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Murder and blackmail were terrible for productivity, Bai decided, trying to focus on a justification form. The entire office was backlogged by a tenday more than it ought to be, which wasn't actually unusual, but the pressure of it felt more intense, and Bai was having more trouble than usual staying on task. A crisp book of updated regulations sat open beside him as he tried to follow a tangled trail of reasoning and argument. The managers below him had split their decisions on this license, and he had already changed his mind several times as he read their arguments and researched precedent. Did this updated license wording apply to this case, or could it be considered under the older regulations because of the date of submital? And if the newer rules did apply, did that mean the primary license this was being applied under needed to be re-examined under the revised justification form?
He looked up at the tap on his open door and the sight of Ressa in the doorway gave his chest a little squeeze. Would he always react to her that way, with that momentary catch of breath? He was surprised how familiar it felt, and wondered exactly how long he'd been ignoring it.
She was carrying folders - an armful of new professional puzzles to unravel and problems to solve - but she gave a guarded look behind her down the hallway before she entered that suggested she was not entirely there on official Licensing Office business.
Bai tucked the form he was considering into the regulations book and closed it as she stepped into the room. The folders were added to an existing pile; if Ressa was continually mystified by his organization system, she at least knew by now how to work within it.
She pulled a card from a pocket and handed it gravely to Bai. "This is the card the old man at Alikara's party gave me," she said in a low voice. "There isn't much to go on, I'm afraid. There are seven citizen entries in Affamarg with that name. Four are women, two are children and the last is Raalyan. I already checked the address, and it doesn't exist."
Bai took the card. It was a thick, quality calling card, with gilt edges and an embossed swirl on the edges. A name and address were all that was printed there.
"I've got a card out to a... friend... in the monitors office," Bai said in quiet tones to match hers. It was hard not to flinch, thinking about how his friend at the monitors office had always been Urti. "We should be able to do the search of Urti's housing this afternoon while he's on duty here."
Ressa's face was calm and unreadable, but she was pale. She nodded slowly.
"Did... you see him at all this tenend?" Bai asked reluctantly.
Ressa's mouth made a thin, tense line before she composed herself again. She shook her head, wordlessly. While Bai was still figuring out what to say to make things less awkward, she swallowed and drew in a deep breath. "I thought I would send one of my clerks to the carnal guild and have her do a check for my record withdrawals." Records were signed for as they were withdrawn, but the withdrawals weren't cross-indexed in any way. A check would involve combing through pages of withdrawals chronologically, looking for a specific record number. "I'll need your signature on the work order to authorize the search - it will probably take her several days." As Head of Files, Ressa could authorize a records check at any time, but when it started to take more manpower than a few hours, Bai's approval was required.
"Do you think -" Bai stopped himself at the sound of steps at his door, and Ressa turned as a monitor Bai knew only a little appeared in the doorframe. Had his card gone to the wrong desk? "Can I help you?"
"I'm Monitor Tublai here for Citizen Ressa," the monitor said gravely, and Bai stood, fingers clenching at the edge of his desk. "I need to request your presence at the monitors office right away, moses."
Ressa swayed in place, just barely, and turned perfectly white. "Should I request a legate?" she asked soberly.
"That won't be necessary," the monitor said, shaking his head. There was an odd tone to his voice; Bai thought it might be pity.
Ressa smoothed the front of her rank robes, settled her license pouch more neatly and lifted her chin. "Very well," she said bravely.
"Ressa!" Bai said it too loudly, and they both looked around at him sharply. More gently, he continued, "If you need anything..." He didn't know how to finish the thought.
Ressa nodded and gave him the barest flicker of a smile. "Thank you," she said simply, and then they were gone, leaving his office ominously empty.