And They All Got Drunk
"Of course! Brilliant!" Cherry was nearly standing on top of the table at the pub. "Now all we need to do is check every garden in Annalow! There's only hundreds and hundreds!" She wasn't being ironic. Cherry really meant to systematically search the city.
Any other pub would have stopped all chatter due to the noise, but Cherry and Anna visited Merick's Mug was used to her. It was the hang out of Anna and Cherry most nights. That night, they were joined by a dehydrated and hunger Madeline Fallbringer. She mostly ignored Cherry, too, choosing to focus on the heavy meal of bread and mutton. Merick was a Borc. Bread, meat, and beer was all he had.
"Please, Cherry. We're not just looking for every garden." Anna was calm behind her pint. We're looking for a specific garden that no one can hear what's going on inside."
"You assume too much." Madeline mumbled. "There's no reason to think Lily doesn't do her deeds in a separate building. All you're guessing is the blood is 'drained' in a garden."
"It's true, I'll grant you, but there's still the matter of discretion. If the bodies are bleed there, Lily wouldn't want anyone to see."
Cherry Jumped up again, "Alright! So now all we have to do is find a Garden next to a building in a city! Let's Go!"
"Gently, Cherry. Gently." Cherry sat back down, vibrating with excitement. "Let's assume Lily has a sound proof building with an enclosed garden so no one would hear or see the goings on of a murderer like this. Even so, we have the problem not just of tracking down its location, but the owner. Lily's greatest power is that of anonymity."
Cherry cocked her head. "What's that mean, Goldy?"
"It means there are too many suspects and too many buildings. We need to search for-"
"No, I mean 'Anminininity.'"
Madeline took another swallow of beer. "Means no one knows who they are."
"Oh." Cherry cocked her head at Anna again. "Anna? What are you doing?" She was straining her neck to see over Cherry, was what she was doing.
"Uh..." Anna saw Peter swish aside the curtains that led into the pub. He was rain soaked and motioning to a servant. "I'll be right back."
Peter Leftgood ordered an ale before Anna got to him. "I knew I'd find you here." He ruffled his hair. "I...wanted to talk to you. About the killings, I mean."
"Oh good. We're just talking about it. Glassneck," Anna adressed the serving Effee, "bring his drinks to my table, would you?" Anna pulled petter along into the back corner where Sherry was trying to convince Madeline to drink her beer in one gulp. "No." Was the only answer she could get out of the Red Guard between chewing.
"Sit." Anna comanded to Peter. He did as he was told, rather intimidated by two red guard and a white maiden. Anna did the proper introductions and said "The bodies are left all over Annalow, but were all the girls abducted from the same area?"
"Nah, can't be." Answered Cherry. "Mrs. Mellowond was deeply surprised that it could have been her own child. So were the servants! No one expected Lily to strike in the high end."
"It makes sense." Madeline had almost finished her mutton. "Sticking to one area of the city risks notice, even if you're disguised. I'd bet my stores Lily was dressed like a White Maiden. Even that would be out of place if it were the same womume ever time."
"Uh." Peter looked away. "Lily can't be a mume. The...the cuts would need a lot of strength."
Anna put her hand out to Peter, reassuring him. "Strong or not, Peter, Lily could be nothing other than a mume. Not that it make much difference. This is the Mume capital of Mash'ta." She turned to Madeline. "But don't assume Lily is a womume. Male or female, we don't know, yet."
Cherry shook her fists. "Oooo! It makes me mad to think of Lily dressed like a...a...an impostor Maiden!"
"Just imagine Lily's a boy." Madeline said.
"Oh. That helps, actually."
Anna looked down at her drink. "Boy or girl, I promised that girl I would catch her killer."
"WHAT?" Peter pulled away. Anna didn't take notice. She looked longer into the bubbled at the bottom of her mug.
"And then what?" Madeline asked. It was a good question, and the whole table thought it over.
"Well," answered Peter, "you would turn her over to the city guard, of course."
"Sure," Madeline finished her beer. "you believe everyone else's accusations. Why not believe our's too?"
"Well, I mean..." Peter rolled it around in his head. "Well, it would be different. You're Red Guard. The cheif would listen, surely."
"Sure he'd listen." Madeline laid the venom on think in her voice.
"Madeline, make silence." Anna waved her away. "The thing is," she told Peter, "we're not supposed to be looking for Lily." Peter looked away from Anna. "Even if we had proof, the Red Guard would punish us for disobeying orders."
Cherry giggled. "Then you could both become White Maidens and we'd see each other ALL THE TIME!"
"Oh stop blathering." Madeline waved down Glassneck for another beer. "When you're reaise Red or White, you stay red or white. You can't just change, moron."
"Why not? That's what Gringill is doing."
Anna waved for another beer. "What?"
"What?" Madeline's jaw dropped.
"Sure." Cherry hovered over a new beer like a hawk. "Gringill's a teacher's teacher! She's been working with us at the school since just after I started. Gave her fairwells today to us and the kids. I'm gonna miss her, I am." Glug glug glug.
"You can't do that!" Madeline yelled over the noise of Cherry choking.
"Not in one gulp." She sputtered. "Maybe two. I'll try again."
"No, you can't switch! She doesn't even understand the pricipals of Red! I'll wager she won't last a day as a privet!"
Cherry finished her second gulp and slammed the mug down. "I think," she panted, "she's joining as a major or something." Madeline's jaw dropped again, this time accompanied by the widest eyes Anna had ever seen. "And she want's to meet you, Anna. Like, tomorrow morning or something."
Peter tapped Anna on the shoulder. "Anna...uh...Miss Goldeyes." Anna looked over and up. Peter was standing to leave. "I really do need to talk to you about something." Anna dropped two bits on the table quietly and followed Peter, leaving Cherry and Madeline to bicker behind her.
Once they were outside, Peter turned his face away again. A habit Anna found adorable and anoying at the same time. "It just that... Lily can't be a mume, is all. I mean,"
"What is it?" Gently, Anna turned Peter toward her and lifted his chin. "It's okay. You can tell me."
"I..." He couldn't turn his head, but his eyes went down, away from her face. "I think I saw Lily. That night, I mean. I'm sure I saw her...or him."
"When we saw the body, I was...scared. I had to g-g-get away. I'm not like you lot. I-I can't stay..."
"It's alright. Take is slow, Peter. We have time."
"Well...I mean. When I left you and b-blew my whistle, I..." He grimaced. "I saw her. She was just like everyone said. Huge, but quiet and wearing a cloak with a hood. But huge. Like a Borc, only bigger."
"Where? Where did you see her?"
"Where? It was the other way, I think." Peter looked into Anna's eye for the first time. "If I had chased her, I could'a caught her! I mean, Yeah! But...But I c-can't." He looked away again. "I'm not like you lot."
Anna's arms instinctively wrapped around him. She could feel his shoulders shake, and it all came pouring out. "Shhh...It's alright, Peter." He didn't cry, so much as cry out. Anguish or frustrasion, Anna couldn't be sure. If you like, Cherry's a maiden. She can-"
"No!" Peter pulled away, but Anna pulled him back into her arms. "No, I can...I mean. I'll be alright."
"Alright, Peter. If you change your mind, I'm be around."
"I have to go. I have something at home. It's something I do to relax. I mean, you know. To..." Anna loosened her hug. "If you want to come see. I mean. It's quite beautiful."
"Maybe later, Peter."
"Alright. I mean. Later. Yeah. I'll go." Peter looked into her eyes again. The second time she could remember. "Thank you, Miss Goldeyes." He kissed her hand, turned, and left.
Anna watched him disapear into the street shadows. Savor, she thought to herself. Sav- She was interrupted by an elbow in the ribs. "Goldy, you sucker! You could'a had SEX!"
Cherry bounced out of the pub and wrapped around and behind Anna, speaking in her ear. "Peter and Anna, touching in naughty ways. Naughty naughty."*
Madeline patted Anna onthe shoulder as she passed by. "Goldeyes, See me before you see that White Maiden tomorrow. I want to talk to her."
"Uh...sure." Anna tried to shake off Cherry. Tried and failed.
"Don't worry," Madeline waved as she left. "You'll fuck him next time."
"Why do you two assume I want anything to do with him?"
"Because," Cherry answered, "the last time I saw you blush like that I was the one fucking you."
"I don't even... We never... Cherry, Shut up."
*footnote: Mume's have no sense of 'Naughty' or 'taboo' when it comes to sex. Cherry is making a Borc reference. Also, she's drunk.