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The Bulgarian ambassador is found eviscerated in his London quarters, and Major Sonja Slade of the Prussian Army searches for his killer while trying to forget her own ties to the dead man.

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Sunday
Jan132013

Week 16

Slade, The Officer

Recording commences 23:01:08

“Isn’t it finished yet? Surely there’s been some likely enough candidate?”

“She's interviewed the usual suspects. We tried to throw Kinsey’s brat at her. She didn’t bite.”

“Sam Kinsey? You’ve got Sam Kinsey’s girl into this?”

“Well yes we, er. That is, she was available, seemed like a good candidate what with the father’s history. We have some leverage with Cooper at the NYE, enough to have him send her over, and, look what’s the problem?”

“For one thing, the girl’s clearly never even seen a summoning. Any officer with Slade’s experience would be able to tell that within 20 minutes.”

“We hoped she wouldn’t check. We supplied incriminating paperwork.”

“What? It was good paperwork, the father’s stuff is pretty damning.”

“She’s not meant for this.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You’re not at the right level. Just get her out of there. Kitty Kinsey’s meant for other things.”

“I don’t…”

“No, you won’t.”

“Who am I going to throw to Slade then?”

“Just find someone, alright? I’ll give you clearance to plant as much as you need on them. Hell, with the right magister we can probably get them to say a few things too if you need. This has gone on long enough now. Just deal with it.”

“There is a guy who… maybe…”

“Just get it done. Then Slade sends a watertight report to Bulgaria – they’ll trust it from her, they won’t trust it from us – and the whole thing goes away.”

“And can we still… you know…?”

“Who, Slade? She’s not going to work it out. She doesn’t have the imagination. But, to be on the safe side, probably best if she quietly disappears in a few months time.”

“Same as the others.”

“Just the same.”

Recording ends 23:11:43

Easter Hotel cell 2198, 7.21am

In his accommodation at the Easter Hotel, Vasilev receives his breakfast. For a man with a broken nose and smashed front teeth it’s not easy to eat. Whoever has supplied the breakfast has been quite thoughtful about this matter. They’ve given him a soft mush of cornmeal and seaweed – a common breakfast on Midway, but not necessarily to Vasilev’s taste. He’s hungry, though. He eats.

There is something hard at the bottom of the bowl. A bullet. He pokes at it with his spoon. He picks it up, holds it to his ear and shakes it softly. He grasps the casing between his still-intact back teeth and pulls hard. The casing pops open. A small piece of paper falls to the concrete floor. He reads it. He smiles his red, broken smile. He tears the paper into small pieces and eats it.

Silver Street - 5.15pm

Vasilev had cracked, at last. She knew one of them would. There were several minor incantations she had yet to try and she rarely fails to get the information she requires in the end.

He spat the address at her, through his bruised and bleeding face, as if he couldn’t wait to get the taste of it off his tongue. She understands why they don’t give in earlier. If they don’t put up a good show, someone will notice. The bruises are important.

She checked out the address, though. It all lined up. Known flophouse for criminal elements. Preachers of the Blotan active in the area. Flayed horse carcasses frequently thrown over the side but sometimes tossed back onto the lower platforms by the stormy winter weather. She had seen it before, the worship of Those From Whom The Blood Bubbles Forth. It was, in some ways, better than many of the alternatives.

She took ten men to the stableyard. Four gathered at the back of the building, six – including the magister – came with her at the front.

“Only one,” said the magister, shrugging, “and some horses.”

“One?” this was unusual. Even for someone with this kind of power. They usually worked in small teams – three or four, to be sure of always being on guard, and of controlling their beasts.

The magister looked at her. “If there’s anyone else they’re hidden in ways I can’t penetrate. And then we’re really in trouble.”

“Shouldn’t be a problem then.”

They entered from the front noisily – that was the best way, leave the guys at the back to do their work, draw the attention and fire. The magister set up a little something to make him drowsy. Worth a shot.

The place was a mess. Three thin, tired horses tied in their stalls, looked like they hadn’t been out in daylight for weeks, smelled like they hadn’t been cleaned out in longer. A living area in the centre – a formica table, two chairs, a cooking ring. She couldn’t imagine anyone living this way by choice. Magisters tended not to care so much about the physical though.

He was waiting for them. In a corner, behind the farthest stall, muttering and making the symbols in the air. Slade got off a shot at him, but he turned the bullet to ash before it got halfway across the room.

His movements were jerky, his eyes wild and red-rimmed. He wheeled round, banged the heels of his hands together and pointed them at three of her men who were cutting off his escape route to the left. A black sticky rain poured from the empty air onto their heads, creeping over their bodies, into their mouths and noses and ears. They started to choke.

“Now!” she shouted.

And her magister spoke his words and made his little sign on the ground with the mixture of typewriter ink and grain alcohol he carried in a flask. He kicked a few strands of straw at the man, and they burned as they turned in the air, red and scalding and growing when they reached his face as a wide searing net.

The man screamed, and fell to the floor as if his puppet strings had been cut. Now, she had to do it now, despite her misgivings because this one was strong and if he got up again they’d all pay for it. She’d seen it in Constanta.

She leapt over the low fence keeping the emaciated horses separate from the living area and there he was, curled up on the floor knees drawn into his chest. He was muttering something, moving his hands in an odd gesture she hadn’t seen before. But odd gestures rarely meant anything good and her foot was already coming down before her brain started to process what he was saying.

She brought the heel of her boot down hard on his neck. Felt the bones of the spine crack under her foot. The light went out of his eyes instantly. She found herself thinking of the pigeon in the train. There was surprisingly little blood. Just a smear on her shoe and trousers.

And then she realised what he’d been saying when her boot came down.

“Zabrava,” it had been, “i pamet.”

Fragment from observation of subject 4292-h

Telephone call recorded from Easter Hotel to home telephone.

“I’m coming back tomorrow. Just thought I should let you know.”

“I… yes. Something’s happened.”

“Don’t make me guess, please. It’s been hard enough as it is.”

“You don’t have to say it like that, you don’t have to…”

“I’m sorry. Really. I am sorry. I’m just. What is it?”

“We’ve had a break-in.”

“Shit. Shit. Are the weapons gone? Why didn’t you call earlier? I’ll need to call and… have you told HQ?”

“Nothing’s missing. Nothing’s… will you listen?”

“We still have to… look, they could have serial numbers, this is very serious, we have to…”

“Just listen, for Gods’ sake. Nothing’s missing. Nothing’s even moved.”

“Then how do you…”

“Yeah they made it pretty fucking obvious, OK? Someone wants us to know they’re watching.”

“Don’t touch anything.”

“But I…”

“As far as you can, alright? Don’t touch anything. I’ll be back tomorrow.”

“Don’t you…”

“I have to go. We can’t talk on this line. I’ll see you tomorrow. I…”

“Yes?”

“I hope you’re alright.”

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