THE NICK OF TIME
(and other abrasions)
Acquainted With The Night
Al Bruno III
By dawn the attack was over, entire sections of the City of Olathoe had been leveled. Most of the fires had burned themselves out, but a few held on, sputtering and coughing over the piles of debris and ruined buildings. The Monarchs' troops were busy rounding up the survivors and setting them to the task of clearing away the bodies and wreckage.
From his vantage point on Mr. Kriely’s balcony, Dr. Flesh wondered what was left now. The cafe on Nooker Street, Mimir's Fountain? The Great Assembly? The park on Kissos Lane?
Of course, there was already talk of the glorious new buildings the Monarchs would build, of sleek new designs and cutting edge technology. Dr. Flesh cringed at the very thought. A woman in white stepped on to the balcony, flanked on either side by Sentries. She looked Dr. Flesh over, her voice bore an accent from the Deep South, “At the risk of soundin' a tad ironic, do ya’all need a doctor?”
“Do I know you?”
She grinned, “How do you like the new me?”
Dr. Flesh goggled, “Mr. Kriely?”
“Actually that's Ms. Kriely now.”
“I see.” He couldn't help but stare; she was almost a full foot shorter than her old persona. Mr. Kriely's lanky proportions had been replaced by a slender, delicate form, her features were aristocratically beautiful.
“So are you all right?” She asked.
“How long has Polonius worked for you?” He looked back over the wreckage.
The woman in the white Armani suit clasped her hands together, “Where did you get such an outlandish idea?”
“Your troops were very careful to avoid damaging the Spire. Funny that.”
“You’re seeing things that are not there.”
“You knew there was a rebellion in the making but you didn’t want to strike first and look like a villain to the citizens of Olathoe but you needed to look strong to keep your job with the Monarchs. You needed someone to encourage Morgan to move too fast and too soon. And Morgan and Polonius needed me to make a botch of things, which I did, but not in the way they expected. ”
“I suppose you can’t complain, Morgan’s dead and everyone that supported him that isn’t dead probably wishes they were by now. I bet even Noah is running scared.”
“The Hanged Man? He was here?”
“You didn’t know? Well I wouldn’t worry. You’ve secured the Monarchs’ grip on the city for another generation at least.” Dr. Flesh shook his head, “What a job you have.”
“The Regency is more than a job. You of all people should know that.”
“Is it worth all this… carnage?”
Ms. Kriely narrowed her eyes, “Ah'm afraid this was all beyond my control.”
“Beyond you control?” Dr. Flesh advanced on her, “Beyond your control?”
She raised her arms in mock helplessness, “Now Flesh, you know ah was just following orders.”
The Sentries tensed, their hands hovering over their weapons. Dr. Flesh stopped and glared, “This will cost you someday.”
“Are you threatening me?”
“Would I threaten the Monarchs' chosen?”
“Ah had no choice old friend.” She handed him a tattered velvet bag, “By the by. My men came across this while scouring the ruins of Rue d'Auseil. I wonder how they ever came to be there.”
“Thank you.” Dr. Flesh pocketed the black rubies, already wondering half with excitement and half with dread how much of it would be used to pollute his veins with chemical bliss. He didn't want to remember this night; he wanted to scorch it from memory forever.
“Now for some new business.” Ms. Kriely fished around in the pockets of her Armani suit until she found a leather-bound notepad, “Members of the DelaWorg family have evaded capture…”
Ms. Kriely stumbled over her words, eyebrows raising “No?”
“No more. I’m done.” He drew his Inverness in around his wounded arm.
Ms. Kriely planted her fists on her hips, “Ah swear you men are all alike.”
Dr. Flesh was about to tell her to fuck off when something small and gray bounded out onto the balcony. “What is it? Don’t let it near me!” Ms. Kriely darted behind the Sentries.
A tiny gray kitten opened its mouth and loosed a feeble meow.
“Get back boys!” Dr. Flesh laughed, “He looks like a real killer.”
The Sentries reholstered their weapons. Ms. Kriely shook her head and pocketed her notepad.
Dr. Flesh lifted the kitten up and cradled it in his good arm, it began purring almost instantly. What was this? A coincidence? A gift?
“Well, I'll leave you two to get acquainted,” Ms. Kriely turned to leave.
“How did you get in here?” He leaned his face in close to the kitten's. It reached out and touched his nose with a paw. This, Dr. Flesh knew, would be the perfect gift for his boy. After all he could still make it home for Christmas if he tried. “Don’t you know the Regent lives here?”
“Oh,” Ms. Kriely called from the hallway, “Here is something else I happened to find, considah it a peace offering or a 'lil Christmas present.”
The Sentries threw someone onto the balcony; the figure hopped in circles and slumped against the wall. The kitten stiffened with surprise, Dr. Flesh cocked an eyebrow.
It was Addlbert, bound and gagged with duct tape, tears and sweat slicking his face.
“Happy Holidays!” Ms. Kriely called from further down the hall.
Dr. Flesh set the kitten down and walked over to him, “Addlbert,” He pulled the duct tape from the apprentice's mouth, “aren't you glad to see your old pal the Comprachio?”
The kitten sat down in the corner and began methodically cleaning itself. A blubbering scream filled the air.
It was the first of many.