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Click here for a recap of Series 2. (Sorry it’s such a long read but I edited it down as much as I could without missing any important plot points.)
Part 10: A Kingdom of Ashes
‘I see the world outside our window is burning once more,’ Mayor Craven said, his chubby fingers pointing off towards the distant fires that blazed in the darkness.
‘Hmmmh?’ Ivan Westlake, the mayor’s assistant, muttered, looking up from a pile of paperwork.
‘The savages outside our city are at it again.’ Craven let out an amused scoff that shook all of his chins.
Westlake rose to his feet slowly.
Craven’s fist knocked on the window gently, his rings making horrid scratching sounds on the pristine glasswork.
‘The Freelands, if I’m not mistaken.’
Westlake nodded his agreement.
‘That’s one bloody big fire. One big explosion,’ Craven said as muffled whumps came from the far distance.
‘They’re always setting fires over there.’
‘Not as big as that one. I wonder what’s happening.’
Craven went against every bit of advice he’d been given and pulled up the lock on the door.
‘Sir, you’re advised not to step out of the building,’ Westlake said, his tone panicked.
‘Bollocks. I can do whatever I bloody well want.’
Craven leant heavily on the head of his cane. The gleaming silver skull that sat atop it stared up at Westlake. The distant fires that reflected in the blood red crystals of its eyes struck Westlake as a bad omen.
The wind howled as the door came open.
The temperature immediately dropped by a full ten degrees.
Both men shivered, in spite of themselves.
Craven pulled out a small pair of binoculars and moved to the edge of the metal balcony.
The matt black paintwork had been scoured away in places, exposing the gun metal grey beneath.
‘Could do with a lick of paint,’ he frowned, turning momentarily to glare at Westlake, who nodded, trying to hide his disgust and terror at the request.
‘Sir, I really think…’
‘Quiet. I’ve heard enough out of you. Make yourself useful. Go and pour me a bloody drink.’
Craven looked through the binoculars.
The Freelands were a long way away; practically another world from Craven and his luxurious life up in his bulletproof penthouse suite.
The binoculars barely revealed much of the scene, but he could hear gunshots and screams on the wind.
‘They’re fighting,’ he smiled.
‘Shall we intervene, Sir?’ Westlake said, handing Craven his drink.
‘Not out here, you idiot,’ Craven scowled, cupping a hand round the edge of the glass. ‘The bloody dust might blow into it.’
He lashed out with his cane, the hard metal tip colliding with Westlake’s shin.
He gritted his teeth against the pain but couldn’t help an involuntary moan.
Craven snorted laughter.
‘Shall we—’ Westlake began again.
‘No, let’s not get involved. Let the heathens and the God-botherers cancel each other out. It’s none of our concern.’
Craven shut the door, but neglected to lock it, Westlake couldn’t help but notice. He plonked himself down in his chair, plush leather creaking as his weight settled.
His rings clinked against the side of his glass. The first two fingers on his left hand twiddled with the hairs on his mole.
He took a sip, stared contemplatively into the distance.
‘Will that be all, Sir?’ Westlake said.
Craven looked up at him. ‘Another drink would be nice. But more ice this time. This one’s a bit on the strong side. I can’t believe you still can’t get this right.’
‘Yes, Sir. Sorry about that, Sir.’
Craven nodded, disinterested. ‘After you’ve done that you can piss off to bed for the night.’
‘Thank you, Sir. But I’m not that tired.’
‘I said: Piss off to bed.’
Westlake bowed his head in supplication.
Westlake moved over to the mahogany sideboard and poured another drink for the Mayor. He made sure to put a few more cubes of ice in this time – the last thing he wanted was more grief off Craven – and made a point of locking the balcony door before he left.
‘Good night, Sir,’ he said.
Craven didn’t even acknowledge him.
After Craven had finished his drinks, he shuffled off to bed. The cold had made his bad leg ache and made walking painful.
He contemplated going after Solomon, but thought better of it.
His revenge was a long time coming.
Maybe if the Freelands were being torn to shreds it might be the right time to pursue Solomon, when he didn’t have his thousand-strong army to protect and hide him.
The thought brought a grin to his liver-like lips for the first time in a while.
He unlocked the door to his sleeping quarters, smiling as he saw the bottom step of the one-of-a-kind, custom staircase he had had installed.
All the people I had to step over to get to where I am today, he thought with a grin.
The bottom step was concrete, two screaming faces staring out from the surface of the step.
Their hands were splayed, pressing at the concrete that had slowly suffocated them.
Two common thieves, Baz Sheil and Gaz Dobson, forever immortalised as the bottom rung in his staircase.
The lowest of the low, learning the pecking order the hard way.
Piled up on top of them were more bodies in a variety of poses.
His personal favourite was the previous mayor, Carter Pageant, who had done everything he could to have Craven bumped off.
‘Look who’s walking all over who,’ Craven smiled, giving a harsh rap of his cane onto Pageant’s forehead.
Pageant had been forever frozen in a position of horror, eyes wide, fingers doing their utmost to claw the drying cement from his nose and mouth.
His hands were crablike, fingers splayed, clawing at the corners of his mouth.
Other petrified forms were in similar poses.
Most touching was a father and son who’d betrayed him.
The father had done his best to shield the son with his body.
They had died, the son’s mouth forever sealed to his father’s palm in a vain attempt at stopping the cement getting into the boy’s airwaves.
Another step showed a pair of lovers – which just happened to be Mrs Craven and her bit on the side – forever stuck together mouth to mouth, arms eternally wrapped around each other in a protective cocoon.
They’d drowned in cement together as a last act of defiance against the mayor.
But he’d shown them.
He’d shown all of them.
He walked over them all every morning, noon – he was a stickler for his afternoon nap – and night.
And he couldn’t help but smile as he did so.
But the top step was reserved for Solomon King, the man who had dared to defy him and then elude capture. The man who had caused him more trouble than any other.
The man who had maimed him, made his cane a necessity.
The man who had threatened to take Craven’s life one day.
‘Maybe Ivan’s right,’ he mused, twiddling the hairs on his mole. ‘Maybe the time has finally come for us to make a move.’
Next chapter is here