Something Wicked: Chapter One

One

{In which there is a mystery, and a young man attempts to escape his mother.}

The night on Berginion Street was a quiet one, few sounds except the patter of rain breaking the silence. The occasional footstep could also be heard.

The owner of a set of these footsteps, one Arthur Moorham, trudged dejectedly along the pavement. His mother’s words rang in his ears, her usual screeching tones rattling around his brain.

“You could have been a doctor!”

“I sincerely doubt…”

“A… a… an officer!”

“Not ex – exactly.”

He had attempted to reason with her, of course.

“Mother, it isn’t the worst job….”

“Your aims are below your means, boy!”

He briefly raised his eyes heavenwards. Boy. He was technically a man by now, of eighteen-and-three-quarters, and his mother always seemed to be telling him that he should find his place.

Perhaps he had. He had certainly told her so, and her reaction had been one of scorn. “With the police? Pah!”

He pulled his helmet lower over his brow, lip twisting slightly at the thought of reporting to Raylesleigh.

Detective Inspector Raylesleigh was a moustached, rather loud man, with a liking for vintage whiskey and a rather unfortunate tendency, when in conversation, to spit on people rather than speak to them. He also insisted that the current generation were a good-for-nothing, molly-coddled bunch of boys, something which irritated Arthur both greatly and frequently.

Arthur let out a barely audible sigh, the station now in sight, and headed towards the sanctuary within its lit windows. Behind him, a young woman stumbled through the pouring rain, running for her life.

He walked on.

Raylesleigh was leaning back in his chair, feet on his desk and pipe in his mouth. His moustache twitched slightly as he smoked, wisps from the tobacco curling and fading in the air.

He looked up as he heard Arthur quietly close the door. “Well, boy?” he asked, not bothering to sit up and look at his younger colleague.

Arthur exhaled tightly at the man’s dismissive address, hastily removing his helmet and tucking it under an arm; he brushed away a few damp locks of hair still sticking to his forehead and attempted to correct his posture, still staring at the floor.”Nothing, sir.”

Now Raylesleigh did sit up, fixing Arthur with a basilisk glare, and the younger officer instinctively took a step back. “Seven disappearances. Seven have been reported in the last fortnight, and you have found nothing of any use?”

“Nothing, sir,” Arthur repeated quietly, then added, “No-one has witnessed them, their families could think of no reason why they would…” He swallowed.

It was rare for an investigation to be conducted into missing persons, but seven disappearances, all within two streets of each other, none with any apparent reason? All but two of those gone had been happily married, without financial troubles or a cloudy demeanour. All this… it seemed nothing short of suspicious.Unfortunately, he also had a feeling that Raylesleigh’s devotion to the case had little to do with concern for those lost; perhaps, instead, more to do with the generous amount of money one of the women from the better-off families had slipped him, with a plea to return their boy.

He wondered whether he should report it, but was sure it would do little good, and if it hastened the search…

Somewhere in his mind, he noticed that Raylesleigh continued to berate him, the officer exclaiming, “There are times I think myself surrounded by incompetence!” The man paused for a moment before adding helpfully, “Ineptitude and stupidity also.” He sat back, returning his attention to a newspaper on his desk.

Arthur stood before him, slightly mystified. After a few seconds of directing a questioning look at the front page of The Times, he cautiously cleared his throat.

Raylesleigh took a hand from the newspaper, causing it to sag down onto his chest, and imperiously waved him out.

Arthur obeyed, exiting the office with a hung head, and stepped back into the downpour; with the decision that an early night and a cup of tea might be in order, he began to make his way to his mother’s house.

A few feet away, in a dark, rain-soaked alley, seven disappearances quietly became eight.

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