(1-3) Beneath the gears

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"You're certain?" Angela asked, pointing at the body by Samuel's feet.

"He stood closest to our quarry, without a weapon drawn. The other four had drawn their knives. This man was killed first," Commander Aranhall insisted.

"How are you so sure?" Samuel asked. "Were you a shadow?"

"I was, and remain one," the commander acknowledged, as he rose to his feet. "And I've seen scenes like this before."

"The evidence fits the commander's assertions," Desmond Adams said, crouching down at the spot Mathias Aranhall had vacated. The coroner reached over and lifted one of the dead body's hands, raising the palms up to show.

"The burns are deeper on this man's palms and the bottom of his fingers. And his facial burns don't have any sign of being protected by his hands," Desmond noted. "If I had to guess, it looks like he was making a placating gesture, holding his hands up."

"It's a start," Samuel admitted, as he stood up. "By the abyss, I've definitely started with less to work with."

"Sam?" Angela asked. "What are you thinking?"

"We should start looking for witnesses. If we can confirm that this shadow was talking to our suspect, a witness or two might have heard a name, or what the conversation was about. That could go a long way towards identifying this reject."

"Inspector," Commander Aranhall said, his tone disturbingly harsh.

Samuel looked at the lean, angular face beneath that old hat, and found he couldn't meet the commander's gaze.

"You called him a suspect, which is beginning to concern me," Aranhall said in warning.

"What has your hackles up?" Angela asked.

"Our quarry will not be captured. If you try to detain him you will end up lying in Mister Adams' morgue, beside the men and women here who should have already taught you better," the commander pointed to the bodies as he spoke, his voice rising in tenor and volume until he was almost shouting.

"Right, sir," Angela said, so quietly she almost whispered.

"I..." Samuel began to say.

"You're not killers, I understand that. You won't be the knives. But if you have compunctions over helping track this reject down, take one more hard look at the people lying at your feet. If you lack the resolve, I'd prefer you speak up now. You are not the only inspectors in the City."

Samuel cringed over the airship commander's words, his hands clenching into fists and an unfamiliar rage setting clenching his jaw. He glared at the tall commander, and said, "we'll be fine. But I'd like your airship's soldiers to continue securing the scene for now, so that I can put more uniformed Orderlies to canvassing the streets."

"Agreed," Commander Aranhall agreed. "But you both should head to the Bureau of Oversight's headquarters in about three hours. The deputy chief should have more information by then, and between what she and you both will have found out by then, you might identify a suspect."

The commander stepped away, grabbed the nearby cable that Crafter Grutchers had descended from, and waved his other hand in a full circle. "Happy hunting," Mathias Aranhall said.

With a flutter of his coat, the commander shot up into the air, rising with astonishing speed up the dozen or more stories of empty air that lay between the train platform and the Fury.

Samuel watched, his mouth hanging open, as the airship commander practically seemed to fly in the air as he leapt off the cable, and disappeared from sight.

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