Baker and Jones Ch. 19

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Ağu 31, 2023 // By:analsex // No Comment

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Chapter Nineteen

If the bullet had been aimed three inches to the right, and one inch up, it would have buried itself deep into Annette’s heart. Had Annette been the target, she would be dead in seconds. She would now be bleeding into the wooden planks and watching up at Cordelia’s face as the detective scrambled to unsuccessfully halt her demise. It would have been nearly impossible for a skilled shot to miss her from that distance. Indeed, anyone who possessed a basic level of training could end her life with little thought there, her only potential for salvation being the desperate hope of a misfire. But the gun does not misfire. Neither does it aim for her.

Instead, the bullet sinks deep into the chest of Mister Wemberly.

Annette follows little in the chaos that ensues. As the world around her suddenly and violently grapples with what has occurred, it becomes impossible to gain any accurate sense of what happens. A second gunshot fires out, somewhere behind Annette, only for a third to immediately follow it from in front of her. A second body thumps to the floor. All other noise is drowned out by the terrified and angered screams of the crowd around her, some giving in to anguish, some to aggression, some to terror.

The platform shakes as people attempt to clear the courtyard. Annette stays standing exactly where she has been, her body overcome with the miserable shock of knowing one could easily have ceased to exist a moment prior. And then a body tackles her to the ground. And then the scent of pine fills her nostrils. There’s a ringing in her ears that blocks out all of the shouting. She finds herself half-running away, the other half of her slung over someone’s guiding shoulder.

This continues for mere seconds before she’s off the platform, only to find the escaping crowd to be as vicious and tumultuous as a storm swell. She’s knocked back onto the ground and a boot kicks her face, narrowly missing an eye. Another shoe steps on her thigh and squeezes it with the force of someone running for their life, for survival. Someone’s hands scramble and tug along the back of her coat, and Annette finds herself lurching forward like a rag doll, snapped back and away from the parade of fear before her.

And then she is secluded up against a wall with another body atop her like a shield. Pine continues to fill her lungs, and for a moment it feels as though the scent is the only sensation confirming she is alive. Everything else just feels like a hollow electricity tingling inside of her. Even her newfound bruises couldn’t register in her mind. She remains this way for longer than she can understand, or maybe it was just a few seconds, until Cordelia is whispering in her ear:

“Are you hurt? Are you able to press on?”

Annette cannot respond except to shake her head.

“No, you’re not hurt? Or, no, you cannot press on?”

“I… I’m alright,” she heaves into the familiar crisp lines of Cordelia’s button-up. “Press on?”

“Failinis shot Patrick, and I shot at him to prevent him from striking his next target: you,” Cordelia explains, her voice leveled and deliberate. “He fled. If we are to end this in some way, we need to find him.”

Annette nods weakly into her shoulder and takes as low and deep of a breath as she can muster. It’s hollow in her chest, and the breath bottoms out far earlier than was typical, but the moment of relief provides just enough stability to function. “Where would he go? Not back to the Mallets, I assume.”

“I only saw the direction,” Cordelia pulls back slightly, her eyes scanning Annette’s face for any injuries that might be worrying. She looks modestly relieved. “Can you run?”

Annette pushes into her for a moment, first simply for the comforting pleasure of her warmth, and then to force herself into a standing position. The crowd continues flurrying about in the mush and ice around them but the bulk of them have exited the courtyard. It was no longer a guarantee one would be trampled if they attempted to move. Cordelia tosses her a curt nod and pulls her away in the direction she’d seen Failinis escape to. At first, Cordelia leaves her hand in Annette’s, allowing the woman to use it as a stabilizing guide. After a few steps it’s no longer necessary and the two of them slip through the crowd, shouting to one another in the noise as they go.

“Who shot Wemberly?” Annette hollers over Cordelia’s shoulder. “And why?”

“Woman, dark hair, cloak!” The detective calls back, a few feet ahead of her.

“Theories?”

“Failsafe for Failinis?” She shrugs. “Quite a quick response if you – stop!”

Cordelia halts abruptly, holding out her arms to prevent Annette from crossing past her. They’ve found themselves alone in an alleyway that opens out into a large street, and as Annette pokes her head out from behind the detective, it is quickly clear why she’d stopped. A line of police officers and military guards march against a rioting crowd, many of whom were fresh from the chaos of the courtyard. Afyon Escort What might have begun as a terrified scramble to escape has devolved into a street brawl with the cops, and Annette watches as one man’s fist crashes into an officer while another protester is beaten down with a baton.

“There they are,” Annette hisses.

“Lying in wait,” Cordelia muses back. “Wrong place, right time.” She peaks her head out and gazes over the battle emerging across the wide avenue. “Failinis would have come through this way.”

“So we’ve lost him.”

A gunshot sounds out from a few streets over, only to be met with the roar of something large collapsing to the ground, perhaps the overturning of a carriage. Cordelia’s head whips towards that direction, and Annette shudders to hear the calls of police whistles from another location even further away.

“I do believe that revolution may be at hand.”

Wrong place, right time.

“We may wish to make ourselves scarce,” Cordelia mutters. “It’s likely the police are considering anyone present in that courtyard as complicit.”

“I… I think I know where we need to go?”

“You know where Failinis would go?”

Annette shakes her head. “Can you bring me to Miss Blackburne?”

“Ah,” the detective bobs her head in approval. She gazes out over at the wall of police, her mind racing to the same connection Annette had just made. “Provided she isn’t caught up in this mayhem, at once.”

An older man is slammed to the ground down the street, an officer wrenching his arms back into a heavy set of shackles. The man doesn’t even continue fighting as he reaches the ground. Annette shudders at the possibility that it may have knocked him unconscious, or worse.

“Annette,” Cordelia releases a low breath, stepping into her field of vision and blocking the sight. “This is going to spiral far beyond anything we can control. You see that, I presume?”

She inclines her head slowly.

“I… do you intend to join this fight?” The detective asks her. “Or, put differently: Annette, are we furthering or ending a revolution? I need to know.”

“I’m unsure of where we stand at this juncture.”

“I have no wish to discourage your passions…” Cordelia tucks her hands into her pockets, a small glance passing over her shoulder to witness the scene around them once more. “But I… well…” She seems unable to find the words, and when she speaks again, she resorts instead into the tone of investigation, of logic. “It cannot have escaped your attention that this revolution will be dictated by the works of Barons and will be opposed by the Crown. There may not be a desirable outcome on either side.” She releases her breath, cautiously adding, “You need not say anything now. I only ask that you think upon what our place in all this may be.”

— — —

The home of Morrigan Blackburne, 227 Longwise Street, bears a number of similarities to the house Annette had come to call home a few neighborhoods over. It’s a three story townhouse, with suntanned bricks and a recently repaired roof. Its windows sport delicate white curtains to match the lilies planted in the front garden, and the door is a sleek and smooth wood. It rests in a row of homes that curve through Longwise Street, a few blocks further from downtown Bellchester than 167 Mill Street resides.

The two of them halt at the small wrought-iron gate that contains the garden and front walkway, and Annette does her best to ignore the faint echoes of conflict from behind them. Sometime during their careful match to Longwise Street, a few chimneys of smoke had begun to arise from downtown, and even more people were seen either storming towards or fleeing from the scene.

“Shall I knock, or should you?” Annette asks, her body still humming with warmth from the jog over.

“I may,” Cordelia shrugs. “Though, are we still not more concerned with locating Failinis at present?”

Annette releases a breath, pursing her lips so that the column of condensed air that leaves is tight and controlled. “If I am correct, Miss Blackburne may be invaluable in this endeavor.”

Cordelia nods and doesn’t question it. Annette appreciates that the detective seems to trust her impulses on instinct at this point. She slips through the gate and approaches the door, rapping the knocker against the sleek wood a few times to no response. “It is possible she is at work.”

“Then we break in,” Annette says simply.

“Do we?” Cordelia raises an eyebrow. “How fun.”

And less than a couple minutes later, the two of them are slipping through a back window whose lock has been meticulously broken by the detective. They arrive in the kitchen and find the layout of the home to match their own fairly similarly, except that it was mirrored. From this perspective, the kitchen is on the left of the home instead of the right, and the hallway towards the staircase is on the right. The interior is simple but well kept, neatly organized and freshly scented Afyon Escort Bayan in such a way that betrays Morrigan as a woman well adjusted to keeping her home in working order. Annette tosses a knowing smirk at Cordelia, which the detective doesn’t notice, and quickly decides that anything of note would likely be in the study two floors above them, assuming the layout continues to match their own.

The second floor continues the similarities, though curiosity consumes her in a way that it does not Cordelia, and while Annette stops to explore the second floor the detective continues on to the third. Annette creeps down the narrow hallway that matches her own, finding her way down to the simple door that would be where her own room had been, before she’d moved her things up to share a bed with Cordelia. Careful to keep her footsteps still and silent, Annette’s fingers grasp the doorknob and turn it open, tipping the door inwards enough to gaze into the room.

As she suspects, it’s remarkably similar to her own room, clearly set aside by the architect to fulfill the purpose of either a servant’s quarters or a child’s bedroom. Failing either, it would work as a suitable, yet small, guest room. But, while Annette expects it to be uninhabited, set aside for a potential guest, she finds the covers of the bed pulled back, a stray set of clothes dripping across the floor, and a variety of personal effects that suggest habitation. A brief foray into the room reveals only a single piece of identifying information about its resident: a simple journal, only a few pages filled in, signed by the name Rosette Cambell. She replaces it on the shelf where she finds it, then departs to join Cordelia on the third floor.

Annette steps inside the study and finds Cordelia rummaging through letters. She’s tossed one into the center of the otherwise organized desk and mutters, “Well, that’s one. I should have broken into her hom ages ago.”

“Pardon?”

The detective gives her a slightly smug grin. “Pemberly Exports secrets,” she explains and Annette smiles with her. “I’d not yet reached a critical desperation in that case to steal into her home.”

Annette joins in the search of the room, pulling open the drawers of the desk. She notices a small latch hidden in the back of the deepest drawer, and if pulled, it releases a fake wall at the back. Tucked neatly behind it are two revolvers, both well kept and polished, and a small assortment of ammunition. “Well, at least we know she’s prepared to defend herself,” Annette says aloud, directing Cordelia’s attention to the compartment.

“Another point in favor of the top theory,” the detective puffs, continuing to flick through the various opened letters in her hands.

Annette stands, setting the twin pistols atop the desk. “You think Morrigan was the gunman?” Then corrects a half-second later, “Gunwoman.”

“Dark hair, escapes notice, funny business with the police,” Cordelia recounts, then gestures to the recent finds. “Pistols, ammunition, not at home.”

“Interesting…” Annette tucks her chin towards her chest and buries her hands into her pockets as she thinks. She’d simply been curious to dig into learning more about Morrigan’s strange choice of words regarding the police in their first visit… the possibility that perhaps she was connected even more deeply presents a variety of troubling and fascinating scenarios.

Cordelia pulls out one of the letters and tosses it to the top of the pile. “She is to be at a meeting on Twelfth Street in an hour, provided the riots are not inhibiting it.”

“A lead, then,” Annette nods. “We should be on our way if we are to find her there-,”

“A moment,” Cordelia halts her, stepping forward to retrieve one of the pistols on the table. She flicks open the magazine and begins to slowly load it, each bullet sliding into place with the promise of destruction. She turns the handle around in her hand and offers it to Annette. “Boxing may not be enough out there.”

Annette furrows her brow. “I’m not sure I’d be willing to shoot someone.”

“Then hold it for me, at least. For my own sanity.”

She reads the look of concern in Cordelia’s eyes and relents, accepting it from the detective with an assuredness inside of herself that she would not turn it upon anyone.

— — —

The address leads the two of them to a dinner club on the north side of Bellchester. Rather than attempt to scurry their way through the brewing chaos of downtown, Annette and Cordelia make their way in a wide circle around the area, anxiously paying attention to the alarming sounds of a crisis escalating across the city. The midday greets a Bellchester falling apart, seemingly shedding itself at the seams with no signs of resolution in sight.

The two of them stop a block away, gazing at the presence of a half dozen police officers guarding the outside of the club, some of them at attention and watching for the potential riots to spill over into the area, Escort Afyon while a few others seem entirely unbothered. A pair of them smoke against the side of the building, chatting and laughing like the world wasn’t losing its mind a mile away.

“Another fascinating overlap between Miss Blackburne and the police,” Cordelia says in a low voice, leaning her shoulder up against a wall as she watches.

“Is it possible she works with them in some capacity?”

“Two women detectives in one city?” Cordelia challenges, her brow furrowing. “If true, I suspect I would have encountered her by now. And even so, why would the police shoot Wemberly?”

Annette pauses, relenting in the clearness of her logic. “How do we get inside?”

The detective rolls her shoulders. “I intend to ask nicely.” Annette frowns at her, to which Cordelia replies, “Truly.”

“I am a prominent member of the Mallets,” Annette reminds her.

“And I’m a bitch,” she shrugs. “I’m sure it’ll go well.”

And without another word, Cordelia marches forward, approaching the police line with a confidence and swagger that Annette would find very attractive if it were not trending towards a rash bravado in the present moment. She approaches an officer with her hands in the open to prevent suspicion of a weapon, and the two of them begin chatting. Annette quickly recalls the last time she allowed Cordelia to speak alone to a detective in an attempt to gain access to a space and marches forward to join her.

“- not to mention her,” the officer groans, an accusing finger pointing at the approaching Annette, “walking around uncollared, in trousers. What do you expect me to do, Miss Jones?”

Cordelia ignores his complaints. “Simply inform me if Miss Blackburne is inside, and then inquire if I might borrow a moment of her time. Is she here?”

“Yes-,” he sighs.

“Then allow us to see her. Or pass along a messa-,”

“I’m not a messenger,” he crosses his arms over his chest.

“Well, this is a more interesting message to deliver-,”

The door clicks open behind the officer, revealing Morrigan Blackburne’s head peeking out to witness them. She waves them into the club without a word. Annette moves past the officer without acknowledging him and she’s sure Cordelia has tossed a smug grin his way.

Morrigan brings them into the club, which seems to have been arranged into a makeshift center of operations. The usual dining tables have been pulled to the sides of the rooms, and a variety of officers mull about, maps and reports scattered across the tables. Annette briefly considers that the space doesn’t appear recently renovated in this way, that it seems as though it’s been set up for longer than just this morning. Miss Blackburne leads them to a side room, likely the former business manager’s office, and shuts the door behind the three of them.

Annette turns and faces her, sitting her hips against the desk in the center of the room. “We have a few questions for yo-,”

“Do you have the letter?” Morrigan asks quickly. She tucks her hands behind her back, commanding and confident.

Cordelia slips an envelope out of her jacket. “This one?”

“Excellent,” she tilts her head approvingly. “As expected.”

“Expected-?” Annette pips up, only to be interrupted once more.

“The trade secret was a gift, Cordelia,” Morrigan faces the detective, and Annette notes how remarkably different she seems compared to the woman they met at the Fleeting Faery. “Establishes goodwill. Don’t expect to uncover more.”

“I’ll not comment on the success or failure of the investigation.”

Morrigan smirks. “Did you take a pistol?”

Annette furrows her brow. “Another gift?”

“Excellent, very good to know,” she takes Annette’s words as confirmation, undisturbed in the slightest at their burglary of her home. Her gaze meets Annette, purposeful and direct. “Do you truly wish to end collar service?”

Annette meets Cordelia’s eyes and frowns. “What is happening-?”

“Do you wish it?”

“Yes.”

Cordelia nods. “I see.”

Morrigan moves past the two of them, pulling out the chair of the desk and sitting herself down into it. She lattices her fingers together and places her elbows onto the hardwood. “Do you understand, Cordelia?”

“I believe so, yes,” the detective nods, acquiring a chair for herself to sit down in. She gestures for Annette to sit as well and tells her, “You were correct. Forgive me for doubting you.”

“I am following none of this,” Annette complains.

“Noted,” Morrigan announces, as though cataloging it for later. “We share aligned goals,” she answers, “and I believe you now know enough from your investigations to help me with my goals. In return, I offer you yours.”

Cordelia runs a thoughtful hand along her jaw. “I’d not expected such cunning from a Pemberly.”

“Mr. Pemberly desires to conduct his business unhindered as before,” Morrigan replies, dispassionate and clear. “Violent revolution and the success of his competitor destabilizes this for us all, don’t you agree?” She provides a moment for her words to land, then turns to Annette and says, almost scoldingly, “And don’t say you support destabilization, Annette, this present scenario ends well for no one.”

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