Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 192,877,954 Issue: 666 | 24th day of Collecting, Y16
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The Necromancer: Part Two


by jokerhahaazzz

--------

"Emma?" A youngish Darigan Kougra leaned into her office, opting to knock after he had already opened the door. It was exactly the kind of useless action that characterized his general behavior, she thought.

      "Nicholas," Miss Ward replied coolly, not turning around; she was intent on adjusting the calendar in front of her to as precise a degree of straightness as was realistically possible.

      "I heard you were coming over today," he told her with a jaunty smile, looking around at Emma's handiwork. The office was both meticulously ordered and spotlessly neat. Decoration was sparse, consisting of one framed statistical chart of crime rates on the Citadel. "Nice and homey already, I see."

      "Why did you lead me to believe that you would be named High Commissioner?"

      The jaunty smile disappeared, and an expression of annoyance flashed across his face. Nicholas had one of those faces that seemed designed to express everything he was feeling; she was sure it must hinder his performance as a detective. (It was one of Emma's personal rules of conduct never to give anything away if she could help it.) "Because I was going to be. Until your charming Mr. Lockwood came along."

      "You were very ill-advised to anticipate something that had not yet happened." Emma began sorting her crisp files into various folders.

      "Oh, don't talk down to me like that," he snapped. "And what should I anticipate, things that have already happened?"

      Emma, who could think of no very good reply to this surprisingly logical question, remained silent.

      "I had it in the bag. It was going to me – I was next in line. There was no question about it, until suddenly Lord Darigan steps in with our resident Meridellian Necromancer."

      She paused for a moment in her filing. "Why do you call him that?"

      "Just rumors. But where there's smoke, Emma, there's usually fire." He caught hold of her wrist, forcing her to meet his eyes. "Be careful. Do you understand me?"

      "I don't know, Detective Chase," she replied coldly, shaking off his hand. "You are too free with your opinions, not to mention your suspicions. If you have no proof then I have no interest in your accusations. If you feel that your work merited a promotion, then I am sure you will succeed eventually."

      He bit his lip, then, clearly feeling that he had been dismissed, walked to the door. He turned, however, to speak once more before leaving. "You'll see. I'm telling you, I'll get him somehow. But in the meantime, watch your back."

      Miss Ward stood looking after him for a moment in slight annoyance. Nick was very impulsive; it would make things much more difficult if he insisted on creating trouble for himself and the High Commissioner. It demonstrated a disturbing lack of sound rational judgment, and she knew from experience that reasoning with him would be useless. For the moment, she could only watch and try to persuade him away from anything especially damaging.

      Having made this resolution, since it was already nearly eight thirty, she turned out the lights, exited her office, and set off down the hall to receive her first assignment from the High Commissioner.

      In fact, when she reached his office, Mr. Lockwood was no longer there to give it. It seemed he had spoken prophetically, earlier, when he said that there would be something important for her to do – the entire department was in an uproar and it was with difficulty that she managed to wrangle an explanation out of one of the secretaries.

      "Do you know where I can find Commissioner Lockwood?" Emma inquired, and the secretary, a bright-eyed Darigan Usul wearing a rather short black dress, paused in her frantic search through a file cabinet.

      "Well I'm not quite sure, Miss..."

      "Ward."

      "I'm not quite sure, Miss Ward," the secretary continued. Her dress was rumpled, Emma noticed with disapproval, and her hair disheveled. Emma quite simply had never been able to understand people whose appearance lacked neatness and reflected so poorly on their employers. However, it was nothing to concern her directly and she did not choose to linger on it.

      She decided to switch tactics to what she hoped would be a more efficient way of getting the information she wanted, since Mr. Lockwood was sure to be wherever the commotion was. "Then perhaps you could tell me what's going on?"

      "Well there's been a murder you see – someone very important." A stack of files slipped to the ground and the secretary knelt down to pick them up, her hair hanging in her face. "I'm sorry, that's really all I know. I can't tell you more than that. You'll have to excuse me, I..."

      "Yes, of course." The piece of information that Emma still lacked was a location, but she didn't think there was much more to be gotten out of this secretary, and in any case she could probably discover it for herself. As the last of the detectives snatched up his coat and hurried off, Emma simply followed.

      They made their way out of the more modern wing she had been in all day, taking a winding route through one of the old towers. It was one of those that had been built during the Orb's reign of prosperity, judging by the high, arching windows and the luxurious marble floors, but apart from that she could not identify its name or purpose. The Citadel was very large and, while not exactly sprawling, its multitude of interconnected towers made it difficult for even the most experienced Darigan natives to know every part of it. There were tunnels; alleyways; strange bridges between the towers – and in addition, the limited nature of the Citadel's extent had led to towers constructed between towers, and, in the poorer areas, makeshift hovels squeezed into every available space. As was her custom, however, Emma made careful note of all the turns they were taking, and within five minutes at the detective's brisk pace they had reached their destination.

      It was a sort of balcony at the very top of the tower, more luxurious even than what she had seen below. The turrets were tipped with gold, and elaborate gargoyles perched in each corner. It was difficult to see clearly, because darkness was already falling and rain fell steadily, as it had all day, from the thick purplish clouds that perpetually hung over the Citadel. At any other time, she suspected, the balcony would have been silent, reserved for the private use of someone very important – but now it was crowded, and haphazardly but powerfully illuminated by flashlights and lamps.

      A tall Draik guard in full uniform stepped forward to bar Emma's way as she drew nearer to the commotion. "Apologies, but no entry."

      "I am assistant to the High Commissioner," replied Miss Ward, more than equal to this denial.

      "Identification?"

      She gave it, and he stepped aside.

      It remained now only to find Mr. Lockwood among the crowd. There were two very good reasons for doing this: first, he no doubt knew better than anyone what was going on and could give her a clear explanation, and second, it was her job in any case to assist him. Considering how very striking his appearance was, the amount of time this took would have surprised her if not for the sheer number of detectives, commissioners, magistrates and ambassadors present. The fact that entry was classified did not seem to have succeeded in turning many people away, she reflected.

      At last she located him with her searching gaze, a tall black-coated figure on the far corner of the balcony, almost invisible against the dark sky save for the blood-red cravat at his throat. Emma hurried over, crossing her arms to protect herself from the driving, rainy wind - she was rather inappropriately dressed in only her thin white blouse. She was certain that he noticed her from some distance away, though he gave no particular sign of recognition.

      As she drew nearer, it became clear that Lockwood was speaking with the man beside him: a businesslike Lenny in a long brown coat, clearly Darigan and presumably a high-ranking government official.

      "Good evening, Miss Ward," Lockwood greeted her, with what she thought was a rather ironic tone to his smooth voice. Emma had always distrusted irony; she didn't entirely understand it and besides, it was a slippery, unnecessary sort of thing.

      "Good evening, sir," she replied coolly. "What happened here?"

      "A murder," he answered laconically, evidently leaving it to his companion to explain. Emma recognized him, suddenly, as the Director of Internal Affairs – Assander, she thought his name was. And if that was the case, then the situation was surely very serious indeed. Crime in general was not his province; it was his job to regulate all of the Citadel's legal and governmental departments, which surely kept him busy enough without rushing to the scene of every murder.

      Assander did explain. "Warren Lawson, Director of the Public Relations Department. This is his personal balcony. He was found here forty minutes ago, stabbed."

      "Mr. Lawson," said Emma, with a start at the name, though she quickly recovered her composure. "That is – unfortunate. I worked under him in the Public Relations department at one point," she added by way of explanation.

      "Hmm," Assander said speculatively. "Not really very well liked, was he?"

      "I'm afraid I'm not qualified to answer that question. I have no quantifiable evidence one way or the other. However, I believe he was highly regarded."

      His pen paused on its way down the notebook page. "But not very well liked," he repeated, rather pointedly. "He was disliked by a lot of people."

      "What remarkably contradictory accounts," observed Lockwood, though he appeared more interested in tracing a gloved finger along one of the gargoyles. It was a monstrous Eyrie, twisted into a peculiar shape with its sharp stone claws sunken into the adjoining gargoyle, who looked to be cowering in terror.

      "He was a contradictory man," the Lenny said with a shrug, sliding his already-dripping notepad into his pocket. "We've heard all kinds of things about him, believe me."

      "Well," Lockwood replied, with an unexpected smile, "I imagine none of it matters very much to him now."

To be continued...

 
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» The Necromancer: Part One
» The Necromancer: Part Three



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