[Oc] Week 249: Put On Notice

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Sep 22, 2009
Deep inside a shadowed Lupanar alley, two men faced off. One was a burly velen with blue and purple scales, skin knotted with scar tissue and clearly a veteran of many street fights and bare knuckle brawls. The other was a seven foot tall demvir, wide and powerful, wearing a thick basilisk leather belt and a heavy coat of the same material. He was Quaestor Laermont of the Terminus police force.

While investigating the sudden, intense outbreak of violence between a consortium of criminal organizations in the rough district and their more refined counterparts in the salubrious part of Terminus, Laermont had come into the dangerous neighbourhood when he’d been accosted by this velen. The man hadn’t spoken, just attacked.

Laermont sidestepped as the big, burly velen threw a punch at him. The knuckledusters on the purple and blue scaled hulk had wicked razor edges on them, designed to slice into metal. The detective drew his heavy-bladed short sword and tensed his massive metallic body for movement. As the velen stepped in again, Laermont slapped his hands away with the flat of his blade and drove a punch at the man’s jaw with his own gigantic paw. The velen, body in a pugilist’s stance, weaved out of the way and jabbed at the quaestor’s face but again the massive demvir batted the attack away with the flat of his blade.

The two opponents circled, gauging each other with exploratory thrusts and jabs, carefully positioning themselves. The demvir detective towered nine inches over the velen and his arms reached much further. He stepped back and let the boxer come on before reversing momentum and thrusting at him with his short sword, forcing the velen to backpedal.

As the velen did so, Laermont kicked out with one of his powerful legs, catching the bruiser in the knee and taking him even further off-balance and then punched his assailant in the face with his huge metallic hand. The velen crumpled to the ground and the quaestor efficiently seized him. He unfastened the steel bracelets that had been hanging from his belt, cuffed the boxer’s hands behind his back, and hauled him into a sitting position. He propped the pugilist up against the wall and waited until the man began to awaken. He towered over the velen and the man looked up at him with a gapped smile. “You ain’t bad, copper.”

Laermont’s expressionless faceplate lowered and raised slightly in acknowledgement. “Thank you. Who sent you and why? I can guess but I’d rather hear it from you.”

The velen’s face was impassive. “I ain’t a grass.”

There was a wry smile in the quaestor’s voice, despite his lack of expression. “I can just go ahead and tell the Nefastus that you’re working for TorBru in that instance.”

The rough velen’s scales became several hues lighter, but his tone didn’t change. “I don’t fink I know what ye’re talkin’ about.”

Laermont gazed down at the velen. “We’ll get you up and go for a nice stroll right through the middle of Lupanar with you visibly cuffed. How long do you think you’ll last when the news gets back to TorBru that you’ve been arrested?”

Now the velen blanched further. “Ye...ye can’t do that….it’s a bluff!”

The detective chuckled without warmth. “Is it?”

With ease, the powerful demvir hoisted his former assailant to his feet and jabbed him in the back with his sword. “Move.”

At the mouth of the alley, the street tough stopped and shook his head, cursing under his breath. “Alright, alright, guv. I’m workin’ for TorBru. They wanted me to put the frighteners on ye. Now please don’t walk me through the streets cuffed.”

Laermont sighed but the cuffs stayed in place. “The best I can do is cuff your hands in front. It’ll attract less attention, but you shoulda thought about that before you started working for TorBru. I promise to make it as inconspicuous as possible.”

After their journey back to the Quaestorium and the processing of the miscreant had been completed, Laermont went back up to the main offices to speak to Timius. The prime quaestor ushered him into his office and shut the door before taking a seat behind his gigantic carved wooden desk, propping his meaty forearms up on the edge and resting his heavy jaw in them. “So this thug that tried to jump you admitted to working for TorBru?”

“Yes,” Laermont nodded, “I scared him by mentioning the Nefastus. It’s bad enough that we have to worry about TorBru and the Principium, but an open feud between them and the Nefastus spilling on the streets won’t do.”

He added, “There’s the whole Diamante House issue as well. Someone’s robbing them and those thieves know all about how the organization functions. I doubt that they’d get such information through the usual Lupanar channels. There are rumblings about TorBru involvement, but I need to investigate further. Do I have your permission to look into it, sir?”

“Well, of course, you’ve my permission. I can’t spare the time to assist you, but I’ll assign someone to work on the case with you. You can also call on the department’s other resources any time.”

Laermont was silent for a minute. “I’ve had enough of tinkering around the edges. I’m going right in to speak to Mercuti. I just want to rattle his cage a bit.”

The prime quaestor nodded. “Very well. You do know that you’re painting a target on your back right? They won’t take this lying down.”

“I know. Thank you for your solicitude, sir. I appreciate it.”

He saluted and left the office at a purposeful pace.

In the chairman of TorBru’s office, Guadriar the Red sat with his fingers folded across each other, cool gaze sweeping over Mercuti’s face. The man sat straight but there was no stiffness in his posture. His voice was relaxed and totally free of emotion. “Diamante House is responding with aggression to the campaign, Mercuti. We have been able to suppress them for the moment, but they are rallying.”

Mercuti’s face was blank. He shrugged. “You are quite capable of dealing with them, Guadriar. I didn’t hire you to complain. I hired you for results.”

Guadriar paused for a moment before his voice continued in its smooth flow. “TorBru has more resources than any other organization in Terminus. All I ask is that you release a larger portion of those resources to me. Consider it a reasonable investment in your security.”

The chairman rolled his head around on his shoulders. “If we proceed too openly, the others will become more aware of what we are doing. If they become more aware, they will make plans to unite. I do not want this to happen.”

The man across the desk raised a hand to call a pause. “If you do not invest wisely in what the Nefastus is offering you, the same result will occur.”

Their conversation was interrupted by a bronze bell that tinkled lightly over a speaking tube that sprouted from the massive marble-topped desk. Mercuti picked it up and held it to his ear for a moment before making a disgusted noise and barking, “Send him up!” into it.

He turned to face Guadriar. “There is a concealed room behind this office. Access it by pulling out the Historia Immaculata in the left-hand bookshelf. That damn Quaestor Laermont is requesting an appointment. I intend to see him so we can learn what he knows. Go on!”

Without a word, the man stood and did as he was bid. A few minutes later, Laermont swung the gigantic carved wooden doors wide and strode in without knocking. Mercuti glowered at him from under knit, dark eyebrows. “What do you wish to waste my time with now, Quaestor?”

Laermont’s massive frame loomed over the desk as he came to a halt, facing Mercuti. “I won’t beat about the bush. I have no doubt that you have heard of the Nefastus, Chairman. Am I correct in so assuming?”

The Chairman nodded. “Yes it is some sort of confederation of criminal elements. What of it?”

The detective set his massive metallic hands on the desk and met Mercuti’s eyes with his eyeplate. “How much would you say you know about them, Chairman?”

“No more than anyone else does, of course, Laermont. What are you driving at?” There was indignation in the man’s tone.

“I have received information that indicates that your knowledge of them is considerably deeper than you are suggesting.”

Mercuti chuckled darkly. “You, of all people, should know not to listen to rumors, Quaestor. I am curious to know the gist of the information though. It might be instructive.”

“The gist,” Laermont rumbled, “is that you have an operative inside the Nefastus who is directing their activities against the Principium.”

The chairman let out a laugh. “That’s absurd! What would a reputable organization like mine have to do with criminals of that ilk. Where did you get this information?”

Laermont held up a hand. “You know that I’m not able to tell you that. The preponderance of evidence along with the testimony of this witness makes it quite clear that you are involved in the current outbreak of violence. I’m merely here to let you know that we are aware and there will be eyes on you.”

Nothing about Mercuti’s expression changed. “Oh dear. Once again a member of this city’s overzealous bureaucracy decides to waste the money of honest citizens on harassing those who are the engines of the Terminus economy. Really, Quaestor, doesn’t the police force have better things to do with its time?”

Laermont laughed now. “It’s always the same rhetoric with you, isn’t it? Still watch your step Mercuti. I know what you are and what you get up to. This time you’ll have an audience.”

The Chairman stood, heaving his massive bulk from his throne-like seat. “Thank you for coming by, Laermont. I really am rather busy and should get back to my work.”

The detective simply turned and strode out of the room, leaving Mercuti behind him. A moment later, Guadriar emerged from the hidden room and crossed to also stand in front of the Chairman.
“Well, it seems one of your little birds is singing, Mercuti. You’d best find out who it is and stop the singing. I’m not working with you if you keep having too many liabilities.”

There was a grim smile on the man’s fleshy features. “Oh I’ll be shutting up the singer alright. The singer and that smug demvir bastard can definitely count on having their songs cut short.”

Word Count: 1772


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