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You remember the guard what confronted the three o’ us in Carona Sari’s Stables who wanted to take off Sun-Oks’ boots, thinkin’ they looked like the ones the strangler was wearin’? Well he must o’ been followin’ us all over the place cause right after we popped Vala’s helm off, he comes runnin’ up to us huffin’ and puffin’, his face red with anger and lookin’ for sure like he wanted to take a bite out o’ someone!

He insisted we tell him which one o’ us had been tearin’ through the streets, clattering’ along with an iron flower pot stuck onto their foot! It caused a dreadful racket and he said it woke up just about everybody who lived in the neighborhood!

Oh geez! He tells us he’s got a list o’ complaints ‘bout the noise from half the folks in the Laatner district!

Well . . . Sun-Ok was standin’ there, still hangin’ onto the flower pot what she’d pulled off my foot a moment before . . . and friendship only goes so far, and most times I’m in enough o’ a pickle with Father Ryche and I ain’t wantin’ no more trouble added on to it. So right quick I caught the guard’s eye and kinda nodded my head a few times in Sun-Ok’s direction, thinkin’ for sure, he’d notice her holdin’ the pot, ya know?

But when the guard seen Vala laid out on the ground in front o’ us, his jaw dropped and he stood there gaping’ at her, his eyes growin’ large as saucers and he forgot all about those poor folks what I disturbed during the chase!

“Ah ha, what have we here?” he said, in that deep authoritative tone what all guards seem to have. I thinks they only makes guards out o’ men who can speak like that. Yup! You can’t have no guard sayin’ “Halt, who goes there?” or “Stop or I’ll shoot!” in a squeaky little high pitched voice, cause no one would pay ‘em no mind at all!

Anyways, Bel tells the guard the girl on the ground is none other than the Stonemark Strangler and her name is Vala Felt Marker! Or . . . somethin’ like that. Belfron goes about showin’ the guard her helm what matched the description he had o’ it, and Bel also pointed out the day-glo colored threads hangin’ off o’ Vala’s gloves what she still was wearin’!

Everyone knows that Boppi, one o’ the strangler’s first victims, is the only person in all o’ Markshire who wears a day-glo colored scarf!

So, there it was! All the proof he needed! While the guard was occupied with the criminal, Sunny managed to place the flower pot directly behind her and then she sat down on it, her gown flowin’ ‘round it, coverin’ the pot up and all the while glarin’ at me and mumblin’ somethin’under her breath I couldn’t quite understand.

The guard untied the ropes what I’d used to bind up Vala, which I thought wasn’t such a good idea, but I kept my mouth shut about it. Then the four o’ us started marchin’ our prisoner off to a little building the guard told us about, what was down the road a bit that had a shield bounty booth and a tiny jail just big enough to hold one person.

We figured we’d lock her up tight in it till we could alert the proper authorities about her capture. All I could think of was the reward money, which for sure Lord Mark was gonna be handin’ over to us as soon as he heard the news!

I figured my half and Sonny’s half should be about the same cause even though I’d done most o’ the catchin’ she hid the flower pot from the guard, thereby keepin’ me from gettin’ into a big mess, you know? Bel who’d done almost nothin’ at all in the way o’ helpin’ me and Sonny because he ran so slow and had trouble keepin’ up with the chase, deserved the smallest half out o’ the three o’ us. At least that’s how I seen it.

Anyways, while the four o’ us was makin’ our way to the jail with Vala, the guard kept yammerin’ at her, goin’ on and on, not lettin’ up, tellin’ her he hoped he’d be the one the judge picked to lop off her head or at least let him torture her a bit before she was put to death! Oh geez, Sunny, Bel and me could see he was workin’ himself up into an awful frenzy!

By the time we got to the steps in front o’ the building the guard was demandin’ Vala remove her gloves ‘cause he wanted ‘em for evidence and if she didn’t, he threatened to chop off her hands right there where we was all standin’! Vala just stood there tremblin’ and mumblin’ over and over again somethin’ about not bein’ able to take the damn gloves off.

Sunny and Bel seen things was startin’ to go down hill real fast so the two o’ ‘em run off to the Temple to get Bishop Kolton, knowin’ he was a good mediator and thinkin’ he’d be able to calm things down. I stood there watchin’ Vala and the guard not knowin’ quite what I should do.

The guard started screamin’ he’d have those gloves one way or another, drew his short sword and went straight for Vala, aimin’ for a spot on her right arm ‘bout half way between her wrist and elbow.

As quick as a cat Vala dodged his blow, and with a fierceness I’ve only seen in one possessed by a demon, she went for the front o’ his’ neck what was bare and un-protected, with those gloved hands o’ hers’, clamping down with a vice like grip, tearing away a huge chunk, spattering blood and gore all over the three o’ us!

The guard fell to his knees a look of shock and supprise on his face, his left hand reaching up for the large piece of his neck that was no longer there. He gurgled once, turned and looked at me, knowing his time would soon be over. He could no longer speak. That part of his throat had been ripped away, but in his eyes I read his message. He was pleading with me to stay with him. He did not want to die alone.

I knelt, cradling his head in my lap as I watched my reward and my new gowns along with Vala run off, finally disappearing behind a building far in the distance. The guard looked up at me and gave me a little smile. I suppose he was thankin’ me for the bit o’ kindness I was showin’ by stayin’ there on the steps with him. Then he sighed once, closed his eyes, and he was gone.

I guess there’s a lesson or two what could be learned from all that took place that evening, you know? The first one bein’ you shouldn’t be countin’ the reward money before the chickens hatch . . . or somethin’ close to that.

The second one applies to the guard. I know he’s dead so it’d be hard now for him to benefit from it, but I’ll writ it down anyway.

The thing is this. He tried twice to remove items from a woman. He wanted to take off Sun-Oks’ boots when he first met us in Carona Sari’s stable. I’d say it was good luck for him he changed his mind and backed away. Then, here on these steps only a few moments ago, the poor man tried to remove a pair o’ gloves from Vala. This time he wasn’t so lucky and as I’m lookin’ down on him, lifeless, with a huge gapin’ hole in his neck and his body already cooling, I’m thinkin’ he paid quite a steep price for attempting’ that trick!

I guess lesson number two would be that a man ought not to be tryin’ to remove any clothing from a woman . . . unless he gets express permission from her first!!