“Fourteen people dead in as many days!” The shout was followed through with the sound of a newspaper slammed into the hardwood desk. “We look like idiots!”
The department stared at the red-faced chief, his dark blue uniform in disarray, his face apoplectic with rage. Elaborate mustaches quivered. Nervous coughing sounded from the gathered police.
“You are idiots,” a new voice announced from the back of the room. The crowd parted as the chief inspector’s head almost burst. One detective stifled a laugh, expecting this to be some joke in bad taste.
The man who stepped into the room, was clearly not joking. Dressed in a sober black suit, with a sober black overcoat and topped with a sober black hat, he brandished a sober black wallet. A gold device glinted within for just a second.
The chief inspector went pale.
One word squeaked from between the chief inspector’s lips, “Out.”
His shoulders slumped as the black-clad figure approached.
The department, Shack’s Central Police Force, milled about in confusion. Steel lodged in the chief inspector’s voice again. He barked, “Out!”
They jumped and ran, looking for something outside the room.
The black-clad man allowed a flicker of a smile to cross his deathly pale face. The gesture was meant to put the Chief Inspector at ease, to relieve the tension.
It failed utterly, so he switched directions. He tutted. “You know who I am?”
The Chief Inspector shook his head.
“Ah, but you know what I represent?”
The Chief Inspector nodded.
“Good, then I’ll spare the introductions,” the black-clad man smiled again, brief and fleeting. “The case is going cold, Chief Inspector. My superiors aren’t pleased.”
He paused, allowing the Chief Inspector to soak that up. The police officer shrank into his desk, his moustaches drooping. He looked for all the world like a scolded child.
The other man, who had yet to remove his hat and overcoat, stared down at the Chief Inspector’s desk with eyes of glacial blue. Fourteen dossiers, each inscribed with a dead man’s name, were spread across it. A black gloved hand darted out and grabbed one, seemingly at random.
The name, scrawled across the folio read: Winslo Spoons.
“The latest?” the black-clad man asked.
“Yes,” the Chief Inspector stammered.
Blue eyes perused the contents of the folio, darting back and forth. He snapped it closed. The Chief Inspector jumped.
“I’ll need a detective.”
He didn’t ask because it wasn’t a question, merely a statement. One that betrayed no emotion and brooked no response.
A black leather shoe tapped impatiently as the black-clad man stared at the Chief Inspector. “The detective? The one I mentioned I needed?” he asked.
The Chief Inspector started, and fairly sprinted out of the room. A moment later he brought a poorly garbed detective into the room who nervously made his way forward. He wore a mustache that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a walrus’ snout.
The detective tried a smile and extended his hand in greeting. The Chief Inspector stared at the proffered hand in horror.
“Your name?” asked the man in black.
“Reginald, sir,” the man quickly stammered. “Reginald Danfrith. I’m the… uh…”
“The?” the black one said impatiently.
“The lead detective for the lower wards, sir,” Reginald finally got out.
Another slight smile slipped across the black-clad man’s face. “Perfect,” he said, “I’m sure we’ll get along famously.”
The man in black didn’t wait, he just turned and stalked out of the room. Danfrith stared at his back for a moment before the Chief Inspector shoved him.
“Uhm sir, I didn’t quite catch your name,” Danfrith called as he stumped forward.
“That’s because I didn’t offer it, Detective Danfrith.”
“I just think it would be a bit easier to work together if I knew your name sir.”
The black-clad man paused. He turned and faced Danfrith. His blue eyes searched Danfrith’s brown ones for a moment. He seemed astonished at the lack of guile there. A thousand details stood out there, a veritable map for those with the ability to see, and comprehend. The black-clad man’s decision flashed.
“Drowns,” was all he said.
“I’m sorry sir?”
“My name is Drowns, Branthony Drowns.”