“Her entire staff?” Inspector Xan said. “How is that possible? I have seen and spoken with many people here that seem very familiar with the Empress and her grandmother.”

“A second complete, trained reserve staff is present at all times, to step in upon any death or vacancy,” said Ieng. “Apologies. I assumed that you had a greater knowledge of the inner workings of the palace you had been asked to investigate and disrupt.”

“If there is a disruption here, it is that of an old woman with a tongue as sharp as her needlework is not.”

“Ha!” Ieng laughed. “I spent thirty years being demure and biting my tongue, Inspector, and I vowed that those days ould die with The Beloved Empress. And that bitch is deep in her cold, jade tomb.”

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