The antique shop door rattles closed behind you. The bell above it makes a half-hearted jingle and falls quickly silent. There is no one to be seen. Wafting from the back comes the scent of decaying incense and soured meat.
You shoulder your way through piles of castoffs and detritus from the lives of people long dead. Homeless trinkets and baubles try to place themselves in your hands and pockets. The despair is palpable.
You step through the threshold into the back room. The air is thick with fetid smoke. An old woman with milky, unfocused eyes looks up at you.
“At last, you’ve come. Destroyer. Poisoner. Thief of life. To butcher and unmake what is before you. Come then. Have your slaughter. Take what is yours. I won’t interfere.”
“Lady,” you begin, “I’m a detective. I’m just here to ask you—“
Her eyes, lingering on a point in space behind you, suddenly snap to clear focus on your face.
“Be silent, fool” she hisses, “I wasn’t talking to you.”
Behind you, something steps out of the darkness.