Tong . . . tong . . . tong. The distant peal of Lizzie’s Pride finished striking eleven. The clocktower could be heard throughout the city, dominating the night. Nearby a refuse can lay on its side. A cat pawed through contents that had spilled out into the street. The air was thick, grainy and very cold. Ash and coal dust swirled on invisible wings, spat out by thousands of chimneys. In the morning everything would be coated with black snow.

I uncrossed my legs and stood up, peevishly pushing wrinkles out of my winter coat. If Breidalburg couldn’t be bothered being on time, I certainly couldn’t be bothered waiting.

“Good evening, Walter.” Breidalburg’s voice floated over my shoulder.

I stiffened. “Good evening yourself. What do you want from me?”

“Was my message unclear?”

“Meeting here was the only thing that made any sense at all. The rest was gibberish. ‘Night rails, gaunt with bloodless lips preserve boundaries, unseen’ indeed!”

“Gibberish you say? Well the night is early yet. Come, let us walk.”

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