John R. White is the author of the Airship Neverland series of steampunk fantasy novels. This story, The Inspector, is a new, previously unpublished work representing some of the back story of villain in the series’ third book, TALES OF THE AIRSHIP NEVERLAND Volume III: DUST AND ASH.
The Inspector, by John R. White
The communique had arrived at his Scotland Yard office at fifteen minutes after the hour of ten in the morning. Inspector Hanson would address and review it as soon as he had managed all the work up to that time, and not a second before. Hanson placed into his letterbox, which was arranged by the posts time of arrival. Hanson found chaos useless and counter-productive to the man’s work.
The Inspector was thirty-six and unmarried. In point of fact, he had never been betrothed, nor did he date, as women found his obsessive-compulsive nature distressing and the man entirely unpleasant. Delacorte Hanson found that quite acceptable because romantic relationships required too much useless and time-consuming activities. Pitching woo, attending shows, and such like would be the downfall of civilization to his mind.
Noon arrived, and the proper gentleman ate his lunch at his desk. It consisted of a dried pork sandwich, two hard-boiled eggs, and cold tea. At twenty minutes after noon, he read the message.
Inspector D. Hanson Scotland Yard—Stop
Your presence required Gladesville Asylum—Stop.
Endeavour City, Walkabout Island Post Haste—Stop
Premier George Reid—Stop
Dystopia Desires Appeal—Stop
Inspector Hanson stood up, promptly walked to his private loo, and retched.
The following day Inspector Hanson stared at his steamer trunk and proceeded to re-inspect (For he had already reviewed the case twice) a third and final time. The trip was to be an obscenely long one. He would have to take an airship from Kensington to Rome, another from Rome to Cairo, which after a restock of supplies – to include replenishment of Aetherium gas – would fly across Palestine and Arabia to the Port of Columbo, Brytish Sri Lanka. From there, it would require two weeks at sea to strike shore at Geraldton, Walkabout Island. And then five days in the air to land in Endeavor city. As he closed his trunk, he called for his man to take it, and the three other portmanteaus and load them in the waiting lorry.
Three weeks of travel lay ahead of him in which he would have to work his courage up to face the Countess Dystopia.
Dystopia— a razor-edged rose that cast seeds of crimson and madness.
Dystopia— the madwoman of Pittlewell.
He had not been there at the scene of the crime. He had not been there to look upon the mutilated bodies of her family, shredded human tissue lying upon decorative Christmas tissue, nor had not been required to witness the carnage. Still, the inspector, tasked with interviewing her, would subsequently be appointed as her solicitor, for Hanson was a rare breed, a barrister who was also a psychologist.
Hanson slid into the backseat of the air lorry. He thanked the footman and gave a gratuity to both he and his batman. Hanson had earned his stripes as a barrister working for his majesty’s forces. Feeling the craft lift, then quickly followed by the sound of the steam-driven propeller, he closed his eyes for the quarter-hour to the Airship launch.
It would seventeen minutes after scheduled departure time that Hanson watched as the Coast of Bryton receded. He was not one of those given to frivolity and did not join the guests waving out the windows; instead, he settled his personal items in his cabin—the task would consume seventy-six minutes until he was satisfied. Peckish, he did move down the corridor to find the dining facilities, and as he was captive to the slow shuffling of Chronos’ feet, he allowed himself a sumptuous repast, to include three Gaulish pastries. The wine was agreeable. Once finished, he took up a vacant seat in the lounge, and reaching down, pulled out his files. As he laid them on the pristine and immaculate table, he opened the worn tan cover and read. He absent-mindedly rubbed his left fingers.
December 25, 1859.
Prittlewell, Essex. Bryton.
It was Inspector Lestrade that was the chief inspector of the case. The Young lass called Cecily had taken the occasion of the birthday of the Messiah to refashion her toys into tiny mechanical automatons with which to murder her family; the sole failed to target his innocent sister. The house burned to the ground by the time they found the young Countess Hartwicke and her sister Katherine. At the time, Katherine was a wounded lass of just eight years old. Contrarily, her thirteen-year-old sister was unscathed. The local bobbies knew her well, for she already had many encounters with the law; all of them, mayhem.
Repeated accused of the torture of animals, (under the guise of helping to create medical tools for her father, a physician) to date, she remained cleared of all charges.
Twice she was a person of interest in ‘accidental’ deaths where, once more, the charge dismissed as an accident. One of those occasions thirty children, two nuns and a rector died. It was not until that dark Christmas that she was proven to be the psychopath she was. It had been Hanson’s task to prepare a defence for her, but also to discover why she was the way she was.
Evil is not a disorder of the mind; it is a disorder of the soul. People are born into the world with their hearts as clean a slate as is possible. A child, Hanson felt was as perfect a thing in the universe as could exist. Yet that clean slate is black as coal. Dystopia had been born such a child, and somehow her pristine soul was corrupted early.
“Why,” He had asked the straight-jacketed lass as he sat across from her in her prison cell. “Why, do you murder? What reason can justify this?”
Cecily, her hair all akimbo and wild looked up at the man. Her face was dirty; her lips chapped, and yet her eyes were as sharp as flint. She leaned her head back and laughed—a high disturbing cackle.
“They say that mankind arose from lesser beings; that humans are now the pinnacle on the mountain of change and evolution,” Cecily looked at him as she leaned across the table. “But, Master Hanson, I don’t think so. You know what I think is in charge, the true master of this world?” The girl was not a fool or a child. The person sitting across from her was far older than her flesh.
Hanson shook his head,” I have no idea.” Hanson scribbled madly with his pen and ink. “Why don’t you tell me?’
Dystopia moved her shoulders to and fro while nodding, and then stopping, looked up. “Disease. And you know how it always wins. It gets inside you, and slowly murders you bit by bit, tearing down every healthy bit of your body,” Cecily tittered. “You proper people want to build a world, a utopia for you upright gents. I think it would be far more fun to watch your haven of righteousness, and all of you dumb walking leaves and sticks burn.” She smiled and closed her eyes, mouthing silent words. Hanson stopped writing and looked up sharply.
“You’re mad. You want all of your countrymen to die?” The thought made him ill.
“Don’t you understand, sir? Everything burns in the end, and I want to be the one who struck the matchstick.”
Fleet Street Dubbed her ‘Countess Dystopia’, although the woman possessed a provenance of nobility, nothing about her demonstrated dignity, wit, or sagacity. On the day of her trial Hanson, as her solicitor, could only try to save her life and the only means with which that was possible was to have her remanded to an asylum as far away from the sensitive and fearful Kings subjects. Hence; Walkabout Island.
The long days of travel quickly grew tedious. Hanson had taken to sunning himself on the air deck. Here the potted plants, tables and pianos remained affixed in position. The guests were required to be tethered to safety posts. Should one elect to fall, there was no safety of the sea to catch you. The cry of ‘Man overboard’ was a proclamation of bereavement, yet none of that concerned Inspector Hanson. He had served on the front lines of Hooker’s rebellion at the siege of Bryton.
His battalion tasked with maintaining a bulwark against the oncoming she-pirates and traitorous bastards. Master Sargent Delacorte Hanson had ordered his men to be fully ready and equipped. To a man, Hanson had provided cartridges, a clean pistol and rifle, bayonet and sword. Nothing had been overlooked; nothing but being assigned a fool for a Commander. The Leftenant convinced the men that the invasion to come would be a laughable incursion, easily smitten. The man couldn’t have been more wrong.
The House of Pan fell in one day; the Kings navy annihilated and sent scurrying like cowed dogs. Why? Because the main bulwark, his lads were led astray and took to arms undersupplied, and overconfident.
That incident was way Inspector Hanson vowed never again to enter any confrontation anything less than entirely prepared for any eventuality.
No one was sure how old Jiemba was, for the man was known to have been employed since Gladesville had been called the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum. He was an Aborigine, and his skin was as purple as a grape. The man’s hair shorn close to his head, and unlike many other men, he wore no beard and rarely even wore a shirt. Usually, this would have cause to be frowned upon, but Jiemba was counted as shrewd. Beards and clothes, he had taught the staff, are easy for madmen to grab. Far better to suffer a scratch or bite, then to be held to the ground. It took two dead white men before Jiemba’s words counted as wisdom. From that moment on if the staff saw Jiemba walk-in in a loincloth, they would say nothing. Jiemba knew this, and quietly revelled in the fact that the pale people could be taught.
‘Jim’ had a current apprentice by the name of Alexander Hamilton Gibbons, a freed American slave. The man was a half-giant of a man, well over two meters in height, and weighed in at over 20 stones. The man had left his home to build him a better future. His optimism would not earn him any reward.
Today was the task was to feed the only patient in the Black Ward. Jiemba had the trolley which they had taken from the kitchen. It was cold soup in a deep bowl, rolls, and a leather wineskin filled with water. The walk from the kitchen down the long hall took four minutes and thirty-six seconds. Jiemba had done this for several years now and could stop dead with his eyes closed, and still tell Gibbons exactly what markings, stains or cracks resided on either side of him.
As the came to the end of the hall, Gibbons moved forward to the giant iron door and slid the toothless key marked “Black Ward” into the lock, and then, slipping it sidewise to the right, pushing up slightly and then twisting it felt the magnetized teeth affix. The door announced with several clicks, and then a yawn that the door was now unlocked. The American removed it and pulled on the handle where it opened up into the Critical Ward located of building 30. Passing another portal, they arrived at the observation room for the only patient in this department; Cecily Hartwicke, the Countess Dystopia. The titan of an orderly hand’s trembled as they moved int the central control room. As Jiemba pushed the cart in, he saw that there was a single metal door between the present staff and the woman, not of his dreams, but his nightmares. There were two nurses and one doctor present.
“How is she doing today?” The chief orderly inquired.
Very well behaved. Seems she been listless since you took your holiday. I think she missed you.” One of the nurses spoke sincerely. She refused to bath herself until today. I think she cleaned herself up for you.
“I think she fancies you, Jim,” the doctor laughed.
Jiemba looked to his trainee. “Don’t you listen to that none. Only thing Dystopia fancies is getting out. Don’t believe her any, don’t tell her anything and never take your eyes off her. You remember that you’ll be okay.”
The airship made its second successful dockage in Cairo. They would have a twelve-hour holdover, the time required to vent the old lifting gas; Aetherium; Aetherium being the gas found in the void of space between planets. It broke down slowly, but as it did it tended to become denser and colder, actually pulling the gas chambers inward running the risk of the airbags tearing apart. Thus, when the gas warmed, it was then expelled, and only then could the lining be checked and replaced with a fresh batch.
Hanson had no desire to take an aerial tour of Cairo as many of the upper-class did. No, the man wanted to be down in the trenches, as it were. The city offered sights, sounds, and tastes that teased his palette. The city ran far more efficiently run than expected. The masters of Egypt maintained order well, and the main bonework of Cairo remained organized and well-controlled. He knew that to go into the market was to submit himself to disorder, but there was a bookshop that he heard tell of and he wished to visit it. It took a bit of spatial orientation to prevent too much meandering, but he was pleased when he found the store. Unobtrusive and covered with the orange grey grit of the city, a meat-stand practically concealed the tiny store. To get to the store purchased a bit of meat on a stick for two Pence. The meat was rather pleasing and tasty. He would be sure to buy more on his return to the airship.
Once inside, Hanson discovered that the small façade was an illusion, as it were, for upon entering, he saw that the entrance was to but a morsel of the store’s meal. Thousands of books filled the wall shelving, stacks of dusty tomes formed obelisks of literary delight. The owner, sat behind a stone desk, concealed by yet again piles of scrolls, manuscripts and clay tablets. The shop keeper was an antiquity herself. In Mohammedan society, he knew certain sects minimalized women to the back, but he was in no position to argue because it was a sin not limited to the Ottomen. He bowed his head and spoke to the woman in her tongue.
“Madam, I am seeking a book, a rumoured one, to be sure. Nevertheless, it was written by the Greek physician Asklepios. It was his treatise on the mind and madness.” The older woman stared at him as if he were of a broken mind himself. Nodding, she picked up a cane and descending from her chair, motioned him to follow. Hand-inscribed six hundred years before Christ, the text was a mere millennia old, and cost the Inspector a scant two hundred pounds sterling. The yard would not reimburse him, but again Hanson would not meet the woman without every weapon at his disposal. He had to be prepared for this woman, the Law required that she was allowed to speak with him alone, with no prying ears about them. That was exactly what she requested; a meeting with her attorney in privacy to appeal for release.
Jiemba, to Gibbons great relief, went in first. It was his job to control the patient, now eighteen years of age. The Countess resided in a round vaulted room. Her bed, as were all the furniture were crafted from stone which outgrew form the floor—the entirety of the place built from granite blocks, each weighing several tons. Dystopia was forbidden from possessing anything that could be construed as a weapon; a significant challenge when it came to be managing her care and feeding.
It was an unpleasant existence for any living creature, and Jiemba, a Torres Strait Islander knew what it meant to be cast aside and marginalized. The pity he felt for the woman did not, in any way, the negate the knowledge that she was more vicious than any snake out in the outback.
He stood at the top of the six-foot-high ramp, the lead to the observation deck. The orderly saw the woman sitting with her back to the round walls of the cupola.
“Hello, Jiemba,” she smiled.
The Englishwoman was of moderate height and slight of build. She had tried the first time meeting the dark man to seduce him by showing her not unimpressive assets. She was madwoman or not, quite beautiful. Her efforts failing, she then decided to try and attack him physically. On that day she had feigned sleep, but in truth was coiled snakelike in the corner and when he came with the hated jacket, she sprung at him all nails and teeth. She landed a few impressive blows and one painful bite on him before Jiemba grabbed her by the back of her neck and faced her away from him. Then he softly and kindly informed her that if she did not behave herself, he would, somewhat regretfully, be forced to bounce her head a few times on the wall. The Countess did not believe him, and when she woke up in the jacket being hand feed her meal with tongs, she vowed to behave herself, which she did, for the most part.
“I see you have a friend, or perhaps he’s your son?” Dystopia sat on her stone bed; a solid piece of thick leather – her blanket. “Do you have a name my good man?” She looked at Gibbons. The new orderly looked at Jiemba, who shook his head indicating he should not give it.
“You can call me Orderly, ma’am,” He pulled the covering cloth off the food.
She said nothing and looked at the table. “So, what are we trying today?” Dystopia sat where she was and saw that the food was on a dark dense material. “You see Orderly, I am not at all well behaved. So far, my serving containers are very challenging for them. Clearly Jiemba has known that glass, china, and ceramic are off the list. Paper won’t do; everything gets soggy. metal won’t do. I proved that very quickly when I killed my first orderly.”
Alexander looked at Jiemba with wide frightened eyes.
“Oh yes, you see they thought that if they used a very hard metal bowl that there was no way I could cause mischief in one day. No spoon, no fork: Just two bowls one for my food, and one for my drink,” She smiled wickedly at Jiemba. “You see he was sick,” She pointed at the man. “So, they sent in one of the doctors. He hadn’t been there long, and I was very good and quiet so when he came into feed me, foolishly alone,” She lifted her hands apart. “I walked over to look at my food, and I gave him something to look at. “She giggled. “And when he took a peek, I smashed the two books on either side of his head.” She made a boom sound. “he was so very, very, dead, and now,” She sighed. “So, they know that steel won’t do.” The Patient was twenty feet away from him, the full diameter of the room.
She looked at the new orderly. “Well, we know glass, china, and ceramic vessels are off the list. Paper won’t do, metal won’t do.” She sighed, then smiled.
“However, I’ve been very good for a while because for the last year they have only served me on waxed paper.” She shot fluttering eyelashes at Jiemba. “So now, young orderly, because I’m being good, they are letting me have dishes again. So, what are we trying now Jiemba?”
“Ironwood, and you going to have to slide these bowls through that new slot in the door when you’re done. Only way you will get any new food served.”
“Oh, how lovely,” She smiled and threw a look of humorous cynicism.
“Speaking of which,” Jiemba looked for her last meal containers. The giant of a man saw that saw that the debris of her last meal sat crumpled up in the middle of the room, when it was supposed to be at the bottom of the ramp.
“Now Countess, you had better not be aiming to have create any mischief today. Why is your paper all the way out there? You know if you cause trouble, they going to put you in the coat again, or worse. They going to throw you meat out the door hole, where you can eat it like a dog. You’ll have to get water from the shower hole as well. Now I’m going to ask you that you turn and face the wall and kneel.”
Dystopia looked down sadly. “It was just a mistake. I forgot because my guest is coming.” Dystopia obeyed and did as told. Jiemba didn’t run, but he moved with haste, retrieving the waste papers and scraps.
“Now whose coming to see you?” Jiemba laughed.
“My Solicitor. He’s coming to see me.” She turned her head away from the wall, looking at the two men. “So, I have to be very, very good now.” She looked at Gibbons and blew him a kiss. “You sleep well of me,” She pulled down her you to partially reveal her right breast. “Dream of me.”
Alexander Gibbons had fled the slavery of the South, gained his freedom and as a show of gratitude joined the Union and fought in his nation’s wars experiencing some of the bloodiest hand to hand fighting a man could see. Now staring at the she-devil before him, was the first time he ever felt true terror.
Much to the staff’s surprise Dystopia remained very well behaved returning her bowls at the end of every meal, with the exception that she would occasionally fall asleep at night and wouldn’t return the bowls until morning before she broke her fast.
Inspector Delcourt Hanson studied every aspect of lunacy, madness, and deviant behaviour he could find on his trip; much he had read before but the new material, such as the tome he obtained in Egypt, helped bring some new insights. Insanity was not a new human condition, but even problems could arise to upset the present.
After a great many sunrises and sunsets, the Inspector disembarked from the airship. He moved carefully across the small catwalk bridge and then down through the terminal tower. He was briefly inspected by the immigration agent who ascertained that the tourist would not be bringing any more unpredatored animals, the Citizens of Walkabout Island having had their fill of Billbys and rabbits that threatened ecological collapse. As the Inspector cared not for pets, he passed through quickly.
Hanson had not slept at all well, as such he yawned mightily and permitted himself an expresso with his breakfast while he waited for the driver form the Ministry of Law. The meal consisted of eggs, smoky bacon, grilled tomato and mushrooms. Sated, he checked his timepiece and then looked for the governmental vehicle. The wait was not long, and the motorized coach pulled up with flags flying. The driver stepped down from the outer bench and seeing Hanson, he shook his hand and loaded his kit onto the carriage top. As Hanson entered the cab, he saw the Premier sitting inside, black drawn curtain concealing him to the public.
“An Honor sir, Hanson removed his hat as he took his seat. To what do I owe this personal honour?” The governor reached into a valise and handed the paper to him.
“The Solicitor General has reviewed the patient’s petition for appeal. By law, the woman is entitled to make such a plea personally to the High Court. If it was to proceed beyond that to the Crown—,” The man shook his head. “Regrettably, since the woman was jailed as a child, she is now entitled to make such an appeal. The Solicitor General has ruled stating that since she has had three years of proper behaviour, said appeal must be in open court.”
“I am aware,” Hanson handed a file back to him in riposte. “I have crafted her requested appeal papers, and you will find them here.”
“I’m sure they are all in proper order. That, however, is not my concern. A great many Amicus briefs – friends of the Court actions as it were, have been filed demanding Dystopia’s freedom.” The Premier lit a cigar and then blew the match out. “Clearly, they do not know the Countess as we do.” He smiled dourly. “What I need from you is to document that the woman remains a public menace. Her medical records are of course a matter of privacy, but as you are both her solicitor and her psychologist, I would ask you to provide me with the information I need to keep her locked up.” “As an Agent of the court—,” The Premier held his hand up. “I know, I know. But you are also a human being and are fully aware that this woman is dangerous. If you can do this favour to the Colony, a great many members of parliament and I will petition the King to invest you Knight Commander of the Victorian order.”
A knighthood? Hanson blinked, and then took a deep breath. “I can make no promises. But rest assured if there is the slightest chance of her being a threat to herself or the public, I will inform you in writing.”
The Politician nodded, and then pulled a bell chain which prompted the driver to take them to their next destination, which was the Premier’s residence, where he would disembark. The driver would continue with his task of delivering the Inspector to his destination at Gladesville.
The campus was pleasant, as asylums go that is. Hanson had not been here since she had transferred out of Bryton. It seemed that several monarchs means of pruning weeds was not to burn them off but to transplant them elsewhere. Hanson had no real opinion on that, but if pressed would have to concede that it was not the most civilized of means of dealing with one’s troubles.
Hanson took a deep breath and entered the main desk and showed them his credentials only to detect a look of awe, if not pity from the secretary.
“This way sir,” She motioned and led him in stone silence to a section of the campus labelled the Black Ward. Hanson held his valise before him unwittingly like a small bulwark, against a relentless tide. The woman rang a bell, at which point a huge brown man met him. The man’s name pin identified him as Alexander. Hanson handed him his card.
“You the Lawyer?” The man’s accent marked him as an American. The orderly motioned him to follow.
“Yes, I am Ms Hardwicke’s legal counsel. I trust that preparations have been made for our meeting?” The passed through a rather lengthy corridor, to the end where a locked door resided.
“Yes, Sir”, Hanson observed that his hand was trembling as he unlatched the door. He dropped the key once; the orderly’s palms sweated severely. Gibbons realized that the guest had noticed this and flushed in shame. “I’m just a bit nervous, sir. I lost the wager, and well I have to escort you to her.” The outer door opened. Gibbons moved to the sidewall and began to hand crank a winch which lifted a solid slab of metal; far from just being a door, it was a ten-centimetre thick barrier. Inside was a busy observation deck, were two nurses, a burly Indigenous man armed with a Billy club. Beyond the medical team, Hanson saw the third and final door that separated civilization from a demon of but ten and eight years. Walking over and looking out the window he saw that she was sitting at a table wearing manacles, manacles which despite the Lady Dystopias protestations, Hanson had said must remain affixed. He shook in his shoes slightly; and was embarrassed, because he was an officer of His majesties court and should possess more composure than the orderly.
“No call to be embarrassed. We all afraid of her. Only old Scratch ain’t afraid of her.”
He watched as the nurse picked up from the floor, adjacent to a whole in the door his client’s half-eaten sandwich on a wooden plate. They inspected the dish and noticed that it was slightly damaged. The head nurse shook her head, sighing.
“So even Ironwood won’t do.” The second nurse checked a clipboard.
“Look into Galalith,” said their new guest. “It’s similar to wood but synthetic.” The nurses turned to him and stared. The guest clutched his valise and drummed his fingers. “May I speak to the lass now?” He wanted this matter over and done.
The nurses look at Gibbons, who nodded.
Sir, I’m going to explain some things. So, you listen up, ok?”
“Outside the door, there is a button. You push that and bang on the door. The light in the hallway will tell us to come get you. It will take at least a minute to get back through the doors.”
“What do you mean come back?” Hanson shook his head.
“We have to be outside the observation deck when she has a direct guest; the law says sir”, Gibbons answered. Hanson took a deep breath.
“Is there at least a speaker so I can call you if needs be?”
The head nurse interrupted, shaking her head. “We…we took it out, Milord.”
“Whatever for?” Hanson seemed shocked.
“She…she would talk to us.” The nurse positively shuddered. “She would say things…evil things. One of the nurses— she went mad.” Her eyes begun to tear from sheer dread.
“Ten minutes,” The tall man said, changing the subject. With that, Hanson frowned and reaching into his coat produced a wax-sealed letter then handing it to the man whose nametag said Jiemba.
“The Premier says otherwise. I may remain as long as I like.”
The older man shook his head. “I don’t think you understand. Ten minutes is all we’ll think you’ll last in there.” With that, the nurses curtsied and fled.
Not left, but fled, Hanson, observed. Jiemba shrugged apologetically.
Gibbons looked at Jiemba, who nodded. “I’m going to unlock the door, and when lock it after your in. After that, we will retire to the other side of the liftgate. We will look for your light, sir.”
The Inspector shook his head nervously.
Jiemba unlocked the door, Hanson took a deep breath and stepped inside.
“I’ll say a prayer”, Gibbons whispered. He stepped in, and the door cell door closed behind him with the sounds of locking gears.
“Hello Inspector,” Dystopia rose with a broad pale smile.
That was when he realized that all of his preparations were useless. Nothing anyone said or believed was adequate to handle the madness in that smile or her outstretched right hand.
Fifteen and one-half minutes later, the hall light flickered.
“Lasted Longer than I thought,” Jiemba spoke as he unsealed the door. Gibbons and the nurses entered, with Jiemba coming last.
Gibbons and his supervisor went to the door, unlocking it when a high shrill wail came from one of the nurses, who was looking in through the thick glass deck window.
“Oh my god…” Then the woman swooned, collapsing onto the hard floor.
Jiemba shoved the door open and ran down the ramp. Gibbons stepped inside and his eyes wide, he turned and vomited.
“Oh Countess, no,” Jiemba fell to his knees and hung his head.
Dystopia sat at the table, bathed in blood. On the ground lay the mutilated body of the visitor. The form was human in shape, but only barely. Above him, it appeared that the countess singing sweetly to herself was pouring blood from a teakettle into a cup of some measure. Looking up, she smiled at Jiemba.
“I think bone will do nicely.”