Cian had tried not to look at the layabouts as he turned onto the wide, open lawn of the Banker's
quarters. There were fewer here; the Banker was very apt when it came to keeping his grounds attractive and free of the questionable
economic nature symbolized by the poor and homeless.
The door was opened for him before he could even touch the handle, and a stout little woman in
a brightly printed dress welcomed him inside. Pleased to be out of the rain, Cian removed his coat and shook it gently before
laying it over the outstretched arm of the frumpy door-woman. She bowed slightly and disappeared with it, leaving Cian to
navigate the familiar path to the office alone. He made quick of it, having seen all the elaborate decorations and paintings
on display in the hallway many times already- many of them similar to things in his own home.
Francis Harlon's head snapped up as Cian entered the main office, and a smile nearly wider than
his already wide face spread in welcome.
"Master Norse, how nice to see you."
Cian seated himself in a great stuffed chair in the corner of the room- a good ten feet from Harlon's
desk, where two smaller chairs sat. He let his expression indicate his bitter mood, and watched with enthusiasm as the Banker's
smile faded in surprise and concern.
"I am in great need of a favor from you, Frank."
In a split-second, Francis Harlon was on his feet, ready to move to whatever file or safe Cian
commanded. Master Norse, as he labeled him, was his number one customer; no one else in Palmer Ellis had a financial
elevation that could touch Cian's with a kite, and all knew so.
"What would you like, sir?" Harlon inquired, letting his genuine desire to fulfil Cian's needs
melt through his mask of professionalism.
"You surely heard of the events last night at the Crossing." He explained no further, knowing
it had been the news of the morning- passed around like wildfire. Harlon had surely heard it from one of his other customers.
"Yessir!" he responded, adding, "Marie Lissel told me. She said the store was turned over like
a tornado had gone through it. How much was taken?"
Cian had been sure to inquire about this with Frally. Being a widow to one of the greatest right-hand
men Cian had ever had, he trusted her to be straight with him about all things, and she had told him that nothing had been
stolen. Everything was still in the store, but thrown about and out of place. Neat piles of grain and soil bags had been knocked
over, but none had been ripped open or pierced, as Cian had expected.
Frank, deciding his question was being ignored, thought to press for information some other way.
"Marie said she heard it was one of the workers."
Cian wrung his hands in his lap, noticing a loose thread at the inseam of his smooth pants. At
last, he decided what was to be done.
"I heard a rumor myself..." he began, fixing his eyes solid on Frank's. "I heard that the Ander
Frip family hasn't made a payment on their farm in over three months."
The Banker opened his mouth to answer, thinking the subject had been changed, then snapped it
closed in realization of the connection. "Tyler Frip? But why would he overturn the Crossing?"
"As a business man, that is not my concern," Cian replied, standing abruptly. As he expected,
Frank rounded the desk in a heartbeat, jerking open a decorative crate of files. After frantically sorting and mumbling names
and figures to himself as Cian stood on, watching, he pulled out a thin file and held it up to the light.
"Master Norse... the Frips are just a tiny little account. They hardly have anything to speak
for or live on. It is no surprise that their son would turn into a delinquent."
"Once again," Cian repeated impatiently, "Not my concern."
Less than five minutes later, his impatience had been sated. He found that when he reached the
end of the hallway, the door-woman was waiting there for him with his coat held up. He merely had to slip his arms into it.
"Master Norse, would you like to stay and relax until the rain lets up?" she asked with a polite
smile, knowing already he would refuse.
"No, ma'am," he responded just as politely, without a smile, "I have had a long day already. I
think I will go home and have some tea."
With her help, the door opened and relinquished him into the rain, which was coming down much
harder than before. He pulled his coat tight around himself, tucking his knuckles against one another and feeling his sharp
stubble scratch his neck as he ducked. While he was having his tea, perhaps he would remember to shave as well. It was a wonder
Harlon had even recognized him. Then again, his scent was always of money and a Banker could never miss that.
Harlon had been reluctant, but not for long. He had agreed that sometimes the best business message
is a harsh one, and that the Frips should be held accountable for the damages their son had caused on the previous night.
Harlon promised it would be very harsh indeed, and Cian had thanked him genuinely for his favor.
He hoped that the Frips would learn a valuable lesson in sticking to their payment schedule, and
that they would learn said lesson this very day, when the merciless rain would increase their schooling.
Cian smiled for the first time that day- washed over with the pleasant satisfaction of business
taken care of and a work day ended.