33 iv) “The boss is exacting,” Abia says

“The boss is exacting,” Abia says. “But he loves gold.”

The attendant observes from his vantage point atop his long nose. “This one has sense, at least,” he says. “But, alas, the boss is not receiving visitors right now.”

“Right,” says Rivera, rolling her eyes. “Don’t mind him,” she tells the gang. “He’s just lazy. He’ll say whatever it takes to get rid of us.”

“A most scurrilous accusation,” says the attendant, entirely unphased. “Truly, the boss is absent, on a walkabout, of sorts.”

Shyan gives Abia a questioning look. Abia replies with a look that says “don’t worry.” Sure enough, Rivera and Rufus push past the attendant and ascend an ornate staircase. The gang wastes no time in following, leaving the attendant blinking calmly in the foyer.

33 iii) Abia shakes her head, a gentle motion

Abia shakes her head, a gentle motion that suggests a firm “no.” “Boss will know,” she says.

“Quiet down back there,” says the flutist. “Show a little respect.”

Cang gives her a grievous look, but says no more.

An attendant in a crisp waistcoat descends a set of wide, mahogany steps, and stares down at the gang past his long, crooked nose. “Rivera, why have you brought such filth into master’s home?”

Rivera, the flutist, draws herself up. “Getting some gold, all right? They brought something nice the boss is gonna want.” She gestures at Cang, who’s holding the necklace.

“Their clothes are filthy.”

“We took a bath, all right?” Shyan says. “Look, even cut my hair. What more could your boss possibly want? He either likes gold or he doesn’t, forget about hygiene.”

A small smile creeps onto Abia’s lips.