In a city that was, relatively recently, stolen by giant bats, a young man wakes up in a holding cell. There's a guard standing watch, though a rather scrawny one.
"I'll give you the documents and get you into the palace; you go into his study ostensibly to clean it and, instead of actually cleaning, take all the research you can find and leave mine in its place. Is that clearer?"
"Yes it is!"
"Lovely! We won't even need a new outfit for you, I got what you're wearing off of a valet in the first place. I'll sneak you in the servants' entrance, and you can find the Morbid Under-Secretary and switch His Amused Lordship's documents and then leave the way you came."
"Did you have any other questions for me, or shall we return to the Palace?"
"Can't think of anything!"
She leads him to a house near the Palace, inside which is a tunnel leading down. "This will put you out in the palace grounds. You're the Clean-Faced Valet, a new hire. Conveniently, the Morbid Under-Secretary's office is in the same building as His Amused Lordship's study, and it's the closest building to the tunnel exit. I'm not in charge here, but I'd recommend you get in and out without delay. The longer you stay, the more likely it is that someone high-ranking might run into you and recognize you from your former reflection."
"Yeah. I don't intend to stay any longer than I have to."
"Bonne chance," she says, tucking the envelope containing her research into his pocket.
All right, off to tell some lies in a place he hates. Why does this feel so unpleasantly familiar?
Closest building, she said?
Does he know this place? He feels like he might know this place.
He stands still for a moment, gathering his nerve; and then he sets off, with a tempered version of his usual ebulliently confident stride. There's—a way of moving that feels right for the role, and it's slightly ill-fitting but he can tamp down his discomfort and make it work. Move like someone who is exactly where he's supposed to be, who is so unremarkable as to be invisible. Move like someone who has a job to do and is taking the straightest path to doing it.
The footman doesn’t pay him a second glance. Neither do any of the people he passes in the halls.
The door to His Amused Lordship’s study opens as he turns the corner to approach it; His Lordship himself exits the room. “Ah, capital timing!” he bellows, in the same tone of voice with which he bellows everything. “Was just about to call for one of you to clean up after my latest experiment! Cider foam everywhere, frightful mess. Left ten pence on the table as a tip for when you’re done.”
He strides off before the supposed servant can respond.
You know what? He is going to take those ten pence, and if cleaning up the cider foam takes him less than five minutes he'll do it. But after five minutes or the end of the mess, whichever comes first, it's time to swap the documents and visit the Under-Secretary.
The cider foam is contained within an un-carpeted experimental area, which does indeed take about five minutes to clean if he doesn't do it in too much depth. (It still smells like apples and VITALITY, though.) Swapping the documents is much quicker.
The Morbid Under-Secretary's office is in a less prestigious part of the building. His office door is open, and he is currently doing paperwork. His walls are lined with the fangs of various beasts.
He steps into the office, closes the door, and drops the invisible body language.
"Hello," he says. "I heard you collect teeth. Do you have a Vake tooth? I want one."
"Well, a report is always crossing my desk that some prisoner in New Newgate had their face carved off. That happens every once in a while; it's the Snuffer's work. But one day, I found a report that this had happened to a certain Dashing Toff who had recently paid for one of the teeth of the Vake to be retrieved from a Fourth City ruin. After that, the reports began to mention that the Snuffer's victims had been stabbed repeatedly in the chest with the fang of some kind of beast." He shrugs. "It's not proof positive, but it hints rather strongly, doesn't it?"
"Suppose it does."
"A thousand jade sounds nice. A Vake-tooth of my very own might sound nicer. If I come by a spare, though, I'll happily sell it to you."