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A Slight Accent

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Dockworker Ivans met us on the pier as the first rays of sunlight began to streak the horizon. I was still dripping from my sprint into the river; Lockwood’s head was bleeding from where he’d smacked it against a wall. The Spectre’s Source - a single pearl earring - was safely encased in silver-glass. Water lapped soothingly against the bulwark.

Ivans was tall, with muscles like ropes; he could have crushed melons between his thighs. His speech was thick and heavily accented. “So,” he said. “You solve it?”

“Of course.” Lockwood gave him a smile and held up the silver-glass case. “You should be able to finish that boat now.”

“Good. Thank you.” Ivans shoved a heavily calloused hand deep into his pocket and produced a thick, crumpled envelope. “Your payment.”

“Thanks,” Lockwood said, accepting the envelope. “We’re always happy to help.”

This last bit was said thickly, as if in very poor imitation of a certain Irish accent. I froze; Ivans stiffened, the rusty wheels in his brain churning. Lockwood tucked the Source and the envelope away in one of his deeper pockets, still smiling his easy grin.

A second passed, then another. Ivans’ face tightened with each one.

I put on my most apologetic smile. “Terribly sorry, Master Ivans, but we really should be getting on, now–“

I grabbed Lockwood’s hand and turned, running for the row of warehouses behind us. A furious shout sent chills down my spine; I risked a glance back and saw Ivans charging after us, face red and eyes dark. I doubted we could ever run fast enough.

“What’s his problem?” Lockwood asked. He still had the accent, made worse by the echoing alleys around us. “We solved his haunting.“

“It’s not the job we did, Lockwood,” I gasped as we passed another warehouse.

Lockwood frowned. “What was it, then?”

I heard a snort of anger from behind; clearly Ivans could still hear us. Another glance told me the man was gaining.

“I’ll tell you later. Drat, where’s the road?“

“Turn left here,” Lockwood said. “But Luce-”

“Shut up, Lockwood.“

He complied.

We rounded the corner and skidded to a halt. I cursed. “Wrong left, Lockwood.” Dumpsters and crates filled the alley, creating a blockade. Beyond them, a wall stretched into the sky, and a smell enough to rival a Pale Stench filled the space. I covered my mouth, fighting the urge to gag, and shot Lockwood a glare.

He grinned at me. When he spoke, the accent was finally gone. “Lovely scent, isn’t it?”

“That is not the problem.”

He stuffed his hands in his pockets and gave a little shrug. “I didn’t know it was a dead end, did I?”

“Oh, don’t even give me that.” I said, crossing my arms. “You’re the one who told me to turn!”

“Relax, Lucy. All we have to do is go back before he–”

There was a shout from behind us, and we whirled around. Ivans, lit by the rising sunlight, blocked the entrance. “There you are.”

Lockwood and I glanced at each other, then turned and ran for the pile, scrambling across broken crates and filthy plastic. Splinters stabbed my palms, mysterious liquids splashed across our boots; behind us, heavy footsteps smashed wood and kicked garbage aside. The wall at the end came closer, and we could hear sounds of traffic somewhere beyond it.

Lockwood got there first, pulling himself to the top in a single, swift movement. I scrambled after him, and for a moment we stood on a narrow ledge of brick, staring down the length of the alley at the road beyond.

There was a sudden crash. Wood splintered, followed by a violent clang of metal and the particular, ripe vocabulary of a London dockworker. I started, turning - and my boot stepped back on empty air. Lockwood reached for my hand and grasped it in an attempt to catch me, but I was too heavy and his grip too firm. He fell with me.

We landed hard on concrete. The breath rushed from my lungs; I smacked my head against the ground. All I could see were stars.

I shut my eyes and inhaled. Beside me, there were soft sounds as Lockwood stood; when I opened my eyes again, he was looking down at me.

“You okay, Luce?” He held out his hand to help me up. I took it and got to my feet, ignoring the way the world tilted violently.

“I’m fine.”

Lockwood frowned, but he didn’t say anything. I looked back at the wall. Faint groaning noises came from the other side. "Should we leave him like that?”

“No, probably not… but I’m not entirely inclined to help him, either.”

“You did start it, you know.”

“Did I?”

“Yeah,” I said, straightening my coat and leaning against the wall. The world was still spinning. “That might have been your worst imitation of someone yet.”

“Oh.” Realization dawned in Lockwood’s eyes, and he turned. “I’m terribly sorry, Master Ivans,” he called. “I meant no insult. I copy people without thinking. You’re not the first.”

There was an angry grunt.

“Do you need help?”

A silence. “No.”

We looked at each other. Lockwood shrugged. “Right. We’ll be going, then.”

“Good. I don’t want to see you again.”

“Of course, Master Ivans.” Lockwood nodded, though the man couldn’t see him, then turned and flashed me a smile.

“C’mon, Luce. Let’s get home.”