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Tales of London #13

Chapter 13

By John H. KnightPublished 2 months ago 13 min read

The rain stopped but it was still cold outside. The sky was grey and felt somehow low. The wind howled between the buildings, racing with the traffic. Jenna, still listening to music, walked towards the office, head down, hands in her pockets, deep in thought.

She walked by the door and had to turn back. The fish and chips shop next door was closed, shutter down. They won't open until lunchtime. In fact, most of the shops around were closed; it was very early for this neighbourhood.

Jenna took out her earphones and killed the music. It was time to be professional. Sort of.

She speeded up the carpeted, cracking stairs and tried the knob on the office door. Khan looked up from his newspaper as she entered. His eyebrows went up in surprise.

'What are you doing here?' he asked.

'I work here, Khan.'

'Your week usually starts at eleven. On Tuesday,' he pointed out.

'I'm trying something new,' Jenna shrugged. Kahn nodded and returned to his paper.

Jenna took off her jacket and hung it on the valet next to the front door. Then she squeezed herself through between two desks, so she can sit down at hers.

It was empty, except for a few pens, a yellow post-it block, two files in the file case which said "to do", and her old work laptop. Last time she was in the office, files and books and papers were covering every last inch of the desk, so she assumed Remy tidied up for her again. She put down her takeaway paper cup.

At nine, sharp, the door opened up and Mr Jones shuffled in. He gave an astonished look to Jenna from behind his thick glasses, then looked at his watch, raised it to his ear, shook it a little and listened to it again. Jenna scoffed.

'Yes, it's me. In time.'

'Well I suppose miracles do happen after all,' he whispered. The girl shot a sharp look at him, and the old man fled to his office.

Jenna grabbed the first file from the plastic case. It was very thin. She opened it and read it carefully. It looked like a simple haunting, a boring routine job. She put it aside with a grimace and took the second one. That was much better, a thick, juicy file with witness statements, photos of the scene, theories and a very not obvious cause. Something, or some things, the witnesses weren't sure, attacked them, in a cemetery out in Zone Five. The cemetery was inactive for decades, and people used it as a local park. That made sense for Brits: there were a lot of green, trees, nice little footpaths and benches. It was lovely if you didn't mind the dead people underneath.

All the attacks occurred at a full moon, which wasn't as helpful of a clue as one might think. Finally, a good case. Jenna fired up her laptop, which told her that it planned to install approximately two-thousand updates and that it will take all the time remaining until the end of eternity. Jenna sighed and fished out her phone. She was happy to see that today was the day of the full moon. That changed the plans, however, so she texted Robert:

"can we meet earlier? 6?" The answer arrived in a minute: "Do you have a date tonight, Miss Carvelli?" She grinned as she typed: "r u jealous, professor? i do have a date with something tryna eat people in a cemetery. thats my type fyi"

"I won't stand between you and your true love. Let's meet at 6."

Jenna put down the phone smiling and looked over Kahn's desk. She knew that he came from another continent, and he was a very experienced sorcerer, even though he made serious efforts to hide that.

'Hey, Kahn,' the girl said, 'what do you know about necromancy?'

The man looked up with annoyance on his face.

'What kind of lunatic question is this again, Carvelli?'

'Just figured you might be able to help me out,' Jenna said innocently. 'I have a… Well, we can call it a case, I think. Helping out a friend. But I need to know more about necromancy, and it looks like there are no sources.'

Khan put his newspaper down and leaned back, causing his chair to cry for help. He brushed on his moustache with his thumb and forefinger.

'Where I am from, we think necromancy is without honour. Cheating death is for cowards,' he said slowly and carefully. Then he added: 'And it's illegal everywhere in the world. It was outlawed already before I was even born, so I don't know anything about it.'

'C'mon, Khan...' said Jenna in a sweet voice, 'I just assumed even if it is illegal, a man like you, with so much experience might know a thing or two.' Kahn wasn't particularly vain, but Jenna found that men are quite easy to manipulate this way. Sure enough, the corner of Kahn's mouth flinched as if he tried to hide a smile.

'Well, there was this one time, long ago, when I was a young man. I worked as a sailor…'

'You what now?' Jenna almost laughed. It was hard to imagine the big, cumbersome Kahn running around on a ship, climbing ladders and stuff… It was a very un-Kahn-y picture.

'Is that so unbelievable for you, Carvelli?' he snapped.

'You haven't left your desk in three weeks,' Jenna pointed out.

Kahn smiled, which was so rare that the girl didn't recognise it for a moment and thought it was a weird new way of expressing anger.

'That's now. I am old and tired, but I used to be young once.'

No, that was another picture that defeated Jenna's imagination. A young Kahn somehow felt like a paradox. She stopped trying, over the fear that her brain would melt and gestured the old man to continue.

'I worked on a cargo ship. Huge, full of containers, with no passengers. It was nice. But our ship wasn't entirely… Legal. We had papers and things, and some money to bribe the ones who needed to be bribed. It was back in the day when there was no Internet and GPS and such things, so you could literally fly under the radar if you were skilled enough. Which we were. Anyway, there was this container once. No problem at daylight, but every night there was the knocking. You should know that sailors are a superstitious bunch. Even the ones that know magic. And we never shipped anything alive, you understand, we weren't human traffickers or anything, only smugglers.'

Jenna found it odd that Khan never mentioned anything about this before. They've worked together for almost 5 years now. In fact, Khan used to be Jenna's mentor when she started, and they spent quite a lot of time together in her first year. And yet, he never talked about any of this before. Must have been a really traumatic memory, Jenna thought.

'So some of the crew wanted to lose the container, just push it into the Atlantic Ocean and that's it. I said we should open it up to check. In case there is some poor geezer, a kidnapped vampire or something like that. I figured that if anything was inside, I would face less time in prison if it survives the trip, should I be caught. Just some common sense, you understand. So I convinced the others and we opened the container. I will never forget what I've seen, Carvelli. And the smell… I'm not proud of that, but as the doors opened, I threw up. It was terrible.' He stopped, staring into the middle distance. Jenna cleared her throat. Khan shivered, then his eyes found focus and he continued.

'Real zombies aren't gonna chase you, trying to eat your brain, you know that? They don't need to eat. They only do what their master says to them until they are too rotten to move. Those in the container were fresh, but not that fresh, you see. And they were just staring at us. No master, no order.'

'So why did they knock?' asked Jenna frowning.


'You said they knocked every evening. Why did they knock? Who told them to?'

'How should I know? I don't know zombies…'

Jenna gave him a suspicious look. She tilted her head, still frowning.



'Isn't this the plot of an old horror movie, the one called... The boat of the dead or something like that?' she asked.

Kahn stared at her for a moment then burst out giggling.

'You got me, Carvelli. Didn’t think you’d know an old movie like that. Look, as I said, I know nothing about that crap. Can I read my paper now?'

Jenna just waved impatiently and the old man returned to his paper with a satisfied sigh. There was something about some terrorists arrested by the police on the front page. The headline said the Commissioner led the investigation personally. So he did work sometimes, Jenna thought.

The girl toyed with the idea of setting the paper alight to get back at Kahn for the fake story but then just shrugged and sighed. It would have been so much fun to rub Montgomery's nose into the fact that she could find a source while the famous professor failed. Well, maybe next time. And she still had the shadow hound if she wanted to tease him, after all.

A few minutes later she heard thuds outside as a pair of heavy boots were coming up the stairs. Jenna made a face. It could only be her least favourite co-worker, Grimes. And sure enough, the door opened and the big man walked in. He was a very tall, broad-shouldered fella, well into his thirties, with a small beer-belly, but otherwise strong like an oak. He had brown hair, turning grey at his temple. He was handsome and even charming in that boyish way like all of those men who were mentally stuck in high school, the last place where they were popular. Well, at least Jenna thought that way.

Grimes put his huge, worn biker jacket next to Jenna's then plumped down at his desk. He put his boots up and said:

'This is some fucked up weather you guys have here. The fuck are you doing here this early, Carvelli? Are you sick?' He talked with an American accent, and a very unique one at that, as he was from Texas. He was also the only demon hunter Jenna knew that preferred to hunt with a gun instead of magic. A very American way of thinking: they rather made special, magically enhanced weapons and bullets. Not like they were bad at magic or something, they just liked to shoot at things.

Jenna showed her middle finger to Grimes with a sweet smile, something universally understandable, no matter where people came from. Grimes scoffed and picked up a file from his desk. He used to give obscene comments about what he would like to do that involved Jenna and fingers, but after a couple of well-aimed curses, he left that habit behind.

'Ghosts again…' he moaned loudly. 'Why can't I get a challenge for once? Something worthy of my talents?'

'Because we don't take contracts for mice. Now shut up, I'm trying to work here,' said Jenna.

'Which is a surprise on its own, ain't it?' replied the American. Jenna opened her mouth to say something not particularly nice or polite when the door opened again. This time it was Molly, talking to Remy Durand, a young, skinny, black Frenchman with glasses and a tall afro haircut which added at least five more centimetres to his height. They both were part-timers: Molly had two children, under the age of ten at home, while Remy was a student in his second year at college. He was also Jenna's apprentice the same way as she was Kahn's once.

Molly stopped at the table that served as the kitchen, and started to make coffee. It was a time-consuming process, which required a lot of patience, some magic and at least one long swearing and the result was mediocre coffee at best. Remy grinned at Jenna and sat down at his tiny desk, which was basically a homemade shelf on the side of Jenna's bigger one.

'What have you got? Anything good?' he asked. There was a very slight, almost unnoticeable French accent in his voice, much like Jenna's own Italian one. She knew that Remy moved to London with his family when he was ten or eleven. Jenna was a born Londoner, but her mother taught her how to speak Italian, and she also spent most of her summer vacations in Italy at her grandmother's. She got her accent there.

'Actually, yes, I do have something very interesting,' she said now. 'It might be a werewolf…'

Grimes suddenly looked up, straightening his back.

'What? No. No way. I have to deal with a fucking ghost, and Carvelli gets to hunt a werewolf? Over my dead body. Boss! Boss!'

Mr Jones stuck out his head from his office and looked once again like a very old turtle. 'What's the matter, Oliver?' he asked.

Grimes made an annoyed face. He hated when people called him by his first name.

'How come Carvelli got the werewolf case? I have seniority!'

'No, you don't,' said Kahn from behind his paper. 'I do.'

'That's true. Do you want my werewolf case, Kahn?' Jenna asked innocently.

'No thanks,' he answered, putting down the newspaper, 'You can keep it.'

'But I have more experience!' Grimes objected.

'We never had a werewolf before,' pointed out Molly with a nice motherly voice. 'You cannot have more experience with it.'

Grimes' face wrinkled into an expression which suggested hard thinking. Then he smiled.

'I have the best rate of closed cases!' he said triumphantly.

'I’m afraid that's incorrect, Oliver,' Mr Jones shook his head. 'Ms Carvelli beats you by three cases.'

Grimes groaned and jumped to his feet. He raised his only case file in the air.

'I deserve better cases than this!' He chopped the file down, photos were flying everywhere.

'Let me take that off your hand real quick then,' said Remy, and went to pick up the pictures. Then he grabbed the file itself.

'It's settled, then,' nodded Mr Jones. 'You may as well take the day off, Oliver. There are no other cases today,' and with that, he stepped back into his office. Grimes groaned again, then kicked his chair aside and stormed out of the office. There was a deep silence while the echoes of his steps died away.

'That was fun,' smiled Molly. 'Coffee, anyone?'

Remy laughed and raised his fist, and Jenna bumped hers into it.

'Do you really have a werewolf case, though?' he asked. The girl grinned.

'Nah, it's probably just some ghouls obsessed with the full moon,' she answered. 'There was no proven werewolf sighting in England since the early '70s. Didn't I teach you anything?'

'Barely,' Remy grinned, then ducked when Jenna tried to hit him with a file.

SeriesYoung AdultMysteryLoveHumorHorrorFantasyfamilyAdventure

About the Creator

John H. Knight

Yet another aspiring writer trying his luck on the endless prairie of the Internet.

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