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All I Have


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Mrs Barnaby placed the deck of cards back into her handbag with an air of satisfaction; it was not often that she failed in her little games of solitaire.

She leant back and rested her head against the back of the seat. She always enjoyed her trips to Malifaux; it wasn’t the place itself that gave her joy, in truth she found it slightly frightening and it was certainly confusing in its layout. No, it was the mere fact that it represented the one time a year she would get to see her son, who, if everything was to be believed, was doing very well for himself there. She was very proud of what he had achieved, despite the sadness that, in order to find a vocation at which he could succeed, he had been required to move so far from her.

She slipped her reading glasses down and rubbed the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger. No matter how often she had taken this journey the last few moments before the train reached the breach was always a nervous time. She looked around the carriage trying to guess from the various states of agitation who were veterans of the sojourn through the breach and who were about to experience it for the first time. This was another of the regular little games she played with herself, and despite never knowing for sure how she did, she felt she was right far more often than not.

Today she noted that the carriage was practically empty, this was surely a result of taking the first train of the day. She didn’t want to waste time that could be spent with her son after all.

Firstly, across the aisle there was a single man in a bowler hat; he had dark brown hair and a moustache. He was wearing quite the most revolting shirt she had ever seen but despite that she thought him rugged and handsome. Had she been forty years younger she may have considered dropping her handkerchief, although these days she doubted if anyone had the manners or courtesy to retrieve it. He was clearly nervous, but not overly so, and as a result she concluded that he was a repeat visitor.

The train was surely approaching the breach now and she could feel the tension in her stomach mount. There was still time for another passenger or two surely. Two rows down and facing her, were two men and a young girl, perhaps the age of five, she was wearing a pale blue dress and her blonde hair was in pigtails, she was quite the prettiest little thing that Mrs Barnaby had seen in a long time. She found the composition of the group odd though, where was the girl’s mother? Perhaps that was who they would all be visiting in Malifaux? She could see that all three were very nervous and her snap judgement was that they were all first timers. They clearly didn’t know what to expect when the train passed through. In truth, neither did she, it was different every time. She looked closer at the girl and it became clear that the little ‘un was not merely nervous about the journey, she had tear stained cheeks that suggested there was more to it than that.

Mrs Barnaby pushed her glasses back up to their normal position, tilted her head slightly to ensure she was in sight of the child and gave her a broad grin.

The girl took a moment, and looked to the two men travelling with her, as if for permission, seeing that they did nothing she turned back and returned the smile.

Despite the smile that was spread between the girl’s pigtails Mrs Barnaby felt a sadness pass through her that almost broke her heart. Before having time to consider what this meant however, the lights above the passenger’s heads turned orange.

They were all about to enter the breach.

Her hands instinctively gripped both her handbag and her armrests and she dropped her head slightly. She wasn’t sure why, but this had become her usual position when crossing to the other side. She could feel the train start to shudder. This was ok she said to herself. This was normal. She could feel the energy start to pass through her in waves, she always forgot how disorientating this was. There was something different this time though. The waves weren’t just coming from the direction of the breach behind her, but there seemed to be stronger ones pushing her back against the seat.

She opened her eyes. She could see the young girl, her face a mask of terror, her mouth open in a silent scream. Bags were falling from the overhead railings and the carriage itself was shaking, as if trying to tear itself apart. For the first time since her very first crossing eight years earlier, she was scared.

The train pierced the breach.

Mrs Barnaby just had time to register that the girl’s two companions had fallen into unconsciousness and slipped to the floor, when something fell from above her head and she joined them.


Her eyes were not open but she could feel herself slowly coming to her senses. The train was slowing. Surely this meant they were nearing Malifaux station. They must have made it through. Despite this, a pressure remained rooted on her chest. It was moving, slowly, but it was moving.

She managed to open her eyes and saw the source of her discomfort. A chest had fallen and landed on her right arm and chest pinning her to the floor. It was the chest that was moving now but she could see no hands laid upon it. She tilted her head to the left to see into the aisle.

It was there she stood. She was staring down at the chest with almost comical focus, her hands on either side of her face. Mrs Barnaby saw the girl smile at her as the train came to a full stop and the chest slipped to the floor relieving her arm of the pressure. Surely it was the movement of the train that had freed her so suddenly? In truth she was still dazed and confused. She managed to raise herself back to her seat as she heard the carriage doors open. Looking around she could see everyone starting to regain consciousness. The first of the girl’s companions was looking around the carriage in a panicked state before his eyes came to rest upon the girl standing in the middle of the aisle.

“Stop that girl!”

Mrs Barnaby turned to see the girl stare back at her companions before turning and running for the door.

She didn’t know why she did it, but as the man ran after her Mrs Barnaby stuck out a leg and tripped him. She heard the man curse but ignored him and turned to look out of the window.

She saw a flash of blue with two blonde pig-tails disappear amongst the crowd on the station platform, and she smiled to herself.

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I had heard days ago that someone had been looking for me.

I was surprised that it had taken them so long to learn of my whereabouts as, despite having a number of enemies, I hardly kept myself to myself.

I was sat on the leather couch in my drawing room, with candles lit and a coal fire burning in the hearth – it kept the worst of the cold weather at bay – when I heard Rosie welcome the visitors at the main door and start directing them to me.

The candles flickered as a few moments later they entered the room. There were two of them, a man and a woman. The man looked stoic and proper, maybe fifty years old, well dressed enough, but not in the very finest of clothing. The woman however, took my breath away. She was beautiful, perhaps 30 years of age at most, with long flowing jet black hair and eyes so blue they pierced the dull light of the room. Despite this there was a sadness emanating from her that portrayed her as a fragile soul. Upon hearing her story I would understand why.

“Mr Stryder” the man said, nodding. Those would turn out to be the only words he would say to me.

“Yes indeed. May I ask your names? Despite the number of people you asked about me, none of them, it seems, managed to avail themselves of that information.”

The woman stepped forward, head bowed slightly, to address me.

“My name is Teresa Todado, people call me Todo, this is my travelling companion Mr Scatola. We were not trying to be evasive but the last year or so has taught us to be cautious. Malifaux seems such a dangerous place if you don’t know your way.” Her head bowed further still, she was no longer looking at me but staring at the floor.

“That is true” I replied. “I understand that you are looking to engage my services. Please know that I have been retired from my previous line of work for some time, and it was so dependent on contacts that have now been lost I may not be of much assistance. Tell me what it is you want and then we can discuss arrangements if I feel I can help in any way.”

Todo raised her head just enough for me to look into her eyes before telling me her story.

“Seven years ago I was granted the greatest gift of all, a baby daughter. Two years ago that gift was ripped away from me in the night and brought to Malifaux. I have not seen her since.”

I gestured them both to sit on the adjacent couch. “What makes you think I can help you?”

“We came through the Breach to search for her some 18 months ago now and we have got nowhere. Nobody wants to help. It’s hard to even strike up a conversation here without people having an ulterior motive. Those that do seem to want to help haven’t known anything. Last month we almost gave up, we’ve spent nearly half of my family’s fortune on this search with not even a glimmer of hope to justify it. Mr Scatolo here suggested we gave it one more go, using someone deemed as a professional. We started asking people not about my daughter but about who in this city would be best placed to find her. Your name came up repeatedly. They say that is what you do, you find things.”

I nodded slightly, “I found things yes. Those times are past, and generally it was objects of value that I sought.”

“There is nothing more valuable to me sir, nothing in this world.” She stated, her voice cracking with emotion “We still have enough funds to pay for your services.”

I had to admit the emotion in her voice and the determined look in her eyes that were now boring into mine were starting to sway me. “Tell me what happened?”

“They came in the night. I was in bed sleeping when they entered, but the stairs in my house are old and the creak of someone climbing them roused me. It took me a moment to realise someone was in the house but when I did the panic hit me.” She took a moment to calm herself, the emotion of relaying the story still seemed to hit her after all this time. “I ran up the stairs knowing my baby was up there sleeping. I saw a man through her bedroom door grabbing her and placing his hand over her mouth, I ran to her but I hadn’t realised there was two of them and someone must have been hiding by the wall on the way in and struck me on the head from behind. I fell to the floor in a daze. That was the last I saw of her.”

Her head had dropped over the course of her tale and she was again staring at the floor it was clear however, that she was crying.

Mr Scatola put an arm round her and pulled her towards him. I couldn’t place what the link or relationship was between the two of them.

I stood up and for reasons that I do not fully understand I told them I would take the case. The financials could be settled at a later time. I had always found people were more willing to pay when you actually held the object of their affection, it was my standard practice.

“How do I find you?” I asked. Mr Scatola reached into his inside pocket and handed me a note with an address. “Thank you” I continued. Rosie will see you out. With that the drawing room door opened and Rosie appeared motioning them to follow her. They did so, Mr Scatola pausing before me as he passed, nodded slightly towards me, “Mr Stryder” he repeated before following Todo and Rosie out of the room.

I made my way to the wooden globe that was at the side of the couch they had been seated on, removed a bottle of Brandy and a glass from inside, poured a suitable amount and made my way to the fireside.

I guess I was back in business.

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I suppose I should really tell you a little bit about myself so that you can understand why those people would make their way to my home with such a request.

My name is Graeme Stryder; although I do try wherever possible to go by my last name only. I am approximately 4 foot 3 inches tall, which you will no doubt already be aware, makes me pretty much exactly the average height for a male dwarf, which I suppose is what I am medically defined as.

I made my way through the breach only a matter of months after its re-opening, feeling that my particular talents may come in useful to the type of people that seemed intent on making the crossing. As it turned out; I was right.

These days I imagine people would describe me as a collector, back then however, I called myself a location agent. If someone wanted to know where a particular rare work of art, antique, powerful soul-stone, or weapon was then I was the man they would speak too. Granted there were very few works of fine art in Malifaux in those first few years; but I still found a buoyant market for my services. After I had located what it was my client was looking for the information was given over for a price, what they did with it was up to them. If they wanted delivery of the item, well, I could arrange that too, for a premium.

The first thing I noticed that was different than on earth-side, was that there appeared to be a far higher demand for books and rare volumes. On occasion I would be hired by two or three clients all looking for the same particular tome. This made for rich pickings and I had no reservations about selling that information many times over; only very rarely did I hear of the death of any of them within such a time-scale that I would deem it as possibly relevant.

I came to realise that in order to maximise my efficiency it may be beneficial to have a number of items close to hand; so, whenever I was instructed on an ‘added value’ search, if there happened to be works close by that looked like the type of item I may be instructed to search for in the future, then I would take them into custody. This was how my collection started.

Over time I started to read the many books that came to be in my possession and I learnt a great deal, both in terms of pure and arcane knowledge, but also about the motivations of those that were paying for my services. In addition, it reached a point where many of the items I was requested to find were already to hand and I would simply charge the individuals for the time they required for access. If you were looking to sensationalise the matter you could call it an underground library, and it was through this library that my network of contacts spread beyond the town drunks, prostitutes, addicts and snitches to those of a more gentlemanly – or lady-like persuasion -, always though, discretion was guaranteed.

It proved lucrative, and recently I have mostly been able to purchase the objects of my desire; there are so many people in this place who simply do not know the value of what they possess. In addition I have also been required to start funnelling scrip into other ventures so as not to raise the eyebrows of the guild tax collectors and liquidators.

Unlike many however, I do not oppose the Guild in its entirety. I know there are as many within its protective confines who are not motivated by power and greed as those that are. I have to admit there were even a number of visitors from the guild to my little depository of knowledge, although naturally, I had to be more wary of their visits. Also, one of my very best friends happens to be a guild investigator. At first I simply thought of him as useful to have around from a protection point of view. Very few people are willing to make a move on you when you have a guild officer by your side after all. I have to admit however, a bond of genuine friendship has been built.

I do seem to have digressed from my point somewhat, where was I?

Oh yes, despite the move away from what I would call ‘street work’ I still tried to retain as many of my old contacts and friends as possible, you never know when you may need them and as my favourite saying goes, ‘an old friend should never be replaced with a new one’.

I had spent the morning with Todo and Mr Scatola trying to glean as many details as I could. I had to admit she looked every bit as beautiful in the natural light of day as she had by flickering candle the night before. If it wasn’t for her particular circumstances - and my six month relationship with a fine young lady who works at the Star theatre - then I have to admit I would have attempted to act in a far friendlier manner.

I had left that meeting with some initial funds to cover expenses, an old photograph of the girl, and a sense of puzzlement. Why had her daughter been kidnapped? Why had she been brought to Malifaux? Did Todo have any enemies who would have carried out such an act? These were questions that they had been unable to answer. Todo had confirmed that no ransom request had been received, and in fact she has had no contact with the kidnappers from the moment they left her unconscious on the bedroom floor. I could feel that they were holding something back. Whether it was something within her sense of guilt such as not having locked the door that evening or some other such thing I couldn’t say.

I decided I needed some further information before I went blustering back into the depths. With that in mind I was making my way to one of my very first Malifaux clients. Not only was he the one man who knew more about what went on in this city than me, he was also one of my dearest friends. Dr Edgar Ramos.

As my carriage approached his residence I had little idea that this case would be one of the most complex I had ever taken, or indeed the very real danger I would find myself in.

Edited by Chucklemonkey
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Elliot Barnaby was getting very bored and very tired.

He was sat in the upstairs bedroom of a downtown hovel, staring across a small cobblestone lane at the front door of a house that was thought to be the local base for a pick-pocketing gang. He knew there had been a few deaths amongst the gang-masters recently and a resultant consolidation of their charges. Despite this, Elliot still failed to see why the Guild were paying any attention to this and perhaps more importantly, why he had been picked to not only be part of the stake-out team, but also why they had paired him with some ex liquidator rookie! He didn’t know what he would do if he had to hear the story of how the kid had stumbled upon the body of a showgirl even one more time.

He leaned back on his chair and closed his eyes. He should be preparing for the annual visit of his mother. It was the one time a year his home got any attention and it normally took him a good two days to get it clean enough to let anyone inside. This year she was bringing a companion with her. Some photographer she had met at bridge club. He had better not leech off the old dear’s money. Elliot had plans for that when the time came.

He could hear the rain beating off the window and the distant rumble of thunder. At least he could say he was at least glad to be inside on a night like this. He heard a splash. It was bigger than the mere rain. He heard another. Elliot stood up and peered down into the alleyway.

“What’s down there?” asked Charles, his young and –Elliot thought – rather over-eager new colleague.

“Just looks like a drunk. Can’t keep his feet out of the cess-drain” Elliot replied.

He was just about to turn and sit down again when a dim light rounded the corner onto the lane. It was the tip of a cigar that had caught his attention. Two men, dressed smartly in top hats and tails, the non smoker also had a cane, were making their way up the lane. It was certainly unusual for such well mannered gentleman to be in this part of town, let alone at this late hour.

They stopped halfway between the lane end and the target of Elliot’s surveillance and seemed to enter into a conversation. Elliot had just decided that they were not worth anymore of his attention when the smoker leaned back against the wall and the man with the cane started moving directly towards the gang’s hideout.

“Hey Charles, come see this.” Elliot motioned his compatriot to join him at the window “It’s probably nothing but it looks like some kind of business is about to go down. Just keep your eyes on Mr Cigar, see if you can pick out any details when he takes a draw. I’ll keep my eyes on the door.”


It was three minutes later when the man emerged from house opposite. Elliot noticed that the man now appeared to be carrying two canes. It dawned on him just moments before the man slipped one cane inside the other. It was no cane. It was a sword.

He turned and ran for the door, just managing to order Charles to follow him. Charles could see that the two men had heard the shout and had begun bolting down the alleyway. He felt this could be his big chance. Not only to impress his partner but also to convince his boss that he could work murders. He was fast and knew it. He joined the chase.

He rounded the door onto the upstairs landing and sprinted for the top of the stairs. He could see the overweight Elliot descending them one by one and thought it was clear he had not been forced to take a fitness test in quite some time.

Charles also started the descent, taking the stairs three at a time. He had only a few to go when his right foot went over on itself and he went tumbling head first towards the floor, colliding with Elliot and knocking him into a hallway dresser as he did so.

The moments lost righting themselves and reaching the door that led out onto the cobbles must have been just enough for the men to get away. The only man in tha alley was the drunk who seemed to have passed out over a storm drain.

“Should I pursue” Charles shouted, still keen on his chances of catching anyone but the fastest of runners?

“No, you’re with me.” Elliot replied slowing as he approached the door that just moments before he had seen the sword wielding gentleman exit. Both of them could feel their pulse racing as the edged forward.

Just as they were about to reach for the handle, the door slammed open - giving both of them a shock that they would later agree not to mention to anyone in their report - and six children moving at full speed sprang out, clearly desperate to get as far from their as possible.

Elliot eventually peered around the door and into the small front room. The tension visibly left him and he waved Charles forward. In the dark room they entered there was a large wooden table with benches down either side, a fire to the left that still had a pot of some foul smelling liquid bubbling away, and there, lying in the middle of the floor was Constance Ritchey, the object of their three day stake-out, with her throat slit clean through.

Elliot turned to see Charles, the colour drained from his face, move quickly back outside into the rain-soaked street.

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I had emerged from the meeting with my old friend, not only with a re-enforced sense of hope that I might be able to find Todo’s daughter – April – but also, that some of my initial assumptions may very well be correct. That there had been no ransom demand had led me to believe that there must be something unique about the girl, the fact she had been brought to Malifaux was a good indicator of what that may be.

Despite Dr Ramos validating those thoughts, he also happened to point out that there could be another reason for the lack of contact by the kidnappers, that April was dead. I had to admit that this was something that, while obvious now, I had not considered. I decided it was an irrelevance; I would seek payment one way or the other and at least I could release Todo from a hopeless search.

After leaving Dr Ramos’ hideaway – he was not as universally popular as he was with me – I had decided to hit the streets and get the name and the face to any and all of my contacts that may be of use. As a result it was now nearly five in the evening and my feet were not afraid to let me know they were fatigued by my endeavours.

I decided that I had just one more person I wished to converse with in this regard and then I would retire to the comfort of my fireplace and a bottle of deep red Carmenere. With that in the forefront of my mind I made my way towards Market Square; the alleys and streets surrounding it appeared far more vibrant than was usual and I had to be cautious with my movements as I approached the archway leading into the square. People tend to ignore someone of my size when they are hurried or harried. Just as I approached the entrance I had an overwhelming sense that I was being followed and I turned in an effort to pick out any familiar faces. Seeing none, I recommenced my journey.

It was immediately obvious upon my entry as to why the square was so busy. The circus was in town and the marketplace was full with entertainers advertising their wares for upcoming shows. I made my way through the throng, scanning the crowd for the person I was hoping to meet. There were twice as many stalls as was usual for the market and I could make out a few of those that were transients with the circus show. There was a gentleman with a pencil moustache selling ointments and alms from the back of his carriage. He seemed to be doing a brisk trade. The crowd that had gathered around him was nothing however, in comparison to that run by two thirty-something men. My curiosity piqued, I made my way through a group of young girls in an effort to see just what it was that they were selling that was so popular. My eyes came upon their goods and I could see rows and rows of puppets, wooden and sack-cloth alike, this in itself was not unusual, but they all appeared as representations of powerful, famous and infamous people from the city. I could make out a stuffed Lucius puppet next to a wooden Seamus one, and there, close to the back was one of Lilith, a legend around these parts. I could hear the salesmen whipping the crowd into a frenzy. “Come! Collect them all! Puppets of all your favourite citizens and denizens of the underworld! Have you ever wished to own you’re very own Collette Du Bois puppet? Well now is your chance. Get them now before it’s too late!”

Having met the delightful Ms Du Bois on a previous investigation I had to admit I found this somewhat distasteful.

I turned to leave and it was then that I noticed him. His eyes locked onto my person as a raptor to its prey. I started walking through the crowd in an effort to leave the square by the North Gate. I was able to use the fact that people were continually getting in my way to reposition my body and get the occasional glance at my follower. He was young, maybe 14 years old, dressed in a dandyish manner with a long coat and hat that seemed to engulf most of his head. He was gaining ground on me, I, of course, made as if unaware of his pursuit. I had just about reached the gate when I bumped into an old woman and this stopped me in my tracks. It was then he made his move. sidling up next to me and attempting to slip his hand into my waistcoat pocket un-noticed.

I managed to grab his wrist with my left hand before he could complete his deft removal of my pocket watch. Unfortunately for me, my left arm had been weakened considerably many years ago in an unfortunate incidence with some rats below the city streets, and he broke free from my grasp, my gold timepiece still in his hand as he started to run from the square. I noticed another youngster run speedily in the other direction. I assumed this to be his bagman, but as they had not had time to complete a drop I made straight after the first rapscallion, his hat bobbing up and down amongst the sea of people traversing the square. My feet surrendered their previous protestations and I made swiftly for him, nearly catching him twice as he bolted through numerous back-alleys. He made a swift left turn and it was then I knew I had him. He had just entered Hangman’s close, a dark uninviting street that had not even been cobbled. It also happened to be a dead end. As I made the turn into the close I saw him by the rear wall and he was smiling back at me.

“Well Mr Stryder, I would say that was the most realistic one yet wouldn’t you? You nearly had me two roads back.”

“Yes Thomas, It was lucky I had spotted you, or you would have managed to remove my watch without my heed. Your technique is even better than it was a few months back” I replied.

“I’m the best there is Mr Stryder” came the cheeky retort.

“I know you are Thomas, that’s why I engage your services so often. I do wish we didn’t have to go through such a charade every time in order to do so. I am not as young as you after all.”

“My master would not be best pleased with me if he knew I was working for someone else – at least not without him seeing the scrip. So what have you got for me today?”

“I’m looking for this girl” I said as I removed the picture from the very same pocket that he had snatched my timepiece from “she has been missing for two years. Her mother wants me to find her.”

Thomas took the picture from me and inspected it thoroughly. “I haven’t seen her before. Of course, she might belong Ms Everwood, she has lots of girls and is secretive with it. Have you tried her yet?” he asked.

“I haven’t thanks. I will now though” I responded moving to take the picture back.

“Of course, she could have been taken by the piper” Thomas said, almost to himself. “Can I keep it? I can ask around for you. There are places I can go that even you can’t, after all.”

I mulled it over briefly before nodding, “Alright. Standard finder’s fee mind, and let me know the second you hear anything”. I turned to leave but Thomas caught my attention again as he cleared his throat.

“Your watch Mr Stryder” he stated, as he held it forward for me. I gave him enough scrip with which he could persuade his master he had pawned the spoils of his raid and not made away with any funds, and he ran from the street.

I smiled to myself; that boy was as smart as a whip, and I had no doubt he would be my main competitor if I was still plying my trade in a number of years.

I started my journey home; that bottle of Carmenere was not going to drink itself.

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Thomas Lawson thought it was the perfect plan. He had risen at dawn; as he did every day. Normally there was no choice in the matter as the master would reward anyone sleeping past the rising of the sun with a thrashing that made it feel like the sun’s heat was emanating from their very cheeks. Occasionally if the master had been out the night before spending scrip on drink, women - or indeed both - then the opportunity presented itself for them all to nap long into the morning. Most of the other boys enjoyed those days but all it did for Thomas was remind him of the fact that his destiny was not in his control, and that he didn’t have the pleasure of spending any of the funds that he managed to collect through his endeavours.

No matter what time any of the boys rose, none of them enjoyed the morning meal of salty porridge served up to them daily by Mrs Peabody and her dimwit son. Today though, with thoughts of the productive hours ahead Thomas did not struggle to finish the gloopy mixture which had been ladled into his wooden bowl.

The gang operated in teams of two, with an experienced boy – of which Thomas was – paired up with one of the younger lads who were either still learning the ropes or too stupid to learn. The older boys were the dippers who would approach the unwitting citizens of the city and remove any items of wealth that they had been stupid enough to carry. Then, in case suspicion was to fall on them they would quickly pass the goods onto the younger runners who would make a swift exit with treasures in hand.

Thomas was paired with Edward, and had been for some time. In truth Edward was nearing the age that he should have been stepping up and taking a new recruit under his wing. Unfortunately for Edward, he had taken one too many beatings from the master when he first arrived, once indeed with his very own breakfast bowl, and Thomas thought it was this that had reduced Edward’s mental faculties. Thomas however, liked having Edward as his partner. Not only did his physical speed belie his mental abilities but the fact that he was older and larger than most of the runners meant that he was better placed to assist Thomas if and when a fight were to occur. In fact there had been more than one occasion, before Thomas had perfected his technique, where it looked like he was about to take a beating that Edward had managed to step in and their combined efforts had allowed them to rebuff their attackers and beat a hasty retreat.

Neither of those however, was the main reason that Thomas liked Edward so much, no, it was simply that given Edward’s limited mental capability, Thomas was able to ensure that he was in control. It allowed him the opportunity to carry out stunts such as yesterday’s situation with Stryder and therefore more chance to both earn and conceal a little bit of something on the side.

That morning, as soon as breakfast was over and everyone sent on their way, Thomas had informed Edward that the master had told him that he thought Edward was almost ready to become a dipper and that he would soon be watching the two of them in action to make a decision. Thomas suggested that it would be a good day for Edward to practice on his own; it was to be kept secret of course.

The first thing he had done after Edward’s departure was head towards the nearest junior school and using one of the silly puppet dolls he had managed to grab the day before distracted one of the younger girls long enough to steal her bag. It had a strawberry motif and Thomas thought it would be perfect for what he had in mind.

He had come up with his plan through the night. He would spend the day walking all over town with the photograph given to him by Stryder, and the girl’s bag that had so recently come into his possession. He would then approach all the wealthiest looking individuals and proclaim that he had lost his sister on the way to school and that their mother would beat him silly if he didn’t manage to find her again soon. While they were looking at the picture he would relieve them of whatever wealth they happened to be carrying on their person, slip it into the bag, and then run off proclaiming that he had seen her that moment turning the corner.

If someone actually recognised her then this would just be a bonus. If not then he would start a genuine search for her that evening, he did actually like Stryder after all, and his finder’s fees were always more than generous. In fact, he thought it might just be possible to keep this little ruse going for a couple of days.

With high hopes and a spring in his step he set off into the deep grey Malifaux morning little knowing that a pair of eyes that had seen him go through his charade with the dwarf the day before were following him now.


Elliot couldn’t believe he had managed to get so unpopular so quickly.

His Captain had spent all of yesterday ripping through him about the fact he had allowed the death of a woman he was supposed to be keeping tabs on. Elliot’s explanation that he would have caught the culprits had his bumbling partner not tripped and knocked him head first into a dresser didn’t seem to appease the Captain. He hadn’t even been taken off the case. It also made for a frosty day spent with his partner, as they went over all the information they had previously gathered about the case in an effort to spot some lead or missed detail that might help them crack it. Elliot had thought that silence was just what he had wanted from Charles; now that he had it he wasn’t so sure.

The worst of it was that the death of Constance Ritchey meant that he would not be allowed any of the time off he had requested months ago. He had yet to break the news to his mother, who was due to arrive later that day, but he was pretty sure it would not go down well. As long as he succeeded in preventing her from storming into the station handbag at the ready, or from cutting him out of her will, then he supposed it wouldn’t be too bad. At least she had that photographer to show around the place this time, although he was concerned that without him by her side the old bat would manage to get herself killed.

He re-read the details of the murders that had been provided by the lead investigator on the case. There had been four gang-masters killed over the last year; well five now Ritchey had met her maker. All of them put to death by the sword. He wasn’t sure quite how many gangs of orphans and waifs this city could support but in any event it was clearly a lot more than he would have thought. In truth there was very little information to go on, with no witnesses, until last night that was.

“What do you think Charles? I know that by rights we are just part of the stake out team but it seems to me that if there was anyone in a position to move ahead and get this solved it would be us.”

Charles stayed silent, although Elliot thought that he noticed a slight tilt of the head. “I mean, I know that we’ve been moved on to this new dame, but we’re the only witnesses here. I would say there would be nothing to stop us from doing some leg-work in our free time. Did you see enough of Mr Cigar for us to get a drawing? We could pay one of those caricature artists from the sideshows rather than letting anyone in here know what the position is.”

Charles looked round at him. “Okay, but when we’re both promoted I’m asking for a transfer.”

Elliot let out a small chuckle “sure thing kid. We have to be prepared for tonight; lets’ say we head down to the market place and see what you can remember, grab a nap and then set up camp.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

It was not often you could see stars from the streets of Malifaux. The clarity of the night sky did nothing to lift my mood however as I made my way through rat infested passageways to the very edge of the quarantine zone.

The day leading up to this point had been un-successful in almost every way. The morning and most of the afternoon had been spent on a second day of searching for April. Nobody I asked had seen her, or at least nobody was willing to admit they had. I was not sure why I was surprised, it was not like two days was a particularly long time on the hunt, especially if you compared it to the 18 months Todo and her companion had been looking. Despite that fact I found myself increasingly pre-occupied and agitated by my lack of leads and indeed that had been noted by my dining companion that evening.

I pushed thoughts of the argument we had had to the back of my mind as I prepared to make the final turn onto Old Cooper Street, where my final destination was situated. As it turned out, calling it a street was a stretch. It was a small lane with maybe eight properties per side and from the looks of it, if you reached out of one window you could shake hands with someone doing the same from the opposite house. Maybe I couldn’t, but that’s different you understand.

The safe house of Ms Nancy Everwood was much like any other on this street. A two level abode constructed of stone and adorned with oak beams. If my experience was anything to go buy, then the upstairs would be a suite of relative luxury where Everwood herself, together with obligatory bodyguard, resided; while the downstairs would consist of two rooms, one being a bare walled kitchen area where meals were prepared and eaten and where a doorway in the rear would lead to a small outhouse. The other room would likely be converted into a residential dormitory sleeping anything up to twenty children.

In the case of Everwood, girls were her weapon of choice. She would grab them young and use them for the usual scams and such. In their teens she would have them used in honey traps in an effort to extort the not so great and good of the city, then, when they reached sixteen she would sell them on. Thomas’ suggestion made sense to some degree in that a large number of girls would pass through her door. It was still a long-shot however; why would someone go earth-side to recruit into a street-gang, there was certainly plenty of easier options for a kidnapping and sale on this side of the breach.

I had decided on my way over here that as I was without my usual muscle, him being otherwise engaged, I would play this on Everwood’s weakness and appeal to her sense of greed. As such I looked quite the pretty picture in the very finest clothing I could muster from my wardrobe. Sabine had commented before she left that I was looking very handsome. This despite the argument we had been having.

Given how I intended to play it there was no point in skulking so I made sure to march straight up to the front door in plain sight before knocking loudly. It took a minute but eventually the door opened. The man behind it looked to me more like a lumbering beast. He was clearly amused by my size and saw me as no kind of threat; as a result he let me in.


It had taken Elliot a good half a minute from his vantage point across the street to realise that it was not a dressed up child standing at the door, it would have made sense given the nature of his latest quarries line of work.

It had not been long since he and Charles had set up their new camp, A new location maybe, but like every other room they had been using over the past few months it was still a cramped damp little place that did nothing to raise his spirits. At least something was happening; this would ease the battle he had already been having with his heavy eyelids.

Only five minutes later the dwarf exited the property. He started making his way back the way he had come. Elliot noticed that he took a few glances over his shoulder back towards the door, and then he was gone.

Charles had only just given the all clear that Everwood was alive and well when two men entered from other end of the street. Although it was dark and there was still some distance between them, both Charles and Elliot knew immediately that these were the two who had evaded them previously.

“Right” whispered Elliot “No knocking me over this time, we can’t afford any mistakes here. Let’s move downstairs now and grab them as them as they pass the front door. I don’t want another race.”

Charles nodded and they made their way quietly downstairs and positioned themselves on either side of the door. A few moments later they heard the men approaching on the street outside. Elliot raised his hand holding up three digits indicating a countdown and three seconds later they rushed out onto the street.

The two men, while clearly surprised did not panic. The taller of the two, stepped back slightly, allowing his cane wielding companion some space. Elliot began to charge hoping he would reach his foe before the sword could be removed from the camouflaged scabbard, before he could reach him however a great malaise seemed to envelope him. At first it felt like his legs were merely tired from all the sitting and watching that he had been doing over the past few weeks, then as he drew ever closer he realised something was not right. It was as if he was running through thick oil or treacle. He turned his head and caught sight of Charles already lying on the street seemingly unable to move. Returning his sight to his quarry he realised that he was too tired to fight, by this point he was barely moving, so he sat down on the cobbles. All he could do was stare as the man slowly approached him, a smile spreading across his countenance, as the sword was slowly withdrawn from its casing, twinkling in the moonlight.

Elliot hated himself, why could he not have kept running, why was he unable to do his job. He knew then that he was about to die, and quite frankly he deserved it. He lay his head down to the ground and immediately lost consciousness.


The eyes that peered down the street that evening knew these two men would hold the key to his task. It was clear however, that they had a power beyond his comprehension. They had put two full grown men, charging at full speed to sleep in a matter of seconds. He did not want to face them alone, and he certainly did not want to face them now.

He saw the two men approach the prone bodies and realised that he could not watch two innocent men being killed. He started to make as much noise as he could, speaking to an imaginary companion while tapping his feet to imitate footsteps. He was unsure it would be enough given the men’s power but sure enough they turned their heads to locate the source of the sounds and then retreated back into the darkness.

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I had spent the morning trying to extricate myself from the shit that two very pissed guild officers were trying to rain down on me.

The day had started well, with me receiving word that Thomas wanted to meet to discuss his search but as I reached the door it had become apparent that things wouldn’t go so easily. Apparently I had been spotted entering Everwood’s property mere minutes before the officer’s who had been on a stakeout there had been attacked. I found the information they provided very interesting indeed. Granted, it may have had nothing to do with my current task but it certainly seemed like fortuitous timing that not only was she getting staked out by our local finger wagglers, but that she had also gained the attention of some other disreputable characters. Of course, I was savvy enough to know not to be sharing my information with them.

It had taken me nearly an hour to convince them that I had merely been there to collect a debt and knew nothing of their attackers. They had left un-satisfied and vowing to ‘break all my little limbs’ if they were to find out anything I had told them was untrue. Upon their departure I hurried towards market square for my meeting with Thomas, knowing I would be late.


Thomas was getting tired of waiting. He was excited, both about the fact that he had managed to complete Stryder’s little mission, but also, and perhaps more importantly, he had managed to spend the last few days using the photo of the girl to clean up. He had collected and stashed fifteen wallets, twelve ladies purses and six pocket watches. All in all, including the scrip held in the wallets and purses, he was well pleased with his work considering the amount he had been required to pass to the master to avoid suspicion.

He could have used having the picture for perhaps another day or two but the more people he hit, the more dangerous his ploy would become. Also, knowing Stryder, he was pretty sure he might see nearly another thousand scrip for this one. Of course, he would have to pretend that the task had been a little harder than it ended up being. He was not sure what story he would tell but it would not be the truth. Whenever Thomas thought about he had found April’s location a laugh escaped.

Where was Stryder? Thomas had despatched word nearly two hours ago and yet there was no sign of him. Thomas scanned the milieu of people; there were plenty of potential marks as usual and if Stryder wasn’t here what harm could there be in having a little fun? The majority of those in the square did not look ripe for plucking. And then he saw him, a prime target. A well dressed man in a three piece suit, he seemed to be moving through the crowd with purpose. Despite that he did not seem to have a specific destination in mind, perhaps he was looking for something.

Thomas decided not to use the photo trick as he probably wouldn’t even bother to take the time to look at it. Still he looked rich enough, so Thomas hopped off the wall he had been seated on and started traversing through the crowds, his eyes never moving from the man like a Cerberus circling its prey. At least twice as he approached he was required to duck behind a bystander as the man’s gaze turned in his general direction.

He was nearly upon him now, close enough to make out the contours that told him which pockets were filled. He started to reach forward but just as his hand was about to dip into his mark’s trouser pocket he turned suddenly. The man swung swiftly and ferociously and Thomas felt his wrist snap immediately. The man managed to grab his arm and with the other cover Thomas’ mouth so as to stifle the scream which had so nearly emanated from him. Thomas was swiftly dragged into an alley.

Thomas had felt fear many times in his life. He remembered being young and alone on the streets. He had also taken enough beatings from his master to have built up a healthy level of fear and respect there. He knew now though the true meaning of fear, it seemed to crash over him like a wave, it left him near paralysed unable to scream or attempt to run.

The man leaned in towards him.

“I believe you have something I may be interested in seeing? Despite your trade young man you hardly make yourself inconspicuous”

Thomas tried to bolster his courage but when he mustered the spirit to respond it felt like he was speaking through sandpaper. “I don’t know what you mean sir.”

“A photo, you have been flashing it around town and I want to know why”

Thomas didn’t even consider the options, he started to blurt out everything “I was hired by Graeme Stryder to help him find a girl, the picture is in my inside pocket.”

The man pulled a knife from his belt and used it to part Thomas’ jacket before slipping his hand into the pocket and removing the photo.

“It’s her alright. Why did he hire you for this, what does he want with April?”

“He was hired by her mother to try and find her, she’s been missing for years.”

The man went silent for a moment, but whatever information he was processing did not help his mood. “That makes no sense, you’re lying to me you little piece of scum.”

Thomas decided that if there was any chance of escape it was now, he slipped from the man’s grasp and ran towards the square. He had made it the twenty yards or so to the beginning of the alley. Just a few more and he was sure he could disappear among the crowd. Suddenly his forward motion stopped, he could feel the hand on his collar. The fear returned, it was the last thing he felt other than the cold steel of the knife entering through his back on its inexorable journey to puncture his kidney.


I had reached the square minutes ago but Thomas was not where I had been informed he would be. I had started strolling around the perimeter hoping he had merely been distracted by the stalls or a pretty girl rather than him having given up on me.

I was nearly ready to give up hope and return home when I saw him from across the square. He suddenly dropped to the floor. A man standing behind him turned and ran. It took me a moment to realise what I had seen but as soon as I did I started running. It took mere seconds to reach Thomas, he was lying there bleeding. I tried to bring him up into a sitting position by leaning him against the wall and in doing so my hands became covered with his blood. I could tell immediately he was not going to make it. He looked at me and a smile almost seemed to force its way onto his face.

He tried to say something. He was fading fast and I couldn’t make out what he had said. I lowered my ear to his mouth. He gripped my hand tightly.

“I found her Stryder.”

“Where, where is she?”

He seemed to look right past me, or through me. I could feel his grip on my hand loosen before he managed to say what were to be his last words.

“She’s right here” and with that his hand slipped from mine and he was gone.

I turned and vomited into the street my hands resting on the wall at the other side of the alley. A crowd had started to gather so I slowly raised myself to my feet still using the wall as support.

Sure enough, Thomas had been right. She was right here. Hiding in plain sight all across the city.

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The crowds were starting to settle back into their chairs after the half time interval. I too did the same, setting my glass of beer onto the floor; the refreshment stand had no port, or indeed red wine of any kind, which I had found disappointing. To my right was a gaggle of society children, I imagine a trip to the outskirts to take in entertainment of dubious nature would be a thrill to them. To my left was an older woman in a blue pastel dress and hat. She appeared to be accompanied by a gentleman friend.

It had been a day since I had held Thomas in my arms as he passed. I would miss him. He had a lot of potential that would sadly now never be realised. He had however left me with a gift. In all likelihood, tonight I would meet April.

I had bought my ticket that afternoon and had waited with baited breath for what I might find. The first half of the show had been wearisome. A juggler who liked to play with fire, a very lithe gymnast, and someone who seemed to have an un-natural affinity with bears had been the highlights. Despite the lack of talent my excitement was growing to almost fever pitch for what was to come.

If her position on the posters was anything to go by, the star of the show was a girl, maybe seven or eight years old with blonde hair and most importantly a smile that did not age. A smile that looked familiar. A smile that I thought beamed back at me whenever I looked at the photograph that was currently in my waistcoat pocket. I couldn’t tell from the composition of the poster what her act would be, but I had heard whispers from others in the crowd about how much they were looking forward to the star attraction. I did not have long to wait.

The curtains by the entry to the ring were drawn back and a portly man in red strolled, no, strutted into the middle of the ring. He took a moment to survey the crowd, perhaps calculating the likely gate receipts such a crowd would bring. After a full three hundred and sixty degree turn he drew back his head and began the sales pitch.

I won’t bore you by relaying it all to you but suffice to say it started with Ladies and Gentleman and portrayed him as being very excited about the next act. Towards the end of his routine a number of men started to bring apparatus into the ring. There were large boxes, water tanks, and locks of many kind. I assumed I was to watch some sort of magic or escapology act. The crowd however seemed swayed by his demonstrative enthusiasm and tales of how wonderful and dangerous the next act was to be. A few moments later he had said all he could and exited stage right.

The lights dimmed and took on a pale blue hue, the curtains parted and she walked into the ring. It was hard to tell if it was April, the lighting giving her a ghostly pallor. I heard a gasp from the lady on my left and some vague whispers about ‘how she had been the one she had told him about’. Her slow deliberate walk to the centre of the ring adding to the strange atmosphere.

The next ten minutes will stay with me for the rest of my life. From the moment she started to perform I could feel a pressure emanating from her. The closest I had ever felt to it had been the waves of energy emanating from Ramos or Collette whenever I met them. This was something else entirely, raw and powerful.

Her act was also mind-blowing, transfiguration and transpositions the likes of which I had never seen. If this was simply all a magic act then I struggled to think whom she could have apprenticed with.

The act appeared to be coming to a climactic moment, the music and lighting taking on an ever decreasing role in the atmosphere that was created. She sat and with one hand pointed to a spot painted on the floor. The audience now fully in the palm of her hand followed her directions with their eyes; and then it happened. I could feel it immediately and there was no trembling or shaking from the chairs beneath us as they were lifted a foot or so into the air, women around me screamed, some fainted. I had a feeling that despite my elevation my jaw was dangerously close to hitting the floor. I had been in the presence of enough masters to know that this was one very powerful – and dangerous – child.

The chairs started lowering and settled into their original position. She took a bow but the audience were too startled to applaud at that point and she retreated sombrely back through the red velvet curtains.

The circus master returned, bidding everyone a farewell and goodnight, at that point the audience erupted with applause and a smile spread slowly across his mutton chopped face, clearly he had seen this reaction before.

The show was over, some ran from the tent, some stayed and inspected the seating.

I didn’t move, paralysed by the thoughts running through my head. Why would she have been kidnapped for a circus show? If her kidnappers had known of her powers why use or sell her on as cheap entertainment? Was this the limit of her powers or was there more she was not putting on public display? Had Todo been aware of her daughter’s power before coming to see me? Had the whole kidnapping thing been a ruse and her daughter had simply ran away to the circus? That would be horrifyingly clichéd.

I left the tent and approached the nearest member of the circus crew. I waved a roll of scrip in his face and demanded that he bring me his boss as I had good money I wanted to spend on seeing a repeat performance from his star turn.

Twenty minutes and some routine negotiation later I entered her private caravan. Whatever the situation was it was clear she was being well looked after, the caravan was decked out like you would imagine it would be for a small female child, I even spotted two of the puppets that had been on sale in the market earlier in the week, I had no doubt I would be seeing them everywhere soon enough.

My eyes came upon her. She was sat cross-legged on the bed, any fear she may have felt at a stranger approaching did not break through her mask of indifference.

“What can I do for you sir?” She asked.

“I told your boss I wanted to pay for another performance like you just carried out. That’s not entirely true though, although it would be worth every penny.” I replied.

Her head tilted to one side in curiosity as I continued.

“I’m here because I have been hired to find you.” What was that? A momentary glimpse of panic seemed to surge through her, that was until my next words “by your mother.” I handed her the photo of her as a child. A warmth started to emanate from her that I could feel in the very air.

She looked at me with a broad smile and began to cry.

Edited by Chucklemonkey
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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

After the somewhat unsatisfactory end of a couple of recent investigations I had to consider the day a success. Granted the case had resulted in the loss of Thomas but at least his final actions would see a mother and daughter re-united. April had not seemed too unhappy with her life of travel and performance, hell, she had been their meal ticket and with the abilities she so evidently possessed it was unlikely they would have ever risked treating her too badly. It had taken some persuasion, but despite her being in a somewhat shocked state April had managed to ensure that she be allowed to leave peacefully.

I had to admit I do not think it was the persuasiveness of our argument that won them over, rather, an extension of the talents she displayed to the world during her act. It was truly frightening for one so young.

In any event, that was not of my concern. My work here was done. I had quickly booked a room in the same hotel that Todo and Scatola were residing in, got April settled in, and then went to get my invoice settled. There were no standard 30 day terms for my services. I had expected tears of joy when I told them that I had found her precious girl. I was disappointed. There was nothing but a beaming smile on the face of Todo, and as usual, Scatola gave nothing away as he counted the scrip to settle the terms of our transaction. In the end I handed them an envelope with the door key and they handed me a valour sack with enough scrip to see that I wouldn’t have to take on another job for a few months. Hopefully there would also be enough to win Jessica back over.

It was when I turned the final corner before reaching home that I felt something amiss. It’s hard to explain the feeling but I could tell that someone was watching me, and that they were not far away. I took a stab in the dark and spoke loudly into what appeared to be an empty street.

“You killed Thomas didn’t you? The boy in the alley. Why don’t you step out here and explain to me just exactly what it is you are doing?”

A man stepped out from between the two houses on my left.


“What’s up Crudballs? I hear you two got another reaming. Something about letting killers through your grasp, again!”

“Shut up Becker” replied Elliot. He had taken enough abuse from the Captain for one day and was not in the mood to take more. Especially not from the knuckle-headed Becker.

Becker raised his hands in mock surrender but the grin that spread across his face did take the edge off any sign of contrition he was trying to display.

“Just tellin’ it like I hear it boys. Word on the street is you two are done. Captains just getting the go ahead from on high and if you’re lucky you might just manage to hang on for a position shovelling manure from the stables.” Becker tilted his head as if trying to see past Elliot. “Say guys, why have you got a picture of the box man.....?”

“What are you talking about Becker?”

Becker pointed to the notice board directly behind Charles and Elliot, on which hung the black and white drawing they had commissioned in the market square.

Elliot’s head turned to face the drawing before turning back. “You know this man?”

“Sure, that’s the box man. He has a foreign name I struggle with but he once told me it was Italian for box so I just call him the box man. We’ve done some business together the last year or so, but keep that to yourselves you hear.”

“I don’t think that’s going to be possible Becker. You had better tell us everything.”


He was approximately 40 years old, a tall thin man, with a dark moustache. He had the look of a Northern European, although if you asked me to explain why I would probably struggle

“I think you had better explain why you’re following me, although let’s be clear, I will be contacting the Guild.”

“It should be me seeking the explanation” he replied. “Why was one of your snitches carrying a picture of April Steden around in his pocket? Why is it that wherever you have gone recently so too did some rather unsavoury characters wielding hidden weaponry. Just who exactly are you working for?”

My stomach started to weigh more than the bag of scrip in my trouser pocket. “April Steden? I think you have it wrong, you mean April Todado don’t you?”

“I mean this girl” he answered passing me a small sepia coloured photograph. It clearly showed April as a four year old, her blond hair tied in bows. She was held in an embrace by a pretty young woman, also blond and who I could make out, even on the aged photograph, was heavily freckled. A smile was passing between them, together with a look that made it clear to me this was a mother and daughter whose image had been captured.

I looked up to realise he was still talking. “So? Who hired you to search for April, was it her mother? I made it quite clear that if I was taking the job and having to travel to Malifaux that I would not be looking to share my cut with anyone.”

I struggled to speak as all the moisture in my mouth seemed to have evaporated in an instant. How could I have been so stupid? I had known something was not right from the beginning but I hadn’t been able to place it and had ignored the doubts calling to me from the back of my mind. They were here now, screaming into my face. If Teresa had been unconscious on the floor, how could she have known where the intruders would be taking her daughter?

“Follow me” I screamed as I turned and ran back towards the hotel.

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I have been waiting for the next installment to this story and you have delivered a great one. Can't wait to see how it all ends.

Thanks very much, I hope this twist wasn't too badly telegraphed. Only trouble with the ending is there is some action to be had. I have managed to mostly avoid writing action scenes so far.

Real life had slowed down the story recently but hoping there will be another part finished over the weekend.

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Wow, chucklemonkey..I had read the first two parts then life took over and i seem to have come back to find a lot more reading to be done!

I have started to read through it and wanted to say I am finding it very enjoyable as usual....the character you have created is brilliant, and really helps the style of the story.

Looking forward to a nice cup tof tea and to read the rest...

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Wow, chucklemonkey..I had read the first two parts then life took over and i seem to have come back to find a lot more reading to be done!

I have started to read through it and wanted to say I am finding it very enjoyable as usual....the character you have created is brilliant, and really helps the style of the story.

Looking forward to a nice cup tof tea and to read the rest...

Glad you have enjoyed what you have read so far. It is nice to have fleshed Stryder out somewhat and without giving too much away the ending will take him even further I hope.

@DKS : Also thanks for your feedback. His vulnerable side will be developed still further soon enough.

Edited by Chucklemonkey
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It had been Charles who had managed to convince Becker to tell them everything he knew about the box man, letting him come along to have joint credit on the collar had been what clinched the deal. Becker had told them that on occasion, when the box man needed some inside information from the Guild, he would contact Becker. Regular payments had been made and received over the years, the meeting always taking place at the box man’s suite in the Day-dream hotel on Grand Boulevard. Elliot knew exactly where the hotel was, not just because it was the oldest hotel in Malifaux, but it was also where he had recommended his mother and her photographer boyfriend stay. He had barely managed to see her during this year’s trip but was now hopeful he could resolve the case, save his career, and maybe even be able to take some vacation time for the last few days of her visit.

They had reached the hotel twenty minutes later, delaying only to translate the name required into Italian; ‘Scatola’. It was late in the evening and the hotel bar and lobby were busy enough, numerous patrons milling around ordering cocktails and champagne. Elliot had demanded the concierge provide them with the number and spare key of Scatola’s suite and now he stood holding his Peacebringer pistol low down to his right side within the fold of the red trench-coat he was wearing. His left hand motioned Charles and Becker to follow him up the curved hotel staircase as he started to ascend towards the third floor of the building.

As they reached the third floor landing Elliot stopped and sucked in a deep lung-ful of air. He had approached armed suspects hundreds of times in his career so far, despite this he had never felt this nervous before. He stole a glance to his companions and it was evident that they were experiencing the same sensations. In the case of Charles this could be put down to the fact that he was still a rookie. Becker though, well, he would normally be described as gritty, even by those who detested him, and Elliot could see the beads of sweat forming on the brow of the seasoned murder detective.

Elliot leaned back and spoke quietly to his young partner. “Maybe you should evacuate this floor? Let Becker and I go after Scatola.”

Charles returned his gaze and Elliot was surprised that in spite of a moment of doubt that was clear for all to see, the younger member of the team replied that he would be doing no such thing.

They edged around a corner and approached the doorway to suite 303 at the end of the corridor.


I was not the world’s greatest runner and my newly acquired running mate seemed able to keep pace with ease. He managed to explain how he had been hired by April’s mother to travel to Malifaux in an effort to find her daughter. He told me that she had been visited several times by a woman claiming that April was possessed of magical abilities and that she would be best placed to nurture those abilities to the full. April’s real mother, Kathryn, had re-buffed the offers each time they had been made, until one day her choice in the matter had been forcefully removed.

There was more to his tale, but quite frankly not all of my effort was focused on listening. I struggled to reconcile how I could possibly have been so complacent. I had asked for nothing to confirm that I was being hired by who they said they were, and now I had delivered April straight to them, not knowing what their intentions truly are. If, as it seems, they were the people who kidnapped her initially then I had no idea what they would do to the girl. A fleeting thought of the worst case scenario flew through my head. Had I delivered a seven year old girl to her death? All I could hope is that they would all still be at the hotel, and alive.

At full speed I turned onto Grand Boulevard, my companion who had managed to inform me that is name was Oliver, remained right on my heels.


Elliot inched along the left side of the corridor towards suite 303. The dark mahogany panels covering the lower parts of the wall together with the deep red crimson paint above, prevented the dim lamplight from illuminating the hallway effectively. Elliot, despite fighting it, had to admit he was spooked. His eye-line crossed the hallway. Charles and Becker, weapons drawn, were also moving slowly and silently towards the doorway.

Moments later they had no-where else to go. Elliot, his heart pounding violently in his chest, placed his ear to the door. He wasn’t sure what exactly he expected to hear, he knew Scatola wouldn’t be expecting them so there was no reason for the feeling of dread that was engulfing him now. His resolve wavering, it took a withering look from Becker for him to slowly reach out his free hand towards the circular brass doorknob. He turned it towards him and felt it give; the door was unlocked. He nodded to his companions and at that Becker held up the middle three fingers of his left hand and, taking what seemed to Elliot like an eternity, lowered them one by one, when he held nothing but a fist aloft in the air Elliot mustered all of his remaining courage and threw open the door.

Edited by Chucklemonkey
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She still remembered the terror that had engulfed her as she had thrown open the door of the room the nice man had arranged for her. He had told her he was leaving to get her mother, who was already in the hotel and she had been so excited she had felt like crying.

She wasn’t sure how long it had been since that night. The night she had been snatched from her bed; she had been sleeping when the men had entered her room but awoke from her slumber as a pair of arms had enveloped her. She had begun to cry immediately, gripped by a primal fear.

The moment after he had left, she had felt relaxed for the first time since then but as the door opened it was initially puzzlement she felt; puzzlement that it was not her mother that stood before her but a man and a dark haired lady. Then it fell together in her mind like sand through an hourglass. The same crippling emotion she had felt only once before was brought back to her.

That fear had passed now.

She had been dragged to another room in the hotel. A dark room, lit only by candles, and decorated in strange patterns she did not recognise. The lady made the man tie her down and it was then that April had fainted.

She had awoken, but in truth it still felt as if she was in a dream. She was walking around the room now, talking with the lady but it didn’t seem to be her. April knew then, what had happened, her passenger was now in control. That thing that had made her different from the other people; it had always felt like a powerful force within but now she knew that it was in control. She could feel the raw power, previously contained, was both stronger than ever before and now it was in control.

It was then it happened. The door to the hotel room slammed open; her head snapped to face it automatically. There was a lot of shouting and noise and despite the initial panic, calm took over her as she simply relaxed; she knew what to do; she was guided.

The men had managed to take maybe three steps in, but the room itself seemed to take up arms against them; the door slammed behind them putting them to fright. Chairs flew through the air towards the intruders. April could hear the woman laughing and it was then that she saw Scatola taking advantage of the chaos around them. He strode purposefully forward, a sword in hand and started slicing at the men with impunity.

April could see sprays of blood with each repeated slice and hack of the sword, she felt her face tighten into a grimace, but no, it was not a grimace, she knew she was smiling.


I leapt up the stairs of the hotel two at a time. The noise was deafening; it was as if a whirlwind was taking place inside the hotel and despite the rushing sound being whipped past my ears I could also hear what were most definitely screams of pain. Residents of the hotel were emerging from their rooms, the nervous amongst them seemed to head straight for the nearest exit. Oliver pushed past me and we turned the bend in the corridor towards the source of the sound; it was then that an instant calm descended.

April and her captors were emerging from the hotel room door. A mischievous grin spread across the young girls face as she raised her left arm. Oliver seemed to be lifted straight from his feet and flew backwards knocking me down. I tried to right myself but seemed completely unable to move, a pressure was holding me painfully to the floor and I could feel all of my energy leaving my body. I could only watch as Todo shepherded the girl past me and my prone companion towards the stairs.

Scatola however, lowered himself onto his haunches and looked me straight in the eyes. “Mr Stryder” he stated, as he doffed his top hat in my direction before raising himself back to his feet to follow the two females.


Mrs Barnaby had managed to get over the fright of what had occurred just moments before. She still had enough of her faculties remaining to know that you couldn’t have a whirlwind indoors, at least not with the roof still in place, so she determined that it must have been an earthquake. In any event, it was time for her to retire for the evening. Geoffrey, her companion for this trip was tiring her. Not only was he desperate to take in all of the seedy sights of Malifaux: The Star Theatre; a tour of a soul-stone gin factory; a swamp safari, but he also seemed determined to make continual passes at her. She thought she had been perfectly clear with him before they left earth-side. He was there as a chaperone and travelling companion only.

In truth Mrs Barnaby was disappointed with this year’s excursion. She had been told Elliot had to work but she had still anticipated seeing more of him than the one evening meal they had managed to share together.

She reached the bottom of the hotel staircase and found herself looking up, it had become habit in line with her increasing years to assess the challenge that lay ahead.

There she was.

Mrs Barnaby had often thought of the young blond girl with pig-tails and the blue dress but had in her heart of hearts known she would never see her again. She had been wrong.

She was descending the stairs now.

Mrs Barnaby noted she was accompanied by a woman and a slightly older gentleman this time, and assumed she must have found her family. Mrs Barnaby smiled as the group approached.

“I see you found your mum and dad?”

The girl looked back at her and tilted her head at an odd angle before retuning Mrs Barnaby’s smile, “Yes, thank you” she replied.

“She’s our precious gift” the mother stated as she placed her hands on the girl’s shoulders and turned back towards the exit.

Mrs Barnaby watched the group as they exited the hotel happy in the knowledge that the girl was now in safe hands, before turning back to the stairs while looking forward to a good eight hours sleep in a comfortable bed.

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This story is so riveting. It would be cool if Wyrd put some of their artwork to this story and made a PDF of it once the story is completed.

That's a huge compliment so thank you. Feel free to pm the people in authority. (I would put in a smilie here but posting on phone)

The puppet product placement may help.

I am concerned now though that you may be somewhat disappointed by what is to come. There is only the concluding part left.

My initial target was to write something the length of a short yoof

fiction book, just as a little challenge. A bit short but only a few thousand words away. It's a bit big for people dropping into the thread so don't know about posting parts in Seperate threads next time? It seems untidy to me so not sure.

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Mrs Barnaby sat on the train in Malifaux station as itprepared to begin the days final two hour journey back earth-side. She looked to her left where Geoffrey sat sleeping. The hardest forty-eight hours of her life had started when a female guild guard officer had knocked at her hotel room door. Mrs Barnaby was shocked at how young the officer was; another symptom of her passing years she decided. It had taken a moment for the meaning of her visitor’s words to register, and then they hit her with a force that no physical blow could have matched.

Elliot’s funeral had been a fitting send off. Through her grief she had managed to admire how smart all of his guild colleagues had looked in their uniforms. A man she had not met had given the eulogy but she barely heard the sound of his voice through her tears. Geoffrey had supported her physically throughout the ceremony, and she had to admit that she had been surprised at how gentle and caring he had been since they had heard the news of her son’s death. Despite this she felt that after they parted at their final destination she would no longer wish to see him again.

She looked through the train carriage, there was only one other passenger. It was a man by the name of Oliver. She had met him yesterday at the funeral; he had been present with a dwarf and both had displayed genuine sadness for her loss. She was however, not in the mood to converse with anyone right now and in truth it appeared that he too was not of a mind to pass the time with idle pleasantries.

She opened her handbag, removed the deck of cards and placed them on the table in front of her, stared at them for what must have been more than a minute, before returning them to their rightful place next to her rouge and spectacles case.

At that point she didn’t know if she would ever open the deck again. The evenings at bridge club and her coffee mornings with the girls from the gardening society no longer held any appeal to her. She had lost her son, her only child. In truth he had been all she had


The roaring of the fire couldn’t pierce the chill that had pervaded my body ever since I had been pinned to the hotel floor by the force of April’s will alone. I should have felt a deep sadness for the loss of the officers whose path crossed that of the object of my search, and of course for the real mother of April Steden.

Those were not the feelings I felt as I stood in my drawing room gently warming the brandy with my cupped palms. I was angry. Angry at myself for the way I had been manipulated, no, the way I had let myself be manipulated Teresa and Scatola. I was determined that nothing like that would ever happen to me again. I would find April and I would save her from whatever fate they had planned for her, no matter the dangers that would await me in doing so.

I crossed the room to the window over-looking the street, the night sky was clearer than I had seen it in many a season. It didn’t cheer me. I knew that from now the only thing I would have would be the search.

I drained the brandy from my glass and drew the velvet curtains.

Edited by Chucklemonkey
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