Chapter One: Bourbon Street.
“And when he hears of this… what will his retribution be?”
It was all that Walt could think of; he watched the men move the woman’s corpse from out of the window display. He stared off with cold steel eyes; his hardened face of determination and lack of all emotions transfixed on the lifeless being. Walt’s face was covered in grit and soot from the night. He stood in his wool suit and vest as the men began to bring the woman down from the shop. Painted on the inside of the window was II. There was a younger man standing more in the shadow of Walt, a handkerchief pressed to his mouth and nose as if he was about to vomit, pale and a hint of green with his flesh.
The parts of the woman who were decorating the window were soon all placed down on the ground, out of the public eye. Least for now, it was still before dawn, and barely any townsfolk were on the street. Tacky crimson stains began to move about the floor. Walt stared down looking over for more clues on this murder. Most of it was evident; the back door had been broken in, there were dishes and pots that were broken and smashed, there was parchments covered in a bloody claw like prints, and nails dug into the top of the table.
The woman had bits of oak splinters shoved under the fingernails. There was a bit of a struggle, but the fighting back seemed useless. The person who had done this wanted suffering but needed the statement, II. This was nothing like the first body that was found the other night. Though, there was one thing standing out.
Walt took slow steps near back of the shop; each of them was not able to be heard. Silent and faint was his ever movements. His eyes set on that broken door, away from the men and corpse. He leaned down to get a good look to the few blowing strands, red hairs, coarse and thick. Thicker than any normal strands of hair from your head, beard maybe even chest… Walt did not want to think about it; the evidence was placed in a small folded parchment before he rose to stand and bring his attention to the woman being pieced together.
“Better place the tarp back on her; they have her strung up like Christmas garland, damn shame too. Get her down boys and be easy with her.” Walt kneeled with the late-night grime against the scarred cheeks of an old fighter. Dirt and sweat played against his skin like an oil painting; one could see the deep red swipes of finger drag marks along his cheek. He stared with eyes that were years beyond his age. He saw too much and known too much for his time. This was different. However, there were only a few years on this lady who lie beneath the tarp. His words left caring the heavy thoughts of regret and mourn.
“Why you? You just lay there, shattered against all reality, a broken marvel of a once perfect moment. I am certain some heart is just as shattered as your form is now.”
One of the men moved to speak. “Hey boss,” Walt soon connected those steel eyes to the young man and standing to his left was an elderly woman who normally was full of spite, and vinegar was now filled with sorrow and fear. She covered her mouth as she gazed to the tarp and the hand who was just on the side of it. She stayed at the door froze for the moment. Walt stared at the back of the room to the door that was broken and the tragedy of the thrashed shop and lost life.
Walt breathed in; the air filled his spongy lungs as he thought to himself. ‘That scent…’ It was not a normal scent, the world around him everyone had something distinct, like the salt and fish from the sailors, or the Turkish herbs that would come in from the orient; farmers and shepherds tended to smell of their crops, dirt and some often the animals they tended. Maidens of the gardens carried the scents of lavender and vanilla, this… however, he could not pin point it yet, but he remembered it from the night before at Fletchers. He raised his eyes, steel blue hues locked on to the elderly woman who still quaked before him. “Pretty lass, what did you say her name was?”
“Begonia, Begonia Scalien, like the flower s-sir…” There was a pause in the old breath, trembling still with fright of the scene before her eyes. She would never shake the image from her. This would long haunt her sleep. “Look, she was a good girl, and she was only minding’ the shop; she never had no enemies or anything, just sweet as summer’s day.” The woman was well in her seventies. She gazed at the man her fingers still holding on to the pale flesh that was the loss of life, so much less than it was the night before. It was the hold on those fingers that purged the tears from the woman’s eyes, finally crying and releasing those strains on her form. Cheeks began to streak in the silky clear drips that one could only wish were rain. The redness swelled to her eyes as she tried to hold back any emotions she had over the woman who was covered in the shop. The dirt from cobble stone carried a darker tacky substance that spread out in the cracks between the bricks. Walt stood from her as the four-wheeled cart came to the side of the two, a few men began to lay down a board to place the corpse upon.
“I understand Mrs. Kale, and I will make sure it is known as well. I advise you, to close the shop down for now and take no risks. I will send a man over to the farm to keep an eye on you. We will find out who and why. Just stay safe.” Walt would have to send someone out to speak with Begonia’s family and explain what happened. A detail he would have to get someone else to bring the news.
A solid breath and the four men moved the corpse upon the cart of the pale horses. A man called Tyrant sat atop; he stared about the stain that was on the shop’s entrance. The woman mumbled her thanks and blessing as she whispered gently against the wind; they all heard the words, even the corpse would have heard these.
“Do not be merciful… Silus, I beg you, do not show mercy. For nature calls upon a storm when she is enraged, devour the wind and let the earth tremble.”
No one spoke or moved for a moment. The woman walked on her way like a ghost in the night herself as she would return from the Bourbon Street, next on to Main and after that follow the dusty road back to Kale Farms. Her words though were more than a soothsayer’s cry to the heavens, her’s carried the same depth; nevertheless, more emphasis from those soft-spoken words. “Retribution may not be what Silus would do now,”, Walt thought to himself. “It may just be a reckoning.” Stillness of the air carried the early fog; it filled the streets as the dawn was approaching. The men spoke nothing, but the words carried the silence. Each of them began to wonder on the punishment for whoever had done this.
There was little to say after the chant of the old woman’s tongue; it was almost like a hex. Words of the aged woman would reach the ears of Silus one way or another; Walt could guarantee that, and without mercy would be his cause. Every action Silus would demand to come would be without mercy. Walt was under Silus, a protection for the small town known only as the Silk Docks. As little as the town was, it was a bit advanced broken from the traditions of the rest of England. Walt was watching over the landscape for anything else that may stand out. His eyes would keep going to the back door, the place of entry.
Once the final remains of the corpse were brought to the cart and out of sight, Bourbon Street began to appear less gruesome. With dawn, the shops were opening; the buzz of the streets would fill with people and talk. Walt would walk the streets his endless search continued. A few people came off the Main Street and began to clean up the last bits. Not that it was something to be hidden; no… the world would spread the news of the woman’s death within one sample of crepes; the news would travel through the town as eggs and bread would exchange hands throughout the morning rise. Calculating the thoughts that ran through his head; indeed, he would have to speak to Silus. Walt could not anticipate the actions of the man. However, he knew better to keep the associate in line. He would need to speak with Silus; this would have to be soon, but there were things still bothering him. Piecing together the mystery of what was happening, he was uncertain as the blame or the cause of the young woman whose form ran cold…Begonia Scalien.
If one could see past Walt’s shadow, they would recognize a younger man whose eyes were youthful and filled with determination on the normal morning. Still, he clenched that little white hanky to his lips. This morning left him in a state of sick. The two stood there while the street cleaners took over the area. Walt would place a few coins into the palms of each hand he passed.
“Walt, we need to go and tell him don’t we?” He was soft with the words the man’s face was younger than Walt’s, fresh skin often confused with young boys. However, he watched Walt step the scene of the crime. Slow strides as the people came and went leaving the men to the area to scavenge and find whatever clues may have been left. There was a crate on its side nearing the edgeways of the docks. So Walt continued to walk until he saw some prints and closed his eyes taking one huge breath. Don’t we? That in itself was going to be a challenge, not on the boy, that shadow of his was too young to face him, but the words echoed. Don’t we? Walt’s eyes focused elsewhere and not a mention to the question was brought at this time.
“Find something?” The younger man still following in Walt’s footsteps, with hope he would find something to make him a bit more useful. As of right now, he did his best at ghosting, the bosh though of following Walt around and moaning endlessly seemed to be what he felt was his contribution. Derrick was his name, and he was a runner, fast and rode a swift horse made him great for message sending, and he was trust worthy.
Walt was known throughout the Silk Docks. If there was something, tragically wrong one went to Walt. If one’s child went missing, fear he got snatched up by a beast? One would run to Walt. Walt had one of those noses that were just inhumanly impossible. Derrick was following his footsteps, learning the ropes. He was not in the group long, only just initiated. His nerves were not hardened steel yet. However, he knew to pay attention to Walt, if anything his years and his knowledge were something that could benefit from; a trait that was most desired.
Boxes and creates began to line one part of the alley near the back entrance to the farmer’s market. Drag marks were easily seen against the ground but nothing more than a meter long. Walt stared down intently a deep breath came and filled his lungs before his head tilted shortly to the side. The fragrances began to dance as they did for him. It was like colors that would move; he was the natural tracker. If you could place scents with colors; he could find the yellow fear, the violet of passion and the rage of red. Fear, the intensity of the area the fear was, perspiration, anxiety and guilt all exposed through the sweat glands of the youth.
“Think so,” Walt responded with an almost solid affirmation, “we might have had a witness, a small one but might…” He stared off to the dirty hand print of a child who was not dried out, still holding a little liquid and oil on the crate wood. The child must have been stumbling to get away; the short tracks were all over, bumping into one crate and then sliding under the fence post. He knelled down to the fence post as he looked over to the tiny bit of blood and blonde hair. Walt’s smile spread across his cheeks as he stood. “Derrick, you need to go into town buy as much bread and meat as your arms can carry. We’re looking for a blonde with a recent cut wither on the hand, but I think more on the head. I will make my report, but you need to find this kid.” He brought out the small short blonde strands from the wood and handed it to him. “You are a bit too young to be speaking to Silus. I’ll take the word to him; you just do what I tell you to, I want the kid found and brought to me before the night is up.”
Derrick gave the low nod; still he had yet to speak to Silus. He had only managed to see him once, and that was in passing. If it was not for the fact that every so often Silus would speak on the Silk Docks Main stage one would never see him. Derrick was new; he would only meet the man in passing and nothing more. He had yet to earn that position of honor. Walt was one of the few who had been following Silus since that faithful day of exploration where he planned to change the Silk Docks forever. Derrick often dreamed of the day where Silus would call upon him by name. Every mission he would have to give his all, making sure it was executed in the most reputable way. He would be gone for some time but with luck, he would find the witness he had to, least Walt Royson would hope it so.
Walt moved back on the Main Street. Stone blocks lined the way to the Harbor Master’s office. Walt was on a hunch, but he wanted to make sure nothing was going to slip away from him. The Silk Docks were something special to everyone in the small city. This was life; this was the area of conversation, exploration, intrigue and mystery. Stories were shared over a pint of something that was not grog. Lovers paid tribute to the return, and the unfaithful find the man’s heart full of rage and spite for the blasphemous cheating woman they dared called wife. They were lucky; right now the last reigning Tudor was making her demands. Silk Docks paid her nothing. The Silk Docks were drama, education, entertainment, romance and enigmas. There were no roads to the Silk Docks, Twasons Ridge, consisted of sharp stone edges out the foremost wall of this cove. There was no way to touch to the main-land without the long stretches or rope it was too costly to expand the risk of death was high. Boat was the main way to get to the Silk Docks even then, you needed to know what area to turn into, and this was not a trip for the novice navigator. You had to know your ship well, how to control it perfectly or be at the bottom of the ocean with the rest of the silent sirens.
The Silk Docks received its name roughly about fifty years ago; a ship crashed with 31 passengers on it and there was no way of repairing it to leave, so the crew and passengers worked on making a place for themselves. No one came to find them; life went on and then there was a second crash of an Orient trade ship. First things were traded were seeds and silk. The Silk Docks were given that name from the products traded on the docks from The Orient. Many countries ruling monarchs had their own demands of what generosity was; what needed to be given to the Queen, what was to be given to the Sultan before there was an allowance of trade.
The loopholes and red tape were very disturbing on most merchants and trade ships. They had their own guidelines to follow plus they had bandits of the sea as well, along with the trading communities. Silk Docks offered the most protection due to its location; they had the fair-trade pact, which allowed ships to come and mingle with anyone of their choosing. They held no devout ties so the country was free from tithe that was often demanded of the pious influence to most businesses and local affairs of the public.
Merchants needed to make some coin not just for the sultan or queen, but for themselves, food, crew, repairs and medical staff, all of whom need to be paid. However, upset a royal or turn the eyes of some noble, and you are in a heap of trouble. Plus England had this use of calling the visiting traders “horrid smelly immigrants.” It was the influence of the orient on the Silk Docks that made bathing a thing commonly known to nearly everyone; sickness was not as high as it would be in London or any of the large cities at this time. The Silk Docks was a mixing pot for ideas, stories, and product from around the world. There was no real law until Silus had taken over. Since then there was no uprising, no threats, no harm to the people, until now.
Walt’s fist hit firmly on the door until it finally opened. A middle-aged woman stared at the man; her white gown pulled tight about her form as she lowered her head. The corset locked tightly to where she spoke nothing, just the head gesture, she moved the door further open and allowed him in the Harbor Master’s establishment. This was a rich home, one with treasures and things given to him at a fair discount. Normally those who could not make the payment for docking would have to allow him into the captain’s quarters where he tended to take his pick of the treasure. Gerald Matheson was the Harbor Master, a man who could retire at any moment and return to another city as a rich noble. In comparison, Walt looked more like a common street sweeper, still carrying the grime from this morn. He ushered the man in and the door was locked, leaving the woman to tend to her things.
“Hm, not out in the Harbors this morning?” Walt questioned Matheson, he was an elder man plump and ready to burst; he looked to be like a man who took King Henry the VIII’s diet as a law of life. His clothes were tailored to fit his round form and even made the illusion of being somewhat sliming. “I need to know what ships arrived recently, and place a stall on any that are about to depart, there has been a second. I am certain it is no one in town.”
Matheson would not even want to hear it. His hand moved to gather two brandy glasses, it was roughly about six in the morning and there was no way that Walt would drink. Something he was holy against. His hand moved up ushering the glass away from him. Matheson spoke with a light voice.
“That is the rumor at the moment. First Drake, and now some young woman, still a maid, and continuing to gather information.” His hushed breath caused him to wheeze as his heart rate increased with the sudden conversation. He was uncomfortable and on the edge. He gulped down the brandy before swirling it in his glass to keep himself calm; alternatively giving the best impression that he was. “I can send a few stalls, but we will not have enough of them if the fall ships begin to dock soon.” Matheson was twitchy and ready to take a leave if the chance was there, but with Walt standing before him, he may not of been able to have that either.
“Find whatever persons you need to be the stalls, I am not concerned over it, just make sure these three ships do not leave. “ Walt walked over to the curtains as they were moved to the side pointing out the three large ships near the south exit. “Maybe, those last two as well, yes. Make certain those five do not leave the rest I do not care about. I have not pinpointed it yet, but the area of attacks is closer to the south port. ”
“Any word on Drake’s killer?” The magic words that he was avoiding were now in a full question. Walt’s jaw went a little tight as he stared out the window, the office of the Syndicates were being greeted by a cart and four pale horses. It was about time too.
“Nothing I can speak on at this moment, but you need to be out of the office and out doing your job. Show a little spine Gerald. I doubt much they would be after you… not like you have anything they would want.” Walt moved back as he tapped the statue in his own ironic warning, and made his way back out on the streets to meet with the men who were getting things organized.
He crossed the road before the large building; stone work was astounding this was a mason’s dream. Architecture was fine and would linger for centuries to come; a rare sight outside of the Silk Docks, the main shape to the building itself was octagons. Walt spoke up as he looked over to Tyrant upon his perch. “Gather Jenna and have her dress and clean Begonia, make sure she knows to be quick about it, tell her she was still a maid. “ He studied the body. “She should be able to tell the other reason.”
Walt continued on his steps letting the main guard know that he would need to speak with Silus when he had a moment it was urgent, but he was doing business, one never interrupted business. It was considered a darker type of rude; such actions could render a being lifeless. Walt went down the street a bit further to the net weaver’s home. Giving more time to Silus and whatever affairs he needed to attend to, on the harbor docks he made his way through the crowd but his eyes stared to the ships so close to the small shack. This was the once home of Drake Fletcher and his wife Marion. Marion was all that was left. Even now she still did not clean her shop wall. Drake’s blood with the Roman numeral I was boldly staring down any who had passed by. The color was no longer crimson vitae, but it was brown and dark enough to see.
Walt breathed heavily and stared back to the five ships who were not so much as a hundred yards from the home of Fletcher. He brought some water from the troth and an old rag and went to clean the stain off the wall. He would be half way finished before the woman peeked from the door crack.
“Didja find him?”
She spoke in a hush the poor thing had kept cooped in her house locked away for the last two days.
“Cannot find him until we know a little more and so far no one has seen anything.” Walt spoke with a reasoning tone before looking back to her face. Marion’s green eye carried the shot of sunlight on it as she continued to peek through the crack.
“I take a step out; they see me talking to you; I am done for. You saw what they did to Drake.”
“Are you going to make a statement?” Walt spoke in the calmest of tones.
“Are you bloomin’ mad? I know the death maker will come for me soon enough, but I am not signing my name over that quickly.”
She stared back between him and the wall that was being cleaned. She did not say anything for a long time not until he was finished cleaning and about to leave. Walt had a thing that worked for him. He stopped talking; no one knew what he was thinking and most took it was he was upset. He could have been upset, or he might have been the silent Zen type, but in truth, he had the patience of a turtle, she had not told him to go. She wanted to say more, he was hoping this was the time.
Marion fidgeted a little behind the door, but as it was finished cleaning she spoke. “He was large, taller than you…. Like the Netherland Marion fidgeted a little behind the door, but as it was finished cleaning she spoke. “He was large, taller than you…. Like the Netherland Neanderthals, and he shadowed Drake…he demanded to know where our patronage was. Drake spent his time explaining the situation over a pint of hops. I was getting ready for bed when Drake came in to let me know he was showing the man to the tavern, ain’t seen more than his shadow. But Drake took him off to the tav’. Drank us out of the house for the evening, not a drop left for mournin’. “ Marion became really quiet. Her voice was silent. “There was this sound. Mother called it the death beetle, the last rasp. I sat up after hearing’ it skitter cross the floor flung out of bed to where the shop main door was I was trying to get outside it was late, and if he drank himself into death, I was gonna murder him myself. “Marion lowered her hand from the door. Her eyes went back to the window, staring out to the yard. “I could hear him gaspin’ choking on his own blood. Ripped his jaw right off, no tongue to scream, no sound to make just the gurglin’ of death soon to come.”
Marion moved her hand back from the window as Walt moved closer to the wood listening.
“They broke his rib-cage open; like Silus, they took his heart, the strung him up in front of the shop and used the same heart to paint that number. It was just one-man Walt. I am on the next ship out of here back to Wales when I get the chance. Until then, I am not leaving the shop, not unless you find him, and he is dead, in the ground… or his head on a pike.” and he shadowed Drake…he demanded to know where our patronage was. Drake spent his time explaining the situation over a pint of hops. I was getting ready for bed when Drake came in to let me know he was showing the man to the tavern, ain’t seen more than his shadow. But Drake took him off to the tav’. Drank us out of the house for the evening, not a drop left for mournin’. “ Marion became really quiet. Her voice was silent. “There was this sound. Mother called it the death beetle, the last rasp. I sat up after hearing’ it skitter cross the floor flung out of bed to where the shop main door was I was trying to get outside it was late, and if he drank himself into death, I was gonna murder him myself. “
Marion lowered her hand from the door. Her eyes went back to the window, staring out to the yard.
“I could hear him gaspin’ choking on his own blood. Ripped his jaw right off, no tongue to scream, no sound to make just the gurglin’ of death soon to come.” Marion moved her hand back from the window as Walt moved closer to the wood listening. “They broke his rib-cage open; like Silus, they took his heart, the strung him up in front of the shop and used the same heart to paint that number. It was just one-man Walt. I am on the next ship out of here back to Wales when I get the chance. Until then, I am not leaving the shop, not unless you find him, and he is dead, in the ground… or his head on a pike.”
Walt once more did not speak, but the words sank into him. He nodded lightly as he cleaned the rag and set it on the fence post for it to dry out. This was a very dark morning; so many people were shaken and the little business going on was affecting the streets. Two murders could have a town this side scared stupid or wound up. Walt would leave the woman to her area of prison, allowing her to wait it out; he might be nice enough to let someone know about the woman and her lack of food over the next couple of days.
The day seemed to hold on to the morning in the gray world of England. This one town you would not so much find a trace Elizabeth; she was not really taught of neither were the hierarchy nor any of it. Silk Docks was a mixing pot of history and literature and now there was murder to add into that pot. I am getting old. Walt looked back over to the Docks, mainly the south area to where he could just barely see the tops of the ships. He knew that scent. That same one was around the Fletchers and around Miss Scalien. Walt waited for the guards to finish or the woman, who so ever would come first. Shift change was coming soon enough, and the rotations went in unknown orders. Random keeps no one knowing the schedule. Walt waited a little while longer until the stretcher was coming down the street.
The body had been cleaned and dressed in the appropriate attire which consisted of a white and deep violet cloth. The silken cloth was a different color for how one would pass on. White means they were still innocent untouched or not tampered with; violet means there was a violent crime that caused their death. There were other colors that were given often, the light blues meant they are free of illness; red was the color of a battle or fight; green was old age; orange was unknown; the color list went on for a while if one really wished to study into it. The body was placed on a stretcher lined with deep dark crimson pillows. The Silk Docks were a city which respected the dead for it was so rare when it did happen.
The doors would open, and a woman followed with Tyrant and Walt. Her hands moved as she brushed the strands of hair away from the woman and did her best to last minute clean the corpse’s brow. She was really pretty even in her death the beauty of Begonia could be seen. As for the woman, her hair was braided loosely to the side of her head. Her trials of stress and work were often seen by the stray strands that seemed to give her a glow about her form. She was the oil to the cogs and pistons of the Syndicate. The medic when it was needed, the woman who was studying herbs and their uses, she was also a woman who ordered the cleaning and kept things in line. Silus had few who he trusted so much. Walt and Jenna never once gave him the reason to doubt who they were.
Jenna wore little jewelry but keeps her form wearing the dresses of the fashion, not those trending in the rest of the country but often those on the trading ships. On her wrist was a bangle she wore always, it was bronze with some interesting symbols etched into the metal, the bangle itself about the length of half of an arm brace. No one knew how long Jenna’s hair actually was; it rested on her form in that long braid. She was punctual and always making certain the world knew that the Syndicate was there to help people. She was respected and loved throughout the town.
When they arrived to the main hall, Walt took a moment to a basin to clean his face was as free as he could get it from the grime and grit of the evening from his face as they waited. Jenna walked up and cleaned what he could not see himself.
“Do not go in there looking like that.” She scolded him; Jenna was sweet looking, a silent but odd woman who was always so close to death. She was the one who volunteered to help with the dead when it came time. She was a different kind of generous. Her dark hair was pulled back in a braid, and her hand moved about scrubbing the man’s face until he looked barber fresh, well fresh enough for those who missed a shave. “That will have to do.”
Walt paid the woman for her time and looked back up as two of the guards were coming to escort some of the men out. The right hand of Silus was a man who barely ever spoke. He held his hand up to the two and opened the doors for them to come in. The grand ornate French doors featuring a glimpse of purgatory likeness was on the doors. Hands of the trapped souls reaching upwards towards what may appear to be heaven, the gate closed and the few retched demon’s claws held on to the souls for however long they want. Purgatory doors moved open and Walt stepped within; doors closed with a deep echo behind him.