We have a couple chapters of Beauty-Beast thanks to Anke’s commission! Welcome back to Ctirad and Timaios et al!
Ctirad was struggling to stay awake.
Although Timaios had said that’s what we’re here about, it had been almost forty minutes, and they – mostly Sara and Timaios, with Signy putting in on occasion and, more rarely, Ctirad having something he felt was useful to say or, slightly more commonly, Timaios asking him a question – still hadn’t gotten to doing something about Ermenrich.
He was daydreaming while they talked about mergers and acquisitions, contemplating what he would do if he had Ermenrich under his collar. He had gotten as far as ordering the asshole to never speak again when Timaios brushed his hand over his hair, bringing his attention back to the conversation.
“I’m sorry.” Ctirad looked up at his Owner. “What was that?”
“The McCurdy Building. Do you remember when the first time Ermenrich mentioned it was?”
Ctirad closed his eyes. “It was cold.” He’d been wearing a shirt that was too thin. “It was windy but there was no snow. I had been serving him… I had been serving Ermenrich for a while. Not this year, maybe last year.” He considered the memories, the gnawing in his stomach, the ache in his bones. “Last year,” he decided.
“That’s good. Thank you.” Timaios patted his shoulder. “And the context?”
“He was talking – oh. To his lieutenant. He was having trouble with something and he told his lieutenant, I don’t care if you sell half of what I own, hell, sell the slaves, sell yourself if you have to, just get me that damn McCurdy Building.”
Ctirad swallowed at remembered rage and fear. “That’s not -” He looked over at Timaios and did not finish the sentence.
“No.” Timaios patted his shoulder gently. “Although it was fallout from that situation which led to me — acquiring you. You see, It appears that his lieutenant sold some things that Ermenrich did not want sold, several of which ended up in my hands. And for some reason, he had some trouble getting those back. Perhaps because we were paying closer attention than Ermenrich was.”
“Did he…” Ctirad sighed. “Did he sell some of the people? In his… in his employ? Sometimes people were gone, I mean, and I think some were gone around then, but he would tell me don’t worry about them; they’re not here or you don’t need to think about them.” There was a sick feeling in his stomach as he remembered the way the thoughts had just vanished.
“He is,” Timaios answered slowly, “a bastard and a scumbag, and there is nothing better than that I can say about him. And if you want to know – I will have to do some looking, but I believe that yes, he did sell or un-hire some of his staff along the way. I could find out-“
“Here.” Signy had been flipping through her phone with skilled swipes of her well-manicured fingers. She passed the phone to Timaios. “This is a list of staff that he, ah, downsized at that time and in the months afterwards while we were buying up everything we could out from under him. And in many cases, there’s a note as to who procured the person in question. It’s not completely up to date, obviously – I didn’t know about Ctirad, but it is accurate as of two months ago.”
Ctirad found himself staring at her. “Did you – I mean – no, I mean-” He shook his head and cleared his throat. “Were you-”
“Here.” Timaios showed him the list. “Tell me if this looks more or less correct to you, from what you remember of your time there. He certainly did have to do some down-sizing.”
Ctirad perused the list – he had noticed several of these people go missing, but others he had either not noticed or not known well enough to notice (or, perhaps, he realized, he’d been told not to notice) – making notes in his mind, yes to that one, maybe to that one.
While he was reading, Timaios turned back to Signy. “This is solid work.” He clearly approved. It made Ctirad feel a little better still about Signy and her weird chameleon personality.
“We were already tracking him,” she explained. “sa’Single-Blossom, myself, and a few of my employees. After the last stunt he pulled – well, I wanted to know everything he was up to. I didn’t imagine he’d ever sell to one of us, although I did manage to rehire one of his, ah. His staff.” She sounded so uncomfortable that Ctirad looked up from the list to gauge her face.
He cleared his throat, bringing the attention off of her, and looked to Timaios. “I don’t see anything wrong here, although I don’t remember all of this.. The stuff I do remember looks accurate.”
“Thank you.” Timaios shifted a hand, looking like he was about to pat Ctirad’s head, and smiled warmly at him instead. “Good work, Signy. So. We know what he was doing – downsizing. We know what he wants – the McCurdy Building – and we have some idea of why. The question is, what is he planning on doing?”
He didn’t look at Ctirad, which was good. Ctirad didn’t want to remember those things again. He didn’t even want to still have the memories, but they could be useful to his Master, so he wouldn’t ask to have them taken away.
(He might not have, anyway. As his brain filled in slowly with memories, he found he liked having something of a timeline, something almost complete, even if much of it was full of unpleasant memories.)
“That, we don’t know.” Sara Florentia frowned. “I have some information, however. He was seen talking to several people of a sort who – ah. I suppose I don’t have to mince words here, do I?”
“Please don’t. Right now, we need to all be on the same page.” Timaios leaned forward. “Seen talking to-“
“Nedetakaei. Specifically, Nedetakaei priests.”
“I didn’t know the Nedetakaei had priests.” Timaios’ voice rumbled thoughtfully. Meanwhile, Ctirad was struggling.
He didn’t know that word. Timaios had already been rather horrified at how many basic concepts about fae life he didn’t know. He didn’t want to add another one to the list. But Nedetakaei priest triggered an image, a fragment of a memory.
Something about – something about another visit. Ermenrich telling him something – what was it? – This man is a priest. He has a lot of very useful information, but we have to be very careful about how we approach him. Stay behind me, don’t say anything, and if he attacks me, use every means at your disposal to stop him immediately.
“Man in jeans,” he commented softly. “Jeans and a t-shirt and a flannel shirt. I remember thinking he doesn’t look anything like a priest. What he looked like was, uh, a guy sitting in the woods, like a hunter.”
He looked at Timaios. Only then did he realize everyone else was looking at him.
He cleared his throat. “He ordered me to forget it,” he explained. “I… I got better.”
Not this McCurdy Building. Pretty much the right era, tho.