IV: Anti Ordinary
Noble men gather to debate
Journalists are introduced
And speculations run wild
The gates of the dome slid open with ease and allowed the slick black speed car to pass through and enter Londinium. It continued down the main street and halted outside the Protectorate. The building was an exact replica of the historic Parliament, but where the original was made of brick and mortar the center of the Commonwealth was constructed from black steel and tinted glass. There had been a plan from the early builders of the modern union to create something that at the same time harkened back to the past yet represented the space age in which they lived. That and the fact that brick were impossible to find, seeing as no one had bothered to bring them during The Exodus and finding a method to construct new ones was too arduous a task.
It was the seat of the governing body of the Commonwealth and sat at the heart of Londinium, a constructed capital that only housed official buildings. No one lived there and at night a skeleton crew of guards or officers inhabited the dome. Just like the Protectorate Londinium was the hub of the Commonwealth and the nations that were part of it were spread out around very much like a wheel across Venus.
Lords Wilcox and Moore stepped out of the vehicle, straightened out their suits and gave the driver, a rudo dressed in a black uniform with the Commonwealth crest stitched on his lapel, and walked towards the black building. Londinium was the smallest of the domes on the planet and the buildings and offices contained under it where snugly put next to each other except for the Parliament that had been given a generous amount of space to house a proper English garden spread out over several acres. The grounds housed a grand lawn suitable for Cricket, a pond and an area with herbs and flowers of typical British stock. The Commonwealth’s terraforming of the planet had been more successful than the attempts of other nations, at least in the field of grass and plants, yet proper trees and fruits still eluded the scientists. The atmosphere had also only been partially modified and the different areas on the planet had to be housed under giant domes to keep the inhabitants safe from the elements.
The inside of the building was teaming with activity, as it always was the minutes before Parliament was to convene. Runners were hurrying back and forth across the great hall making sure that their lordships were in possession of the information they needed for the upcoming debates. Lord Moore and Lord Wilcox were uninterested in the hustle and bustle and headed towards the main floor where the Lords of the realm would meet. They had done away with the House of Commons when the Commonwealth was built with the reasoning that most commoners now had become title holders and as the years turned into decades and centuries the new commoners were viewed as unreliable and too, well, common to understand the complexity of politics. As with most things the true meaning behind names in the new union meant nothing.
Suddenly a man appeared next to Lord Moore and fell in step with them. It was Lord Brandon Lafferty Earl of New Carrick. He wore his white hair long, tied in a ponytail at the neck, which was the stile amongst the Hibernian nobles and was in his official garb; dark green suit with an orange waist coat. Towering over the two other men, he was a perfect representative of his people in terms of height and build.
‘Lord Wilcox, Lord Moore it is nice to see you again Sirs’ Lord Lafferty said in a somber tone. The kind of tone Oliver Moore had become accustomed to since the disappearance of the S/S Jeff Lynne less than a fortnight ago.
‘Thank you Lord Lafferty’ Lord Moore replied and tried to match the somberness. ‘Back to work is the best remedy I find. It is what my father taught me.’ Lafferty nodded and gave a sound of approval.
‘So Brandon’ Lord Wilcox said with just the tiniest hint of a sigh. ‘Do you know what is on the docket for today?’ Making sure to change the subject.
‘Well naturally the main topic is the St. Odo Affair as it has come to be known’ Lord Lafferty went quiet as his two companions stopped to look at him. ‘Well, an unsavory name, I know. Trade business and The Young Lions have asked to present something or other.’
‘Bah, The Young Lions’ Lord Wilcox almost spat on the floor and Lord Lafferty felt as if he had dodged a bullet by mentioning the rebellious youngsters. ‘I’m sure I don’t know what they want, stirring up trouble and conflict within the ranks of the Commonwealth.’
‘It is enough to let them be heard during these sessions’ Lord Moore reflected. ‘There are other, more pressing matters to deal with and keep away from the media’ he nodded in the direction of the room that housed the journalists. ‘The noise of the Lions’ roaring drowns out the prowling of the leopard among the brush.’
‘Indeed’ Lord Wilcox smirked and puffed on his silver Vape pipe which he had produced during their walk. ‘The Diggers are doing their best to keep the incident out of the ears of the press and have so far managed well.’
They reached the large double doors that hid the Chamber of Commons and stopped. Two white clad men flanked the entrance and pulled the doors open and out stepped a man with long flowing whiskers and bushy eyebrows, dressed in a white suit and red vest identifying him as a nobleman of Anglia.
‘Lords Wilcox, Lafferty and Moore’ he revealed a smile under the mustache and nodded his head at the three men. ‘If you would be so kind as to wait I shall announce you presently.’
‘Naturally Lord Mahr’ Lord Moore replied and within a minute they were waved in.
‘That is odd’ Julia Bates said to herself and put her cup of tea to her mouth as she stared out of the great glass window that separated the press cantina from the Great Hall of the Protectorate.
‘What is that?’ said Rajit Kahn of The Indus Globe as he walked behind her.
‘Well if I’m not mistaken that is Sir Oliver Moore, Earl of New Crawford and by my count he has been absent from the Protectorate for two weeks.’ She swiped through her Nook Term to double check her facts. ‘And he was in the company of Lord Wilcox an unpleasant man during the best of circumstances.’
‘True’ Thomas Dansereau from The Explorer had sidled up next to her, apparently taking an interest in what she was saying. ‘The journey from New Essex to Londinium doesn’t quite go past Moore Manor’ he added.
Julia placed her cup on the windowsill and proceeded to tie her black hair in a ponytail, which she always did when she was getting down to business. She leaned up against one of the walls and continued to stare at the doors to the Hall of Commons as she let her fingers dance across the touchscreen of her Term. She pressed air through her tea stained teeth and traveled deep into her own mind.
‘What are you thinking?’ Dansereau sat down at a table behind her. ‘He was probably sick, it happens to the upper class as well.’
‘Do they though?’ She replied and returned her attention to the screen. Since the Exodus there had been great advances in medicine and most of the common illnesses, like the flu, the cold and the childhood disease had been eradicated, at least among the puros. Among the rudos, especially those who lived in the poorer and crowded parts of the nations were often afflicted by illness and often with devastating results since the doctor to patient ratio in those areas were several one to several thousands. Naturally sickness caused by a person drinking too much, eating spoiled food or even cancer still occurred, but was still fairly rare.
‘So he’s been absent for a fortnight, what does that matter?’ Dansereau was intrigued, she could hear it in his voice, but there was something else there; doubt with the slightest quiver of interest.
‘Lord Moore has never missed a day of the Protectorate being in session since his father passed away and he inherited the position.’ Bates continued to consult the Term. ‘In fact, the day his father was laid to rest he was here on the very same afternoon. For him to stay home fourteen days, well ten working days as it were, something must have been very important.’
‘And that would have been?’
‘What would keep a man of his stature home? Economic strife, maybe, servants acting up, unlikely, something with the manor, not very likely, then what? ‘
‘That would leave family matters.’ Dansereau tapped the coffee table with his long, unkempt nails. ‘His Lordship has two children and a wife, right?’
‘Correct.’ Bates looked at him. ‘A daughter and a son and there has been no mention of Lady Moore being ill or treated for an ailment.’
‘Actually.’ The baritone of Rajit Kahn joined the conversation and both Bates and Dansereau turned to him. ‘Lady Moore has been absent from several society engagements the past two weeks, including a gala dinner she herself had arranged right here at The New Savoy. Her husband attended though.’
‘Interesting’ both Dansereau and Bates replied in unison.
‘So is that the answer?’ Dansereau continued by himself. ‘He’s been caring for his ailing wife, who has been keeping her illness a secret from society.’ He placed his own cup on the table in front of him like an exclamation point, in his mind ending the discussion.
‘I don’t know about that.’ Bates raised an eyebrow. ‘I just can’t see a man of Lord Moore’s stature staying home on those grounds. Has he ever shown that kind of regard for anyone? We must keep in mind that the nobles rarely marry for love, to them it’s only business.’
‘So you’re saying that the nobility have no love in their hearts for their families?’ Dansereau leaned over the table and let his fingers glide across the rim of his cup.
‘Well I’m sure they feel some form of affection for their kin. Children probably more than partners, but I am highly doubtful that Lord Moore would stay home to care for his wife. I could be mistaken I guess…’ She drifted off as she continued to stare at the closed doors that kept her from the collected nobility of the Commonwealth.
‘I think you are.’ Dansereau grinned in a sly fashion. ‘Whatever it is The Young Lions have to say and the impact it might have on the Trade Council is more interesting than the comings and goings of a Calidonian Lord. Mark me, Griffiths and his cohorts will have our editors keeping us busy for the coming months.’
Jules nodded, but that feeling she got in her stomach when something wasn’t quite right was not convinced. There was a deeper mystery here and she had made up her mind not to rest until her curiosity was satisfied.
When young Anthony was four his mother fell ill. It wasn’t unusual that the western elite came down with some form of tropical disease, most likely fever and the outcome was often uncertain, they might survive, just as well as succumb to it. It began with a coughing fit one morning at breakfast. The night had been rough, tossing and turning in the humidity, wrapping around her form like a damp blanket. It was like something had stuck in her throat, as if food had lodged there and refused to go down or come up. She had appeared paler than her normal western visage at the breakfast table, with an oily complexion, slowly swaying as her eyelids seemed to be exceptionally heavy. Blood on the linen napkin in her hand confirmed that something was not quite right and the staff called for Mr. Hill, as well as the doctor.
Mrs. Hill was sent to bed and there she would remain for the duration of her life, except for the odd venture out on her beloved porch when her strength allowed. Doctors, who came to the islands to visit, were sent to her side to give their opinions, but to no avail, they could not figure it out and she grew weaker and weaker as the days turned into weeks and weeks into months and finally a year had passed without improvement. Mr. Hill stayed by her bedside as much as he could without neglecting his duties and the Governor-general allowed it. Little Anthony, who had already been assigned a governess a mild mannered young local girl the family named Patrice, since her true name was too difficult to pronounce, spent all his time away from his mother because his father could not bear to see the horror in his son’s eyes every time he saw his mother. This was the reason for her powering through and walking, with the support from the family butler, to her rocking chair so that she could watch her son play with the native kids and the Patrice.
As time passed, the doctors failed and the crimson stains on the sheets became more frequent and greater in size the staff whispered in the hallways and service areas. They knew what it was and where it would end and Patrice became more attentive of the young master, to make the separation that was imminent less traumatic. All in all Anthony was oblivious to the goings on in the house only noticing that his mother was more absent than usual and his father more present, so the spring morning when Mrs. Hill did not wake up and she was forever gone from his life sent immense waves through it.
Peter Swan was not your typical chief of police. He was tall and slight of frame, had a full head of tightly curled brown hair, wore a wispy mustache under a fairly pronounced beak of a nose and wore only various shades of brown. Added to this was the fact that he lived a clean life, no smoking, no drinking, he exercised regularly and was a vegetarian. A habit, he told Teague, he had picked up on a spiritual journey to the Far East, whatever that meant. When he spoke to people, he never became agitated or raised his voice; instead it more resembled an inner monologue that those he addressed were privy to than an actual conversation. He was the sort of man that never let anything get him down and he always had a smile to share with those around him and it made him a joy to be around, for those on the force as well as the politicians he was forced to interact with.
As Teague stepped into the station with his hat in hand he was approached by Swan who slowly sauntered over to him while scratching his chin and sporting a concerned look. Teague hung his coat on the rack, but kept his hat and produced his notepad, preparing for the debriefing.
“Garfield, welcome back.” He motioned for Teague to follow him and turned to walk towards his office, expecting the detective to fall in. “What have you got for me so far?”
“Not much, Sir.” Teague leafed through the papers. “Six bodies found, some cut and some in various forms of dismemberment; mostly a limb missing here or there. We have managed to identify one of the victims, a man known as Baz Peterson. According to our records he is a fairly well-known and high ranking figure in the Lehman crime family or was that is. Seeing as how the Lehmans were eradicated a few years back and of course Mr. Peterson is now deceased.”
“So, have the Lehmans returned maybe and are trying to regain their position in the city?” Swan pondered.
“Unclear. We have not managed to identify any of the other bodies. We can’t tell if we are dealing with rival gangs fighting over goods or one gang being taken out by another; one that left no trace. The men were all sliced up like some butcher handling a side of beef and that is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.”
“A gang wielding sharp instruments, the Yakuza? Here? But why?” Swan was now deep in his own head. “It doesn’t make any sense that the Japanese would venture to this part of the country, but who else would use blades to attack a gang of men with firearms?”
“If I may, Sir.” Teague interjected. “The crates are en route to our storage facility on Spring and once they have been opened and the contents analyzed we might have a better idea of what happened, but there is another detail.”
“Is that so?” Swan replied and turned to look at Teague.
“There was a survivor. He was rushed to St. Mary’s before I arrived at the scene. I tried to talk to him, but he was well guarded and has refused to speak to anyone but you Sir.”
Swan raised an eyebrow and looked Teague over. His eyes fell on the cigarette case that had, for some reason ended up in his hands again. The Chief sighed and opened the door to his office. “You’d better step inside Garfield.” He said and stepped inside and after Teague had passed him he closed it and pulled the shade down over the window that had his name written upon it. “Listen Teague” Swan proceeded with more focus than he usually had. “There is more to this case than there appears to be on the surface. The man at St. Mary’s and refuses to talk to you is one of our own.” Teague raised an eyebrow in surprise. “His name is Martin Lindquist and has been undercover for the past year. When the Leahman’s went under a few years ago there was a void within the criminal underground and we began to hear from the FBI that someone had stepped in to fill it. Through our own clandestine investigation we found that Baz Peterson and some of the Leahman’s former cronies had jumped ship to this new organization, but we knew little more than that. Lindquist was fresh out of the academy and had the necessary Scandinavian roots to attract mobsters of a similar racial background, so we decided to send him deep undercover before he even set foot on these premises. He was clever enough to infiltrate the group through Peterson and he checked in with his contact a couple of times, but we were never given any meaty information.”
“So Lindquist is the key?” Teague scratched his beard.
“He may very well be. I will send word to him at the hospital to ensure that he talks to you.” Swan sat down at his oak desk, moved a statuette depicting a meditating Buddha and pulled out a piece of paper and a pen. “We best be quick, may be that whoever eradicated the mobsters might come looking for him as a means to eliminate witnesses.” He began writing when the door to his office gently opened and the head of a young dark haired girl with horn rimmed glasses appeared in the opening.
“Chief?” The head said.
“Yes, Hannah?” Swan replied while scribbling.
“A representative from WRJN is on the phone and wants to know if you can be a guest on the five o’clock news to answer questions in regard to last night’s killings?”
Swan looked at Hannah, then at Teague and then at his paper. “Sure, tell them I’ll be there.” He winked and smiled at her, then looked back at Garfield. “Hand this to the secretary at the front desk of St. Mary’s and they’ll give you free passage and then show it to the two officers standing watch outside the room. Once inside call Lindquist by his real name and then he will start singing like a bird.”
“Will do Chief” Teague put his hat on his head and grabbed the paper once Swan had finished writing.
The windows of the empire suite located on the top floor of The Racine Hotel were wide open and a warm breeze had blown in from the lake. It caressed the face of Paul Geert and lightly played with his tangle of light brown hair stained with the occasional streak of white. He was still wearing his night shirt, but had managed to pull on a pair of grey pin striped suit pants and his suspenders were hanging lazily from the waist. He rarely rose before noon as a rule. A lifestyle filled with expensive drinks, lavish meals and women of questionable morals took its toll, not only on his ever expanding waistline, but his routines as well. A young runner had knocked on his door at around eight a.m., an act he did with some caution, since rumors were abound that the last man who had done so had been fished out of the river a few hours later, and informed him of the bodies in the parking structure. The information had caused him to wake right up, but not to get up. The effects of the escaped of the previous night also came knocking and it had taken several hours and three strong cups of black coffee before he was ready to put his feet on the walnut floor boards.
Now the fresh lake air and the sounds of traffic below him soothed his nerves and he could begin to think more clearly. The hours he had spent awake in the King sized bed, between the satin sheets, staring at the ceiling caused him to reflect on the information he had received. It had made his head spin, more than the champagne and Cuba Libres. He couldn’t quite wrap his head around what might have transpired down there in the concrete structure. It was supposed to be a routine pick up, albeit with those Irish thugs from the other side of the tracks and they were nothing if not unpredictable, but from what the youngster had told him the mics had bit it too. If there was a third party in the city he, in his role has one of the main figures in one of the main crime organizations there, would have heard rumors of it through the grapevine, but this had not happened so he assumed that something else was in the works. What he did know was that whatever the explanation his boss was not pleased and the thought of that made him perspire.
He wiped the beads of sweat off his brow and proceeded to slip out of the nightshirt and into a clean white daytime version, avoiding to button the top button due to the width of his neck and after pulling up the suspenders he tied a red tie around his neck, hoping it would cover the open collar, it never did. Another knock indicated that his driver was waiting outside and he quickly slipped on his jacket, hat and downed a now cold cup of joe.
The black Lincoln smoothly drove into traffic and Geert fanned himself with his hat as he checked his pocket watch. It was one p.m., not great. The boss had not called on him, which was common practice, but Paul knew he was expected since news travelled fast in the underworld and an explanation from him was in order. This particular deal was his baby and he had arranged for his best and most experienced man to spearhead the pickup. He had laid the groundwork, made all the calls and planned every minute detail so that Peterson could just easily step in and get the stuff. His informants had told him that one the Peterson’s guys had survived and was now being treated at St. Mary’s, that was something he was going to have to deal with, before the police, ones who were not on his pay roll, got to him. Geert pulled out a small mirror from his breast pocket and examined his blood shot eyes, his unkempt hair, his damp forehead and untrimmed beard, he looked more like the hobos who lived under the sixth street bridge than the second in command of a major crime network.
He had tried to present himself in a more favorable countenance, but the lifestyle that came with his position made a Spartan living difficult. His family had originally emigrated from the Netherlands in the 1840s following Father Van den Broek and settled in the Midwest. From being farmers they had moved to the cities to work in factories and harbor towns until the depression came. Geert knew all too well what it was to go hungry. His family was catholic and he was just one of ten siblings sharing a three bedroom house, clothes and shoes. It was a miserable childhood and no matter how much his mother valued education she would send the children out to make money any way they could.
When his father passed away, at least that is what they thought happened to him, he walked out one winter morning to shovel the walks of the people on Main Street and never returned. Paul was 16 years old and as a middle child had a difficult time knowing where he fit in when it came to the grand scheme of the family. His older brother Jan introduced him to the Leahmans and so began a life of crime. It came easy to the young man, who started out as a runner, and he found that he could provide for his mother and siblings. Now he shuddered when he thought of those days and it made him colder and hungrier and he found that it was a chill and hunger that no amount of duvet covers, no matter how thick, or food, no matter how rich, could satisfy.
The Lincoln swung into an empty parking lot placed outside a red brick building and parked underneath one of the big windows made from thick glass and divided by lead mullions. He stepped out on the faded blacktop pocketed with sprouts and cracks from not being maintained since the twenties. Geert adjusted his jacket and snuck through the arched doorway. It took him a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dim light of the defunct factory, but having been through the building on several occasions he was well aware of its layout. Once he could see clearly he had already reached the main factory floor, an area filled with debris and scattered obsolete machinery and worn out conveyor belts. He scanned the place to look for activity, but there was none instead a noise came from the upper regions of the room. He spun around and raised his gaze to the balcony lining the upper echelon. In the south west corner sat an office structure made from the same red brick as the outside. The solid walnut door had been opened and in the light that shone from inside the office stood a slender figure and looked down at him. Paul moved slowly across the floor, kicking up dead leaves and papers littering his path until he came to stand right below the shape, straining his neck to see it properly.
“Mr. Geert, I was expecting you’d show up.”