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."
Marc burst from his hiding spot and ran downstairs to find Molly. As he ran into the open, another man burst from cover. Marc pulled his revolver and shot him in the stomach. The henchman grabbed his stomach and screamed, "I'm hit! Oh God! Oh God it hurts! Help me! AAhhh! Aahhh!" Another shot rang out from nearby as the stranger Marc saw put the man out of his misery.
Jack was still somewhere in the room, which made things dangerous for anyone in the open. Molly was bleeding badly enough that she would need to go the hospital soon or things would get nasty.
He rolled her over and she let out a soft moan. Marc placed his hands on her wound and pressed down hard to help stop the bleeding. He ripped off his suit coat, tearing the expensive fabric so he could make a tourniquet and a bandage.
There was no exit wound, which meant the bullet was still inside. She would need surgery to get that out. Marc cursed himself for not carrying his small medical kit. It was always better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it.
The Princess with the firelit glow took the dagger out of his hand. She cared. Zeo felt warm all over and smiled. Then he felt the pain in her tummy, the baby was hurting. "Baby...", he slurred, it was difficult to control all the muscles in his speech. He tried to reach for the little bump that was calling to him. The Princess floated over, putting his hand on the precious curve. The touch was magical. Zeo was to be a father again.
The narcotics in his head cleared a little, but Zeo was still seeing trees around him. He only remembered Riza, and that he must protect her and her child inside. An evil tree was throwing an axe at her back, Zeo immediately lunged forward between the axe and the lady. The axe pierced passes his shoulder, and blood started streaming down his arm. Again, he felt no pain. He turned and smiled at Riza, holding both her shoulders, "Eye'll protect yooou boath." he stared into her with his unfocused eyes.
"Duck! You doped moron!" Riza yelled, but her voice somehow felt sweet. The two retreated back beneath the display case, gunfire bounced off around them. Zeo began to feel a deep discomfort on his shoulder where the bullet grazed it. He then remembered what happened to him.
"Reeesaaa..." Zeo squeezed his temples with his hand, "it's Jaack... Saw through my cover... Shot me with... something... Are you in pain?" Zeo touched her abdomen gently. Just then, another detective Zeo could barely remember came to them and started babbling. He was talking to both of them and also to someone above them, but most of the words were incoherent to him. Zeo slowly began to notice they were inside a building.
"Oh..." Molly moaned and opened her eyes as she felt herself being turned over. Marcs face swam before her eyes. His expression was grim as he tore at his suit for makeshift bandages. Willing herself, Molly raised her head to look down, and saw an enormous scarlet stain spreading over her chest, pumping from a neat bullet hole punctuating the fleshy part of where her shoulder met her left breast. Right above the heart.
"Well, Marc, I'm no Doc but that looks pretty serious." she said weakly, and Marc hushed her but not before he saw the very real fear in her eyes. "Maybe going after a cursed ankh with a pregnant woman and a drug addict wasn't the best plan we've ever had."
"You'll be fine, Molly." he murmured as he bound the wound tightly. But his brow was dripping with sweat.
In answer, Molly squeezed his hand briefly. "Theres nothing more you can do, Marc. Make sure Joseph comes down enough that he's not going to injure Riza. Actually, come to think of it, check on Riza. She was holding her stomach earlier, make sure she's not injured."
Marc gave her a doubtful look but she returned it with a stern stare, and after a moment he dodged off. Laboriously Molly pulled herself into a sitting position, reflecting on her life as she struggled to breathe regularly.
"Can't give in quite yet, old girl. Miles to go before you sleep and all that." she murmured. As she tilted her head back, gazing at the ceiling, she listened to the murmured conference of her compatriots, and as her eyes started to close...
then jerked open in surprise as a hand gripped her shoulder. Turning her head, she met Jacks steely eyes from where he was concealed from view behind a colonnade.
"Oh, you." she said tartly, then began to close her eyes again. Jack shook her insistently. "You know..." she snapped her eyes open again with an expression of petulance, "you keep trying to off me, and then when you nearly succeed, you have to foil even that plot. IS THERE something I can do for you?"
Jack had the grace to smile at her petulance.
"Blood loss makes you irritable." he said, his eyes flicking down to the darkening bandages. "Just a few degrees lower and you would have been out of my hair for good."
"Indeed. Pity about that aim." Molly retorted.
"Listen, woman. I don't have time for bickering. If you choose to live through this, understand next time you and your friends won't be so lucky. You're stepping into dark waters here and we've only just begun. This time, this time the Hellfire Club has a very important political agenda, one that will not be interrupted by your petty meddling. Do not come after me, or the ankh again. Because next time, Amelia, there will be no grand shootout. I will come for you and your friends, one by painful one, in the dark of night until you are the only one left. I warn you for the last time, Amelia..." he brought his mad eyes level to her own.
"Do not cross me."
Molly stared at him a scant second in surprise, and then with effort moved away from the wall to crack him across the face with her right hand.
"Screw you, Jack." she hissed, although the movement made black dots blossom before her eyes. "Whatever youre up to, this time it ends...this time...this"
She just heard his chuckle before she slipped under.
Marc swore out loud. No, not out loud. He yelled it. Molly was down and Joseph was still strung out from whatever he had. Marc grabbed Jack and punched him just hard enough to knock him unconscious. Killing him would do no good, and Molly and Joseph needed help.
He turned to Andrew. "Andrew, restrain Joseph. Do whatever it takes! Handcuff him. Vulkie, help Riza!" Marc hefted Molly up and they moved quickly to the cars.
***15 Minutes Later***
"Andrew!" Marc yelled, "Drive faster!" Marc was in the backseat of his car, keeping pressure on Molly's wound. Joseph was in the front seat sitting on both hands, which were cuffed together. Riza and Vulkie were in the car behind them, trying to keep up.
"I'm driving as fast as I can!" Andrew yelled back with a hint of frustration in his voice. "I can't go any faster," he said, beeping the horn. He popped his head out of his window. "Get off the road, moron!" he yelled.
"Turn here," Marc said. Andrew turned the steering wheel and the car drifted around the corner. "Go up four blocks and turn left. The alley will be the second one on the right!"
Marc looked at Molly. She was pale. Marc knew she was in shock. "Oh, God, don't die on me, Molly," Marc said even though he knew she couldn't hear. Right now she was trapped between real life and death. "Hang on..."
The car skidded to a halt. Andrew flung the back door open and helped Marc out. "Get Joseph," Marc said. "I got her." He carried Molly towards the back door.
"You sure about this place?" Andrew asked.
"Not really," Marc said. In truth, he had only heard of it. Marc knew nothing of the name, but he did know of doctors who only worked for the mob.
He held Molly as he kicked in the door. "Get some help!" he yelled, setting her down on a table in the first room.
Andrew grabbed the first man he saw and put a gun to his head. "Fix her," he snarled, "or I'll expose this underground medical facility for what it really is to the London P.D."
"I'm not a doc," the man said. "But I got one!"
"Hurry up!" Andrew yelled.
The man returned a moment later with another, wearing a white lab coat.
The doctor examined the bullet wound. "There doesn't seem to be much I can do," he said.
Marc pulled out his revolver, leveled it at the doctor's head, and pulled the hammer back. "If she dies," he said, "so do you."
"Killing me won't bring her back."
Andrew grabbed the man and slammed him against the wall, making his head hit the wall with a dull thud. "FIX HER!" he screamed in his face. "SHE'S IN SHOCK AND DYING!"
Marc paced back and forth waiting on the doctor. Zeo had finally had his handcuffs removed and he slept on the floor in a corner. Riza and Vulkie sat quietly, Vulkie reading a magazine and Riza staring off as if she was in deep thought. Andrew stood near Zeo smoking a cigarette. It had been hours since Molly had gone into surgery.
The doctor appeared in the room, removing his gloves. He took off his surgical mask. "I've got good news."
"What is it?" Marc asked.
The doctor let out a deep sigh. "Well," he started. Then he paused for only a moment. "She's lost a lot of blood. Her recovery rate is high but slow. I found the bullet near her spine. How it missed anything vital, judging its entry, I'm surprised nothing vital was hit. She needs to rest a few days."
"Doctor, we don't have a few days! We-" Marc was interrupted by Andrew Corelli. "Marc," he said, "let it go for now. I don't think Mr. Billings is going anywhere for the next few days. Not after what happened today."
"Billings?" The doctor asked suspiciously. "Jack Billings?"
Marc turned to him. "You know him?" Marc asked.
"No." The doctor said quickly. Almost too quickly. "I've..only heard of him."
Marc saw right through his lie "You work for him, don't you?"
The doctor opened his mouth to reply but never could. A gunshot rang out in the room and half of the doctor's head exploded.
Marc and Andrew quickly drew their guns and turned to see Zeo standing up holding his. "He would sell us out," Zeo said.
"Andrew," Marc said, "get Molly, let's get out of here."
They got another safe house across town. It would work temporarily for Molly's recovery.
There were gaps in his memory by the time Zeo was fully himself again at the new safe house, but he would never forget Riza's face after seeing another doctor while Marc and Andrew were busy interrogating the one treating Molly.
Zeo had no idea how Riza got her leg wound, but he had a strong feeling that he was to blame. When they first reached the clinic, Riza told a doctor that she fell and her abdomen was in pain. When the doctor realized she was pregnant, they went into an examination room and shut the door. Zeo wanted to go inside, to find out everything about Riza's condition, but at that point his body was still trapped in the remnant of the narcotic as if he was moving and speaking under water. When she finally came out, Riza looked as if the world was upon her shoulder.
Just as Zeo got up to go to Riza, a medic finally noticed Zeo's shoulder wound and forced him to go have it stitched up. Anesthetic was not even necessary as Zeo was already pumped with morphine. By then Andrew had un-cuffed Zeo. When he returned to the waiting room, Riza was staring off in deep thoughts. She could very well had a "Please do not disturb" sign hanging on her face. Zeo hunched in a corner pretending to sleep. The narcotics had mostly worn off and so was his courage to face Riza.
He was dying to tell her that no matter what had happened and what will happen, he would be there taking up whatever burden there is, all the way with her...
but did he dare?
Only half a day passed by at the new safe house and Zeo had incessantly thought of the rush he experienced back at Billing's basement. Jack's curse rung in his head. "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."
Everyone were fatigue and were back in their rooms resting. Zeo quietly unlocked the backdoor and exited the safe house. He could go to Bernie, he would have something that can quench that thirst.
Zeo shifted his car to neutral and pushed it quietly away from the safe house. When he was at safe distance he would be able to drive it to town without being noticed. As he was about to get in the car, he looked back at the house and saw from Riza's window that her room was still lit.
He felt his craving coming on, but Zeo couldn't leave. Both Riza and the child needed him. At his current state, he wouldn't be a fit father, but if he was to leave now, he would never become one. Slowly he stood back up and quietly closed the car door. Zeo walked back to the safe house. Each step he took became heavier then the previous one.
What would he say to Riza? He knew already that his tongue would be tied. Zeo was always analytical and cool headed in all the work he did, including the not so glorious jobs in the recent month. That's what made him good at what he did. When it comes to personal life, he was a mess. Look what happened to Anais. He had blamed no one but himself for Anais and Josee's disappearances. He waited too long, he never confessed his feelings to Anais. The guilt was so strong that the only solution was to desensitize himself with narcotics, and now he was faced with another responsibility. He had decided right then and there that he would not make the same mistake twice... but what if Riza had already lost the child? He could still remember her face when she left the examination room. Zeo did not think he could handle the news if it was a bad one... perhaps Bernie has something to help him so he doesn't even have to find out; all he needed to do was to turn around and go back to his car... Zeo stopped that thought immediately.
The safe house loomed like a castle as he stopped in front of it and looked up. He entered from the back door in silence and returned upstairs. Light was flooding through the crack at the base of the door to Riza's room. Hesitantly, he knocked.
The door opened and the smell of strong coffee filled Marc Lacrimosa's nostrils, Andrew Corelli handed him a steaming cup while looking at the medical instruments, the only other person in the room was Molly, she was sleeping.
"How is Miss Maltese?"
"She'll be fine, but she needs some rest." Marc took a sip of coffee.
"So do you, you've been here since last night, go take a nap. I'll be here."
Marc shook his head "I don't think I could sleep."
Molly's barely audible breathing filled the air for a couple of seconds, Marc cleared his throat.
"So... Andrew, what's the deal with you?"
"Do you mean why I'm here?"
"Well... it was a favor for the friend of a friend, to track one Joseph Zeo, a former FBI agent, who out of the blue disappeared, I just asked to the NYPD for a couple of weeks off."
"That friend of a friend, does he have a name?"
"A friend passed me the job, but it looks like the client is a lawyer firm, Nichols & Newmann. " Corelli looked at his watch "and I'm supposed to report my findings."
"Who gave you the details?"
"A secretary for that firm, one Anne A. Niedermann, 5ft 6in, slim, brunnette, green eyes, right handed and thirty-something, she was really worried about Zeo... What's on your mind, Lacrimosa?"
"Nothing. I'm going to take a walk, let me know if something happens."
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