Michael

Fisk was less than pleased with me having kept an eye on Aaron, and there was nothing I could say to change that, so I wasn't going to try. He may have been able to turn a blind eye to the fact that there was someone else with magic, but I wasn't. Instead of arguing, I tried the same tactic he had used to distract me from Aaron.

"Mayhap we could pay a visit to Harold's mother today. Or ask about the new victim. If there's been another 'tis unlikely that this will die down soon enough for us to be allowed leave."

For a moment I thought he might say yes, but after visibly struggling with the idea he shook his head. "It's too soon. The sheriff only came to see us ten minutes ago. Given them time to stop worrying about what we're up to first, or it might look suspicious."

Since I had an alibi for, thank the gods for that, I didn't see what the trouble was. Of the three deaths, I could only be help suspect for one, no matter what this supposed witness had said. And having as much experience I did with sheriffs by this time I thought myself a fair judge of the situation, but Fisk was better at thinking of crimes and motivations, and in truth I would have a hard time investigating the murders without him. If he said to wait than I had little choice but to do so until he was ready.

So I turned my attention back to Aaron.

Not to spy on him, as Fisk warned me when I headed for the kitchen, but to thank him. He was setting the breakfast he had prepared onto plates when I came in and, because he looked like he was in a hurry to get the meals out and start his next task, I offered to help before talking to him. He nodded gratefully and we had breakfast put out for the couple that was coming downstairs and a meal set aside for Fisk and myself before he was ready to hear me out, and he made me wait to speak while he led me to a room behind the kitchen that might have once been a large pantry, but was now a sparsely decorated bedroom with no more furnishing that were absolutely necessary. Once I was done wondering why an employee was provided such a room at the inn where he worked, I remembered to speak.

"I wanted to thank you for speaking up on my… ah… for testifying for me," I said. Aaron smiled at me and nodded, letting the slip of my tongue slide, so I carried on. "I'd have been in trouble if you hadn't helped."

Aaron nodded and made several gestures, more slowly than he had when Belmont was there to translate. I hadn't made the same effort as Fisk to learn his signals, and after several attempts at telling me something he threw his hands up in defeat and left, returning a minute later with Fisk in tow.

When he repeated the gestures again, Fisk told me, "He says he's thankful for your help with the inn. You know more about serving than he would have expected of a nobleman."

"'Tis nothing," I assured him. "Knight errantry has given me a wide variety of skills."

He laughed, or I think he did, for while he still made no sound, his shoulders bobbed with laughed. I was pleased with the simple conversation until he calmed himself, at which point he pointed to the two of us, made a gesture I didn't know, than drew his finger across his throat, a symbol for slashing ones throat open so commonplace that I didn't need to be told what it stood for.

I went stiff, wondering for a moment if we had been threatened, but before I could ask what we had done to offend him, Fisk asked, "You want something done about the murderers?"

Aaron held up a finger.

"You want us to wait… no… The first murder?"

Aaron nodded, and made several other gestures, one of which he had to explain to Fisk through even more gestures. Conversing must have given the boy a fair workout.

"He was a friend of yours?"

Aaron nodded.

"We were told he had no friends at the time he died," I thought aloud.

Aaron nodded again.

"So you two were friends some time ago, but something came between the two of you," Fisk concluded.

This time Aaron lifted his hands to elaborate, but gave up before he started and nodded again. It must have required too many gestures Fisk didn't know.

Despite suspecting he couldn't tell us without pen and paper, I couldn't help but ask, "What did you two fight over."

Aaron pointed to his throat, then to Fisk while making a face that clearly meant to say 'stupid.' Fisk seemed to get that it was a joke and laughed, and it would have been unfair if it weren't a joke, for I was beginning to see that the gestures were their own language. No one I'd ever heard of could learn a language in less than a week. Much less one that you used your hands to speak in, and your eyes to listen to.

The glow around his skin was still there, pricking at the back of my neck with the unease that magic always did, but I couldn't help but grin at Aaon. He seemed nice enough.

"Then what is it you want done about Harold?" I asked him, though I had my suspicions.

He made the knife gesture again, and a pleading motion, among others. And Fisk, instead of translating, groaned.

"What is it," I asked, now nearly confident as to what it was.

"We can't," Fisk insisted. "The sheiff is still wary of us, and Michael—"

"Does he want us to find Harold's killer?"

Aaron nodded, eyes glowing brighter than his magic in response to the enthusiasm in my own voice. I already wanted whoever had strangled that poor boy brought to justice. Now we had a plea that would push Fisk more towards stopping the murderer as well.

Mayhap 'twas because Aaron had let himself become a part of our quest to find the murderer that Fisk asked his next question.

"Aaron, what do you know about magic?"

Light fled Aaron's widening eyes, replaced with fear and unease. For some time, much too long a time, he said nothing, and made no movements. Then he turned his hands up and shrugged.

He was lying. You didn't need to see he was full of magic to tell as much.

"You don't know anything," Fisk pushed.

Aaron bit his lip and shook his head. It seemed to me that if Fisk could control both his voice and his mannerisms when telling a lie than a person who had no voice and communicated entirely through the motions of their body ought to realize when their actions gave them away, but mayhap a decent boy like him had so little practice with lying that this information had never been of use to him. All the more to say for his character.

"I see then." Fisk's smile was casual and apologetic, and his posture comfortably plain. Had I not told him that Aaron had magic, I might have thought he believed the lie. "Thank you anyway."

-x-

STA: Sorry for the delay in getting the rewrite up. (Ugh. I haven't even made it to the part where I'm writing chapters from scratch and I already slowed down.) I signed up for some summer classes and things got hectic towards the end. I'm finally on break now, so things should pick back up.