Chapter 285: Tailing and Misleading
Punk got Vlodimir's message and set off for the academy's island with the smartest men he had. They saw their targets right after high noon. Three witchers came out of the Philosopher's gate. One of them was wearing a cape, another had his hair tied up, and he was deadpan. The last one was a bald man with a body as powerful as a beast. They were none other than Auckes, Serrit, and Letho, who were out to gain intel on the Free Company.
Punke left one guy behind to stake out the gates, while he and two other men went ahead. They didn't get too close though. The rumors about witchers scared them. They tailed the witchers from far, far away, following them from the academy all the way to The Chancellor's Home in the eastern side.
The trio split up into two teams and went inside after the witchers were inside the inn for five minutes. It was daytime, so the inn didn't have any lamps on. They relied on the sunlight, and it was a bit dim. Most Oxenfurtians were busy at work at this time. They'd only come to the inn at night, so there were only a few customers around.
The innkeep was a bard. He was playing his lute on the stage. It was a slow, sleepy tune. The witchers were not far from the counter. Their table was filled with wine and meat. They were chatting, and they were loud. Punk and one of his men heard them talking about vulgar, sexual things. They were in a corner, keeping themselves hidden in the shadows. Unlike the witchers, they ordered two mugs of the cheapest dwarven liquor and borrowed a Gwent board from the innkeep to pretend they were playing. The other guy took up the window seat alone. He looked like a merchant who lost all his money in business. The guy acted well. He was looking at the passing people sadly.
"I don't think they're here for anything other than liquor, boss." Rov tossed a card and gulped. He stopped glancing at the witchers.
"Just shut up and do your job." Punk was surprised as well. He thought the witchers were here for intel, but after they ordered their liquor, they didn't talk to anyone else.
"Just play your cards and stop looking at them. The mutants have great eyesight." Punk tossed a card and looked at the board. He smiled. "Fifty-four to thirty-five. You lost, Rov!" He downed the liquor, and Rov looked enviously.
The weird taste made him frown, but he finished the liquor and heaved a sigh. He worked at the Oxenfurt port for half a day to make enough money for the liquor. I'm the third-in-command of the Free Company, and this is all I can afford. I feel sad for myself.
Back when the Everecs were still rich, Olgierd and Vlodimir would reserve the whole inn and have an all-you-can-drink session with the gang. They would get the hottest ladies in Oxenfurt for the boys as well. It had only been ten years, but the Everecs had declined. Their business was going downhill, and their investments were nothing but failure after failure. They also had to fork out some money to help the gang. Most of the members were unemployed, and they refused to toil in the fields. The Everecs had a mountain of debt. They were in critical condition.
"Once Olgierd makes the deal, we'll have enough money to get through this. I won't let these meddling witchers ruin it." Punk's eyes glinted coldly.
"Remember the time when we tailed that griffin in Amell?" Auckes wiped the wine from his mouth and winked at the other witchers.
Serrit chomped on the bloody, sauce-drenched steak and grinned. "Of course. We borrowed Roy's horse and used it to set a trap to lure it out." Serrit snorted. "And there were some beasts that tried to ambush us too. How many were there?"
"You're drunk. You forgot about it?" Auckes raised one finger. "It was one boar. Was probably famished. It really needed food, so it thought we were prey, but it was just a beast at the end of the day. It wasn't smart enough to see that we were not to be trifled with. We chased it all the way to its home and made its whole family our dinner."
"No, you're drunk." Letho put his glass down and burped. "I remember it was three boars."
The witchers kept chatting and exchanged smiles, then they went back to their food.
The witchers left the inn and went to a brothel called Silver Cloud.
"I think we were worried for nothing, boss. These guys are here just to have fun. They didn't notice anything." Rov was hiding in an alleyway near the street's exit. He saw the witchers holding a woman each. They were huddled together, and all of them went into a room. The guy was green with envy.
A moment later, Punk said, "Tell Vlodimir about this, and don't embellish anything. Larry, you stay with me and keep an eye on the witchers."
"Leave it to me, boss." Rov left happily, but unbeknownst to him, a silhouette was hiding on the roof right on top of him, tailing him like an agile cat. It hopped and skipped through the roofs without making a sound.
The same building in northwestern Oxenfurt.
"We tailed them as you said. Three of them went and had some fun in an inn and brothel. They didn't say anything about us. Didn't do anything weird either." Rov sounded confident. "I don't think they realized we were behind Whishaw's death."
Vlodimir's hands were behind his back. He stepped around and kept his silence for a moment. "There are five of them. Where are the other two?"
"In the academy with Linus."
Vlodimir frowned. He looked worried.
Rov pursed his lips. He said, "Boss, I think we should pick up the pace. We should…" He lowered his voice. "Kidnap the rare specimens in the next couple of days. It hasn't been two days since the witchers came to town. There's no way they could have found out about our plan, but if we don't do anything, they might—"
"I know! I don't need you to tell me that." Vlodimir glared at him and sighed. The plan was a last-ditch one, and mistakes would not be tolerated. He clenched his fists. "Are the boys in the delta prepared?"
Rov was delighted. "Of course. You just saw them two days ago. They're waiting for your orders."
"Did you check the boat, meds, and equipment?"
"I do that with Punk every day. No problem with them."
"Tell Punk to gather all the boys here tomorrow morning." A pause later, he said, "We'll be starting the operation tomorrow night at the latest."
"What about Olgierd?"
"I'll tell him right away."
A sound came from the second floor, stopping the conversation. Their hearts skipped a beat, and they went upstairs, but all they saw was an empty bottle rolling on the floor. The window was opened, and a gust of breeze blew in. A fat tabby cat was lying on the windowsill. It meowed at them, surprised that they showed up.
"Where'd this cat come from? That scared me. I thought someone was listening in." Rov patted his chest.
Vlodimir heaved a sigh of relief as well. He picked the cat up and patted it. As he looked at the people outside, he finally made his decision.
At the same time, a young man was crouched on the roof outside the second floor, his amber eyes glinting. "The Free Company… Vlodimir… Olgierd… the rare animals… I see…"
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