The office door slammed against the wall with a bang, and papers swirled restlessly across the desks of the darkened room. He looked up from his bottle of gin, bleary eyes just registering the figure outlined in the doorway. It was tall, and from the cast of the hips and tucked in-waist silhouetted in the black trench, it was a woman. She stood on black stilettos, and a black snood concealed her hair from view as surely as the netted veil did her face.
"Who is that?" he asked nervously, squinting his eyes. There was a pause, and then the figure moved forward, legs, hips rolling smoothly in an unmistakable way. He paled; rearing back in the chair so that it almost fell. He righted it with a clatter, fingers shaking.
"A ghost?" he breathed, suddenly terrified. Was the moonshine bad? Giving him the jake- was he hallucinating? The black ensemble of the woman suddenly seemed more foreboding than chic. "You...I thought you were dead!"
She moved forward, just inches away from him in the dim lamplight. Slowly, black satin-clad hands lifted up, grasped the edge of the veil, and pulled it back. Her glossy red lips shone in a vulpine smirk in the light.
"I never die. Nine lives, you know." Molly Maltese breathed in her sotto voice. "I've been to the end of the world, my dear, and I've brought back the case to end all cases for you."
TUESDAY MORNING: 8:00 a.m.
Marc splashed cold water on Zeo's face waking him up. He was finally sobering up. For now. Zeo was tied to the chair.
"Marc? What are you-? Why am I tied to this chair?"
"I'm going to cut your hands free, and when I do, you will not move. We're going to have a chat, you and I."
When Zeo's hands were free, he reached into his pockets, frantically searching for something.
"It's gone." Marc said. "I flushed it all last night. You're going to get off of that stuff. Opium kills you more than bullets."
That was the worst thing you could do to someone who was addicted. Cut them off, cold turkey.
"Smoke?" Marc asked holding out a cigar. Zeo greatly accepted it and Marc lit it for him.
"I need that stuff," Zeo said.
"No you don't. You just think you do."
"I dont' care about Jack! Marc shouted. "I just want to know why you're working with that piece of crap! What happened to you, Zeo? You used to work for the FBI! Now look at you. You're down in the dirt. Addicted to opium and other garbage! Who's side are you really on?"
"I'm on my own side," Zeo snapped.
"Oh really? So were you planning to kill me and Vulkie the other day? Then what? Kill Billings? You're so high right now you couldn't even pull the trigger!"
Zeo looked down. He knew Marc was angry with him. "What are you doing with him!? Molly and Riza were nearly killed!"
"I have a meeting with Molly tonight. You can come to."
"You're not going anywhere tonight. You're not going anywhere until you're sober. And I'm going to make sure of that."
Zeo stood up but Marc grabbed him and slammed him down again. He tied Zeo's hands behind the chair again with the nylon. He sat down and turned on the radio. Through out the day, Marc watched as Zeo's body went through the first set of withdrawals from not having drugs. Marc held the trash can under Zeo's mouth when he vomited. The day passed and soon it was dark. Then it was late. The meeting time passed by.
Marc cleaned himself up in Zeo's bathroom while the man was still sleeping tied to the chair. The previous night had been rough for Joseph but he pulled through. He would still go through withdrawals but not as bad.
Zeo slept soundlessly still tied to the chair. Marc walked back in, stepping over the dirty clothes.
"Wake up!" Marc yelled throwing water on Zeo's face again. "Zeo, I'm doing this for your own good." He untied Zeo's hands.
"Go clean your self up in the shower, and get dressed."
"Where are we going?"
"No where. I'm tired of that smell coming off of you."
Twenty minutes later, Zeo came out of his room. He looked a lot better than he did the last two nights. He sat back down again.
"Zeo you really got to figure something out. Riza can't handle that kind of stress from one of her friends shooting at her."
"What's wrong with Riza?"
"She's pregnant," Marc said. Zeo stared back at Marc and the two men made eye contact.
Marc walked over to the old phone and dialed a number.
"I'm fine. Listen, get Riza out of that house. Down town there is a rundown bar ran by a big loud Scottish guy. Get a room there. I'll be there later tonight. That safe house isn't safe anymore. Jack knows we're there and I got a feeling he's sending people out that way." Marc said.
Joseph was listening but couldn't here what Molly was saying.
Marc hung up. He turned to Zeo. "C'mon," Marc said, grabbing him by his collar and standing him up. "Let's go for a ride."
*Early Wednesday Morning*
Marc was in the bathroom when Zeo woke from his soundless sleep. He felt much better than he had for months, but his mind was still flooded with the lure of Opium and Cannibis. The previous two nights felt like an eternity, but it was also a blur. His mind was so scrambled that he couldn't explain to Marc about the deal happening this very day at 4pm. If Molly was to retrieve her jewel back, she must act quickly. Posing as the Musuem curator could be out of the question now, but he wasn't sure. Women often surprise Zeo, and Molly was cream de la cream in that area. She might still be able to pull it off.
Zeo was to meet Billings in a few hours, and at this point he was still keen on following through with the end of his deal. Cutting off for two night was nothing compared to months of addiction. When Marc returned from the bathroom, Zeo pretended to be asleep. He was 'reawaken' with cold water splashed onto his face. Marc let Zeo go to the bathroom to clean himself up. Excellent.
With the bath water running, Zeo took a small stash of Opium from behind the water closet which he had hidden beforehand. He thought about climbing out the window to escape, but knew better that Marc could chase him down easily in Zeo's present physical condition. He would have to find other ways to slip from Marc's grasp.
Sobered up, with the stash carefully hidden in his trouser pocket, Zeo returned to the living room. He then realized for the first time how dilapidated he had allowed his flat to deteriate into.
Zeo sat down again, then Marc told Zeo about Riza's pregnancy.
The two men locked eyes. Zeo could tell that from his actions and stare that Marc did not know who the father was, but Zeo knew better. The night before Zeo board the ship to London in search of Anais and Josee's whereabouts, he was depressed, as usual, and was drinking heavily at the bar. Then Riza came along...
It was not merely impulse or the alcohol, although both served as catalysts to make it happen. Zeo genuinely cared for Riza, just that his mind for preoccupied with others.
Zeo sat stone still, making sense of the whole new situation. Marc was on the phone with Molly but that was a mere distraction at the moment. Zeo knew he couldn't go back to his former lifestyle of the past months. While he was wasting his life away, another one was brewing in someone he did care about.
Suddenly Marc grab Zeo by the collar, held him up and told him they were going for a ride. "Just give me a second." Zeo replied. Marc gave Zeo a suspicious look. "Trust me, I'm not doing anything stupid." Marc let go of Zeo and he headed into the bathroom.
Zeo took the stash hidden in his pocket and flushed it down the toilet. He frowned, as if part of his soul was flushed away as well, but that was one connection Zeo knew he must sever now.
Marc and Zeo left the flat in his car. He had a sole new mission: to protect Riza and her unborn child. Zeo missed the opportunity to watch Josee grow up. He was not to make the same mistake again.
Hey guys, on my last post, where it says, "It was nearly 1:00 a.m" that should be 12:00 a.m. no 1
Molly was beside herself.
She paced the floor angrily, darting to pick up the phone when Marc called, giving her instructions to leave the safe house. Hurriedly she threw her things together and instructed Vulkie and Riza to do the same, tapping one heel impatiently on the floorboards. She was furious. Marc had somehow absconded with Zeo and she had missed her meeting. This was all well and good, but now she had no information for the artifact transfer at the museum that was supposed to happen.
When the women were ready, she piled them into the car and drove downtown to find the bar and negotiate rooms for the detectives. Waiting for the keys, she checked her watch and sighed. Marc was supposed to be bringing Zeo shortly, and hopefully he could provide as much information as possible so she could have a prayer of pulling off this transfer.
"Come on guys, where are you?" she muttered, checking her watch again.
As Molly was waiting for their room keys, Riza glanced around the bar. It was absolutely filthy. Tables were crooked, chairs were upturned, the windows were thick with grime, and the wooden floor reeked of urine and stale booze. Riza wrinkled her nose. No one in their right minds would come here. And fittingly, they were the only ones there.
Riza paid no mind to the obnoxiously loud bartender who was rummaging around the back room, occasionally swearing and yelling something unintelligible toward Molly. Instead, her mind was preoccupied with what she considered to be her recent bout of insanity. She flashed back to the previous evening's conversation with Molly.
"A couple months," Riza had said, and then lapsed into silence, struggling with her admission. "I couldn't have this...thing...growing inside of me. It's changing me, and I'm..."
Scared. Riza was scared. But it was a different kind of fear. It wasn't the same as staring down into the barrel of a gun. No. Riza had never felt more vulnerable in her life. What kind of mother would she make? What kind of life would this child have?
Riza was shaken out of her reverie by Molly snapping, "THANK YOU" at the bartender as she grabbed the keys out of the man's hand.
*Later That Evening*
A loud banging woke Riza up. She sat bolt upright in her bed, eyes adjusting to the dimly-lit room. Confused and disoriented, she watched Molly stride over to the door and pull it open to admit Marc and a sallow-looking stranger. With a small gasp, Riza realized the stranger was none other than Joseph Zeo, and her greeting caught in her throat.
"We need to go to a bar. Just pack some clothes and an extra gun if you still have one" Molly said, while she waited at the front door, with a small briefcase. Vulkie and Riza hurried upstairs and got some clothes. As Vulkie observed her suitcase, she decided to bring an extra M1911, just to be sure. She then shut the suitcase and rushed downstairs, where Molly was waiting with the car keys in her hand. "I'll drive this time" she said, while giving a sinister smile. "I know how you handle your cars." Molly added, while Vulkie looked up and said "whatever".
When the trio was in the car, Molly furiously drove towards a seedy bar somewhere downtown London. "Marc always knows the best spots in town" Vulkie murmured and Riza let out a small laugh. As the trio went inside, Molly asked the bartender for three seperate rooms. Molly and Riza would share one, Vulkie would have her own room and when Marc came, he could have his own room too.
As the trio waited for the bartender to return with the keys, Vulkie took a quick look through the bar. It was like a shared swimming pool for all sorts of bacteria. The windows weren't cleaned for ages, there was a penetrating smell of urine and booze combined, and the top shelf of the bar only had a layer of dust instead of quality booze.
"Here are your keys missy.." the bartender said to Molly, while giving a grin. Vulkie observed the bartender's grin and quickly discovered he only had a few teeth left in his mouth and those were yellow-ish, probably caused by too much smoking and too much alcohol. "THANK YOU" Molly shouted, and she went upstairs. Riza immediately followed her. Vulkie shouted "I'll meet up with you guys later, I'll have a drink first... Let's hope it doesn't kill me..." Vulkie shouted and Molly shouted back: "5 minutes, no more".
Vulkie ordered a large scotch on the rocks and took out a cigarette. The bartender immediately forwarded a lighter and lighted the cigarette for Vulkie. "Thanks" she murmered, while inhaling some smoke and blowing it out of her nostrils. She enjoyed the feeling of the nicotine, it made her relax a bit.
"So missy, I guess you're not from here?" the bartender said, while picking up a rag and started to clean off the bar. "No, actually, I'm from New York. My friends and myself are on a little tour, and we thought that London would be a nice change of scenery.." Vulkie replied.
"New York.. The City of the Big Apple. I always wanted to visit New York, but I never got the chance." the bartender said. Vulkie slipped him a 1000 dollar bill. "That should be enough to cover a ride on a boat. When we leave, you can probably visit New York...It's not like this place gets many visitors." Vulkie said. The bartender poured another drink for Vulkie, as she had already finished her first one. "This one's on the house sweety." the bartender said and Vulkie smiled. She enjoyed her second drink and then went upstairs to her room.
The room was small. There was a bed, a closet and a dresser next to the bed. There was a chair in a corner of the room, but the chair had seen better days. As Vulkie lay down, her eyes quickly closed and she fell asleep.
***Later on the day***.
A loud banging woke Vulkie up and she quickly jumped up and took out her faithful Colt .38 and carefully creeked open the door. As she peered outside, she saw Marc and a stranger. Although... a stranger? Vulkie waited until Marc and the stranger entered the room and the door closed. Vulkie immediately went over to Molly and Riza's room and knocked on the door. Marc was the one that opened the door. "Quickly, come in!" he whispered and Vulkie obeyed.
The next thing Vulkie saw, was that the stranger turned around and Vulkie backed up a bit, towards the wall. The stranger was none less then Joseph Zeo...
* Wednesday Late Morning *
"Where are we going?" Zeo questioned while Marc was driving. They had been in the car for about half an hour, and Zeo noticed they were leaving the city.
"To get some fresh air." Marc replied flatly.
"But we don't have much time! The artifact transfer is supposed to take place today 4pm at the Museum office!"
"NOW you tell us!? Geez, it's happening today?" Marc was taken by surprised that he ran a light. Immediately he turned the car around, tires screeching, and headed back into the city. "We must meet up with Molly as soon as we can! I guess the fresh air can wait, along with the beating you deserve. Seriously I need to knock some sense into you!"
"So we're going to see Molly soon... And Riza..." Zeo contemplated.
"Yes, and Vulkie too. She's hurt. Riza went berserk the night you shot at us. She tried to stab her belly! I have no idea what pregnancy is doing to our cool headed dame. Good that Vulkie and Molly stopped her, but Vulkie now got a scar across her face."
Zeo went stone silent. So Riza didn't want this to happen. She was regretting it, and wanted to stab the baby. His appearance in front of Riza might set her off even more... And before Zeo could kick the habit entirely, before he could set things straight, he was not ready to see Riza.
Zeo made up his mind.
"Curator Carla Kane. I think she's in charge of the deal. Jack Billings addressed himself as William Jackson in front of her. This is everything I know." Zeo told Marc.
"You tell Molly when you see her." Marc replied absentmindedly as he made another left turn, "We need to plan this thing. Fast!" They were now in the out skirt of the city, and Zeo could see a city bus approaching the bus stop near them.
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