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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

heels in a more appropriate setting on my time away from Fairloch, instead of the local
ale house.”
“Is that so? Then you are welcome, sir, to our little home away from home, such as it
is. I am Ronald Bartlett, owner of the North Shore Trading Company. May I know your
names?”
“Certainly sir,” Aiden replied with a slight bow, secretly pleased they had found their
man. “Aiden Wainwright, at your service. These are my local contacts, and I hope I was
not out of line bringing them along.” He gestured at Pacian and the others.
“Ah, local members of the Royal Rangers I see,” Bartlett observed, the faintest hint
of a disapproving frown evident on his brow. “Not the sort of people we usually have as
guests here at the Club. And what's this, a woman? Aiden, you should know we do not
permit women in here.” He had raised his voice while speaking, silencing the rest of the
conversation in the room and drawing the attention of everyone to them. A few murmurs
of disapproval could be heard from the stuffy old men peering at Sayana in shock.
“Come along now, don't be rude,” Aiden admonished them. “I had thought that a
gentleman's club would be a club of gentlemen, not a bunch of prudish louts. This lady is
my cousin, newly arrived to this part of the world and I wanted to introduce her to some
of the local gentlemen of influence. Had I known you would be so unabashedly rude in
her presence, I would have taken her to the local tavern rather than subject her to this
uncouth display. I had thought the men of this town to be better than the dregs who
populate that degenerate hovel, though perhaps I was mistaken?”
The effect of Aiden's speech was immediate – the men in the club appeared to be
suitably chastened, lowering their eyes and returning to their quiet conversations. Bartlett
had turned a bright red colour, and he cleared his throat several times before speaking.
“My apologies, madam,” he finally managed to say. “Although it is our custom to
forbid women in this austere room, the rule was never intended to impugn upstanding
members of society such as yourself. Generally, we use this place to get away from our
wives and the stresses of our work for a time, and so I once more offer my sincere
apologies for lumping you in with them in our exclusionary policy.”
“I understand, and it's quite alright,” Sayana said, surprising Aiden, who was about
to speak for her. “I'll just hang here at the back to avoid disturbing you all further during
our visit.”
“We won't stay long, Mister Bartlett,” Aiden assured him. “I have other matters that
need attending. But just before we relax and enjoy some liquid refreshment, might I
enquire about something?”
“By all means,” Bartlett replied, evidently eager to make amends for his treatment of
a noble lady. Aiden fetched the note from his left coat pocket.
“An acquaintance of mine found this note recently, and she was puzzled as to whom
this was written by. Perhaps you can make something of it?” He handed the note to
Bartlett, who accepted it and quickly read its message. “Rather mysterious, don't you
agree?” Aiden added, keenly observing his face for any sign of a reaction. “There, at the
bottom, you can see the initials 'R.B.'” Bartlett's eyes narrowed slightly as he finished the
note.
“A mystery indeed, Mister Wainwright. Tell me, why did you wish me to see this?”
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