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“Who the hell is this?” asked Bazso Baz incredulously, pointing his pistol at The Kid. The Kid glanced quickly around Petra’s apartment, from Bazso, to his henchman Henner, to the two other Lampblack goons and finally to Petra herself. Petra’s shocked expression quickly twisted to one of rage as she snarled “You’re one of his friends, aren’t you? I saw you with BJ in the manor house!” She gestured around her apartment at the dumbfounded gang members and said “Did he put you up to this? Is this all his fault too?”

Bazso’s pistol exploded with a roar as he fired a round into the apartment’s ceiling. “Excuse me, this is my hold up, I’m in charge here. You [he pointed at Petra], shut up. And you [he waved his gun at The Kid], piss off. Lads, get back to searching, that thing’s got to be around here somewhere, the Dimmer Sisters said so.”

“Petra, come with me, you’re in terrible danger,” babbled The Kid. “Downstairs there’s a ….” The Kid faltered as he searched for words to describe the phantasmal monstrosity that he’d fled from in the apartment block’s foyer.

“Go with you?” scoffed Petra. “Where are we going, back to Ironhook? I’ll take my chances with these criminal pigs thanks.”

The Kid turned and fled. The hallway outside Petra’s apartment had other tenants in it, brought curiously forth from their flats by the sound of the gun shot. He pushed past them, ran up the stairs to the next level and rushed along the passage to the apartment that he estimated was directly above Petra’s.

“I think someone’s just shot through my floor,” said the dazed old lady who stood in the open doorway of the flat.

“Uh, that’s why I’m here,” said The Kid. “Building maintenance.”

He pushed past the lady into her apartment and lay down on her floor, eye to the bullet hole that Bazso had blasted through her floorboards. He saw the Lampblack’s turning Petra’s flat upside down, all the while being harangued by Petra – “Careful, that’s my favourite vase”, “Watch what you’re doing with that coffee table, my father made that with his own hands!”, “Great, you’ve spilt the tea, you’ll be cleaning that up!”

“Hey boss, what about under that burnt old rug?” offered Henner hopefully. The two nameless Lampblack goons rolled the rug back to reveal floorboards blackened and rotted. Floorboards that The Kid knew concealed The Heart of Kotar. With little care they ripped the floorboards up and withdrew something bundled up in an old towel.

“Here, give me that,” said Bazso.

He pulled the towel off to reveal a large bell jar containing the withered Heart of Kotar.

“That what we’re after?” asked Henner doubtfully.

“This is it,” breathed Bazso greedily.

Two sudden gun shots rang out and the two Lampblack goons were hurled bodily into the far corners of the room. From his vantage point upstairs, The Kid saw the room flood with men in dark clothing, dressed for wet work – The Circle of Flame gang he’d seen outside the building! Henner snarled and squared up to them, ready to break some skulls but he was stopped in his tracks by the materialisation of the ghostly entity The Kid had heard called Mercy.

“Wuh?” was all Henner managed to utter before the elongated fingers of the insane spirit gripped him by the temples and the ghost feasted on his very soul, all the while giggling madly. Henner’s eyes rolled back into his head and his body twitched spasmodically until, fully bereft of soul and life, his corpse dropped to the floor with a thud. Bazso looked horrified. Petra curled up in a corner of the room terrified.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t Bazso Bas.” Salim Al-Hadid, the Iruvian diplomat and member of the Circle of Flame, stepped into view. “You shouldn’t have betrayed us Bazso. I see you’ve recovered The Heart for us. Now tell me where you’ve hidden The Hand.”

“No,” stammered Bazso, and The Kid had to credit his bravery, showing defiance in the face of Mercy, phantasmal energy crackling around the room. Even the Circle of Flame goons kept throwing nervous sideways glances at the ghost.

“Look at you, Bazso,” continued Salim. “Pathetic. Your gang all but destroyed. Your most loyal companions [he gestured at the bodies littering the room] – all dead. And to think, you once thought you could have me assassinated. Now you see, there is nothing that you can possess that I cannot take away.”

As The Kid admired Salim’s reference to Raiders of the Lost Ark he was startled by the loud crack of a gunshot and the explosion of glass as a window in the room shattered. He saw Sailm’s head snap backwards, the back of his skull erupt like a squashed egg and blood and brains spray out across Petra’s apartment. For a split second no one moved, everyone frozen by shock. Bazso recovered first and hurled himself out of the now-shattered window beside him. The Kid couldn’t quite remember whether Petra’s flat was on the forth or fifth floor and maybe he imagined it but he thought he heard a dull crump sound from outside.

What he certainly didn’t imagine was the sound of Bluecoat whistles in the distance.

“Are you going to be back to fix my floor?” asked the old lady as The Kid rushed out of her room. He veritably flew down the stairwell and burst out the front door of the building, running around the side to the aspect that Petra’s flat looked out upon. He saw a puddle of blood on the floor and some shattered glass, but of Bazso there was no sign.

He attuned to the Ghost Field and picked up the sickly taint of corruption emanating from the Heart of Kotar. It was as easy for him to follow as if Bazso had left a trail of breadcrumbs behind him. It wasn’t long before he spied the gang leader, hobbling down a narrow, dark alley. He looked as though he was badly hurt and kept stopping, breathing heavily and leaning on walls and doorways. Under one arm, still rolled in the towel, he clutched the Heart of Kotar. In the other hand he still held his gun.

The Kid wasn’t a fighter and didn’t fancy confronting Bazso directly. Instead, he opted to follow him at a distance. The badly injured gang leader was easy to tail and The Kid did a good job of staying out of sight. There was no sign of pursuit from the Circle of Flame – hopefully the arrival of Bluecoats at Petra’s apartment had made it difficult for them to give chase. Never the less, The Kid couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being stalked by someone, just as he was stalking Bazso. He didn’t see anything concrete, just a flitting shadow and a gut feeling.

Bazso painfully hobbled to the docks, a tortuous and arduous journey for him and The Kid couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for the Lampblack. He stopped outside a dockside tavern called The Bloodied Fist, caught his breath and wiped the feverish sweat from his face. Visibly steeling himself, he took a deep breath and entered the tavern.

With Bazso safely ensconced in a location for the moment at least, The Kid decided he needed back up. He attuned to the ghost field and caught the attention of a nearby ghost. Judging from the man’s spectral uniform he looked as though he could have been a blue coat or maybe an inspector in life. The Kid was relieved to note that the spirit appeared to be one of the Reconciled – a relatively benevolent type of ghost, not driven by the unrelenting urge to steal life from the living.

“Are you ok son, you look like you’ve seen a ghost?” joked the phantasmal policeman badly.

“I need help,” explained The Kid. “I need you to go to this address in silkshore. It’s a children’s nursery. I need you to find Lionel Greaves – he’s an undercover bluecoat. Tell him and anyone he’s with to come here to the …. Bloodied Fist tavern in the docks. Crime is afoot and we need to stop it!”

*

It was late by the time Lionel, BJ and Ulf Ironborn got back to the nursery. The rescue attempt at the Billhook’s butcher’s shop hadn’t quite gone according to plan but apparently Madam Ticklier had managed to escape the clutches of the gang and so they chalked that up to a win. But wherever the Madam was, she wasn’t home.

“Right, now’s our chance,” said Lionel. “BJ, into Ticklier’s office and open that safe of hers. She sold us out at the museum, lets see if she’s got any more secrets in there.”

As BJ withdrew his lock picks from a pocket, Ulf moved to stand between the two gang members and the safe. “Hang on, wait,” said the massive Skovlander. “Esmerelda’s safe her private property, Ulf not let you break in.”

“We’re not breaking in,” said BJ slyly. “We’re all part of the same gang. That safe’s ours and much as it’s Madam Tickliers.”

“If you not breaking in, why you need these?” said Ulf, snatching the lock picks and jangling them in front of BJ’s face. “Never the less, Ulf respect property rights, here, take lock picks back. But you’re not opening this safe.”

“Ulf, get out of the way you massive arse,” said Lionel, his patience with Madam Ticklier and her henchmen completely evaporated.

“Ulf will guard this safe with his life.”

Lionel went for his gun and Ulf launched himself at the rangy policeman. Lionel was quicker, his pistol clearing his holster and booming, hitting Ulf in the knee and causing him to twist in the air. There was a second boom as BJ shot Ulf in the stomach.

“What the hell did you do that for?” asked Lionel, rounding on BJ, as Ulf screamed on the floor.

“I was aiming for his other knee!” shouted BJ over the pained Skovlandish howling. “Your hit changed his trajectory and I got him in the gut instead.”

“Why’d you even shoot anyway!? Did you not think having one knee cap blown off would be enough to drop him?”

“I just thought I’d help,” said BJ defensively.

“In future leave the shooting to me. Right, lets see if we can save his life.”

Ulf lay screaming in a steadily spreading pool of blood. Lionel took the situation in and said “I’m no medic but we’ve got to stop that bleeding. BJ, I’m going to apply pressure to the wound, try to staunch the flow of blood. Can you see if you can find – arghhh!”

Ulf sank his teeth deep into Lionel’s arm as he knelt down and applied pressure to the gut wound. “Get him off me, get him off me!” yelled Lionel. BJ grabbed Ulf by the ears and cracked his head against the floor, knocking him out cold.

“Gah, he’s taken a right old chunk out of my arm,” said Lionel, inspecting the wound. “Right, lets save his life.”

Neither BJ nor Lionel were trained in the arts of first aid, but BJ had seen a few babies being born. Hot water and towels always seemed to be the order of the day, and so he gathered those things.

“What about alcohol?” asked BJ.

“Yeah, I could do with a drink,” said Lionel.

“No, I mean, isn’t it used as an anti-sceptic? Madam Ticklier must have something around here somewhere. Here we go, seventy percent proof gin.”

As BJ marinated Ulf in gin, Lionel wrapped up his gut wound tightly with towels until he looked like a cut price alcoholic mummy. With Ulf’s blood up to his elbows, Lionel finally sat back on his haunches and said “I reckon that’s the best we can do. Now BJ, get that safe open.”

There came a knock at the front door.

“Shall I get that?” asked BJ.

“No, you work on the safe, I’ll go see who it is.”

Lionel opened the door a crack, making sure to keep his bloodied arms out of sight.

“Is everything alright in there sir?” asked the Bluecoat officer on the doorstep.

“Yes, everything’s fine thank you,” said Lionel through gritted teeth.

“It’s just that I couldn’t help but hear the sound of gunfire coming from your premises,” continued the Bluecoat.

“Well, we’re all fine now thanks. Slight … weapons malfunction.”

“Do you mind if I come in and have a quick look around?” asked the Bluecoat.

“Yes, I do mind,” said Lionel steely.

“Very good sir. Well, have a good night.”

As Lionel shut and bolted the door, he heard the sound of a bluecoat whistle from outside. “Hurry up BJ, we’re going to have company!”

“This safe is surprisingly difficult to crack,” said BJ, as he twisted and turned several picks in the lock at the same time.

“Well, hurry it up, that Bluecoat’s going to be back soon and he’s going to have friends with him.”

As Lionel spoke, he saw a bluecoat outlined in the window of Madam Ticklier’s office, peering in through the glass. A more urgent beating came from the building’s front door and a voice called “Open up!”

“I’ve done it!” said BJ triumphantly. He pulled the wall safe open to reveal the contents. “It’s empty!” he grumbled in dismay.

Suddenly the temperature in the room dropped to freezing and a ghostly being manifested in the centre of Madam Ticklier’s office wearing a policeman’s uniform. It turned its long-dead countenance towards BJ and said “Lionel, The Kid has sent me with a message.”

BJ gulped nervously and stuttered “That’s Lionel,” pointing across the room to his companion. The ghost turned and said “The Kid has followed Bazso and the Heart to the Bloodied Fist tavern in the docks. He said you’d understand what that meant. He requires your presence there urgently!”

Lionel coughed nervously to clear his throat and said “Thanks. But listen, there’s something you can do for us. You hear that knocking from the front door? That’s corrupt bluecoats. I need you to go out there and scare them off.”

The ghost’s phantasmal eyes shifted to Lionel’s blood-stained arms, to the unconscious and clearly shot form of Ulf on the floor and then to the gaping wall safe hanging open, thieves tools still poking out of it’s lock.

They’re the corrupt Bluecoats?” queried the ghost incredulously.

The spirit melted away and BJ and Lionel heard the sound of their front door being unbolted. Half a dozen bluecoats rushed in, brandishing truncheons and whistles. “Stop, in the name of the law!” cried their sergeant.

“Follow me,” said BJ as he launched himself through Madam Ticklier’s office window into the lane beyond. Lionel quickly followed through and, scaring off the bluecoat who loitered there with his gun, they both disappeared into the backstreets of Silkshore.

*

The Kid had patiently lain in wait outside The Bloodied Fist tavern, wondering just how long it would take Lionel to get to the docks. With dismay he’d seen Bazso exit the tavern with three sailors. Bazso could no longer make any attempt to hide the pain he was in. The four of them had made their way to a long row boat tied to the quay and rowed out into the dark waters of the bay. If The Kid didn’t know better he’d swear they were heading for The Foghound, at anchor half a mile out from shore.

“Son, those people you sent me to deliver the message to are bad folk,” said the policeman’s ghost as it materialised beside him.

“What, Lionel? No, he’s not bad, he’s a good man.”

“Son, you’re young and I’m thinking a little naïve. It might be difficult for you to hear this but you need to stay away from him and that other one.”

“No, it’s all good, they’re like family to me.”

“How old are you son? 17? 18?”

“Something like that.”

“And how long have you been associated with those characters?”

“I’m not sure. Years, certainly.”

“I thought so. There’s a name for this – Stockholm Syndrome.”

“No, you’re wrong. They’re good people. Look, did you deliver the message or not? I need them here!”

“I delivered your message. And look, here they are.”

The ghost faded away as The Kid took in the sight of Lionel and BJ. Lionel was covered in blood, his arms caked in the stuff up to his elbows. “Did things go badly with the Billhooks?” asked The Kid.

“Oh no, everything went well with the Billhooks. This is just Ulf’s blood,” explained Lionel.

“Ulfs?!”

“I’ll tell you later. Where’s Bazso?”

“On a rowboat heading out for the Foghound. He’s got the Heart of Kotar.”

“So now the Heart and Hand are both aboard that ship. Come on, we need to lay low for a while and regroup.”

“So back to the nursery?”

“No, the nursery is … compromised. I’ll take you both somewhere safe.”

*

“So what is this place?” asked BJ.

“This is my family home,” said Lionel.

“It doesn’t look as though anyone’s lived here for a long time,” said The Kid.

“No. No one has,” said Lionel flatly. “Look, it’s about time I came clean with you gentlemen. Lionel Greaves isn’t my real name. My real name is Richard Kickings.”

“Richard Kickings?” repeated The Kid in confusion. “So are you like … undercover or something?”

“You could say that.”

“But we keep bluffing that you’re an undercover inspector to people to get us out of scrapes and now you’re telling me that you actually are an undercover policeman?”

“I figured that if someone was constantly being outed as an undercover policeman, the very last thing anyone would suspect them of being was an actual undercover policeman.”

“So why are you undercover?” asked BJ.

“The real Lionel Greaves was murdered by a serial killer called Mercy … as was my family.”

Upon mention of the name Mercy, the ghost field opened up to The Kid and he experienced strange and disorientating flashbacks to the terrible events that occurred in the very house he now occupied so long ago. He saw the killer, a living man but overlaid across his image was the terrifying visage of the horrific ghost-thing he’d encountered at Petra’s flat. He saw it kill Lionel’s family.

“I’m sorry Lionel,” he said.

“You’ve got nothing to be sorry for Kid. It’s Mercy who’s going to be sorry. It’s my life’s work to track that killer down and make sure that he faces justice.”

“I think I’ve … I think I’ve met this Mercy that you’re hunting,” said The Kid.

“Where?” asked Lionel.

The Kid explained all of the events at Petra’s flat, Lionel and BJ listening intently.

“Is Petra still alive?” asked BJ.

“Yes. I think so,” said The Kid.

“So Mercy’s already dead then,” mused Lionel.

“Yes … but I’m not sure if I’d describe it as having faced justice,” said The Kid.

*

First thing the next morning The Kid made his way to the nursery. He was worried about Madam Ticklier and he figured the best place to start searching for her would be back at HQ. He wasn’t prepared for what he saw there.

A bluecoat stood in the street, drinking tea from one of Madam Ticklier’s china cups. A couple of burley Skovlanders stood watch either side of the door of the nursery but the really surprising thing was the steady stream of city folk queuing up to make their way inside. Pushing past the civilians, The Kid found Madam Ticklier in the nursery, holding court before a gaggle of townsfolk.

“I was so shocked to hear of the break in,” said one concerned lady in a maid’s outfit.

“Yes, it was quite a shock,” said Madam Ticklier. “And thank you for your donation.”

“They stole everything?” said a man dressed like a banker. “I read that the nursery’s safe deposit box was cleared out!”

“Yes, I’m afraid so,” said Madam Ticklier.

“Disgraceful! Well, we’ll see what we can do to rectify that,” said the banker as he handed over a bag of coins.

“It is true what the papers are saying?” asked a young mother, two small children hiding amongst her skirts. “That it was the Black Viper and Crowbar Jack who were responsible?”

“So the Bluecoats tell me,” confirmed Madam Ticklier. “And are you sure you can spare this money?”

“I’ll not see a nursery suffer because of those rogues!”

“Ah, Madam?” coughed The Kid.

Madam Ticklier looked up and saw The Kid. “Ah everyone, I don’t know how I and the children can ever thank you for your help and donations but I really must ask you all to leave now. If this nursery is ever going to re-open there’s a lot of cleaning up that needs to be done and you wouldn’t believe the paperwork involved when there’s been a robbery.”

The crowd filed out giving their sympathies, men doffing their hats in respect. When the last person had left, Madam Ticklier closed and locked the front door and gave out a sigh of relief. She turned to The Kid and said “Do you know how much we’ve made from generous donations from the townsfolk? I reckon it’s got to be the equivalent of three Coin!”

“That’s great!” beamed The Kid.

“I suppose you’ve heard Lionel shot Ulf?” snapped Madam Ticklier angrily.

“Yeah, about that-“

“And BJ broke into my safe?”

“Yeah, about that too – “

“It’s lucky I’m a cautious lady and I moved everything to my other safe, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” The Kid took a deep breath. “Don’t you think it’s about time you stopped keeping secrets from the rest of the gang?”

“What do you mean?”

“That’s what started this whole spiral. The business at the museum. The safe. You’ve got to trust them!”

Madam Ticklier paused for a moment. “I see your point.”

“Look, I’m arranging a sort of peace and reconciliation meeting. I’ve got Lionel and BJ waiting for you at Simon’s Eelery. Let’s all go meet up there and clear the air.”

“Why an eelery?”

“Simon does the best jellied eels in the city! Peace, reconciliation and eels – what more could you ask for?”

*

Peace sporadically broke out over the meal of jellied eels. BJ apologised for shooting Ulf in the stomach. Madam Ticklier apologised for setting BJ up at the museum (although she insisted her plan would have worked perfectly if he hadn’t upped the stakes from stealth to murder at the drop of a hat). And Lionel? Lionel chewed on his eels stoney faced.

“Right gang, the most important thing at the moment is dealing with this Kotar artefact,” said Madam Ticklier. “ If it’s true that Bazso has the Hand and Heart, he’s only missing the Eye and from what you overheard at the Lampblacks HQ BJ, that Kittie Symes witch is probably working on finding it as we speak.”

“So what’s your plan?” asked The Kid.

“Lionel – you don’t have any of that gunpowder left do you?”

“Nope,” said Lionel around a jellied eel. “Gave it all to you to pass on to Goldie.”

“Right. That’s a shame.”

“But those three Grey Cloaks from the train took a barrel each. Could be they might still have them?”

“Yes! Do you know anyway of contacting the Grey Cloaks?”

“I know of a tobacconist shop they’re reputed to run in Six Towers.”

“Excellent. Let’s go pay them a visit.”

*

The tobacconist shop was pungent and was remarkable mainly for the stuffed bear that stood near the entrance.

“Remember guys,” whispered Lionel, “I’m not one hundred per cent sure this place is a front for the Grey Cloaks. Even if it is, I don’t know for definite if the tobacconist himself is a Grey Cloak. Look around the place for signs, some sort of gang code that we can reference to see if we can get an audience.”

After a few moments searching, Lionel whispered “Looks like you’ve found something there Kid. What’ve you got?”

“Silver cigarette cases decorated with images of ladies in their underwear.”

“Hmm. I’m not sure if that’s the sort of sign we’re looking for.”

“It’s the sort of sign I’ve been looking for. Can I buy one?”

“Sure Kid.”

As The Kid bought his cigarette case, Lionel spotted a hatstand behind the counter, three grey cloaks hanging off it.

“Excuse me,” said Lionel, “I’ve brought some grey cloaks that need laundering. Is there anyone I can speak to about that here?”

The tobacconist looked him up and down and said “Wait here.”

Moments later he returned with a second man. The new comer arrived on the scene with a stern face, as if prepared for trouble, but when he saw Lionel his face broke into a grin. “Hey Lionel, how’s it going? Taken any more train rides lately?

“Try to avoid them where possible. Have you got a moment? I have a business proposition for you.”

*

“Well this Kotar thing sounds like a whole load of trouble,” said the Grey Cloak grimly. They were sat in the gang’s apartment above the tobacconist shop. The Kid and BJ played pool on a table in the adjacent room.

“But you still have the three barrels of gunpowder?” pressed Lionel.

“Yes, we’ve still got them.”

“And you’re willing to sell them?”

“For the right price.”

“And what’s your price?”

The Grey Cloak thought for a moment, before saying “The Red Sashes run a business just round the corner from here. Uncomfortably close to our turf. It’s nothing major, just a smoking den. Get rid of it, then you can have the gunpowder.”

*

Closing down the smoking den was a simple business in the end. Between BJ’s sneaky infiltration and Madam Ticklier’s undercover work they discovered that the place was a front for the illegal drug trade. After tipping off the forces of the law, the establishment was closed down without Ticklier and her boys having to get their hands overly dirty.

True to their word, the Grey Cloaks handed over the gunpowder.

“Excellent,” said Madam Ticklier. “We have a ship to sink.”

*

You can find our other adventures on this Geeklist.
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