ONCE INSIDE GURU DEEP’S empty office, Branwen made straight for his large wooden desk, where stacks of folders towered over the rich bright wood. I think his desk is the size of our flat, Branwen thought.
Behind the desk, on a small table in front of the window, a black lacquered wooden stand held a curved Japanese katana in its black scabbard, polished and resplendent. In front of the stand sat another katana. Its scabbard was dusty, chipped, and covered with something brown and dried. Except for a looped cord stretching from the scabbard where the blade entered, the dusty sword and the polished swords were identical twins.
What the hell?
Something about the swords pulled at her, but Branwen knew she didn’t have time to wonder. Instead she shifted papers and lifted folders, searching and checking—but finding nothing.
“What am I looking for?” Branwen had asked Nia in the lobby, before they had seen Feckniss.
“Anything that has to do with last night,” Nia had replied. “First Call, accidents, anything that mentions Rucksack and Arthur. There has to be something. You drop bread on the floor around here, there’s going to be a form to fill out in triplicate. So there’s got to be something. Just be careful. And be sure that you put everything back exactly the way you found it.”
Precious time ticked away. After nineteen minutes, Branwen had found nothing.
Nineteen fewer minutes that Zara may have to live, Branwen reminded herself.
But there’s nothing here.
Then she saw something.
The plain manila folder said simply, “Trub and Krausen Report.”
Branwen picked it up. “Why would the CEO of a global corporate empire care about the fermentation debris and blow-off that you want to get rid of when brewing beer?”
No sooner had she finished speaking, when her eyes went wide.
“Of course,” she said, opening the folder and reading the report.
Then closed it again in frustration.
Dammit. I thought for sure I’d find something.
She started to put the useless report back where she’d found it. Then she stopped, and opened the folder again.
“It talks about Krausen, always with a capital K, being an ongoing problem,” she said. “And it talks about getting rid of Trub, with a capital T.”
This is it.
Branwen nodded. “There’s going to be paperwork,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean its meaning will be obvious. Since when does a company of this size ever speak plainly or say anything clearly?”
Trub is the gunk left at the bottom of a fermenter, she thought. It always stinks when we’re rinsing it out of the carboys at home. And krausen is a by-product of fermentation, the foam that blows off, leaving the fermenter and getting away from the beer. If it stayed, it’d cause headaches or make the beer taste bad—like it did in my and Zara’s first batch of homebrew. Trub and krausen are the stuff we don’t want.
“Stuff we don’t want,” Branwen said out loud. “Nicknames. Trub and Krausen.” Like Malt and Hops. “Arthur and Rucksack.”
She read more—and smiled.
I know where they are.
She checked her watch. It’s been twenty-seven minutes, she thought. I have to get out of here.
Branwen stuffed the folder down the back of her pants and pulled her jacket over it, then headed toward the elevator that would return her to Blanders’s office. Then she stopped and turned around. Returning to the desk, she stood again in front of the small table with the two swords.
She picked up the dusty one.
“You don’t belong here,” she said.
Tucking the katana behind her as best she could, Branwen went to the elevator and stopped in front of the doors. What a pretty plant, she thought, looking at the tall potted plant next to the elevator box. She raised her hand—but before she could press the button, the light went on. A ding brought Branwen’s world to a halt.
Behind the door, a voice.
The doors opened.
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