Mark of the Beast (Finale) – by P.K. Sullivan

Chapter 6 – New Beginnings

Written by P.K. Sullivan
Edited by Shelby Peterson

Lazlo BeckfordI returned to Samuel’s home and collapsed into bed shortly after dawn. The ordeal with the demon had taken us far into the night and afterward there had been an hours-long barrage of questions from the Guild and Scotland Yard. As I lay my head upon my pillow I swore I was done with mysteries, detectives, and adventures.

The next few days were spent quietly at home. The following Monday I resumed my schedule of interviews with companies around the city. The pattern of rejection continued for some weeks. An offer of employment came as a great surprise on Thursday morning. A textile company importing Egyptian cotton had a position for a thaumaturgist inspecting shipments. The work was steady and the pay was good. With luck it would lead to a more prestigious posting in a few short years. It all seemed frightfully dull.

On a whim, I paid a call to the Major’s to see if I might claim a spot in the baccarat game. Arthur greeted me at the door and led me to the parlour where I was announced. The Major’s mustache had grown even more animated since I had last seen him, if such a thing could be believed.

“Vijay, old boy! So good to see you! How are you?” The Major crushed me in a great bear hug. “Lazlo tells me you were quite the hero that night in the tunnels. Never would have made it out alive if it weren’t for you.”

“He exaggerates, Major. I’m sure Miss Whatley knew what she was doing. The two of them would have handled the demon without me.”

“Ha! Humble to the last, eh, Vijay? Nevertheless, I consider myself in your debt. Lazlo is very dear to me. I would hate for him to come to harm.”

“Will he be joining us today, sir?” I asked. “I had hoped to see him here. We haven’t had occasion to see one another since the incident.”

“As a matter of fact, I believe he shall. Here, have a glass of scotch and tell me your side of the story…”

It wasn’t long before Lazlo arrived with a rather rough looking dwarf, whom Arthur introduced as Ford Madison, and a halfling.

“Cadet Higginbothom, reporting for leave, sir!” The halfling saluted The Major.

“At ease, cadet. Loosen your tie and let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?”

That evening over cards the story of the demon in the tunnels was told and retold a dozen times. Ford sniffed at the mention of savate, asking, “all that kickin’ ain’t sportsmanlike, is it?” New embellishments and flourishes were added with each telling until it seemed that we had stood before an army of demons with nothing but our wits and courage. Lazlo hefted a fire poker as he reenacted his duel with the demon as Higginbothom played his fiendish opponent. My attempts to demonstrate Whatley’s savate were met with roaring laughter when I kicked over the table. The evening drew to a close as we all sat upon the couches and divans, bottles in hand, trading war stories.

Lazlo and I shared a cab the next morning, as no one had quite managed to leave that night. Much to my surprise he opened his wallet and handed me three one-pound notes.

“Here you are, Vijay. Your half of the proceeds from our heroics.” I stared at the money, too stunned to speak. “The way I figure it, I never would have stopped that demon without your help. My fee was six pound. You deserve half.”

“Thank you, Lazlo. That’s incredibly kind.” Tears began to well in my eyes.

“Kindness has nothing to do with it, Vijay,” Beckford said with a sly grin. “You see, I’m hoping that this taste of the detective’s life will convince you to be my partner. You were a great help to me and I have no doubt that a thaumaturgist’s skills will be invaluable in my career. With two of us, we can charge more for our cases. To save money we could even take a flat together.”

“You want to be partners?” I asked, somewhat befuddled. I like to blame the scotch and brandy from our evening debauchery. Lazlo just rapped upon the carriage wall.

“Driver! Change in destination. Take us to 24 Golden Square, if you please.” He turned back to me. “Absolutely. With you watching my back, there’s a much better chance that I live to find a wife and settle down.”

Before long the carriage pulled to a stop in Golden Square. The square itself was a beautiful garden lined by trees and cut with walking paths. In the distance I could hear a number of musicians practicing with open windows. No. 24 was a tall building and the flat Lazlo led me to was on the fourth floor. The stairway opened to a spacious sitting room with a large fireplace. Generous windows faced the park to the west and would let in ample evening light. There were two bedrooms off the sitting room and a small study at the back. The landlady was a widow by the name of Hardwick.

“What do you think, Vijay?”

“I think that you have a partner, detective. We’ll need to have cards made up: ‘Safidbhad and Beckford: Consulting Detectives’.”

“Oh, no, you don’t! I’ve been a detective longer,” Lazlo said as he shook my hand. “I get top billing.”

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