Death Cap – Sixteen – A Murder Which is Profitless Does Not Need to be Devoid of Amusement
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Stray Cat Strut (A cyberpunk system apocalypse!) - Ongoing
Fluff (A superheroic LitRPG about cute girls doing cute things!) - Ongoing
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The Agartha Loop (A Magical-Girl drama!) - Hiatus
Lever Action (A fantasy western with mecha!) - Volume One Complete!
Heart of Dorkness (A wholesome progression fantasy) - Ongoing
Dead Tired (A comedy about a Lich in a Wuxia world doing Science!) - Hiatus
Sporemageddon (A fantasy story about a mushroom lover exploding the industrial revolution!) - Ongoing

Death Cap - Sixteen - A Murder Which is Profitless Does Not Need to be Devoid of Amusement

“So, why do they call him Dogbeater?” I asked as I checked down both ends of the street. Dregs insisted on taking the alleys and backstreets, which was probably wise. There wasn’t nearly as much traffic down those.

“I’ll give you three guesses. First two don’t count.”

I shook my head. “That’s messed up,” I said. “Why do they keep him employed if he’s known for beating up dogs?”

Dregs grinned. It was an ugly sort of smile, with too many teeth. “Because that’s his job. The Bluertons will sometimes have dogs with them when they bust protests. Dogs can chase people down, and they can go low while most humans fight high. Then there’s the mad dogs.”

“I imagine that I’m about to be horrified; go on.”

Dregs nodded along, as if he expected that. “See. Sometimes a protest is small enough that the Bluertons showing up in force makes them look stupid. They’re all about saving face. And sometimes they need to be... well, they need to make it look like they’re not responsible for breaking up a protest. So they’ll train these big dogs. Give them a few potions so that they can heal over time, make them faster and meaner. Then, they let the dog loose near the protest. Mad dog runs to the protestors and rips a few throats and no one can point a finger to anyone. Just a mad mutt.”

“Holy shit,” I muttered.

“Nothing holy about it,” Dregs said. “Dogbeater’s the one who trains those. No one likes him.” Dregs pointed to an alleyway, and I followed him in. I was... actually starting to trust the hobgoblin, a little bit. He was a loose cannon, but his violence was mostly aimed in the same direction that mine was.

“Right. So how do you want to do this?” I asked.

The hobgoblin looked at me. “This is your show. I’m not allowed to just murder the Bluertons. I’m just showing you the place. Maybe giving you a bit of a hand. You’re a little short to scale a fence.”

I sniffed. “Fine then. Tell me about his place, at least?”

“Don’t know much about it. Just a shack like the rest of you humans live in. Got a place next to it for the cages.”

“Where I imagine he keeps his dogs,” I said.

“Yeah.”

I thought a bit as we walked across the city. Surprisingly, we were heading towards the nicer slums, where the homes were a bit bigger and built more recently.

Eventually Dregs pointed to a building. One story, which was unusual, and with a decent footprint. There was a rusty tin fence around the property with an alley on one side. The home itself wasn’t impressive. Back on Earth it would hardly qualify as a shed, but I supposed that in City Nineteen’s slums it might as well be a mcmansion.

There were skulls hanging off the sides of the fence, one every junction. Mostly dog skulls, a few cats maybe, and others that I didn’t recognize. No one had grabbed them.

“Let’s walk around the place,” I muttered while unwinding my scarf. It would make me a bit colder, but... “Here, put this on.”

Dregs caught the scarf and looked at me. “Why?”

“I’m some random slum kid. Dime a dozen. You’re a hobgoblin. Not as common. If someone reports what they saw, it’ll be easier to find us if they recognize you than me.”

“That’s halfway clever,” Dregs said as he wrapped the scarf around his face and head, turning it into a sort of hood. He tugged up a cloth mask from around his neck and covered his mouth and nose with it.

He looked... like a poorly proportioned child, or maybe a teenager. It would work at a glance though, which is what mattered.

“Does Dogbeater live alone?” I asked.

“He doesn’t have a wife or kids,” Dregs said. “I heard that he sleeps with his dogs.”

I felt a little sick and decided to assume that he wasn’t implying what I thought he was implying. I checked the shack out. It had an angled roof with a single chimney atop it, currently puffing out a decent amount of the kind of smoke that came from cleaner-burning sorts of coal. This guy had a yard to his house. Sure, his home was made of tin and rust, but he had windows and a roof that looked intact. He was living well.

We slid closer to the wall, and I tried to find a gap in the fence. There wasn’t much though. “I need a boost,” I said.

Dregs didn’t even complain. He got to one knee and cupped his hands together. I onto his hands and he lifted me up until I was able to poke my head over the edge of the fence.

The yard was lined with cages. The biggest was maybe a pace across and half as deep. The dogs within those barely fit. Smaller cages were stacked on top, held in place by twisted bits of wire. Lots of dogs. A few cats... and a few things that I wasn’t sure about. They were furry though. The top of the cages had little sheets of tin to keep the snow off, but that was the only concession to weather-proofing I saw.

Two of the cages had occupants that were clearly dead, just at a glance.

I caught sight of Dogbeater through the window of his home. He was sitting in a big chair, a blanket over his lap. He was reading while a fire burned in a little hearth in the edge of his room.

“I have an idea,” I said as I stepped back and Dregs let me down.

“Oh?”

“He’s using smokeless coal,” I said.

“Pricey,” Dregs said. He sniffed the air. “Can’t smell it either. Odourless stuff. Burns hot. The stuff nice folk burn.”

“Yeah,” I said. “And the kind of stuff that still produces carbon oxides. Carbon monoxide, I think.” I had to use the English word there, which earned me a look from Dregs.

He nodded to me. “You know magic?”

I could see how he might think that. Magic here sounded... well, it wasn’t the local language. “No. This is chemistry. Look, if we block his chimney, not entirely but about halfway, we can fill the house with smoke. Odourless smoke.”

“He’ll sleep himself to death?” Dregs asked. “I’ve heard of folk dying that way. Not very reliable, not compared to a knife in the gut.”

“Yeah, but this is subtle. I don’t need the Bluertons up in arms just yet. If they think Dogbeater here died because he was stupid, then they won’t look at anyone else to blame.”

Dregs grinned. “You’re one messed up kid.”

“Yeah, well it’s their fault. I need some cloth. Tarp maybe. I think we can climb up onto the roof without too much difficulty.”

It really wasn’t hard to find something to clog the chimney with. There was some trash nearby, which included the torn remains of someone’s shirt. Wadded into a ball with a chunk of brick in the centre for mass and it was more than enough. I slid that into my satchel, then moved to the side of the house.

Dregs helped me up again, and I was thankful that I was so light because otherwise there was no way I’d be able to pull myself up.

The big concern was noise. I didn’t need to wake up the neighbourhood, or Dogbeater for that matter. Once I was on the roof, I moved very, very slowly. I kept low, and regretted not having some sort of stealth skill.

“How’re you going to block it with that?” Dregs asked from right next to me.

I squeaked and the roof clunked as I spun to find the hobgoblin standing right next to me. I hadn’t heard him move at all.

A few of the dogs barked, and I winced as I heard Dogbeater moving around below us.

We waited. The man screamed at his dogs to shut up, and soon enough they did. Then things settled down. I waited another minute past that, heart thrumming hummingbird fast in my chest.

Then, when nothing happened for a while longer, I moved to the chimney carefully. I placed the brick and cloth over the opening, then shifted it around until the chimney’s exit was mostly blocked. Smoke was still pouring out of it, most of the smoke even.

That was fine. I wanted the room to vent most of the smoke, just not all of it. He’d notice if the room filled with smoke, odourless or not.

“Now what?” Dregs asked.

“Now we wait,” I said. I moved back to the edge of the roof, then jumped down onto the top of the fence, and finally on the ground. Dregs did the same, but more gracefully and with half the noise.

I couldn’t remember how long carbon monoxide poisoning took to act, but it wasn’t too long. It was still early evening, so it probably wouldn’t be too weird if we lingered.

So that’s what we did, with only the occasional glance into the home to see how things were going.

When thin tendrils of smoke started to slip out from the poorly joined edges of the roof a while later, I knew the plan was working, at least a little.

***

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