Constable Rowan was whistling merrily as he entered the Blackwell police station, which faltered as he beheld the expression on Sergeant Randall’s face.
“The inspector wants to see you,” said Randall, “you’ll find him up by the pigeon loft. We’ve had a…visitor.”
Randall refused to go into further detail and Rowan felt slightly apprehensive as he ascended the stairs and climbed out on to the flat roof at the rear of the station.
Inspector Neame was attending to the station’s homing pigeons, which he claimed was a chore, but Rowan knew that the inspector had named each individual bird and was able to identify them each by their plumage. As Rowan approached, the inspector turned, brushing maize husks from his hands.
“Ah, the infamous Constable Rowan,” he began, “who seems destined to make my life more interesting with every breath he takes.”
He reached for a sheaf of papers held down on the parapet with a half brick and perused the top sheet.
“Whilst your report covers the salient points on the investigation into the abduction of the Darling children and their subsequent recovery by yourself, some of the details seem somewhat opaque. ‘Known sources’ and ‘civilian consultant’ especially…”
He gazed Northward, across the courtyard from which a sustained rattling was coming, towards the bare branches of Blackwell Common, above which could be seen the carillon tower at its centre.
“It may intetest you know that I received a visit from you ‘known source’.” He turned at Rowan’s sharp intake of breath. “That’s correct, Rowan, I have had the dubious pleasure of making the acquaintance of the Night Mayor, or Mr Thomas Morrow as he introduced himself intially.” He paused and looked sternly at Rowan. “I have to admit to being slightly disappointed in you, Rowan. Whilst the Darling affair was handled well and wrapped up swiftly, the fact that you chose to withold information regarding this…gentleman and his organisation, information that could have proved useful on several prior occasions, does not sit well with me.”
He sighed and continued.
“Howevet, the Night Mayor has proposed a mutually beneficial arrangement, in which he will put his resources and personnel at our disposal, in return for which he would like the protection provided by the Black Museum to be extended to include the members of the Court of Shadows. And you, Sergeant Rowan, are to be the official liaison between our two groups.”
It took Rowan a moment to realise just what the inspector had said.
“Sergeant?” He stammered.
“Yes, Rowan, I am promoting you. Don’t thank me just yet, as you’ll find the responsibilities of your new rank will far outweigh the increase in salary.” He beckoned Rowan forward and pointed down into the courtyard.
“That,” he said, pointing out a gaunt figure dressed in an ill-fitting uniform who was riding one of the station’s high-wheelers around in circles in the yard, “is your first constable. His name, if I recall correctly, is Jack Landers and he is one of the Night Mayor’s…people.” The inspector frowned. “Apparently he is a former blacksmith and seems obsessed with the station’s wheeled conveyances. He has been sworn in and issued a uniform. However, he refused the police issue lantern, stating that his own is far superior. Constable Landers is now your responsibility – try and keep him under control. You may go.”
As Rowan descended the stairs, he racked his brains. The name seemed familar, but he was certain the inspector had not pronounced it correctly. As he emerged into the courtyard, a cheerful voice with an Irish lilt greeted him.
“Well, if it’s not me old friend Stanley Rowan…” said the figure. “Oops…I mean me new boss, Sergeant Rowan. What d’ya think of me penny farthin’? Isn’t it grand?”
Rowan put his head in his hands. It seemed that the first Umbral police officer was to be Constable Jack O’Lantern…