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."
"Ease up, Vulkie," Marc said. Vulkie had gotten slightly too close to Carla's cab. "If she suspects something, we're screwed, and we can't mess this up." Vulkie nodded and gently let off of the gas pedal.
Marc lit up a cigar. His stomach felt queasy. Not because he didn't trust Vulkie's driving, but because he hated riding in the passenger seat regardless who was driving. Turn after turn, light after light, minutes ticked by like hours and finally the cab came to a stop at a place called Whitechapel: a beautiful apartment complex for the rich and bigwigs.
Vulkie started to open the door but Marc stopped her. "Wait," he said. "Let's get take her by surprise."
"How long do we wait?"
"About ten or fifteen minutes."
Twelve minutes later, Marc took in a deep breath and finally stubbed out what was left of the cigar he had lit up. "Alright," he said, "let's do this."
The two people opened the doors and walked to the main entrance. "Excuse me," Marc said to the person behind the desk. "I'm looking for Ms. Carla Kane. I was told she lives here?"
"I can call her. What is your name?"
"No, don't call her," Marc said. "Its a surprise. We're a couple of friends of hers."
"She's in room 203."
"Thank you," Marc said, and Vulkie gave a curt nod.
Marc and Vulkie walked up the stairs, the sound from their shoes echoing off the walls from the hardwood floors. Room 203 loomed ahead, and when they got to the door, Marc banged his fist hard on the door.
"Ms. Kane?" Marc asked.
The door opened. "Yes?"
"Ms. Kane, my name is Rick Shaw, and this is my partner, Victoria. I am with Scotland Yard and we are following up on an investigation about a shootout that happened at the museum yesterday. May we come in?"
"Yes," Marc said. "It's a rather long story that is not important."
Carla hesitated, looking at both of them suspiciously. "Sure," she finally said.
She led them into the living room of her rather large apartment. "Tea?" she offered.
Marc politely declined, but Vulkie graciously took a cup. "Ms. Kane," Marc said, taking out a notepad, "we have some leads that point toward an ankh. One was stolen not too long ago. Now, we also learned that you were buying one from a Mr. William Jackson. The ankh that you almost bought was a fake."
The color slightly drained from her face. "A fake?" she asked, sounding surprised.
"Yes," Marc said. "When we looked into it, we found out that the Circle of Light is involved with this."
Carla opened her mouth, but was cut off.
"Don't interrupt me," Marc said, "We know that you are in the Green Hand, which is a dead giveaway that they are involved in this too. We know that you know the Ankh was a fake. Now, that being said, I'm willing to make you a deal."
"What kind of deal?"
"We are going after William Jackson," Vulkie said. "We have reason to believe he has the real Ankh."
"So what do you want me to do?"
"We want you to come clean with us, Ms. Kane. Who told you about the ankh, why is the Green Hand involved, why is the Circle of Light involved, what were you planning to do with it, and where is the real one?"
"You can't prove anything," she sneered.
"Who called you and talked to you about the deal?"
"I don't have to speak unless I'm under arrest."
"You're right. And we can place you under arrest if you'd like," Marc said, taking out his handcuffs. "It makes no difference to me." Marc put his cuffs away, pulled out his revolver, and cocked the hammer back. "You can either talk now, or I'll make you."
There was always something scary about a Colt .45 revolver barrel staring you in the face. Carla stared back at the gun and broke out in a cold sweat.
"We can do this the easy way or the hard way," Vulkie said. "It's up to you."
Carla remained silent.
"Who told you about the fake Ankh?"
Carla kept her mouth shut.
"Ms. Kane, now is not the time to play games with us."
Still she sat in silence with a blank stare. It was obvious she was thinking. Marc looked at Vulkie and gave a nod. Vulkie shoved a chair under the door knob of the main door. Marc stood up. It was unethical to interrogate a woman the way he usually interrogated men. Physical contact was not an option. But psychological torture was something else.
He walked a couple circles around her while Vulkie stood in front of her watching. Marc reached into the inside of his coat pocket and pulled out a needle and syringe filled with a clear liquid.
He quickly jabbed the needle into her arm and injected the fluid before she had time to react.
"You have just been injected with 1 cc of Amobarbital, or truth serum. You refused to talk and we had to resort to this method."
"You son of a-"
"Don't waste your breath swearing at me," Marc snapped.
"Now who told about the Ankh? We know you know it was a fake, and we don't care. All I want to know is who told you about it."
"I don't know his name," she said. "He came to me, first calling me on the phone, and then in person. He was bigger man with a nasty scar on his face."
"There was a message in the fake Ankh. What did it have to do with you?"
"I knew there was a message in there, but I don't know what was said. I was attacked and tied up before the meeting. A group of three women grabbed me and tied me up."
"Did you get a look at their faces? It may help."
"No, I didn't."
"Thank you for your time," Marc said. He looked at Vulkie and the two left. When they entered the car, Vulkie turned to Marc. "Was that really truth serum?"
Marc let out a laugh. "No, it was actually sugar water. But the psychological effect was awesome, wasn't it? To be honest, I wasn't expecting that to work."
"Yeah, but she'll never find out. Let's get out of here. Find a pay phone and figure out how to get a hold of Molly or Zeo."
Riza Hawkeye still had her arms crossed as Zeo drove away from the safe house. The silence underneath the roaring engine was deafening. Zeo never knew the right thing to say in such circumstances, so he pretended to concentrate on the driving.
They drove North for about an hour, until Riza finally asked out of curiosity, "Where ARE we going?"
Zeo made a left on a well travelled fork from the main road, "We're almost there... Professor Dumbleton is one of the forerunners in the field of Egyptology and Ancient encryption studies. He'd be able to crack those codes in no time." Riza could see a grandiose stone building looming ahead from afar. She concluded they must be at a scholastic facility. "Besides," Zeo continue, "It would be nice to check out our son's future place of education..."
"What son?" Riza interrupted, frowning, "How would you know it will be a boy? Besides, it has the right to choose what it will do with its life--"
Zeo stopped the car abruptly and and pulled the hand break. "We're here." He announced. It was Zeo's passive way to indicate this was not a subject of discussion.
Riza was fuming, not knowing what was wrong with the idiot beside her. She turned towards the stone building And read the signage beside the road, 'Cambridge University'.
"Intriguing..." The old scholar mused as thick wiry hair covered his eyes. Riza thought, with his dirty white lab coat with sporadic grey spots, he resembled a Sheepdog. Professor Dumbleton took a seep of his coffee, which looked cold and had grey molds floating on top, which resembled the grey spots on his coats.
"Your assumption is correct, this last symbol does represent the Circle of Lights," He mentioned the much fear fraction non-chalantly as if it was a high school math team. "And this baby up here," he pointed at a small sword symbol with lighting bolt across it, "that definitely represent power and influence... But then, paired with this one right below it..." Dumbleton scratched his head and flakes showered down. He then scuttled across his messy office to the other side, where stacks of books laid, almost toppling over one another. Dumbleton searched amongst the stacks until he found what he was looking for, and returned to Zeo's notebook. He took the liberty to scribble notes around the encoded message, words that looked like chicken scratch that only the professor himself was able to read. At times his face lit up as if he had an 'a-ha' moment, only to be replaced with more head shakes.
About 45 minutes later, Riza decided to help herself with some water outside. When she stood up the scholar looked up as if seeing her for the first time in his life. "Why are you here?" he asked abruptly.
"Uh, we're here to ask for your help to decipher the--"
"No no no!" Dumbleton waved his hand to brush off her reply off his imaginary chalk board, "Why are you STILL here? Didn't I tell you two to come back in two days?"
Riza shook her head, "No you never--"
"Sure doc, we'll come back in two days, same hour." Zeo quickly interceded and escorted Riza out of the University.
When they reached their car, Zeo exhaled, "Well, time to visit your contacts in search of the enigmatic Mister William Jackson."
"You wanna drive? I'll look out for a payphone" Vulkie asked, throwing Marc the keys. He grinned and Vulkie knew why. Marc hated being seated into the passenger's seat, not feeling totally comfortable. Marc was a person who'd like to have control over certain things, one of them was driving.
As Marc drove on, Vulkie began to rethink what had happened back at Carla Kane's apartment. Carla was an associate of the Green Hand, how Marc guessed that, Vulkie didn't know, but he hit the right spot on that one. So what did the Green Hand and the Circle of Light have in common then? They both wanted the fake Ankh, but what about the Eastern Triads? The Cosa Nostra, the Dies Arcanum Brotherhood, the Order of Socrates. Why didn't those factions want to get their hands on something like that?
As Marc hit the brake suddenly, Vulkie lifted forward from her seat and hit the dashboard. "Sorry. But you were so lost in thoughts, you forgot to look for a payphone" Marc said, while looking towards Vulkie. Vulkie rubbed her head and looked outside her window, to find a payphone.
"Better call the safehouse first. What's the number again?" Vulkie asked, while Marc provided the number. As she dialed, the phone went over once, twice, thrice... At the seventh ringing, someone picked the phone up. "Who is this?" a female voice asked.
"It's Victoria" Vulkie said, addressing herself by her first name. "Oh, thank god it's you Vulkie. What did you find out?" Molly asked, while Vulkie began to explain what Carla Kane had said to Marc and her.
"So you see, there's this man with a big scar on his face who contacted Carla and told her about the fake Ankh and the message concealed in it. For the rest, we let her be. And by the way, our mysterious Ms. Kane belongs to the Green Hand" Vulkie added.
"Interesting..."Molly said, while scribbling the info down. "In the meantime, report back to the safehouse. We need to discuss our next steps once Joseph and Riza have returned." Molly added. (cont)
As Vulkie hung up the phone, she got back into the car and looked at Marc. "We need to go back towards Molly's safehouse, but first, let's have a small talk" Vulkie said, while she closed the door.
Marc stared at Vulkie and had the engine of the car shut off. "Sure, what is it you wanted to talk about?" Marc asked. "It's about Joseph. It seems, and I only presume that, since you've hidden all sorts of things from me, there's something wrong with him..." Vulkie began, but Marc interrupted her. "Why is it you need to know everything?!" Marc almost shouted. "Because you've all been hiding stuff from me and I'm not THAT blind Marc!" Vulkie shouted back.
Marc breezed through his nostrils and was getting agitated. "It's for your OWN good! You know Joseph better then me and if you knew what I knew, you'd be worried all the f*cking time" Marc shouted back.
"FINE! If you aren't going to tell me, I'll ask around and find it out myself. You'd like that? To let me ask everyone of our friends "hey, what's wrong with Joseph? He's been acting so weird lately"." Vulkie shouted back and with that, Marc started the car and began to drive.
"It's not that we don't trust you Vulkie, but it's delicate information which only I know of" Marc said. Vulkie stared out of her window, still furious that Marc refused to confide in her about her friend Joseph.
***15 minutes later***
As Marc parked the car, Vulkie already walked in and opened the door to the safehouse. Molly was seated in the living room. "Hey Vulkie, thanks for..." Molly began, but Vulkie ignored her and walked up straight towards her room and slammed the door shut. She could hear muffled voices downstairs, which were in a discussion. "It's not that she doesn't deserve to know, but she's been friend longer with Joseph then me and you together." she heard. "Probably Marc" Vulkie murmered. (cont)
"But we've already hidden the fact that Riza's pregnant from her. How much more do we need to hide from her? She's been helpful from the start and all we did was..." Molly added, and then, the conversation was shut off. She could hear a door open. "Probably Joseph and Riza, coming back from their trip." Vulkie thought, while she opened her door and went downstairs. On the way down, she wiped her tears away with the back of her right hand and got into the living room.
"So, what is our next step?" Vulkie asked, when she was seated and all the other detectives were seated too.
Molly turned lamp-like green eyes on Vulkie as she asked this question.
"We have a few next steps." she began, clearing her throat and shuffling a few reams of paper she had scrawled out notes on. "I'm sure Riza and Joseph have some fresh information to provide us, but a faction being involved is grim...two is nearly suicide. It troubles me greatly that Circle of Light is dealing with the Hellfire Club. Both agents are huge wild-cards. To band together on anything...we may have bit off more than we can chew."
It seemed kismet for these words to exit Mollys mouth at that precise moment. In a freeze-frame of time that the detectives would remember for a long time to come, several events happened at once. Molly gestured with her right hand, and the detectives followed the motion with their eyes, which placed their gaze at the safehouse window, where three cloaked figures stood, black gloved fingers resting on the window panes as they stared, unmoving. Their faces were hidden from view, just gaping black maws in the darkening light of London.
"It troubles me greatly..."Molly was saying, even as her audience blinked, trying to process what they were seeing just beyond the bay windows. ...wild-cards..."
One of the hooded figures leaned forward just as Marc collected himself first and started to shout a warning. Breath issued from some invisible space in the hood, and illuminated in fog and watery sunlight was an imprint on the window, much like the ones children made. It was a planet ringed in the shape of an eye.
"We may have bit off..." time dragged as the figures suddenly darted away from the window...
"Circle of Light!" Riza darted to the window...
"Is that gasoline?" Vulkie asked, wrinkling her nose.
"...more than we can chew." Molly was finishing even as she turned to stare in confusion. Joseph had time for one blink, only a split second to dart forward and haul Riza bodily away from the glass before it blew inward in a fiery explosion.
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