Finale – Now Available!
At the Startling Developments Detective Agency, crenelated by books, Tycho Brahe is chewing an idea.
“Man oh man,” offers Gabriel. “We gotta to get Anne-Claire up in this.”
The idea chewing ceases, and The Scholar’s moth engages. “Impossible, I’m afraid.”
“No, not really,” says Gabriel. “We can just go over there.” He follows up with: “We’ve done it before.”
“It’s not impossible because we can’t go there,” says Tycho. “It’s impossible because she’s not here.” He runs a finger down one page, then the other, and frowns. The book is slapped shut, then thrown over his right shoulder. “She’s with her parents.”
“I thought they hated her,” puts forth The Brute, whose own parentage is something of a nebulous issue.
This is the part I like, he thinks, surrounded by volumes of this and that, every brick of congealed knowledge offering up a king’s feast. He knew he’d heard the name “Hark” before - and not just during Christmas.
It might be called Hobo Alley now, but it was not always thus; just as there’d been an Arcadia before a New Arcadia was piled hastily o’ertop, Hobo Alley was once Gerald’s Park, an adjunct of the almost revoltingly opulent Riverbrook. He’d been to Riverbrook recently of course, and seen a machine which had as its sole purpose the gold-plating of dogs. Generally speaking, he didn’t care what people did with their money. But plating your Goddamned dog? For real.
It’s possible to have so much money that you can’t spend it, though; such excess rarely finds itself in the service of good intentions. He had to admit that up-armored pets are a relatively benign manifestation of the phenomenon. Well, maybe not benign for all parties. He’d concede that point.
The Old Houses of New Arcadia had engaged in wars of lineage (Wealth And Malefaction, Keel, 1921); like any rarefied sect, their methods bore the signature of their times (Oligomancy, Harspex, 1910). Feuds between ancient lines bear no novelty in and of themselves; one generation inherits the former’s wealth and prejudice at once (War in The First Echelon, Felix, 1915). It is another thing entire when a generation simply refuses to die, and with enough money, such an outcome is not out of reach (Perpetual Life Is Within Our Reach, Pamphlet, 1902).
Families had other reasons to not die, certainly. Life ain’t bad, given the alternative. But his own family, the House of Brahe, had a unique policy regarding immortality; he knows that one lifetime is rarely enough to do anything genuinely worthwhile. This is the idea which the teeth of his mind find so irresistible.
It wasn’t so long ago that they’d met James Filth in this place, a man who had regaled them with garbage songs and rattled his tooth collection. This open air asylum hasn’t improved in the interim; cavernous depressions left by the feet of hulking automatons and the weaponization of its vagrants have left an impression - literally, in some cases. The occasional frisky roboid, now rusted and in disrepair, can be safely shaken off the pant-leg. And everywhere, everywhere the mad potpourri of prophecy and nonsense which is the exclusive domain of the perpetually discarded.
These places surround Gerald’s Park like the crust of a crater - Gabriel and Tycho Brahe crack this ring. What a casual observer might have been mistaken for a wholly contiguous modern ruin is (in actual fact) a sundered fraternity of city-states, the tasteful tower of one mansion’s glory days spilling over the walls, and its fellow’s double-attic leaning drastically over the same wall, regurgitating its swooning couches and settees on lawns lost to savagery. It is as though their masters’ rage has seeped into the very bones of these structures; in their way, they observe the old hatreds.
Referencing a thinning city map, trying to imagine the splendor it communicates superimposed on the blast shadow standing before him, Tycho stops. Looking up, he sees something that resembles a home more than it resembles a bombed-out mausoleum, and he thinks that’s a good sign. Even the brass tops above the largely whole fence shine with purpose. Gabriel is popping his knuckles, one finger at a time.
The gate, still standing an impressive nine feet tall and not stolen to be used as a makeshift grill, swings open sans squeak. At the top, in a section separate from the long bars which make up the largest part of its framework, are the words “Hark House.”