Warehouse Four was still under construction. All the walls and all the posts had been erected, it had electricity and plumbing all hooked up, but, it still lacked a roof. If one wanted to keep the rain outside it was an essential part of just about any building.
Strictly speaking, it wasn’t a major problem. Working through the rainy season meant one had to expect a deluge or two. And the warehouse had the proper drainage, so there was no harm. Any puddles after a torrential rain would soon evaporate. Rand, who didn’t actually work there was confident of that. So would the foreman have been, as well as the construction crew.
Rand’s blond mane was brushed back to his shoulders. His inquisitive eyes were a clean blue slate. And Rand was especially tall. Six feet to the nose. Though, surprisingly lank for his age. His doctor always said it was his energy and ultra-high metabolism; that he should eat more to stay in peak condition. Yet, no matter what or how much of it he ate, he burned through the fat and the muscle like it was nothing.
Early morning, the sun shone bright through cloud. And Rand was cheerful as ever on his way to work. He knew it was wrong to show pleasure in delivering judgement through mediation. But it was good news, and it looked as though it were shaping out to be a good day. That was reason enough to smile in the meantime. Even on the Outskirts.
Looking out from the Southwark banks, he saw the old City of London. In all its glory. Ruins. “So close now,” Rand said to himself with pride. In only a few short months, the city could finally expand across the river.
It had taken years to rebuild Southern Thames. Building new homes, new facilities. And evicting or assimilating the Derelict along the way.
Rand trembled slightly at the thought of them. The Derelict. A grubby and violent people. Dangerous people. Sick and deformed. Coming out at night, to fight and eat and revel in the filth and the waste on the surface. They were a people afraid of progress and morals and concepts like peace, unity, liberty and society. A selfish and ignorant people. They didn’t understand, we’re helping them. We’re healing. We’re rebuilding this city. It was a slow process but it was for the greater good.
Although he couldn’t see any of them at that time of day. Perhaps the sunlight hurts their eyes. They’ve hurried back underground. Retired to the tubes, and the ruins. The ruins of a tower, a cathedral, a gherkin! And even a ship wrecked in the river called the Belfast.
Rand chuckled at the thought of his ancestors having built a giant pickle.
“Good morning,” said Rand to the construction crew, who were as happy to give the same greeting. As he strode alongside them, he said to the labourers, “Good morning, Hyatt. Good morning Young.”
Rand wore a crimson uniform which contrasted starkly from the greys and blacks of the construction crew. And though they wore padding fitted with a highly reflective strips of neon orange, Rand stood out enough that the foreman could find him.
“Good morning, Rider,” said Foreman Valley, with perhaps a bigger smile and twice as many teeth. Massive white teeth which glowed compared to his dark complexion and his sooty hair.
Errol Valley was a healthful soul, even though he was older now, past his prime. Whatever he lacked in vim he made up for with verve and drive and focus. And he was a responsible worker too. Ever mindful of the welfare of his subordinates as well as his friends.
“Good morning, Valley. It’ll be a nice day today, won’t it,” Rand replied. And the two men walked and talked.
“I think it will.”
“Plenty of work to be done.”
“Oh yes. The rain can’t keep us forever. Will you be talking with Knox for long today?”
“Not at all. Dryden said he no longer holds a grudge, and Knox’s initial apology is enough; mediation is no longer necessary. I’m just here to tell Knox the good news.”
Coming upon the warehouse entrance, Foreman Valley typed in the eight digit passkey, and then the open code to let everyone inside to start the day’s work, and prevent the doors from closing.
Soundlessly the gate slowly yawned, and the daylight behind the construction crew began streaming in. Reflecting off the plashets still to dry.
Then the conversation, and chit chat stopped, as every soul outside the site turned their eyes inward. Not at what remained of the rain, but the shape sprawled out on the floor in the centre of the warehouse. And those eyes grew wider and wider as they realised exactly what that shape was. With seconds more, exactly who the shape was.
Everyone drove into the warehouse like cattle. Concern wrought into their faces.
Rand and Foreman Valley arrived at the body first, checking for vital signs, trying their best to not focus on the gruesome scene before them. For a heartbeat; a pulse. A breath in the man’s lungs. Though there was none to be found.
The construction crew looked on in shock. The accident alone was enough to repel people. But the manner in which the body lay dead, and that so much blood soaked through him made some go silent, some cry, and others pale as Wendell. Wendell Knox.
Pallor notwithstanding, it wasn’t hard to identify him. They had all worked together long enough, they couldn’t forget his face.
“Poor Knox. Poor Wendell.” Valley wiped away a tear. “He was a good man. Strong, smart. And he was always thorough.”
Foreman Valley turned away, like most of the others rumpling their faces. Already denying that their colleague, their friend had in fact died. That it must be someone with a similar mug so that the pain of their loss would hurt far less.
Alternatively, Rand stared down the corpse. For some inexplicable reason he was unphased to be in the room with it. Never mind the smell. Never mind the blood. Never mind that he hadn’t had the misfortune of seeing a dead body prior to then. He was curious. Intrigued even. He wanted to know what could have caused such a tragic accident.
“Randall,” Foreman Valley said informally and putting a hand on his arm, “step back, son. Let’s give it some room.”
Rand nodded. Rising from the floor, he noticed he had stepped in a pool of red liquid. Wendell’s blood diluted by the rain.
Though, as Randall tread a few paces away out of respect, he couldn’t help but stare and wonder. Focusing on the how. He looked to the obvious wounds. The gash to Wendell’s knee. And the deep slash across his neck. Then he looked about the warehouse at what may have done the damage. He thought perhaps it was a piece of protruding wood or metal? Or even some sharp and unsuspecting length of plastic? But nothing as such could be seen nearby. That the answer wasn’t staring back at him, was vexing.
“How did he die?” Rand asked himself, muttering.
“What was that, Rider?”
“I didn’t quite hear you. I thought you said something.”
“Oh yes. I was just… wondering how Wendell could have died.”
The foreman sighed, and wrapped a thick arm over Rand’s shoulder. In a reassuring tone he said, It’s the shock I think. Hmm? Is this the first time you’ve seen… a body?”
“Unfortunately, this is third person I’ve seen die in an accident. In my profession, accidents happen. Accidents that sadly cost people their lives.”
Rand didn’t find the foreman’s words particularly comforting or reassuring. Nor did he find them enlightening. As it was, Rand was relaxed, and had already accepted that Wendell was dead. His grief had been brief, which was a wonder of it’s own, but not which held his attention. In fact, the foreman’s consoling only brought up more questions. And dissatisfaction.
Why had Wendell been here? Either so late after or so early before his shift? And during a storm? When curfew was in effect? The whys of the matter. Why? And despite the harmlessness of these questions, these ones made Rand’s stomach turn. The feeling in his gut was ominous. Was this an accident?