Fort Eden – Chapter 10
“Brains and Slime” by Chris Kluwe & Edwin McRae
The chief burst into the room, his steel eyes blazing.
“What the bloody hell do you mean, a corpse?” His voice trailed off and he stumbled to a halt next to Farlan. “Christ’s flaming arse. What happened to my prisoner?”
“Nothing good, chief,” Farlan replied soberly. “Nothing good.”
He knelt down next to the late Reggie Hawthorne, ran a finger through the slime trail, then brought it to his nose.
“Hmmm. Patricia. Come take a whiff of this.”
Patricia turned from her examination of the window and knelt next to Farlan.
“Smells like…” Patricia shook her head. “Smells different. Not Hunter, nor Seeder.”
“Aye, lass,” Farlan rumbled, “and not like those beasts up at Seacliff either.” He spun back towards the door.
“Who was Reggie connected with in town? Pimps, nightgirls, fences, thieves – anyone at all?”
The chief frowned, his eyes creased in thought.
“There’s a Pole we’ve been trying to pin with something for a while, name of Jacek Polanski. Nasty bit of work. Fingers in all sorts of pies – racketeering, prostitution, even a bit of grand larceny. But he’s never the one holding the bag when we track it down. Haven’t heard of Reggie’s name in association with him, but if anyone’s mixed up in the underbelly of Fort Eden, it’s Jacek.”
His frown deepened.
“Also heard tell of a businessman, queer sort of fellow. Moves strange and talks even stranger. John Ewing. The Ewington ‘John Ewing’. He’s been flashing gold all over the city the last month or so. Reggie couldn’t shut up about him at first. Then he got silent, but it stuck in my mind.”
“If he’s flashing gold, this John Ewing, he’s not a Seeder,” Patricia said thoughtfully. “Like most Cullers, Seeders don’t like gold.”
“A solid theory, Patricia,” came a voice from outside the cell. Luc poked his head in and sniffed. “Now that’s a messy scene, and not at all the way I left him.”
“Who the blazes are you? And who let you into my gaol?” the chief snarled.
“Luc’s with us,” Farlan replied. “He’s a Falconer as well.”
“Christ on a crutch, there’s three of you wankers in my city? I’d better call the stonemason now and save some time.”
“I don’t anticipate engaging in any structural remodelling, sir,” Luc said, “but I cannot speak for my Scottish associate here. He tends to take the shortest path between two points.”
“Speaking of which, where does this window lead to?” Farlan asked, pulling out a pair of scissors and four small glass tubes.
He knelt down next to the mangled corpse and snipped off several pieces from the gaping crater that was once Reggie’s brain, placing them into the tubes. The chief swallowed heavily, and tried not to watch the impromptu dissection.
“It overlooks the southern canal. Not much more than an open sewer, to be honest. Most of the surrounding pipes drain along it down to the harbor.”
“Shite. Well, that settles that. There’s no way to know where the Culler’s gone if it slipped into the sewers. We’re back to square one.”
“Perhaps not,” Luc said. “This businessman, John Ewing… if Reggie was interested in him then it follows we should share that interest. There may be a clue or two there.” He looked at the warden. “Do you know where he can be found?”
“There’s a house, more a mansion, in the Maori Hill District. Pilkington Street. Man’s not likely to appreciate being woken at this hour, though.”
“We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it,” Patricia said, stepping out of the grisly cell. “Sleep’s a luxury none of us can afford until we catch this thing.”
“Patricia’s right. The longer it takes us to track the Culler down, the more lives we risk.”