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Nine Lives
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Molly Maltese
Molly Maltese
Old Shoe

May-9-2012 18:06

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."

Replies

Joseph Zeo
Joseph Zeo
Tale Spinner

Jun-18-2012 21:34

* Thursday Morning *

Zeo woke with a start and wondered where he was. Slowly he came to his senses and realized he handcuffed his own left wrist to his bedpost in fear of what would happen if he didn't. He even threw the keys to the door where he could not reach. Great. What WAS he thinking lately?

The telephone had fallen off the bedside table; he wonder what else he knocked down last night while he was beyond himself. Zeo picked up the phone from the gap between the bed and the bedside table, and prayed that he hasn't broke it. He sighed with relief to find it still working. Holding the phone steady with his left elbow, Zeo dialed the number of the rundown Jazz club and asked the bartender to wake Mr. Marc Lacrimosa for him.

Molly Maltese
Molly Maltese
Old Shoe

Jun-19-2012 14:47

"How in the hell are we supposed to pull this off?" Molly hissed as she swiped a frazzled tendril of auburn hair out of her face and checked her wrist-watch. "Okay, nevermind that. Look at me."

She tilted Rizas chin towards her and swiped some powder across her pale face. Pulling the heavy brown wig into place, she made some last-minute adjustments to her disguised friend and handed her a pair of thick spectacles. A muffled thump emanated from behind the back door of the closed office.

"Vulkie, get in there and shut her up." she hissed, referring to the real museum curator, who was currently bound and gagged on the floor behind the desk. She wished dearly that they could have pulled this off with more finesse but they were severely running out of time and Marc was nowhere to be found.

"Alright Riza, or should I say Carla- thats as good as its going to get. Play it cool. Hopefully Jack sends someone else in his place, and if not, well, he probably won't recognize you." Molly worried at her lip as she took her friend by the arm and led her into the large office that served as the Curators. She arranged her behind the desk and scattered a few files open before them.

"Pretend to be reading or taking notes or something. Vulkie and I will be in the next office over if things should get hairy." she tilted her head towards the connecting door to their right. With a mock salute, she disappeared through it, closing the door behind her. Vulkie met her eyes and they exchanged a long glance of mutual worry. Where was Marc? More importantly, was Zeo in good enough shape to be here himself, and to pull the gig off?

"Im going to have grey hairs after this." Molly said mournfully, plucking at her auburn tresses.

Joseph Zeo
Joseph Zeo
Tale Spinner

Jun-20-2012 08:34

* Thursday Noon *

"What took you so long?" Zeo asked impatiently from his bed. His left hand was growing numb.

"Molly needed my help, Joseph. It's not like we're going to a picnic this afternoon." Marc explained as he searched the floor for the key of the handcuffs. "We needed to know what Curator Carla Kane look like before we can disguise as her, and I've the best long ranged eye-sight."

Marc continued, but he failed to find the cuff key, "What does the key look like again?"

Zeo frowned, "Like all other handcuff keys..."

"Fine. By the way, set aside the hair color and eye-glasses, the sharp nose and tall figure left little doubt as to who should pose as Carla Kane..."

Riza.

Zeo's heart skipped a beat.

"I slipped away after I bought the disguise from the shop. They should be able to handle it from there... Where the HECK is that damned key? Joseph you really have to think twice before you do something stupid like--"

"--I know I know. Would you just find that key and shut up?" Zeo felt exasperated with himself, on everything. Mainly his inability to protect Riza more.

Marc cursed and pulled out his revolver. He shot at the handcuff at close range. The entire building shook, then the cuff attached to the bed post broke open with a crisp chime.

"Done." Marc grinned innocently.

Zeo stared at his hand, then at Marc, "Next time if you are planning to shoot next to my skin, please give me at least a warning." Marc shrugged and nodded nonchalantly.

"I think I should join Molly at the Museum now, although I don't see what we can do given Riza is the one dealing with Billings directly." Marc said.

"In that case, protect her from the dark." Zeo replied as he open his closet. Piles of old clothes fell out. Zeo looked deeper into the closet as if the mess did not exist. Finally he come out producing a Remington SR8 sniper rifle. Zeo looked intently at his friend, "I have 3 magazines of 5 shots each. Use it wisely."

Joseph Zeo
Joseph Zeo
Tale Spinner

Jun-20-2012 09:36

Marc whistled, "Glad you didn't sell this baby for a few cheap highs."

Zeo gave Marc an icy stare. "There's a mezzanine storage area right above the offices. That store room should give you the best view of what's going on below." Zeo then looked at his watch, "Shite! I must meet Billings now."

The two men left the rundown apartment swiftly and each took to their vehicle. Zeo drove next to Marc and said to him, "Protect Riza for me." Before Marc could reply, Zeo stepped on the gas pedal and hurried away.


*Thursday Afternoon*

"This is not like you, Mr. Zeo, look at the time!" Jack exclaimed behind his royal mahogany desk.

"In that case I suggest that we get on with it." Zeo noted over dozen men with Billings this day, most of them with arms thicker than his thighs. His thoughts drifted to Riza again.

"Haven't you forgotten something?" Billings inquired with sarcasm in his voice, "I'm so glad the deal got postponed a day, otherwise I wouldn't have noticed it in time either."

Zeo felt a chill down his spine. He just realized he did not take the Opium right away in front of Billings yesterday, and the shrewd man knew what was going on. How could he be so careless!?

Two brawny men twisted Zeo's arms behind him and shoved his head roughly onto the hardwood desk. "I know all about your rendez-vous last night with my darling wife and her friends. You're not the only dull-witted detective I have on my payroll." Jack Billings spoke in an undertone as he came closer to Zeo's ear, almost kissing it, "and I have something wonderful for you. It's called powerballing, or Speedball."

Immediately Zeo saw another man holding a syringe with different mixtures getting ready for injection. Zeo struggled in futility. "You have dabbled in morphine, that I know of, but THIS is something totally different." Jack Billings declared feverously.

Jack Billings
Jack Billings
Thespian

Jun-20-2012 09:40

"Where is Mr. Zeo?" Jack demanded, straightening the lapels of his immaculate dove-grey suit. "Cyril, bring me the man. If any of his little friends try their shenanigans, I want them to see who is spearheading the effort."

Cyril, his new lackey, gave a grunt of assent and left the room. Jack waited until the door was closed to move to his desk. On it sat two identical wooden boxes. As he opened them, he gave a little smile to himself- for resting in the denizens of each were identical, gleaming ankhs encrusted with jewels. He lifted one up to the light, examining it with a shrewd eye before giving a nod of satisfaction and tucking it back into the velvet nest in the bottom of the box. He had had one of his connections experienced on the black market examine and recreate the Nine Lives artifact flawlessly, as well as draw up official documents and certificates of legality. They were absolutely perfect.

There was a commotion outside of the door and Jack hastily slid the box containing the real ankh into his drawer , locking it as Zeo entered looking disheveled as always.

"Zeo, my good man." Jack said imperiously, pulling two small bags of opiates out of his breast pocket. "You're accompanying me on the trade-off today. If you're a good boy, there's something in it for you." He sneered, but Zeo just looked at him blankly, devoid of expression.

Joseph Zeo
Joseph Zeo
Tale Spinner

Jun-20-2012 10:18

"The instant rush is so strong you'll never be able to be rid of the desire for it the rest of your pitiful life... if it doesn't kill you first. And do you know when you mix a depressant like morphine with a stimulant such as cocaine here, what effects do you get?" Billings sounded almost joyous, "Confusion, incoherence, stupor... You may even experience paranoid delusions and hallucinations."

Billings laughed to himself, "Wait until I release you onto my wife and her friends when they come meddling in my affairs today! I wonder who you WON'T recognize! No matter what she does, I have more tricks up my sleeves than she has of gowns. Cyril, go ahead with the injection." Billings nodded to the man holding the syringe.

One of the burly men unrolled Zeo's sleeve. Zeo tried to knock him with his elbow but he was simply not strong enough. As the needle pierced through his skin he felt the effort and hope in the last few days draining from him...

Molly Maltese
Molly Maltese
Old Shoe

Jun-20-2012 11:03

Molly raised her head at the sound of a door opening and voices downstairs.
"Its show time." she said grimly. She drew her pistol and held it down by her leg as she leaned tensely by the doorjamb and listened. Vulkie left the tied up curator to join her as they breathlessly listened to their friend greet the men.

"Greetings, gentlemen. I'm Carla, the Curator of this museum--" suddenly Riza's voice faltered. Molly tensed, but relaxed as she continued on. "I understand you have an artifact for me?"

"Yes, we do." Came Billings voice through the door and Mollys hair stood up despite herself. "I am William Jackson, and these are my associates Cyril and Joseph...why Miss Kane you look as though you've seen a ghost. Do you recognize my associate perhaps?"

Oh no. The jig surely had to be up. Molly raised her pistol...

"Surely not, Mr. Jackson." Rizas voice was steady and petulant. "Its only that your associate there looks quite ill. Perhaps he'd like to take a seat?"

"No, Miss Kane. He's quite alright. Perhaps its the stuffiness of this office. Perhaps we ought to step out into the main room, he can amuse himself with the displays while we conduct business."

Riza had no choice but to acquiesce, and Molly and Vulkie heard the sounds of a chair pushing back and heels circling the floor. Both of them exchanged worried glances. This wasnt going in their favor at all. They would have to find a way to follow Riza outside, to prevent anything happening.

"Please, please, all that is holy, let Marc be here." Molly prayed at the sound of the door closing. "Alright Vulkie. Wait 2 minutes, then crack open that office door there. There should be a display case a yard or two from it- duck behind that. And keep your gun ready."

Something was bothering Molly though, something that had been nagging at her mind for a few days now. It was Billings' use of William Jackson. She was certain she had heard the name- and recently. Was it a coincidence?

M. Lacrimosa
M. Lacrimosa
Sleuth About Town

Jun-20-2012 19:22

Marc knew that Riza would deal directly with Jack during the meeting. With the help of some makeup, she would look like a different person; unrecognizable to Jack. Jack had, if anything, only came in contact with her once so she would not look very familiar to him.

"Protect Riza from the dark," Zeo told him. Joseph gave Marc an outline of the building, showing him where they would be meeting and where Marc would need to go. It wasn't going to be easy, but then again, nothing ever was when it came to dealing with Billings.

They took two cars, Marc in a rental and Zeo in his own. Marc had parked his car behind the large building and he pulled the rifle out of the back of his car. Five bullets and three magazines.

The model Marc held in his arms was similar to what he held in 1917; a 1903 Springfield. The only difference was that Marc's gun was a newer model. He yanked back the bolt and loaded the first five bullets. He put one extra magazine in his pocket, leaving the third in his car. If it came down to him needing all fifteen rounds, they would all be goners. Besides, he still had his .45 automatic, and his back up revolver. In truth, Marc was a walking arsenal.

He made his way through the back entrance. No one was near the entrance. Good. If seen, the rifle would compromise everything. It was too big to hide. Marc only hoped Zeo had the sights adjusted the right way.

Marc found his spot. The storage above the meeting room. The room was small inside. Marc found his view point. A small window slit near the ceiling. Perfect, Marc thought. He found a small step latter that gave him just enough height to aim through the scope and see what was going on.

Molly was there, but out of sight and Riza was disguised and talking directly to Billings. But where was Vulkie? Hidden, Marc hoped.

"Zeo," Marc whispered when he saw the man. He was pale again. "Oh, Zeo," Marc whispered. "Please tell me you didn't take it again...."

M. Lacrimosa
M. Lacrimosa
Sleuth About Town

Jun-20-2012 19:25

Marc noticed a few other men that was with Billings. When everyone sat down at a table in plain sight, Marc smiled to himself. His heart racing again. He could feel the his blood racing through his body. The anxiety that Jack Billings finally going to die, really got to Marc.

"Calm down," he told himself. Marc knew if he jerked the trigger rather than squeeze it, he would miss and give himself away. He yanked the bolt back and loaded the bullet into the chamber and switched the safety off. The meeting was underway.

Riza Hawkeye
Riza Hawkeye
First Nomad

Jun-20-2012 21:01

Acutely uncomfortable in her scratchy brown wig and severely unbecoming thick spectacles, Riza Hawkeye plastered a smile on her face with great effort and strode across the room to welcome the men who had just entered.

"Greetings, gentlemen. I'm Carla, the curator of the museumó"

Riza faltered as her eye caught sight of one of the men standing behind Billings. She felt a sharp stabbing pain in the palms of her hands.

It was Zeo. Ghastly pale, clothes wrinkled, standing slumped down so low it appeared he wished for nothing more than to disappear at that very moment.

Riza quickly squashed down her emotions with a swallow and said, "I understand you have an artifact for me?"

Billings replied with something, but Riza only half-heard him. Her gaze was fixated on Zeo. At once, her heart was beating abnormally fast and she also felt a great desire to hit him.

"Do you recognize my associate, perhaps?" Billings asked with an eyebrow raise, snapping Riza back to attention.

"Surely not, Mr. Jackson," said Riza as coolly as she could. She suggested offering the pale man a seat, but Billings suggested moving to the main room. Riza bit the side of her cheek and willed herself to stay in character. She smiled graciously as she inclined her head towards the doorway. They filed out.

The marble floor magnified the sound of their footsteps as they made their way to the center of the room. The meager light of the late afternoon sky shone in overhead through a glass window insert in the ceiling. With one gesture from Billings, the man called Cyril produced a wooden case and some papers from inside his rather large overcoat.

"I believe you will find the documents in order," Billings said, handing them over to Riza. She pretended to scan through them. "You'll have ample time to look through those later, at your own leisure."

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