The Price of Demand (Reintegration Edit 15)

The morning was young enough for a touch of night’s chill to remain in the air as Altman, leaning on Kaylene’s arm, stepped out the gate in front of the house. “Good mornin’ Mrs. Dolet. I—by my—what’d you do to yer head, Altman!”

Altman grimaced and swayed a little on his feet. Kaylene caught his arm up more securely to steady him. “Good mornin’ Mr. Sias. My husband was feeling entirely too clever today and got himself hurt.”

Altman cleared his throat. “As though it were my own fault. I was today’s victim, Waldon. Luckily the injury’s not bad. Quickly … have you seen anyone on your crews this morning with reddish stains on hands, legs, clothing … anything? Red-brown, like rust.”

Waldon stared at the pair incredulously. “Um, Mrs. Dolet, are y’sure yer husband’s okay?”

“’E won’t be if he isn’t careful. If the culprit doesn’t get him, I may kill ‘im myself for not listenin’ to sound medical advice when ‘e’s given it. But for now we really must know, have you seen someone covered in rust?”

“Aye, I’ll take yer word for it, Mrs. Dolet. Can’t say’s I have, not today. This’d be what y’needed all that powdered iron for, then?”

Altman forced himself not to nod in affirmation. “It does; all of the ‘accidents’ have involved heavy objects falling from high places. I spent time dusting the roofs of those few buildings that have them with rust, and a good number of accessible, lower tree branches too.”

Waldon nodded slowly. “An’ then ‘oped whoever’s behind it didn’t wouldn’ ‘ave the time or inclination to wash up after.”

“A risk I had to take, and so the rush.”