Doug sat on the couch, a cup of coffee in his hands,
“are you sure you don’t remember anything about the attack?”
“No, I was just about to unlock the door and then someone hit me from behind. I heard them walking towards me, but I just thought it was someone living here.”
The policeman sighed and stood, “Ok, well we’ll continue looking, but unless we get more evidence…”
Doug nodded. People moved around the apartment, making notes and taking photographs. He had been surprised to see that the police wore a typical uniform, having seen none patrolling the streets.
“Was anything taken?”
“I don’t think so. I wouldn’t know with most of the stuff to be honest. My notes were shuffled around a bit, but that’s it as far as my stuff being gone.”
The officer nodded, then looked around the room, sniffing. Doug wondered if he could smell the scent of whoever was here. The officers nose was slightly elongated and rounded at the tip, almost like a snout. His hair seemed thicker and coarser than human hair, it covered the top of his head, then continued down into a fine fuzz that covered the entire face and arms. A woman stood from the centre of the room, where she had been sitting cross legged. “I got nothing. Must have been blockers.”
Max stood from the couch, “C’mon, I don’t think we’re going to be much help here, I think we should get out of your way Tony, if you need to talk to Doug again tonight you can call me. I’ll let you know where he’s staying in a few hours.”
“Ok, tell me again what happened.”
Doug sighed, it was the third time he was telling Max about the attack and the subsequent revival by Emma.
“Jesus. How many times do I have to tell you this? It’s not gonna change. Someone attacked me, Emma fixed me up, The Baron told me his men saw it, stopped it, he had a goblin show me the way out through the Burrows.”
“Are you sure there was nothing else?”
“Yes. I’m sure.”
Doug took a sip of his drink, Max had brought him back to Rosie’s, though the place was closed, leaving only Max and Doug sitting in the large room, when they first arrived a bartender had stayed briefly to fulfil their orders before leaving.
“Why didn’t you tell me about the Burrows?”
“Well, it’s not the most friendly place. I don’t know. I wanted you to see the best of us, not the worst. The people that live their chose to separate themselves totally from the society we are trying to build. The tunnels are full of magic that we don’t understand yet, it’s hard to track criminals through it, magic goes wonky. I didn’t want something to happen to you down there, even if it was just pick pocketing or something.”
“It didn’t seem that dangerous to me.”
“Yeah, I don’t think you were brought through the scenic route. You said you just went through tunnels before the market. There’s dozens, perhaps hundreds of large rooms like that, all dotted about. The market is fairly close to the surface so it’s relatively safe to go. Lots of sellers don’t come to the markets we hold here, so we allow them to go on. Sometimes we perform raids to keep the criminal element down, but for the most part it polices itself.”
Doug took another drink, “So what do you think happened to me tonight?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you must have some thoughts on who attacked me and why.”
“I think it was probably the Baron. I don’t care if he let you walk out of there. If he didn’t find what he was looking for and thought torture was useless, why keep you around? I can’t think of anyone besides him. The council were happy that you were coming, so were a lot of people, they’re hoping that once you’ve gone they’ll start letting others through, allow us to open to the world.”
“What about the ones who don’t want that.”
“Well, there are a few people around who would like us to stay separate, but they’d have had plenty of time to attack before now. Also, why would they leave you alive? Killing you outright would have been the easy option, clear you out of the way and make the city seem dangerous to outsiders.”
They drank in silence for a moment. Max stood from the bar and went behind it, pouring himself another drink and topping off Doug’s, with that done he went around the to jukebox and after a moments hesitation, a song started to play. As the music played, Doug felt himself relax even further than he thought possible.
“I thought this might help a little. The jukebox can influence moods. Rosie uses it sometimes when she wants to clear the place out at night or change the vibe a little.”
“What if someone chose anger or something?”
“It just plays normal music unless you have the code.”
“What kind of instruments are they?”
“They’re not, it’s a choir.”
Doug closed his eyes and listened, it was beautiful. He wondered what kind of creatures could make such heavenly sound.
“We’re going to put a police guard on you from now on. I know it might interfere with your work a little, but it’s for your safety. If someone tries something again I want them caught immediately.”
Max took another, long drink, then looked at Doug, “The Baron told you I was responsible, didn’t he?”
Doug nodded, having left that part out of his retelling.
“Yeah. I’m not surprised. He’s had it out for me for a while. I wouldn’t put it past him to do something like this to try and frame me.”
Doug raised his glass to his lips to hide his grin.
Max took another drink and let out a contented sigh, “I don’t really drink that much any more. I’m always worried something might come up and I don’t want to be impaired, even if it’s only by one beer. It’s nice to relax a little.”
Max stretched, then relaxed again, “It’s not easy, this job. A lot of people in the city think it is. They think I just go around chatting to people, but it’s not fun having to fight for things every step of the way. It wears down on you. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, but sometimes I just wish I could have a day or two to myself, just do what ever, be a nobody, not have to talk to anyone. I dunno. Maybe that’s selfish.”
Doug shrugged, “we all need time to recharge the batteries.”
Max finished his drink and again went behind the bar. “Want another? This is going to be my last one and I don’t think Rosie would be pleased if I let you mess around back here.”
“Yeah, why not.”
The left Rosie’s a while later, outside were two officers, sitting in a car.
“Have you eaten tonight?”
“We’d better get some food into you. Healing can take a lot out of you, between that and the booze you’ll probably feel a bit crappy tomorrow.”
Though he had felt refreshed and awake after the healing, Doug was starting to feel tired, his limbs seeming to get heavier with every passing moment.
Doug ate in the car, wolfing down the food he was given, ravenously hungry. When the car pulled up outside a building a few moments later, Doug was already done.
The lobby of the building was large and brightly lit, every surface gleaming marble. They got into the lifts and, after entering a code, Max pressed a button for the fortieth floor. The hall was short and lined with thick, plush carpet. A small table stood against one wall, a vase of bright flowers on it, on the other wall was a large painting. There were two doors. Max handed Doug a key, “Here’s where you’ll be staying. I know it’s a little big, but it’s the safest building to live in. There’ll be police outside your doors at all time and if there’s any problems just shout, or, if you can’t.” Max handed Doug a smooth, black stone, “keep this on you, it’s like a personal alarm. If you’re in trouble it’ll let the police know to enter. I don’t think you’ll need it, but better to be safe.”
Max hadn’t been lying, the apartment took up half of the buildings floor and held a seemingly endless number of rooms. Doug found that his stuff had already been moved into one of the bedrooms. He went around the apartment, locking the doors to the rooms he wasn’t using. With that done he lay down on the bed, not surprised to find it was luxuriously soft. Despite how tired he was, Doug started to toss and turn, unable to relax or get comfortable. Even with the light on he didn’t feel safe in the room. After a few minutes he got out of bed and went into the sitting room, hoping that perhaps watching TV would help him relax.