Teysa's visit with Uncle has concluded productively, and she is returning from the mansion district to the city center. She says farewell to the ancient solifuge golem Pazapatru who guards the bridge, but as she steps off its edge and her messenger thrulls approach, something ripples. She trips on her bad leg and briefly loses sight of her surroundings.
"The smell's for the shops? I'll keep it in mind. What else is there, other than round? Hits harder, more accurate, that kind of thing?"
"Wad-cutter's specifically for target shooting, makes nice clean holes. It'll still kill people, just not as much. Blanks have no actual projectile, for... Show, I guess? You use them to start races?" The Officer shrugs. "Ballistic capped flies further, more accurately. Hollow point does more damage to flesh but won't penetrate much. Armor-piercing is what it says on the tin, anything 'jacketed' is the same. Incendiary and explosive shot mostly doesn't come in calibers as small as yours. There's more exotic variations but that's the basic idea."
"Yes, I think I'll be fine without them. Right, I guess I should look for somewhere to stay now. Any ideas?"
"Don't want your introductions right away?"
"A specific introduction counts as an idea. But introductions first is good too."
"My advice for safe accommodations is to make friends with someone who needs manual labor and have the thrulls do some of said labor. The Gentlemen take time and proving oneself to trust. I can bring you around and get people used to seeing you with me, see who's in today, specifics depend on results of said endeavor."
"Fair enough. Without anything to keep them bound together, paranoia is probably an important job skill. Introductions, then."
They start walking in the right direction, after making sure the new gun is safely holstered.
"A key component of the bindings is a distrust of outsiders. I'm sure I only see the surface, and only 'cause I kicked a fat overseer in the nuts when I got fed up with his lechery, and stole enough codebooks and stamps to play hell with the bureaucracy for years, so they have a grudging sort of respect. But I'm not in the business, see?"
"I do. We had... well, more magic. Break your word and that wouldn't be the only thing breaking. But there was still in and out."
"So it goes."
The Officer is happy to take the rest of the walk in silence; The Gentlemen's demesne is a warren of ramshackle construction over old crumbling stones. Laughter and shouting ring out, and knives glint openly in the lamplight. The two human figures and two thrulls attract all sorts of stares and whispers just by approaching this area. They walk quietly until she recognizes a group.
"Travis! I'm here to make introductions."
Travis nearly draws a knife with a suspicious scowl as he turns. "Who the fuck-? Oh, it's Nutcracker." And then he relaxes and opens into a wide shrug, the two obvious lackeys standing behind him. "What's two nice gals like you doing in a hive of scum like this? Got any fresh news for the box?"
"Nah, not today. You know me, stick my toes in but never going swimming. Anyway, Captain brought us out to fucking Piranesi and we're out again to God knows where soon. Like I said, introductions."
"Welllll if I have the pleasure of being yer host today, mind explaining what the walking corpses are about, madam...?"
"She's going by the Dire Lady. They seem obedient, didn't make a peep on the trip over."
"Evocative. And useful."
"I'm very foreign, and make them by magic. The other obviously-useful thing I do is truth-enforcing. Law was my main racket back home, but the family did much more. I expect you're my kind of people."
"We are not exactly law-abiding folks around here. That is a very un-reassuring thing to say. Maybe Nutcracker's trying to get back in with the Revenue Men, and you're an agent."
"Law is a matter of interpretation, and no one needs a good solicitor more than a criminal. I was the best in the world, and will be again."
"I can count on zero hands the time I thought 'gosh, I could really use a lawyer right now'. I suppose the big boys could possibly theoretically use someone to yammer at the Establishment for them. Figure out more tax loopholes. But that requires a rather established level of trust. The easiest, fastest way to gain trust is to give us dirt on you."
"Well, obviously. If you were ever in a position where you needed a lawyer and didn't have one, you would be in jail, or a grave, not standing here talking to me. Survivorship bias, it's called. Not having a lawyer is pressing your luck."
"Well, good to meet you, I suppose. Have a lovely day now. Let's get back to the bar, boys."
"How many people do you know who got caught, but were released without a conviction? Because unless they make a habit of summary executions, it should be much more than zero."
"Oh do tell me exactly how you'd argue someone out of the cells in Eagle's Empyrean. Saying you know how to 'help' twice isn't any more convincing than once."
The Officer sighs. "Trev, you Cantnakerous Enforcer, do you think this is at least something we can talk over with your bosses like gentlemen?"
"...Truth spell any better than thumbscrews?"
"Much. People will say anything under torture, you know that. And I've seen the spell work."
"There's maybe something we'd be thankful for in that if you're fine contributing to some violence."
"Of course. Lead the way."
The Officer follows along. 'Trevor' raises an eyebrow at her then half-shrugs.
Down an alley, through a square opening in the old stones, into a chamber with lots of random stuff piled up. They exchange passphrases with a couple more toughs.
Then they're brought to a relatively finely appointed room with lit gas lanterns, silks and cushions and booze lying about. A woman wearing a slightly grimy pantsuit and a roughly made steel "crown" lounges as Trev makes introductions.
"Purported Dire Lady, this is Rusty Rose. Rusty Rose, Dire Lady. Apparently she can make Blues talk, see if his alibi's bullshit or not. Nutcracker here says it's legit."
"Oh? That'd be useful. It's bad business to merk the wrong people. What'll truth cost us?"
"Call it advertising. You've no reason to trust me, yet; this is cause to consider finding one."
"Easy to burn, hard to build. Ain't it ever so." Rusty Rose shrugs. "Alright, why don't you all sit tight for a couple minutes while I send this up the chain and then we can try it if there's no, eh, contraindications?"
"Reasonable enough, thank you."
Help yourself to the drinks if you like."
Rusty Rose departs through a fold in the fabric. She comes back five minutes later.
"Ms. Garden is curious to hear more about whether she has truly been betrayed, and by whom. A little explanation first, I think? Well, the short version is that a job went bad. It sure looks like Blues tried to sell our family out to something inhuman, but he swears up and down that another who I shouldn't mention in the presence of excess ears, is framing him."
"I gather 'inhuman' means something beyond 'different species'? Humans are a minority back home, though we do tend to be the ones in charge."