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Interviewing murder victims ain't all it's cracked up to be. For one thing, they're very distracted and surprisingly uninterested in vengeance-most of the time. They're much more interested in stuff like telling you what the afterlife's really like and making sure someone's fed their cat. For another thing, three priests gotta be there and their whole purpose for being there is to stop the murder victim from revealing anything about the afterlife. Article Five, paragraph four, subsection seven "a" of the Citied Council Necromantic-Watch Investigative Charter reads:
And if said shade shall begin to reveal secrets of the hereafter duly appointed officers of the faiths present find possibly disharmonious to their congregations and/or the general a11 population, then said necroview shall be immediately terminated and all words struck from the written record, not to be seen by naked eye. Further summoning of this shade is not permissible.
Priests have a vested interest in making sure the rest of us saps are kept guessing about the afterlife. Hey, I got no beef with 'em. If we all wised up, they'd be out of a well paid, respectable crust with no heavy lifting, heaps of holidays and the odd sacrificial virgin.
There are plenty of worse jobs in the City. So there we were, cramped into The Necroview Room of Watchhouse One to listen to Master Lender Adrian Skrew, recently chopped to pieces on the streets of Hightown, the MAD lieutenant and his batman, the necromancer and his cape, the three priests, Frank and me. The Ursors' Guild wanted Frank there 'cuz, just like everyone else, they had about as much faith in theMagicrime Analysis Division of the City Watch as I do limbs. And wherever Frank was, I was tucked in his belt, his faithful magic…blade. So we both got to hear what the first victim of the Hightown Hacker had to say, straight from the cadaver's mouth.
"Has someone fed Tinkles?"Skrew's shade hovered above his mangled body. It was black, even through the shimmering gray Manah cloud only the necromancer and I could see-him being a trained magiprofessional, me being innately magical and downright swell. I could see Skrew's eyes, but the rest of him was lost in the mother of all shadows. Now, I'm not implying nothin' about ursors, like their souls are black and they're all damned to the foulest pit in the lowest plane of hell (I'm sure the hells are sick to death of the mean bastards), but that's how all shades look. Dark, shadowy, mysterious. The necromancers do it on purpose.
I hate necromancers.
"Tinkles is fine, Mr Skrew. Tinkles is well cared for, I just need to ask you…"Lieutenant Reginald Hoggwash loosened the tie around his fat neck and bit his fat lip. He was out of his depth, and that's flat, but in true MAD style, he wasn't letting it stop him. He was wading right in with concrete boots.
"It's just that if he doesn't get his afternoon mackerel, by jinkees, he gets moody. Only last week…"
"We're on to that, Mr Skrew, now…"
"It's amazing the things you see here, the things you feel." Skrew's shade shivered and shook and tore down the middle for the blink of an eye, then pulled back together. "I've gone beyond the borders…" The Friar from the Order of the Worship of the Ecclesiastical Three Toed Fish, the Bishop from the Order of the Fifth and Only Righteous Path to Complete and Utter Salvation (Third On The Right-You Can't Miss It) and the Imahm from the Order of the Light Behind the Softly Erotic Curtain all shifted nervously in their seats. The duly appointed officers of the faiths looked ready to pull the pin. The slightest specific reference to the afterlife, and that would be that.
"Who killed you?"Frank asked. When he needed it, he could summon some power in his voice though, for the most part, he was the most softly spoken bull minotaur you'd ever meet. The dank air in The Necroview Room went stale and everybody stopped breathing. It was a pathos moment, and the necromancer, a City elf named Sadly Sadly Saunders, smiled. They love that sort of crap.
Skrew's shade wriggled, like he was smoke in a breeze, and Sadly almost lost him. I saw the flash of Manah he burned to pull the guy back together. It was thick dark blue with a jet of crimson through it. Hard edged. Powerful stuff. Sadly knew his dope.
"I can…mmggmgmg mggmmmghhhmm… you know…mmmghgmmmgh. "
"Can't you…you turn him up? I can't hear a word he's saying." Hoggwash's bright red face was sweating like a bruised fig on a barbecue plate.
"This is not some seaside children's attraction, Lieutenant," Sadly shot back. He flicked back his blow-waved blonde hair. "The ways of necromancy are plotted far beyond the ken of mortal…ken."
"Spare me the lecture, stiffie stool, just…ah, I dunno. Skrew! Who damn well killed you and speak the hell up!"
"Hell?" The word echoed around the room and I almost choked on the pathos. Skrew's shade spun around like a miniature tornado and Sadly almost lost him for good. He dug deep and managed to weave a holding pattern around the escaping Manah, but it wasn't gonna last. The voice was more muffled and distant. "I cannot tell you the mmmgghh mmmmghgg mm mm mmmmmghhh . It was mmmgh mgh mmun mmennmmmb ."
"What did he say?"Hoggwash squealed, his notebook ready. "Was that 'one leg'?"
"I though he said 'wrong head'," the Friar offered, scratching his bald spot.
"No, it was definitely 'bun red'," said the Bishop with great passion. "An obvious reference to the holy crimson bagel." His face beamed with righteous zeal, kind of like an angry boil ready to bust.
Copyright © 2005 Jeremy Davies