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Mightier than the Sword
by Cora Buhlert
Copyright © 2015 by Cora Buhlert
All rights reserved.
Cover photo by Ivan Prole
Cover design by Cora Buhlert
Pegasus Pulp Publications
Mightier than the Sword
Kingfisher Road was the sort of faux arty neighbourhood that kept springing up all over London, usually shifting locations every two or three years. The street was lined with trendy boutiques, fair trade coffee shops, organic fusion bistros, hipster record stores that still carried mainly vinyl and little art galleries catering to what had once been called the “radical chic”. The Victorian row houses had been painted in cheerful colours — green, turquoise, lavender, peach — while the decommissioned warehouses all housed art and music studios now. In short, it was the sort of neighbourhood that would have (and had) enchanted Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd at twenty and simply wearied her at forty.
She passed a coffee shop — not a fair trade, organic boutique place, but a regular chain coffee shop of the sort found on every high street in Britain — and frowned. Not long now. If the chains and with them gentrification were already creeping in, the neighbourhood had six months, maybe a year at most, left. And then this whole circus would move on to somewhere else and the cycle could begin anew.
Helen spotted a gaggle of uniforms — an unusually large gaggle at that — lounging outside a house painted a bright azure blue and adorned with a rainbow that stretched all across the façade. Among the gaggle, she noticed the dark face of Police Constable Martin Jackson and walked towards him and his fellow uniforms.
“Good morning, Constables.”
The constables all tipped their caps, while PC Jackson beamed at her, “Good morning, ma’am.”
He was, so Helen noticed to her great relief, bearing two brown paper cups, and handed one to her. “Real Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee, ma’am, with a dash of milk and two lumps of sugar, just as you like it,” he said, “Got it from a Caribbean place right down the road.” He paused. “Their jerk chicken looks excellent, too.”
“Thank you, Constable. That’s good to know.” Especially since it would likely be lunchtime by the time they finished here. “Is the gang all here?”
PC Jackson nodded. “Already upstairs on the top floor. Dr. Rajiv and his assistants had some problems getting the zinc coffin up the stairs. He’s in a rather bad mood.”
Helen looked up at the house again. “I can imagine. Top floor, you said?”
PC Jackson and one of his fellow uniforms lifted the police tape for her. “Top floor, attic studio.”
After climbing four flights of worn Victorian stairs and warning off a young couple about the marihuana smoke drifting from their flat onto the landing (Really, some people just had no sense in their heads at all), Helen was not just out of breath, she could also fully understand why Forensic Medical Examiner Dr. Rajiv would be in a bad mood after lugging his equipment as well as a zinc coffin up the narrow staircase.
Detective Constable Kevin Walker met her on the landing of the top floor, an identical brown paper cup in his hand.
“Morning, boss. This Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is great stuff. Jackson’s really made a discovery there.”
Helen took an experimental sip and couldn’t help but agree. “He told me their jerk chicken looked excellent as well. Something for lunch, I think. Still…” She shifted her cup from one hand to the other. “…first things first. So what do we have here?”
“Believe it or not, that’s Charlie Ellis, boss.”
DC Walker stepped aside, revealing what was obviously an artist’s studio, at least judging by the sketches and cartoons plastered all over the walls. Sunlight streamed to a large window onto a drawing board. A man sat slumped over the board, blood seeping onto the pristine white paper from a wound in his chest.
“Am I supposed to know who that is?”
“Charlie Ellis, the cartoonist.”
“I’d gathered that,” Helen said dryly, “The cartoons on the walls are quite illuminating.”