A gun shot rang through the street crossing the canal, echoing through the arches and alleyways that leached off the main street.
Inside the absinthe cafe Loki lay on his back breathing heavily with shock and alarm as Mr Hopkins stood over him with a smoking pistol.
“hmm,” said the tall man, “i seem to have lost my precision since last time, or perhaps if i were one of these simple townsfolk i’d be inclined to believe this towns spirit chose for me to miss.”
The boy lay silent with eyes wide frozen to the spot.
“Young man,” continued Mr Hopkins, “what part of stay away or get shot did you not understand?”
“i.. i was just…” stammered the frightened boy, “i mean, i was just getting something, this is my…. was my home”
The large man opened his pistol checking how many bullets were left. Before continuing his conversation.
“The Van Creed agreed to allow this plot to Professor Eliot many years ago with the understanding that his work would deliver results that would increase progress. Since this has not happened, the Van Creed have no choice but to reclaim the plot and sell it on to someone who could make it a working investment.
“But i was making it work,” piped up Loki, “My fathers Cafe, the gallery….”
“Left to crumble into disrepair,” shouted Mr Hopkins as he closed the pistol with a loud click, “My boy, and you ARE but just a boy, this cafe run by a child is seen as folly. “
“But the towns people like it, they help me,” Replied Loki sitting up.
“Oh please, they feel a moral obligation to help,” sniggered Mr Hopkins sitting down on one the cafes chairs, “When people hear the name ‘Eliot’ do you believe they think of your cheerful disposition or cower in fear and dread of the memories of portals, monsters, MURDER?”
Loki’s eyes blink in realisation of something he had not previously considered, and the look did not go un-noticed by Mr Hopkins.
“Ah yes, you see now, your name carries such a dark stain on this town,” continued Hopkins, “What your grandfather had achieved was outstanding young master Loki, but these people, this town chose to see otherwise. It was the towns people who sent your grandfather into hiding, it was them who turned a confused boy insane and murderous. And when we had the chance to reap the glories of your grandfathers work making New Babbage the greatest of the steam lands it was the towns people who sabotaged its own prosperous future.”
Mr Hopkins sighed. His eyes unfocussed into his own thoughts of disappointment.
“they don’t like me?” whispered Loki now standing on his feet, a tear trickling down his dirt covered face. The words brought Mr Hopkins back to his senses with a snear.
“How could they when you remind them every day why New Babbage is in such decline,” replied Mr Hopkins as he looked at he gun held in his hand, “I have decided i do not want a child’s murder on my conscience during yule, so be off so the winter streets can claim you conscience free.”
Loki stood on the spot trying to understand exactly what Mr Hopkins has just said.
“Well?,” shouted Hopkins, his monocle dropping to dangle from its chain.
Loki ran through the door into the streets and disappeared from site leaving the tall Van Creed man to poor himself a glass of absinthe for the road. As he held the glass to his lips he was surprised to find his hand shaking and wondered how long it had been so.