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Summoned.

Tuesday evening. Tenk stood in his clocktower office, holding the open candy jar for the boys as they turned in their dice and tallysheets. Each one in turn took a sweet from the jar before filing into the elevator. Tenk snatched one sheet as it fell to the workbench, eyeing it skeptically.

“Bill!” Tenk barked. “Who was with you?”

“Tepic, sir,” the scruffy boy mumbled through his candy prize.

Tenk waited until the elevator was out of view, the chatter of the boys diminishing as it descended, before he wadded up Bill’s tally and threw it in the fire. Then he turned and took out the ledger and the map under the glass plate, and settled in to work. That is, he almost did, because as he turned he thought he saw Maggie peeking out from her hiding place in the clock room, and looking to the window, he thought he saw Pocket sleeping in the hammock. Afterimages. Powerful afterimages from before the night that Maggie had laid down on the bench under the hammock to follow Pocket into that unnatural sleep.  He remembered sitting with her at the table, explaining his research, showing her his ledgers that went back for decades. Putting one finger on the map while tracing a row of numbers in the book with the other, showing her the change at Oldbridge when she and Molly were in service at the Underbridge cottage, showing her the sudden spike in Clockhaven that betrayed the dynamic created as Maggie and Pocket became closer.

Funny that. He remembered how he and Pocket had stood on the dock at Oldbridge, promising to stand as husbands for Maggie and Molly if they would only leave the Underby’s house. Pocket had eyes for Molly that night.

Tenk quickly wrote a new column of numbers in his book, calculating the deviation from normality of one in six, then made a few notations with a grease stick on the map glass.The boys played their dice game and wrote the results. There was no point to the game, really, just a ruse to make someone roll a dice 100 times while holding a number in their thoughts. Tepic was a ringer. So was Tenk.

Tenk noted the afterimage still visible in his peripheral vision as he put his book with the others and hid the map with the glass plate in the slot in the back of the cabinet. Then he took the bandolier of clock keys from the peg on the wall and went out on his rounds of the city. Someone had left a clock out for him, now the trick was to find it. A stopped clock was much harder to find than a slow clock: there was no sound to follow.

Eventually, his rounds brought him to the Gut. Following a hunch, he went down into the Bucket, where a few disreputatble looking fellows were up nursing their drinks. There was the clock. On Underby’s alter. Under a red candle.

If not for the fact that word on the street was that something was scaring Underby, Tenk would have quickly turned and stormed out, angry that he had been deliberately summoned by his enemy. Instead he hopped up on the bench and opened the back of the clock, while gazing at Underby, an unspoken question on his face.

“It stopped,” said Underby.

It was obvious Underby was not in a situation where he could speak freely. “I’ll bring some tools tomorrow,” said Tenk.

Thursday night. Underby had been arrested. Tenk went to the jail with a deck of cards to continue their weekly game. There were too many people there for privacy, and so Tenk left, curiousity unsated.


What did Underby want?

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