Wherein we return to the scene of a crime.


He’d been very careful not to leave any blood. Nothing visible anyway. In his experience, the police didn’t start looking for blood unless they already knew it was there, and by the time they stumbled upon any trace evidence his tracks would be well and truly covered.

Eldred hadn’t really decided why he had blown the door into a mist of splintered wood, but something told him it had been the right thing to do. As for killing the tenant, it was the contract that told him it would be okay. He had tested the weapon on the greengrocer to be sure it worked, but Happenstance Crawford had been the intended target all along.

Crawford was embedded in the wall opposite the door, about two inches deep. Eldred was a little disappointed that it had not been further, but he hadn’t accounted for the density of the bricks in the wall when he had been tweaking his hand cannon. It had taken three oranges to silence Mr Crawford too, which resulted in a trickle of respect from Eldred Fie. The greengrocer had died at one, but to hold onto life so desperately that it took three shots from something designed by him was quite an achievement.

There were footsteps approaching now. This was unexpected, but not without precedent. Eldred could be quiet when he absolutely had to, but he was disinclined to limit himself to silent methods alone. Silent methods were slower and didn’t always work, but noisy ones tended to be much more effective. The only problem was the attention it drew, but Eldred had worked out a way to deal with this eventuality.

Eldred was sat on Crawford’s sofa, surveying the scene and counting the footsteps as they grew nearer. It was a simple thing to rearrange his posture so that he looked as though he had always been there, as if he was partly moulded to the chair. People tended to look for culprits amongst the people who seem out of place, appear confident and, above all, legitimate in your presence and you can use their confusion against them. It worked especially well on the police.

It was not, however, a police officer who walked into the room. What face he had seemed to be lost in the deep canyons of wrinkles that criss-crossed his face, his mouth the grandest of these. He was a walking grimace, and there was the definite impression that stretching out the crinkled face would add a metre to the man’s height. He looked at Eldred for a moment, then followed the trail of destruction across the room to Crawford.

‘Ah, sorry. I thought you would have left by now.’ the man’s voice was every bit as cracked as his face.

‘I wasn’t aware that I was expected at all.’ Eldred replied, an unseen hand reaching for his hand cannon.

‘I wasn’t sure exactly who I should be expecting, to tell you the truth. All I knew was that someone would be dropping by at some point to, erm, perform this sort of service for me.’

Eldred relaxed. He’d run into the contractor. Not an entirely uncommon event, but hardly a pleasant one.

‘Do correct me if I’m wrong, but I do believe the information pack for clients specifically informs them not to approach the scene.’

‘Well yes, it does, but I just had to see it for myself. This little bastard has made my life hell, I just had to be sure.’

Eldred turned his head to look at Crawford once again. He was starting to slump forward out of the wall, but it would take many hours at the speed it was currently travelling at.

‘I do believe he is very dead, sir. Now kindly leave, I am not finished with the scene yet. There are a few loose ends I must address.’

The contractor didn’t move, he just stood there as though he was waiting for something. Eldred stood up and looked at him.

‘Did you not hear me?’ Eldred continued, ‘You need to leave now.’

The man’s eyes, what Eldred could see of them, widened a fraction.

‘Oh, terribly sorry. Of course, you must be busy. I’m sure I’ll get a better look when the police turn up anyway, I’m sure they’ll need to talk to the landlord.’ he said.

Eldred sighed and had to fight off a strong urge to drop his face into his hands. The man was useless. He’d pretty much announced his identity at a crime scene. That was something that had a way of getting out, even if there were no witnesses. The police had methods. It wasn’t his problem, though.

He gave the man an almost polite nod as he left, before turning his attention to the room once more. He sat back down. He’d missed something. That wasn’t like him. There was a clue in the wreckage, he could feel it, but what was it?


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