March 26th, 1820 | Newcliff, England
In a heartbeat, Shawn had moved from the entrance to the yard. He stopped and turned around repeatedly to make sure he had not gone the wrong way again. The scream had filled the air, but the wind made it difficult to follow the sound. Moving through a rusty steel gate Whiterun found himself in the exact spot he where he had talked to Angelina. She was lying on the ground and small drops of blood were spread over the tiles.
In the distance, he saw someone running away. Without further thought, he grabbed his gun and fired once, then twice. He could have sworn he heard a squeal after the second shot, though the figure kept running.
For a split second, an almost unnoticeable, tiny split second, the space that stretches between in- and exhaling, the world was quiet. The lament of the Newcliff streets silenced in a fortissimo piano. For one impossible moment, every drunk was between words, every gear between clicking, every door still and every steam-powered vehicle parked. In this quiet before a storm, a quasi niente in the symphony of the streets, in this exact, impossible moment, as all stood still and the orchestra held their breaths with him, he knelt beside Angelina lying on the cold ground.
As the symphony once again rose in its crescendo, he gratefully breathed in as Angelina, in relief, breathed out loudly. At least she was still alive. She uttered a pained sound and pushed herself up on her elbows. The seams of her skirt were torn up, and Shawn caught a glimpse of her bare legs and petticoat. Whiterun looked at her injuries and found that she was mostly unharmed. Blood coming from Angelina’s temple had dried and marked a dark red path down her face, around her cheeks and down the neck. Shawn felt ashamed when his eyes reached her cleavage, where the droplets had gathered. Quickly, he picked her up. She stumbled and lost balance for a moment, but remained standing – possible due to pure power of will.
“Can you stand?” he asked, feeling that the question ‘are you alright?’ would only be distasteful. Luckily, he did not have to ask her that question. Henry and Edward appeared from one of the dark buildings. Both of them came running, in a pace no faster than walking - mostly because they had consumed a little too much alcohol.
“Are you two alright?”
The genius Hatch looked angrily at Henry, who had asked the obvious question. Angelina grabbed a hold on Shawn, who quickly lent her a hand for support. She smiled at him.
“I think we should get Mrs. Riverwood inside before asking questions,” Edward said.
The genius moved across the yard, without taking any further notice of Angelina or Whiterun. In an elegant movement and with very little effort he opened a door. Not the main door, which was controlled by a machine and not the door, which Angelina and Whiterun had taken after the game, but another one. This was a heavy-looking metal door, which the gunman had not noticed the first time he walked through this part of the yard. Shawn turned his head around. Suddenly, he noticed many doors through the walls surrounding the yard. Small ones as well as big ones. Some made of wood and some of metal – all of them placed carelessly around the yard. He even noticed a metal ring on one of the crude stone tiles they were walking on, revealing a door through the ground beneath them.
“Come on, we don’t have all night!” Hatch yelled.
The slightly older man seemed to have sobered up almost instantly, allowing him to take charge of the situation, Shawn noticed for himself. The gunman was still holding the weight of the now shivering and clearly shaken Angelina. She sobbed into her sleeve, when she thought nobody was looking and had a hard time standing. She was mumbling in Spanish to herself, but Shawn was not able to distinguish any particular words. Henry on the other hand was still drunk; swaying from side to side, giggling like a schoolgirl. He raised a pale arm - still holding a bottle of spirits and pointed at Angelina.
“She…” he started, blushing, “She has breasts.”
It earned him poisonous looks from both Whiterun and Hatch. Henry winced and lifted the empty bottle to his lips as if he was desperate to catch the last unreachable drops of liquid. The sound of his wheezing gulps echoed in the courtyard.
As they entered the house again – Angelina, half-carried by Shawn, and Henry stumbling behind, the lights turned on by themselves as they passed through the door. It made Whiterun come to an abruptly stop, almost dropping Angelina. Then he realized that it was simply another machine controlling the ceiling lights. He looked up, toward the powerful lamp, but was blinded and could not work out how it was connected to the door. Edward grabbed Angelina's other arm and they led her to a chair. Now the gunman recognized the room as a kitchen. Quite a large kitchen that he recalled having encountered when he got lost and was straying around the house. Henry pulled out another chair with a horrible sound, before throwing his body into it and hammering the empty bottle onto the kitchen table. Angelina looked at him, her face revealing nothing but contempt for a moment, before frowning in pain again.
“At least we have some real men in this house,” she muttered.
“So what happened?” Shawn softly asked, whilst carefully resting his carbine against the table. She smiled, but it seemed more like a pained expression that ran across her lips.
“I’m not sure. The person, she just jumped out of nowhere, scratched at my face, as if trying to rip it off. I pushed her away, but it only made her jump me again! It was as if she wasn’t even human, more like some sort of…” she stopped for a moment, as if looking for the right word, “a monster.”
A thick silence filled the room, as they all took in the story. Bathed in the bright light of the lamp, the uneasy feeling left behind by Angelina's words, only seemed like a scary story told by children, but Shawn realized it might actually be the bitter reality – at least in the eyes of Angelina.
“It is clear to me what’s going on!” Edward Hatch interrupted the silence, while walking pacing the room.
“Oh really?” Angelina spat.
“Yes! Clearly, a thief struck you down. He must have panicked, when our dear gunslinger here came running!”
Whiterun could feel another fight spark up and decided to change the subject. Henry could feel it too and moved away.
“Oh, and how do you figure, genius?” Angelina spat, rolling her eyes.
“Because I’m clever! Besides, there’s no such thing as monsters.”
“Sure, you are,” The drunk Henry coughed.
“Shut up, Henry!” Hatch and Angelina shouted in unison at the manservant, who stared back at them in a state of shock.
“Well, a’ight, then,” he murmured, “I’ll be in my room.”
He stood up, swaying from side to side before he proceeded further into the kitchen. Even with the bad lighting Whiterun could see the shadow of a staircase. Henry disappeared up the stairs, with loud footsteps. Angelina sighed, closing her eyes as if it was all just a bad dream.
“That is not even the right way,” said Hatch, looking confused.
“I wonder how Lord Charles will react when Henry suddenly passes out in his bed.” Angelina laughed tiredly, sinking even further into the chair - holding herself together. Whiterun looked towards the stairs. It was only natural that a house of such status would have a separate staircase for servants, to reach their masters room. Especially one in the kitchen to bring food round the house.
With a nod, Shawn suggested they moved away from Angelina, as she sunk into a restless sleep.
Hatch walked around the chair and followed Shawn to the corner of the room with a curious look.
“I need some new gear,” Shawn said calmly, as Hatch approached him.
“You’re going to chase whoever did this, aren’t you?”
“Well, of course. If he, or she, assuming Angelina is correct, was attempting to get in here, she’s a threat. To you and the rest of us.”
“You also did put a bullet in her, probably. We would not want that to be found by authorities - might get you into all sorts of trouble - and that’s not what you need right now, is it?” Hatch said, lightly.
Shawn rolled his eyes, and Hatch continued: “All right, I believe I have something down in the Workshop. I’m going to need my own equipment anyway.”
Whiterun looked at him in disbelief for a moment, “I don’t believe there’s any version of this, where I convince you to stay here?”
Hatch simply smirked in response.
“I didn’t think so.”
He grabbed his gun from the table and gestured for Hatch to lead the way. Before leaving the room, Shawn looked at Angelina for a moment.
“Should we just leave her here?”
“Well, I have no idea where her room is. Perhaps you do?”
Shawn raised an eyebrow and shrugged. They left the kitchen, leaving her to an uneasy sleep, her upper body resting on the table and a blanket covering her back.
In the Workshop, Hatch rushed from one shelf with strange objects to the next. He moved quickly around the fragile looking machines while Whiterun watched him with confused wonder. The eccentric Hatch found various small parts and threw them all on a table.
“Give me your gun,” the genius said, moving to grab Shawn's beloved carbine.
“Alright, may I borrow your gun, you thick headed elephant?”
Reluctantly, Shawn swung the short rifle around and held it by the barrel in order to hand Hatch the butt stock. As Hatch grabbed the carbine, Shawn hesitated for a moment and looked at his beloved weapon - the wooden butt stock and forearm; dry and dirty, the ebony metal parts; slightly rusty, yet well-greased. His fingers knew every nook and detail, he remembered the story of every bullet fired and he knew the origin of every scratch, especially the deep V-shape on the right side of the butt stock, his eyes fell on at this exact moment. For a moment, he was lost in memories of times far gone, but shook it off and finally let go of the gun.
Hatch grabbed the gun with great care and looked at it from end to end and down the barrel.
“Ah, a .308 Burnham & Smith, eh?”
“I got it in the States - it’s the first ever semi-automatic carbine - 12 bullets!”
Hatch raised an eyebrow and looked at him, clearly unimpressed.
“First ever, you say?” he gave him his best I-know-better-smile, and continued: “This is a good model, but a few tweaks will make it great, you see.”
He turned the gun over a few times in his hands, grabbed a screwdriver from underneath the scraps on his desk and before Shawn could react he had removed the magazine and was already fitting a new one.
“Now, this magazine holds 20 bullets and feeds the chamber a lot quicker than your old one - you might want to get used to that,” he said, then held the gun as if to aim at some point in the Workshop. He looked down the side of the short, dirty rifle and let his finger slide down the side of the barrel, as if caressing the back of a lover; his tongue in the corner of his slightly open mouth. He removed some dirt and revealed a small piece of metal. He used the screwdriver to pry it open to reveal a small screw.
“What the hell are you doing to my gun?” Shawn shouted and moved closer, but stopped as Hatch stood and pointed the gun towards him. “Whoa, careful with that,” he said, eyes wide and every muscle tensing, ready to react. In a swooping movement, Hatch turned around and fired the gun through the room, hitting the wall next to the door.
“What the bloody hell was that for?” Shawn asked, after taking a deep breath, yet he received no response. Hatch simply sat down again, did his best to hide the pain in his shoulder from the recoil, took his screwdriver and removed the small screw. He then handed Shawn the gun.
“You’re asking me to shoot the wall?”
Hatch nodded calmly.
Shawn fired the gun, and felt a clear difference. He approached the wall to assess the damage. There was no doubt the second shot had been much more powerful.
“You see, Shawn; Burnham & Smith have certain deals with certain people that guarantee these customers more powerful weapons. However, in order to save money, they simply apply this screw to reduce the power of the rifle, instead of producing two different types of the same model. It’s quite a sloppy solution, but it works to the smart man’s advantage.”
Shawn looked impressed, but did not have time to reply, as Hatch had already moved past him and was halfway out the door, a revolver in his belt and wearing a long, dark coat, a brown leather bag over his shoulder and his goggles still holding back his messy hair like a hair band.
They left the house through the back door and stood in the yard. In the distance, far off in the eastern horizon, a dark red light was just barely visible - the first sight of the numinous sun after the darkest part of the night.
Shawn nodded towards the south.