Chapter Twenty-Two: Ashe
King of the Castle
He wasn’t used to being a follower. Especially behind such a little hothead as this Tibo Glent. Rock stars really were the worst.
He’d seen Tibo go places inside himself the goblin didn’t want to go, just to further their strange little quest. The man had pushed deep inside himself at some personal cost to find the box with the notes hidden in Dr. Bach’s den, and what he’d done to those guards outside.
Ashe had seen what it had done to him. He wasn’t sure he trusted Tibo entirely yet, but maybe it was time to at least give him the benefit of the doubt.
The castle was beautiful and old on the outside, but had been partially renovated for modern use inside. It was after office hours, so the place appeared deserted, but they proceeded down the hall with caution, just in case.
Ashe was surprised their entry through the kitchen window hadn’t triggered some kind of alarm. Then again, it had been left open, so maybe they hadn’t armed the system yet.
He wondered if his mother had been involved in this kind of intrigue and skullduggery in her job with the U.S. government. He didn’t have much of a taste for it, but he’d decided that he had to keep going until he found the answers he was looking for. His father’s death demanded it.
They came out of the hall into a wide open space. Tibo hissed softly, urging them back into the shadows.
It was a large conference room. The floors were covered with industrial carpet, and there was a low stage off to the left. Stacks of chairs lined the walls. There was a second hallway on the far side into another wing of the castle.
“Looks bloody well deserted,” Rolly whispered.
“So did the Bach place,” Tibo muttered. “Look how that turned out.”
“We either stay here all night, or we go,” Ashe hissed.
Grudgingly they all nodded, one by one.
Tibo led the way again, keeping his back to the wall, trying to stay in the shadows as much as possible. The room was dimly lit, most of the lights turned off at night. They had to detour around some bulky speakers in the corners, but soon enough they reached the far hallway.
A series of doors opened off of the central hall.
“Looks like offices,” Rolly said.
“Good a place as any to start,” Tibo said.
“Any idea what we’re looking for?” Jaxx asked.
“No fucking clue,” Tibo said with a snort. “I’m betting we’ll know it when we see it.”
“Best half-assed plan I’ve heard all day,” Rolly said. “I’m in.”
“Maybe we should go a couple at a time?” Ashe asked.
Tibo nodded. “It’s clear for now. Let’s go.” He set off across the hall, followed by Rolly.
“You know we’re in way over our heads, right?” Jaxx whispered.
“Yeah, and likely to get them chopped off, if anything goes wrong.”
Jaxx gave him a peck on the cheek and led him off acrossthe room.
“Their security is for shite,” Rolly said when they all were back together in the other hallway, which led off into a warren of office suites.
“You said it,” Ashe said. “Lucky for us.”
“Not seeing anyone yet doesn't mean a fistful of fucks.” Tibo mumbled, looking around as if he expected a cloud of harpies to descend on them at any moment.
The feathers were standing up on the back of Ashe’s neck too, but everything seemed quiet around them. He rubbed them back down.
“We should each take a room. It’ll go faster that way,” Jaxx said, turning the knob to the first office. The door opened silently.
“Makes sense,” Rolly said.
Tibo nodded. “Faster is good.” The poor little guy looked positively twitchy. “Meet back here, and then four more.”
Ashe opened the door to another office. It was relentlessly neat. Memos were pinned to a bulletin board in perfect order, with identical spaces between them. The desk held only a computer and keyboard and a single glass vase with a couple flowers. Somebody was a neat freak.
Ashe glanced at the bulletin board. It looked like standard work stuff—company memos were company memos, whatever language they were in.
A few motivational posters graced the walls, including one with a cute little pooka struggling to hold on to a tree branch for dear life, with the caption “Augen zu und durch!” He’d seen the same poster in guidance counselor’s offices as a kid with the caption “Hang in There!”
Ah, so this was the HR guy’s office.
A quick search of the desk turned up nothing interesting there either.
He re-entered the hallway to find Rolly already there. “Nothing in mine.”
“Mine either,” the banshee said. “These seem to be the low level admin folks.”
Jaxx and Rolly came up empty handed too.
“Okay, new plan,” Tibo said. “The high head mucky muck always has the biggest office, right? Let’s find that.”
“Bet it’s the one at the end of the hallway, behind those posh double doors.” Rolly pointed.
They were twice the size of the others, made of a rich dark red wood with ornate curved iron handles. Ashe nodded. “Good call.”
They strode down the hall to the big doors, and Rolly pulled them open.
Tibo found the light switch, and whistled. “Holy shit.”
The place looked like it belonged to a king. The floors were covered in more of the rich wood the door was made of, and scattered with expensive looking rugs. A huge built-in bookshelf took up the left wall, and a huge stone fireplace was on the right. There were gold accents everywhere—wall sconces, table lamps, and the corners of the biggest desk Ashe had ever seen.
“Big enough to play street hockey on,” Tibo whispered. And if the desk was gigantic, the chair behind it was a throne.
“Someone thinks they’re important,” Ashe observed.
Rolly chuckled. “Come on. Let’s get cracking.”
“Craicing?” Ashe said with a grin.
“Don’t push it, little phoenix man.” Rolly glared at him.
“His name’s Adel Strauss,” Jaxx said, holding up a business card from a holder on the desktop.
Ashe looked over the bookshelf. The books there were all leather-bound, and appeared to have been chosen for their appearance rather than their content—many were in German, but among the English titles were “Nancy Drew and the Gorgon Girls” and “Mister Troll’s Wild Ride”. He snickered. “Anything in the desk?”
“Just a couple summaries from R&D, I think?” Tibo handed one up to Rolly.
“Give me a sec…”
They gathered around him, but the text was all in German.
Rolly’s brow furrowed as he translated it, and then he chuckled. “This guy must be a real bureaucratic dimwit,” he said, handing the paper back to Tibo. “The R&D boys are explaining things to him like he’s a fecking five year old.”
“Typical fucking bureaucrat.”
Tibo pulled up something from the bottom drawer. “Jackpot”.
It was a set of blueprints marked Eich und Baum - Renovierung.
Rolly spread them out on the desktop. “Here we go. The buildings out back are R&D. I fecking knew it.” He sounded pleased.
“What’s this big space?” Jaxx asked, pointing to another building behind the castle.
Rolly squinted. “Dragon hangars.”
“We’ve got to get into the R&D building,” Ashe said. “We’re wasting our time here. I’ll bet that’s where the real gold is.”
Tibo nodded. “Let’s get out of this place. Gives me the shivers.” He put the blueprints back in the drawer.
“Back through the kitchen window?” Ashe asked. “Less chance of setting off an alarm.”
“Safest bet,” Rolly said.
They made it back to the kitchen unseen. Ashe felt that weird sensation again, like they were being watched, but he couldn’t pin it down. The place was deader than a goat in a dragon’s den.
Tibo once again led them along the castle wall. They dashed from bush to bush, aided by the fact that the moon hadn’t risen yet.
The R&D buildings looked like they had been thrown up in a week or two—solid cement slab construction, painted a bright white which seemed to shine even in the darkness. The contrast with the beautiful architecture of the old castle was stunning—whoever ran this place seemed to have absolutely no sense of history.
They reached the spot along the castle wall where the two buildings were closest.
“How are we gonna get in?” Tibo asked.
Rolly squinted. “I can’t see fuckall in the dark.”
“Guys… I think there’s an open door,” Jaxx said, staring across the distance.
“Seriously?” Their luck was running far too good. It made Ashe nervous. Still, they had to take advantage of it while it lasted. “What do you guys think?”
Tibo nodded. “Let’s go.”