I wasn’t sure if that made me feel any better about what had happened. Killing a desperate man intent on dying to save his family didn’t exactly sound like justice.
“Who here has that kind of money?” Kasper asked.
“Well … nobody.” Linnea shrugged her shoulders. “I mean, the women have jewels.” She motioned to her grandmother’s table, covered in gaudy necklaces and rings. “One of my necklaces might cost ten thousand dollars, but it would have to be filled with sapphires and diamonds. We don’t have massive gems like that floating around.”
“They came from the vault,” Lisbet said, looking at Linnea in the mirror. “That’s the only place where we have stones of that caliber.”
“Those belong to the kingdom,” Linnea said, trying to dissuade her grandmother. “They belong to everybody. Why would Cyrano steal from himself?”
“He didn’t steal it—he was paid off,” Lisbet corrected her, and Linnea sank down in the chaise. “And it may ‘belong’ to the kingdom, but only the royal family has access to it. Only the King is allowed to spend it.”
“But Mikko’s saving it,” Linnea argued weakly. “He’s trying to do what’s best for the people.”
Lisbet closed her eyes and sighed. “You can’t have a room full of precious stones and expect no one to get greedy.”
“Who has access to the vault?” I asked. “Who could have gotten in there to take the sapphires?”
Lisbet turned back toward Kasper and me and looked up. “The system requires thumbprint recognition that you need to get the door open, and that’s calibrated for only four people—the royal family. That would be myself, Linnea, Mikko, and Kennet.”
“There must be some mistake,” Linnea said, disputing Lisbet’s assertion. “None of us would do this. I know I didn’t, and of course you wouldn’t do it. Mikko didn’t try to kill himself, and Kennet would never do anything to hurt his brother.” She shook her head. “This is a mistake. Someone else is behind this.”
Lisbet regarded Kasper and me gravely, ignoring the Queen’s insistence that it couldn’t be any of the people she loved.
“Talk to the people and do what you need to do,” Lisbet told us. “This must end.”
The marble bench felt hard and cold underneath me, and I leaned forward, resting my arms on my legs. My mouth felt dry, so I licked my lips. I let out a shaky breath.
“You okay?” Kasper asked, his voice soft so it wouldn’t echo in the cavernous round hall outside of the King’s chambers.
“Hmm?” I’d been staring at the pattern of tiles on the floor, trying not to think of anything at all, and I turned to look at him.
“You seem kind of out of it.” Even though Kasper worked to keep his expression neutral at all times, his face had softened and his dark eyebrows were pinched with concern.
“I’m fine,” I lied, sitting up straighter.
We were waiting outside the King’s chambers with the intention of questioning him about the sapphires in Cyrano’s possession. After our meeting with Lisbet and Linnea, we’d gone straight down here, hoping to talk to him before Bayle or anybody else had a chance.
When we’d arrived, he’d still been sleeping, but his valet had gone in to see if Mikko would be willing to see us. A few minutes later, the valet had informed us that Mikko would, but he needed some time to wake up and ready himself, and Kasper and I had been patiently waiting for the past fifteen minutes.
“I know I’ve been really fortunate to have been a member of the Högdragen in a time of peace.” Kasper still spoke low so his voice wouldn’t carry. Not that he needed to worry, since we were alone. “I’ve only been on it for a little over a year, but even when I was a tracker, things were mostly quiet and peaceful.”
“Konstantin Black did try to kill the Chancellor,” I reminded him, not unkindly.
“I said mostly,” he said. “I was out on a mission away from Doldastam when that happened, so I missed all the commotion surrounding it.”
“You didn’t miss much,” I muttered. “Konstantin is insanely good at disappearing in the blink of an eye.”
“My point was that I’ve never even had to draw my sword on someone and mean it, let alone take another person’s life,” Kasper said, and I involuntarily tensed up. “I can’t imagine what that must be like.”
“It’s part of the job.” I wanted to brush it off, change the subject, do anything other than actually talk about it.
“I know, and I know you did what you needed to do.” He waited a moment, letting that sink in. “But it couldn’t have been easy for you.”
“It was surprisingly easy, actually,” I said thickly. “From start to finish, it was all over in a matter of minutes.”
Kasper put his hand on my back. The gesture felt awkward and a little stiff, but there was something oddly comforting about it.
“You were trained well, and you did what you were supposed to do. That won’t change what happened, but maybe it can make it little easier on you.”
I offered him a wan smile. “Thank you.”
The valet came out and told us that the King would see us now. I stood up and straightened my clothes, and then I followed Kasper inside.
We found Mikko in the sitting area of his chambers. He was dressed but unshaven, with a blond scruff on his chin. The high-backed, tufted chair he sat on looked cushy, but he sat rigidly with his shoulders back, appearing rather uncomfortable.
His blue eyes landed on us briefly, then went back to staring at the rug on the floor. His lips were pressed together in a thin line, and as he breathed in deeply through his nose, his gills seemed to flutter in agitation.
There was a couch and several other chairs that Kasper and I could have sat in, but since Mikko made no motion to them, we remained standing. We never sat in the presence of royalty unless we were invited to.
“I’m assuming this is about the investigation,” Mikko said.
“We just had a few things we wanted to talk to you about. This won’t take long.” I tried to keep my tone soft to calm any anxiety he might have.
Linnea had said he was painfully shy—although to be honest, he seemed more angry than he did nervous. But it was probably better for a King to seem cross all the time than afraid.