The Cyneweard

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Part III - All That's Left is Blood :: 58

Roddy had waited for three days. Every day, the Watcher would come, open the office, and sit there, never leaving until locking up. Open up, stay, close up, ad nauseum for three boring days. He hated waiting as much as he hated the fact that he was even doing this. Money was too good. Risk nearly too high. Just nearly.

He had never set foot in the Leaping Leporine prior to three days ago but had known it to be a hub of activity for the Machine district, Little Mille colloquially. It was chock full of displaced Machine workers, fired by Parton and then fired upon. Women, children, a wall of noise at all times of the day. He had paid handsomely for the room as almost all of the others had been given to those homeless wretches that had once depended so totally on the Machine job they had lost, or in some cases the Machine worker that had been killed in their family. They spent their nights groaning, snoring, and wailing, keeping him up at night. He hated the lot of them.

A night operation had been ruled out. He’d have to take to the post and finish his job during the day, when the post was empty of any activity but still open to the public. He had watched plenty of times before getting the room at the pub: the Watcher, the only one working the post now, would leave throughout the day, to handle business or somesuch, and leave the door unlocked. Roddy had seen this himself two days in a row before renting the room. Now that he had the room, the Watcher stayed put.

But not today. Around midday, he had caught the Watcher leaving as he bit at a longpear, what constituted as a lunch for patrons with all the freeloading mouths hanging about. The lawman had not turned around to lock the door behind him. Wherever he was going, it was in a hurry.

Roddy tossed the remnants of the longpear onto the room’s small table and rose from the chair, eyes still on the post across the street. He wiped the sweet fruit’s juices from his lower lip and chin, threw his vest on, and hurried down the stairs.

The parlor and bar were packed with Humes and Animas, all eating longpears or thin sandwiches, chattering in a low hum, not noticing his presence. There wasn’t a single Machine coverall among them but he knew the look of Machine workers when he saw them. More free loaders, mooching off the kindness of who he assumed was a lady named Lilly. He had only spoken with a female feline when booking the room. What was her name?

Didn’t matter, he was already out on the main street. It had been graveled over after the rains had cleared a couple of days ago, but it was such a high trafficed road, no amount of fill in would ever last long. The path and its two wooden side walks were covered with traffic. He dodged a horse-driven cart strolling leisurely down the path. It was being tailed by a steamcart, its driver staring daggers into the back of the horse cart driver’s head, he himself wearing a smug smile. Roddy grinned to himself as he made his way up the Sigil post stairs and opened the door.

He stared into the eyes of something he had not anticipated: a new Protector. The young Canine looked up from a mound of parchment and gave Roddy a smile.

Shit, Roddy thought. Complications. Shit.

“Can I help you?” asked the lawman, his voice young and lilting.

Roddy sighed and reached into one on his vest’s lower pockets. From it he extracted his solution to the problem.

The rookie lawman saw the flash of the metal of Roddy’s short blade and shot out of his chair, hand reaching for the slugthrower on the desk.

The blade sunk deep into the Protector’s chest, penetrating the heart. He gasped once, twice, fumbled around on the top of the desk with his hand, and then slumped over, eyes wide with shock.

Roddy could still hear the last machinations of the Protector’s functions shutting down as he leaned over to take the thrower that had fallen to the ground. It was hefty, unlike the cheap ones they sold to the citizens. Probably had leadshot. A good quick kill.

He looked to the cells along the back wall. They were all identical, all dark, all with small vents of bars on either side of large iron doors with a food slot about halfway up. He’d need a key to open them because he wasn’t going to be delivering a death blow to anyone locked up behind that big a door. There were three desks and multiple shelves in the office. He leaned over and examined the back of the one he was next to, the one that had housed the now-dead Protector. Four drawers. None had locks. Maybe this wouldn’t be so hard.

“This was his very first day on the job,” came a voice from behind one of the thick metal doors attached to the cells.

“Mmm?” Roddy asked as he extracted his throwing blade from the stilled obstacle.

“Parton send you?”

“Eeyup.”

“Paying you lots?”

“Wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t,” Roddy replied, rifling through the desk. “You the only prisoner here?”

“That’s correct.”

Roddy moved to the other desk, the one he assumed belonged to the absent Watcher. Where was the damn cell door key?

“The key’s probably with the Watcher,” said the voice.

“Good point,” Roddy said. “I reckon I’ll just have to shoot you through the bars.”

He continued looking, moving to yet another desk, this one nearly empty save for some rolled up parchment

“What makes you think I’d allow you to do that?”

“It is a lot of gold, you know.”

“How does that benefit me?”

Roddy looked up from the desk and tilted his head. “It means I won’t make this slow.”

“That’s a relief,” the voice said. Roddy could almost see the man’s eyes rolling.

“Welp, no key that I can see.”

“The man you killed doesn’t have one?”

“AH!” Roddy acknowledged. “Good point yet again.”

There was a thick bronze key just inside the dead man’s left breeches pocket.

“Got it?” asked the voice.

“Yup. Bout time too. That longpear didn’t do a thing for me.”

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