“Sign of the Salamander” sees Charles St. Cyprian and Ebe Gallowglass dealing with murder, foreign agents and a ferocious fire elemental in Egypt in 1921. It was published in issue 3 of Fantasy & Fear from Pro Se Press in 2011, which is still available from the publisher. Excerpt below the cut.
“You have no idea how he died?”
“I didn’t say that.” St. Cyprian brushed a nonexistent fleck of lint from his sleeve. “I said the circumstances escaped me.”
“As do so many things,” another voice cut in. St. Cyprian turned, lips quirking slightly.
“Ambry, old bean,” he said, with patently false cheer. The narrow whip of a man who had entered the room behind Morris flinched slightly at the jocular familiarity.
“St. Cyprian.” Ambry was only a recent addition to Morris’ staff, but he’d already picked up on his superior’s distaste for St. Cyprian and learned to mimic it. “Going to pull a rabbit out of your-”
“Ambry,” Morris chided, though not sternly. “Have you seen to the men?” he continued, referring to the troop of British Army regulars they’d brought on board when they’d arrived.
“All picketed and accounted for,” Ambry said crisply. Like Morris he was dressed in civilian fashion, though much neater. His helmet fairly gleamed, and the polished butt of a service-Webley marred the otherwise perfect cut of his coat. “No one is getting on or off this ship without our permission.”
“Boat,” St. Cyprian said.
“What?” Ambry raised an eyebrow.
“It’s a boat, not a ship. A ship is an ocean-going vessel.”
“You have a singular gift for useless information, St. Cyprian.”
“And you are generally useless, Ambry, me old mucker. We make a good pair.” St. Cyprian clinked his rings together idly. Ambry grinned mirthlessly, his lips writhing back from too-perfect teeth.
“Harsh words from a second-rate Svengali.”
“That’s enough Ambry,” Morris said. “Mr. St. Cyprian-”
“Were those windows always open like that?” St. Cyprian interjected, indicating the wooden blinds.
“As far as I know,” Morris said, blinking. “Why?”
“No reason. Just curious.” A muscle in Morris’ jaw had a bit of a merry dance, and St. Cyprian felt a flicker of pity for the bureaucrat. But only a flicker. “He burned to death. Several hours ago, at least.”
“Twelve,” Morris grated. “But was it-” He made a sharp gesture.
“Was it what? Painful?” St. Cyprian heedlessly stuffed his handkerchief in the pocket of his coat. “I imagine so, yes.”