Chapter 2 – Unmasking the Thief
So there we were, Köhler‘s squad and I, the body of Starling laid out on the table in front of us. Everyone else in the inn, even the owners, had left in a hurry. Can’t say I blame them. I had just took a long drag on my cigarette and opened my mouth to speak, when another man burst through the door. Blonde-haired, muscular, and devilishly handsome – I could tell he was going to be trouble. Warrant Officer Nyrik, he said he was; another member of Köhler’s squad. I still had my doubts, but it never hurts to have more hands, and the lad looked like he’d be good in a scrap.
We talked up the topic of what to do with the body for hours, it seemed. Finally decided that the only thing to do was to pay up and have some local religious type raise him from the dead. One of the dames mentioned that I could use my Golden Fist connections to come up with the money. That made me chuckle. I guess I can at that.
I’d take care of the messy business of getting him back up and conscious the next day. In the meantime, one of my contacts was going on about the thief being seen leaving Kaiten’s Timepiece each night. It was probably a false herring, but it bore investigating. I’d send Köhler with her men, broads, and vegetation to investigate while I did the thing with Starling.
I got the report from the tiny Major later the next day. She was blasted excitable, and went on every tangent that presented itself, but I managed to piece together what happened. You don’t get as far as I have in this business without learning a thing or two about putting information together.
They’d made it to the clock tower early that afternoon, and the monkey unlocked the chains over the door. I tried not to think too hard about that bit. She said the first floor was filled with philosophers, and I can only assume she meant statues. Not surprising for a tower dedicated to Kaiten. They were mechanical, probably guards, but the monkey disabled the activating device. Damn useful monkey, that.
The second floor had a statue something she called a “Trickeratops”. Can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like that, but it must have been pretty monstrous, judging from how the bird described it. Seems like the Elven broad, Rirosorchalwen, mostly took care of that, with a bit of help from the tree. What caught my interest is when she mentioned the monkey finding a white creature, emaciated and with holes for eyes. That matched up with what Starling, or Stanislav as I ought to call him, had told me.
The journal they found confirmed what I had suspected, and what De Ven had told me. Those things were following him, and they were likely working for the other " Starling ". We finally had enough information to act on, and, according to his letter, the thief’s next target was the Winther manor. A perfect place to catch a murderer.
Chapter 3 – Killing a Monster
The clocks struck midnight, and I took a long drag on my cigarette. Down in the foyer below, the butler was dusting by candlelight, watched carefully by the tree. Judging by the last few attacks, it wouldn’t be long before Starling made his appearance.
Sure enough, minutes later a shadow spread across the room. Kham, in the corner, visibly shivered, and I could tell that it had gotten to Köhler too. Even the Elven broad, usually a stalwart sort, looked a bit shaken. With the sudden crash of broken glass, the room went pitch black.
I slowly drew a knife, trying to adjust to the darkness, but I couldn’t even see the lit end of my cigarette. As soon as it had come, though, the shadows vanished, and Warrant Officer Nyrik stood in a halo of light, brandishing a glowing stone that rotated slowly around his hand. There was no broken glass, and no Starling. I breathed out.
As I slid the knife back into my bandolier, the other skylight suddenly burst, and Starling fell to the ground in a billow of black cloth, claws raking for the butler. I cursed under my breath, and drew the knife again, but Nyrik was already in action. He drew that enormous sword that he keeps on his back, and charged the thief, cutting a long gash across Starling’s chest. The masked thing didn’t like that. It let out a horrible scream, and white fire blazed from the wound. I knew that Nyrik was trouble, and for the first time I years, I felt I was out of my depth.
Before anyone else could act, Starling raised his cloak, and I knew what was coming. Stanislav had used the same trick to teleport away from Köhler’s squad before, and I cursed and fumbled with my knives in a hurry. Just as it seemed the murderer would escape, Nyrik was there again, swinging his sword on the downswing, and with a flash of light, Starling hit the ground and lay still.
The aftermath was a messy business. It always is. Things got political when it turned out the fake Starling was a fey, and we had to wait a few days while the delegate from Grunewald took her sweet time getting to the city.
I had De Ven sent to the Catacombs. He wasn’t a bad lad, and didn’t deserve it, but I don’t make the laws, and that’s what passes for justice in this city. When that Suspiria broad finally showed up, I breathed a sigh of relief that was a long time coming. Starling’s corpse was handed over to her, and she took Köhler’s squad with as well, something about a sick toad. I didn’t mind, I wouldn’t need them again for a while.
With one last glance at the departing crowd, I put on my duster, lit a cigarette, and hit the streets. There were more crimes that needed solving, and the city relied on me to take care of them. I wouldn’t let it down.