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.
“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.
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?”
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.”