The paired chimes tolling both near and far announced that it was 2 am. Dr. Berithos reflected, not for the first time, that New Babbage most likely had more clocks than people. It was certainly a queer place, but it was home now. He felt the weight of the revolver on his hip and peered down the alleyway. Finally, the shape he had been waiting for loomed into sight.
“How now, sir? Fine evenin’, ain’t it?” said the bruiser. The brute was only a few inches taller than Berithos, but he was a wide mass of fat and muscle, mostly muscle.
“Yes, yes, fine. Are you ready?”
The large man nodded eagerly and cracked his knuckles, “Aye. All’s a-tanto. Jus’ tell me the bloke you wan’ done in.”
The surgeon responded, “I don’t know his name. He’s tall, thin, pale of face and dresses all in black.”
The other man looked hesitant, “You wan’ me to put Mr. Underby in lavender? I’ve ‘eard you fancy ‘is wife an’ all, but…”
“No, no! Not Underby! This man is a newcomer to Babbage.” The brute only responded with a face of confusion.
“Damn it, man! Kill the one that looks like Underby, but isn’t Underby!” This earned him a look of slow comprehension.
Berithos passed over a small whiskey bottle, “Here, an advance on your payment. You’ll get the rest when you bring me the body.”
The bruiser up-ended the bottle and gulped eagerly. Berithos had laced it earlier with a distillation of bull vitals. It would make his henchman even more violent than usual. The surgeon took no chances – he wanted this adversary dead, not injured.
* * *
The stub of his cigar danced across the cobblestones and Dr. Berithos checked his pocket watch for the third time in a minute. His thoughts were uneasy. If this one got away, there would be even more trouble. Perhaps he should have let Phaedra handle it. No doubt she was capable, but sometimes a man had to be a man… even if he hired another man to do the actual work.
The doctor jerked his head up at the sound of approaching huffing. His bruiser had returned, lugging a long object wrapped in a filthy blanket. He unceremoniously dropped the burden at the doctor’s feet, “Done, ‘ere you are.” Berithos calmly lifted the blanket and examined the corpse’s face. Half the skull was caved in, but the features were definitely recognizable. He would be receiving no more threats from this man. The doctor silently tossed a few silver coins to the gorilla, then turned to look again at the body. His calm features suddenly exploded into rage and he kicked the dead man petulantly. “NO…*crunch*…ONE…*crunch*…THREATENS…*crunch*…MY…*crunch*…LOVE!”
The brute stood transfixed, shocked beyond words, even for one so accustomed to sudden violence. The doctor ceased his kicking and simply panted for a few moments, looking almost embarrassed. Then he straightened his cravat and gave a wide grin to his associate, “Well, I’d say this subject is no longer suitable for dissection. Lug it over to the butcher’s, would you? And do keep whatever payment you receive for yourself.” The bruiser nodded and tossed the blood soaked mess over his shoulder.
Berithos looked up at the sky, the first rays of sunlight just struggling through the smog, and smiled to himself. Sausage sounded like an excellent breakfast.