Fort Eden – Chapter 11
“A Long Night” by Chris Kluwe and Edwin McRae
Fog continued to roll along the damp cobblestone streets, a slight brightening of the sky the only hint of a forthcoming dawn. Three figures walked through the murk, senses alert and eyes scanning their surroundings despite their ongoing conversation.
“…and the horses are boarded at the Red Grape Inn. We also have three rooms on the second floor, though I had to twist the innkeeper’s arm to make sure they were adjacent.”
“Good job, Luc. I’ll make sure the chief knows to reach us there if he sees anything suspicious. Patricia, how’re you feeling?”
Patricia stifled a jaw-cracking yawn, the adrenaline buzz from earlier fading like the night’s gloom.
“Tired. More so than usual.”
“Aye, that’s the secondary effect of the healing draught. Your body’s going to need some solid rest soon to replace what it used. We’ll head to the inn after we question Mr. Ewing. It’s been a long night.”
“Works…” she yawned again. “Works for me. Let’s try to avoid anything where I get thrown out a window.”
“That’s the plan. Luc, you know anything about this Ewing fellow?”
“No more than what the chief told us. Rumor says Ewing made it big in his namesake town and then he came here. Bought a flash house on Maori Hill and has shown a good deal of interest in local businesses. Quite the entrepreneur it seems. Though he does sound somewhat eccentric.”
Patricia knew she should care, but the tiredness was starting to seep into her bones. Farlan’s response came as if from a distance, and a small part of her wondered why it wasn’t her saying the words. The rest of her informed her that she needed sleep. Soon.
“Eccentric? In what way?”
“The chief said Ewing’s bought controlling interests in a smithy, a gambling house, and three fisheries, and that he’s instructed them to only accept payment in gold. They’ll pay paper and silver back but they only take pure metal for services rendered.”
“Hmm. Sounds like those crackpot end-of-the-world nutters. Stockpiling gold and weapons so they can fight against the hordes of the apocalypse.”
“Farlan, we’re stockpiling gold and weapons so we can fight against the hordes of the apocalypse.”
“Yeah, but we know about the Cullers, Luc. What’s their excuse?”
“That’s, well, it’s…”
Patricia felt their voices fade away, her focus on the remarkable process taking place in front of her. One of her feet would rise, step forward, and then the other foot would rise, and step forward. She didn’t know why they were doing such a thing, only that they must. Slowly, a sound intruded into her speculations.
“Patricia. Patricia! You still with us, lass?”
Her perception swam into focus, Farlan’s face peering at her from barely a hand’s width away. Cotton seemed to coat her tongue and a heavy warmth lay thick upon her brow. Dimly, she tried to recall why she was standing in the middle of a fog-shrouded street.
“I… yeah… what…”
“Damn. Luc, be ready to carry her if need be. That potion took more out of her than she let on. She’s barely conscious.”
“Still… ready… fight…”
Farlan patted her on the shoulder.
“Just a little bit longer, Patricia, and then you can rest. See? We’re already at Ewing’s house. We’ll just ask him a couple questions and be on our way.”
Patricia felt like she wanted to tell him that she was ready, able to take on any foe, but the words kept jumbling in her mouth, like ball-bearings grinding between her tongue and teeth.
“Fight… Ewing… Cullers…”
“Just questions for now. With all that gold he’s handling, he’d be the daftest Culler we ever tracked down.”
Farlan propped one of her arms over his shoulder and knocked on a door that refused to resolve in Patricia’s vision. A pause, then it squeaked open, and more words dropped into her numb ears.
“We’re here to talk with Mr. Ewing. Official business. It’s very important that we speak with him about a case we’re pursuing. We have a writ from the Chief Constable.”
The heavy fog draped itself back over her mind. Some time passed.
“…very well. Follow me to the study.”
Her feet lurched into motion, following their previous pattern. One foot up. One foot down. One foot up. One foot down. A cushion materialized beneath her, attached to an ornate sofa. Sinking into it felt like luxury unimaginable, the slide to unconsciousness a flea’s breath away. Farlan’s voice, half dreamt.
A stilted cadence, sliding into her mind on wriggling feet. At the end of a tunnel stood a tall man, his eyes flat as glass, hands cradling his elbows as if he were afraid to let his fingers free. He drew closer in jerking steps.
He scuttles like a crab, Patricia thought woodenly, and with a start, realized she didn’t know if she’d said the words out loud.
“We have that distinction, yes. Is there something wrong with your woman friend? Does she require medical assistance?”
“She’s fine, just a bit tired. It’s been a long night. I’m sure she’d thank you for asking, though. Most don’t.” A small cough. “I’m Farlan, and this is Luc. We were wondering if you could tell us anything you know about a man named Reggie Hawthorne.”
The voice, closer, dry as winter dust.
“Reggie… Hawthorne… yes, we believe this name is familiar. He approached us, not several weeks ago. An alarming creature. We are given to understand that he associated with another person, one even more unsavory than himself. A thief of goods, of dreams.”
“Do you know that other person’s name?”
A tinge of… something, underneath. Patricia tried to force her thoughts in order, to clarify the oddity, but the pillowy mist of exhaustion billowed forth once more, dragging her deeper into its lightless depths.
“Jacek Polanski, and if you are here, we can only assume he has stolen from you as well.”
Pregnant silence, the words crawling through Patricia’s fading mind.
“He has diverted shipments of gold from us, for purposes unknown, and we would offer you all assistance in tracking this creature down. We suspect him of ill-intent.”
She could fight it no longer. Sleep stole over her on soundless feet.