Subsection: Fire over Khartoum Up Subsection: Fire over Khartoum Subsubsection: 16 September 2015 (Masquerade Ball) 

6 August 2015 (The Sewers of Khartoum)

After some rest, the group heads over to Ramatee’s bakery in the late morning. It’s a small shop in a block of the same; it’s closed, but there’s a display of pastries in the window. An odour is noticeable, including the distinctive (at least to Stephen) smells of putrescine and cadaverine, and seems to be emanating from the storm-drain grating nearby.
They look at the shop first; there’s no answer at the front door, and the display blocks off any view of the inside from the front. The back door is locked too; Stephen peers through a window, and what ought to be the kitchen or stockroom is entirely bare. Diamond looks through an upstairs window, into another bare room. Stephen and Thorfin talk to the neighbouring shopkeepers: it seems that that shop has been empty for a while, with the bakery only being set up yesterday, and they’re a little surprised it hasn’t opened yet. One of them saw a woman (veiled, which is unusual in these parts but not un-heard-of) carrying in supplies yesterday. The smell only began yesterday, too…
Stephen breaks in the back door, which has been secured with a lock of surprisingly good quality – again, recently, judging by the wood shavings on the floor. The whole place is empty, apart from the pastries in the front window, which are starting to get a bit hard and stale.
They pull the door to, and consider the storm grating. Clearly this is some sort of set-up, but why? Diamond shoots off the lock that secures the grate, and flies the others down into what proves to be a sewer, flowing fairly fast; there’s no ladder or other easy access. They look around below, and soon spot a crumpled body lying on the walkway about fifteen feet upstream, a knife protruding from its chest.
They give is a quick look over, and Stephen pulls out the knife: on the blade is written, in Arabic, “Congratulations on the Directorship”, and on the other side “Rubbish is my Life”.
Stephen and Diamond ascend to talk to the locals, arranging for a priest of Anubis. While they’re doing it, a four-man shocktrooper patrol arrives, spots the open grate, and interrogates these obvious strangers. They go along with it, especially when it becomes apparent that the shocktroopers will be doing their own investigation: one of them stays to guard the drain, one leaves at speed to fetch reinforcements, and the other two take Stephen and Diamond to headquarters, where they’re lightly interrogated, shaken down for a “fine”, and released a couple of hours later.
When Thorfin overhears the conversation between the others and the shocktroopers, he takes the dagger and moves away upstream. After some hours of wandering, during which he notices that there aren’t as many rats as one would normally expect, he locates a manhole with a more conventional ladder, and the group gets together back at the hotel.
They talk over what’s been going on. The body was probably about two days dead. There was very little blood on the robes, and no pool of it on the walkway, which suggests that the knife wound wasn’t the cause of death. The knife seems odd to Thorfin, not as ornamental as presentation pieces usually are.
They head back to the shop, and see a group of sawhorses surrounding the grating, a substantial shocktrooper guard, and a new pool of blood on the edge. Talking to various shopkeepers and other potential witnesses, none of whom is prepared to admit that they might have seen anything but all of whom are happy to pass on hearsay, it appears that a group of people “disguised as women” came along perhaps half an hour after the team left, killed the lone shocktrooper guard with knives, got down into the sewer and removed a bulky object from it.
They go to the souk to talk to people who might know more about the knife. One old knife-maker is dismissive of it as “apprentice work”, and goes into some detail: it’s clearly hand-made, but he’s sure whoever did it didn’t have proper smithing training. There are plenty of other ornamental knives available, with or without engraving, so presumably whoever set this up had a reason for not simply buying one of them.
The city has an Office of Waste Management, and at least some of the workers there wear robes not unlike the ones on the body. The team waits for someone who looks about the right level to have some idea of what’s going on, and takes him out for a very expensive dinner.
Pahor Osman explains first that the lack of rats is because they’ve released baby crocodiles into the sewers. When they get big enough, they escape into the Nile. The maintenance crews wear chain leggings – at least the more important people.
The Director of Waste Management, Alak-Begam, is still around, and doesn’t look like the body: he’s had a few days off for a family emergency, but he’ll certainly be at the Masquerade Ball tomorrow night (a major social event in the city’s calendar, run by the Horus Houses, and open to anyone who makes a substantial donation; even Overgovernor Natatiri might show up). The official does mention that his opposite number, Lesser Dean Salim Hassan, has recently vanished, probably to try for a job in Cairo. But he does match the description of the body. The team explains what’s happened so far; Osman is willing to look up maintenance records of that part of the sewers, especially if they’ll buy him a nice lunch tomorrow. Meanwhile there’s a masquerade ball to be prepared for.
 Subsection: Fire over Khartoum Up Subsection: Fire over Khartoum Subsubsection: 16 September 2015 (Masquerade Ball)