Saturday, April 1, 2017

Excerpt: Order of the Death's Head

“So, we think these guys are witches?” Calloway asked.
            “Warlocks,” Emily corrected.
            Sister Cecelia shook her head. “I’m still confused. what do you mean about a man in a mask?”
            “Maybe we should tell her about the vision,” Emily pointed out.
            “We all had the same vision,” Hawkins replied. “A masked man standing at an unearthed grave, holding a skull. Then just a series of images. War, famine, disease, death… horrible images.”
            “The Four Horseman,” Cecelia said.
            “Pardon?” Calloway asked.
            “You just named the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, from the Book of Revelation.”
            “What does that mean?” Hawkins asked.
            “I’m not sure. Revelations is supposed by to describe the end of the world. Or it is a narration of the Church’s persecution at the hands of Nero. I’m not sure what that has to do with this Eigenstolf, though. Do we know anything about him, other than the fact he wears a mask?”
            Calloway cleared his throat. “I… know a little about Lucas Eigenstolf.”
            “Lucas?” Emily asked.
            Calloway nodded. “We were in France together. That’s where he got his face blown off.”
            “And so he wears the mask,” Cecelia said. “Victim turned villain.”
            “Why keep us in the dark?” Hawkins asked.
            “It didn’t seem important.” Calloway finally said. “And I don’t particularly like talking about the War.” That was a lie. Hawkins knew for a fact Calloway reveled in war stories, true or otherwise.
            “I think I know where we will be able to find him. But we are going to need more fashionable clothes.”

* * *

“C’mon, sister, you look good.” Cecelia grimaced and blushed at the same time, examining herself in the mirror of the cramped department store dressing room, while adjusting most modest evening gown they had been able to fine.
She frowned. “Stop checking on me in here, I’ll be out when I am good and ready. How do you think you are going to pass off an Indian as an Ivy Leaguer, anyway?” She asked.
            “I’m not,” Calloway replied. “He is going to be my special guest. He is also semi-famous enough to fit in.”
            “I hadn’t ever heard of him,” Cecelia argued.
            “You aren’t exactly the audience that he was going for.”
“Okay,” Cecelia concluded. “I think this will have to do. I have never attended a ball before.”
            “Benefit Fundraiser Dance,” Calloway corrected. “Don’t worry, you might have some fun.”

            Hawkins stepped out in his newly fitted tuxedo, a bow tie at his neck, his thick black hair combed back in a slick part. Emily put her hand to her mouth. “Well, don’t you cut the dashing figure?” She declared.
“You look pretty amazing yourself,” he replied. Indeed, she looked stunning in the blue evening gown she glided towards him in, a sparkling headband wrapped around her forehead and over her golden locks. He tugged at the ribbon wrapped around his collar. “I think I cut the uncomfortable figure,” he said. “What is the point of wearing these things around your neck, again?”
            “Nonsense, you look wonderful!” she said, grabbing him by the arm. She turned to the tailor who was standing at the corner packaging a suit into a bag. He looked at the tall man in the suit and surveyed him up and down.
The tailor nodded. “I’d say you look downright civilized.” 
Emily frowned. She clung to his arm and pulled closer to him. “You look fine,” she said into his ear. The tailor drew his attention to their interlocked arms. Hawkins pulled away from her gently.
“How much is it?” He asked. The tailor named his price, and Hawkins pulled out the cash and paid the price, including a little extra. The tailor smiled and happily took the extra money.  He and Emily stepped into the streets of Boston arm in arm. He pulled up his Stetson hat and fit it snuggly on his head.
“Oh, you will blend in nicely here,” she said. Hawkins smiled and pulled the brim down low.
They met up with Calloway and Cecelia in front of the University Ballroom. Dirk wore his black top hat cocked at an angle and an identical tuxedo to Hawkins, although he wore it better. Cecelia looked almost as uncomfortable as Hawkins was in her long black evening gown, a large crucifix prominently dangling over the high neckline. It was a good thing that they had paired up the way they had. Cecelia and Hawkins would have made a very awkward couple.
“Shall we?” Hawkins proposed. He led them up the long series of concrete steps to the entrance of the hall.
“You are sure that you will be able to get in?” Hawkins asked.
“Yeah, Yeah, I’m sure. And if we don’t, we’ll figure something out, won’t we?” Hawkins sighed and rolled his eyes at the answer, and decided to shut up and let Calloway do his thing. They approached the door attendant, who held a small leather-bound folder close to his chest with one hand, and a black fountain pen in the second. Calloway stepped up and halted in front of the door attendant. The attendant looked up expectantly. “Dirk Calloway, and three guests,” he trumpeted.
The door attendant took his pen and scanned down the list of names halting and checking something off with his pen. He then scribbled something down with on a piece of paper and handed it to a young runner, who carried the note inside.
“Thank you sir, please step this way.” The attendant gestured to his right to the door. To the rest of their surprise, they were led right into the ballroom. To the right were two tables with white tablecloths draped over them. A collection of Venetian style masks were lined up in rows on each table. The feminine masks were placed on one table, and the masculine masks on another. The four of them hesitated, staring dumbly at the masks.
A helpful attendant stood stationed at the table. “You may take the mask of your choice, sir,” he explained. Calloway reluctantly stepped forward and stood at the men’s table of masks, and picked out a random mask, pulling the elastic band over the back of his head and the mask over his head.”
The rest of them followed Calloway’s example, choosing their masks and placing them on their faces. As they entered the ballroom, Emily pulled away from Hawkin’s side to stand next to Calloway. “Did you know about this?” she demanded.
“No! I-” he was cut off as they stepped over the threshold to the ballroom by the man at the door.
“Dirk Calloway, Alumnus, and Guests,” The doorman announced. The two stopped bickering and stepped onto the floor, where waiters carrying trays of food and wine navigated through the sea of masked guests. Ostentatious banners displaying the University’s blue and crimson colors hung from the ceiling along with several glass chandeliers. Mingling guests exuded a chorus of chatter and laughter that merged together into a constant buzzing drone, which was only barely overcome by the string section which played various classical tones while seated on an elevated stage in the back of the room. The stage, rather than drawing attention to the musicians, was set up in such a way that they faded into the background, letting the dancing patrons steal the show.
Emily crossed her arms, her silver mask barely obscuring her anger. “Great, a masquerade. Our whole plan was based on the fact that this fiend sticks out like a sore thumb. What do we do now?”
“You might try enjoying yourself,” Calloway responded. “This is just a snag. We’ll find him, trust me.” He snatched a glass of champagne off a tray carried by a passing waiter. He held up the glass as if to toast, and then lowered it and took a sip. “We just have to be patient.”
“Okay,” Hawkins concluded. “We are guessing that he has a full-face mask on, correct?” You said that part of his jaw was blown off in the War?”
Calloway nodded. “That’s what I understand. Although I never saw Iggy after his injury, so I can’t be sure.”
“Well, that’s what we saw in our vision, so that is what I’ll go with. Maybe it will have affected his speech as well. We’ll have to be careful.”
“Okay, so say we do find him,” Emily posited, “what do we do then? Ask him to kindly give his mystical skull back?”
“No, we are going to have to tail him to the ceremony,” Calloway said.
“And what do we do then?” Cecelia asked.
Calloway stopped and rubbed some of the condensation off his wine glass. “We take it from him? I don’t know, we’ll figure something out, right?” He paused while the orchestra transitioned into a new melody. “Until then, Sister,” he said after doing a half bow, “May I have this dance?’ He extended his hand to Cecelia.
            “I don’t know,” she said, but took his hand.
            “We’ll be on the lookout,” Dirk said as he led her away.
            “I guess we should be too,” Hawkins said. He could use a glass of champagne.
            “Perhaps we should follow their lead. We can cover more area without raising suspicion.”
            “What do you mean?”
            She smiled. “Would you care to dance, sir?”
            “I don’t… really know how.”
            “Well how else will you learn, without trying?” She grabbed him by the hand and pulled him towards the dance floor. “I will take it easy on you. We’re supposed to be looking out for villains anyway.”
            “That could be difficult, while dancing with a pretty girl.”
            “I’ll try not to be too distracting. Maybe we can actually come up with a real plan instead of waiting for him to figure one out.” She put his hand around her waist and hers around his neck.
            They slowly made their way around the floor. The masks blended one into the other into a sea of static grinning faces. The black tuxedos did not help, either. He tried to make note of every affectation, speech impediment, or any sort of scar or injury.
“Tom, I’ve been meaning to-”
“Meaning to what?”
“Hold on, Eigenstolf was a doughboy, right?”
“That’s what Dirk said, why?”
She guided them in a circle so that he and she had switched places. “Do you see that fella with all the medals?” She asked. He did. The man wore a Venetian Mask and tuxedo like the rest of the guests, but several prominent medals hung from his lapel: a golden star and cross, and a violet and gold heart, among many others.
“We need to make sure we don’t lose him.”
“What about Dirk and Cecelia?”
He looked around. “I don’t even know where they are.”
“They’re at the bar. Well, Dirk is. Didn’t you see when they passed us?”
He hadn’t.
“We should try to keep on of us in line of sight at all times. See if you can’t catch their attention, though.” She waved at them, but Hawkins wasn’t able to see if they saw. He watched the man they thought to be Eigenstolf conversing and nodding, almost indistinguishable from the rest of those in attendance. He did not have a serious look about him, did not seem to be plotting anything nefarious. He was simply enjoying the party.
“What’s the situation?” Calloway asked as he and Cecelia waltzed toward them. Hawkins nodded towards their suspect, and Calloway mimicked the gesture. “I’d say that’d be him.”
Their quarry clasped one of his companions and the back and the walked off the dance floor and towards a hallway flanked by two men dressed in white.
“They’re leaving,” Hawkins whispered. Emily instinctively turned to look, making him cringe. The group of men did not notice, however, and after a short conversation with the guards, they walked through the hallway.
“Well, let’s head after them,” Calloway said, and he let go of Cecelia to head in that direction, leaving her standing awkwardly. Hawkins did the same to Emily, and she gave Cecelia a knowing glance and shook her head at their manners.
“What about the guards? Are you just planning on clobbering your way through them?” She asked.
“Wait,” Hawkins said, and he pulled a piece of silvery metal from his pocket. The skull ring from the tomb robbers. He tossed the ring to Calloway. “I thought it might be useful. See if that can’t get us in.”
Calloway held it up thoughtfully, and then slipped it on. “Just follow my lead,” he said. “And don’t screw it up.” Calloway wrapped his arm around Cecelia and guided her with him. “C’mon doll,” he said with a put on bravado. She shifted uncomfortably but reciprocated albeit awkwardly.
Emily sighed.
“What’s the matter?” Hawkins asked laughing, and brought her closer to him. “Can’t let you suffragettes ruin our party, can we?”
“Suffragette? Maybe so. Too many teetotalers in their ranks though, if you ask me.”
“Hey now, soon we’ll all be teetotalers,”
She laughed. “I’d like to see that day.” She put her arm around him and followed Calloway’s lead. “Just watch your hands.”
They approached the guards side by side and Calloway flashed his skull ring, along with a Nathan Hale class ring Hawkins had not noticed before. The guards glanced at each other.
“This is a new prospect I’m letting tag along.” Calloway said, slurring his words and gesturing at Hawkins. “And of course, these are the ladies.”
“How do you do?” Emily, giggling sweetly. She put her head on Hawkins shoulder.
Better not go overboard, sweetheart.
“You know we can’t let the girls in.” The guard said. “And did you get clearance for the prospect?”
“Of course I got clearance. Why else would I bring him? Do I need to talk to Lucas? Why don’t you get prettyboy out here and show him why you’re making a big scene.”
The guards stiffened. “Okay. But we can’t let the broads in. Sorry.”
Calloway shrugged. “Sorry girls, looks like this is a gentleman’s only scene.”
Emily pushed away from Hawkins. “Really, now. I’m going for a smoke. She turned and marched off. Hawkins could not tell if she was putting on a show.
“Wait,” Cecelia said as she chased after Emily. “Meet us at the entrance when you’re finished with your boys club?”
“Sure thing, doll” Calloway said in dismissively.
The short hallway led to a solid oak door hinged in iron. Another doorman in white greeted them. He nodded at them and pulled open the heavy door with a groan, unleashing the music and chatter that had been boxed inside. Idle talk and laughter was periodically punctuated by the clack of billiard balls. A haze of cigar smoke demarcated the entrance to the room. Calloway broke through the smoky seal, and Hawkins’ flared his nostrils as he stepped through the portal.
A gramophone trumpeted a jazz tune to their left, and a fully stocked bar with prominently displayed top-shelf liquors made up the entire left wall of the clubhouse, where a bartender dropped some ice cubes in a tumbler. Leather chairs circled one corner, where several men puffed on freshly cut cigars pulled from the humidor on the far wall. A pair of waiters ran back and forth serving drinks and lighting cigars. One man stood at the edge of billiard table sat in the dead center of the woven carpet floor, lining up his shot wall another held a cue across his back as if it were a yoke, swaying back and forth slightly. To the immediate right corner sat a bright-red felt poker table with multi-colored poker chips laid in neat stacks in a ring around two brand new decks of cards.
Calloway stopped at the entrance and pulled off his mask. “I think I might have picked the wrong side,” he muttered. Hawkins pulled his mask from his face and glared pointedly. Calloway grinned sheepishly and shrugged. Then he raised two fingers. “Two scotches,” he said.
Making himself at home. Better than looking like they didn’t belong, he supposed. Hawkins planted himself into one of the leather-backed bar stools next to Calloway, but his eyes caught the figure standing beside the humidor. Unlike the rest, his mask remained on, and he seemed to be watched their every move. The tiny medals pinned upon his chest glittered in the soft light.
The bartender set two tumblers of scotch in front of them. Hawkins tried his best to be discrete. “I don’t see any sign of the skull.”
“I guess we wait and see. And enjoy ourselves.” He took a swallow of the dark caramel liquid, lifting it as if to toast.
Hawkins glanced back at the poker table where two of the VIPs broke the seals on the decks of cards. He sipped at his scotch. “Do you want to take some college boy money tonight?”
“Hey, I’m a ‘college boy’ too.” he glanced at the players. “But sure thing, as long as you don’t get me into a brawl like last time.”
“As long as you don’t have any cards up your sleeves, I think we’ll be okay.”
“I can’t promise that.”
“Just don’t expect me to bail you out.”
They approached the table. “What’s the buy-in?” Calloway asked.
The two looked at each other. They were both were younger than Hawkins and about the same age as Calloway, perhaps recently graduated, or even seniors. One was clean-cut, and had grown a thin pencil mustache. The other had his hair parted down the middle in a curtained fashion.
 “Twenty-five, like always,” said Curtains.
“Ease off, they might be alums,” said Pencil-stache.
“That we are,” Calloway said coldly. He pulled out a roll of cash and threw fifty dollars into the center of the table. “Why don’t you deal and maybe we’ll teach you something about respect.
The two looked at each other once more and nodded, placing their own money into the pile. Hawkins had done pretty well in his show business days, but he never would’ve bet that much on a poker game. Not until recently. He chose the chair with the back facing the corner. Calloway sat to his left, and the two college-boys left a chair in between them with Pencil-stache next to Calloway and Curtains next to Hawkins. Hawkins watched Eigenstolf standing at the wall while Pencil dealt. Hawkins had second thoughts about drinking their scotch.
“Okay, it’s five-card draw,” Pencil said as he dealt. The masked man in the back turned and walk towards them. Hawkins took note of the full white facemask, flat material where the mouth should be. As he approached, Hawkins returned his cold stare in kind.
“Hey Mike, are you gonna ante up?” Curtains asked.
Hawkins ignored him, and Eigenstolf leaned on the back of the empty chair. “You gents mind if I join you?” He slurred. It sounded as if he had a mouthful of jerky. Pencil and Curtains glanced at each other and shrugged.
“Not exactly fair if we can’t see your poker face,” Calloway muttered.
Hawkins elbowed him. “What’s the point in playing if there’s no challenge? Besides, I reckon I’d like to get to know some more of the gang before I join,”
“That’s the spirit,” Eigenstolf laughed, which was barely distinguishable from a hacking cough. He threw his cash into his pile and took a seat.
“A round of drinks for everyone at the table!” Calloway called to the waiter, and he winked at Hawkins.
Hawkins could not voice his protest, but these players did not strike him as easily swindled as the Garrety Brothers. He merely shook his head, which Calloway of course ignored. The dealer token rounded the table several times, and each man drained his drink and two more after, all except for Eigenstolf, who did not take a single sip. Hawkins followed his example. Calloway and the other two Headsmen had no such thoughts of restraint. Curtains reached over and took Eigenstolf’s glass, commenting that he would not let good scotch go to waste. As they drank, their tongues began to loosen, and they began spouting off on the opportunities available now that Wilson was incapacitated.
He noticed Eigenstolf tense up as they continued to prattle on. They talked of the war and the income tax, and the nine-game World Series. Hawkins searched for something to grasp onto, he could not recognize anything especially relevant, and nothing of the skull.
They were discussing the central bank when Eigenstolf finally interjected. “It occurs to me that we haven’t been properly introduced. I am Lucas Eigenstolf, high Headsman of the Nathan Hale chapter of the Death’s Head, soon to be a member of the Deadly Seven. And this,” he gestured at Dirk, “is my good friend Dirk Calloway. Dirk Calloway, the All American, born and bred to be a hero. We were bedmates at the war hospital.”
Calloway’s face darkened.
“I know what you’re thinking.” Eigenstolf said. “He looks fine. Where was he hit?”
The masked man leaned closer. “Seems he was hit in the guts. Shell shock, they call it.”
Hawkins waited for Dirk to respond, but he did so in vain.
“He pales in comparison to the Red Man here.” Hawkins ears began to burn. “A great sharpshooter, who even travelled ‘round the world displaying his skills. Had a personal audience with the Kaiser, and a soft place in his heart for the Hun. Couldn’t put those flashy skills to use when it really counted.”
“I wasn’t dumb enough to put my own face into a cheese grater, you mean.”
Eigenstolf stiffened. “A man without a country. This is why you are entirely inconsequential to this, or any Universe.” Hawkins bristled. He fought the urge to flip the table over onto the man.
Pencil and Curtains leaned back from the table, glancing back and forth nervously. “The charade was too much for my nerves,” Eigenstolf said. “Headsman, please get my bag.” He nodded at pencil, who promptly stood and scurried across the room. He emerged from behind the bar with an old brown sack. He tossed it to Eigenstolf, who caught it in one hand.
“I was thinking we should put some real skin in this game,” He said, as he reached into the small cloth sack. “Or, bone, rather,” he added, as he pulled the yellowish-brown object, sowing thousands of dust particles in the wake. He set the decades old human skull carelessly on the pile of cash in the center of the bright crimson poker table.
            Hawkins stared deep into the empty orbs encased in yellowed bone, mesmerized. He was not certain how long his mouth hung agape before he snapped it shut. He glanced at Calloway, who merely cocked an eyebrow.
He has the better poker face. Not as good as Eigenstolf, still.
            “How do we even know this is the genuine article?” Calloway asked.
            Eigenstolf chuckled. “You don’t, but if you don’t want it, you are free to take your chips and leave. I won’t stop you.”
            “And what would we be wagering?” Hawkins asked. That was the more important question. He would gladly risk the skull being a fake if they stakes were right. Weighing risk against reward was a constant of life, no matter the particularities situation.
            “Right to the heart of the matter. It seems that we have an opening in our organization after a mishap in St. Louis. If you win, you get the skull of your dead hero. If I win, you give your soul to the Death’s Head. Renfield was unfortunately the brawn of our operation. Your skills would fill in the gaps nicely.”
“Don’t do it.”
Calloway stared at him incredulously. “Hawk…”
“We may not get another chance.”
“How do we know he’ll keep his part of the bargain?”
 “I am offended, but if you need reassurances,” Eigenstolf stood. “If my friend here clears the table, you are all to allow him to leave with the savage’s skull. Is that clear?” The room stopped mid revelry and regarded him curiously. Each of them nodded obediently. “There, are you satisfied?”
“There’s got to be another way.”
“No,” Hawkins replied. “I have been shot at, nearly blown to pieces, and thrown from a moving train, among other things. Let’s end this now.”
“If you lose, it won’t end.”
“Not for me, maybe. I reckon you’ll figure something out.” He smiled. “So, what are you waiting for? Deal the cards already.”
Calloway sat back in his chair, his mouth tight. Then he snatched the deck and began shuffling, just as Hawkins knew he would.
No reason not to stack the odds. “So what are we playing? Same as before?”
Hawkins held up his whiskey glass. “I’ll have another. And for these gentlemen also.” The two headsmen had remained silent since their inconvenient introduction.
Calloway flipped the cards skillfully at each player, on either side of the grinning skull, a macabre and profane prize, once a more courageous man than he. Hawkins hoped that he would forgive him. He doubted it.
            He pulled up his hand close to his chest and grimaced. He thought Calloway would have dealt him better cards. He glanced at Eigenstolf, realizing how greatly he relied on facial expressions. Eigenstolf threw some chips into the pot and Hawkins threw his cards back in and folded to his opponent’s gurgling chuckle.
A bluff. He was almost certain. Still, not a total loss. He learned a tiny bit of information about his opponent. Calloway shook his head and gathered the cards to shuffle once more. Hawkins and Eigenstolf traded bets and folds back and forth; their chip stacks trading places as if in some sort of tug o’ war. Headsmen began to gather around the table to watch the ensuing duel. Hawkins had to make sure not to get complacent. One overbet would all but give away everything.
Betting was all about audacity tempered by caution. Being bold at the right moment, and timid the next, was the key to having a chance at winning. He would have a decent chance if he kept his head, along with some help from his hustling companion. So far, that had not exactly panned out. Eigenstolf was a shrewd player- Hawkins could not be certain who was cat and who was mouse. When Hawkins bet small, he folded. He would tempt with small bets and taunt with large bets, even risking everything, but the High Headsman refused to pull the trigger, no matter the target.
            Calloway dealt the cards once more. King high. Nothing. He bet a sizeable chunk of his stack, only high enough so to seem as if he were daring Eigenstolf to call his bluff. In reality it was to steal the ante.
            “Call.” Eigenstolf pushed an equally high chip stack forward. Hawkins masked his displeasure with an almost imperceptible smirk.           
“One card.” Eigenstolf picked a card from his hand and set it in the middle of the table. Calloway flicked him a card. He ran his fingers through his coppery red hair.
“I’m good.” Hawkins said when it was his turn to exchange cards, maintaining a stony expression. Eigenstolf put forth a nominal bet. Hawkins returned with double the entire chip stack.
No big deal. Just my eternal soul on the line.
            Eigenstolf shrugged. He pushed his entire pile of chips into the center. “You’re bluffing.” He said knowingly.
            Hawkins glanced at Calloway for only an instant. It was enough. His icy blue eyes told him all he needed to know.  His heart pounding, he could feel the throb in his forehead. He squeezed his left hand into a fist to avoid any tremor. Looking once more at his cards thoughtfully, dragging out the moment, he replied, “So are you. I call.” He flicked the single King into the center of the table. “King High.” He held his breath.
            The masked man was a statue for an eternity before he finally came to life, tilting his head ever so slightly. His gloved hand pushed his cards face down in front of him. The crowd that circled them collectively winced, and Hawkins finally exhaled.
Calloway grinned and leaned back in his chair. Hawkins reached to the center of the table and carefully grasped the skull by the base, staring into it as if in one of those Shakespeare plays. He held the culmination of months of effort and hardship in his hand, and the victory had not sunk in.
            Calloway, on the other hand, smacked Hawkins on the back and let out a whoop before downing the contents of his tumbler. He stood up, carelessly letting the chair fall to the floor and tugged on Hawkins’ arm.
“It was nice playing cards with you gentlemen, but it seems we have worn out our welcome. I think I can speak for both of us when I say I hope we don’t cross paths again.”
            Hawkins stood up and nodded with a muted smile. “It was fun while it lasted.” Hawkins turned to meet a wall of tuxedo clad skullsmen blocking his path. “Why don’t you call off your frat-boys.”
            Eigenstolf remained seated. “You all know I am a man of my word. Lieutenant Calloway and Mr. Hawkins are to be allowed to take their winnings.” The skullsmen hesitated, but begrudgingly parted ways. As they did so, however, Eigenstolf added, “I don’t think you’ll be leaving here with my skull, however.”
            “And why the hell not?” Calloway asked.
            “Because that skull is, by coincidence my price for revealing the location of your attractive companions.”
He produced a sparkling ribbon of cloth and dropped it on the table for them to see. Strands of golden hair clung to the inside of the familiar band. “Perhaps I’ve miscalculated. Is the price too high?”
            A sharp pang shot through Hawkins chest, and he could feel hot blood flow to the surface of his skin. He gripped the skull tightly and held it up at ear level. “How about you tell me, and I don’t smash your precious trinket to bits?”
            Eigenstolf stood up from the table, putting his fingers to his metal chin. He remained silent for a moment, and shrugged. “Such a an act of desecration would be an annoyance, but it is yours to do with as you will. What is your decision?”
            Hawkins grasped the skull with an iron grip, and extended his arm, opening his eyes. His fingers brushed the leather of Eigenstolf’s extended glove as the skull passed between them, causing him to fight back a shiver. Eigenstolf contemplated the skull in his grasp.
“My judgment of your character was correct. I am a man of my word. Your friends are on Elk Isle.”
            “Where the Hell is that?”
            Eigenstolf shrugged. “I’m not your guide. And while I’d love to sit and chat about geography, I have to agree with you, Lieutenant. You have worn out your welcome. Escort him and Mr. Hawkins outside.” Four of the larger headsmen stepped forward and grabbed a hold of each by the shoulders.
“Hey, get your mitts off me, pal.” Calloway threw his shoulders back. He was answered with a sock to the jaw and a bloody lip. He spat on the carpet and smiled. “That’ll leave a stain. What a shame.” That got him a black eye.
Hawkins stiffened. He had taken lumps on Dirk’s account plenty of times, but he was not so sure this should be one of those times. The Death’s Head were not the Garrety boys. Luckily, Calloway kept his mouth shut until they threw Hawkins and him onto the streets. Calloway began screaming curses at them, while Hawkins stood up and dusted himself off, and briskly walked towards the intersecting main street.
Calloway stopped mid-tirade. “Hey, where’re you going?”
 “To get my gun.”
“What'll you do when you get it?”
“I’ll figure that out when we get there.”

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