Unnatural History

The Grudge Match

introducing Mr Maxwell

It is the day of the big fight between Loyale Candy and Freddy “three fingers” Boyle. Loyale is the house favourite and has handily bested Freddy on four previous occasions. This is a grudge match for Freddy and he is supported by three shady-looking gentlemen from the Speckled Crow.

The scene opens with a bout between two local dockhands, Toney and Hilliard. They frequently resolve their differences in the ring, and always exit as friends again. Today is no different.

Watching the contest is Reginald T Maxwell, returned to England just last year after spending five decades in New York. He is a seasoned gambler and an experienced medical doctor.

Also in the house today are Herr Schechter and Miss Fannie Lindfors.

When the fight begins, Maxwell puts his money on Freddy; he has keenly observed the situation and believes the fight is either fixed, or foregone due to some other circumstance known only to the three toffs.

The crowd is not surprised when Loyale puts Freddy to the floor, decisively. Maxwell knows that, medically speaking, Freddy should not be able to climb back to his feet before the count is done. But at the instant Freddy wipes blood and sand from his face, Fannie spots him actually downing a tincture of liquid… and before the count is up, Freddy appears to transform and springs to his feet with preternatural speed, tearing into Loyale with an animalistic rage.

In mere seconds Loyale is on the ground, but Freddy does not stop. He kicks and beats on his opponent mercilessly. Maxwell reaches for his pistol, grips it, and begins to pull it from his coat, ready to fire at the “monster,” but Heinrich and Fannie are quick to act: Heinrich, who has been conversing with Toney and Hilliard, suddenly spurs them to action with a quick “order” to pull Loyale from harm’s way. Fannie asks Emmet to assist, and he reaches for his chloroform. Fannie herself rushes to the ring; she hopes to persuade Freddy to desist. Maxwell still grips his gun but returns it out of sight. He watches closely.

Heinrich’s allies (and Emmet) succeed in separating the combatants, but it is Fannie’s words to Freddy Three Fingers that have a sudden and unexpected effect: Freddy seems hypnotized by them as he stops raging and stands dumbly, meeting Fannie’s gaze. Toney and Hilliard pull Loyale into a nearby room, out of Freddy’s sight. Maxwell follows, knowing that Loyale will need quick medical care. Fannie continues to calm Freddy, eventually leading him into the cellar, and once there, into a “secure room” with a thick, reinforced oaken door.

Meanwhile, the crowd is animated, telling one another of what they just saw. Heinrich spots the potion bottle in the sand, says a few words in german to no one in particular. What looks like a hermit crab crawls out from under his hat, skitters down his arm, retrieves the bottle, and returns it to Heinrich before it crawls back under his hat. No one else appears to notice.

Then Heinrich spots the three gentlemen making a quick departure out of The Prospect’s river-side exit. Strongly suspecting that they have something to do with the unnatural incident that just unfolded, he once again beckons to Toney and Hilliard, in a state of unquestioning excitement, and enlists them to help him give chase.

to be continued in Flight of the Speckled Crow

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