On Wednesday, Annata prepared.
Clothing was casually purchased in Goldshire, a few herbs in Westfall. She used the extra time to make sure various poisons were ready as well, not that she thought she’d need them, but you could never be too careful.
She read and reread the notes she’d taken:
“Twenty years old, human male, short red hair, average height, solid build. Tanner Circle, sunset”
When it came near to sunset, she put together the first disguise and went to see about buying bread in Tanner Circle.
The woman who left her apartment was easily in her late 60’s, hair mostly grey, tied back in a kerchief. She was plump in the middle and wearing well mended clothing, laugh lines crinkling around her eyes and mouth. She carried a basket in one arm, with another on her back, as she walked the streets.
Arriving at Tanner Circle just before six, she found the bread merchant busily sorting through loaves. It was probably an hour before sunset, and the square bustled with people going to and from homes and jobs, purchasing food for that night’s dinner. The pub on the far corner was picking up a fair crowd as well.
She winked at the baker. “Hullo dear, what’s best for an old Nana today?”
He didn’t notice. “The sourdough, though I still have a few baguettes.”
“I’ll take two sourdough loaves then, of course, and one of those baguettes. Figure if there’s a few left, I might as well enjoy the treat!” Handing over a few coins, she wrapped up the two loaves and tucked them in the basket on her back, before tearing off a chunk of the baguette. It was slightly stale.
It took a bit of time to locate Trias’ little cheese cart and a fruit cart as well, and she allowed herself to get sucked in by the herb seller, ending up with a large handful of fresh sage and thyme. Using the knives hidden under her ample belly would have made eating the cheese a lot easier, but that was, of course, too obvious. Instead she opted for breaking off a hunk, finding a few old crates to sit on, and settling in to watch.
Her target showed up just as the clock struck six-thirty, coming in from the eastern side of the square. He had two others with him, both with the odd, strung out look so common to those addicted to lotus, but the red haired man seemed well aware of his surroundings.
All three of them went to the bar, but her target left shortly after, leaving Annata sitting in the deepening dark.
She left the tiny lantern in her basket, thankful for the gas lamps lining the street, and watched him as he continued straight up Dryden as far as she could see without moving. A similar looking man passed through the open plaza a few moments later, heading towards Landen, but she couldn’t be sure it was the right one or not.
The two friends finally left the little pub around eight and walked down Bulwarks Street towards the canals.
The little old woman on the crates lit her lantern and walked home.
On subsequent days, Annata took advantage of her preparation.
On Thursday a college student in the magical arts was seen in Tanner Circle, idly practicing something that didn’t look to be going well, his robes ill fitting and magic-blasted. On Friday, a pregnant woman stopped by the flower cart just after six o’clock. On Saturday it rained, and so she sat in the bar and talked with the barkeeper. On Sunday, an old soldier with a pronounced limp went there to buy herbs.
Each disguise kept her mind busy as she created characters in her head.
The student was book smart but had no common sense and drank too many shots at the bar, or so it seemed. The pregnant woman’s feet turned out and she leaned backward in a sort of uneasy walk that suggested she really didn’t need to be walking all the way to the square, but damn if she didn’t want flowers. The old soldier really needed painkillers, and didn’t anyone have any help for an old woman with a rotted out hip?
She started to piece together the story of the man she was following.
The student tripped and fell in front of a group of men at the bar, who laughed at him wildly for drinking too much. Her target saw the fall and left the bar. The pregnant woman was advised not to take the bruiseweed flowers, for fear they might start her labor early. The target was nearby, but said nothing. The old soldier’s plea for a stronger painkiller was obviously overheard, but earned her only a sidelong glance from a woman in the crowd – the target wasn’t anywhere nearby that she had seen.
Each day she saw a little more of the red haired man.
The barkeep referred to him as Augie or Oggy or Oogie or something of that nature. He wasn’t ever alone, though sometimes he followed behind one or two others and sometimes he had company actually with him. He never left via the south end of the Circle, always heading North or West, usually down Dryden or Bulwarks, and often he made two or three passes through.
And so, by Monday, she was ready to tail him properly.
Of course, it rained. Thick, heavy drops threatened to run down the back of her boots, soaking the hood of her cloak and deadening the sounds of the usually vibrant square. It was already dark when the clock rang six and her target came into view, this time tailing a thin looking man with glasses and a tweedy jacket.
Don’t you look ever the accountant…
She stepped into the shadows to watch them cross the square, the usual six o’clock crowd thinned out by the perpetually dismal dripping. Out of nowhere, two teenagers came bolting through the streets, shouting. The first cleared the square without incident, but his friend – or enemy, it wasn’t clear – careened directly into the little money-peddling lotus dealer that Augie was trailing, sending both of them sprawling into the street.
In a matter of seconds the teenager found himself on his back in the rain, staring up into the face of a man who looked, for all extents and purposes, murderous. Augie knelt down next to him, and, but for the arm planted squarely in the young man’s chest, appeared to be trying to help. He waited until the seedy man was safely into the bar.
The young man struggled. “Let me up!”
“You gotta problem?”
“What? Let me go!”
“Not until you tell me what’s your problem. Don’t make me ask again.” He pushed harder, his hand inching up towards the man’s throat.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. It was an accident! I swear! I slipped and… and…”
Annata stepped in. “Are you alright? Do I need to call a medic?”
Instantly Augie stepped back. “I think he’ll be alright. He just needs to… be. more. careful.” The last three words dripped venom. With a snort, he turned and walked toward the pub.
The young man scrambled to his feet with her assistance. “Are you going to be alright?”
“Yeah I’m fine. What the hell?”
“Don’t worry about it, he’s an asshole. Just be careful where you’re running. Old Town ain’t as safe as she used to be.”
“You sound like my mum. Thanks lady.” After giving her a withering look, he trotted back the way he came.
She caught a glimpse of Augie leaving the square, headed up Sorefoot.
Now, let’s see where you really go all these evenings…
She tailed him up Sorefoot, past Thane’s boots and the Silver Shield, and into the Canal district. Then across the bridge, and around the Dwarven district, back to Old Town. He looped around that way several times, and slowly edging his way towards the harbor, finally sidling into another little pub – a wooden dolphin sign proclaiming it as The Flipper – and Annata paused, ducking behind some crates that smelled of rancid shellfish.
The rain doubled its efforts, thunder crackling overhead.
Time to wait.
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