2. A Man of a Thousand Pieces

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Had I been a man of the nation's current paradigm I'd have convinced myself the vision an artefact of insomnia, or some other sickness of the mind, but I knew not everything could yet be explained away with the

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Had I been a man of the nation's current paradigm I'd have convinced myself the vision an artefact of insomnia, or some other sickness of the mind, but I knew not everything could yet be explained away with the ... distinguished views of the likes of Aubrey Forrester.

Though, as it happens, on the eve of my dismissal I called upon another of my scientific accomplices, Frederic Emory, a laboratory assistant of the tender age of eighteen who worked under one Dr Jonathan Corgaine. As some kind of misguided choice in career, Frederic practiced what could only be described as 'the study of the dead' to the curious initiate. Shorn of this morbid pursuit, the boy remained the only other student of unexplainable horrors that I'd so far chanced upon – that is to say, my sample size of cordial encounters within the scientific community is still far from numerous.

He was displeased to see me arrive at Dr Corgaine's laboratory at so late an hour. The doctor himself had long departed back home to his curiously silent wife, and a meal set upon the table at the rigid time of 7:15. Corgaine had left his apprentice in the grips of sterilising their equipment in vats of carbolic acid; a tedious job it seemed Frederic did not mind doing so long as it proved him useful.

I did not waste my time knocking on the lab door before entry. The swelling rainstorm outside had rendered me sodden and irritable, though the sight of surgical needles and the pickled odour of formalin was as ever less inviting. My young accomplice hunched over an operating table when his gaze met mine with a mix of pleasant surprise and scorn.

"I need your advice," I told him, without greeting or delay, and I hung my hat on the stand out of habit. "Last night a terrible being came for me in the dark, Frederic; something I cannot stall speaking of any longer."

I described to him the ghoul I had witnessed the night prior. He paused for a long while following my clumsy torrent of information, studying the newly sterilised equipment as though my words might be inscribed on the face of them. "Frederic?"

"Are you certain of this?" he replied to a pair of forceps. "Because to me it sounds as if the split in your lip is not your only injury. How is your head?"

I had not expected Corgaine to have rubbed off on him so soon. "I'm certain," I replied, holding my tone to convince him of the same. "I saw a wraith as plain as can I see you are hardly listening."

"Even though it was the middle of the night?"

"Yes. When one hunts the paranormal, that is a given."

"Worry not, dear man. I believe you," he said, though more to himself. "The air feels strange in Glasten of late; Heavens, how the cold bites and the darkness suffocates. Forgive me, Redding, if I seem a little distracted. The good doctor has no end of duties for me, even when he's not here."

He finished up his task, though – as usual for Frederic – in no kind of hurry, and stood up from the operating table. "I must be home by nine," he continued, undoing his white lab smock. "If you would be so kind as to escort me safely as far as Glasten clock tower, I will indulge you along the way."

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