33 Ring Day, 6104 RTR (27 Aug 2000) Aaron meets with Inspector Herschel, then questions Mr. Vanguard.
(Aaron) (Rephidim) (Rephidim Temple)

After Aaron's visit with Jason Candlegold, the jeweler who created the fake Dragon's Egg, the lupine Temple guard who had accompanied him thanked the Lapi for his efforts, confiscated the lawyer's card, and informed him that Investigator Herschel would be in touch. The wolf left him with strict orders to do no further investigation without the Temple's blessing, "for your own good." Whether this was meant to protect Lightfoot from criminal activities, or the Temple's wrath at interference in an investigation, was left unsaid.

The Temple, Investigator Herschel's Office
A cramped office made even smaller by clutter, it contains a large desk with a comfortable chair positioned behind it, and two smaller, rickety ones before it. One of the latter chairs has not been sat in for sometime, given the foot-high accumulation of dusty papers on top it. The other may have seen more recent use in its intended fashion, as only a crumpled paper bag and a dirty plate rest on top of it. A few more dirty dishes rest on the desk top, along with a mountain of paper that threatens to spill over at any time. The top of the filing cabinet is likewise heaped with loose papers, while on the one bookcase, bound books war with loose sheets and rolls of paper for space. A couple of lit lanterns hang on the walls, their shuttered flames throwing dueling shadows across the room.

A few days later, the shopkeeper receives his summons to the Temple and Investigator Herschel's office.

Herschel's rotund human form rests ensconced within his chair as the Lapi is shown in. He chews on a bite of pastry, nodding to the rabbit, before washing it down with a swallow from a mug set rather precariously on the edge of the desk. "Thanks for coming – have a seat," he says, gesturing to the chairs, then frowns and rises to clear the less-cluttered of the pair, stacking the plate with the others on the desk and pitching the bag into an overflowing wastebasket. "Sorry about that – the cleaning staff hates me," he confides.

Aaron LightfootThe Apothecary grins understandingly, and takes the offered seat. "At least your clutter doesn't explode if you let it sit together too long," he jokes.

The Investigator glances with a bit of trepidation towards the lanterns on the walls, then resumes his own seat. "Well, I certainly hope not," he agrees with rather more solemnity than strictly warranted. "Anyway, wanted to talk to you about what Candlegold had to say. I had the report from Gersch, of course, but I'd like to hear your synopsis as well."

Aaron's black ear lops over as he collects his thoughts. "Well, basically the artist had been commissioned to create a replica of the original Dragon's Egg for a play called 'The Mysterious Disappearance and Reappearance of the Dragon's Egg' – sort of gives the whole plot away, if you ask me – by a representative of the supposed theater troupe that was going to be performing it. I was a bit surprised to learn that he had created two replicas, and that the representative was from the same firm that was handling the Mikide estate. They're the ones that told me about the Dragon's Egg to begin with."

"Handling the Mikide estate?" The investigator frowns. "I hadn't heard that bit." He pokes desultorily at one of his piles of paper. "What's the Mikide connection, here – he left the Egg to von Sedgewick? No, wait, he gave it to her while they were engaged, didn't he?"

The Lapi nods, "Yes, before his … breakdown. His lawyers knew about it, since they pointed me to Lady von Sedgewick when I asked about the disposition of the Dragon's Egg. I don't know if the Lady herself has ever had any contact with them though."

"Isn't that interesting?" Herschel fishes out one of the sheets from a stack and adds a note to it in scrawling black lines of ink. "And what did you make of Candlegold's story?"

"He seemed to have believed it," Aaron says, brushing back his ear. "He didn't try to hide that he created the replica, or how he did it, and certainly wouldn't have volunteered that there was a second one as well if he thought he was involved in a crime. The part about the play and all though … well, I don't know how seriously he took it, but it was enough for him to take the commission."

"Indeed." The human takes another bite from his pastry, munching on it with a thoughtful look on his face. "Let's see. Two replicas, a recurring law firm, and an acting troupe. Candlegold didn't identify the name of the troupe, did he?"

Aaron shakes his head, "He didn't recall their name, since he only met with their 'representative' from the law firm,Kiljoy Vanderat or something … Officer Gersch has his card."

"Kilroy Vanguard," Herschel says absently. "I've got it around here … somewhere. Haven't been to talk to him yet. Ought to send someone to do that… "

"I haven't mentioned any of this to Lady von Sedgewick yet," Aaron says, leaning forwards a bit. "I didn't want her trying to contact them herself, but I also don't know if she's familiar with the firm or that particular person."

"Good point," the investigator agrees, looking briefly surprised.

Aaron says, "I only ever met the secretary and records-keeper there myself, none of the partners or this Vanguard fellow."

"Hmm. Yes, it's best that you not tell Lady von Sedgewick before we have someone look into the lawyers, but perhaps afterwards." He drums the fingers of one hand against a pile of papers, making them list alarmingly. "Hmmm."

The Lapi eyes the stack uncertainly, and scoots his chair over a bit in case it collapses. Paper cuts can be painful, after all. "I suppose you'll just bring in this Vanguard person for questioning then?"

"Could. I hate dragging lawyers in to talk to them. They're the worst people to interview. Might be better to have someone outside the Temple do it – less likely to get his hackles up." He drums his fingers against the paper again, and the threatened avalanche seems even more imminent. "You want to go down there and see what he has to say?" he asks the Lapi, directing a quizzical look towards the rabbit.

Aaron blinks, and considers. "I suppose I could … I mean, lawyers aren't dangerous, right? I could say I'm trying to find a copy of the play… "

"That'd be good," Herschel says encouragingly, though he remains strangely silent on the matter of lawyers being dangerous. "And if you can't get anything out of him, we can always bring him in for the Inquisitors later."

The Lapi sits up a little straighter. I can do this, he thinks. "I always try to help out the Inquisition, so I'll see what I can find out from this fellow."

"Great," Herschel beams enthusiastically, standing. He starts to offer the Lapi his hand, then stops, sets down the pastry, wipes his hand on a handkerchief, then offers it once more. "Let me know how it goes."

Aaron shakes the Investigator's hand and heads off to the offices of Blackwater, Kingsley, and Forth with a jaunty step and a smile.

Associate Attorney Kilroy Vanguard, it proves, is on vacation to the surface and not due back for another two weeks. The secretary, very sympathetically, offers the Lapi a choice between seeing another attorney, or making an appointment with Vanguard in the week after his return.

Aaron drums his fingers on the reception desk as he thinks. "He's not in Gallis, I suppose? I wanted to ask him about a client of his, actually, so I don't know if any of the others would be able to help me out."

"I believe he is in Gallis, sir," the secretary purrs out. "In the capitol. What client of his were you interested in? Perhaps another attorney has worked on the matter."

"A theatre troupe – from Gallis, I think," the Lapi says. "They had retained him to handle some business here in Rephidim, and I was hoping to find a way to contact them."

"A theatre troupe?" The secretary's expression is perplexed, and she twitches her whiskers. "Do you know their name, or how long ago their business with him was?"

"I don't know their name, I'm afraid, but the business was conducted around Landing Day last year," Aaron says, trying to recall all the details. "Vanguard had commissioned a local artisan to create some special props for their play."

The secretary's confused expression only deepens. "I'm afraid that doesn't sound familiar. Let me check my records." She excuses herself and walks to a back room.

Aaron leans against the desk while he waits, and thinks about Gallis, having not passed through there for some years. Mimes, he remembers, and gives a little shudder.

A few minutes later, the secretary reappears. "I'm sorry, sir, I can't find any reference to such a situation. Are you sure you have the correct attorney?"

The Lapi blinks, and his ear droops. "His was the name on the card. I don't suppose you know where in the capitol he is staying?"

"No, sir, I do not," she replies.

"He made all his own arrangements then?" the Lapi asks, sounding a bit surprised. Even he lets Jasmine make most of his travel arrangements for him.

"I do not know who made his arrangements, sir. But it wasn't me," she says, the barest hint of annoyance in her firmly polite tone.

Aaron considers his options. One week isn't really enough time for him to get to Gallis and try to find Vanguard, so instead he says, "In that case, I'd like to make an appointment to see him when he returns from his vacation."

"Very well, sir." She takes out a large appointment book and checks through it. "Will 33 Ring Day do, sir?"

"Yes, if that's the earliest slot available after he returns," Aaron smiles.

"It is, sir. 3 PM all right?" Her hand hovers over a slot in the book.

The Lapi nods, and makes a note in his own appointment book, "That will be fine."

Some weeks later, Aaron Lightfoot finds himself once again in the waiting room with the coolly polite secretary at the law firm. About twenty minutes after the secretary (theoretically) informed Mr. Vanguard of his arrival, a well-dressed Kujaku of brilliant plumage steps out from his office. "Miss Seville, have any packages arrived for me today?" he asks the secretary, without a glance to the Lapi.

The Lapi looks up from his notebook to see the Kujaku, and to glance over towards the secretary to see if this is Vanguard himself.

"No, Mr. Vanguard," she answers him, purring.

The Kujaku makes a disgusted noise. "Those Gallisians. I tell you, I wish I could find a resort half as nice as the Jade Palace had been… "

Aaron blinks at the mention of the Jade Palace. Wasn't Faraon supposed to be laying low somewhere in Gallis, after all? He stands up and approaches the colorful avian. "Ahh, Mr. Vanguard I presume? I'm Lightfoot, your three-o'clock appointment."

The Kujaku blinks at the rabbit's announcement, and glances to his secretary, who nods slightly. "Ah. Mr. Lightfoot. Pleased to make your acquaintance, I'm sure," he says unconvincingly. "Please, come into my office." He opens the door and stands to one side.

Smiling cordially, Aaron steps through into the office.

"Now, you are here regarding what business, Mr. Lightfoot?" the lawyer asks, settling in behind a massive desk with a large window view at it's side.

Aaron sits down, and says, "I'm here about the Dragon's Egg." Still smiling, he watches the bird's face for any change of expression.

The Kujaku's previously impassive expression flickers, his eyes widening for a moment before he restores his face to a carefully neutral look. "I beg your pardon? What dragon's egg?"

"The one in the play," the Lapi says, sticking to the story. "You had commissioned some copies of the original made for a play last year, from Jason Candlegold, hadn't you?"

"I'm sorry," the Kujaku says, his look of puzzlement possibly genuine. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"'The Mysterious Disappearance and Re-appearance of the Dragon's Egg'?" Aaron asks. "Someone claiming to be you commissioned some special props for that play from Candlegold. They even gave him one of your business cards. I'm trying to track down that play for a friend."

The Kujaku shakes his head. "No, you must have the wrong lawyer. Perhaps you're thinking of someone else?"

Aaron scratches at his cheek, and asks, "Well … maybe. Who else would have your card? An assistant? I can always go back and ask Jason for a description … he's got a good memory, having created the replicas after looking at paintings of the original."

"An assistant might give out my card," Mr. Vanguard says dubiously. "Or perhaps someone using my cards without paying attention? Occasionally the printers send them to the wrong offices… " He shrugs. "I suggest you check with whomever referred you to me."

Aaron stands up, and offers his own card to the lawyer. "Yes, of course. I'll recheck with Candlegold. In the meantime if you do come across any information about it, feel free to contact me. My friend is very interested in this play, as they think it will add an extra value to the original Dragon's Egg."

"Ah. Yes." He looks just a little nervous, then nods. "Should I learn anything, I will keep you in mind," he says in professional tones.

Aaron turns to leave, and pauses at the door to say, "I hope your next vacation is more enjoyable," before finally exiting.


GMed by Rowan

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