About a mile south of Horatio's house was the Thames River. Accompanied by Thaddeus and Ferris, he walked to the river and then turned west. Walking along its banks, he passed under the London Bridge and quickly came to a part of town that was worn down, but still bustling with activity. The streets were lined with ragged looking merchants selling all manner of items, and various craftsmen occupied the street-facing workshops. There were makers of horseshoes, tables, guns, wagon wheels, and of course, bullets.
"Hello there, good sir," shouted Horatio at a bulletsmith who was working away in his shop. The sign swaying gently above the door indicated that "Buford's Firearm Oddities" was the name of the little shop. "I've been told by a few reputable sources that you're the man to see if I need an unordinary bullet. That is of course, if you are indeed Mr. Buford Simeon?"
The burly man turned to face Horatio. He was short and balding, but extremely bulky. He walked over and extended his hand pleasantly.
"You've found who you're looking for, sir," Buford chuckled, shaking Horatio's hand. "And who might you be?"
"Horatio Morgan. Detective. These are my associates Thaddeus and Ferris. We're investigating a murder."
"Oh my. I haven't heard of anyone getting killed. Was it in this neighborhood?" Buford asked.
"This case is of a sensitive nature, and it's best the press doesn't hear of it," Horatio told him. "But no, it wasn't in this neighborhood. We came to you because the victim was killed with a unique variety of bullet."
Horatio revealed the silver projectile and placed it in Buford's hand. Buford held it up and examined it carefully.
"Oh, this was definitely one of mine," he answered finally. "I made a whole bunch of these for some guys about a month ago. They wanted a hundred of these, and a hundred bullets made with oak tips. I haven't the foggiest idea why they wanted those materials, but if I'd known they were gonna kill someone, I'd never have done it."
"What," Thaddeus interrupted in a condescending voice, "else would they be doing with bullets, exactly?"
"Ahem! Anyways, Mr. Simeon," Horatio interrupted, "I would very much like to know who these customers were."
"I wish I could tell you. They never gave me a name. There were four of them, and one would be here at all times, watching me work. They dressed in black cloaks and always wore red masks, like ones you'd wear at a masquerade. Creepy folk. But money is money, and times have been tough."
"Did they ever give you any information on their lives? Anything at all not business related?"
"Not that I recall. Though, when they were switching off, I heard them mention 'The Temple of Time' every once in a while. I thought it must be their church or something."
"That's all you recall hearing?" Horatio asked.
"That's all. They kept pretty quiet," Buford replied.
"Well then, thank you for your assistance Mr. Simeon. It's greatly appreciated." Horatio lifted his hat to the bulletsmith and turned into the street.
"Wait!" Buford yelled. Horatio and his companions stopped. "Let me help you. I made the bullet, and I can't help but feel a bit responsible. I'd like to try and assist you."
"Well..." sighed Horatio.
"No," Thaddeus said coldly.
"Who am I to keep a man from easing his guilty conscience? Come with us back to my house and we'll get you up to speed."
To be continued...