The caravan forms…
Chapter Seven – Road Wary
Tycho studied the other men and they returned his regard. “He has seal and transport, his own beasts, and a beast-mage. Is he known to ought here?” the lead guard asked the other caravan members.
“Aye, by sight and reputation. He’s good, and he can fight.” Jens Hemprat, the ealdorman, nodded to Tycho. “He’s good for the road.”
“You’re in, then,” the senior guard said. He strode out of the group, going instead to confirm details and weapons with the other hired men.
Jens clapped his hands together once. “So. It has been agreed that we follow Vlaatport law while we are on the road. All know and understand?”
The merchants all signaled their understanding. Having one basic code made life easier, and everyone knew already what was legal and what wasn’t. Vlaatport was not too different from Rhonari in matters of travel law, so Tycho recalled. The ealdorman spoke for the group if needed, and the group acted together if threatened by bandits or others. Any differences were settled within the group while on the road, and of course local market rules applied at the market cities. Each man was responsible for his hired men and beasts.
“We have sixty wagons, ninety three men, a hundred great-haulers more or less.” That generated some knowing laughter and a few sighs. “We rotate. Draw for positions tonight, then rotate down the lines, travel in double line.” Jens looked at the men. “Who here can fight with staff?” All the hands went up. “And sword?” Two-thirds of the hands stayed up. “Knife?” A few hands rose, most lowered. “Anything else?”
“Flip sling. I hunt with it.” Someone in the back, a man from Corwin Tycho guessed.
“Good to know. We will have weapons practice at night when we are outside of walls.” Tycho grumbled a little at the news but had to agree. Skills unused were useless.
“We leave day after tomorrow, when the gates open. If you and your men and beasts are not here,” Jan pointed down, “you can find a different group.”
The lead great hauler tossed her head again, as if her head-harness fit too tightly. Tycho had checked it four times at least. He sent an unkind thought toward the beast and waited as the ealdorman dickered with the ferryman, just around the bend in the road. They’d stopped here, in the woods, so the birds didn’t see the water and all rush to get a drink. The weather was warm early down south, sending the rivers up before the usual time and raising transport rates. Tycho breathed a sigh of relief that the heat had not begun this far north. He had to get that camphor-moss to Gheelford before the heat started to ruin it. The female shook again, then clawed the rutted, dirt road. Her two followers tossed their heads as well, and Tycho realized that almost all the birds rustled in the harnesses, clawing the ground or scraping their beaks. A few had started swaying and nodding their heads, crest feathers starting to rise. What did they sense?
He let go of the rope long enough to get his staff out of the wagon. His slot for the day put him on the outside of the caravan, not far from where the riverside trees began. Their large leaves cast deep shade that cooled the air but also hid anything that might be sneaking through the woods. And it was open woods, not much undergrowth beyond the edges of the road.
“I don’t like this,” one of the lead guards snapped, but very quietly, and untied the peace straps on his sword before getting his shield down from the side of another wagon. Several of his men followed suit, and Tycho remembered what had happened to Andrade, and where. He’d started wearing a thick, quilted jerkin under his overrobe, just in—
“Grab them!” A half dozen men surged out of the shadows, heading for the wagon behind Tycho’s. Tycho held the great-hauler steady as she mantled, trying to flee. Each to their own and the guards would respond first, that was the rule. Keep the beasts steady in case the attackers tried to stampede them.
“Easy, girl, easy,” he soothed. He eased his weight onto his toes in case he needed to leap out of her kicking range.
“Go!” Another half dozen men swarmed toward him. Tycho dropped the rope, trusting the presence of the other birds to keep his from bolting too far. He shifted his grip on the heavy staff and lunged forward, swinging for the head of the closest brigand. Iron-bound wood met skull with a firm thunk and the rat-like body dropped. A second thief swung his own staff at Tycho and iron rings met wood. Tycho grunted from the shock and kept moving. Iron won, the lighter staff broke, and Tycho changed grips, smashing the fool’s knees, then bringing the staff around and breaking his head. He heard screams and ran as best he could to the back of the wagon, where two men tried to force the bed open. One turned to Tycho and pointed his finger, chanting something. Tycho pushed through whatever it was and smashed the mage’s ribs, interrupting the casting and knocking him off his feet. He heard a bowstring sing not far from his head, and heard different screams behind and beside him. The second thief dropped, an arrow in his back.
Then nothing but bird cries and a few moans. And his own heart, and blood, and panting. He smelled shit and blood, and crushed leaves, and angry bird stench. The thief mage slumped against the wagon’s back wheel groaned and Tycho thumped him on the head just enough to stun. “Anyone hurt?” the caravan healer called.
“I’m fine, one injured thief here. He’s a charm-mage of some kind.”
“Need a medico back here,” the wagon handler who had been hit first said. “Slash wound and a thief down.” After a pause a second voice added, “Need a beast-healer too.”
Tycho panted, took a long breath, then panted some more. His hands stung and his right shoulder complained about the shock. He leaned on the staff as he walked slowly up to the great-haulers. The lead bird sniffed at him and tossed her head again, trying to keep him from catching her rope. “I know that trick,” Tycho reminded her and grabbed it on the way back down. He rested the butt of the staff on the ground, the head against his shoulder and reached up, scratching just below the ring of blue feathers on her neck. She seemed to shiver, then relaxed and started calming down. Tycho studied the body at her feet. “I think this one’s dead.”
“I hope so,” the senior guard snapped. He prodded the rag-clad body with his boot toe, then crouched down and felt for heartbeats. “If not dead, close to it. He won’t wake again, I can see that.” Brain showed through the bone and blood on the man’s head. “Good work.” The soldier pulled his kidney-knife out of its sheath and sent the man on his final journey.
Tycho nodded, mouth dry. He did not like killing men. The gods had provided animals for men to eat and benefit from, and you killed what you needed as fast and clean as possible. Killing men was different, unless they’d been declared out-law. He wanted to throw up, but this wasn’t the time. He swallowed hard and went back to settling the great-haulers.
“Good response,” the senior guard told everyone that night, after they’d crossed the river and put more distance between themselves and the attack. “One of ours injured, four of them dead, and Lord Smitts will be taking care of the charm-mage.” He nodded to Tycho, who sat on a bench in the caravan-inn courtyard. “How he missed you I don’t know. He launched a stop-move charm and missed.”
“I felt something slowing my arm,” Tycho lied. “It grazed me. I tripped a little, and that must have saved me. That and Maarsrodi’s blessing.” He had not felt anything. With so much saltwater in his blood, charms had little effect, or so he’d been told.
Several of the other men looked thoughtful, and others made god signs. Tycho would leave something in the next temple of Maarsdam that he visited, of course. “However it happened, or didn’t happen, we didn’t lose anyone or his goods. Might not be so fortunate next time.” Jens Hemprat said, folding his arms and looking at them from the other side of the fire. The ealdorman spat into the flames. “We go wary now, and if you have swords, carry them close.” Several of the men made faces, and Tycho agreed. It would be better if they could wear them like nobles, but that had led to more trouble than it was worth on occasion. Keeping them close enough to grab but out of sight abided by the letter of the law, and the priests and the few letters from the Great Northern Emperor’s courts about the problem all said that men had the right to defend themselves and their property. “And practice every night, staff at the least if you do not have a sword.”
Happily for Tycho, that was the only excitement of that sort until they were within a few days of Gheelford. Two of the great haulers took ill from green fruit and had to be treated by the beast-mage. The results smelled worse than an overfull latrine on a windless summer day, but the beasts were back to work in another day. Two wagons broke, one of them losing the front axel and of course it was the lead wagon and on a bridge at the time. Tycho helped unload the cargo, carrying it to the far side of the bridge, then managed his own wagons. He earned his supper beer that day, and the next morning he remembered why he did not do things like that. His back ached and almost refused to move, his hams hurt, his shoulders complained mightily, and he wondered if perhaps not bringing Ewoud had been in error. Then he rolled over and wondered if he could get to his feet without help.
That Tycho managed, but the rest of the day he moved slower than usual. The sun on his dark blue and dirt-brown over-tunic eased a little of the soreness, but not much, and he wished that the chest of camphor-moss were already camphor rub. Well, then it would weigh more and be a fire risk. And he’d make less money from the sale. He sighed and stretched carefully, one eye on the closest great-haulers to make certain they did not nip at him while he was bent over. The birds could be right bastards when they so chose.
They bought bread from the hamlet where they overnighted. Too small for an inn, it did have a pen for the great-haulers and water for them, and a bakery that served two other collections of houses and barns. “Your pardon, sirs, but the grain is a little heavy this year,” the apprentice said as he showed them the available loaves, all coarse dark full-bran farmers’ bread. “The miller swears he ground what he was given, and the grain tested good by the seals on the sacks.” He cut the end off a smaller loaf and they could see that it had a tighter texture and was a little more crumby than the area’s usual dark bread. “It tastes the same,” he assured them.
They shrugged and bought a few loaves of the bread, using it to spare their way-bread and other supplies. Once they crossed into the lands drained by the Moahne, bread became expensive and grain far more scarce. The dark loaf tasted a little more sour than Tycho preferred, but heavy bread required heavy leavening. He chewed and let his thoughts drift to the next market, in Gheelford, and to what he hoped to sell there. The camphor-moss was spoken for, but he’d sell a few of the teeth and perhaps some of the knife handles, but not the white-fish hide. Unless someone offered him an extremely good price for it, all of it. “Think they could make this any thicker?”
The senior teamster held the slice of bread up against the light of the fire. “Could they make this any thicker?” No light appeared around the oval slice.
“Maybe if they tried making flatbread out of it.”
One of the other merchants, a quiet man from Vlaaterbe whose name he could never recall, snorted. “Neh. Then we’d be using it for wagon boxes and wagon sides, or rolling it into a log and using it for an axel.”
“You know,” someone said from the shadows off to Tycho’s left, “They make wheel-shaped bread in the far-northeastern mountains and hang it from ropes. They bake once a year, and it lasts until the next fall. Could be the same recipe.”
Tycho continued to chew as he considered the possibility. Since this was the same bite he’d started with, he decided that the recipe probably was a first cousin if not identical.
They set out the next morning as the morning star touched the horizon, before there was enough light for shadows. The ealdorman wanted to reach Gheelford as soon as possible, and no one gainsaid him. The beast-mage moved a little slowly, and several people kidded him about having a third slice of bread. “Don’t go near the river or we might not be able to haul you back out.”
“Neh, it’s getting kicked by that blasted great-hauler what’s slowing him down.”
The scrawny mage gave both of the men a rude gesture in passing and continued to his place in the caravan. But by the second hour he’d started leaning over as if with cramps, and two of the teamsters helped him into one of the more lightly-loaded wagons. He didn’t vomit, or seem to have the flux, but he looked pale and shook as if with chills. One of the guards looked pale as well. “Don’t know, chief. Feels like a muscle cut, ‘cept there’s nothing there. Not cold, but shaky.” Two other men seemed to have the same ailment by that evening, but all were able to walk, unlike the mage. He didn’t recover until the next morning, and even then he seemed weaker.
“No spells,” he croaked. He drank a mug of tea. “Too weak. It feels like I’ve been working all day and night with hand and spells both, then carried a great-hauler up to the top of Donwah’s spire and back.”
Tycho was still stiff but otherwise fine, and aside from those four, no one else fell ill before they reached Gheelford. “Could it have been the bread?” Tycho asked one of the guards.
The man scratched his road-beard for a moment, then hawked and spat to the side. “Sorry. I don’t think so, Meester Tycho. All of us should have took sick, ‘specially Bony over there who gets any sickness hiding between here and the western sea.” He jerked his chin toward the guards’ healer, a man who resembled a skeleton with hair. Tycho had seen how much the healer ate, and wondered how he could stay so scrawny. Had he been given to the Scavenger despite his birth-god? Or was he just one who lived fast and died young, consumed by inner fire? “Bony had four pieces of that shit and didn’t blink.”
Tycho grunted acknowledgment. Probably an insect or something in the water, or a miasma from that wet area near where they camped. This close to the river miasmas could make a man sick if he wasn’t careful. Tycho had escaped the lowland flux so far, but he suspected his time would come. The summer sun brought something out of the soil and steamed it into the air along the river. He looked out across the long slope leading down to the distant river and wondered why miasmas were not so bad in the north. Less sun, he decided, wiping his forehead with his sleeve. The breeze had stopped and standing in the sun felt a touch overwarm. A long whistle signaled the end of the rest pause, and Tycho and the guard returned to their places, ready for the push into Gheelford.
The caravan entered the city walls the next morning along with the local farmers and traders, as soon as the gates opened. Tycho led his five wagons to the warehouse the confraternity of Maarsrodi kept here and checked in. The group would stay five days, so the city could take its staple-right. It also gave the great-haulers and their handlers time to rest. Tycho himself wanted to see about a few possible business ideas before continuing on. Once the wagons were safely inside the warehouse, he left his belongings in the trade house and went to the main market, where they others were gathering to get the latest news and see what trade rates were. As he walked down the streets, Tycho heard a growing commotion ahead of him. The tall white houses had blank faces, lacking the decorations common elsewhere, and he wondered why. Perhaps custom reserved the trim and colors for the courtyards instead of the street side. Or did the city goddess demand plain houses? He considered what little he knew about the goddess of the city and gave up the speculation. The houses were plain white with white shutters and that was that.
“You have a beast-mage?” A large woman demanded, so tall she almost looked down on Jan Hemprat. “Where is he? I need him to look at my cattle!” She clutched the lapels of Jan’s long vest. “Where is he?”
“I need him first. My great-haulers are ill.”
“My schaef need help with screw-worm and I’m out of dip.”
Jan raised his hands. “Please.” Two more people pressed close, demanding the beast-mage, and he called louder, “Please! In Yoorst’s name, he’s at the guildhall making his arrival known. Go to the guildhall and ask.” At least half a dozen people immediately elbowed their way through the market crowd and charged for the building. Tycho wondered if they would pull the poor man apart, each trying to drag him away to tend to their animals first. A few people looked to Tycho, saw the staff and dark clothes, and returned to their business. He joined the others listening to the market master.
“Platport coin’s no good here, so don’t bother if you brought it, new or old,” he snarled. The two large young men looming behind him nodded and glowered at the traders. Tycho felt his hackles rising in response, but kept a polite and neutral expression on his face. “No credit from Liambruu, and if you are acting for the court of Liambruu, you need to get yourself outside the gates before sundown. And no brocade. Council’s seen enough of that, so take it elsewhere. If you need spells or mage healing, go elsewhere. We’ve barely got enough mages to take care of ourselves.”
“Why’s Platport silver no good?” one of the guards asked.
“You got some?” The bully-boys with the market master both had clubs, and one thumped his against his hand.
“No, but is there a city fight we need to know about, or is it more of those damned bad coins that were appearing last year?”
The market master’s shoulders sagged a little, relaxing, and he sounded less angry. “Bad coins. No fight that I know of, unless you brought one with you.”
The ealdorman shook his head. “No fight, no trouble, we are just passing through to rest and cross the river as we go to Milunis.” He twisted around, squinting, then pointed. “Tycho Rhonarida, you know the most about the bad coins. Have you seen any this year?”
“Just the ones I found last year. Do these still stink?”
“Of course they stink, they’re counterfeit,” one of the bully-boys growled. He really wanted to thump someone, or so Tycho guessed. He didn’t care for that kind of “protector.”
Now the market master looked confused. “What do you mean stink?”
“The bad coins last year gave off a bad smell if you rubbed them, sir,” Tycho explained from the edge of the group. “They also looked false if you used moon-touched water and a glass to study them.” He didn’t mention the vinegar.
“Huh.” The stooped man blinked once or twice. “There are no changes to the laws or the market rules since last year, besides those. Any questions?”
Grumbling and murmurs rose and fell, then Jan replied, “No questions, sir.”
“Good. Tycho Rhonarida, come with me, please. I want you to look at these things.”
Jan mouthed “Go along” and Tycho gave him a nod of agreement. Pissing off the market master would help no one, but pleasing the market master could be very rewarding. He followed the two bully-boys and the older man. The market master favored his left leg, and he did not stand exactly straight, as if his back curved or his shoulders had been broken at some point. The shade of the arcade in front of the market office felt good. Tycho wanted a drink, but business came first.
“Here,” the man said as soon as they entered the office. “No mage-lights. Use the window.” He reached into a box built into the wall shelves and pulled out a rough cloth sack. He dropped it onto the top of a scarred table. It made a dull thump as it landed. Tycho rested his staff against the wall by the door and untied the strings around the neck of the sack. It held tarnished coins, and he picked one up and rubbed it. He caught a very faint whiff of stink, not as strong as last time. He took the coin closer to the window, where the light was better, and studied it. The head looked almost identical to that of Platport, except for the bright die-marks. The reverse seemed a slight bit off center. “Well?”
“It has the same stink but not as strong, sir. And the mint mark is wrong for a new coin, and too clear for an old one.” Tycho put it back in the bag. “What did your mint mage say?”
“Before he died, he said he thought they were false, but they didn’t show false to magic.”
“Blast it to all the gods’ hells and beyond. We, that is the other traders, were hoping the mint-mages could find something over the winter and trace it back to whoever was spreading the garbage.” Tycho wanted to find the person and strangle them, but he knew he would have to get in line.
The market master’s eyes looked half-open as he studied Tycho. He pointed a knobby finger at Tycho’s chest. “How do you know so much about the bad coins, hmm?” The bully-boy with the club stepped in front of the door. Tycho’s heart thudded and he went on alert.
“Because I was at the late trafeld at Hillnbend and was warned there, saw the first bad coins. Trafeldmeester told us to spread the word and gave me a few bad coins to use to show others. I passed the word to Guill.” Tycho kept calm. Showing fear or anger would only make the men even more suspicious. “And I collect odd coins, and old ones, the ones from the Great Cold.”
“Huh.” The market mater folded his arms, eyes stull half-closed. “I don’t trust you, Rhonarida. What you trade in?”
“Hides, plus I have some white-fish teeth and bone knife-handles from north of Grilkant, and a chest of camphor-moss for Master Brill at the sign of the half-fish that he ordered from Andrade Rhonarida.”
The bent man unfolded his arms. “For Andrade, eh. That passes the trade. Him I know, and he doesn’t trade with anyone crooked.”
“No, he didn’t.” Tycho had to be honest. “He and his two oldest sons were killed by thieves just north of Harnancourd late last autumn.”
“Shit. What happened?”
Tycho spread his hands. “He and his wagons were on the first ferry across, then the men behind decided to dicker. Andrade moved up, out of the way of the ferry and around a bend in the road. The next group found the bodies there, and located the wagons on the other side of the woods, all the great-haulers with their legs sliced.” That news had rankled, and he wondered who was so vile as to cripple innocent animals. Great-haulers could not tell a man anything.
“Bastards! Who does that to healthy beasts?” The market master shook his head. “Damn. That’s bad to hear. Who took the business?”
“Mistress Andrade was sworn in with all rights and duties until their surviving son reaches the age of maturity.”
All three locals hissed. “So be it. I’ll pass the word, and you say Platport’s changed their mint-marks?”
“Aye. Instead of the crescent moon they use a cross with equal arms and dots on the end of each arm. Started this year. And you heard about the mage illnesses from Platport?”
“Up there as well?”
“Aye, price of magic was double what it was last year when I arrived.”
The market master shivered. “Ugh. Thank you for the news, and for the word on the coin. I don’t think the council will change its mind on Platport coin, though.” he paused. “Any idea what’s causing the sickness?”
“Some say bad beer, some say miasmas although its early for that in Platport, some say the Scavenger’s angry.” He shrugged.
“Gods’ ways are their own. No one here knows either, or why its mostly mages and mage-kin. We’re sending word to the Great Northern Emperor for help.”
Tycho nodded. If anyone had the magic to stop this, it would be the Great Northern Emperor, if he even still existed.
“You can go.”
Tycho inclined in a sort of semi-bow. “Thank you. Maarsdam look well on your house and your proud city.”
“And on yours.”
Tycho did not relax until he passed around a corner and out of sight of the market office. Water flowed out of a tan stone public fountain and Tycho leaned on the gritty stones, intercepting the cold water from one of the spigots and drinking his fill. The metallic spring water made his teeth ache. He filled a waterskin and walked back to the warehouse to see about getting the camphor-moss to its destination.
When he returned from that errand, glad to be rid of the fragile stuff, he saw Jens and a heavyset man with big arms and the white cap of a baker arguing in front of the warehouse, an open sack of grain in front of them and a sealed bag beside it.
“If that’s what you northerners call grain, you deserve to be bankrupt,” the baker snarled.
“And I said that’s not northern grain!”
Tycho walked up to the pair and leaned on his staff. They stopped fighting and glowered at him. The baker pointed to the open sack. “If you know this man, stay away from his goods. They are rotten.”
Tycho looked at the sealed grain sack. The seal was red with grey edges, and the design looked as if he ought to know it. He crouched down and peered more closely. The insignia seemed vaguely familiar, as if he’d seen it before but wasn’t from Rhonari. “That looks…Huh.” He rubbed the seal’s edge then sniffed his fingers. “Ugh. Same as the bad coin, and the sacks from the wreck.”
“What?” Jens demanded.
“What wreck?” the baker blinked and seemed to go on alert, head thrust forward, eyes narrowing.
Tycho stood, leaning on his staff again. “My hand to Maarsdam. I was on the Leaping Fish last fall and Marshman’s Pride was wrecked just ahead of us in a storm. We rescued one sailor and some of the cargo, including grain sacks. The sacks had that same seal, and the seals stank like the false coins from Platport and other cities and Chin’mai.”
“What kind of grain?”
Tycho sighed. “Don’t know, because the saltwater bath ruined any protections on the sacks and the grain-merchants declared the grain to be ruined. It had little grey flecks in it and they smelled it and gave it back to Donwah and the Scavenger.” He tried to remember. There was something else, too about the seal, what had it been? “Oh, yes. The saltwater took the magic off the seals themselves.”
The baker stiffened, eyes flashing, face turning redder. He crouched down, twisting the seal on its strings. “Shit! Look.”
“Damn, you’re right. That’s—” Jens rubbed the edge of the seal and sniffed his fingers. “Fagh.” The baker did likewise and made a face. Jens straightened up and pointed to the sacks. “Was this bad salvage?”
“We need witnesses,” the baker announced. He waved to a passing apprentice. “You, boy, call the market master, and Master Rijks and Master Taanmere.”
Tycho followed Jens as his witness. The whole group lugged the offending sack, the sealed sack, and two more bags with identical seals on them into the market, to the white stone pillar of justice. The market master re-appeared, this time without his bully-boys. The baker waved to him. “Here! Someone’s been shipping bad grain under a false seal.”
The baker explained what had happened, and the market master and two witnesses examined the seal and the open sack.
“There’s something else in the grain,” Jens stated. “Here.” He stuck his hand in, pulled out some of the dark tan wheat, and sorted through the grains. “This grey isn’t wheat. Not rye, dinkel, nor anything else I know.” The others all dug out some to see for themselves.
Tycho peered at the grain in his palm. Wheat he recognized, but the grey stuff looked smaller, like skinny seeds instead of wheat. He sniffed, carefully. It wasn’t musty exactly, but it had a nasty little something that irritated the back of his throat, or that smelled like it should irritate his throat like smoke did.
A local man with the feathers on his skullcap of a weaver squinted at the grain. “No, that’s not grain, at least not here it isn’t. Those are seeds, like the ones for silk-stem. But no one eats silk-stem, and it doesn’t grow much farther north than the Moahne River. Leastwise no one I know of eats silk-stem,” he said, looking to the market master and then to the baker.
“Not something I’ve ever heard of using, Master Rijks” the baker agreed.
The other craft master brushed the grain mix off his hands and back into the sack. “Open this other one,” he pointed to one of the sealed bags with his toe. Tycho drew his knife, broke the seal then cut the pack-thread and opened the sack. “Whunf!” Everyone backed away from the stench. The grain looked as if it were alive, it had so many bugs in it.
“Fire,” Jens said. “We need to burn this here, on the stones.”
“Yes!” The baker hurried off as the others moved farther away. The casual onlookers backed up and two young men grabbed the leather water buckets from one of the hot-food stalls and stood ready in case any sparks got away. The baker came back with some wood and a few thin sticks and fluff. Master Rijks used flint and steel to light the fluff, then the sticks, and the market master set the bags alight. The crowd that had gathered to watch moved farther back as stinking grey smoke rose and the bugs popped and snapped in the flames.
“Do you have any more sacks with that seal?” the market master asked the baker.
“One, and I’ll send it to the Scavenger. I bought it late in the winter from a man who said it was ship salvage from up-river, just after that last big storm before the river closed for sailing.”
Tycho watched the flames devouring the false grain. Bad coins, bad seals, bad grain, what was going on? And none of it things that mages could see or that had magic still on it.
Watch, Maarsrodi’s priest had said. Watch, ask, and be ready. Tycho felt the hairs on his neck standing up. Be ready for what?
He did not like this. Not one bit. And he wasn’t the only one, if the faces of the men and women around him told true.
(C) Alma T.C. Boykin 2017. All Rights Reserved.