If you notice this notice you wil notice that this notice was not worth noticing
“I’d like to see Captain Kenrick please,” said Madam Ticklier. The Bluecoat clerk behind the desk looked over the rim of his glasses at the well-dressed lady before him and said “Wait here please.”
After the tumultuous events at Duskvol museum, Madam Ticklier needed to take some of the heat off her gang. Her normal course of action in this sort of situation would be to wine and dine (and otherwise please) Captain Kenrick of the Bluecoats, but the captain was for some reason proving very difficult to get hold of – hence Ticklier’s presence at his police station.
After a matter of minutes the Bluecoat clerk returned to his desk and said “I’m very sorry Ma’am but Captain Kenrick is otherwise disposed.”
“Well when will he be undisposed?”
“Not for some time. A very long time.”
Madam Ticklier tutted and departed the station. Captain Kenrick was clearly avoiding her but why?
++Madam Ticklier’s Offcie, Day Nursery, Silkshore++
“I know it’s been frustrating, having to lay low after that business at the museum, but I have some good news,” said Madam Ticklier brightly.
Still scowling from Ticklier’s mention of the museum, BJ asked “What news?”
“The Foghounds came good with their payment for the Leviathan Hunting Ground charts. I still need to give the Wraiths their share but nevertheless we are all considerably richer than we were yesterday.”
“That is good news,” said The Kid, unconsciously rubbing his scalp where a lump still stood out from where he’d been coshed over the head during the museum heist.
“How’s your head healing up Kid?” asked BJ.
“Oh, it’s nothing really, it’s getting better.”
“Did Ticklier tell you how you got that injury?”
“Yeah, a Bluecoat clubbed me over the head. She saved me!”
“Yeah,” drawled BJ, looking at Madam Ticklier suspiciously.
Deftly changing the subject, Madam Ticklier asked “Has anyone seen Lionel? It’s been days since I last set eyes on him.”
“I think he’s laying low,” said BJ. “Staying out of sight of the law, healing his bruises. Speaking of which, I’m still pretty beat up from that business at the museum.”
“I know someone who can help with that,” said The Kid.
“Well, lead on Kid.”
BJ and The Kid said their goodbyes and filed out of the nursery, leaving Madam Ticklier in her office alone with Alyss, the pink haired former-Billhook tattoo artist who was hiding out at their HQ. From his bedroom above drifted the seismic snoring of Ulf Ironborn.
Suddenly there was a thump from upstairs. Madam Ticklier sat up straight and said “What was that?”
“Ulf?” queried Alyss.
“No, if he’d fallen we’d have heard a deluge of Skovlandish swearing. Stay here.”
Madam Ticklier crept over to her office door, which The Kid had left open a jar, and peeped out. The main crèche lay beyond. Reflected dimly in one of the establishment’s front windows she saw two figures creeping stealthily down the stairs that curved into the nursery. They both seemed to be carrying clubs of some sort. Holding a finger to her lips in a ‘shooshing’ manner, Madam Ticklier stepped lithely over to her desk, quietly pulled open a drawer and withdrew two small pistols. She handed one to Alyss, then crept back to the door, palming a flash-bang pellet into the hand that wasn’t holding the gun.
Madam Ticklier held her breath as the two figures approached. “Open the front door,” one of them whispered to the other, and in the reflection of the window Ticklier saw one of them move off in the direction of the building’s main entrance. The time to act was now.
The flash-bang went off with a crack and the two goons yelled in surprise. Madam Ticklier took advantage of the momentary confusion to step out into the room and level her pistol at the man heading for the front door. “Stay where you are,” she said through gritted teeth. “And you – put your hands on your head.”
The man approaching the door slowly put his hands in the air and said “It’s okay, everything’s okay, there’s no need to get excited here.”
“I’m perfectly calm thank you.”
“No need to jump to any conclusions, no need to mis-read the situation. Here, look, I’m going to put my cosh on the floor, okay?”
“No problem .. there you go, I’m unarmed. Now I’m sure we can clear up this situation if we just have a little talk, yeah? Just a little talk. Clear the air, so to speak. Yeah?”
“You sure talk a lot,” said Madam Ticklier. “And you by the stairs – put your weapon down.”
Madam Ticklier heard a click by her ear and felt the barrel of a pistol being pressed into the back of her head. “I’m sorry Esmerelda but it’s you who need to drop your weapon,” said Alyss.
“Alyss, what are you doing?” hissed Madam Ticklier.
“I’m sorry Esmerelda, you’ve been fun and all, but do you know how much Bazso Bas is willing to pay for you? A girl’s gotta eat after all.”
“Don’t do this Alyss.”
“It’s done Ticklier. Don’t worry, you won’t be harmed. I’m sure you’ll be able to wrap Bazso Bas around your little finger. Can’t say as much for The Kid though. After what he did to my brother, he’s going to pay.”
“Look Alyss, how about – “ began Madam Ticklier, before dropping the second flash-bang she’d managed to palm into her hand. With a boom Alyss’s pistol went off, but Madam Ticklier was already falling to the floor, twisting and bringing her own gun to bear. Ears ringing and vision blurry, she squeezed off a handful of bullets at her pink-haired target, none of which hit but they did enough to drive Alyss back into the office.
The front door rattled as someone from outside tried to get in. Madam Ticklier got unsteadily to her feet but her head instantly exploded in pain as a cosh was brought down heavily on it. Her gun clattered to the floor and a thick forearm wrapped around her neck, a voice laced with halitosis grunting “Stop fighting you ornery old cow, you’re coming with us.” Madam Ticklier bit down hard on the forearm and the thug released her with a yell.
If she could just get to the storerooms out back she could get one of The Kid’s ghost jars and fling it at the invaders. See how they liked a phantom amongst them! She lurched for the back rooms but her legs were kicked out from under her. The thug who’s arm she’d bitten sat on her and yelled “Give me a hand here, she’s fighting and bucking like a wild colt!”
As the kidnappers secured Madam Ticklier, she fought for all she was worth … her struggles concealing the fact that she’d palmed her lip-stick and was busy leaving a note on the floorboard beneath her. She managed to scrawl A L I before she was dragged off.
Later that evening …
“So this Quellyn witch,” said BJ as he and The Kid returned to the nursery. “She your girlfriend?”
“Yeah!” said The Kid proudly.
“Well she certainly knows how to apply a poultice. I can’t believe you introduced me to her as Uncle BJ though. Makes me sound … unsavoury.”
“Well you’re like family to me now. Lionel’s like a father to me and Madam Ticklier’s like a …”
“A mother?” laughed BJ incredulously.
“Um … something like that,” said The Kid, unable to really square what traditional family role Madam Ticklier could possibly fill.
“Hey Kid – the door’s been left open,” said BJ in alarm, as they rounded a corner and saw the nursery before them. “Keep your eyes peeled.”
The two of them moved cautiously into the building, on the lookout for trouble. Straight away they saw two burn marks on the floor and a number of bullet casings lying scattered about the entrance to Madam Ticklier’s office.
“Looks like there’s been a fight,” said BJ.
“Hey, what’s this?” said The Kid. “A.l.i. … were Iruvians here?”
“It’s Alyss,” blurted Ulf Ironborn, entering the nursery all sweaty and out of breath. “Ulf woke up just in time to see Alyss and Billhooks take Ticklier. They took my Esmerelda! Ulf try to follow but bastards have too much of a lead. Get into carriage and go. Ulf been trying to find them but no use!”
“Well let’s see what we can see,” said BJ as he led the three of them back out into the street. “Maybe they left some tracks behind. I mean, how difficult can it be to track a carriage? Kid, help me look for signs.”
“Are you getting anything?” asked The Kid after a few fruitless moments of searching for tracks.
“Yeah, two things – Jack and shit. How about you Ulf?”
“What? Oh, Ulf been busy flexing muscles in preparation for cracking skulls. Tracking not one of Ulf’s strong points. All mud and cobbles as far as Ulf can see.”
“Five men dragged a sixth figure out of the nursery and went forty yards down the road before boarding a carriage. The carriage then headed off in the direction of the docks,” said Lionel as he sauntered up the street.
“Lionel!” exclaimed The Kid. “I’m so glad you’re here! Madam Ticklier’s been kidnapped! We’ve got to rescue her!”
“Do we?” asked Lionel.
“Yes!” said The Kid and Ulf Ironborn simultaneously.
“She set us up,” said Lionel. “That museum job was a ruse. A ruse to get BJ arrested.”
“I’m sure you’re mistaken but even if you’re not, we’ve still got to rescue her,” protested The Kid.
“I’m not so sure that we do,” said Lionel.
“Ulf pretty sure we do. Lionel help Ulf and these two rescue most beautiful woman in Duskvol or Ulf rip Lionel’s arms off,” said Ulf eloquently.
“You can try big man but it’d be a shame to put you back on those crutches after so recently giving them up.”
“Guys, calm down,” said BJ. “Ulf, you’re not going to help rescue Ticklier by fighting Lionel. Lionel – Madam Ticklier may be a dick but she’s our dick. Let’s go get her back.”
“Come on, wake up!” said a voice, as Madam Ticklier felt her cheeks being slapped. Where was she? She opened her eyes and took a moment to focus on the large bearded man in front of her. The room beyond seemed bare, just wood paneled walls and no furniture. She tried to move but discovered that she was tied to a chair.
“That’s it. Wake up sleeping beauty.”
“Where am I?” asked Madam Ticklier.
“Never mind about that. Answer my questions and I’ll make sure your transfer over to Bazso Bas goes as painlessly as possible. The Kid – where can we find him?”
“The Kid? I don’t know.”
The big man stepped aside, revealing a figure sitting in a simple wheel chair across the room from them. He was young and had a shock of black and white hair that made Madam Ticklier think of a badger. The figure slumped in the chair bonelessly, his face slack, a line of drool hanging out of the corner of his mouth.
“Alyss’s brother. The Kid did that to him,” said the bearded man, unable to hide the quaver of emotion in his voice. “Broke his mind.”
“Well, that’s tragic I’m sure but I really have no idea where The Kid is.”
“Uh huh,” said the bearded man clearly unconvinced. “I tell you what – I’ll leave you here with Henry for a bit and we’ll see if that jogs your memory.”
The big man left the room and Madam Ticklier heard him stomp down some steps. As soon as he was gone, she slipped the concealed knife she always carried into her hand and began working at her bonds. It was only a small knife and they’d used thick rope so it would take a while but she figured she wasn’t going anywhere in the meantime. Henry stared across the room at her. She couldn’t tell if he was actually looking at her or if his eyes were just fixed in place, his broken mind unable to decipher the images they recorded. That was a mystery she was unlikely to solve but one thing that was beyond doubt was that he stunk of piss.
++ Billhooks HQ, Docks++
Lionel, BJ, The Kid and Ulf followed the tracks the carriage had left until they led them to a raucous street in the docks area. Although it was late in the day, the taverns, brothels and gambling halls that littered the thoroughfare were busy and there were lots of people about. The Billhooks headquarters was a butcher’s shop halfway down the street. A gang of roughs stood outside the door, talking and smoking.
“I’ll scope the place out,” said BJ.
“We’ll wait in the drinking den just over the street,” said Lionel.
As BJ approached the building he saw five figures leave the butcher’s shop. He recognised their leader – Erin, acting head of the Billhooks gang. Her brother Tarvul was technically still the gang’s leader but he was currently doing time in Ironhook prison. Whilst he was otherwise engaged, Erin was running the gang in his stead. They walked down the street and boarded a carriage.
BJ had a choice – follow the carriage and find out where Erin was going? Or carry out his initial task of scoping out the butcher’s shop?
BJ tried to kill two birds with one stone. He scooped up a nearby pot of paint from the street, hooked it onto the back of the carriage and pierced the bottom with his dagger. As the vehicle pulled away it left a trail of white paint in its wake. BJ turned his attention back to the building.
Gaining entry through the front seemed unlikely. The front of the property was three storeys tall and looked busy. The gang hanging around outside didn’t seem likely to move and BJ suspected there was perpetually a group of Billhooks out the front of the business. Inside looked busy.
He went around the lane to the rear of the property and hoisted himself up the back wall just enough to peek over. He saw a yard, with a shirtless man chopping meat with a cleaver. The back of the building was only a single storey tall and the back door was open, the room beyond hung with pig cadavers. “This way’s more likely,” said BJ as he dropped back down to the lane.
“See anything interesting?” asked Jimmy Vond, as he and three other Billhooks stole up on BJ.
“Yes, actually,” said BJ, as he turned tail and fled. He pelted down the lane and ‘parkoured’ up onto the irregular wall that marked the rear boundary of all the properties in the street. “Get him!” yelled Jimmy, as the Billhooks gave chase. BJ ran along the wall before hopping down into the yard of a building, chosen because their back door was left wide open.
BJ dashed past the door and through a kitchen area, a startled cook shouting “Hey!” He burst through an interior door and found himself running across what looked like a high-end brothel. Red lighting, divans and cushions lay scattered about, and several heavily made up ladies gasped as he ran through. On a chaise lounge by the window sat Captain Kenrick, trousers round his ankles. “What the devil!?” he managed to bark before BJ burst out the front door and into the street, disappearing into the crowd.
“I know this place – it’s Bazso Bas’s safe house,” said BJ as he and his companions spied on Erin and her men from a distance. Scoping out the Billhooks HQ had proven to be a bust so the gang had decided to follow the paint trail BJ had affixed to the back of Erin’s carriage. It led them across town to Crowsnest.
“Place looks like it’s been done over,” continued BJ. “Door’s kicked in, windows smashed. I think a fire might have been started near the entrance and I can see bullet holes all over the place.”
“Looks as though Erin and her men are just as surprised to find the place in this state,” said Lionel. “Look at them – doesn’t seem as though they know what to do.”
“So what are we going to do?” asked The Kid.
“We’re going to have a little word with our Billhook friends,” said Lionel.
Lionel and BJ stepped out and walked towards Erin and her men. They were spotted almost instantly and Erin’s four goons took up a defensive posture in front of her.
“Lionel!” laughed Erin with forced bravado. “What brings you crawling out of your hidey hole?”
“Just wanted a little chat Erin. You’ve got something that belongs to us.”
“Oh really? I don’t think so.”
“Don’t play coy with me. We know you’ve got Ticklier. We need her back.”
“Do you know how much Bazso’s offering for her?”
“Nope. Don’t much care neither.”
“It’s a lot of coin Lionel. Tell you what, I’m a reasonable woman. You match what Bazso’s asking, you can have the bitch back.”
“I’ll tell you what I’m willing to give you for Ticklier, and listen real hard Erin because I’m only going to say this once.” Quick as a flash Lionel drew his gun and sent four bullets through the knee of each of her goons. Erin’s hand moved within her jacket but BJ shook his head and said “I wouldn’t do that”, pointing Aldo Clelland’s pistol at her chest.
“Ah, so what do we do now?” asked Erin nervously as her men writhed around on the floor in pain.
“We take a little ride in your carriage back to the Docks,” said Lionel.
As they bundled Erin into the carriage, BJ asked “Where’s The Kid gone?” Ulf shrugged his shoulders.
“The Kid can look after himself,” said Lionel.
Madam Ticklier had finally cut through her bonds and was free. She dumped the rope on the floor and stood up, stretching her aching back. Henry still sat in his chair but the big bearded man hadn’t returned. She tried the handle of the single door in the room – unlocked! She nervously made her way down three flights of stairs to the ground floor. It seemed as though something was going on out in the street as there weren’t many Billhooks around. Nevertheless, the front of the building seemed busy. “The back it is then,” she whispered to herself.
Pushing through a kitchen and then a meat storage area filled with hanging pig’s carcasses she saw a yard ahead and freedom … except there was a large shirtless man out there chopping up cadavers with a cleaver. How to get past him?
Madam Ticklier was a cunning woman full of wiles and guile but she would probably be the first to admit that her escape plan wasn’t one of her best. She quickly donned a leather butcher’s apron and cap that she found hanging in the meat locker and made her way back up to her erstwhile cell. Henry was still there, sat dribbling in his chair. Madam Ticklier grabbed the handles of his wheelchair and said “Come on Henry, you and I are going for a little walk. You’re going to be my cover as to why I’m heading outside. Thanks in advance for your co-operation.”
But there were three flights of stairs down to the ground floor! Not a problem, as long as she went slowly and was careful with the wheelchair, Madam Ticklier was sure she could get Henry safely down the steps. She tipped the chair over the first step and Henry slid out of his seat, thumping and banging bonelessly down the staircase. Madam Ticklier winced with every crash until the racket was mercifully cut short when Henry flopped onto the first landing … only for his momentum to carry him on round a corner and down the second flight of stairs.
Screw it, the time for caution was over! Madam Ticklier flew down the stairs, through the kitchen and into the meat locker. She hauled a pig’s body off a hook and walked awkwardly out into the yard, the carcass more or less obscuring her completely.
“Here, got another one for you,” she grunted in her deepest, most manly voice.
“Thanks, chuck it over there,” said Mr Meat Cleaver without even looking up. “Any idea what’s going on out front?”
“Nope,” grunted Madam Ticklier, as she headed through the back door into the lane and freedom.
“Coran, stop messing about and do what he says!” ordered Erin nervously.
The big bearded man’s gaze flicked from Erin to Lionel, BJ and Ulf. All three of them were armed and looked like they could handle themselves but Coran had a shotgun and fifteen gun toting Billhooks backing him up. If it came to a fight, he reckoned they could take them.
“Do what the lady says,” said Lionel dispassionately. “Bring us Madam Ticklier and you can have your chief back. A fair trade.”
Coran was calculating the situation. So what if these cut-throats kept Erin? What did it really matter to him? With Erin gone, the Billhooks would be his. But what would Tarvul think when he finally got out of Ironhook prison? If word got to him that Coran had left his sister to die he’d be unhappy and an unhappy Tarvul was not a prospect that Coran ever wanted to be on the receiving end of.
“Jimmy – go get the woman. Bring her out.”
A couple of moments later Jimmy Vond returned, looking sheepish.
“Where’s Ticklier?” snapped Coran. “I asked you to bring her out.”
“That’s just it – she’s gone boss,” muttered Jimmy.
“Gone? What do you mean gone?”
“She ‘aint there. Her ropes have been cut. Poor Henry’s been dumped halfway down the stairs.”
“That heartless cow!”
“Is there a problem?” asked Lionel.
“Uh, no, no problem,” smiled Coran. “Do you think you could give us a few minutes?”
As the Billhooks retreated to their butcher’s shop, Erin looked at Lionel and said “You heard what Jimmy said didn’t you? Ticklier’s escaped.”
“So where does that leave us?” asked Erin nervously.
“As far as I’m concerned, if Ticklier’s escaped then we’ve got what we wanted. Go home Erin.”
“You mean you’re letting me go?”
“Yes. But remember, you owe us for this.”
“I will. I won’t forget this.”
But where was The Kid during all this? At Bazso’s safe house he’d picked up a powerful eclectroplasmic resonance in the ghost sphere, as if an entity of great power had recently been present. The force was so strong he was able to follow it, the phantasmal trail leading him all the way to Petra’s tenement block. So focused was The Kid on shadowing this trail that he almost walked straight into a group of men loitering near the building, all dressed in black, all armed with ropes and knives. Amongst their number was the unmistakable form of Sailm Al Hadid, Iruvian diplomat, member of the Centrulia Club and the Circle of Flame.
“Get out of here Kid!” said one of the men threateningly.
“Sorry!” squeaked The Kid, as he turned and hurried straight to the front entrance of Petra’s tenement block.
“Not that way!” snarled the man, but The Kid ignored him and broke into a run.
“Quick, after him!”
He burst through the door and slammed it shut behind him, throwing the bolts and security chains across it. The portal thumped as the men barrelled into it but he was pretty sure it would hold for a while. He wasn’t entirely certain why the men were here but he’d put money on it being something to do with the Heart of Kotar stashed in Petra’s flat. He needed to warn her!
“Mercy! Get this door open,” came a muffled voice from outside.
Suddenly the temperature in the hallway dropped to freezing, so quickly that it hurt The Kid’s lungs. A shape began to materialise in front of the door, vaguely man-shaped but with a head shaped something like a rugby ball. The leering smile of the entity seemed too big for its head and its swirling eyes were madness incarnate. The horrific thing reached out with long fingers dripping ectoplasm, as if to embrace The Kid in a hold that he knew would contain only death.
The Kid attempted to attune to the ghost and control it but the psychic backlash almost knocked him out. On the verge of panic, he reached into a pocket and pulled out a ghost bottle. The vessel contained the ghost of Trent the milkman, one of The Kid’s more benevolent trapped spirits. The Kid remembered once saying to Trent that he could act as the gang’s get-away driver, to which the spirit had replied “Only if you want to get away really bloody slowly Kid.”
Feeling a tinge of guilt, The Kid smashed the ghost bottle at the feet of the ghostly horror and Trent’s spirit whirled out of the broken glass. “Aaaiieieee!” screamed Trent as the horror latched onto him, literally feasting on his essence. With Trent’s second death screams ringing in his ears, The Kid ducked out of the hallway and up the stairs to Petra’s flat.
But wait a minute - her door was open!
"Turn this place upside down!" came a voice from within Petra's apartment, followed by thumps and bangs.
"Get out, you pigs!" responded the unmistakable sound of Petra's voice.
"Just tell us where the thing is hidden and we'll gladly be out of your hair."
"I keep telling you, I have no idea what you're talking about! A heart in a jar? What's the matter with you people?"
Slowing down to a walk, The Kid rounded the door to find Petra's apartment filled with, not only Petra herself, but Bazso Bas and four of his closest henchmen.
Quick as a flash, Bazso pointed his gun at The Kid and in exasperation said "Who the hell is this?"
The can find the rest of our adventures on this Geeklist.