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."
"Do you know why you're here, Mrs. Billings?" a cool voice asked as the hood was rudely yanked from her head. Blinding light stunned her eyes, but this didnt stop her from blinking irately at her captor. a woman sat before her, dressed in a meticulous black suit, a heavy veil over her face held by a pillbox cap. Absolutely no features were visible.
"I haven't been Mrs. Billings for years, lady. You're barking up the wrong tree." Molly snarled, twisting her hands against the rope around her wrists. Her chest throbbed.
The woman waved this comment away.
"Unimportant. We do not concern ourselves with the earthly ties of you and your mate. I ask again. Do you know why you're here?"
"If I knew that," Molly retorted evenly, "I probably wouldn't have had to be scooped up out of burning rubble with a bag over my ears, would I?"
The woman didn't respond, but sat motionless. The silence dragged on.
"You originally discovered the Sacred Artifact." she said flatly. Molly wrinkled a brow.
"The ankh?" she asked skeptically. "Yes, before Jack stole it. I dabbled in treasure hunting, you know. It was a bit of fun to dig up trinkets here and there--"
"This is blasphemy. The Sacred Artifact is no trinket." The woman hissed. "It is a beacon of the Gods, of the Outworlders, a guide to calling us home."
"Oh..." Molly cleared her throat. "Well thats ah, thats um, nice."
"It has powers- imbued by the Outworlders. Your mate has stolen the artifact, has breached our contract of trust! Only we must be able to use the powers of the Artifact!"
"Hold on a minute, lady. What are you talking about, powers?" Molly asked, fidgeting with the ropes again. "Its just a pretty piece of decoration. It has no powers."
"You are a fool then, Mate-Of-Billings. The artifact is imbued with power- you might call it a curse. We had a contract- a deal! We would teach Billings of the powers of the Artifact, to harness it, and he would provide us backing and support to accomplish our goal!"
"What goal was that?" Molly asked, although she was fairly certain at this point she didn't want to know the answer.
"The Adastrus Trials. It is writ in our guide and passed down through the ages that before those proven superior amongst us will be welcomed back and taken home by the great Outworlders, we must prove our mettle. To do this, we must unify the world under the Great Eye."
"Jack promised to help you take over the world." Molly said flatly.
"Yes. All believers as one great nation, so that we may return to our rightful home."
"And nonbelievers?" Molly asked.
"Will perish." The woman said this offhandedly, as if discussing flavors of tea.
"I knew you Circle of Light weirdos were a little off your rocker, but this is a whole new level of I-wish-I-didn't-know."Molly said grimly, but the woman paid no mind.
"Your mate has double-crossed us! He has passed our holy secrets and plans- named names! An assassination has occurred tonight of a higher ranking official already."
"The message in the fake ankh had something to do with that, I imagine." Molly said grimly. "He must have found another way after we snagged it...hang on a second. Then Carla Kane wasn't one of yours."
"No, that misbegotten whore of Socrates! And mark my words, she will be dead by nightfall. And we will use you to lure Billings into the open, and kill you miserable dogs both!" The woman roared. Mollys mind was whirring. Carla Kane worked for Order of Socrates...Circle of Light...a tenuous connection to Green Hand had been established.
"A faction war...." Molly mused aloud, shaking her head. "Oh Jack, thats ambitious, even for you." Suddenly she fixed her gaze on the shrouded woman. "Your plan isn't going to work. Jack won't come looking for me. He was the one who shot me, for heavens sake."
The woman laughed.
"We do not concern ourselves with the earthly matters of you and your mate, Mrs. Billings, but it does not mean we are blind to them."
Molly cocked a brow imperiously at this. "Meaning what?" she asked.
"Your souls are tethered, it would appear. The ancient and poignant tale of ages past. Your love is as strong as your hate. A yin-yang, the perfect balance. Like magnetic poles, opposite yet equal. He can not exist without you, and likewise." The woman leaned forward. "It is a tie very strong in itself, and imagine the strength of it when it is destroyed. A fitting end for both of you!"
"It won't work." Molly said, but something in her voice, even to her own ears rang hollow. She had only one saving grace, and that seemed to be that this Circle of Light operative and all others besides hadn't counted on the damned tenacity of her friends when it came to surviving battery, armed assault and explosions.
"Any day now, guys." she murmured to herself.
Everyone met up in the hospital parking lot. The lot was crowded with cars. Each person there needed to see the doctor for either something ridiculous or something serious.
"So where do we start?" Zeo asked.
"With the Circle of Light," Marc replied.
"Anyone know how they operate?" someone asked.
"Yes," Marc said. "Somewhat, anyways. Huge cities like London are a little more complicated. Places like this are divided into districts. North, South, East, and West. Each area has its own leader. The district leaders cannot do what they did without the Earthly Sponsor's orders."
Andrew opened his mouth to speak, but he was cut off by Marc. "Splitting up will do no good. If we do that, Molly will be dead by the time we find her. Circle of Light cannot operate without orders from their Earthly Sponsor. The district leaders all report back to him."
"So we go after the Earthly Sponsor first." Riza said, nodding.
"Yes," Marc said. "We find him, we find the district leader. From there, we get Molly back and go after Jack."
"Finding them is easier than it seems," Marc continued. "Look for the biggest abandoned church you can find. If it's here in the heart of the city, that's where the Earthly sponsor will be."
"I think I know a place," Zeo said.
"Good," Marc said, tossing him the car keys. "You can drive."
Making them talk was not going to be easy and Marc knew it. But he was prepared. He would do anything to make them talk. Even if that meant ripping out their fingernails one by one
As Vulkie was standing on the parking lot after she got examined for her loud coughing and inhaling problem, she lit up a cigarette and blew the smoke away through her nostrils. The scene at the safehouse happened in 2 or 3 minutes, but she still remembered it vividly. The explosion, Marc jumping on her and covering her on the ground, all sorts of materials where the safehouse was made from raining down on the detectives, finding their way out of the safehouse and ultimately, Molly's disappearance from the group.
"So, where do we start?" Joseph asked. "With the Circle of Light" Marc said in response.
The Circle of Light... an illustrious group, as Vulkie remembered. She had solved a few murders with them being involved, but she never quite got the intention that they were up to kidnapping and plotting.
"So we go after the Earthly Sponsor first." Riza said, while she nodded her head. "Yes" Marc replied, "We find him, we find the district leader that took Molly. Once we have Molly back, we can go after Jack" Marc added.
"Finding them is easier then it seems" Marc continued. "We just need to look for the biggest abandoned church in town. If it's here in the heart of the city, that's where the Earthly Sponsor will be." Marc said.
"I think I know a place" Joseph replied, while Marc tossed him the keys and told Joseph he could driver. Riza, Marc, Andrew and Joseph all got in one car, Vulkie took her own acquired vehicle, just in case something would happen or they needed a quick escape.
***15 minutes later***
"Here it is" Vulkie murmered, as Joseph hauled the car to the sidewalk and stopped. Vulkie stopped her car right behind him and got out of the car.
"So guys, how are we gonna go forth? Good detectives or bad detectives?" Vulkie asked, while she already knew the answer. "Bad detectives" everyone replied and the only sound that was hearable was the sound of their guns being checked if they were loaded and ready to be fired...
"Something is wrong." said Riza, looking at the church.
"What do you mean?" Marc's voice was harsh.
"For an abandoned church, there are a lot of cars in the nearby."
"Riza, Vulkie, stay in the car, we'll check the place." said Joseph, closing the door of the car before Riza or Vulkie could say anything.
With a gun in hand, Joseph, Marc and Corelli went straight to the door, they tried to open the door pushing with their shoulders, but to no success. A voice behind the group startled them.
"This is the way." motioned a short man with a small head and big eyes, his voice was just a whisper and he had a gun in his hand, pointing at the group.
The detectives looked at each other, and the gun, they followed the short man.
"People call me Shorty, are you from the west or east?"
"Uh... East" answered Corelli.
"Great. The meeting is about to start."
They were introduced to a room full with the smell of smoke and sweat, only illuminated by a couple of 60 watts light bulbs, a couple of men were playing in a billiard table, crossing bets, the church had a lack of any religious symbol and the benches were piled on the corners, an improvised bar in the opposite wall was crowded. Joseph counted more than thirty persons in the room, all of them distributed in small groups.
"Hey, Boss, those brunos are from the east." Shorty said to a man in a green suit, sporting a curly moustache.
"All right, my boys, take a drink and relax. The meeting is going to start soon." The accent of the man in the green suit made Marc frown.
A few minutes later, everyone was silent, looking at the man in the green suit. According to the information Joseph could get, he was a man everyone called Barber.
Barber made a sign to a man, who appeared with guns and bombs that Marc identified as Molotov cocktails. As soon as every member of a team got his share of arms, Barber instructed them.
"Shorty, you take some of Aaron boys and the East kids. I need you on the streets. We have one location and we already sent a diversion, do you think you can get the work done?"
Shorty grinned, licking his lips.
"That's my boy."
The group was taken to a garage, where everyone was divided. After driving for half an hour, the caravan stopped at a brownstone house. They were watched from the rooftop by a man with a Tommy gun, who started calling them as soon as he saw them.
"You can't park there."
A man next to Marc threw the watcher a Molotov cocktail. The explosion alerted the whole neighbourhood, and soon the place was full of noise and people in the streets shooting at each other. A couple of bullets whizzed near Marc before another door opened, and organized groups, men with guns in hand and some women trying to escape, occupied the streets. One of those groups caught Zeo's attention, he saw a pregnant woman screaming, trembling. Zeo ran next to the woman and whispered something to her, trying to get her out of the situation.
The gunfire and the women wailing made Corelli feel sick.
"We have to get out of here," said Corelli.
"We'll only be shot at the back, we can't blow our cover." Marc had his gun in his hand.
A deep voice surged from the security house.
"We surrender. Now we're your prisoners."
Shorty mumbled some orders to his team. After that he said, "Everyone, get out of the house, with your hands in the air."
"Spare the women." After a short pause the same voice added, "Please, they're innocents. Please."
A blonde man in his early fifties was the first one to appear. He had bandages on his arm and a face dirtied with ash. Someone near Zeo identified the man as Boyle, one of the local leaders of La Cosa Nostra. Boyle talked in the same deep voice as before.
"I'd like to negotiate the terms of our surrender."
Shorty saluted him with one hand; the other hand produced a gun that shot Boyle twice in the head. Someone laughed.
No more than a couple of minutes later, two cars closed both sides of the street and started shooting at Shorty's group. The detectives used that as a cue to disappear. They jumped a fence that connected the main street to an abandoned house. The woman followed them to a coffee shop.
As Riza got into the car with Vulkie, Vulkie began to rethink what had happened in those few minutes. Andrew ordering her and Riza back in the car, ridiculous. She knew why he did it though, women would look kinda awkward to go to a criminal faction's meeting, unless they were somehow involved in the higher ranks.
"So, what did you manage to find out about that note that was hidden inside the fake ankh?" Vulkie asked.
Riza started to explain that she and Joseph went to see a professor that was some sort of expert in these kind of notes and that it had to take two days from now on to decipher the code. As she explained, Vulkie lost track of the time...
***A while later***
Suddenly, a garage door opened and Vulkie and Riza saw some cars drive away. "Should we follow them?" Riza asked, but Vulkie shook her head. "It's better that we infiltrate in that church while it's abandoned as much as it can be. I want you to stay in the car! If anything's wrong, if they return before I'm back, just honk the horn." Vulkie replied.
As Vulkie carefully and almost silently closed the car door, she crossed the road over towards the front door of the abandoned church. As she reached into her pocket, she produced a leather "wallet", which actually contained lockpicking tools.
A minute later and many fumblings, Vulkie got the door open. As she opened the door, the door gave a creak. Vulkie silently cursed in herself and continued to go ahead.
***Inside of the church***
As Vulkie walked further into the church, she noticed that all sorts of benches were stacked in the back of the church, except at the front. Chandeliers were rusty and coated with a layer of dust, and next to the altar where the priest would usually begin the usual ceremony, there was a chalkboard and a map of London pasted on it.
"Bingo..." Vulkie whispered and she almost ran towards the chalkboard and began to study it... (cont.)
All sorts of scribbles were noted on the board, and Vulkie could make out that those were the targets the Circle of Light had pinpointed. As she took a look at the map of London, she could see that red wires were crossing all over the map and were ending at photographs, notes and locations.
***Frederick "Boyle" Williamson - Local leader of La Cosa Nostra - Location: Whitechapel area - Orders: Assasinate***. A photograph was posted on the map.
***Carla Kane - Operative of various factions, has been succesfully acquired as a spy for our organisation - Location: Whitechapel Apartments / London Museum - Orders: Keep under surveillance, if neccesary, terminate contract***. The museum and Whitechapel apartments were marked on the map, and a photograph had also been posted on the map
***Molly Maltese - Mate-of-Billings, Jack - Location: Unknown - Orders: Earthly Sponsor wants to keep a close eye on Ms. Maltese until Mr. Billings has been acquired***. Only a photograph of Molly was shown on the map and a photo next to her belonging to Jack Billings.
***Jack Billings - Location: Hellfire Club? / Billings Mansion? - Orders: Assasinate for betrayal. Use Ms. Maltese to lure him out in the open.***
A few other local faction heads were described, so Vulkie took out her notepad and scribbled everything that was on the map and the chalkboard down on it.
Before Vulkie finished, she heard the door close behind her and saw a man standing in front of it. A car horn could be heard on the background.
As Vulkie turned, she saw a man in a green suit. "Who are you?" Vulkie asked. "They call me... Barber" the man replied. Vulkie grinned and added: "Why is that? Because your so good at cutting hairs?". Barber laughed and produced a straight razor. "No, it's because I'm so good at cutting beards, and accidently and ocasionally, a throat" Barber replied. "And who might you be?" Barber asked, as he approached Vulkie closer and closer...
(cont. after I talked to Andrew Corelli)
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