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Iron Works

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GM

 

19th April, 2018

 

The rain started coming down in the early afternoon and it had not stopped. It was a hot, heavy rain in a hot, heavy city. 

 

Frank Slate, Bedlam City Detective, was investigating a murder. He was an old dog, tough and weathered, his experience making him both competent and cynical. Another dead body in Bedlam City, and he hardly raised an eyebrow. Just another job. 

 

The woman had been crushed, it seemed. But by what? She wasn't talking, and could any forensic scientist make sense of the pulp that was her bones? It was doubtful she had a bone left in her cold dead corpse that had not been broken. 

 

Her body had been found in Gravewood Iron Foundy, just outside of Bedlam. It had an awful track record for safety, but nobody had ever turned up like this mess. Possibly it was an industrial accident, but nobody was talking, and Frank couldn't see any loose machinery. 

 

"Hell, what do I know anyway?" he grumbled to himself. 

 

Word spread fast in Bedlam. And maybe somebody who did know would help...

 

 

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Anna had been two years old when her father had stopped working at Gravewood - and so it wasn't something she remembered as a child. But the thing about time travel was that you could remember all sorts of things you couldn't actually remember; so it was she remembered the sight of her father, big-armed and singing about the old country, as he walked through Gravewood's front gates in the company of his fellow ironworkers. They hadn't let girls work at the plant back then, she knew, not that anyone of her mother's generation (or her own) would have been the least bit interested. Somebody who did work there would have to be pretty tough; like the men of her father's generation who had lived and died working in the foundries. Maybe it was thoughts of her dad that drove her out to the plant, bringing her sidekick along with her. She hovered there, invisible to probing eyes, and carried on a conversation. 

 

Thou needst allies among the local watch, Anna Cline, one voice informed her, Nepthys ever-reminding Anna of what she had already figured out for herself - or rather had let herself be talked into on those long nights when she had an old woman's insomnia and only the helmet to talk to. Thy war against the Hammer may be of merit but you cannot fight it alone, even with Wadjet's venom. 

 

Wadjet, for her part, was down below, practically invisible unless Lady Horus sped herself up enough to look at the whole open-air foundry below in an instant. Wadjet's words came by radio. Cops are still here. Are you sure about this?

 

No, I ain't, but we gotta try, she thought. If we're actually gonna do a damn bit a'good for this miserable burg, we gotta have some friends who ain't just skells and wrongdoers like us

 

What she said, in Lady Horus's voice, was - "Aye, I have my doubts. If this fails, we fall back - but if it succeeds, we win a famous victory. Stay hidden until you have my signal." And so it was that one of Bedlam's most notorious criminals, the "god" who had frequently battled some of Bedlam's most corrupt cops, dropped out of the sky like a stone and appeared behind Detective Slate at a moment when he was alone, a finger raised to her lips for silence. 

 

"The girl." It was not easy to whisper as a goddess.

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GM

 

"Well shoot" mumbled Slate, cigarette falling from his hands. Half on autopilot he started reaching for his gun, but midpoint through the spinal action he figured it wasn't needed. 

 

"Yeah, some Broad got crushed. Damn ugly" he said, not inclined to say anything but the truth. "I gotta clean up the brains and bones. Try to catch the scum who did this. But I ain't going to be holding my breath till I do" he conceded. "What, you offering to help?" he asked. "Or you just got a morbid sense of humour? I got a hunch for most people, but you go wearing a helmet and dropping from the sky, well its kind of a poker face, you know?"

 

He picked up his cigarette which had burnt out. Just like he had. 

 

He grunted faintly and flicked it away to the side. 

 

"What's your story, then? I'm a cop. I get to ask questions..."

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"Thou hast no time for such a tale, Medjay," said Lady Horus seriously. "But I am here to help you catch the foul slayer of that poor woman. The Sunhawk's light falls on kings and farmers alike, especially in the city that is mine." She hefted her glowing gold ankh, balancing it on her shoulder, and said, "I know much of the ways of crime and the path of ruin. I can offer my counsel." So could Wadjet, but Lady Horus was holding her sidekick as a hole card just in case this situation went south. "Show me what thou hast seen.

 

What she thought was 

 

Sheesh! You ain't got time to hear about my life, honey. But this is my family's turf and I'm not gonna let somebody's daughter get murdered here. I seen a lotta murders so I know a thing or two about this. C'mon, gimmie the goods. 

 

She frowned - not sure that her words had been translated properly by the Helm, but content with them for the moment. 

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GM

 

"What's with the Shakespeare?" grunted Slate. "You got a pair of plums in your mouth?"

 

He discarded the issue as soon as he spat it out of his lips. "As for the slayer...murderer. You and me both, lady. I seen some bad business and plenty of it. This looks like its going to win 2018 already" he said, not pleased about it. "But if you want to see it..."

 

Then see it, Lady Horus would...! For a moment later....

 

Slate had kicked out the police officers who were of variable quality and variable professionalism. He and Lady Horus stood alone over the pulped corpse. It wasn't, as Slate had said, a pretty sight. No, one would had to concede that it was quite the opposite of pretty, unless one was of a most vile disposition. Which, in Bedlam, was of course possible. 

 

"Guess she got on somebodies wrong side, huh?" said Slate, frowning. "Bout all I can tell is she was a she. And blonde". 

 

 

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Ah, it's a shame. Anna Cline had seen a lot of dead bodies in her time. A lot of dead bodies, across times and places, and she'd been about the age of this detective when it had started getting easier. This wasn't a pretty picture by any means, but she was two thousand miles and sixty years from the girl from the South Side who'd puked her guts out the first time she ran across a corpse. She knelt down over the woman and looked her over with a practiced eye, the helm that covered the upper part of her face not interfering with her vision in the slightest. "What clues have you found; and the people, what tales did they tell thee?"

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GM

 

"Clues?" sighed Slate. "I don't see no clues. Just a pulped up body. We ain't been looking long. And I doubt we will, what with the goddamn budget cuts" he grumbled. "Forensics will take a look at her teeth and hair and all that stuff. See if they can get a print. But I doubt they will..."

 

He took off his hat and smoothed down his hair before readjusting it back on his head. 

 

"The girl got pulped by something heavy. Real heavy. Now, we got plenty of machines here. This is a factory, an Iron Works. Somebody could have pulped her in one of the machines and dragged her here. God knows why they would do that, but they could have, I guess. But we ain't found and bones or blood anywhere else, so I guess if they did that they did a helluva job with the clean up"

 

"Other than that, they must have had the strength of hercules. Dropped an anvil on her several times. Several dozen times, to be exact". 

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"This is the place where this poor woman met her final end," said Lady Horus after a moment's consideration. "Are we fortunate enough that there were cameras here, or did she die unwatched and unmourned?" She stopped and studied the metal fragments adorning the corpse, then realized with some annoyance that of course she couldn't gather the stuff up herself without raising a lot of questions about what exactly Lady Horus' powers were. Next time I just bring Espy so everybody can see her. If she brought her sidekick out now, there'd be a lot of questions about who was pointing a gun at who a minute ago  plus, Wadjet didn't like the police very much. Not that Anna could blame her. "Good fellow, can you gather those for me?" she asked, pointing to the shards of metal on the corpse. "I know a man with a keen eye who could learn much from those," she lied with practiced ease. "Allies are quite a boon. And you have no knowledge of who this woman is? No possible way?" It occurred to her that she could easily enough time-travel back and watch the murder - and then watch herself be locked up by Dr. Tomorrow again. No thank you!  

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GM

 

"Camera's? sure. This place has cameras. Cut price piece of trash that barely works. Guess what? No footage of last night. Maybe the Camera failed. Maybe someone made it fail. I'd give that fifty fifty odds and no way of knowing which it was. Sure, we ran prints on the security office but I doubt we will get anything. Anybody smart enough to erase camera footage is smart enough to wear gloves when they do it..."

 

"As for witnesses...nobody knows nothing. Maybe the night shift guard is lying. He looks sweaty, if you get my meaning. But then, he just had a broad pulped on his watch so he could be sweaty for all sorts of reasons. Especially as he stinks of booze" said Frank, summarising his bitter work over the past hour. 

 

He asked one of the forensic officers to start collecting the tiny metal shards on the woman, and it was dutifully done. 

 

"We should be taking these down the lab, I guess. To get lost and some burnt out drunk muddle his way through them. Might get lucky and get a competent one, I guess. Might get real lucky and get a competent one who ain't going to get bribed. Why, you got a better idea? I might just have to accidentally look away for a moment if you do..."

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Whatever Slate had had in mind, Lady Horus really did disappear for about a minute - handing the clues off to her sidekick. She collected the camera too, figuring it couldn't hurt to see if Wadjet's sharp eyes could spot more than hers had. Luckily Esperanza wasn't like some of the teenagers Anna Cline had worked with over the years; she appreciated the chance to use her intelligence to break down a problem rather than simply punching it or blasting it, and Anna was fairly sure she liked situations where Anna had to turn to her for help rather than the other way around. Being that as it may, after a short conversation, Esperanza was heading back to their hideout at Belcher with its converted chemistry lab and Lady Horus was heading back to her police contact. 

 

Not for the first time, as she ran through conversations, she found herself wishing she could go about for meetings without the Helm and its translation of her perfectly fluent English - but then the gods of Egypt had their reasons for wanting a champion who worked in secret, just as she had her own reasons for wanting to work in secret. If the police found out that Anna Cline was Lady Horus, or even that she was active in Bedlam City as something more than a retired villain, well - it was safe to say neither of those things would last for long. 

 

"My card, Medjay," she said, handing the man one of the cell numbers her sidekick had picked up from a guy selling them in the Jamaican neighborhood. "We shall speak again.

 

 

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GM

 

"Sure thing, ma'am" said Slate, taking the card and pocketing it. "I'll be here for the next day, then back to the office typing up some crock of %$£" report. Forensics will come in sooner or later. Probably later" he grunted, oozing concentrated cynicism. "And I'll be drinking whiskey at the Black Pit and seeing if I can't spend the night with some lucky lady" he added. 

 

The Black Pit was a cop bar for a specific type of cop. The burnt out near retired kind who liked drinking and ladies (or indeed gentlemen) of a certain ancient occupation. 

 

Meanwhile...

 

Under microscope, lens, and with the judicious application of various chemicals (and even a litte play around with some magnets), Wadjet managed to get a good understanding of the metal shards Lady Horus had found. 

 

It was steel, of a sort. Well wrought, and with various trace elements that acted to reinforce and provide a high heat resistance. Useful, one might imagine, for a smelting factory such as the Iron works, but unusual nonetheless. Unusual and expensive. There, that was a clue! Not easy to make either. 

 

 

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The two women talked theories, over takeout Italian. 

 

"Could be armor somebody hashed up," said Anna thoughtfully, twirling up a substantial amount of spaghetti on her plastic fork. "Somebody builds one of those wrong, tests in the old foundry, then they dump the corpse a' the pilot when they realize they forgot the damn shock absorbers." 

 

"You said she died there, though, and she didn't bleed like she'd been inside anything when she died." Esperanza's voice had rare animation in it, something that made Anna much happier than she was willing to show. "And even Bedlam cops would have found the second person. Maybe something fell on her?" 

 

"Nah, they'da found _that_ easy enough," said Anna, shaking her head. "And you said the metal there wasn't from anywhere there. The thing it made me think of was-" her parents corpses, trampled by centaurs "like somebody'd just picked her up and squeezed. Made me think a'one of those guys who controls metal and such." 

 

"You mean magnetokinetics?" asked Esperanza, rolling her eyes politely. "We got all kinds of words now, old lady! I guess it could be that, especially if he brought the metal in from outside. That'd explain why the cops didn't find any tracks." 


"You can science something up, right?" asked Anna as she gestured animatedly with really crunchy garlic bread. "Something so we can find somebody controlling magnets?" Esperanza admitted that she could do so - which left Anna with one more problem. She had to see if her police contact had found something more out - which meant she had to beard him in his den. 

 

After she took a little nap. 

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GM

 

And so, just a little bit later...early evening...

 

At the Black Pit...

 

It was a sweaty kind of place full of sweaty kind of people. Old cops, retired or near retirement, burnt out, drunk, and leaning on each other. They propped themselves up with cynicism and bitterness, taking a kind of noble pride in their open eyes, even if having your eyes open to the world hurt. 

 

The Black Pit served booze, of course. It also served ladies of the night (or gentlemen), and Frank was already downing whiskey and talking to a middle aged woman with a little too much make up and a little to small a dress. 

 

But although Cherry (for that, apparently, was her name) was attractive and cheap, Frank seemed to be in two minds. And he was drinking heavily in the hope that his two minds might become one. 

 

As for Anna, well, she attracted pretty much every eye in the house when she walked in. And plenty of them with a lustful flavour. The Black Pit had both men and women in, most of them cops. They had gay, straight, and every other orientation and identity in. Sure, the Black Pit was about as diverse as you can get, as long as you were a bitter burnt out old cop. 

 

One brave soul, who looked older than Frank and thin as you could imagine, came up to Anna and offered to buy her a drink. And gave her a wink. "Billy Brown" he said his name was. "Pleased ta meet ya, honey" he said through old lips that he licked a little too much. He stank of booze but kept his feet, even though he didn't look so well...

 

 

Edited by Supercape

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Anna took the room in and smiled thinly. It wasn't the first time she'd been in a place like this - not even the first time she'd been in one that catered to cops. A'course, last time I was in a place like this, we were knockin' it over. "Hey honey," she said with a smile at Billy. She leaned in close to his ear and said, "a drink sounds real nice, Billy-boy, but I'm lookin' for my man Frank Slate. I wanna make it a surprise, see?" She ran her finger down his chest and said, "He owes my friend some money and I want to help him pay up. You know how you boys can be with your figures!" She tittered over the sound of the music, trying not to think about how she was four times the age of the dancers on the stage and probably had a good twenty years on the oldest man in the room. She didn't look it, though, that was the important thing. "After that, though, I'm off the clock - if you wanna help me out?"

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GM

 

"Frank? What you want with Frank?" muttered Billy, moderately vexed. 

 

"He's a no good, withered up. Still working like a chump" he protested. "You could do better than him, lady" he smiled through a mist of intoxication. "But if you going to get him in trouble, then that's good by me. As long as its the money type of trouble not the sexy type" he clarified. 

 

"Just don't do it in the Black Pit, huh, honey? We got a code here. No shootin' or fightin'" he said more firmly. This, it seemed, was a fairly robust code of practice. 

 

"And after ya done with your money, I'll buy you a drink!" he said more cheerfully. 

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Much to Anna's extreme relief (since this meant he was paying attention to her and not to his pants), she found Slate at the bar rather than in front of the dancers. "Slate," she said, raising an eyebrow as she took a seat on the stool beside him. "I'm..." She hesitated briefly, then named herself after a long-dead friend. "Lenore. You owe a friend of mine a favor," she said, before leaning close to add, " Blonde lady with the hat, talks like she's gotta a pair a'plums in her mouth?" She snapped her fingers, "Hey Mac! Gimmie what he's havin'." She leaned back and studied the detective, waiting for his reaction. Without the disguise she didn't look, or sound, much like her divinely powered double - of course, she had her own tricks up her sleeve.

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GM

 

Slate was getting drunk, but he was used to that. He wasn't in a great mood, both wanting to vent his sourness via a night with Cherry (Who have a foul look at Lady Horus) but preoccupied with the day. His heart was both in it, and not in it. 

 

He raised an eyebrow, cottoning on. 

 

And a whiskey was slid from the bar towards Anna. 

 

"I don't go around owing people favours" he said, sour. "That's bad business in Bedlam. I have...arrangements. But not favours" he said, firmly. "Even to pretty women". 


"She ain't pretty, Frankie! Ya got me!" whispered Cherry in his ear. 

 

"Shut up, Cherry! I ain't in the mood. Go entertain yourself with Billy" hissed Frank, full of bitter iron. 

 

"Suit yourself, loser" retorted Cherry, marching off. Frank seemed unbothered. 

 

"What arrangement are you looking for?" he asked Anna carefully. 

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Anna watched the girl go - but then put herself back in the moment. In that same spirit, she didn't do more than sip the whiskey. "We need a name. On the goil that got killed out inna ironworks?" What some people called her Jersey accent was thickening as she spoke; but what did she care about that? Maybe nobody talked that way anymore but it was how she'd grown up talking and she was going to do it until she died. Because when she did, maybe nobody _would_ talk that way anymore. 

 

Geez, what's got me so worked up? Maybe it was because she'd been thinking about her father, and the old days, and the past that was slipping away from all these kids around her. "Your lab boys get anything offa them metal fragments? We know they ain't from around where she died." 

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GM

 

"Beats me" replied Slate. "Shes a pulp"

 

He downed his whiskey trying to collect himself. 

 

"I can only guess by her clothes. Working class, but not manual labour. Trying to look professional but without the money to spend on looking that way. Trying to look pretty, but not sexy. My guess, she was a secretary. If you want another guess, she worked there. Only reason anyone would be in the iron works is if they was working there, or else industrial sabotage or theft. And she didn't look like she was into that. Still...who knows?" he said, sour faced. 

 

"The boys are trying to track down all the employees. But this is Bedlam. Half of them make are secretly on the take" he frowned. 

 

"And the other half are openly on the take..."

 

"I ain't no hero. I have arrangements...you think this city pays enough for me to get shot at? Think again. The Black Pit ain't just for whiskey and broads...."

Edited by Supercape

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Jesus Mary and Joseph, what kinda penny-ante operation do they have here anyway? But saying so wouldn't get her what she wanted. She'd seen Freedom cops get blood-type matches and a fingerprint from guys that Roman had lowered into the damn shark tank, much less with a mostly-intact (albeit flattened) corpse like the Bedlam boys had had. "Yeah, well, honey, I ain't no goddamn hero either," she said with decades of bitterness in her voice as she tossed back about half of her whiskey. "I'm just a runner." She fixed her gaze on Slate and said, "So I'll have the boys look into who worked there and who didn't, and who's missing and who isn't." In the old days, that would have been a simple matter of reading the company's payroll in a few ticks of the clock. Nowadays she could still do that, but it wasn't gonna be quite as easy. There were no boys, of course, but she wasn't about to give away her operation to this guy - particularly the fact that it was just her and a runaway with a GED.

 

 

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GM

 

"Running is sure better than being a hero" grunted Frank, determined to get drunk. "Well, it is in this city. Don't get to make old bones being a Cop if you don't run when you can..." he muttered. 

 

But he wasn't satisfied with that. 

 

"Still, some dame like that. Pulped like that. What I would give to find the guy who did that. I'd show his some old school justice. Huh. The old days were simpler. Guy murders someone like that and the cops found him, we didn't waste too much time with due process. Maybe he was armed. Maybe we had to shoot. Maybe we had to swing base ball bats at his face because he had a mosquito on his nose. For a couple of hours" he grinned, remembering the good old days. 

 

He flexed his hands. 

 

"Yeah, the good old days. When things worked. Well, sort of worked..."

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"Yeah." Anna looked down at her drink and tossed down the rest. "The good old days. I'll call you when we know what we're doin' here." Maybe they weren't friends, but they wanted the same thing - and she'd been on the wrong side of the law long enough to know that was good enough. For now. When Slate looked around again, he was alone at the bar. 

 

Time passed. 

 

(Montage Theme: https://youtu.be/eJlN9jdQFSc?t=16 ) 

 

Lady Horus had her own ways of interrogating witnesses; sometimes she played it nice, sometimes she played it hard. The friendlier witnesses like the factory workers, the office staff, and the bus station staff got a friendly blonde goddess with a ready smile and a Shakespearean vocabulary, the better to find out if they could tell her what she wanted to know. The unfriendlier ones, or the dumber ones, or the ones she just didn't like - they got the wrath of the Sunhawk, sometimes a couple dozen feet up. Still better than how Clock Queen woulda asked 'em. 

 

Anna knew better than to ask her protege about the results of her lab tests on the stuff they'd gathered from the crime scene - she had her answer when she didn't hear a damn thing. Esperanza's anger tended to manifest itself in cold, quiet fury like a banked fire; and the best way to get anything out of her was to let the fire burn itself out. So she didn't comment beyond making sure there was food on the table and that Esperanza had her space, even if she didn't know why Wadjet was spending all her time reading the library's books on psychology. 

 

Whether she was interrogating skells in dark alleys, or running out for cheeseburgers for her sidekick, she kept her eyes open for the Hammer of Justice. No sign of him - so far. 

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GM

 

And so...

 

Tongues talked, and lips murmured. The streets of Bedlam had their ebb and flow of implications and speculations, and if one attuned oneself to the right people and the right times, one could get the right picture. 

 

The woman, it seemed, was Vertity Child, who was the secretary to the owner of the Iron Works, a Ms. Emily Eve. A fiesty and competent blonde with all the usual trimmings of blondeness, so it was said. She had a number of lovers and affairs, although Ms. Eve was not one of them (as far as could be told). Ms. Eve appeared not to give one hoot or whistle as to her secretaries romantic activities. By accounts, the relationship between the two was a little frosty but professional. Ms. Eve was a bossy boss. 

 

Further forensic analysis of the shards and the circumstances of the murder was not illuminating. But one could consider the criminological aspects of the case. It was a brutal murder, but the body was left were it stood. No attempt to clean up. Either the killer was trying to make a statement, induce fear, or it was an instumental murder - to shut her up. It did not have the hallmarks of a crime of passion. But then, psychology was not a precise science...

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