Puddle In A Gutter, Lots Of Pain,
She frowned, then nodded. “That’s plausible. It’s the sort of thing you’d do. And of course I believe every word you ever tell me.” There was a flicker of a smile, and then back to the scowl. “But that won’t help you.”
As they dragged me away, I realized once again: Sometimes, being too clever just gets you in more trouble.
It was daylight when I came to. I was lying in a puddle in the gutter, covered in my own blood and worse. I started to sit up; thought better of it; winced. Even that hurt. There was an anarchist’s symbol spray-painted on the wall above me. It only added to my disorientation.
After a little while I felt like I could move again, and I did. Taking stock revealed my hat was gone; worse, some utter bastard had stolen my boots. I’d had those nearly twenty years. My coat was a wreck, and my shirt was soaked in my own blood. All my own blood; I hadn’t fought back. Sometimes that can make them angrier, but Queen Molly’s parting instructions to them were: “Don’t break bones.” Last thing I’d wanted was to make this personal, so I’d restrained myself, absorbing the force of the blows as best as I could. I had lowered my forehead into one punch, but it wasn’t intentional and besides, he’d probably broken his hand so I wasn’t too worried about him taking revenge.
I fumbled through my pockets. My wallet and old militia badge were there, as was my cosh and some tools, all wrapped in a note and tied with a lock of hair — a warning from Molly to potential thieves. I unwrapped the note and read: “Noon, your office.” Well, that was something.
I dragged myself to my feet and looked around, getting my bearings. My balance was way off and my thinking was fuzzy; hopefully it was just fatigue and not concussion. Ah, well; nothing to be done about it now. I staggered off.
It was past eleven when I finally got to the office. I’d recharged my wallet — that was a sight, me in a bank — and dropped my coat at the cleaner’s before getting a shower. Some sort of demonstration was tying up traffic in the business district, so I went around. I was wearing second-hand sneakers and wasn’t happy about it. Fortunately, I had a spare hat; the band hid most of the sweat stains. Good thing I’d gotten that advance on expenses; my wardrobe might never recover otherwise. I’d also gotten a haircut and a professional shave; the way my face had swollen, I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of doing it myself.
To save on costs, there are six of us sharing one single receptionist, and boy is she single. She’s young and so absurdly pretty it always makes me smile to see her. The way this day was going, it was no surprise she was also out to lunch. I had no messages and no clients waiting, which was also unsurprising.
I went in through the battered door labeled Private Operative — Courier — Investigations. It was functional and generic, straight out of Central Casting right down to the bottle of rotgut whisky in the bottom drawer. I poured a shot as a gesture toward oral hygiene and another for medicinal purposes while I surveyed my purchase. Queen Molly had delivered as promised, bless her. Good thing I’d specified new boots; my old ones might have passed, but they haven’t been shined for years and after a while it shows. (Plus, now they’d been stolen, which would have presented a serious obstacle to wearing them.) These weren’t anywhere near so comfortable, but they fit and they looked perfect. So did the rest of the uniform, more or less; I looked in the mirror and saw a major in the Imperial Marines — one with a lot of bruises.
I removed the ID and nametag, stowing them along with the rest of my clothes in a leather messenger bag. I had places to be, but good God did I need a nap.
Ah, well; no rest for the wicked, and the good don’t need any.
Where to next for Our Hero? Tune in next time to find out!
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