The Monster and the Detective - 1.1
A false magician
Come on now and please, touch the magician a lot!
Come on now and please, touch the magician wherever!
From head to butt,
from the fingertips to the tips of the toes
and then at the most
All the children have flown into the sky,
they’ve all outgrown their nest and flew away.
Ash Gravefield is waiting for the monster to arrive. It is not to apprehend him (if it were like that, how simple the story would be!).
His breath rises white all the way up to the rim of his hat.
Even though it was nearing noon, the sun hasn’t shown its face at all, and spreading across the skies was only a gloomy grey. It seemed as if the gold colour of the sun was fully absorbed by Ash’s hair, while the blue of the sky was absorbed by his pupils. Standing with his spine straightened, his gaze was also staring straight ahead. (In this world, the only thing that was as straight as that, were the strands of his hair.)
Ash doesn’t relax his tense posture. He doesn’t let his eyes slip off of the lock, that twines around a gas lamp in chains, about ten yards ahead of him.
‘Even though it’s my first mission, if I fail, my whole life’s plans will just go poof.’
He shakes himself, closing the front of his frock coat tighter together. It’s not a uniform provided by the police, but a light beige coat he paid for himself. It was cold even under normal circumstances, how was thinking about gloomy things going to help him? It’s only the end of February, which would probably become even colder. What’s worse, when Ash turns around, there’s an eerie building at his back.
It’s the Newgate prison.
The unlocking genius, the jailbreaker hero Jack Sheppard, or even the head of the Thief Guild who deals with stolen goods, the white-collar criminal Jonathan Wild. In the past, Newgate prison had locked up many of the most infamous criminals.
Sturdy and made out of granite, the London prison is the harshest of them all. It could be asked: are you going to Newgate, or are you going to hell?
Throughout the street in front of the main gate of the prison, the sound of cart wheels and the unhurried, nimble sounds of the horse’s hooves echo. Although irrelevant for police officers like Ash, since it’s a Sunday, the pedestrian traffic is high as well.
Still, when you compare it to that time when Brad Longrose got hanged, it seems pretty barren.
The Sunday of the execution, the gallows were raised here. Nowadays, executions take place inside the prison, but at that time, it was a public event. It goes without saying that not only the street, but also the windows of the neighbors – rented out as special seats – and even the roofs, without one inch of space left, were packed full of people everywhere.
“My life was wonderful! I hope you all, ladies and gentlemen, also have a good one!”
The eight o’clock funeral bell rang. Right after Brad Longrose declared this, with an innocent smile that one wouldn’t expect from a man of his age, the stool got kicked out from under his feet.
When his body fell down with a thump, both the fanatical crowd and the Broadside Ballad’s trampled pages, wildly flying around, all said: It’s 1861 and the Demon finally died!
An unpleasant sound of rustling paper getting crumpled finds its way to Ash’s ears. Of course, it wasn’t the Broadside Ballad that had fallen close to twenty years ago. Near the gas lamp that Ash was staring at is a man, unable to walk properly, falling forward onto today’s newspaper, which lies abandoned on the pavement. It’s a middle aged man with a shabby appearance. Since the break of dawn he’s been holding a willow woven bottle of alcohol and has been walking precariously here and there.
He receives the scowls of the passing by ladies.
If Ash were to follow the police duty protocol, he would have to arrest him. But that’s out of the question right now. Ash decides to leave it up to the police officer in charge of patrolling this area.
But even though Ash pretends not to see him, in the end the drunk ended up staggering towards the spot where Ash stood.
“Heyyy, young lad! How come ye keep glaring at me, huh? What’s yer deal? ”
“I am not staring at you.”
It’s the truth. Ash answers, continuing to stare fixedly at the gas lamp’s lock.
“What?Yer d’finitely lying!Da hell yer saying while making they scary eyes?”
“…I’m sorry, I’ve been born with this expression.” Ash had been told that a lot in the past, and it does bother him. But even though he’s just received a hit to his self-esteem, he evades the question with a nonchalant look.
“You’re nae fooling me, young jimmy! you’re a friend o’ that lad that cam earlier, aren’t ye? I’m telling ye, ah don’t know anythin’ aboot where th’ prostitutes ur! Ye trynna lure me awa’? it’s no use no matt’r howfur mony times ye ask me!”
“The whereabouts of… prostitutes? Just what on Earth are you talking about?”
“Don’t play dumb! Ye cut it oot ‘n’ don’t look ….u…guh…oeee..” The middle aged man covers his mouth with one of his hands and leans his head against Ash’s chest.
“E…excuse me, please stop!? Do you plan on throwing up here??” Ash grabs hold of both of the man’s shoulders and pulls him away from his body. The man only stands up straight for a moment before suddenly collapsing onto Ash again. After repeating the same exchange several times, the man follows Ash’s direction and slowly slides down onto the bare ground, where he squats down and starts vomiting.
“Argh, what the hell? Just what the hell..” Unable to remain indifferent any longer, Ash grumbles as he rubs the man’s back. Right as the man stops coughing, Ash remembers his original goal, and quickly raises his head. The lock!
“….Are you kidding me?”
Ash can’t believe his eyes. Just now, the lock – including the chains included – got removed.
The lock that was wound around the gas lamp had a mark that identifies the monster.
The owner of the key should also be a monster.
And the monster who had the key that unlocked the chains that now hang from his neck is… is a petite young boy who looks barely over ten years old.
“I’m Ash Gravefield, I’ve been waiting for you. There’s something I want to ask you.”
Ash turns towards the young boy and calls out to him oppressively. He doesn’t reveal his agitation. His right hand travels across his coat and stops near the baton he carries on his hips.
Just because it’s a monster doesn’t mean there’s anything to be scared of. Behave prudently. You can’t underestimate it. His appearance being that of a regular human boy doesn’t change a thing.
He looks like a commonplace, ordinary worker’s child. The young boy’s clothes, the coat, pants, hat, everything he’s wearing is a little too large and looks big on him. Because of that, the only part of the boy’s face, turned up towards him, that Ash can see, is the area below his nose.
“Hey, at least answer… Wait!”
The young boy roughly shoves the chains and lock into his pockets and suddenly turns around and starts running into the waves of people. Panicking, Ash follows after him.
Ash always seems to fall one step behind the young boy, pushing his way through the pedestrians and onto the main street.
The young boy crosses in front of a horse-drawn cab and runs across a shoe shiner’s stool, skillfully passing through the gap between two lovers who are whispering to each other in the shadow of a building, and enters the back streets.
Ash is grabbing at the boy’s heels, even after getting knocked down by the horse and shouted at, after sending the tools of trade of the shoe shiner flying and getting cursed out, and even after coming in the way of the lovers’ embrace.
As Ash advances through a narrow, dim road, suddenly an opportunity arises. The young boy has chosen a dead-end. The surroundings are obstructed by very, very tall brick walls. Ash springs right at the boy, who has stopped running. He grabs him by the hips and, together, they crash onto the cobblestone pavement.
If you walk even slightly deeper, it’s clear that the street will be dirty. Their fall scatters the trash that had been thrown away, which emits a foul, rotting smell. In the middle of a thick cloud of dust whirling up around them Ash places his weight onto the struggling young boy. He turns his pinned down body around, forcing him to face upwards. He grabs both of his wrists and pins them on the ground. Then, Ash freezes, startled.
“Uh… eh… eh, eeh? Y… you’re a girl…?”
Big, almond-shaped pupils glare at him from below. The hat has rolled off close by. The long red hair that was stuffed into it is now spread in a fan shape on the ground.
Arbitrarily, based on his presumptions about her attire and build, Ash assumed that it was a boy, but the person lying under Ash was unmistakably a young girl.
“I…?!” Ash lets out a wordless shout. She takes advantage of his carelessness and launches a surprise attack.
A ruthless attack towards his vulnerable, vital point.
Her toes, without hesitation, restraint or forgiveness,slam into his crotch.
Without delay, the girl slips out from under Ash’s body. Ash falls to his knees and covers his crotch with both of his hands, slouching forward. His forehead is soaked with cold sweat.
“Eh, what the hell is… what does it…wa… wait… what on earth… what are you doing…?”
A voice comes suddenly from behind Ash’s back.
Perhaps running in after the sounds, now there was a boy, a little bit older than the girl, with a baffled expression on his face. His face was covered in freckles, seemingly giving off a naive impression.
“Don’t come here!” Ash yells at the approaching young boy. The girl in front of him is, without a doubt, not friendly.
“Waah, eh, wh… what? What, what?” Too late. The girl grasps the boy’s arm and pulls it towards herself.
“Hey, you monster! What are you trying to do with that boy? You think that just because you took a hostage, I, as a police officer, won’t make a move? How naïve. I’m not that kind.”
Although he vigorously declares that, Ash still can’t quite stand up yet, still clutching his crotch.
The girl snorts in contempt. She raises her fingers above her head and then snaps them. Just like that, she thrusts her index finger at Ash, as if wanting to challenge him. And then, in the next moment, while holding the young boy’s hand, she vigorously starts running.
She is heading towards the dead-end.
“Hey, what are you–”
Even with the wall right in front of her, the girl doesn’t slow down at all.
The boy lets out a cry, just enough for a “hyaa” to escape.
Ash holds his breath. At this rate, they will crash.
However, none of the horrible accidents that Ash was wildly imagining happened. The girl now stood perpendicular to the wall without falling. and kept running as if on a continuation of the flat road. The distant sky above she’s heading towards is cut into four long and narrow cornered panels. The hems of the girl’s and the boy’s coat swell up with the wind, flapping around. The boy is clutching his hat with his free hand, fervently moving his clumsy legs.
They jump off, towards the sky.
They dash off midair, from the wall.
Riding on the wind, gently and softly like the wings of a bird, something falls down with a light tud. What fell onto the ground before Ash was the freckled boy’s hat.
“She… got away…”
Moreover, a civilian got abducted.
As a matter of fact, this is the first time that Ash has ever seen a monster. However, he had no intention of using that as an excuse for his lack of preparation. He has no intention whatsoever. However, it was just too different from what he was told.
‘That monster, weren’t they supposed to become my partner?’