The Major sipped his rum, refolded his coat and more obviously set it upon the chair across from him to advertise his wish that no one take the other seat at his table.
Noticing movement in the aft portion of the Clockwork Kraken, he glanced quickly at the reflection on the inside of the door to take proportions and height, then noticed the hat and had an uncanny sensation. The jolt wasn’t inspired by the hat itself but rather by its attitude upon the wearer’s head.
Eyes purportedly back on his morning broadsheet, Major Sole allowed the room to again flood his peripheral cognizance. The only thing of concern was the fellow in the watchcap, worn at a precisely skewed angle; and a familiar oddity that angle was.
As the shape formed into a shadow at his right and approached with fresh coffee in hand, Sole knew where the gentleman would sit. Anticipating the prompt, he reached across to take up his coat and placed it on the bench beside him.
As the man sat opposite Sole, the two made eye contact for the first time in over a year.
Waddy Dunne grinned slightly, feigning disappointment. “Have my powers faded so? You recognized my shadow, if I had to guess.”
“It may be your powers of supposition which have diminished. My eye caught the skew of your hat, old friend. You might forego headwear whilst fire rages within the walls of this city; imagine if one of Fitz’ mongrels spied a hat at just that angle.”
Sole studied Dunne’s face as the suggestion and its justification sank in.
“Now that contact has occurred,” Dunne whispered, sliding off the cap and folding it into a pocket, “I shall treat my coiffure to a dose of rich local soot.”
“Only the best for the Queen’s navy,” chuckled Sole.
“Oh, but I’ve been released from contract with her majesty, dear old friend,” came Dunne’s return. “And now find myself available to The Group, should such service be required.”
Sole looked at him for a moment, then nodded heavily. “Such talent is required, indeed. Fortune, in its mystery, does offer some mercy with its torment. I shall inform Wease at once. She will be most pleased.”
Dunne chuckled and grinned at Sole, then replied, “Well, she may not be so pleased as you might imagine. But I do bring the offer of a balm in the form of fruit: I happened upon the leakage of a dialogue this morning. A tantalizing dialogue at that.”
Both men scanned the room with their eyes before leaning in closer to each other.
Dunne continued: “Odd that you should mention Fitz.” He paused to allow Sole’s surprise to fade back into focused interest. “I heard him speak with a character who resembled Marty in an alley not half an hour ago. I was hidden in the kitchen of a cafe, and caught their words through a cracked window. Were you aware of the events in Magna recently?”
Sole nodded grimly.
“The discussion concerned the timing of Fitz’s arrival here. It seemed of utmost import that he not arrive too early after the explosions. You can guess why that might be.”
Sole kept his eyes on Dunne, and whispered, “He needn’t have bothered himself. We all knew who could and would, after all. Four city blocks, Waddy. Just over a hundred souls.”
It was Dunne’s turn to nod grimly. Both men paused to take a breath after that thought.
After they had each again surveyed the room Dunne continued. “At any rate, he wanted it to be known that it was important to him to be ‘credited.’ It sounds as though he plans to be seen, and to be here for some time.”
Sole sighed. “Well, then. At least he seems not to intend an encore here. He would hardly loiter about in the aftermath, surely. Though Magna appears to have been the encore.”
Dunne’s mouth opened and he immediately thought of the bombing destruction of a factory in Ravila a week before the Magna catastrophe, and the apparently deliberate collapse of a coal mine elsewhere (belonging to a rival of Fitzsimmons) a few days before that. Looking back at Sole after another glance about the room, he said with somber reserve, “Let us hope he’s only pausing here before continuing through to some other ill-fated destination. I’ve begun to take a liking to this city.”
Sole tried to smile as he looked up. “I’ve come to hate it less myself, despite the watery liquor. I shall speak with Eloise at once and arrange a contact mechanism. I am glad that you’re back in town. And I never would have recognized you without that bloody hat sideways.”
Dunne grinned and nodded while Sole collected his unread paper, and both men rose and wordlessly set about their separate, connected paths.