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   Chapter 16 Councilor

Councilor: Book Six of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 40233

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:43


Chapter 16

Elena left her cabin a little while later in a better mood than when she woke, even if the dreams did still tug at the back of her mind. Spin mewled her discontent at the wait and once on deck both Spin and Ladybug followed Thompson into the galley for their breakfast while Elena went to the pilothouse. The sun was up, but the day was overcast and Elena had the feeling they would see rain before they reached Haven.

"Best get the slickers out, " she told Jennifer as she joined her in the pilot house, knowing a large supply had been stowed below desk to help outfit Haven for the rainy season. "I have the feeling we'll need them."

Jennifer nodded. "Definitely. Do you think this is the start of the rainy season or just a random storm?"

Elena shrugged. "Not sure. I thought we would have a few more weeks before the rains set in, but we don't really have that many seasons under our belt here to judge. Last year could have been a fluke and this year is normal or visa versa. Evan has someone who is keeping a weather record. He even writes down the temperature three times a day, once at day break, once at noon and once at sunset. I asked Evan about the monsoons before we left."

"What did he say?" Jennifer asked with a smile, knowing Evan.

"He said 'give me another five years and I might see a pattern'."

"Not a lot of help, " Jennifer replied.

"Not much, no, " Elena told her. "He did mention having an umbrella handy was always a good idea even if it wasn't raining as it provides an excellent portable sunshade and can be used to poke attacking animals."

"I'm not sure poking attacking animals is a good thing, especially not with an umbrella."

"It's certainly not what Marlin Perkins recommends, " Elena replied.

"Who?"

Elena laughed and shook her head. "I guess that didn't make the list, huh? He had a television show called 'Wild Kingdom'. He showed wild animals in their natural habitat and talked about them for the at home audience."

Elena and Jennifer talked about the ins and outs of a wildlife television show as they sailed on into the increasing mist. Elena watched the instruments and knew they were on course, but as the world seemed composed of gray mist, there were no other markers. After a time, Thompson joined them, bringing a thermos full of coffee and breakfast. Breakfast looked suspiciously like burnt toast with a slice of sandwich meat and a slice of processed cheese on top. The processed cheese square looked like it had a session with Benjamin's crème Brule torch before making the trip up to them.

"Thanks, " she told him as she took her slice of toast and bit into it. "And thanks for taking over the galley."

"No problem, although I will be very glad to see Benjamin again." Thompson told them.

"Me too, " Jennifer said. She flushed as if realizing that she had spoken out loud. "Not that this isn't good, " she corrected.

Thompson laughed. "No offense taken, " he replied. "I can't even figure out half of the equipment down there let alone figure out how he made what he made with what's there."

"Benjamin is a bit of a wizard, " Elena agreed. "I never looked for fear the magic would disappear if I peeked behind the curtain."

"Well, in light of the weather, a monopoly tournament is brewing in the galley. I need to get back before someone else snags the shoe." He looked up as a couple of fat drops of rain plopped onto the deck. "And before I get soaked."

"You might want to head down too, " Elena suggested to Jennifer. "Get some rest and stay dry."

"What is so great about being the shoe?" Elena heard Jennifer ask as the two of them left the pilot house. Elena didn't get to hear the reply as thunder cracked overhead and the two raced across the deck to beat the rain. They made it to the galley door, barely pulling the door shut behind themselves as the sky opened up and rain began sheeting down.

Elena ate her toast and poured her coffee, thankful that there was at least only minimal wind. She checked her instruments and satisfied the ship was secure and on course, she began running the dreams through her mind.

At first she only concentrated on the second dream, focusing on the details. She reasoned that if that was the shape she wanted the future to hold then any clue as to making that the permanent reality would help. Elena also hoped to avoid thinking about the first dream for at least a while hoping it would just go away on its own. She waded through what details she could remember and thought about ways to turn some of them into actionable items. As she did one thing started niggling at the back of her brain. It was something Therese said in the first dream. Elena pushed the thought away and concentrated on the second dream.

When she thought she wrung as much as she could about the second dream, Elena reluctantly switched to mentally study the first. Instead of focusing on the bodies, the blood, the pain, Elena focused on Therese and what her cousin told her. She pushed away the venomous hate and looked for information. One shining bit gleamed and the thought that was niggling her brain solidified.

"An unprofitable three year trade agreement, " Elena repeated slowly to herself. She let the thought spin itself out slowly connecting to other bits of information already spinning through her memory. On the day she left the Guild, Elizabeth was waiting to talk to Alexandro. The details of her current trade weren't important, it was why she was there in the first place that held the details that might lead Elena to some actual answers.

"It was part of a punishment or correction, " Elena remembered trying to think through half remembered details. Elizabeth made some bad trade agreements in the past, or so her grandfather told her. While he accepted that she could run her House as she felt necessary, any time she was involved in a trade where his House was involved, Alexandro checked the details. He did not have faith in her trading abilities and was hoping she would learn something from the sessions to help her in the future. Elena remembered her aunt making every required discussion sound as though Alexandro was requesting her opinion on potential trade agreements rather than her reporting in, but at her grandfather's insistence, Elena listened to enough of the meetings to know the truth.

"He always said some, " Elena mused. "Not one bad agreement, some bad agreements, as though there were several." Elena knew Elizabeth, like Therese, loved wheeling and dealing in the often murky waters of Guild politics. She knew they both often traded on the belief that Elizabeth, succeeded by Therese would follow in Alexandro's footsteps.

"But what if future favors, future alignment wasn't enough?" She could all too easily see how less than profitable agreements could have been made to curry political favor, to build a base in case more than one claimant remained at Alexandro's death.

"All trade agreements are filed in the Librarian's archives." As a counselor, Elena realized she would not even need her special clearance to look at those files. Her public status would give her access to the bulk of it. She knew if she asked him though, Evan would keep her search quiet.

"And seeing who she has been dealing with will not only help in looking at my parent's death, but identify who she might ask for help if she decides to go after the rest of the family." It made sense to use someone you already knew you could trust to help you out again. Someone already proven you would deal with to their benefit.

"Even if it isn't the most profitable trade agreement for your House."

Throughout the day, Elena let her thoughts twist and turn, blending what she knew with what she suspected, trying to find various paths to follow. Around noon, Thompson ferried a sandwich up to her, replacing her empty coffee thermos with a full one. The sandwich seemed to be two slices of the same bread he used at breakfast, unburnt this time and the same sandwich meat and cheese as before between the slices.

"At least he put away the torch, " she thought after she thanked him and began eating. He filled her in on the morning tournament and let her know that Jennifer's portable DVD player was put to good use as a movie fest was planned for the afternoon.

"Hope you don't feel too left out, " he told her. Elena waved away his concerns.

"Too much to think about to enjoy the movies, " she told him. "Even if I didn't need to be up here."

As the afternoon wore on, the rain slacked until it was only a light summer shower instead of a deluge. With the curtain of rain thinning, Elena could see the outline of Haven's port ahead of them, the lights beginning to show through the mist and rain. They were closer than she thought and she found herself relieved. With the rain and the late afternoon hour, she knew there was little chance of accomplishing anything before she turned in for the night, but there was still a sense of things finally starting. The time when she could move things out of her head and into actuality was approaching.

"I always did hate waiting, " she muttered to herself.

As they approached the docks a small pilot ship was dispatched. Hearing the signals, Jennifer emerged from below decks. She was wearing a yellow hat, rain slicker and boots, looking very much like a female version of the Gorton's Fishermen brand spokesman. As the pilot ship neared, Jennifer tossed them tow rope and Elena let the pilot ship tow the Storm Chaser into her berth. It was the same one she left weeks ago and she wondered if they were saving it for her or if the placement was coincidence.

A little while later, everyone was dressed in the standard yellow rain gear and preparing to disembark. Many of them looked like hunchbacks as their bags were under their slickers to protect from the wet. Thompson had Spin tucked into the crook of his arm. While she wasn't fond of the slick covering he wore, she preferred it to the wet and settled in for her ride to the house.

Bob was having significantly more trouble with Ladybug. Sensing release from the ship was eminent and no doubt picking up some of the new and exciting smells of Haven, the normally excitable pug entered a state that could only be described as doggie ecstasy. Not only was the little stump tail wagging so fast as to be a blur, but her entire hindquarters was waggling and her feet seemed to have grown springs. Bob gave up trying to hold her and let her down with the leash attached as soon as they hit actual ground. Rain, mud, plants, everything became instantly fascinating. Spin stared down from her perch at the happy and now mud spotted canine. Elena was willing to swear she heard a sniff of distain.

Before heading into town, Elena stopped in at the small harbor master's office to check in with Sam Harris. Sam was huddling over a steaming mug of something and looked as though her were frowning over shipping charts. Elena smiled. When she first met Sam, he seemed too nice and polite to be an actual harbor master. After his first season however, he managed to adopt the habitual frown and growl she normally associated with such personages.

"Apparently sometimes the job does make the man, " she thought as she knocked on the open door. Behind her everyone tried to huddle under the building's shallow overhang. Sam snarled as he looked up from his papers. On seeing Elena, the frown smoothed out and he actually smiled. To Elena's eyes he looked relieved.

"Sorry to interrupt, " she told him. "Just wanted to check in. Storm Chaser's docked, but at the moment I can't tell you how long we'll be in port. It might be a while." To her surprise, Sam brightened even further, which was very unlike any harbor master she ever encountered. Typically giving them anything other than exact dates set off a frenzy of profanity in reaction.

"Not a problem, Captain, not a problem. I'll mark you down as your usual b

up my e-reader before we left, " Jennifer told him. "Mostly classics, but you are welcome to borrow it."

"In return I promise to protect you from Will's cooking." Benjamin returned.

"Hey, " Thompson replied as they shook on their deal. "It wasn't that bad." Elena patted him on the shoulder sympathetically.

The general conversation continued and slowly Consuelo's platters of food were emptied. Despite the early hour, yawns began to circulate around the room. Benjamin promised to compile a list of must see places in Haven for Bob should the rain let up in the morning. Elena found that amusing as she didn't think they actually had any tourist destinations. Bob and Lisa headed towards their room, Jennifer, Alex and Stephen heading to their respective beds soon after. When just Elena, Benjamin and Thompson remained, Elena sighed and took out a file.

"Most can wait until the morning, but there is one thing I'd like to cover before the morning chaos descends." She told them. Elena opened the file she and Victor composed. In addition to the somewhat grainy images Elena pulled from the security cameras, Victor managed to secure better quality photographs as well as all of the public information that could be dredged up about the people featured in the images. All of them were tagged at the store and were known associates of either Therese's or Tina's and disturbingly sometimes both.

"When studied, their cover stories were as shaky as both Tina and her employers, " Elena explained.

"Enough to create a cover story, but not a deep cover, " Thompson muttered as he scanned over the documents. He didn't elaborate, but Elena could practically see the wheels in his head turning.

"Did they think we wouldn't look?" Benjamin mused as he picked up one of the images.

"Maybe they thought we wouldn't look that hard, " Elena guessed.

"Or if you did look, you'd find the discrepancies and ask Tina about them, giving whatever group is running this the opportunity to become involved with you directly." Thompson responded. Benjamin and Elena looked at him and he shrugged. "Everything in your files suggests that you are a fairly straightforward and direct person. I certainly wouldn't expect you to be able to maintain a ruse of friendship for too long after finding out something was hinky."

Elena thought of her dealings with Andre and was forced to agree, even if she wasn't happy about being so easy to read. "Hinky?" she repeated instead.

"Hinky." He replied.

"So are you taking this to the Council?" Benjamin asked.

"Not yet, " Elena told him. "I want to speak to my grandfather first." Elena tugged out her already sliding ponytail elastic, ran a hand through her hair and sighed tiredly. "She's family and he is her Council representative as well as her grandfather. I want to give him the chance to deal with her first instead of being blindsided by the discussion in Council chambers."

"And you are remembering Ian who died accidentally in the shower shortly after the Council knew he betrayed them, " Thompson replied.

"And I remember Ian, " she admitted.

"Do you think it will help?" Benjamin asked looking up from the image he held.

"No, " she told him honestly. "I think Therese has gone off the rails if she is dealing with this lot and that sooner or later she will end up hanging herself with her own actions. But I owe him the chance to make the attempt to get her to stop before it goes too far and the council takes action. Who knows he might be able to convince her to be the Council's insider and turn information to them as she gets it."

Thompson rubbed her shoulders in consolation. Neither man had to say that that was a long shot, she knew the odds of Therese giving up any plan was slim to none. The only hope would be if it was a last ditch effort to save her own life. Elena knew her cousin tended to be rather myopic in her planning and hoped their grandfather could at least convince her that her plan, whatever it was, put her in front of a firing squad. Self-preservation was the best argument to make at this point.

"I've seen a couple of these people here, " Benjamin said, letting the thoughts of Therese's ability to be rationalized with slide.

"In Haven?" Elena asked with a frown. She thought they were just meeting with Therese in Grant's Inlet. Nothing in their files suggested that they were ever associated with the Guild prior and Elena did not expected them to be in Haven. "They would have had to have come with her." She couldn't imagine anyone else giving them passage without vetting them first.

"Not all of them, " Benjamin said. "But these three are here. I saw them with Therese in the marketplace and when I left, this one followed me to see what I was doing." He tapped the photo.

"She's in port then?" Elena asked. There was too much rain and mist as well as too many ships in port for her to have gotten an accurate idea of who was actually docked.

"Yeah, La Piccola Principessa docked about a week ago and hasn't left port since." Benjamin told her. "I thought it best to keep an eye on her."

"La Piccola Principessa? Doesn't that mean the little princess?" Thompson asked.

"It does, " Elena confirmed.

He shook his head. "Why am I not surprised that's what she named her ship?"

"Because you've met her?" Benjamin suggested.

"Great, " Elena said with a sigh. "That makes telling grandfather quickly a top priority. I don't suppose you have anyone who wouldn't mind some discrete surveillance of Therese and her new trio of friends as opposed to just the one keeping an eye on her at the moment? I'd also like to check with Sam about her docking schedule. He should have her planned date of departure on file."

Thompson and Benjamin exchanged a glance. "I think between the two of us we can come up with something, " Thompson told her.

"And Alexandro arrived in port a few days ago, the same day as Riko, she's already sent a message requesting a meeting." Benjamin said. Elena nodded even though Evan had already told her as much.

Elena frowned at Benjamin's mention of Riko. "She sent a message through Victor as well, has her health taken another downturn?"

"Not that I know of, " Benjamin replied.

"Hmm, I wonder what the emergency is then." Elena shrugged. "Well she and grandfather are the first two meetings I know I need to have before things get crazy. I'll need to see Evan and Mateo as well, but I know Riko hates to wait. There's no point in making her mad."

"I can send messages, if you'd like, " Benjamin asked.

Elena nodded. "If possible I'd like to talk to grandfather first thing in the morning, maybe for breakfast. At least get it over with quickly like pulling off a band aide. Then maybe deal with Riko around lunch. I can meet them either here or in their quarters, whatever their preference. Let them know we have company over here in case that bothers them. I know grandfather won't want this overheard, but I have no idea what Riko is so eager to discuss unless it is our post Akashi transfer discussion."

"I'll let them know, " Benjamin said. He dropped the picture back onto the stack and headed towards the door.

"I'm sorry for sending you out into the rain, " she said. He picked up an umbrella from the stand located next to the door and waved off her concern.

"The rain's slacked off a bit and I think they would prefer me as your aide to deliver the request rather than simply deal with a runner. Besides, " he added with a smile. "I already know who has requested meetings with you as soon as possible so I know your schedule in case your appointed times aren't possible and I need to give them other options."

Benjamin slipped out of the door as Thompson tried to swallow a laugh. "There's already a schedule?" Elena asked the already closed door. "I thought I'd at least make it to lunch tomorrow before that happened. Thompson stopped trying to stifle his laugh and let it go, his amusement filling the room.

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