Hakapa and Tizanna arrived separately shortly after breakfast. Fortunately for Baranyi’s self-esteem she had the kitchen cleaned up before they arrived because she was certain that the older woman could tell the state of her housekeeping by merely stepping over the threshold.
In contrast to Tizanna’s quiet absorption of information, Hakapa was all news. “I had two visitors before breakfast this morning,” he told Buldaveho cheerfully. “The first one was that Thiwada woman. On my doorstep barely after dawn to make me a reduced offer on the house because of fire damage – just to spare me the hassle of fixing the place up again.”
“Kind of her,” commented Buldaveho drily.
“Oh, yes. At half the price she offered me before,” agreed Hakapa. “Positively neighbourly of her. Then, after she left the reeve came by and wanted to talk about whether you’re in the habit of keeping flammable liquids in the house.”
“Wait, what?” Buldaveho looked confused.
“Something related to pine tar, apparently,” Hakapa hand waved away the details. “Burns a treat apparently. He did let drop too that the fire seemed to have started in two different places. When he asked me if there was anything he should know about, I may have mentioned my earlier visitor….”
Tizanna’s eyes narrowed as she considered things for a moment. “And now might be the time to go around there to find out why the girls weren’t safely inside when the storm broke last night. The thing is, we can’t really make other arrangements for them unless we can prove Thiwada isn’t looking after them.”
“Could the house be taken back off her?” Baranyi knew that the rules about these things were different to back home but she wasn’t entirely sure what and where the differences were.
“No.” Tizanna sounded dissatisfied and added, “Besides, for all that she’s Gulda’s closest living adult relative, she will still have had to get her husband to own it for her.
“Then she wants to buy the other house for him to own too?” Baranyi couldn’t quite make that piece fit.
“She told me she wants it for her younger half-brother from her mother’s second marriage,” offered Hakapa.
“And because she and Gulda were related through Thiwada’s father, that means this brother is no relation to Gulda at all, which is why he didn’t inherit the house,” added Tizanna.
“I can understand wanting to put your family back together, but arson? Particularly if you’re trying to do it on the quiet because the authorities were the ones who separated you.” Baranyi spread her hands expressively and added, “That’s neither smart nor sensible.”
“People aren’t always either,” Buldaveho said, “and one doesn’t necessarily include the other. Besides,” he put a consoling hand on Baranyi’s shoulder, “you don’t have to make sense of it – that’s the reeve’s job and assumes that there is sense to be had, and not random stupidity.” He saw the way Baranyi was looking at his hand and asked, “What?”
With a quiet voice she said in carefully pronounced Bitraini, “Please don’t do that unless you mean it.”
Buldaveho jerked his hand away with a shame faced expression, “I’m sorry, I forget that shoulders count as intimate space. My apologies.” He added, perhaps unnecessarily, to the other two, “There really have to have been a couple of private conversations and agreements between us, that we haven’t had, before I can do that.”
“Or we can let people think that I had my way with you while you were too tired and upset to resist,” came back Baranyi with a suddenly straighter posture.
Tizanna asked in mock shock, “You mean you didn’t? Do I have to give you one of Aunty Tizanna’s facts of life talks?”
Baranyi riposted, “You mean about the proper treatment of guests?”
“No, on how to encourage a shy suitor,” said Tizanna bluntly.
Buldaveho and Baranyi both turned pink.
“Now, Tizanna,” interrupted Hakapa, “just because everyone else can see how well they fit together doesn’t mean that they’re ready to take the leap. If they want to lay their foundations carefully, you leave them alone to do it.”
“Hakapa,” said Buldaveho evenly, “perhaps you and I should go around to my place and see what can be salvaged of my things.”
“Bring them back here,” offered Baranyi. “It’s not like I have any other use for my second spare room. Meanwhile Tizanna and I can take the girls around to their old house and find out why they weren’t inside last night.”
“If we’re lucky, the reeve will still be there,” said Tizanna with a nod. “I’d like to see that conversation.”
This is now followed by Legacy 14.