tunnels

Goodunnit: Chapter 11 – The Dead End

It was the day after the day after and I still felt like I’d done three rounds with moose, I just hoped the creature felt as bad as I did. After I’d left Ho Ping’s I spent the rest of the day recovering from my trip to see the Dragonlady, which was the only polite way I knew of saying I had been out of my mind on opium. Downstairs, the body of Ho Ping had been delivered to my surgery so I could perform my post mortem. I’d set to it in the morning and it had been a predictably gruesome task. It had been a relief to get out on my rounds, until I found half a dozen cases of what looked like something I needed to worry about spreading in amongst the denizens of the slum.

I was checking some samples under the battered old microscope on my table upstairs. It was night outside, the darkness laying across Shamian like an malevolent oil spill. The alleys and streets were cemetery quiet as families huddled together to watch not only over their children but their sick as well. Nothing for these poor sods was easy. Sometimes when I found myself wondering if giving up on God had been the right thing to do, I remembered times like this and realised he’d given up first.

I was busy contemplating the deep philosophical ramifications of punching the Almighty right in the kisser when a sudden knock on the door damn near handed me a chance to meet my maker face to face. I jumped and whirled round with my heart beating like an angry boxer. As I did my sleeve caught the microscope and flipped it on to the floor. I watched in mute horror as the most valuable thing I owned smashed and spilled its guts into a pile of shattered glass and dented metal.

Fuzz opened the door and peered in, “You ok, Doc?” I looked up, fury clear on my face. “Ah,” he said.

“Damn it! Not your fault. I… Oh damn it!”

“Expensive?” Fuzz asked as I stared at the shards of smashed optics and slides.

“No. Yes. No. It’s just… It’s all I had Fuzz. It was my father’s. It’s all I had left.”

“From England? Your England I mean?” Fuzz’s tone was soft, concerned. I’d almost forgotten I’d ever told anyone about my journey but Fuzz knew, as the sheriff he made it his business to know. I nodded . “Maybe it’s not too bad,” he said moving to the table and crouching down “Let me help you pick it up…”

“No!” I shouted and grabbed his hand, “don’t touch it!”

Fuzz pulled back, shocked “Easy doc, I’m only trying to help.”

“No,” my tone softer, “It’s not… I was looking at samples and they may be contagious.”

“Contagious?” he asked, all concerned sheriff again.

“Not sure yet, some of the Chinese workers are ill. I’m investigating. Well,” I looked at the broken microscope on the floor, “I was.”

“Anything I need to worry about?”

“Not sure yet, I needed my microscope to find out.”

“Hmm, ok,” said Fuzz thoughtfully, “I’ll let the Council know, maybe they will be able to help.”

“Really? I’d appreciate it, Fuzz.”

“Well I’m not making any promises, but…”

I smiled at him. “So, scaring me half to death aside, what did you call round for? The post-mortem?”

“Got it in one. What’s the word on old Ho Ping then?”

I reached for two mugs and some tea, “Sit down and I’ll make us a brew. This might take some time.”

**{}**

“So you are saying he was murdered, but he did it himself? You’re saying someone persuaded him to cut his own tongue out and slice his ears off, lay them on the floor by the stool he then used to stand on so he could put a noose around his neck?”

“Yes,” I said simply.

“Furthermore you say that when on the stool he gouged his own eyes out before kicking the stool away and hanging himself?”

“That’s what I’m telling you, yes.”

“Doc… That’s… That’s just not possible. No one can be told to do those things to themselves.”

“Well I’ve heard of drugs that can open a man’s mind to suggestion, hypnosis too, but this is extreme I’ll grant you. But…” I left it hanging like Ho Ping himself.

“But?” Fuzz asked, prodding the corpse.

“Well there is The Voice.”

“The voice? I’ve got a feeling I’m going to regret asking this but what is the voice?”

“Ah, not a what, but a who,” I said cryptically. Fuzz gave me a look. “Ok Ok,” I smiled, “truth is no one knows, but the word is he is the Tong’s main enforcer and he can kill by simply telling you to kill yourself.”

“Rubbish!” Fuzz blurted out.

“I’m just telling you what I’ve heard Fuzz,” I said with an exaggerated shrug, “I mean of course it could be so much guff, lies spread by the Tong to add an air of supernatural menace to their reputation, but what if it’s not?”

“Aw c’mon doc, you don’t seriously expect me to put an APB out for ‘some chump who can make you do anything with his voice’? Lunar will think I’ve gone mad and half the women in Steelhead will think it’s a lonely hearts advert!”

I couldn’t help smiling, “Look, I’m only telling you what I’ve heard. Ho Ping killed himself not only in a way no sane person ever would but also in a way that would indicate a punishment and a warning. My guess would be the Tong. The question is, what are you going to do about it, sheriff?”

Fuzz looked at me, his eyes searching mine, “I don’t know yet, doc, I really don’t,” he said eventually, “I can’t get anything to stick. People won’t talk and without evidence, well what do you want me to do? I can’t arrest every Chinese worker in Shanghai to make sure I get the Tong and unless someone comes forward I can’t identify the members. Even if I do get to the thugs on the street, they’re just foot soldiers – the top brass are never implicated. I’m sorry doc, but my hands are tied.”

I knew he was right, he was always right but I didn’t have to like it. I sat back in my worn armchair and drank my tea in silence until Fuzz piped up again, “Look, I’ll set the Sisters on it, OK doc? Maybe they can dig something up.”

I smiled at him, we both knew they wouldn’t but it was better than nothing. Time to move on, talk about something else. I searched for a new topic and failed entirely, “So what’s happening to Ho’s place? I guess the Tong will move someone new in.”

“No,” Fuzz said standing up. He drained the last of the tea and placed the cup on the table, “seems the shop is owned by an out of towner and the word is he’s moving in himself rather than rent out again. Seems Steelhead is to get a new resident doc.”

“Hell of a welcome he’ll be getting, don’t you think?”

“Mmmm, but at least with Ho Ping gone I think we’ve seen the last of these murders.”

“I hope so Fuzz, I would far rather my surgery be a surgery than a morgue,” I said heavily.

“Me too doc.,” He moved to the door, pulling his coat around him,” Now if you’ll excuse me, I want to go see Dr Alter tonight, give her the good news she’s off the hook.”

“Good luck with that,” I smiled.

“Thanks, but she’ll be easy compared to the heat I’ll be getting from the Pinkertons. Anyway, that’s my problem doc.” He opened the door and stared into the night, “Thanks for your help in all this, doc. I’ll speak to the council. I’ll see what I can do, ok?”

“Yeah, good luck with that too,” I said bitterly. Fuzz just looked back sadly for a second before walking out and closing the door behind him. In the silence of my room I stared at the door and wondered why every conversation we had seemed to end this way.

I turned to look at the broken microscope on the floor. How the hell was I going to discover what was wrong in the slums now?

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The End.
All the “Goodunnit? Murder in Steelhead!” posts can be read here.

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Links to other blogs and stories:
1) The murders were originally discussed at one of the weekly town hall meetings and recorded here.

Goodunnit: Chapter 9 – His Master’s Voice

Ho Pings Pawnbrokers in Steelhead Shanghai_001

Ho Ping wanted to run, he really did, but he was far too scared to even try. It wasn’t just the four tong thugs lounging about his shop blocking the exits like jackals waiting for their turn at the corpse, but He was here too. The goons he could cope with, but Him? Ho Ping’s stomach was doing its level best to get out of his body by any means possible and many of his other organs were considering joining it when a slight cough from Him caused his bladder to open.

For a while no one said a word, the silence of the room broken only by the gentle hiss, until the goons broke into peels of cruel laughter and cat-calls.

“Enough!” The word cracked through the air like thunder. The Voice had spoken and all four thugs instantly fell silent and lowered their gaze.

The Voice was a small figure people often mistook for a child. That was until they saw His face. Some said it was a cruel trick of nature, others a curse laid upon Him as a child. Others still said that when he had begun to age past his fifteenth year, he had cut the head of a younger boy and had his own stitched on and that this practice had continued ever since for a very long time indeed. Whatever the truth, the sight of a sixty year old face atop the body of a young boy made people feel somewhat uncomfortable. Not as uncomfortable as finding their lungs falling out of hole where their intestines used to be, which was something The Voice could quite easily arrange .

“Please understand,” The Voice said, “that your actions in this affair have left us with no other course of action” It was a voice of reason. Reason wrapped around a fist made of granite and decorated with brass knuckles and razor blades. “Did you think a Pinkerton wouldn’t be missed? Did you think accelerating our plans for Dr Alter’s pet would go unnoticed?”

“But…” Ho Ping blurted out.

“SILENCE!” roared the dimunative figure and the shopkeeper’s voice died in his throat, his lips sealing tight against his will. He was on the road to death, he knew that now, but if he angered The Voice it might take a while to get there and be a very unpleasant journey. “You have disappointed, Ho Ping,” The Voice growled, “but more than that you have endangered us. For that I bring you what the Tong bring all who disappoint them. I bring you a message.” Ho Ping’s eyes grew wide, terror twisting his face as his small captor walked slowly and deliberately towards him like some hideous giant spider moving in on its prey. He wanted to run, get away from what he knew was coming, away from the horror The Voice would bring. He turned and bolted for the door but one of the young tong foot-soilders blocked his way. For a fraction of a second he contemplated the window, but hands grabbed and held him fast. He was spun back around and forced to his knees. The Voice crept close, his lined face inches away, his dry lips pushing up against Ho Ping’s ear.

He paused.

The room held its breath.

The night stopped.

And then, slowly, deliberately, The Voice whispered His message to Ho Ping.

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To be continued…

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

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Goodunnit: Chapter 8 – Death Calls Twice!

Dr Ryne Beck Gravatar “But not stabbed again?” Fuzz paced the room as I sat in front of his desk watching him. He reminded me of a little wooden figure going in and out of a clock, a really angry little wooden figure with claws and fangs.

“Nope. The hanging killed him for sure and he was beaten up pretty badly before that, but no stab wounds,” I replied. “Sit down Fuzz, you’re making me nervous.”

He waved my request aside and continued his pacing, “And apart from the leaflet about Dr Alter’s businesses, there was nothing to link the two deaths?” The swinging stiff had nothing on him apart from a dog-eared three-fold leaflet extolling the virtues of Dr A’s wares, all of them with innocent sounding descriptions dreamt up by some marketing type to distract from the fact that the “super powerful lighthouse beam alternative to normal bulbs” was actually a death ray capable of sinking several of O’Toole’s Ironclads in one go. The little cartoon logo of Dr Alter herself was mighty cute though…

“Er, I guess not…” I was halfway through a reply before I realised it wasn’t a question.

“But then two deaths in two days is a mighty big coincidence.”

“Well the first guy had only been dead for twelve hours or so, this new one had been hanging at least a week. Different MO, different location, different times.”

“Which could be worse!” Fuzz said running his fingers through his hair. Or fur. I was never quite sure.

“How so?” I asked.

“Two killers instead of one. And if John Doe was killed whilst investigating smugglers then I doubt the general populace is in danger, whereas if we have a different killer on the loose then who knows? It ain’t good doc, that’s for sure.”

I pushed my chair away and got to my feet, “Well if I can do anything Fuzz, you know where I am, but I have to get back to the slums.”

“Hmmm,” he was distracted, “Oh yes, your patients. You get back to them, doc, they’ll be missing you.”

“It’s more than that Fuzz,” I replied.

He looked at me, concern evident on his face, “All ok over there? I know it’s a bit wild…”

“Ha! It’s more than wild Fuzz, as you and the Council know. But it ain’t the tong this time, some Chinese kids came to my place after your nun left this morning, seems there’s a fever spreading.”

“A fever? Is it dangerous? Should I let the Council know?” Fuzz knew as well as I that the slums were a breeding ground for all manner of nasties and it bordered on some of the finest real estate in the city.

“Worried about property prices, Fuzz? We can’t have the great and the good cancelling their balls due to projectile vomiting now, can we?” I shouldn’t have said it but I said it all the same. Sometimes my mouth opens wide enough to take both of my feet in at once and right now I was knee deep in gums.

“Hey! That’s not fair doc and you know it!” Fuzz looked hurt and I felt lower than a worm’s beard.

“Yeah, sorry Fuzz, but well you know what I think about the slums and the council…” I trailed off.

“I know doc, I know. Look, get back there and find out what’s going on. Let me know and if it needs to go to the council I’ll do my best for you, fair enough?” he said with a small smile.

I smiled back “Fair enough,” and began to head for the door leaving the city’s sheriff to solve two grizzly murders in my wake.

“Doc,” Fuzz’s voice stopped me as I grasped the handle, “stay out of the dens, eh?” My shoulders went rigid and I stood stock still for long seconds before I slowly opened the door and left without saying one more goddam lousy word.

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

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Links to other blogs and stories:
1) The murders are discussed at the weekly town hall meeting here.
2) Dr Alter discovers she’s not only in the frame again, but seems to have a publicity department she was previously unaware of here.

Goodunnit: Chapter 7 – In the arms of a Dragon…

Dr Ryne Beck Gravatar “Ahh Doctor, come in come in.” The small Chinese guy at the door was paid not to know me and I shot him a glance to remind him of that fact, “So sorry, Mister Smith.” His wide, thin smile was as genuine as could be expected for a low paid goon in the drugs trade who thought he was worth more than being nice to the smoke-fiends. I’d let the Dragon Lady know, let’s see how he smiled after she’d booted him down to gutting fish in the cannery for a month. His smile twitched cruelly as he opened the door for me and I crossed the threshold between worlds.

I followed the curved path down to where a darkly translucent curtain divided me from my goal ahead. I could feel the tendrils of desire creeping around it, wafting towards me, and all the nuns in Steelhead couldn’t stop me now. I breathed the thick air in deep and pushed through the curtain to a room of cots and smoke and beautiful women.

They pamper you there. They guide you, help you, lose you and leave you.

I was in the smoke. With the Dragon lady. In the curls of her hair. Wrapped in the folds of her dress. I was far gone. I was with them again. Back with my family. Back with my wife.

Goodunnit

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Through the darkness of impossible dreams hands found me. Strong hands. Cold hands, cold like metal. I was lifted up, borne aloft to fly safe from harm. Somewhere, in the night, someone was sawing a double bass in half. What a strange thing to do.

**{}**

The knock on the door was almost as unwelcome as the bright morning light assaulting my eyes. I stood, naked to the waist and with the face of a dead dog, and wobbled my way to the door. “Sister Sweetcheeks,” I growled at the shocked nun. Someone had replaced my throat with a bag of gravel and every word hurt like a punch in the tonsils, “to what do I owe this very great pleasure?”

The young nun tried to stop her eyes skiing down my chest and failed, she gulped hard and spun around to look out across the harbour, her face even prettier with some colour in it, “Another murder, doctor!”

Another? Once more she provided the slap I needed to wake up. When I had time, I’d like to think about that some more, but right now I had questions looking for answers, “Who? Where? Was it Dr Alter’s squid again?”

“No,” she replied not turning around but sneaking a sideways glance at me, “In the old tunnels, some poor wretch has been found hung! Sheriff Ortega has arranged for the body to be taken to your temporary morgue in the naval offices. He asks if you can get a report to him right away.”

“Does he now? Well tell him I’ll get on it right away, but I’ll be calling in these favours from the city soon enough.”

“Favours?” Sister Sweetcheeks looked round at me, her eyes alive with curiosity. God but they were beautiful eyes.

“You tell him Sis, the city owes Beck some overtime,” I smiled into her eyes, “and I intend to collect that cheque.”

Goodunnit

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

*****{*}*****

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) The murders are discussed at the weekly town hall meeting here.
2) Dr Alter discovers she’s not only in the frame again, but seems to have a publicity department she was previously unaware of here.

The Mysterious Note: 9 – A Fishy Tale Indeed!

Dr Ryne Beck Gravatar Though the tunnels were dark, there seemed to be a glow emanating from the rocks, albeit weak, that provided just enough illumination for my explorations. The tunnels themselves were impressive in both size and construction – vaulted brick tubes strengthen by great metal ribs, they had obviously taken some considerable effort and resources to build. But by whom? And for what purpose?
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

What made them all the more puzzling was the inclusion of glass sections in the roof – surely these tunnels couldn’t have been open to the sky, could they? If they had, who had covered them over and why? Judging by the areas where Mother Nature had begun to reclaim the subterranean realm with rock fall and mildewed entropy, I guessed the last custodian’s of the tunnels were long gone leaving their labyrinthine secrets to the new masters of Steelhead to use as they saw fit.
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

A ladder hung down from a manhole cover high above, and I calculated that this section ran under and along Boomtown Parkway, the street Slade Outfitters was on. I turned an looked further down the tunnel – what if other shops also had hidden cellars, I thought. Maybe some evidence of the Bing Kong could be found further ahead. Nervously I pushed on until I came to a large brick archway leading into a cellar. I peeked around and saw more crates!
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

Could these be more of the same boxes I saw under Slades? More of the mysterious “KEEP DRY! DO NOT DROP!” boxes? There was only one way to find out. I gingerly crept in to the cellar, my senses on full alarm in case of sudden attack. I inched my way nearer and near the boxes until, at last, in the weak light I could make out some lettering on them: “STEELHEAD BRAND SLAMON”. I was surprised, to say the least, but a can left out and a rummage through an open box proved their contents to be no more fishy than, well, fish.
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

I had drawn a blank. Night was falling and I certainly did not relish a night lost in pitch black tunnels so I decided that discretion was far and away the better part of valour and resolved to take my concerns up with the sheriff the very next day. For now, I could do no more than climb the ladder into the street and head home on my trusty bicycle.

It was as I emerged into fresh air that a thought struck me. Who on earth would be stockpiling so much salmon? I looked down the street and mentally calculated how far I had travelled back and forth in the tunnel beneath my feet. If my calculations were correct that the shop on the corner would be directly above the cellar and the salmon horde… but whose was it?
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

I walked over, my shoes echoing on the cobbles as I went, until I stood outside… ECLIPSE DESIGNS! It would seem the town’s boss elf had quite the taste for salmon! Given all that had happened in the last few hours, I burst into a fit of riotous laughter that sped my weary legs home and to bed. Whatever the Bing Kong tong were up to, it would wait until tomorrow…
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

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The End… For Now!
All the “The Mysterious Note” posts can be read here.

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The Mysterious Note: 8 – A New Lead!

Dr Ryne Beck Gravatar Twenty four hours later, as I walked through the peaceful streets of Steelhead to retrieve my trusty old bicycle from where I had left it outside the town hall, I stopped dead in front of a shop I had never seen before and I gaped at the sign in the window.

Slade Outfitters.

Steelhead: The Mysterious NoteThe right shop at last!

Almost in a daze I walked into the store, evening was approaching and like the street out front the shop was empty save for several tasteful displays, a large ornately woven rug and a curious console atop a wooden plinth that was replete with blinking lights and flashing displays.
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

With a mouth cotton dry, I stammered the code given in the note “one two five three echo”. I had no idea what I expected to happen and certainly having the expensive rug let out a metallic ‘click’ and hiss of steam as it moved upwards slightly before sliding back to reveal a hole in the floor was low on my list. Obviously no one had informed the rug of my expectations and I leapt into the air in surprise as it moved under my feet!
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

Peering down the hole, I could see a ladder leading down into a cellar from which I could hear the whirs, clicks and beeps of machinery. I steeled myself and headed on down into the earthen-walled room and found it well lit by the sort of machines I had come to expect from the more creative members of the Steelhead community – the sort of machines that delight observers with their whirring and clicking and beeping and flashing and sparking without ever revealing why or for what purpose.
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

Beyond the machines and at the far end of the cellar I spied a metal grate across a section of wall, but I was too busy looking around for evidence of a delivery (after all, the note had been very specific that something should be left in the cellar, hadn’t it) to take much notice. My eyes settled on a pile of crates, or rather on the words stencilled onto them “FRAGILE – KEEP DRY – DO NOT DROP”, and my heart missed a beat. What on earth could be in them? What was so precious? So fragile? So, perhaps, dangerous?
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

Suddenly I heard a noise, a small scuttling noise, from near the metal grate and looked up just in time to see a large rat disappear through it. I moved over to investigate and found that the grate was actually a portcullis style door leading to what looked to be another room beyond. I pushed and pulled at the metal, but it would not budge. I took a chance and repeated the code in the note “one two five three echo” and was rewarded as the grating slid nosily upwards. I peered through the open doorway and gasped out loud as I saw beyond it a large tunnel! It obviously man-made and large enough for an omnibus to traverse through, in places it was ornately constructed and the entire section I could see was quite clearly very much abandoned.
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

After the horror of the New Babbage sewers a mere twenty fours behind me, I was somewhat reluctant to enter another subterranean realm of unknown dangers, but I saw little choice and pressed on…

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To be continued…
All the “The Mysterious Note” posts can be read here.

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The Mysterious Note: 7 – Exodus

Dr Ryne Beck Gravatar The journey through the sewers, the killing of more undead souls, the flight through the panicked streets of Clockhaven are but still images in my memory, the details of events themselves seemingly wiped by the horror of it all.

I remember clearly being ushered onboard the Clockhaven Queen, this time far from empty. I remember the noise, the screaming and gunshot and moans. I remember the smell of burning that seemed to be everywhere. I remember arguing that as a doctor I should be allowed to stay and help, but the local militia ordering me back saying they had things under control and the wounded on the ship would need my help. I remember the Queen sailing out to sea. I remember looking back and seeing the sky stained red with the fires that burnt all across Babbage.

I had seen the fires before.

I had heard the screams before.

I had tending the dying about a heaving vessel before.

I put all my memories to one side and got on with my job. I was a doctor and I had patients – nothing else mattered. Nothing. Not the zombies. Not Babbage on fire. Not my wife. Not my children. Not my country. Not my lost life. Nothing mattered but this, here and now.

The Queen steamed out to sea and the safety of Steelhead.

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To be continued after a short break…
All the “The Mysterious Note” posts can be read here.

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The Mysterious Note: 6 – Death in the sewers!

Dr Ryne Beck Gravatar My fear had gripped me tight and by the time the paralysis lifted I had steamed past Slade’s dock and into a narrow section of tunnel that precluded any thought of turning around. I desperately twisted and pulled at various controls on the engine, but in my panic failed to find a reverse gearing system. I moved with grim inexorability towards the moaning and splashing monster somewhere in the dark sewer ahead.

Suddenly there was another splash somewhere further ahead. And another. More moans, guttural animalistic cries of hunger, joined the first. I was facing at least three zombies and found myself armed with nothing more than my satchel and this boat.

The boat! Of course! I had been desperately trying to get the boat to go backwards and away from the terrors that lay ahead when I should have been looking at it as my source of escape and protection through them!

The stench of the sewer, whilst always bad, increased in its foulness as it mixed with the terrible miasma of rotting flesh. The tunnel ahead was dark and heavy with shadows that seemed to peel from the walls and flee ahead of my boat only at the last possible second.

And the seconds in this vile place felt like hours as I crept forward seeing nothing in the gloom until! There! In the sewage before me a creature loomed large, its arms stretched out in front, a shaft of wood trust fully through its body and, most terrible of all, an axe buried in its ruined skull! Its dead eyes fixed on me as its slack jaw released the unmistakable howl of a flesh-hungry zombie!

Zombies in Babbage!

With a spine of pure ice, I opened the little boat’s steam valve as far as it would go and kept a steady hand on the tiller as I began to speed through the foul water. I aimed squarely at the poor devil and braced for impact – there was a dull thud as his head hit the hull and the boat leapt up in the air, riding over him as if over a ramp! I held on tight, fearing I would be thrown from my craft, or worse still, it would capsize, but the steady vessel came down true and splashed back into the murky waters. Almost immediately the engine began to protest and I turned just in time to see the unfortunate’s head pulled into the gearing and cracked like an egg. Blood, brains and gore erupted behind me and the creature’s body, now finally lifeless and at rest, sank to the bottom. I was safe!

Ahead of me, in the inky blackness, the moaning started again. I set my jaw and spluttered forward…

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To be continued…
All the “The Mysterious Note” posts can be read here.

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The Mysterious Note: Part 5 – Into The Sewers

Dr Ryne Beck Gravatar As predicted the boat launch was a rather uncomfortable affair with many a bump and jolt as I slid down the helictical trough and into basin that flowed out into the sewers.

Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

The steam engine behind me hissed as the drive gear slowly pushed me forward into the gloom of the brick tunnels. Slime and other unmentionable detritus could be seen all around me and I knew that to fall into the water beneath me would almost certainly be fatal, So with a renewed effort to keep the small steam skiff on an even keel I gingerly coaxed it forwards in what I estimated was the direction of Slade’s. Sure enough, a few tense minutes later I did indeed come to the brick step that acted as small dick to the shop but even here, aside from a small sign indicating I had found Slade’s, I could find no discernable clues.

Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

Maybe I was too late? Maybe the illicit goods had already been delivered and moved on? Maybe, just maybe, I told myself, I was barking down the wrong sewer and on the end of an elaborate practical joke. I was just toying with thought when I heard it.

Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

A loud splash, as though a substantial weight had hit the water, followed by a long, low, near-animal moan that turned my blood to ice. It was a sound I hoped I’d never hear again. It was a sound I hadn’t heard since the fall of the second Lincoln Line back in ‘85. It was the sound of a soul trapped between life and death. It was the sound of one that was no longer human. It was the sound of one of Feg’s own. It was the sound of a Zombie! And it was here in the dark sewers with me!

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To be continued…
All the “The Mysterious Note” posts can be read here.

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The Mysterious Note: Part 4 – The Streets of Clockhaven

Dr Ryne Beck Gravatar The shadowed streets of Clockhaven were narrow and echoed with my lonely footsteps. More than once I was certain I heard distant shouting and unclear sounds of some commotion or other. The strange keening sound I had detected as I disembarked the Clockhaven Queen had grown steadily louder and I was sure now it was not just the wind whistling through the alleyways.

Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

The alleys themselves proved infuriatingly disorienting to the point I was convinced I was lost. I fought hard to hold my rising sense of panic down as I turned, sure I was being followed but saw no one.

Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

I hurried on, desperate to reach my goal and found myself nearly overcome with joy as I came upon it. Still, it was as dark and as quiet as everywhere else in this strange ghost town.

Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

I toyed with the idea of leaving now, of forgetting the whole damn foolish endeavour and returning to the relative safety of the slums, but it would be another two hours before the Queen would slip out of harbour again so I was going nowhere. Beside, I chided myself silently, I was letting my fears take hold of me. I pushed my shoulders back and made my way inside to where the boats were launched into the sewers. Looking up at the launch ramp, I had the feeling this was going to be a bumpy ride…
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

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To be continued…
All the “The Mysterious Note” posts can be read here.

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