A Zahnia Short, part 4
“Find what you were looking for?” Lady Norva’s voice came from the doorway as Zahnia tucked the last of the documents she’d gathered into her satchel.
“Yes, and then some,” Zahnia replied turning to face her. “Thank you for bringing this to Lady Ellona’s attention.”
“Thank you for giving my husband an honorable way out, old friend,” the noblewoman said, stepping across the room and taking the spy’s hand. “Thank you for waiting until my daughters were away, and thank you for making his death quick and clean. Please, tell me you found that he was being blackmailed or threatened somehow,” she pled softly. “I want to believe that he’d never willingly sell military secrets to northern separatists groups—that he’d never willingly betray the Empire.”
“I wish I could confirm that,” Zahnia sighed, deciding it best not to say anything about the opium-smuggling and arms-dealing contracts she’d also found in the senator’s files—all of them linked to a major separatist political organization based in the northern city-state of Tor Andel. “But nothing I read through addresses the possibility of blackmail. There are a few names that came up who I can investigate further in hopes of turning up more information. I’m sorry I can’t do better at this point.”
Norva just nodded, closing her eyes against the tears and letting her hand fall to her side.
“Will you and your daughters be alright without your husband?” Zahnia asked quietly.
“In time,” the noblewoman assured her, wiping her tear-stained eyes. “My husband and I taught our girls to be strong and independent, so I expect they’ll be fine.”
“I’d heard that the senator often took them riding and fowling with him,” Zahnia commented, strapping closed the satchel.
“Velex always treated them as well as he would have his sons,” the lady nodded. “And unlike certain others of his family, he never tried to make me feel guilty for only giving him daughters.”
“But what about you, personally?” the spy asked. “Will you be fine without him? I know that betraying him to us must have been the hardest decision of your life.”
“It was,” the lady sighed, stepping over to look out the study window. “But I know how Ellona operates, and I knew I could count on her to handle the situation fairly and discreetly. I loved my husband, but for his treason to come out in the open would be the ruin of our family.”
Thus any incriminating documents were safely tucked into Zahnia’s satchel.
“I have friends and family close by to help me though my grief,” Norva continued. “Velex’s sister will be returning in a few weeks—perhaps sooner once she learns of his death—and she and I always got on well. And Anda has agreed to stay at my side, which brings me no small amount of comfort.”
“The two of you are close, then?” Zahnia asked, shouldering the satchel and stepping up beside the lady.
“Possibly my closest friend,” Norva admitted, a nostalgic smile cutting through her tears. “I’ve known Anda since she was young, and she always showed a certain level of hero-worship toward me—and perhaps something more. She suspects you, by the way,” Norva commented, looking down at the spy. “She’s heard of your reputation and suspects Lady Ellona might be behind all this.”
“She’s a smart girl,” Zahnia agreed. “I kind of wish I could tell her that in person.”
Norva gave a tearful laugh, then knelt to embrace the tiny woman. “Thank you again for all you’ve done, my friend,” the noblewoman whispered to her.
“Take care, Norva,” Zahnia replied, kissing her friend on the cheek. Stepping back and adjusting her satchel, Zahnia turned and slipped back out the door.