Author Topic: 2:30 AM  (Read 391 times)

of clover and thistle

  • Undead Master
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2:30 AM
« on: March 10, 2023, 01:41:00 AM »
The City of Lights clung to the energy of a bygone era so it wouldn't have to mourn. Cabaret music and raucous laughter spilled out from the clubs, mingling with the clamor of Gendarme whistles crying out in the night. The streets are lined with the corpses of old brick buildings repurposed as restaurants, shops, theatres, and bars. Each one lit up with floor-to-ceiling windows flooded with gold light, casting long dark shadows that hadn't forgotten the world had already ended. We all have something we're trying to forget, but the truth is the only thing that's going to pay my bills.

It was about two o’clock in the morning on February 15th, 775. I was wearing my slate blue overcoat with a crisp white shirt, stone grey trousers, a red cravat, and the same black shoes I took out for weddings and funerals. I was a pleasant, smart-dressed Inspector, and I was about to meet ten million solars.

I parted the gilded metal doors of the Morgue with no small degree of effort. The building used to be the venue for a niche acting club for shows that never made it to the big stage. Now it's a temporary graveyard for homicide victims. As the cold light washed over me and the big doors swung shut, the clamor of the city quieted. The only remnant left of the outside world occupied a large section of the back wall: a canvas painted black framed with beveled wood.

My client was waiting for me at the center of the room. A blonde, maybe 19 years of age. Her green eyes had gone glassy, and sank into the puffy red rims of the sockets. And her cheeks were full, not gaunt like those of the working class. Dried blood spattered the crystals bedazzling the roses on her performer's corset. Deep lacerations wound 'round her forearms like scarlet ribbons. And a pair of scissors sprouted up from her stomach, handle up.

"Looks like a dressing room spat gone wrong to me," came a voice from the elven woman occupying the lab desk.

Tonight the coroner is Margerie, a brunette with a caffeine addiction. She kept telling me this is just a part time gig to put her through University, but I think she's just hoping to run into Alanik Ray one of these days. "Never seen that number she's wearing at any show around here before," I gestured at the crushed velvet and fishnet stockings of our client.

Margerie rounded the examination table, now armed with a thin file. "Well she was found at the Golden Cat. Gendarmerie didn't find any blood in the dressing room. We won't know what was in her blood until Neville finishes the alchemist's report."

"I don't imagine we'll need it. Are these tailoring shears?" When I give the shears a testing push, blood oozes from the wound. I feel something pull at my own stomach. I know better than to look. "Seems like it," Margerie replied, wacking my hand with a whip the clipboard. She didn't comment on the blood starting to pool on the floor beneath the exam table. "Don't do that. This whole operation is fragile."

I try not to notice the blood either. It's not supposed to be here. I turn around and inspect the empty canvas on the wall for treachery. "How does the newly minted wife of a Marquis end up in an un-published cabaret costume in the dressing room of the Golden Cat?"

"That's what you're getting paid to find out, Inspector," someone Else replied. It came from the painting. Margerie didn't move. She stared at me. Unblinking. "You really ought to think about hiring on a partner," she sounded like she was reciting off a list of demands. "Your own Sedwick. Or what about that stage performer. The one who does the thing with the birds."

"I'm not a great team player." I look away, back to our client.

Marquisess de Choisy Gabrielle Belmont. Recently married to the Marquis de Choisy, also known as the Bastard Belmont in less polite conversation. Rumors speculated on an affair between herself and a foreign merchant with unsavory connections before the marriage was even consummated. He ran a textile business -- silk. It was enough to make him rich, but not enough to win the war favor for letters patent. Maybe he was to blame. Or maybe the husband? Neither would explain how the victim ended up in an unpublished burlesque outfit in a lounge known for it's wild music and bad cigars.

When I look up, Margerie's face is inches from my own. Staring at me. Her eyes growing wider, and wider. Like she was going to shoot them out at me.

The shadows of the canvas began to flood the shallow pool of its frame, and pour out onto the wall. Margerie's mouth moved out of sync with her words, possessed by the ghosts of unresolved investigations. Coffee spilled past her lips between the motions. "How many times are we going to keep meeting like this?"



I want to run by I can't. The nightmare opens up its maw beneath my feet, and swallows me up to be gnashed between its teeth. Hands grasp the bare skin of my ankles and drag my frail form down into the cistern. My nails splinter against the floor as I claw for something to hold on to. As the screaming gets louder, and louder, it starts to sound more like manic laughter.

"You don't need to be so dramatic. I am helping you, Claire." A pair of glasses made of two white disks, spider webbed with fractures speaks reassuringly as we descend through the sewer tunnels, pursued by a sinister presence. My lungs bloat with sobs that can't escape my closed throat. I hold my breath, and hope it's over soon.


-------


Today is Tuesday, February 15th, 2:41 am. The body of the Vicomtesse de Roissy lies among the disturbed bedding and pillows of her bed. A miasma of exhaustion keeps her mute, and still. While the night terror kept her eyes open, searching for where it went wrong.
disappointing my mom with misuse of my artistic talents since 2012