“Excuse me, madam, did you happen to see a young, half-fox girl ear- lier today? She’s around seventeen years of age.”
Talitha looked up from her embroidery to see a Tensegorian Royal detective standing in front of her table. Cordelia, Talitha’s apprentice, stood and spoke to the man.
“Sir, are you wishing to talk to my mistress? She doesn’t speak Tensegorry,” the girl explained.
The detective irritably tapped his notebook and glanced down at a paper secured to its cover. “Of course she doesn’t. None of the foreigner merchants do. Can you translate for her? Yes? Good. I’m looking to see if she has seen a half-fox, half-sorceress girl a few years older than you.”
Cordelia nodded and explained the man’s words in Talitha’s native tongue.
“Yes, I have seen her,” Talitha responded, setting aside her work and standing. The detective’s ears perked in pleasant surprise. He opened his notebook eagerly.
“Ma’am, could you tell me your name, race, and occupation?” he asked. Talitha studied the man’s uniform as she waited for Cordelia’s translation. She noted that the black-backed jackal wore a coat of indigo blue, just like the seven other detectives that had stopped by her stall to inquire after a half-fox girl that morning.
“My name is Talitha Choestensen, an embroiderer and weaver,” she said. “In case you did not notice my semi-transparent skin, I am a memoree.”
As Cordelia spelled her mentor’s name for the man, the older woman watched her other apprentice struggle in the corner with a piece of needlework. “Five loops around the needle, Esha, not three,” she softly corrected, holding up her translucent fingers to explain. The native girl blushed and corrected her mistake, her fox’s ears flattened in annoyance.
“Would you say you saw the half-fox girl around your market stall around noon?” the detective asked her, without looking up from his writing.
“Yes,” she replied calmly, returning her attention to the canine-man’s outfit.
“Do you know how long she stayed?” As she spoke, Cordelia shifted her gaze towards the embroidering girl.
Also looking over at Esha, Talitha replied, “Hours.”
The detective frowned. “While she was here, did the girl act suspicious?” he asked.
Talitha pursed her lips. “No, not suspicious. Why do you ask? Are you looking for a criminal that young?” She crossed her pale arms.
“Yes – I mean, no.” The detective hastily glanced up at her for a moment. “Not because she’s a criminal. I was merely asking if she seemed suspicious,” he explained, running a paw over the fur of his head.
“She was less suspicious than you,” she countered. “Why are the Tensegorian Royal detectives questioning all the vendors in Aan-Stone Market, especially about a non-criminal girl? We don’t see everything, and most of us don’t speak your language. Not all of us have interpreters.”
The man wrote Cordelia’s translation down with a sudden air of con- tempt. “Did she talk to you at all?” he continued, ignoring Talitha’s questions.
“Yes, a little bit, but she spoke very little Maiceian and I don’t speak Tensegorry,” Talitha told him. “If I did, my apprentice wouldn’t need to speak for me.”
The man’s whiskers bristled in annoyance. “Did you see which direction the girl went?” Talitha shrugged, and she suppressed a sigh. She looked over at her half-fox apprentice a third time. Once again, the detective did not notice.
“She walked off towards the left a bit, then disappeared from view. What was the name of this girl, sir?”
The detective waved a paw dismissively. “That information is confidential. Thank you for your time, ma’am.” With that, he closed his notebook and left without a single look around the embroiderer’s stall. Talitha shook her head as she watched the jackal go.
After the detective was gone, the girl who had been embroidering lifted her face to look at Talitha worriedly. “Mistress, how long will you allow me to hide here?” Cordelia translated for her.
“As long as you need to. Don’t worry, Esha,” Talitha placidly replied. “I reassure you again that I won’t tell any of the detectives more than what they ask for. As none have yet explained why they want you, I refuse to tell them that the girl they are searching for is sitting in my stall. You’re safe here. As you might have seen, that jackal detective was very clueless. He didn’t even glance at you once.”
Esha nodded and stared at her embroidery. Talitha sat back down on her stool and picked up her own work. Cordelia let out a laugh as she tidied the fabrics displayed on the table. “I doubt that he would have recognized your red fur even if he did see you,” she said with a smirk. “The way he read the information off the cover of his notebook was ridiculous. He didn’t truly know who he was looking for – none of the men did.”
Talitha snorted as she studied her needlework. “As I said earlier, don’t worry. The detectives are clueless.”