Chapter 12.5

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"How are you my dear?"

"Good thank you Uncle."

"I can tell you the reason for my visit at least." He let this hang in the air for a moment. "It's good news, actually. I wasn't sure how to break it to your father though – we both know how awfully humble he is. I thought it might be better if he heard it from you."

He paused again, as if expecting Carmen to react. When she didn't, he continued. "He's been offered the post of Deputy Head Craftsman in the Ministry of Arts, the current Deputy being – well, going missing. The position comes with certain privileges -"

"What do you want?" Carmen said.

Mr. Blanket laughed. "You have all your mother's subtlety. But I'll get to the point. Your father's advancement depends of the return of a piece of State property – worthless thing really – but the Brothers are rather attached to it, sentimental creatures that they are. Your grandfather stole it years ago."

"How come I never heard about it?"

"Well you're young, and it's – rather a shameful thing isn't it? Why would your parents tell you?"

"Maybe you should ask them about it."

"But my dear," Mr. Blanket said, the sofa creaking as he leaned towards Carmen and lowered his voice. "It's not your parents who were seen with it."

Footsteps approached from the kitchen. "What are you doing Franklin?"

"Oh, blackleaf. Lovely. Thank you Evelyn. Carmen and I were just having a little heart-to-heart. She really is an extraordinary young woman. Not unlike her mother in fact. But would you look at the time?"

"What about it?"

"Is that tempus correct? Oh I will be late." Ward heard him rise to his feet.

"Late for what?"

But Mr. Blanket was already bustling out into the hallway. Ward heard Mr. Carmichael reach the bottom of the stairs. "Don't you want to take...?" he said.

"Oh yes. The bust. Give it here. Well, bye." And with that Mr. Blanket bustled out the door.

"That was strange," Mr. Carmichael said, to nobody in particular.

Behind the couch Ward's mind was racing. Someone saw her with the Oliphant. But how? Unless – no, the only person who saw it was Nick. And, well Corvus I guess. The more he thought about it the more it seemed to make sense. Corvus. Had Slops gone straight there in a fit of guilt? Told him that he'd given the Oliphant to Carmen? Or was it forced out of him? It took his mind back to his first day in Bareheep, his escape from Corvus. The execution.

And suddenly he remembered where he'd seen that black coach-and-four.

Carmen was the only one who didn't jump when Ward emerged from behind the couch.

"Who in Eden are you?" Mrs. Carmichael said.

"You've got to get out!"

"What?"

Ward turned to Carmen. "They're coming! They're coming for the Ol -"

But at that moment there came a sharp rapping at the front door.    


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The hero of our story, Mr. Franklin Blanket, graciously departs the scene.

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