Listening behind the banister at the top of the stairs was for children. Any fool on the floor of the shop could see you if you did that. Raedefrac Sellers did not consider himself a child. Nor was he interested in being seen by anyone, fool or otherwise. Which is why he was poised on the thin ledge outside his bedroom window, crouching as low as he could, one arm straight out, clinging to the window sill, the other braced flat against the alley side of the two-floor building which housed both the Sellers Stand and the Sellers family itself. A ground floor window was open and words were drifting piecemeal up to Raed’s eager ears.
“But I have no space for that!” It was his father’s voice, and he sounded annoyed.
“Not my problem, now is it?” Raed wasn’t sure who the other speaker was. The voice was definitely male but too muffled to be recognized. Plans flashed through Raed’s mind. I can swing up onto the roof and cross to the front. Then I’ll be able to see this Mysterious Stranger when he leaves. I could even follow him along the rooftops back to his den.
“I’m not related to him!” A shout from Raed’s father returned the boy’s attention to his current investigation.
“Who aren’t we related to?” he muttered to himself.
“Father’s protesting about the Tinkers.”
Raed couldn’t claim that Aelfric hadn’t startled him, but at least it didn’t upset his delicate perch. He leapt back through the window, as Aelfric quickly stepped out of the way. “How do you know what they’re talking about?” Raed demanded in hushed tones.
“I was just down on the floor. You know, working,” Aelfric replied, making no attempt to lower his voice.
Raed rolled his eyes. “Mother told me I wasn’t dressed appropriately for the shop. She sent me back up here. I’m allowed to be up here. In fact, I'm supposed to be here.”
Aelfric laughed, not sure who Raed was talking to by this point. "Well, she’s right. Have you no sense?” Aelfric shook his head in disgust and went over to the chest at the foot of Raed’s bed, selecting some garments to toss to his brother. “Put those on.”
As Raed complied, he interrogated his brother. “The Tinkers? Nathan and Eileen? They are kin.”
Aelfric shrugged. “They’re our kin, sure. But Father’s trying to get out of something, so he’s going on the technicality that they are no blood relation to him. Think about it. Sure, Eileen is related to you and me by blood, but Nathan only by marriage. So, for father, that’s two marriages removed. And—what? What are you—You’ll ruin the shirt!”
Raedefrac was out the window again, this time simply flipped over the sill. “Shut up!” he hissed.
“What? What are they saying?”
Raed hopped up into the window, sparing his brother a glance. “It was something about repayment. They settled on some number. I think some percent. I don’t know what it was, but I want to find out who that was!”
And then Raed was gone, having pulled himself up onto the roof. Aelfric stood in their room, alone and bemused.