Let Us Build Our Houses On Strong Foundations

Albion by the sea, by the winedark sea. Dug into the white chalk of the cliffs, choked with fog, rimed with salt. The Sailor’s Quarter is a vile place, full of fleecers and ginsmiths and the thousand greedy ticks that batten on the guileless limbs of the tars; Markfeet hates it with the loathly dispassion she squanders on dogshit cluttering up the sidewalk.

The dance hall is dark, even with the blackout curtains hauled open to let in the morning sun. The room crouches under the unexpected light, stripped of the pennywhiskey glamor it normally begs. The whores lying tangled together in the middle of the room look much worse, their faces eaten away by acid. “Tell me about it,” Markfeet says to the bartender.

“Hell,” he says. “They were reg’lars, yeah? Been dancing here, six, seven months, maybe. Dunno what came over ’em last night, but they each do a threepenny stand off the whiskey and give some kind of a speech in the middle of the floor and then, bam, throw whatever it was in each other’s faces.”

“Anyone hear what they said?”

“What, over the band and the faro? Nah. Looked soulful, whatever it was.”

Forensics is bustling in, all clean smell of rosemary and steel, but she doubts they’ll find anything. Nobody’s likely to have hexed these worn-out jades, not when the slow curse of time and poverty’ll do. Markfeet gets out of the way, though, and lets them go to work, hoping, bleakly, that there’s a purely human motive back of it all, something she can run to ground, something she can revenge. Surely they deserve that much, at least.