The smile was wiped away when they entered their bedroom. There in the center of the bed was a wooden tray he didn’t recognize, and on the tray was a sizable sample of a bluish ore Altman recognized all too well.
* * *
The next morning Altman found himself inspecting the tower once more. It had been completed the day before, mortar and heavy stone bricks laid to perfection all the way up on all sides. It was a reassuring sight, even absent the armsmen Altman intended to hire to man it. For now it served a dual purpose, both as a watch point and as a beacon to those who saw it, saying “We’re serious about safety.” Tell that to Claver, he thought. There was still blood visible on the ground.
He was watchful as he inspected the site, keeping his eyes on the milling workers as they moved their operation to the next build site. Someone had moved that ore into his home, his very bedchamber. Someone knew what he was up to, what he was protecting. Someone had sent him a message.
He’d been startled out of his wits last night, and Kaylene had to talk him down from charging out in a rush to confront … who knew who? “Whoever did this is obviously keeping it quiet, too, or they’d have confronted us in public, or worse, gone off to sell their knowledge in the cities, maybe to the Conclave. We need to find out what they’re up to, what they want from us. They must want SOMETHING.” Kaylene had been adamant, and he knew she was right.
There was nothing around the tower he could spot that screamed of sabotage to him, but then the accident had happened high up where the walls had been unfinished, and he was no trained inspector. “I’m likely just leaping to conclusions, and I should know better. Just a little unsettled, that’s all. A fall from a wall is a much stronger message than a tray of ore on a bed, so the fall probably wasn’t a message at all. Was it?”
Footsteps sounded behind him. “Yer not the first I’ve heard muttering to himself today, y’aren’t. Nobody’s feelin’ right after yesterday. But the tower’s up, right enough.” Waldon Sias.
Altman nodded. “And a fine job, Sias. I see your men have been quick on their feet; the scaffolding’s all down already? Everything packed up and moved to the new market site?”
“It is, aye. They didn’t want to linger by the tower more’n they had to. Can’t say as I blame ‘em. Work’s likely to progress fast now, but not for the reasons I’m lookin’ for.”
“No, that’d only make things worse. If they work so fast that they start having accidents as a result, they’ll only make all this talk of so-called ‘bad luck’ worse.”
Sias’ face darkened a shade; Alton cursed himself for his poorly-chosen words. “Don’t you worry about it,” he said, a touch stiffly. “I’ll see that it gets done fast and safe.”