“Indeed. There is nothing worse than someone who does not pay on time. Well, a murderer is worse. As is an infernalist, and certain qualities of demon. But it’s certainly in the top ten bad things.”
“You… aren’t often called on to reassure people, are you?” — Ettorio Iluni & Blaissa
As the fight in Cutter’s Way resolves itself, Ettorio is entirely occupied with a wriggling young thief, who is no doubt understandably a little worried about the man who’d “threatened her,” grappled her and scooped her up and ran into the night. Once they reach a safe distance away, he sets her down to try explaining things to her properly.
“Look, I really do not mean to harm you. You were in terrible danger.”
She pulls a knife out of her boot. “How do I know I’m not in terrible danger right now?”
“Because if I wanted to kill you, it would have been much easier if I hadn’t picked you up, fallen off a building, ran with you, and then set you down to give you time to draw your knife.”
“All… right.” She rumples up her brow.
He smiles. “My name is… Vittorio.”
“Okay… Vittorio. My name is Isra.”
“Excellent! We are already lying to each other quite nicely.”
She nods. Her face is still quite suspicious, but she lowers her knife.
“You were a witness to something, and we would like your help.”
“We.” She glances around. “Did you arrive with the people you ran me away from, or do you have a gang of your own?”
“Oh, I run with a much higher quality of person than those ruffians. Even my manservant is more adroit.” He pauses. “Well, he wasn’t when I captured him, but he likely is now.”
“And you want me as some sort of witness, instead of just abducting another hireling?”
“Yes. Although I am not adverse to increasing my retinue. I am reliably informed that I pay well.”
She puckers her mouth into a frown that moves most of her mouth to one side of her face. “Is this a court witness thing? I have a… thing about courtrooms. They’re easier to enter than to leave.”
“Ah. There is… a reasonable chance of that happening, yes. But I can see if we can work around that.”
“So. Whatever this thing is that I witnessed… how did you find me?”
He waves a hand vaguely. “I asked around. I am very persuasive.”
Blaissa’s expression seems indicate that she’s running over names in her head, trying to figure out who the rat is. “All right. And this thing that I witnessed… what was it? And when?”
He moves swiftly on. “It is about a cutpurse who we believe poisoned someone recently, a woman named Tarvana.”
The somewhat strangled expression on her face indicates she is maybe better at cutting purses than con jobs. “All… right.”
Ettorio frowns. “Oh no! Your lying has become much worse.”
She sighs. “Uggggh. Look, that whole affair… the man with the coin and the ring and the drugs said it wasn’t a lethal business. The woman didn’t die, did she?”
“Do you really wish to know?”
“It might tell me whether I’m better off taking my chances trying to run again.”
He smiles. “Then she did not die.”
She watches his face carefully, then releases a breath, perhaps satisfied. “So. The people who came to kill me: are they hers?”
“I admit I did not inquire. However, I overheard their murderous intentions, and decided that speed was the better part of discretion. However, who was this man that spoke to you?”
“Good-looking fellow. Upper-class for certain. Didn’t have any of the major House colors. Long, straight hair. Goatee. Sharp-looking. Don’t know his name. Don’t run in those circles.”
“You mentioned a ring?”
“Was there anything unusual about it?”
“Hidden sticker, small well. Already full when he handed it over. Looked old. Maybe a family heirloom, I don’t know.”
“Do you still have it?”
Blaissa nods again.
“I would be willing to buy it off of you, as well as compensate you for your inconvenience of telling this story discreetly to some individuals.”
“I was supposed to return it to the man tomorrow.”
“You have a meeting with him?”
She nods. “At least, he said he’d send his bodyguard along for it. Solid-looking guy, two-hander sword.”
“I would be very interested in coming to that meeting.”
Blaissa grabs her arms. “That sounds dangerous.”
“No. Being murdered by a number of ruffians in the dark is dangerous. This will be quite easy by comparison.”
“That’s… a fair point.”
“Of course, in the meantime, it seems prudent that you might wish to remain someplace secure so that nothing happens to you between now and then, si?”
“I am willing to pay for a room for you. Whatever inn you care to name, so you do not suspect a horrible trap.”
She ponders. “If you don’t know who those people were, I don’t know where the safest place is. If they’re the woman’s family, that makes the Smoke Blocks unsafe; if they’re the genteel’s men, that makes Empire Hill unsafe.” Purses her lips. “And the Tumbles and Farhaunts are generally unsafe. Somewhere in the Colonnade then. Maybe.”
Ettorio sighs. “In the interest of gaining your trust, I will confess that the woman’s family has no ill will against you. Rather, it is one of them that wants to speak to you and learn of the person that so maliciously used you to perform this deed.”
“So I was likely double-crossed.” The thief seems perturbed but unsurprised. “Some people will do anything to get out of paying the other half on delivery.”
“Indeed. There is nothing worse than someone who does not pay on time.” He pauses to consider. “Well, a murderer is worse. As is an infernalist, and certain qualities of demon. But it’s certainly in the top ten bad things.”
“You… aren’t often called on to reassure people, are you?”
“I admit it is not one of my usual talents. But I am very good at keeping people safe.”
“Seems I might as well keep trusting you, then.” Blaissa puts the knife away, and returns Ettorio’s coin purse.
“Excellent. I…” He stares at the purse.
She looks up and away at a nearby window. “I… didn’t have much to do while you were dragging me around.”
Ettorio eyes her, and gingerly takes the purse. He starts to open it, stops, and closes it again. “You are… very good. In the interest of trust, I will trust that everything is here.”
“That’s good of you.”
“Very well.” He puts the purse away. “I will take you to meet my…” At this point, he realizes that they never agreed on a place to meet up, and changes conversational direction." …manservant, who can get you cleaned up while we await our next step."