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."
Molly, Marc and Joseph sat around the table, laughing and sipping at coffee. For a moment Molly was lighthearted. It was just like old times, before pain and weary toils had divided them.
Presently everyone awoke and came forward from the denizens of the house to group around the table. There was general consensus of dismay that Molly was up and about with her injury but she waved the concern away.
"We've got bigger fish to fry." she said hoarsely.
"The list?" Joseph asked expectantly, leaning forward, but Molly took a long measured look at him and pulled something from her lap. The ankh!
"Not just yet." she asked, placing the ankh on the table. "Corelli was gracious enough to grab this on our way out. It is, after all, what we came for."
"Excellent. Then we're done, aren't we? We've got the piece." Vulkie said excitedly, but frowned when Molly shook her head. "What else is there left to do? Surely you don't expect us to go after Billings. Look at the state youre in! The state of Riza, who is with child! You cannot keep expending us for your personal vendetta!"
Molly narrowed her eyes to green slits and stood laboriously. Corelli made a motion towards her but she waved him away. Picking up the ankh with her right hand, she hefted it high overhead and brought it down in a wide arc towards the table. Reflexively hands reached out to catch it, but it was too late. The edge of the ankh hit the wooden surface of the table and sprayed out in a cloud of broken plaster! Gemstones rattled free of their casings and skittered across the table like marbles. In the light it was clear they were paste.
"A fake!" Joseph cried, and Mollys eyes met his.
"A fake, Joseph, and a good one. But I myself researched the ankh for ages, I myself held it in my hands and this- this is merely a recreation. An expert one. But recreation nonetheless. And I find it very hard to believe you spent all that time in Billings' service and didn't notice the time and effort expended to craft it!"
Joseph stuttered, and all eyes turned to him except for one pair- Riza's.
"What on earth is that?" she murmured, and leaned forward to sift through the pile of broken plaster. She pulled out a tiny square of folded parchment. For a moment everyones attention was broken.
"What does it say?" Molly frowned.
"I don't know, its a series of symbols." Riza said, showing the parchment around. Everyone shrugged their shoulders, unsure, except for Corelli who was staring at the last symbol with a look of concentration.
"I've seen that before. Thats...a planet in an oval? "He said.
"Looks like an eye..."came from Vulkie.
"An eye?" Joseph sat up straight, pulled the parchment toward himself. "Thats the symbol for..."
Suddenly it clicked into place and the detectives breathed it in unison.
"Circle of Light."
"Oh no. Not those crazy bastards." Marc groaned. Molly bit her lip in worry.
"I can think of at least 40 things I'd rather do than tangle with the factions..." she murmured. "But the question has to be had. The museum- Carla Kane- would have discovered the ankh was a fake with a little research. Yet she was willing to trade the money up front in a shady deal...unless she KNEW it was a fake and there was a message inside. The question is- who is Carla Kane really- or who is she working for...and what could this series of symbols mean that could possibly warrant $20,000?"
There was a collective silence.
"Molly, I think your to-do list just got a lot bigger." Marc grimaced, and the detectives sighed.
When Molly questioned Zeo about the fake Ankh, he was speechless. His mind was still occupied with the mysterious 'secretary' within the law firm who hired Corelli to look for him. Was that really Anais, or was it wishful thinking. His eyes met Riza for a fraction of a second and he looked away, feeling guilty that he was still so hung on Anais when Riza was with his child. When Zeo finally had the time, he must question Corelli in secret to find out more; he didn't want Riza to worry about Anais. For the moment, his attention must return to the fake Ankh and the coded message hidden inside.
Zeo took out his pen and note pad and started to copy down the encrypted message. "I may know a few people who may be able to translate this." Zeo murmured as he wrote.
Suddenly Molly's clammy hand slammed down onto Zeo's. "How can I trust you?" Molly's eyes narrowed again.
"I state once and for all, I have no idea that Billings crafted A fake Ankh. He must have done it in secret. No other Helfire Club members I met heard about it either, or at least they haven't mentioned it. Now, will you let me do my share or that you rather I return to the pit of Helfire? It's up to you." Zeo replied steely.
*Note: Please disregard where it says "Excellent. Then we're done, aren't we? We've got the piece." Vulkie said excitedly, but frowned when Molly shook her head. "What else is there left to do? Surely you don't expect us to go after Billings. Look at the state youre in! The state of Riza, who is with child! You cannot keep expending us for your personal vendetta!"
Vulkie did not say this, rather- Marc said it.
As Vulkie woke up and went downstairs, everyone was already seated. She was promptly handed a cup of coffee by Marc and sat down. Vulkie was surprised to see Molly sitting up, since she still had to recover. But Molly was persistant to be around, to ensure everything went the right way as she wanted it to.
"We've got bigger fish to fry" Molly began, on which Joseph reacted by saying "The list?". Molly then took a long measured look at Joseph and suddenly produced something from her lap. It was the Ankh that they had been searching for from the beginning. Molly explained that Corelli had picked it up on their way out.
"Excellent. Then we're done, aren't we? We've got the piece." Marc said excitedly, but frowned when Molly shook her head. "What else is there left to do? Surely you don't expect us to go after Billings. Look at the state youre in! The state of Riza, who is with child! You cannot keep expending us for your personal vendetta!"
Suddenly, Vulkie was lost into thoughts. Riza... with child? And then it all fitted together. Flashbacks ensued before her eyes, on the boat, the throwing up, Riza almost cutting up and rubbing her belly. It all made sense.
"I state once and for all, I have no idea that Billings crafted A fake Ankh. He must have done it in secret. No other Helfire Club members I met heard about it either, or at least they haven't mentioned it. Now, will you let me do my share or that you rather I return to the pit of Helfire? It's up to you." Joseph said, which made Vulkie snap back into reality.
"You... you all knew Riza had a child?" Vulkie asked, while looking around. Each and every face in the room looked towards her, while some people tried to look away and some had a questioned look on her face.
"I... I can't seriously believe this. You withheld information from me too? God knows what could've happened to Riza and her child!" Vulkie shouted, while Molly shushed her... (cont.)
"We meant to tell you, but due to events and bad timings.." Molly began, but Vulkie slammed her fist on the table. "I DON'T CARE! It's the fact that you all knew something that could impact this case heavily and you all chose, for your own reasons, to withhold it from me? How can I TRUST ALL OF YOU?" Vulkie shouted, while looking at the detectives seated in the room.
"Look, I know this isn't the ideal situation. It's out now, ok. But we've got to carry on." Molly replied coldly, while staring at Vulkie. Vulkie stared rightly back at her. "I'm risking my goddamn life for you and that precious Ankh, just because I got promised the case of my life. And I also did it for our friendship!" Vulkie added. As Vulkie was picking a cigarette from her handbag, the detectives were all silent. Marc produced a fire, to light it up for her. "Thanks" she mumbled, while inhaling the smoke and blowing it out of her nostrils.
"Ok, so just remind me. Who are we up against to and what needs to be done?" Vulkie asked, while one of the detectives began to explain...
"We were at the list that Molly wrote" Marc said towards Vulkie. "What list?" Vulkie asked curiously.
A list was shoved over her way and she began to read through it:
1. Who is Carla Kane actually and who does she work for? An arrow was pointing towards Circle of Light
2. Who is William Jackson, encircled with an arrow pointing to the name Billings
3. Where did Jack escape to? A dagger was drawn next to his name.
4. Helfire Club, with exclamation marks all near it.
"Since you are incapacitated at the moment Molly, Marc and I will take care of Carla Kane" Vulkie said, while shoving the list back towards Molly. Marc looked at Vulkie and nodded his head. "I just need to get ready and we'll get onto her in no time!" Vulkie added.
As Vulkie went upstairs, she could faintly hear Molly say "and as to the rest, what are you gonna do while you're here?.
When Vulkie reached her room at the safehouse, she opened her suitcase and got her Colt M1911 out. She checked the magazine, made sure it was secure again into it's slot and stored it in her handbag.
"I'm ready whenever you are Vulkie" Marc said, while he was standing in the doorway. He produced a set of car keys. As the two detectives went down, they went over their plan. The plan was to stake out the Museum and see when Carla would leave it and then tail her towards her location. If it was a nice and quiet location, they would get out their car and follow her and ambush her nearby, when she would leave again from that place.
"I'll drive" Vulkie said, while she got the car keys thrown towards her. And so, the two detectives went towards the Museum, to see what Carla Kane was up to now, and more importantly, who she really is...
*** At the Museum, 2 hours later ***
"There she goes!" Marc hissed, while pointing towards Carla. Carla got into a black cab, and the detectives followed her, until the cab stopped into a part of London known as Whitechapel...
As Vulkie and Marc left the meeting, Molly turned to the rest of the group and asked, "and as to the rest, what are you gonna do while you're here?"
"I think that name William Jackson does sound familiar somehow, I might just look into it with my connections here in London." Riza replied contemplatively.
"I'll come with you." Zeo swiftly stated.
Riza's eyes narrowed, "I thought you're looking into decoding the encrypted message?"
"Well, yes, but, we can do both." Zeo explained clumsily, "I don't see why not."
"But it will take double the time, why can't we split up?" Riza queried.
"No not really.... um, decrypting the message will take my friends sometimes, so I can go to with you in the mean time. But you come with me first... it's just not safe nowadays in London."
"Oh it isn't now?" Riza crossed her arms, "I can still take care of myself, with baby or no baby."
"Did I mentioned anything about babies? I'm just saying two is better than one... Vulkie and Marc teamed up..." Zeo grappled with explanations.
"Well that's different, I'm just going to talk to my connections...."
Molly rolled her eyes up and sipped her coffee. Hiding behind her mug she smiled as the two continued to quarrel like an old couple.
A couple of seconds after the engine roared and once there wasn't any doubt that Joseph and Riza where on their own way, the only sound in the nearby was a couple of birds singing, through the window Andrew Corelli saw a beautiful day.
"So... Uh... Molly, I haven't seen you since the Mayelle case, how are you?" said Corelli looking obliquely at Molly, but before she could answer, he added "Sorry, that was a really stupid question. Is there something for me in that list?"
"Corelli, what are you doing here? What's your angle on all this?"
"I'm on a job, I'm supposed to follow Zeo and report his whereabouts--" Molly raised an eyebrow, Corelli continued "--since he's working with you, I thought..."
"Who's your client?"
Corelli's jaw tightened and suddenly he sounded defensive "Miss Maltese, what's going on here? You're not the first one to ask me about it."
"We're against a criminal organization that may have the money to have a detective on his payroll, just to watch on Joseph, who is your client?"
"I don't like the way you put it, I'm just doing my job, and this time, Miss Maltese, I mean it."
Corelli left the house in his car, thinking, after a while he parked in a drugstore and asked for some change, but before he could get into the phone booth, he returned to the counter and bought antibiotics, bandages and food.
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