Sergeant “Lifter” Lifson stood pensively as the “citizen” continued his tirade.
“. . . and that’s not the half of it,” the man continued. “You Rosies took your sweet time in getting here. Don’t you realise that I have a business to run here. It’s not as if I don’t pay my fair share of taxes, not the mention the “donations” I make to the Watch Benevolence Fund. You just ask your Inspector Cruikshank about that one . . . .”
Lifson, an “original” member of the New Watch or what were more commonly known as the “Rosemen,” finally interrupted the man.
“Sir, I understand you distress. I do need to know more about the actual case, though.”
The man, a wine and spirits merchant, took a breath.
“Very good Sir,” Lifson began. What exactly is missing?”
“Why, nothing,” replied the man, still rather red faced from his shouting.
“That’s just it,” said the man. They didn’t take anything, they just broke in and left a barrel of Golden Mead. Same damned thing happened last year.”
“Last year?” Lifter queried.
“Yes, same thing happened a year ago. In fact it’s the anniversary.”
“So it’s trespass you’re concerned about?” Lifson asked.
“Well that and feeling of not being safe in one’s own business,” the merchant said.
“Do you need us to dispose of the bar . . . ?” Lifson began.
“No, in fact it’s good stuff, I had it tested,” the man interrupted.
“Okay, Sir. I have taken some notes and I will get back with you after I have made some inquiries.”
Sergeant Lifson left the shop and took a quick look around the door and windows. Cases like this one really made him despair. “I this why I joined the watch?” he thought to himself. Things were so different back in the old “Crestman” days, policing was real back then,” he mused.
Then he saw it, the glass hadn’t been smashed as he would have expected. No, it was melted. The pane had a hole straight through it, and the glass was blistered around the edges.
He made his way back to the watch house, and went to the case archive. Sure enough the same shop had indeed been broken into the year before. Though he noted that no mention of the mead was made in the report.
He read a couple of more pages and saw that a similar “burglary” had occurred at the Weasel Tavern, sometime after midnight the following day.
That was it, he would get Watchmen Binman and Fuller and they would stake out the pub after closing.
The proprietor, a man who bore a striking resemblance to the image on the shingle above the door, was not very supportive of having three Rosemen in his establishment after hours. His objections centered around them helping themselves to drink, though his real concern was the inability to open out of hours. The possibility of a barrel of free “Golden” wouldn’t be unwelcome either.
In the end, an appeal to the man’s civic duty, and a mention of a visit from some Trading Standards men, seemed to win him over.
The lights were doused and the tavern doors locked just after midnight. The three Rosies settled in for what could be a longs night.
About one in the morning, a hissing sound could be heard from the ground floor. Lifson crept down and positioned himself behind the bar, while the two other watchmen readied themselves at the top of the stairs.
A strange glow came from a window pane, as a wizard of sorts placed the end of his staff against the glass. The pane began to heat and bubble and the shaft pressed through creating an opening. After a minute or so for it to cool, the wizened man put his arm through the hole and opened the latch. He then climbed through the window and went to open the front door.
From the corner of his eye Lifson saw four similarly dressed men enter the public bar. A grinding noise accompanied their entry, as they slid a barrel of mead into the centre of the room.
Lifson shrank back into the shadows as two of the codgers went to the upper shelf and helped themselves to some costly shots. Then the taller of the two whispered something and the bottles seemed to refill themselves.
At that moment, Lifson blew his whistle and all three watchmen sprung from their hiding places.
“Stop in the name of the King,” Binman bellowed.
Four wrinkled faces turned to him in puzzlement, then the men slowly raised their hands into the air.
“What do we have going on here?” Fuller demanded.
“Well, um, we . . . ” one of them began.
He was interrupted by the tall figure, who clearing his throat said, “We were trying to get a little refreshment, Constable,” he said. “You see we drink the same blasted mead for 51 weeks a year. It gets so, so damned monotonous.”
“And?” Lifman interjected.
“We make the stuff ourselves, bees you know, but you can only take so much of it,” the conjurer continued. “So when the head of the order goes on his annual holiday, we make some trades.”
“Usually when people trade, they discuss it with the other party first,” the sergeant said in an earnest tone.
“Really,” said the tall man with a true look of astonishment on his face. He turned to the short plump wizard and said, “You didn’t tell me that part.”
The short man just shrugged, as if he hadn’t known either.
“How are we going to deal with this one, Sarg?” Fuller asked.
“No one’s going to believe it, no matter how we write it up,” Lifman reflected. “You guys get out of here, and never “trade” again. For now, your superior and our inspector don’t need to know about this.”
“Are we still going to get overtime, Sarg?” Binman asked.
“Yes, just put in your notebook that it was ‘youths’ that were involved, and that we warned them off.”
“Youths, Sarg?” Binman said quizzically.
“Well they looked young for wizards to me,” Lifman said.
“That’s good enough for me,” Fuller said nodding.
“Just when you think you’ve seen everything . . . .” Lifman trailed off.
The Rosemen first developed as minor characters in The Sisters Tales, but some story lines began to emerge in their own right. Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s prompt this week gave me some great ideas to work with.
Anniversary, Blistered, Despair, Grinding, Something Seen in the Periphery