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Twenty-One Thirty

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It is frigid out here. The dry and unforgiving snow falling from a misty silver sky is made only more violent by wind, the kind of wind that drives a stake right through your clothes and grazes your skin with its blades. The lieutenant double-yefreitor pulls at the lapel of his uniform coat, which he couldn’t be more grateful to have found when he did; that first night without a proper jacket—or, really, proper non-piss-and-booze-stained clothes at all—had only gotten more bitter when the speed kicked off and the snow made its not especially grand entrance.

“What time is it, Kim?” he asks through a mustache speckled with white, only one more peculiarity in a collage of them on his person. The detective curses his fingerless gloves under his fogging breath, huffs hot air onto blue-tinged nails.

“Almost twenty-one thirty,” his partner replies with a glance at his watch.

“Well shit! No wonder it’s cold. I had no idea it’d gotten that late.”

“Perhaps a case of tunnel-vision, as they call it,” Kim goads lightly. He likes it when Kim does that. “I’m not sure how much more we can accomplish tonight. It may be best to return to the Whirling for the night.”

As much as the thought of unfollowed leads bugs him, the air nibbling away at his nerve endings takes precedence. He nods, defeated but concurring fully. “Good call.”

The pair turns from the west and begins a walk across the water to return to the right side of Martinaise. A slurry of white coats the bridging mechanism, crunchy and slippery, making the rails all the more important, for a descent into even the calm waters below could swallow a man whole in this chill. For the first time, Harry sees the lieutenant pull his sleeves down to his wrists.

Suddenly, he doesn’t feel quite so urgently cold.

“Kim,” begins the rugged man, drawing a scarlet scarf off his neck, the one taken from the church earlier that day, “take this.”

“What? We’re very close to the hostel now.” He waves his hand as a polite refusal.

“Sure, but what about going over notes? You want to have your cigarette, don’t you?”

His boots, previously scuffing marks into the snow and dirt, come to a hesitant stop. Kim’s eyes flash something barely there: surprise first in the fact that he would remember his one-a-day habit at all, and second that he would care.

The man holding the scarf lifts his brow in one final, silent plea and reaches closer. Kim takes it, gently knots it around his neck. “...Thank you.”

An act of kindness, a minuscule sacrifice. For Harrier Du Bois, it’s the first of many.