“What are we doing back here?”

Sienna smiled, and looked around the Serpent and Rose. “Well, I never got a chance to sit down and enjoy the food. Or Lord Canterwright’s company. So I thought another day would mean another go.”

Pietr and Sophie shuffled around. Ivan was back with Lord Smyth, looking over the estate. Sienna had taken charge of the two remaining Koskovs, and after their lessons in town, suggested this new diversion.

The bartender looked at them, confused. The Serpent and Rose was open at this time. Honestly, it almost never closed. But so many of its patrons were currently abed, sleeping off the carousing the night before. This was supposed to be a lull. He didn’t even have a cook for the food.

Sienna noticed this, and snapped her fingers. “Excuse me?” She called out. “Is it possible to get some service here?”

The bartender wrung his hands in apology. “I’m sorry, Lady Sienna. Our cook is…out.”

“Really? And yet you hang your open sign.”

“Most of the guests coming in at this hour are here for…” The man coughed, and covered his face. “Hair of the dog,” he mumbled.

“I see.” Sienna sniffed, offended. “Well, if you could let Lord Canterwright know that Sienna Smyth was turned away due to your lack of care, I would perhaps have lunch with him at another time.”

“No!” The bartender said. He held up his hands. “No, no…I could, I’m going to find Lord Canterwright now.” He disappeared before Sienna could make another motion.

Sienna huffed, and pulled out a makeup kit. She adjusted her eyeshadow, reapplied some blush, and then busied herself with understanding some of her father’s figures. They truly were straightforward, simple payments from one business to another. Her father didn’t seem to believe in graft, instead relying on excellence to make up for the lost revenue. Which would be a problem until Viola enacted her own tax program…

“The Lord Canterwright sends his apologies,” the bartender bowed low, trying to do his best fake grovel. “But he is indisposed, and will have to reschedule.”

“Reschedule?” Sienna asked. “Reschedule my lunch?” she looked at the two children, perplexed. “Can you reschedule your appetite, children?”

“I’m not…that’s not what I meant.”

“What I meant?” Sienna’s mouth twitched into a smile. “You mean Lord Canterwright?”

“I, uh…”

“He isn’t even here, is he?”

The bartender bowed his head, and nodded.

“That’s quite all right, sir.” Sienna patted his cheek twice, and smiled. “You were just trying to anticipate his needs, like a good servant.”

“He just is out for a little while. I’m sorry, I’m sure I could find someone…”

“Will he be gone long?” Sienna asked.

The bartender floundered, unable to answer.

“Good enough.”

Sophie and Pietr dove forward. They tackled the bartender, driving him to the ground. Before he could shout in protest, he was bound, gagged, and quickly losing consciousness.

Sienna moved towards the bar, keeping an eye on the door. But no one came.

The Koskovs shoved the unconscious bartender underneath the counter. They smiled up and Sienna, triumphant.

“Did we do good?”

“Well, children.” Sienna looked at the paper her father had given her. She matched the notes given to the liquor bottles, and nodded. What was supposed to be impenetrable, on further inspection, soon turned out to be a hollow passageway.

“We are doing quite well.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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