Ja mata, TosaInu
Clouds of Smoke
Another short story from my part, set on the same date as Night Train - http://forums.totalwar.org/vb/showth...79-Night-Train, but in a totally different setting - and in a totally different country too. This is the first part of it, a mini introduction to the world of Horace, an intelligence service operative and a part-time detective to other benefactors.
Part I below! Part 2, 3 and 4 coming up!
Please enjoy the first part and as always, comments and feedback welcome!
9th of December 1938, 19:00
The White Club
The waiter came up to their table with a fresh pot of mint tea, a gentle refreshing smell swirling around their noses.
"Yes, please. Pour some more in my cup but bring me a glass of whisky first. With ice."
The waiter nodded. "Certainly, Sir."
"Thank you Williams."
Horace watched with curiosity as the young waiter sauntered away, walking gently to the backrooms reserved for the staff, leaving him with Lord Beckett in a wafting smell of expensive tobacco, a slight fog caused by that particular tobacco and a number of smartly dressed men relaxing in the red velvet chairs strewn across the smoking lounge. White Club was no stranger to these men - nor to Lord Beckett - and neither of them were strangers to each other. The ritzy club in Mayfair with its white stucco facade was built for men like Lord Beckett, rich, powerful and with a certain affinity for expensive tastes. Beckett, lazily puffing from his tobacco, joined the smoking lounge dressed in a dark three piece suit with his customary top hat, which he always left to the concierge rather than to the helpers manning the clients' clothing. His double chin peeked slightly over the edge of his collar, amplifying the gentle moustache he always kept in a rather French style. Bulging occasionally out of his shirt, Beckett was a man of fine tastes, always matching his dark olive eyes with the occasional green handkerchief. Horace gave Beckett a customary scan and noticed the absence of his wedding ring, something that struck him as odd. He never commented on what his benefactor was doing, but he couldn't dismiss the sense that it started to bother him. And quite significantly.
Beckett gave Horace a curt smile, picked up the whisky from the waiter's hands and rose it towards his companion.
"For your devoted service to my interests, Horace. And to your duty as a man of the services to the country."
Horace nodded slightly. "Duly noted, Sir."
Beckett sipped the cold, smoked whisky with gusto. He smiled to Horace, a wry smile, his eyes slightly narrowed and the wrinkles turned at the edges.
"Any news for me?"
Horace looked at Beckett, straight into his eyes. "Grave news, Sir."
Beckett's eyes widened. "Something happened to her?"
Horace smirked. "No, Sir, not her."
Beckett dropped the whisky glass on the table. "Spare me of anything else, Horace. Tell me about her!"
"Sir..." hesitated Horace. "She is not of our concern."
"Yes she is!" countered Beckett.
"Sir, I beg to differ. Please, pardon my insolence but she is not out concern right now. Your mistress is second in importance to the news."
"Horace, I am not hearing you."
"Sir, not her."
"I don't hear, Horace," replied Beckett, slapping Horace's knee to draw his attention. "Listen to me. Anything else can wait. Tell me about her."
"Sir, we have grave reports of foreign spies acting on our territory."
"I don't care, Horace."
Horace groaned. "Sir, please."
"Horace I do not care! I don't care! Tell me about Mathilda!"
Horace drew to Beckett's face. "Sir, the spies..."
"One more word Horace and I will have you stripped of your rank." Beckett reached for his whisky glass. "In fact," said Beckett between sips "get out of here and go watch over her. I want to know what she is doing. Anything else can wait."
Horace smirked and looked sideways, realising he had no other choice. With one curt nod, and with his eyes fixed on Beckett, he rose from the velvet chair and exited the smoke filled room for gentlemen. From the walnut doors of the smoking room on the first floor he raced down a flight of marble stairs, saluted the concierge with a nod and exited into the cold Mayfair evening.
And as he had expected, he was not alone outside the famous White Club.
Three steps resounded from a black Cadillac parked just outside the club, revealing a burly man dressed in a grey three piece suit and a hat to match. The burly man drew up to him, took off his hat as a sign of respect and shook Horace's hand.
"What did Beckett say?" asked Ryan, Horace's subordinate at the intelligence services. A joyful Irishman, Ryan O'Hara was the local strongman, assigned to do Horace's duties whenever he could not. And the more particular ones too.
"Ryan, if I lie to you right now, what would you do?"
Ryan laughed. "Alright then. So I guess he said nothing."
Horace turned to his Irishman and looked him straight in the eyes. "He said nothing, but I will. I'm sick of this and I want to resolve it now. I'm going to have a chat with that woman and I'll find a way to get rid of her nicely."
"Rid of her?"
"Nothing will happen to her, I just don't want to see her any more."
"And if she tells Beckett?" Horace stood silent, raising his eyebrow slightly. "All right, in that case, all good to go."
"Get your men here. I will have a talk with her but I want you guys to be ready."
"For anything that happens."
Ryan shrugged his shoulders. "Really Horace? Anything can happen. The war can start in five minutes and I can view this as something of a foreshadowing of yours. Mathilda can shoot you in the leg and then you tell me you expected this. Or maybe Beckett wants to find himself another mistress, who knows!"
Horace smirked, looking around the empty street. "Get your boys ready, and stay inside. Tell the concierge you are waiting for an important call."
"And you are off to?"
"To Mathilda. Just by the Court Road my friend."
Ryan placed a hand on Horace. "What exactly are you doing?"
"Having a chat."
"Armed with 2 pistols? That's what you call a chat?"
Horace balked. "You have fifteen men waiting for your orders."
Ryan laughed. "You give the orders, not me."
"Good. Then we have a plan. You stay inside and wait for my call. If all goes well, no need for you and the men. If not, you're going to have to rescue me off a building on Court Road that is literally full of foreign agents spying for different countries."
Ryan shook his head. "And why shouldn't we come with you?"
Horace loaded his engraved .45 Colt, hiding it underneath his suit jacket. "I'd rather deal with this alone. And I don't want Beckett anywhere else than this place."
"Don't ask questions, Ryan."
"Beckett and staying here." Ryan paused. "If I didn't know you better, I would say you're planning to throw Beckett under the bus to the intelligence teams."
Horace smiled. "You know Ryan, sometimes you're not that bad."
Ryan grinned, taking out a cheap cigar from his back pocket. "This is Beckett's, but it's those cheap ones he gives as gifts. Still good." Ryan lighted the cigar, puffed from it with gusto and then smiled. "Not a bad one."
"Keep an eye on him. I'll be back in one hour."
Last edited by edyzmedieval; 03-30-2017 at 23:39.
Ja mata, TosaInu
Re: Clouds of Smoke
Court Road, London
For more than twenty minutes, Horace kept his eyes fixed on the entrance of that red-bricked block of flats, a typical English working class building down by the infamous Court Road. In it's heyday, Court Road was the average working class neighbourhood. But as the country grew, so did the neighbourhood. It was no longer the quiet neighbourhood it once was, particularly in the restive Friday and Saturday nights. Now that the threat of war was looming, spies from all places gathered around in quiet London neighbourhoods to do their work. From the intersection with the Circus, which was behind Horace, the whole street was lined with small houses or small blocks of flats, no more than three stories high, with exterior railings that dubbed as stairways for whenever it was needed. It took him no more than a fifteen minute drive from the White Club, a casual stroll in his nimble Citroen Traction Avant he got as a gift from Lord Beckett. He was after all looking for Mathilda
Horace narrowed his eyes and scanned the cars down the street. By chance, one of Ryan's men gave him a vital piece of info, simple happenstance as the man walked by just as Horace was about to leave. Mathilda was no longer alone in the apartment she owned on the second floor. Horace smirked. He made a mental note of that detail and holstered the Colt pistol underneath his suit jacket. He got out of the black Traction Avant and gently closed the door, careful to make as little sound
as possible, just as a gust of wind slapped his face. Taking one last glance around the empty street, Horace casually strolled down to the block. The four storied building had a simple wooden door entrance with horrid cast iron railings by the stairs, about as ungainly as an abandoned house. Horace slid inside, his polished patent leather shoes touching the red carpeting that blanketed the stairs.
"Good, no noise," he whispered to himself.
He gently went up the stairs and slid to the edge of the dark brown door where he knew Beckett's mistress lived. He was about to knock on the door when he heard the shouts booming from inside.
"I knew it! You're seeing someone else, aren't you? I knew it! How much did it take for that to happen, how much time? 6 months? How long have we been married? Not a lot it seems, and it looks like you've been marrying me just so you can have someone to impress!"
Horace narrowed his eyes. He had no idea who the man was, but he was sure this was Mathilda's apartment so the idea of her being married added to the difficulty of the whole Mathilda affair. He didn't have much time to think it over when he heard the woman scream in terror as she struck some sort of object, causing a chorus of other sounds of breaking objects to follow suit. The man screamed at her again, echoing throughout the stairwell of the block.
Horace breathed. He had to act before someone noticed him.
Using a small silver clip attached to his jacket pocket, he slid it inside the golden lock of the apartment door and fumbled his way until the lock clicked with an audible sound. Horace gently opened the door, sliding sideways inside the apartment, closing the door behind him just as stealthily as he opened it. The apartment in itself was not large by any means. A small hallway from the door, if it even was a hallway, led directly into a large room that dubbed as a bedroom on the left side and a living room on the right side, with a small bathroom just beside by the door. The room was split into two sides by a sliding door.
And at the bottom of that sliding door, with her back against the wall, stood Mathilda, gazing in horror at the man that towered above her with his arms pointed at her.
"Six months we've been married, six months, and all you did was use me!" yelled the man, clenching his fists as close to her face as possible. Horace couldn't see anything but his back and the uniform the man wore.
Beckett's man would have wanted the man to stay attentive to Mathilda, yelling at her as hard as he could, but it was Beckett's mistress who gave him away as she noticed his presence. The husband turned, almost by instinct when he noticed Mathilda's expression change, glimpsing Horace's silhouette as the Englishman approached him. For a couple of brief moments, they analysed each other, weighing their options as they faced a stand off in Mathilda's living room. Horace faced a rather tall, handsome husband, dressed in a black military unifom with golden tresses on the right shoulder and a small airplane insignia on the left hand side of his chest. But what drew his attention was the symbol on his left arm, the symbol embroidered on the uniform. The man was a foreign spy. And Mathilda most probably fed him the secrets Lord Beckett gave to her while drunk.
Before Horace had a chance to react, the man leaped at him and smashed him against the living room wall with such force that the Englishman thought his bones had broken into fine pieces. The man did not stop, smashing a fist into his ribcage and a subsequent jawbone punch that nearly knocked Horace out. Horace crashed sideways onto a small padded chair, struggling to regain his composure. Before he managed to do the man took him by the suit and threw him accross the living room, sending him crashing into a wooden table. Horace's crash destroyed the table into the pieces, collapsing him on the ground right at Mathilda's feet.
But the angered husband was not done.
The man leapt at Horace and lunged for his neck, an ill timed move which Horace easily deflected with a parry and a strike to his opponents' jawbone. Before the man could parry back, Horace reached for his pistol and slid it out of the leather holster, drawing it enough for it to threaten his opponent. Angered, the man leapt once more at Horace, ignoring the obvious threat of the Colt pistol directed at him. He lunged straight for Horace's arms, trying to block the pistol, only to make matters worse as the men struggled on the floor.
Two shots rang out from the Colt.
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