Eleven: Gone Astray
I am here again, this time to look for more answers while destroying the clan controlled by Giffard. To the borough of Agnarge. I can smell the pungent odours by the time I exit the coach. Not even the cleanliness inside this station can save anyone from a whiff of rot or decay. I hear groaning from many exiting their coaches as well, hesitant to go on. However, I note others pausing upon reaching the platform. I spot at least two men pointing in my direction, and look the other way to know that they mean me. Bugger. I have been followed by not just one of Leigh-Anne’s friends.
I head in the crowd, but I can hear the rapid pattern of footsteps. Based on the brush against my leg, I can tell who it is that follows me. It is a blonde rabbit in a sky-blue house dress. I ask her, “Anyone I should know are here?”
The rabbit answers, “No, Ma’am. No fox ‘ad ‘is eyes on you. No spy from Agnarge I recognise, either.”
“Good”, I answer. “And well done.”
I hear a male voice bark, “Oi. Wolf lady!”
I swiftly turn around to the same two men pointing at me. They are both dogs, which wear work clothes, no doubt grocers. I get my answer right away, why they are here now, of all places. “Are you the wolf mentioned in this paper?” I look down, to see the pages in the first dog’s hands, and I can just tell that it’s my interview and David’s letter.
I look up, to scowl and ask back, “What matters it to you?”
The second dog inquires, “Is this true? Wos that prostitute really a member of that horrendous family?”
“Terrecon House? Yes. And I did not share ‘is letter t-be smothered by readers.”
The first dog asks, “’Ow much did y-know about ‘im?”
“Only what ‘is letter says”, I answer irritably. “And I’ve no time fer this.”
I turn around, only to be asked, “Did you love David?”
Without looking back, I answer, “I cared about ‘im. That’s oll yeh’ll get.”
As I have expected, I see the same rabbit run outside the house of my choice, and I shout, “Oi! Get back ‘ere, li-ul bugga!” I run after her, and I do not reach the peak of my speed. I chase her far from the station, passing townhouses and marketplaces that are worse for wear. I also pass roads that are as dilapidated as those buildings. One of those dirt roads, I cross, still in pursuit, and there I am led.
“Yeh’re a good runner”, I tell the rabbit.
“Thank you, Ma’am.”
I hand her two tenners and a fiver, telling her, “Buy yourself somethin’ fresh.”
She nods and thanks me again. I watch her depart, and I feel that sadness again. If only she can stay with me, and return with me to the Mau-Re Sanctuary. I cannot help everyone…
“Meinrad Diefenbach. Doberman. The lead surgeon at the infamous Agnarge Asylum. He is a skilled surgeon, but he does more than practise dissection. He is one of the doctors living in Symphon that are adamant about changing the routines to those that are more careful. A few of my men are among those to be tortured by him for his ‘personal research’, but also for information under the orders of Giffard or Lieven. That information was extracted, but those men of mine turned down the offer of a rescue. When promised funds by the Lowell House, but done with Giffard or Lieven watching, Diefenbach made no second thoughts. If you happen to speak to him, tell him MacNiadh sent you.”
That dog noted by Jack is my next target. I bless that snow-white fox. I do not believe Jack to hold a grudge, but if he hates the dog for what he is, that is fine by me.
I knock on the spruce door of the grey brick building, and the door opens, revealing a grey wolf cub, looking up at me. His amber eyes look sombre. I ask, “May I come in?” Without hesitation, the wolf cub moves aside quietly. I enter, to find a line of beds on the left and a line of tables on the right. At the other end, there is a counter in front of a furnace.
The wolf cub asks, “Wh-whot b-brings you ‘ere, M-ma’am?”
I turn around, asking back, “A rabbit working for another rabbit named Leigh-Anne led me ‘ere. The name sound familiar to you?”
“Y-yes, Ma’am. I kn-know ‘er”, the little wolf answers. “A-and I know M-mister MacNiadh.”
I kneel, so I can be more level with the wolf cub. I ask, “What d-yer friends call you?”
“D-you ‘ave other spies ‘ere in Agnarge?”
“Y-yes, Ma’am, b-but they are out sc-scouting.”
“Whot can y-tell me about the criminal activity?” The cub pauses, looking away. He flinches when I place a hand on his shoulder, and I can feel him tremble. I tell him calmly, “It is all right. I don’ plan ter ‘urt yeh. Just calmly tell me what I need t-know.”
The cub pants before he turns to me again, that yellow of his eyes so bright that they could explode. “I’ve seen too much of crime… M-my father was an a-alcoholic… He w-would hurt me and m-my mother… until she t-took a knife… and k-killed ‘im… I wos so afraid of ‘er after… I ran from ‘er… That wos five years ago… Not a day goes by without me seeing someone get mugged or killed.” He takes another long breath, and he does not shake anymore. “I know of many murderers ‘ere in Agnarge, but police don’ believe children. No one listens to children. I can only trust other children working for Mister MacNiadh. It took six of ‘is child informants to convince me to work fer ‘im, too.
“Me friends and I ‘ave been shadowing agents working for… Those ones, I consider the worst. We’ve seen them threaten people, and we’ve ‘erd guns fire. It is still difficult for me to watch or listen to. The borough itself is like an overtaken prison. ‘Tis more than the slums littered with murderers and… abusers…”
“And what know you of Meinrad Diefenbach?”
He looks down sadly, murmuring, “Only whot Mister MacNiadh told me…” He sighs before looking up again, his yellow eyes still looking bright. Julian continues, “A brilliant surgeon, but terribly sadistic. His informants also relayed that he wos threatened t-be deported from ‘is home country Fleisung, but there are rumours that he left because nobody took ‘is research seriously. The warden of Agnarge Asylum did not hesitate to ‘ire ‘im. He still wanted to conduct his research, but they did not fund him either.”
I interrupt, “That is where Giffard came in.” I imply, “I assume that you’nd yer friends ‘ave shadowed agents assigned t-protect Diefenbach.”
Julian infers, “They seem t-not protect the mad doctor, but there are some terribly aggressive murderers on the Lowell House payroll.”
I lower my arm that has been on his shoulder before I inquire, “Keep you any notes on particular criminals?”
“Yes, Ma’am.” I watch Julian approach the end where the furnace is, and then to a shelf behind the last bed. I hear him rummage through loose pages. In about a minute, I head to that shelf—
But Julian returns to me with a few pages, having turned grey and torn at the edges. I slowly take the pages from his hands presented upward, and he states, “Those are the agents working for Diefenbach. You can find them attacking olmost anyone in the borough.” I am hesitant to pocket these notes. Like the boroughs Sputure, Tolden, and Grauk, this place is littered with criminals. I am here only to kill Diefenbach… is what I want to say. I have my reason to kill him, but I end up tempted by the pain in the eyes of this wolf cub to do something for the young.
(I came home to find my mother having worn herself out during lunchtime… if we could afford lunch, which was something that we could not do. I noted that her personal book was out of sight. She was hiding something.
(I saw only one thing to do, being hungry. I could have spent what money I had stolen and still had in my makeshift cache, but it I was hesitant. My mother and Clement could be aware that I still stole. So, why did they let me?
(I thought with my stomach first. I looked through my own belongings, finding my stack of coins and notes easily, and I slowly took a few notes but several coins. I wanted to get rid of the coins quickly after having obtaining them. I kept the coins in the pocket of my pants. There was no changing that I hated the dresses. I hated handbags as well.
(Thankfully, I got out of the house before Clement was to come home during his break from work. Whether the grocers planned to tell my parents upon seeing them that I bought from them by myself, I cared not. However, there was no one to cook for me. The butcher convinced me to not waste the money on what meat I wanted, for he told me that no cubs were allowed in the pubs for the fumes of the tobacco to add to those of the ales that they kept. Who knew that barkeeps cared about a cub’s well-being?
(I was disappointed that I had no meat with lunch, and stuck with only a few root vegetables and a roll. Still, the freshness of the vegetables made it fine dining compared to eating those that were already close to mush before being added to a watery broth.
(I returned home, but not without a detour to seek someone whose pocket to pick, and managed to get out of their sight before a scene could be made. Even still, I felt something stir within me, and that food was not poisoned in any way.
(Upon entering my house again, I didn’t just feel disturbed by my friend having died. I was focused on my mother, who just read one of the few books that she kept. I was sad. I had to steal; I saw no other way. She was right about attracting too much attention, but I was not done with stealing. All that I wanted was to get out of this borough. It was for neither of us.
(I joined my mother on her mattress and nestled next to her, saying nothing. I just wanted her to know that her daughter was here. I had a dream of the two of us leaving this place, together.)
I am perched on a short beam from a stone railing from what should be a bell tower, but it just part of one of the business townhouses. I do not look down upon the city, for I have my eyes closed, to listen for any kind of activity from the distance. As I wear my golden mask, and therefore my blue suit, I cannot feel the breezes with my face.
It is night time when I am perched. I need not open my eyes to be aware that my friend has perched behind me and to the side. He does not caw, for he is aware that I am in thought. I can hear yelling and thumps even when it is night. Everyone thrives at night. The criminals are no exception. They prey upon the unsuspecting. My ears bent to the sides, I can hear fighting. I must return to my first year of having returned to Highcond; I have sworn to never stand by as the rotters have their way with the helpless.
I open my eyes, looking over my shoulder, to my friend, whose green eyes shimmer, and I whisper, “Guide me.”
The raven caws and flaps his wings, lifting himself from the air and then diving. I watch that dive become a glide, and he keeps going with what momentum he has built. I climb down from the short beam and I drop myself gradually from the bars that I can use as ledges. I hurry along the dirt road, and I manage to catch up with the raven. When I do, he is at a uniform speed, but not with the pique in momentum. I still stride, to keep up with him. Before long, I am near the wooden houses. If they were living bodies, they would be partially-muscled skeletons. I listen carefully, having my eyes closed, and my right ear bends to the side to the sounds of… growling and crying.
I am quick to investigate it. I head to one of these houses, just outside a better part of town. This house where I stop has two levels. The planks on the side walls make it look like a filled scaffolding. Just behind where I am, I can hear the crying perfectly. I know the sound all too well, and I can actually smell metal as well as the musk scent of another. I take no chances on this. I leap round the corner, my left Khopesh drawn. Upon the second turn—
It is just what I have expected. I see a large dog defiling a cat. Quite cowardly, preying upon smaller mammals. He has a knife to her throat as he has her back pressed against a wall and he is just inside her. As quickly, I slice the side of his midsection, resulting in a gash. With the same Khopesh, I slash up his back, make him yowl—which is quickly silenced by my going for his throat, which I slash, and he tumbles to the ground. The cat scrambles to just push the dog’s knob out of her. She whispers, but then speaks up, “Th-thank you…” I drag the then limp body, which I leave in the middle of the road, for the scavengers to feast upon.
I look up to the night sky just a few minutes later, and there my raven friend is, not giving a sign of fatigue. As if he already knows my question, he gives an answer in the form of a course that he sets. I follow him.
I jog to keep up with the raven, and it feels like only a short distance where he knows there is something that I refuse to ignore. It is actually in one of the nice parts of the borough, still in its northern region. The criminals that I stumble across, thanks to my friend, are those to give themselves away. I hear only thumping before I even spot their silhouettes.
I quickly get closer, crossing the road to another sidewalk, and I can tell by the shadows that they are weasels. I press myself against a wall, raising my hood. I peak from my cover to know that one points a gun at their victims while the other delivers a beating to someone pressed against the wall. They already have a victim on the ground. I already have a strategy. I quickly leap from my cover. Just as I predict, the one with the gun, aims at me.
I grab the weasel—which turns out to be a ferret—and use him as a living shield. However, I cannot keep that up for long. When close enough, I toss the ferret toward his friend. They barely meet the ground when I draw my Khopeshes. In the blink of an eye, I stab the two weasels simultaneously, and they stop breathing a second later, but I keep the blades where they are, to make sure that it is no ruse.
About a minute passes before I pull my Khopeshes out of the bodies and sheath them. I then check on the cat laying on the ground. I press a finger against his neck, to know that he has only taken too much of a beating. The other cat is quick to pick up what I assume is his brother, though their pelts have different colours. Again, I leave without a second thought.
Seeing time for another crime to prevent, I find suspicion from smelling dirt, stone, and fresh blood to add to the musk scents. The ones that I follow are a bear and two canines. I listen to their conversation as I tail them.
The bear speaks, “Be patient, chaps. Their sacrifices will be made soon.”
One of the canines inquires, “But will they be worth the disappointing sex? I don’ like when they can’t resist.”
The other adds, “Neither do I. I wager the same with the dolphins of our circle.”
The bear says, “Must I remind yeh whot the spirit says through me? ‘Only the blood of the mortal women ter ‘ave their innocence long-lost and the seeds from men can return me ta th-mortal realm’”-
The canines finish in unison, “’And yer unwavering loyalty assures my return ta grace.” Anything but grace. The first time I have listened to this kind of bollocks, was once too many. I could kill these men here and now, but they are more useful to me alive.
The bear speaks, “Exactly, me li-ul brothers. I believe this spirit to be of someone to be like a brotha t-me. Not officially uniting with ‘im would be worse than shan. I need yeh both and th-res’ ta stay alert. Seek other young women, for we will perform th-final rites tomorrow night in the place fer all ter ‘ear. Yeh may invite friends outside our circle if yeh wish.”
The canine to my right answers, “I will be there, Big Brother. And I will give a pint o’ me own blood if it means an ‘undred orgasms fer me.”
I quickly head the opposite way they head, looking back as I do so, and hurry behind a house. I howl, “Michi!” I care not that it alerts those men. In the blink of an eye, there he is, and I hold out my right arm, so he can perch. Looking into his green eyes, I tell him, “Follow that bear and ‘is subordinates to where they reside. Give me their location tomorrow.” I sigh when I see him fly away, for I wish that I have given him the meat of a criminal tonight.
I still find someone to kill. Through careful listening as I am just outside of Agnarge Asylum, I find another criminal that deserves death. Just east of the property, to one of the crude houses, I find something I would never ignore. I can see the shadow of someone carrying a limp body. I care not to find out what that figure intends to do with their victim. I just run toward them, both Khopeshes drawn.
When I am up close, I make out a white dog in green and brown work clothes carrying another white dog in a blue dress. The white dog drops his victim, to draw his gun—
But he is just too late; I perform a scissor motion, and then a reverse-scissor motion, my Khopeshes scraping against each other, leaving a single deep gash in his midsection. I have almost cut him in half, and he falls limp, his eyes still open. I can tell that the female dog still breathes. How this kind of criminal has always disgusted me. Like it has done many times before, my mind goes to the idea that all men in the world think that they can get away with this wretched act.
As if he knows when I started and when I finish my breakfast, my raven friend flies in the open window of the apartment I have rented. The apartment is on the second level of the building. I am thankful that this has floorboards, a chair, and a table. The raven looks at me intently, but I head to that same window. Looking out, I see that the day is dreich. It is cloudy enough for me to expect rain. Regardless, I finally dress. I fasten my blue trousers with my sword belt holding my Khopeshes, close my shirt, and don my brown vest and blue tailcoat. I fasten my boots and sheathe my stiletto in the left one. I then don my mask, getting my ears through its slots on the first try.
I turn to my raven friend, and plainly say, “Go.” My friend begins flapping his wings and he exits the open window, with me following close behind. I reach the ground in a squat, and my friend is still in my sight. I am still quick to follow him as I break into a jog, and a minute later a sprint. I use the buildings in range for part of this trip, starting with the walls surrounding the grounds of an old castle. I have been here the previous night, I see, not that it matters this second.
It is like the battle of two different stones, given the sky today and the buildings of this place. It is as if the sky is the ground of a tundra covered in only rock, and these houses are a cliff in a desert. The cool air also clashes with my body heat, but I dare not stop, for I believe that my friend prefers to make only this one trip.
Where I see my friend stop is at one of many places that come off as the slums. The house where he is perched tells me where he has followed that bear, but I look around. The two pairs of houses like partially-muscled skeletons have rope connected to them. They are like their own square. In the centre of the dirt ground is some kind of pond, which I dare not touch, for who knows how many have pissed in it?
I look up and left, to where my friend is. It is a start where this cult could be. I climb up the wall of the first house and then leap from its roof to the next, where my friend is still perched. Even now, he is unphased by what noise my boots on shingles make, so close to him. I drop from the edge and swing myself in the open window.
The room that I enter has its space taken up only by a large mattress with dirty-looking sheets. There seems to be nothing except a stash of cured meat to add. The stench of someone’s musk is poignant, but not enough to threaten to blind me. There is nothing else but dusty walls—or so I think.
The large box in the corner, near the bed, contains no meat. In the box, I find some kind of drug. I know the smell of it all too well; it is opium, preferably morphine. I scowl at how much this bear and his subordinates could be using and how long they have been drugging and raping females. But how can I know if it truly is the same bear that I tailed last night?
That answer comes to me when I run my hands along the walls until I find a set of planks that are fresh. It is with my Khopesh, I wring the planks off. I find a stack of notes, which I read. I read the first, to know that the letter is to the one calling himself “Big Brother”. Brother to nobody. The notes that I read through are orders for the opiate and orders for other supplies to carry out his rites. How predictable: a man loyal to some demon relying on criminals. However, where is “the place for all to hear”?
My time is running out. I cannot ignore this act of crime. I remember to calm myself and think. There are places in Highcond and other cities given poetic names. Agnarge is no exception. There has to be a place always loud, regardless of the time of day…
My eyes open wide at the revelation as I think That’s it! Concert Square, called such for the echoes from just speaking. There is something about the walls of the houses to make voices carry. That is where the cult will be. I can expect them to show up after dinner time.
I cannot help but stop at a marketplace where they have tool service. My money is good for such. I utilise a good wheel for sharpening my Khopeshes and my stiletto. The merchant that I pay manages to stay calm. I go another market, particularly to a black-market dealer, asking for a poison. As expected, that dealer has the banes that are the extracted juices of a few of the most toxic flowers. I select that of Monkshood.
In the apartment that I rent, I carefully handle the poison with which to lace the blade of my stiletto. I cannot risk lacing my Khopeshes with it. I have to plan this carefully, as well. Even if the rapists do their deed naked, there is still a chance that they are armed. The men that I see with that bear have made their choices. I look to the open window, and in the late afternoon, I see that it has started to rain. Perfect. I can expect darkness tonight.
In half an hour of eating my dinner, I head to one of the slums chosen as the ritual grounds, my raven friend having guided me as if he had been there many times before. I am perched on the rooftop of one of the dilapidated houses. There is good space for a crowd to move around in this area. I see a metal can from which I can smell ash. There is no one here. I can only wait and see.
And wait I did. When night has fallen, there the bear is, treading the dirt road between the two rows of houses, and it seems that the same two canines with whom I saw him last night accompany him. All three figures each wear a black robe, like monks. One of the canines, who look like brothers, carries two buckets, one of powder. The other carries bundles of incense. They stop where the metal can is, and light a fire. The second the bear takes the bucket in hand and begins drawing a circle with what seems to be pale ash, more men enter this street, clad in a black robe. Not all the men to arrive have brought their latest kidnap victim, but I swear to the High Priestess, those women will be nobody’s rape victim.
All the robed canines watch with fervour as the bear draws symbols with the soot, the two canines waving the lit incense. I make out something of two snakes and the shape of a gem. The two canines by the sides of the bear mutter something in a language that might be extinct or made-up; I cannot tell. The young women that have been brought here, tied up and naked, have come to. There are five young women, all cats, and there are eight other men. I scowl at this, baring my teeth. I have the urge to leap down, but I need evidence that these men are indeed rapists.
The bear bellows with excitement, “Welcome, Brothers! This night is a special night! Fer this is the time of our final ritual! With yer seeds and the blood of our previous subjects, we shall appease the martyr, a brother that we shall ‘ave the privilege t-call our own!” The canines then bring the other bucket, in which two jars have been contained. Preserved blood and seed. The bear continues as they open the jars, letting their stenches out, “Tonight, we shall perfectly appease the martyr Lenocino!” That name sounds familiar for some reason. “We shall make ‘im proud of all ye who pledge ter ‘im! Hail Lenocino!”
“Hail Lenocino!” the dogs all repeat as an echo, no doubt the echoes carrying past the block’s edges.
The two canines at the bear’s sides, pour the contents of the jars in the circle that “Big Brother” has created. He bellows something in that indecipherable language, no doubt the bollocks that he claims he has heard from this spectre, as he undoes and tosses his robe behind him and out of the circle, revealing all his fur. The dogs follow him, repeating his speech, taking their robes off in turn, revealing their naked bodies, and I can just hear the muffled cries from these young cats. As the dogs start grinding or wanking, the rain begins as well. I watch them with my teeth clenched and bared, and I growl, tempted to howl, but I am not like that.
The last two canines join the group in defiling the women. I breathe deeply, my good hand clenched tightly on the hilt of my Khopesh. After three sharp and deep breaths, I leap from the edge of the roof where I have been perched. As I am airborne, I have drawn my Khopesh. I land hard upon the dog that has just joined in what they think is an orgy. For the good measure, I plunge my Khopesh in his back. It all happens so fast, but I feel like time has slowed down. I let those in front of me see my eyes as I stand up straight.
I draw my right Khopesh, and I thrust the blades of each up the other dog close to “Big Brother”, and one grinding against one of the cats, on the cunt.
“No!” the bear roars. “This cannot happen!” I drown out his speech as I prepare myself for a blow just coming to me. As if they forget who’s the one with the weapons, the dog making that same cat suck his knob, runs toward me, only to be met by my blades. In a hurry, three of the men shift to take their young victims whereas one is released so that dog can join in the fight. The three dogs come at me at once. I parry the punches from the two at my sides with my Khopeshes and kick the one in front of me. I turn my blades before thrusting them up the same dogs’ chests. With them still impaled in the bodies, I quickly crouch to avoid two punches. I stand up as quickly, having pulled the blades out of the limp dogs—
Only for the one in front of me to punch my chest. I have to step back from that, but I am also tempted to kneel. That is how hard his punch is. However, I suppress that pain, so I can swipe at him, performing feints, before I slash his throat. I then catch up with the last three dogs, who are making their victims alternate in sucking the bear’s knob. I approach them, slashing the throats of the first two with each of my Khopeshes. However, the last dog picks up a brick of what I know is their opium, which he has near the cat’s mouth. I already know what he means, for I drop my Khopeshes. The bear, I see, presents something, making the dog drop the drug brick. I utilise that time to its fullest. I pick up my Khopeshes, and then leap toward the dog. I manage to stab him in the lungs.
I close my eyes, raising my head, howling with rage. At that second, as if nature is cognizant of my actions, I just know that lightning flashes. I then utilise my Khopeshes to cut the ropes keeping the five cats bound. I lead them to jump away from where the men are, having picked up discarded robes. I tell them sternly, “I know whot y-must feel, but y-must get out of ‘ere. If yeh live with family, let them know whot happened t-you.” My raven friend should be able to guide them. I wonder if it is only to get out of the rain as soon as they can, they begin running, taking the robes along.
I turn to the bear, scowling. I sheathe my Khopeshes. He shouts, “Blasphemer. How dare yeh defile the ritual of Lenocino?!” I know what word it resembles.
“If there is any defiler, you saw me kill them!” I growl. “Yeh took advantage of delusions ter enable other men t-do it! That blood and seed only add t-yer own foul stench! And yeh turned to other criminals fer this ‘deed’ of yours. You influenced these men t-be blighters upon the city! You only watched me kill them. You bloody coward.” My last statement is with all venom I can muster.
He walks toward me, not bothering to pick up his robe, telling me how quickly I have provoked him. I draw my stiletto from my boot. The rain having let up, I am confident that it will not wash much of the poison away. He seems to tower me, this false prophet, but he is not the only bear that I have fought. I quickly kneel down, to deliver a quick slit across his leg. I then leap aside. I take another chance to slit his side. I get behind him, stabbing him, but I quickly take the blade out of the flesh. As I expect, he does not waver. He quickly turns around, and he swings his natural claws at me. I leap backwards, but I meet the wall of the house. The bear gets close to me, grabbing me with both hands, and snapping his jaw at me. I use my right hand to keep his teeth away, but his muzzle is too big for my hand. I manage to swipe upward, missing his throat, but I cut his face. I stab him again, but in the shoulder, making his grip lessen. I still hold his muzzle as I stab him in the side of his neck, but he can still breathe, which I see as I run to make space for myself. However, the bear seems to stagger. It is working.
The bear growls, “What magic is this?”
“Not magic. Poison.” I can see in his eyes that weariness has just begun to take a hold of him. I could try killing him faster with stabs, but the poison would be less effective if I try to make him bleed out. I can make out the openings in his skin, but the dampness in his fur brought on by the rain washes the blood off. I watch him slowly approach, trying to stay awake. He staggers as I stand there, seeming to have my guard down. He growls, “Yeh’ll suffer, bitch.” I expect better for last words. The bear sways his arms as he still goes at a slow pace. That is when I have an idea. I leap to where I see the dropped drug is and plunge my stiletto into the block of it. I am closer to him now. The bear seems to spin as he moves to meet my gaze. I stab him in the forearm and then his midsection. Now, he feels the effects more. He groans, “Whot is this?” He looks around. Now he shall die with his own poison as well. “Lenocino?” he asks. “Are yehr ‘ere? Lenocino? Whot demons are these?” He suddenly speaks with urgency, “Lenocino, help!” He flails his arms. I get close, and I can counter his swings, before I stab his neck again, this time making him choke. I back up with a leap, thinking, Die, foul bastard. Die. Before long, I see him no longer breathing as he lays on the ground. No more madness from this numpty.
Upon waking in the morning, I see the stack of pages as well as a journal that I have lifted from the apartment inhabited by “Big Brother”. No one must follow the delusion of the demon that promises glory. The criminals are like demons; they think that what they do is right, but it gets the best of them… as it almost got the best of me years ago… Criminals can claim that they can do something for someone wanting better, only to betray them. If this deluded bear was a demon, he would have stabbed his loyal puppets in their backs, purely out of his own selfishness. I sit up from the bed. I feel fine; the coldness to come from the rain has not ailed me.
I look out the open window, getting the view of a kind of life that many seem to never have. I look to the side, the bearing toward the infamous Agnarge Asylum. That is when solemnity overcomes me. I back from the window, sighing. I have done this kind of thing upon my return to Highcond.
I was reckless. I had been so focused on killing other criminals with their own malicious intentions that I had almost forgotten why I had been doing so. All the destitute folk whose blood were tasted by my Khopeshes were only practise. Agnarge was the borough where I had begun turning around the war on crime, but that is not the promise that I had made upon leaving the Sanctuary to return to Highcond. Michi may have promised a feast for other corvids when I killed, but he has not aided me for this long, just for me to slay all the rapists in the city.
Where I go is not to the Asylum. Not just yet. I need information, and I have a good drug that can buy it. What is the best place to obtain information on criminals, bar fight clubs? To my contentment, the top of the metal tower seems to be open for fights and bets, for something in the middle of the day. I have been here three years ago, and it seems unchanged, save for maybe the coat of teal paint on the bars and walls. They have only one doorway. I enter there. They do not much on the ground level. It is also known to be a workshop rented by parties. I see that it is busy as well, for I see working cats operate a printing press, which makes noise as it processes. None of the cats seem to mind the unexpected presence of the she-wolf vigilante.
They seem to not mind either that I use the lift. All I need do is hold a lever down, and the gears and chains grind. Even still, no one thinks of the irregular.
On the top floor, there is a small crowd watching two dogs exchanging sloppy punches, in a wooden circle bordered by a metal bar fence. I watch, but I also look around, my arms folded. I recognise none of the folk here, but it is difficult to validate. These could be workers making bets, to see who would be eating lunch during their breaks.
These two dogs stick to only punches and kicks with their fighting until one of them kneels, showing his weariness. The owner steps in to the ring, this man being a ferret in a beige suit—the jacket having been torn and stitched in several places—over a white shirt and blue tie. He raises the arm of the dog still standing, and announces, “We’ve a winner!”
I note a few of the watchers collect on their bets along with the winning dog. I stand next to another dog, this one a Bloodhound. I ask him, “D-you see more than workers come here?”
“Of course I do”, the Bloodhound answers. He speaks with a Glashish accent.
I add, “Whot about mercs?”
“Why be this somethin’ of interest to a woman?” he asks back. He clearly has seen mercenary.
I present the block of opiate, stating, “I’ve met my share of more than thieves.”
Not caring how I got the drug, he says, “I know a few mercs.”
I inquire, “What know you of one specific wolf? Black pelt, brown face, white spots an’ stripes, white nose and ears, red eyes.”
The Bloodhound says, “I seen ‘im ‘ere before. Almost everyone bets on him winning. He’s well-known to fulfil… illegal contracts…”
I persist lowly, “I know that. What else? What know you of ‘is background?”
“As much as anyone else”, the Bloodhound snorts. “I know only that it’s his way of living. His name’s Vadimir. Nobody knows ‘is surname or where ‘e’s from. He just out of the blue became part of the criminal underworld, but he’s clearly fought others long b-fore he started ‘is reputation in fight clubs.”
I let him have the morphine, to do with as he wishes, and he pockets it as I say plainly, “There is another thing I must ask.” I present a pistol and bullets. “What know you of Meinrad Diefenbach?”
“Hell if I know”, he scoffs. “Ask the lead nurse; she knows everything that occurs in the bloody asylum.”
I pocket the weapon and bullets as much as I hate to, and say, “You’ve been helpful. Thank you.”
Now, I must go to the asylum. There is no avoiding it. I cannot help everyone, but my investigation of the surgeon known to be sadistic may have me helping more than myself.