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    1. #1
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
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      Nov 2007

      Post The Quiet Conspiracy - The Case Files


      15.06.1939 Early Evening

      Oliver P. Ash, Eastcastle Repairs in Stahlstadt North District

      "I was expecting fish and chips."

      "Welcome to 1939, Olly," the fat man chuckled, proffering the greasy newspaper bundle of currywurst across the table.
      The younger man in the open-necked shirt and braces shrugged and took a piece with an easy smile. "They're always eating fish and chips in the pictures."
      "When some clever Hun starting mixing our ketchup and Worcestershire sauce made a pretty slop to cover their wurst in it was the end of the chippie we all knew and loved. All the Hun want to eat now in this bloody muck, so all we do is make it now."
      The younger man chewed for a moment. "It's not bad."
      "I fucking love the stuff," the fat man admitted.

      They shifted. The two men were sat over the manager's desk of an auto-mobile repair shop, with a first floor window view of Stahlstadt's ugly industrial North District. Oliver - the younger man - could see a gaggle of street kids on the corner, knocking down a post-box. Oliver sat back casually, his grubby white shirt unbuttoned to the chest, his braces strung unequally and fraying. He adjusted his glasses, his grin reappearing as the fatter man in an old hand-me-down two piece suit burped quietly in his attempt to appear business-like.

      The fat man began. "I like you, Olly. Fresh off the boat and already you looked me up. That's good, shows spunk. Get-up-and-go. Means you already know the big dogs in this rat-infested town and want in on their action."
      "You're a two-bit thug, Lazy Mick," Oliver grinned. "I came because I know the big dogs won't take me."
      The fat man laughed, loosening a button on his shirt. "Any other man said that I'd do him over. You I can take it from. You smile nice, maybe. But business is business. I got a job you can pull, otherwise you can piss off back to Yankee Land and let me get back to repairing cars."
      "Since we both know you wouldn't know where to start on an auto-mobile, I'll take that job," Oliver replied.
      "Good boy. I know you know people in town from when your old man used to hustle here, but things have changed some. There's this Italian mob...Sicilian or something...making a move on the prostitute game. Now. That's a solidly British trade and I won't have any wop or dago taking it from us. We might have a kaiser overlord in Berlin and what used to be honest old Eastcastle might now be Stahlstadt but the bulldog still bulls about the whores."
      "You want me to do them over?" Oliver asked, fitting another slice of wurst into his mouth.
      "Nah. Not that. They're a little...big, organised...for that. But I want you to go make sure our girls know who they work for. There's a whore-house over by the river-front, place by the name of the Kaberett Klub. Filled day and night with home-sick German soldier boys who want to see dancing girls who get their tops off. Our girls there make sure they get to get themselves off, too, if you follow me. Just drive down there and knock them about a bit until they see who they belong to. Then get back here and we'll see what else we can get you to do."
      "Seems easy enough," Oliver said, rising. "Except I'm without wheels."
      "In the garage. Take the Opel Kadett. The grey one. It's ugly as hell, I know, but it goes fast enough and the Germans don't check German cars so much. There's a cricket bat in the boot but I don't want you leaving marks on those girls. It's incase the Messina Clan - that's the dagos - are already there. Which is unlikely. Then again, if they're there and they're serious they'll be packing more than sporting gear, you know."

      Oliver finished his currywurst and caught the thrown keys. "Thanks."

      Jean Rougier, The Kabarett Klub, Stahlstadt Riverfront North

      Jean Rougier had clocked off work on the docks at 9 and slunk his way to the back alley behind the Kabarett Klub. He had been sure to wear clothes he didn't usually use, in this case a rough black turtle-neck and thick, heavy cotton trousers. Over his pale face he pulled a masquerade mask he had found in one of the crates being shipped back to Germany, and with the thicker cord he had attached he fixed this in place.

      The mask was grotesque in a vaudevillian way, with deeply ingrained wrinkles of expression and two curling devil's horns that went back over his ears.

      The war had left Jean scarred about his face. He figured that with the mask his one distinguishing feature would be disguised, leaving him free to work out another scar left behind by the war. A deeper scar. One that had been torn through his France. Through his family and home.

      It was with thoughts of the war that Jean waited by the back door of the Kabarett Klub. Gunfire. Shouting, confusion. The lumbering crashing of the British tanks that were broken into scrap metal at the Somme. It was with his fifth swig at his bottle of cheap Riesling that he put the thoughts away.

      The Kabarett Klub was a popular clocking off hole for the German soldiers still station in the city barracks, and so when the door opened, and the sounds of laughing patrons filtered out into the alleyway. Someone had begun a drinking sound in thick baritone Bavarian, and the German soldier that stepped out was still humming it as his hands fumbled clumsily at his trouser zip.

      "Bon nuit, mon cher," Jean grunted, pulling out the heavy crowbar he'd taken from work and lifting it.
      "Eh...Ich verstehe Sie nicht..." the German slurred. He turned his head slowly and squinted at Jean. The crowbar broke his nose with the first swing, and sent him tumbling side-ways. "Mein Gott!"
      "It is le diable that will judge you, boche."
      The second swing was clumsy, and came down on the German's uniformed arm. The soldier kicked, catching Jean's stomach and sending him doubling up backwards.
      They broke apart, the soldier scrabbling on the ground and shouting, Jean staggering back clutching his stomach. Jean kicked, hitting the soldier's throat and turning the shout to a croak.

      There were footsteps on the other side of the door, and the sound of a car pulling up.

      Jean Rougier and Oliver P. Ash, The Kabarett Klub, Stahlstadt Riverfront North

      Oliver stepped whistling into the back alley behind the Kabarett Klub, intending to miss the German occupants and head straight to the rooms out back, where the prostitutes slept in their working beds.

      He stepped around the corner and onto the scene of a masked Frenchman smashing the skull of a downed German soldier. The soldier couldn't have been more than eighteen. He might have been born in occupied England, for all Oliver knew.

      The masked Frenchman raised his head just as the door to the Klub opened. A tall, thick-set man in an oberleutnant's uniform leant around the doorway, stock still. He had greying hair that set him out to be some relic of the Great War never promoted.

      The three men stood still, hesitant.

      Hotaru Pullman, Eugene Messina's Mansion, Stahlstadt South District

      Hotaru slipped open the window and pushed herself into the darkened study.

      The house's layout was identical to her own - a remnant of the legacy left behind by Pullman Snr. - and she lived close enough that she could keep an eye on the comings and goings of its new Italian residents.

      They'd moved in the month before, and changed little so far. They kept to themselves well enough that she hadn't considered them as anything more than more wealthy Europeans buying up the better class of property in a broken British economy, and it was only after Chester Berkenshaw that she'd seen more in the dark cars that kept pulling up to the house for increasingly long periods of time. The Messina family were Mafiosi, and established ones, with reports of running Maltese prostitution rings at the turn of the century. It made sense that they'd come here, to a defeated Britain and a city confused with the remains of an occupying army and a defeatist local police force constantly at odds over authoritative control. Crime was everywhere in the city they renamed Stahlstadt, and that was one thing Hotaru - or rather, her alter-ego, Atropos - had come to this country to make war on.

      She thought briefly of the ninjas in comic books as she stepped across the wooden study floor. She remembered her mother and the exotic oriental tales she would tell of her homeland. And then her father had come, a wealthy American industrialist, and she had been born. She could barely remember the brief childhood she had had there, in the east. Rice paddies and quietude. Then they had flown back to her father's home, and then it was New York and big cities, and noise and sound and expensive things.
      It was her father's money that meant Hotaru was bound to be absorbed by the rich young set of England - the Bright Young People - when she arrived, but she thought it was her mother that set her apart from it. They regarded it as a novel quirk, her Asiatic looks. Her parent's untimely deaths kept them from making it an object of insult - though she could see why a wealthy American getting 'yellow fever' for some poor farmer's daughter could lead to abuse. She considered it a sombre reminder of all that was humble and stoic in her, and she kept that in mind as she fingered the black cloth wrappings that covered her face.

      She went through the desk, hunting for papers. They had been at the German auto-mobile racing track, in the neighbouring town of Woking, when Chester Berkenshaw had been caught at his heroin habit. He had laughed and called it "all too shame-making" and they had all laughed - Hotaru not because she thought like them, not because she thought that when you have money you are exempt from the law, but because she understood that Chester was a smaller fish with connections - and that had been that. But Hotaru had quizzed him later, as they drunk their way through the last laps cheering in the stands, and he had told her that an old friend of his father's had just come into the country, and had connected him with a supply.

      That friend was Eugene Messina. One of the brothers that headed the Messina mafioso. The newest - and maybe toughest - of the gangs in Stahlstadt. As Atropos - her masked vigilante alter-ego - Hotaru wanted to find out names. To shut it down. A vice for the rich and a predator that ate away at the poor. Eugene Messina was getting the drugs from someone...maybe a ship came in to the river. Maybe a plane to some private airfield. A train..a truck...anything. Messina she couldn't take on, not yet anyway. She was still young and still new. But she could take out their deliveries. That she could do.

      She found what she had been looking for. A book of accounts. She flicked through it, squinting in the darkness. She was pretty sure the house was empty. Pretty sure.

      It wasn't a long book. They'd only been in the city a month, but had been operating from the moment they arrived. One name appeared over again three times with large sums attached. Box 500. It might be that. No other details about it, though.
      There was a weekly sum that was spent and received in smaller sums. The name Fats O'Reilly. Hotaru figured that might be it. A delivery boy, maybe. She could look into that name. One of her friends was the head of police's daughter. The Bright Young People loved scavenger hunts. Daring her to find the man's file would be a lark to them.

      There was a noise, and movement. Hotaru froze up, and then bolted for the window. She wasn't quiet enough. She hadn't finesse enough.

      The first gunshot blasted out behind her. The wealthy South District was largely untouched by police or occupation army interference, and Messina could afford to have thugs that shot on sight in his home.

      She didn't know where the shot went, but it didn't hit her. She ducked under the window and fell out onto the grassy garden. There was a hedge twenty feet ahead from her that led into a neighbouring garden. To her left a large ornamental garden that stretched out to the driveway. To her right a high brick wall some forty feet away that led to a small side street.

      She pulled out a revolver from her trench-coat. She could run, or try and blast the hired thug. Her face was masked, so all she'd need to do was get out of the mansion's garden and backtrack around the city a few times until it was safe to go home to her own house a few doors down.

      There was a noise above her. The figure looked down at her, where she lay sprawled under the window. He was braced against the wall above it, one hand holding a gun from which a thick cord wound up to the roof. There was another gunshot, and it sailed from the study through the window between them, whizzing into the hedge.
      This man wore what might have been military fatigues once, but were now tightened up and darkened. Heavier looking black leather had been patched on in various places. About his head he wore a cowl, and at his waist a black whip fixed to his belt.

      "You're ambitious," he drawled. "but amateur. You drew attention. I know you found a name you were looking for in there. You tell me that name and I'll get you out."

      Another escape option had presented itself. But the name might be important. Hotaru bit her lip and frowned, thinking fast.
      Last edited by Siиdяed; 07-04-2011 at 10:03 AM.

    2. #2
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
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      Nov 2007

      15.06.1939 Early Evening

      Viktor Daletsky, Addison Street Police Station in Stahlstadt East District

      "Jesus, Daletsky. Sometimes I question why you came from the Kremlin to this damn town. Bomb just went off down on Brand Street and we got to make sure we've counter-signed our pre-procedural forms with the Abwehr before we've even left the station."

      Daletsky grunted to acknowledge his superior's entrance but didn't shift his long legs from their place on his desk. Daletsky was a big and bad-mouthed Russian who'd found his way into the Stahlstadt police force CID when the going was tough. He talked as hard as the other coppers that had managed to keep their jobs when the Abwehr had started muscling in on their jurisdiction, and found his immediate superior, Detective Inspector Eric Gifford, a good match for his shouting matches, perhaps mostly because Gifford never shouted.
      For all of Daletsky's heavy bearing and loud-mouthed aggression, Gifford stayed stocky but self-contained. He carried himself like a boxer, controlled and understated until the movement of the punch. He drank and smoke just as much as Daletsky, and when they argued he gave back everything Daletsky gave. Just never shouted.
      Eric Gifford had been a boxer, Daletsky had heard, back in Eton before the war. Long way to fall from Eton to CID in Stahlstadt. Then again, lot of people fell far after the war.

      "Where's the noise?" Daletsky called as Gifford paced quietly, running hands through blond hair.
      "The Drones Club. Someone planted it there from the inside."
      "That's a gennle'man's club. Drones. Old army officers. The ones the Bosche didn't get," Daletsky scratched at an itch on his chin and then raided the lower drawers of his desk. "Who'd want to blow them up?"
      "The Abwehr have their suspicions already," Gifford said, sourly. He accepted the bottle of Gilbey's whisky offered and filled two glasses. "They have a man...Ernst Koehler, you might remember him...who's already opened a case on it."
      "If he's already opened a case on it where the bloody hell do we figure?" Daletsky demanded, upending his glass.
      "Hauptmann Koehler thinks it may be Irish insurgents. During the Great War the Germans supplied the IRA with enough explosives to tear apart Britain by its western flank. And they did, at that. You're too new to remember, maybe, but they gave us hell in the war years. When the occupation began the Irish thought they'd be rewarded, but they just ended up being ruled from Berlin rather than Westminster. They've been quiet enough since the German reprisals in '26, but Koehler thinks we're about due some reaction from them."
      "And the Irish are our problem, not the Abwehr?" Daletsky concluded.
      "Exactly. Koehler has some theory of his own he wants to pursue. He's giving us this angle on the case to keep us busy while he works at that."

      The two men reflected briefly on the paperwork that covered their desks. One paper in three had a red stamp marking it approved by the Abwehr liaison officer for CID Stahlstadt.

      "I'm feeling a little cramped in this office, detective constable."
      "I couldn't agree any fucking more, detective inspector. The Drones Club?"

      "The Drones Club," Gifford agreed, dragging a long coat off the hook and slamming the office door behind him.

      Octavious Bartenheim, Cannis Street Doss House in Stahlstadt North District

      Two figures stood in the doorway of a dimly lit room. From the corridor the sounds of adolescent crying could be heard, in between short sharp commands in clipped English.

      "We got him out of the asylum. What he does from this point ought to be up to us."

      "Easy there," the taller of the two Abwehr agents in the doorway said. He lit a cigarette, taking a slow inhalation. "General policy is getting looser around treatment of all Britishers. It's been a long time since the war. If he doesn't want to play then we can't make him."
      "He's not Britisher. See the file. Portuguese. Immigrant parents or else stowaway."
      "Portuguese? I thought his name was Bartenheim."
      "Octavious Bartenheim. I don't understand the name either. Probably a false one."
      "Damn silly false one."
      "Kid's been languishing in an asylum for some five years. Name like that isn't the weirdest thing about him."
      "What's he doing?"

      Inside the room a haggard youth lay sprawled in the corner, hugging both the walls and to the flickering outline of the gas light's glow. The Abwehr oberleutnant crouched by the light and watched, referring from time to time to a file of papers.

      "Count them again, Bartenheim. Be exact," he instructed.

      Octavious moaned. His eyes burned. The men crawling about the floor were blurs, grey and bloody red scars cut into the memory of the room by the very violence of their endings. One whispered in a voice that wasn't its own to Octavious, but he could not hear the words.

      "Three," Octavious said, faintly. "Three."
      The oberleutnant nodded. "There were three men killed here. Soldiers during our initial landings. We don't know why they came here. We don't know how they were killed. Normally this wouldn't matter. Invasions are messy businesses. But one of these men was important. Prince Oskar of Prussia. He was far from his grenadierregiment. There was no logical reason for him to be here. Not in this city and not in this room. Ask him."

      Octavious shook. People describe ghosts as shades. They aren't. They are people - complex masses of memories, emotions, colours, resentments, joys, connections - stabbed hard with a drawing pin against a psychological landscape. They are angry scars cut in to the fabric of the place, of reality. To look at them...to really look. Is to share it all and understand nothing of it. A roaring mass of what is not any more.

      Octavious was sixteen. He had seen such dead things for ten years. Half of those he spent restrained. And even then they'd never left him.

      He could see the late prince. Somewhere in that angry blurring of red and sound he could make out the stencil outline of the man. He looked proud. And outraged. The words he made were not his own.

      "He does not speak. Not any more. Maybe not before he was killed," Octavious managed.
      The oberleutnant raised an eyebrow. "Explain."
      "Voice inside him not his own. Possession."

      The oberleutnant nodded, slowly. "We. Considered that may arise as an answer. You cannot trace a murderer?"

      Octavious shut his eyes. "No."

      "That's good enough, for now. You've done well. I hope it was not too wearing. You see we are willing to take you on with a retainer. A moderate fee, lodgings provided...somewhere better than this, I think...Abwehr authority. All to follow us on what I believe will be an entertaining investigation. If you don't want to work with us, you may return to your asylum stay, or go out and find employment on your own. It is your call, Herr Bartenheim."

      The oberleutnant extended a hand.

      Viktor Daletsky, Drones Club in Stahlstadt South District

      Guten abend, Hauptmann Koehler,” Gifford said. He said it blankly enough that it was neither deferential nor insolent. His German counter-part nodded.
      “It is good to see officers of the English law here,” Koehler said. His English was broken but said without hesitation or self-reproach. “My Abwehr officers are done with the scene, it is all yours now.”
      “Thanks,” Gifford said, moving past the man and into the burnt-out open wall of the Drones Club. Daletsky followed, ignoring the pleasantly smiling Abwehr hauptmann watching.

      “They'll have stripped the place of anything useful,” Daletsky grunted. “Waste of bloody time being here.”
      “Not exactly, detective constable,” Gifford corrected. “They've left us a witness. After twenty years of occupation they're finally trusting us with conducting our own interrogations. Koehler thought we should offer members of the Drones Club more leeway than our usual suspects, considering their friendly relationship with their German military conquerors.”
      “Not big on the high society scene, inspector. Don't know the Drones Club from the Pelicans Club.”
      Gifford smiled, blithely. “Pelicans wouldn't care for that. The Drones is an ex-military club for officers and gentlemen who have seen service. Since the Great War Britain's not had much to be proud of militarily, and what's in the Drones Club are washed up veterans of countless surrenders and retreats. They're friendly to the Germans because they're of the old school that say it was a fair fight well won, and the Germans treat 'em nice because of it. Right pally some of these boys are with the Hun.”
      “Some would see them as traitors then,” Daletsky noted. “Collaborators.”
      “We've been occupied for a long time now, Daletsky,” Gifford said. “It'd take a hell of a grudge.”
      “Koehler seems to think there's something in this.”

      Gifford hesitated. He wandered into the open rubble of the club's atrium. It had been a marbled Regency affair. Daffodil yellow paint peeled at the lips of the explosion's blast, the occasional leaves of burnt paint flaking off and spiralling between the debris.
      It was a rough explosive that did it, but not a colossal one. Punched a hole from the outside street into the large entrance hall of the club and blown the porter into bloody scraps but otherwise it went no further. The report the Abwehr had handed the two – minimal as such cross-departmental messages were when they went from the oppressor to the oppressed – said it was likely a home-made device built into a suitcase that had been handed in at the desk. Anyone could have walked in and asked the porter to hold onto it for someone inside the club.
      Only two fatalities – both club staff – and three injuries – two of them members and the third a taxi driver outside.

      “Koehler thinks it's MI5 again,” Gifford said, finally.
      Daletsky said nothing. He seemed unusually dumb as Gifford spoke.

      “Koehler thinks MI5 are operating still in this country. That this was a message meant for a certain class of Englishman. That collaboration with the Germans is not welcome. That friendliness with the German is not the done thing. Koehler thinks that MI5 have a network of former agents and newer recruits across the former empire, and that they are now formulating action at last.”
      “How'd you know this?”
      “I have a man in Koehler's Abwehr section. Be a smart lad and don't ask who. Listen, Viktor. Koehler is one of the men in the Abwehr that think the kaiser has given England too much free-rein over its own law enforcement. You know how much paperwork we have to do to let the Abwehr keep us running. If they tighten those reins any further us English coppers are going to choke. If Koehler decides that this hit was done by MI5 he'll shut us down. They'll escalate German law so you'd never know England had any power in the first place. I don't know who stuck a bomb down here and I don't want to. Let's you and I go down to O'Doherty's pub and corner us some Irish boys. There are always IRA there, former or otherwise. We round them up and beat 'em 'til they confess to blowing up the Drones and we do the same for that witness we got. We tell Koehler case solved, it was the Irish, and he'll write it off as a freak occurrence in security. They don't take the Irish threats seriously, they never do. They won't run up the German laws and we'll keep our damn jobs.”

      Daletsky lit a cigarette.

      “You in on this, Viktor?” Gifford asked. “Do the right thing for once, you bloody Rusky.”
      Last edited by Siиdяed; 07-04-2011 at 10:04 AM.

    3. #3
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
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      15.06.1939 Late Night

      Jean Rougier and Oliver P. Ash, The Kabarett Klub, Stahlstadt Riverfront North

      "Ah, well, Jesus, boys. Listen, this ain't any of my concern, I'm just passing by. Hell of a night for this sort of thing."

      Lifting his arms above his head Oliver smiled nervously and slipped around the frame of the German officer in the doorway and into the bustling dimly lit interior of the Kabarett Klub. The German allowed him by, his eyes fixed dumbfounded on the masked figure breathing heavily over the still limply kicking young soldier.

      A thick dark juice had run from the pool to the officer's foot now.

      Briefly, the officer and the masked man stared at each other, and then slowly, the masked man tilted his bottle of Riesling back and emptied it. The liquid came down in little trickles about his jaw as he drank.

      The masked man moved before the officer did. He was sprinting in a jagged, loping fashion down the alleyway as the officer turned and began to shout.

      Oliver P. Ash, The Kabarett Klub, Stahlstadt Riverfront North

      “Looks like it might get rough back there,” Oliver said, smiling politely and gesturing back towards the back-door as he made his way through the Kabarett Klub's more exclusive rear lounge. The German officers that sat about the leather-backed chaises nodded to this remark, most with the dim neutrality of incomprehension, and continued to occupy themselves with the women, cards and glasses laid out about the place.

      Oliver continued smiling as he made his way up the stairs and into the less well-decorated working girls' quarters, stopping once to ask a buxom facsimile of a Bavarian milk maid for directions, and kicked opened the door marked 'nicht öffentlich'.

      The girls still inside – the ones who had pulled the day-time shift, he supposed – reacted. Oliver raised his hands and kept up his easy grin as he began to placate them, when he realised modesty wasn't the only cause of alarm.

      The girl nearest to him had thrown herself under her bed, and was crying in heavy, throaty chokes. There was an almost fresh cut running about her cheek, and it wasn't closing up well. Looking around, she was the only one wearing an obvious marking, but the rest had purple-yellow bruisings poorly disguised beneath the neck-lines, and one hobbled about, her leg broken in two places.

      A man laughed from the other side of the room. “You Messina or Lazy Mick's boy?”
      Squinting, Oliver could make out the hulking shape of a man ill-suited to cramped interiors. He looked like a farmer, and wore the water-proofed tweed coat and flat-cap to prove it. A burly red-cheeked man, he laughed uproariously again at the silence.
      “I'd reckon you're Lazy Mick's new boy then. Come on in. He called me down from Yorkshire the other week. Got me fixing up daft chits like these with the clap and such. I arrive tonight and find they've all been cut up and knocked about by some dago gangsters. Messina clan. Think someone's sending a message.”
      Oliver shook his head. “When did this happen?”
      “About an hour or two ago. They're still downstairs by the bar, if you're thinking of catching up with them. Three big bastards, packing at least one knife between them. Maybe a gun, I don't know how the dagoes roll. If you're going to start anything, they're the ones in the bad suits drinking the shitty chianti. But leave me out of it, whatever you're going to do. I'm just a vet from the north who owed a fat gangster a favour, okey?”

      Oliver shook his head again. Downstairs, the music began to shake the floor as another drunken song ran out of words and was soon only regaled with stamping feet.

      Jean Rougier, Hancock Hospice, Stahlstadt Riverfront North

      The officer hadn't given chase, Jean noticed as he sprinted drunkenly down the twisting alleyways back towards his home.

      He came to a stop, breathing heavily as he leant against the rough brickwork of one of the city's many poor-houses. He wasn't too out of shape. It was the thrill of it all that caught his breath.

      He looked up, blearily. There was some shouting still from back where he had run from, and he guessed the police or Abwehr were already on their way. The alleyways he'd run through weren't complex enough to lose them in...his lodgings in the docker's rough house weren't more than twenty minutes further along the river-front, but already he could hear the wailings of sirens on the streets.

      Opposite him stood the Hancock Hospice, a derelict building that sat squat and forgotten amidst the ramshackled back alleyways. It was boarded up, but he had a crowbar on him and jimmying a window open wouldn't take a moment...on the other hand, the poor-house behind him could just as easily provide a place to lie low for a few hours, among the sleeping vagrants and drop-outs.

      He could still try and make it for home, if he chose. But if the other dock-hands saw him arrive? Would there be suspicions? He wasn't sure.
      Last edited by Siиdяed; 07-04-2011 at 10:05 AM.

    4. #4
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      15.06.1939 Late Night

      Octavious Bartenheim, Cannis Street Doss House in Stahlstadt North District

      "I'm not sure about this," Octavious said, reaching out his hand. the oberleutnant shook it.

      "My name is Oberleutnant Austerlitz. I am in command of the Stahlstadt Abwehr unit that deals in...the more eccentric cases. The Abteilung Okkulte. You are being given a provisional role in our unit for the time being with rank but with some fee. If you do well then I will submit to our head office in Berlin and suggest you be given a permanent position. The two men by the door are agents Bauer and Klein. Together with my driver, and a handful of secretaries back in the two rooms we have been allotted in the Stahlstadt Abwehr headquarters we are the entirity of the Stahlstadt Abwehr Abteilung Okkulte. Not a big unit. Every man must pull his weight. Come."

      The oberleutnant began to stride towards the door. Octavious shook his head, clearing away the troubling souls of dead men that lingered about the room as best he could, and followed.

      "There will be no time for rest before your first assignment, herr Bartenheim. Outside we have a car and two rather fine Henderson motorcycles. Imported, you know. There are clothes in the car that may fit you. Also in the car is a man from the London Society for Psychical Research. A herr Johnson. He will brief you on this assignment as we go there."
      The three men and the lean boy stood in the doorway for a moment. Austerlitz seemed to inhale deeply, as though scenting the air, before continuing.

      "I had expected you to agree to our venture, herr Bartenheim. We are going to a hospice. The Hancock Hospice, by the river. Word has it that it is haunted. Come along, the car is waiting."

      Hotaru Pullman, Eugene Messina's Mansion, Stahlstadt South District

      "Let's talk after we get out of this," Hotaru said, quickly. She then launched herself at a run into the ornamental garden.

      The figure in the black cowl above her grunted, and swung after her. He it the grass a few feet from her, and ran with her away from the darkened house and away into the garden.

      The henchman in the house swore in rapid Italian as he clambered clumsily out of the window of the study to pursue them. He continued to swear as he took aim at their fleeing figures, squinting as the blackness of the night swallowed up the two figures clad in black.

      A marbled statue of a cherubim exploded into stone shards by Hotaru's left as she ran. She ducked, and continued to weave her way about the stone ornaments and towards the wall that would lead on to the street and to escape.
      The figure in the black cowl ran in leaps and bounds as he followed, soon catching her side and overtaking. "Come on, amateur. Run harder and lighter."

      She did. And suddenly they were hauling themselves over the brick wall and running down the street.

      Her house was close. Real close. But she couldn't go there directly. Not if the Messina henchman had a chance of seeing, though it appeared he had given up serious pursuit. But the man stood in blackened leathers with the cowl and the whip hung at his side was watching her. Watching her closely.

      "Good good. You evaded a badly paid Italian thug. Now. You found a name in there. Something that will give you a way of hurting the Messina mafia that are trying to get themselves a foothold in this city. I want to hurt them. And so I want that name. You can tell me that name and help out - a co-operative outcome I would appreciate and would reward you for. I could train you. I have been doing this game of caped vigilantism longer than you have, and I know how to refine the youth of the sport. If you do not wish to co-operate, I will make you tell me that name. That I do not wish to do."

      There was a roll of dull thunder overhead, and great splashes of rain began to fall about the two of them, covering the street in a fine sheet of pattering raindrops. The street seemed broad, the fine houses far apart from one another and mostly empty and derelict - the wealthy in Stahlstadt having made their departures long before the war was lost all those years ago. It seemed empty, and lonesome.
      The street of wealthy denizens, and even they could not stomach it. Hotaru had never felt at home here.

      She looked at him, and eyed the exit routes. She could make a run down the street. Could disappear towards the centre of the city. That is, if this masked stranger wasn't capable of stopping her. He didn't seem armed with a gun, and she was. But then, the whip by his side seemed old. Well-used. But not weakened. Whoever this was, he seemed to hold himself - the hand always just loosely by his waist and the handle of that whip - as though he had come to rely on it in many foreign scrapes and mad encounters.

      He stepped closer, silently. Precise, careful footsteps.

      "I am the Black Whip. Once a hero for the secret services during the war. Now merely an upholder of justice. I want you to help me."

      Octavious Bartenheim, Hancock Hospice, Stahlstadt Riverfront North

      They sat in the car, looking at the front of the old, Victorian-designed hospital building as rain began to lash against its red brick exterior.
      The same rain provided a repetitive drumming above their heads on the car's thin roof as they talked.

      "This is not a big case, Octavious," the hatchet-faced man in the quiet grey suit they had introduced as Professor Johnson of the Society for Psychical Research said. "The oberleutnant just wants you to prove your worth to them as a person with...sensitivities to the abnormal world. I will be with you the entire time, of course, for scientific purposes."
      "This hospital is...haunted?" Octavious asked. Outside the car, Oberleutnant Austerlitz was shouting orders to his men on their motorcycles. The driver sat in the front of the car, breathing into his hands.
      "Well, speaking as a practitioner of the scientific method I cannot agree to any conclusions until I have had better chance to study it. That is the hypothesis, yes, though. There have been witnesses to...activities around the old hospice. It has been closed down for some time now, of course. Went under when the war came to a close. People who have lived around it say it was bustling with bleeding soldiers and wounded civilians one day, then boarded up and silent the next. There are people who still can't find out where their loved ones are - all natural after a war like the Great War, of course - but not one of the patients in there the day before it closed has been found. Doctors and nurses neither."
      "What activities are we talking about, professor?" Octavious asked, shaking. He felt chilled, as he looked beyond the grimy car window and beyond the darkness of the night at that derelict building.
      "Voices. Shouting in there. It could be the homeless, of course, but the oberleutnant has conducted an investigation of the vagrants in the area and none will dare talk of the hospice. They're even rattled about staying in the poorhouse, just behind the hospice. There are people who say they have seen children playing about in the hospice, but none of them seem to know whose children they are. And then there was the oberleutnant's first foray inside. He sent Klein, his agent there by the motorcycle, in with a handful of policemen. Not many came out, none can recall what went on inside with any precision, and those that didn't come out were found in a pile outside the next day. Empty. Just skin and bones. All the organs and muscle removed. The police have begun a search for unusual murderers in the area but there has been no attempt to investigate the hospice further. Plain scared them off, most likely."

      There was a sharp bang on the car window.

      Austerlitz looked in sourly at them. "Come on out. We're going in."

      Slowly Johnson, the driver and Octavious climbed out of the car. Austerlitz pulled his thick woollen overcoat tightly about his neck, and reached a hand to his waist to finger the Walther pistol he had holstered there. Octavious shifted in his own clothes - a brown suit with a slouch cap that had indeed proved to be a bad fit on him. It kept him warm, just, as the rain continued to fall about there heads.
      Klein and Bauer stood loosely at alert, nestling heavy metal truncheons in their hands. The driver had taken a length of pipe from the car and held it tightly by his side.

      Johnson and Octavious looked to one another, finding their hands empty.

      Austerlitz smiled, wanly and only briefly, and then waved his hand. Klein and Bauer moved efficiently, tearing the nailed wooden planking from the door and kicking it open. They slipped inside, into the darkness, and Austerlitz and his driver followed. Finally Johnson and Octavious entered, looking around them as the shadows inside encompassed them.

      They were in a small reception area, that had maybe once been the hall of the house before it had been converted for medical use. There was a secretary's desk, with a telephone coated in cobwebs on in, as well as an assortment of loose papers and files.

      There were closed doors leading to the left and right, as well as a narrow staircase going on upstairs.

      "No memory at all of this, Klein?" Austerlitz asked, from somewhere in front of Octavious.
      "Shadows and blurs, oberleutnant."

      They spread out, grimly, and without further conversation.

      Octavious frowned. He could hear something. Singing. Upstairs. It seemed loud to him, in that silent house, as though it echoed about down the stairs towards them. A reedy voice, female. Plaintive. An old tune from the war, with the words shaky and weak. He realised he could hear nothing of the street outside. Only the breathing of the men stood about him, and the singing of the upstairs voice.
      None of the others appeared to hear it. Austerlitz began to make hushed orders for Klein, the driver and Johnson to take the left door, while he Bauer and Octavious took the right.

      Klein led his party away into another shadowed room while Austerlitz opened the door to the right and ushered Bauer in.

      Octavious stood, listening as the voice continued to sing.

      "Bartenheim!" Austerlitz hissed. His face looked white, pale and colourless in the darkness. All of their faces did.

      White, pale and alone in the darkness.

    5. #5
      Il Buoиo Siиdяed's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007

      15.06.1939 Late Night

      Viktor Daletsky, O'Doherty's Pub in Stahlstadt North District

      Gifford kicked the door open and breathed in for a moment, stood framed in the doorway of the noisy Irish drinking den watching the dim electric lighting flicker over the burly Irish workmen splashing stout over each other.

      "Nothing more dangerous than a drunk Irishman, Daletsky," he sighed.
      "Try a drunk Russian," Viktor said, drawing the cigarette from his mouth. "Which ones are the fall guys for tonight's bombing?"
      "The hefty bastard with the eye-patch. Fortunate for him to be here tonight. Man's called Terrence Dunne. Was one of the boys that the Germans helped take Dublin, back in the 1916 Easter Rising. He's known for his big mouth. Probably enjoy confessing to something like this."
      "Not entirely without a fight, I hope," Viktor grinned. He felt for his crude leather-bound cudgel beneath his coat.

      Gifford laughed. They advanced into the busy pub, the patrons falling slowly quieter as they recognised the greasy-haired blond CID inspector. Gifford signalled to the short red-haired man stood wiping glasses behind the bar. "A pint of whatever isn't Irish, Tom. There's a good boy."

      They picked up the glasses and drank. Gifford leant easily against the bar while Viktor stood uneasy beside him, watching the bar's inhabitants, who had begun to talk among themselves once more.

      In the dark recesses of the pub's far end, the one-eyed Dunne shifted in his chair. He waggled his finger and the four men sat around his table leant in closer. They began to talk, their voices lost in the other sounds of the pub.

      "He's got friends," Viktor said. "Big surprise."
      "No-one said this job was easy,"
      "We taking him in?"
      "Sure are. We can do him over in the station cells. Make this fast, this place isn't so friendly to coppers. Especially not English ones. Think we should have brought back up?"
      "Uniform in here would start a riot."
      "Damn right, Daletsky. Go over there and talk him into coming quietly. I'll watch your back."

      Daletsky put down his empty pint glass, and looked over to the far end of the pub. He counted, Dunne, his four drinking friends, and the twenty or so other men in the pub. How many would side with Dunne if it came to a fight? Hard to say. For all he knew Dunne was the only Catholic in here.

      He shifted in his place, and began to stride ahead.

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