Sitting back into his plush arm chair Jak finally allowed himself to relax, muscles un-tensing and his body sinking deeper and deeper into the plush cushions. Close to fifty quid made in a single night, his little spiders were finally getting good at their job, even if that little shit Liza nearly had ruined it all for them. Poor girl. She'd never seen someone being killed before, and after seeing how Rin so casually blew that strangers head from his shoulders Jak suspected Liza wouldn't forget it for as long as she lived.
Good. He thought. Let it be a lesson to her, those are the consequences of when we make mistakes.
But the night was over, the troupe were entertaining themselves around the city, most staying within their camp and lighting a fire with the clothes of the dead man, he could relax.
The door to his trailer swung open rudely. Only one person in this whole world knew him well enough not to knock before entering, this wasn't going to be good.
'I think we have to leave here before morning.' Rin said after she shut the door behind her.
Why was he always right?
'What?' he asked, keeping his eyes closed and hoping she might go away and leave him to relax. She didn't reply. Sighing, and despite his better judgement, opening his eyes Jak turned to look at her. 'Mother of Fuck!' Rin, so often well dressed and cared for, looked like a daemon of satan himself that had somehow managed to crawl out of the depths of hell and through the arsehole of London. Soaked in blood with bits of bone and brain matter clogging her hair like knots in seaweed, and pinched between her lustrous lips Rin sucked in great lungfuls of smoke from her cigarette. 'Those things will kill you one day.' Jak said deflated.
Rin didn't smile or laugh. She just walked over to his bed and sat on its edge, staining the white cotton sheets pink with the viscera of people, he hoped to every god on earth, were still alive.
'Rin, what did you do?'
'Defended myself.' she said, locking eyes with him. Emerald green meeting burgundy brown and sparkling silver. The lens pupil of her mechanical eye widening beside its natural twin to compensate with the candlelit atmosphere of his home.
'How vigorously?' Jak asked, his patience wearing thin. Sliding a hand up to the head of his cane and resting a thumb on the button beneath the cackeling and wailing masks of comedy and tragedy, the threat was a clear one to Rin. Who narrowed her eyes as a blade like smirk pulled itself over her face.
'Are you going to kill me Jak?'
'If you were anyone else I would have done so already.'
Rin snorted a dismissing laugh. 'You couldn't kill me.'
'If you keep telling yourself that my dear we might just have to find out one day.' he said, all humour and charm dropped now. He wanted to know what the fuck had happened! 'What, did, you, do?'
'Killed some men that tried to rape me.' she said smoothly, still burning her gaze into his eyes.
Slightly taken a back by that Jak faltered, his anger momentarily slipping into concern for his friend. He didn't need to ask her if she was alright, she wouldn't be here if she wasn't. 'How many?'
'I don't know. Four. Maybe five. And a pub.'
'I burned down the pub they were in.'
It felt like a stone fell through his stomach. Jak sank back into his chair, rubbing a hand across his forehead and clenching his teeth together angrily. This wasn't the first of Rin's murderous streaks, she was a broken soul, and those who were broken wanted nothing but to make everyone else like them. Jak couldn't pretend he'd never killed before, he had, hundreds of times across his life, but he could control himself better than Rin could. And he had foolish thought he could control her...clearly he was mistaken. 'So...you murdered several men, and then burned down the building?' he asked, not looking up at her.
'That's what I just told you.'
'Did anyone see you do it?'
'Did you leave anything that could be linked back to the troupe?'
'No.' she said, sounding like a bored child being told off by her parents.
'Did anyone see you leave?' Silence. Looking up at her Jak met her eyes again. 'Rin, did anyone see you leave?' again she didn't answer, but that was an answer in itself. 'What did he look like?' he said, gathering his coat and top hat.
'No, I'll deal with this.' Rin said, heading for the door.
'The fuck you will!' Jak shouted. 'You've done enough, if we're lucky, and that's a very large if! You might have gotten away with this, I don't like the state of this city anymore than you do Rin. But the docks are locked down and all roads out of London are closed, we can't leave! So, the best I can do right now is clean up your mess. Not for the first time I might add!' Jak said flicking the familiar heavy weight of his hat onto his head, squashing flat the off spears of hair that spiked out of his scalp with the build up of grease. 'What did he look like Rin?'
After a small pause, she relented. 'Six foot, amber eyes, curly brown hair, beard.' she said sharply. Turning on her heel and leaving his trailer, flinging open the door so hard it clattered against the wall and knocked over several of the little trinkets scattered over his desk.
'My thanks!' he shouted after her with a large smile. He hated getting his hands dirty.
Beneath the disgustingly brown skies of London Jak slipped passed the rest of the troupe and into the streets of London, but not before dropping into shadows of the back allies. Jak looked around for several moments, checking he was not alone, before putting his fingers beneath his tongue and whistling loudly. Two sharp bursts of noise followed be a third, longer, note. The best of his little spiders appeared out of the shadows not even a minute later, children of all shapes, sizes and ages, with only a single thing in common. They, like their teacher, were orphans, a few dozen amongst countless thousands. But what made these spiders special was they were Jak's, his eyes and ears across the whole of London. As always the youngest and least experienced stood at the front, while the older and more useful stood at the back, all eagerly waiting for his orders.
'There's a pub on fire, it can't be more than a few hundred feet from here, and there was a man there. Tall, with a beard, curly brown hair, he'll most likely look dazed or confused. I want him found.'
'Yes sir!' they all whispered before scurrying off in every direction, disappearing into the shadows.
Walking around in moderns times was thoroughly depressing. The plague bearers, robed and hooded figures who were charged by Parliament to search out signs for the sickness, prowled the roads and streets like rats. Their hooded faces forever observant, and that dreaded bell hanging from their waists. You heard that thing ring, you had two options, run, or kill yourself. Because being dead was far and away preferable to living in the quarantine zones. But, even with the plague so rife, people still wandered about. Some riding of their powered penny farthings, the small engine on its spine that powered the wheels belching out thick clouds of black foulness over the cobbles, infecting this city even more. Chimney stacks were as common as crows, especially so close to the docks, continuously belching viscous clouds laced with poisons into the heavens.
Was it any real wonder that this city was eating itself from the inside out?
It didn't take him long to find the pub that Rin had torched, the huge flames had attracted quite the crowd, which the bots of Scotland Yard kept a safe distance from the blaze. Their huge bodies held up by only a single wheel and a gyroscopic equilibrium, their metal faces cast in intimidating relief beneath the blue conical helmets welded over the control processes of its mechanical brain. Jak was careful to keep his distance from the bots and their owners, he was still a wanted man after all. He carefully scanned the crowd, wishing however foolishly that the man Rin had left alive was still here, but no one in the crowd matched his description. He had left. Jak knew he would, it was mans first instinct, when you witness a crime the first instinct is to run and hide and hope it all goes away, and Rin's boyfriend had done just that.
'Sir,' a gaggle of his spiders whispered from behind him. Looking down at them Jak smiled, one of them was Liza, the small girl that man back at the tent had nearly killed.
'Go on,' he whispered.
'He's on the bank of the thames, walking towards south-dock bridge.' she whispered to him, bright blue eyes sparkling in the light of the flames.
Jak smiled and rubbed the short locks of her blonde hair. 'Good girl. Call off the search and get back to the troupe.' he said moving away from them.
'We could help!' Liza shouted after him.
'Not this time.' he finished. The metal cap on the bottom of his cane striking the cobbles with a harsh click as he walked.
True to the words of his little spiders a man matching his description was stood in the middle of south-dock bridge, staring over its edge into the slurry coloured water of the river thames below. Checking to see if the coast was clear before heading down the bridge Jak walked as naturally as possible to not to spook the man into running, the last thing he needed tonight was a chase. Fifteen paces from his target Jak took his cane in two hands, the bronze mask of tragedy staring up at him as it screamed silently. He rested his thumb on the button. Six paces away. 'A nice night tonight,' he said, with a friendly smile and loud enough for the man to turn and look at him.
'Huh?' he grunted. Clueless eyes seeing Jak a moment before it happened.
The poor bastard never saw it coming. Pushing the button Jak ripped his sword free of its sheath in a heartbeat, and cutting the darkness like a silver dart, sliced it across the mans neck before sliding it effortlessly back into the cane-scabbard until it clicked into place.
Reaching up to his throat as blood poured from that ugly red grin the man gasped for words, desperately trying to pry the two pieces of skin together. Walking past him Jak barely broke his stride, slamming his shoulder into the mans side and sending him tumbling over the edge of the bridge. Cartwheeling arse over eyeballs the dying man couldn't even scream before he was consumed by the muddy waters at London's heart and sucked out into the English Channel. 'Yes,' smiled Jak. 'Quite a lovely night.' he said, strutting confidently over the bridge. The cackling of the comedy mask on top of his cane serenading his movements.