Sitting at her desk in her office at home, early morning light streaming through the turret windows, Bookworm sighed as she looked over the reports on the Porthead fire. She had sent notes to City Hall several times over the past few months, telling them that the fire equipment was in sore need of replacement. She wasn’t sure who they’d been going to, and so who was the one who had ignored her warnings. Maybe now, though, that one would listen…
Her ruminations were interrupted at the sound of running footsteps outside. She saw, through the windows, an urchin running purposefully toward the front door, and she dashed down the steps just as the girl knocked on the door. She opened it, and the girl looked up at her.
“Come quickly, Miss… err… Cap’n,” she said, panting a little. “Beryl needs ter see yer, up near Iron Bay. I’m to lead yer.”
Bookworm nodded, quickly pulling on hat and gloves. As she stepped outside and closed the door, she wound a scarf around her neck. The air was holding a definite chill, and she rather thought snow might be on the way soon. Her breath streaming behind her as an ephemeral flag, she followed the urchin north until they reached the main canal that led into Iron Bay. Beryl was there at one of the water taxi stops, staring at a pile of something. He looked up, and waved to her a little.
“Hello, Beryl,” Bookworm said, staring down at the pile of clothing that now took on the dimensions of a body. A dead body. She knelt down and looked at the face soberly. “Perkins.”
“Perkins?” Beryl asked.
“That’s his name. He joined the Militia about six months ago.” She sighed and rubbed her face, looking down at the man’s limp body.
“I see,” replied Beryl. “I found the body a few minutes ago. Can’t really tell you anything, beyond the obvious–slit throat, no signs of a struggle.”
“I take you didn’t see anyone nearby?”
Beryl shook his head. “I was just running by and he’s much too cold. It’s probably been some time since it happened.” He paused. “The blood on his hands is his own, by the smell.”
“He probably tried to staunch the bleeding,” Bookworm mused. She straightened up and saw that the girl who’d led her here was still hanging around, watching intently. Bookworm sent her off to Militia headquarters, to bring more men and a stretcher. Then she began looking around the immediate area, but couldn’t see anything else untoward. “I wonder what he was doing here?”
“Waiting for someone?” Beryl asked.
“Perhaps. Or perhaps he was getting off of one of the water taxis.” She looked down at the moreau. “Does your nose tell you anything else?”
He shook his head. “With the canal here and all the taxi traffic, there’s nothing of note.”
“I figured it was a long shot.” She sighed. “Well, thank you for sending me word, Beryl. This is… troublesome.”
“Troublesome?” Beryl sounded surprised. “You’ve certainly mastered the art of understatement.” He glanced back north, seeing that the urchin was coming back, leading two other men. “Good luck with your investigation,” he said, ready to move on his way.
She nodded, her attention already turning to transporting the body back to headquarters, and sending for a doctor to have an autopsy done. It was going to be a busy day.
But at the end of the day, she didn’t have much more. The autopsy revealed Perkins had been dead for at least two hours before Beryl found him. The only thing of any note she could find on his body as a tuft of white fur. She finally went home in the last of the sunset light, hoping tomorrow would bring better luck.