Owin #51 — Misdirection

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo
Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

Gwen rubbed her face with her hand, but her eyes were still heavy. She had always imagined Owin’s life had been full of adventures and excitement. The afternoon of sitting in public places and pretending to be doing something legitimate had destroyed her motivation to even walk down the street. How can anyone stand to just sit like that for so long?

She knew the importance of the waiting some place safe, but it had not been the first time on the journey that she had to occupy herself with doing nothing. “I hope this messenger is there, or this day will be for nothing,” she mumbled to herself as she walked under a street lamp.

Under Owin’s direction, she had passed by Iesa’s Public House three times earlier in the day. The two-story building sat in a location where three major roads converged and Owin wanted her to have taken each road at least once. From that earlier exploration, she knew the building to be located in a relatively safe, if not also expenses, part of the city.

Moving around a small group of well-dressed men who had gathered on the edge of the street to talk, Gwen walked in through the open door that led into Iesa’s main room. The smell of smoke and alcohol filled the room, but the dimly lit room remained a place of calm discussions and dining. All but one of the nearly two dozen tables that filled the large room had someone sitting at it.  Most of the tables had multiple people around them and several of those were the focus of games of chance.

Gwen had looked inside the pub earlier in the day, but the level of patronage at that time had been much lower. Now, half a dozen young women carried drinks and plates of food between the tables and they appeared barely able to keep up with the requests.

“Excuse me,” a man said from behind her and Gwen stepped aside to allow a pair of men to enter. She watched as they headed over to a table which already had four people sitting around it. The jovial greetings told her it was a regular gathering for that group.

Not wanting to draw too much attention, she started to slowly make her way over to the tall bar that sat against the wall to her right. She forced her eyes to look through the hazy room at the men standing against the bar, hoping to see someone in a green shirt and a red cap. As she looked, she thought that perhaps the Steward had changed his mind. However, one man standing at the far end of the bar moved to get the barman’s attention and she saw someone standing behind the first that fit the Steward’s description.

Don’t rush directly to your contact, she told herself, using Owin’s voice in her head. Watch for others watching the contact first. She felt her heart racing as she started second-guessing the decision to go through with the meeting and her ability to do what needed to be done.

Gwen stopped at the middle of the bar and squeezed between two men. “An ale,” she said as the barman walked past her, repeating what someone else had just requested. A few moments later, she slid half of a small silver coin across the bar and received a mug. She took a sip of the warm and bitter beverage and then turned around to face the room.

She pretended to take another drink, but only let the warm liquid rest against her lip as she looked around at the tables. She wanted to see Owin, but he was not sitting at any of the tables with a single person. Should I approach the contact if Owin’s not here? She knew the danger of being on her own and the thought made her knees tremble.

In her looking, she did notice another man sitting at a table close to the man in the red cap. This man kept looking over to where her contact stood and then back to the door. Because of the angle of his chair, the glance toward her contact did not seem natural and once he had made the glance for the fourth time, Gwen decided this was someone interested in the pending conversation. Damn, I wanted the Steward to help us.

She bit her lip and looked around the room one more time. This time a laugh caught her attention and she noticed Owin sitting at a table in the middle of the room. Four other men sat around the same table and they were all playing a card game. She chuckled to herself and pretended to take another drink of the ale. Knowing Owin was in the room with her removed a weight from her shoulders and she knew she had to go through with the meeting one way or the other.

With the mug in hand, she moved a step away from the bar and headed toward her contact without looking at the man whom she suspected was a watcher. The man in the red cap spotted her as she grew close and he took a step back to make room for her.

“Hello,” Gwen said softly to the man who was barely taller than herself. “Do you have a message for me?”

“Whose message are you waiting for?”

“The Steward,” she responded. When the man simply raised his eyebrows, Gwen added. “Renald.”

The man nodded his head and then glanced around Gwen to see if anyone else was coming. “Just you?”

“Yes,” she replied immediately. “You?”

The man smiled. “Don’t think to try anything with me. I’ve got someone watching my back.”

Gwen put the mug on the bar with her right hand and then crossed her arms. “I’m trying to help. I’m not here to take advantage of anyone.”

The man frowned. “Well, be that as it may, you should be on your best behavior.”

“Is he going to help or not?” Gwen demanded, growing tired of everyone’s apparent desire to throw around threats.

“Yes,” the man said as he pulled his red cap from his head. “The Steward has already sent a message to the local party involved and it is quite likely the location of the meeting will change.”

“Can you tell me where it will be?” Gwen asked, hope filling her at the same time she wondered what the removal of the cap might signal.

“We do not have the details yet. But the Steward will be able to inform you as soon as he learns where the location will move. Do you have a place in mind where I can have a message sent to you?”

Gwen pursed her lips. “Waiting until the end of the day will waste too much time. If he has news, I will meet you at the statue in Patrick Square tomorrow at midday. If you don’t show, I will meet you here tomorrow evening.”

The man nodded his head. “Good enough.”

Gwen turned away from the bar and made her way toward the exit, but she took a longer route across the room, passing close to the table where the men who had come in after her had taken their seats. She bumped into one of the men, not causing a scene, but she hit him with enough force to be required to apologize.

Without further delay, she made her way out the front door with a grin on her face. Hopefully, Owin will like that misdirection.

Continue to next episode.