Elouise watched as Lord Roxton the Younger stood attentive in his sharp policeman uniform, looking seriously stoic and smiled. If one knew how to look, one could tell that underneath the shadow of his hat, his eyes were twinkling as bright as a child who got a new toy. She felt the urge to toss the half-eaten apple in her hand at him just for a laugh, but she held herself back. Drawing attention to herself, especially in the midst of a dozen or so more policemen was probably not the best thought.
He couldn’t see her, not when he was so focused on the event right before him. The one occasion he had been so prepared for the whole year – his graduation from a regular officer to a constable. It wasn’t by any means a very big promotion, but the fact that he had managed to stay this long despite his social rank pleased him to no end. He could only hope his father had gotten word of this. He suppressed a smile and cleared his throat as quietly as possible, straightening himself just a little more.
Elouise took another bite out of her apple and spat the seed into the drainpipe along the roof she sat on. Why did he want her here? Arresting her meant that he could skip this, get to a higher rank and lots of shaking of influential hands right away. Hands he needed to stay. But, instead, he was down there in the square, beaming like an electric lamp with pride at his little achievement and she was up here, watching safely.
He fidgeted a little, and looked up, right at her, hidden in a shadow cast by a nearby chimney stack and the sun rays shining through little gaps in the thick clouds. He saw her grin and give him the tiniest of waves. Pretending to scratch at his neck, he gave her a brief nod and a tight smile. It was true, bringing her in would give him an even bigger promotion, but then again, the notion that life would be very much duller after having her caged was stronger than his excitement at getting rank. Plus, their arrangement right now was already showing its highly beneficiary uses.
Who else had a contact to the corners of the town where legal authority had none? He smirked proudly to himself at his shadowed companion. Putting aside that it was originally a threat of incarceration that established this relationship, things are turning out for the best either of them could have ever planned for. He learnt about the world his line of work dealt with, and she in return learnt about the part of the world she procured value from.
Saluting the commissioner in front of him, Hugh Roxton beamed as the badge of constable was pinned to his uniform’s lapel. He heard the tittering of a few ladies in the audience and met their gazes proudly. Giggling even harder, the girls hid their blushing cheeks behind their lace fans. How different! He sneaked a look up at Elouise, and found her munching on an apple, apparently more interesting than the happenings below her. The gap between then was still painfully obvious, but that was the beauty of it. He looked away quickly. Prolonged staring at a spot might lead other wandering eyes to unwanted sights.
Tossing the apple core into a chimney, Elouise quietly crept away, bored. Her rapier sheath occasionally clinked against the pipes that ran along the roof. To unassuming residents, it might as well have been the scratching of a cat. She passed a window that opened to a clock maker’s workshop and looked in with curiosity.
Various clocks and watches ticked almost in unison and brass cogs and screws lay in scattered organisation all over the tables. Apart from the noise made by the clockwork, the room was devoid of human life. “Aww, look at all this. A magpie could just come in and snatch something,” she whispered to herself. Picking up her skirts, she climbed in carefully. Thoughts of ‘getting’ something for a ‘trade’ were abandoned and Elouise gave into her childlike wonder of exploring the intricacies of clockwork.
She happened onto a particularly pretty half-completed cuckoo clock which had yet to gain a front covering and stared at it intently. She wanted so much to see the bird pop out of its little cave, but resisted pushing the clock’s hands together to the top of the clock face. Having seen all its working gears exposed made her reluctant to tamper with such a beautiful piece of machinery.
Her focus was so drawn to the tops of the tables and the walls she did not notice her boots stepping into a puddle of dark sticky substance flowing out from under a workbench. It did not help that the entire room itself smelled of oil and metal, and that the ticking of so many clocks drowned out the sound of her careful steps.
She reached a table littered with loose gears of a quality higher than anything else in the rest of the room, evident by the strict cleanliness of the area and noticed a large scorch mark on the wall behind it. It did not appear to be a mark made by fire, for it was sharp and contained to a line. Like a zap from a Tesla coil. Elouise frowned. Probably a soldering accident? The unison chiming of all the working clocks in the room made her jump suddenly and knock over a small stack of rags. Gunfire in the distance also sounded the end of Hugh’s promotional ceremony. Time to leave and meet up with Hugh in the square.
Elouise hastily bent to pick up the rags and noticed her footprints all over the wooden floor. Tracing her steps, she discovered the pool of blood coming from under the workbench by the window and a body of a man whose smoking, gaping hole in his chest confirmed his decease. Dropping the collected rags to her feet, Elouise began to scream.