Gulda’s house, now Thiwada’s, looked like every other one in the street. The walls were white washed, the roofs were wooden shingles weathered silver, and every one had a small porch letting onto the street which, given the overhang from the balcony above, was probably more about not getting wet as soon as you opened the front door than about sitting and talking to people.
At the moment though, Thiwada’s porch was all about talking to people because she was standing there talking to a tall man dressed in Calenyen fashion of kiparrie and trousers with three brown braids in a shade often seen in those of mixed blood falling down his back. “I don’t care what you think,” the man was saying firmly. “I am the reeve and I am investigating a crime. If this were an enclave and this thing had occurred, then a constable would be here asking these questions. You might not like it, but that’s the way it is.”
“You’ve got no reason to be questioning me.” The flat voiced speaker was a hard-faced woman with faded short blonde hair wearing a pale grey dress, its central fastening line obscured by her arms folded firmly across her chest.
“You’ve previously expressed an interest in acquiring a certain property, and you put in a reduced bid for it almost before it was common knowledge that it had been rendered uninhabitable by fire in last night’s storm.” The reeve waited for a response.
“We were close enough to see it burn,” the woman snapped back. “The fire was hardly a secret.”
“Close enough to see it burn and your menfolk didn’t turn out to help?” The faint note of incredulity in his voice was perfect.
“My husband wasn’t feeling well and our son is too young to go out to something like that on his own.” The woman’s pale skin flushed and Baranyi wondered if she was embarrassed,
“Then perhaps I should step inside and check on your husband, Domaso isn’t it?” The reeve put his hand on the gate.
The woman put up a hand as if to ward him off, ‘Oh, you don’t need to do that, he’s fine now.” She glanced over at Baranyi, Tizanna and the girls. “What are you lot looking at?” To Baranyi’s mind Thiwada gave her the dismissive look-over she’d come to expect from the other woman.
“We’re waiting to speak to you,” replied Tizanna. “Barelvyanyi here and I were wondering why your cousin Gulda’s granddaughters were camping in the alley behind her house when the storm started last night. I understood that you were supposed to be looking after them.”
Thiwada glanced dismissively at the girls, and said, “They’re nothing to do with me. Cousin Gulda never married so she never had children. Those two can’t be her granddaughters, not matter what they’ve been told before. I found the Bitraini one a place as a trainee housemaid and the other one was going to the orphanage, but they both ran off.” She shrugged. “Not my problem.”
Baranyi put a hand on each girl’s shoulder and glared at the woman.
Thiwada took in the glare , Tizanna’s ‘umph’ sound, and the reeve’s raised eyebrow, and responded with, “What?”
Tizanna said mildly, “If that’s the way you think babies happen, then I’ve got news for you.”
“You were happy to take on your cousin’s property but not her responsibilities?” Baranyi continued glaring, “Besides, I’m sure there are child labour laws…”
“There are indeed child labour laws,” agreed the reeve, “but my first interest in this instance, after the fire I’m investigating of course, is that two children disappeared from your household, Thiwada, and you didn’t report it.”
This is now followed by Legacy 15.