Monday, 30 March 2015

Witch Takers (part 5)

"Freud!" I screamed, kicking the door of the First Nick open. Freud raced from his office and stared at me. "What do you want?"
"I've got evidence to prove that McNiven is innocent." I said. "And that Stonetoe is guilty."
"I'm sorry?"
I smashed the trophy into the counter and pointed at the blood stains. "Get Geoffrey. I'm sure he can prove the blood belongs to O'Rhian, and that skin fibres on the base belong to Stonetoe."
"Good work, Winters." Freud said, before spinning on the spot and racing towards the array of Cold Rooms. Geoffrey was still down there, staring violently at McNiven and was quick to help when we demanded a blood test. Within moments, seconds even, the ape of a man had declared that the blood did, in fact, belong to O'Rhian and that the DNA on the base wasn't McNiven's. It was potentially Stonetoe's, but first we'd have to prove it.  "Let's bring him in." Freud said.
We grabbed our cloaks and brought them tight around our shoulders, before racing into the cold of the ever increasing night. "Stonetoe isn't a fool." Freud announced, as we ran. "He'll have cast a surveillance spell or something along those lines. The second he sees the weapon has moved, the second he'll flee. I have the sense that this is a spontaneous murder, so I doubt he'll wish to kill again."
"How do we find him then?" I asked.
"How would you run away if you had to?"
I ran through the options in my mind. "The Phantom Subway."
Imagine the Tube that runs beneath London. A sleek, metal selection of carriages winding endlessly through a network of tunnels beneath a thriving metropolis. Now, add fire and broken metal along with the screaming of trapped souls and a surprisingly efficient ticket ordering system and you are pretty much presented with the Phantom Subway, a network of trains that travel beneath the various hidden kingdoms and can deliver any magician anywhere they like. It had been closed down in most of the kingdoms because of the traumatising effect it had on people who used it daily, but not in Mortlock. Oh no, because Mortlock was recognisably stern and upper lipped stiffly. "There's a port in Bruskin, he'll be using that." I said.
"Where is that port?" Freud asked, rhetorically.
As he spoke, I came to that same conclusion that he had moments before. "To the side of the church."
We raced across the bridge of the Canal and towards the church, where a path from the Stadium led straight to the side of the Church. Presumably, Stonetoe had followed it because he was stood directly in front of us with a spell caster.
"Oh for crying aloud, that's a grade twelve illegal weapon!" I exclaimed.
"You bet it." Announced Stonetoe and then pulled the trigger. Freud and I leapt into the graveyard. The spells hit the stones and tore large chunks from them, until they stopped suddenly giving Freud and I a chance to fire other spells in quick succession. Sudden explosions chased after us as the gun began working again, but Freud managed to throw a wind blast directly into Stonetoe's stomach, knocking him to the floor, winded.
We raced over and looked down. "Irwin Stonetoe," I said, "I'm placing you under arrest on suspicion of the murder of Buster O'Rhian. You have the right to remain silent, but anything you do say will be given as evidence in court."
He stared up at us with a look in his eyes asking, "What did I do to deserve this?"

We found out that O'Rhian had stumbled into the manager's office slightly drunk. Infuriated that the Barons had been doing so bad that season, he began to threaten their manager. As the old phrase went, never corner a Potholer. The manager had grabbed a trophy from the shelf and smashed it into O'Rhian's head, knocking him to the floor, dead. Stonetoe had taken O'Rhian and the trophy out to the bins, throwing the trophy into the bin and then pushing O'Rhian into the canal, letting him wash away. He wasn't counting on the body washing up so close to the town centre, but then again, if your body was surging with guilt fuelled adrenaline, would you be thinking straight?
For murder, not man slaughter I hasten to add, Irwin Stonetoe was put away for six years. The ironic thing, however, was that the Barons did much better in the following Duel Stick Season.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Witch Takers (part 4)

"A Press Conference." Freud said. "How much of your training covered one of those?"
"Some of it." I lied. I'd spent hours studying public appearance and the many protocols they demanded. "Would you like me to remain silent?"
"No." Freud replied. "If you're asked a question, you answer it. But only if you're asked."
I nodded and then gestured for him to go first. The double doors swung open quickly, their head height circular windows swinging away from us, and then a sudden explosion of rapid flashes almost blinded us as journalists fought to gather the best image for their respective newspaper. "If a cartoon of me appears in that scandalous article, Dwarves and Fairies, I'll be docking your pay." Freud nudged me.
We made our way behind the desk at the front and took our chairs behind the desk. A glass jug of water waited, but none of us dared drink from it. That would be seen as impolite, and anyway, my hands were shaking too much for me to hold one without dropping it. Stonetoe was sat directly up the table from us, looking dead eyed into the crowd of journalists. Behind us, an enlarged image of Buster O'Rhian looking semi-miserable stared down and I felt an enormous pressure to do right by him. Freud held a finger to his throat and then took it away, pointing at the journalists. They stopped talking so that he could begin. "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this Mortlock First Regiment of Law Enforcement press conference. I apologise for the short notice, however we only realised the need for it a few hours ago. As the board behind you may suggest, we have gathered you here regarding information about the death of Buster O'Rhian, who was found in the Mortlock Canal merely two days ago."
Freud paused a second and poured himself a glass of water from the refilling jug. It was a classic tactic, inspire dominance by taking luxuries in a time of crisis. Once Freud was finished emptying his glass, he looked forwards and continued, "After making a generous donation to our investigations, Mr Irwin Stonetoe, who I am sure you recognise as the Balivion Baron's Manager, gave us a lead which we have thoroughly investigated. I am pleased to announce that we find the lead to be fully correct."
Once more, he filled the glass with water and then drunk it, taking a second to savour the water. I was coming to understand now why the instructors never described Freud as enigmatic and instead as an attention seeker. "We, myself and Detective Winters here, have formally arrested Arthur McNiven for the murder of Buster O'Rhian."
Once more there was a sudden flashing of cameras and then a bombardment of questions jumped towards us. "Is this the same Arthur McNiven as who runs the Mortlock Marauders Fanzine, "The Pebble Mill?" Demanded a reporter from the Mortlock Gazette.
"Indeed it is." Freud replied. "My associate, Detective Winters, will explain to you what we have found Mr McNiven to have done."
I nodded and turned a grim eye to the crowd. "As some of you may know, Mr O'Rhian worked with the Honey Shop Lads, a group of miners who exploited a natural vein of drugs in the soil of Bruskin. We believe that O'Rhian, when taking the drugs, had his dosage tampered with. A quick observation of Mr McNiven's fingers showed us that he'd recently handled the substance, and when we searched through his possessions, we found a supply of Honey that was missing the exact amount that would be required for an overdose, in addition to the average dosage otherwise. It is believed that this overdose caused him to lose balance and knock his head onto one of the stones residing around the Falls, where he fell and drowned."
"What will McNiven be facing sentence wise?" A reporter from the gossip rag, "Help! I Married A Leprechaun Who I Thought Was A Potholer!"
"Be careful. They tend to take everything out of context." Freud whispered through the side of his mouth.
"As I'm sure you're aware, it is not our duty to provide a sentence. It is our duty to bring these culprits, such as Mr McNiven, to justice, which I'm sure even you can agree we did in a surprisingly efficient time."
Some more camera flashes.
"Mr Stonetoe, what is this generous donation that Detective Freud mentioned?"
Freud nudged me and I nodded as we stood up. Freud offered his thanks for the press' attention and his apologies for our short exit, and then we rushed out to the flash of cameras. "How did I do?" I asked Freud.
"Good." He said, in the manner that required the word 'But' to followed instantaneously. "But," he added, "you called the victim simply O'Rhian rather than Mr O'Rhian at one point."
I nodded. Little things like that were what separated Freud from other law enforcers.

We returned to the First Nick and went to the Cold Rooms. McNiven was in one of the secure holding rooms, looking particularly miserable with himself, but I was more interested in Geoffrey. The ape of a man was standing opposite the cells in one of the Cold Rooms, alongside the body of O'Rhian. His brow was furrowed in the way that I presumed suggested that he was particularly confused.
"What's the matter, Geoff?" I asked.
Geoffrey turned and said, "O'Rhian doesn't have any traces of Honey in his body."
"I ran a cautionary test for fun," he didn't notice the quizzical look I shot him, "and discovered that there are no traces of Honey inside him, which would ultimately suggest that his presumed method of death doesn't match his true method."
"We've arrested the wrong man?" I asked.
"My logical process of scientific investigation would suggest yes." He confirmed.
"Good God."
"He has nothing to do with this." Geoffrey replied. "The new question is, who is the true culprit?"
Something flashed through my mind suddenly, an image of a ring of dust on the top of a filing cabinet. "Good God."
"I repeat my previous stance." Geoffrey said.
"I need to check something very very quickly." I said and began to run. I didn't pause for Lynda to shout at me, not even to grasp my cape. I burst from the First Nick and ran up the Mortlock High Street, passing Rafael's and the various other establishments. I chased up the church council's laid path and then through a short nature reserve towards the stadium. But I didn't enter, I ran around the side to the bins. I said a few words and the rubbish began to jump out spiralling through the air and narrowly missing the river that led into the Falls.
"Gotcha." I said, grasping something out of the air. It was the trophy that the Balivion Barons had won in another Arlington Championship game. And the cup, itself, was caked with Buster O'Rhian's blood.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Witch Takers (part 3)

I threw out my hands and cast a small summoning ball. I made the glowing green orb catch the air around it and twisted that air, pushing my hands forwards. A gust of wind caught the Potholer directly in his stomach and he was propelled backwards into the quarry wall around us. I raced quickly to one of the barrels and drew a pickaxe, brandishing it like the Potholer had. When I got to him, I faced the pointed edges towards his neck and said, "Did you kill Buster O'Rhian?"
Before the potholer could reply, I saw a glint of something in his half rimmed spectacles, so I turned and realised what I'd seen. There was another racing Potholer, again brandishing an axe, so I stepped forwards and swung my pickaxe into his. My height gave me a suitable anchoring compared to his stability, which meant the blow caused him a lot more difficulty than it did me. He stumbled back and went once more to hit me, but I managed to side step and kick his leg, throwing out a wave of air from my hand which knocked him clean to the floor. More potholers began to ooze from various sheds and caves carved into the quarry. "Freud!" I screamed, gripping my pickaxe defensively. "Freud!"
The Potholers raced towards me and I managed to fight the first group off, smashing their axes and swords away. I slammed the head of my axe into one of the approaching Potholer's head, kicking and elbowing all the while, that same cry jumping from my mouth. "Freud! Freud!"
I stabbed the rounded end of the axe's handle into one potholer's stomach and then head butted another one coming towards me. In hindsight, that only made me feel worse than I already did, dizziness spread through me. I clipped a potholer's ears with the stick and then brought up my knee into his waist. "Freud!"
The older witch taker finally answered my call, racing from the log cabin far above and throwing out his staff, crying several painfully powerful words that tore apart the forming army of Potholers, knocking them all to their backs and leaving me the last standing. "What the hell is going on, Winters?" He shouted.
I'd never seen him really angry before that. I had now.
"I was casually inspecting a quartz vein when they all came out and started attacking me." I replied.
He nodded and turned to one of the Potholers. The pint sized miner was unable to stand up, leading me to suspect Freud was using a variation of the classic Turtle Back charm, mixed in with a truth charm. "Did you kill Buster O'Rhian?"
The Potholer shook his head rapidly.
"Did you know of the murder of Buster O'Rhian before today?"
The Potholer shook his head.
"Did you know of any conspiracies to murder Buster O'Rhian?"
The Potholer continued to shake his head.
"Do you know of any illegal activities conducted by any members of this mining crew?"
The Potholer continued to shake his head, but then stopped, slowly beginning to nod.
"What are those illegal activities?" Freud asked.
"Mood changing drugs can be accessed in the rocks of the quarry. The reason why we are known as the Honey Shop Lads is because the drugs we sell looks and tastes like honey." If the Turtle Back enchantment hadn't been securing his arms down, I'm sure he would have clapped a hand over his mouth.
"Thank you." Freud said, turning to me. "Go call the Bruskin Eighth. Tell them we've just found a large drug ring."

The Bruskin Eighth turned up quickly and thanked us, informing us that they'd found a sample of the Honey a few months earlier but hadn't been able to place it on anybody. Once the relevant paper work was complete, we handed the case over to the Bruskin Eighth and, with a sample of Honey, set off on the long journey back to Mortlock.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking, sir?" I asked Freud, staring at the honey.
"Depends what you're thinking, Winters." He replied in the neutral way that he seemed an expert in conveying.
"Well, is it at all plausible that O'Rhian was using Honey on the occasion of his death? That, perhaps off his head, he knocked his head on a large rock or something near the canal and drowned?"
"It's certainly possible." Freud replied. "Whether it's the answer or not, I'm entirely unsure. Only a post mortem from Geoffrey could give us the full answer."
I nodded when Freud's mobile phone began to vibrate. "Answer that, will you? I don't understand why Miss Doherty insists on using these devices."
I accepted the phone answered it.
"You two need to get back here, pronto!" Lynda shouted.
"Why?" I asked.
"Irwin Stonetoe just offered us 16 Hundred Sainsburys to hurry up the investigation as a public gesture, due to O'Rhian being a Barons fan."
I thanked her and hung up, turning to Freud. "The manager of the Balivion Baron's has given us a bribe."
Needless to say, we were back at the First Nick in not very long at all. We raced up the steps and into the main room, where we turned to Lynda. "Where's Stonetoe?" Freud demanded.
"At the Marauders'' Stadium." She replied. "He wants to talk to the two of you."
"Thank you." Freud said, leading us back out of the Nick and up the Mortlock High Street. The parade of towering shacks to our either side remained, swaying slightly in a gust of wind that only began to affect us as we trailed around the path the church council had put in that led to the nature reserve behind the canal. The canal was filled by water flowing from the Mortlock Falls, and that man made waterfall was fed by a stream lacing through the grass until it eventually got to the Marauders' stadium. Large gates, designed to welcome as many fans as possible, instead welcomed us into a large glass lobby where a receptionist hurriedly led us to the visiting Manager's office. When the door opened, I began to take mental photos, observing that he'd brought several of his possessions to brighten the room up. On top of a selection of empty filing cabinets were several of the team's trophies, including the Arlington Championship trophy, won in the only Balivion Baron's game I'd watched, under sufferance. Between the Arlington Championship trophy and another from the Zeroth League, there was an empty space leaving a ring of metal with no dust on.
"Mr Stonetoe," Freud offered his hand, "we're Detectives Freud and Winters. Apparently you're prepared to give us some money?"
Stonetoe stepped out from behind his desk and offered his hand. "Of course, Detectives, however we can discuss that in the press conference I'm organising. The reason I pulled you here was because I have some information."
Freud's eyes widened. "What information would this be?"
"I know who murdered Buster O'Rhian."

Monday, 9 March 2015

Witch Takers (part 2)

It was a long drive from Mortlock, on the outskirts of London, to Bruskin, up a hill somewhere near Oxford, but the comfort of Freud's old fashioned sports car was equally enough to make up for it. The course I'd spent the last few years taking hadn't included anything on recognising cars, but I didn't mind. I'd rather know how a car worked than what it was called.
There was a collection of specially drawn symbols on the dash board that, when completed with the spare chalk to the side, had enchanted effects. I had completed the template of a symbol about halfway through the drive and now I was being wafted with a steady stream of cool air. Very nice.
We drove through Mimnadale, a small village with a war memorial in the centre, and then down Elflock Lane, boarded on the right by a large orchard and a seemingly empty field on the left. In all reality, the empty field was an enchantment that protected the city of Alcanvein, the elvian capital, from the public eye. The apparently empty field gave way to a quick assortment of trees before another empty field. And this was the one in which Bruskin was held.
We drove across the threshold into the dwarvian city and watched as it quickly flickered into life, like a projection from the 1920s. About two miles of meandering suburbs waited, all houses composed from perfect granite mined from the various mountains in the far off horizon. But before those mountains, there were the miles and miles of Potholer processing factories, the nearest of which running along the meandering canals. And then, after that, there was the grand city of Bruskin itself. I could just about see the peak of the Imperial Court, where the Luminary Sovereign was sat upon his pure golden throne. "Good for some." I muttered, as a light drizzle pattered against my head.
"You stay quiet and take notes." Freud told me, pulling on a set of knuckle dusters. We wandered over to one of the large doors way and he began to knock the door, rapidly. He then took his hand away and, as protocol dictates, waited forty seconds before knocking again.
The door swung open mid knock and we were met with empty space, before we looked down and saw Buster's wife: Imelda O'Rhian. She was maybe four foot one with a head of braided hair and a general look of annoyance on her face. She saw our uniforms and looked up at Freud. "Don't tell me, he got drunk and now I need to collect him from Mortlock Nick?"
"How do you know we're from Mortlock Nick?" Freud asked.
"He went to the Balivion Barons' Away Game last night in Mortlock." She shrugged. The Balivion Barons were, of course, Bruskin's infamous Duel Stick's team. I'd been delayed on my way to Mortlock earlier that day due to the wealth of unhappy looking Potholers' going the other way.
"Mrs O'Rhian, may we come in?" Freud asked.
"Why?" She asked, cocking her head.
"I'd prefer to tell you when we come in."
She pondered this for a minute and then turned around and began to march away, leading us in. We followed her into the front room of the lower floor of the house, but we both found ourselves having to duck. The hallways were low, because the house was designed for potholers, however when we sat down, the roof was a sensible height above our heads. "What was your relationship with your husband, Mrs O'Rhian?" Freud asked, as I retrieved my notebook from my cloak pocket.
"You haven't told us what this is about, Detective?"
"Freud." He said. "And this is Winters. Now answer my question."
"We get on like any couple do." She said. "Arguing and hatred."
Freud raised an eye brow.
"What's this about?"
"I'm afraid to inform you that your husband, Buster O'Rhian, was discovered dead in the Mortlock Canal."
"Oh, good goodness." She whispered, clapping her hand over her mouth. "Oh that's truly terrible!"
"Indeed." Freud said. "So what were you saying about 'Arguing' and 'Hatred'?"
"You think I killed him? I couldn't have! I was here all night, ask anyone! If you're looking for a motive, go talk to those employers of his."
"Who are they?" He asked.
"They own the mine he works at, but they get very angry, very quickly. If I thought anyone would want to kill him, it would be them."
Freud continued his questioning for a further half an hour before he said, "Don't leave the Bruskin Nick's constituency."
We left her house and jumped back in his car, driving through the suburbs and over the bridge into the factory district. "Thoughts?" He asked me.
"I'd say she was innocent." I replied, relieved to be talking for the first time in half an hour. "Wouldn't have mentioned the arguing and hatred otherwise."
"Very good observation." He replied. "I wouldn't put it past her, however. Potholers can be very stupid."
He pulled the car to a stop as we entered the first stretch of mines. Buster O'Rhian's employers were known as the Honey Shop Lads, due to the amount of honey quartz that they mined. The titular shop was a log cabin just in front of the large quarry in which they mined. As we walked from the car to the log cabin door, Freud said, "This is where you get to prove yourself."
"Would you really trust me that much?" I asked.
"Of course." Freud said, but I knew it would be another test. "Just don't mess up."
The door opened and we walked over to the desk. I pressed the provided bell and stayed where I was.
There was a thundering of feet and then a short man with a beard tied in tartan bows appeared. "What do you want?" His accent was gruff and low, making each word almost incomprehensible.
"Do you employ Buster O'Rhian?"
"Who's asking?" He demanded.
"I am." I replied, threateningly.
"And you are?"
"James Winters." I said. "Mortlock's First Regiment of Law Enforcement."
"I don't speak to no bluebottle."
Bluebottle. Noun, informal, dated, a police officer.
"That's a double negative." I told him. "So start speaking."
He sighed. "Yes. Buster is one of our lot, but then again the clumsy lout doesn't deserve to be."
"We'd like to talk to the other miners, please." I said.
"Because, I'm afraid to say, Mr O'Rhian is dead. Now, please can you gather the other miners together."
He said that some of the other miners were asleep so I told him to wake them up, and offered to have a look around the mine whilst he gathered everyone together. "It's through there." He announced, pointing to a door behind the counter. Freud told me he'd stick with the potholer behind the desk, and so I strolled down the stairs, into the quarry. A large set of speakers somewhere was playing the potholer's voice, announcing that all miners were to report to their quarters.
The rain had stopped, so I dropped my hood and began to inspect the equipment. There were barrels dotted every twenty metres or so with pickaxes protruding from them, and in the centre of the quarry was a conveyor belt which held large chunks of rock. I went over to an opened vein on one of the quarry walls and began to inspect it when I heard a tumbling of rock behind. I turned and froze.
There was an angry potholer racing towards me with a gigantic axe gripped between his two hands.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Witch Takers

"You chose the right day to sign up." Said Freud, a wisp like figure in a heavy black cape. He was staring down at the body of the man in the harbour of the Mortlock Canal. There was a press of concerned citizens nearing the blue field of energy that he'd already wrapped the site with.
"My friend Becky got a break in at an old peoples home on her first day." I replied, going to brush my mop of straw like hair from my eyes only to realise that a barber had snipped it all from my head only two days before. I was still in a state of denial. "I get a murder."
"It's not a murder yet." Freud replied, raising his oak staff. "We need to look at the body first."
Using the stump of chalk protruding from the end, he scrawled a pentangle onto the floor and then drew a selection of further symbols onto that, before uttering some words that I recognised as the Relocation Enchantment. "Where are you sending him?" I asked.
"To the morgue at the Nick." He replied, swirling his staff over the pool. The water ruptured and the body began to levitate. A basic enchantment, but performed so effortlessly that it was enough to impress even a magician of the 26th Order like myself. The body floated above the strange chalk etching and then began to lower, as if an inflatable skirt beneath the body was deflating. Upon touching the chalk, the body popped like a bubble and ceased to be there.
"Saves us having to sort the body out in front of this lot." Freud said, and turned to one of the Note Taking Golems who had turned up. My first course in the academy had been on the creation of Golems, living mud constructs who could interrogate various people and secure crime scenes. "I want  as many statements as you can take." Then he turned to me. "Now, come along. We can leave them to take statements."
I followed him through the throng of people into the opened streets of Mortlock. The Nick, as he had referred to it as, was located at one end of the famed Mortlock High Street. Mortlock was used in my courses as an example of crowd control. It was also, of course, the base of the famous Monster Hunters, Benjamin Frost and his gang of merry men. We walked passed the towering shack of swaying wood that was Rafael's Coffee House, where the Monster Hunters had apparently planned their destruction of the Media.
"Can we go in?" I asked Freud as we hurried passed.
"No." He said. "I prefer tea, over all this fancy coffee stuff. Now, what's your name?"
I was slightly taken aback that he didn't know my name. Surely the academy had told him I was coming. "James Winters, sir."
"Welcome to Mortlock Regiment of Law Enforcement." He said, offering one hand. I shook it and reflected it felt like a leather glove, albeit quite cold. "Or as we call it, First Nick."
"It's an honour to work with you." I said.
"It is." He replied. "I don't normally take magicians of the 26th Order."
Of course he didn't. I'd read up on some of his old apprentices. George Galloway, the infamous vampire hunter, had been his first apprentice, all the way back in the Edwardian Era. Of course, Galloway had turned his back on this discipline immediately having finished his apprenticeship, running off to the North and becoming the most famous vampire hunter in the Slayers Guild.
"I apologise about that, sir. I am not as bad as my records make out."
"I hope not." He said. "Otherwise you'd be yet another of my mistakes. Ah, here we are."
The First Nick was a two story house and one of only five buildings in the entirety of Mortlock that were made from stone. The doors were up a short selection of steps that had been raced up and down many times. Freud pushed the doors open and led me into a dimly lit room with a sofa lining the right wall and a desk with a receptionist sat behind it to our immediate left. "Is this the newbie?" She asked, straightening her glasses.
"Indeed." Freud said. "Winters, meet Lynda Doherty. The fastest typer you'll meet."
I stepped over to offer her my hand and noticed a green typewriter sat ready, her fingers poised, prepared to begin typing. "Nice typewriter."
"Thank you." She said, before turning to Freud. "Cold Room 3 is occupied and so I got Geoffrey to put it into Cold Room 2."
I'd studied the First Nick on the train down, and thus knew that Cold Room 1 had been destroyed during the War of the Seventh Child (1992-1997) and so the last two rooms were used.
"Tell Geoffrey to prepare some identification potions." Freud told her, leading me through the door at the back. "Do you know about sleeping arrangements?"
I nodded. I would be expected to sleep in the sawdust enthused attic of the Nick. Apparently asthma was an important part of being a Witch Taker.
"Good. I'll take you to your room and we can give you a uniform."

My room was at the top of a set of dusty stairs behind a thick wooden door. He had to give it a kick for it to open but when it did, it revealed a modest triangular prism of a room with a bed and a lampshade and not much else. There was a floating illustration of the Nick's first inspector and Freud saw me glancing at it. "A basic 24 hour enchantment. I expect you to refresh it at the end of every cycle."
I nodded as he pointed at the dresser and adjoining wardrobe. "You'll find your uniform in there. Post Mortem begins in twenty minutes." With that he left.
I opened the wardrobe and found my cloak, my overcoat, my blazer and my trousers. I closed the wardrobe and then went to my chest of drawers, pulling the top shelf out. There was a selection of folded and pressed white shirts, beneath which was a drawer of underwear and socks. I took a shirt and pulled my t-shirt off, wrapping it around me, buttoning each white button. I fastened the top button and searched through the other drawers and took my curled up tie, wrapping it beneath my collar, pulling it tight. Having pulled my trousers on, I took a black jumper and pulled that over my shirt, pulling on my blazer and then over that my overcoat. I found, inside one of the lower cupboards in my chest of drawers, a wooden box of black shoe polish, which I scuffed over my shoes. I found a watch in one of the drawers and tightened it around my wrist, before traversing the staircase once more and walking out into the reception. "Where's Freud's office?" I asked of Lynda.
"Through those doors, two to the side of the Black Door." She replied, not looking up.
"Thank you." I said, and strolled to it. I knocked five times on the door and pushed it open as he announced, "Come in."
Freud's office was a small room, and the walls were lined with bookcases making it even smaller. A wooden desk sat in front of a large window, light streaming through onto his back. Freud's cloak was hanging on a coat peg but he still wore his overcoat as he scrawled words onto lined paper with a fountain pen. "Sir." I said, waiting for instructions.
He looked up and smiled. "Very good. Well presentable. Cold Room 3 awaits."
Freud led me out of the room and down the staircase into the basement. One wall was lined with cells, five in total and only one occupied, and the other with two examination rooms. Freud pushed one door open and revealed the corpse from the canal laying on a stone platform. A large man, Geoffrey I presumed, was standing to the side of the corpse. "Identifier." Geoffrey announced as we entered. I recognised the word in French, one of the five languages I had to learn at the academy. It was quite obvious was it meant, or so I hoped.
Two words appeared above the head of the body, which had a large dent in the scalp. "Buster O'Rhian." I read.
"And the cause of death?" Freud asked.
"I'd say trauma to the scalp? A heavy blow from a large instruments. It wouldn't be surprising judging his presumed job."
"Buster O'Rhian? That's a potholer name if I've ever heard one." I replied. Potholer was, of course, the politically correct name for dwarves.
"Stereotypes aren't official police work." Freud said.
I nodded. This was a challenge to prove my worth. So I used the type of deductive skills that have to be developed by experience, not classroom. "There are specs of rock beneath his finger nails." I said.
"Very impressive." Freud said. "An easier deduction to make would be the pattern of the beard bows. And also the stature."
I nodded. "Stature wouldn't stand up in a court of law."
"Neither would rock beneath the finger nails or beard bows. It's what we can make further from this."
I smiled. "We need to find his family."
"Exactly. Which means visiting whichever potholer kingdom he hails from. Geoffrey?"
Geoffrey nodded. "I did some checks whilst you were upstairs. He comes from the Potholer Capital of Britain."
Bruskin here we come.