With magic capable of breaking everything, it is the unassailable rules that prevent our society from collapse.
— The Silver King, The Mandatory Auditing Act
Linsan hurried down the road, weaving through the press of people. Her eyes scanned the front of buildings until she came up to the marble entrance to the River Bank Trust, the Ralonix location. She stopped at the bottom of the stairs to catch her breath.
She wasn't sure what the bank could do or tell her, but it had been a while since she sent a note to her parents and Brook maybe inside since it was her father's network.
She straightened and steeled herself to go inside and look for her friend.
“Lin!” Brook called from behind her.
Surprised, she turned to see Brook at a café with a wrought iron fence around the steps. She sat with a slight arch to her back and looking poised.
Panting, Linsan crossed the street.
Brook had three cups in front of her. Two were still filled but the third had the milky brown that she favored in her drink. She smiled and gestured to the seat across from a blue purse that matched her dress.
Linsan chuckled. “Your drink sweet enough?”
“No,” Brook said with a wrinkle of her nose. “There is a shortage of sugar here and they would only give me two lumps for each cup.”
“So you ordered three and combined them?”
With a grin, Brook tilted her head. Then she looked over Linsan. “You look sweaty. Is something wrong? Did you find Miska?”
Linsan described her visit to the Piston mechanics. As she did, Brook's smile faced to be replaced with a hard look.
When Linsan finished, she stood up and worked her way out of the café's outdoor seating before leading Linsan to the bank. “Come on, I have questions.”
“Can they tell us anything?” Linsan felt a little lost as she trailed behind her friend.
“Normally no, but I have a small measure of authority with this network.” She straightened her back and then strode through the front door as if she owned the building.
Inside a guard stood up. “Welcome back, Lady Kabisal. I thought your business with us was concluded.”
“New information has presented itself. Could I speak to Lord Smal again?” Brook spoke with a haughty tone that Linsan remembered from earlier years, it was proud and confident and demeaning at the same time.
“I'm sorry. Lord Smal is currently at lunch. He will be back—”
“This is important.”
The guard looked annoyed.
“Very important,” Brook said.
His look didn't improve. They stared at each other with hard looks.
Linsan wanted to sneak out but she couldn't take Brook next to her and the guard watching. Instead, she looked up at the vaulted ceiling and the carved pillars. The bank was far more impressive than the one at home, but it looked impractical and the acoustics were poor with so many hard, flat surfaces.
Finally the man relented and gestured to leather-bound chairs next to a door. “Please wait over there, Lady Kabisal. I will see if he is amenable to interruption.”
“Thank you,” snapped Brook.
As the guard headed to a nearby counter with an employee standing behind it, Brook lead Linsan to the chair. She sat down with a straight back and stared forward.
Linsan look at her friend.
The little muscles on Brook's face were tight but they quivered. She could see Brook's eyes glistening as if she was fighting back tears.
Gingerly, Linsan rested her hand on Brook's. “What's wrong?” she whispered.
Brook worked her mouth for a moment and then leaned over. “This morning, I tried to make a withdrawal using my… my daddy's code book but it didn't work.”
“I-I don't understand. What is that?”
“It's a pad of authorization codes, you use the top one and destroy it once you use it. It lets you make large withdrawal or transfers safely. When… when he was gone, I took his book from his office before leaving.”
“You're stealing from—”
Brook's eyes widened and she planted her gloved hand over Linsan's mouth. “Shush!”
Leaning forward, she continued. “I'm not stealing, it is legally my money and my inheritance. I get one sixth of what he left, my mother got half and my sisters split the rest. I've been keeping track of the amounts to make sure everything lines up when we get back home.”
Linsan said nothing underneath her friend's trembling hands.
“But the code didn't work today. It also didn't work in the last bank either. I thought I had it memorized wrong, but I didn't. That meant that they either burned the book or someone else has a copy. I did a withdrawal with my own account, but there are fees that daddy didn't have to pay that I do.”
Linsan pushed Brook's hand down. “You're afraid that they stole more than his car?”
A tear formed on the corner of Brook's eye. “Y-Yes. I need to know. With your serial numbers, I can—”
Movement caught Linsan's attention. A slender man was striding up to them, followed by the guard and a portly gentleman with a thick patch of gray hair. She nodded and pulled back.
Brook wiped the tear from her eye and stood up. “I'm sorry to interrupt you, Lord Smal. I pray this will only take a few minutes.”
Smal, the slender man, stood in front of her. “Explain,” he said curtly.
“I got confirmation that the men I'm looking for used this bank for large transfers.”
Smal sighed. “As I told you, Lady Kabisal, privacy rules will not allow—”
“No, but I have serial numbers of the scrip that was issued and I'm allowed to request the authorization codes used for the transfer.”
The slender man closed his mouth. He had a short cropped beard that twitched as the muscles in his neck flexed.
Brook snapped her finger toward Linsan.
Startled, Linsan pulled out her notes and handed over the numbers. “It's the numbers on the bottom—”
“I know how to read our own numbers,” he said sharply.
Linsan bristled but said nothing.
Smal handed Linsan's note over to the portly man. “Please hurry up, my lunch is getting cold and I want this disruption.”
As the other man left and the guard returned to his post, Lord Smal gestured to the door. “Please, sit in my office.”
Brook lead the way and they filed into the room. Inside was much larger than Linsan expected for a windowless room. It was easily twice the size of her bedroom with a desk made of dark wood and thick carpet. Three cushioned chairs were arranged in front of the desk.
Lord Smal circled around and then sat down in his chair. He leaned back and stared at Brook.
Brook properly sat down, moving with a poise that looked nothing like the woman who sat behind the wheel of speeding car. She was elegant and refined, more like Linsan's mother.
Neither said anything as they waited.
Linsan struggled not to fidgit.
When the door swung up, she jumped.
The aide handed Lord Smal a thick stack of papers.
He nodded to his aide. “Shut the door behind you but remain close.”
A moment later, they were alone again.
Lord Smal sighed as he paged through the paperwork. His eyes scanned through the intricately decorated pages filled with numbers and phrases that Linsan couldn't decipher as they flipped past.
Brook sat there, her eyes shimmering again and her muscles tight.
Linsan reached out and took her hand.
Her friend gave her a sad smile and wiped the tears.
After a few minutes, he shook his head. Taking one page, he set it down on the table. Spinning it around, he pushed it toward Brook while keeping his fingers on the paper. “All of the transfers were authorized by this number.”
Brook looked over. Then a sob tore out of her throat as the tears flowed. She flipped her hand to squeeze Linsan's hand tightly.
Tears of her own blurred Linsan's version.
For the first time, Lord Smal looked surprised. “Is there something wrong?”
Brook opened her mouth but only a strangled noise came out.
Linsan spoke up. “I think that is Dukan Kabisal's authorization code.”
Brook nodded sharply as another sob ripped out her throat. The tears were rolling down her cheeks as she gasped for breath.
“I failed to see the connection.”
Linsan cleared her throat. “He was murdered by the men who made the withdrawal.”
Lord Smal's eyes widened but he said nothing for a long moment. Then, he grunted before he spoke. “Pardon me?”
“Dukan was killed by three men who robbed the Cobbler's End branch of this bank network.” Linsan was surprised how calm she was as she spoke. “They used magical fire when they stole something priceless, a family heirloom, from the bank vaults. They also had stolen his vehicle and apparently his code book also.”
His eyes flickered back and forth for a moment. “Those are serious claims. Do you have any proof?”
Brook fumbled for her purse but her fingers slipped. She was still sobbing as she tried again.
Linsan eased it off her shoulder and opened it up. Among the makeup, a surprisingly large stack of cukdin bills wrapped in strips of paper, she spotted familiar paperwork from the investigator. It had been another lifetime for Linsan since she saw it. Pulling it out, she unfolded it until she could get the notes.
Lord Smal took it gently from her hand and began to read.
Brook's sobs died down as he paged through the papers. Finally, he got to the end with a long, dramatic sigh. Leaning over, he ran a bell that stood on the corner of his desk before pulling out the last page of the notes.
His aide entered.
The lord handed over the page. “Verify this, rush order on the bank's account.”
“Yes, my lord.”
The door closed with a click.
The lord looked at Brook sharply. His expression was stormy as he stared at her.
“I presume the code you tried to use was from his book?”
Brook hesitated and then nodded.
“That is clearly in violation of our network's regulations.”
Linsan felt a sick feeling in her stomach.
“You realize you have put me into a situation where I must respond to that in addition to dealing with this.” He tapped the investigation papers on the desk.
Brook's hand tightened on Linsan. “Y-Yes, my lord.”
The aide knocked.
“Enter,” commanded Lord Smal.
“The code is valid, my lord. Duly authorized.”
“Very well. Start an priority order.”
The aide looked surprise and then pulled out a notebook with multi-colored pages.
Brook inhaled sharply.
“Seal the accounts of Dukan Kabisal, Brook Kabisal, and the rest of their immediate family. No withdrawals, no transfers, no deposits. On my authority.”
Brook let out a choking noise.
A muscle in the aide's cheek jumped. “Yes, my lord.”
The aide flipped to the next page in his notebook.
“Burn the codes for Dukan Kabisal authorization code. Request apprehension if anyone tries to use it. On my authority.”
“Yes, my lord.”
The lord looked directly at Brook. His voice was barely contained fury, “Emergency order. Brook Kabisal of Cobbler's End has been banned—”
Brook let out another sob and closed her eyes tightly.
“—from Ralonix network and properties until an investigation has been completed. Details to follow. On my authority.”
“Yes, my lord.” The aide ground his teeth together as he finished scribbling the order.
Lord Smal stood up and crossed his arms behind his back. “You have one minute to leave my bank. Otherwise, I will have you arrested.”