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First Encounters


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It might need some tweaks, but I finally got this idea on paper:


For the past 15 minutes, Elliot Sprague sat waiting in the office of the Madam of Sybelle’s Cathouse. He would have gotten up to pace, but the bouncer who manhandled him into a chair in the office and tied him to it seemed to think it was better to just sit. Elliot whistled a limerick to himself while he waited, tapping out the rhythm with his boots on the wooden floor.


Elliot had barely walked in the door of the cathouse when the bouncer grabbed his collar and grumbled “Sybelle’s gonna talk to you.” Elliot was particularly proud of the counter-remark “Well she’s not quite my type, but if she wants to bring Abigail too, then I think I can manage.” The bouncer, not being astute in comedy, simply clamped his fist on one of Elliot’s shoulders and dragged him into the main office.


“Do you consider yourself a religious man, Mr Sprague?” The new voice was feminine; showing signs of age, but still silky enough to part men from their coin. An unfurled whip was gently placed over one shoulder, the grip still being held. Elliot could hear the shifting of leather, corsets, and heels behind him as he asked,


“No quite sure what you’re meaning Syb. Care to elaborate?” The whip slowly tugged its way back as Sybelle’s voice drifted closer, soft cotton in Elliot’s opposite ear.


“I mean do you consider yourself beholden to a higher power? That no matter what you accomplish in life, no matter how high you climb in your aspirations, there will always be someone better than you?” Elliot could smell the house perfume now, fragrances that hint and never overwhelm.


“Ain’t no one better than ol’ Sprague, you stupid…” A slash of pain lanced across Elliot’s shoulder as Sybelle snapped the whip off the rest of the way, then grabbed Elliot by the hair and wrenched his head back. Her once silky smooth voice was replaced by pristine vitriol as she spoke.


“Then let me preach you a little something and by the end of it, if you’re smart, you’ll get on your hands and knees and beg for my mercy.” Sybelle’s grip loosened, and the whip was draped on the opposite shoulder. “In the beginning, there was Sybelle. Sybelle saw that the miners, the farmers, and the workers all needed happiness. They needed a promised land to distract them from the truth of Malifaux. And so Sybelle created a land of milk and honey, and it was good.”


Elliot caught his first glimpse of Sybelle as she slinked in front of him, the whip dropping to the floor and following her like a tail. She walked to one of the windows, drawing the curtains and pushing the shutters open. “But Sybelle knew this utopia would not last untarnished.” Sybelle turned around, her deep green eyes locking onto Elliot. “She knew there would be snakes that would infiltrate this utopia, destroy the work she had put into it. And so it was up to her to strike these snakes down, so that the rest could experience this promised land as she saw fit.” Elliot burst out laughing as Sybelle finished, flashing her a sneer of cigar-stained teeth.


“So big bad Sybelle’s going to rough up little old me. You got any sort of reason to go with this, or do you just like looking at me that much?” Sybelle rotated the grip in her hand, causing the whip to flip back and forth like a cat tail.


“It seems you don’t understand how this business works, so let me explain it to you. You tried to kill one of my belles…”


“Says wh…” Sybelle fiercely cracked the whip at Elliot’s face, drawing a thin line of blood on one cheek.


“Do not interrupt me. That’s incredibly rude. Now… as I was saying. You tried to kill Abigail. She was one of my most promising new girls, but because she was still fresh off the train from Earthside, she didn’t quite understand the rules here, and apparently that irritated you. Your attempt is going to cost me Scrip to get Abigail’s mind back in the right place and a rearrangement of rooms so that she doesn’t have to be reminded of you each time she tries to bed someone. That is an expensive fix to a problem that shouldn’t have happened.”


“And if you look closely, you can see how broken up I am about your problems. Listen up doxie. I run with a select crowd. A crowd that will be none too pleased at how you’ve been treating me.” Elliot jutted his jaw out. “So if you’re done crying, you can untie me, give me that bottle of hooch on your desk, and you beg ME not to burn this whole building to the ground.” Sybelle watched the man placidly for a few moments before saying,


“This crowd… would this be Mr. Evans and Mr. Compton?” Elliot nodded haughtily. “Since we’re already talking business, we might as well add this conversation in. Would you like to know what my solution is to that problem? 85 proof.” Sybelle cracked a smile at the blunt confusion on Elliot’s face. “Well… 85 proof and a free night with two of my best. You see, your friends believe that you’re worth a bottle of rye a piece, and spending some time with my Magnolias free of charge. I believe it was Mr. Compton who felt it was a ‘crying shame to lose him, but they can find someone else to play the harmonica.’ Now then…” Sybelle was visibly savoring the concern that was growing across Elliot’s face. “As far as your friends are concerned, you disappeared down a hole for all they care. As far as the local constables are concerned, if they have less paperwork and I’m not causing any blatant problems I have free rein inside my establishment to do what I want.” The concern spread like wildfire into fear as Sybelle slinked behind Elliot once more, draping the whip around his neck this time. “As of right now, you don’t exist… Why I think that means I can do whatever comes to mind, and there will be no repercussions for it.”


Her silky smooth voice rang horribly sour in Elliot’s ears as he struggled to break loose. “Now now, don’t go making a fool of yourself this late. I mean I might start to think that all that bravado earlier was just bluster.” The whip drew tighter around Elliot’s neck as Sybelle leaned in, giving Elliot a peck on the cheek. “Let me show you how you really kill someone.”


Sybelle shook out her arm as she finished winding her whip back up and set it on the table. “Pulling muscles killing people… I guess even statues fall apart eventually. Thomas!” Sybelle called out to the bouncer. “I’m ready.” After a few moments of silence, Sybelle stormed over to the door. “Seriously if you can’t expect a bouncer to understand the job of body removal, what can…”


She froze in fear as she opened the door from her office to find the cathouse a complete bloodbath, bodies strewn everywhere. And standing in the center of the carnage, turning around at the sound of the door opening, was the one man out of all the wanted posters Sybelle feared to meet: The Redchapel killer.


“Evenin girly.”

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