Driskoll stopped outside a large grey building that rang with the noise of hammering.
"Is this it?" asked Kellach.
"So where's Suma?"
"Still working. We're early."
Just then, a bell clanged inside the building. There was a rustle of movement, and red-eyed, weary-looking people began to pour out of the doors. Driskoll began scanning the crowd for his friend.
"Not you, new boy!" snapped a voice from inside the building. "You stay here!"
"Yes, sir," came Suma's resigned voice. Kellach and Driskoll looked at each other. Perhaps they'd have to wait a little longer.
The last few tired workers trickled from the building, closing the doors behind them.
Muffled through the woodwork came the sound of a raised voice. Driskoll couldn't make out the words, but the tone was angry and accusing.
There was no sound from Suma.
At length, the voice stopped. There was the sound of an interior door opening and shutting. The boys waited.
Fifteen, and finally Suma emerged. "Sorry," he said. "Got held up." He sounded a little ashamed.
"What did your boss want?" Driskoll asked.
Suma looked away. "Nothing much." But his eyes said he didn't want to talk.
Driskoll dropped the subject.
The three wandered through Curston, chattering aimlessly. Suma seemed a little quiet, but Driskoll supposed he was just tired.
Kellach broke away from the group, heading for a stand selling hot buns. He returned with a bagful of the small, sticky cakes, and offered them to the others. Driskoll took one, and passed the bag to Suma.
"No, thanks," said the Yuan-ti boy. "I'm not hungry."
Kellach grinned. "More for me."
Driskoll shot him a look, and turned to Suma. "You okay?" he asked. "You seem a bit down."
Suma shook his head, the bright sunlight glinting off his earrings. "Nah, I'm fine. Just a little tired. I might head back to the boardinghouse now, actually - catch up on some sleep."
"Okay," said Driskoll. "See you on Monday." The three had planned to meet up with Moyra next Monday, as it was Suma's day off.
"Yep. See you then."
Driskoll clapped his friend on the shoulder. "Take care of yourself."
Suma grinned at him, though the smile looked a little strained to Driskoll. "Will do." He jogged off, weaving through the scattered groups of people.
Driskoll waved, then turned back to Kellach, reaching for the bag of buns. He was about to take one when Kellah gasped.
"Driskoll! What happened to you?"
Kellach grabbed his hand. "You're bleeding!'
Droskoll looked down at his fingers. They were indeed stained with red. "Oh . . ."
"What have you done to yourself this time?"
Driskoll frowned. "I don't think that's my blood."
Kellach cocked his head quizzically.
Driskoll looked off, the way the Yuan-ti boy had gone. "I think it's Suma's."
Kellach looked confused. "But how . . ." He broke of, muttering a particularly vile Mechanus curse-word. "Gods. His boss. But why didn't he tell us?"
"I don't know." Driskoll knew that if it was him - if he was the one hurt and bleeding at the hand of a man he held no ties to - nothing would stop him from bringing the law down on his tormentor.
"We need to talk to him," said Kellach. "Do you know where he boards?"
Driskoll shook his head. "No idea. He never told me."
"You mean you never asked."
"It seemed rude!" Driskoll protested. "You know how much he likes his privacy."
Kellach sighed. "Never mind. What are we gonna do, Dris?"
"We could tell Dad."
"Without proof? He'd think we were wasting his time." Kellach clenched his right hand into a fist. "No, we have to find Suma. We have to help him. If he agrees, then we can go to Dad."
Driskoll nodded, then frowned. "What do you mean, if he agrees?"
Kellach looked straight at his brother. "Suma didn't tell us what was happening. There could be any number of reasons for that. Maybe this man's threatening him with something even worse if he tells."
Driskoll shook himself. "All the more reason to find him quickly," he said.
"Where?" asked Kellach. "There must be hundreds of boarding-houses and renters in Curston. We can't search every one. We'll have to wait until tomorrow morning."
Driskoll stared. "But -"
Waiting until tomorrow would mean leaving Suma alone for another day. Every part of Driskoll cried out against that. Suma was his best friend, he'd saved Driskoll's life, and it wasn't the action of a warrior to leave anyone in danger.
But Kellach was right.
Gods, Driskoll hated it when Kellach was right.