The city of Bais de Bijoux, on the coast of Dulaine, at one time the jewel of the empire of Dulaine, now after hundreds of years reduced to a seedy port city full of pirates, thieves, and cutthroats. The police and imperial military cant keep up with the crime and have since left the city to its own devices, electing to patrol only the noble quarters of the city. Keeping the wealthy, wealthy and safe, and leaving the rest to suffer a miserable fate of crime and desperation.
Once a brilliant gleaming center of trade, and knowledge, the city now has fallen under its own weight, cobblestone roads left to disrepair, gas lanterns barely able to function against the mighty pull of the elements from the sea. The port was busy with trade day and night only to have many of those goods disappear under suspicious circumstances. Often times only those with a lack of common sense or a need to leave the past behind them come to this city willingly. Often times to end up dead in a gutter, the city had a habit of making even the most optimistic of people jaded or broken.
It was here that Alex Byrne found himself after leaving his military service for Dulaine after serving in major conflicts and war. He felt this was the only place that he could go, back into the gutters, where the smells of blood, death, and fear were washed away by the constant flood of the ocean and the pace of the broken city on the coast. It was here that he took up the occupation of private investigations to try to bring some sense of hope to the downtrodden and possibly the light of reason to those who lost so much. But that felt like an eternity ago to him, now he felt like a shattered man on the verge of breaking wholly under the weight of the world.
The world slowly came into focus; Alex placed a hand on his head and let out a low groan as he adjusted to his surroundings. The distant bellow of a fog horn echoed out over the concrete and steel frames near the harbor. His ear twitched slightly registering the faint sound of his blinds clattering against the salty breeze flowing in from the window. Alex sat up groaning slightly at the aches rolling through his back, he looked at his desk that had just served as his pillow then to the mostly empty bottle of bourbon that served as his lullaby. It was an accusational look, one of sullen regret then full understanding of what had happened. He sighed and stood up behind his desk, making a weak attempt at organizing the documents strewn about the desk.
Soon he abandoned that and just stood back, feebly pulling open a drawer and retrieving a bottle of aspirin. This had become such a habit lately that he knew to come prepared, he stood up picking a glass from the desk, likely one that held bourbon before he absolutely abandoned any sense of civilization and started drinking straight from the bottle. Alex slowly made his way over to the bathroom of his office and turned on the tap of the sink. The dull moan and clattering of pipes behind the wall reminding him of the decay of this old building. He sighed and filled the glass, popped the cap of the bottle of aspirin and unceremoniously downing multiple pills quickly chasing it with water that tasted faintly like the old copper housing of the pipes.
He looked to the dirty mirror in the bathroom at himself, he was a mess tonight, the white button up shirt he was wearing was wrinkled, and the slick black tie he wore was crooked. It was a wonder it wasn’t worse, considering his previous nights sleeping conditions. Alex leaned down and splashed the cold water from the tap onto his face and an effort to pull himself from the stupor. A measure of instant regret hitting him as the cold water clashed with the thudding of the headache that had him rocking uneasily. "Alex, you’re a dumb ass." His stated out to the mirror, his voice was deep and measured, though laced with pain at the moment. He studied his own face as the world around him tipped and swayed like a ship in a storm. His green eyes seemed foreign to him, as things steadied out for him. He almost felt like he was looking at someone else. He gingerly shook his head and ran a hair through his black hair, noting the streaks of grey in the messily spiked hair. He turned off the water and headed back out into the office.
Alex soon was back to his desk placing down the glass and bottle, his attention turned to the office as a whole, dimly lit by the street lights shining through the half opened blinds and casting an eerie glow across what basically amounted to his entire life. Old plaques designated his military service and honors to the country of Dulaine. He would have rolled his eyes if his head wasn’t pounding; to him the only thing he was honored by was being part of the blood crows. A Special Forces unit that was sent in to deal with the issues that the regulars couldn’t deal with. He sighed to himself scanning over the ratty couch that had been in his office when he started doing Private investigations and contracting, he had been meaning to get rid of it but never really summoned the interest in doing that much to get it out of the building and it since had grown on him, becoming a permanent part of the look of the place.
He looked over book cases stuffed with works from everything to general law to things as obscure as occult knowledge. He looked over the various accreditation forms and his investigators license hanging over the couch and rubbed his temples. His attention turned to the softly clattering blinds and out to the city beyond the window, the strong smell of oncoming rain mixed with the salt of the ocean breeze. Alex was soon smoothing out his shirt and getting himself somewhat presentable making his way to the door of the office and snatching off the coat from the coat rack that sat by it. He turned back to his desk and walked around it, pulling a small key from the coat pocket. A stiff click rattled out as he unlocked one of the small drawers and he retrieved his sidearm, it was a little 9 millimeter pistol that was given to him so many years ago, heavy enough to have real weight, but small enough to be concealed easily. He seated it in its holster under his left arm and made his way back to the door.
Soon he made his way out of the office and locked the door behind him, the building was ghostly silent. It would have been unnerving were it not for the fact that it was so late. Alex made his way down the stairs looking to his wrist as he went. The dull hallway lights illuminated the small steel watch as he passed by them. It was 10:25 too late for most people in this town and too early for anything to be happening that would interest him. A dull click and thud as the front door of the building gave way to his push. He looked up the cobblestone street, enshrouded in the dense sea fog and illuminated poorly by street lights too old to fight off the oppressive advance of the fog. This was his life now, wandering the streets in a city too old to be cared for and too young and lawless to be considered historical.
This was his home, the city of Baie de Bijoux, a relic of a once former glory now reduced to the echoes of its past. That thought alone stung, he wasn’t so different from the place he lived. Alex sighed to himself as he walked up the street listening to the sounds of ships at port and the occasional car driving along the streets, the distant rumble of thunder over the ocean breaking the general monotony of the already dour night. He soon found himself near the doors to one of the few places open this late. Salvadore's diner, to Alex it seemed like this place was here since the city was founded; it was a seedy place with even seedier people all clamoring for a place in the collective shade. He liked it well enough, it was cheap, and Salvadore was a good enough source for information and the occasional good natured ribbing. Alex pushed opened the doors and stepped in, the soft jingle of the bell above the door signaling his entry.
Salvadore was in his normal place, standing behind the bar, more or less looking over the wooden round tables and keeping an eye out for any sort of problems. He was a stocky man, maybe 5 feet 8 and in his mid 50's at Alex's estimation. He was heavy set and obviously took part of his own stock of beer as a matter of routine. He looked up to the door at the jingle his normally hard features softening into a wide smile.
"There's the local gumshoe!" Salvadore bellowed out, intentionally bringing attention to the tall man as he walked into the building. "What brings you to my humble establishment tonight Sarge?"
Alex smiled back somewhat weakly, the hangover evident in the pained expression. "Just the usual Sal, here for food and a cure, that's all I've got time for tonight." He made his way to the bar, and made to sit at one of the stools. The place was unusually lively tonight, more than a few of the tables were full up "Something going on that I don’t know about? It seems like there’s a lot of cash on the barrelhead tonight."
Salvadore turned to the kitchen window yelling out the order to the staff within, he turned back to Alex pulling up a glass and pouring him two fingers of gin. Alex took the drink and proceeded to drink it down swiftly, if nothing else the liquor would help ease the headache from the hangover somewhat. Salvadore looked to his friend and leaned in lowering his normally boisterous voice conspiratorially. "Word is that there’s a big shipment of less than legitimate goods coming through the ports tonight, I’m sure that’s what most of these fine upstanding people are here for." Alex turned and looked over the crowd a little slower now working them over in his mind. Black market dealings always made the already dangerous city even more precarious. "Now Sarge, you know the deal, when you're in here you're off. I don’t want my best customer getting into something he don't need no part of."
"Sally, your concern for my wallet brings tears to my eyes." Alex smiled at the burly man. "I get it though; I'm not digging into that pile unless I’ve got a job for it." While what he said was the truth he couldn’t help but be concerned about the situation, if it was as Salvadore had said. As he looked at the people in the crowd, he felt uneasy, it wasn’t the crowd that bothered him, it was just something he couldn't quite put his finger on. Something about these people felt off to him, not in the sense that they were criminals most likely but just a general sense of foreboding. His face hardened a bit. "I promise, Ma, I'm not gonna look into it."
Salvadore turned and grabbed the completed plate of food and placed it in front of Alex picking up on the sarcasm at the end. "Your dad would be proud, asshole. I'm just saying, something ain’t right and I don’t think anyone wants to deal with that. But you do you Alex I'm just worried. Hell if you got knocked off I wouldn't know who to send all the old ladies to when they lose their cats. Eat your damn food; I got customers to deal with." There was feigned anger in his words but a very real concern in the burly mans voice.
Alex sighed again, it was true, Salvadore was basically his only friend and that concern from him brought on a twinge of guilt in his mind. He ate his food silently, thinking on recent events in the city and trying to pin where these feelings of unease were coming from. Before he knew it the mixture of food and gin had helped ease his headache away, mostly, enough for him to focus properly. He looked up to see Salvadore as he was speaking to a patron, a dark haired woman with a pretty smile and a look of worry in her eyes. It looked like a front to Alex, like she was trying to show ease on the outside. Salvadore pointed to Alex casually and he could hear his voice slightly over the din of the voices in the diner. "He can take of your problem, He’s......." Sal's voice died out over the cadence of the crowd and Alex resigned himself to not listening to the exaggerated ramblings of his friend.
He called out to Salvadore reaching into his coat and pulling out his wallet leaving a few bills on the bar top as payment. "Sally, need a coffee to go, I got work to do." Salvadore excused himself from the woman and came back to Alex with a little spring in his step and a wide smile. He looked almost like an overexcited bulldog puppy in the way he was moving around. "That nice lady pitty you enough to give you her number Sal?" Alex said with a smile.
Salvadore put on a face of mock shock. "Why sir, I am appalled that a gentleman like you would stoop to such comments. No jackass, I might have got you a case to work on, she came in here asking for you specifically. I told her where your office was and let her know to take a load off and let you head back before coming to you with anything since she could speak freely in your office. I know how these things go." Sal smiled and tapped his temple proudly. "Besides, you never know, you might be able to get her to warm up to you and actually get yourself a girl, finally."
Alex rolled his eyes as he watched the man pour him his coffee. "Yeah yeah Sal, I’ll file that under 'wont likely happen' but thanks for the lead, remind me when its done with and ill pass you a finders fee, after I find her missing cat." He took his drink and stood up making his way back to the entrance of the diner pushing his way out the door and into the now rainy night. Alex stood under the alcove at the entrance of the diner and hiked up the collar of his coat slightly, calmly making his way back along his earlier path to his office. He was thankful that he had a spare suit in the office considering the common weather around the city. His mind still working over recent events, everything had a pattern and he was attempting to find the cause for his still lingering unease. He wasn’t the type to lean on gut feelings but this seemed substantial.
He was soon at the front door the building that served as his office; he unlocked the door and made his way up the stairs, making it a point to leave the door unlocked. He walked into the room that served as his bedroom the last time he slept and flipped a switch on the wall which turned on the rickety ceiling fan and its dim light. Alex dug through a filing cabinet near the still open window, he looked down and saw a little bit of water pooling just past the sill and sighed. "Damnit Alex." He shut the window and pulled a dry shirt and pants from the filing cabinet, he was quickly changed and he threw the old wet clothes in a basket that was tucked away beside the filing cabinet.