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."
No one spoke as the cars left the area. Marc turned his head and looked out the window, noticing a familiar sign. The hotel. He was in a most familiar part of town. Pulling out his notepad, Marc mapped out the area. This would come in handy, he thought. The car eventually pulled to a stop and Marc climbed out, not really listening to the conversations until certain things were said.
The argument escalated, and Marc raised his voice, nearly screaming.
He was banned from a meeting with the rest of the group.
Fine, Marc thought. He was shown to his room for some rest and was given a new set of clothes to change into.
The meeting. That was all Marc could keep his mind on. Normally Marc wasn't this...irritated? Frustrated? Whatever you call it? Usually he resorted to brute tactics last. But what got him this way? Zeo's drug addiction for one. Molly's kidnapping for another. And now Vulkie possibly being the Universal Aspirant to the Circle of Light.
He paced around in his room, puffing on his pipe, thinking about this. Did it make him a hypocrite to get angry at Vulkie? Who knew? Honestly Marc assumed it did. He himself was declared the Guardian Brother to the Green Hand and it was a near-shocker when Carla Kane didn't call him out on it. His only prayer was that none of the gang knew about it.
Marc looked at himself in the mirror. His suit was wrinkled and torn. Bags hung from under his eyes. Marc was tired and he needed sleep.
He looked at the clothes that the group of rescuers had provided for them. They were his size, so he decided to change. He looked at himself in the mirror. The scar that marked his chest, the bullet wound, reminded him of Vulkie's betrayal. She had sold him out to the Luciano crime family and he nearly lost his life. He had forgiven her for that, but he never trusted her as much as he used to.
His mind then went to the Green Hand again. Cleopatra Green. She wasn't the nicest of people when it came to other factions but she could be your best friend if you were involved with the Green Hand somehow.
When Marc was finished tying the tie around his neck, he picked up his coat and hung it over his shoulder. He opened his door and looked around the hallway. No one was in sight. He approached the stairs and he could hear talking. The meeting had started.
One lone guard stood guarding the entrance to the meeting. Marc grabbed him, putting him in a sleeper hold until the man was unconscious then hid him.
Marc put his coat on as he stepped out into the cool, young night. The hotel wasn't too far away and as young as the night was, Cleopatra was still there.
"It's always good to see the Guardian Brother," Cleopatra said as Marc entered her office. He sat down at the table where she was writing. She moved the pen and the paper with her famous green ink. "What can I do for you, Marc?"
"Well," Marc started. He hesitated, unsure of how to talk to her. "I'm....I feel different," Marc said.
"How so?" This time she looked at him in the eyes, and Marc knew he had her attention.
"I feel angry," Marc said. "And the rage, I take it out on anyone who refuses to give me the answers I desire."
Cleopatra got up and walked around the office. She stopped facing her large green plant. "You must learn to control your rage. While your intentions to purge this world of its evil infection are good, you must learn to control yourself. Your rage blinds you. Interrogate them calmly. Negotiate first. Then if all else fails, Pugilism becomes your best friend in this."
"What about my friends?" Marc asked.
"What about them?"
"One got mixed up with the wrong people and another is problematic when it comes to trust," Marc said.
"Again, I tell you. Control your rage. When you have it under control, your friends will respect you."
"Thank you for your time," Marc said, standing up.
"Anytime for the Guardian Brother," Cleopatra said.
Marc left and went back the small HQ building. It was dark outside. Everyone was still in the meeting, which provided enough cover to get to his temporary room. That night, before he drifted off to sleep, all he could think about was his conversation with Cleopatra.
***In another part of town***
Vulkie finally managed to shake the cops and as she walked on the street, she noticed a familiar bar. It was the Owl and Walnut Bar, where her old time friend Bernie Ells was usually tending the bar. It was getting dark and late, so Vulkie decided to make a stop at the bar.
As Vulkie entered, she noticed a group of men loudly talking while ordering some more beers, and she saw an elderly couple enjoy a bottle of wine while they were staring out of the window which looked out on the street.
"Ms. Nouson! It's been a long time!" Bernie shouted and waved her over. Vulkie, still feeling tired from the chase, reluctantly went over to Bernie and took a seat near the bar. "Hello Bernie" Vulkie began, "Do you have a bourbon for me? Make it a double" Vulkie added.
As Bernie poured the drink, he observed Vulkie. He had seen her in better ways then she was now, but he knew not to force her into talking. So he gently asked "Might I ask...", but Vulkie interrupted him by holding a hand up. As she did so, she grabbed the bourbon and downed it in one time, the warmth of the bourbon almost burning her throat. It made her eyes tear for a bit, but as she looked at Bernie, she said: "You may ask, but I only ask you this. I need to find a place for now, I need some rest. Any chance that I could hire a room at your bar Bernie?".
Bernie immediately duck under the bar and produced a key to a room. "First room to your left. I'll make sure Lucia makes everything in order for you" Bernie added, as he waved towards a waitress in the bar. "Lucia, make room 1 in order for Ms. Nouson. She will be staying here for the evening, no expenses" Bernie said to Lucia, and Lucia went upstairs to make her room tidy and neat. Five minutes later, Lucia returned and told Bernie everything was done. "If you don't mind Bernie, I'll retire to my room now. I have some thinking to do..." Vulkie said, and with that, she went up the stairs and entered her room. (cont.)
As Vulkie was about to lie down on her bed, she made sure that she took her revolver out and checked it. Four bullets were fired, two were left in the chamber. As she clicked the chamber into place again, after removing the four bullets that were useless, she began to think. What would be her next move, where could she possibly find more information? And suddenly, it struck her, as she was on the brink of falling asleep... She would go to the Whitechapel apartments in the early morning...
***The next morning***
Vulkie woke up, noticing that the sun had already began to rise for a bit. It was still early though, as she noticed on the clock next to her bed, that it was only 6 am. Vulkie quietly got out of her bed, took her revolver with her and went downstairs, where she saw Bernie cleaning the bar. "Leaving so soon, Ms. Nouson?" Bernie asked and Vulkie just coldly replied: "I have some business to take care of Bernie.", as she left the bar....
Vulkie was here once before, on the account of interrogating Carla Kane, spy for several factions and Jack Billings. Vulkie just hoped that one of the factions hadn't taken any action and terminated her for involvement with Billings.
As Vulkie made her way upstairs, she saw the door was slightly open and she could hear voices coming out of Carla Kane's apartment. As Vulkie pushed the door open with her revolver, doing it quietly, she noticed that a man was standing over Carla Kane. "I swear that I know nothing!" Carla shouted to the man. The man just laughed and said: "You'll just do fine into leaving a message for Billings. Have a nice trip to heaven or hell, Ms. Kane". The man took aim and as he was about to fire a bullet in Carla Kane's head, Vulkie took aim and took the shot. The man let out a small noise and fell down on the ground, while Carla was crawling away towards the right corner of her apartment.
"You..." Carla whispered. "What are you doing here AGAIN?!" Carla yelled. (cont.)
As Vulkie quickly locked the door, she walked over towards the dead man and took his gun away, to prevent Carla from getting any ideas. "I want some answers, Carla, and you're gonna give them. Who is, or rather "was", this man?" Vulkie asked. Carla replied by saying: "He was a member of the Green Hand. I guess Cleopatra finally figured out what was going on...".
"And why do you think he was sent?" Vulkie asked. Carla looked at her, and held her mouth shut. "Look, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. It all depends on whether you want to get out of here alive, or in a body bag, your call" Vulkie added, and she stared at Carla furiously. Carla was intimidated enough and she spilled the beans. "Jack Billings, you know what that is, right? He err... he has a plan, which involved all of the factions. He wanted me to play each of them out against each other, so that he could easily take over...". Carla said.
"That was as much as I figured out. Now tell me, where can I find Jack?" Vulkie asked politely, without insisting. Carla weeped with tears running over her face, saying: "If I say where he is, he'll kill me".
Vulkie coldly replied by saying: "If you don't tell me, you're also dead.", while she cocked the hammer of the gun that she took from the assassin.
"Please... I have a daughter... Please... don't do it..." Carla said, while crying more and trying to stall time. Vulkie coldly said: "I don't care about your daughter, nor you. You knew the risks, it's time to pay for the consequences", while she took aim with her gun.
"HE'S AT THE HELLFIRE CLUB, OR HIS MANSION USUALLY" Carla shouted, while looking at Vulkie. Vulkie knew that there was no point for her into lying, so she pointed the gun away and fired a shot. "Consider this your last chance. If I find you in this town again, or somewhere else, and you have lied to me, I will hunt you down.".
Vulkie then left Whitechapel Apartments, and went to the Tailor's place to get some fresh clothes....
(Seems I made a small mistake -> At my last part, it says "Jack Billings, you know WHAT that is, what -> Who. Apologies for the mistake... *curtsy bow*)
"As I introduced myself before, I am Orson Galatas, High Philosopher of the Order of Socrates." the man in white said genially as he took a seat at the table. "Who do I have the pleasure of conversing with today?"
The disheveled band of detectives looked at each other, and though tired and bruised, Molly naturally slipped into her upbringing as a proper society hostess.
" A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Galatas." she leaned forward. "I am Amelia de Maltesse, and these are my associates Riza Hawkeye, Andrew Corelli and Joseph Zeo." she pointed to each person in turn.
"Amelia de Maltesse..." Orson rolled the name around on his tongue for a moment. "De Maltesse is a name known to us. Your father, perhaps, associated with our Enlightened ranks?"
"It is true that he had many associates in the Order of Socrates in New York." she said carefully. Orson beamed.
"Well then, you are as family!" his kindly face dropped into an affectedly troubled look. "This is quite an ugly situation you seem to have found yourself in, Miss de Maltesse. Dare I ask why?"
Molly thought for a moment, then gave a rueful smile. "Well, Mr. Galatas. I won't lie to you, although you may abjure me from your familial ranks. I am the wife- estranged, you understand- of Jack Billings."
This had the intended effect. Galatas opened his eyes wide.
"Jack Billings! That suited oaf running the Hellfire Club!" he sputtered.
"One and the same." Molly winced.
"Complicated indeed." Orson said thoughtfully. I guess you'd better start from the beginning.
And so she did. Molly told him of her discovery of the artifact and Jacks subsequent theft, the surprise elements of the Circle of Light and the Green Hand. As she told her tale, Andrew Corelli, Riza and Joseph watched his face carefully. They were unsure if the finer points of Mollys story were really as surprising to Orson as he made it seem...
"This is a most troubling equations of some very powerful forces in the world." Orson said after she was all done. "And the cog making it turn is centered in one place, here in London. The Hellfire Club. The Nine Lives of Hatshepsut is not a topic that our Order has much information on, but if it is so highly coveted by the Hellfire, then they must be privy to information we are not. You know what this means of course."
"We infiltrate the club." Molly breathed. Orson nodded.
"We cannot assist you in that." he warned. "There are treatises and notices and paperwork that hinder that ability. However, Ms. de Maltesse, we can offer a distraction- help...ensure there is minimal resistance on the grounds as you make your way inside. Socrates willing, that it is a simple in-and-out job."
His face fell into its frown again.
"However, those Hellfires are known for their outlandish interests. I wouldn't be surprised if that building held many more secrets than you or I could fathom. A few in particular...of the utmost interest to us. Miss de Maltesse, we will have you and your companions rest until you are well and able. When you are ready to go, we will send a few of our number with you...as protection you understand. Is this agreeable to you?"
Molly met the eyes of each of her companions in turn. They each gave a little nod. Finally she turned back to Orson.
"It is." she said.
Orson Galatas was leading the detectives through the hallway, talking about the benefits of a coordinated action over the Hellfire Club.
"--We all can benefit from this cooperation and put an end to this dark age." He then added with a smile, "Now, you must feel exhausted, you are free to repose your minds in our humble house of knowledge. Tomorrow I'll let you know the moment of our offensive. Good evening and May Enlightened Minds Prevail." And he left the detectives with their thoughts.
Without saying a word, the detectives moved to their rooms.
"Corelli? Do you have a minute?" Zeo was fidgeting with a cigarette.
"Sure." Corelli was looking at the cigarette in Zeo's hand when he added, "Is everything alright?"
"Yes... look, Marc told me about your job... I mean, reporting my whereabouts."
"I just need some inf..."
"--Sorry, no. I'm sick of all this. I thought it was over, all the distrust."
"No, look, this isn't about Billings, I don't think you're working for him. I have the feeling I know that Anne A. Niedermann." Zeo was talking faster and almost whispering.
"If you talked to Lacrimosa then you know everything I have to say about her." Corelli crossed his arms.
"There must be something else you can remember... anything." Zeo was agitated.
Corelli shook his head.
"I'm looking for someone... she... she's very dear to me." Zeo took a deep breath, more calmed, he continued. "That Anne A. Niedermann, I think it's an alias used by the woman I'm looking for... anything you can tell me."
"I just met her once, when she gave me the information about the case. I don't know what else can I tell you about her."
"But... do you have a photograph of her? I can tell you if she is Miss Niedermann."
"I... no, not right now."
"Then when all this is over, we'll give that photograph a check."
"Thank you, Corelli, and please, don't tell Riza about it."
"I'm sure you have your own reasons." Corelli nodded and left for his room.
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