There was no denying their skill.
I found fault only with their choice of medium.
A beautiful piece of music slowly filled the hallway from the kitchen. The notes grew louder with each step, and when I reached a door marked ‘Remembrances,’ I could have fired off a scattergun, and no one would have heard me.
Like all the doors I’d tried so far, this one was unlocked.
When I opened the door, I saw a pair of men working diligently around an immobilized figure. It took me but a moment to see the woman between them was dead, her lower portions covered with thick clay.
The two men worked with smooth, careful motions. They had, from what I could tell by the gathered masks along the far wall, been working together for quite some time.
The only pity was what they were part of.
That, and they seemed to be enjoying their work a trifle too much.
And I wanted to know where Genevieve was.
I drew a Colt, cocked the pistol and brought it up. The movement caught one of the men’s attention, and as he looked up, his eyes widened in surprise.
I pulled the trigger and killed the man next to him, spraying bones and blood, brains and flesh across his face. As he wiped the remains of his companion from his mustache, I nodded toward the phonograph off to the left.
The man took several dazed steps over to the machine, lifted the needle and stared at me in slowly dawning horror.
“The women,” I said.
“No,” he whispered. “They’re mine when they’re dead. You can’t have them.”
“There are a few I can still save,” I told him, my voice growing tight. “I want them.”
He shook his head, body trembling. “I need them. They must be saved for posterity. They are the mothers of the future. Even those who are slain in birth.”
I could see it in his eyes. He didn’t care if he died.
Only if he couldn’t work with the dead.
I took two steps forward and punched him as hard as I could in the face. He collapsed to the floor, unconscious. I holstered the Colt, found some twine, and tied tourniquets around his wrists.
My knife wasn’t as sharp as when I’d come looking for Genevieve.
But there was enough of a blade to take his hands.