Tirran dragged his suspect back to the Inche Street Station House in handcuffs. One of the old Coach Houses out the back had been converted into a set of holding cells long ago, its rough iron cages keeping suspects and drunks alike in one place until they were charged and taken along the Gibbetgate Road to the dark, foreboding gaol just beyond the city walls. As he forced the Murid into a cell, Tirran couldn’t help but note the atmosphere of despair the building was soaked in. This simply added to the man’s already visible panic, which was already making it painfully obvious that he hadn’t anticipated quite how much trouble he had gotten himself in. Rather than leave him in the main holding cell alongside the other pick ups from that morning, Tirran directed him into a separate empty cell with solid walls. Even with only a single occupant, the room was cramped… oppressive, lit only by a small barred window out into the yard. As he was pushed into the room, he began to whimper audibly. Tirran ignored him as he undid the handcuffs and left the Murid to stew in his own guilt, slamming the iron cell door behind him.
After a few minutes, just long enough to drink a mug of lukewarm tea, glance at the front page of the Daily Courier and properly induce a sense of deep foreboding upon his prisoner, Tirran returned to the cell, this time accompanied by Inspector Myrti.
“Ah’ll let you take the lead on this one if y’d like” the big Galinian Canid said and Tirran responded with a nod. Leaving his superior just outside the barred door, he entered and took up a position to loom over the now cowering Murid.
“So, what’s your name, lad?” Tirran said, trying to sound a mix of authoritative but sympathetic. All he got in response was a terrified stare. “No? Look, things’ll go much better for you if you help us.” The room was silent for a few seconds before the Murid spoke up.
“Bix.” He said, voice shaking. “Folks call me Bix.”
“Ok, Bix,” Tirran said, gesturing at Myrti to write down this new information. “So now, I want to know why you’ve been following me and Constable Scovie around for the last day or so.” There was an awkward pause.
“Can’t say.” Bix finally said, shaking his head.
“Is it to do with those break ins through the sewers?”
“I told you, I can’t say!” Bix started to look even more uncomfortable.
“Why not Bix?”
“I just can’t, alright?”
“Look, Bix, work with me here. All I want is some information, and I want to be fair, but if you don’t cooperate, it’ll make my Guv angry,” Tirran moved aside as he spoke, revealing Myrti waiting outside the cell. The Inspector nodded at Bix as soon as his name came up. “And trust me, you’d far rather deal with me than five foot eleven of pissed off Galinian.”
“I can’t, he said he’d kill me if anything got out!” Bix squirmed.
“He? Who’s He, Bix?” Tirran pressed, realising he was slowly getting somewhere. “Trust me, there’s over fifty Brass-Tops on duty in the building right now, no one can get you in here.”
“He was… a big bloke, a Canid. Had the most terrifyingly pale blue eyes. Never got his full name.” Bix slowed as he strained his memory. “People called him something like Rallan, or Rorlid… no, Rahdler, that was it.”
“You ever get a first name?” Tirran asked, to an unsure shaking of Bix’s head. “So he told you to follow us, then?”
“He said it was ‘cause you’d tripped over something.”
“Something? You mean the hole into the sewer?” Before Tirran had even finished his sentence, Bix was nodding enthusiastically. “So how’d you get involved in something like this. No offence, but you don’t strike me as the criminal type.”
“I’m not, please believe me I’m not! I’m just a Navvy, all I want is to work on the tunnel!” Bix pleaded. “He just came up to a bunch of the lads in a pub, spouting something about his time in the army and how the world owed him a break. Got a load of them on side real quick.”
He paused to catch his breath and sat down on the wooden bench along one wall of the cell.
“Sounds like one o’those… whats the word… anarchist types” Myrti commented from behind Tirran.
“Nah, he seemed like one at first,” Bix continued. “But it was all bollocks, he was just trying to get people to help steal stuff.”
“You included?” Tirran asked, sitting beside Bix.
“Well… a little at first, but by the time I figured it out, he’d already got enough people together to nick equipment from the site and by then…” Bix drew his finger across throat “…he’s threatened anyone who disagrees.”
“And you already knew too much by that point.” Tirran said, putting the pieces together in his head. “Slow down a bit, I’m beginning to see what’s going on.”
“But that’s why I was following you around, you were asking too many questions.” Bix’s tone was definitely sincere. “It’s nothing personal, like I said, he threatened to kill me!”
“Don’t you worry about that, Bix.” Tirran reassured him. “But what I need now is an idea where they’ve gone now? Where is the big score going to be?”
“Dunno,” Bix shrugged. “They never told me any details as it is. All I know is they was clearing out of Revlin Mews, they told me to stay put and keep eyes open.”
“But how would this Rahdler bloke know if anything came up? Or if you bothered to do it at all?” Tirran made sure the questions were sounding more urgent now. “Please, Bix, just think!”
“He just said keep an eye on, and he’d know if I didn’t.” Panic once again spread across Bix’s face. “Oh gods, you don’t think he’s been watching me, do you? He might know I’m here!”
“Ok, just keep calm. Did he give any indication where they went, though?”
“One of the guys did say something, what was it.” Bix rubbed his forehead as he tried to recall. “A street name, I think.”
“Dallern, I think it was.” Bix scratched his head. “He weren’t exactly clear.”
“You get that, Guv?” Tirran said to Myrti before getting to his feet. The big Inspector nodded and went to unlock the door.
“Wait, so what happens to me?” Bix asked, looking desperate.
“Just… sit tight.” Tirran replied, choosing his words diplomatically. “We’ll figure all that out later, and we might need more from you.”
“Besides,” Myrti said as he opened the cell door to let Tirran out, “If this Rahdler fella’s as violent as y’say, this is the best place for ya.” Bix watched sullenly as the two policemen locked him back in his cell and walked away down the corridor.
Tirran and Myrti immediately returned to the office in the main building, where Scovie was sat at a desk, deeply analysing a street map in the vain hope to stumble on to something. As his colleagues entered, he looked up wearily.
“This ain’t getting me anywhere, what did our friend give you?”
“Dallern.” Tirran said, leaning over the map for a better look.
“You what?” Scovie replied, confused for a brief moment before a look of realisation crossed his face. “Oh, as in Dallern Street? Hold on a moment.” He folded the map so only the south eastern corner of the Walled City was visible, looked over it for a few seconds and then pointed. “Dallern Street, Forrestgate Ward, Tarnhaven Ess-Ee! There we are.” He beamed at his superiors.
“Ye gods, I wish I knew the streets that well after living here thirty years.” Myrti chuckled. “So, what we thinking, this the next burglary or just where they keep the gear?”
“Could go either way, Guv.” Scovie responded, scratching his whiskers. “S’all warehouses and the like down there for the new docks. Lots to nick, lots of places to hide stuff.”
“Only one way to find out.” Tirran looked up from the map. “Wouldn’t take too long to get over there.”
“Aye, best you two go an’ have a look. In the meantime I’ll get some lads together to deal with them.” Myrti said, forming a plan as he talked. “If these bastards have a leader as volatile as this Rahdler fella, I want them dealt with quickly. And yous two-“ he pointed accusingly at Tirran specifically, “-you find anything, you come get back up, you hear me? Dinnae want any heroics getting anyone killed, y’understand me?” Tirran was already half way across the room, ready to head back out.
“Crystal clear, Guv. Oh, one thing.” He stopped in the doorway, dodging Scovie leaving the office. “What about Bix?”
“Wait, who the hell’s Bicks?” Scovie could be heard asking from the corridor, although no one paid him any notice.
“What y’mean, ’What about him’?” Myrti asked, eyebrow raised.
“Well, seems to me he’s as much a victim in this as anyone else.” Tirran explained slowly and diplomatically, just in case there was any chance at a misunderstanding. “We can’t just leave him down there.”
“I’ll get someone to take his details down and all that, but he’s still part of this, remember.” Myrti sighed and tried to look sympathetic. “Until all this is over, not much we can do, and even then it’s down to if he’ll help us anymore. Besides, sounds like this is the best place for him right now, truth be told. An’ you cannae help him by staying here, Cal, get goin’.”
“Right you are, Guv.” Tirran nodded and set off down the corridor, physically dragging Scovie with him. Before they reached the exit on to the street, the young Constable stopped.
“Ok, Sarge,” He started, looking confused. “Seriously, who’re Rahdler and Bicks?” Tirran stared at him for a second before realising they had forgotten to fill him in fully.
“…I’ll tell you on the way, c’mon.” Tirran said, pushing Scovie out the doors on to the street.
Forestgate Ward had undergone something of a metamorphosis in recent years. A decade ago the area had suffered what was hoped to be the city’s last great fire, so had become ripe for redevelopment. As the new docks had been built on the strip of land between Tarnhaven’s eastern wall and the bay side, space to store goods heading in either direction had run out alarmingly fast. The new land opening up within the Forestgate had proven ideal, and almost overnight tall brick warehouses had started to spring up, the inconvenience of having to transport goods around the city wall and through the crowded gate more than outweighed by the sheer space available. The downside, as Tirran and Scovie quickly discovered, was the area was now a maze of identical buildings that swarmed over the ancient road layout. By the time they reached the bottom of Dallern Street, it was beginning to look like this was a bigger job than either had anticipated.
Tirran stopped and stared up the long, arcing street, shaking his head in despair.
“What the hell are we looking for, Arb?” He said with a groan.
“I thought we was looking for a bunch of crooks digging tunnels, Sarge?” Scovie replied, confused.
“No, I meant… I was being rhet… you know what, never mind.” Tirran sighed. “There’s so much around here, what could they possibly be after?” The pair were quiet as each man thought about this.
“Well…” Scovie started. “Don’t think I’ve seen any banks around here. No jewellers, neither. Could be that spice warehouse back there-“ he gestured over his shoulder, “-lot of stuff from Aldea and the like there. Could smell it from the street.”
“Is spice worth that much?” Tirran asked, eyebrow raised.
“So I’m told.” Scovie nodded. “Calt reckoned a couple of thousand Sovs worth went up when that warehouse burned down in the harbour the other month”
“Huh.” Tirran scratched his chin, trying to think. “Doesn’t sound like the kind of big score this lot would pull. Besides, doesn’t look like any of these warehouses have basements to tunnel into, let alone strong rooms.”
“Well, they’ve already done a pub so…” Scovie pondered the options, Running through his mental map of the city. Suddenly his eyes went wide. “Unless… oh!” He turned and set off down the street at a steady jog. It took Tirran a couple of seconds to parse what was going on and start after him.
“Arb, what you figured out?” He yelled. Scovie turned around, still moving down the street but backwards now, and grinned.
“So they opened that new Customs House on the Forestgate Road a while back, didn’t they?” He said, still managing to keep a decent speed up. “I reckon that’d be a prime target anyway, but they’re likely to have a big ol’basement to store seizures and such in, which’ll…”
“…be where the strong room is.” Tirran finished, nodding as he drew level. “Good thinking, but why you running?”
“If you think how far that pub was from the yard they dug into, there’s only so far they want to drag stuff, right?” Scovie turned back around the right way. “So I reckon that distance would bring us just about past the next crossroads.”
Scovie slowed as he passed the junction and eventually stopped and cast his eyes over the buildings either side of the street. In between the modern brick bulks of the warehouses sat a small timber framed pub, far older than anything else around and clearly the rare survivor of the fire. Tirran caught up and stopped alongside his colleague.
“You sure about this, Arb?” He asked.
“Not really.” Scovie admitted. “But without a map of the sewers or anything to say for certain, all we can really go on is distance.” Tirran nodded and looked up and down the street.
“And isolation.” He commented. “The mews was out of the way. Not much like that round here that hasn’t been built on already.” He gestured at the warehouses. According to an interview the Eldersmen of the ward gave to The Record the development of the area was making ‘economic use of the space available’ which, as far as Tirran could figure, meant everything was being crushed together making an already cramped city even worse.
On the far side of the street, opposite the pub, was an alleyway that caught Scovie’s eye. While it appeared thin, he reckoned you could just about fit a cart through it if you weren’t concerned about scraping the brickwork on either side.
“Sarge, over here.” He called, heading for the alley’s mouth. “What you think?” There were clear signs of recent activity, the cobbles were strewn with fresh earth and there was paint marks visible on the walls where a cart had rubbed against them. At the end of the alley there was a tall gate blocking access, a torn poster pasted on to it announcing the recent change in ownership.
“It’s out of the way enough, sure.” Tirran said, walking up to the gate and giving it a push. “Bugger, locked tight.” He looked around for some kind of foot hold to try and get a look over the top, but it was no use. “We need to get a look in somehow, could just be another yard for all we know.”
“What about the pub?” Scovie suggested.
“Not while on duty, Arb.” Tirran scolded, half jokingly. “Not this early in the day, anyway.”
“Nah, not that.” Scovie protested. “They might have seen something. Might even be able to see over the gate from their upstairs too.”
“That’s…” Tirran stopped himself and thought a second. “…Not a bad idea, actually. C’mon.” As he turned from the gate and walked away, Scovie gave it one last cursory shove to confirm it was locked before following along.
The faded sign hanging outside the pub on the opposite side of Dallern Street suggested the business had had many names over the years. Currently it seemed to be called ‘The Phoenix’ which had apparently usurped the previous ‘Duke of Kollburgh’ from everywhere but the license plaque over the door, presumably when the fire made it seem more apt. The owner was just opening up for the afternoon and evening trade when Tirran ducked under the low archway from the tatty porch into the gloomy saloon bar that reeked of stale beer and jenever. Already the place had some trade, including several members of the local tramp fraternity. A deathly silence descended over the already hushed room at the sight of a pair of uniforms. The landlord was busy with his back to the room when Tirran approached the bar and politely coughed. As he turned, the surprise at seeing an officer of the law in his pub made him drop the tankard he was polishing.
“Ah! Uh… g-good afternoon, Officer!” He stammered, adopting the rictus grin of someone trying not to incriminate himself or anyone he knew. “What can I do for you this fine day?”
“The alley across the way there,” Tirran said, gesturing with a nod out towards the narrow windows. “What do you know about it?” He noted that the landlord visibly relaxed after processing the question, probably not worth the hassle now, but he would get someone from the station to keep an eye on the place just in case.
“Oh, that.” He said, his smile relaxing to a far more natural one. “Leads to the old brewers yard.”
“It still a brewery?” Tirran asked.
“Gods above, no, the brewery burned down with everything else around here back in ‘77.” The landlord quickly added, with a genuine tone of pride: “Except here, of course.” Tirran nodded with what he hoped came across as approval before continuing.
“So it’s not being used for anything right now then?”
“Nah, what was left got cleared out not long after the fire, but just been left empty ever since. No idea who owned it, mind.” The landlord paused to stoop down and pick up the tankard. “Although…”
“Go on.” Urged Tirran.
“Well, it was a couple of weeks back, this bloke came in asking about the yard same as you” Brow furrowed, the landlord wracked his memory. “Said he was looking for the owner, something about wanting to rent the space. Didn’t hear any more about it but I guess he found ‘im in the end, mind, since the last couple of days there’s been blokes moving stuff in there.”
“Can you remember what he looked like?”
“‘Course I can, gods above you’d not forget a man like this in a hurry.” A flash of worry darted across the landlord’s face. “Big Canid fella, he was. Not as tall as you, but broad, you know? A right bruiser. Right shock of blonde hair on his head too, but the bit that sticks in my mind were his eyes,” He mimicked a thousand yard stare. “Pale blue, there were, and manic. Gave me the creeps.”
Tirran’s blood ran cold. He turned to Scovie and pointed at a window.
“Arb, keep an eye out on that alley will you.” Turning back to the landlord, he needed just a little more confirmation. “Did he give a name?”
“He said he was… Hargen… something or other… What was it?” The landlord tried to remember, as a mix of relief and frustration danced through Tirran’s mind. Hargen was a common enough name, there was still a chance it wasn’t him. “Ah!” The landlord said loud enough to make the entire bar jump. “That was it, Rahdler. Hargen Rahdler. You lot after him? What’s he done?”
Well bugger, Tirran thought to himself. “We…” He chose his words carefully. “…need his help in our investigations. Has he ever come back here?”
“Nah, not seen him since.” The landlord mused, returning to polishing the tankard. “Seemed an arrogant sort, y’know what I mean? Like he felt he was above us or something.” Tirran nodded, then considered where to proceed. He glanced around the gloomy bar again, taking in the surroundings. He quietly hoped that none of the patrons were in with Rahdler. From the various descriptions, he didn’t seem the sort to be that likely to be pally with tramps, but Tirran couldn’t be sure, the way this case was going. Off to one side of the bar was a heavy door that looked as if it led to the rest of the building. An idea struck him.
“Say, do you have a room upstairs that looks over the street?” He asked.
“Well, we got a guest room out front if you want to have a look.” The landlord replied, uncertain as to the relevance of the question.
“Could we?” Tirran said. The landlord sighed, put down the tankard and pulled a key from a hook under the bar. With a head gesture he lead the two police officers through the door and up a rickety set of stairs.
The guest room followed the general style of the rest of the pub, which is to say gloomy, cramped and run down. Tirran looked out the surprisingly clean window into the street as the landlord hovered over his shoulder.
“It’s not much, but here it is.” He said, spinning the heavy key around his finger impatiently.
“It’ll do us,” Tirran replied, and pointed out the window. “Perfect view right down the alleyway. Arb, get over here and keep watch.” As Scovie made his way carefully around the two other men, the landlord coughed politely.
“There is,” he began, trying to sound like he was dancing around the subject. “The matter of payment for the room.” The two police officers just stared at him. “I am running a business, after all.”
“Well about that,” Tirran said, while Scovie started to check all his coat pockets for any change. “Tell you what, keep a tab for us, and when we’re done send it to Superintendent Cauven of A Division at the Inche Street Station House. He’ll make sure you’re compensated.” The landlord considered this for a second before nodding and leaving them with the key. After a few moments, Scovie started laughing.
“The Guv’s going to go spare, you realise that Sarge.” He chuckled. Tirran just gave an exaggerated shrug. “You know he hates Cauven with a passion.” Deciding saying nothing was the best course of action, Tirran just settled himself on the rickety bed that dominated the room and settle in for the long haul.
| < PART THREE | PART ONE | PART FIVE > |
The Author wishes to thank Stuart and Sandra Barlow, Ady Hartill, David Dryden, Martin “Teekay” Davison, Stefi “Heartlilly” Hauke, Josh Atkins and VHSRAT for their invaluable help during the writing, proofing and editing of this story.
This story, it’s characters and any associated names and imagery related to the Tarnhaven setting are ©2018 Dom “Ndro” Barlow, All Rights Reserved.