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.

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