We’re on the home stretch now, I think…
‘Just go away, please. We both know how this goes.’
Lord Pyle was not in the best of moods, thanks largely to Haul’s cigar, and had decided that directness was the best way to deal with this situation. Haul disagreed, but he was letting Pyle say his peace before turning up his annoyance factor.
‘How many times have we been through this same conversation, sergeant?’ Pyle asked.
‘Too many times to count, sir,’ not that he would have tried anyway. ‘The thing is, we can handle normal murders, ones done with weapons we know of, but Orange Cannons are taking the proverbial.’
‘Orange Cannons? Do you mean cannons painted orange, or ones that fire oranges?’
Haul had been ready for this. He reached into his coat and plucked out a print of the cutaway model of the cannon. He had to stifle a wry grin as he handed it over to Pyle. It wasn’t very much, but this was the closest they had ever gotten to proving Pyle dealt with assassins. When you’ve lived in an ivory tower for so long, sometimes the smallest crack can have you dashing for the fire escape. You come to expect it to collapse.
Pyle had this look in his eyes now. Haul could tell that the man recognised the device, but it was a look of fear rather than pure recognition. Haul realised that Pyle hadn’t actually seen the device before, yet knew of it anyway. He had related the design to a specific agent. Now, if only Haul could work that out of him.
Haul tried to talk, but for five minutes Pyle silenced him. He stared at the picture in front of him, drinking it in, absorbing all the ridiculous accidents of physics that allowed it to work. Then he sighed. It was a sigh that any officer of the law would recognise, one of resignation.
‘I’ll do you a deal, sergeant,’ Pyle said. ‘This is the only one I will ever do for you, so I recommend you take it. It is non-negotiable.’
An ominous offer, but there was no danger from hearing him out. ‘Let’s hear it.’
‘I’ll tell you the name of your killer, even where he lives if you like, but you can’t arrest him.’
‘Listen. I don’t just mean that in the contractual sense, I mean it literally. You can’t arrest him, it’s impossible.’
‘I don’t think –’
‘No, you don’t know. The man you are after is the most terrifying man I have ever met, and I have met some seriously scary people. I know people who will kill kids, mutilate corpses, even vote BNP, yet they are nothing compared to this guy.’
‘What’s so bad about him?’
‘The man’s a demon. Not a literal one, obviously, but the closest thing you can get. He’s so very dark. His presence in a room can dim sunlight, kill all the pleasant feeling in the atmosphere. He doesn’t have to say anything, he just is. A professional killer, not because he needs the money or is good at it, but because people need killing. A psychopath in every sense of the word.’
‘I’m still not seeing why he can’t be arrested. We’ve arrested mentalists before.’
‘Perhaps I can’t explain it to you. You’ll see it for yourself, I would imagine. Just take a weapon with you when you go to get him, a pistol or something. You must agree to that or you’ll get nothing out of me.’
Haul mulled it over. He was firearms trained, but they were very rarely needed in the current climate. Criminals use guns all the time, but coppers are more subtle. If they are dealing with a gang of gun wielding nutters, they will send in the undercover coppers, saboteurs for the law. By the time those guys are done you can guarantee the criminals won’t have a single gun that works.
They wouldn’t work on this guy. It needed to be a quick arrest, a blitzkrieg. Besides, this is a man who can kill with fruit, you’ll want to be armed around people like that.
‘Fine, I’ll take a gun.’ Haul finally conceded.
‘Good. Now note this down, because I won’t tell you this again, not that I told you in the first place.’
‘Understood,’ out came the notebook.
‘The man you are looking for is Eldred Fie. You’ll find him in a small cottage in Coleworth St. Barley. I trust you know where that is?’
‘Just outside the city.’
‘Yes. Fie often retreats back to his house for a few days after a few successful jobs. His one weakness is an occasional bout of paranoia, something he can only avoid when locked away in his own house.’
Haul scribbled this down quickly, turned and marched for the door. It was no time for pleasantries, he had a killer to catch. There was one more question to ask, however, which only occurred to him as he reached for the door. He turned.
‘Why now?’ he asked. ‘Why grass on one of you own employees now?’
Pyle went white. ‘The man can kill with fruit. Imagine what else he could do, if given the time.’