September 5, 2015 by Lyn
Regine’s staff was lying to her. Some of them were very good at it – Michael VanderLinden, for one – but even he had a tell, a tiny little hand gesture that, when she had noted it in the past, had been connected to statements that had turned out to be lies.
Reid Solomon wasn’t a very good liar, but he was very good at not revealing secrets. It had, after all, been part of why she’d recruited him for this project in the first place.
Ambrus was good at both with the rest of the world, and at neither with her, a function of the Keeper-Kept relationship and decades of acclimatization. He was, she supposed, probably infatuated with another student; this happened on occasion, with the people that she sent him to. She considered it natural, and had never let it concern her before.
He was, however, acting more erratic than was his norm and, while he had stayed out the night before – it helped with the illusions he spun – he had never been this late in coming home before. It was nearly noon, and she’d neither heard from nor seen him.
It wasn’t her habit to track him on camera while he was hunting. While no-one but Michael would ever convince her to admit it, and that only in private, she found it distasteful and unpleasant to watch him flirting with others. Her cameras did cover much of the school, however; if he was in the halls or the public areas, she’d be able to find him.
She perched uneasily on the edge of her overstuffed armchair. She had allowed – requested and convinced, to phrase it more honestly – Ambrus to pick out the furnishings for their school apartment, since, in relocating into the school itself, she was removing him from the home she’d given him. His tastes ran towards soft and comfortable, it seemed, but without him here, the plush furniture seemed too sensuous, nearly threatening in its comfort. Standing would appear silly, however, so she sat.
Methodically, she began searching the cameras, first the school level, then the dormitories, then the lower level. She was unsurprised to find him in none of those places, but it had been the reasonable place to start.
That left looking in the past, retracing his steps. The dance would probably be a reasonable place to begin, although the cameras inside the Hall were notoriously unreliable. Outside the Hall, however, they were perfectly fine.
And there he was. Not that long after the beginning of the dance, walking out with a Fifth Cohort student, Manira. In a move that was uncommon for him, he was allowing her to steer him, her hand on the back of his arm propelling him gently down the hall. His face, however was occluded. She switched to another camera, and rolled backwards through time until she caught him.
This was still a back view, unfortunately; Ambrus was stumbling in a drunken-looking manner down the hall. Manira was no longer in the frame. Another camera, and Regine finally got a frontal shot of her Kept. Manira was shoving him lightly down the hall; his face was slack, almost unconscious-seeming, until the student’s hands lifted off of him. The moment they did, his entire expression changed.
It was in no way a comforting change. His lip curled, his nose wrinkled, his shoulders hunched forward. It wasn’t an expression or a posture she had seen on him in a very long time, never in public, and very rarely when he was awake. It did disagreeable things to her chest and stomach to see it on his face now
He was hurt. It took no great leap of logic, nor Michael’s much-vaunted “people skills,” to see that. Hurt, and afraid, and, from the erratic path he was taking, very lost. It was reasonable to assume that the student Manira – another of Michael’s misfits – had done something to him. Well, there were perquisites to being Director of the school, and Regine intended to indulge in several of them today.
She followed Ambrus’ unsteady path through camera after camera, her eyes locked on the screen while she reached for her telephone. “Luca?”
“Busy right now, Genie.” His breath was strained. What was going on in her school while she sat here staring at cameras?
“All right, I’ll call Michael.”
“Do that. Maybe you can get him off his ass.”
Ambrus stumbled on the stairs, caught himself, and crawled down the hall. He passed several students – Regine noted their faces and names for later punishment – before slipping through one of the hidden doorways to the grotto.
“What is it, ‘Gene?”
“Collect your Student Manira and bring her to my office. I’ll be there soon.”