"Colin worships the ground Aurellia walks on." Lawrence gave a bitter laugh. "It's like he is blind when she's in the room. The only time Amanda could talk to him was when her mother was otherwise occupied. She couldn't wait to get out of there. She told me that's why she enlisted with People. The apprentices qualify for room and board in the Casino."
"Was her mother upset because Amanda did this?" I asked.
"Aurellia doesn't get upset. She is like a pretty robot," Lawrence said. "Never screams. Never loses her temper. I don't think she cared one way or another."
"Have you ever interacted with the parents personally?" Curran asked.
"Yes. We went to a dinner once. Colin seemed normal. Aurellia didn't speak, except when she ordered her food. I got a feeling she does only what is required of her, and talking to me or Amanda wasn't required."
"What about the necklace?" I asked.
Lawrence took several shallow rapid breaths.
"It was a gift," he finally said. "It arrived to the house one Christmas, addressed to Colin. He took it out of the box - it was in a glass case - and tried to open it, and then Aurellia took it out of his hands. They put the necklace into a glass box and hung it on the wall in their foyer really high up. Amanda was about fifteen at the time. She loved it. She said she used to stand there and look at it, because it was so beautiful. She was never allowed to touch it. They had a break-in six months ago. The burglars took some jewelry, money, and somehow got the necklace down and made off with it. She was really upset about it."
Lawrence looked at his hands. "I saw it at a pawnshop a week ago. I bought it for her. I... I killed her. She was so nice, so beautiful. She would sing little songs sometimes to herself when she was thinking about something or when she made coffee. And I killed her. She put it on and she just... she just died. I was right there and I couldn't do anything..."
We stayed with him for another ten minutes, but Lawrence was done.
Ghastek waited for us in the hallway.
"Please tell me he's on suicide watch," Curran said.
"Of course," the Master of the Dead said. "He is under the care of a therapist, he's given access to the priest, and he is watched even when he sleeps. However, if he truly wants to kill himself, there is nothing any of us can do. It is unfortunate. He is nearing the end of his five-year journeymanship. We've invested a lot of money and time into his education."
Of course. How silly of me to forget: People didn't employees, they had human assets, each of which with a price tag attached.
"I've examined your drawing of the writing on the necklace," Ghastek said. "You said it appears to be a runic script of some sort but the characters are unfamiliar to me. How accurate is this drawing?"
"As accurate as humanly possible," I told him.
He raised his eyebrows. "Are you familiar with term 'human error?'"
Are you familiar with the term knuckle sandwich? "The person who copied the runes from the necklace is an expert at what they do. Just because you don't recognize the script doesn't mean it's not runic in origin. The Elder Futhark alphabet had undergone many modifications over the years."
Ghastek took out copy of the Julie's drawing. "I've studied this subject extensively and I've never seen a rune like this." Ghastek pointed to a symbol that looked like a X with a double left diagonal arm.
Well, of course. He didn't know it, therefore it couldn't possibly be a rune. "Both Fehu and Ansuz runes have double arms. Why couldn't this rune have one? If you tossed it into a collection of runes and told a layman to pick out one that doesn't belong, he wouldn't grab that one."
Ghastek gave me a condescending look. "The term layman refers to a non-expert by its definition. Of course a non-expert wouldn't be able to single out this rune, Kate. We could throw stars and spirals into the mix and he would be unlikely to pick those out either."
You conceited ass.
Curran cleared his throat.
I realized I had taken a step toward Ghastek. No killing, no punching, no destruction of property. Right.
"We're taking this matter to an expert," Curran said.
"I think it's prudent, considering the circumstances."
Oh well, so good of him to give us his permission.
"Where is the expert?" Ghastek asked.
"At the Norse Heritage," I told him.
Ghastek wrinkled his face into a semblance of a disgusted sneer, as if he'd just stuck his head into a bag of rotten potatoes.
"You're going to see the neo-Vikings?"
"They're ignorant loud buffoons. All they do is sit in their mead hall, get drunk, and punch each other when their masculinity is threatened."
"You don't have to come," I told him.
Ghastek let out a long-suffering sigh. "Very well. I'll get my vampire."
I was riding a horse called The Dude. The Dude, who also apparently answered to Fred if he was feeling charitable, was what the Pack stables had called a "Tennessee Walker Blue Roan." The blue roan part was somewhat true - the horse under me was dark grey, with the colors nearing black toward the head and the ankles. The Tennessee Walker part... Well, some Tennessee Walker was probably in there, but most of it was definitely a coldblood horse. A massive coldblood horse, close to twenty five hundred pounds. I was betting on a Percheron. Sitting atop The Dude was like riding a small elephant.