Monday, November 9, 2009

In the Valley of the Tempest 1:10


Seth was there before Casper, bruises and all. Hangar 52, the only person that arrived before him was Beatrix, who was currently checking out the weather conditions.
Hi. She said when he walked up to the hangar.
She had some instruments set up on a tripod and she was busy running her eyes over them.
Hi, I'm Seth. He said, and took a peek into the hangar at the Napoleon XI.
Yeah, I know. I'm Beatrix. I'm the pilot.
You're going to fly that thing?
Sure. We've also got the Jericho-C33 plane on board the ship, did that last night. She said, stifling a yawn.
That's awesome. Seth said.
Yeah, it's pretty fun.
How's the travelling going to be today?
Should be alright. Wind speed's no concern, there's some cloud cover, but it should be fine. If you want to put your bags down, you can chuck them in the ship. The boarding platform's on the right and the bunks are to your right. Take whatever one you want.
Thanks. Seth said and wandered off into the hangar.

The ship was massive, one of the largest Beatrix has had to drive yet, and the Napoleon XI was kitted out with the best equipment avaliable. It was a dual buoyancy airship, which means that it's got two layers of bladder air-cavities, one inside the other. The space between the inner and outer bladder is a permanent vacuum, whereas gas is pumped through the inner bladder to control the buoyancy. This fascinated Seth when Beatrix explained it to him after he dumped his bags on top bunk.

It was almost 5:30 when Grissom arrived with his robot Cornwall wandering close behind. Grissom wore a beige travelling coat and carried a large suitcase under arm. He waved at the two standing outside the hangar, an enthusiastic grin spread across his face. He and Casper had already agreed on the price of his coming from retirement for the voyage, and since their initial meeting in the vistograph chamber he had quite remembered what it was like to be setting off on an adventure again.

A little past the deadline, Casper and Richmond came hurrying along, at which point, the four already present had started to make comforts inside the airship and preparing themselves for the long haul. Casper made his apologies before realising that another was absent. Timothy was running quite late. Half an hour and the group shuffled back out to the front of the hangar to search for any signs of him. Then they heard a loud buzzing, as if that of a mosquito, then the faint dot in the distance, growing larger in a whif of smoke and burning rubber. Before they knew it, Timothy raced up to the hangar on his mechanised skate-boots, his luggage in tow on a little trailer behind. He had obviously been working on them through the night and into the morning as the braking and speeding problem seemed to be fixed. Easing back onto the hind wheels, Timothy rolled to a stop in front of the group.
You're late. Casper said, stepping forward in an apparent scold towards the boy. But what a spectacular arrival! A grin split across his face and he threw back his head and laughed.
Yeah, I was just fine tuning my boots. Timothy said with a bashful smile.
Anyway, we've been hanging around more than long enough, we need to get going. Into the ship everybody! Let's go.

In the Napoleon XI everyone grabbed their bunks and congregated in the crew deck for the debriefing.
Ok. Casper said. We're all here now, I'll keep it short. As you should know by now, there's been a death near the marshes past Mariam Ravine. The body was identified as Mr. Grahame Thompson. We only found a head, but sources say there was the whole body by the swamp as of earlier. We're going to go into the swamp. I don't think we'll find much to be honest, but I think the problem stems from further in. Within the swamp there lives a witch doctor, Ursula Estwing. We'll need to interrogate her. I'm sure she will know something. If not about the body, then about these parts, she's been living in the marshes for a long time. If the weather remains fine we'll be down by the marshes shortly after dawn. Beatrix, would you please do us the honours of getting this ship flying?
Of course. She said, and left for the cockpit. We all followed her moments later, wanting to view Berwick one last time before setting off into the wild, wild valley.

In the Valley of the Tempest 1:7-9


We all the best of us come undone at times. The loose thread that unravels to a busted seam and then it all comes tumbling out. The olny way we can pull it back together is to grab a needle and thread and stitch it back up ourselves, and then eat the stuffing again. Richmond Bantam had stitched himself up a fair few times but more often than not he was picking at the threads of other people. Bad people. He'd worked alongside Casper for years and years, and Casper knew he could use the extra pair of fists out beyond the city limits.

It was Richmond, with Casper and Grissom and Beatrix and Timothy, and Cornwall too, whom had congregated abouts West University. They were there in the speaker's corner along with Professor Duckworth, and Duckworth was addressing his audience.
It is my tragic duty to inform you all of recent events. There has been another death in the valley, only just beyond the Mariam Ravine. I have with me an esteemed group of individuals who will be investigating the crime further. Detective Bernstein, Dr. Johnstone, Mr. Bantam, Miss Beatrix and Mr. Timothy Wallace have gathered here because they will be setting off on an expedition into the valley on the morrow. And Detective Bernstien here has graciously invited one student of West University to join them on their task, with the expedition offering experience in the most practical sense. It will be dangerous, most dangerous indeed, but I think you'll know who you are, those of you who are up for the challenge.

Thank you, professor. Casper said, as he stepped forward to address the audience.
My name is Detective Casper Bernstein, I don't have much to say, more than what has already been said. I look forward to the opportunity of working closely with one of you, I'm sure the expedition won't disappoint.

The audience looked half afraid and half excited, such news does not come their way often. They knew of the valley, they knew the stories, the mysteries that had gone on down there in the past, but here, now, people in the flesh and blood stating with confidence that they were willing to venture into that, it brought everything right home, it was real. One of us they throught. One of us will join them before the day is gone. Leaving tomorrow, dropping the studies, dropping the tests and assignments for the great untamed valley.

Professor Duckworth stepped forward to speak again, the bring the disoriented crowd into unity once more.
You should all know that we have not selected the one student as of yet, but rather a list of eight nominees. It is to my knowledge that all eight of you are present now. The chosen one will be the victor of a small fight tournament. The detective here will act as referee. Howard Arthur, Fiona Mathers, Jordan Lincoln, Seth Carter, Nicola Porter, Jesse Temperley, Kyle Ford and Sally Westfield. Make yourselves ready for the fights in the couryard on the half hour.


Kyle steepd up to the platform first to face Seth. Kyle was smart and reasonably strong. But in all his time at West U, he'd spent much more time studying than bare knucle fighting or participating in stick combat. Seth, on the other hand, fought regularly. If not for necessity then for fun. Truth be told, he liked a bit of pain and bandages in his life, a reminder of his inherently flawed being. He gripped his rod with a menace and brought down upon Kyle with a whirl. There was no competition. The crowed cheered as Seth landed the hits, flourishing, smattering, the thunk thunk thunk of wood on skin, and Kyle fell quicker than a rock. Two more unforgiving bouts and Bernstein called it. Seth didn'tknow much about the expedition, merely the fact that it'd look damn impressive on his resume after graduation. Danger, hell, what's life without a bit of it, eh?

Three more fights Seth sat in the wings, watching, studying, the women were swift and agile, they who've obviously been through their fair share of the stick combat, and they who were obviously not going to let up for anything. But Jesse took Howard down with a mighty swing from his left cannon. Howard copped a good block shot, but the sheer force of the blow had him buckling at the knees. But the dull thock, thock, thock of wood on wood echoed throughout the courtyard as the blows kept coming until Jesse towered over the poor fellow.

The next round had an intensity that couldn't be beat. Each fighter with a win out of the way came back fresh with a new fighting vigour. Seth and Sally, Jesse and Nicola. Sally came out swinging and Seth ducked and weaved and blocked and guarded his way across the floor. He scanned for an opening, a weakness, a mistake to manipulate to his advantage, but he only just got by with the steady tock, tock, tocking of the battering sticks. They rallied all about, he was quick, she was probably quicker. A flourish and blur of wavering weapons, and then the smack of wood on skin. He leaped back, crying out in frustration. She let a satisfying grin consume her face and she stepped forwards confidently. She was quicker, but he was stronger. He sent a swift, strong blow raging upon the perpendicular to her own stick, and then came the sickening crunch of splintering and snapping wood. She was left with naught but two little twigs in her hands with which to defend herself.

Try as she might, Sally could do little to prevent the flourish of attacks that proceeded, her stumpy weapons thunked hard off the full force of Seth's weapon. They jarred her hands terribly, and then she was all a mess. It didn't take long for Seth to work her to the ground and pass the victory onto him. Next bout saw a replacement weapon in her hand, but she did little to redeem, The damage was done, and whilst Seth regretted the bruises he inflicted upon her, he knew she would likewise have attacked without hesitation upon him. And Jesse... well, he was a force to be had, and his strong aggression showed once more. With little more than a small bruise on the shoulder, Jesse met Seth to go for the win.


If you wanted something at West University, you had to fight for it. You had to want it enough to fight for it. It makes things worth having. Seth wanted a bit of danger in his life and a bit of extra punch to his resume. Jesse mainly liked winning. He liked the satisfying feel of his knuckles passing over another man's face and not giving a shit for the consequences. Some say the city trembled that day when Jesse and Seth fought. Each bruise that came up on Seth's skin just made him feel the more hurt, the more alive, and the danger pumped him on to dole out a bit of the beating too. Punch for punch they fairly smacked eachother up. Some could say they heard the crack when Seth sent his fist into Jesse's leg. Some could say they heard the crack, but all could hear the scream. No killing, and no breaking of the bones. In several ways Seth was lucky that it was only a fracture and not a complete break.

Jesse fell to the courtyard floor writhing in the dirt, his face and chest a flourish of cracked blood and wholesome rainbow coloured bruises. The white plaster cast he'd be wearing for the next week would look very much out of place amongst his other, more nonchalant injuries. He buried his head in the ground and Seth stepped back, waiting to hear from the referee's verdict. They carried off Jesse to see the nurse. She typically got these sorts of patients about two or three times a week. No one said anything.

The more they waited, the more Seth became agitated. Someone tried to clean him up but he just pushed them away and tried to shrink further from sight. A strong hand grasped Seth by the shoulder and gave him his wish, pulling him from the crowd and out away from the courtyard. It was the detective, Casper Bernstein, and Seth didn't know whether to feel proud or ashamed of his fight. Instead, he just felt queasy.

Well, son, you sure beat him. The detective said as soon as they had drawn quiet of the crowd.
So, an engineer, huh?
Yeah, that's the plan.
Good, good. Two years to go?
Two and a half.
And you do a bit of brasswork on the side?
Yeah, a bit of a hobby.
You know, the mechanic, Timothy, does some of that stuff too. Inventions and things. I tell you what, we could sure use a guy like you on this expedition.
You're taking me? Seth said with enthusiasm.
Well, of course, why not?
Eh, I just thought there might be something about the way that I won, what with the bone fracture and all.
It'll be fine, Seth, don't worry. Now, right now, we need you to pack and be ready to leave at dawn. Meet us down at the airfield, hangar 52, at about 5:30. We'll debrief before we head off, right now, we're keeping things quite low key.
Ok. Thanks a lot, detective. I'll be there.
I'm counting on it. Casper walked back to join in with the group, as Seth peeled off to go back to his dormitory and pack. And tomorrow came before he really knew it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In the Valley of the Tempest 1:4-6


The crickets hollered out to eachother as the light drew near. Run to the thistle bushes, run and hide, and be safe from the giant with the wide sweeping sun in his hand. Down the ravine the crickets sprung hither and thither. The occasional mouse scampered from thicket to rock to tree root.Even more scarce were the maraqets, the cat sized mice that built their shelters in the trees. Casper was greeted by the occasional glowing pair of eyes in the moonlight, suspended in the black branch of a wild oak. When Casper shined his light thereabouts they were gone.

Ray wasn't looking for anything particular. Not in the brush, not on the rocks or over the ridge of the ravine. He was Casper's support, he was the backup. He firmly believed in the pecking order despite being down the chain, and while he knew some day he'd love to be in Casper's position, he wasn't exactly trying so keenly to accumulate the brownie points tonight. He was tired. If Casper needed the support, he was there, otherwise he would carry on following aimlessly, wordlessly. Casper sifted his way down the ridge, he examined the bush in which Lenny crashed. It had completely caved as the wheel tore through, branches bending and snapping and scratched at Lenny's legs. Casper found a couple of drops of blood, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing excessive. Deeper into the bush was where the wheel crashed and blanketed the foliage flat. Sometimes if you get up quick it'll spring back up no harm done, but Lenny fell and lay flat for a moment. It was at the back of the bush where he lay with his warped wheel, through a little gap in the thistle bush. Casper stood in the bush for a while staring at the flat circle of the crash site, before glancing over towards the marshes. Then he crouched down to his knees. Fair enough, the hole was there, and he peered through it. From every which way imaginable, and nothing. No body.

Hey Ray! Casper hollered out. Ray cocked his head and came nearer.
Where are you, sir? Ray called back.
In the bush here. Come check this out for me.
Ray followed the wheel's path in to where Casper crouched staring at the marshes through the bush. Casper turned to look up at Ray.
Here, take a look at those marshlands over there for me. Tell me if you see anything.
Casper got to his feet and moved aside.
No, nothing, sir. Ray said, stifling a yawn.
No, you fool! Down here, through the hole in the thistles! You were at the interrogation.
Casper thumped Ray on his back and pushed him to his knees. Through the thistles the young officer scanned across the marshes. Nothing.
Those dirty liars! Those dirty filthy kids! Playing a dirty trick on us at this hour of the night!
Shut it, Raymond. We don't know anything for certain. For one, we are heading in towards the valley now, and those marshes, well... I'm sure you've heard some of the stories of what's gone on down there.
Ray shivered at the thought, then got to his feet and stepped out of the bush.

They walked down further, Casper still combing the area for clues, Ray still uselessly meandering along behind, albeit now with a keener sense of caution. As they approached the marshes there came a developed mutual understanding. They could see it, and smell it from some distance away, the shining dark patch in the soil a few metres from the foreboding mouth of the marsh-swamp. The tainted earth looked putrid in the moonlight, and the smell was far worse than ordinary death. Here, Casper got out his TK-300 and took a few pictographs of the soil. And then he snapped on some disposable gloves and turned the soil with his small pocket fork. And there he could have puked without hesitation had it not been for a moment's cloud cover. The first patch of freshly exposed earth was writhing with salt-worms and maggots, feasting on a meal pulled under. Before he realised the full horror of what he had witnessed, Casper was able to carry himself to the nearest bush.

Shine a light down, that's the only way we'll ever see. Ray said, curiosity driving him closer.
Casper stood back, trying to will himself to get a better look.
Shine a light down there. He said again.
They're witch grubs.
What? What are they, sir?
They ate the poor bastard. I- I just know they did.
White faced, Casper just stood back further, dreading the very thought of it.
No, sir. The area's too small for them to have... consumed all of him.
Well... Casper leaned in a little. I think you might be right. It just... it smells so...
Yes. Now shine the light down there so we can see it properly.
Casper obeyed, and then came closer, willing the smell from his mind. He knelt by the soaked earth again, light in hand and used his fork to upturn more of the earth. He began to prod deeper into the topsoil mix and down to the soft, soaked earth below, flicking aside the grubs as they crawled across his wrists. And then he touched on something solid. His fork would do no good, so he closed his eyes and plunged wrist deep into the moist soil and came up with the human skull. Ray asked the question he was thinking himself.
Where's the rest of the body?
Casper knelt there for some moments, pondering the question, skull in hand, before pointing towards the marshes. He was most certain of himself, but he knew that he would not find it with Raymond and his dingy little torch tonight. He slipped the skull into a clear plastic bag and tucked it under his arm, and with his sleeves rolled up his arms, he walked with Raymond back up along Mariam Ravine, back to their auto. They'd have to drop the skull off at the lab at the police station for testing in the morning, but maybe Casper could squeeze in a few hours sleep before then.


It was nearing noontime and Grissom had spent most of the morning in his observatory, hunched over his maps when Cornwall, his artificially competent assistant entered with a message.
The Detective Bernstein wants to speak to you, sir. He said in a drone. The vistograph chamber is prepared, sir.
Thank you, Cornwall.
Grissom left the observatory and followed Cornwall through his ornately decorated home to the vistograph chamber.
After you, sir.
Cornwall stepped aside, allowing Grissom to enter the small chamber. In the chamber was one seat and a light-tricked image of another. And in this other non-actual seat was Casper.
Casper, my good man! It's been too long since our last meeting.
Casper jumped in his chair, apparently startled.
Sit down, you old fool! Sit down so I can see you. Every time you do this, every time!
I am sorry, my friend. Every time I forget. I rarely use this chamber, it's more for the younger generation I think. I forget I'm not on the vistograph until I'm in the seat. Anyway, how are you?
Fine, fine, now listen, Grissom. Last night I got called out, down to the Mariam Ravine and to the marshes...
No. Tell me it's not true, Cas.
I'm afraid it is.
We were supposed to have three more months before season's end, three months of peace in the valley. Who was it this time?
His name was Grahame Thompson. We only found his skull by the edge of the marshes. Kit ID'd him this morning. As soon as I saw it, I knew what we were in for.
No. No, no, no, no, no. You'd better not be suggesting what I think you are.
We need to check it out. We need to set up an expedition.
Damnit, Bernstein! This just isn't right!
That's why we need to go. And I need you with me. Please.
What? No. No way compadre.
For old time's sake, please. You know there's no better scientist in Berwick, and you know I'll do all I can to make things worthwhile for you.
I'm retired.
I know. Come on. You remember how the department's like with things like this, they'll bend over backwards for anyone willing to risk their own neck down in those parts. I wouldn't be asking if I didn't think you were up for it.
Grissom sighed with the tone of defeat.
Fine. I'll see you when?
Okay. Berwick airstrip?
No, West U, got some other matters to attend to beforehand. 8AM sharp, at the East entrance. I'll see you there.

Grissom got up from his chair, which now faced a blank wall and not the dimensional construction of his friend, the detective. Cornwall was still waiting by the door when he came out of the chamber.
Am I coming too? He asked.
You were listening?


The Berwick airport. It was the biggest this side of the globe. Planes go North, East, West all over the territory. They get the airships for the trips to the further reaches of the country, and for the occasional grand journeys over blue.

Timothy was in Hangar 82, over by the flight school strip towards the East edge of the airport. He was fixing up the Jericho-C33 when Beatrix entered the hangar. He was hanging over the motor, wrench in hand, smothering himself with the guts of the plane.
Are you done fixing my plane? Beatrix asked.
Just about, Bea. Should be running smooth now, just need to put it all back together.
Good, because the professor just got a call from the detective. Apparently he wants to talk to us.
But I haven't done nothing wrong. Tim said, somewhat indignantly.
No, I don't think it's anything like that. Relax, just finish up here and head out to hangar 53, we're going to meet up with him there. Don't keep him waiting, Tim.

Beatrix walked out, leaving Tim to his work, and headed off away from the flight school, over towards the commercial ships. Beatrix was a third year flight student, and in another year she'd be flying the large planes and airships and taking the occasional commercial flight to boost up some experience. Timothy, well he'd been on the airstrip a lot longer. He grew up the son of an engineer, about a quarter of the planes in the airstrip were designed by his father. And Timothy himself just grew up around the area, got into a mechanic apprenticeship in his mid-teens and has been pulling apart and putting back together the planes along the airstrip for near on a decade now.

Beatrix wandered along the airstrip lazily, knowing no real need to rush, as Timothy would still be a while longer putting the motor back together. The hangars were tall as ten elephants standing on eachother's backs and wide as a whale. They were large. It would be something else to describe how long the hangars were down the side. The numbers on the sides of the buildings, however, they stood tall as the stacked elephants, and each numeral was about the width of a standard house. Beatrix counted down from 82 as she walked. It would be a while, she figured, before she reached 53, but the hangars were on both sides of the airstrip, so the numbers went in deuces, like houses. She'd get there soon enough, on the other side of where she walked now. By that time she hoped the detective would have driven across town and caught a lift with the luggage tram by then.

As Beatrix passed the number 62 hangar, she heard a light rambling behind her. She turned around just in time to see Timothy come racing past her on... heaven knows what, some sort of motorised skates? Whatever they were, they were fast. It looked as if Timothy weren't in complete control. He wobbled, and veered out across the airstrip, and stacked. The wildly energetic brass boots still spun like mad, whizzing about in the air as poor showoff Timothy lay sprawled on the bitumen.
Are you okay? Beatrix called out, jogging over to him to see if he was alright.
His shirt was heavily torn and he wore bright pink grazes on his now exposed shoulder and the left side of his face, but he just grinned, wincing slightly.
Serves you right, for ponying around those things like that.
Timothy wrenched them off his feet and switched them off. He got to his feet and said;
Do you want a go?
Oh, um thanks, but no.
Come on, here; I'll turn the speed down on it for you. They won't, ahh, throw you face first into the bitumen or nothing.
I don't know, they could do. But I don't think so.
Well, ok, if you insist.

Timothy fitted the boots onto Beatrix's feet before switching them into low gear. She rolled ahead excitedly. Some wobbles, but after a moment she balanced out. Out across the airstrip, smooth as. Down alongside the hangars. And then she circled back around to Timothy.
Neat, huh? He called out as she zoomed past.
She headed back out along the hangars again, 59, 57, 55, slipping past effortlessly. 53 she just slipped through the doors and found a seat over my the side. She switched the gear back to neutral and pried them from her feet when the detective entered the hangar.
Quite an impressive toy you've got there, miss.
The name's Beatrix, sir. And these are my friend, Timothy's.
The mechanic boy?
Yes, sir.
Brilliant. My name's Casper, by the way.
It's nice to meet you. I've heard a thing or two about you.
Do you know why I'm here?

Thanks for waiting up, Bea. Timothy said with some annoyance.
Any time. So, detective, now that we're both here, what's this all about?
Can you fly that ship? He pointed towards the airship sitting in the hangar.
The Napoleon XI?I suppose so.
Good. And you, Timothy. Can you fix it?
Of course. What do you plan on doing with it?
We're going to fly it, of course. Out over the valley, to be precise, but there'll be time for details later. If you're up for it, I'd like you two to accompany me on my expedition.
You want me to fly it? Beatrix piped in.
Yes. And I'll need your friend, Timothy here to be with us should anything serious happen.
Like what? She asked, nervously.
Details, my fine lady, details! I'm not even close to prepared.
Casper made for the door before stalling, remembering something;
Oh, one more thing, I'll need you two down at West University, Tuesday at 8AM, sharp. And be prepared! Thank you.
Thank you, sir. Goodbye. Beatrix called to his back, not knowing whether or not he heard.

Monday, November 2, 2009

In the Valley of the Tempest 1:1-3


The tempest stirs, the city trembles, a man dies of unnatural causes.


White knuckles tremble as two fists grasp the thin wooden rod used in traditional combat. Splinters. This weapon had been in use at West University for years and years and years. Seth was a second year student, brimming with charisma and blessed with a youthful complexion. It was he who gripped the rod with a menace and leered playfully across the court.
We're not children anymore. Jesse faced Seth, his rod held loosely by his side. Let's not play with toys.
Seth nodded and let his rod fall to the ground all a clutter.

At West University if someone wants something, they fight for it. No backing out. No shoes or shirts, only the muscles on your back and the fists and feet and teeth you bare like blades. And your splintered rod you wield without mercy. You fight in the courtyard, never without a crowd, always with a referree. The rules are; No killing. No breaking of the bones. If you call truce, a truce must be had, no exceptions. The winner is declared when the loser is incapable of standing of their own accord.

Jesse wanted to fight the way of the academics; No sticks to hide behind, just your wits, and your fists. Seth and Jesse were in the centre of the courtyard, on the fighting platform, and many of the students, and several academics were out in the courtyard to view the spectacle. Sticks lain aside, the two met in the centre of the platform, fists raised, ready to pump, pump, pump away at each other, a regular afternoon brawl. Jesse had a left hook that could bring down a buffalo. Seth was much smaller than a buffalo, and less hairy. Yet he was quick as a gun. The referree called the start of the match with a waver of his hand, and the audience grew nearer. Seth held his arms to his chest. He could feel the pulsing adrenaline rush through his body, and he was out of the reach of Jesse's left cannon almost before he began to pump it forth. He snuck in a quick one, two on the shoulder, mostly harmless, and then set his fists down to catch Jesse's swinging left foot.

Kick, punch, dodge, block. The two kept at their eclectic motions until they were swimming in sweat and buzzing with weariness. Jesse's nose was quite beat and bloodied, and his ribs were most likely heavily bruised. Seth had a nasty gash on the top of his head, bleeding quite excessively and swamping his hair in the thick, sticky consistency. And his knee was quite badly jarred. A truce was called, a moment taken to smear the blood from Seth's face and place a tape over Jesse's nose. To the audience witnessing this fight, it was just a regular afternoon.


I think the axle's warped, huffed Lenny Winters as he pulled his gyrowheel upright and limped heavily out of the bush.
He had been racing Buzz again down along the Mariam Ravine. If he had swerved the other way off his wheel, he would have tumbled over the ravine, and he wouldn't have seen the body down further, at the edge of the marshes.

Hey Buzz, get over here and take a look at this! He wandered further along the ravine, down to where the marshes were visible.
Lenny walked his gyrowheel along the ravine, Buzz motoring genlty beside, craning his neck to see what Lenny was so captivated by.
What is it? What am I looking for? Buzz asked in between his chortling on the throttle.
Down there at the edge of the marshes, it looks like a person's sleeping down there.
With that Buzz hammered the throttle and took his gyrowheel speeding down the ravine's edge, Lenny just pacing along behind with his wheel slightly askew. Even at mild speeds he wouldn't risk a little ride. He saw Buzz slide to a halt with the dust billowing up in his wake. He saw Buzz in the distance, walking up to the body and leaning over it. A moment later he staggered back and climbed back in his wheel, with a loud whine of the motor and another cascade of dust as he raced back up the ravine, back up to Lenny.

He's dead. Buzz said, his face flushed of its colour. We need to get back to the city.
Lenny knew when Buzz was joking, and this time he had no doubts when following him on the long hike back up to the city. The Mariam Ravine ran for kilometres down from the city out arind the valley. Occasionally some joker fell down and was never heard of until months later. Although there was no way of knowing how long the body had been lying near the swamp before Buzz and Lenny spotted him, it was too far down the ravine where the high and the low began to merge into one. It was no accident.

It was around midnight, one o'clock in the morning when the two made their way back along the ravine. Buzz putted along beside Lenny, who just wearily walked his wheel along. Mere minutes before, they'd been revelling in their regular thrills of slamming their wheels down along the ravine as fast as they could go, a regular rat race, dodging and weaving the rocks and thistle bushes that littered the cragged rock as it warped and zagged out over the valley. Upwards of 200 kilometres per hour, nothing made your chest swell quite like it. There was something about the aerodynamic costumes, the round-shouldered posture, the fibreglass helmets and tightly strapped leather goggles, it all just felt so amazing, like you could roar boastful as the shining brass vehicles you sat upon. That was Lenny and Buzz up until the crash in the thistle bush. And with each passing moment came a deep unsettling tension.

They didn't speak again until the ravine turned into the barren strip of land that ran to the city's South. Lenny sat back onto his gyrowheel and gently rode it up the strip back into the city. The faint glowing aura of Berwick's South suburbs growing nearer on the horizon.

The street lamps stuttered in the night time, casting broken light upon the twisted streets of the outer suburbs. The two young men walked their machines down the road, knowing full well that their night will grow ever more longer and ever more exhausting. They were headed for the police station, but they planned on dropping their gyrowheels by Lenny's autoshop on the way. It was a bit of a detour, but they'd be able to drive to the police in an auto from there. Almost anything would be better than lugging those bulky wheels through town. So they locked the wheels in the shed at the back of Lenny's and went into the garage to get the auto running. The tank was only filled half, so they linked the hose up to the hand pump to top it off. And then Lenny stoked the ignition, flicked on the headlamps, revved out the accelerator and then they were on the road. Five minutes down the road and they were at the police station trying their best to recall what the lifeless human shape looked like in the darkness.


One thirty in the morning is not the best time to receive phone calls. It was offiver Raymond Somerville again with yet another 'emergency'. Detective Casper Bernstein slipped on his evening shoes reluctantly and headed downstairs to make himself a coffee. No matter how urgent the emergency, the wake-up routine was still elementary. A well prepared mind a few moments late is always better than a fatigued mind on time, as Casper so frequently says. It was in fifteen minutes that he found himself in full uniform down at the station, taking the statements of two young midnight joyriders. He stifled a yawn in between sips of his second cup of morning juice. He held a pen loosely in his hand and watched the two, Buzz and Lenny, sitting at the small table in a room that smelled of fear.

Lenny spoke first. He told Casper about the race down the Mariam Ravine, about the crash, about the sleeping man down by the marshes. He said how Buzz went down there, came back and said the guy was dead.
Did you touch the body? Casper asked Buzz.
No. Why would I want to do that?
Curiosity. It happens. You see a guy, you might think he's sleeping. You poke him with a stick. You roll him over and you see half his intestines hanging out his front. Your bloody stick is bagged, tagged and put into evidence. You didn't touch him, all you got is your footprints and your tyre tracks and your words. What did you see?
Well, it was dark, but after Lenny fell, I slowed down. He rolled out of the thistles no more hurt than usual, and he's seen this guy sleeping, just like he said. So him having the busted wheel no good, I went down there ahead of him. He was gonna come down and see for himself, but when I got there, I didn't want him to see it. This was like no one could mistake him for a sleeping guy up close. I don't even want to tell you what I saw.
Try, please. It's important.
Okay. Well, first I notice, he is dead. He's been bleeding from a hole in the neck for a long time, I think. It was all dried like, and there was a lot of dark patches in the dirt and weed. Then I see there's something moving, crawling over him, and I think, maggots. He's been here so long, they've been eating at him and if I waited much longer, there wouldn't be much left of him. That's what I thought, but when I saw something crawling on him I just grabbed my wheel and got out of there real quick. Then I told Lenny he was dead and we came here.
We stopped by my autoshop to drop the wheels off and get the auto, Lenny said.
Is that everything? Casper asked.
Buzz and Lenny both responded with a curt nod.
Well, thank you for your time. I'll stay in contact if we need to go over anything again. Have a safe trip home.
He got to his feet and invited his interviewees out the door. And then the real business began.

Detective Casper Bernstein had been in his position for some fifteen years now, after serving loyally to the Berwick Police Academy for another ten years prior. His stature was all that dwelt within dreams of the officers fresh out of training, the Raymond Somervilles of the world. Yet it was often enough that Casper would find himself beneath mountains of assignments too sensitive for other men to touch. He was the pride of the academy, and with the pride came the duty. So he opened a file on this mystery death down near the marshes, and he stored the Butterworth/Winters interview therein. It was two o'clock when Casper drove down to the ravine to unpack the crime scene, with the officer on duty, Ray, standing in as his number two guy.