March 25th, 1820 | Newcliff, England
In the alleyway, Hatch had dragged the body into a corner and leaned it against a wall. Now he stood in the dark, a bit away from the body and stared through to the sunbathed street, worrying, waiting and woefully missing his warm bed and a good day’s sleep. But at the moment, Shawn knew none of this.
On the floor of The Naked Miller, he was currently trying to get back on his legs, supporting his body against one of the round tables. The attacker simply looked at him, waiting. With teary eyes from the punch, it was a while before Shawn was able to focus. He finally regained foothold and looked at the man whilst raising his head: He was wearing a once elegant coat over his dark shirt, which was mostly unbuttoned. His face made him look much older than he was, with the square chin and the black bags under his brown eyes. He shot Shawn a self-satisfied smirk, which quickly turned into a wide smile.
“Dr Martin St Ives, you bloody bastard,” Shawn snarled before returning the smile and spreading his arms to suggest an embrace. The doctor cocked his head to the left and copied the gesture, moving closer to Shawn. A few inches before their bodies touched, Whiterun swung his leg to trip the doctor and forced him to the ground with a violent thump and a surprised yelp. He returned the smirk at St Ives, then held out his hand towards him and helped him to his feet.
“What do you need, Shawn? At this time of day, I guess you’re not here to join me on a bender like the old times, eh?” He clucked slightly, and seemed to drift off for a moment before making eye contact.
“I’ve gotten a new job,” Shawn started, “and I need your help right away. There were complications and now I need to move a body through the town without being noticed.”
“So you need the hearse?”
“Exactly. And possibly a trustworthy doctor to take a look at the body.” he added. “Circumstances are a bit odd.”
The doctor went into a backroom and came out a little while later with a leather bag.
“Here’s some sheets and such - get the body wrapped up, and I’ll be with you as soon as possible. I just have to get home and get the hearse. What’s the address?”
Shawn grabbed the bag and gave him the address, thanked him and stepped through the door. Just before he closed it behind him, the doctor asked another question:
“By the way… Who in their right mind would hire you?”
“Lord Alexander Charles,” Shawn replied and he was sure he saw the corner of the doctor’s mouth twitching for a moment, but he did not think about it any further, as the doctor quickly gave him a silent nod and neutral smile, then gestured him to get moving.
He left the pub and after a short run he was back in the alleyway with Hatch.
Most of the people had left the streets by now, while the sun had moved even further onto the sky - shining brightly down upon the streets, but ignoring the alleyway as if it didn’t exist at all. Hatch was tiptoeing around the corpse like it would jump up any moment to attack him too. Of course, it remained still. Flies had made their way to the body, buzzing around it. The disgusting pests were all over the dead skin or stuck in the open wounds’ gouy mass. Shawn could see the distaste on the genius’ face, before hearing the words.
“So disgusting,” the genius declared after waiting awhile.
“What did you expect from a corpse?” Shawn said as he moved up next to Edward Hatch. The smaller man rattled in surprise. Then he straightened his back, dusting non-existent dust off his jacket, with his fingerless gloves. It made Shawn smile, because that was exactly the kind of behaviour he would imagine a genius like Edward Hatch to show - but of course he would also have imagined a tailcoat and a high hat. The person next to Whiterun was nothing but exceptional.
“So, when is this friend of yours going to show up?” Hatch asked, ripping Whiterun from his thoughts. The smaller man looked at his bodyguard. Shawn never got to answer, as the loud sound of an automobile rolling through the alley, the breaks howling and creating sparks against the cold stone tiles. Shawn backed away, but the less lucky Hatch had to jump. The sad excuse for a vehicle slammed into the wall of the alley - without breaking, one of the many good uses of the strong iron metal that most of Newcliff’s machinery was made of. A man stepped down from the vehicle.
Shawn had a hard time trying to hide his smile, when Dr. Martin St. Ives planted his feet on the road. The man seemed fairly stable, as he straightened his back. Edward Hatch seemed to get even smaller compared to this man. Even Whiterun appeared to be smaller in St. Ives’ company.
St. Ives coughed into his gloved hand, before reaching it out towards Hatch, who just looked at it in a state of shock and disgust.
“Dr. Martin St. Ives, at your service!” The greeting still had the signs of the military status, which both Shawn and the doctor had left behind. Still the stiffness of a general was hidden in the bones of the good, slightly drunk, doctor.
“Martin, this is Mr. Edward Hatch - my new boss.”
Knowing that both St. Ives and Hatch would hate not to be introduced, Shawn took the lead. The men looked each other in the eyes. The hazel eyes of Hatch and the blurry blue eyes of Martin. There was such a big difference between these men, that the gunman started to feel afraid of them staying together for too long.
“Oh, so you work with midgets now?” St. Ives asked, moving his head unnecessarily close to Shawn’s, while spitting his alcoholic breath out on Shawn’s face. Shawn closed his burning eyes, trying not to laugh. Behind them he could hear Hatch mumble something about being much taller than the maximum height that one would expect from a midget.
“So, are you and dr. hilarious here going to help?” Hatch spat, gesturing impatiently towards the body still leaning against the wall. Shawn hurried over to give him a hand, and looked to the doctor for help. At first he did not seem to be willing to take part in the dreary task of carrying the corpse into the vehicle, but a convincing pair of lifted eyebrows from Shawn convinced him otherwise, so he shrugged and moved over to help as well.
Hatch watched, with not very well disguised disgust, as the body was loaded into the large, enclosed trunk of the automobile and the compartment was closed with a smack and a click.
St. Ives’ vehicle was one of Newcliff’s first steam-powered hearses, looking very similar to the rest of the vehicles except for its increased length and black colour - and of course the big, enclosed compartment in the rear end. On the back half of the vehicle were fitted small rings on either side, which in a funeral procession would have been used for flower bouquets to honour the dearly departed.
There would be no flowers for this one, Shawn thought to himself, a strange feeling of misplaced guilt suddenly rushing through him for a split second, only to be shrugged off as the doctor spoke again:
“Well, what I’m gonna do now is, I’m gonna take this ‘ere body back to my clinic and check her out, alright?” he asked, apparently rhetorically, Shawn realised, as he immediately continued unhindered by the slightly raised finger and open mouth of an Edward Hatch about to speak, and said: “And I want you two,” he said, pointing a finger at one of them at a time, as if he were counting, “to go back to Chardmore Place and get some damned rest. You look as if you’ve been awake for days!”
For a moment, Shawn considered disagreeing with the plan and arguing that they should go with him, but only now did he realise that he had been woken at 2 o’clock in the night, and since then wandered halfway across the city, gotten a new job and a new home, played poker, shot somebody and then followed that somebody to its corpse in a dark alleyway on Mayford Road. He looked at the sun, that had now risen a good distance from the horizon, rubbed his exhausted face with his rough, working class hands and looked at St. Ives.
“Deal. Just contact us as soon as possible, if there’s anything out of the ordinary.”
The doctor nodded, climbed up onto the vehicle and pulled a lever, allowing a few pieces of coal to enter the flaming engine. As he drove off, Shawn turned towards Hatch, shrugged and said:
“Well, that went relatively painless.”
“You’re just going to trust that man with the damning evidence? I promise you, if this-”
“He is to be trusted,” Shawn interrupted abruptly with a stern look in his otherwise tired eyes, sighed and added, “He’s going to remove the bullet and destroy it and the body. No harm done.”
Hatch pouted, as they walked back to the lord’s mansion in silence, ignoring curious stares and bewildered whispers behind their backs. The sulking Hatch walked just behind Whiterun, and somehow Shawn knew why the height-wise challenged man was in such a bad mood and it had nothing to do with St. Ives. The problem was that the genius had a conscience, and destroying a body and covering up a crime was morally wrong.
“It was a murder, if that is what you are thinking. It was, but it wasn’t a crime.”
“It was a murder, but not a crime,” Hatch repeated, confirming Whiterun’s idea, though something in his voice did not quite convince him.
The streets were emptied. Leaving only the cold impression of human presence in the form of large garbage bags and footprints on the dusty road. Once in awhile a carriage passed by, not bothering to stop for the two men. This obviously annoyed the genius, who walked even faster. When he passed, Whiterun noticed the dark circles under his eyes and the eyelids falling. The slightly smaller man had hit the wall of exhaustion.
They reached the mansion and Hatch led Shawn to his room, nodded an unspoken goodnight, then left down a flight of stairs. As Shawn was about to enter his room, he suddenly remembered Angelina, sleeping in the kitchen and decided he should probably go down there and see if she was okay.
Surprising himself, he quickly found his way and entered the room, where Angelina was still sleeping against the rough wooden table. For a moment he considered waking her up, but the peaceful sound of her finally calm breath begged him not to. Walking closer, he made sure to walk silently, then slowly dragged her chair a bit out from the table. He put one arm under her legs, feeling slightly awkward due to the closeness of his head and her body, then he reached the other arm around her back and under her arm and slowly lifted her body from its position.
He carried her through the house, only now realising he had no idea where her room was. He weighed his options in his head, and then went back to his own room. With an elegant move, he managed to get the door open and entered, careful not to bang her head on the door-frame, and walked to his bed. He lay her down slowly, but froze in position, when she mumbled and turned to her side, facing him in her sleep.
For a moment, he looked at her sleeping body. From her long, slightly ebony legs, revealed by the tears in her dress, up towards the waist and her chest, slowly expanding and contracting rhythmically as she in- and exhaled, in- and exhaled. For a moment, he considered lying there with her, but quickly shrugged away the idea.
He covered her with a blanket, then took a few blankets for himself, walked to the end of the bed and made a hard, ungrateful bed for himself on the floor.
The last thing he thought about before falling asleep was how much he had looked forward to a nice, big bed.