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.