Chapter 2 "Snakes" 6

Mayumi enters the office, looking for Cala or Aliyah, but doesn’t spot either of them. Of course, she remembers, they are on the night watch. They’ve gone home hours ago. In fact, she sees officers of the day watch arriving, officers of the graveyard watch greeting them and preparing to leave, some going upstairs to change their clothes, others leaving in uniform to change at home. A pale, slightly balding corporal she hasn’t met salutes his Guardia Popula sergeant as the man enters to relieve him. The sergeant is not tall, but broad-shouldered, muscular under a layer of fat, his skin nearly as dark and glossy as Mayumi’s black hair. She overhears their names: Stathos, Machado. Standing in the corner, hardly noticed, her sensitive ears twitching, she overhears a great deal from around the room.

“Look, Rocco, I’ve had a good relationship with your people for years now. But these Dukaine thugs are scary.”

On the other side of the room, a young woman...no, Mayumi realizes with surprise, a goddess...a goddess is speaking with a constable. She is surprisingly normal-looking, young but almost motherly. Mayumi finds herself drawn to the goddess, who seems so comfortable in herself, unlike the gods she has met so far – Sgt. Gwydion, who seemed to be covering up some secret with his wit and banter; the Inspector, who pulled away as she looked into his eyes, as if afraid of what she would see; and poor Alma, so alone, so isolated, for so long – and though looking annoyed, even angry at the moment, it seems to the Bunny that this emotion is a rare one for this goddess. The constable, however, has worry lines embedded deeply in his face through force of habit. His uniform is well-used – he does not seem to be one of the new recruits recently sent from the Academy.

Mayumi shakes her head. She can hear music, faint music...violins?

The constable looks mortified. “Jeez, Kyri, I’m sorry. Those guys...they don’t listen ta reason. They warned us they was movin’ inta this part of Three Rats –”

“Wait! You knew this would happen? And you didn’t warn me?” The goddess glowers at the cop.

The constable squirms. “Aw Kyri, we thought we could negotiate! But there ain’t no negotiatin’ with them! I’m real sorry...”

“So...it sounds like you’re saying they’re my new ‘protectors.’ Then why am I still paying you off, hm?” The goddess looks around the new station. Just for a moment her eyes connect with Mayumi’s, and the music changes from violins to the plucked tones of a koto, before reverting as the goddess’ gaze passes on. “Seems to me you have a lot more cops here than before. And I hear there’s three new Guardia Dei. Maybe it’s time I stopped relying on thugs and their threats, and started demanding the police do their jobs.”

“Oh Kyri, these guys, they ain’t messin’ around...”

“And maybe it’s time for you to stop being a thug with a badge and start being a real cop, Rocco!”

“Jeez, Kyri, keep it down...”

“Not until I make an official complaint. Sergeant! Oh, Sergeant Machado!” The goddess’ voice goes up in register and almost becomes a song. Mayumi moves a little closer, going to the coffee pot and pouring for some officers, making herself useful and thus offering a reason to be in the room. Some are new and accept her presence without question, just glancing at her ears curiously; others seem rather surprised to see her, one of the Bunnies they’ve heard about, the word probably spread by Aliyah. Perhaps because it is morning, they do not engage her in conversation, but she acknowledges a thank-you absentmindedly as she listens to the goddess Kyri talking with Sgt. Machado while Constable Rocco...no, it’s Zeffretti, that’s what Machado calls him, while Zeffretti looks very uncomfortable in the background. Without even thinking about it, she picks up a Guardia notebook out of an open cardboard box that is full of them, and a short pencil, slipping them into the breast pocket of the Popula tunic that Sage had helped her tailor yesterday.

Machado calls Zeffretti over and orders him to accompany the goddess back to her shop. “I will ask the Guardia Dei to look into this, Dona Kyri,” Machado says, holding one of her hands in both of his. “Your café is an important and valued part of our community, and we will extend every effort to keep it safe.”

As they leave, Mayumi makes a decision. She knows there is something rotten about Zeffretti, and she wants to know more. Corruption, she thinks with disgust, right here in our station. She needs to learn the truth. She can slip out and listen to more of their conversation...but Sgt. Machado or someone else might see her leave. As she sets down the coffee pot, she’s nearly trod on by a huge red-haired constable. As she steps out of his way, he stares at her, so fascinated that he walks right into a wall, hitting his head so hard he collapses in heap.

Mayumi gasps, her hand over her mouth. She’s about to go check on him when she hears Sgt. Machado growl, “Longshot...not again!” Two other Guardia go over to see if he’s badly hurt, and he groans as they check him. Mayumi sees that everyone is looking at him. Without hesitating, she slips out the door and into the streets.

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