Matt Spencer, Chapel of the Falcon
Chapel of the Falcon
Publisher: Damnation Books, 2014
Length: 70 pp.
and the Green Lady
“What were their names?” The lady slid her chair back and crossed her smooth, bare legs. She rested an elbow on a knee. Her thumb stroked her lower lip thoughtfully.
“Eh?” Frederick Hawthorne arched his left eyebrow. The scar-running temple to jaw line down his sharp, cruel face-stretched straighter and thinner.
“The demons upon whom you’ve most recently used that.” Her pointy chin cocked toward the closed pocketknife by his glass. She might be asking what street stall merchant sold the buttons on his white shirt or black vest.
“Oh. Right.” Frederick sat still, for the moment. “No, they weren’t demons. Just men-and aye, one woman-trafficking with the filthy, infernal buggers.”
“-So you hunted them down like dogs.” She held his gaze thoughtfully.
“They was soaked to the bone with devil-fly spung!” He rolled his eyes and shrugged. “The bastards was out to rape a list of women of important families and impregnate them with demonic progeny. Had it all in place to keep it hushed up, they did, and then bring up the wee hellspawn and ensure their eventual sway on Parliament. Couldn’t have the nobility grow all the more satanic, could we now? As for the hunt, they acted more like scared, wee rabbits.”
“All quite sensible, yes. But how would the woman figure into it?”
“In on the whole thing, she was-of noble birth herself, no less. Would have spawned some pesky abomination from the next foppish bugger she found drunk enough to tup her.”
“Indeed. Are you certain you got to that one quickly enough?”
“Enough for my liking.”
“So, aren’t you glad you heeded my advice as to which customer gossip to pay closest attention to?”
“Indeed.” Frederick returned her smirk, along with a sly wink.
Candles bathed the room in spectral green, matching his eyes and her skin. Actually, every aspect of her was green-lush hair the color of spring moss bundled above a high forehead, and smooth flesh the same milky-lime shade as his cloudy, acrid drink. She wore a scant dress of shimmering, unearthly gossamer. Fine, filmy, crystalline layers of translucent jade tapered her back and rooted between her shoulder blades. They looked woven to the dress, until they flexed and buzzed. She leaned forward, letting them peel free and flutter out. Frederick was fairly sure that wasn’t paint on her fingernails. None of this made her full, curving, and limber figure any less distracting. She hadn’t touched the glass he’d fixed her. Their table sat in the far left corner, just past the billiards. Everything beyond the candle glow fell away into a black void.
“Anyhow,” he went on, “their names was-”
She raised a smooth palm with scaly edges. “You’ve told me all I hoped to learn, love. I merely needed to know which demonic order orchestrated this attack on your realm’s government. More importantly, I wondered how it altered that pretty, glimmering blade of yours.”
“When you fleshed it in their latest agents.”
“Ah.” He frowned. “What’s that to you?”
“Merely...well, things have been trying in my neck of the woods, too.” A desperate, unbecoming lilt fluttered through her tone. “Such interesting times always carry in the most splendid sea changes. Don’t you agree? Shall we go for a stroll?”
Frederick sat back and peered deeper into her eyes than he let on. He glanced at his knife. Should he follow her out through the black void, they’d emerge beneath a starlit sky, a-shimmer with a different spectrum. Likely, the street would no longer look anything like Whitechapel Road. Obviously, she wanted some powerful rival in her realm dead. Frederick had just the blade for the job, and she knew damn well how to be persuasive. He took a long sip of Absinthe and felt the acrid, sweetly-burning wormwood film thicken on his tongue-that’s how you knew it was the fine stuff. “Ain’t the sort of trifle I likes getting tangled in.”
“Of course you don’t! Oh, do tell me. How is Mrs. Blake these days?”
Something pulsed through Frederick’s neck, shoulders, and loins like old, cracked bones in frosty weather-silly old sentiments trying to crawl out of the grave. “At her own blasted devices, no doubt. So, there’s our business settled-”
“Is it, now?” Her smile widened, making a dark, deep dimple in her sweet face.
“Unless there’s anything you’ve left out.”
“For now, my only advice is...watch the clock.” She rose but didn’t stand. Instead, the flutter and buzz of wings rose to a humming blur. Flitting past the table, she ran a hand through his short-clipped, black hair. She let her soft, full breasts brush his shoulder as she kissed his cheek. Then, she glided off into the shadows.
Frederick rose, grinned ruthlessly, and poured the last of the Absinthe down his throat. The woman’s glass sat untouched. Yet, it now held less than half what he’d poured. He plucked up his knife, opened it, and thumbed the edge. Aye, still good and sharp. No need for a fresh oiling. The candlelight faded back to pale, flickering yellow. Some candles flared up brighter, drinking the last of the spectral chemistry. Others wafted and guttered. As he turned, the unearthly shadows receded. The door reappeared, leading back to the rest of The Devil’s Draft pub. The lady hadn’t flown off that way, but Frederick took it anyhow. A tall, weedy, beak-faced lad paused in wiping down the counter.
“Lovely,” Frederick growled. “The last of ’em’s off. Let’s close up early.”
“We been closed for nearly an hour.” Mickey blinked several times beneath his tangled, blonde mop. “Where’d you-that’s to say, how’d you-I looked for you in the damned billiards room three times at least!”
“Someone need a proprietor over something?”
Mickey huffed and shrugged. “You missed all the curious talk of ol’ Big Ben, is all. Folks kept sayin,’ the moon shown off the clock face in the queerest fashion. Some said it went green, while others swore bloody red.”
Not so long ago, really, this might have startled Frederick. He sat at the bar. “What time is it, anyhow?”
“Well, now.” Mickey plucked something from the countertop. “Just past three.”
“How long since I slipped off?”
“An hour or so, I don’t wonder. Thought I’d spied you with some fancy-looking tart.”
“Heh. When you get a new timepiece?”
“Oh, this? Ol’ Mister Walpole left it here, I believe.”
“Walpole’s been in?”
“Aye. I, er...minded his health, as you said.” Mickey peered at the watch. “Quite refined, indeed.”
All casual, Frederick slipped the watch from Mickey’s hand. Just how old was this device? The flat, outer rim looked primitive. So did the scant, simple network of brass gears, knobs, and cogs-visible through a glass center-that ticked away within. Yet, the golden casing was thinner than most such old designs. Elaborate etchings engraved it-a curious tumble of urban and forest scenery. Across it all, there flitted a pixy. The shape was too small for much detail, yet Frederick swore she smiled and winked at him.
“Fred? You’re glaring. At a pocket watch.”
“Eh?” Frederick grinned and shook his head. “Oh, well. Y’know, I fancy a stroll.”
“Bloody hell, Fred! It’s past three in the morning.”
“So I see.” Stranger still, the hands ticked backward. That should mean it told the wrong time, but no. He leaned forward, peered through the doorway behind the bar, and spotted the clock on the wall in the back room. It clacked along, forward as always. With a shrug, Frederick pocketed the watch.
“-Here’s you out of your head with Absinthe.”
“Quite right. Some coffee’s in order first. Be a good lad, and set it brewing.”
“Look here. Surely ol’ Mister Walpole shall soon enough figure out where he’s left his bloomin’ fancy watch and-”
“Didn’t say I was sure to give it back, now did I? Anyhow, perhaps the moon’s still shining so curiously on ol’ Big Ben. There’s a sight I shan’t like to’ve missed, so it is.”
Copyright © 2014 by Matt Spencer