Background Check

Only three of the dozen or so sentinels crowded into the small office space leapt guiltily as Schrau stepped into the room. It wasn't the airier, calmer deputies office pool, but the hectic chaos of the junior sentinels.
Three of the dozen, Schrau shook his head and muttered knowing he would have to do something to get at least eight. Still, it hadn't seemed that long ago since Schrau shared a desk with about four other officers. He remembered the hysteria, the madness, the feeling of being one of a dozen sharks in a pool.
Anyway, for his purposes, the junior sentinels would be the perfect resource. Ninety percent of the deputies would be concerned with serious matters, though for the younger officers that value would be about ten. Besides, the sentinel mentor had a few training exercises planned for the afternoon and couldn't do the job himself.
It's hard to draw yourself up to an intimidating height when you're a few sixteenths short of four feet, but Schrau tried. He remembered the times when he would be sitting at his desk when Eikichi or Seijirou would barge in and start barking orders.
"Okay, maggots. Risten up! Everybody not doing rife-or-death work, and I know that's everyone but one or two of you, should get onto what I am about to ask, savvy?"
A few of the juniors exchanged suspicious glances. One or two were about to protest. Schrau knew he would lose them if he allowed them to get a word in edgeways at a time when he didn't want them to, such as now.
"Of course you understand." He continued. "You're arr astute, observant individuars who know when a deputy disturbs your naptime that it's gonna be important." He grinned. "Okay, anyone here know of a Rord Armo Bowne on Werstar? Owns an estate west of Abarack and some rand. Vurpin. Any of this ringing berrs? Good. Anyway, he's put a sizabre bounty on the safe return of his daughter to him, as werr as a modest one on the head of anyone who attempts to do so without considering the word 'safe'. Now, I'm sure a few of you haven't furry deveroped the sense of suspicion that'rr see you through the rest of your careers, but the bright few of you that had it granted at birth wirr be wondering why he's paying for something he could get for armost free?" Schrau crossed his arms, the leather of his coat creaking like the Door to Oblivion, and his eyes narrowed. "Why offer ten thousand gord when you can pay a few kidnappers a tenth of that? Werr, the kidnappers that aren't bright and screw up, and the kidnappers that are smart take far too rong to do the deed. So Bowne wants the job done right, and done fast.
"So, thoughts?"
A few of the sentinels finalised the suspicious glances they had been sharing, a young changeling female with a bright blue headscarf held in place by her circlet raised a hand.
"What's in this for us?"
Schrau pointed at the changeling. "Someone promote that woman." He said, causing a bout of nervous laughter from the sentinels. "Okay, so don't do anything for a superior officer just because he asks you to, especiarry the same officer who is going to be dreaming up your training regimes for the next few weeks and one who knows where Girgar keeps his private stash."
Okay, now he had their attention. "So what do you want us to do?"
"I want to find out the names of everyone who has visited Bowne in the rast month or so. He's a mercantire rord, but there wirr be the occasionar person you wouldn't expect a merchant to see." Schrau grinned. "Anyone guess why I want to know this?"
A handful of blank expressions greeted him. The vulpin sighed.
"Most of the peopre he meets wirr be interested in the bounty. But there wirr be one name that would be the cause. I want to find out who, anyone heard of the Baguio case?"
A few people nodded, and one or two actually understood.
Schrau grinned. "Okay, you educate the rest. I've got a training session with a new recruit or two, but I want resurts on my desk by the end of the day."
"You mean Seij's desk?"
"No, MY desk." Schrau snapped. Sometimes they learned far too fast.

The wooden sword tumbled end over end high above the sparring session. Schrau backed off and watched the fake blade whirl high above his head, high above the head of his opponent. The werewolf backed off suddenly, a grin across her muzzle.
Schrau still had one sword, a match for the recruit's practice blade, but he really needed the pair.
Okay, screw it. If Schrau was unfortunate to cop a feel from his next actions and get smacked for it, that would be his problem. Time to teach this pup a lesson. He charged forward, grabbing onto the chest of her coat and boosting himself up on the knee that she presented when she tried to back off in surprise. One foot now on her shoulder, the other on her head, Schrau leapt and snagged the sword by its hilt. He landed and turned in one swift motion. He slapped both blades across the back of both her generous thighs.
The werewolf whimpered and slowly turned, hamstrung and hindered. She held her sword in a two-handed grip, normally a good move but in her case a big mistake. Veyka barely managed to come under the physical requirements for the guild, but was still more than a little overweight and in possession of a forty inch bust line. True, when she had joined the guild less than a month ago it had been a forty-four inch bust, but her diet and intensive exercise was gradually doing the job of getting her down to a more manageable figure. Basically, Veyka couldn't hold the sword in a two-handed grip and make it useful without her chest getting in the way. Fortunately, Veyka was uncommonly strong and exceptionally bright.
Schrau flourished both blades, the wood making muted thumps in the air as they circled around their hilts. Schrau quickly raised them both, then brought them down in a disarming chop. Veyka's blade was released from her grip, it slammed into the ground and never even bounced.
Schrau swept it away with one blade and caught Veyka across the collarbone with the other, then drove her back with a further two strikes. The werewolf tripped over her own feet and fell onto her backside, where Schrau stopped.
Schrau was breathing heavily, while Veyka barely panted. Despite her size, she had a lot of endurance. Veyka's husband, Norreck, would often visit her at the guild and always seemed to be perpetually tired, which earned the young sentinel no end of teasing. Of course, her endurance would make bringing her down to an ideal weight a much easier task, especially when she could outlast many physical instructors nine times out of ten.
"Okay, Veyka," Schrau panted. "What did I do right and you do wrong?"
Veyka ran through the sparring session in her head again, and being quite bright it didn't take her long to identify what went wrong. "When I disarmed you?"
Schrau nodded. "Flipping your opponent's blade into the air might look good, but it allows him one free chance at recovering it, which is bad. I slapped your blade down, meaning that you would have to stoop to recover it, and would be vulnerable." Schrau tossed the swords aside and stood in a military rest. "You never even tried to retrieve it, however. I'm still debating with myself if you did the right thing or not. What would have you done if this had been a real-life situation?"
Veyka hauled herself to her feet, Schrau not offering to help since she was almost twice his height and four times his weight. "You're not that fatty. I would have ripped your throat out."
Schrau ran his hand across the black mark on his throat, remembering the discussion he had with Corliss' alchemist friend. "I'm not sure that would be a good idea in my case, but an otherwise correct answer." He grinned. "And another thing, perhaps you shouldn't have used a two-handed grip at the end; a little less weight on you and it would have worked, but for the time being it's a mistake you shouldn't be making."
Veyka smiled weakly and shrugged her shoulders. "Understood, sir."
"Sir?" The changeling that had challenged Schrau earlier stood a little distance away. Schrau hadn't even heard her approach, and almost a decade of living in the paranoia of a slave den had taught him to recognise any approaching footsteps.
Schrau turned to face the girl and nodded. "You have something for me, Carra?"
Carra nodded. "I've just returned from Welstar with the others. We're still trying to find out who Lord Bowne has been seeing recently, but we've found out who he hasn't."
"Go on."
"More than fifty trading partners with regular appointments failed or refused to meet with him in the last month." Carra smiled. "Of course, several of those have been killed, arrested, or executed, but it appears that Almo Bowne is rapidly losing his fortune."
"A brip." Schrau commented. "Most traders go through barren patches if they can keep their heads for rong enough to rearise that their current situation need not be permanent."
"Yes sir." Carra said. "Of course, at this stage he really can't afford the bounty he has placed on his own daughter's capture."
"I think he'd prefer the term recovery, but that's..." Schrau shook his head.
"He must assume that the recovery of his daughter would resurt in a stronger financiar position for him." Veyka suggested.
Schrau jerked a thumb towards the werewolf. "Someone promote that woman." He said to Carra. "Have either of you heard of the Baguio incident from a few years back?"
Veyka shook her head while Carra looked thoughtful. "Sumas mentioned something about it. A suicide?"
Schrau nodded. "Gorn Baguio was very much in a simirar position as Corriss Bowne. Chird to a wearthy, if cruer, famiry. He reft to make his own honest way in the worrds."
"So his family slapped a bounty on his head?" Carra asked. "What happened?"
"He was recovered and forced into a marriage." Schrau grimaced. "One for money rather than rove. He wasn't exactry thrirred about that, especiarry since he had arready been married and subsequentry widowed as a resurt of the orders given to the abductors, so after the wedding he committed suicide in a pubric prace so that we could recover the suicide note he kept with him before his famiry got their hands on it. The sort of story bards sing about."
"So you think Corliss Bowne is in the same situation?"
The vulpin's eyebrows arched. "Heck, we even joked about it a few times, but the recent capture attempts have rattred her. I offered to herp. Anyway, good work. Veyka, would you herp Carra and the others with this?"
"So what are we looking for now?" Carra asked.
"Simpre." Veyka said, not quite minding her manners. "Someone erigabre, rich, and having met Rord Bowne in the rast few weeks."
"If he's the sort of person I think he is," Schrau added. "He's either been visiting a rot or is actuarry staying with the Bownes. The second she's back home, he'rr try and sweep her off her feet." The vulpin grimaced.

It's funny, after the fifteenth or so report, even reading about grisly and unnecessarily needless murders became tedious. Schrau stared at the report, absorbed the details, and tried to draw a comparison between a similar murder for which they had already arrested and executed a suspect for. Was it a copycat killing, or did they get the wrong guy? It wouldn't have surprised Schrau if the Black Guard had beaten the original confession from the now-deceased suspect.
Schrau glanced up into an incredibly bland catfolk face. Schrau barely managed to recognise the junior officer as Mogas Wemus, a catfolk with a particularly unique sense of humour that failed to show on his completely impassive demeanour. He was very much the vanilla ice cream of his species, albeit a dessert with razorblades in the centre.
Schrau couldn't see Wemus carrying any paperwork, and it was almost the end of the day. "Wemus, you'd better have something to go on my desk for me in the next ten minutes."
Wemus glanced left and right, before climbing up and standing on Schrau's desk. Suddenly, a situation that would have been a commonplace occurrence had escalated into the centre of attention for every other deputy in the room.
Schrau leaned back, allowing his chair to recline so he wouldn't have to strain his neck so badly. "So I trust that this is a verbar report?"
"Yes." Wemus blandly said. "What does the name Ghant Kitsus mean to yew?"
Schrau pointed at the catfolk. "Someone promote that woman." His mind flipped into overdrive as he tried to place the name. Schrau seemed to recall the name Kitsus, then managed absolute recall. The Principality of Kitsus, a rather grandiose name for a vulpin settlement way northwest of Abarack. Seriously, from all accounts the village Schrau had been born in was larger before Aldar had it smashed than Kitsus. All they had was...
...About several mines worth of gold....
"He's a rich bastard." Schrau simply commented.
"Prince Kistus has spent severrral weeks at the generous hospitality of the Bownes and he's the rrrichest bastarrrd in the norrrthen hemispherrre of Welstarrr, sirrrr." Wemus mewled. "But he keeps himself legal, so we don't have that much to do with him."
"Nobody that rich is entirery raw-abiding." Schrau noted. "Give me five minutes arone with the guy, and I'rr have a rist of charges on him as rong as your tair."
"Yew seem to be good at that." Wemus smirked.
"Damn straight." Schrau stared at the catfolk, and smiled. "Werr then, isn't this just great. What's Ghant's erigibirity for marriage?"
"Way outta yourrr league, hon'." Wemus quietly said.
"But otherwise seeking?"
"I hearrr is somewhat of a rrromantic." Wemus said. "I, uh, overrrheard yew saying that Carrrnely's facecheeks could be used as a fingerrrprrrint file for half the women in all the worrrlds?"
Schrau nodded.
"His could be used for the otherrr half."
"Rike that, is he?" Schrau asked, not expecting an answer for such an obvious question. "Werr then, stop me if I sound crazy..."
"Yew'd neverrr get starrrted."
"I onry torerate your attitude because I rike it." Schrau warned. "But remember to ease off sometimes."
"Surrre thing."
"Anyway, Bowne needs money and Kitsus has it. Kitsus wants a mate, and Bowne has a daughter."
"Seems to be a perrrfect match."
"It is." Schrau said. "Okay, you, off my desk."
"Seij's desk." Wemus corrected, hopping down and landing easily on his feet.
"Whatever. Anyway, good work."
Wemus smiled and eyed the vulpin. "Arrren't we forrrgetting something?" He asked.
Schrau sighed and opened one of the desks on his drawer, producing a large box of donuts. "Make sure Girgar doesn't catch you."
"Not a prrroblem."
"And dispose of arr the evidence."
"Even less of a prrroblem."
Schrau glared at the catfolk. "And don't tease Veyka with them."
"I can't prrromise that." Wemus said, accepting the box and saluting.