My first stop after that adventure was a little bar known as Adrian’s Place. It’s a nice little spot in Middle City known to be the local haunt of the shadier crowd. More specifically it’s the local haunt of a trusted contact. I parked the Athena in the lot across the street from the bar. I took my time getting across road. There was no point in getting hit by a random car or horse drawn carriage. As I had hoped, several steam-powered cycles were parked outside the establishment.
Adrian’s Place sat under one of the cities many over passes. It stood between a law firm and a dry cleaner. The place was humble little bar; inside there were a few gambling tables, billiard tables and booths for dining. I saw Tobias shooting pool with one of his crew. Tobias Moore is leader of the street gang known as the Lurkers. He’s also my first cousin on my father’s side. I place my hat and cloak on the rack near the entrance and pulled my goggles down around my neck. One of the nicer things about Adrian’s is they don’t have any gun rules.
This due to the fact that if anyone is stupid enough to pull a weapon in Adrian’s Place, they might as well be aiming at Adrian himself. Adrian was a soldier back during the last war and he never gave back his munitions. From what I heard when he opened the place up, he had turrets install in the ceiling. Then he enchanted them to fire on drawn weapons.
As you would have guessed people learned rather quickly that Adrian’s Place was the best place to have a neutral conversation. Big Francis by the door kept the brawls under control. The guy was built like a Clydesdale or a centaur. Near seven feet tall, big broad shoulders biceps the size of watermelons and then you add the armored sleeves that utilized steam and complex mechanics to augment his strength. Basically getting punched by big Francis the equivalent to getting hit by a charging bull.
I walked over to the bar and ordered two bourbons, and then I headed to Tobias’s table. Tobias was about my height just under six feet. He had his brown hair cut short and it flared up in the front. His eyes like mine had a golden tint to them. Like I said, it’s a family thing. Today, he was sporting a gallant mustache, thin, curled on the ends and mutton chops cut close. I placed his glass on the table’s edge with a couple sovereign underneath.
“Long time cousin,” he said to me picking up his glass and the money.
“That it has. I don’t need to call for help when tracking down cheating husbands and lost dogs.”
“Sure enough, I still say you aren’t charging nearly enough for your services.”
“I do well enough without price gouging. Anyway, enough about my business practices today, I need some information. What do you know about a kidnapping out of the Faultus City Park about three days ago?”
He touched his index finger to his chin. He always did that to be dramatic or something, one of those annoying habits that used to drive me nuts when we were kids. “Hmmm. A little bird may have said something about a snatch job. It wasn’t in my territory so I didn’t think much of it. A young woman and kid seven, maybe eight years old was snatched and tossed in a white Hermes.”
“Do you know who grabbed them?” I asked taking a sip of my drink.
“Like I said it was not in my territory. That’s Orc Country over there and the pack knows not to lurk over there if they can help it.”
I let out a curse. I did not want to venture into the part of town known as Orc Country. I have nothing against orcs don’t get me wrong. I dated an orc once and boy I’ll tell you they can do things to a man. Sorry, let us just say I may have crossed paths with the orc boss one too many times.
“How about any rumors dealing in complex machinery or powerful magical artifacts?”
“Now that you mention it. The orcs just sent out a request for engineers to study something they obtained. No details on the item just that Morntok is willing to pay top dollar for experts.”
“I really hope orcs have nothing to do with this case.” I said with a heavy sigh.
“I don’t blame you. The lurkers have had to lock claws with them more than once. They are brutal adversaries.”
“Oh, I’m well aware.” I said taking a long drink from my glass.
“What have you got yourself into cousin?” he asked with a curious look on his face.
“I don’t know yet.” I said wearily. “I am just getting started on this one. It’s very curious that a nanny would take the kid of a wealthy family to the bad side of the park. The fact that she was seen being grabbed the same as the kid would suggest that she was a victim as well.” I rose from the stool I sat on while watching Tobias play. I left a few more sovereigns on the table next to him.
“I need to get back to the office and see if the client has sent me everything I asked for. Tobias, do me a favor. I need you and your crew to keep you ears to the ground on this one. Contact me if you hear any chatter about the snatch job or if you hear word about someone fitting the nanny’s description.
I pulled out the scrap of paper on with the descriptions and address on it. I tore off the address and handed him the rest. He took the paper scanned it briefly then handed it to his lurkers.
“On it cousin, is your portable scrying mirror charged?” He asked.
“Yes, and I do have it on me, it’s in the car.”
“Well, that isn’t exactly on you now is it?” Tobias and the crew laughed.
Cutthroats, thieves, and bandits they may be, but the lurkers were decent enough people once you got to know them. I patted Tobias on the shoulder and made my way to the exit. I procured my cloak and hat, got dressed and headed back out into the rain.
I positioned my goggles back on which auto adjusted, the little gears inside turning to provide adequate sight. My sight was already impressive by most standards; the goggle amplified that by at least double. So when I say I thought I saw someone watching me as I left; I mean I saw someone watching me and if I were a normal guy, not a detective, I would not have noticed.
I stood there for a moment and took a deep breath. An assortment of smells traveled into my nostrils, not many of them pleasant. The aromas of burning coals, oils and refuse that litter the streets. There were the mixed aromas of potted plants, perfumes and wet animals. I could make out the smell the cat in the alleyway next to the bar. I was able to distinguish the stench of the homeless gnome covered in filth sleeping in the corner. I smelled wet leather from the general direction of the observer. There was a hint of something sweet that I could not make out.
I crossed the street nonchalantly and got in my Athena. I sat there a moment as the boiler started and the steam began to generate power. I watched the figure from behind the tinted lens of the goggles. They were dressed in all black; slacks, shirt, leather mask and a black leather jacket commonly worn by flyboys and airship crew. The figure was slender though; covered up as they were I could not tell if they were male or female. I pulled out of my space and into the street still acting as if I hadn’t noticed the tail. I headed down the street and decided to take a brief tour of downtown. I looked in the mirror and saw about three cars behind me; the same figure on a Pan style steam cycle.
They maintained a safe distance but were not very keen on escaping notice. I took the scenic route and stopped at a street vender for a grilled sausage on a sweet bun. My stalker parked about a half a block away behind a Hephaestus, a steam powered truck. The largest of all the current model trucks, the Hephaestus featured a steam engine meant for ships and locomotives. I ate my meal slowly under the shelter of the vendor’s umbrella. We made idle chat while I inadvertently keep watch on the individual watching me. After about ten minutes or so I returned to my vehicle and made my way back to my office. “Interesting,” I said to myself. There was something fishy about this case and I hadn’t even started yet. I parked in my spot in front of the building and walked into the five-story structure that contained my office.
Upon entering the building I could make out the sound of the engine on the bike as the dark clad rider rode by. I took the stairs up to the third floor and opened the door of my office the last on the left. Slid through the mail slot in the door was the information and items I’d requested from Ms. Silverstein. I shook out my cloak before entering my office. I hung it neatly on my coat rack and placed my hat on the hook next to it. I removed my goggles and let them hang around my neck. The little gears turned as the lens reverted to the clear default setting. I walked over to my desk, withdrew Lucy and placed it in an easy to draw position on the desktop before taking a seat.
I studied the package; it was a brown envelope formally used by Christopher’s shop. The envelope bulged with the contents I requested. I sniffed the package. I could faintly get the honey and wildflower scent of Arlena Silverstein. I unraveled the small string that held the folded paper closed. Within the envelope was a lady’s comb made of a dark wood with designs of flowers etched into it. Little strands of hair were still caught in the comb’s teeth. The hair was black and coarse; similar to that of young man I observed earlier. If I had a lick of talent with magic, I could have performed a spell that would track this nanny down without leaving the office.
Of course that is why my rates are so low. I actually have to do the groundwork, not to say I am without talents. I held the comb close to my nose and breathed in deep. The nanny’s scent was the smell of fresh baked cookies mix with the scent of honeydew melons. I committed the scent to memory. I would know the nanny the moment I caught wind of her. There was something familiar about the smell. The memory was fleeting, however. I put the comb down and withdrew the second item from the envelope; which was something that belonged to the kid. You would think this would be a shirt or a favorite toy.
Ms. Silverstein however decided to send over a sock, much to my dismay. Seriously, who wants to smell an eight year old’s sock? Fortunately for me, yet unfortunately for the Silverstein’s, the sock had been recently clean. I was only able to get a faint scent off of the garment, nothing that would be helpful unless I was right on top of the kid. I put the two items on the desk and looked at the address of the nanny. “The Nanny,” I thought to myself that it was strange that I did not ask the nanny’s name nor did Ms. Silverstein give it. I looked at the address: 1717 Hollow Street 3rd floor B. That was just north of the park where the nanny and the kid were taken.
I thought to myself why would the nanny take the child so far away from the Midas Quarter to go to a park? Was she meeting someone and the deal went south? Did she forget something at home and traveled back with the kid in tow? Why were they on foot if they were traveling to her home from the Silverstein residence?
“Too many questions,” I said aloud. “It’s a good thing you’re a detective,” I told myself.
I picked Lucy up and placed her back in the holster on my hip. I decide my next action would be to ask around the park. Maybe I would find an eyewitness to the snatch and grab. I would have to keep my head low and try not to draw too much attention. I donned my clock and top hat once more and exited my office. I locked the door behind me and made my way down the stairs. Outside, the rain had stopped for the moment and I did not bother putting my goggle back on. I briefly scanned the area outside of my surroundings.
My building was crammed between two other buildings of similar style and height. A combination of Gothic style architecture with pointed arches, the ribbed vaults and the flying buttresses and modern architecture combining the old designs with steel reinforcements and artistic bronze fittings, these buildings were as old as Luimere itself. Across the two lanes street were more of the same. Nothing jumped out at me and the aromas of the city were the same as what I expected. The smoky burning of steam powered vehicle motors, the warm and sweet aromas of fresh baked goods from Mrs. Marsh’s bakery and the stench of wet animals.
There was no sign of my little shadow from earlier. I entered my Athena once again and made my way to Faultus City Park. It only took me about fifteen minutes to get there. I parked the car in an empty spot and killed the engine. With the rain subsided for the moment there were quite a few people about. The park took up the space of about five city blocks and was a mix of tended grass, lush gardens and small groves of trees. There are few druids actually that live in the city, as they prefer to commune with nature. The druids that do take residence within Luimere practice their nature magic in the few parks scattered throughout the city.
Sadly, all the natural beauty is easily marred by the presence of the unsavory. Small gangs of mixed races mulled about. There were a few children playing a game of tag in the muddy grass. There was a bratwurst stand setup near the small copy of the founder’s statue found in the Grand Park Downtown. My stomach grumbled as the scent of the broiled meat reached my nostrils. The vendor was the best place to start for both for my appetite and to gather information. I retrieved a small note pad and a pencil from my car’s storage compartment. Locked the door and I walked over to the vendor and ordered two of the savory sandwiches. I slipped him some extra sovereigns and asked about what he saw three days ago.
He retold the account of the big white Hermes tearing across the field. According to the vendor the van appeared sometime after the woman and child had arrived. I wolfed down the succulent meat as he spoke. The vendor whose name was Travis did note that there had been a small group of orcs at his stand when the woman and child traveled through the park. They mumbled something about easy pickings he recalled. I thanked Travis and walked across the damp grass. The tracks were still very defined, scaring the lawn like giant claw marks. Surveying the scene, I could tell, the grab happened quickly. Looking at how deep the gouges in the dirt where, the van came in fast, only stopped for a mere moment and was gone again.
There were several large footprints indicating that the nanny and kid must have been tackled into the vehicle as it swerved before them. The tracks lead out the way the van had entered and south deeper into Orc Country. I asked some of the hoodies and vagrants the same questions I had asked the vendor. Few were present the day of the kidnapping, the few that were told similar tales as the vendor had. I jotted down anything that sounded important. After a few hours the rains started again and I made my way back to the steammobile.
As I settled into the driver’s seat I noticed a black Ares, one of the steam-powered trucks used for hauling large loads of materials and pulling trailers. The large vehicle rolled slowly passed my Athena and I could see through the rear view that it was loaded with big burly orcs. Green skinned, flat faces, protruding fangs, big muscles and attitude.
“Great job, Marcus,” I said. “Way to draw the attention of your quarry.” I pulled out of my spot and headed for the address of the Nanny.