The cloaked figure walked east alongside the new tramline tracks that divided Prince Dakkar Boulevard neatly down the centre. The clocks throughout the city had already welcomed the midnight hour with a cacophonous chorus of bells and chimes. The buildings that lined the narrow cobbled street loomed on either side like dark silent sentinels solemnly watching him pass. Each footfall resounded with an echoing click, click, click suggesting stealth was not the stranger’s forte.
If the child was to be trusted, the establishment he sought should be just a little further ahead on his left. He checked the inside pocket of his cloak, a ritualized habit now to ensure the safety of the sacred scroll.
The man was finding it difficult to contain his anticipation. His heart raced as he approached The Gangplank Tavern. Should the whispers prove correct, the day of judgement, as prophesied by the most insightful visionary of all time, the great John Symmes, was nigh.
The man passed to the east of the main entrance, noting the light shining from within. He cringed as the door to the old bakery creaked then clicked as he shut it behind him. Much to his relief nobody seemed to have taken notice, he realized, upon peeking into the tavern.
Behind the bar a skinny, long-haired youth leaned casually, one arm propped on the bar, posing for two young ladies with whom he was conversing. His words were muffled though he appeared to be complaining about something.
“Hell yeah I’d climb down there, don’t be such a dandy.” said one of the women in response to the young bartender’s complaints. Her speech carried the distinct dialect of one who’d grown up on the streets.
The other young lady, dressed somewhat provocatively and sitting atop the bar tilted her head back and laughed. “He wasn’t such a dandy last night, Kaylee, riding around town in that fancy carriage he drives and tooting his horn at every girl he passed.”
Further along, sitting on the couch at the far corner was a small, dark, serious looking man playing a guitar as a tall silver-haired man and attractive redheaded woman danced to his classical chords. The sombre musician appeared meditative as he played while the dancing couple seemed somehow oblivious to the presence of the others in the bar.
The man had heard and seen enough. These people were clearly all too absorbed in their own little dramas to notice him cross the hall to the old bakery and, as silently as he could, make his way down the winding stone stairs.
In the middle of the floor a wooden platform imperfectly covered the hole in the cellar floor. The man glanced to his side and noticed a small boy with a rodential countenance sleeping on a small mat. Taking care not to wake the child he slid the wooden platform to the side just enough to peer deep into the unfathomable darkness.
Getting down on his hands and knees the stranger leaned down for a better vantage. If he was not mistaken there arose the sounds of movement; an odd scratching sound; as if something were attempting to climb the jagged stone sides of the hole. He reached into his cloak and removed the scroll, laying it aside rather than risk losing it to the depths of the pit. He then leaned down and turned his head to the side, listening ever so carefully.
The man from New York didn’t even have time to register the sensation of the claws scratching his skin as they closed tightly about the collar of his cloak. He was pulled down with such speed he had no time to even utter a scream before he disappeared with an unnatural speed into the impenetrable darkness of the abyss, leaving the scroll precisely where he had placed it by the edge of the great gaping chasm.
From his little den under the bakery ovens, the boy, Gilhooly twitched his whiskers, perhaps disturbed by a dream as the sound of laughter continued to drift down from the bar above.