Welcome, Mr. Kaille, to my humble office, and thank you for taking time to speak with Black Gate. Please begin by introducing yourself to our readers. Who is Ethan Kaille?
I am no one of consequence, really. I work in Boston as a thieftaker — for a negotiated fee, I recover property that has been stolen, and return it to its rightful owner.
Surely there is more to your life than thieftaking. What did you do before you began to work in your current profession?
[Long pause.] I don’t usually like to speak of it, but if you must know, I was a prisoner. Years ago, as a young, foolish man, I took part in a mutiny aboard a ship called the Ruby Blade. When the mutiny failed, I was placed in the brig, and eventually was tried and convicted. The Admiralty Court spared my life, but sentenced me to fourteen years at labor on a sugar plantation in the Caribbean.
And before all of that, I was a sailor in the British navy, just like my father before me, and his father before him. I enlisted during the War of the Austrian Succession and fought at Toulon as a crewman aboard the HMS Stirling Castle.
When was the first time that you became aware of your powers as a conjurer?
I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Of course you do, Mister Kaille. You can trust me. Our readership is of a different time and place from yours. No one intends to hang you as a witch. We find your powers fascinating and merely wish to know when you first came to understand that you were a conjurer.
[Shifts in his chair uneasily.] My mother was a conjurer, and my sisters and I inherited her abilities. I’ve known since I was a small child that I would be a conjurer. My father didn’t approve — he adored my mother and didn’t mind that she could cast spells. He even encouraged my sisters to hone their conjuring talents. But he believed that magick was the province of women and that men were more suited to martial pursuits. Hence his career as a naval officer and his efforts to convince me that I ought to follow his path.
I cast my first spell in my twelfth year, and with my mother’s help learned to control and sharpen my spellmaking in the years that followed. My father might not have approved, but I knew early on, as did my mother, that I had an aptitude for conjuring. I suppose on some level I knew even then that I would defy my father’s wishes in this regard.
I know you would rather not talk about your time on the Ruby Blade, but would you mind telling us what happened during the mutiny?
Yes, I would mind. Forgive me, sir. But though you have managed to convince me that I should confess to being an ex-convict and a conjurer, what you ask now goes too far. The Ruby Blade mutiny and my subsequent imprisonment cost me fourteen years — more than a third of my life. These events cost me my first love. They even cost me part of my left foot, leaving me maimed and half-crippled. I walk with a pronounced limp now. And the truth is, I very nearly died from the infection that led to the amputation.
But for the mutiny, I might now be a respected merchant or shipbuilder. I might be married to Marielle Taylor; she and I might have had children. My life would have been entirely different, and no doubt a good deal easier. You will forgive me if at this time I choose not to speak of the mutiny itself. There may come a time, as others chronicle my life, when those details will be revealed. But this is not that time.
I understand. Perhaps we should speak of your profession. What is it like being a thieftaker in Boston? I can imagine that Miss Sephira Pryce isn’t happy with you working on your own.
Sephira would probably tell you that she couldn’t care less one way or another. She would like you and me to believe that she hardly gives a thought to my very existence. But she knows better, and so do I. I believe that Sephira finds me to be both a nuisance and a convenience, depending on the day. She does not like to share clients with me; she doesn’t like to see gold that she feels is destined for her purse deposited in mine instead. On the other hand, there are certain inquiries — those dealing with matters more suited to my… talents, than to hers — that she would just as soon leave to me.
Aye, that’s right. If Sephira were to take on such inquiries, she would likely fail, to her own embarrassment and the disapproval of her wealthy clientele. With me around, she doesn’t have to risk taking on such inquiries; she can leave them to me. I believe that secretly she is glad to have me in Boston.
As to the rest, the life of a thieftaker in this city is one of risk, even of danger. I have been beaten too many times to count. On more than one occasion, I have come within a hair’s breadth of being killed. In my profession, one deals with the most unsavory of people and is paid poorly for doing so. To be honest, I cannot imagine why anyone would be interested in what I do.
You first came to people’s attention after your confrontation with another conjurer, which was chronicled by Mr. D.B. Jackson in his book, Thieftaker. His newest book, Thieves’ Quarry, is the novelization of your latest adventure, involving a new conjurer and a ship full of mysterious dead sailors. What can we expect when reading that adventure?
Ah, yes. The events aboard the HMS Graystone. I will admit that this was a most unusual inquiry. I will not tell you too much, because I believe that Mr. Jackson has managed to do justice to the story. Suffice it to say that once more I found myself involved in an investigation that drew the attention of not only Sephira and her toughs, but also authorities of the British Crown here in Boston. I did battle with a most unusual conjuring force, searched the city for a cache of stolen pearls, and even had to deal with Sephira’s newest henchman, who happens to be a conjurer just as I am. It was a most grim and unsettling inquiry, but one that I believe others might find quite interesting, and even exciting.
Will you ever give authorization to Mr. Jackson to write a book about your time on the Ruby Blade and your years on the plantation in Barbados? I can imagine that a lot of people are curious about that period of your life.
[Sighs] For some reason, people seem determined to learn more of these events, though they are private and painful to me. Yes, I expect that eventually Mr. Jackson will write of those years, as he has of so much else I have done. I don’t know if they will warrant a story as long as those you have referred to previously — Thieftaker and Thieves’ Quarry. But I expect that they might be more of a length similar to the tale of how I first became a thieftaker, which was told in a tale called “A Memory of Freedom,” or the story of my encounter with a scoundrel named Nate Ramsey, which was related in “A Spell of Vengeance.” I can also tell you that there is another short tale about me that will be published next year. It is called “The Price of Doing Business” and it tells of my first encounter with Sephira.
Have you ever thought of marrying Kannice Lester, leaving the big city, and starting a new life on the countryside?
[Laughs] Did Kannice tell you to ask me that? I believe she would like that very much. But I am not the marrying kind, at least not anymore. I might have been as a younger man, before I was convicted and imprisoned. But as much as I care for Kannice, as much as I would like to be free of Sephira and her scheming, and of my persecution at the hands of Sheriff Stephen Greenleaf, I believe that I would find life in the country tedious.
The truth is — and I know that some will find this hard to credit — I enjoy my work. Despite the beatings and the danger and the meager pay, I find it… exhilarating. I am not a man to spend his days tilling the earth or tending to pigs and chickens, though I admire those who can do these things. They are not for me. For better or worse, I am a thieftaker and I expect I will remain one for many years to come.
D.B. Jackson is also David B. Coe, the award-winning author of more than a dozen fantasy novels. His first book as D.B. Jackson, the Revolutionary War era urban fantasy, Thieftaker, volume I of the Thieftaker Chronicles, came out in 2012 and is now available in paperback. The second volume, Thieves’ Quarry, has just been released by Tor Books. D.B. lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.