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Underby dozed on the overstuffed sofa in his office, listening to snow melt off the roofs of City Hall, the city hushed in darkness around him.  A whispering voice behind his head made him jump: “Do not turn, Underby.”

He looked up at the ceiling.  His office door had been locked from the inside.  “I can explain.” he said, a reflex response.

“No explanations.” said the whispering voice.  “Do you know who I am?”

He had an idea.  “Yes.” he responded.

“Good.”  came the reply.  “You owe me, Underby.  And others.  This will not do.”

“What others?” Underby asked, starting to climb to one elbow.  A wooden stick rested on his raised shoulder.  Looking at it, he took the meaning and laid back down.

“Do not play, Underby.  Play is for fools.  You and I know you owe.  Me, and others.”

Underby nodded.

“Name them.” came the voice.

“Er, well, you…”  Silence.  “Eh, Lottie.  I owe that synthetic woman for capturing the taheen.”

“Who else?”

Underby thought about who he had scammed lately.  “Er… those children.  I suppose I owe them for their time on the-“

“Yes.” came the whispering voice.  “Who else?”

Underby thought.

“The taheen.” came the whispering voice.

“The..?”  Underby went up on one elbow again, and the response with the stick was the same.  “But… but he’s… it’s dead.”


“Then… how?”

“Pay Lottie his share as well.  She may decide what to do with it.”

Underby frowned.  “Fine.” he said after a time.

“You remember what my payment is.” said the whispering voice.  This was not a question.

“I do.” said Underby.

“Do not make me wait long.  You don’t want me cross, Mr Underby.” 

“No.” said Underby quickly.  “No.  Certainly not.”

Underby never heard the figure leave.  After a very long while, he went up on one elbow again, but no stick came to push him back down.  Turning, he looked around and saw nothing but his empty office.  He cursed softly, then leapt to the floor, examining the area behind his sofa.

It took time, but eventually he noticed the ventilation grate on his wall was without screws.  Touching it, the grate slipped off.  It held easy enough due to rust, until pushed slightly.  He frowned, looking it over.  

The shaft was only slightly wider than a foot.

Underby stood, looking down at the shaft.  “Dorchester?” he asked the room


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  1. Bookworm Hienrichs Bookworm Hienrichs March 4, 2013

    At this point, wouldn’t it be faster for you to list those whom you *don’t* owe? *whistles innocently*

  2. Emerson Lighthouse Emerson Lighthouse March 5, 2013

    Looks like Lottie will be buying rounds for the house tonight

    • Mr. Arnold Mr. Arnold March 5, 2013

      I’m surprised you’re so calm Emerson.  How many people do you need to pay?

  3. Martin Malus Martin Malus March 5, 2013

    A stick, eh? I’ve been doing it wrong.

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