Con & conjure, p.18
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       Con & Conjure, p.18

         Part #5 of Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin
Page 18


  I glanced back in the mirror and straightened the fussy black doublet Mago assured me would look similar enough to the one that Symon wore. I felt his/my chest and grimaced. Then I quickly unbuttoned the front enough to take a look. The man had a bird chest. I flexed my right thigh against my left and then my left against my right.

  “Ah, hell with it. ” I pulled my trousers out from my waist and looked down.

  I snorted. Symon Wiggs’s chest wasn’t the only thing that was bird-sized.

  Mychael chuckled from behind me. “That bad?”

  “Well . . . everything’s there, but let’s just say that walking isn’t going to be much different than when I’m myself. ”

  “Ouch. ”

  I grinned at him. “Wanna see?”

  “I’ll pass. ”

  “You’re sure?”

  “Raine, that’s just not done. ”

  I put Symon’s trousers back where they belonged, and there was no need to adjust anything when I did. “To have to live with this would just be embarrassing. No wonder Symon’s such a jerk. ”

  Noon at the Swan Song gave a whole new meaning to the term “power lunch. ”

  The place was wall-to-wall mages packing enough magic to light the entire island.

  Taltek Balmorlan’s elven mages weren’t willing to bond with me and the Saghred out of the goodness of their hearts or any kind of racial loyalty—they wanted money and lots of it. Part of the Saghred’s legend was that it made its bond servants insane. Balmorlan’s mages would be facing the same fate, but for enough money, they’d risk it.

  I was about to find out what Balmorlan was selling to get the money he needed.

  Mago and I were at our table and had already ordered drinks.

  Mine was untouched.

  One, I don’t drink before noon. Okay, you got me there, but I don’t make it a habit, especially when glamoured as a banker about to con an inquisitor who wanted me worse than dead.

  I lowered my voice. “Okay, Mago, let’s hear the high points one last time. ”

  My cousin sighed theatrically and rolled his eyes. I knew what the plan was. He knew what the plan was. But I wanted to make sure that what I knew was what Mago was still going to do. My cousin had a tendency to get creative once a scam was underway. I had no problem with spontaneity; I just wanted to know about it first.

  Mychael was right; I definitely had control issues. But I was still alive, so it was a good thing.

  Mago’s voice was loud enough to reach my ears, but no one else’s. “Symon Wiggs told Balmorlan—”

  “Actually, you’ve told Balmorlan. ”

  Mago waved a dismissive hand. “Yes, yes, whatever. That I’m here because a transfer of any substantial amount must be authorized by another senior bank officer. And to expedite the process—”

  “And as far as Balmorlan knows, you’re not Mago Peronne, you’re Magar Benick. ”

  “Correct. ”

  “Doesn’t all that ever get confusing?”

  Mago just stared at me like I’d asked the most ridiculous question ever.

  “Right,” I said. “Of course, it doesn’t. ”

  “Do you want to go over this or not? Because he’ll be here any minute. ”

  “No more interruptions,” I promised.

  “I’ll believe that miracle when I see it. ”

  There was a muffled guffaw from the next table. I turned and saw a red-haired, bearded mage whose robes looked like they’d once been covering one of the restaurant’s windows. The man was big, brocaded, and belligerent. He sat ramrod straight, his bright eyes scanning the room in challenge. I’d seen his type many times before. He liked the way he was dressed, didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought, but wanted nothing more than for someone to insult him and give him an excuse to pick a fight.

  He saw me looking at him and winked.

  I knew that wink, even if it was from another man’s eye.

  It was Mychael.

  Not only was it a perfect disguise, the entertainment potential was virtually limitless.

  I told myself that I could smack him for that guffaw later. A banker turning and hitting a mage in the height of the lunch hour at the most exclusive restaurant on the island would raise a few highbred brows, to say the least. And I had a feeling I’d be raising more than eyebrows before I left; no need to start the show early.

  Mago had ignored the exchange and lowered his voice even further. “I have all the information I need to empty Balmorlan’s account—the one he holds jointly with several partners. The account and access numbers were child’s play to obtain. ”

  “Child’s play for you. ”

  Mago’s lips twitched in a crooked smile. “That goes without saying. But last month Balmorlan set up a private account, and the naughty boy has transferred more of that money than is probably his into this new account. ”

  “His partners would love to hear that he’s stealing from them. ”

  Mago meticulously realigned his silverware. “All in good time. Since Balmorlan has no problem with taking their money, I don’t, either. So anything he offers to sell you today, you’ll be eager to buy—but not too eager. Symon Wiggs is known for driving a hard bargain. And to pay for the purchase, I’ll siphon the money directly from Balmorlan’s partners’ account. ”

  “We’ll be buying what he’s selling with his cronies’ money. Screwed by his own greed. I love it. ”

  Mago nodded once. “The more money he demands, the more he and his partners will lose. ”

  “Okay, we’re paying him with his own money. He’ll want it deposited into this new account of his. ”

  “Correct. ”

  “So . . . how does all this gold end up in your affluent client’s account?”

  “Balmorlan’s new account is private. That means it’s only identified by numbers; there’s no name attached. I don’t know which one is his. I could find out, but it would take too much time. Balmorlan will give you the account transit number to transfer the money. With that I can get everything else I need to empty the contents of his new account into the prince’s. ”

  “A goblin prince who wants peace with the elves, not war. ”

  Mago took a sip of his drink to hide a small smile. “No doubt his elven partners will be very disappointed in him. And if elven intelligence somehow discovers that he’s funding the enemy, or if his war-monger partners find out he’s donated all of their money to a peace-loving goblin prince . . . ”

  I cracked my knuckles meaningfully. “Taltek Balmorlan will be taking a long swim with a rock and rope. ”

  “You’re as barbaric as Phaelan. ”

  “Thank you. ” I toyed with the cutlery, too, most notably the knife which had an acceptably sharp edge. “So instead of merely draining the old account Balmorlan has with his partners as previously planned, we’ll be draining his partners’ account into his new account—”

  “Then emptying the lot of them. Thanks to my colleagues back in D’Mai, there will be an abundant and obvious paper trail, so Balmorlan’s partners will have no trouble discovering exactly where their money went—and to whom that account belongs. ”

  I grinned. “His partners will come after him with a vengeance. ”

  “No doubt they’ll be extremely upset with him. ”

  “And after he gives us the account transit numbers, your banking friends will be able to tell you exactly which bloated account is his—”

  “And will empty every last coin Inquisitor Balmorlan has into a poor, exiled goblin prince’s account. ” Mago raised his glass. “Here’s to a generous elven benefactor whose largesse will soon be the talk of the seven kingdoms. ”

  I clinked my glass to his.

  Mago took and savored a sip. “Now do you understand everything?”

  “I always did. ”

  That earned me an annoyed look. “Then why did you make me s
ay it again?”

  “To make sure it hadn’t suddenly sprouted a new twist. Symon doesn’t strike me as the type who would like surprises. I know I don’t. I’ve had enough surprises since this whole crapfest started to last me a lifetime. ” Then I remembered something we hadn’t actually covered. “Are we eating lunch?”

  “I beg your pardon?”

  “Lunch. Are we eating?”

  Mago’s expression came perilously close to appalled. “Of course. Inquisitor Balmorlan made the reservations—and he is paying. ”

  I grinned. “Then what’s the most expensive thing on the menu?”

  Mago flashed his teeth in a predatory smile. “I have no idea, but whatever it is, I’ll have what you’re having. ”

  Three men came in. One was Taltek Balmorlan; the other two were protective muscle. These boys looked like they were good at being big, but that was about it. Speed, either in thought or action, didn’t appear to be a burden that either one carried. However, there were others outside: lean, armed, and alert. The muscle-bound bookends were merely decorative. Balmorlan didn’t expect trouble in here. His elven guards were outside to keep the trouble from coming inside.

  I had news for Taltek Balmorlan—the worst trouble he’d ever had in his life would be sitting right next to him. I felt myself smile. I’d make the bastard curse the day he’d ever heard the name Raine Benares.

  “Symon doesn’t gut business acquaintances with a spoon,” Mago whispered in a singsong voice.

  I looked down in surprise at my clenched hand. A spoon. I knew how to do all sorts of unpleasant things to a man with a spoon. I calmly set it down, reluctantly forced the homicidal grin off my face, and stood to greet the man I was about to ruin.

  Once introductions were complete, we all sat down. Time for small talk. As a result of my newfound vindictive confidence, it was amazing how relaxed and talkative I was.

  After a few minutes I sensed someone standing at my left shoulder, patiently waiting for me to finish what I’d been saying. I turned to look and damned near lost it.
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