[Oc] Week 240: Further Consequences

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Sep 22, 2009
Quaestor Laermont’s massive metallic frame loomed in the doorway of the Spinning Cog. His eyeplates flashed blue as they scanned across the room, sweeping back and forth for a moment, surveying the all-demvir crowd. On easily swinging joints he glided through the demvir-only bar. His passing was hard not to notice. Towering well over six feet, he wore a heavy leather coat, a thick belt of basilisk leather girdled his middle and contained a sabre as well as two pistols and deeply treaded leather boots struck the floor with each solid stride.

His chassis gave him heft and a powerful stance, but he was elegant in his movements. His physical presence belied the cultured tones of his accent as he politely requested someone give him room. In the Spinning Cog, he made his way without hesitation toward a back table where a much more normally sized demvir sat. This demvir was a wider, squatter looking construct with a bronze -coloured chassis. He wore an improbable outfit of green worsted wool trousers held up by red suspenders, a dark blue silk shirt covered by an expansive vest made of a similar green wool to his trousers. Looking up, his eyeplate flashed as it met Laermont’s. “Well, well if it ain’t the good ol’ Quaestor come to call! What c’n I do for ye today, copper?”

Pulling a chair out from the table, the towering metal man lowered himself into it, settling with his back against it and sat still for a moment before he opened his mouth to speak. “Hello Ytrius. I’m after finding out what you know about an incident over at one of the engineering firms close to Elata Spiritus?”

Ytrius sat quietly for a moment and then leaned forward, the tone of his voice dropping. “Ooh that’s what you wanna know izzit? I ain’t sure you oughtta poke your nose inta that one.”

“I didn’t ask for an editorial comment,” Laermont sighed, “I just want to know what you’ve heard.”

“Okay, okay don’t get all excited, copper. What I heard is that TorBru sent a mob of goons to break up some guy’s place ‘cause he had someone workin’ for him that they wanted. That’s it, that’s all. So….”

The quaestor shook his head. “You’re going to have to do better than that. I figured that much just from reading the headlines. I want to know whose goons they were, Ytrius.”

Ytrius’ head swiveled around nervously and his voice dropped even lower. “What I heard is that some guy back in Lupanar owes favors to TorBru. He runs some rackets outta there and they use him when they want somethin’ ta happen that can’t be traced back to them.”

Leaning in across the table, Laermont put his metallic face next to the informant’s. “I need specifics. ‘Some guy’ doesn’t really do it. What is this guy’s name, for instance?”

Shifting his gaze from side to side, the stocky demvir sighed. “Only ‘cuz I like you….and ‘cuz you pay well….name’s Hari. They call his gang Hari’s Wolves. I think you better watch yerself, guv. They don’t take too kindly to coppers in their business.”

After sitting back again, the quaestor reached into one of the pockets of his leather jacket and removed the necessary coins from his coin purse, dropping them on the table quietly where Ytrius scooped them up. His eyeplates rose to meet Laermont’s. “So ye remembered ‘bout the danger pay. That’s kind of you, copper.”

Outside, the gigantic demvir swept his gaze around the crowds. It settled on flits of colour, small knots of people, lone figures but didn’t linger anywhere. Setting off at a loping pace, Laermont’s hand rested comfortably on the hilt of his heavy blade. He occasionally stopped at some market stall or casually paused to lean up against a wall as he strode along. He seemed to give a nod and his pace quickened more, the hesitant progress disappearing.

Turning in the direction of the central Quaestorii, he moved purposefully. Seeing as he was near to the centre of town, his journey didn’t take long. The desk sergeant eyed him with slight suspicion but ushered him to Prime Quaestor Timius’ office. The two men hadn’t been in contact for several months but the Prime Quaestor’s rough-hewn face broke into a smile as he stood up from behind his desk.

Although barrel chested and broad shouldered, he was still dwarfed next to the demvir’s intimidating bulk. He stuck out a hand that, while meaty, still seemed tiny in comparison to the metallic construct that was Laermont’s hand. He still gripped hard and shook with confidence. “I was wondering when you’d turn up in my office. What do you have to report?”

After summarizing his discoveries in the southern jungles, relating his harrowing escape from the area and delivering the salient points about TorBru’s latest activities, Laermont moved ahead to give Timius his latest update. “Now it seems that TorBru have hired a gang to rough up anyone connected with Aeria Luxus. I believe that it’s their intention to cut her off and possibly harm all of her friends to the point that she gives up and surrenders to them. They’re starting off easy but I believe things will escalate until all of her friends are in real danger of physical harm if we don’t intervene.”

Timius sat for a moment, dark features closed in before he looked up, hazel eyes meeting Laermont’s eyeplate with resolve. “I’m not sure what kind of resources I can spare right now, but you and I can at least go pay that gang a visit and see what we can do. Between the two of us, we’ll probably be able to walk in and walk out alive.”

The metallic figure’s head tilted slightly to one side. “You agreed to that quickly. Any reason why?

The Prime Quaestor gave his companion an enigmatic smile. “You aren’t the only one with your ear to the ground, Laermont.”

“No. Clearly not! When did you want to go?” The demvir looked quizzically at his counterpart who stood up and swept his arm towards the door.

One steam dray journey later, Laermont stood at the edge of Lupanar with Timius alongside him. The ramshackle tenements had the air of old bones and a violently contrasting fug of scents struck him. There were hints of the spices from a myriad of different Araevian cuisines, the stench of garbage, brief whiffs of the narcotic herb smoked by some of the people from Paludis and other scents darker and more unpleasant still.

As the two men strode into the district, their feet adjusted to the uneven cobbles, full of holes and bumps. There were furtive knots of people who moved between the shadows cast by the tenements that blocked out the light. More than a few of them shot hostile gazes in the direction of the two quaestors. The two men with their upright bearing and ever searching eyes were like magnets for certain kinds of attention. However, no one approached them, preferring to dart away instead.

The pair moved in a well coordinated, practiced way to ensure that their eyes swept each inch of the space around, behind and in front of them. Glances were shot at alleys, alternate passages and rooftop access ladders as they moved.

With a hand on Laermont’s arm, Timius turned him and pointed to a dilapidated block of flats. “That’s where we can find the gang. As far as I know, they’ll be the most hostile if we go in mob-handed. I’d say that our best luck will come from firmly asserting our authority. I’m not saying that it won’t get a bit rough, but if we just break the door down, we’ll probably get shot.”

Two heavy-set men lounged around outside of the door. As the two Quaestors approached, both of them moved forward to block the entrance. Timius advanced ahead of Laermont and raised a hand in greeting. “Well, well. If it isn’t Erv and Gurv. How you boys doing?”

The slightly larger of the two men, the two identical twins as it happened, glared at Timius. “Well if it ain’t our old buddy Timmy. Fancy seeing him here, eh, Erv? Wonder what a dirty copper like him’s doin’ in our neighourhood.”

“We want Hari. He in?” Timius’ face showed no expression as he watched the twins.

“Hari ain’t ever in for filth like you! Ain’t that right, Gurv?”

Timius jerked a thumb back over his shoulder. “Do you want my friend Laermont to make you let us in?”

The hulking demvir laid a hand on the hilt of the sword on his belt. Erv and Gurv shot looks at each other and back at Laermont. Erv spoke first. “I’ll ask if Hari’ll see you. Wait here.”

Laermont and Timius remained standing where they were, meeting Gurv’s hostile gaze without reaction, until his brother returned. “Alright. He can spare you ten minutes, no more. Go on to the top floor.”

Despite the dilapidated appearance of the block of flats, it was lavishly furnished on the inside. The walls were adorned with gold-patterned green wallpaper, the floor with high quality carpets from the desert regions. Each doorway was guarded by hulking men, who stared icily at the two Quaestors as they proceeded down the hallway and started climbing the elegantly carved, dark wood stairs that led to the top floor.

The two thugs at the head of the stairs parted as the detectives reached the top floor. Two large wooden doors hung open, revealing a dark wood paneled room dominated by a massive desk with four beautifully carved columnar legs supporting a heavy quartz top. Behind this gigantic edifice sat a small, neat figure dressed in the beautifully tailored silken robes common to Paludis. He was an enlil with a crest of blue feathers, angular features and a calm gaze. “Prime Quaestor Timius. I had not heard that I should expect the pleasure of your company.”

“It’s clear that you don’t hear everything, Hari. You only think that you do. We have a couple of questions for you. Mind if we sit?” Before the man could speak, Timius had pulled out one of the gigantic wooden chairs that stood in front of the enormous desk. Following suit, Laermont also settled his metallic bulk into the chair which didn’t even utter a creak.

Hari stared from Quaestor to Quaestor. “Your large metal friend can only be the famous Quaestor Laermont. I am pleased to make the acquaintance of one of your people who made it to a high rank in the Quaestorii.”

Laermont inclined his head. “I can’t say the pleasure is mutual.”

The enlil’s red and violet crest rose slightly as he glared at Laermont like a hawk sizing up its prey. “Let’s get on with this. What precisely do you want to ask me?”

Timius smiled and crossed his legs, leaning forward a little. “What do you know about a gang of thugs breaking up an engineering firm where Aeria Luxus was employed? Don’t say you don’t know anything about it because I won’t believe you.”

Hari’s face remained flat in affect. “Of course, living in Lupanar, it isn’t as if I haven’t heard about it. However beyond that I cannot say…”

The demvir quaestor, basilisk leather belt creaking as he leaned forward, met the enlil’s gaze with his eyeplate. “My sources tell me that your people were hired by TorBru to do the job.”

The enlil’s eyes narrowed, his face growing dark. “For one thing, I would not accept that organization’s money. For another, do you not think that I have better things to do with my time than smash some office to kindling over someone of no concern to me?”

The expressionless demvir sat quietly for a moment before he spoke again. “Your face is telling me that you aren’t lying. Either you’re a good card player or you really don’t have anything to do with it. Unless….”

Laermont turned to glance back at Erv and Gurv. as Hari’s own eyes traveled to the two men. The pair looked nervous as the spurii stood and stalked over to them. “What do you two know about this? Hm?”

The last part came out as a sharp bark that made everyone in the room jump. Erv swallowed. “Uh...well...I...that is…”

Although Erv towered over him, Hari fixed the man with the famous enlil raptor gaze and the man stood transfixed in terror as the shorter enlil seized him by the collar and pulled his face down. “What did you do, Erv?”

Stuttering, the hulking man stammered. “We just thought we’d earn a little money, we didn’t think you’d mind.”

“You didn’t think I’d mind? You stupid bastard. You know how I feel about TorBru nosing in on my business and my territory and you do this!”

He let the man go and turned to face his brother. “You were in on this too? Answer me! Now!”

Looking pale, Gurv nodded slowly as Hari advanced on him. “Right now, I am not going to do anything that I’d regret these officers seeing, so get the hell out of my sight, Stay in the fucking building though, eh, boys? You know what I do to people who run away.”

The two men slunk out of the room and Hari adjusted his robes and sat in front of the two detectives again. “Excuse that unseemly display of anger, gentlemen. I assure you that those two won’t be a problem any more. I suppose this means that I shall have to move against TorBru.”

Timius’ eyebrows rose and Laermont leaned forward more. “You would risk doing that, Hari?”

The spurii gave a sharp laugh. “I’m not scared of those bastards. They’ll regret fucking with me.”

Timius shook his head. “Try to be discreet about how you do it. The Quaestorii can look the other way for a certain amount of that kind of activity, but if you make it too big or too public we’ll have to step in.”

A sly smile touched Hari’s features. “Oh. I will ensure that it is as discreet as possible. The thuggishness shown by my two employees is not my normal modus operandi. Erv and Gurv were muscle and muscle is always the hardest to control.”

Laermont spoke up. “If you see them with a box-like device, stay well away. It is something design to control minds and I can personally vouch for the fact that it is very effective.”

The spurii nodded, a thoughful expression on his face. “Thank you for sharing that piece of information, Quaestor Laermont. I had heard rumors to that effect and although I don’t trust coppers, your reputation for honesty holds even amongst the criminal classes.”

The demvir detective inclined his head in acknowledgement. “There was one last thing, Hari.”

Hari made a “go ahead” gesture and Laermont continued. “If you hear anything about any further threats to Aeria Luxus, do me a favour and let me know.”

The spurii’s robes rustled softly as he stood. “I will indeed do so and now I must ask you to leave, I need to have a ‘conversation’ with Erv and Gurv.”

The two detectives made their goodbyes and exited the building. Back in the street, Laermont turned to face Timius. “I do hope that we haven’t just allowed something to start that’s going to get out of control.”

The other quaestor shrugged. “I guess we’ll just have to do our best to make sure it doesn’t, eh, Laermont!”



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