Rubies and a Pearl (fiction)

Another quick scene from our gaming world. You might notice a slight inconsistency between this story and the last one about Ash. All I’ll say to that is that it is not one. Why will be revealed next time I write about this character.

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Ash sat on her bed, turning the necklace over in her hands. The gems were most definitely rubies and the settings of a quality she’d not expect to see in this area of town. She skimmed the note left with the jewels again. Ivan could be a regular client if he wished. With gifts like this one, Ash would not object, even with the all-evening affairs like last night.

A soft knock at her door led a softer voice. “Ash, there is a young woman requesting you.” She rose and, holding the gift behind her back, she peeked out the door.

“Who is it?” she asked.

Deidre glanced nervously down the hall towards her station. The guest waited around the corner, out of sight of the private chambers. “That woman that’s been here before. I’m sorry, I forgot to ask her name.”

Ash nodded. “Quite alright. Show her here.”

“Here?”

“Yes,” Ash said, impatience lacing her voice. Then she licked her painted lips and nodded crisply. Controlling her tone for a demure yet authoritative response she said, “Miss Cassandra is an acquaintance. You shall treat her with the respect warranted a friend.”

Deidre nodded and bowed. “Yes, of course. I’ll bring her right away.”

Ash closed the door and hurried to the bed, crouching down to pull a small chest from beneath it. She slipped a tiny key into the lock, opening the box, and then tucked the necklace and the note beneath a velvet clutch. By the time she returned the chest to its place under the bed, Deidre’s knock sounded at the door again.

Smoothing her dress and taking a deep breath, Ash opened the door and offered a perfect smile to Cassandra. “Welcome, Cassie,” she said. “Please come in. We are all so very worried about Pearl. We have still not heard a word from her.” She glanced at Deidre and added, “Thank you. That will be all.”

Once the door closed, Cassie took a seat and said, “There’s been another robbery.”

“I suspected,” Ash said. She sat down, folding her hands in her lap. “Have you figured out any patterns, besides the obvious wealth of each home?”

Cassie shook her head and looked around the small room. “Why two beds?”

“A roommate, but we will not be disturbed.”

She nodded. “Have you heard any rumors from your clients?”

With a dismissive wave, Ash said, “Nothing. Besides, I could not betray such an intimate confidence even if I did. Honestly, Cassie, a thief that steals from those that can afford to miss a few trinkets is not worth as much time as the horrible butcher attacking our girls.”

“Is another missing?”

Ash rose to her feet, pacing the room. “No, but they have not found Pearl either. The Watch is not giving this much attention at all, if you ask me.”

“We could tell them we found the graves.”

Ash frowned. She preferred a low profile for so many reasons. “Kitty went up there yesterday. She had to know what happened. She…” Ash grimaced and then forced a neutral expression. “She dug up the body. She said it was Pearl and she was gutted just like the last one. And, Nathaniel, he has this idea that someone is putting the parts on the black market. I’ve not heard of any such nonsense. Do you trust him? This Nathaniel?”

“We could check the black market. That could be another lead for the Watch.”

“I do not wish to talk to the Watch,” Ash snapped. She signed and corrected herself. “I prefer not to get involved any more than I already am working here. As for the market, I’ll keep my ears open, but I won’t use my connections to ask about any such thing. I don’t want to draw the attention of this creep, and you should be careful what you ask where too. I’d rather not see your empty belly.”

“Why did you say you suspected another robbery?”

Ash studied her companion for several heartbeats. The woman claimed dreams and visions, and Ash had seen one come true. If Cassie had dreams about Ash, Ash would have many more secrets revealed and that just wouldn’t do.

“This is your pet project, Cassie. When you visit me, I know you are on the trail of something.” She smiled and asked, “What went missing last night?”

“A ruby necklace.”

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