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Iron Quill: The Price of Progress - Just Another Day


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Nearly forgot!

1503 words, all ingredients used.


"You've got to be kidding me." Maxwell exclaimed with a balled up fist. "Just one time, it would be so nice if something made sense for a change." When Maxwell joined the Guild, he had grandiose aspirations. It was to be the start of something greater. When he got to work today, reality finally won the bare-knuckled brawl it had Maxwell embroiled in for 2 years.


Sergeant Rigby puffed on a cigar for a moment too long, placing an ample buffer between Maxwell's rage and his response. Tapping out the ashes, Rigby finally ruffled out an answer through his thick beard. "I don't MAKE jokes. Comedy is not my talent. I manage. And right now, we have a murder in the Industrial Zone that requires investigation. I also have a cadet that requires instruction. This seems like the perfect managerial opportunity to kill two metaphorical birds."


"It's falderal and you know it! We start looking for witnesses, M&SU clamps down, case not solved. DONE. I just saved you 2 weeks of wasting department resources." Maxwell replied, pinching the bridge of his nose. Rigby set the cigar down in a carved wooden ashtray, then steepled his hands on his desk.

"Officer Maxwell, your opinion will be noted in the final report of the investigation that you will do. The Guild appreciates opinionated individuals that take the initiative and seek to improve themselves. If there's nothing else, Cadet Tabitha Serling will accompany you to the investigation." Rigby commented in a maddeningly even keel. Maxwell relaxed his fist, took a deep breath, then said. "...sir."

Cadet Serling was an irritating contrast to Maxwell. She had that freshly washed, crisp sheen to her where Maxwell showed the battle scars of life in the Guild. The optimistic pep in her step versus the exhausted gait he maintained. Even her hair was a vibrant red where his was a muted brown with wispy hints of grey. It took all his power to not groan when she snapped him a textbook salute, said "Cadet Serling. Pleasure to work with you sir." Maxwell worked up half a smile, then shook her hand, offering back,

"Max. My dad was sir. Before you get all talkative, let's run through a couple things. You will learn how to do things my way. This isn't some penny dreadful where the cops get clever sayings and combat criminals on rooftops to catch them and take them to jail. People will take advantage of you. We do a job because it's necessary, not because people like us. You understand?" Tabitha nodded quietly as Maxwell spoke. "I am correct in the field. You follow what I say. If the criminals get any sense of division, they will exploit it to get as far as they can. You have any questions about what I say or do, you ask them back here in this building where it's only Guild. Now, let's go get this out of the way."



After a 15 minute ride over to the Industrial Zone, Maxwell idly tossed his horses reins to Tabitha as he hopped off to examine the scene. There was a single body face down between two buildings, surrounded by storage crates, and random bits of detritus from the manufacturing near the area. The ground was a soft wet black in the immediate area around the body, and a thin mist of soot had begun collecting on the body. It was a young man, dressed in fairly expensive looking clothing. Content that he wasn't missing anything, Maxwell proceeded to flip the body over. "Well Cadet, time to show off. Tell me about the stiff."

Tabitha finished securing the horses, then circled around the body, pausing occasionally to crouch and examine. "Young male, round 30ish. Well kept facial hair and lack of callouses on his hands suggests owner, not a worker. Clothes were made, not bought." Tabitha chewed on he thumb as she processed. "Single pistol shot, up close. Caught him by surprise." Tabitha rifled through the man's clothes. "Hmm... money's still here. Means the bullet was personal. Level of soot on him... Body's been here for half a day at most. " Tabitha stood up and looked to Maxwell, pausing slightly before saying, "It was a personal dispute. The shooter was caught up in the moment, figured they could just drop the body." Tabitha looked around with a quizzical expression. "Then where's the drag marks... I think the victim owns something around here."

Maxwell offered her a simple nod. "This upstanding citizen is Nigel Haddley; textile owner. Multiple accounts of being a complete bastard, nothing stuck. Looks like a bullet did." Maxwell crouched down, tugging at a bit of paper sticking out of Nigels vest. Maxwell pulled out what looked like a tarot card with the picture muddled by the blood. "And this?" Maxwell asked, showing the card to Tabitha. Tabitha stared blankly before responding,

"Either he's superstitious, or its something the shooter left." Maxwell could see the gears turning in Tabitha's head as she processed the scene. "We have any other murders with tarot card connections?" She asked.

"Nope." Maxwell responded. Tabitha seemed ready to say something, but paused as they both noticed a burly worker stomping his way over to investigate them. The man who approached was nearly 2 feet taller than Maxwell and looked like he was carved from wood. He blew into a raggedy red kerchief with a tug boat whistle bellow, then barked at the two,

"Sumthin I can 'elp you with, coppers?" The man was making a show of his excess muscle, and didn't seem deterred by the clearly visible firearms each officer carried.

"Yeah. I could use a cup of coffee. One for the lady as well." Maxwell answered, eyes locked on the big man. The man guffawed, taking a step into Maxwell's personal space.

"You're having a laugh, right? I mean no one could be as daft as to try an maid Big George?" George declared. Maxwell took a step forward as well, puffing up as he stared George down. After a few tense moments, Big George finally flinched, stepping back.

"There ya go." Maxwell responded, the tenseness of his body dropping slightly. "I'm not interested in a pissing contest here George." Maxwell pointed to the dead body. "Someone killed Nigel here, and I gotta make sure it stops here." George gave another confident laugh.

"You shedding a tear for this muckender? Especially since he gives you lot enough coin to stay in proper posh settings? Well, turns out, it's done and over copper." George exclaimed. "You want the other body?" It was Maxwell's turn to look quizzical.

"Other?" Maxwell asked.

"Other." George answered. "Business partner. Felt guilty about his doins an took his own life." A hint of a smile flitted across Maxwell's face, followed by him saying,

"Yup. Due diligence and all that. It's only one body?" Maxwell asked. George gave him a big nod with a knowing smile.


"Oh yeah. The fight was between the two of them. We could ask around, see if anyone heard them arguing. Nigel has always been a drinker." George offered. Maxwell scratched the side of his cheek, commenting after a moment's pause,

"It's always unfortunate when people can't hold their drink. I will have to ask around, make sure I'm not missing anything." George's smile grew slightly as he nodded.


"Whatever helps you out, copper." George replied, leading the way for the officers.



Tabitha watched Maxwell quietly as he placed most of a deck of tarot cards into a small box, writing information on top of the box before placing it into a spot on the shelf in front of him.

"Why are we ending the case here Max?" She finally asked, chewing on her thumb. "Two days of pretending to investigate, then we just write it up like it's all copacetic? I don't understand why this works." Maxwell slid the box snugly into its spot, exhaled, then replied,

"Because the case is done. We found a pistol on the partner, coroner managed to dig out bullets from both bodies that are similar, and the partner had tarot deck with the card missing from it." Maxwell answered. " As for your actual question... There are some things you don't challenge. Not everyone relies on us to solve their problems; most of the time they keep it to themselves. We follow this up, where does it go? You really think you can get through to the people who hate you because of that badge you're wearing?" Maxwell grabbed a stool to sit on, scratching at three day old stubble.

"Way I see it, they're keeping things moving on their end, we keep things moving on ours, and those poor suckers in the middle can still eke out a living. Long as they're just garbage men, life is still ticking. And maybe, if we give people their own little sandbox to play in instead of forcing them to play in ours all the time, life will tick forward."

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