Nature Abhors a Vacuum
â€œYou're a man of great renown,â€ Aiden offered respectfully. â€œIf anyone could shed
some light on this problem, it's you.â€ Bartlett didn't react to the obvious compliment for a
few moments as he looked at Aiden with what could only be described as suspicion.
â€œLet me make one thing clear, Aiden,â€ he said crisply. â€œI can't abide toadies, or 'yes-
men'. Can't stand them.â€
â€œOf course, sir,â€ Aiden apologised, knowing he'd pushed his lie a little too far.
â€œI'm sorry I can't help you with the origins of this note, but why don't you speak with
my head of security? He may be able to offer some suggestions.â€ Bartlett pointed to a
man standing on the other side of the room, near the fireplace who was stoically
observing the conversation from a distance.
â€œExcellent, I'll see what he can make of it,â€ Aiden said, offering his hand. â€œThank
you for your time, Mister Bartlett. It's been an honour meeting you, despite our rocky
â€œThe honour is mine sir, and again, my apologies,â€ Bartlett replied, shaking the
proffered hand firmly. Aiden stepped past and gestured for the others to follow him,
hiding his disappointment that Bartlett didn't seem to know anything about the note.
The gentlemen of the club seemed to have found other, more important things to be
looking at as Aiden and the others walked past them, smoking their pipes furiously or
engaged in deep conversations with their contemporaries. However, the man they were
walking towards didn't seem at all embarrassed.
He casually leaned against the mantelpiece, watching their approach with an
intensity that belied his relaxed demeanour. He was smoking a cigar, not a pipe, and his
heavy build suggested that unlike the rest of the men present, he was used to physical
â€œWatch out for this one,â€ Colt whispered to Aiden as they moved closer. â€œHe's
trouble.â€ Aiden didn't have time to reply before he stood in front of the man, but he
understood what Colt was trying to say.
â€œHell of an entrance you made there, friend,â€ the head of Bartlett's security said in a
voice made husky from smoking, his sharp blue eyes evaluating the small group. â€œAnd a
clever way to distract them from asking how you really ended up with that key.â€ Aiden
smiled vapidly at him and hesitated. Colt was right to counsel caution. This one was
â€œI don't know what you mean, it's all quite legitimate,â€ he replied lightly, trying not
to show his worry that this man seemed to have him all figured out.
â€œSure it is,â€ the man replied, â€œand if that girl is from a noble house, then I'm the King
of Aielund. Relax, I'm not going to say anything,â€ he added with a puff of his cigar. â€œIf I
thought you were any kind of danger I'd have thrown you out of here the minute you
came in. Frankly I think these gentlemen needed a little nudge to remind them that not all
women are like their horrible wives, especially you, madam,â€ he said, giving Sayana a sly
smile. To Aiden's surprise, she blushed bright red and retreated behind Colt, who crossed
his arms and did his best to loom as large as possible.
â€œYou seem to know what's going on around here,â€ Aiden said cautiously, dropping
any pretence of being a visitor from Fairloch. â€œNameâ€Ÿs Aiden, and yours is?â€
â€œRobert Black,â€ he replied, â€œand yes, I do. Now, Ronald asked you to speak with me.
What is it?â€ Aiden was almost caught off guard by the sudden realisation that Robert's