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Hunt in the Dark

Underby was reading a book on explosives when the knock on his office door came.  His head jerked up in a near spasm, he had been on edge ever since instituting the curfew – some rebelious action had been expected, of course, but not… this.  

He stood quickly and crept to the heavily locked and fortified door.  He consulted the complicated chart next to it, which assigned certain words to certain hours of certain days.  Leaning toward the door, he said: “Ewige blumenkraft.”

Through the thick door, a shrill reedy voice intoned back to him: “Und ewige schlangenkraft.”

Underby nodded to himself, and began the extended process of unlocking the door.  Dorchester walked in with a large man known as Knuckles Hoolihan, the leader of the Brass Knuckle Bunch, and now a member of the Night Watch.  Dorchester, despite his diminutive stature, had insisted also on being a member of the Night Watch – the small man would take any excuse he could to be completely and utterly rude to people with free reign.

“Any success?”  Underby asked the small man.

“None.” Dorchester responded bluntly.

Underby cursed to himself, turning to the steel shuttered windows.  “You’ve been searching everywhere?  Absolutely everywhere?  You’re certain?”

Dorchester nodded, and the hulking brute beside him gave a ghost of a nod as well.  “I enlisted the services of a wiseguy feline I drank with once at the Rusty Cog.  He boasted to being able to access any area of the city, no matter how difficult or remote… so I took him up on it.”  The small man grinned.  “He’s been scaling walls, slipping through windows, clinging to ceilings… he’s been everywhere.”

“And no secret hideaways anywhere.” Underby said, blandly.

“Oh lots.” Dorchester said.  “Urchins hideaways, smugglers, anarchists, plenty of secret rooms.  But none that we can confirm belong to the Straw Man.”

Underby shook his head.  “He must have a base of operations somewhere.”

“Perhaps he lives outside the city.”

Underby grunted, rubbing his chin.  “Have you been canvasing the houses?”

“No.” said Dorchester, scratching at his whiskers.  “The people are angry enough.  I’ve been having Mr JuJu check the houses over, but we’ve not been going door to door.”

Underby turned, looking down at Dorchester.  “Mr JuJu?”

“That’s the cat.” he responded.

Underby grunted again.  “Can you spare any men to begin searching the Fells?” he asked.

Dorchester scratched again.  “No.  Not really.  Truth is, we could use a few more.”

The acting mayor sighed, looking over to the book on his desk.  “Then the hunt outside the city will have to wait.  Carry on, you’ve been doing very well Dorchester.”

“Thank you, sir.  Let’s go, Knuckles.”  The hulk nodded and the two exited the office.  Underby spent the next seven minutes locking the door, then returned to his book.

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