Temple of Kraden News:
Chapter One: Aleph’s Vale
A pair of people walked up to the customs counter. The girl had blue hair, and stood at almost five feet eight inches — and she didn’t have shoes making her taller. Her blue eyes were full of worry as she handed the TSA official her passport. Standing next to her was a short young man, blond, barely five six, with purple eyes. Their passports identified them as Mia Krupin and Ivan Reed, respectively. Mia was dressed in a flattering blue dress, while Ivan wore a suit and looked quite dapper. “And where are you headed?” asked the TSA official who was standing at the security station checking their passports to make sure their visas were up-to-date.
“Aleph’s Vale, Minnesota,” said Ivan, displaying a thick Oxford accent. “And we’d like to get there as quickly as possible, my good sir.”
“Of course, of course,” said the TSA official, handing back their passports. “Everything looks in order.”
“Thank you,” said Mia quietly, her Russian accent thick, and tinted with a slight amount of French. “Let us go, Ivan.” Ivan nodded, taking her toward the terminal. As soon as they were out of the TSA guard’s presence, she switched to Russian. “Which concourse do we take?” she asked. Ivan looked around.
“That one,” he said, speaking in Russian as well. “Leads to our flight to Minneapolis, and from there it’s a short flight to Aleph’s Vale.”
“I certainly hope so,” said Mia, and Ivan placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “The passports are still in order, yes?” Ivan nodded.
“Of course. And the visas,” he said. “Of course, since we’re traveling within the US from here on…” Mia smiled at that.
“Then they won’t check?”
“We’re in the country legally,” said Ivan. “They have no reason to check anymore.” Mia nodded, slightly more assured. Ivan’s words were a comfort to the woman, and he could tell without looking at her mind that she felt more comfortable with the faked passport. Ivan smiled as well, and continued down the concourse. “So what’s in Aleph’s Vale that’s so important?”
“Well, the Mysterium is concerned with something there, won’t explain what. We’re being sent to check it out, make sure everything is good.” Ivan nodded, switching back to English for the man at the coffee shop. “Two capppucinos, and a biscotti, please,” he said, smiling at the man.
It was Saturday, and in Aleph’s Vale that meant the VFW, all four of them, got in uniform and went to feed the birds. They were so predictable you could set your watch by them. Ten AM, bird-feeding. And at a glance, they were all there. Carl had been sick with a cold last week, and Burt had been hospitalized with pneumonia the week before.
But if one looked more closely, they would notice, leaning against a tree, a fifth face that blended in with the other veterans, a uniform that didn’t look any more wrinkled than theirs, a young man who was nonetheless feeding the birds, and hung on the periphery of the conversation. Still, he was hard to pick out from them, because he looked like he belonged. His cane certainly looked like it belonged. And his brown hair looked just ruffled and worn enough to fit in with William’s premature greying and scar from a grenade exploding near him in the Gulf. William looked at the fifth man, standing against his tree. “Felix,” he said, nodding. Felix nodded back, tossing a few crumbs to the birds. “Leg still acting up?
“I doubt it’ll ever stop,” said the young man, still leaning against the tree. “Then again, that’s what happens sometimes.”
“True, true. Nasty scarring. How’d it happen again?”
The real answer was something Felix could never actually say, so he went with a lie again. “Buddy of mine stepped on an anti-tank mine. Blew him sky high. Thank God it only got my leg.” William nodded. The two younger veterans always seemed to hit it off quite well.
“Girlfriend still doing all right?” asked the older of the two. Felix nodded.
“She’s just fine. She’ll probably be bringing some lunch by later.” Felix looked up at the sky. It was early November and it still hadn’t begun snowing; by Aleph’s Vale standards, the snow was late. Still, Felix didn’t mind; winter was a busy time for him. As he looked up at the sky, a few snowflakes began to fall. He sighed and placed a hand on his cane, throwing the rest of his bread crumbs onto the sidewalk. Fortunately, there weren’t many.
As if by divine coincidence, a young woman, pale-skinned with wiry red hair, walked up to him. Felix saw her as she truly was, a maiden of ice and snow, and she saw him for what he really was, a gaunt soldier with a machine-leg, altogether too thin. Felix embraced her gently. “Good morning, Felix,” she said, smiling.
“Karst,” he said quietly, holding her close. Felix could hear William snicker.
“That’s about your one defining feature, eh, Felix? Apart from your limp.” William laughed a little harder. “My wife doesn’t do that to me anymore. If I want a hug, it has to be my girls.” Felix smiled sadly at William.
“Still, it’s not a total loss,” said Felix. William chuckled and went back to his conversation with the other normal veterans. Felix stood, holding Karst around the shoulder and watching the snow fall.
“Nah, nah,” said a tall college student, hulking over his two friends, a good foot and a half taller than the red-haired girl at his side and over a foot taller than his other friend, a blond man wearing a yellow scarf. The tall one had red hair with a white streak in it and a shirt that said “UM AV” on it. “I’m just saying,” he continued, “that Felix has been pretty jumpy lately.”
“Can’t understand why he’d be jumpy, though,” said the blond. “I mean, unless it has something to do with me and Jenna.”
“No,” said the girl. “You’re fine in his eyes. I’ve seen it too, he’s begun drifting away.” The red-haired boy nodded. “And he kinda seems afraid of your dog, Isaac.”
“Hey, he’s not my dog,” said Isaac. “He’s Garet’s. I just take him for walks sometimes.” The tall man nodded.
“I’ll believe it when I see him and Garet together.” Isaac sighed. “Anyway, Garet, I think it’s because he got turned down at Grad School. Something about a lack of original ideas for research. Kinda struck me as odd, I mean, he used to be really good at coming up with original ideas for stuff.”
Garet shrugged. “Turned down wouldn’t make him jumpy, but it’s the best explanation we can come up with so… Jumpy it is.” Garet clapped a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “So, Jenna,” he said. “Is today the day we get to meet your mystery roommate?”
“She’s not a mystery roommate,” replied Jenna. “Her name’s Sheba and she’s nice. A bit weird, but nice.” Garet and Isaac exchanged smirks, and Garet chuckled. “I’m serious. I’m hoping we four can become good friends.” Jenna led them to a dormitory labeled Venser Hall, then up three flights of stairs and down a hall. She pushed open the door, which was propped open by a doorstop. “Hey, Sheba!”
Sitting on the sole futon that occupied the room was a girl, average height, blonde hair in a bowl cut, who looked up from the book she was reading — a course book for Chemistry 101. Sheba quickly set the heavy tome aside and waved hello. She was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, and was wearing a smirk the size of Texas. “How’s it going, jenna?”
“Oh, good. These’re Isaac and Garet. Isaac’s the short one.” Jenna winked; compared to Garet, most of the football team was short.
Garet’s hand dwarfed Sheba’s as he shook it. “Nice to meet you,” he said. “Garet Carbone, mayor’s grandson.” He sniffed the air slightly; something about her seemed off in a way he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
“Isaac von Steinfaust, I keep these two in line.” Isaac shook her hand, rubbing his eyes a little. She seemed a bit “off” to him as well, though he couldn’t put his finger on it. It was a different kind of “off” than Felix felt lately, not so much distant as… well, he wasn’t sure what. Isaac looked for a moment at Jenna, then at Garet and Sheba. He smiled a little at Jenna. “Jen, I was wondering… If you’re not doing anything…”
Jenna pursed her lips and looked at Sheba. “Sheebs, don’t let Garet break anything.” Garets and Isaac’s eyes connected for a moment, and Garet knew what Isaac wanted him to do. Truth be told, it was something Garet wanted to do as well. The cute eyes, the purple eyebrows — such an unusual color, compared to her hair, had to be dyed — the earrings and that strange look in her eyes… Garet wanted to know more. And Isaac taking Jenna away would be… wait.
“Wait,” said Garet, “you’re leaving us alone together?”
Isaac laughed. “You may be impulsive, Garet, but you’re not fooling anyone if you think you’re that impulsive.” Isaac’s words carried a hidden tone, one that suggested if danger came, Garet could handle himself. And with that, Isaac and Jenna left the room.
“Isaac, I swear to God. I get a new roommate and you have Garet check her out? Do you remember Andrea?”
“Hey,” argued Isaac. “Garet knows better now. He doesn’t clown around as much.”
“Yeah, I just wish he wouldn’t wind up shagging every single roommate I have, ever had, or ever will have.” Isaac smirked.
“Sometimes I wonder if that’s his job, banging Jen’s roomies.” Jenna hit him playfully. “It was only a joke. Anyway. I was wondering, if you were free, would you like to grab lunch? Just the two of us?” Jenna sighed.
“Hang on, just lemme tell Sheba something.” Jenna leaned in the door. “Hey, Sheba!” she shouted. “Don’t let Garet trick you into sex!” Sheba rolled her eyes.
“I’ll be fine, Jen.”
Jenna nodded and closed the door, then smiled at Isaac. “Well, where are we headed?”
“I thought maybe we’d take a trip to Vaulten, there’s a restaurant that old Mr. Kraden recommended.”
“Mr. Kraden… You mean our old high school history teacher? The one who was wounded in Korea?”
“Yeah,” said Isaac. “Him. He says we can get a nice romantic lunch there on the cheap!”
“Ooh,” said Jenna. “Romantic lunch?”
“Hey, since when has old man Kraden ever let us down?”
“…Never,” admitted Jenna. “So… Let’s go?” Isaac nodded. “We taking your bike?”
“Nah, I managed to get Dad’s car.” Jenna grinned.
“Well then,” she said, “let’s get a move on!”
Garet’s ear twitched as Sheba looked at him. Off or not, he had to admit that she was kinda cute, and would probably be his type — actual type, not just “fling” type. “So what’s the white streak for? Mourning a grandparent?”
“Nah,” said Garet. “It’s a religious thing, you wouldn’t get it.”
“Ah, cool,” said Sheba. “That actually sounds kinda exciting.” She looked him up and down. “Jenna says you have a dog? Or rather, you claim to have a dog that she thinks is Isaac’s?”
“Yeah,” said Garet. “He’s really mine, quite friendly, about the size of a mastiff. Isaac sometimes takes him for walks.”
“So he’s a mastiff.”
“Nah,” said Garet. “He’s part wolf and I’m not quite sure what the other part is, some kind of mutt.” Sheba smirked. “We never got him tested. Afraid of needles, the big sissy.”
“Ha, I bet you’re afraid of needles too,” said Shea.
“A-am not,” said Garet. “Anyway. That’s not important. My dog, let’s talk more about him.”
“Nah. I like dogs, but I’d rather meet your dog than hear about him,” said Sheba. Garet smirked. “So did you read the paper? Full moon tonight, supposed to be some weird spooky stuff happening.” Garet laughed. “I’m serious! There’s this big article on the full moon!”
“Probably the student newspaper trying to make a big name for themselves on a slow news day. They always talk about weird things happening and then never actually find anything weird on nights like tonight, slow news nights with full moons or solstices or shit like that,” said Garet. “It’s nothing big.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing, though,” she said. “I think it’s kinda cool. Like a Weekly World News that seriously believes in Bat Boy.” Garet chuckled. “Maybe we could do something weird, just to get their hopes up, then show it off as a hoax!” Garet laughed at her suggestion. “I’m serious!” said Sheba.
“Like what?” asked Garet. “Paint ourselves red and perform voodoo on the Chicken God with KFC?”
“Why not?” asked Sheba, laughing a little.
“All right,” said Garet, grinning. “You get the KFC. I’m gonna make us both matching tartans. You decide what we say, I’ll repeat you.” Sheba grinned at his proclamation.
“And if I say something really weird?”
“I’ll do my best,” said Garet. Sheba laughed.
On the flight from New York, Ivan and Mia were separated. This didn’t make Ivan happy. Ivan was seated next to some strange Chinese woman, and Mia was somewhere on the plane — Ivan knew it was a few rows back but couldn’t remember the number. It was all very irritating.
Mia, meanwhile, was deep in conversation with the man next to her, a blue-haired Frenchman who was apparently headed to Minneapolis for a business convention. He seemed a bit young, but he displayed incredible skill with Russian, and also seemed to know more than he let on. Mia wished Ivan were here to talk to him, but such was life. “So who do you work for?” she asked. “Are you a big name firm?”
“Somewhat big,” replied the young man, who’d given his name as Pierre Picard. “Atlantis Shipping and Trade, you might have heard of us.” Mia’s eyes widened; apart from the Hammet Consortium, they were probably the biggest name in shipping in the modern world, and had roots going back hundreds of years. “I’m one of the younger representatives, sent to give the company a newer image at the business convention.”
“How exciting,” said Mia. “So what goes on at a business conference?” Pierre smiled enigmatically.
“Oh, many things. For instance, as a member of my company’s international branch, I’ll likely be talking with representatives from other countries.” Unfortunately, he was cut off by a loud string of what Mia assumed were Chinese expletives from the man behind them. That was when Pierre turned around and started yelling at the man in nearly accentless Mandarin. The two traded words, slowly calming down, and then Pierre turned back to Mia and said, picking Russian back up as though he’d never left the language, “My apologies. Inconsiderate idiots trying to use their cell phones mid-flight, despite regulations.” He smiled. “At any rate, one of the reasons I was promoted so quickly was because of my gift with languages.” But when pressed further on the promotion issue, he just smiled his enigmatic smile and gently shifted the conversation.
And Mia could tell that this would be the end of that line of questioning. She frowned slightly. “So… if you work for Atlantis, why are you flying coach?”
“My bosses,” he replied, “are notoriously stingy in the financial world. You could ask young Master Hammet up there; I’m not sure why Jean Hammet is flying coach, but I assume he has a good reason.”
“Er… yes, I’m sure he does,” replied Mia. She was thankful when the airplane’s snack cart came by; it gave her an excuse to get something to eat, thus keeping her from blowing their cover. She should have suspected that this Picard person would recognize Ivan; he may not have been all that famous outside of Europe, but she was fairly certain that someone in the financial industry would recognize the scion of one of the trade world’s giants. Mia quickly ordered a bag of pretzels and began eating them slowly.
“So, Mia, I assume from your dialect that you’re from Eastern Russia?”
“Da,” she said, over a mouthful of pretzel. “But I spent a large portion of my life in Nice.”
“Ah, parlez-vous Français?” he asked. Here, his Norman accent came in thick and strong, as though it had been waiting for a chance to show off.
“Un petit peu, monsieur. Je prefère la russe.” She spoke with a thick Russian accent, and Piers smiled.
“Ah, right, my apologies,” he said, returning to Russian. “Of course you would be more comfortable speaking your home language.”
She smiled and nodded.
At a cafe in Aleph’s Vale, two people were sitting outside watching the snowfall. “Autumn’s almost up,” said one of them, a man in his mid-thirties with blue hair in a half-shaved punk-ish hairstyle. He had a very large sword at his side, and a look in his eye that said anyone who questioned it would be in for the ass-whupping of a lifetime. Plus, if the police asked, he had a permit for the damned thing. Measuring by eye, it was probably about five feet long on its blade alone and had to weigh at least six pounds. He stared pensively into his coffee. “I imagine the Winter King will want to gather us all again.”
“Yes,” replied his companion. She was about the same age as he, her blond hair long and held via hairspray in an elaborate design. She had no weapon in immediate display, but her nails were quite sharp and seemed sturdier than most people’s. Her face was pale, with red marks that looked like unusual makeup under her eyes. “I wish he would just declare it to happen the day of the changeover already, though. Instead of a meeting on the Equinox. Who the hell stays in Aleph’s Vale on the Equinox?”
“Many people, I imagine,” said the man. “And, most importantly, all of us. I’ve a feeling the young King knows us better than we know ourselves, Menardi.”
“If you say so,” she replied, sipping her own coffee, which (at her request) had had several crushed coffee beans mixed in, and to which she had added something of her own — a dash of tabasco. “I just wish I could figure out why Agatio never attends. Do you understand it at all, Saturos?”
“He has a disdain for Winter’s commands,” said Saturos, taking another sip of his coffee, which he had infused with a great deal of sugar. The bitter-sweet taste excited his taste buds. “And with good reason. He seems to believe that the Onyx Court would lead us to folly, and I can’t say I blame him. From what I’ve heard, Winter left a distinctly unfavorable impression on him.”
“Hm. True, although at times he seems so eager to cause fear I’m not sure why he isn’t in Autumn’s hallowed grasp. Then again, I’m not sure he’s smart enough to realize he’s causing fear.” Menardi finished off her coffee and looked longingly at the biscotti near the register. “Once you’ve finished, I think we should be going.”
“Yes,” agreed Saturos. “On this we agree. …And by the way, Menardi?”
“Let Agatio know that his presence will be required or I shall hunt him down personally.” He finished his drink. “I would do it myself, but today is a day of practice for me.”
“Understood,” said Menardi. “Practice well, Saturos.”
“Well shall I practice,” he said quietly.
As the plane took off from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Aleph’s Vale, a man in the terminal opened his cell phone. “Mr. CEO?” asked Alois Picard, his French slipping into a dialect that hadn’t been used for over six hundred years as a living language.
“Yes, Alois? What is it?” Picard smiled.
“I believe I have some interesting news. I have found Jean Hammet. He is on a flight to a small town in Minnesota, in the United States.”
“The United States, you say?” asked the man on the other end. Picard nodded. “Very well then, Alois. Once this conference is over, I urge you to seek out young Hammet to determine why he is in Aleph’s Vale, if he is still there, and if he is not, why he went there.”
“Understood, Mr. CEO. I ask permission to take my leave of this conversation.”
“Permission to take leave granted.” Picard hung up and placed the cell phone in his pocket before strolling with his carry-on to the baggage pickup. He was glad Northwest didn’t have problems with baggage handling yet, unlike so many other major airlines. Within a few moments, his bags were unloaded from the plane and he had them in hand, and was in a shuttle to his hotel.
Ivan and Mia had the fortune to be seated next to each other on the tiny flight into Aleph’s Vale. The plane was small enough that every seat was practically Coach; the only exception was the front row, which Ivan had bought two tickets in. “Did you manage to get in touch with them?” asked Ivan. Mia frowned.
“After a fashion,” she said. “But all they said was that we would receive our instructions upon reaching Aleph’s Vale.” She sighed. “I’m not sure what he meant by that.”
“Well, hopefully it won’t be too complicated.” Ivan looked over the pamphlet he’d gotten from the Mysterium. “Says here that Mysterium Necromancers ought to be on their guard there. I guess we’re fortunate neither of us is a necromancer.” Mia nodded. “Hm. It seems to be a fairly normal town. Why would we be sent here? Unless… maybe a Seer Pylon has been unearthed?”
“If it were that,” replied Mia, “they wouldn’t send us, would they?”
“We have experience with them,” replied Ivan. “Even if we didn’t fight, I think they consider us to be a valuable resource.”
“Maybe it’s a negotiation of some kind?”
“The grand caucus is getting involved. I doubt it’s anything but the most serious of circumstances.”
“Well, do we at least have instructions for where to go?”
“Yes… to the University. Something about a Lewis School of the Arts.”
“We’re going to have to thank him for recommending this place to us,” said Isaac around a mouthful of a spicy gyro. “It’s a cool place, this is.”
“Mediterranean deli. I didn’t realize Vaulten had one,” said Jenna, taking a bite of her hummus. “But… this is really good.”
“I know,” said Isaac. “And I know there’s at least some greeks and turks in this area. I saw a gyro cart last time I came here, not sure where it is now.”
“A gyro cart? You can’t be serious.”
“I am! It was run by some orange-haired guy that looked like a shorter bearded Garet!”
“Now I’ve heard everything,” said Jenna, laughing. “A short bearded Garet?”
“Hey, if the description fits…” Isaac took another bite. “Anyway, I’ve seen the guy with Mr. Kraden’s son.”
“Ooh, you mean Sean?” Isaac mumbled something. “Oh, come on, there’s no need to be jealous,” said Jenna. “It’s not like I’m into him that way. I just think he’s an interesting guy.”
“Yeah, I suppose,” said Isaac. He looked at the TV hanging in a corner. “Is a score of two to one a good game in soccer?”
“Why’re you asking me? Garet’s the one to ask about sports.”
“Garet’s not here and his texts are indecipherable. Besides, he doesn’t know soccer.”
“Maybe that should’ve been your first point,” joked Jenna, taking a bite of the kebab she’d ordered. “Anyway, why me? Do I look like I’d know anything about soccer?”
“More than Garet would,” replied Isaac, finishing off his gyro with a grin.
“Somehow I doubt that,” said Jenna, finishing off her meal. She and Isaac put their plates in a small dish tub that was set out for just that purpose and headed out to the car. “So why did your Dad let you have the car?”
“He said he figured I could have it for the day. Said he wasn’t going to be going anywhere, and neither was Mom.” Isaac closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. “Really don’t want to think about it.” Jenna just giggled.
The plane touched down at five in the afternoon. By five-thirty, Ivan and Mia were in downtown Aleph’s Vale with two members of the local Mysterium, a pair of elderly gentlemen, who’d named themselves as Vladislav and Holcombe, were eating lunch with them. “As you are aware,” said Vladislav, “the Mysterium’s brought you to Aleph’s Vale. The reason is simple and sinister. We believe that the local branch of the Free Council has been infiltrated by a Seer pylon. Unfortunately, due to… faling-outs we’ve had with them, we’re in no position to warn them. We figured if you could get close to one of the more crucial members, onvince him of the Seer presence…”
“Done and done,” said Ivan. “What’s he called?”
“In the official records,” said Holcombe, “he’s called Megiddo. We have a photograph of him, but we don’t know his true name. It’ll be up to you to befirend and convince him.”
“I understand,” said Ivan.”Mia and I will work on that.”
“She’s fairly quiet… Does she speak English?”
“Only somewhat; she understands just fine, but she prefers her native language. La russe.”
Mia frowned slightly as Vladislav muttered something about “goddamn russkies” and “lame-ass tyrants”. “All right,” he said at full volume. “We’ll take care of your tab, and your hotel rooms are paid for. You’ll be staying at the Mariott, suite twelve eighteen.”
“It’s a very nice place,” added Holcombe. “Quality accommodations.” The tone in his words indicated that it was a safe place to practice magic, and Ivan and Mia guessed that the Mysterium had bought the suite from the hotel some time ago.
Agatio sneered at the sniveling coward in front of him. Ashardalon was a dragon, or should have been; his scaly face and arms gave that much away. And his yellow eyes had slit pupils, and there were probably several other signs but right now Agatio couldn’t even bother himself to lift up the man by that idiotic rag he called a head of hair. It looked like a toupee, and a badly-made one at that. If the tall, ogrish man had to guess, he’d say it was full of lice. “Please, please, Agatio. They’re gonna condemn me to death, you’ve gotta help me.” Agatio frowned.
“Unfortunately,” he said, pulling a small knife from his pocket, “they’ve already figured out who you are, and they’ve spent months gathering evidence. And it’s so amazingly compelling. It’s like they actually saw you drag those kids into the Hedge.”
“I never dragged no new kids off to the Gentry,” stammered Ashardalon. “You know that, Agatio!”
“I know that,” said the ogre, grinning halfway. “And you know that. But the rest of the freehold thinks it’s you, not me. I figure I can lay off for a little while.”
Ashardallon blanched. “Y-you mean… I’m going to…”
“Yes. I hear the Winter King has even prepared Tectrix for the occasion.”
“You…” Ashardalon was sweating like a pig, which Agatio was willing to guess didn’t feel too good in this weather. “If I’m gonna die, I’m calling you out before I go,” he said, the last of his courage going into his voice. “And you know what the Winter King thinks of you!”
“Yes, I do,” said Agatio, smiling. “And you’re right. If you told him, I’d probably be dead. But,” said Agatio, his grin darkened and thin, “you’re not going to tell him. Would you like to know why, Allen?” Ashardalon blanched. Agatio was fairly certain this was the first time he’d heard his name, his real name, spoken out loud in a long time. “Because I’m going to kill you tonight, without incident. Police will find a dead body, of course. A man who went missing years ago.” Agatio put on a pair of surgical scrubs.
“They won’t find the murderer, either. Oh, some poor mortal bastard who used to have a connection to you will be suspected and tried, and the cops will probably pin the evidence on him.” The knife flashed quickly, slicing hard into Ashardalon’s neck. “And then he’ll be given a chance to defend himself, a chance he’ll bungle. But hey, at least he’ll be able to see you in the afterlife.” A few more quick stabs, and the other man was bleeding out on the cold hard ground. “Oh, wait… You won’t be there, will you?” With the handle and blade wiped clean, Agatio knew there was no chance of the police discovering that he was the one who did it. He tossed the knife into the poorly-paved back-alley that served as the killing ground.
“Well, now to find the Winter King and tell him what I did… after all, ‘tis better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission…” Agatio whistled a jaunty little tune as he left the alleyway.
An hour later, a woman would scream and the police would show up to investigate a murder scene.