The tailor’s name was Aubrin Sill. His shop was in one of the small streets near the Blue Bridge on the south bank of the Skamander—those streets where everything is expensive and orderly, where there is a sense of not particularly being in Ashamoil but rather in some rectitudinous place where authorities take their jobs seriously, taxes are paid and visibly used for the public good, and corruption is self-regulated at a level tolerable to all. The district was informally administered by wealthy local families whose association was on good terms with the Horn Fan.
Gwynn had been to Sill’s the week before for the fitting of two new waistcoats. He had a warm respect for the tailor, who was talented and meticulous in his work and full of charm in himself. A native of Ashamoil, he was very tall and thin, with a sallow milk-coffee complexion and silver hair combed back from his receding forehead. His manner was soulful, without a murmur of affectation or silliness, even when he was off on one of his ekphrastic commentaries about a fabric or cut. He was made for his occupation and genuinely loved it, and like all those who love their work he possessed a radiance that was nourishing to the soul when it fell upon you.
For the first time that Gwynn could recall, this radiance had not been tangible on that particular day. The tailor looked drawn, and while his manner was as smooth as ever, there appeared to be a nervous agitation contained in his eye. His words were unwontedly stilted as he praised the ivory silk with its apricot and herb-green embroideries and the elegant spread of the collar, whose points were rounded, in keeping with the latest Halacian fashion.
When the tailor was standing beside him fiddling with seams, Gwynn sensed the man’s nervous state as an animal would. The impression was confirmed when his side felt the prick of a pin. Aubrin Sill was never so clumsy. The tailor apologised, and two minutes later stuck a pin in his back.
‘I’m terribly sorry, sir.’ The tailor’s voice was low with mortification.
Satisfied as he was by his own image in the measuring-room mirror, Gwynn was unable to properly concentrate on admiring himself. His curiosity was piqued, and his sympathies stood ready to be engaged—up to a point, at least, as long as not too much was asked of them.
‘Thoughts elsewhere, Sill?’
‘It isn’t a matter on which I should wish to bother you, sir.’
‘Well, I think you do wish to bother me, or you wouldn’t have mentioned there being any matter at all.’
‘Forgive me, sir. A most distressing situation has culminated in a deplorable event. If you’d just raise your left arm, sir.’
Gwynn was at that point asking himself whether the pins had been a deliberate ploy to get his attention.
‘Whatever you want to say, you might as well say it.’
‘I admit that it would afford me some relief to do so, sir.’
Tinker, tailor, soldier, psycho?