Mother Superior

Gang Wars: From the Diary of Sister Jones

Three times! Three times I was able to see him today! The first I dearly wish to forget, the shock of seeing him slumped in his seat and the terror I felt in my heart at what I imagined… No! No it was too horrible. All that matters is he is safe and well, rescued from the clutches of the Beast and back with us… with me. I thought I would faint when he asked me inside. His kind eyes were so sad and his hands so strong when he lifted me from the puddle, I just wanted to hold him and tell him everything was better now, that I would look after him, care for him. But the words stuck in my throat. Oh how he must think me such a silly, clumsy girl!

I saw him again at the docks and not even the stench of the fish or the body dragged from the sea could stop my heart from missing a beat when he arrived – until Sister Mary saw him and began making doe eyes at him, giggling and fawning like some love-sick sheep – it is disgusting at her age, I’m sure she is nearly forty! All that “You can call me Mary” and “I don’t believe the Mother Superior”, I just wanted to scream! I spent the whole of today just so angry and upset, but I should have known he wouldn’t have left me to feel so horrid and lonely, not my Dr Beck!

He has just left the Town Hall, he came to deliver the report on the dead criminal to the Marshall but only Mother Superior and I are here and whilst she would not let him in past the foyer, I could see him clearly from where I stood near the cells. Oh my, he looked so tired! I wanted the old crow to bring him is so he could sit and I could look after him, but she truly despises him! I think it’s is because he never looks at her as he looks at me, I mean why else would she shoo him out when he looked over and smiled at me? At me! She is jealous and old and ugly and I hate it here. I hate being one of these bound-up nuns. I want to be free of it all. I want to be free of it for him, then no one can stop him smiling at me and no one can make doe eyes at him and I can care for him and help him with his work and cook lovely meals for him after he’s been out caring for the poor children. Oh how I wish I were with him right now, my handsome lovely Dr Beck.

To be continued…
All the “Gang War” posts can be read on my blog here and over on the Steelhead Ning here.

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Links to other blogs and stories:
1) Catch up with all the Gang Wars posts here.

Goodunnit: Chapter 10 – And One More Makes Three

As the sun rose over Polymath Tower, pouring its spiteful light down upon my pounding head, I was calculating whether or not my lungs would make the dash to the pawnshop or simply explode with the effort.

One of my neighbours, Miss Tornado who ran the flophouse at twenty, had found me slumped on her steps and woken me with a message “There’s an angry old nun looking for you, says you’re needed over at Ho Pings.” Angry old nun could only mean the fearsome Mother Supirior, a nun so tough I heard she’d once had a face off with the owl-eating demon from Boomtown and won. I wasn’t sure if it was a contest to see who had the scariest face, but old MS would have won that hands down anyway.

As I ran down the cobbled street, I caught my reflection in a window. Christ and all his angels! My clothes were rumpled to the point of disgrace, my hair and whiskers jutted out at all angles and my face, oh god my face! I looked like a half-starved, half-crazed, half-burst scarecrow running round a field shrieking at birds! And judging by the smell, it was manure spreading time. I hoped to God Sister Sweetchecks didn’t see me like this.

Fuzz was stood with Mother Supierior outside the gawdy pawnbrokers and he gasped in shock as I came to a halt heaving and wheezing, “Gods Alive! Beck you look worse than the stiff!”. Old MS shot him a withering glare, he smiled slightly and added a hasty “well, almost.”

I grunted and self-consciously tried to run my fingers through my matted hair. It didn’t help. “You called?” my voice sounded as if my mouth was made from worn-out carpet, which given the taste it may have been.

“Hmmm not sure I did the right thing…”

“Can it Fuzz,” I snapped, “just tell me what you want.”

The sheriff just glared at me for what felt like an age, his face a mixture of anger and pity that made my skin crawl with shame, “I’m… I’m sorry Fuzz…” I started to say before the wolverine in a wimple cut me dead.

“And so you should be! You sir are a mess. A mess! You come here reeking of that vile smoke and sweat and cheap perfume,” I looked at Fuzz, shocked. He stepped back out of her eyeline and flashed me a slight sardonic smile that said “You’re on your own, pal.”

“I… I…” I stammered.

“I have not finished, Dr Beck,” she said, her tone brooking no discussion on the matter. I shut my trap and held on tight, something told me this was going to be a bumpy ride. “How dare you speak to the sheriff like that! How dare you! He called you into this – against my better judgement I may add,” Fuzz nodded, his smile all Chesire Cat, “and you arrive not only late and resembling something dredged up from the harbour, but with an attitude to match your odour – foul! Well it is not good enough sir! It is simply not good enough! And another thing…” She stopped as Fuzz stepped forward again, all faux gravitas, “I think that’s enough Mother Superior, I think Dr Beck has got the message loud and clear, haven’t you Doc.”

I was stunned. It felt like I’d been drop-kicked by my granny and then made to dress up as her poodle, “I… Well, yes. I’m sorry Sister,” “Mother Superior!” she corrected. “Mother Superior, of course, I’m sorry.”

“Yes, well, see you buck your ideas up, young man. See you buck them right up. Now if you excuse me, I think I need some fresh air!” and she stomped off like a monochrome thundercloud looking for someone to smite with lightning.

I looked at Fuzz, too stunned to speak. Fuzz grinned at me, “What can I say, doc? She’s one tough Mother.”

I nodded sagely, like Canute agreeing with someone lecturing on water’s ability to drown people, “Well, I’m sorry Fuzz, how about I go get straightened out and then come back, huh?”

“Nah, you’re here now, aren’t you? Let me show you the new stiff.”

“Another John Doe or old man Ping?” I asked, wondering what the hell was going on in Steelhead. So many murders could only point one way – the tong.

“Yup, Ho Ping, the questionable owner of this questionable establishment,” Fuzz stared at the model flamingoes by the door and sighed. Ho Ping, a tong fence who always managed to stay just on the right side of the law, ran a pawnshop where he ran a nice sideline in bleeding the poor Chinese workers dry. Like the rot eating away at the foundations of the harbour, Ping was a cancer gnawing away at the people of Shamain. Somehow I doubted they’d miss him much. But who killed him? Ping was deep with the Tong after all. Was this some kind of turf war? I’d not heard about a new gang trying to muscle in, though. Maybe some poor sap in hock to him finally snapped and cashed Ho Ping’s cheque in, but this didn’t seem likely as the repercusions for their family both here and back home would be terrible. There was one other explanation, one that made more sense than rival tongs or rogue borrowers. “Let me see the body,” I said already walking into the shop…

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To be continued…
All the “Goodunnit? Murder in Steelhead!” posts can be read here.

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Links to other blogs and stories:
1) The start of this case was discussed at this weekly town hall meeting here.

Lost & Found: Chapter 12 – Epilogue

The sun rose over a city much changed to the one it has set on only a few hours earlier. Its light danced off waters now clam again after the night’s tempest. It sparkled off golden pagodas and from windows in buildings that had seemingly risen from the sea’s stygian depths in the wild ferocity of the storm, its arrival marked with a swath of destruction across the city. Yet the felled trees and damaged houses were not the reason a very tired looking Lunar, once more a tall elf now that his wife had made whole the moon she had fractured, found himself stood in the morning chill and cursing softly in his native tongue.

“You are sure she is unharmed, Elle?” he asked, turning to his equally tired looking friend.

Eladrienne sighed as she looked up at the elf, soot and grime smeared her face and clothes and she was soul-tired, “Yes, Tensai has checked her over. Annechen has checked her over. I’ve seen her and she is fine, I promise.”

Lunar nodded and glanced over at Shanghai, the dream made real that should have heralded a joyous day, but even though Ama was unhurt how could he celebrate the birth of new life when this had happened? He looked down at the scorched ground, smoke curling up in patches here and there and sharp blades of twisted metal jutting up like broken teeth, and shook his head.
Destroying Mason Lab

Destroying Mason Lab

Destroying Mason Lab

JB Hancroft’s house had borne the brunt of it when a giant bolt the size of a horse had torn through the wall and now offered itself to the sky in a mocking gesture of defiance. Past that his eye could clearly see the damage done to Polymath by the cog Darien had installed as a door and his ears could quite clearly hear what Hotspur had to say on the matter in a series of curses that would make the sailors of Shanghai blush for shame.

Destroying Mason Lab

Behind him, on the other side of the road, two more mammoth cogs (a window? Another door? He didn’t know) was buried deep into the earth of Tanarian’s kennels.
Destroying Mason Lab

Thankfully no pooch had been hurt, although most had been scared half out of their minds judging by the howling and yelping, but Tanarian was livid and would take some serious placating. He looked up at Elle who, as if reading his mind, said “Leave her to me, hm?” and moved to intercept the angry woman.

How had so many casualties been avoided? How could so much damage been wrought and only… his train of thought was interrupted by a sharp prod to his right calf. And another. And a third.

“Ow!” he said hopped round.

“Elf!”

Lunar, rubbing his tender calf, looked down into the iron-clad death stare of a very seriously annoyed knee-high cat. “Dr Alter…”

Her green eyes flashed as she looked up at him, waving her paw dismissively. “Never mind all of the greetings and such,” she said with a hiss. “Look at my warehouse! Just look at it!”

Lunar looked up and across the water to where she pointed. Another of Darien’s massive bolts had smashed into her buildings and jammed itself into the side of her smoking chimney. “Ah… Yes… Well…”
Destroying Mason Labs

She breathed in deep and slow, determined to stay calm, “That is all, is it? Hmph, I see. Well, thank you Elf, thank you very much! This will not be forgotten…oh no, don’t think it will!” She poked him in the calf with her claw again before striding away, shouting orders at her minion Cato Quan.

“Such anger for such a sweet little puss cat,” Lunar sighed. Dr Alter stopped dead, the tips of her whiskers vibrating with fury, and without turning to face him hissed “Elf. I will, for the sake of your good lady wife, pretend I did not hear that and bid you good day, Sir. Good day!” She marched off with war in her heart as Lunar allowed the corner of his mouth to curl upwards in a sly smile.

“Lunar, you shouldn’t tease her so,” Elle was at back his shoulder watching the cat stride back to her damaged warehouse.

“I suppose…” was all Lunar said before turning back to the ruins of the once feared Mason Laboratory. Smoke rose from piles of melted and twisted metal which, even now hours after the explosion had ripped the building apart, were still hot to the touch. “How is he?”

Elle looked at her friend’s face, so much worry for others made him look sad, “Not good. Tensai did what she could and I’ve sent someone out to find Dr Beck, but he’s going to have to go to Caledon. There isn’t an inch of him that isn’t burnt. Even his horns are gone. I don’t know how he’s survived this long.”

“And any idea who the poor devil actually is?” Lunar asked.

“No one knows. Ama has confirmed he is not Jeremiah though, and if anyone should know it’s her.”

“I hate to think of him dying without his name, alone here with no one to mourn him.”

Elle reached out and touched the tall Elf’s arm, “Hey, he’s not dead yet. If anyone can help him it’s Tensai and the Caledon doctors. Don’t give up on him yet,” she said quietly.

Lunar looked down at her and smiled, “You’re right as usual, Elle. Ignore me, I’m just… well, look at this…” he looked at the wreckage strewn about them. “He’s alive and that’s all that matters. Tell me again what happened, will you?”

“Well,” she replied “According to Mother Superior and a host of other witnesses across town, Jeremiah, or rather the man claiming to be Jeremiah, spent the day travelling all over town on Genie’s horse. He’d been to see Annechen over at the Consulate in the afternoon and was seen after that meeting riding about in a seemingly upset state…”

“Upset? Why? What happened?”

“Annechen says he came to ask about his past and she told him he wasn’t Jeremiah. That was about the length of the meeting as she was late getting ready to leave with Fuzz.”

“Mmmm, I wish Fuzz were here now, that’s for sure. So how did our Jeremiah man take it?”

“Not well. He rode through the town talking to himself. Gia saw him on the bridge near Dragon’s Leap that night and he was out in the storm. She says he was heading back into town and he came back here. All of this is confirmed by Mother Superior and Ama.”

“Ama?” asked Lunar, surprised.

“She had spent the day following him.”

“Gods! How many people were watching and following this poor man? No wonder he was acting so oddly!”

“To be fair Lunar,” Elle said, “he was claiming to be Jeremiah Mason and came here to find his son. Both you and I know what happened last time they met, not that long ago and on this very spot. Fuzz had to keep an eye on him and no power in the world could have stopped Ama from helping her grandpa if it had have been him.”

“Yes… yes, you’re right of course. Carry on, Elle”, Lunar said softly, rubbing his eyes with his finger and thumb.

“Well,” continued Elle “Once here, well something must have snapped inside him because Ama says he went crazy.”

“Crazy? Crazy how?”

“Smashed the place up, she said. Smashed everything and was ranting about being Jeremiah. Ama tried to calm him down, but she says he was terrified and grabbed a bottle of stored lightning, presumably to defend himself, and then…” she looked at the smouldering crater and sighed.

“And how did he get out? Surely he didn’t manage to walk out in that state?” Lunar asked.

“No, Warren was passing by and ran in to save him…”

“Warren,” he interrupted, “you mean Velvel from Shanghai? What was he doing all the way over here?”

“Just taking a stroll, he says. Maxim was nearby too, JB was in his house and Maev was over at the kennels. They all got here just in time to see Warr… Velvel pull the body from the flames.”

“And Ama?”

“The blast blew her out of the door and into JB’s new shop. She was unhurt but out cold for a while and when she came too went to fetch Tensai, which is where you come in,” Elle finished.

“Hmmm,” was all Lunar said in reply. He wandered over to where the huge cog door of the lab, until a few hours ago, had been. Now it was buried deep in the walls of Hotspur’s tower.

“What’s wrong, Lunar?” Elle said, “I know that ‘Hmmm’ too well. You think there is more to it than a simple accident?”

“The explosion, no. Darien had enough dangerous things in there and Ama saw our poor would-be-Jeremiah smash the lab and grab the lightning bottle. But Velvel… no one saw him go in? And you said they saw him pulling the man out?”

“Yes,” replied Elle, “and Gia said something about him watching Jeremiah-man in the rain.”

“Who was in the rain? Jeremiah?” Lunar asked.

“No, well yes he was, but Gia said that Velvel was stood on the balcony in the rain and she is sure he was watching Jeremiah-man ride off. Lunar, you don’t think…”

“I don’t know what to think right now, Elle. Maybe our Jeremiah can tell us if he pulls through.”

“When he pulls through, you mean,” Elle reminded him.

As the sun rose higher into the sky, Lunar looked around at the rubble and ruins about him and sighed heavily, “I rather fear it’s much more of an ‘if’ Elle. Now, let’s see about this wreckage shall we?”

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In a nearby house, Ama and Tensai bent over the horribly burnt figure laid out on a spare bed. They had both done what they could, applying aloe extracts, wrapping him in gauze and keeping his blackened flesh damp, but his burns were the most severe either of them had ever seen. Tensai whispered reassurances to him like a mother to a child, telling him it would all be alright and he would be well again, but in her heart she knew it wouldn’t be alright and he would more than likely die very soon. “Try to rest,” she said as she listened to his ruined lungs wetly gurgling for air. “We’ll get you to Caledon soon, Jeremiah,” she added with a glance to Amarantis who gave a small nod of understanding.

The man on the bed, the man who had claimed to be Jeremiah Mason, jerked and went rigid for a second. Here it comes Tensai thought, and began to prepare a prayer. His lips, or where his lips used to be, opened a little and a wheeze of air escaped. She bowed her head at his dying breath and mourned as his soul moved to pass.

Except it didn’t. The wheeze continued. She looked back up and saw he was trying to lift his head from the pillow, his mouth trying to form words. Shocked she quickly moved closer until her ear was directly over his exposed teeth and she listened with all her being.

“nohhht jhere mhh iiia”

Her eyes grew wide! Not Jeremiah he had said!

“iiihhhhmmm hhhhedd hhrrrroo hhaannnt hhhaarrrmmmm” he sighed and fell back to the bed, his wheezing lungs refusing to give up…

The End?
All the “Lost & Found” posts can be read here.

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Links to other blogs and stories:
1) Tanarian alerted the Steelhead Ning here.
2) Dr Malegato alter reports on the damage to her warehouse here.
3) The cruelly exiled Dr Darien Mason detected the loss of his old lab here.
4) The hero of the hour, Velvel Danielovich explains how he pulled the burnt man out of the fire here.
5) Rhianon Jameson reports on the damage here.