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The Hunt is On- to Catch a Shade Messages in this topic - RSS

JimmyTMalice
JimmyTMalice
Posts: 150

8 days ago
Locke Lockhart’s Lamentable Legwork, Part 1: Lady Lavinia

Somewhere in London…

London teems with scents. The acrid smoke of the manufactories, the stink of the bustling crowds of hairless apes, the subtle splashes from other animals marking this place and that place as mine; they all add up to a cohesive whole, a gauge for the health of the city.

Today, London smells wrong.

The Ninefold Cat has the advantage of perspective. A strange smell in one location could be dismissed as an anomaly, but he can be in nine places at once.

The humans of London are struck by a silent panic. Walking through the streets, it’s scarcely noticeable, but watching and listening from the rooftops it becomes all too apparent. Whispered conversations drift out of windows. Sometimes a faint sob can be heard on the breeze. The city is under siege from within, and the Shadow of London is the culprit.

One of him finds a new victim of the Shade in the crooked alleys of Spite, one that hasn’t shown up in the papers yet. The corpse is not fresh. He smells the rot almost before he smells the blood. The young woman’s head lolls grotesquely, almost separated from her body, hanging on by a stray tendon. Permanently dead, then, like the others. Mortality does not suit these humans.

He is uncomfortably reminded of his own lives. As everyone knows, cats have nine lives. Thanks to Gideon’s experiment, the Ninefold Cat lives all nine at once. He is grateful for it most of the time – it has proved indispensable in his profession – but he does not know what will happen if one of him dies, and has little wish to find out.

The cat pounces down from his perch on a high fence to take a closer look. Rusty dried blood smears the cobbles around the body.

He is dimly aware of his other selves, going about their business of spying and eating and talking and occasionally fighting. The sensations are tightly knotted at the back of his head, ready to be teased out like a ball of wool if he needs to make contact with himself. For now, he shuts them out and focuses on his own surroundings.

There is little to distinguish the woman from the Shade’s other victims. Once you’ve seen enough dead humans, they all start to look the same.

Nevertheless, the cat makes an effort to notice distinguishing features. The gender is obvious from the long hair – why apes choose to differentiate their sexes like that he will never understand – but the clothing is important too. Her dress is drab and threadbare – clearly not a woman of means, then. The Shade may claim not to discriminate in the choice of its prey, but it seems to prefer those who won’t be missed.

From what he has heard, the Shade’s beheadings are usually done in a single stroke. This woman’s neck is a ragged mess; clearly the Shade had to give it a few tries before he got all the way through. Something is off here.

“Well, if it isn’t the Count in Exile himself,” says an arch voice from a nearby rooftop. The Ninefold Cat’s ears prick up and he whirls to face the speaker, an immaculately groomed tortoiseshell cat with a red leather collar.

He lets out a low, threatening growl, baring his teeth at the newcomer. “Lavinia,” he snarls, spitting the name out like a curse. “You seem to be doing well for yourself. Didn’t realise you’d gone native, though – the collar is new. Captivity suits you, apparently. Have you put on weight?”

Lavinia chuckles dryly, and begins making her way to ground level in a series of flowing jumps. “Captivity? Hardly. The Hampton family and I have merely entered a mutually beneficial arrangement. They give me a roof over my head, an exceptionally comfortable bed and an unlimited supply of tuna; in return I take my kills out to the coach-house where they won’t drip blood all over their nice carpets and occasionally sit in their laps and allow them to scratch my ears.”

She hops down to the cobbles and sits carefully out of pouncing distance, licking her paw. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand the benefits of society, though. Your self-imposed exile made that very clear.”

“Is there any particular reason you deigned to talk to me, oh high-and-mighty Baroness,” the Ninefold Cat says, “Or did you just come to gloat?”

Lavinia tilts her head. “Actually, I do have a reason, although the gloating was certainly a perk. Word on the street is that you and that human you adopted – Gideon, was it? – are looking for the Shadow of London. Hence, I assume, why you’re sniffing around that dead human. Well, you should know that the Shade didn’t kill her. It was a nasty-looking tramp. Dreadful business, apparently.”

“A tramp, you say?” The Ninefold Cat has heard of the Shade’s hobo army, but he didn’t realise they were capable of such savagery.

“Indeed,” Lavinia smirks. “We had someone trail the wretch, of course. Secrets are the Council’s business, and this one is worth a pretty penny to the right buyer. You are interested in buying, no?”

He grits his teeth. He thought he’d got away from this sort of intrigue when he renounced his title, but such things always have a way of coming back to nip you in the tail. “Yes. Fine.”

“Come with me, then. The Council will want to oversee the transaction in person, and I’m sure they missed you just as dearly as I did.”

If there’s one thing he can be sure of, it’s that the toffs have a hidden agenda. Nevertheless, the Council doesn’t harm guests; he should be safe in body at least. Little good will come from entering that tangled web, but at least he no longer has a reputation to lose.

Lavinia pads off without another word, tail high in the air, and the Ninefold Cat reluctantly follows.

---

“I want to die,” groans Locke for the umpteenth time, slouched against a rack of chemicals in Gideon’s wine cellar. The Ninefold Cat regards him silently with what the bandaged bruiser assumes must be amused derision. Damn cats always look like they know something you don’t.

The Cat cocks its head, as if hearing something inaudible to human ears. “Hold that thought. You can die on your own time.”

“Guh?” says Locke eloquently.

“Grab your coat and your gun, and be quick about it. We are no longer safe here, and there’s someone I need you to kill.”
edited by JimmyTMalice on 5/17/2017

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Jimmy T. Malice (RIP)
Gideon Stormstrider, the Episcopalian Esotericist
Vela Marek, the Studious Intriguer
Locke Lockhart, the Bandaged Bruiser
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