We were both startled by the crack of a loud noise ripping through the fog near us, our unknown assailant taking blind shots through the mist.
Loque clasped a hand over my mouth and pressed me back against the wall, even as my eyes widened with the primal urge to flee.
‘That ought to have ‘em,’ an oafish voice chuckled from somewhere nearby. Loque’s eyes snapped shut at the voice, his head cocking slightly to the side.
‘Scared ‘em off like rats, we did.’
Another figure grunted in response to the first. Loque’s eyes slide open with a wolfish grin and he released me, slipping away into the mist before I could gesture my confusion.
‘So what’s this about ducted heating repairs? Canberra or somethin’?’ the first thug asked loudly.
‘Boss says it was all just a distraction for that one we’re chasin’ here,’ thug number two replied. ‘A way to keep him off our scent while the boss runs his real business, sneaky-like.’
‘Ah… so we’re not going to Australia then?’
‘Why would you want to go to Australia?’
‘We’d be able to see in front of our noses, for starts,’ the first thug grunted, followed by the unmistakable sound of shattering glass.
‘Rolf?’ the second voice called out. ‘What is it?’
Rolf didn’t reply.
A loud thwack echoed through the fog, and the second thug gave a stifled groan, then crumpled to the cobblestones.
A dark silhouette stalked confidently towards me from the fog – could it be?
‘Loque!’ I cried.
Dusting his hands, Loque gestured for me to follow him.
‘Is it true?’ I asked.
‘You’ll have to be more specific, my dear Radcliffe,’ Loque murmured, pipe produced once more.
‘The Canberra heating repairs?’ I offered. ‘Is it truly a bluff within a bluff?’
Loque struck a match and raised it to his pipe. I realised much later he must have pilfered a matchbook from one of the thugs, to replace his own, missing one.
Loque took two deep pulls from his pipe, the embers making his eyes sparkle.
‘The game is afoot,’ he whispered.