a princess in u-town (part eight)

This story started here.

“The motive?” the princess asked vaguely, as if she’d been thinking of this entire situation as some sort of natural disaster.

“We can start this way: Is there any reason to think that Mr. Glover’s animus was personal? Did you have any interactions with him which could have resulted in enmity?”


“Rancor. Malignant ill will. Odier.”

She nodded. “No, definitely not. We… I never… I didn’t know him before this trip. He was assigned to come with us. We… Ana and I tried to draw him out — just out of curiosity — but he wouldn’t talk.” She gave a wry smile. “We made it sort of a game, to try to get him to react, to say something personal.”

My employer nodded. “Two girls playing — I understand. And I understand why he didn’t react. He was being professional, though not a professional bodyguard, as it turned out, but a professional killer.”

The princess drew deeply on her cigarette and exhaled a cloud of smoke.

“This sounds like a cliche, I know,” she said slowly, her eyes moving around the room, “but have you ever felt like you were waiting for someone to appear out of nowhere and kill you? At any moment? It’s… a very particular sensation.”

My employer shook her head. “I have never been in exactly your situation. I’ve had people try to kill me, but I’ve always known who my adversary was. And of course during the revolution in your country, during the days of the shelling in particular… But perhaps we shouldn’t talk about those days.”

The princess gave a slow and expressive shrug. “That was a long time ago. I was a child back then, really. I don’t…” She gave a half smile. “My father follows your career, you know. ‘My old adversary,’ he calls you at times. He respects you. It’s the United States that he hates — they… encouraged him to do terrible things–“

“And then abandoned him to his fate when the situation became difficult. That has occurred to me. Offering him a safe haven in Europe was no compensation for losing a kingdom, I would imagine.”

“And even that. They set it up, but most of the money comes from some corporations who are trying to figure out a way to clear out the rebels and reestablish a more business-friendly… That’s their term, of course.”

“They want to get their hands on the oil again.”

“Of course. And they think that, at the right time… well, their idea is that returning the king to the throne would make the whole thing seem more legitimate.”

“But the revolution was years ago — why haven’t they implemented this plan? Based on what I’ve read of your father’s health, and I was very sorry to read it, of course, it would seem to be too late now.”

“Thank you. I was not privy to the conversations — negotiations might be a more appropriate term — since I was underage and not next in line for the throne, but…”

“A man, a proud man, a real king, might not want to take on the role of an imitation king, as a performance, as an actor with no real power.”

“Exactly. He has never said this to me, but I believe that is how he feels about it.”

“Now, you said you were not next in line for the throne, I have been wondering about that. So, the line of succession is to the first born male — in this case your brother?”

The princess nodded. “That has always been the rule…”

My employer leaned forward. “But now it’s changed?”

The princess made a face. “As I said, my father was not willing to… be used — as we were just discussing. However, my brother has made it clear that he would be very willing, if enough money were involved. He has made this so clear that my father has become angry and has threatened to change the line of succession so that the crown would simply go to the eldest child. Which would be me, of course.”

“Ah. So you think it’s possible that Mr. Glover was hired to kill you by your brother, so that the crown would be sure to go to your brother no matter what?”

The princess sighed and nodded. “That would seem logical.”

“It does seem logical. Well, that’s probably as far as we can get on that question while we’re sitting here in this room. Before we go on to the next point, though, let me just ask two questions which I’ve been wondering about.

“Yesterday, you said you had come to U-town earlier than planned, because of ‘interest’ in your visit. What did you mean by that?”

“Almost as soon as we arrived, businessmen started appearing, offering to take me out to dinner, to the theater, to dancing clubs, and so on.” She grimaced. “Some of them were apparently chosen because they were young and attractive.”

My employer shook her head. “Just in case you should end up being queen someday.”

“Exactly. One even went so far as to hint that they thought I’d be easier to deal with than my brother.” She drew herself up. “You do not get on my good side by insulting my family.”

“I understand.”

“You said you had two questions.”

My employer smiled. “How did your luggage get here?”

The princess laughed, looking surprised. “My luggage?”

“You and Ana arrived yesterday with no bags, but your room — the room where you slept — contains several suitcases of your belongings and hers. How did they get here?”

“Why does that matter?”

“Well, look at it this way. Ana came here yesterday — the day before yesterday, actually — to make arrangements. Then she returned the next day with you and Mr. Glover. It is possible, of course, that you were followed, but otherwise, who knows where you are now, where you’re staying here in U-town? Well, whoever brought your luggage would know. So, that’s relevant to how much danger you might be in right now.”

The princess looked abstracted, and then she shrugged. “Ana made some arrangement — paid a couple of men. I don’t know the details.”

My employer leaned back in her chair, but I could tell she was far from relaxed. I felt a tingle, even as tired as I was. She was building up to something. I knew the signs.

“Three more things,” she said. “The first one is really incidental, but it has to come next. Why did you and Ana pretend to be lovers?”

The princess froze for a moment. “How did you know?”

More to come…

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