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Date Posted: 17:59:28 05/25/04 Tue
Author: Lark
Subject: Part VI The tale is re-told -- and the gauntlet is thrown again...
In reply to: Lark 's message, "The tale is re-told -- and the gauntlet is thrown again..." on 17:38:46 05/25/04 Tue

Sweat rolled down Kenneth Irons' face as he recited the litany before the fallen priest sitting at table in the shadows of the great hall. Hours had passed, and yet his prayers continued; brief moments were allowed for him to catch his breath, but he had not been permitted even the most basic needs, while his audience supped upon lamb and fine wine, teased and pinched the breast of the maid who had come to serve him over protests. He ignored the cries, knowing they were meant to goad him, knowing she was truly quite safe at the hands of the cleric, knowing she would tolerate much more violent abuse to remain in employ. He also knew from past experience she might even enjoy it.

Distractions aside, his own voice droned in his ears, the words spilling from his lips felt mechanical, yet Kenneth was aware of each syllable, each sound, concerned that not one word of prayer would sound insincere. His knees were numb as he knelt before the hearth, the prayer cushion having long since ceased to serve its purpose; it now only added to the agony which stretched and strained and burned each muscle in his thighs.

Disciplined as he had become over the decades, Irons would not surrender to the fatigue threatening his consciousness. Earlier, a brief feeling of envy for Ian's fortitude crept into his thoughts, and into his words as well, apparently, for a swift blow was dealt to his shoulders, interrupting the flow of words. Quickly, he had cast aside the impure thought, this was his chore, he could not lose focus, he had a task to complete, and there were rules to follow, he would not fail. He continued as he had been ordered, determined to finish the ritual doled out by his confessor, desperate to be absolved that he might use the tools which had been brought to his hand.

But years of sins took time to enumerate thus.

**************

"…just some old—but not of-interest-old—puzzle box, kind you can find just about anywhere, covered in dust and empty except for the tales the guy selling it will fill it with." Gabriel shrugged, seeing that his explanation did nothing to smooth out the wrinkles the vision had left on Pez's forehead.

"Where's it now?" Sara asked, her eyes narrowing.

"Dunno," he threw out, wanting to move on to the more interesting topic of her new case, sure that's why she had showed up at Talismaniac's door. "Mr. Han—Sly's father-in-law to be," he scoffed, knowing what a hard road his friend likely had yet to walk to gain that honor, "was attacked last night in a robbery of his store. It was stolen."

"Stolen?"

Gabriel nodded. "Han's in the hospital as we speak."

"And this box," she asked, "was entirely worthless? And empty?"

"Worthless," he agreed. "Empty? Dunno."

Her eyebrow cocked in question.

"The mechanism was broken."

"Broken." She said flatly, her disbelief apparent.

"Okay, whatever," he almost cracked a self-conscious grin, rolling his eyes. "I couldn't get it open."

"Well, looks like somebody could," she told him, pulling a Ziploc-ed evidence bag from inside her coat. "Look familiar, Junk Man?"

She let him grab the bag away from her in his surprise and haste. He turned the box over in his hands, unable to touch it through the plastic, but able to discern this box's mechanism had not been finessed—it had been forced open, the attractive (though valueless) carvings and inlay scuffed and shattered in the assailant's violent hurry to crack the puzzle.

"Familiar, yes," he answered Pez. "But this isn't Mr. Han's box. Where'd you get it?"

"Familiar, how," she asked, "I picked it up from the scene in Central Park this morning. Just south of a girl who lost her head last night. Thing is," she continued, "kids down in the lab tell me it's got your fingerprints all over it." An expression of something like concern crossed her face, not accusation, only worry.

"That box is familiar, Pez," he answered her earlier question. "But you've my word I never touched it. It's not Mr. Han's box, but it's the stone cold perfect mirror image of it."

"Down to what was inside, do you think?" she asked.

"Maybe," he said, trying to remain calm and laid back in light of this development. "A lot of old air—or, Pez," he interrupted himself, "I-I gotta go to the hospital."

"We," she stressed, "gotta go to the hospital. You're wanted downtown for questioning, Gabriel. I can't let you outta my sight." Apologetically she added, "I'd rather have you under my thumb than under those of some others at the 11th, if you know what I mean. I brought the cruiser. We'll go meet this Mr. Han together, then, make our way—as the information takes us—back to the station."

"I never saw that box before today, Pez," he declared, a growing desperation nearly coaxing a crack into his voice.

"I'm not accusing you of anything, Gabriel," she said, taking the baggied box back and slipping it into her coat. "Least of all, beheading a young girl last night in Central Park. But I think it's safe to say that we," again she stressed the pronoun, "would like some answers." She gave him a half-reassuring smile. "A look through your client list might help—grab your laptop and we can start with that on our way down to Sacred Heart."

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Replies:

  • Part VII The tale is re-told -- and the gauntlet is thrown again... -- Lark, 18:01:03 05/25/04 Tue
  • Fresh meat -- er... um... a Fresh Piece -- Lark, 18:07:01 05/25/04 Tue

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