“In the meantime you’re Vicktor’s attack dog.” She folded her arms around herself and turned away from him.
Les swallowed. Taking credit off people for “protection” was despicable and he knew it. It was who he used to be. He had no defense against her argument. He could tell her that Vicktor had threatened her life, and that made it different this time. But he knew that would only make her angrier.
“I’m going out.” Adella announced in his silent.
“Let me go with.”
“No.” Her voice was flat. “If we are to stay here I need to learn the lay of the place. And I shan’t need you to protect me.”
Les sighed, watching her open her meds bag to draw her derringer out and then tuck it into the hidden pocket in her skirt. No. She didn’t need him, he thought as she settled her hat onto her hair and drew a shimmery silver shawl around her shoulders. Adella had never needed him. It was him that needed her.
Adella made her way down the stairs of the clapboard office/jail/living quarters that she would share with Leslie for as long as it took. She stepped onto the passwalk that twisted through the warren of other such shopfronts and dwellings that made up the Tembrous market. Would it shock Leslie to know that this was far from her first trip into this place? She smiled. He was so ashamed of his past that he never stopped to think that she might also have one that she wasn’t proud of.
What would he think of her, if he knew the things she had done in the name of medicine while she was at university? Back then, she’d been young, and the only woman in a sea of men. She’d been eager to prove herself equal.
She pushed the regret aside. With all of Leslie’s, there was hardly room for Adella’s too. She turned off the main path onto a narrow crowded row where the air was closer, filled with the calls of caged birds and small animals. This was the heart of Tembrous. And Adella knew she was looking or a shop with no cages at all.
It wasn’t hard to find. It hulked at the dead end of the run, it was a full structure, like Leslie’s office. It was a somber black, with curtained windows. There was no sign it indicate what went on within, but Adella already knew.
Inside was shadowy as well. No surprise there. This was surely the darkest part of the market. As Adella stepped over the threshold she caught the faint sweet scent of copper pennies. She paused to let her eyes adjust and found the front room empty. It looked like a parlor, or she thought, a waiting room. There was thick carpet beneath her feet and wingback chairs gathered around a little table.
She sunk one hand into her pocket to find the comforting shape of her pistol and reached for the bell on the counter. Its chime cut the silence and triggered movement in the room beyond.
“Hello.” She made her voice cheerful, but didn’t take her hand off the grip of her pistol.
The curtain drew back and a young man stepped through. He had a smooth, luminous face. As he drew closer she notices that his eyes were red.
Not as young as he looked then, she corrected herself. It also accounted for the faint smell of blood about the place. “Pardon, Missus.” His voice was deep, velvety. “I was caught up in work.”
“Doctor.” She corrected him, lifting her chin to meet the hellfire eyes. “Doctor Adella Fordham.” She did not offer her hand. “I’ve come to inquire about the auction.”
He settled behind the counter and smiled, teeth white and stark in the murk. “Forgive me, but I don’t know what auction you’re referring to. This is simply a supply company.”