Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Madman's Dance Excerpt Three

Chapter One (Continued)

Satyr was uncharacteristically late for the breakfast appointment with his superior. That made him irritable. He grumbled at the hansom driver for the length of time it took the man to make change, and then stalked into the dining room on Rose Street, the usual meeting place. The staff immediately gave way as he entered the private room in the back. To his annoyance, the Ascendant was already well into his meal, a newspaper open at his elbow.

He noted without amusement that the leader of the Transitives still insisted upon the same “presentation,” as they called it. Satyr had repeatedly suggested that he shift form. What was the point of going en mirage if you did not alter your appearance every now and then? Changing some slight aspect kept your enemies off guard. Satyr employed that strategy, shifting hairstyle or eye color at whim. You did not become Lead Assassin by being lazy.

His superior looked up. “Ah, there you are, Mr. S.” He gestured with a fork toward the newsprint. “It appears you had an eventful evening, so I will forgive your tardiness.”

Better that you do. Satyr removed his hat and coat, placing them on the chair nearest the door. He rang the bell near his plate. A deferential waiter appeared instantly.

“More sausages, please.” The Ascendant had eaten the majority of them, and the remainder would not be hot. Sausages had to be the proper temperature or there was no reason to consume them.

His superior was studying the newsprint again. That was just as well. Satyr was not in the mood for light conversation. Where once there had been a respectful give-and-take between them, he’d noted a change in his leader’s recent behavior. More authoritative, with an inclination to meddle.

“Your sausages, sir,” the waiter announced, setting a colorful Majolica bowl in front of him.

“Thank you. That will be all.” The door closed behind the servant as the mouth watering aroma of spiced meat filled the air. Satyr repressed a sigh of appreciation.

“Well?” the Ascendant inquired, looking up from his paper.

Satyr ignored him, forking three links onto his plate and then carefully replacing the lid on the bowl.

“You are very subdued this morning,” the Ascendant probed. “Did something go wrong?”

Satyr paused in his precise dissection of a sausage. “No, matters went very well. I dispatched Effington inside one of his warehouses and then burnt it to the ground. Very satisfactory.”

“Yes, so I see,” the Ascendant replied, gesturing at the paper. “There is a particularly lengthy article about the fire and the discovery of the corpse.”

Satyr did not reply, savoring the taste of the hot pork. He knew what was coming.

“I trust there will be no repercussions of last night’s activities?”


“No witnesses?”

Satyr’s hand tightened on the knife. “No.”

“What of Miss Lassiter? I do not note an article regarding her demise.”

“That situation is under control.”

“Is she alive or dead?”

“Depends on how you look at it.”

A grunt of disapproval. “Satyr, you are my Lead Assassin. I would expect such distraction from one of your juniors. I have repeatedly asked you to remove this person, and you are ignoring my orders.”

“I am not distracted, sir. Miss Lassiter is dead, at least in the mental sense.”

“I am not in the mood for cryptic games!” the Ascendant snapped.

Satyr deliberately placed his knife on the table to avoid employing it on something other than the food. Then he looked deep into the Ascendant’s eyes. To the man’s credit, he didn’t look away. His predecessor had always blinked. That one hadn’t lasted long.

“At present, Miss Lassiter’s mental capacity is that of a child,” Satyr explained, holding his irritation in check. “She has no memory to speak of. She doesn’t even know her own name.”

The Ascendant settled back with a frown. “How did you accomplish this?”

“I do not reveal my techniques, sir. You know that.”

The frown deepened. “You assure me that she is no longer a threat.”

“No threat at all.”

“Why didn’t you just kill her?” his superior demanded.

“This seemed a better solution.”

“Where is she now?”

“In Bedlam.”

“Under her own name?”

“I am not stupid, sir,” Satyr hissed.

“Well, of course not. What if she regains her memories?”

“Highly unlikely.” He snatched up his knife and attacked the links with considerable annoyance. “If she does, I’ll promptly cut her throat.”

“No need to be petulant. My concern lies with the safety of my plan.”

“Your plan, as much of it as I am able to fathom, is on track, sir. Effington is dead. By serendipity, Detective-Sergeant Keats is the lead suspect in Nicci Hallcox’s murder, and the explosives are secure. I’d say you’re worrying too much.”

The Ascendant tossed his napkin on the table and rose. “I sense you are going to be difficult this morning, Mr. S., so I shall take the remainder of my breakfast at my club. When you cease being so tedious, feel free to join me again.”

The moment his superior was out the door and on the street, Satyr felt his appetite fade. In the end, he couldn’t cut Miss Lassiter’s throat or pierce her heart like he had Effington. That killing had been righteous; hers would have been heinous. It would have been like crushing a rare butterfly just to know what it felt like.

His hand sank into a pocket and retrieved the silver tube, the device he’d used to render her a huddled, blank-faced bundle of humanity. He turned it, studying how the light from the gas lamps glinted off the shining surface.

Such a simple instrument to cause such destruction.

An odd sensation stirred within him. Remorse? He doubted it, yet there was a tight band around his throat just the same.

(Copyright 2008 - Jana G. Oliver)

Today I'm on my way to Calgary and World Fantasy for the launch of this book. I can't wait!

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