His smile was broad and confidant, the smile of a man who knew what he wanted and how he was going to get it. But she knew him and knew that whatever it was that he wanted he wasn't going to get it.
"You can wipe that smile off your face right now, Will Grimm. Whatever you want, the answer is "no."" The smile didn't waver for an instant.
"Katia! I was only going to ask you for some ale. As the owner of this establishment I thought it would be in your best interest to sell me that."
Katia laughed and poured the ale into a tankard and gave it to Will and he took a sip.
"Now, that we have that settled. May I ask what a beautiful woman like you is doing later on tonight?"
"I am going to be closing up, removing the last of the more persistent customers out and then going to join my husband for the night."
"You can't blame a man for trying."
"Yes, Will, you can be very trying."
They both laughed and she moved on to serve the next customer. It was nice to have a handsome man like Will flirt with her, it made her feel young again and she watched as he began to speak to the girl she had employed last week. She knew that he had a reputation as a bit of a conman. But he usually picked on people who were passing through, and never on those who couldn't afford it, so people turned a blind eye to what he did. But, she thought one day he was going to meet his match and that would wipe the smile from his face.
He had just arrived in the town and he needed to find somewhere to stable his horse and then something to eat. He had been travelling most of the day and, as he hadn't had any breakfast, his stomach had been growling most of that time. He just hoped that he had enough money to pay for everything; he had had money when he left the last town, but he had needed to buy more paper and then his horse had thrown a shoe. He had saved a few coins by skipping the odd meal or two (or three or four) and by sharing his horses lodging rather than pay for his own, but as he checked his money purse it felt distinctly light. He guided his horse through the streets of the town, passing through the more affluent areas, he was certain he didn't have enough money to stop anywhere there, until he come to a more "basic" area of the town. He spotted some stables and enquired about stabling his horse. He could just afford it and led his horse to the stall where he unsaddled him and made sure he was brushed, fed and watered.
"I'll see you later, Pepper," he said to the horse, "I hope you don't mind a little company tonight." He left his few belongings in the stall with the horse and, with only he bag across his chest, he left the stables in search of a tavern. He was cold, tired and a little achy, he needed some warmth, and food and maybe he could even find someone willing to share a story with him. He walked around the area until he came to a tavern that although it seemed a little run down, the paint on the door and windows was starting to peel, it seemed to be well maintained and there was a steady stream of people coming and going. He entered and walked to the bar.
"Good day," said the woman behind the bar. She was the older matronly type and he could image her surrounded by children.
"What can I get you, Sir?"
"Whatever this will get me," replied the man, placing a few coins on the bar.
The woman looked at the coins on the bar, there weren't very many, and that up at the man. She was quiet for a moment, as if considering him.
"Shall we start with a mug of ale? You go and sit and I'll bring it over to you. There's a seat by the fire that is warm and cheery."
He hadn't realised how tired he was until he sat down and his aching muscles relaxed. The woman arrived shortly with the mug of ale, which she placed on the table and went away again. He took a sip of the beer. He didn't usually drink, he had no head for it, but today it seemed to give him the warmth he needed. He put the tankard down and took out his book, pen and ink. He opened the book and leafed through the last few entries, rereading them.
"I thought you might like this?" he looked up to see that the woman had come back and had a bowl in her hand.
"I'm not sure I can afford the food."
"Don't worry. I own this place and I don't think that a bowl of broth will send me out of business, besides I wouldn't like your mother finding out I didn't help you when I could."
"My mother died some years ago."
"In that case I have to help you. No motherless boy can pass through this place without being helped, whether he likes it or not!" that brought a smile to the man's face, "Do you have no other family?"
"None to speak of," came his reply.
His reply intrigued her and she sat down beside him, "My name is Katia. Welcome to the Arnsburg. What brings you here?"
They talked until he eaten all the broth. He was pale and, judging by the way his clothes were hanging on him, thin as well and she wanted to make sure that he had at least one meal today. He was dark, with intelligent brown eyes hidden behind his glasses and a thin covering of scruffy beard on his face. She discovered that his name was Jacob and he was travelling around Germany collecting local tales and folklore. So she told him a tale that her Grandmother had told her about the elves who would help people who were in need, which he eagerly made notes about in his book as she spoke. She went back to her jobs around the tavern, but kept an eye on her guest, sending him over the odd thing or two during the day with the excuse that it was going spare or was from yesterday and going to be thrown away and it seemed a pity to waste such good food. They were both willing participates in the charade and by the end of the afternoon Jacob was full and had been lulled into sleep by the warmth of the fire.
"Max," she spoke as soon as she saw him enter, "can you do me a favour and have a look at the chap by the fire."
Max looked and saw the young man asleep by the fire. He smiled, it seemed that Katia had got herself someone new to mother. But he still crossed and took a look at the man. He appeared to be sleeping deeply and he didn't stir as Max gently laid his hand on his forehead and then lifted his wrist to take his pulse. He approached the bar and ordered his drink.
"On the house," was Katia's response, "Well, what do you think?"
"He's pale and thin and could definitely do with a good meal or two inside him, but he has no sign of illness." He watched a Katia gave a satisfied sigh.
The tavern grew busy with the regular evening trade and she lost track of her sleeping guest.
"Good evening, fair hostess"
"Good evening Herr Grimm. And what can I get you?" Will had arrived and despite herself Katia couldn't keep a smile from her face.
"A pint of your finest ale, if you would be so kind." Will came and found himself a seat at the bar next to Max.
"Certainly," and a tankard was duly placed before him.
"Katia has a new case," said Max as Will took a sip of his beer.
"Katia! When are you going to stop this? You know that most of them are just conning you, don't you?"
"But Will. He barely had enough on him to keep body and soul together. Max, you saw him, wasn't he in need of some help?"
"Well, I have to admit that he could definitely have done with a good meal or two, this one." Max took a sip of his beer and returned his tankard to the bar.
"Okay then, what is the story of your new case and lets have a look at him." Will turned to survey the rest of the tavern.
Katia looked where Jacob had been sleeping only to see a vacant seat.
"He's gone! Look, I need you two to do me a favour? I want you to find out where he has gone. I'm worried about him. "
"Okay," replied Will, "what's his story?"
"His name is Jacob," Will felt his blood run cold. But there must be hundreds of Jacobs in Germany. It didn't mean that it was HIS Jacob, "He said he was travelling Germany collecting folktales for his university."
It could still be a coincidence, Will told himself. The last time he had heard of Jacob he was safely ensconced at the university with no need to leave it. He was still there and was not the man the Katia was talking about, in need of help.
"So, what does he look like?" Will asked, trying to hide the fact that he was at all interested in the man that Katia was talking about.
"Tall, dark, with glasses and a beard."
Will felt the colour draining from his face. The description matched Jacob from the last time he had seen him, from a distance as he walked towards his office at the university. He had been passing through and had taken the opportunity to check on his brother without him knowing he was there. But he couldn't be here in Arnsburg. Jacob would never leave the security of the university.
"So I want you to find out where he is sleeping." Katia's words broke into his thoughts and he hoped that no one had seen the look that must have crossed his face.
"All right," replied Max, "we'll look for him in the morning, won't we Will."
"Yes, of course," replied Will. What would he do if it did turn out to be his brother? He really had no idea how he would react to Jacob's reappearance. He had grown used to his life without him and there were too many things from their past that he didn't want to revisit. But still he couldn't get away from a small flicker of concern. Katia had picked out the man as one special cases and even Max had said that he needed a few good meals, so if it was his Jacob then he clearly wasn't in the best of health and could he really turn his back on his only brother? The years since they had officially seen each other had given him some distance on what had happened and, although he hadn't admitted it at the time, when he had seen Jacob at the university he had felt a twinge of pride at what his brother had become. The gossip in the town had said that his brother was regarded as one of the best minds in his field, if a little eccentric.
"What have I done to deserve this?" Jake wondered. Of course he knew what he had done to deserve this, but he felt he needed to express himself somehow. He still couldn't believe that Will as here, after all the years that they had been apart he had to run into him again when there was no way out for him. He had woken in his chair by the fire to find himself warm and with the comfortable feeling of being rested and full. He had glanced around the tavern to find it now filling up and he sat for a few minutes taking in the atmosphere and the noise of the other customers. He then realised that he was probably sat in a prime seat in the tavern and seeing that he must have eaten his way through more than twice the money he had, he felt that he should leave and let someone who could afford to be there have the seat. But he couldn't go without thanking Katia for her hospitality and help and he glanced around looking for her. He saw her in conversation with a man at the bar and he gathered his things together, but just as he was about to stand a tall blond man had entered.
Jake just stared at him. There was something so familiar about the face of this man, but he couldn't quite place it. Did he remind him of Will? He had been looking for Will since he started his travels, part of him wanting to run into him and part of him dreading it. After all the last time he had seen his brother he had been told in no uncertain terms that he never want to see him again. But now there was this man, who reminded him of Will and he didn't know what to do. He didn't have the money to leave; his only hope was that the man was just passing through. But the man had approached the bar and passed comments with other customers, he was obviously a regular and the he had heard "Good evening, Herr Grimm …" and he knew his fate was sealed. He had panicked, stuffed his book back into his bag and left the tavern. By the time he had got back to the stables he was out of breath and shaking. It WAS Will. What was he going to do? Suddenly he felt his stomach lurch and he braced himself against the wall as his stomach purged itself, then stumbled into the stables and the safety of Pepper's stall.
"What I am going to do?" he asked Pepper after he had told him what had happened, but the horse just looked at him, "Your not much help." He needed time to think so he decided to sleep on it. He went to the back of Pepper's stall and curled up in the straw there, pulling his jacket around him to try to keep warm and eventually he fell asleep.