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“There we go,” said Emerson, folding the newspaper to reveal the daily crossword, as fresh and unmarked as the snow outside. Seated two stools to his right was Momoe. As many of us do this time of year, she held her hands wrapped firmly around a steaming mug of coffee in the hope of drawing some of the winter chill from her fingers. Emerson covetously eyed her mug. “Hey, Momoe, how about getting me a little of that coffee?”

 Momoe looked over at him. “Are you finished with the news and editorial sections, Em?” she nodded to the discarded sections. “I want to catch up on local politics.”

 “You can have them,” said Emerson, sliding the tabloid pages along the bar. “I’m too busy to ever read them anyway.”

 “Thanks, I’ll take the business section too, unless you are going to read it.”

“Are you kidding, here, take it.” Once more he ogled Momoe’s coffee. “Do you think I could get some of that?”

“Sure, there’s a pot behind the bar, help yourself.” Momoe waved vaguely in the direction of the urn. “Oh look, it says here they are doing some renovations over at the Brunel.”

“Momoe,” Emerson spoke with a note of exasperation, “Do you still work here?”

“Hm?” She looked up from the paper.

“Never mind,” Emerson shook his head. “Where’s the Squire?”

“Who knows,” Momoe shrugged. “He was by last night for groceries. He didn’t stay long.”

A jarring thump from the far side of the doorstep made them both jump. They fell to silence, opting to wait for a reoccurrence of the disturbing sound rather than explore the source.

The bar was silent but for the ticking of the cuckoo  clock on the wall. Emerson and Momoe remained staring at the door; the tension becoming ever more taut with each tick of the clock. Just as Emerson began searching his pockets for a smoke the door burst open to reveal Garnet Psaltery, struggling under the staggering weight of Herodotus Tripe. Behind them, as if he were guarding the rear, was an intense-looking man with weapon drawn. Emerson thought the man’s name might have been August but couldn’t recall the gentleman’s surname.

“Are you alright?” Momoe jumped up and ran to assist.

“This man was attacked,” Garnet replied.

“I believe I saw the the man who did this,” August explained events as he had seen them. “I didn’t witness the actual attack so I can’t say for sure, but I saw a man clutching a satchel running west on Prince Dakkar; he was coming in my direction but then he cut into the alley just outside this bar.”

“That alley doesn’t go anywhere but the catacombs or the sewers,” said Emerson.

“My guess would be the catacombs,” said Momoe. “The thief wouldn’t want to fill his new bag with sewage.”

“I agree with Momoe’s assessment,” said Garnet as she helped Herodotus to the couch. “The catacombs are the only sensible option.”

“Sometimes they roam the catacombs,” said Herodotus, emphasizing the rhyming element with an almost sing-song cadence.

”I didn’t quite catch that, Mr. Tripe,” said Garnet.

“Listen, the guy is obviously delirious,” Emerson waved with dismissive indifference in the writer’s general direction. “But I agree with him when he says we shouldn’t go in.”

“Is that what he said?” Garnet smirked. “Then perhaps we should inform the militia that a criminal may be at large within the catacombs.”

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