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Then There Were Three (part 17)

 
Joe Spivey's picture
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Inside the stuffy atmosphere of the mortuary, Tukiko mouthed something unladylike to the NFPD officer’s retreating back. She looked at Worms’ notebook still in her hand then rolled it up and jammed it back into her pocket. There was nothing else she could do here and didn’t particularly want to be around that policeman any longer, so she left.

Sitting in her car, she contacted Maisie and enquired after the condition of her patient. Tuki thought about telling her head nurse everything, but decided she would wait until she had got back to Hope. One thing she couldn’t put off, however, was reporting everything she had discovered to Hope’s mayor. It was a long call.

Children, especially orphans, generally have excellent reactions, which is why Finny went from sitting to running long before an adult would have even started to move. As it turned out, the snake, although huge, was a constrictor and not immediately as dangerous as if it had been of the venomous variety. Finny, Casper and Onetooth watched as the snake, denied its meal, slid back into the long grass and high weeds

Onetooth picked up a moss-covered brick. Finny looked at it.

"What’s that for?”

“In case we see another one.”

Finny was about to say that there were plenty of bricks around, but then she thought about it and realised she would sooner he had a brick in his hand than have to bend to pick one up. She shrugged.

“’kay.”

The trio continued on their way, keeping low whenever the came to somewhere where the high weeds weren’t. Finny knew that pretty soon the others were going to ask where they were going. She was still working on that.

If Worm’s had dug up a body, then he had to have been somewhere where people buried bodies, and it had to be somewhere close because even Worms couldn’t get away with walking through town with a body... Unless it was inna box or something, Reason chimed in. Even so, images of the graveyard she had gone to with Joe and Ned came to mind. That had been all neat and grass cut and headstones and paths and everything. That meant people and that meant anyone, especially a kid, digging up a corpse was going to be noticed, box or no box.

“Cavey!

The hissed warning interrupted her thoughts and all three orphans immediately dropped into a crouch. Finny looked around at Casper, who had given the ancient warning.

Casper whispered, over-mouthing the words. As he pointed the way they had been traveling.

“Peee-poll.”

Finny slowly raised her head until she could just see through the slowly waving pink and purple flowers of the fireweeds. There were two people, a man maybe in his twenties and a woman about the same age. When you are nine, anything older than about sixteen starts to look sameish. They looked like they were just talking to each other, then they held hands and Finny wrinkled her nose. What were they doing out here? She continued to watch until they started to kiss. Finny dropped back down.

The two boys looked at her expectantly.

“It’s just two people… snogging.”

Onetooth performed the international symbol for feeling sick by opening his mouth wide and pointing a finger down his throat. Unfortunately, this created a loud snort from Casper, immediately followed by a loud shushing noise from Finny.

“Hey, what are you kids doing away from camp?”

The young man and the woman appeared through the long weeds. It was the man who had asked the question, but the woman, who seemed more annoyed than the man for some reason, added her own.

“Don’t you know it’s rude to spy on people?”

The three orphans rose slowly to their feet, the boys taking half a step back and by doing so, leaving it up to Finny to answer.

“Um. We didn’t know you were there.”

The woman frowned, but the man still wanted an answer to his question.

“Maybe not, but what are you doing away from camp? You know the rules.”

Whoever it was the grown-ups were mistaking them for seemed to Finny to be working to their advantage so far. So she ran with it.

“We were just playing. I guess we didn’t realise…”

Casper caught on.

“The weeds.” He said.

“Yeah, the weeds are really high.” Finny explained. There was the tiniest of pauses before she added the obligatory; “Sorry.”

The man, however, wasn’t paying attention. Instead, he was looking around, scanning the horizon of buildings half a mile away that were New Flagstaff. He ushered the children towards him.

“Save the excuses for your folks. Come on, let’s get you back to camp while there’s no townies around.”

Finny’s first thought had been that they had run across a band of raiders like the Devil’s Own. But the man and the woman weren’t acting like bandits, and they weren’t dressed like them either. No bandoliers of bullets, no tattoos, no coloured hair and definitely no spikey leather stuff. They didn’t even have guns. Just worn out clothes similar to what she and the boys were wearing. No wonder they’d mistaken them for being part of their group.

As they walked forward between the two grown-ups, Finny felt a tug at her sleeve. She turned her head and Casper mouthed a single word at her.

“Fugees.”

Finny nodded. As soon as she’d heard the man refer to the residents of New Flagstaff as ‘townies’ she’d realised that these people must be refugees from the south.

Refugees were unwelcome in New Flagstaff and the Union guards spent a lot of their day turning them away. Sometimes, though, some of them would make it through into the city and Finny had seen them in the square, usually begging until a patrol turned up and took them away. There had been more than the usual amount lately, and their begging had become quite aggressive. So much so that the orphanage kids had been warned by Matron Maisy at assembly to keep away from them. Now here they were, walking towards a whole camp full of them.

The first thing Finny saw was the rising smoke from many campfires. Then, as the weeds and high grass thinned out, the camp came into view, spread out on flatter ground on the other side of the road. Dozens of makeshift tents. Finny reckoned there must have been a hundred people at least, lots of them children.

Officer Kopkage pottered around the crime scene for a while until it became apparent that he wasn’t going to learn anything new until after the crime scene and autopsy reports came in. He left the claustrophobic atmosphere of the underground mortuary and returned to his car. He was about to start his engine when he noticed Joe Spivey standing on the roof of his tonneau and, with both hands shading his eyes, slowly revolving, looking for all the world like some short, brown human radar mast.

Kopkage shook his head. Spivey could wait. He had enough information now to make an arrest. He’d pick up the warrant from the office and head over to Hope Springs. Typhoid or not, murderer or not, the sick little fuck who’d gutted that kid in there was going to get what was coming to him. The policeman started the engine and angrily hit the accelerator, making the car slide and kick up a cloud of gravel and small shards of red brick.

Comments

Canni Belle's picture

((Really hating Kopkage))

One minute your calm, the next your shooting someone in the face, then your doing your chickendance. If that is not chaos I dont know what is - Aiid



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