Carlos lunged. Almost too late, O’Fallon noticed the blade while it slashed forward, hungry for his death. The quartermaster turned, but not fast enough. The knife’s edge ripped open his shirt and cut a thin line along the Scotsman’s ribcage. O’Fallon hissed at the needle-like sensation, the metal parting flesh then leaving a narrow line of blood to mark its passing. The quartermaster ignored the pain and spun on his heel. Carlos and his knife continued past O’Fallon’s left side. In reply, O’Fallon growled like a wounded bear and drove the cold metal barrel of his empty pistol across the Spaniard’s face.
Metal met bone and bone gave way with the sickening sound of wet sticks being snapped into pieces. Carlos yowled and scurried back two paces out of the Scotsman’s reach. Meanwhile, O’Fallon nearly doubled over with a gasp of pain as his dislocated right shoulder screamed in furious protest against the rapid motion.
Carlos blinked back tears. An insane light flickered to life in the man’s eye. “For that señor, I will cut the beating heart from your chest while you watch!”
O’Fallon sucked in deep breaths, desperate for anything to remove the pain. “Try it an Ah’ll make sure ta hand ye manhood ta ye in a jar! Ah be sure any brothel will be makin’ good use o’ ye then!”
The Spaniard spit into the quartermaster’s eyes then rushed forward. Blinded, O’Fallon staggered back desperately wiping the spittle from his face. Just before the knife struck home, the quartermaster saw the blade and threw himself to one side. Carlos growled in anger, recovered his footing, and slashed wildly at O’Fallon’s stomach.
O’Fallon jumped back to land with his feet planted. Carlos stepped in and the Scotsman hammered a strong left hook to the Spaniard’s face, mashing the man’s already broken nose to a deeper pulp. Without thinking, O’Fallon followed this with a hard right fist that opened a cut over the Spaniard’s left eye. Carlos yowled again while O’Fallon clenched his teeth and doubled over once more in agony, his right shoulder a writhing mass of white-hot fire that threatened to consume him.
Carlos spat out blood onto his beard, then jammed a knee against the side of O’Fallon’s head. Suddenly, any thought of a dislocated shoulder left O’Fallon’s mind as the room spun around him. Again and again, Carlos rammed his knee against the side of the Scotsman’s head until O’Fallon fell drunkenly to the floor, unable to stand.
The Spaniard stepped back and ran a hand through his sweaty hair. Frustrated and angry, he turned to kick O’Fallon in the stomach. The quartermaster grunted and rolled onto his side.
“Pay attention, señor, I don’t want you to miss a moment.” Carlos sneered and knelt down next to O’Fallon. The knife glinted ugly in the half-light of the hallway.
Suddenly from the darkness off to the Spaniard’s right, Arcady, who had been quietly waiting for a moment to help, leaped into the air. He slammed into Carlos’ face at top speed, then jammed his metal legs into the man’s soft flesh. The impact and stabbing pain drove Carlos into a panic. He dropped the knife with a howl and grabbed at Arcady, desperate to pull the clockwork insect off him.
“You will leave them alone, Sirrah!” Arcady shouted in Carlos’ ear while he clawed at sensitive ears and cheekbones.
Finally, Carlos managed to pull Arcady free and toss him down the hallway. The clockwork, accustomed to strong winds, recovered himself in mid-air and soared back towards his victim. This time, Carlos had recovered his knife and was ready. Arcady darted around and toward the man, but Carlos dodged aside and attempted to swat the large metal insect to the ground. Both danced around the other in a deadly waltz. After a few minutes of this, Arcady dove down, then shot upwards, raking his insect legs across the Spaniard’s already wounded face. The man yelled in pain again and staggered back. Just then, O’Fallon moaned while he regained his wits. The sound and motion distracted Arcady.
“O’Fallon? Conrad? Are you well?” The clockwork asked in concern.
Carlos then snatched the flying creature from the air. Quickly he flung Arcady against the metal wall with such force that it scratched a mark in the thick grime. Arcady bounced from the wall twice on the floor before he lay still, wings twitching spasmodically. Immediately, the Spaniard rammed a hard boot onto Arcady in an attempt to crush him. When the clockwork twitched again, Carlos stomped down once more, this time grinding his heel against the ground. A sickening sound of breaking glass echoed in the hallway. The Spaniard stepped back with a smug, self-satisfied look.
“Now,” he began, but was interrupted as he was launched from his feet as O’Fallon slammed a shoulder, hard and knotted from years of labor, into the Spaniard’s ribcage.
The two men careened across the hallway in a tight knot and slammed into the wall. Again, the sound of wet sticks being broken in a loose bag echoed in the hallway. Both men grunted in agony, slid off the wall and fell to the floor. A sharp pain lanced through O’Fallon’s chest. He rolled slowly away from Carlos, his mind clouded by pain. The Scotsman clutched his chest that was covered in blood, panic-stricken at the thought that he would find Carlos’ knife buried there. Instead, he found the start of a large bruise.
He slowly rolled over onto his knees and looked to where he remembered Carlos had last been. The Spaniard still lay on the ground, his own knife jammed deep into his chest. O’Fallon slowly crawled over.
Carlos coughed, blood began to bubble at his mouth. When he realized O’Fallon crouched next to him he spit at the Scotsman. “Come to watch me die, señor?”
The Scotsman rubbed the spittle from his face. “Filthy bloody bugger. Why’d ye do all o’ this? Be ye mad?”
Carlos coughed again, a wet cough that O’Fallon knew meant the man’s lungs were filling with blood. He would not last much longer. “Do what? The zombies? Or want to steal away the addled doctor for what is in his head?” Another cough racked the dying man. “I did it for money, señor. What else would there be? What should I care for something the doctor memorized? Why … why would I care about controlling sailors or your Scotland Yard or anyone?”
The Spaniard shuddered and coughed. When his coughs subsided he continued. “When I saw that witch, Moira, had come to join our little game … well I knew I had found something better than money. Revenge. And perhaps a useful … little toy.” He smiled and laughed, but the laugh turned into a bubbling, red cough. Once the cough subsided, Carlos looked up at O’Fallon, and his features softened, his voice small. “Señor … it is so cold.” Then, the Spaniard sighed softly and lay very still.
O’Fallon sat down heavily from exhaustion on the floor, and closed the dead man’s eyes. “Insanity.”
At their feet Moira moaned slightly while she struggled back to consciousness. Meanwhile, behind O’Fallon Thorias moved as well.
“O’Fallon?” Thorias asked weakly while he woke. “What’s going on here?”
“Well,” the quartermaster took a deep breath to explain, but instead nearly doubled over in pain. “There be a bit much,” he wheezed, “Carlos there, be workin’ with them that make the zombies. Ah still na know who they really be though. Before Carlos passed on, he said they be after Dr. Von Patterson for somethin’ he alone be knowin’. Ah be figurin’ it has ta do with the statue. Seems ‘them’ be wantin’ ta use it ta take control of people. Sailors, Scotland Yard and the like. Since we be comin’ along, Ah figure we were ta be added inta the ‘volunteers’.”
Thorias had crawled over to Carlos to check the man’s vitals, but looked up at O’Fallon’s last comment. “Heavens preserve us.”
Moira looked over at Carlos and involuntarily shuddered. She then hauled herself up into a sitting position and paused in shock when she saw Arcady.
“Arcady!” She gasped, reaching over to where the clockwork insect lay. Two of his four wings were shattered so badly they hung loose on his back, the gossamer mesh crumpled. He looked up. One eye was dark, the lens cracked, the other glowed its usual ruby red hue.
Thorias looked over, his face a mask of worry. “Is he …?”
“I am … functional.” Arcady said slowly with some effort. “Moira? I tried to help. I tried. I was not fast enough.”
“Shush now, ya braver than most I’ve ever met. We’ll get ya fixed up. Just need time and a workshop.” She said gently while lifted Arcady from the floor.
Thorias stiffly climbed to his feet, stretched, then walked over to inspect O’Fallon. “You sirrah, will be the death of my bandage supplies.”
O’Fallon just grunted in reply, not willing to justify the doctor’s remark. Instead the quartermaster looked over at Carlos’ body, then past Thorias down the hallway as a thought occurred to him. “We be makin’ quite a bit o’ noise. Need ta get someplace quiet afore we do any more. Such as reload.”
Thorias frowned at O’Fallon’s shoulder and the rest of his collection of wounds. “Agreed.”
Moira cradled Arcady to her and looked over at the two men. “An then what?”
O’Fallon rubbed his nose. A stray thought crossed his mind that his nose was almost the only place he was not hurt. He snorted out a quiet laugh at his own morbid humor and looked over at Moira.
“We be stealin’ that statue.” The quartermaster said flatly. “If’n we be wantin’ any chance ta get out o’ this. We have ta.”