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Iron Quill - The Price of Progress - Another Turn

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1473 words
Sheep in Wolf's Clothing
An Incomplete Deck of Cards

I had been lying there for a while, watching the ceiling fan complete yet another full rotation... And another. It had been a good set of years since the fan was capable of churning any air, but it was comforting knowing that it still tried.
Each rotation was a testament. A stubborn refusal to give up a lost cause. It was supposed to be white, but a lifetime of heavy smoking in bed had reduced the remaining blades to a toxic yellow. And it completed another turn. The thing made a low rustling noise. Clearly not healthy, but it had made that noise for as many years as I could remember and it was still going. Another turn. It looked ready to drop on to the bed at any time, but it hung on, going through the motions. I could relate. I felt the same way.
I hadn't really woken up. At some point I had just caught myself being awake, staring at the ceiling fan.

There was the case to think of. The Guild had hired me to make a mess disappear. Some evidence of some wrong-doing that they were fine with doing but less enthusiastic about fessing up to.
Not that that's any of my business.

I was a PI back in the real world. The cases were easier then. You'd follow a guy for a dame, get some pictures of his mug where it shouldn't be, and then sit back and let the precinct boys come in with their nightsticks in the air.

In Malifaux, more often than not, the backup is whatever iron you can carry on you. Everyone is out for number one, and no one agrees on who that is.
The law is what you make of it. More a stern recommendation than something strictly enforced, and different depending on who you ask.

I'm not one of the crazies that came here looking for the danger. I'm here because a man with my talents and lack of good looks can make more money in an evening than the show gals can strip me of in a week, and those gals have a certain talent for skinning a man with a smile and a twirl.

I had slipped a kid some scrip for some information, and he had been real detailed about it too. I was going to be going in against three guys, holding what I was looking for. I knew the names and preferred weapon of each. Where he slept and where he sat around their table, waiting for a ransom that would never come.

There were things that bothered me about this case, but there always was. The difference between a PI and a good PI is that the latter knows when to stop asking his client questions and start asking his informants instead. Still, something told me there was more to this case than simple blackmail.

With a firestick in the crook of my mouth and a thunderstick in my holster, I couldn't think of any good reason to postpone the inevitable. I might not have come to Malifaux for the danger, but I brought a little with me.

A knock at the door brought someone to the peep-hole. That would be Sam. Poor fellow had taken up post in a recliner right on the other side of the door, acting like a gate keeper to the most boring game of stud poker imaginable being played by the other two men in the room. With the amount of cheating being done, they must either be playing with an incomplete deck of cards or the most comprehensive collection of aces in Malifaux.

Sam had something to say about the darkness of the barrel of my .45 in his peep-hole, but when old Betsy talks that close to your face, your arguments tend to be cut short. The other two men in the room suddenly had a lot to say to fill in the blanks, though.

As it is in these cases, most of the talking was being done through steel intermediaries, and it wasn't long before the door was more buckshot and holes than wood remaining on the hinges.
I, of course, had wisely stepped to the side; something the door was probably envious of at this point.

"You dead yet, mister?" Came a voice from inside.
"I'm afraid not, son. Would it be too much to hope for that you'd lay down your armaments and hand over what I came here for?"
Another, more shrill voice cut me off
"You kill't Sam, you basterd!"
Well, I suppose experience should have taught me by now that no one ever makes your job easy for you if they can make it hard, but I'm just an optimist at heart.

In my younger years I would have made some daring acrobatic entrance into the room at this point, but if there is one thing age has taught me, it is that there is nothing achieved through physical effort that isn't improved upon by stout refusal to do anything that makes you perspire. In this case, I found throwing shrapnel into the room to hit the window to the side of my antagonists had the desired effect of creating a perceived threat in that direction. A stout observer would note that the likelihood of an assailant outside the window on the third floor is somewhat unlikely, but seeing their friend with the better half of his face gone had made these kids understandably jumpy.

I stepped into the room as they were putting their souls into the murder of an innocent window, and dispatched the angrier of the two with the snubnose I usually keep in my shoe for when bad situations take a turn for the ugly, while I kept my .45 angled at the side of the head of the last kid in the room.
He had frozen in the act of reloading his boomstick, and seemed to be weighing his chances of getting it loaded, pointed at me and fired off before I could pull the trigger.
"I'd put that down if I were you. Me and you are gonna have words, boy."

He didn't seem to like the situation one bit, but he did as he was told. Probably the first wise move in a life full of unwise decisions.
He wasn't very talkative at first, but as an old man in the game I know most of the tricks to loosening tongues. Surprisingly to some, the tongue seems to stick to the temple, but a quick pistol whip with good precision will kick it loose in most cases and this was no exception.

I feel like I shouldn't have been ready for the merry ride his tale took me on, but surprise is a luxury I had to get rid of a long time ago.
The whole thing was about a dame. Most things are though. But the dame herself was only remarkable in her absence. That's more uncommon.
The gang of merry idiots two thirds littering the floor had gotten into some information. Information they weren't ready to handle. Instead of pretending it never fell into their laps, like they should have, they decided to devise the most brilliantly cock-brained scheme ever to have come out of three heads at once.

They had found that the lover of a certain powerful Guild official had taken a lover of her own. The man may be an adulterer, but that doesn't mean he would accept the same behavior from what he considered his. How they found this out isn't important. What they decided to do with it is.
Leaving town on the pretense of going to see her mother, she had taken a detour to a secluded cottage with her lover, where she intended to stay for two weeks. The trio had decided to stage a kidnapping. They sent a message to their intended victim that his lover was in their possession. How was he going to find out any different? It was the perfect crime. A kidnapping without the hassle of having to kidnap anyone.

I had been hired to bring back whatever I found in their possession. It may look like I came away empty handed, but I would argue the opposite. Who knows what hare-brained schemes I could conjure out of this information. I left the room with a parting thought to my talkative friend. The last thing that went through his mind was a lead bullet, creating more movement in that second than the poor sap had managed in a life time of slow thinking.

I should probably feel sorry for the boys, but let's face it; sheep shouldn't try to run with the wolves.

Me, I had managed to make another turn.

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