Dusk Falls

It should have been easy. Kill the man, plant the evidence, wait for the Coppers to find her. They’d take her to gaol, right where she wanted to be. She didn’t count on the glaring incompetence of the Copper force. They had a monogrammed silk handkerchief that clearly did not belong to the victim right there on top of his face. Surely in any other city that would have been evidence enough for at least a talk.

She had come to the city as a woman looking for work, kicked out of the family home with the purse strings pulled tight. It was an industrial city, the working poor crowded in trying to find work. Filthy children played in filthy streets and the dull roar of the coal-fired factories pervaded everything. There was no doubt among anyone that she had come from money, her expensive corsets and cloaks made her stand out among the drab rags. All the better for her, she wanted the attention. Better that everyone recognize her as an outsider, someone who didn’t belong. But after a week nobody had come to her about the body yet.

The next body she left behind had even more clues for the Coppers. Two room keys from the Sky Hotel. It’s not like many people in this hellhole of a city had the funds to even hire a dirigible, let alone stay at the Sky Hotel. And the keys were different, it had to come from two separate stays. She wouldn’t have been able to go there had it not been for certain skills that were in high demand by a certain type of clientele. Even her father couldn’t afford the Sky Hotel. She got paid well for what she did, and that usually included leaving no trail. It galled her to have this traced back to her. Except the Coppers still couldn’t put the pieces together.

For her third trick she considered leaving a signed letter. Possibly a confession. But that would be over the top, really. So she used an automaton instead. One that her father’s company had made. One that had been stolen from the company. And really, that should have brought them right to her doorstep, there was nobody else in this city who would have had any sort of access to the Olsen Automaton and Robotics Company factory.

Were these Coppers simply idiots? Were they on the payroll of someone else who wanted them kept away from the truth? Dirty Coppers wasn’t outside the realm of possibility, after all. But really, all she needed to do was get caught. Her real target was waiting there in gaol. Once he was dead and blame laid elsewhere, her employers would make sure she was free to go again. The plan was simple. It was supposed to be a simple kill. Of course she’d get paid for two bodies, the first to get her into gaol and the second that was waiting for her there. All this improvising, all these extra bodies…well, her expenses were mounting. At this point she’d have to go back and renegotiate the contract.

Perhaps the next one she could simply shoot. She had a registered gun, it had been inspected by the Coppers when she arrived. The commented on how rare it was for someone to have such a nice pistol. If she shot someone would that gain enough attention to get her arrested and sent to the gaol? She hated this backwater town and wanted nothing more than to finish her job and go back to her regular life. Upper London had been her home for nearly a year and she had grown accustomed to the opulence there. Homes fully equiped with gaslights and running water, gowns for every occasion and a woman to help her tight lace her corset. Oh, yes, and Coppers that seemed to give a damn about their wards and have the brains to do their jobs.

The fourth body she decided not to use her gun. It wasn’t worth losing it over a job like this. She trusted that when she was taken in, her employers would send someone to clean her flat out and her things would be waiting for her at home. It was how things were done. It was a shame, ruining her clothes like that, but something had to be done. Wandering around in bloodstained clothing was at this point a small price to pay.

She hadn’t known, though. How could she have known? He was a Copper. He had just come down from Upper London to help investigate these murders. And for as blind as they had been for the murder of the poor they would not let the murder of one of their own go unpunished.

The trial was quick, and for that she was grateful. Perhaps she would be in and out of gaol just as quickly. The man she had been hired to kill was old and weak. His only danger was in what he knew, not what he could do. She could kill him easily and be home in time to see the new opera premiere. Perhaps she’d even decide which gentleman would have the pleasure of escorting her.

The Magistrate’s decree came as a surprise. They had finally pinned all four murders on her and in his opinion she should segregated from the rest of the prisoners. She was clearly deranged, he contended, and was a danger to herself and others. A woman would not be put to death herself no matter how heinous her crimes, but would instead be left to rot, forgotten by society.

It should have been easy. Wrap the sheet, kick the stool, over instantly. But she didn’t count on her own incompetence as she swayed back and forth, her body struggling against the inevitable.

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