Saba Colbshallow rapped his knuckles on the front door of the five-story structure, again, louder than he had before, but there was just as little response as there had been the first time.
“Police constable!” he called. He waited a bit longer, and was just about to leave when he heard a distinctly sultry voice from inside.
“Who is it?”
“Police constable,” he said again.
The door opened and Zurfina stood in the doorway, her strange little leather dress displaying a good portion of her breasts with their star tattoos as well as her long legs. Her thigh high boots had such high heels that she could almost look Saba in the eye.
“Yes? What is it?” she said, with the air of someone who had just been interrupted in the middle of something vitally important.
“May I come in?” he asked.
With an exaggerated sigh, the sorceress turned her back and walked into the house, leaving the door wide open. Saba followed her in and looked around the large room that formed the lower level of the structure. It was, he thought, a surprisingly mundane looking combination of kitchen, parlor, and dining room. The place was tidy and organized, none of the furnishings looking particularly worn or new, expensive or poor. Zurfina waved her hand and the door slammed shut behind him, causing him to jump a little.
Saba swallowed. He had known Zurfina for four years now, and found her just as wondrous, mysterious, and fascinating as he had when he was sixteen. He had of course grown up to be a police constable, but she had grown to be a legend. She was an attractive woman: not as beautiful as Mrs. Dechantagne of course, not as charming as Mrs. Dechantagne-Calliere was at least capable of being, and nowhere near as adorable as Miss Lusk. Neither did she have the curvaceous figure of Dr. Kelloran. But as writer Geert Resnick wrote in his novelThe Pale Sun, “the painting that most draws one to it, is not the most beautiful, but the one hanging to the wall by the most tenuous thread.” Zurfina held the same appeal as a fast horse, an unstable bomb, or a canoe in a river filled with crocodiles. And there was power. Power was always appealing.
Zurfina sensed his hesitation and moved to stand very close to him.
“Now, little Saba,” she said, with exaggerated slowness. “What brings you to see Zurfina the Magnificent?”
Saba had perfected his stare: a piercing look that let those he was interviewing know that he would brook no nonsense. He gave the sorceress one of these stares, but it didn’t seem to work as well as it was supposed to. She stepped a little closer and he suddenly realized he could smell her breath. It was minty.
“Little Saba.” Her charcoaled grey eyes seemed to be looking at something just below the surface of his face.
“Police Constable Colbshallow,” he corrected.
She leaned forward so that the tip of her nose was only an inch from his.
“Little Saba,” she repeated. “There’s something you’ve been dying to tell me.”
“No there isn’t.”
“Then why are you here?”
“I’m here about a Miss Amadea Jindra.”
Zurfina leaned back and scrunched up her nose. “Now what business is that of yours?”
He retrieved the notepad from his coat pocket and flipped it open. Turning so that he had better light to read by, he took the opportunity step away from the sorceress.
“It was reported that you kidnapped, um… acquired Miss Jindra from the deck of the S.S. Arrow four days ago, and no one has seen her since.”
“I say again, what business is it of yours?” Zurfina spoke distinctly, chopping each word as if came out of her mouth. The temperature of the room dropped several degrees.
“You cannot simply snatch people off the street…” His voice trailed off as he noticed the sorceress’s eyes flashing.
Zurfina folded her arms across her chest and raised one eyebrow. At that moment the door swung open and Senta walked in. Her bright pink dress peaked out from beneath a heavy white overcoat, with a fur trimmed hood. She was carrying a large bed pillow under each arm. She kicked the door shut with the heel of her shoe, and walked over to stand next to the sorceress. She looked first at Zurfina and then at Saba.
“Okay,” said Senta. “What’s going on?”
“Little Saba was just telling me what I can and cannot do.”
“Well, this isn’t going to end up well, and you know who will have to clean up the mess? Me, that’s who. Here are your pillows,” Senta shoved the pillows into Zurfina’s hands.
Once the sorceress had taken the pillows, Senta took Saba by the hand and led him toward the front door.
“Let’s talk outside. I love the smell of pine trees and chimney smoke.” She led him outside, closing the front door behind her. “What exactly are you doing?”
“Conducting police business.”
“Stopping me from taking care of those wankers who shot Bessemer has gone to your head, eh?”
“This is my job. This is what I do,” said Saba. “I protect the public peace.”
“And do you ever think about how you would do that job if you were turned into, say, I don’t know, a pig?”
“Maybe a pig. Could be anything really. I thought I was about to see a Police Constable shaped lawn ornament. But then I don’t have Zurfina’s wide experience and peculiar wit.”
“Well I have to go back in and talk to her.”
“Did they have to take your brain out to make that helmet fit?”
“That’s not funny little girl. I have to find out what she did with Miss Jindra.”