After a brief lunch, he commenced his walk back home. It was raining steadily, and the temperature began to drop as morning turned to afternoon. By the time he reached the South Caligard Street Bridge, his clothing had soaked through and was sticking uncomfortably to his skin.
The bridge was busy, packed with Brysailors making their midday commutes. Seymour knew he ought to keep his wits about him in a crowd like this, but he couldn’t stop his mind from wandering as he allowed the living tides to shunt him along. If Cawker’s story was fabricated, what could he have hoped to achieve by inventing something so strange?—unless, of course, he was using some form of reverse psychology to get what he wanted. The detective hadn’t been especially impressed by the level of intellect that the suspect had displayed, but that could have conceivably just been good acting on his part.
Seymour was lost in reverie when, abruptly, something large and black flew by in front of him, mere inches from his face, startling him so badly, his heart must have stopped for a second or two. He stumbled to the right hand side of the bridge, out of which the raven had just departed, and stopped, leaning on the railing to recover from his scare. Below him, the Murkintir River crept slowly by as the bird winged away over it, growing smaller and smaller until Seymour’s eyes could no longer distinguish it from the broad, brown sprawl of the city.
A raven. Why did it have to be a raven? He had been faking sickness earlier in the day, but now Seymour actually felt as if he might vomit. Cawker’s tale about the mysterious supernatural raven woman swirled in his brain like the dirty grey eddies in the river below. Surely it had to have been a coincidence. There were ravens all over the city. Crows, too. Perhaps it had just been a crow. A very large crow. Just a coincidence. He was being paranoid.
Taking a deep breath to settle his nerves, he turned back to the road to continue on his way. Then he stopped. He blinked. He looked left and right. The bridge, which had been bustling moments before, was now completely and utterly vacant.
Now he knew he must be dreaming. Closing his eyes, he pinched himself, hard, on the arm. Then he inhaled, exhaled, and opened them again. He was still standing on the bridge, and it was still deserted. Except—
Except there was someone else there, too. A small figure, climbing up onto the opposite railing about twenty yards along from him. A child.
Seymour’s feelings of dread instantly transferred from himself to the small being across the bridge. A protective instinct, unlike anything he had ever felt before, welled up inside him. He had to do something.
“Hey!” he shouted, running toward the figure. “Wait!”