Thankfully, he didn’t have to wait long for his chance to learn.
At least once a week, Ung would appear out of nowhere and tell him that his presence was requested by one of his cousins in one of the sitting rooms, or sometimes the game room. He soon learned that his cousins were only inviting him out of some strange familial obligation; they didn’t really expect him to come, and didn’t care much when he did.
There would be idle chatter, mild boasting, and seemingly pointless discussions or arguments about politics or money. Periodically Junapa or Kolb might ask Edmund a question, but they never bothered to listen to his answer. He tried to pay attention even though none of it made much sense, and he usually left early or at least when the arguments and threats started.
Sadly, though perhaps not surprisingly, when he tried using the peepholes in the walls to spy in on the meetings there was little ascertainable difference.
Then, one day towards the end of the month, after Edmund set down Matron’s tray and she shot off a strange question that made him pause.
“Have you heard anything of South Dunkin?” she asked, her cold eyes boring into his. Edmund was about to shake his head no, as usual, when a flicker of memory lit in his mind.
“Yes,” he said, slowly, careful not to scare the memory away. “I overheard Junapa saying something about South Dunkin…” he decided not to mention he was hidden in the walls at the time. “She said she had the situation under control.”
“Did she?” Matron muttered, after a pause. “And I suppose Kolb responded?”
“No,” Edmund shook his head. The memory was quite clear now. “It was Pinsnip. He said she was being too overconfident.”
“Really?” Matron’s eyebrow shot upwards. For a moment, Edmund thought she might hit him with her umbrella, but she merely stood up and crossed with surprising alacrity to her small desk. Whipping out a piece of paper, she pulled apart a pen, carefully filled it with a glass eyedropper, and scrawled something on the paper before folding it in half and pointing it towards Edmund.
“Take this to Kolb,” she said, sharply. “And slip it under his door… no, better yet, make sure he takes it from your hand. Let him see your face.”
“Is this some adult thing?” Edmund asked, staring dismally at the paper in his hand. Kolb’s name was written on it in a large and spidery hand. Matron gave a sharp crackling laugh.
“Not at all, boy. It’s very childish indeed. Now get a move on–I have to write a letter to an old friend in South Dunkin.”
Edmund took the note away as the door slammed behind him. His heart beat loudly in his chest. He knew he would probably never know what this note or South Dunkin was all about, but it did seem clear that something important was happening.
And this time he seemed to be in the middle of it.