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[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat The long pause between his words and her moving forward had left him in no doubts she would refute his request. She looked at him with irritation and disgust and yet it was interwoven with interest and a touch of resignation. That last one left him feeling uneasy. For a woman to feel uneasy in his presence or for what he had said had not been his intention. Indeed he had hoped to keep things light and refreshing between them; they had been up until this moment.
Isaksson had intended to sit back in his seat upon her rejection but she darted forward and with such gusto he felt the table shake beneath them. She was on him in moments and looking into Charlene's dark oak gaze he could see the animosity that came with her tone of voice. She was quite imposing when she wanted to be, and yet her final words had him a touch befuddled.
His dark olive irises watched her sceptically with their noses briefly touching as she leaned over the table. For a moment he thought she would be toying with him and would fall back in a fit of laughter. But the rosy glow to her cheeks and the soft warm staggered breaths that blew over his bristled jawline gave away her unique appetite and in a flash she had pressed her lips to his. It was, well, startling! And that was to say the least of the kiss.
To be rather frank; the kiss was very good. Her lips were supple and warm, her face brought a certain heat to the area and his eyelids faltered for a moment as his body began to succumb to the delight of her touch. All of this in a kiss that lasted barely a second. Well, two at a push. Okay three at the absolute most. Certainly by the fourth he was thinking of pulling away. By the fifth second he had made good on his promise and pulled back, it was done, over, no more. Looking at her the overwhelming image she would see on his face is that of surprise.
[+teal “No-one.. no-one has ever opted for the kiss before..”] His voice is a whisper, the sounds about them slowly returning as if they had muted for the duration of the embrace and yet no-one around them would have seen the act, his gesture from earlier giving them a moment of secrecy to the rest of the room.
Sheepishly he sits back into his seat and pulls his hands to sit either side of his cup and empty thimble. He is trying to process the moment in his mind and yet there was not a whole lot he could say but the truth,
[+teal “I did not poison you.”] He finally says as she settles back into her own seat.[+teal “You see, this is not the first time I have done this.. initiation ceremony. My first two lessons are not to trust everything you hear as truth and not to do what others tell you to do.”] A little bit of guilt came in at the second point as he could quite see it as a [i 'do what I say or go away'] deal and she had decided this was too interesting to pass up. But as he said; no-one had kissed him before. Certainly not in that manner at least. He was a tad flummoxed for how to proceed.
Charlene wasn’t sure why, but the tea kept calling her back. There was a flavor she couldn’t put her finger on, and she wanted to figure it out. It wasn’t her priority however, and she decided to enjoy it and the scone as Issackson seemed incredulous about her reasons. She shrugged he was asked if she would abandon her job. Oddly, he also seemed delighted and called for the waiter to come over with two shot glasses of liquor. She arched a brow at the display and his command to drink it.
[#008000 “You brits must start your drinking early in the day…”] she began, but he quickly finished his thoughts by mention of the poison that had been in her tea. She blanched, hands near her teacup and tilting it towards her to see, like a fool, she had drank it all. Her mouth began to feel dry and she turned her look of shock from the drinks towards the man, in stunned disbelief.
[#008000 “You poisoned me.”] She licked her lips as he played it off. ‘A taster of things to come’ he had called it.
She watched him lift his shot and drink it smoothly, but Charlene was having a hard time convincing herself to take the shot as well. Her mouth continued to grow drier, her throat now feeling as if a fire was beginning to grow. She tried to cough, and realized he wasn’t joking about the poison. He looked fine and content, Charlene felt an inferno grow inside her. Afraid her throat might close up soon, she reached forward and took the thimble, finally drinking the antidote. It was a blanket of silken ice, and she felt it slide down her throat and to her belly where it quickly stamped out the effects of whatever that poison she drank was. As relief came, a glare grew on her face. If it wasn’t for all the folk around here, she would have drawn her gun on him.
Instead she was thrown a second time by the man. No for his actions of poisoning her, but for his words. Enamored? With her? Well he certainly was the only one enamored at the table. It would figure he would call her a girl, Charlene supposed she looked younger than she really was, but she was definitely no girl. Girls were innocent and naive, Charlene was none of those things. Her glare and her stiff disposition only grew as he suddenly leaned in across the table towards her. Her eyes met his, and though his looked amused, Charlene was not. She didn’t find being poisoned a very humorous event. Even more frightening was how he seemed to not only know her name, but knew exactly where she was from. How was that even possible? She didn’t even know his name yet!
He wanted her to make a promise, several in fact. Do as he says, listen, and forget everything she thought was real -things adults make children promise to do. It was a bit insulting. Still, she let her mind wander with thoughts. Was she certain she wanted adventure? Yes. Was she sure this man was sane? Hell no, he just tried to poison her… and yet… She looked back across the table to him and knew whatever she said, there was be no going back. As if sensing her hesitation, or her thoughts he spoke: “If you agree, then give me a kiss.”
A Kiss? Now he wanted a kiss? She pursed her lips in irritation, but her desire for adventure won out. It wasn’t only that, but a slight irritation that he felt so sure of himself. Oddly enough she found his refined confidence attractive. He was wholly different from any man she had met, and American men generally left much to be desired. At least the men she had met. Even the men she worked with disgusted her, but this man with his manicured short beard, and enticing youthful eyes had her a little unnerved. He might have assumed she was used to men’s advances, and in a way she was. The men who made advances at her were not the sort any self respecting woman would entertain, but the man before her had class… not crass. She supposed if she was going to kiss a man for a job, this one was hands down the best looking, most well mannered one, and she had conversed with worst before. However her more American vocabulary wouldn’t have been appreciated in this setting. She’d already unnerved the finely dressed women with her own apparel enough today, a belligerent and profane retort was simply out of the question.
She leaned in towards him, her own dark eyes going steely and filled with a warning of her own, he wasn’t the first man to dole out orders and believe she would follow them like a mindless twit. So when she spoke, her own voice was quiet, but there was nothing soft about it. A Whisper of warning.
[#008000 “Before I agree to any of this, I’m going to make my own stipulation very clear. I don’t take kindly to being made a fool, or not being taken seriously. I don’t like that you poisoned me, but I can tell it was a test. One I must have passed, and while I can prepare myself for the unexpected, and do what you ask of me. Kissing you? Is not something you can, or will ask for again. I am the master of my own body, and I won’t trade it for anything. So consider this, my token of good faith,”]
Without much more to say, and an understanding she could see in his gaze, she leaned forward across the table to press her lips against his. She just wasn’t expecting to catch herself nose to nose with him. A minor hesitation, a second guess... among other things. She could smell his cologne, the hint of tea still on his lips, she even noticed the subtle peppering of grey in his hair. He couldn’t be much older than her, and he certainly wasn’t her usual type, but at their nearness she felt a warmth blossom in her chest. Could she actually do this? Why was she so nervous all of a sudden? Much to her embarrassment he was the most attractive man she could claim to have kissed. Did he not think she would do it? Why did her mouth feel dry again? Why was she overthinking this! It was a silly kiss, and nothing was probably going to happen. Unable to let her mind ramble, or let him unnerve her with his gaze, she closed her eyes and finally pressed her lips against his.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Contrary to the looks around them, all concentrated upon the foreigner’s attire and little else, Isaksson was rather taken with how she dressed. It was novel, fun, out of the ordinary and it suited her figure rather well. She was refreshing to have sat opposite him and the disgusted looks she received only made him like her that much more. When she blushed he could quite imagine she was harassed by smitten men regularly. Sun-kissed skin, dark eyes, enviable physique and an accent that had anyone around them leaning a little closer to listen in to her. A flick of his wrist had them returning to their own conversations; this was a private affair.
As she speaks of her reasons why he must take her in and indulge her natural curiosity, his gestured for the worker from before to come across, seeing her eating into her scone and nodding to confirm he had heard what she had said. He could manage two actions at once.
[+teal “So, you want to indulge your adventurous and wild personality and, at the same time as you do this, you will abandon your only means of employment in this city?”] She was a breath of fresh air and he nodded approvingly of his summation of her points. The man returned with a small silver platter, two ornate golden thimbles of liquor placed down and the bearded man opposite her presents one toward her when they are left alone again. She finished the rest of her tea at that and he smiled as she placed down her cup once more.
[+teal “Drink that,”] he gestured at the milky substance in the thimble,[+teal “it will counter the poison in the tea.”] Isaksson spoke so softly and calmly it was a moment or two before she would truly take in his words and he looked across to her with a small frown.[+teal “What? Consider it a taster of things to come. If you leave here with me today then this is what will become the norm.”] He could see she was dubious of his claim but regardless of her reaction he took his own shot of antidote, placing the container back in the small metallic stand it came in. Now he wished to return to the conversation at hand.
[+teal “I will admit you have me rather at a disadvantage as I find myself enamoured with you.”] Not one to skirt the subject he had hit it head on.[+teal “A pretty girl, away from her homeland, who actively wishes to become involved in a world she has no idea trundles along under her very nose.”] Still sat back in his seat he eyes her critically in silence for several seconds. His dark olive gaze seeks out her eyes and when they meet she would see the humour and playfulness in his own wise eyes. Oh this would be terribly fun indeed. He shifted forward, resting his hands on either side of the table, leaning across it half way toward her.
[+teal “So, Charlene Doger of Wyoming, U.S.A,”] he spelled out her country slowly, letting each letter trickle off his tongue,[+teal “do you promise to listen to what I say? Do you promise to do what I tell you and when I tell you? To forgo everything you have [i known] to be the truth and real, and instead delve into a world of the unexplainable and brazenly mad?”] It was a threat as much as it was enticing. She had to understand this was not going to be a simple boat ride to a new country and new customs. This is where her world would change entirely.
[+teal “If you agree, then give me a kiss.”] His voice dropped an octave, his eyes narrowing on her and watching her intently for her response.
The tea shop sure was a fancy place, and Charlene had been so nervous of being late that she hadn’t taken the time to take in the view. It mostly consisted of dainty dollies and women in fine clothes with delicately crafted china held in their gloved hands. Several eyes were on her, mostly curious, some scornful, others downright appalled. She had to hide a slight grin at how she enjoyed seeing the people put off by her choice of apparel. Isaksson however, was clearly not accustomed to her being an American. Nor did he seem to like her description of his ‘little stick’, as he warned her she could have ended up like the other fellow from yesterday. She blushed quickly realizing the error of her comment and how it could have been construed differently than her intention. However, that was all put on hold when her scone and tea arrived. She watched curiously as he poured their tea, but she wasn’t expecting to be warned about eating before drinking. She had already broken off a piece to stuff in her mouth when he made his comment, and promptly put it back down.
She didn’t know a thing about tea, she supposed she ought to listen, and set the bite back on her plate to watch him finish pouring their tea. Another quick glance around the room and she noted she had poor manners… regardless of being a man or a woman. She promptly removed her elbows from the table and attempted to sit with a bit more grace, mimicking an especially graceful and pretty girl across the room and in view. He warned her that not forgetting meant dealing with consequences and she looked to see him toasting their tea.
Charline observed the way his eyes fluttered closed as if relishing in the taste. It must have been pretty good. She looked down at the tea and noticed it’s odd violet color and was curious to note it did not have a scent to it. Definitely nothing like coffee. She didn’t want to be rude or fickle and lifted the tea cup to sip at the steaming brew. It was oddly flavored, yet delicately sweet. Different flavorful tones danced on her tongue and she found herself mildly shocked she enjoyed it. She let Isaksson finish speaking, asking her what she expected to see and why he should show her. Charlene frowned, she supposed he made a good point. Yet he’d also invited her to tea, so she wasn’t certain at what game he was playing. Not to mention his playful gaze was making her slightly nervous. She wasn’t sure what to expect from this odd man.
[#008000 “Honestly, Sir, I don’t know what I expect to see. I’ve been traveling from San Fransisco all the way to New York and now London. I’ve run around with all sorts of folks, and even grew up having an Indian friend. There’s something special about them, and they see the world differently. I suppose I’m just trying to find a way to see it myself, and you showed me something that perhaps I wasn’t meant to see. But I saw it and there’s no taking it back. I’m not saying I’m going to be helpful, or that I know what I’m getting into. Truth is, I came here looking for an adventure. There’s not much left for me in America unless I want to marry and become a brow beaten housewife. So I’ve been wandering for a while now, and yesterday was the first time I saw something worth looking into. Plus, I’d like to bid my days as a traveling showgirl good riddance.”] she smirked and finally took that bite of scone she’d been pining over since she walked in.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat The tea room was rather lovely from both the outside and inside. Decorated with several smaller tables, with some larger ones off toward the back, the servers chassé about and regularly refill cups or offer up dainty pastries and small cakes. Truth be told it was a mixture of cafe and tea room but there was still an animosity toward most things French, especially in a British capital.
Around our olive eyed 'detective', people talked in hushed tones and the occasional laughter ripples across the quietness of the room. The crowd around was primarily women, older, dressed accordingly though wrapped in thick furs and long flowing dresses that would skirt the ground when they walked. The gentle tinkle of spoons on porcelain came time and again and only the dulcet tones of a harpist would have made it any more quaint and idyllic.
He sat with a paper in hand, reading through the previous days issues and making a note of the story regarding his crime scene. As expected there was no mention of either himself or the chase after the pale and now deceased being. The night had been spent troubling over just what to do with the information he had gathered. How could he utilise it best to suit his purposes of finding the answers to his questions. Often it was about perseverance, but of late it had been about finding a bit of luck. Perhaps he had found it yesterday.
In a certain foreigner, a very particular cross dressing woman, who in one second had shattered that serene and peaceful moment, bursting through the doorway. Thankfully she took her intended seat quickly.
Listening to her ramble on he was rather bored by the end but feigned interest in what she had to say. Her path was chosen the moment she stated she would [i [+green 'like to see more']]. That could certainly be arranged. Whilst she continued on to list her reasons for following, to which he found some incredibility that it was just a feeling, he raised his hand to a waiting server who had stayed toward the back of the room the moment she entered. Seeing him raise two fingers and a thumb the young man nodded and stepped forward to take her order.
With her hands flush to the table she asked for a cup of his own particular blend to which he gave a consenting nod of his head; he would be taking the bill on this it would seem. The choice of food was interesting but he had no appetite and merely remained silent with a soft smile looking across at her. He did find the suit rather fetching on her. It hid yet accentuated her figure in different places and made her tanned face all the more striking. The ribbon in hair he found childish but he knew the Americans were fond of their little touches here and there.
[+teal “And hello to you too.”] Isaksson said at last and raised his brow, a little irritated by her lack of manners but, again, she was American.[+teal “Firstly the only way my 'little stick' could have made you forget would have been to repeat said act you witnessed and have you gone for good.”] He placed down the paper on the table and took up the remnants of his cup, sipping it until it was empty and replacing it on it's saucer.
The young server returned with a tray, upon it a fresh pot of tea and a plate with a raspberry scone as ordered. Removed from said tray he retreated as Isaksson sat forward and very carefully poured our a helping of tea for her. It was quite silent as he did so. He took his time and not a drop was lost as he refilled his own, a liquid closer to violet in colour now sitting in their cups.
[+teal “I would warn you against eating before the tea. Rather, sip once and then eat.”] It was an odd warning but nothing about this man was ever simple it seemed.[+teal “As to your second point I did not give you the choice. Everyone had the option. We facilitate the means to the decision. Those who wish to forget, can. And those who do not must deal with any consequences.”] He lifted his cup in a toast to her and took a sip, eyes fluttering closed for a moment as the concoction his his taste buds. It would be interesting to see how it suited her as it was different to near everyone.
[+teal “But, to return to your opening statement; you want to see more. You will have to humour me but what do you expect me to show you? And more importantly why?”] He was very calm and relaxed, a little terse though that was just his tone. His face showed playfulness and kindness. He was a different man after his morning tea but before his afternoon coffee. That was another story.
He didn’t answer her question, at least not directly. Instead from his coat he produced a single black card and held it up between two fingers for her. Charlene frowned at him before reaching up to take the card from him and look it over. She eyed him cautiously one last time and flipped the card over in her hand to see the back. She heard his offer to forget what she’d seen, and to possibly explain why she followed. She had no explanation other than genuine curiosity, foolish bravery, and intuition. Her eyes widened for a moment in mesmerized wonder at the developing image on the card in her hand.
[#008000 “The Queen’s Hand, a Tea Room…”] If she so wished, he began, she was to meet him at that exact place at 10 in the morning. What if she didn’t want to forget? As if reading her mind he warned he to keep it to herself lest she end up in Bedlam. Bedlam? It took her a moment to realize what he was speaking about, before she turned slightly pale for a moment. The thought horrifying. She wasn’t crazy though, she knew what she saw… and she’d seen other wonders in her time too. He left her then, and she spared one last look to the card, but when she lifted her head, she saw she was all alone. [#008000 “Well I’ll be…”] She murmured looking around the area.
She retraced her steps back to the crime scene and found her way back to her horse. She did not go to the fires where the rest of the traveling troupe gathered at night for drinks and merry making, but instead groomed her horse and went to her tent. She laid down in her bed and stared up at the patched together ceiling of her tent. She’d seen a man dissolve into dust. No doubt by magic… Charlene grew up in the wilds of America and had seen some things she could only chalk up to magic as well. By the time she finally fell asleep, she knew she didn’t want to forget, but she wasn’t going to let it go either. She would meet this Mr. Isakson, but instead of asking how she might forget… she wanted to know more. She had come to London looking for adventure, and it seemed she might have found it.
She woke up early that morning, she didn’t want to be late, and she wanted to look her best. She combed her hair out and dressed in the same tailored suit from the other day, this time she wore cleaner boots and put a ribbon in her hair. Finding the Tea Shop in question hadn’t been difficult, and she arrived with out a moment to spare. He had said he did not like tardiness, but she had not expected it to take so long to reach. She rushed into the tea room and looked around, quickly removing her hat and realizing it might have been best to wear a skirt of some sort. Eyes turned towards her and many women as well as men, looked shocked to see her in pants. Charlene at least spotted Isaksson quickly and hurried towards his table and sat down across from him.
[#008000 “I gave it some thought,”] she began hands flat on the table with her hat sitting off to the side. [#008000 “I don’t want to forget the things I saw. I know what others might think, but I know what I saw, and I gotta say… I’d like to see more. I came here to find an adventure, and fortune, if I could be so lucky, Mister. I don’t really know what to tell you about what happened yesterday. Just that I had a feeling I ought to follow, and well… there you were with that fellow. I’m not so sure what all I saw, but I imagine you still don’t want me talking about it too freely, because if there’s one of ya, there’s bound to be more. I know you could have waved that little stick and made me forget yesterday… what made you decide to give me the choice?”] she asked her voice low, but stopping as the shop keeper came to ask what sort of Tea they would like. Not really knowing much about tea, Charlene informed the man she would be having whatever Isaksson was having, as well as a raspberry scone. They simply smelled too good upon her entering for her not to have one. Once the man left though, Charlene turned her attention back to the strange man awaiting his answer.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat When she offered little more than a raised weapon and mistrustful stare he could tell she was harmless. People who were prone to attacking would have taken their chance and shot by now. She was different; and that did not just apply to the attire.
Watching her silently he was interested by how she had reacted. She had followed after the duo without thought for her own wellbeing. She had next to no knowledge what had come to pass would happen and yet here she was. Tracking and keeping a pace with them showed good agility and though the pistol was a quite crude and simple weapon, the hand around it held steady – she had an abundant amount of experience wielding them. To find a woman so acutely in tune with gunpowder weaponry was another unique string to her bow.
Regardless of what he thought of her reaction to the situation and the weaponry she held, the threat had been dealt with and thus he was keen to return and collect his belongings. Given her surprise arrival he had lost his chance to ascertain just why the man had destroyed the building and killed the inhabitants. So many questions lingered and as her pistol lowered to her side, he stepped forward toward the end of the alley.
Her hand caught his arm, soft but firm in her approach but it seemed her own questions took precedent over his investigation. His steely gaze looks down to her grip as his own hand tightens around the onyx rod. Isaksson did not take kindly to being manhandled and especially so from strange women frolicking about in men’s attire. Her questions were moronic in nature too; [i ‘what happened?’, ‘where did he go?’] He bit back on inquiring sarcastically as to whether her eyes functioned or were merely for show.
On that however he looked up, catching her warm hazel gaze with his own olive irises. There was a pause in her questioning when it happened and he felt her hand loosen on him a touch. Without moving himself his eyes ran over her tailored attire. It was nothing magnificent. Adequately made, a few stitches out of place and several marks where the outfit had been mended. And yet she wore muddy, heavily worn boots. Curious. The inspection also took in her figure, noting the slender hips that her pistol holsters rest on, the bronzed glow to the few places her skin showed such as the hand placed upon said holster, the minute fraying at the tips of her auburn hair bleached lighter from foreign sunlight. By the time his inspection of her physique ends she had moved her attention elsewhere to the rod in hand.
Her wording was most peculiar. Though he offered no hint or semblance towards the act she had struck upon magic as a means for the device. True, some stage performers used black cylinders of wood with painted white caps at either end, tapping them here and there to draw animals from hats and exclaiming in exaggerated tones [i [b ‘abra kadabra’]]. But she did not say it in jest, more in certainty, and that peaked Isaksson’s interest in her.
When her attention dithers yet again he uses her distracted state to slip the rod back into his long coat and in its wake is a square piece of card. He offers it toward her, meeting her curious eyes with a look of indifference as to whether she took it or not. After a moment, she hesitantly released her hold of him and took the card, their fingers momentarily brushing one another, turning it over in hand though he regains her attention for a second to speak;
[+teal “I have no doubt a lot of this has been troubling to see and attempt to comprehend. Whilst I don’t necessarily blame you for this, though why you followed I would love to learn one day, I can offer you a means to forget.”] He nods for her to inspect the card.
It is quite small, no larger than her palm, a crème white in colour. On one side it is blank. The other side starts blank though like a bloodstain seeping through cloth a black ink begins to rise up and slowly shifts into the very detailed image of a shop front. The image shivers and the ink slides about, as if focusing in on the shop and revealing a perfect copy of the name as it hangs from a sign that ripples and sways as if she stands before the very one. It reads; The Queen’s Hand, Tea Room.
[+teal “If you so wish,”] he continues on from his previous point as she looks at the card,[+teal “meet me there tomorrow, ten o’clock in the morning and not a minute late. I don’t like being followed but I simply detest being kept waiting.”] He pulls his coat closer to him as a slight breeze blows into the alleyway and he looks up to the sky to discern if more bad weather is coming – as he can see, no, thankfully.
[+teal “If you choose not to attend I understand but a word to the wise; I suggest keeping this to yourself lest you end up in Bedlam.”] He nods his head to her in farewell before leaving her to her decision. He had a bag to collect a sleepless night ahead of him.
She knew she should have gone back the way the officer told her to. Back to her horse and away from danger. She’d seen the officer who left the building suddenly take off after a suspect, and a gut feeling urged her to follow. Glancing around, she saw none of the other officers had noticed, and so she slipped away to assist… or eavesdrop. She followed them as they ran for several blocks. Charlene kept a safe distance from them both, but she didn’t lose sight of them, not until they both went down an alley between two brick buildings. She noticed she was now in a different part of town and away from the crowds. Cursing, she knew she was lost again.
She could hear them arguing, indiscernible words being shot back and forth, until she reached the corner of brick and listened in. She couldn’t say what it was that had inspired her to chase after the two men. Curiosity, the thrill of danger… it was hard to tell, but in reality it boiled down to instinct. She had a gut feeling that told her to go and follow. She’d learned over the years of her life never to distrust her gut. By the time she reached the corner of stone she could hear the officer demanding to know the purpose of the attack. The assailant informed him he was not allowed to know. This clearly angered the officer, for he then threatened the suspect. She had no idea how starlight came into play or what an Empryean even was, but she knew it was something important. Had to be by the way the officer spoke. She was interested to know what happened in Balaclava. She hadn’t heard any news… to be fair, this was the first she was hearing of any placed by that name. Whatever it was, it must have been rather traumatic. The suspect had more to say and at the mention of the Officer’s name, Charlene boldly dared a look around the corner. At least now she had a name to the officer who had eyeballed her curiously earlier. She knew… women in men’s clothing… weird.
She should have been paying better attention to their body movements, because the conversation suddenly stopped. They both spotted her, Isaksson and the suspect. She couldn’t hide now, and by the glint of the suspect’s eyes she knew something was about to happen. Her gut was warning her to get out of the way. Charlene couldn’t stop the gasp that left her lips at the sight of the suspect, he was glowing and without warning charged at her. She’d never seen anything like that in her life! How was he doing that?! Quickly she reached for the pistols at her sides ready to draw and fire. She managed a few steps back, but before she had a chance to fire glowing hands reaching for her. She didn’t want to fire at him unless he posed a legitimate threat, and just before he could grasp at her, she cocked the pistol. It happened simultaneously with the click of her gun, she heard a sound like the clash of waves and snap of lightning from behind the charging bull of a man before her. Instantly the assailant fell to the ground with a thud, and Charlene was left to stand there with her gun aimed and cocked. Her finger hovered over the trigger, ready to fire if he moved. Her stance was well practiced, but her nerves were less so in these sorts of situations. She looked up in near horror and confusion to Isaksson as the assailant began to decompose into dust and embers right before her eyes.
Charlene was left speechless, and horrified. Where did the assailant go? He was just there! Now he was gone, scattered to the wind like dust. The view that remained to greet her was Isaksson holding a long piece of black metal. She watched him wave it and make the stones that had fallen around him move around and back into place. He had repaired the masonry work with a flick of his wrist. Charlene backed up from the strange man. What was he? How was he doing that? Would she be next? For once she wondered if she should have ignored her gut feeling, but it remained quiet right now. It wasn’t warning her that Isaksson was dangerous, but clearly he was. Unsure she turned her aim on him, which was crazy and bound to doom her fate, as the man was an officer of the law; but at his gaze and lack of attack Charlene finally lowered her pistol. Hesitantly she cleared the chamber and holstered it back at her side. For a long moment she said nothing just staring back at the older man, and knew his gaze was expectant for a reason why she was there. Too bad she didn’t have one. He obviously had his questions, but Charlene had so many more.
[#008000 “What just happened? Where did he go?”] she finally managed to ask, her gun safely holstered back at her side, but her hand still rested on it… just in case. A Gal could never be too safe in a strange foreign city. She eyed the stick Isaksson carried, but dared not go anywhere near him. [#008000 “What’s that thingy you got there in your hand? Ain’t never seen a pistol like that before. You magic or sumthin? Or maybe this is just an odd dream…”] she muttered looking around, but as far as she knew… this was real life.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Two men left the building remnants behind and stepped out onto the clammy street. They walked slowly at first to save a twisted ankle on a loose piece of timber or slip on slick pages that littered the floor. Whilst Isaksson kept himself calm and composed, a man in deep thought as he directed them both to the wagon that had brought extra officers, Constable Daniels was like the proverbial puppy, head up and swivelling in every direction, insatiable in his movement.
[+teal “Daniels,”] the older man started with a deep sigh,[+teal “keep your head still for two seconds and simply focus please.”] He lifted his bag, taken with them as they left, and deposited it on the side of the wagon, which shook and rattled some from it's lopsided load.
[+purple “Yes sir, I'm just trying to find that man from earlier.”] His eyes do come down to the detective for a moment but not for long.
[+teal “Understood but one must learn in these moments to use tact.”] He looks across to see the man focus on him finally, only with a dumbfounded look. He sighs softly.[+teal “Finesse?”] The look only worsens.[+teal “We are trying to look for him without looking. Pretend you are attempting to glance at an attractive woman without her seeing you do so because it would be terribly rude and she may run away. Yes?”] His hand squeezed the man's shoulder.
[+purple “Oh, I follow now Sir. We have to be like my cousin Nathaniel.”] He taps at his nose knowingly and the older man emits a soft groan. It seemed he was inferring understanding; that would do.
[+teal “We do not want him running away especially before we identify where he is. Now, take this,”] he handed over a small notebook,[+teal “and pretend to be taking notes whilst looking at me. That way you can look behind me and I behind you, and we can scan the crowd-”] He stopped as Daniels interjected;
[+purple “Without the man knowing that is what we are doing. Fiendishly clever Sir.”] [i By God the boy had got it!]
Isaksson nods with godly composure, a flicker of a smile as he keeps a serene look on his face. He turns to face Daniels – who retrieves his sharpened pencil – and proceeds to sprout, well, gibberish. A mixture of cooking recipes, opening chess moves and a paragraph from a book on French Kings he had been reading in his spare time. Not needing to focus upon their talk, it allowed him to look past the man at the crowd.
[+purple “Sorry sir,”] Daniels speaks up in a lull with a furrowed brow,[+purple “but whom succeeded Louis? I didn't quite catch that part.”]
[+teal “Not to worry,”] he replies with a nod of satisfaction,[+teal “I see the man in question. Leave this to me.”]
[+purple “But sir, I should help. If he did this,”] he gestures the destruction about them,[+purple “then he must be very dangerous.”]
[+teal “Trust me when I say you cannot do anything further but to get in the way of things.”] He grasps the man's shoulder firmly.[+teal “You are a good officer, but this is above you. Just remain here and guard my belongings, please, Daniels.”] They nod at one another before Isaksson steps around him swiftly, slowly making his way across to the crowd as to not unsettle the suspect.
The detective moves ahead and into the crowd, easing himself into the throng, though he pauses momentarily as he passes by Charlene near to the front. An inspection of her masculine clothing ends with a longing gaze over delicate feminine features has him raise an eyebrow in questioning fashion. He had seen women disguise themselves as men but to be so brazen in leaving her high cheekbones, enviable jawline and smouldering eyes exposed spoke to her character; not least the pistols that hung from curving hips. This inspection took all of a few seconds before he turned back for the ashen-skinned man, noting they were already drifting apart further. The man had seen him leave the building and even someone with just two brain cells remaining could fathom the notion that Isaksson was coming for him. He backed his way to the edge of the crowd,[i [+teal 'don't run.. don't run..']], repeating on a loop through Isaksson's mind, but of course, he did just that.
With a growl of annoyance Isaksson bundled his way through the remainder of the sparse gathering before him and takes off in pursuit. It started badly, the man twenty to thirty feet ahead of him. The only benefit to the bearded chaser was that the other man had to dart through those dithering about the streets on this Sunday afternoon, knocking into some whilst thrusting others back and hopefully into the chasers path. He manages to avoid them for the most part, darting around them and paying those who cried out no heed in his sole intent to chase down the man.
They continue their hunt down the main street turning into Drayton's Market, a large open space originally used as a gathering area for public hangings many years before. Now it hosts a spot for speakers to stand up and exclaim to anyone who will listen their views on subjects from pre-marital coitus, the need to combat the French or the desire to see a particular politician publicly hanged. Many drew only small, single numbered listeners, but the general number of people in the square gave the other man a means to escape sight and Isaksson is slowed for a few moments as he tries to reacquire his target.
Given the man's distinct hairstyle – or lack there of – he was easier to seek out, especially given any man worth his salt wore a hat on any outing. Of course he was also barrelling through people and the cries of alarm from man and woman alike drew focus toward him whilst simultaneously creating a route through the crowd. Back off at a run and given an easier path to follow allows the detective to close the gap to around ten feet as they leave the square and dart into an alleyway not far off.
Isaksson rounded the corner and the duo went on for only a few feet before he raised his right hand up swiftly and with palm upward. The cobbled path lifted up before them, the very bricks in the alley ahead rising up in unison as if the world now turned at a sharp angle to form a barrier before the man. Hemmed in by this new wall, and with either side blocked by the buildings themselves, he had no escape and had been cornered, though he still looked about him for some means to do so for a moment before Isaksson spoke.
[+teal “You cannot get away from this,”] he pants heavily but is regaining his breath fast,[+teal “I will not let you escape.”]
[+maroon “I honestly had never expected to I hoped for this meeting.”] The man spoke in a foreign tone, his accent sounded Arabic to the ear, at best guest Ottoman given flicks of syllables here and there. Regardless of this he turned around slowly, a devious grin on shimmering lips, eyes devoid of colour.
[+teal “If you planned this meeting, why run?”]
[+maroon “The crowd. You see, they would only cause more trouble than benefit for me. Best we have our secrecy.”] His smile is unnerving but Isaksson seems quite attuned to it.
[+teal “Why the destruction, the slaughter? What was the purpose of the attack?”] His hand returns to his side, his body turned almost side on to the other man.
[+maroon “I'm afraid you do not get to know that.”] He chuckled deeply.
[+teal “Tell me or I will severe your link to the starlight.”] There is a look of slight surprise on the others face, smile faltering.[+teal “Yes, I know you're from the empyrean.”]
[+maroon “You know nothing!”] He shrieks back.
[+teal “I know more than you could hope to in several lifetimes. I have dealt with your kind before, most recently.. at Balaclava.”] The last word draws a more visible response, the mans eyes widen and his hands flex.[+teal “You know what happened there. You know what that means and you know who I am. Now tell me why you did this.”] The pale figure shakes his head slowly. His eyes shut tight, hand clutching at his forehead as he gritted his teeth, chest fluctuating faster, breathing increased. It builds to a much lighter laugh that echos down the alleyway.[+teal “Give me your name. Tell me what you are doing here.”]
[+maroon “No.. noo.. no, no no no!”] His voice builds to a shout.[+maroon “You can't study the darkness,”] his voice hisses as looks back up, a single ring of red swirls in the darkness of his eyes now,[+maroon “by flooding it with light, Isaksson.”] The name trails off as if spoken by a serpent.
There is no time to take in the new voice and decipher a meaning behind it, though he has an inkling. The bald mans head snaps in attention to something behind Isaksson and he spares a moment to look back himself in curiosity, seeing a figure stood half behind the corner watching.
[i The cross-dressing woman?] How long had she been there? [i Why] was she there?
A screech from his trapped prisoner draws back his attention and his eyes caught the shimmering light that runs from it's finger tips and up it's limbs, turning on the woman with lethal intent.
[+teal “No wait, stop!!”] He shouted in a pleading manner but the man did not heed him any attention, his mind focused and set upon a task. Taking advantage of the momentary distraction and with a growl of rage he shifted his feet and charged forward. He was quick. The twenty or so feet to Charlene was closed in mere moments and his rage only grew.
As a shimmering hand reached out to grasp her a booming shockwave of air struck him in the back, jolting him forward before he was drawn back. The man's physical being disintegrated as he was pulled back, shifting into a mass of golden particles and wispy smoke that seemed to hang in the air, twinkling and flashing like sparks from a forge. After a further second all this matter was brought to a central point where his chest had been, flashing from existence. The air was left dry and crisp about her as if the moisture was drawn out of it.
Isaksson stood with a length of onyx metal in his hand, some twelve inches or so, the tip capped with silver and pointing toward the woman and her would be attacker. The world seemed frozen at that moment, leaving just Isaksson and Charlene, a look of regret in the mans deep and wise gaze. He turned this outstretched arm to the wall of cobble stones and with a flick of his wrist it began to unfurl and replace itself back on the ground – perhaps more orderly than it had been before – leaving no evidence that it had once stood upright.
His eyes remained on her, questioning and accusing her in equal measure over why she had followed, though he said nothing - yet.
[b “Come one, come all! You won’t believe your eyes! From across the ocean this show comes to you straight from the wilds of America! We have bears from the mountains of Wyoming, Alligators from the glades of the French Quarter, a real life Bison and many more animals available in our petting zoo. Perfect for children of all ages! We even have a genuine real life American Cowgirl! An Indian Dancing troupe, and so much more! You won’t want to miss it!”] A mustached herald called out to a busy street of people, standing with him were several others handing out paper fliers for the show that had come to London for the week before it began its tour of the English Countryside and surrounding countries. [b “You too can view the wonders and bizarre for the low price of 5 pence!”]
[i Later that day on a field by the Thames …]
The crowd of British Patrons filtered into the field that was currently occupied by makeshift fences, wooden bleachers, and a crudely constructed show ring. Surrounding it was a scattering of tents and cages where the animals were kept. From one tent a woman looked out at the crowd while they oohed and awed at the way her fellow showman. Bruce managed to get his American Black Bears to sit on stools, ride a unicycle, and other parlor tricks. They each wore little hats and costumes, and Bruce always kept a bag of cut meat on him to reward them for a job well done. Those two bears, Bella and Jerry, were the most spoiled animals on the planet… next to her horse.
[b “Doger, you’re up next!”] a voice called to the woman, she turned her head to see who called, but they had already left the tent through the back and was on their way to the next performer after her. Charlene was her name, but her last name was what she tended to go by. She turned towards the small mirror and checked her appearance one last time before she went out into the ring. She thought the costume was a nightmare, all bright colors and star shaped patches. Money was money, and as a single woman with no family she had to make due. She had a talent and a skill predominately held by men, and she planned to monopolize it the best she could, take her earnings and go on to the next adventure.
Charlene gave her figure one last look, dressed in a knee length pair of pants made to look like a skirt, with a matching vest the colors of red white and blue. Yellow Stars decorated her vest, and she had a brilliant white hat to go with it all. Her boots were the only thing, worn in, normal, and covered in mud. At her hip was a length of rope. Charlene was a pretty woman, she had a fine strong figure, all her teeth, long shiny brown hair, perpetually tanned skin, and warm hazel eyes. All in all, she was plain, but pretty. All that was left was for her to grab her leather gloves, her rifle, and the ammo she would need for her show.
The people applauded as the bears Bella and Jerry bowed with Bruce, and he with his handlers, moved the bears from the ring to their cages to be moved to their small enclosure. At the other end of the ring, Charlene mounted her horse, and the small band began their fanfare of William Tell and Charlene rode into the ring. Standing in the saddle she fired three shots into the air with a pistol in one hand, and in the other she kept a lasso spinning over her head. In the midst of it all she whistled and yee’hawed. As usual, city slickers flinched at the sound of gunfire, but were interested in what she was going to do with the rope. That became all too clear when a riled up pig came flying into the ring, squealing and shouting as it ran about. Charlene brought her horse around to the edge of the pen, while clowns frightened the small pig to continue its terrified run around the pen. Charlene wore a smile towards the crowd, inside she was bored. Catching and tying a hog was nothing new for Charlene.
She spun the lasso from side to side of her body, stepping through and bringing it to the other side, she even added a little twirl before she flung the rope forward towards the pig, snagged him and brought him to the ground where she quickly tied up his legs in near record time. She rose up to the sound of applause and laughter. With her lasso trick done she moved on by skipping over to where her Rifle was kept on the horses saddle, and with quick movements, loaded the ammo and turned with rapid fire to hit every single tin target behind her. Positioned around the ring, were spring loaded targets that would pop up at a scheduled time, then Charlene would hit her target. She did her first few rounds on foot, to display her skill, but the talent came when she mounted her horse and rode the ring and hit her targets while moving. Stationary targets and even discs flung into the air, not a single bullet missed its mark.
The crowd was impressed, but only enough to allow for polite applause. By the end of her performance, Charlene wasn’t sure if she was that awful at preforming, or if the English didn’t know how to hoot and holler. She quickly learned it was the latter. With the show over, Charlene was able to change from her costume and into her regular clothes. Technically they were men’s clothes, but Charlene had never been much for women’s clothes. Sure they were pretty, and soft, but Charlene didn’t trust herself to keep something that pretty clean for very long. So she wore a tailored set of pants and jacket, with a vest and blouse. The dark green of the fabric made her skin more olive and tan that any color would have, while also making the green in her eyes stand out.
She certainly earned her fair share of odd looks as she walked through London dressed as a man. It was funny enough to see an American in london, funnier to see an American woman dressed like a man. On her hips sat her faithful pistols, and her hat hung down her back from off her neck. It was definitely not bright enough to have her hat on, and she could count the hours on her hands she’d seen the sun since arriving to this place. She had believed the smoke in New York have been bad, but London was certainly running for worst air quality. It made her miss the country, and its fresh clean air. Her horse was tied up to a post a few blocks down the street, and with the remainder of her afternoon free, Charlene was able to take in the sights.
Of course it didn’t help that Charlene had no idea how to get around in London. She eventually found herself lost in the city, and far away from where she had started, and where she had left her horse. It didn’t frighten her to be lost in a strange city, but it did make her anxious. Looking around at the street signs she noticed she was in an obvious residential area. Brownstones lined the streets, and down the way she spotted a crowd. They were huddled around one building, and the closer she got she noticed a Police Wagon, and several officers trying to cord off the area from curious bystanders such as herself. Her main concern was finding an officer to tell her how to get back to where she started. However she was intrigued by the scorch marks on the building. It appeared an explosion had happened. She’d seen similar things before with nitro glycerin explosions. Doing her best to politely make her way through the crowd she reached the front of the corded off area and waved down an officer.
[b “Excuse me sir, oh... ma’am,”] he tipped his head, blushing with embarrassment at his mistake. Charlene only grinned at him, not offended in the least. [b “This is a crime scene, I’ll need you to step back.”] Charlene did so compliantly but still reached out for him.
[#008000 “I was hoping to ask for yer help,”]
[b “American...”] he muttered, and Charlene couldn’t tell if he was intrigued or offended.
[#008000 “Yes’sir. I’m a little lost here, I was a‘ hoping you might be able to tell me how to get back to my horse.”] She told the officer the location she had left her horse, and chuckled at her admittance to how she managed to get lost. The officer was kind enough to oblige her and give her directions back to where she wanted to go. Before she could thank the man and leave on her way, she spotted officers coming from the building, and curiosity got the better of her. She decided to linger and see if she could learn what happened here.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Rain. Of course. And on a Sunday; The Lords Day!
But it was England, London to be precise, and so to have anything but a light spittle of rain would be perhaps sacrosanct. Regardless of the weather and like a good Christian man John Devon was returning from Sunday service with a kind smile and a good humour about him. It had been an especially good sermon. An enthusiastic opening imploring the clergy to repent for their untold sins for the week and ending with a prayer for all to continue to appease the Lord and chastise all those who sought to undermine His word. Succinct and purposeful and indeed as he passed along the rows of squalid housing on his way back to his residence he would softly mouth prayers of prosperity and peace upon those within.
Turning onto Bedford Row there were few out on the streets as expected. The only ones he knew were the Sanderson’s, an elderly couple who enjoyed walking along the shop fronts after church and talking in hushed loving tones and he raised a hand in greeting as they passed by one another. He stopped outside a bookshop with a green painted visage – his own in fact – and watched them with admiration of their long and fruitful marriage. Stepping in off the cold street his smile didn't wane but grew in the knowledge he would hopefully do the same with Dorothy in their old age – once the children had settled of course.
Ensuring the door latch is turned and the sign is turned to 'closed' he lets out a deep sigh of content. Though you would assume his family would join him at church, their children had come down with a pox of some sort and it was best to have them rest – God would understand. This thought brought on another.
[b “Dorothy,”] he called out.[b “The service is over. I was thinking perhaps we take the children and go to the park. Some fresh air would do them well.”] He calls out as he wanders to the counter and runs his well worked hands across the binders of several tomes. They are worn and weathered from years of handling but it adds character. It is as if nothing can spoil his mood.[b “Dorothy? Julia? Marcus?”] He frowns as he finished piling up the books and carefully places them onto a shelf under the counter top.
Sighing he begins to work his way to the back-room, passing by rows and shelving of books and through the doorway into the back storage room. His foot collides with a book on the floor and he rolls his eyes, leaning down to grasp it.
[b “What have I told you Marcus, take care of the books.”] He comes away with the book but his hand is wet. Upon turning it over, it is coated in a tacky crimson liquid. [i Strawberry jam on his books? Again?!] The boy would most certainly be getting his belt across his backside. He turns to go for the stairwell upstairs with fury but he is torn between a multitude of emotions when he sees a light trail of the same sticky substance coating along floorboards around some crates of books. Stepping forward cautiously the book trembles in his hands but is soon dropped entirely upon turning the corner.
There lay two very still beings. Skin ashen, hands bound by twine, wrists chaffed raw, their heads covered by Hessian sacks that are stained dark. Those.. those are Julia's shoes. And Marcus' bed wear. He mumbles incomprehensibly. The very words don't seem to form and comes out as just an agonised whine as he shuffles forward. Focused on the bodies of his children, he disregards the chalked sigil upon the floor, his foot scraping along the outer circle and breaking it's seal. A light spreads from the point at which it severs until the enter mark glows a bright green and lifts upwards.
Out on the street the front windows shatter outwards in a spray of glass shards and splintered wood, the accompanying explosion causes several houses to shake with the eruption and thunderous boom knocking loose multiple roof tiles that slide off to crash down upon the cobbles. An electric blue outburst of flame follows a fraction of a second after sending a thick and choking black smoke rising high into the grey overcast sky. Birds scatter in alarm and panic and anyone nearby is left with ringing ears. The street seems to be frozen in stunned silence until broken by a woman wailing 'Harold', Mrs Sanderson kneeling at her husbands side and desperately shaking his large frame by his arm. Her distraught sobs meld with the crackling and snapping flames and shouts for anyone to bring water.
Loose papers skitter and fly about in the wind that ebbs and grows in strength whilst travelling along the street. It is a busy Sunday by comparison to previous weeks. Groups of both local residents and those attempting to pass through stand either side of the devastated shop front. They gossip and snoop behind a blockade of men in smart navy clothing and thick overcoats held closed with brass buttons and leather belts. Wooden truncheons rest in their hands as deterrents to anyone wishing to press on for a closer look. Between the two separated groups a man strolls forward between stacks of empty oak pails, glass crackling and green wood snapping under a brown leather shoe with a well worn sole but shining polished toe. Veteran hands clasp behind an antique grey suit as he glances at the debris and nods as if he puts any effort into his cursory inspection.
Water drips slowly from the odds and ends of furnishings that remain on the shop as he steps through to inside. Men stood at guard outside the entranceway touch the brims of their helmets in respect of his position as he does so. Removing his own felt bowler hat as he enters he brushes at the shoulder of his jacket where water had splashed on him. He pushes aside soaked and charred books with his foot to clear his path. White smoke rises from a few pieces here and there, many books are either mixed as ashes with water or currently being ruined by the methods of fire fighting. One or two sets of shelves still stand, blocked from the brunt of explosion and flame by a half wall toward the front.
Heading through the debris the man is met by several others who again dip their heads. One, perhaps in his early to mid-twenties, stops him just before he goes to head through into the back room.
[+purple “Sergeant Masterson, there is an investigator back there already. He's inspecting the scene as we speak Sir.”] The older man's brow furrows and his grand moustache bristles and twitches with distaste. Stepping in he is almost struck by the strong smell of smoke, thick in the air he could taste it, but it is not like that of tobacco or pitch or match, more so that of gunpowder – he knew from his days of service. A man never forgets the smell and taste of it.
[right [pic http://i66.tinypic.com/ab7s8.jpg]][+teal “It's not gunpowder.”] The voice comes from close to the floor. Off to his right and crouched down near the ground is a man who is running his fingers near to a sunken part of the flooring where the wood was most charred. He does not touch – his fingers hover just above as if following an invisible track.
[+red “I never- what are- I say!”] He replies, flustered both by the man's brashness and how he had seemingly read his very thoughts. Sergeant Masterson grasps the lapels of his suit jacket tightly and lifts his chin in disgust at the man's actions.[+red “I demand you tell me who the devil you are and why are you here, at my crime scene?”] He tries his best to goad and intimidate the stooped man. But he reaches over and picks up a sliver of ostensibly arbitrary debris to inspect further. As the disturbed Sergeant presses to question the man further his mouth is left agape from the other's response;
[+teal “Do you mean it is your crime scene because you caused the initial crime or do you mean that it is yours because you have placed your mark upon it much like a dog urinates upon it''s territory?”] His voice is light, his tone well educated and he comes across quite assured in his mannerisms.
[+red “How dare you! I am not some blasted criminal, I am Ser-”]
[+teal “Sergeant Masterson of the Metropolitan Police, Epsilon Division, Holborn. Graduated – eventually – twenty-third of his class from the Royal Military College at Sandhurst as a Second Lieutenant of the 11th Regiment of Foot because he was deathly terrified of horses. [i Lord knows why.] You served during the Rebellion's of 1837 to '38 in Lower Canada without distinction, earning an early retirement when you inexplicably were shot in the leg despite being in a purely guard detachment and [i several kilometres from any battle.”]] His voice changes with his curiosity at several moments as he turns the wood over in his hand but casts it aside. Again the elder man was left befuddled – this time at how this stranger knew about his service record and his injury.[+teal “My name is Isaksson, tasked as part of the Queen's Guard.”] He produces a shining silver buckle from within his thick woollen coat, a Royal Insignia across the front. He doesn't turn back to produce but rather shows it over his shoulder back to the Sergeant before returning it to his pocket and shuffling across to look through more rubble.
[+red “O-o-oh. W-well. I'm sorry, I just, I didn't know-”] For a former officer in the army and current of the police, Sergeant Masterson knows a royal coat of arms when he sees one despite the very brief look.
[+teal “Quiet Edward, I am trying to find clues as to whom did this and your constant twaddle is severing my concentration.”] A hand waves at him with annoyance.
[+red “Ah, yes, my apologies Mr Isaksson-”]
[+red “Of course, Sir Isaksson,”] the man of the Queens Guard hides a devilish smile,[+red “erm, perhaps I can have the constables assist you with the search?”]
[+teal “There is no need. I have given them their duties already. However yours is to stand outside and marshal the crowds – or go away.”]
[+red “But..”] he hesitates to show further anger and bites his tongue,[+red “but of course. Quite right. I will keep that rabble in check. As you were.. Sir.”] His nose wrinkles once he has turned away and he leaves quicker than he arrived. The search continues another five or so minutes, making slow progress around the area, before perceptive eyes hone in on a particular spot on the floor.
A handkerchief is retrieved from his breast shirt pocket and he dabs at a golden-honey coloured stain, transferring it to the material. Looking it at it brings no further clues as to it's properties, nor does touching it – it is tacky like it's honey comparison but much more chalky and gritty and course. Lifting it up he sniffs at it and physically recoils from the scent, turning his head and holding the cloth away from him. He mutters a foreign curse and draws a deep breath.
[+teal “Constable Daniels!”] Isaksson calls out whilst standing, heading for the doorway the Sergeant had left through.
[+purple “Sir?”] The young man from earlier is about to step through himself when he is pushed backwards and aside and the older Guardsman heads to what remains of the counter for the shop, beckoning him to follow.
[+teal “You told me you interviewed someone outside when you arrived, some skeletal individual?”] He looks back and receives a muttered affirmation.
[+purple “Y-yes Sir. Interesting looking guy. Face the colour of fresh snow and bald as a newborn. Looked just like a skeleton. Odd thing is Sir, but I remember he-”]
[+teal “Had lips that glistened and sparkled like he had kissed starlight and his eyes were as dark as a moonless night.”] The response is both parts cryptic but accurate and the Constable chuckles amused and nervously.
[+purple “Well, yes, something like that I would suppose Sir. How did-”]
[+teal “Did he unintentionally smile?”] Conscious of his own smile Daniels' nods again.
[+purple “Erm.. yes! Yes Sir! It was like..”] He pauses.
[+teal “Like what Daniels?”] A brow raises with curiosity.
[+purple “Sorry, thought we were still doing a back and forth.. that you were still reading my mind..”] Nervous as ever his gaze drops to the floor.[+purple “Apologies Sir. Well, it was like he couldn't help himself. Like he was trying to make himself look sad.”] He rings his hands together, unsure whether to look up.
[+teal “Then it is as I thought.”] His tongue laps at his drip lips in momentary thought.[+teal “Always remember Daniels, we can never assume in situations such as this, we must follow all leads to the end to be sure.”] Brushing aside splinters and a plethora of singed papers he lays out the newly stained handkerchief, lifting a hand and clicking fingers at Daniels,[+teal [i “your pencil,”]] the order given as he withdrew a scalpel sized blade from somewhere on his belt. Hesitant at first Daniels obliges and hands over the writing apparatus – quite keen to see where this led.[+teal “What was it he reported to you? I need to know exactly what he told you, repeated verbatim.”] He leaned down to the material lain out before him and carefully grated the blade along the tip of the pencil, adding a finely grated powder of black graphite atop the sticky mixture.
[+purple “What's that Sir?”] The curious Constable enquires with wonder. Isaksson continues to work carefully as he retorts, adding enough fine gratings before he sharpens the pencil and snips the tip, placing it atop the powder and returning the usable pencil to his current accomplice.
[+teal “I believe, or rather my best guess is, that this is the remnants from the consumption of a tobacco-like product known as Etna. Sold in morsel sized waxy pellets it's said to induce a feeling of joy bordering upon euphoria that can take on both a passive and a lethal nature – dependant on whom partakes of it that is.”] He gesticulates with his hands about it's size and shape and drawing a picture with his vivid storytelling.[+teal “While not an oddity to find – indeed it is consumed by quite significant majority – this particular kind I believe is of the Vesterveld branding. They are well known for the almost lethal levels of the coca-fibre used to make it as well as their colourful golden sealants that are spat out upon consumption of said Etna.”] He rubs hands together excitedly like a boy on Christmas morn and revels in the delight at finding a clue to take on an investigation that had stagnated to a standstill. But upon looking up at the young man beside him he sees confusion on his face.
[+purple “Fascinating, Sir, whatever you said truly it is. But, well, I actually meant that word you used; vuh-bay-tam? What's that?”] His pronunciation was terribly off but the bearded detective only nodded and grasped the navy cuff of his sleeve.
[+teal “Ver-bay-tim. Latin. Means word for word. I want his exact wording how he told it to you.”] His opposite frowned more.[+teal “Okay well as best you can at least. Tell me what you know and remember please.”]
Daniels agrees to this amendment. Being in such proximity to the older man he can see features he didn't see upon first glance. To begin with the man's olive eyes gave him the look of a sage. They belie his more youthful appearance, showing a man with great wisdom beyond his years. His beard is full like that of a working class man as opposed to an elitist who often went smooth chinned with thick moustache and sideburns – similar to Masterson. It is a well tended beard though, clipped neatly and ashen brown like his hair which is cut short and wavers in the slight breeze from the street – again unlike the societally accepted longer and oiled hair. Clicking fingers refocuses his thoughts from dreamy glaring and he whispers a quiet apology before clearing his throat.
[+purple “Well he said, and this is as best I remember Sir, that he came upon the shop on fire with a.. a heat that made him feel like he was on fire, yet he was some distance from the actual flames. Said the fire must have burnt his eyes something fierce too because the flame was blue at first.”] Though he pursed his lips at this odd titbit of information Isaksson's hand gestured for him to continue on.[+purple “Oh, erm, well he went on to say how they couldn't put the fire out. They beat at a book on the street with a rug but it just wouldn't go out no matter what even when they covered it in water, it just seemed to light up again a few seconds later.”] He flinches back a step as the wise-man slaps his hands together loudly.
[+teal “Oh of course! How could I be so feckless and idiotic?!”] He pushes away from the counter top, Daniels going to follow but thinks better of it.[+teal “That was rhetorical. Keep going, keep going.”] He darted across on nimble boots to the less destroyed part of the building.
[+purple “Hmm. He said after a few minutes the fire died down, it changed to a red, yellow and orange flame, you know like a normal fire, and when they tried the water again it worked.”]
[+teal “That,”] he grunts as he retrieves something,[+teal “is because [i 'belia's flame'] feeds upon it's fuel source. Once it burns through that only then will a natural fire remain.”] He returns carrying with him a leather bag, unceremoniously dropped on the floor beside the counter. Crouching down he opens the claps and several spring-loaded drawers come forth carrying a multitude of vials on each. Selecting and replacing them several times he mumbles to himself whilst deciphering the perfect one.
[+purple “Should I carry on Sir?”]
[+teal “No, that is quite.. quite enough for now Daniels..”] Lost in thought his free hand clenches, knocking at the side of his head as if rapping upon a door seeking entrance within. Jar after jar is pulled out and several vials are shaken and jostled. Some contain liquids, others flowers still in full bloom or leaves of varying colours, several with colours, shapes and sizes that the constable couldn't recall seeing. The bag seemed unending as some thirty glass containers were removed until at last the gentleman seemed to hit on a solution; two small vials, one of rose red, the other beige, both must have contained no more than a single drop.
With the ingredients repacked the bag then snaps shut and locks itself without contact from Isaksson. Daniels wanted explanation but his attention was short lived and flittered back to Isaksson himself. Raising the two vials he cracked their wax seals with his thumbs and carefully tipped their droplets on the graphite in a particular order; maroon followed by tan. As the latter fell upon the mixture it fizzed and hissed as the reaction with the handkerchief below began. After several seconds it began to crack and pop and spark like freshly forged metal struck by a hammer. The cloth jumped about the counter top alive and the younger of the two steps back only for Isaksson to grasp his shoulder whilst staring into the waning pyrotechnics, amusement dancing in his eyes.
[+teal “Daniels.. I think it's time I spoke to the Starlight Kissed Man.”]
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