As Constable Rowan approached the end of Hob’s Lane and turned left into Brewer’s Walk, the warm smell of malt wafted over the wall of the Merton & Son Brewing Company and caressed his nostrils. Their Blackwell Porter was a particular favourite of Sergeant Webb’s, but the scent always reminded him of one of his first cases with the Black Museum, that of the Merton Cask Murders.
He still recalled his sense of horror as he confronted the grinning ape responsible, on the slick tiles of the brewery roof, as it gleefully stuffed another broken and mangled corpse into a barrel. If it had not been for the presence of Sir Aubrey Michaels, the renowned big-game hunter, and his elephant gun, that could have spelt the end of both Rowan’s career and his life.
Rowan turned right past the gates of the brewery onto Blackwell’s main thoroughfare and followed the Blackwell Road until he reached Victoria Circus, site of the Blackwell Police Station and current home of the Black Museum. Dodging amongst the costermonger’s carts and hansoms circling the statue of the Queen, Rowan walked up the steps to the station and stepped into the cool quiet of the interior.
Sergeant Randall was on duty that evening and as it was still early, was catching up on some paperwork before the usual parade of ne’er-do-wells starting filtering in. He nodded to Rowan as he passed through the vestibule and into the station proper, to be confronted by a wicker basket placed in the centre of the corridor, which appeared to be buzzing.
“I wouldn’t touch that, if I were you…” said a voice and Rowan turned to see Sergeant Doyle stepping out into the corridor. His usually pale features were marred by several welts scattered across his face like buckshot.
“What have you got there, Doyle?” Queried Rowan.
“These little buggers” said Doyle, tapping the basket with his toe, which increased the angry buzzing from within, “are what’s been causing issues over at Pemberton Gardens. Someone reported a fairy ring by the bandstand and it appears that rather than docile little Faeries, it was a bloody Wysp nest. So rather than calm them down, the smoker got them all riled up and the little sods got me good and proper.” Doyle scowled at the basket, “If it had been up to me, I would’ve torched the lot of ’em.”
Doyle gingerly picked up the basket, after ensuring the catches were fastened.
“If you’re on your way to see the Inspector,” Doyle continued, “watch yourself down by the armoury – Murray and Arkwright are testing their Galvanic Rifle and their aim’s a bit off.”
As Rowan reached the top of the stairs leading to the basement, he heard raised voices.
“There’s nothing wrong with MY design, Murray” snapped Arkwright, “it’s your ham-fistedness that’s causing the issue.”
“And absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the regulator overheating and causing the barrel to yaw?” Said Murray. “Watch…”
There came a crackling sound, a burst of actinic light and the smell of ozone – followed by the tinkling of broken glass.
“There…” said Murray, “definite yawing.”
“You may have a point,” conceded Arkwright, “hand it over and I’ll take a look.”
“Coming through, Gentlemen!” Called Rowan as he cautiously descended the stairs. As he reached the door to armoury, Murray stuck his head out, his face breaking into a grin when he saw Rowan.
“Stanley!” He crowed, “good to have you back. We heard about your encounter – fae women can be a bit of a handful, so glad to see you’re unscathed. Arkwright!” He called, “it’s Stanley.”
“m’busy” muttered Arkwright, tinkering with a long metallic object on his workbench.
“Don’t mind him,” said Murray, “he’s correcting a flaw in his design…”
“It’s NOT a flaw!” Shouted Arkwright. Murray winked at Rowan and went back in to help his colleague.
Inspector Neame was busy poring over various reports when Rowan finally reached his office, looking up as Rowan gently knocked on the open door.
“Ah, Constable Rowan,” said Neame, “good to have you back on duty, especially with Moore still recovering from being stabbed.”
“Thank you, sir, it’s good to be back.” Rowan cleared his throat, “However, I think there’s something we really need to discuss, sir…”