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Sake and Other Spirits Excerpt:
When the night grew late and only a few customers remained, Gilga-san assisted in the clean up despite Azami’s protests.
“This is what you pay me for,” Azami said. “Go and entertain your guests.”
Gilga-san enjoyed regaling his customers with stories that put the best Rakugo to shame. But tonight he seemed preoccupied, and his gray-green colored eyes peered through her. “Not tonight. No one is in the mood for frivolous stories.”
“Is it because of the traders who died?”
“Yes. They had disappeared two days ago from Yukio’s caravan while they traveled around Lake Biwa. A fisherman found their bodies today, washed up on shore.”
“Hard to tell. Their lungs were full of water and their throats were shredded.”
Azami’s hand went to her neck as she glanced at Saburo. Since the snows had closed the mountain passes, his caravan also passed the lake. He remained at the table with three others. The rest had gone home to their families.
“Murder?” she asked.
“Probably a robbery gone wrong. But you should keep your kaiken close at hand when you leave tonight,” Gilga-san said.
She jerked in surprise. No one knew about her dagger. Or so she thought.
He shot her a slightly amused smile. “We’ve been working together for over a year.”
True. She had taken the job in his sake-house to earn enough money to leave Hokuga. Azami needed to increase the distance between her and her former life. The small fishing village of Hokuga had just been a temporary stop. Except Gilga-san treated her as an equal, and his book-keeping had been an utter mess until she had taken them over. Plus his stories fascinated her. Then there was Saburo with his kind heart, good intentions, and sweet smile.
As if he could read her thoughts, Gilga-san said, “Saburo won’t let you go home tonight unaccompanied, but, you saw for yourself, he has no fighting skills.”
Azami searched his expression. Most men would be shocked to know she was armed and would forbid her to carry a weapon. Did he suspect her former identity?
From AFTER HOURS: TALES OF THE UR-BAR,
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EDITED BY: JOSHUA PALMATIER & PATRICIA BRAY, DAW BOOKS, MARCH 2011