Inspector Klay and the Nico
by Anthony Lukas
Part 1 appears in this issue.
Watson asked, “Are you certain that they have the girl?”
“No, of course not. But this kind of acceleration in attacks is not without precedent for those Nico that have engaged in this kind of violence,” said the Inspector. “It is a possibility that must be investigated.” After a moment or two, “You are both armed?” I had my short club and revolver as did Watson.
We rattled toward the mansion on the long lane down which the Inspector and I had looked earlier. We made no attempt at stealth, rolling right to the massive front doors. They were lights flickering in many of the windows of the great house, and I thought I saw someone peer out at us for a moment.
The Inspector strode to the door and knocked loudly. In a moment it was pulled open by a small woman who seemed to be about to say something, but the Inspector brushed by to stand in the great entry hall. A grand staircase descended into the entry hall and doorways led off into rooms on either side. From one of these a man emerged.
I had expected something more. Someone darkly sinister in appearance. Instead the Nico looked quite ordinary. Tall, slim, grey hair. Nice suit, but nothing diabolical. The Nico stared at us.
“I am Inspector Klay and this is deputy constable Steward and constable Watson. I am sorry to intrude, but I wish to ask questions about some injured animals and a missing girl.”
The Nico stared coolly. “You really do not expect us to submit to your interrogation, do you?” I tensed and but the smile did not leave the Inspector’s face.
“I expect you to submit to the law,” said the Inspector.
“Do you? Then you are a fool.”
Three more figures emerged from the side rooms: two men and a woman. All were like the first: slim, tall but perhaps a bit younger.
This is going to be bad, I thought, thinking of the bloody descriptions of the victims. My hand closed on my short club in my coat pocket, turning slightly toward the Nico closest to me. I felt Watson do the same.
The Inspector gazed at the Nico. “Such inhospitable conduct,” he said. “It causes one to wonder what you have to hide.”
The Nico grinned, and I saw canine teeth that were long and sharp. All of the Nico were grinning at us, moving a bit closer. “What we have to hide is none of your concern. I suggest you leave. Now.”
The Inspector did not move. His slight smile did not waver. My mind flashed back to that charging beast and the Inspector standing unmoving. “Do you expect to intimidate me?” said the Inspector. “Then you are the fool.”
The Nico moved, fast. I turned to the one closing on me but he did not seem to be there. I could feel hands on me, but the image of the Nico seemed to flicker. I cleared my mind, concentrated on the feeling of those hands, judging where my attacker must be and swung my club in a tight arc, connecting with someone.
Then I could see him clearly and swung again, a hard thrust to the stomach and a sharp blow to the side of the head. The Nico rocked back, then came at me again; and again he seemed to turn to shadow; and again I felt invisible hands at my throat.
I brought my club up sharply, heard a whoosh of breath and again could see the Nico, now doubled up in front of me. I came down hard with my club — once, twice, three times — driving him to the stone floor. I kicked him with my heavy boot, and sent him sprawling.
I turned and saw Watson down on his knees, a flickering shadow on him. I ran over, swinging my club into the center of the shadow. Then I saw the Nico woman rolling off Watson. Watson could see her, too, and backhanded her with his club, sending her to the floor.
I glanced over and could see the Inspector and the leader, seemingly just standing there; but then the fourth Nico was on me. Again the invisible hands; again I brought my club up then down sharply on the head that became visible.
I felt Watson pulling me back, and we backed against the wall. I could see the Nico woman rising and the fourth standing, shaking his head, but both turning to us. I noticed with satisfaction that the one that had first attacked me was leaning unsteadily against the far wall. But they were up. Divinity, these Nico are tough. This had to end. Now.
I pulled my revolver and pointed it at the woman advancing on us. I knew in any second she would disappear, and then she would be too close for me to use my revolver. Even as I had that thought, I fancied she already seemed to be fading. I pulled the trigger, aiming for her center. She screamed and then she was there holding an arm and hissing — hissing! — at us. I fired again, hitting her in her leg and putting her down on the floor. The other stopped where he was.
I looked at the foot of the stairs and saw the Nico move to the Inspector and then disappear. I looked at the Inspector, who was staring straight ahead and seemed to be watching, tracking someone without problem.
The Nico was on the Inspector, biting his neck; but he recoiled, spitting, his face shocked. I could see the bite marks; a yellow liquid oozed and then stopped. The Nico snarled, “What are you?”
“No taste for bio-coolant? And it’s organic, too.” The Inspector smiled. So, I thought, dazed, not ice water after all.
The Nico hissed and jumped at the Inspector, but Klay caught him in both hands and raised the Nico up over his head and threw him onto the stairs. He advanced as the Nico rose and backhanded him, sending the Nico reeling. The Inspector advanced again, grabbed the Nico by the front of his clothes and raised him into the air, his feet dangling.
“Did you really think that you would be allowed to terrorize these good people?” asked the Inspector in a deadly calm voice. “Did you think that I would allow that?”
He lowered him to the ground and said, “The girl.”
“I’ll get her, sir, gladly.” This from the small woman who had opened the door for us. She had been cowering somewhere. She ran up the stairs, and we could hear doors being opened and then running steps and then at the top of the stairs was the small woman and a girl, blonde hair and slight, leaning on her. She stared with big green eyes at what must have seemed to be a very bizarre scene.
The woman Nico sat on the floor, holding her bleeding leg. One of the men still leaned against the far wall, the other stood at bay, our revolvers pointed at him. And at the foot of the stairs, stood the Inspector, holding the Nico leader.
“It’s all right, dear,” said the little woman. “They are here to help you.” As they came down the stairs, I could see bandages on the girl’s arms. I was horrified and furious at what I knew those bandages meant. I glared at the Nico woman and felt my finger tighten on the revolver’s trigger.
But the girl stopped on the stairs when her face was even with the Nico. She stared at him for a moment and then she spat in his face! The Inspector laughed — laughed! — then drew the Nico he was holding close and said, “Time for you to leave. Now.”
* * *
But they did not leave, at least not right away. They were held until the circuit magistrate arrived in a few days. She looked coldly at the Nico from her makeshift judicial bench at the constable’s station and clearly was not impressed by what she saw.
The magistrate decreed that compensation was due to those who had lost animals. As for the young girl, she was given a choice of compensation — a great deal of compensation — and banishment or incarceraton for the Nico. The girl looked at her parents, hard-working farmers sitting in the court. She took the money. Within days, accounts were settled and the Nico were gone. Almost.
“The local government can handle the local offenses,” said the Inspector. “But this talent to affect perception and memory is of Royal concern and must be investigated. They have been taken aboard a Royal Navy vessel for transportation and study.”
Whatever, I thought, at least they’re gone.
We had ridden to the Pulliam farm. The Inspector gave the couple a sack with coins. Mr. Pulliam took it solemnly and a bit sadly.
“I know it is just money,” said Klay, “but spring is almost here, and with it will come new life.”
Pulliam nodded and even managed a smile. He shook the Inspector’s hand, Mrs. Pulliam hugged him and the little girl again pulled on his coat and whispered something in his ear when he bent to her. “You’re welcome,” he said.
As we rode away, I looked surreptitiously at the Inspector, as I had been doing since that night in the manor house.
“Why don’t you just ask me?” he asked.
Damn those eyes. I put an innocent, puzzled expression on my face.
“Oh, stop it,” he said. “Ask.”
I drew a breath. “What are you?”
“I am something of a cyborg. An AH.”
“An AH is an augmented human.”
I was silent, uneasy. Cyborg? We had ancient myths about monster human machines called a name I could not quite recall.
“Would you like to know what that means?” he asked after a bit.
“I have had various implants placed into my body, neuro-assists that push my nerve and some muscular functions to higher efficiency. They cause additional heat that requires an additional cooling system, which the Nico happened to bite into.” He stopped and looked at me.
“I see,” although I didn’t really. “Ah, do you feel differently?”
“Oh, I have greater sensitivity in some senses... Oh, do you mean do I personally feel differently with the augmentations than before?”
He thought for a bit, the countryside giving way to the outskirts of the town. “I have noticed a slight flattening in affect,” he said. “My emotions often seem less... deep than before.”
I looked at him. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I saw a brief look of sadness.
“Are all Royal Inspectors AHs?”
“No. I had suffered severe neurological injury from an exposure in a toxin attack some years ago. My recovery necessitated some kind of implants, and I was approached to try these experimental implants and support systems.” He smiled. “I’m a guinea pig, I suppose.”
I didn’t know what a guinea pig was and must have had a blank expression because he added, “A lab rat.” Ah.
“Are there others like you?”
“No, I believe I am the only one.” And again I thought I glimpsed sadness.
We rode into the village and the Inspector wanted to stop at the inn for a “pint of that excellent ale.” We did and after a few sips the Inspector said, “I have a new assignment in the mountains in the south. Some of the highland villages are claiming to have been attacked by some sort of snow creature. Would you wish to accompany me?” At my hesitation he added, “I would understand if you don’t wish to.”
I smiled. “I was just thinking that I do have kin in that area. And I know of an inn that brews an excellent walnut porter.”
The Inspector said. “I am glad.” He took another sip in his almost maddeningly methodical way. He put his tankard down and, with that slight smile, said, “Now tell me about this porter.”
Copyright © 2014 by Anthony Lukas