius, the Parish father explained. “I take it you know the story about the Iron Tree.”
“It was the story of the Eternal Emperor having to let his son die in the hands of his enemies to free the people of our world from darkness and evil.” I mentioned. “The Iron Tree was a living iron parasite that lived off of the lives of people. Ishual’s sacrifice on it destroyed the tree stopping the need for people sacrifices.”
Father Lucius nodded. “During the Eve of Emperor’s Tear Day, we have a special mass when we fast and pray for healing and forgiveness within our community and our city. On Emperor’s Tear Day, we celebrate by breaking fast at the church. This year we decided to hold a community event at this building.”
“Do you have this event every year?” Jasper asked.
“Oh no, this was the first time we held such a community event. Because it was our first time, we asked our sister churches and chapels to participate to interact and get to know other parishioners.”
“So what happens if one needed a place to pray or go to sanctuary?”
“Usually we keep the church doors open. Our communities are generally safe, so we saw no harm in keeping the places open for prayer or sanctuary. That was until poor Mr. Tiller died.”

“Now that we have an idea of why the chapel was empty, we should probably confirm the priest’s alibis from St. Eleanor’s.” I suggested as we walked out of the parish.
“I already got them,” Jasper held up his notebook.
“When?” I asked.
“While you were in the lavatory.” He flipped to a page. “All the priests from the chapel have been attending that mass. I have even found their names and signatures in the visitors’ book they have at the parish entrance.”
“So the priests have alibis, but we still have a body with no weapon and still no potential suspects.” I mentioned, “Something is missing here.”
“What is bothering you?”
“Well, perhaps it’s the cynical part of me saying this, but if there was this community event going on and the priests at the chapel were involved, how come they did not mention this?”
Jasper stopped walking and looked at me.
“I know I am sounding unreasonable, though I believe the priests are telling the truth, yet I feel like we are missing this piece about why they did not mention this.”
“Perhaps it’s more that it just happened rather than why.” Jasper assured, “We have moments in our lives where each of us have our knowledge of something as ‘commonsense’ when in fact, for people who are outside of that knowledge it is not commonsense.”
“True. Though part of me hopes it was just that and not something else.” A nagging feeling inside me would not go away.
“Well, now we have some pieces to our puzzle, perhaps we should move forward and pick up that diamond?”
We walked to the station house for the Third Division, coincidentally located half an hour walk south from the parish. What waited for us there was not only the diamond.

Jasper and I entered the station house Captain Peere met us at the front desk and brought us to his office with the following news.
“We have just arrested the murderer this morning,” Captain Peere told us the moment he closed the door behind us.
“What?!” Jasper and I chorused.
“Who?” I automatically asked.
“One of the cooks at a Zenian restaurant, that’s who?” Captain Peere said finishing his cup of tea. “Someone gave us a tip that Gavin had done a favour for them only to have it backfired on him. Tsk, typical!” Clucking his tongue the captain put his cup and saucer on his desk.
“But –” I began to protest, but Jasper laid a hand on my shoulder stopping me.
“Was there proof?” he asked.
“Oh, there was proof all right! A bloody kitchen knife was in a pail of fish guts. Messy job to get it out, perfect place to hide the murder weapon.  The man in question was about to wash the blood, but my men caught him red handed.” The captain puffed his chest in pride. “Case closed, and one less thing for you to do, Blake.”
“But it’s not him!” I argued.
“Come again?” the captain’s tone had an edge.
Jasper groaned as I went off on my tirade, “Of course there would be a bloodied knife at the kitchen – especially after they prepared meat! Why did you make an arrest on such a stupid –”
“That’s enough, Cassisa!” Jasper barked. I jumped at his raised voice. He turned to me with a grave expression on his face. “Apologize to the captain,” he ordered quietly.
“But –”
“Do as you are told!”
I felt my teeth clench behind my closed lips. I knew I have insulted the captain, but I did not lie. The rangers made the arrest on the wrong suspect; in fact, they had just made their conclusions based on rash choice and possible prejudice. I also knew that if I apologized now, Jasper and I would be off the hook for insulting the officer of the law, but it would mean that those who made the arrest were in the right. Either I was too proud or could not agree with the decision I just could not make myself apologize for the judgements made on the accused.
“Excuse us for a moment,” Jasper told the captain as he led me out of the office. The moment the door closed, he turned to me and said in a dangerously low voice, “DO you realize what you just did?”
I opened my mouth to argue, only to have him continue, “You may have thought that you were doing him a favor by making a statement. Did you ever think that you have just embarrassed yourself in front of someone who is not only a figure of authority, but also someone whom I have worked with for years with all that shouting?”
The realization hit me: I thought I knew what I was doing, but I was wrong. In fact, I did not know anything about dealing with this case. Jasper was right. My actions had become my label and with my thoughtless words I ruined the trust he had worked hard to build between Captain Peere and himself throughout his detective career.
I felt tears pool my eyes and fall. I was an idiot. I knew crying was not going to help, but the tears kept falling. My heart hurt knowing I insulted my superiors. I was saddened and, being a Pilgrim who kept in touch with Ishual, I knew Ishual was saddened as well. Not only had I just disappointed both Ishual and Jasper, I disappointed myself too. I inhaled and a tearful whimper escaped my lips as I exhaled. What should I do? I did not believe that what I said was wrong, but how I said it was. I silently prayed what I should do in this circumstance.
The air around me was stifling and almost silent except for the busy movements of the rangers, the ringing of the telephones, the typing at the typewriters, and the voices of those who worked at the station house. Though I did not look at Jasper, I could sense him waiting for me to make my move. After a silent prayer for courage and the right words, I turned and knocked on the office door.
When the captain gave permission, I entered. What followed was painfully humiliating, but also relieving.
“Captain Peere, I apologize for my…unlawful behaviour towards you who is a representative of the law,” I said in my firm voice.
The captain’s look was hard as he listened.
“However,” I added, “I cannot apologize for my principles.” I braced myself for a charge or sentence from the captain.
“Well,” Captain Peere’s voice was frighteningly low, “I am glad you have made the right choice of approaching me and apologizing. However, because of the behaviour you have demonstrated, I will have to arrest you and put you in custody for three days.”
I nodded. “That is fine. I am aware that there are consequences involved in the matter.”
“Look at me, Ms. Fullerton.” I obeyed.
“You gold-skins think you are so smart, don’t you?” the captain said his eyes hard like two dark stones, “Behaving quietly, patiently and unyielding in your principles. Very well, I will have one of my superiors examine the case – including your behavior towards a captain of the Rangers. Is that clear, Ms. Fullerton?”
“Yes, sir,” I agreed.
Captain Peere opened the office door and said, “Both of you get out!”
As Jasper and I complied, I overheard the captain whisper to him, “You have really gotten yourself quite a filly, Blake.” He called one of the officers to take me to a cell to spend for the next three days.

Chapter 7

On the night I spent in the cell, I discovered that it was a cold and uncomfortable place to be in. It was so cold that I asked one of the guards for another blanket, only to receive a smirk and my request ignored. As I lay on the cot waiting for morning, I hugged my limbs and curled up in the only blanket they allowed me to have wishing I had my shawl with me.
I dreamed that night…
I was on the grounds at St. Eleanor’s and saw Gavin running. He came to the chapel and pounded on the door shouting, “Sanctuary! Sanctuary!”
The door, unlocked, swung open inwards. Gavin stumbled in. At the threshold, he immediately turned to his pursuer with a determined look on his face.
“Is this what you want?” He held up a white stone in his fist.
Suddenly, I was looking through the eyes of the killer as he scanned his surroundings. He hesitated to enter though he could see no one else. His eyes darted to the stone table at the front of the sanctuary, and then he looked at Gavin who had a look of triumph on his face.
“You may try to hide your acts in darkness, but he –” Gavin pointed at something behind the stone table, “he sees everything!” The gardener emphasized the last two words.
The killer closed his hand over whatever he happened to be holding and swung it. Gavin dodged at each blow as he headed further into the sanctuary shrouded by darkness. Gavin gave a cry.
I woke up screaming.
“Ai-yah!” I heard a male voice from the next cell call out and said something about someone trying to get some sleep in Zenian.
“Du-wei buchi (Sorry),” I apologized in Zenian.
The owner of the voice asked in Zenian, “Are you a Zenian?”
“Are you a Zenian?” I asked in return.
“I am. Did those officers throw you in here too?” the man asked.
“I am here because I insulted an officer,” I said quietly.
 “Wah! Not good!”
“And you, sir, why did they put you in here?” I inquired politely.
“I was thrown in here because they found a bloody knife in our restaurant thinking we used it to kill someone! So stupid!” I heard a rustling sound that suggested the speaker was changing positions. “Those idiots can’t tell if the blood on the knife was from a person or some fish we were preparing that day!”
“How did they come to that conclusion?”
“Are you siding with them?” asked the voice in suspicion.
“I only want to know the truth.”
“Well, here’s my truth: the bloody knife was from our kitchen. We were preparing a huge wedding feast and had some fish cleaned. I was washing some dirty knives when one fell from the counter and landed in the pile of fish guts we were about to toss out. That was when the rangers came in searching the place and found our knife, said something about ‘hiding evidence in the garbage’.” Immediately the man cussed then continued, “Those bastards only wanted to find an excuse to hurt us.”
“Why did the rangers come to the restaurant?”
“Did you hear about the murder?”
“The one with a little man killed?” I asked, using “little man”, a Zenian word for riluds.
“No, the other one!”
“There was another one?”
“Yes, it was the one with one of those giant people. They say he was stabbed in his home, but could not find the weapon.” The man used the Zenian word “giant people” which literally meant the elves.
“Do you know who was killed?”
“A very important man. His name was Willowdale.”
Willowdale? “Are you sure?”
“Sure, I’m sure. You’re calling me a liar?”
“Well, I have never heard of this happening.” I explained.
“Ah, I see, I see,” the man explained, “Mr. Willowdale was found dead yesterday morning by his daughter. They heard a rumour about us having some connection with him, something about diamonds. Such lies!”
I listened and began piecing together what had unfolded. Mr. Willowdale was killed, a rumour (likely, a strange one) that Zenians were related to the diamond business because of an indirect connection with Tiller who just happened to be asking about diamonds.
The sound of a key turning in the lock interrupted my thoughts. The cell door swung open. A young officer with light brown curly hair whom I have never seen before stepped into the cell. He appeared rather young, until I noticed that the back of his hands were hairy with mousy brown hair; possibly a rilud, since they age slower than their human counterparts and their statures were shorter. I noticed that this rilud did not have short stubby horns; I assumed they were hidden in the mass of curls.
“Ms. Fullerton?” he asked.
“Yes?” I replied.
“Come with me, please.” The officer stepped out of the cell allowing me to exit.
As soon as I walked out, he closed the door behind me and led me up the steps, to the main level where Captain Peere’s office was.
The officer knocked on the door. When the captain granted us permission to enter, the young officer opened the door. In the office was the captain, Jasper and a tall elven man whom I did not recognize.
The man in question had light brown skin with silver hair that was trimmed and combed back. He had a nose that reminded me of a hawk’s beak and a pair of strikingly sharp dark green eyes that made him even more hawk like. He wore a high collared uniform dark green with silver buttons, a short black cloak about the shoulders and polished black boots that went up to his knees. Under his arm, he had a round flat-topped cap with a silver crest of the Nordican Emerald Knights.
As I was brought into the office, the officer who brought me in closed the door behind me and stood guard in front of it.
“Sit down, Ms. Fullerton,” the captain said, nodding to an extra seat that was conveniently placed at the corner of his desk closest to me. I obeyed.
“This is Brigadier General Edgar Aspengroves of the Nordican Emerald Knights,” the captain introduced.
The general greeted me with a nod. I nodded in return.
“The general has looked into the case and suggested that you are to be free and join Lieutenant Blake upon further investigations of the dwarven diamond case.”
For a moment I was confused with Jasper’s title, my unexpected pardon and return to the case. Then I remembered that Ian told me something about Jasper being a former knight himself and the symbol I saw on Jasper’s badge.
I turned to the general. “Thank you, general,” I said holding out my hand.
The general smiled a handsome smile and warmly shook my hand.
“I am glad to see that Jasper had finally hired someone to work with him,” the general said in a deep melodious voice.
“And Ms. Fullerton,” the captain’s voice stiffened as his face had a shade of pink, “I have heard that your talents in the cultures and languages of the Eastern Kingdoms will be of great asset for the lieutenant’s investigations. I wish you all the best.”
I guess this would be as close to an apology I will get from him. “Thank you, captain,” I smiled politely.

The moment Jasper, the general and I walked out of Station House 22, the elven general turned and said with a smile, “I guess I should let you loose from here.”
“Yes, thank you, general.” Jasper shook hands with General Aspengroves.
“You always find ways of getting yourself into hot water, don’t you lad?” the general leaned in and winked.
“I would not say it was my fault this time.” Jasper said wryly.
I looked away embarrassed.
“Really, Lieutenant Blake?”
“What he says is true, general.” I put in, looking up at the tall elf.
The general grinned like a school boy who received a delightful piece of sweet. He looked at Jasper whose ears were turning red, then he chuckled. “I see! So that’s how it is!”
Jasper smiled somewhat painfully at the general’s reaction.
“Ah! Good to hear you have finally found someone,” the general gave Jasper a friendly slap across the back and added, “to work with. Papa’s very pleased!”
“Papa? Who’s p– ” I tried to ask, but was interrupted.
“She’s my assistant, Edgar,” Jasper argued, dropping the formalities.
I blinked, but the general didn’t mind.
“Finally, Jasper! Just like old times! I was wondering when you would drop the formalities.” Edgar Aspengroves continued cheerfully, “I must say you have good taste in women. Have you popped the question yet?”
“What?” I heard myself ask.
Red with embarrassment, Jasper’s mouth moved to make a protest but no sound came.
“No? Mind if I take her off your hands?” Edgar joked.
“Yes, I do!” Jasper sputtered loudly, “And for the love of heaven, you are already married!”
“Hmm, yes, you are right. Angering my wife would only have me on the porch tonight. Not a good thing!” The general was clearly enjoying this!
“I think, we should move on from here,” Jasper put in putting his arm about my shoulders and drew me towards him. “I’m sure your men are waiting for you.”
Edgar gave an exasperated sigh and a shrug. “If you insist, I will see you again!” With a laugh he walked away.
“Jasper, what had just happened?” I asked him.
Jasper looked down at me and explained, “You were just released from prison, my dear.”
“That is not really what I am asking. What I want to know is: how was I released in one day even though I have insulted an officer of the law verbally and was told to stay in prison for three?”
“Oh, that,” he said as if it was a simple question, “Edgar told Peere to release you.”
I immediately made my way back to the station house. Jasper stopped me.
“Where are you going?”
“Back to the station house so I could to finish serving my time.”
“Really, Cassisa! You are being ridiculous!”
“Jasper, I appreciate that you have gone out of the way to – have the captain release me, but I still owe him two days!”
Jasper peered into my face. I nervously took a step from him.
“Are you suggesting that I pulled strings to release you?”
I felt my face grow warm. “Well, that is what I am hearing,” I pointed out.
Jasper snorted and began to laugh.
“You really believed that I was capable of doing that?” he asked with an amused look on his face.
“Well…” I was not sure how to respond, but I did believe so.
Though he had stopped laughing his eyes still had that twinkle. “Walk with me, Cassisa, and I will tell you.”
We walked along the main street. It was a lovely day out which matched Jasper’s present mood.
“While you were held in custody this morning, Peere had a meeting with Edgar. Edgar was sent by the head of the rangers to meet with Peere because there had been complaints coming from the rangers about his questionable behaviours and judgements regarding his recent arrests. Peere was a good ranger captain, however he had allowed his prejudices to cloud his judgements, and sadly it had occurred more frequently as of late. According to the Nordican law, Peere had been bending the law of humanity.”
I remembered which law Jasper was referring to, the law stating that “all persons and institutions in Nordica remained free only when freedom was founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values”.
“When you came to Peere’s office this morning that was after he had a meeting with Edgar regarding his malpractice.” He stopped and turned. “Also, though I would like to mention that I have worked as an Emerald Knight under Edgar’s command in the past, I am no longer one of them. In fact I have not worked as one of the knights for over ten years.”
“So you are saying that you had no influence on your part in my release?” I asked.
“Exactly, it all just worked out that way.”
When I tried to process what we have discussed, he asked, “What are you thinking?”
“You’re not mad at me? For my behaviours, I mean.”
He looked surprised at my question, but gave me a gentle look. “What you said I agreed with, however, how you have said it as well as the timing and the place to say those things I did not agree with.”
I looked away, unsure of how to respond.
“Are you angry at me?” he asked.
I shook my head. “What you told me was not wrong, though how you said it was hurtful, but I believe I deserved that response.” Suddenly, I felt a gentle hand behind my head as he brought me to his chest. My face grew warm as I noticed that I did not dislike his touch. In fact, I welcomed it.
“Jasper?” I heard myself ask, “Is something wrong?”
“No, nothing’s wrong,” he said as his arms tenderly surrounded me and held me close.
I lifted my head and looked at him.
He looked back at me sadly, he asked, “Will you forgive me?”
“Whatever for?”
He let out soft sigh his eyes melted into relief. I saw him lean in, then I felt something warm land on my forehead. I jolted in surprise. Did he just kiss me? Stepping away, he led me by the hand avoiding my eyes.

After my release from my one night stay at the station house, Jasper and I ordered soup and sandwich at Digger’s shop. Over our brunch, Jasper himself explained to me what had transpired during my absence overnight.
While I was in custody, Jasper went back to Captain Peere and spoke about making the diamond delivery to Lord Altberg.
“We found the owner of the diamond.” Jasper said, as he held up a document that Lord Altberg had signed earlier. “Our client had given us permission to hand deliver it to him.”
Captain Peere took the signed document and opened the door, calling an officer by the name of Ryans, he requested the diamond.
Within a few minutes, Officer Ryans came to the captain’s office with a tray containing the diamonds. Captain Peere took the tray from Ryans and presented it to Jasper.
“I trust you know which one that dwarf wants,” the captain said as he picked up a cigarette from a box on his desk and lit up.
Though all of them had runes in them, Jasper immediately picked the largest gem.
“Was this all the diamonds that were turned in?” Jasper asked as he wrapped the stone in his handkerchief and put it in his pocket.
“That is it.”
Jasper stared at the tray for a moment in disappointment, and then took his leave.
He met with Lord Altberg at the Masonry that evening at 8:25 sharp as requested. The president of the bank came with his secretary, his steps firm with purpose and his face hopeful.
“Did you find it?” the president asked immediately upon Jasper’s arrival.
Jasper revealed the diamond unveiling it from the folds of his handkerchief. The dwarf’s eyes grew with want, he reached for the stone, but Jasper withheld it from his grasp.
“Give me the stone!” the president demanded.
“First, let me ask you a question,” Jasper’s voice was gentle, but firm, “Were you given another stone by mistake?”
The dwarf’s face grew a shade redder. From where he stood, Jasper could see the dwarven president’s secretary standing behind him wringing his hands as though he were praying that there wouldn’t be a scene.
“Are you accusing me of stealing?” the president’s voice was low with anger.
“Not at all,” Jasper replied, “I just remembered that you have mentioned something about your distrust in the station house. Could it be that someone gave you the wrong gem?”
“Yes,” the president mumbled.
“Could you please tell me what had happened?”
The president nodded and invited him to the hotel lounge; there the president told the story.
“About a month ago, when we discovered our loss the news reached the newspapers not long after that. We were shocked for we knew that the church would not make such announcement, yet there it was in the papers. We went to the station house to claim our diamond; they gave us the diamond that fit the description, but the wrong one.”
“They gave you the diamond with the wrong runes,” Jasper said.
The president, who now looked relaxed, nodded. “They gave us a diamond with a single rune in it. Of course, those idiot humans could not tell the difference between one dwarven rune from another. They didn’t care!”
“So they made you leave with the wrong diamond.”
He nodded. “I tried to return the gem to them, but they refused to take it, saying they have done their job. Now that I have the diamond I should be on my way.” By now, Lord Altberg looked more hurt than sad; all he wanted was to do what he believed was the right thing – return what really did not belong to him and find his real diamond.
“Do you have that diamond with you, Lord Altberg?” Jasper asked.
Lord Altberg reached into his pocket and brought out the other diamond. The diamond was about the size of a chicken’s egg only this one was cut in a rose cut with a single golden rune inside. Jasper brought out the one he had gotten from the station house and laid it on surface of a low table we sat at.
“Your diamond for mine, a peaceful exchange and we will be on our way.” Jasper assured.
The president pushed his stone towards Jasper. Jasper brought his closer to the president. Like a solemn ceremony, the two men picked up the diamonds they came for and put them into their pockets.
“Thank you, Mr. Blake. I am glad we came to you.” With his face filled with peace, the president stood and said to his secretary, “Let us go.”
As he took a few steps towards the exit, Lord Altberg turned back and asked, “If I may ask: where is your assistant today?”
“She is on an errand,” Jasper lied.
“I see.” Lord Altberg tipped his hat as he made his way out of the hotel. The secretary gave a nod to Jasper in thanks and left with the president.
By the time Jasper finished his tale our meal was done and paid for. We went to our office where I saw him reach into his chest pocket. Freeing the stone from his handkerchief he offered it to me.
I held out my hand as he dropped the round cut diamond into it. As I held the diamond up in the light, it sparkled with a single golden rune captured inside.
“So, whose diamond is this?” I returned the stone to him.
“It belongs to the Blake family – made of the ashes of my brother, Jacynth Blake.” The diamond disappeared back into his pocket. He then walked behind his desk and brought out a silver cigarette case from one of his drawers. He held it out to me. I took the case and opened it. Inside was a slightly aged photograph of a group of young soldiers, over one of the faces (located about the second person from the right) was a hole that appeared to have been from a bullet or a burning end of a cigarette because of its darkened edges.
“See if you could find me in there.” Jasper said.
I studied the photograph and saw a face that shared some resemblance. “Is this you?” I asked, pointing to the individual.
He peered at the picture and said, “That is Jacynth, my adopted brother.” He pointed at the hole where a young soldier’s face would have been. “This was me.”
“You defaced your own face?” I asked, unsure what to make of the disturbing act.
“I didn’t do that,” Jasper reclaimed his cigarette case with the photograph and closed it. “The photograph belonged to my brother when they found him badly injured from battle.”
He stood there for a moment, his fingers playing on the case surface like a flautist fingering a tune. He took a deep breath and said, “I want to ask you something.”
I faced him and listened to his serious tone.
He began to pace nervously for a moment and stopped. Turning sharply, he asked, “Actually, I have a confession to make.”

Diamond for Dwarves - A Jasper Blake Mystery (Part 3)

Chapter 4

Jasper and I arrived at the Stahlgrau Haus rather late that evening. Most of the boarders have finished cleaning up their supper dishes, so we said “good night” and left for our rooms.
I took a quick bath and after entering today’s events in my ledger, I went to bed. At around two o’clock I woke up to a sound. When I listened I heard nothing else, I was about to go back to sleep when I heard something outside. Quietly, I approached the window and looked down into the back yard where the fence separated the property between the Stahlgrau Haus and the other boarding house behind it.
The moon was out that night, giving off an eerie light. A tall figure of a man leaned against a tree located near the fence. He was dressed in his pajamas; the light colour of his hair told me it was Jasper.
What is Jasper doing out in the yard this late at night? I wondered as I continued to watch from the window. He moaned with his hand to his head, his body swaying as in pain. He leaned against the tree and began to sob like a wounded man.
I felt the urge to help him, but asked myself if it would be wise to approach him. What if he was sleepwalking? I didn’t have to worry because after a few minutes, Jasper slowly straightened himself and walked back to his boarding house.

The next morning, the boarders sat around the breakfast table. I glanced at Jasper over the rim of my teacup as we sat across from each other. He looked like his usual self.
“Is there something on my face?” he asked, biting into his toast.
I quickly looked away, realizing that I was staring at him longer than I intended.
“Well-well, Jasper,” Ian teased, “Care to share with us what ye did to catch the lady’s attention?”
I spewed my tea, Jasper nearly choked on his toast.
“It’s not what you think,” he protested, “And you nearly made me choke on my breakfast!”
“Something’s going on between Jasper and Cassisa?” Rosemary jumped in as she brought another pot of tea.
“There’s nothing going on!” Jasper and I said in unison.
Ian, Harris, Merl, and Rosemary studied us. Rusty took a big gulp of his tea.
“Rosemary, may I have some more of that tea, please?” he asked, holding out his cup.
I took that opportunity to finish my tea and grabbed the remainder of my toast and jam. “I’m off. I’ll see you at the office, Jasper,” I said as I eagerly left the dining hall and out the door.
Just as I opened the gate, Jasper’s hand suddenly appeared and held it still.
“What is it, Cassisa?” He stood in my path.
“What is what?”
“I could tell something is bothering you. What is it?”
“We’re going to be late; I’ll tell you on the way.”
“Personally, I would like to know right now.”
“With an audience?” I gestured with my head towards the house, sensing five pairs of eyes watching us from the front door.
Jasper groaned.
“Like I said, perhaps it is better if I told you on the way to work?” I suggested.
We caught a hansom, Jasper told the driver (Matthews was his name) to take the scenic route by going around the city’s atrium on our way to the office.
“So, what was it that you were going to tell me?” This man was not willing to let the matter go easily.
“I happened to see you in the garden last night,” I quietly told him, “I was wondering if you were okay.”
“When was this?”
“Around two o’clock.” I then added, “I saw you bending over leaning against that tree near the back fence. You seemed – to be in pain. I wanted to ask you then, but it was late and I…” I trailed off, unsure of how to explain what I saw, “I was wondering if you were sleepwalking. Were you all right?”
I felt Jasper’s eyes on me. I was scared to look at him. Did I just cross the line? Did I get into a place where he did not want me to step into?
“I’m sorry.”
Something soft and heavy lay on my head; it was Jasper’s big hand patting my head. “Don’t apologize. I am glad you told me.”
I looked at him and saw that he was not upset or angry.
“I did not know you saw that,” he said reclaiming his hand.
He took a deep breath and said, “I know I am putting this off when I say this, but I promise you, I will – talk about it. In the mean time, we have a case to solve.” Jasper immediately gave a different address.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“To pay Lavinia a visit.”
The place that Gavin had written in his ledger was a large three storey mansion located in Moore-Havens, a residential area located in eastern part of Oxen Basin for the rich and upper class. The place was owned by a man by the name of Rineaux Willowdales who lived in a mansion with his adopted daughter. The Willowdales were an elven family that owned a trading and imports businesses in Oxen Basin.
Upon arrival at the Willowdale residence, the butler of the home sent us away after we gave our reason for the visit.
“Mr. Willowdale is not here. He is at his office.” The butler, a man with black thinning hair and a hooked nose, sniffed. Though he was an inch shorter than me, yet somehow he managed to look down at both of us.
Over the man’s head I saw a young woman who appeared to be in her twenties if she was a human, possibly in her fifties as an elf. Very pretty with yellow hair piled on her head and large green eyes the colour of new leaves in spring. She wore a high collared lace dress of champagne gold and rose pink with lace about the collar and sleeves – the woman whom the waiter at the Oronean restaurant had described to us. Her eyes briefly caught mine, as she stepped out from a room into the main hall.
“We are here to see Miss. Lavinia.” I told the man.
The man narrowed his eyes. “Miss. Lavinia is ill today and would not be having visitors.” He glanced over his shoulder and closed the door completely. “Please leave.”
With a “good day” Jasper tipped his hat, taking my shoulder he gently steered me away from the door.
“They’re hiding something!” I hissed. “I saw her in there!”
Jasper only nodded.
“Excuse me.” We both turned at a voice. A young rilud woman in a maid’s uniform approached us. “I believe this is yours.” She held out a lace handkerchief.
“That’s not ours,” I started, but Jasper reached over and took the item.
“Thank you,” he smiled. The maid bobbed a curtsy and went around the yard towards the back of the house.
Jasper opened the handkerchief. Immediately he folded it again. A grin filled his face. “Let’s go, Cassisa,” he said.
The moment I stepped into the hansom, Jasper handed me the office key. “I want you to return to the office and finish filing,” he said, then told the driver to take me back to the office.
“Wait! What about you?” I called back at him.
“I’ll see you at the office.” He replied with a wave.

On my way to the office I remembered we were out of chalk. I had Matthews make a stop at a store on the way.
As I left the store after making my purchases, I saw someone climbing out of the window at one of the buildings. The man’s shirt was unbuttoned with his undershirt showing. A woman poked her head out of the window and gave the man a passionate kiss. Embarrassed, I quickly turned away. Some people are certainly bold with their show of affection, I thought to myself as I kept walking. I jolted, seeing large form appear landing in my path. It was the man who escaped from the window. His back was to me as waved at his lover throwing her a kiss. He spun towards me and froze.
“Cassisa?” It was Ian McAlvin.
Wait a minute! Did I just see Ian climb out of the window, after having his tryst with a woman? Well, he’s good looking even when he looks – what the heck am I thinking?! My mind panicked at seeing Ian’s semi-dressed state.
“Cassisa? Yoo-hoo!” I saw Ian wave his hand before my face.
“Ian?” I heard myself say, finally finding my faculty of speech.
“Ye looked like ye were lost there. Are y’all right?” He spoke as he tucked his now buttoned shirt into his trousers.
Just when I was about to say something, we both turned to a sound of a crash and a man shouting Ian’s name while the woman begged the man to “not hurt him”.
“Time to go!” Ian grabbed my shoulder and led me away. Seeing Matthews waiting for me Ian jumped into the hansom dragging me with him. “Full speed ahead, Matthews!” Ian said with glee.
We sped out of the area towards Jasper’s office in record time.
“Excellent timing, Matthews!” Ian said tossing a silver maple to the driver. “Keep the change!”
“Miss?” I turned to Matthews. “We’re here, Miss.”
“Oh, thank you.” I reached into my purse.
“Don’t worry about it, Mr. McAlvin paid the fare.”
“Oh,” I replied, still dazed.
“Are you all right, Miss?”
I nodded dumbly, “Mmm-hmm.” I stepped out from the hansom and made my way up to the office.
The moment I entered the office and saw Ian had straightened his clothes smoking a cigarette at an open window.
“Hope ye won’t mind,” he said, holding up his cigarette.
“No,” I nervously shook my head, “as long as you have the window open.” I stood there briefly. Why was I here again? I was told to get something done.
“Looks like there’s some things on the desk for ye,” he nodded towards Jasper’s desk.
“Oh,” I looked at the desk and saw a few sheets of paper and a chess piece. I mumbled my thanks and approached, avoiding Ian by taking the extra steps to get to the items.
“Ye know, I won’t bite.” He smiled.
I nodded. On Jasper’s desk was a stack of files. Oh, yes, filing! I remembered.
Then my eye caught something on his desk; it was the chess piece he had received from Merl at the morgue. I remembered Jasper’s eyes widen the moment he found the piece in the envelope. Next to the piece was a small note made up of words and letters cut up from a newspaper. It said, “Hello, AP.” At the bottom of the note was a picture of a black rook.
“Cassisa?” I jumped.
“Sorry to scare ye, but I guess ye didn’t hear me,” Ian McAlvin said kindly.
I gave him a nervous smile. “Don’t worry about it.” Looking at the note I asked him, “Did you…?” I began waving over the strange note and chess piece.
“Did I what?” Ian asked.
“Uh, never mind.”
“If ye’re wondering why I’m here,” Ian held up a black pocket ledger and smiled. “I’ve some leads for Jasper.”
“Oh, he…uh, had to run.” I explained, “But he wants me to take a message.” I held out my hand.
He placed the ledger in my hand.
“Mind if I copy it?” I asked him.
“Sure.” He sat on the couch and brought out another cigarette.
“Here,” I placed an old saucer before him to use as an ashtray.
“Thanks.” He lit up and inhaled.
I opened Ian’s ledger and began to take notes using a pen on Jasper’s desk. Finding that it was out of ink, I opened the drawers to find a tube of ink in one of the drawers and found an open cigarette case with a photograph inside.
“Something wrong?” I heard Ian ask.
“I can’t seem to find a working pen.” I closed the drawer.
“Here, use this,” he got up from his seat and graciously handed me his pencil. I thanked him and quickly copied down his notes onto a clean sheet of paper.
“Gonna make us some tea, want some?” he offered.
“Oh, I could do that!” I put the pencil down.
“Ye keep writing, I’ll make some.” He entered the kitchen.
“The tea is in a tin in the top left cupboard.” I called after him. I went back to copying as fast as I could so I would not keep Ian waiting too long.
By the time, Ian brought two cups of tea, I was done.
“Thank you,” I accepted my cup. “Also, thank you for this.” I returned his pencil and ledger.
He took both from me. “Ye’re welcome,” he said with a charming smile.
I distracted myself by taking a sip of my tea, hoping to hide my flushing face.
“So, what made ye work for Jasper?” He asked suddenly, probably to ease tension.
“I just wanted a job to pay my rent,” I explained. “He hired me on the spot.”
A knowing smile played on his lips. “Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
“And how do ye like your new job?”
“I have a lot to learn about being an assistant – especially for a consulting detective.” After taking another sip I asked, “So what do you do, Ian?”
“I am Jasper’s informer.” Ian explained, he pulled up a chair and sat down across from me. I followed by sitting at Jasper’s desk with the desk separating us.
“So, what does an informer do?”
“I do some research, ask around and find information for Jasper’s investigations.”
“Oh, and how long have you worked for Jasper?” I was curious, both about Ian and Jasper, but decided to not mention to Ian I saw him escape from a lady’s window.
“I worked for him since this agency opened, which would mean over fifteen years.”
“Wow! So you know Jasper for a long time!” I was impressed.
“Ye could say it that way.” Then with a mischievous glint in his eyes, he asked, “Do ye want to know more about Jasper?”
I nodded.
“Jasper’s birthday is November 3rd. He said he came to Nordica when he was twelve and lived with his family in Oxen Basin since then. He’s a member of the Nordican Army during the Wars of the Western Kingdoms. After he got injured from the war, he returned to Oxen Basin and was recruited to be a member of the Emerald Knights.”
Jasper had a lot of experience.
“The rest ye should hear from Jasper himself.” Ian finished his tea.
“And what about you?” I quickly put in, part of me hoping Ian would at least tell me something about himself.
Ian smiled. “That’ll be for next time.” With a wink he left the office.

It was twenty minutes to two o’clock when I realized that I have missed lunch. I just finished going through the pile of messages and began organizing the files. I took my purse and went to Digger Leavesden’s shop.
At the shop I ordered a soup and sandwich.
“Hello, Cassisa,” I turned to see Jasper.
“You’re back.”
He smiled. “So, how was your day?” he asked.
“It was productive. Ian came. I left the notes on your desk in a file folder.”
He nodded. His eyes scanned a chalked menu located next to the counter.
“What did you order?”
“Soup and sandwich.”
“What kind of sandwich?”
“Roast beef.”
He made a face.
“You don’t like roast beef?”
“Anything that tastes like blood doesn’t agree with me.” He ordered a tuna sandwich.
We decided to sit together at a sunny corner. After Digger brought our lunches to us, I decided to take this opportunity to ask about Ian.
“So, I, um, saw Ian today.”
“Yeah?” He took a sip of water.
“I mean, I saw him climb out of a woman’s window.”
He nearly spewed his water.
“Was, um, having rendezvous with females part of his job in getting information?” I asked innocently, but felt warmth climb my face.
Jasper put his water glass down. “Cassisa,” he began.
“I know I am sounding judgemental here, but I’m only asking this out of curiosity.” I reassured him.
He raised an eyebrow at me. “Are you interested in Ian?”
I opened my mouth and closed it as I scratched my cheek with my fingernail. “Um, what do you mean, interested?”
Jasper shook his head and took a bite of his sandwich.
“So, Ian told me you were one of the Emerald Knights after you served in the war before you became a detective.” I suddenly changed the subject.
Jasper looked surprised. “He told you that?” he asked after swallowing his last bite.
I shrugged. “I asked him what he did and his relationship with you and I ended up getting information about you.”
He again raised an eyebrow. “Did he tell you anything else?”
“Let’s see, your birthday and that you came to Nordica when you were twelve… and I think that’s about it.”
“He told you more than I thought he would.” He took another bite of his sandwich.
An idea came to me. I grinned. “How about I try to figure out your background?”
“Huh?” His sandwich stopped midway to his mouth.
“Well, I think it would be fair since that was how you have interviewed me.” And it would give me a nice distraction from Ian.
He gave me an interested look, putting his sandwich down, he leaned back. “All right, tell me what you find about me.”
Taking a moment studying his face, I rested my chin on my fist and leaned against the table. “You are in your…forties?”
He cocked his head and gave me a raised shoulder, turning his hand palm upwards.
“We already know you are not from Nordica so probably from one of the Western kingdoms. By your features,” I put my chin on my hand and studied him: his narrow blue-grey eyes equally spaced apart with a straight nose; his straw coloured hair swept over his receding hairline…then I noticed that his hairline was not really receded. Was that a scar just along his hairline? I stood up from my seat and walked over to him. “Excuse me, please,” I said, taking his chin and turning his head to the side.
He could have asked what I was doing, but he didn’t. I continued studying him and noticed another faint scar along the side of his face like a thin line running from his hairline down close to his ear and further down disappearing under his chin. I did not notice it before because of his five-o’clock shadow hid the scars.
“Well, what did you see?” he asked.
“Did you have an accident?”
“What makes you think that?”
“You have a scar. It’s almost hidden in your hair.”
He turned his head and looked right at me. Surprised by the sudden gesture, I jumped back, my hip hitting the corner of our table.
“Ow!” I said, rubbing my hip moving away from Jasper trying to hide the colour rising on my face.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” I immediately returned to my seat and busied myself with my soup and sandwich. Spooning my soup, I mentally kicked myself for making a suggestive advance on my employer. I can’t believe I did that!
We ate in silence for the rest of our meal. When we finished, I grabbed my purse to fish out my change, but again Jasper beat me to it.
“Jasper!” I protested.
“Consider it your tip for your hard work today.” He waved as he headed out of the shop door.

Chapter 5

For the rest of the day at the office I tried to remain calm, but failed miserably as I felt an awkward awareness around Jasper after what I did during lunch.
Great! I had an awkward moment with Ian and now it’s with Jasper! I kept a distance from him, but it was very hard to avoid someone whom you work with especially when it comes to working in the same office.
“Hmm?” I pretended to be concentrating really hard in organizing the files.
“Did you touch my desk?”
I wanted to look up, but forced myself to keep my eyes on the documents. “I tidied it a bit.” I heard his footsteps approach me.
“Cassisa, look at me.” I gave him a quick glance. Seeing his arms crossed on his chest, I became scared. What did I do?
“Cassisa!” his tone was low and commanding. I raised my eyes and looked at him.
“I asked you a question.”
“And my answer would be a short ‘yes’,” I winced inside. That one came out stronger than I intended.
I watched Jasper’s expression change from being taken aback to an irritated frown.
“I’m sorry. I meant ‘yes.’” I rephrased my answer softly, but he did not accept it.
“What is the matter with you?” he asked quietly. He may be trying to sound gentle, but the tone frightened me.
I felt myself retreat from my work as I felt him closing in. He followed me. I tried to avoid him by heading towards the nearest exit I could find – the meeting room, but the moment I stepped in there he also entered and closed the door behind him.
I found myself backing against the wall. I felt my insides quiver. Fear gripped me as he placed a hand on each side of me against the wall.
“Why are you running?” he asked, peering into my face.
“I’m not!”
“You are!” He raised his voice. I flinched. I see it: the raising of the hand, possibly pinning me against the wall with one hand while the other touching me. I felt like crying.
“Why…Are you crying?”
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I touched your desk because I was trying to find something to write with and…and I just kept it tidy after I went through the messages. I only touched the surface. I swear it! I didn’t take anything from your drawers.”
Jasper’s angry face softened. He relaxed his arms and stepped away. Reaching into his pocket he held out his handkerchief. Seeing the folded square cotton, I touched my own face realizing that I was indeed crying. I took his handkerchief.
Jasper turned and walked out of the meeting room and out of the office, closing the door behind him. I sank to the floor and sat there hugging my knees.
I sat in that meeting room for what felt like an hour, though it was probably shorter than that. Once I felt calm, I went to the kitchenette and washed my face. I heard Jasper return. The sound of his desk chair move and creak as he sat at his desk.
I quietly said a prayer for courage and the right words, I stood before him.
“What is it?”
“I just want to say, I’m sor–”
“Stop apologizing!” he snapped.
I flinched. I heard the chair move as he stood. I prepared to bolt, but he didn’t move.
“Cassisa, please look at me,” he implored.
I slowly lifted my eyes to meet his and was surprised to find him not angry, but sad.
“I should be the one apologizing. I’m sorry for raising my voice at you,” he said as he passed his hand over his face. His words washed over me like rainfall.
I shook my head.
“Why are you shaking your head?”
“I was apologizing for causing the misunderstanding and for making an inappropriate advance towards you.”
“When did you make such an inappropriate advance?”
“During lunch time, when I was looking at your face.”
“It may have been inappropriate, but I gave you permission. Also,” he covered his mouth and mumbled something as a shade of pink rose up on his pale face and reached his ears.
“Could you repeat that?” I asked.
“What I meant was: I agreed by letting you study my face, all right?” he said with his back to me.
I blinked a few times.
“So, are we friends?” He faced me extending his hand over his desk.
I reached over and shook it. “We are.” I replied as I felt peace restored between us.

We locked up the office at half past seven. Jasper and I decided to take the railcar part way and walk home the rest of the way. I felt my heart warm knowing this was a chance to get to know each other better, and hopefully, in a more positive light.
We caught the railcar and got off at a station about twenty minutes away from home. The sky was awash with ruby red, blazing orange and molten gold. Jasper walked beside me taking the side closest to the streets while matching my steps with his long legs.
We walked like this in amiable silence for a while. Despite what had just occurred, I actually enjoyed walking beside him feeling safe and comfortable in my own skin.
“I was adopted,” he said suddenly breaking our silence.
I looked at him, but continued walking.
“My family died when I was twelve, a family friend brought me to Nordica and to his relatives who raised me as their son.”
“I’m sorry to hear about your family.”
He stopped and looked at me as he continued, “If it’s all right with you. I would like to hear about yours.”
I studied him. “I don’t know where to start, since you seemed to have known quite a bit about me when we first met.”
He chuckled. “A lot of that was just from speculation, but I want to hear it from you.”
“What would you like to know?”
“Let’s start with you.”
“All right. My birthday is on May 11th. I am the eldest of four sisters. I was married twice.” I continued, “My first marriage was with a man who did not tell me he was a homosexual. He left me for another man which I discovered two years later through his letter saying he wanted to meet me to sign some divorce papers. We met, we signed and we parted. The lawyers he hired to file for our divorce made it quicker than I expected. My second husband was from a wealthy and respectable family; however he was abusive and had severe gambling problems. It was so bad his habits extended to illegal dealings.”
Jasper said nothing.
I licked my lips. “Once he raped me because he wanted his share of the family fortune that would be given to him if he fathered a child. He succeeded in having me with child. However, after he learned that his family no longer wanted to have anything to do with him because of his criminal involvements, my husband took his disappointment and anger on me which led me to having a miscarriage. One day, the police paid me a visit telling me that my husband had killed himself to escape his creditors – he owed over ten thousand Nordican maples. My family paid back the creditors as much as they could, since my in-laws refused to help considering their son already dead to them.”
Pasting a smile on my face, I looked at Jasper. “So there you have it – the story of my life.”
Jasper looked at me and took a step closer, but no more. We stood face to face, about a few feet from each other. His sad eyes searched mine. I inhaled willing myself not to cry or do anything that would invite further sympathy.
“What you went through was,” he tried to find the word, “hard to imagine.”
“Well, I could say that I have experienced something normal people wouldn’t.” I said brightly, but the tone was hollow.
“No, they wouldn’t,” he agreed, his eyes held mine for a moment. “Thank you for telling me.”
“It’s fine. It’s all in the past,” I lied, knowing that the hurt was still in the present. I turned away and began to walk. “By the way,” I stopped briefly and to face him, “thank you.”
“For what?”
“For listening.” I gave him a real smile, one that showed I was glad I met him.

* * * * * * * * * *

“Cassisa,” said a familiar voice. I woke up to see a handsome blonde man peering into my face.
“Good morning,” he smiled.
“Good morning?” I didn’t recognize the man, but smiled in return.
“I made you breakfast. I hope you like bacon and eggs.” He said leaving the bedroom.
I got out of bed and followed him in my nightgown.
“What is it?” The man turned.
“Have we… met?” I heard myself ask.
He laughed. “You forgot about your husband?”
He approached me and drew me towards him. “We’ve been married for a while and you have already forgotten?”
Married? I felt the back of his fingers stroke my face. He kissed my forehead, when he pulled away and I saw…Jasper looking down at me tenderly.

“Aaaaah!” I screamed as my head sprang up from my pillow. The room was still dark. I turned on the lamp and looked at my clock on the night table. It was ten minutes after four o’clock. Off in the distance I could hear dogs howling.
I felt my face tingle with warmth as I recalled my dream. I swore the man in my dream who claimed to be my husband looked nothing like Jasper. I rolled in my bed and buried my face into my pillow. I gave muffled shout into the thick padding as I pounded my fists and kicked my legs on the mattress, in hopes of banishing that embarrassing image from my mind.

The next morning at our office, I overheard Jasper humming a tune as he wheeled a large blackboard into position in our meeting room. While preparing some tea, I told myself not to let the dream I had last night bother me. Besides, I reasoned, Jasper is my employer. That would never happen.
“Cassisa,” I jumped as I turned to see him at the kitchenette doorway, “are you coming?”
“Yes, I will be right there.” See? He doesn’t even seem interested in me…I think. I thought to myself as I got the tea, teacups and saucers on a trolley and wheeled them into the office.
He stood at near the blackboard with a report I had copied from Ian yesterday.
“According to family records, Tiller and his sister are half-brother and sister.” Jasper began, drawing a family tree on the blackboard. “Their mother’s first marriage was with Gavin’s father who passed away when he was three, his mother remarried years later and had Peony.”
I pulled up a chair and sat in it, jotting down notes in my pocket-sized ledger.
“The rock that was in Gavin’s hand was actually a diamond.”
I stopped. “A diamond? As in the gemstone?”
“The very one. What we found was a dwarven diamond, the size of a chicken egg, common but of irreplaceable value to the dwarves.”
“I thought dwarves hated diamonds.” I pointed out.
“What makes you say that?”
Never give a dwarf a diamond, unless you wish grief upon him and bring war upon yourself.” I quoted from an old proverb.
“Oh, that is actually true – if you want to give gifts to the dwarves.” Jasper sat on the edge of the desk swinging his long legs. I glanced at his legs, sort of envying their length.
“Were you just admiring my legs?” he teased.
“Let’s just stick to the topic,” I replied with disinterest.
“You’re no fun.” He pouted. He was in a rather good mood today.
“The proverb you have quoted refers to the ancient times when the races in the Western Kingdoms had clan wars. There was a story of a human man who found a beautiful gem stone that he recognized as a diamond. Wanting to receive favour from the king of dwarves, the man took the stone to the king. However the man only lost his head as a reward.”
“I heard of that story too, but I didn’t get why the man had to get killed for that gem.” I reflected.
“Easy. The man brought a piece of the king’s family ashes.”
Now I was very confused. “I thought you said it was a diamond.”
Jasper sighed. “You are a university graduate. Didn’t they teach you these things for your degree?”
“The only history lesson I have received was from Mr. Verte in grade 9, he only taught the Nordican history for one week and politics for the rest of the school year. As for science, nobody taught us how gemstones are created.”
“Well then,” Jasper leaped from his seat and brought out a large chalk board he had in the room. “You will have your brief lesson on dwarven diamonds from your teacher – Mr. Blake,” he said with a bow.
He looked up and added, “You are supposed to clap.”
I gave him a slow applause. He just gave me an irritated look and picked up the chalk.
“So, class,” he began as he wrote “Dwarven Diamonds” on the top of the board and drew a line beneath it. “Could you please tell me what the differences are between regular diamonds and dwarven diamonds?”
I shrugged.
“Ms. Fullerton, I’m sure you could tell me.”
“One of them is small; the other is big and has runes in them?”
“Excellent! Ten points for Ms. Fullerton!” Writing the number “10” and circling it, Jasper added, “Oh, is it true that diamonds are girl’s best friends?”
“Mr. Blake, could we please get on with the lesson?” I deadpanned.
“Like you said, dwarven diamonds are distinguished commonly by their size. Dwarven diamonds can be found as small as marble or as big as a chicken egg. Their noticeable features are the runes placed inside the stones that could only made by the dwarven diamond artisans. Here is a question for you: where do dwarven diamonds come from?”
“From rocks.”
“No, try again.”
“Why don’t you leave out the suspense and tell me?”
“Where’s the fun in that?”
“Oh, please, Mr. Blake! Tell me where those diamonds are from!” I said in my best grade student voice, batting my eyelashes for an effect.
Jasper’s cheeks got a spot of rose as he coughed and continued his lesson. “Dwarven diamonds, the ones with the runes, are actually made from ashes of dead people.”
I blinked. Did he just say dead people? “So the diamond caves are actually dwarven graves?” I asked, trying to make sense of what I have just heard.
“It’s more accurately a crypt in a sense.” Then he asked, “When a loved one dies what do we humans normally do?”
“We usually we bury them.”
“Right. Now the dwarves cremate their dead. Then they take the ashes of their loved ones and put them in a special furnace where they go through a compressing process. Once that is completed you get a dwarven diamond. They take that diamond and place it on a stone marker they purchased that has their family name.”
“So, dwarven diamonds are actually made of ashes from dead people compressed –”
“In extremely high heat and pressure.”
“So, going back to the legend, the reason why the man got killed for bringing the diamond to the king of dwarves was he brought king’s dead family member unknowingly.”
“Correct. Any questions?”
“How could this be connected to our case?”
“Gavin was found dead with a dwarven diamond in his hand. When we visited the crime scene, I removed the diamond and handed it to Captain Peere to have it examined by an expert – who could identify the type of gem it is. Also, I have mentioned a robbery. Dwarven diamonds are not meant for resale, unless you go through the black market – and that is illegal under the Nordican laws. Knowing the captain, he will do his research on the gem and its possible origin.”
“So you mentioned a possible report of a robbery to give the captain an idea where to look for the possible owner. Did he find out whom it belongs to?”
Just as I said this, there was a knock on the door.
Jasper looked at his pocket watch. He stepped out of the room and opened the office door.

“We have been waiting for you. Please, come in.”