House of Wolves

Edge of Cowtown.

Horny and temporarily flush from the Vanness thing, Markfeet knocks on the door. Grill snaps open and a pair of bloodshot eyes glare down at her from underneath an overgrown unibrow. “You a cop?”

She stares back, outraged. “Do I look like a fucking cop?

The eyes huff a laugh and the door swings wide. Railthin woman with thick black hair on her arms and a star tattoo on the web between her thumb and forefinger. “Upstairs,” she says, so upstairs Markfeet goes, after paying her the fifty bucks.

Afterwards, she lays back, a little raw, a little bloody, smokes a joint and watches him wash himself, face, hands, feet, mouth at the little tap. He hums tunelessly. Shakes himself dry, pricks his ears at her curiously. “Sure,” Markfeet says, “we got plenty of time. Make yourself comfortable.”

He grins and lies down next to her, suddenly much hairier, a comfortable, friendly warmth next to her legs. Markfeet stretches luxuriously and curls around him.

An Eye Without A Tongue

White-faced and clammy, Markfeet bites down on her lip, clenches her toes, digs fingernails into her palms to stay silent. She can barely breathe in the heavy veil, barely move in the thick purple robe. Do nothing, say nothing, they had laid on her like a curse. You are here as an observer and nothing more.

The trappings are bullshit, she knows, designed to impress the rubes, but the blood is real enough. There’s a kid tied to a chair under the only electric light in the room, and each of the academy graduates takes turns cutting their arms and throwing the free-flowing blood into the kid’s face. His eyes are rolled back in his head, whether from drugs or deprivation or frenzy, she couldn’t say, but there’s a palpable charge in the air, lightning before a storm.

Getting jumped out was bloodier, but less fraught, and she’s already regretting her choice. One gang for another, it had seemed at the time, but she loathes her fellow trainees, loathes the blue code of silence they pressed into her lips, despises the thick smell of blood and the veil. This time next year, she thinks, half-dread, half excitement, and winces as another splash of blood hits the kid right in the eyes.

His eyes flicker but do not blink. The line sways forward.

Pay What Is Due

Someone’s gorgeous son has had his throat slit, and Markfeet glowers down at his body in disapproval.

“Cause of death seems relatively straightforward,” Forensics notes dryly, and she grunts. Blood has soaked through the mattress and pooled on the pine planks of the floor. That was how he’d been found: blood dripping from the ceiling into the apartment below.

“Real quiet feller,” says the landlord. “Kept himself to himself. Paid on time, very nice and tidy.”

“He have any regular visitors? Friends, lovers, priest or lawyers?”

Landlord sucks his teeth. “Nooooo, no one I ever met. Did his own cleaning, even. Lived like a monk, far as I saw. Seemed like a waste? Figured he was a poet or one of those Attic fellers. Sworn to what’s her name, the sickle one. Celibate, or— whsht—you know. Castrato.”

Markfeets hikes her eyebrows, looks over at Forensics who has started stripping the corpse. Forensics shakes his head, no. “If he was, he hadn’t found time yet. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t though; lots of ’em don’t go under the knife these days.”

The Body is a Feudal State

“Dig deep,” she hisses at Markfeet. “You gotta get it all out.”

Markfeet’s sweating and cold, the tips of her fingers and ears numb with tension. It went bad, this one, real bad. Hoodoo was out with the twitches and half the gang was sunk in the river running below Maplewood, the lucky ones floating face down. Her arms are red with blood to the elbow, most of it sticky and drying with Tip’s blood a bright new flag laid on top of it.

“Damn it, focus, you sorry son of a bitch,” Tip snaps, and Markfeet tries, she tries hard, but her eyes are bedeviled something fierce, she has to keep shaking her head to make the world a place of things and not ideas. She bites her canker sores hard, until her mouth floods with blood and lemon; the bullet pops out at last.

“Shit,” she says, and Tip goes ash-white when he sees it, a real mean piece of work, chuckling malevolently with a full charge of meaning. “You’re gonna lose an arm, fasure.”

Tip kicks out, sends her flying backward into the bricks, overturns the place like a hurricane. “Fuck! Fuck!” The world goes senseless for a long second and Tip is gone when it settles down again, the bullet gone with her.


Fog, and weeks of fog. Mold and moss digs furry fingers into every nook and crevice, and the greasy face of the Sailor’s Quarter goes piebald with crusted salt summoned from the slate grey pucker of the bay. Markfeet is cold to the core of her, no matter what fires she builds or drinks she swallows; she swaddles herself in colorless, bulky sweaters, festoons herself with charms against the dusk. No matter — her fingers still ache, bloodless and so stiff she can hardly hold flame to her cigarette. Forensics has to do it for her, her face moony and foolish in the red light of the match.

“So? What did you learn?”

Forensics flinches. “Not much, alas. Vegetarian. A drinker, to judge by the liver, but not a smoker, going by the lungs. Brain raddled with worms, but–” she holds up a hand to forestall Markfeet’s next, obvious question– “years old. Probably got exposed during the last skirmish.”

“Sailor, then?”

“Hard to say. Could’ve been an islander, or maybe just unlucky. Worked with his hands, sure enough; see the calluses? That says sailor, right enough, only his feet are soft as lambskin.”

“Maybe they were new-grown?”

Forensics purses her lips. “Y-e-e-e-es,” she drawls. “that could have been it. Hard to tell in this weather, but they do seem pale, don’t they? We’ll get you a list of backalleys that could have put them together for him; maybe they’ll know something.”