. To a Bright and Happy Future
“Everything is prepared,” Brother Pizzaro informed Whiskey Jack. The two men stood alone in the lobby of the Dunsany Institution.
“Let’s be done with this business then,” the big framed lorry driver said looking around the large empty hall.
“Mr. Farquahr,” Brother Pizzaro reached out and caught Whiskey Jack by the arm. “Before we proceed I want to underscore one point: very shortly there will be only four men walking the streets of this city with full knowledge of what transpired here today.”
“Thank you for your confidence, Brother,” Whiskey Jack replied “But I think there is really only one man with full knowledge of what transpired here today.”
Whiskey Jack turned and walked to the door where he signalled his partner, Randall, who sat atop the driver’s bench of the lorry; in the wagon behind Randall, the three nurses attended to Martha while the cook and three children huddled near the covered bodies of the three men killed in the Dunsany. Whiskey Jack turned from the door as Randall drove the lorry off down the street.
“Best go tell Father Moonwall and Mr. Crumb to gather the boys. It’s time.”
“What is that noise?” Captain Digby spoke in reference to the muffled grinding sound reverberating from the cellar. His eyes darted about, searching the foyer of the Dunsany Institution, empty but for he and the two dozen men he had mustered. From the moment they had arrived there had been the sense that something was amiss. “It seems to be—”
“Captain!” one of his men called from the reception counter. “It’s Mary Spurgan’s boy, Cadet Shaw. He is sleeping!”
“Sleeping?” Captain Digby questioned. “No one is to go into the cellar until my command!” the captain warned the men by the cellar door. He then made his way to his cadet’s side. Donovan Shaw was lying on the floor, behind the counter. Captain Digby noticed a smudged footprint with a dark spot near the toe. He knelt and after a moment’s consideration, poked at the footprint with his finger, then sniffed it. “Tar!” he glanced from man to man with a perplexed look upon his face before shifting his gaze to the young cadet. “Wake up son!” the militia captain’s voice held a note of reproach as he slapped the boy about the face. “You are in dereliction of duty!”
“What?” Cadet Shaw’s eyes remained glassy as he struggled to sit. That he had been drugged seemed the obvious conclusion.
“Captain!” one of the men called from the door to the cellar. “You should come at once, sir!”
It was as he was crossing the foyer that Captain Digby first detected the powerful and unpleasant odour of offal wafting across the room. “Oh my great and powerful Builder! What is that foul stench?” he complained, waving his hand in front of his face as he joined his men at the top of the stairs.
“Breach of the sewer main would be my guess,” one of the corporals replied. “The Prince Dakkar main runs right along here, my granddaddy helped dig it and lay the brick.”
“Clear the way!” Whiskey Jack’s booming voice called from the bottom of the stairs. “We’re coming up. And trust me when I tell you, nobody wants to be coming back down here anytime soon.”
A moment later those in the foyer were joined by Whiskey Jack, Father Moonwall, Brother Pizzaro, and Ezra Crumb, all four of whom stood befouled and besodden from waist to toe.
“It was the damndest thing,” Whiskey Jack explained. “The two churchmen was cleaning up from the surgery and offering their benedictions and whatnot on account of those that got killed—”
“If I might interrupt,” said Father Moonwall. “The bodies of your men, Captain Digby, have been loaded onto a lorry and will be retrievable at the morgue. I’ve had enough, I am returning to the church. Juris, either take care of whatever matters need taking care of or come along now.”
“Just one second,” sputtered Captain Digby, “With all due respect, this is an investigation.”
“I have nothing to add to your investigation,” Father Moonwall replied. “If you would like to speak with me further make an appointment.” With that final statement the head of the New Babbage Church of the Builder turned and left the Dunsany.
“Where are Foehammer and the prisoners that were in his custody?” Captain Digby asked hastily, perhaps fearing Brother Pizzaro would make as sudden an exit as the father just had. “The Chandler boy was to be handed over to me.”
“That’s what I was trying to tell you before the Father run off like that,” said Whiskey Jack. “Apparently Foehammer had some sort of clockwork boring devices—like the one they say was used to sink that foreign ship last week. Seems he let the Chandler boy build them here in his workshop. The boy’s mother was night matron here almost fourteen years, you know.”
“Captain Digby, perhaps I can expedite your investigation,” Brother Pizzaro added. “We were carrying Martha Foehammer, and the three bodies to the lorry. Mr. Farquhar and Mr. Crumb were with us leaving Foehammer alone in the cellar. He must have taken the opportunity to drug your cadet somehow. When we returned to the cellar not ten minutes later he had already fled the building with the two youths. Four of clockwork boring mines were already deep into the walls. There was nothing to be done to stop them.”
“My guess is he flooded the cellar to destroy whatever evidence we might look for,” said Whiskey Jack. “He was a canny bugger, that Doctor Foehammer.”
“Take a dozen men and search the cellar,” Captain Digby said to the corporal beside him.
“But sir, there is raw sewage—”
“I don’t care if you have to swim just search it.” Captain Digby snapped. “What about you Crumb?” Digby directed his interrogation to Ezra assuming him to be the weakest link in the chain. “I suppose you didn’t see anything either.”
Ezra Crumb looked at Captain Digby, and for a moment it appeared as though he were going to speak but instead he simply followed Father Moonwall’s example and left.
“Where are the patients who were in the ward on the second floor?” Digby asked.
“What patients?” Pizzaro said flatly.
“The ones the nurse told me Father Moonwall was visiting.”
“I do not recall being present for that conversation. You would have to ask the nurse,” replied Brother Pizarro, with the authority of a mnemonist. “If you would like to speak with any of them send me word. I have offered all three employment. But to the best of my knowledge anyone who had been admitted has now been discharged and the ward on the second floor is empty.”
Digby signalled the men still in the lobby. “Search the upper floors,” but in his tone one could tell he realized he’d been tricked somehow. He had little doubt Joseph Foehammer was no longer on the premises.
“Gentlemen,” said Brother Pizzaro, “I really must change out of these soiled robes into something a little fresher. I will take my leave. Mr. Farquahr, come to the cathedral tomorrow morning, I would like to meet with you regarding some ongoing construction projects.”
“I’ll be there, brother first thing in the morning,” Whiskey Jack said.
Friday, October 24th, two weeks after the fire
“Look Randall,” Whiskey Jack reined up the lorry in front of The Creekside Tavern located on the far side of the Cogsworth Street Bridge overlooking the Old Quarter’s one narrow waterway. “It’s Mr. Crumb.”
“You’re lucky,” Whiskey Jack called out as he hopped off the driver’s bench and approached the patio table where Ezra sat alone but for his nearly empty tankard of lager. “It’s not common to get such a warm afternoon to enjoy a libation in the sun this late in the season.”
“Let me run these biscuits inside,” Randall offered, already hoisting the oversized sack upon his shoulder. “Order me a lager and a bowl of mutton stew, I’ll join you in a moment.”
“Can I go play with those two boys down by the culvert?” asked little Wally. “You can see me from the table.”
“Just don’t get no water in your boots,” said Whiskey Jack taking a seat across from Ezra Crumb. “Nothing puts a stink in them like wet feet.”
“The boy is living with you now?” Ezra Crumb asked, watching as Little Wally joined the other boys down by the creek.
“He is, I gave him my word and I don’t never go back on nothing I say,” Whiskey Jack leaned back and watched Little Wally playing with the two other boys, tossing stones through the culvert’s grating. “How things been with you? Is Mrs. Foehammer doing better?”
Ezra reached for his tankard and took the last few sips then held it aloft for the barmaid to see. “Martha is no longer in town,” Ezra returned his attention to Whiskey Jack. “It is hard to get straight answers from Juris, but it seems there were some complications about her wound. He and Moonwall have sent her and her little one, Cecil, aboard an airship to Italy where they feel she may recuperate faster.”
“Italy!” Whiskey Jack whistled. “That’s pretty far away, ain’t it?”
“Apparently there is a sisterhood there with unique medical skills,” Ezra replied.
“Well, the brother would know best, he’s a right sharp one he is,” Whiskey Jack shook his head and chuckled. “Do you know what that bugger said to me last week? Said I should run for office and challenge that fool Digby.”
“You’d be a good mayor, b’y,” said Randall Flax, rejoining them at the table with three fresh tankards. “I saved the girl a trip, she’ll be along shortly with the stew.”
“Well boys, we been through a lot these past two weeks,” Whiskey Jack reached for one of the tankards and held it aloft. “Here’s to smooth sailing into a bright and happy future.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Randall Flax raised his tankard and the three men tipped their mugs in cheers.
“Go on, say it,” said a brazen, blond haired boy who looked to be about a year older than Little Wally. The angle of the late afternoon sun sent three long shadows into the Cogsworth Street culvert.
“Saying it three times summons them out,” the second boy piped up. “And if you’re not careful they’ll eat you up.”
“That’s dumb,” said the first boy. “You’re just scaredy cat. I double stripscrew dare you. I’ll say it first: ‘Dunsay!’”
“Dunsany!” said the second boy.
That left it to Little Wally to complete it. He leaned close to the culvert’s grating and strained to see as deep into the tunnel as he could. He formed the word and felt it slip past his lips no louder than a whisper, “Dunsany.”
. The End
Another Bravo sir! And thank you for allowing me to write alongside. Two more and I’m done too.
An epic tale well told.