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 A Witch's Guide to Surviving London

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Scipio Zelin

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PostSubject: A Witch's Guide to Surviving London   Tue Jan 31, 2012 8:11 pm

CHAPTER ONE: ARRIVAL


"Yes, the mortuary will be sending a hearse around tomorrow, but I just wanted to check on the...the remains." I sighed heavily and stared down at my bony hands, doing my best to look forlorn. It wasn't all that difficult considering the cross Atlantic trip I had just completed. My stomach was doing summersaults and I had already developed a random cough that would probably develop into the Ebola virus in no time. Curse that jet plane circulated air. This was definitely not how I wanted to spend my Christmas.

I found myself standing in the United Airlines freight facility located just outside of Heathrow close to dusk, several hours after landing in the U.K. While I didn’t appreciate the fact that my bags looked like they may have been dragged along the ground during takeoff, nor that the car rental company had lost my reservations and forced me to pay about triple for a much smaller car than I was supposed to have, and even worse, having to drive on the wrong side of the road while my portable GPS lead me in circles with its droning robotic voice, I was quite happy to have arrived at the location when I did. It seemed to be during a lull of activity and I soon found myself alone at the front desk, much to the chagrin of the laconic employee who smelled as though he would rather be on a smoke break.

The man behind the desk offered me a skeptical look as he continued to furtively glance behind him at the television screen. I was apparently interrupting his enjoyment of what looked to be a cricket game. "Look, Mr. Zelin, as I've told you, unless you're willing to retrieve your cargo, we cannot let you in the back. It's company policy."

At least I understood the words coming out of his mouth. He had one of those prissy Prof. Henry Higgins-type accent that, while making you want to launch a fist through their face, at least happened to be coherent. That strange cockney accent that is spoken by way too much of England's population was like another language. It was a wonder I made it out of immigration without a translator.

I launched another dejected sigh and a plaintive stare towards the bored United employee. "Isn't there something you can do? I just...I just want to see her. Is that really too much to ask? We were going to be married this next spring and..." I choked my words off as I stared back down at my hands once again. Hmmm...I was really going to need to trim those fingernails. I didn’t want to glance up to see if he was buying it on the off chance that I’d not look as pathetic as I was attempting. While I’m not quite Lawrence Olivier, I’ve been through my fair share of pain and suffering. Hell, I’ve been playing a pathetic, broken old man for some time now. I might as well make use of it for something other than free rounds of alcohol my liver doesn’t need.

He suddenly launched into a well rehearsed spiel, ‘I’m terribly sorry for your loss, sir. We at United Airlines take pride in providing the utmost levels of service and security for your loved ones. This is the reason we’re not allowed to let people in the back. Ever since 9/11, security has been a lot tighter.” I was already contemplating how I could sneak back there when he leaned in close and said in almost a whisper, “Although, certain arrangements could be made. It’s almost Christmas and there have been some serious cutbacks. The little tykes back home deserve a little better than I’d be able to supply…sir.”

I looked up in feigned shock and outrage. “Are you…are you asking for a bribe?”

He shrugged slightly. “That’s such a dirty word. Think of it as a surcharge.”

I shook my head in amazement and hissed, “I can’t believe you’re taking advantage of someone’s tragic circumstances in order to make a quick buck!” I lowered my voice slightly as I added, “..and aren’t there video cameras and security like you were talking about? How can you possibly get away with this?”

He jerked a thumb back towards the hallway behind him, “Oh that…they don’t much bother around here; everything’s gone through all the scanners and such. You couldn’t have even smuggled in a firecracker, much less anything dangerous, so at this point, it hardly matters. As for the security team, well an officer pops through here every couple of hours and…” he stared up at the wall clock, “…he’s not due back for another hour. You’re in luck, sir.”

I shook my head as I reached into my coat pocket to pull out my wallet. “Do you even have any children?”

“Is that even your fiancée?” he asked with a raised brow.

I opened my mouth for a moment then closed it. Touche, I thought as I rifled through the bills inside the leather pouch. After a moment, I looked up with a sheepish grin and asked, “Do you happen to take dollars? I, uh, forgot to visit the money exchange booth.”



After a few moments haggling over what the proper exchange rate should be as well as an impromptu discussion about the decline of the U.S. dollar, he lead me back to a large warehouse and waved down a warehouse employee loitering about with a cigarette in his mouth. The dark skinned man approached and I could read “Mo” on his name tag. Judging by his features and aroma, cigarettes and flavored tobacco, I would guess it was short for Mohammed. I suppose that proved United Airlines practiced diversity hires, at least in the shipping section. The two exchanged a few words and the darker man nodded, then glanced my way and beckoned me closer with a wave of his hand.

"Mo here will take you back to the cold storage to let you examine your shipping container...' the desk manager quickly glanced at his watch and then looked up at me with an arched eyebrow, "You have 20 minutes. I trust whatever it is you want to look over will be finished by then?"

I nodded wordlessly and moved past him towards Mo who was already working his way towards the back of the cluttered warehouse. It wasn't a large one, but with steel shelves that stretched up at least 30 feet high, they were able to pack in a lot of containers than I would have expected. After squeezing by a parked forklift, he led me to a small corridor past a row of puffy thick, winter coats and towards a steel door. Pausing only to pull down a coat from the wall and quickly slip it over his shoulders, he swung the door wide to let the frosty air shoot past my face and chill me to the bone. It wasn't exactly warm and toasty at this time in London, but the cold storage definitely lived up to its name. He lead me into this smaller, more sterile room than the main warehouse, still with an expanded roof that rose at least 50 feet, then turned around to stare at me with a quizzical expression.

"It's the coffin, correct?" he asked, words hard to make out between suddenly chattering teeth and a very thick accent that was either Arabic or Indian of origin.

I briskly rubbed my hands together, thinking I was going to need some thicker gloves than the thin leather ones I was wearing. I stared at the fog shooting out of my mouth as I answered in a fairly level voice, "It is a coffin. Is there only one?" I followed up, glancing around the smaller storage room, but not recognizing the silver colored steel casket I had shipped out just before I left Seattle airport.

He nodded, then stepped around a pallet and down one of three rows of shelving towards the end of the warehouse room. As we reached the end of the row, I could see the edge of the casket peeking around the corner. It had been pressed up against the end of the row, opposite a large, metal roll up door that presumably lead to the outside. He edged away from the coffin with an embarrassed look on his face as he mumbled, "Sorry for your loss."

I took a deep breath as I laid a gloved hand on the dull metal surface and said to him over my shoulder, "I certainly didn’t expect to spend Christmas like this. We were to be married, but...well...the cancer worked its way through her faster than anyone expected." I sighed dramatically as I turned to face him with a mournful expression. "It appears to have made it just fine...do you mind if I have a few minutes alone?"

He seemed relieved at my suggestion and he nodded vigorously as he edged backwards towards a smaller door on the side wall. He patted at his left leg pocket and slipped out a pack of cigarettes, the brand was unrecognizable from the stark skull and crossbones pattern covering the entire box, as he said, "I'm on my break." He pushed his back against the door and was just about out when he turned back, suddenly remembering he was leaving a complete stranger in a room that was supposed to be secure and said sternly, 'Don't touch anything." Well...with security like that, it's no wonder we all feel safer flying again.

I waited until the door was closed, then quickly crossed the room to listen for fading footsteps and what sounded like a one sided conversation. He must be on a phone call, I thought to myself. That should make this easier. I slipped a plain, retractable metal pen from my top coat pocket and began to gather in what energy I could. I had already experienced how much harder it was to use my magical ability being far away from the source before, but I wasn't entirely prepared for how different the energy in another part of the world would feel. It felt foreign to the touch; not any older or powerful, just a little off. It took me a few moments I didn’t have to truly get the feel for it until I was able to properly activate the spell contained within the pen and activate the silence field within the storage area. With a click of the pen, the two halves of the crystal linked together and I was suddenly blessed with complete silence; no A/C system blowing, no sounds of trucks hauling freight, no warehouse workers jabbering away on their phones. It was as silent as a tomb, which was probably appropriate as I turned to consider the package I came to retrieve.

I was a bit worried as I stepped over towards the coffin, wondering what kind of mood Keliah Angelis, Sheriff of Ravenhurst and vampire extraordinaire, was going to be in when released from a small metal box after almost a day of travel. Vampires weren’t quite built to make modern day traveling easy due to their predilection for bursting into flames when encountering the sun. As it was pretty much impossible to avoid the daytime while complete a transatlantic flight as well as the fuss of getting through customs, baggage retrieval, and all the other requirements for leaving a foreign airport in a distant land, other arrangements had to be made.

I considered a private charter flight, but the prices were outrageous. I may be fairly wealthy due to my family’s resources and have my own healthy savings due to a career at a fairly respected college, I wasn’t exactly swimming in cash like Scrooge McDuck. When Kel seemed reticent about calling in favors from her European connections, I decided that the easiest way to get her from the U.S. to the U.K. in one, non-crispy piece, was to send her as cargo. While it would have been much easier to tape her up in a UPS box and see what brown could do for us, that was obviously not going to work out as, despite claims to the contrary, she was still organic material and human remains of a sort. You can’t just ship grandma’s bones to another country nowadays; yet another thing to be angry at the terrorists and 9/11 for. However, it turns out shipping a body overseas for burial isn’t nearly as difficult as it may sound.

We had to obtain a death certificate of a recently deceased individual that had not been interred yet which Kel was able to handle. I didn’t ask how or what she did, but she managed to arrange all the paperwork I asked her for, including the coffin I was now staring at. The rest of the transaction went just as smoothly; the airlines was actually quite helpful in setting it up transportation as well as coordinating with the local London mortuary I had picked out of a hat. The plan was to pull her out after dark, cancel my arrangements with the funeral home and then arrange to send the body back to Seattle once more to be interred where the actual individual Kel was impersonating would meet their final resting place. As long as one body arrived and one was sent back and never left the secure facility, I didn’t think we’d have any issues. It was hardly against the law to waste thousands of dollars transporting a body back and forth across the Atlantic. Stupid, yes; illegal? Not so much.

Of course, I still had to actually get her out of the damn coffin and out to the car without attracting too much attention. She was quite fast when she was at full strength not to mention silent as a ghost, so I figured she’d be able to find her way out to the car after I woke her up. Not that vampires slept, exactly. I’m not sure what they did, other than lay there silent and still as the corpse that they were. I had never asked Kel if she dreamed or not; I suppose I was a little frightened to find out if her answer was no. Not being able to dream would be just another sign of the inhumanity of her race and one that disturbed me almost as much as their eating habits. Whether vampires dreamed of electric sheep was more of a philosophical question, and I had enough of dealing with the metaphysical these past several months.

I ran my hand across the cool metal surface of the silver colored coffin as I searched for the release latches that had been locked down until I located the padlock on the outside and quickly worked the combination. I think the lock requirement is more due to the airlines preferring that grandma doesn’t roll out of her coffin and scare the baggage handlers as opposed to worries of a zombie apocalypse, but it was the main reason I was here. The lock wouldn’t keep her inside if she really wanted to get out, but there would be a lot of explaining to do if the dead started walking around the United Airlines cold storage facility. I had just slipped the lock into my coat pocket and was about to pop open the top when I sensed movement passing through the silence ward I had set up. Wonderful, I thought, that was either the shortest cigarette break ever or the man up front had been mistaken about when security would be back.

I straightened up and turned as I tried to come up with a good reason to give me a few more minutes when it suddenly dawned on me that was the least of my problems. Several masked individuals were piling into the room from the back door, all carrying some seriously nasty looking weapons. It was probably the surprise that distracted me from the man that had already sidled up next to me who quickly wrapped an arm around my neck and jammed something into my back. I was about to shout when suddenly I felt an intense pain run through my entire body quickly followed by darkness.

When my senses came back, I found myself still standing next to the coffin. No, check that, I was floating next to the coffin. I turned to my left and watched the man drag an unconscious old man towards the side of a pallet and dump him unceremoniously on his head. That was going to hurt when I got back inside. I watched as he hooked a small device to his belt and stepped back over to the other masked men and began sliding his sleeves up towards his elbows. It appeared I had been tasered, which I had to admit, was better than a knife between the ribs. My armored skin ward had already worn off on the flight over, so it could have been much worse for me. He must have assumed I was harmless enough. After taking a look at the crew that had descended on the storage room, I would tend to agree.

I counted six men; three carrying shortened shotguns which they currently had trained on the coffin, a spotter that seemed to be roaming the room looking for further threats, another kneeling on the concrete as he went through the pack that was previously slung over his back, and the man who had assaulted me. That one seemed to be in charge as he spoke harshly to all the men in a language I didn’t understand. It sounded Slavic in origin, but as I’ve always had a tin ear for languages, it could have been Polynesian for all knew. The man in charge bent down to help the kneeling man begin to pull out several coils of chains and begin to lay them out on the ground.

Chains? Why would they need…I turned back to look at the coffin that they were preoccupied with, seemingly hair triggers at the ready. They had come for Keliah. Who could have tipped them off or why they would want her, I had no idea. They were obviously well prepared to transport a powerful vampire right out of the shipping facility and I had inadvertently helped them by giving them a cone of silence to work in. Had they expected that? Or was that just luck? One thing was for sure; if I didn’t do something and fast, I was about to lose my bodyguard and companion.

I leaped back into my body, doing my best to not groan as I entered back into the consciousness of my flesh. Dear God, stun guns hurt like hell. The bruise on the top of my noggin was going to be a lovely shade of purple by tomorrow as well, no doubt. I shifted as quietly as I could so I could get a good vision of the armed men standing guard over the silent coffin. They needed to be neutralized before I tried to wake Kel up in her coffin, unless we both wanted to reenact the end of Bonnie and Clyde.

Ignoring the stiffness and pain, I began to draw upon the source in the area and was somewhat surprised to find ample magical material to work with now that I was somewhat familiar with the strangeness of it. This meant that London was much closer to a ley line than I ever imagined. In my previous trips away from the source in Ravenhurst, my magical abilities were severely hampered and took twice, sometimes three times as long to do half of what I was able to pull off back at the circle. Here, however, there was energy enough to do what I wanted. I would definitely have to look into that if I ever survived long enough to get to my hotel room.

As I balled up the energy within, I began to create shield wards in the barrels of each gun; it didn’t take very long as there wasn’t much area to cover. Of course, the shields would hardly stop a bullet or shell once it had exited a barrel, but if I stopped the bullet before it left the gun itself? I suspected the shells in those guns were a little more powerful than your average hunter would be using. With any luck, trying to use them against Kel or myself would literally blow up in their faces. I slowly rolled onto my stomach, the pained groans somewhat drowned out by the long strands of heavy duty chains that they had begun to wrap around the coffin. I was running out of time. I needed a diversion that would alert Kel and keep the gunmen busy while she managed to break free from the coffin. As I pushed myself up to my knees, I felt a large thump swing into my thigh from the padlock in the pocket of my jacket. I took hold of the cold metal lump and stared at it; well, this was hardly the time to be discreet.

Taking careful aim, I launched the lock at the nearest gunman’s trigger hand, then ducked back down behind the pallet. Moments later, an explosion echoed through the small storage room shortly followed by one more and the sounds of agonized screams. As I peeked back from my hiding spot, I took stock of the carnage my tiny wards had wrecked on the mystery men. Four of them were lying on the ground, writhing in pain, several already leaking bodily fluids all over the concrete floor while the other two were trying to treat their fallen cohorts. I could see metal shrapnel scattered around the room, the twisted remnants of at least two weapons smoking and partially on fire lying beside the injured men. That’ll teach them to taser an old man, I thought to myself as I moved as quickly as my stiffened legs would allow towards the coffin and yelling at the top of my lungs.

Keliah and I hadn’t come up with any sort of code words for danger and I was suddenly regretting this fact as I stepped over the splattered floor shouting, “Kel! Wake up! Help! Heeeeeelp!” I’m quite sure a code word would have been less embarrassing. As I reached the coffin, I began to pull at the chains that had already been wrapped when I was seized from behind and flung end over end onto the floor. Lying there, gasping for breath, the once masked man who had tasered me was hovering over my prone body with a rather frightening looking knife.

He had pulled off his mask to reveal one of the ugliest and scariest faces I’ve ever encountered. His head was shaven, although this was most likely partly due to the fact that he was already balding. His sloped forehead arched into a pronounced brow like an ape, beady eyes shining out from underneath as he scowled with a mouth full of yelling teeth. He was bleeding from a cut across his cheek and he stopped to wipe at it as he yelled something unintelligible at me before stabbing down at my midsection. I reached up with my hands to grab at his beefy arm, but it was barely slowing it down on the descent towards my ribs. I’m not a weak man by any stretch, but he had the leverage of standing over me and the hardened muscles of a bodybuilder. I could already feel the phantom touch of the edge of a blade on my skin and began screaming again as I pushed up with all my might. Just as I closed my eyes and started hoping the pain wouldn’t last too long, the arm I was pushing against disappeared.

I opened my eyes in time to see Keliah standing over me, growling in anger towards the back wall. As I leaned back, I could see the bald bastard who had tried to knife me propped up against the wall on his head, dazed and twisted in a painful position. Two of the other masked men each grabbed him by the arms and began dragging him towards the door. I finally exhaled a breath I realized I had been holding before I thought I was about to die and laid my head back on the concrete. That was far too close.

I felt Kel’s small arms prop me up and wrap around my waist, then felt her cold nose against my cheek. “Skip! Are you alright? Speak to me! What happened?!”

“We had some unexpected visitors…they came…” I paused as I felt the door open once more behind me and turned to stare at Mo, freshly back from his smoke break and eyes wide as saucers at the carnage we were both sitting in. His eyes darted back and forth from Keliah to the opened coffin as he began to chant a prayer, slowly inching back out the door. I was wondering which bothered him more; the heavily armed mercenaries tearing up his workplace, or a body risen from the grave. I suppose it would have been more fitting on Easter instead of Christmas.

“Do you believe in miracles, Mo?” I asked as he darted back out towards loading dock and newly darkened skies. Apparently not. I sighed as I stared into Kel’s eyes, the white slowly peeking out through her retinas as the danger of the moment subsided and grinned wryly. At least I was still alive. “So…how was the flight?”
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Scipio Zelin

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PostSubject: Re: A Witch's Guide to Surviving London   Tue Jan 31, 2012 8:11 pm

CHAPTER TWO: GETTING AROUND



"Aaaahooooooo! Werewolves of London! Aaaaahooooooo!"

I could see my knuckles whiten as I gripped the steering wheel in slowly growing agitation. I wasn't sure what was worse; London traffic, the fact that I was still on the wrong damn side of the car, or Keliah's off-key singing of a terrible song. She had been like this ever since she had figured out how to use that MP3 player she picked up on one of her trips into Seattle. It could have been worse, I suppose. It could have been Bon Jovi again.

"You hear him howlin' around your kitchen do...hey, I was listening to that!" I could feel Kel's angry gaze burn a hole in my head as I flipped off the radio and returned it with a glare of my own.

"Unfortunately, so was I. The driver gets to choose the station and I choose blessed silence from your auditory assault on my senses."

She continued to stare daggers at me as she responded, "Fine. Let me drive."

I let out a hollow laugh, "Hah...you almost got me killed once tonight. Do you really want to finish up where those murderous mercenaries failed?"

Pouting slightly and turning back to stare out at the unmoving traffic flow, she said, "I'm not that bad of a driver."

She really was that bad of a driver. How one with such preternatural grace and dexterity could be as bad a driver as her was one of the great mysteries of the world.

"Evel Knievel would have turned down a ride with you."

"Who's Evel Knievel?" She asked, her face shifting suddenly to open curiosity. For a vampire as old as she was, which I would guess around one hundred years old by the stories and hints she had alluded to, she had a very poor grasp on popular culture. At least, pop culture from the last thirty years or so. I imagine it has something to do with her going to ground; from what I had read, vampires could go into a sort of hibernation when they had grown weary of living. It seemed it was usually a case of living hundreds of years; Keliah obviously had less patience than other vampires.

"He was a daredevil from the 70s who, through the course of his career, had been in enough accidents to have suffered 433 broken bones. Perhaps I should have referenced Houdini, or perhaps Charles Blondin? I believe he was French. And now my clever rejoinder has been ruined. We need to talk, anyways, about what happened tonight."

She grinned easily, her anger having melted away already. "I thought Houdini was one of yours? Using magical magic to stun and amaze the crowds? I never did get a chance to see him, which is a pity." She settled back into passenger seat and stared out the window once again. "I know even less than you do about tonight. I was resting in a box until that explosion woke me up."

That was true enough as far as what had transpired on this never ending evening. First, Keliah had to chase down poor Mo, the hapless warehouse employee, who we found huddling behind a dumpster praying to Allah. Fortunately, we were not struck down by lightning, nor bothered while she used her disturbing vampiric skill of altering his memories. Even with my silence ward, a trail of bloodied Eastern European mercenaries streaking out of the storage facility was rather noticeable. We had no way to cover up the incident, but Kel was able to destroy the security machines as I did my best to clean up our traces before we high tailed it out of there. Hopefully, that man at the front desk would value his job enough to remain silent about my trip into the back and the police would assume that this was a robbery of some sort that went awry. I can be foolishly optimistic sometimes.

"No, that's not what I want to talk about. I want to know who you pissed off enough that they would send a foreign commando force to either kill or capture you. How did they even know you would be here?" I stared across at her reflection in the side window. "Who did you tell about your travel plans back in Ravenhurst?"

She sighed and avoided looking back at me, content to stare at the bright lights of a lovely London evening spent in traffic. "There are many that would probably like to see me dead, Skip. More than I probably even remember. I made a lot of enemies in the war. Enemies that live a long time and carry even longer grudges. As for Ravenhurst..." she turned to stare back at me defiantly, "I could ask you the same thing. You're always so quick to think the worst of my people."

"That would be because I'm usually right. But let's not get sidetracked on the defense of vampire consciences for once and get back to the subject of almost dying. We can figure out who the leak in Ravenhurst is after we've neutralized the threat here. First of all, they were all human. Aside from the gorilla that accosted me, none of them showed traits of being ghouled. That fact in and of itself is strange enough. Who would hire a group like that to hunt down a supernatural?"

She shrugged her small shoulders and frowned. "It's not as uncommon in Europe as it would be in the States, although, you're right. If this was a vampire directed attack at me, obtaining permission to use humans would require some serious influence. It's thought of as bad form to use humans against another vampire."

I raised my eyebrows as we inched forward a few more feet. At this rate, we'd make it to the hotel by next Tuesday. "It's bad form to train the food to start hunting you, is it? I could see that being a problem," I mused, not bothering to hide my sarcasm. "If that is the case, who are the likely individuals that dislike you enough to try this?"

She leaned forward in her seat, leaning her elbows on the dashboard and resting her chin on the tops of the palms of her hands. "There are several vampires in Germany I could think of that might try something like this...but, honestly Skip, I wasn't nearly important enough to rate this kind of attention. It's more likely that..." She suddenly trailed off, her expression suddenly shifting into that neutral, vacant look she uses to mask her feelings. That was usually a worse sign than when she was acting upset.

"Well, the Germans are always causing trouble, aren't they? What's the other likelihood? The one causing you to suddenly brood like a melancholy teenager?"

She stared straight ahead for a time, remaining silent as we listened to the sounds of sirens up ahead getting louder. I probably shouldn't have sworn that someone better be dead up there after the first half hour of sitting motionless in traffic. It's bad karma. "Well..." she finally spoke up as she turned the full effect of her bright blue eyes on me."...it's quite possible that my family is behind this."

"That seems like an extreme way to make sure you make it home for the holidays?"

She shook her head and turned away again. "I'm being serious. Do you recall our discussions about Kristof von Friedwich, my sire?”

“Vaguely; you told me he was a preacher of some vampire religion and that he had some influence in your family.” She hadn’t told me much of anything about her past in our time together, which while understandable, was somewhat frustrating. She was very good at answering inquiries into her past in such a way that offered the bare minimum of information.

She nodded at my reflection in the window. “He was a Lutheran preacher in life, so the transition was probably inevitable. He’s much more than influential; he is the right hand of the Prince of Paris, our family’s titular head and namesake, Mystro Angelis. Kristof turned me many years ago out of a pang of conscience you don’t believe our kind possesses.” She turned to flash me an unapproving stare for a moment then turned back to the window to resume her narration. “The Prince was unhappy with his choice and made it very clear from the beginning that he felt my existence was a mistake. However, the Angelis clan was already in the midst of a war with several other families and he was willing to take advantage of any help he could obtain to maintain his position. I learned early on how to survive. It was…It was a hard time learning my place within the family. While Kristof was the voice of reason and moderation, my skills did not manifest themselves in that direction, as I’m sure you’re well aware.”

I chuckled softly as turned to stare at the back of her head with a wry grin. “Voice of reason is most definitely not one your monikers in town.” The thousands upon thousands of dollars in property damage within Ravenhurst due to her proclivities would dissuade anyone from thinking she was level headed and moderate in anything. I could make out her lips in curl into a frown through the windows reflection and thought I may have killed her momentum, but she continued on, ignoring my comments as best she could.

“When the second Great War descended upon Europe, it was the darkest time in the history of our family. We were practically ousted from the city that we had controlled for hundreds of years, but we managed somehow to hold on. It came with heavy costs, however. Many of the Angelis clan did not survive and their positions had to be filled with those that were left. Because of this, I was elevated quicker than I should have been. I was placed directly in the care of Morelle, the Scourge of the Angelis clan, in order that I may fulfill her duties when she went to ground.”

I frowned slightly as I tried to take this flood of information in. “Scourge? I think I can figure out what that person’s responsibilities were. It sounds rather…barbaric.”

“It’s from Medieval times and is a term that isn’t used much anymore. However, the Prince seemed to appreciate the dark origins of the title for his personal body guard and commander of his soldiers. If you ever met Morelle, well, you would think it was an apt title, indeed. Whereas Kristoff represented the Prince in negotiations and the courts, Morelle was his executioner and enforcer of his will.”

“A sort of Yin to Kristof’s Yang within the organization, I take it?”

She turned to stare at me once again, eyes staring off into space as she considered my statement. “I’m not too familiar with Asian philosophy, but that’s probably right. They balance each other’s excesses and the Prince makes the final, most wise ruling from his many, many years of experience.” Her curious expression suddenly darkened as she continued, “Well, at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Unfortunately, the Prince’s excesses and ambitions often times overrule wise decisions. It’s why I had to leave.”

I could sense she was finally getting to her point, so I remained silent and kept my thoughts to myself for once. Whatever had forced her away from her family must have been fairly traumatic and personally devastating. My snide comments would not help get to the heart of the matter this time. We sat in silence as we slowly inched forward towards the flashing lights of support vehicles assisting in the accident that had occurred farther up the street.

She started up once again, her voice slow and steady, as if willing herself to remain calm. “I was asked to perform a service that would have resulted in another war between our kind to fuel our Prince’s ambitions and I refused. Well, refuse isn’t exactly the right word. I couldn’t refuse anything that they may have forced on me, so I agreed to handle it and bolted the first chance I could.”

At first I was frightened; I was sure Morelle would find and destroy me as soon as she discovered I had not performed my duties. I considered going to a higher power and revealing the plan, but I couldn’t bring myself to betray the family. It would have annihilated everyone I had come to care about, even if I had disagreed with their goals. So…I just ran. It turns out it was fortuitous decision as the plot had been known for some time and the powers that be were waiting for the right moment to put an end to it. Because of Kristof’s careful handling of the family’s involvement, the Prince was able to come out of the trials with his head and his reputation intact.”

I think Kristof managed to convince Mystro that I had inadvertently saved his life by my actions and to not send Morelle after me. He’s hinted at that in our correspondence. However, he’s also intimated that the Prince has expunged me from the family for my desertion, eliminating any standing I have within the Angelis clan. If I should ever be foolish enough to step into Paris, I will be a stranger to them all.”

I nodded slowly, surprised at her candor at revealing such secrets about her past. She sighed deeply and settled back into her seat, seeming as though she had just lifted a great weight from her shoulders. That was the type of secret you probably didn’t go around blabbing to any and all other vampires as it sounded like the type of thing that could get you killed. “So, you’re persona non grata with the Angelis family, are you? I suppose I we’ll have to vacation somewhere else next time. It’s a shame; France was a lovely country, if not full of Frenchmen.”

She smirked in her seat and glanced back my way with a playful expression. “Ah, but what of the French ladies? We are not so bad, are we, mon cheri?”

I returned the grin as I reached out and patted her thigh, “You do have your uses. Is it likely that your Prince would change his mind and try to eliminate a loose end?”

She placed her small hand over mine, the coolness penetrating through my glove. “I would not put it past him; he’s very patient and is not one to forget a slight. However, I have never known him to use humans in a matter of retribution. We don’t have enough information. And now that we’ve entered the city in such a messy way, I’ll need to pay my respects to the Prince here in London. I was hoping to avoid his notice, but now I have no choice, unless I want his people trying to finish the job from earlier tonight.”

I stared over at her with alarm, “Is that really safe? What if he allowed this attack to happen? You could be walking into another trap.”

She nodded slowly and shrugged her shoulders, “As long as I’m careful and am able to meet with him, I think I will be alright. I did him a favor many years ago and he was always a man of honor. I think he will help me.”

“Do I want to know what kind of favor this was?”

She shook her head and turned back towards the window once more. “No…no you probably wouldn’t.”

I withdrew my hand and placed it back on the steering wheel as we inched forward another few feet and promptly stopped. I had apparently obtained all the secrets she was doling out tonight and this one was probably unpleasant and extremely bloody. “I don’t like the idea of you heading off alone to meet with some strange foreign man who may or may not be out to kill you.”

It was her turn to laugh as she glanced back over her shoulder with mock sympathy. “Do not be jealous, Skip. I will be careful and it will make me feel better knowing you’re safely out of harms way. If you came with me…well, I don’t want to think about that.”

Nor did I; vampires don’t get full when they feed off a magic user like myself. If I walked into the local Prince’s den, I’d probably be thought of as the equivalent to a bottle of wine brought to a dinner gathering. I grunted and stared back out the window. “I still don’t like it.”

She turned back to me with a somber expression and said simply, ‘Allow me to handle this one thing. I know how you feel about vampire politics.” She placed a hand to her chest and continued, “I promised to protect you on this trip and so far I’ve done a poor job. You should only be concerned with that lawyer you have an appointment with tomorrow. What’s his name?”

I couldn’t help grinning as she deftly changed the subject towards the true reason I had even set foot on English soil. “Waterman. Curtis Waterman. He’s the solicitor for the Southill Foundation and, hopefully, a man who can get me in contact with Lilly’s relatives.”

With all the excitement of the past several hours, I had almost forgotten about the appointment I had arranged for tomorrow evening. Getting in contact with the Southill’s had proven almost impossible from the states. As my deceased wife Lilly never introduced me to any of her family over the years, I was mostly grasping at straws here. Her parents had died shortly before I met her and she had remained on the outs with them throughout our long marriage. I had never given them much thought until my late grandmother’s revelation about the true nature of her family and their powerful connections in the witch community.

When I discovered that the family itself had formed a fairly vague sounding foundation for orphans, I had attempted to contact them by phone. While they were listed, the menu was almost impossible to find anyone. Actually, it had been set up to be that way on purpose. I had tried at least three different times to speak to someone live and every time I had waited on hold, I soon found myself engaged in flipping through a magazine or aimlessly flipping through the channels on the television. It wasn’t until the final time when I came to my senses looking through a copy of US magazine that I realized there was something unnatural about their phone system. I would rather set myself on fire than read puff pieces about celebrities. They had used some sort of magic to gently dissuade people from trying to contact their offices. While it was a rather clever piece of spell work, it was also all the information I needed to realize I was on the right track.

After finagling a donation to the foundation through our family corporation of impressive size, I was finally able to get in contact with their solicitor to discuss future donations. He was quite pleased with the amount and quite eager to meet with me, much to the chagrin of my brother. Not that I cared much whether Vic approved; the one thing I was in charge of at the corporation that I remained mostly uninvolved with was bookmarking yearly charity donations. Besides, it was tax deductable.

She perked up at my words and asked, “Have you decided how you’re going to interrogate him? Being a lawyer, I’m sure he’s going to try and weasel his way out of telling us anything. Can we do good cop/bad cop? I’m really, really good at bad cop!”

I grimaced as he glanced back at her from the corner of my eye, “Yes…with the amount of crime you manage to not prevent in Ravenhurst, you certainly have ‘bad cop’ down pat. We’re not going to assault or offend this man. He’s our only link at the moment to the Southills so I want you on your best behavior. The last thing we need is for him to clam up and toss us out of his office. It cost me enough money to get this meeting in the first place; I don’t need you goofing it up by questioning him with stuff you picked up by watching a few episodes of CSI: Miami.”

She let my comments about her suspect police skills roll off her back as she continued, “I could always look into his mind; that might be the quickest solution to all this.”

I shook my head and glared at her. “You shouldn’t be using your powers like that. You have no idea what kind of damage you could cause.”

She slunk back into her seat and crossed her arms. “You didn’t have a problem when I used them on that shipping clerk.”

“That was for our survival; this is different. Look, just let me handle it my way, alright?”

She sighed once again and stared back up at me with her neutral expression. “I’m just trying to help.”

“That’s what I’m worried about,” I muttered under my breath as I turned my attention back towards the road. Thankfully, we were finally moving once again.
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Scipio Zelin

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Join date : 2012-01-30

PostSubject: Re: A Witch's Guide to Surviving London   Tue Jan 31, 2012 8:12 pm

CHAPTER 3: WHERE TO STAY-CHOICE HOTELS


Aside from almost turning down the wrong way of the street on several occasions, we managed to make our uneventful way to the hotel in silence. We both had a lot to think about and plan for; unfortunately, I had a feeling we weren’t entirely on the same page. My head was throbbing in pain by the time we arrived at the Cadogan hotel, an historic hotel that I thought would appeal to Keliah’s more, uh, classical sensibilities. The price was certainly not a throwback to simpler times. While I can hardly ever claim poverty, the price for a suite at this location was outrageous.

Still, with the hotel’s central location and being close enough to walk to the famous Hyde Park, I figured I would be able to take in some sightseeing during the times Kel was avoiding the sun. Perhaps ride one of those charming double decker red buses to gawk at the Rosetta stone in the British museum of history, or take a stroll through Picadilly Circus and take a gander at Buckingham Palace. I hadn’t had a chance to see much when I was last in London with Lilly as I had foolishly eaten the meal on the airplane and spent my entire time here on the toilet. Well, I learned my lesson; I only drink alcohol on plane flights now. It’s safer.

We dropped off the car at the valet and entered inside the old and charming building as I stared up at the aged, greenish metal dome on the roof. From my perusal of the guide book, this was classified as Edwardian style. I wasn’t sure I was too fond of it; it was a little bit busy and distracting compared to the sleek modern lines of the Art Deco movement just a few years later. Still, when in London, stay at the place with a room dedicated to Oscar Wilde.

It was nearing midnight local time, so I wasn’t much surprised to be the only guest stepping into the lobby at this hour. I approached the counter and struggled to pull out my leather wallet partially stuck in the inner folds of my coat pocket. With my passport stuffed inside, it made for a much more awkward exit. A middle aged gentleman with thinning brown hair and a ruddy complexion greeted me warmly as I finally slapped the wallet onto the countertop.

“Good evening, sir, and welcome to the Cadogan. Do you have a reservation?”

I jerked my passport from the wallet case and slid it towards the desk clerk. “Thank you, and yes, yes I do. It should be under the name Zelin.”

He took my wallet and set it next to his computer terminal as he began to punch seemingly random keys. I’m not sure why hotel reservation programs are so slow, but I suspect while most people bitch about it, it never stopped anyone from staying in that particular hotel, much like a movie theater concession stand. You’re already there with your ticket or reservation; where the hell else are you going to go for your popcorn?

Due to my usual paranoia, I had my friend and erstwhile nephew by marriage, Xomar Mycron, handle the reservations for me so that I didn’t produce an easily traced paper trail. As they say, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after you, and with the events of earlier this evening, it was turning out to be a wise decision. He examined passport a little closer, then looked back up at my face with a neutrally friendly smile as he tried to tie the two images together. My passport was almost expired, which meant that the photo was of a much younger looking Scipio from about 9 years ago. A lot had happened in that time and the lines etched in my face swore testament to that fact. I offered a tired smile in return, not particularly in the mood to consider my mortality for the second time tonight.

“Looks like someone will be getting this renewed soon enough,” he said as he slapped a hand across my passport and turned around to make a photocopy for the hotel records. “I notice you’re not a big traveler Mr. Zelin; is this your first time in London?”

“No, I was here many years back and never found the opportunity to come back.” Or the desire, really. Aside from the fact that I spent most of my time in London in the bathroom, the parts I do remember consisted of warm beer, bad food, and worse companionship. But, it’s always good to look on the brighter side of things; I thought that perhaps this time might be different. Ahhh, what an optimistic idiot I am.

“Oh, well, Mr. Zelin, there are many attractions to be seen here. You should have a word with our concierge tomorrow morning. Ms. Bhaskar will be able to assist in setting up any sort of tours or transportation that catch your attention. I would recommend seeing Buckingham Palace if you haven’t already. The changing of the guards is always a jolly display of pomp and circumstance.”

I nodded absently, “Uh huh. That’s great. So…about my room?”

He nodded stiffly and stared back down at the screen, “Ahhh yes, a one bedroom suite for the 22nd through the 25th. Is that correct, Mr. Zelin?”

“Sounds about right,” I muttered as I stifled a yawn. All that travel and excitement was really catching up with me. That and the fact that it was warm in the hotel; I think the coziness of the place was lulling me to sleep. He was intently staring behind me and I took a moment to glance over my shoulder to see what the fuss was about. Keliah was standing there, staring intently at a display vase. Did she break something again? If she had, I’d missed it.

“Mr. Zelin…I only have you down for one guest. Is, um…” he sort of trailed off as he gestured towards Kel.

I turned back and chuckled as I shook my head, “Oh, no, that’s a business associate of mine. She won’t be staying with me. She was just making sure I made it safely to my hotel.” That wasn’t technically true, but considering she was an illegal alien at this point, there didn’t seem to be much point in presenting a passport or ID. Besides, she didn’t do much sleeping during the night.

He stared back at me with a skeptical expression and lowered his voice as he leaned forward. “Sir…this is a respectable hotel. We don’t condone this sort of thing.”

My brows furrowed for a moment and I stared back at Kel, who now held the vase up high as she stared at the bottom of the base, then back at the desk clerk with narrowed eyes.

“Are you implying that my companion is some common street walker?” I asked harshly through clenched teeth. Of course it made sense; an old guy like myself with a younger woman who wasn’t on the guest list. I wasn’t sure whether I was more offended or amused. The idea of Keliah being a high priced French prostitute was rather amusing.

He cocked a brow as he answered, “She’s hardly common, Mr. Zelin, but once again, it is the policy of our hotel…”

“Is there a problem, mon ami?” Kel had crossed the room and was suddenly standing next to me, batting her eyelashes at the clerk as she exaggerated her usually faint French accent. “As Monsieur Zelin has mentioned, I will not be staying. “ She patted the top of my arm affectionately as she continued, “I am just here to tuck him into bed.”

The clerk straightened up as he glanced between the two of us and began to speak in rapid French and gestured towards the door. Keliah returned with a torrent of gibberish to this man’s ears which caused the desk clerk’s already ruddy face to turn almost a dark shade of purple. He nodded and forced a smile as he turned back to me and cleared his throat.

“Here is your key, Mr. Zelin. The elevator is just around the corner and your bags will be brought up shortly.” He then hurriedly retreated into the back office leaving the two of us standing there. I looked down at Kel with a frown as I asked, “Do I want to know what just happened there?”

She smiled impishly as he tugged at my arm to head towards the elevator. “Probably, but I’m not going to tell you. Come, Skip, let us see the room you’ve picked out.”






While the room was costing me a small fortune, I had to admit that it had its charms. It was rather small for a one room suite; both rooms could be described as cozy , but the décor was in keeping with the Edwardian theme of busy wallpaper and groupings of decorations which taken apart would seem tacky, together somehow flowed well together. Being of tacky mind in decoration myself, I happened to be quite happy with the package, especially since all the modern conveniences were also supplied. After starting up the coffee maker and tipping the surly bell hop, dragged away from a poker game with the kitchen staff I imagined, Kel made a beeline for the bathroom and the impressive glass shower.

Considering Keliah’s love of baths and showers in general, not to mention my monthly water bill at the cottage in Ravenhurst, I figured I had plenty of time to handle a few things before she popped her head out. After hastily unpacking and organizing my things, I retrieved my treasured leather case containing all my magical supplies for the journey. After hours of tedious work, I had managed to create several of my portable spell activation devices disguised as pens. Considering the crystal that holds the spell within has to be perfectly separated in half with no chipping or cracking, I had spent a small fortune on the four I had managed to create. Even more disheartening, I hadn’t gotten any better at building the damn things.

I had created the spell devices beforehand because I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to gather up source within London and they acted as a sort of battery aside from the spell already embedded into the crystal. As it turned out, source energy was surprisingly bountiful and the pens weren’t particularly necessary. However, as they required little or no energy from myself to activate, they would help me conserve power, should it be needed. Considering the past several hours, it was probably wise that I stay ready for anything.

I took a seat at the writing desk in the main room of the suite and set down my leather case to double check that none of my supplies had been demolished during the trip. My poor bag still looked as though it survived a running of the bulls in Pamplona. Note to self; make sure to ward luggage on my next transatlantic flight. After I was satisfied that everything was in order, I activated a detection ward throughout the suite with one of the prepared spell pens. I tested it until I was satisfied that nothing could enter or exit without my notice and then moved on to my usual nightly routine of casting my armored skin ward. I was already bruised and beaten as it was; I wanted to make sure I wasn’t caught flat footed next time. I took the time to withdraw another vial of my own blood; while a distasteful action and usually not recommended when sleeping with a vampire, it beat having to cut myself open every time I wanted to complete a vital spell. Fresh blood was better, but well preserved blood in a specially prepared vial was almost as good. Besides, with the armored spell, it was decidedly hard to cut myself without a diamond saw or a blowtorch.

Keliah’s shower was still going strong, so I decided to move onto my next order of business; finding out who had attacked us at the freight facility. I had given this some thought on the way to the hotel and had an inkling of how I might be able to discern the identity of the men that had attacked us. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to collect any of the personal effects of the band of robbers, so all I had to go on was my clear vision of the man that had attacked me. All I needed was a sketch artist that could faithfully reproduce the image, and then I could pass it onto Xomar and his various government and security connections. I had something even better up my sleeve than just a simple sketch artist, though.

I scrolled through my cell phone to my roommate and dialed Lexie’s number, figuring it was early enough in the States that I wouldn’t be bothering her. Not only was she a fabulous sketch artist, but she was also a powerful witch. I needed all the help I could get.

“Hey Skip. I was going to call you tomorrow and see how your trip had gone. I take it you made it to England safe and sound?” She sounded a little nervous and agitated on the other line. I assumed it was probably due to the fact she was stuck with her aunts and her sister for the Holidays. Her older sister Blaise was a fussy, obnoxious, control freak. According to Lexie, her aunts were just like Blaise, only with years of experience on how to manipulate and control people better. Didn’t that sound like a blast?

“Well, we definitely made it into London safe enough…”

I could hear her voice switch into worry mode, “Something happened, didn’t it? I felt something from you several hours ago. I even checked the news to see if there had been a plane crash. What happened?”

I sighed, thinking it was hard to keep secrets from someone you’ve been magically bonded to. Especially one that is currently suffering control issues with her empathic powers. Lexie had recently developed her already formidable empathic ability in order to help with her calling of healing those around her. Unfortunately, much like when she had connected with a second element, her ability to master the ability was longer in coming. She hadn’t quite figured out how to switch it off and had spent most of the last several weeks panicking and worrying about everyone she was around.

“I’d tell you, but it might be easier to show you. Listen; did you bring the mirror with you?”

Warily, she answered, “Yes…but…but…is it really necessary?”

“Not to tell you what happened, but I need a favor and it will be much easier when we’re using the link.”

The two mirrors in question were sort of advanced, magical walkie talkies that I had created several months back as an emergency communication device. Whether because of the power of the source, or perhaps all the other strange occurrences in Ravenhurst, cell phone reception was pretty much nonexistent anywhere past the outskirts of town. It becomes a problem when the place we witches meet is in the middle of the woods. Woods that are chock full of shifters and occasionally a rogue vampire with a death wish. Lexie’s general reluctance to use the devices was due to the requirement of a blood offering to activate them.

“I…fine. I’ll go get it from my bag,” she grumped and then padded off into another room. I could hear several voices in the background getting progressively louder, punctuated by a slamming door. Moments later, Lexie was back on the line. “Okay, back.”

“Is there a problem, Lex? I thought I heard shouting.”

“No, it’s just the usual in this household. Blaise is being Blaise again and my aunts weren’t happy. For once, it wasn’t me they were mad at.” She sounded somewhat pleased at that state of affairs. Blaise was the chosen one, the older more responsible sister that was expected to carry on, I assumed. Lexie and I were alike in that way. Practically the only way we were like.

“What’s Blaise so upset about?”

There was a pause, but she recovered and said quickly, “Oh, it’s nothing. I’ll tell you about it later. Let’s activate this…thing…and get it over with, okay?”

We both hung up and I activated my mirror and began to concentrate in preparation for Lexie to join the call, as it were.

Okay…I’m here. Can you hear me?

I hear you loud and clear Lex. Thank you for doing this for me. I wanted to try something new with our link here and see if I can show you a memory.

Is that even possible?

I don’t know; but with your empathic ability heightened to the level it is and our already powerful bond, I figure it’s worth a shot. I’m going to try and show you what happened to me, well, to both Kel and I when I tried to pick her up at the freight facility. Just a heads up; it gets a little bloody.

I took a deep breath and entered into the meditative state I employ when I astral project from my body and began to go over the event in my head. While I hardly have a photographic memory, as anybody who’s name I’ve forgotten or mangled over the years can attest, I’ve found that when in this state, I’m able to get a much clearer vision of what has taken place before. Often during these recollections, I’m able to remember details I missed at the time.

I decided to start from the moment that I was forcibly ejected from my body when the taser had struck me, as it seemed to flow well with my meditative state. As my mind flashed from one image to another, I could sense Lexie’s growing agitation and fear as she relived the experience with me.

Oh my god…that’s horrible!

Did you get that, or did you just feel it?

No, I saw it. That man that attacked us, I mean you, is going to give me nightmares. The image of that tattoo is going to be stuck in my mind for the next several weeks. Thanks a lot.

Tattoo? I don’t remember…

And then I suddenly did remember. He did have a tattoo on his forearm. I had completely missed it as I was trying to keep him from disemboweling me with that wicked looking knife. It was a fairly amateurish tattoo, perhaps done in prison or someone’s garage that was the image of a grim reaper with wording above and below. The bottom word was a bit obscured by his sleeve, but the top I could easily make out. PEACE, it read. Well, that told me a lot more about his sense of humor; death certainly brought a measure of peace.

Skip? Are you still there?

Sorry, I was distracted, and yes, you’re right, there was a tattoo. I didn’t notice it when everything was happening. Could you do a sketch of this man’s face and the tattoo on his arm and send it to me?

Of course I can. Do you think you can find out who he is?

I certainly hope so. He obviously knows what I look like and would have to at least know my name in order to get at the coffin Keliah was in.

You should come home right now! It’s far too dangerous to be in the same city as that man!

You worry too much. You forget; I have a vampire bodyguard who should be a match for anybody.

It’s not going to do a whole lot of good in the day time, is it?

Touche, Lexie. I had thought about that, of course, but I couldn’t let one band of dangerous mercenaries keep me from learning out about my dead wife’s family. I would get my answers even if it killed me, which, I had to admit, was starting to seem likely.

I’m only here for a few days and I’m not going miss this chance to find out about the Southills. They may be able to provide answers about Susan. Can you send me the sketch when you’re done? Do you have a scanner?

Of course I have a scanner. What, do you think my aunts live in a gingerbread house in the middle of a dark forest? We have indoor plumbing and electricity. Internet, too.

Thank you, Lexie. Please send it over as soon as you’re finished. I’ll keep you updated. Have fun with your aunts.

With that, I closed off the connection through the hand sized blackened mirror propped up on the desk. She could yell at me later; I really didn’t feel like getting lectured by a girl half my age, especially when she was most likely right. I took a deep breath and blinked a few times as I massaged my face. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I slowly came back to my senses and felt someone staring at my back. I slowly shifted in the chair and fixed my eyes on Keliah, propped up against the bedroom door wearing a towel and an inquisitive expression.

“What were you doing?” she asked, now staring with wide eyes at the mirror I quickly slipped into my coat pocket hanging on the back of the chair.

“Oh, you know, some magical magic. I’d like to find that man who attacked us tonight before he finds us, especially if he finds us during the day. I don’t want him finishing what he started.” I emphasized those words by drawing my thumb across my neck. “How long have you been watching?”

She crossed the room and stood behind me, wrapping her arms around my neck and resting her head on my shoulder. “Oh, Skip, don’t worry about that man. After I meet with the Prince tonight, all that will be taken care of.”

I frowned as I reached up and interlaced my fingers in hers. She was much warmer than she normally was from all the hot water; that was probably why she enjoyed the shower so much. “Color me skeptical, but I don’t put much faith in a vampire lord protecting either one of us. You don’t even know that those men were sent by a vampire. They were human, after all.”

She gracefully swung around and settled herself in my lap as she laughed carelessly. “I told you I would protect you from now on. I mean to do so. This is my fault and I will make it right. Now come to bed; you must be tired after all that travel today.” She gave me a quick peck on the cheek then hopped back to her feet and began to saunter towards the bedroom.

Still staring at her with a surly expression, I watched as she casually dropped the towel on the floor and sprawled out onto the bed, offering me a beckoning finger. I pushed myself to my feet and headed towards the bed as I unbuttoned my shirt. “Oh, I’ll come to bed, but I’m not that tired...at least not yet.”






I groggily pulled my face out up from a pile of pillows with a groan. Why was my head ringing? I hadn’t had anything to drink last night, which was practically a miracle considering what I had been through. My peaceful slumber now disturbed, I started to realize the ringing was coming from outside the room. Relieved that I hadn’t suddenly developed tinnitus, I clumsily groped about on the end table until I found my glasses and slipped them over my nose. I padded into the main room of the suite, practically tripping over Keliah’s suitcase until I located my now silent cell phone. Five missed calls from Xomar? I hadn’t even contacted him last night. I picked up the phone and hit redial.

“Jesus Christ, old man, what the fuck are you doing out there?”

“Well, good morning to you as well. Why yes, I did make it to London safely, thanks for asking.”

I could hear him practically foaming at the mouth on the other end of the line. “What the hell did you get yourself into this time? I got an email from your little roommate last night begging me to help you out of some trouble, and then she sends over a sketch of an International war criminal!”

My sarcastic rejoinder froze in my mouth as I took in the words he had just said. “What? Did you say war criminal? Wait…how does Lexie have your email, anyways?”

“Don’t change the subject! Did this have anything to do with the disturbance at the United Airlines freight facility at Heathrow?”

“How do you know anything about a disturbance…”

“I’m going to cut you off right there, Skip.” I could almost hear his teeth grinding as he continued, “No bullshit, alright? Just tell me what happened so I can tell you what a dumb shit you are and get your bony ass back to Seattle. Why were you shipping a coffin to the U.K., and why was it attacked by a band of para-military mercenaries while you were there?”

Say what you will about Xomar’s charming nature, and I have on many occasions, he certainly gets to the point rather quickly. He also has a disturbingly large amount of contacts within the intelligence and law enforcement community. Unfortunately, I wasn’t exactly sure what to tell him. You see, my boy, I was shipping my vampire girlfriend through freight when were attacked by terrorists, but I foiled their plans with the use of my magical abilities. Oh, have I not mentioned that I can use magic? That must have slipped my mind.

“Okay, I’ll be honest with you. Keliah asked me to ship the package for her. We met up at Heathrow last night, but she was being a little dodgy about the whole situation and wanted to check on her package. She told me to wait by the car while she went to take a look. I didn’t ask her what that meant because I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be entirely legal. While I was waiting for her, there was a commotion and a van carrying a bunch of masked men drove by. I spotted the driver, who was the only one not wearing the mask, and took a picture with my cell phone. When Kel came back, she looked a little shaken up and told me nothing had happened and that we had to get out of there, quick. I obviously didn’t argue.”

Xomar was silent, as if gauging how much of what I had said were true. To be fair, I told him as much as I could without breaking the veil. I knew he was aware of Keliah’s past dealings with law enforcement in France, so it was somewhat plausible that she could have been involved in some clandestine operation that I was completely unaware of. Of course, Xomar now probably thought she was some sort of international criminal herself. Somehow, that was better than the alternative.

“Check your email.”

“Why? Did you send me another forward with picture of cats doing funny things?” I dug out my laptop from my carry-on bag and propped it up onto the reading desk. I flipped it open and on as I stood there waiting for the OS to load up.

“Hardly. I want you to see exactly what kind of shit storm you’re in for if you have any sort of dealings with the man you were asking about last night. His name is Dragoslav Lasarevic, formerly a Captain in the 52nd Corps of the Third Army of Serbia. He’s been linked to several atrocities that occurred during the Kosovo conflict…we’re talking about shooting mothers clutching their children and then burying them in a shallow grave kind of shit. When the bombing started, he slipped out of the country. He next turned up in a Russian prison as part of some sex slavery-drug running charges but somehow got released early. By the time the International Criminal Tribunal got around to indicting him, he had disappeared. Last we heard, he was employed by Gaddafi in Libya. Gaddafi had taken to hiring foreign mercenaries since he didn’t trust his own people anymore, and for good reason.” He snorted as he added, “And good riddance to that evil fuck. He got what was coming to him.”

I opened my email as he was talking and brought up the pdf file regarding this Dragoslav fellow and felt my stomach drop. That was him, alright. They even had several pictures detailing his various tattoos. I quickly spotted the one on his forearm with the grim reaper, which read fully, PEACE KEEPER. He had an even sicker sense of humor than I had first thought. I remembered the charges of ethnic cleansing back in the late 90s, but I was so far removed from the situation that it never really struck home. I never thought it would affect me in any way; it was just one of those terrible things that happened to unfortunate people on the other side of the globe. The idea that a murderous criminal knew who I was and most likely wanted to kill me was not the best way to start a morning, although I was definitely wide awake now. And sweating bullets.

“You were able to figure out who this man was just from the sketch that Lexie sent you?”

“Well, tattoo helped, but when I cross checked with our connections in the U.K., a known associate of his little band was discovered last night with three shots to the back of the head, execution style. When the morgue ran the fingerprints, it lit up the boards of half the intelligence agencies out there. That with the sketch…well, it wasn’t that hard to put two and two together. Two and two adding up to my uncle being a fucking idiot with a death wish. Now that I have your attention, pack your shit and get your ass to the airport. I’m reserving a flight for you inbound to New York. The next flight leaves in three hours.”

Just then, a knock at the door caught my attention. Jesus, I thought to myself; what now? Had this Lasarevic psychopath found me already? I put my hand across the receiver, stepped quietly towards the entrance and peered out the eye hole into the hotel hallway. There were two men dressed in long, wrinkled coats and dour expressions across their faces. They didn’t look particularly murderous; more like bored government clerks. I opened the door a crack, making sure to leave the chain lock connected, and moved my face towards the gap. “Good morning. Is there something I can help you with?”

“Mr. Scipio Zelin? We’re with the London Police department. I’m chief inspector Wright, and this is my partner, inspector Long. We’d like ask you a few questions about an incident at the shipping facility outside of Heathrow last evening. Do you have a moment?”

I put the phone to my mouth once more and said in a strained voice, “I think I’m going to have to call you back.”
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PostSubject: Re: A Witch's Guide to Surviving London   Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:05 pm

CHAPTER 4: Local Dangers and Annoyances


“I’m sorry…you wanted to ask me about what, exactly?”

“We prefer to not conduct interviews in hotel hallways. The proprietors don’t much care for it. May we come in?” It was a polite request, but a request that I had a feeling better be granted or else.

I stared down at my boxers and realized I was going to have to put on some actual clothes. The only thing worse than being grilled by a couple of foreign police officers about a crime you were involved in would have to be doing said interview dressed only in your underwear.

I forced a laugh and said, “Of course, my apologies. I can never think well before my first morning cup of coffee. Give me a few moments to…uh, straighten up.”

I rushed back into the bedroom and flung open the large wardrobe, looking for something to wear. As expected, several white hotel robes were arrayed on hangers, suspended over several pairs of rather comfortable looking slippers. I’m sure that’s why this place was so damn expensive; robes and slippers made in Vietnam don’t grow on trees, you know. I yanked the closest robe off a hanger and shrugged my way into it, making sure to tie it off at the front. I certainly wasn’t Sharon Stone; flashing the detectives was only going to lead to an escorted tour of the police station, not exactly free of charge. Not bothering the close the wardrobe, I dropped to my knees to check under the bed for that small, blanket draped form that had arrived just before dawn. Keliah was there, dead to the world so to speak, so I quickly straightened out the bed skirt and hurried back into the main room, closing the doors behind me.

As I moved towards the front door, I caught a glimpse of an ugly, bald, criminal splayed across my laptop monitor. I made a quick detour to slap down the screen as I could hear Inspector Wright ask through the crack of the door with an impatient tone, “Having some difficulties in there, Mr. Zelin?”

A moment later I was at the door, unhooking the chain and waiving an arm to them both to enter with as gracious a smile as I could muster. “I haven’t had a chance to unpack. I did get in rather late last night and, well, at my age, travel is a lot more tiring than it once was.”

“That’s a rather nasty bruise you have there on your forehead. Is that part of the travel experience as well?” Well, nothing got by this man; I was going to have to be careful about what I said or did. I had a feeling he was used to picking apart elaborate lies on a daily basis from people much better suited toward it than I was.

I rubbed my forehead with a rueful smile and shook my head. “No…that’s part of the clumsily falling out of a strange bed in the middle of the night while trying to use the restroom. I hadn’t even been drinking…much. Why don’t you two have a seat?” I backed up and spun the wooden backed chair from the writing desk back around and tried to perch in a relaxed mode as I took a closer look at both of the inspectors.

They were both in their 40s, both pasty and white like most locals that weren’t from India or Pakistan, both with slightly balding and thinning brownish hair cut short. With their dull brown and grey suits, they were about as nondescript and unnoticeable as you could get; I certainly wouldn’t have been able to pick them out of a line up. I had always assumed detective partners are always supposed to be a study in contrasts; a fat and a skinny partner, a black and white one, a male and a female, something like that. Once again, television tropes had failed me in the real world.

It was probably a good thing I hadn’t had many experiences with police detectives up until I had met Keliah. I also hadn’t been almost murdered on multiple occasions until meeting her either. I was beginning to sense a pattern.

Inspector Wright took a seat on the settee and flipped open a small leather, no, make that pleather folder and flipped through several lined pages of notes. His thus silent partner, Inspector Long apparently preferred to stand. Well, stand and examine every single thing in the room with the eye of an art critic…or perhaps a detective. Despite the fact I had nothing to hide in the room, it was making me a little nervous.

“Mr. Zelin, I understand you are visiting our fair city to inter a body and you’re using…ah, Mears and Cotterill? Is that correct?”

I cleared my throat and nodded. “Yes, that’s correct.”

“It appears you were transporting a Jennifer Goodwin, age 52, through the United freight facility. May I ask what connection you have to this deceased?”

“Certainly. She’s a good friend I made out in Seattle. We played a weekly game of bridge with several other people. Her last will and testament stated she wanted to be brought back to London for personal reasons.” I shrugged offhandedly as I added, “Something about the love of her life. She never really talked about it, but she was unmarried, so it’s possible that…I’m just speculating on that, you understand. She didn’t have much family on the West Coast, so she made me trustee. I guess she trusted me to fulfill her final wishes more than anyone else.” That seemed like a reasonable story, as far as I was concerned. As I mentioned before, I’m getting a lot better at lying through my teeth. It’s probably yet another side effect of having met Keliah.

He just nodded as he jotted down notes, then asked without looking up, “So, she was not your fiancée?”

“No, our relationship was nothing like that. Why do you ask?”

“The desk clerk at the freight facility mentioned that you were adamant about seeing your package due to this fact.”

That backstabbing weasel had thrown my under the bus. I suppose I should have given him a bigger bribe. Well, my only option at this point was damage control. I curled up my lips in frustration and anger as I narrowed my eyes for effect as I answered the inspector. “I did tell that little punk a little white lie because I was worried about the coffin actually making it in one piece. You should see my baggage! This is the last time I fly United, I can tell you that. Do you know what he said to me when I tried to just view Jen’s coffin? The son of a bitch wanted a bribe! Had a sob story about Christmas presents for his kids…well, that wasn’t going to happen. Not when I can just pick up her remains this afternoon and have her transported to the mortuary myself.” I paused, giving both of them a more respectful stare this time. “Did…something happen to her coffin? It wasn’t damaged or anything, was it?”

The two inspectors both exchanged looks once more before Wright turned his attention back to his notes. “From what I understand, there was some fire damage to various items, but I don’t believe your particular item was ruined in any way. Just for the record, you’re saying you never entered the backroom of the storage facility?”

“That place was full of security cameras all over the place. Why don’t you check the tape and see that I wasn’t.” It wasn’t a lie, exactly; I never said I wasn’t back there. After all, if the security camera footage had somehow been mangled beyond all recognition, that’s not my fault, is it?

Wright was a cool customer, though, and he said in his overly polite, neutral voice, “The security footage is still being examined as we speak. This is just the preliminary investigation; we’re just gathering facts at the moment. There’s no need to be defensive, Mr. Zelin.”

I snorted in derision as I eyed him over the tops of my glasses, “Right. There’s nothing strange about a couple of police detectives come knocking at my door in the early morning and asking me about a crime. It happens all the time.”

He leaned forward, an edge creeping into his voice as he said, “It’s almost 11:00 am, sir, so it’s hardly an early morning call, rousting you out in your underwear to face the harsh interrogation lights. And who said it was a crime we were investigating?”

Calm down, old boy, I thought to myself. You’re going to say something stupid one of these days. I leaned towards him in return and smiled as I said sardonically, “I’m sorry; I didn’t realize London was so safe that they could send out two inspectors to investigate an incident in which a crime was never committed. My apologies.”

As his left brow began to twitch, I thought to myself, now you’ve done it. You’ve gone ahead and needlessly angered a couple of detectives for no reason at all. This is what happens when I don’t get my morning coffee.

“According to the hotel desk clerk, you had a female visitor late last night upon check in.”

Christ almighty; what is it with desk clerks in London, anyways? He didn’t elaborate, but I could see where he was going with this. I had come to London, a city that according to my passport I hadn’t visited in almost twenty years, ostensibly to bury a friend, maybe a lover, and I had a late night meeting with another female? This, following my appearance at a case of arson within a shipping hub at the airport, was probably what was making them curious as to who I was. Hell, that would suspicious to anyone.

“Um…yes. I did, actually. She’s an acquaintance that I looked up as I was planning my trip. A professional acquaintance having to do with my current business,” I finished up lamely.

Inspector Long, the one thus quiet, suddenly burst out into a harsh laughter as he said, “Riiight. Sure she’s a professional, money exchangin’ ‘ands and everything. Where did ya look up this bird?”

I could feel my face redden from embarrassment as I stared back at Long, luckily only getting the gist of his question. Obviously, he also assumed Keliah was a prostitute. She would probably be amused by the situation, but frankly, I was beginning to be insulted. It was assumed a man of my age, looks, and manner can only obtain female companionship for money.

“Now see here, I’m tired of these insinuations about my character and base insults towards my friends; I hardly see what any of this has to do with your investigation into the incident at the facility.”

“What is this woman’s name, this friend of yours?” Wright asked, amusement apparent in his voice.

“Kelli.”

“Kelli? Kelli what? Does this woman not have a last name?”

I curled up my lip in frustration and turned away from both of them. “I’m not very good with names. I can’t remember it and it hardly matters. She was not with my when I was at the airport.”

I see as the two exchanged another look out of the corner of my eye. Long was nodding to Wright as if to say, ‘See? He’s just some old pervert picking up whores on his vacation time. That’s why he’s acting suspicious.’ Well, better to be thought a pervert than a criminal, I suppose. Then again, I suppose soliciting prostitutes was a crime, so really, it was a case of me being a criminal pervert. As I suspected they weren’t handling vice investigations, I started to hope that this would satisfy their questions and they would leave me alone. That is, until the other shoe dropped.

The silent moment was broken by a clatter in the bedroom, which drew all our eyes towards the closed door. They both turned back to stare at me with suspicion once more. “Is your friend still here?” Wright asked as he slowly got to his feet and motioned to Long to investigate the room.

“No…she left last night…excuse me? You have no business in my bedroom!” I yelled as Long threw open the French doors and began searching every corner and crevice with a keen eye. We both followed, suddenly filling the cozy room. I suddenly felt claustrophobic.

“There’s nobody in here,” Wright called out to Long from the bathroom as the other inspector was already on his knees to take a look under the large king sized bed.

I quickly bent down to retrieve the hanger that had fallen off the edge of the armoire and held it at eye level, “Here is your felonious perpetrator, gentlemen. The hanger this robe was on must have fallen. There’s nobody hiding in the bathtub, or…” I gave a little snort of derision towards Long, “…under the bed. She did not stay the night.” Please, please don’t look under the bed.

Long’s hand rested on the bedskirt as he stared up at me with suspicious eyes to which I responded with an eye roll. ‘Feel free to arrest any dust bunnies you find down there. I’m sure they’re part of a conspiracy to remove all mattress tags without permission.” I wasn’t really sure if they had that issue with mattress tags in the U.K., but I hoped my sarcastic insults would redirect his attention towards me. After a moment, he straightened the sheet and got back to his feet. I caught myself right before I heaved a heavy sigh. They might be able to overlook expensive call girls at high priced hotels, but I had a feeling dead bodies hidden under beds would lead to some serious questions.

“Heh…niiice. Never heard of a whore leavin’ love notes.” As Long had stood up, he had paused at the nightstand and turned around holding a piece of stationary and what looked to be a silver lighter. He handed both items over to Wright before I could get my hands on them. Wright stared down at the note with surprise at first before his features shifted back to his generic neutral expression. He handed both items to me with a newly curious look in his eyes. Curious from a detective is usually not good.

“It appears your acquaintance left you something. How thoughtful of her.”

I hefted the lighter in one hand, unable to conceal a grin. That was rather thoughtful of her. I had lost my Zippo almost a year ago and had never gotten around to replacing it. Much like anything nice in Ravenhurst, items like that tended to get lost, stolen, or destroyed due to supernatural forces. I’d stuck to cheap Bic lighters as it was lighter on the pocketbook and I wouldn’t worry when one of them spontaneously exploded or was tossed into the ocean by an angry werewolf.

It was also a Zippo lighter, silver or nickel finish; I couldn’t be sure from the touch. Engraved on the metal was the shape of what seemed to be a crest of some sort. I didn’t recognize it and made a note to inquire about it when Kel was up and about that night.

I turned my attention back to the handwritten note on the stationary which said simply, “Mon ami, Do not worry anymore. Everything has been handled. Love, K.” Well, that was obviously obscure and suggestive, enough to get the detective’s mind working.

“Yes, well, she’s a very thoughtful woman.”

“Do you recognize the embossment?”

I stared back down at the note in my hand. At the top were the words Club Chaeronea written with beautiful calligraphy flourish, surrounded by decorative vines and flowers all in black and white. Apparently, the stationary had come from a specific location; my stomach churned as I realized this most likely came from where Keliah had headed off to last night. This must be the location of the Prince of London.

I looked back up at the detective with a grin as I shrugged, “No, but it’s a nice looking emblem. If I remember my history correctly, Chaeronea was the final battle of Phillip of Macedon in conquering the Greek states back in…330 something or other. It’s a rather odd reference for a club.”

He cocked his head to the side as he answered, “Actually, it’s not that strange at all. The battle saw the destruction of the Sacred Band of Thebes.”

“The Sacred Band of…oh.” I stopped and stared back down at the paper. The Sacred Band of Thebes was famous for being made up of gay male couples. The theory was they would fight to the death for each other much more effectively than soldiers who were presumably just friends. Considering vampires were involved, I have to say, I wasn’t particularly surprised.

“It’s a gay club, Mr. Zelin, among other things.” It was that addition of other things that set off my radar. Inspector Wright suddenly seemed very interested in this paper and to a lesser extent, me. If it truly was the headquarters of the Prince, I had no doubt it would be known among all law enforcement. Thank you for drawing even more suspicion on my head, Keliah. I was beginning to remember why I liked traveling alone.

I could hear inspector Long snickering as he headed back out into the main room mumbling something about nancy boys as Wright fixed his cold stare on me as if trying to read my expression. Luckily, I was more in a state of confusion than anything. He gave up after a moment and slipped out a card to hand to me.

“I understand you are supposed to be leaving in three days time. You might have to modify your stay; we will be back with further questions. It would be unfortunate if you were to attempt to leave the country before our investigation has been completed. If you happen to remember anything you may have forgotten to tell us, I can be reached at this number. Enjoy your stay in our city, Mr. Zelin. We will be in touch.”

I dumbly followed them out the door and closed it behind them, my hands shaking as I stared down at Wright’s surprisingly expensive looking business card. I guess I wasn’t leaving London today, after all. Xomar wasn’t going to be happy about that. I sighed and leaned heavily against the door. I hadn’t even gotten out of the hotel room and it was already officially the worst vacation of my life.






After a quick shower and a cup of coffee, I felt a bit more human. The emotional rollercoaster I had just been on was starting to subside and I began taking stock of my situation. We had done a good clean up job on that incident, so it was very unlikely that the police would find anything to connect me to the explosions at the United freight facility. If Kel’s words were true, then it was also probably likely that we wouldn’t have to worry about armed mercenaries trying to murder us in our sleep. As I slipped on a cardigan sweater, I was beginning to feel better about the future. I really am an optimistic idiot, sometimes. Had I known what was to come, I would have driven straight to the airport and caught the next flight to the U.S.

First things first; I had to take care of the situation with the empty coffin. I managed somehow to drive to the mortuary without killing myself and met with the representatives. Putting on my angry old man act, I found countless reasons why their preparations for the final resting place for a loved one were insufficient and insulting. I had finally found a place to use all that frustration and humiliation I had suffered so far. After tearing everyone present a new one, I stormed out of the building swearing to never bury Jennifer Goodwin anywhere within this lousy city to anyone that could hear. I figured that the inspectors would be paying a visit here soon enough, so I wanted to make sure my balking at burying the body here was believable.

As I pulled away from the place, I checked my watch to see how much time I had before sundown and my scheduled meeting with the solicitor of the Southill foundation. I wanted to make sure Keliah was present at the interview, but was beginning to wonder if that was such a good idea. Her coming to England with me had brought nothing but trouble and I wasn’t sure how useful she would be. Still, her ability to look into people’s minds was a last resort should my plan of obtaining information fail, and she would be extremely hurt if I shut her out. She had sworn to help me find Susan and she took that sort of things a lot more seriously than most. It wasn’t likely I’d find anything new regarding the location of my missing daughter, but I hoped my wife’s family might be able to fill in some of the missing pieces.

It had several hours before nightfall, so I decided to head back to the hotel and take a walk towards Trafalgar square. The streets were quite busy, far more so than I was used to even in Pittsburg, let alone the sleepy town of Ravenhurst I had spent most of the last year. I was thankful I had removed my protection charm enhanced with a protective field from my neck and replaced it with a basic one, as I’m sure it would have activated at least a dozen times on the walk. It would have been hard extremely hard to explain how an invisible wall had suddenly appeared on the street with nary a mime to blame. People didn’t seem to respect personal space as much as I was used to, as all the elbows and jostling would attest. Luckily, my armored skin ward was still in effect, so I hopefully managed to hurt a few of those elbows along the way.

I finally reached the square and peered up at the small statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson set upon the appropriately named Nelson’s Column, and let my eyes drift down to one of the bronze relief panels fashioned from melted down cannon from defeated French Fleets. He was a fascinating figure in history and one of my very favorites growing up. They say fact is stranger than fiction, and he was definitely a figure that helped that case. His misadventures in the Arctic, various ailments which lead to the loss of an eye and an arm, not to mention his scandalous relationship with Emma Hamilton, a woman that was most definitely not his wife, made his life read more like a soap opera as opposed to a British naval Admiral and national hero. This isn’t even taking into account his countless victories, utter destruction of Napoleon’s naval abilities, and the securing of British naval supremacy for years to come. I suppose even the British are willing to overlook moral failing as long as you win big.

It was about this time that I had the sneaking suspicion someone was watching me. I turned quickly to scan my eyes about the square, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. Locals in suits on their lunch breaks munching on sandwiches, tourists dressed in gaudy t-shirts with ironic statements and shorts exposing their pale legs, snapping photos of everything in the vicinity, young cruisers flirting with giggling flocks of girls; there didn’t happen to be any suspicious looking men in fedoras and trench coats surreptitiously eyeing me from behind a newspaper or anything. Still, as the saying goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. There was still a gang of international war criminals out looking for Keliah and myself, not to mention whoever sent them our way in the first place, and a couple of nosy police detectives that were suddenly very interested in my actions. It probably would have been stranger if nobody was following me.

I dove back into the crowd once more and quickly popped into a small restaurant, taking a seat at the far end of the bar. I busied myself with the menu as I watched the crowd pass by the windows out of the corner of my eye until I saw him. There was nothing particularly suspicious; he was a tall blonde man with Nordic features wearing what had to be a tailor made tweed suit. At first I didn’t notice anything but the suit, wondering if I could find out where he had it made and was already looking past him. I took him for a banker on a midday stroll until he passed by the restaurant once more, this time on the far end of the street. When he eventually entered the restaurant and took a seat at the far end of the bar, I was all but certain I’d found my tail. He began to speak to the bartender with what sounded like a clipped, Eastern European or German accent and ordered a drink.

I ordered up the special and one of their local beers when the bartender worked his way down to my end. I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I wanted some time to think over my options. I certainly didn’t want to confront the man; I was fairly convinced my danger warning charm had kicked up a notch when he entered the restaurant. It could be he was with those mercenaries, or that he was a supernatural in some way. Either way, it was probably best to play dumb and find a way to shake him. I figured it would be easier if he didn’t know that I knew…if that even makes sense. I’m not cut out for skullduggery and espionage, really. However, I’ve become pretty good at adapting to situations. After taking a sip of my luke warm beer, I had a plan, such as it were.

Excusing myself from the bar, I navigated past the obstacle course of small round tables towards the restroom, or W.C. as they liked to label it here. I took note of another exit, out into an alleyway smelling of garbage and other smells I’d much rather forget. It’s always good to have an exit strategy. After sealing myself into the single stall, I pulled out my black mirror and one of the vials of blood I had prepared the night before. It felt a bit strange summoning energy while sitting on the pot, but after the proper incantations and a bit of my own blood, I had created the magic equivalent of a tracking bug. As I possessed nothing of the man and had no skill whatsoever at picking pockets or the like, I figured it would be easier to plant something innocuous and unnoticeable on him instead. Once a bit of my blood had been enchanted, I could track and even get a vision from my mirror, much as I was able to with Lexie during our long distance witch call the night before. Armed with a tissue dabbed red, I made sure to wash my hands before returning into the restaurant.

I made a beeline straight for the well dressed man and before he could react, I tapped him on the shoulder, making sure to dab the tissue across the bottom of his hair at the neckline. I was right; my protection charm kicked up major warning signs as I came close. He was definitely a supe of some kind. As he turned to look at me with shock and suspicion, I could see the mark had been made true and smiled warmly as I asked, “Excuse me, sir. I couldn’t help but notice what a fine suit you have on. You wouldn’t happen to remember where? I would very much like to have one made for myself.”

I could see him mentally kicking himself for standing out, but he recovered quickly enough and offered me a dazzling smile with perfectly aligned white teeth. “Anderson & Sheppard. It is a fortune, but well worth it in my opinion.”

I offered a low whistle and nodded, “I’ve heard of them. They’re here in London, correct?”

“Da. Seville Row. However, it will take several fittings.”

He started to warm up to the discussion of suits and became more animated. Even with his rather difficult to understand German accent, I could tell that he really knew his suits. Truthfully, it hadn’t been any harder than half the English speakers in London, but as I’ve said before, I have a tin ear for languages, even accents. I suppose he figured since I’d already engaged him in conversation, he might as well go along with it and see where it went. No more hiding in plain sight. After a few more minutes discussing our favorite cuts and fabrics, I bid him farewell and headed back to my meal, which seemed to be a meat pie of some sort. He paid up his tab and stepped back out into the street, disappearing into the crowd as I offered him a friendly wave.

I maneuvered the mirror from my pocket and began to keep track of his moments the moment he was out of eyesight. Sure enough, he doubled back and took up watch across the street, hidden partially by a display cart from one of the shops. Well, let him wait, I thought as I drained my now completely room temperature beer. From his vantage point, he couldn’t really see me inside the restaurant. I had unnerved him enough that he no longer felt comfortable being so close, so he was now forced to wait at the front and follow me from a much safer distance. Well, I should say he would have, had I not slipped out the back door and hurried back to the hotel. It took him at least half an hour to realize what I had done. Perhaps he wasn’t cut out for skullduggery and espionage, either.

I reached the hotel just as the sun was disappearing with ample time to prepare for our meeting with the lawyer from the Southill foundation. After giving the desk clerk an angry glare which he completely ignored, I made my way up to the hotel room to remove the Do Not Disturb sign and slip inside. I was happy to find the wards had not been disturbed, neither the basic alarm set up to detect anyone entering, nor the solid wall I had erected on the bedroom before I had left. The last thing I needed was housekeeping finding an unpleasant surprise under the bed.

I tore down the ward with a quick mental manipulation and kicked the side of the bed. “Rise and sparkle, mon ami; we have much to discuss.”
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Scipio Zelin

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PostSubject: Re: A Witch's Guide to Surviving London   Sat Feb 11, 2012 12:08 am

CHAPTER 5: Legal Questions?


“That is NOT funny, Scipio.”

I cocked my head with a smirk as I heard the perturbed voice echoing from behind and turned to stare at Keliah as she emerged from bathroom, once more clad in a towel. That girl sure enjoyed her showers. She stood at the doorway, legs planted and arms crossed, glowering at me with her icy cold stare.

“You know how I feel about those terrible books. Why do you constantly mock me with them?”

“Yes…those books that you’ve been so offended by as to have read every one of them, not to mention your repeated viewings of the movies to expose all the errors, of course. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

She wrinkled her nose at me and just shook her head. “Shakespeare would be offended to be in any conversation with that crime against literature, Twilight.”

I shrugged slightly as I slipped off my coat and began rummaging through my suitcase for a tie that didn’t have to be ironed. “If Shakespeare was alive today, he would no doubt be writing the screenplay for the next vampire film. Now, while I have no problem with your current state of dress, it would be nice if you could wear something a little more professional for our meeting with the solicitor.”

She stared down at her still damp towel and frowned. “I know that. I was getting ready. Have you decided what you’re going to do when he doesn’t answer your questions?”

I peered down at the four ties splayed out along my arm and chose the burgundy one, simply due to it not being nearly as mangled as the other two. Stepping over the mirror, I flipped up my collar and began to go through the practiced motions of a half Windsor knot.

“You seem quite sure that this attorney will be difficult.” I could hear her snort in derision from behind me as I fiddled with the wrinkled ends of the tie, trying vainly to smooth out the creases with my hands.
“What else would you expect? Lawyers are all professional thieves and liars.” She finished off that thought with a small curse in French; well, with the way she delivered the phrase with a hiss, I could only assume it was a curse.

“I get the sneaking suspicion you’ve had some negative experiences with attorneys,” I answered in laconic, understated fashion as I gave up on fixing my tie and just stuffed inside my sweater vest and retrieved my sport coat. “You just let me handle him and follow my lead for once.”

She was suddenly standing there adjusting my tie, dressed in a rather smart business suit that fit her proportions so well that you could overlook the wrinkles caused by their epic journey across the Pacific. “Oh Skip, don’t worry. I always follow your lead.” She smiled brightly up at me and pushed up on her tip toes to give my cheek a kiss.

I grunted noncommittally as I stepped back into the main room to retrieve supplies from my ingredients case. “No comment on that questionable statement. Speaking of questionable; what exactly happened last night with prince what’s his name?”

“It’s Aidan. Well, during the war it was Aidan Powell. Nowadays, he seems to be going by the name Aidan Lindisfarne. I have no idea where that came from. He’s pretty new to the job and only been prince for sixty years or so. Honestly, it’s surprising that he’s managed to hold on so long what with him being an outsider. That just shows how powerful he really is.”

I continued digging through my case until I found the plastic vials and began holding each on up to the light so I could find the one I was looking for. I really needed to start labeling these better. “Lind-es-farn? That’s a mouthful; what do you mean he’s an outsider? Is he not English or something? The name sure sounds Anglo-Saxon in origin.”

She stood next to me and watched with interest as I moved from compartment to compartment, plucking items seemingly at random. Most vampires I had encountered seemed to be particularly unnerved by magic; hers was more of an insatiable curiosity. It could be distracting at times, but I was used to people staring at me from all my years of teaching. There wasn’t much likelihood in her using any of these items since she had no ability with the source energy being, well, technically dead, and there was little chance of her passing along anything to someone that might since I was careful to never reveal anything important. It’s not that I didn’t trust a murderous undead creature or anything; no, wait, that’s exactly what it was. I should say, I trusted Keliah the person, but I had reservations about Keliah the vampire. The one edge we mages had with the supernatural community was secrecy and mystery of what we could and couldn’t do; it was always good to keep them guessing and hesitant to adding us to the menu.

“The Londoners are kind of snobbish; more provincial,really. They’ve had a Londoner as a prince since the days of the Norman kings. At least that's what I've always been told. Aidan isn’t from London and the rumor is that he’s originally from Scotland or whatever they called it before.” She tore her eyes away from my preparations and continued with a shrug, “I wouldn’t know. You're the history professor; maybe you would. All I can be sure if is he’s very old and, while eccentric, very powerful. When the reigning Prince had been killed during the London bombings, a power vacuum pitted several false princes against each other until he eventually stepped in and brought law and order to the vampire council. Despite the fact that he’s been extremely fair by our standards, he still has his detractors.”

I chuckled as I began my nightly ceremony to strengthen the armored skin ward I generally wore at all times. “Yes, if I’ve learned anything about vampires, it’s that they’re extremely loyal and trustworthy."

She narrowed her eyes at me and continued, "Despite what you think about us, we do follow rules laid out by the council and, most importantly, the prince. To not do so means final death or worse. He has placed both of us under his protection, so we should be safe while we conduct our business in London." She pulled her eyes away once more, staring off towards the window as she added, "He knows about you, Skip. About what you are."

It took all the self control I had not to screw up the ward I was melding into my skin as I heard these words. He knew what I was. He knew I was a witch. As I finished my spell in silence, she remained still, waiting for my reaction. After the ward settled in, I placed my supplies back in their proper places with shaking hands. "Why does he know about me? Did you..."

She turned to stare at me wide eyed and yelped, "No! Of course not, Skip! You know I wouldn't do that." She looked away from me once again as she brushed an imaginary piece of lint from her sleeve and continued in a soft voice, "When we met, the Prince and I, we had a private conversation before me made the announcement of our protection. Mostly it was reminiscing about the past, the good and the bad, when he suddenly asked why I was traveling with a witch. I was shaken, to be honest. At first I thought it was that informer who leak that I was on my way to London, but apparently, you told him."

I blinked in surprise at that. "Eh? I did what? I've never met the man!"

"Well, not in so many words. When we had our incident at the facility last night, he sent in someone to clean up the mess. He apparently has a witch or a group of witches working for him to cover up potential veil breaks like this, especially when they occur at major transportation centers. They mentioned to him that much of it had been cleaned up already, by one of theirs that they were unfamiliar with."

Well, shit. Fat lot of good I was doing upholding the veil on my end on this trip. I sighed, then nodded, "That's definitely possible. I didn't have enough time to completely eliminate our traces and I'm sure I left a signature, as it were."

"I'm sorry, Skip. It's my fault those men were there. If I hadn't..."

"Well, if if's and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have Merry Christmas. I suppose the damage is done. We'll just have to be more careful from here on out. Speaking of being careful; the police paid a visit to our hotel room this morning and I'm pretty sure I was being followed this afternoon on my way back to the hotel. Is there something this Prince fellow can do to take the heat off my back?"

It was her time to be surprised as she reeled back. "The police? They were...in the hotel room? Did they..."

I grinned wryly at her as I remembered the close call from just a few hours ago. "No, else I'd be sitting in a cell somewhere and you'd probably be at the morgue or a crispy critter right now. But, we obviously don't need any further complications." I looked down at my watch and said, "Let's get moving. It's all the way in north London. If traffic is anything like it was last night, we'll be lucky to make it on time." I pulled my overcoat from the back of the reading chair and headed for the door, holding it open for Kel.

"Okay. I'll speak to the Prince about the police. He has much influence there, for obvious reasons." she paused with a confused look on her face, then asked, "If's and buts are candied nuts? What does that mean?"

"It basically means what's done is done. Wishing for another result is a waste of time. It's...It's something Don Meredith used to say on Monday Night Football."

"Who's Don Meredith?"

Just let it go, Kel."

"Can I drive?"

"Absolutely not."




The drive towards the solicitor's office was much more pleasant than I expected; I even managed to stay on the right side of the road the entire time. I quite enjoyed the change in scenery as we left behind the oppressively industrial, packed streets of commerce and entered a more peaceful setting within the suburbs of Hampstead. Neat, colorful little row houses lined the streets, the lamps barely illuminating the facades in the blustery cold, as we entered it's version of a downtown and searched for street parking.

"For the last time, no! I don't care what Horatio Cane would do...he's a fictional character on a terrible crime procedural."

"And that's why you have a season pass on your DVR for CSI:Miami? What was that line you used earlier? The lady doth protest..."

"Okay, okay, fine. It's a terrible show that I love as a guilty pleasure. It still doesn't matter. This isn't a criminal investigation. We're just trying to obtain a contact with the Southill Foundation that will meet with us. I'd like to keep this as friendly as possible. Besides, you're not even a cop in this country. You have no authority."

She stepped out of the rental car and stared down her nose at me with a haughty expression, "All of law enforcement exists in a close knit fraternity. We are all brothers and sisters in our fight to serve and protect the public."

I stared back at her with a skeptical expression as I eased a cigarette from it's pack and flicked on my new zippo in the windy night. That wind guard had certainly been missed while using my cheapo Bic lighters. "Is that what you're supposed to be doing as the sheriff? I must have missed that part. Oh..." I added before she got going on an indignant tirade, "...Thank you for the lighter. I appreciate you thinking of me while you were at your little meeting last night."

She stared at me for a moment, internally debating whether or not to let my judgment of her policing abilities go, when she finally smiled brightly and said "You're welcome, mon ami. It's an early Christmas present."

"Well then, I suppose it will be a Merry Christmas, after all." I shivered slightly as another gust of wind seemingly passed right through my overcoat and directly through my bones. "Let's go see what Mr. Waterman can tell us, shall we?"

We strolled down the street a ways until Kel spotted the address through the darkness, as well as a professional looking sign that read, "Blakely & Waterman LLP" affixed to a compact, two-story red brick building. I finished up my cigarette and we headed into the lobby to peer at the directory and wondered allowed why a building with two businesses needed a directory at all. As both businesses were solicitors, it's probably likely they didn't want their clients entering a competitor's office by accident.

We took the wide, heavily carpeted staircase to the second floor and stepped through the glass door into the solicitor's waiting room. The room itself was clean and modern, with sleek leather chairs and a dark, metal front desk. I leaned over the front desk to announce my presence to the rather attractive young woman furiously texting something on her phone.

"Excuse me...We're here to see Mr. Waterman. We have an appointment at 6:30...for a Scipio Zelin."

"Eh? What's that? Oh...right. Just a moment while I contact Mr. Waterman. You can have a seat if you wish." She didn't even bother looking up. Neither did I as she was wearing a very low cut, sheer blouse and she was quite well endowed up top. She was actually more attractive than I had realized at first; she reminded me of one of those Page 3 girls from the English tabloids.

"We'll wait here."

She sighed, then took a moment to fix her hair as it dangled across her forehead and offered us both a pinched smile, seemingly annoyed at having to actually do her job. "Just a moment," she said as she finally stood up and glided into the hallway behind her, all swaying movement and sensuality. I finally turned to glance down at Kel who had been burning a hole in the back of my skull with her glare.

"I'm sure she's really good at her job. I just highly doubt it involves typing, answering phone calls, or dealing with customers."

"Are you planning on hiring her? Because were certainly staring at her long enough."

I chuckled as I grinned sidelong at Kel. "My dear, a woman only dresses like that so that men will take notice. I'm only being polite by staring. Think of it as positive reinforcement."

"I'm quite positive you're full of it."

I offered her an injured look and was about to respond when the receptionist sashayed back into the room. "Mr. Waterman will see you now."

We followed her into the office at the end of the hall and stepped into Waterman's office. For a moment, I thought I was in the captain's cabin of an old ship of the line. Every inch of the room was covered in wood; ornate wooden ceiling panels, dark stained hardwood floors, and paneling along each wall. A large mahogany desk sat in the center of the room on what looked to be a Persian woven rug that probably cost more than my car, flanked by two built in bookshelves stocked with various legal tomes and encyclopedias. What really caught my eye was the small bar set up between the bookcases containing several bottles of no doubt high class liquor as well as fine crystal tumblers lined up along the edge. I had hoped he was the type of man who would have alcohol in his office. In fact, I was kind of counting on it.

Seated at the desk was a middle aged man with a tanned face and a full head of dark hair staring at us with curiosity. He stood up and pulled the tie from his shoulder and began to roll down the sleeves of a fine tailored shirt as he offered us both a close mouthed smile. "Thank you, Miranda. You may leave us."

The two exchanged glances and she quickly left the room, closing the door behind her. We turned back to see the man deftly step around his desk and extend a hand in greeting.

"Good evening; you must be Mr. Zelin. It's a pleasure to meet you, sir. My name is Curtis Waterman, we've spoken briefly on the phone. Please, have a seat."

I took his well manicured hand in mine an offered a firm handshake. He had a very polished voice and an accent that I could actually make out 90 percent of what he said. That was a good start. He seemed friendly enough, too. It was a shame he wasn't going to feel that way when we left. "Thank you, Mr. Waterman. I am Scipio. This is Keliah," I said as I gestured towards my partner, offering no other information.

His eyes shifted to Kel and he offered a much more genial smile as he extended his hand towards her, "How are you two faring in London so far? It can be a little hectic for those not used to the comings and goings of so many people. It's why I moved out to suburbs. Much more style." he took a step back and hooked a leg over the side of his desk as he sat there, arms crossed, and waited for us to take a seat at the two leather chairs facing him.

We both took a seat in the comfortable chairs and exchanged glances. Keliah had been silent since we walked in; her neutral expression betraying no emotion as her ice cold blue eyes darted around the office until it had fixed on me. She nodded almost imperceptibly as if to say, "I'll follow your lead...for now." I nodded back at her and turned my attention back to the lawyer perched on his desk in front of us.

"Yes, London is a very exciting city, from what I can tell. A little too exciting for my tastes, as well."

He chuckled amiably and nodded. "It can be a little much. Now, I understand you wanted to know a little more about Southill foundation and how the money your company so generously donated would be used?"

"Enough of the small talk, eh? Well, I can understand that and I apologize for requesting such a late meeting. Yes, I would like more details on all the ins and outs of what the foundation actually does. I do have to answer to the shareholders. I had hoped that I could perhaps meet one of the foundation representatives. I'm sure this isn't exactly what they pay you for."

"Well, they do pay me quite a lot, so I don't mind. Unfortunately, there isn't a representative available at the moment; it's why they asked that I meet with you instead. As you know, the Southill foundation is a private one and is usually not purposely soliciting donations. However..." he turned to pick up a three ring binder sitting on his desk and handed it over to me. "...I've prepared on overview of the services they provide. Most of the efforts go into their academy for orphans; they do fine work there."

I took the binder and flipped through a few of the pages as Kel craned her neck to peer over from her seat. "Hmmm...it says here they're building the largest collection of Celtic artifacts. Are they planning on opening a museum?"

He just shrugged. "I couldn't say, really. I believe it's going to be geared more for lending out parts of the collection to different museums around the world. There's far less overhead in something like that and more fitting with their goals." He grinned in a rakish manner as he stared down at Keliah, "I believe we have enough museums to go around already. Have you been to Keats house? It's just down the road. You're familiar with the poet, I assume?"

Kel glanced up at Waterman with a playful grin as she said, "Yes, I'm quite familiar with good ol' John." She turned back to me as she batted her eyes and said in a dramatic tone, "Sylvan historian, who canst thus express a flow'ry tale more sweetly than our rhyme?"

Waterman's eyes lit up as he chimed in with the next line, 'What leaf fringed legend haunts about thy shape of deities or mortals, or of both..."

"...in Tempe or the dales of Arcady?" they both said in unison as they both looked to me with amusement.

I just sighed heavily and said in a bored, annoyed voice, "What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? What does a guy have to do to get a drink around here?"

Kel just frowned at me as she shook her head. "That's not the line. There's no drinking in an Ode to..."

Waterman cut in as he glanced down at me with a wink, "What I think Mr. Zelin is suggesting is that all that poetry has left his tongue parched. Would you care for a brandy or whiskey, perhaps?"

I shot up from my seat as I roughly handed the binder towards Kel. "I never thought you'd ask, Mr. Waterman. As a matter of fact, I was admiring your crystal over there on the bar. Is it antique?"

He stepped across the thick carpeting and began to peruse through the bottles as he chuckled amiably once again. "It's Italian from Morano. It did cost a small fortune, but worth it in my opinion. How about some Highland Park 24?"

I reached into my coat pocket and palmed the small plastic vial in my hand, keeping it hidden from Waterman as I stepped up alongside to stare down at the bottles over the top of my glasses. "A single malt. That will definitely unparch the tongue, so to speak."

"Excellent," he said as he flipped over two tumblers and began to fill them with about a finger digit's amount of scotch, then paused as he finished up and turned to look at Kel still sitting in the same position flipping through the binder in her lap. "My apologizes; would you also care for a drink? I have several good brandies."

She looked up as she arched an eyebrow, staring directly at me. "No thank you, Mr. Waterman. I never...drink...wine."

Har har har, Kel. Vampire references amused her to no end, for some silly reason. My theory is because vampires are extremely egocentric and solipsistic. It must kill them to have to hide their amazing selves from the world at large. He stared at her for a moment in confusion, then finally laughed out loud as the reference dawned on him. I wasted no time and emptied the contents of my vial into his glass and gripped mine, pulling it up to my nose as I rocked the glass in small, concentric circles.

"Mmmmm...this should hit the spot. To your health, sir," I said as he turned back my way and held the glass aloft. He returned the gesture and gently tapped his tumbler to mine, resulting in a harmonious ringing that echoed off the wooden walls. We both downed our drinks and set the glasses back down. He paused for a moment, lost in thought.

"I wonder if that is a bad batch. My scotch didn't taste quite right."

I just shrugged and crossed the room to take my seat next to Kel. "It tasted fine to me."

He slowly walked back across the carpet and took his seat behind his desk, still somewhat dazed looking. Scotch will do that to you, especially when it's spiked with a magical truth potion. While the most experienced of the elder witches back in Ravenhurst is generally more trouble than she's worth, Tabbie Blackthorne can be useful on occasion. Lost in that addled head of hers is a fount of knowledge the likes of which lesser mortals would be overwhelmed by. I'm not entirely sure why, but she had concocted a truth potion a few months back; probably to find out if her current boyfriend of the hour was cheating on her. The answer to that question was always an emphatic yes, but her paranoia had provided me with a way to obtain the answers I wanted without resorting to using Kel's disturbing mind control ability.

"Mr. Waterman, I know you'd like to get home to your family, but I had a few questions for you."

He looked up with glassy eyes as he laughed, "Get home? To that fat bitch who I only married for her family connections and money? Not fucking likely. Although, Miranda should be waiting for me back at the flat I lease for her. Mistresses are extremely expensive, as I'm sure you're aware," he said with a gesture towards Kel.

She stared back at me, mostly in shock I think. I smirked and said in a low voice, "Alcohol does loosen the lips, doesn't it?"

Waterman sat there staring at his desk, blinking a few times as what had just come out of his mouth dawned on him. He looked up in panic and laughed nervously. "I have no idea where that came from. I'm really sorry about that. I'm sorry about a lot of things really..."

I raised my eyebrows at this little nugget of information. "Sorry? What are you sorry about, Mr. Waterman?"

He waved his hand wildly as he continued, "I'm sorry that I have to keep up this charade of pretending I care what you think, Zelin! That I had to prepare a book like that full of exaggerations and lies to cover for the foundation! I'm sorry that your money isn't even going to show up in the foundation's records for tax purposes which will allow me to skim most of it into my private accounts!" He suddenly clamped a hand over his mouth as he leaned back in his chair looking shell shocked.

I stood up from my seat and stepped around his desk and perched on the edge as I followed up, "Oh, really now? I take it you haven't even notified any of the members of the foundation about this donation?" Kel followed my lead and quickly stepped around behind his chair, gripping the back to make sure he couldn't make a run for it.

"What did you do to me!? Why am I saying these...lies? Which aren't actually lies at all and just reveal what a horrible person I am." He slammed his head onto his desk and began pulling at his hair. "You drugged me, didn't you?" he asked plaintively, head still buried under his arms.

"Yes, I did. But, not to worry; there will be no side effects. The boys back at the lab have been working on it for years. It's nothing nearly as barbaric as sodium pentothal."

His head shot up as he glared at me and slammed the table with his fists. "I'll have you locked up for this, you criminal! You can't just go into people's offices and start..."

His reply was cut off as Kel gripped the back of his neck and squeezed until he yelped in pain. "Jesus Christ, woman! That hurt! I'll have you both sent off for years..."

"Mr. Waterman, please calm yourself and consider who would have access to something as advanced as the drug I just mentioned. Then consider who we might actually be."

That silenced him for a moment as he looked up at both of us, head bobbing back and forth as though he was watching a tennis match. "Are you with the CIA? Or the Russians? Who are you?"

I briefly considered telling him we were with the Illuminati, but knew that it was best that his overactive imagination fill in the blanks. It would be better than anything I could come up with. "Let's just say that it's best you don't know. I'm only here for information. If you will provide it, we will both leave and never bother you again. If you don't..."

He yelped once more as Kel squeezed the back of his neck and offered me a wink. At least she was enjoying herself. I didn't much enjoy threatening people, but it seemed the best way with the resources available to me. Even if he did talk, who would believe him? He'd probably be able to convince the authorities I was a witch before he could that I was some sort of James Bond on a mysterious mission.

"Okay, okay...What do you want from me?" he said as he slumped in his chair, defeated.

"What are you hiding about the Southill foundation?"

"I'm not hiding anything because I don't actually know anything! They just wanted someone to handle their books properly, move money around, deal with construction companies, arrange travel, that sort of thing. All legitimate like. I've done it for several...uh, businessmen who don't wish all their assets to be revealed. They obviously have some racket going on over there. You should see the amount of money they have me moving around for them. I just do as I'm told...and sometimes take a little extra on top. Like a tip, right?"

"Well, we have established you're a thief and a liar, so I suppose you might consider that a tip. What kind of travel arrangements are you talking about?"

He waved his hands once again, "Oh, all over the world. Diana is always jetting off in search of some new item for their collection, whatever that really is. I don't ask questions."

"Diana? Who's that?"

"Diana Chandler. She's the head of the foundation. Her and that bitch assistant Phoebe of hers are constantly traveling."

Hmmm...travel? "Have they been to the states often?"

"Sure, I suppose. Not nearly as often as they travel throughout Europe or Asia, but they do head over there on occasion."

"Do you have a list of where they've been?"

"I can't show you that; it's confidential. That's why I have it locked in my safe, which is right behind the bar there in a hidden panel."

I stepped over towards the bar and moved it aside to reveal the panel he was referring to, popping it open to reveal an electronically locked safe with a key pad. I turned back to him expectantly, "Well?"

"Well what? You can't get in there unless you have the combination, which is 542749...fuck!"

"Thank you, Mr. Waterman." I turned back and punched in the code, hearing the locks slide open and the door pop loose with a whoosh. Within the safe were several large folders and ledgers, all neatly labeled. Finding one marked "Southill Travel Budget 2008-", I slid it from it's spot and began flipping through the pages. It appeared he was telling the truth about all the traveling, not that he had any choice. There were several trips a month to all manner of far flung locations in the world. Sure enough, there were a few trips to the United States, the most recent one into Newark several months back. I slid the cell phone from my pocket and began to snap photos of the pages.

"Do you have any way to contact this Diana Chandler?"

He was silent for a few moments until Kel began squeezing again. "Oowwww...shit! Are you a fucking man? Christ, that hurts! Yes, I have a way to contact her, but I'm not supposed to use it unless it's an emergency. She prefers her privacy."

I finished off my photos and put everything back in order. "Well...I would think this might qualify, don't you?"

"Fine, fine, just tell your partner to back off already. She's about to break my spine."

"They don't make Englishmen like they used to, Skip," Kel quipped in a sardonic voice.

"Apparently not."

He began dialing the phone with shaking fingers and held it to his ear, glaring up at Kel until she returned the look, at which point his turned his face back down like a beat down puppy. "Hello Phoebe, I need to speak to Ms. Chandler...It is important...no wait, don't hang up! I have a serious problem here..."

I eased the phone from his fingers and placed it to my ear. "I'm sorry Mr. Waterman was forced to call you, but it was the only way I could get through. This is Scipio Zelin; I've been trying to get in contact with your foundation for weeks. It's about my daughter Susan. I'm sure you're quite familiar with her."

The other end of the line was silent for a moment, then a cheerful, high pitched voice spoke up, "Oh, Mr. Zelin! I see. Well, this is unexpected. Hold on for a moment please."

I held the phone away from my ear in expectation for that elevator muzak that had caused me to forget so many times, but the line was completely silent. That was new, which was a good sign. At least, I hoped.

After a minute or so, a deep, breathy voice came on the other end. "Dr. Zelin...you are a most persistent man."

"When it comes to matters of my family, yes, yes I am. Are you one of Lilly's..."

"She was a cousin. I'm sorry for your loss, Dr. Zelin. I know that it's been a difficult time for you. However, there isn't anything we will be able to help you with."

"Look, I wanted to go over the things you told Susan before she...well, you know."

A throaty laugh erupted on the other end. "And what makes you think your daughter was in contact with us? Lilly cut herself off from the family many years ago. We'd hardly spoken a word in the time she had left."

"Because Susan wrote about it in her diary...which I have."

There was silence on the other end of the line, then I thought I could hear two hushed whispers at the other end. Finally, she returned to the phone. "I see. Well then, we may have some things to discuss after all. I will not be available tomorrow, so how about the 25th? I'll send a car for you. Let's make it evening as I know your traveling companion doesn't do well in the sun."

I glanced over towards Kel with a shrug, knowing she was listening to the entire conversation with her enhanced hearing. It was pretty hard to have any privacy with a vampire about. We might as well wear a sign around our necks that announces what we are, for all the good secrecy had done so far.

"Did you want me to wait at the hotel?"

"You may wait wherever you wish. My driver will find you."

"How...oh...right." Magical magic, of course. Not to mention that the Southill's were famous for their ability at divination. Now that I thought about it, it wasn't such a surprise that they knew about Keliah, after all. At least they hadn't foreseen what I had done to their solicitor; or had they? Dammit all; mages were a tricky bunch to deal with. Did they know all about this before it happened? Were they just playing with me?

"Have a pleasant evening, Dr. Zelin."

I placed the phone onto the receiver as I stared down at two pairs of questioning eyes. At least one of them could keep questioning; Waterman was probably wondering at that strange conversation, but I wasn't about to clue him in. Waterman just sat slumped in his chair, most likely praying for the first time in years that we would leave him in peace.

"Let's go. Mr. Waterman, I suggest you see the error of your ways before someone finds out about your extra curricular activities."

"Like your wife, perhaps?" Kel added with just a touch of malice.

"Or your clients. Good evening, and thank you for the drink. It was most refreshing. We'll let ourselves out." We both headed for the door as I said over my shoulder, "You may want to stay away from your mistress for a couple hours; you may say some things that you'll regret."

We descended the stairs in silence as Kel fought back the urge to play twenty questions. I'm sure she wanted to know all about the conversation, but there wasn't much I could tell her. It had been a bluff; I had found my missing daughter Susan's diary, but I hadn't been able to break the password. However, they may have the means to do so, which would be much preferable to handing it over to Xomar and his security contacts. I had a feeling there were trade secrets in that diary, ones that needn't get out into the wrong hands.

As I reached the bottom of the stairs, I felt a tug on my coat. I looked over at Kel to see if she had placed her hand in my pocket as she was wont to do, but she just looked back at me with a questioning look. I furrowed my brows as I dug into my pockets to see what may have done that, wondering if my imagination was getting the best of me when I pulled out my black mirror.

"Ahhhh...that's right. I was tracking the man who was following me today. He must be near."

"You did mention that, but I had assumed it may have been the Pri...Aidan's people looking out for you."

I stared down at the mirror and could see that the man must be directly across the street. I peered through the glass door at an alleyway, unable to make out anything.

"Is that him over there?"

"I don't know...I can't see very we...Kel wait!"

She was out the door and across the street before I even closed my mouth. I sighed as I watched the scene displayed on the mirror shift and blur. I could tell that she not only had seen him, but was actively chasing him and catching up quite quickly. She was quite impetuous for an immortal creature. More importantly, she was also a terrible bodyguard. If this was a trap...well, she better be right about that Prince.
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Scipio Zelin

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PostSubject: Re: A Witch's Guide to Surviving London   Sun Apr 08, 2012 9:19 pm

CHAPTER 6: Getting Lost Around Town

I dashed out the doorway into the frigid night, clutching the mirror to my chest trying not to lose both of them. Technically, the mirror should be able to lead me to the mysterious German in the nice suit regardless of how far away they got, but by then it might be too late. I wasn't quite sure what I would be able to do if it was a trap, but I'd cross that bridge when I got there. All that was on my mind as I cut through alleyways and dodged traffic on the icy roads between building blocks was to not let them get too far ahead. Thankfully, Kel managed to catch her quarry rather quickly, so while it felt as though I was running a marathon, they had only managed to cover several blocks.

As I came running up onto the scene down a darkened alley, Kel had the German pinned to the wall, her hand about his throat and the other clutching a rather wicked looking knife as long as her forearm that I had no idea she was carrying. Considering the length of it, I wasn't even sure where she had been concealing it. Those are mysteries best left unsolved. I came to a stop and leaned on my knees, attempting to catch my breath as I panted and wheezed, the frozen air burning my lungs.

"Nein, nein!"

"I'm going to ask again; who are you and why are you following us? If I have to ask again, you lose a finger." Kel flipped the knife with frightening speed into the edge of his fist, clutching about the shoulder of her jacket. I could see the blood begin to seep from his palm and trickle down the sleeve of her coat, but he remained resolutely silent, barely even acknowledging the wound.

Suddenly, a voice echoed from further down the alleyway, "Enough! Let Hans be!"

I stared into the darkness and watched the silhouette of a man in a long coat step confidently towards us, his boots clicking in time like a drum major. The long shadow he cast from the distant street lamp made him appear to be ten feet tall, but as he neared the group, he was closer to 5'7" or so. Small, but compact, his back straight, his limbs quick and efficient as he surveyed the scene completely unperturbed by the sight of a small redhead with a giant blade pinning a man almost twice her size to the wall. As he came closer, eyes fixated on Kel's knife, he took a drag on a cigarette daintly pinned between his thumb and middle finger, thumb outwards and pinky extended. It was a rather dramatic, and dare I say, effeminate way to smoke a cigarette, I thought to myself. Still, his long coat fit him perfectly as though tailored, which it probably was if he was associated with the tail who had been following me, apparently and appropriately named Hans. I glanced back to Kel as she glared towards the newcomer, recognition in her eyes.

"Reinhardt..."

He came to a sudden stop about ten feet away as he clicked his boots together and offered a slight bow. "Guten abend, fraulein. I see you've met my companion, Hans." He turned to focus on poor Hans, still squirming in Kel's grip. "Hans, show your manners and introduce yourself to Keliah and her...partner."

Hans did little more than choke and gasp as Kel squeezed her hand around his throat, but he took the hint and stopped moving. Kel glared with hatred towards the strange little man and said, "What are you doing in England, Viktor? Did Claudia finally loosen your leash a little bit?"

Reinhardt cackled in a high pitched laughter that echoed down the alleyway. There was something about it that was a little off, and it caused a chill to run down my spine that had nothing to do with the freezing London night. "Have you been watching our private time? Naughty, naughty,” he wagged a finger at Kel with a lascivious smile, and then straightened up once more. “Things have changed since our last encounter. I am now her emissary and handle her affairs out of the city. She is the prince, after all. She unfortunately spends most of her time handling affairs in München leaving various responsibilities to me. This, incidentally, is why I was hoping to have a private word with you.”

Keliah blinked in surprise at him, enough that she released the grip on Hans’ throat, letting him sulk off to stand behind Reinhardt as rubbed at his neck, glaring at her all the way. “A word with me? What could we possibly have to say to each other? Surely you remember what happened the last time we had a private word. How long did it take that hand to grow back, by the way?” she asked with a mock earnestness in her voice. “I’m sure you’ll be honored to know that Morelle still has it in a glass case in her office.”

He seemed to stiffen even more than he already was, the pupils of his eyes starting to turn a murky black, as he began to massage the edge of his right wrist. He forced a tight smile as he nodded, “I’m delighted to know she holds it in such high esteem. I would imagine that the donators of most of her collection are not still walking around, no?”

Kel turned towards the two of them with a casual air, flipping the dagger between her fingers as she smiled savagely. “That’s very true. You’re like a cat, Reinhardt. But, eventually, you’ll run out of lives.” She suddenly tilted her head upwards towards the rooftops as she said, “You do realize I’m under the protection of the Prince? He may view you harassing us with your little lackey as provocation.”

Reinhardt’s eyes drifted up towards the rooftops as well before turning back to her as his face defaulted back to a pleasant, if unhinged, looking smile. “I apologize if Hans has upset you. He will be punished for his foolishness and indiscretion later. I simply asked him to observe your ghoul so that we may hope to find a moment of you time. I did not think the Prince’s club would be conducive to our conversation. Unfortunately…” he glanced at Hans out of the corner of his eye with disapproval, which caused the tall, blonde man to shrink down in shame and embarrassment, only pausing to offer me an angry glare. I was sure making lifelong friends on my little vacation. “…Hans was extremely careless. He is rather young, though.”

I had finally caught my breath as I stood a good distance away from all of them and bristled at what he had referred to me. Keliah liked to claim me as hers in the Ravenhurst vampire community for my safety, she always protested, but like hell was I going to let a bunch of foreigners think the same. “I’m not Keliah’s ghoul, or anyone else’s for that matter.”

Reinhardt suddenly turned his cold gaze on me as though examining livestock, which is probably how he viewed me. “He does look a bit run down. Perhaps you should look into finding someone more robust? I wonder what the Prince would think should he know about cavorting with a human that is not bound to you? That is surely a very serious violation.”

Kel just stared at him with her implacable gaze as she flipped a hand his way. “The Prince is already aware of my companion and it is none of your concern. I think you’ve wasted enough of our time tonight. Why don’t you go slither back under the rock you crawled out from under and leave us be?”

“But we have yet to discuss my proposal.”

She frowned and narrowed her eyes with suspicion at him. “What proposal?”

“Claudia, my Prince, wishes to extend an offer for you to join our family. What else would I possibly want?”

Keliah just stared at him for a long while, mouth agape, until she finally burst out into laughter. “Join with…you can’t possibly be serious. Claudia has wanted my head since that night in Potsdam. Has becoming Prince caused her to lose what little she had left of her mind?”

Reinhardt just kept on smiling as he adjusted the front lock of his hair with a pinky as he waited for her to finish. “You underestimate your value as a warrior and, more importantly, your reputation for loyalty. We have heard rumors about certain events.” He turned to study me once more before he began to speak again, a mischievous gleam alit his wild eyes. “Perhaps your companion is unfamiliar with this history? A little story maybe in order. Once upon a time, there was a brave knight of Paris who served her Prince well. This knight was so brave and loyal, in fact, that she was being groomed to take command of all the forces of the kingdom. However, the Prince was unsatisfied with the immense power at his fingertips and he yearned for more. He conspired with other princes of the realm whom were also were unhappy with how things were and commanded his brave knight to assassinate an important pawn that would touch off a great war throughout the lands. This knight, though loyal, chose to defy her Prince as she felt that this action would bring the kingdom to ruin and death. For this choice, she was cast out from kingdom and exiled forever.”

He paused at this point in his soliloquy to take another tight lipped drag on his cigarette and extended a small smirk towards Kel’s slowly darkening expression. “The assassination plan went ahead without the involvement of this brave knight’s family. Unfortunately for the conspirators, their plans had been known for some time and the powers that be were just waiting for an excuse to drop the hammer. Many were destroyed, whole cities upturned, but our brave knight’s family was spared. Their involvement was never revealed as the evidence of their plot was lost to history…”

Keliah tossed her head back with a disdainful snort, “That was a lovely story, Reinhardt. Did you practice with Hans before you tucked him into bed last night? I prefer stories with princesses, myself.”

“I wasn’t finished. The evidence of the plot was lost to history...until now.” He stared at her confidently, as if challenging her to question his claim.

“That’s ridiculous! There’s no way that Kristof would…” She just shook her head as she glared angrily across the darkened alley, “Peddle your fairy tales somewhere else. I’m not interested in them, nor in your Prince’s most generous offer.”

“My sources say that you have broken your bond with your sire.”

Keliah’s glare suddenly turned to shock, her bright blue eyes suddenly fixated on him like a deer in the headlights. It was met with a triumphant smile as Reinhardt erupted with that unhinged, high pitch giggle.

“My dear Keliah, you grow more and more transparent with age. It’s sweet. Deadly, but still…Think about my offer. If what I have told you tonight is true, not even the protection extended to you by Aidan will save you.”

Keliah shot forward in a blur of speed and was on top of the little man before anyone could react. As I started to move forward, she had already knocked Reinhardt to the ground and had him by the nape of the neck with one hand while the other was extending that wicked looking knife’s point directly into the chest of a slower reacting Hans. Hans wisely stopped in his track as he stared down, ashen faced, at his suddenly reddening shirt and took a step back. Reinhardt continued to giggle nonstop as she shook him about for a moment, her fangs extending and barred at him.

“You were behind that attack at the storage facility, weren’t you? Answer me!”

He finally stopped laughing and stared up at her with a confident smirk. “You still don’t understand the situation you’re in, do you? I’m extending you a life line! Mystro’s other enemies will not be as kind in their offers…” he paused as a shadow began to emerge from the other end of the alleyway and he uttered a muffled curse.

“The Prince may have offered you protection, Keliah, but he did not give you leave to attack political guests of his realm.” The shadow stepped silently towards our little group and I could start to make out the features of a very tall, thin man with what looked like a large mane of hair pulled back in a pony tail. He was dressed as though headed for a nightclub; expensive jeans, a button dress shirt, and a sleek leather coat. His cultured, tenor pitched voice radiated power and a touch of irritation as he strode towards us.

"We were just reliving the old days, Freddie. A couple of old friends just roughhousing about..." she stared down into Reinhardt's eyes, but he seemed to purposely be avoiding her gaze. Perhaps he had heard interesting stories about Kel, after all.

With all the grace and dignity that could be mustered lying in a heap on the damp, muddy, concrete with a knife at his throat, Reinhardt said stiffly, "Good evening, Frederick. As Keliah said, we were just catching up." He began to pull himself to his feet as Kel backed away, still clutching the blade in a defensive position and ready for anything. "However, it appears that you two have business." He began to smooth the lapels on his disheveled coat as Hans leapt forward to try and clean off the back of his pants with a handkerchief. Turning towards Keliah, he bowed curtly as he snapped his shoes together like an old drill sergeant.

"Au revoir, Todesengel. Please reconsider our offer. We will be in touch." With that, he strode confidently down the alleyway in the opposite direction with Hans nipping at his heels. As if swallowed up by the night, they both dissolved into the shadows only leaving behind the echo of his manic laughter. I blinked in surprise, wondering how they had managed to disappear so quickly. It must have been some sort of vampire trick; whatever it was, it was a good one.

"Todesengel, is it? Still living off that night in Fischbek, are you, Angelis?"

As I turned back to face this stranger, Keliah was suddenly in between both of us, maintaining the defense posture. While I couldn't see her face, I could tell by her body language that she wasn't any happier to see this man that had broken up the discussion.

"That was a long time ago, Freddie. What took you so long? I thought you were supposed to be watching my back."

"Stop calling me that. We are not, nor have ever, been on a first name basis. You obviously had the matter well in hand. I'm only supposed to step in if you are truly in danger; not help you settle old scores."

She finally began to relax, but her voice remained as frigid as the cold winter air. "Why haven't you kept an eye on Professor Zelin? The Prince agreed to protect both of us."

The imperious man who seemed to be named Frederick, or Freddie if you wanted to piss him off, practically snorted in derision as he exclaimed, "You must be joking; I'm not wasting my time on your pet."

"You know...I'm standing right here," I said dryly. "...and despite your best efforts to render the language incomprehensible, I do speak English."

He flicked an annoyed gaze my way as he continued speaking to Kel as though I wasn't there. "Why is your pet speaking to me?"

I slipped my pack of cigarette from my pocket as casually as I could while my fingers were shaking with indignation. Sliding a cigarette from the pack and into my waiting mouth, I ignored Keliah's warning look and answered for her. "Would you prefer her pet grunt unintelligibly while slinging feces at your head? How about you take that stick out of your ass and act like a civilized person. The name is Scipio Zelin; I'd say it's a pleasure to meet you, but I'd obviously be lying."

Kel just stared at me, trying to fight off a smile, but I could see the warning in her countenance to tread carefully. Why I chose to ignore those warnings, I couldn't tell you. Perhaps because the condescension and humiliation I had been subjected to over the past couple days was starting to get to me, although it was more likely because I make poor life decisions.

"Scipio, this is Frederick Somerset, the Duke of..." she turned back to face the golden haired vampire with a questioning look. "...was it Hazzard, Freddie?"

It was my turn to smile as a drew the silver plated Zippo from my pocket and flipped the cover open, flicking the flame to light as I began to draw in the sparse source energy around me. He stared back at her with a murderous glare and hissed out, "Duke of Beaufort, you silly French whore! Do not mock my family!"

I could see his eyes begin to cloud over in rage, the violence in the area almost electric. Kel whirled to face him, wickedly long knife at the ready as he was suddenly clutching what looked to be a short sword. Where do these vampires keep items like that hidden? Perhaps the phrase "stick up the ass" was more than just an expression in this case. The few moments of standoff were all I needed to connect with the flame balanced on the end of my lighter and I expanded it into a huge ball of flame. With a whomp in the crisp night air, the bright light illuminated the entire alleyway for brief, but powerful moment. Just like that, I killed the connection with the fire element to leave me alone an unassuming with a newly lit cigarette in my fingers.

Kel flicked her eyes back towards me when the light burst forth, but was only met by a shrug as I took a drag on my cigarette, doing my best to appear nonchalant as my suddenly quickened pulse began to subside again. Frederick had seen what I had done, however, and he inched back with a dazed look on his face. He didn't appear to know exactly what happened, but he knew I had been responsible for it. I had no illusions that this would lead to any respect from that arrogant ass; it was more likely I now appeared to be a threat that had to be eliminated. Well, at least the demonstration had checked his aggressive posture for now. Fire tends to do that to vampires, I had discovered.

He quickly recovered his haughty expression and exclaimed dismissively, "Neither of you are worth my time. I'll let the Prince deal with you. He wants to see you Angelis, and he further requested that your human pay his respects before you take leave of our city. Until then, rest assured you will be perfectly safe...unless, of course, the Prince changes his mind. You should head home before he reconsiders his position and your safety."

He did his best to sound at once unconcerned and threatening as he delivered that last line. I wasn't the least surprised by it, however. My experiences with vampires had shown that they were capricious and unpredictable; your loyal friend on one hand, the other preparing to stick a knife in your back. I already felt more endangered by our supposed protectors than by those that they were supposed to be protecting us from. At least he was no longer referring to me as a pet. If he kept that up any longer, I was going to go piss on his pant leg.

"I will be sure to tell the Prince all about your timely intervention," Kel said, doing her best to imitate his threatening tone. He seemed rather unmoved by it as he held up his nose at his once more and moved silently back down the alley towards the way he came. As he left, I could see several other figures fall into line with his retreating shadow.

"Good evening, Todesengel..." he called out as he disappeared into the evening. There was that word again, I thought to myself as I began to relax slightly. Where had I heard that term before? It was very familiar; a title of some sort. German of origin, so that would imply one of the two great wars. Yes, that was it. It snapped together in my head all at once. Still, why would Keliah share a name with one of the most infamous Nazis in history, Joseph Mengele? Did I really even want to know?


---------------------------------------


We walked back to the car in silence. Mostly, that is. We did briefly argue over which alleyway lead back to the car parked out front of the solicitor's office. In the end, I won the argument and led us in circled for another half hour. Let's just say my sense of direction leaves much to be desired; I once got lost in my own classroom. To be fair, my old lecture hall seated several hundred students and had a tricky exit. Keliah was in an introspective mood and didn't much feel like arguing with me. She even managed to flash any "I told you so" stares my way; I figured it was because she didn't want to discuss the ramifications of the events this evening. While I didn't blame her, by the time we reached our ride, I was practically bursting with questions.

When we finally escaped the cold night air and piled into the rental, I activated my silence ward and we headed back to the hotel. Once we were on our way, she became much more chatty than before.

"You know, I've never been to Stonehenge. All that time I spent in England during World War II and I never had the opportunity. We were worried about V2s dropping on our heads most of the time, but still. Wouldn't you love to see it? It's so...ancient, and I'm sure it would interest someone with your abilities? Surely there was magic being done there at some point. Let's go there tomorrow night!"

"It sounds like I need to visit the Prince, first."

She waved her hand dismissively as she chattered on, "Oh, don't be silly. He can wait. Don't worry about what that silly man was going on about, Skip dear. I'll have a word with the Prince. We've known each other for a long, long time. I'm pretty sure you won't be required to do that.."

Staring ahead through the foggy streets, I said softly, "Let's just drop it, okay? I want to know what that crazy German was talking about tonight and I want you to be straight with me. When you withhold information, it tends to end badly for both of us."

Her cheerful attitude suddenly dissipated and I could practically feel the frost bore into my skull from her cool blue eyes. "I told you what happened already. I disobeyed the head of our family and he cast me out. It's not more complicated than that."

"Oh, but it obviously is. Otherwise, there wouldn't be what appears to be several groups of people wanting you, either dead or alive. Well, not alive exactly, but, you know what I mean. What was that bit about the court and evidence against your family? That sounds to me like enough motive for the attack on your coffin at the storage facility." I turned to meet her eyes with my own steely gaze, which was dangerous not only due to her ability to leap into my mind and cause me to forget what we were talking about, but also due to the fact that driving on the wrong side of the road on slick roads in a foggy night was already hazardous to both our health.

She was silent for a moment, her gaze shifting back out the window as she sighed heavily. "It was a long time ago and I thought it was dead and buried; I suppose that was wishful thinking. My Prince and head of the family, Mystro, participated in a conspiracy to overthrow the workings of the vampire council. I still don't quite understand how it all works, but just know that he gave me the task to eliminate the companion to a very important member of our...government, I suppose you could call it. Even in my mostly naive state, I knew this was a terrible idea. In fact, my sire even said as much when I made the decision to run away. He regretted he didn't have the courage to stand up to Mystro and that I had to suffer the consequences of his own cowardice. I would happily make that decision again for Kristof, because while I was simply cast away, he would have been destroyed. When I did so, he purposely broke our bonds so that I could be free from Mystro's machinations should he change his mind. Nobody outside of the family was aware of this. At least...so I thought.

"I have heard how a spouse is not allowed to testify against their husband or wife in a court of law. Well, my kind has similar rules for two vampires that are bonded. As they can share one mind at times, it is almost impossible to get fair, unbiased testimony from one against the other. This usually applies to a vampire and their sire, but it extends to any that share the same bond. This would have prevented me from testifying against my family."

I listened to her story without comment, trying to concentrate on getting us home in one piece and put together the convoluted situation I know found myself involved. Vampire politics were just as confusing as human politics, it seemed. "Let me get this straight; evidence of attempted treason against this bigwig wouldn't be enough to take down Mystro, but combined with the legitimate testimony of one that was involved...you very existence could bring down your entire family. I'm surprised he didn't hunt you down."

The pain and anger that lined her face after my words made me instantly regret them; obviously, that was exactly what she was thinking and she didn't need me bringing up the fact that her own father was most likely trying to have her eliminated. And here I thought my family had issues.

"You're also extremely valuable to any vampire faction that wants to bring down your family as well. That would explain why those men weren't trying to destroy you. You're worth a fortune to the right people, either in one piece, or utterly destroyed." I glanced at her sideways and offered a rueful grin, "I suppose this is one case where it doesn't feel all that wonderful to be wanted?"

She continued to stare out the passenger window, the pain still evident on her face through the reflection of the glass. I wanted to reach out and comfort her, but at the same time, I didn't want to let that cloud my judgment. It wasn't just her life and family at stake here; I may not be a powerful mover and shaker in the world, but my life was pretty important to me.

"I'm sure you are wondering at what happened tonight with the solicitor. It's quite simple, actually. As you're aware, the Southill Foundation are the only known relatives of my deceased wife. They also happen to be a powerful circle of witches that extend back hundreds of years, specifically known for their divinatory abilities. Truth be told, it's possible Lilly sought me out in American just because of an ancient prophecy predicting Susan's birth." I waved my hand as her head snapped back to stare at me with incredulity before she could ask questions, "I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't already lived through...well, you know. The fact is, they are my best bet at finding out more information about Susan and, ultimately, tracking her down. You heard the phone call; they've finally agreed to meet with me."

She continued staring wide eyed at me, her face suddenly coming to life with excitement. "That's wonderful news, mon ami! Why, they may be able to tell you where she is! If they use their abilities..."

"...it's possible they can at least point me in the right direction, yes. That's what I'm hoping. Now all we have to do is manage to survive the next couple of days and nights without someone trying to murder either of us in our sleep. Speaking of death...what is with both of them calling you todesengel? While my German ranges from poor to nonexistent, even I'm familiar with Joseph Mengele. Why are they calling you "Angel of Death"...and what happened in Fischbek? What did you do?"
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Scipio Zelin

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PostSubject: Re: A Witch's Guide to Surviving London   Tue Apr 24, 2012 6:32 pm

Chapter 7: Emergency Contacts

"...well?" I asked as we sat in the car out front of our hotel. The valet was starting to give me funny looks, but maintained his distance, most likely hoping we would hurry up and let him get back into the warmth of his tiny office. Keliah continued to stare ahead, her face completely devoid of emotion. She finally turned to look at me and forced a smile.

"I have to meet the Prince. Explain what happened tonight and see if I can cancel your summons."

She quickly exited the car and set off at a quick walk down the street into the darkness. By the time I was able to get my seatbelt off and out the door, she had already disappeared into the night. I sighed heavily as the valet stepped over, scratching the back of his head as we both stared after her retreating figure in unison. Frowning, I tossed him the keys and asked, "Is there a place around here where I can get a drink?"

Several hours later, I stumbled back to the hotel and shot the desk clerk a dirty look as I waited for the elevator. I had learned a lot about the differences between Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky, which turned out to be more than just missing an E. Actually, I had mostly besotted myself pretty thoroughly, taking out my frustrations with Kel on my poor liver.

I blundered into my room to continue the party and raided the minibar to find a decent supply of Scotch in miniature bottles, no doubt costing a small fortune. At the time, I felt it was well worth the convenience of not having to find another bar open into the wee hours. I had discovered that different parts of London had different regulations regarding pub operation hours; the location I was recommended turned out to be a poor one for getting really wasted.

As I downed one of the tiny bottles, I fired up my laptop to skim through my emails. Aside from several angry sounding messages from my friend Xomar, there wasn't much to recommend, unless I was seriously considering enlarging my penis. As I sat there fuming at Kel's strange exit, I decided to do a little research on this town of Fischbek that she obviously didn’t want to talk about, and see if I could find out more about her ominous nickname in the vampire community.

All the stories I was able to find on English sites were not particularly helpful. Fischbek seemed to be linked with another town Neugraben, which were part of the greater Hamburg area. Neugraben had the infamous history of being the site of a worker's concentration camp during WWII. Not only that, but it appeared that there were multiple medical experiments held within this camp. That caught my eye, as these inhuman experiments were what Mengele had built his reputation on, but most of the sources weren't very descriptive. I wasn’t surprised that much of the information would have been scrubbed away by time and an embarrassed German government doing its best to forget the atrocities committed so many years ago.

It was only when I began to dive into the German sources that I began to get a sense of what had happened. In the English translations, the small blurbs I found all said that most of Fischbek had been destroyed by a particularly violent bombing raid on Hamburg during the war. However, once I delved into the German sites with the dubious help of the Bablefish translator, I uncovered an interesting story. There was a legend gleamed from several survivors of Fischbek that the destruction was not the result of Allied bombings, but in fact, a supernatural evil that had descended on the town and struck down almost every inhabitant as punishment for their supposed sins. As the few survivors were mostly young and driven to the brink of insanity by the deaths of their loved ones, most of these stories never traveled much further than the region itself. However, I was beginning to take supernatural events much more seriously. While I wasn’t quite ready to start taking the Weekly World News at face value, the fact that vampires had alluded to this event corresponding with third party stories could only mean that there was something to it.

Eventually I needed to take a break in my research because I could barely concentrate on the screen. The five tiny scotch bottles lined up across the edge of the desk attested to my mental acuity, so I slammed the laptop shut and slowly worked my way into the bedroom after bumping off of every wall and piece of furniture, like an errant pinball. I finally collapsed face first onto the plush bed and held my eyes tightly closed so that I couldn't see the room around me spinning.

In my lucid dreams, I was floating in the void once more, unable to escape from the shadowy figures that had cornered me and were screaming for my blood, an eye for an eye, it seemed. The scene had shifted to an ugly, hulking brute hovered above, jamming a massive, jagged dagger through my eye as I screamed in pain, when I was suddenly jolted awake and back into my soiled clothing, sprawled across the bed. I had felt something pass through my alarm ward at the front door, so I raised my head off the damp spot on the bed cover, most likely from my own drool, and instantly regretted it as my head began to pound as though being slammed repeatedly with a sledge hammer. I choked back the bile rising in the back of my throat and forced myself into a sitting position, wishing I was dead. I wasn't sure who I should be cursing more; the Irish with their damn whiskey, or the Scotch, with their evil brew. Blinking furiously and groping about for my glasses, I just decided to curse everyone equally, including myself for having been stupid enough to combine so much alcohol.

When I finally recovered my spectacles, I placed them on my nose and let my eyes begin to slowly focus on the figure a mere few feet from the bed. Keliah was sitting there in the ornate chair by the dressing mirrors, staring at me with her piercing blue eyes. I scowled at her as I held my head in my hands and croaked out, "Staring at people while they sleep is seriously creepy. Knock it off...both of you."

She remained silent and completely still, just staring at me with those deep, soulful eyes. She seemed sad and resigned, but about what, I couldn't say. I forced myself from the bed and stumbled into the bathroom, emptying my toiletry bag in search of Aspirin. Staring at my hallow face and bloodshot eyes, I knew I needed to stop drinking. And I would...eventually. Maybe. I mean, I couldn’t drink when I was dead, so it was inevitable at some point. After dueling with the child proof cap, I was finally able to toss back a few pills and down it with a glass from the faucet. I slammed the glass down and walked unsteadily back into the bedroom to take a seat at the edge of the bed.

"Well? How did your little meeting with the Prince go?"

"It went fine. Freddie was there to protest his guard duty assignment, declaring how it was beneath him to worry about a homeless vampire and her human. Aidan gave him quite a tongue lashing and sent him back out to resume his post.” She sighed and rested her chin between her raised knees and continued. “Freddie Somerset isn’t just an arrogant asshole with nice hair. He was the next in line to take over as the Prince of London. You can imagine how bitter he is about being passed over by some foreigner. He's very old; much older than I am. The story is that he’s the original Duke of Beaufort which would make him around 300 years or so. I'm not sure if that's true, but his ability and power is not in question. He was invaluable to the defense of London during the war. While he’s not the most likeable man, he’s always has city's best interests at heart."

I laughed harshly, which descended into a coughing fit. Once recovered, I growled, "So, he's the one who takes over if your friend Aidan is no longer the Prince? Consider the mystery of how the current Prince has maintained his position solved. If he’s the alternative, I’m sure everyone is pulling for Aidan to live a long and happy unlife. I've only met the Duke for a few minutes and I already despise the bastard."

She shrugged slightly and even smiled a bit. "Yes, he's very set in his ways, especially where rank and family connections are concerned as opposed to competence. But, he really is an honorable man. Even though I give him a hard time, I still trust him to do his duty."

I raised my eyebrows. "Yes...I'm sure he does his duty, but does he have to be..."

She shrugged once more and threw her hands up in frustration, "Yes, he's honorable and all that, but Christ, what an asshole!"

I nodded in agreement and instantly regretted it as the room began to spin again. The aspirin hadn't started to kick in yet and my skull suddenly felt as though someone had been tap dancing on it. After the pain began to subside, I said softly, "Are you going to avoid this topic for the rest of our trip, or are you going to tell me about Fischbek? I've done a little research and read about a massacre and destruction of the entire town due to either an Allied bombing or…well, the other alternative was much more disturbing."

She stared down at her hands as she began to pick at a fraying spot on her coat, suddenly looking much younger and smaller than she normally did. "I...I didn't want to relive this event, especially with you. I'm very ashamed and horrified by it. The last person I would want to know about it..." She trailed off as she stared at me, her eyes pleading for me to leave it unsaid. Unfortunately, I'm a very curious man. I'm also a very foolish man. I nodded, encouraging her to continue. “I’m tired of being caught off guard by your secrets. Tell me what happened.”

"We had received reports that disturbing experiments were being conducted in Neugraben…it’s a small village close to Hamburg. Anyways, we knew that the Fuhrer was obsessed with creating super soldiers and that he had turned research over to the Ahnenerbe, a dangerous group within the Nazi party that was aware of the veil and what existed behind it. It was believed that they may be trying to extract certain shifter traits and place them into the common foot soldier in order to survive the extreme weather on the Eastern Front against the Soviets.

"I was part of a team that was dispatched to locate this research facility and to destroy it before any of the information fell into Nazi hands. Initially, it all went to plan. We managed to infiltrate the camp itself, but were horrified by what we discovered. In the medical wing, they had well over a hundred test subjects, all being subjected to horrific experiments. Most of them were mere children, most likely not even sure what they truly were. Seeing the dead eyes, absent of hope...the track marks all along their limbs from who knows what kinds of injections...those were the lucky ones. As we ventured further in, that was when we were met with the amputees and, even more disturbing, the attempted hybrids with other political prisoners sacrificing their very souls for the Third Reich.

"Disgusted and outraged by the visions before our eyes, we were careless. Once our presence was detected, the wing was sealed off and a bloody battle ensued. Only by releasing some of the prisoners were any of us able to survive the night. The wolves we released wrecked havoc on the base, enough so that they were forced to shut down what was left of it by the time the 2nd SS division arrived to clean up the mess. The howls, the screams, the fire...it was like hell on Earth..."

Keliah shut her eyes tightly as she rocked slowly back and forth, as though willing the words out of her mouth. The horrors and atrocities of total war have broken many soldiers; it was a surprise that she had managed to close off all these experiences well enough to function. And here I was, forcing her to relive the experiences just to satisfy my curiosity. I felt embarrassed and ashamed.

"Look, I'm sorry I brought this up. I don’t need every last detai..."

Her eyes snapped open and she stared at me with a fierceness and passion that froze the words in my mouth. "No...I want you to understand what happened next. It's important to me. It's important that you understand why I did..."

She leapt to her feet suddenly and began to pace back and forth along the front of the bed, twisting her hands nervously behind her back. After a few moments, she found her voice once again.

"Like I said, a few members of my team managed to slip out during the carnage. When I finally managed to slip free, I found myself carrying Jean on my back as we scaled the fence and slipped off into the night. Jean was...is a friend. Coincidentally, we had both been turned in the same year. Morelle had taken a fancy to him and thought he would make a welcome addition to her guards at the time. He was a fine sparring partner; no finesse, but mon dieu! He was as strong as anyone I have encountered before or since. Anyways, he had fallen onto a grenade on our escape and was barely in one piece when I gathered him on my back for our escape. I could feel him slipping away, but I knew that the safe house was only several miles away. They had fresh blood waiting for us. All I had to do was get him there before he began to frenzy.

"For the first time I can remember, I lost my bearings and I ended up passing through a small village that wasn’t supposed to be in our path. As I paused in the town center, I noticed the name, Fischbek engraved on the stone fountain and realized I had traveled in the wrong direction. I was warned about the town from our mission briefing since it was home to most of the officers from the camp we had destroyed, not to mention sitting along a major supply route. As I was cursing our bad luck, we were attacked by the townsfolk. Those that weren't on duty had mustered outside in their nightgowns and such, preparing to head off to Neugraben to assist in the defense, when they ran smack into both myself and Jean."

She stopped pacing and began to stare at the heavily draped window. I wasn't sure if my eyes were adjusting or if it was beginning to get lighter outside. It would soon be time for her to get out of harm's way.

"As they prepared to fire on us, Jean used what little strength he had to charge into the fray, buying me a few moments to get out of the crossfire. As I hid in the shadows, I could plainly see what was left of him after taking the brunt of their attack. They were laughing and prodding at his body, discussing what to do with it and how to find me, no doubt. It was at that moment I snapped. The beast within was released and nothing but the blood of those horrible people would appease it. I cut a swath through the armed men like an avenging angel. I tore them apart before they even realized what had happened. But...the beast was not appeased. No...I began to move from house to house, destroying every living thing I encountered. Their wives...their...children..."

She dropped her head into her hands and began to shake in silent sobs. I could only sit there at the edge of the bed and staring at her in horror. She tore apart women and children, most likely asleep in their beds. This slight redhead had managed to murder an entire town. I could scarcely believe my ears. The Keliah I knew would never have done something like that...would she?

"...When I finally came to my senses, it was a ghost town in the truest sense. I managed to recover what was left of Jean, a bloody pulp of what he used to be...it would take him months to recover from his injuries. That night changed him for good. It changed all of us, really. When word of what had happened got out, I was a hero within the Angelis family." She laughed harshly as she shook her head in disgust. "Morelle had never been more proud of me. Not because of our destruction of the concentration camp. No, when word of what the few survivors of Fischbek were saying, she embraced me and kissed me on both cheeks and said, 'Now you know what it is to be the Scourge. You truly are my successor.' They used the massacre to strike fear in our enemies. Overnight, I had become the most hated and most feared vampire in the Deutschland."

She turned her clear blue eyes on me almost accusingly, red tracks lining the sides of her cheeks. "And you know what? I didn't feel bad at all. I felt elated! It was the most exhilarating night of my unlife! The people that would allow those atrocities to occur only steps from their home deserved to die. I had done the world a service, in my eyes. I had eliminated a sickness, much like a surgeon. I...what kind of person can do what I have done and feel good about it?" She stared down at her now red soaked hands, the blood tears dripping off the edges of her fingers. "I can never clean these hands, no matter what I do. But..." she stared soulfully at me, "...I try. I do what I can to keep people safe. I'm not that beast that Morelle wished me to be. I'm not. I've changed. Right?"

I wasn't sure if she was trying to convince me or herself; perhaps it was both. I looked away, trying to process all that she had revealed tonight. Was it cosmic justice that had a mercenary known for committing genocide pursing her to bring before a vampire court? Perhaps she was right; perhaps the townsfolk of Fischbek deserved what happened that night so long ago. Maybe God was working through her to punish them for their inaction. Or maybe I was rationalizing a massacre of innocents because I was sleeping with the murderer herself?

Before I had a chance to say anything, I suddenly felt my alarm ward go off near the front door of our room. Our eyes met in surprise and alarm; she must have been able to hear the individuals who had entered our suite.

"Someone's here." I said in hushed tones and rushed for the corner of the room. Not a moment to soon.






In my early experiments with handling the source, I scoured every arcane manuscript and known practitioner's minds for various...well, I suppose you can call them spells. Magic isn't all hocus pocus with exact phraseology, nor is it all double double, toil and trouble, dropping tail of rat into cauldrons to concoct some strange, magical brew. It's more of a mental exercise, manipulating and shaping the raw energy we refer to as the source into a real world manifestation that serves a purpose. Yes, we do sometimes use incantations in order to direct our energies in the proper direction, and sometimes we do use natural elements to help us in our creations such as herbs and metals, but those are more like icing on the cake, so to speak. All the real work is done inside the mind's eye.

One of the first "spells" I learned was a little ditty I picked up in a dusty old tome which described a simple early warning system; sort of a magical alarm to let you know when someone or something had breached a specific area. I had thought this would be an extremely useful ability, considering the types of denizens that roam the streets of Ravenhurst. Unfortunately, this particular alarm spell was a little too effective. It didn't just pick up people or supernaturals crossing its boundaries; the sensitivity of the ward picked up everything. We're talking every rodent, bird, insect, falling leaf, even some larger forms of pollen. In one of my earlier trials, I swear there was a particularly evil fly who was buzzing back and forth across the barrier on purpose, just to piss me off. Eventually, I learned to filter out all the white noise, as it were, to focus on what I was actually interested in. However, I've found it is most effective indoors as there are far less false alarms. Case in point; using this simple ward in the suite of a four star hotel in the middle of London works better than the useless security staff.

As I tripped and landed on my face into the corner of the room, luckily muffled by the thick carpet spanning the entire room, I could feel three different shapes cross my magic barrier into the suite. An image flashed through my mind as the alarm was tripped, giving me sort of a negative outline of the figures entering the room. The size of the intruders told me they were definitely not the Pakistani housecleaning staff coming to change out our soiled towels, and while the shapes that were vaguely outlined in their hands did sort of resemble brooms, I had the distinct impression that they were far more explosive at the tips. As I rolled onto my backside to peer across the darkened room towards Keliah, positioned in the other corner of the adjacent to the double doors of the bedroom, I held up three fingers to try and give her an idea of how many people we were dealing with. Unfortunately, I'm not sure she paid any attention as her normally ocean blue eyes had suddenly shifted into a murky blackness and were fixated towards the doors like a tiger awaiting prey. I took a deep breath and began to gather what energy I could in preparation for...what? I had no idea.

Before I had a chance to even consider my options, the doors burst open and the entire room echoed with a cacophony of explosions, the flashes of light blinding my eyes for a brief moment. As my vision began to return, I could see the bed smoldering, the comforter torn to shreds from the blasts, goose feathers scattering through the air like snowflakes. It took a few seconds for it to register, but when it did, I suddenly felt sick. Those shots had been meant for the one sleeping in the bed; they were meant for me. By the time I tore my eyes from the smoking ruins of the spot I had been in only a few moments before, I could see that Kel had already leaped upon the two masked men who had advanced into the room, shotguns blazing. From the yelps of surprise and fear, I gathered that they were English, or perhaps Irish. My ear for accents wasn't the best, but I could definitely say they weren't the same as the guttural Eastern European accents from the night at the shipping facility. Was this even the same group of men from before? How many people were looking for Kel at this point?

Keliah was a whirlwind of motion, slashing and twisting between the larger men, slicing away with that wicked dagger she concealed somewhere on her body. I quickly pushed myself to my feet as I counted her opponents. There were only two, which meant that there was at least one more out there. I stepped towards the door as I began to instinctively form a small shield ward in my mind, anticipating the other armed and dangerous man who was unaccounted for. It had worked pretty well before; all I needed was a little luck.

The two men must have been wearing some sort of body armor, because while they were bleeding from various spots, Keliah hadn't completely incapacitated them. As I peeked my head around the corner out towards the living room, I could see that we were blessed with a stroke of good luck that she hadn't finished them off. The third man stood there, the barrel of his weapon looking impossibly large, pointing at the fracas in front of him as he practically shivered with nervous energy. He seemed indecisive about whether to fire on his fellow attackers in the hopes of landing a hit on the most dangerous person in the room. I could hear him cursing under his breath as I began to focus on that barrel and began to construct my shield ward within it.

It was around that time he noticed my head poking out the doorway and, suddenly excited to have a clear target to take out his frustrations with, raised the weapon to fire at me. Somehow, I managed to keep my concentration and finish the shield ward properly before he squeezed the trigger and basically exploded before my eyes. The blast from his weapon combusting in his hand blinded me for a while and I stumbled back onto the ruined bed, trying to gather my thoughts and my breath which had been shaken out of me. All I could hear was the phone ringing as I lay there completely blinded and stunned. After what seemed an eternity, my ears popped and I realized it wasn't the phone at all, but a fire alarm. As I blinked my eyes into focus, I could see the inferno around me, including part of my coat. The third man had apparently set off some sort of explosive on his person when his gun purposely malfunctioned, and I was sitting in the middle of a burning room.

I stumbled out the doors into the main room, swatting at the live flames on my left sleeve, hacking and coughing as the smoke began to fill the area. I felt bruised all over which I knew was a sign that my armored skin ward was beginning to fade. That was going to leave me defenseless and very, very vulnerable. As I regained my bearings, I could make out Keliah's shape over by the front door, firing off rounds from a recently acquired weapon down the hallway. I could also make out return fire as she ducked back into the room, shielding herself from the wood shrapnel flying off the doorjamb.

I stared around the ruined room and could see my leather supply case with my store of spell pens still sitting on the desk next to my now smoking and sparking laptop. That was a shame, I dumbly thought to myself; I was going to have to break in a new computer. Then again, that point might be moot if I didn’t get out of this room...I quickly scooped up my case and shoved it into the inner pocket of my coat and moved unsteadily towards the door. Kel turned back to me to yell something, but I couldn't make it out over the din of the alarm and the loud gunfire down the hallway. Finally, she just gripped my lapels and pulled me down beside her and placed her lips to me ear.

"...need you…head for...door."

I followed her pointing finger towards a door across the hallway. It took a few moments to register, but I finally made out the sign for the staircase. I understood; she wanted me to head down the stairs and get outside to safety. That was fine for me, but what about her? What was she planning at this point? I turned to say something as she wrapped a free arm around my neck and kissed me on the lips. I was momentarily surprised, which was enough time for her to leap out into the hallway screaming and firing the weapon in her hands. I tried to shake off the fog in my mind and waited a moment as I listened to the sounds in the hallway. The shooting was continuing, but it seemed to no longer be directed towards the room.

I thought to myself, what should I do? Should I turn tail and run as Kel takes on what could be an entire army of mercenaries? Am I supposed to save my own skin while she sacrifices herself in the teeth of an unknown enemy? I should stay and fight alongside her; perhaps I wouldn't be of much use, but at least I wouldn't let her die alone. By this time, I was already down two flights of stairs and heading into the lobby. Brave thoughts for a cowardly man, I thought grimly as I pushed into the entrance of the hotel, suddenly surrounded by dozens of sleepy hotel guests who were being herded outside into the freezing cold.

It was then I finally noticed the light coming from the front doors; the sun had risen. Keliah wasn't going to stand a chance up there. I had left her to die. I frantically turned towards the door to find I was too late; the emergency exit had closed and I was caught in the current of German businessmen and other half dressed septuagenarians bitterly complaining about the service in the hotel. As I tried to fight against the mass exodus towards the exit, I could make out several men dressed in fireman gear. That was a bit of a surprise; from what I had seen so far in London, public services weren't exactly known for their promptness. Perhaps it was because of the fame of this particular hotel, or the high ranking guests within it. It was only when I caught sight of one of the firefighters that my heart sunk.

He stared at me with his cold, reptilian eyes, the scarred face slowly breaking into a frightening smile, his yellowing broken teeth poking out at all angles. That was the man who had tried to perforate my torso with a knife; it was Dragoslav Lasarevic, war criminal and current star of my recent nightmares. He nodded his head towards a companion and gestured out towards me. The other man, a thinner version of Lasarevic, but just as ugly, smiled coldly in my direction and began to worm his way through the crowd towards me. I quickly stopped fighting against the mass of flesh around me and headed towards the door, frantic to get away from what was likely my executioner. At least that answered one question; our pursuer had realized his crew wasn’t enough and he had brought on some local help.

I burst through the front door into the new dawn, blinking as the light was already beginning to penetrate the foggy morning, and broke into a run down the street away from the hotel, shoving aside loitering guests as I raced towards freedom. I took a moment to glance behind me and instantly regretted it; Lasarevic’s man was already out into the street and scanning the area, trying to lock down his target. Our eyes met for a moment and he broke into a loping sprint in my direction.

I turned back towards the direction I was running and scurried with blind terror, intent on getting as much separation between us as possible. Maybe I should have stayed in the group? No, that probably would have just gotten more people hurt. Maybe I could find a police officer, or someone that might make him give up the chase...as these thoughts raced through my mind, the toe of my shoe caught in an uneven slab of concrete and I tripped forward, slamming into the side mirror of a parked car. I turned back just in time to see my pursuer leaping towards me and extending his arm with what looked to be a dagger. There was nothing I could do; I was trapped against the car. All I could do was brace myself for the deadly blow I knew was coming.

I felt the impact against my chest as the breath was knocked out of me. My armored skin spell rarely lasted much longer than the next morning, so I knew it wasn't going to offer much in the way of protection. The triumph on his face was apparent as he barred uneven, yellowing teeth in what must have been his idea of a smile and continued to drive the dagger into my torso, trying to wrap an arm around my neck to keep me from twisting away. It was over; there wasn’t much left but to offer token resistance before I met my maker. I suddenly wasn’t fearful anymore as my flight or fight instincts shifted to fight. Maybe I was dead already, impaled by a dagger being wielded by a practiced killer, but I would be damned if I was going to let him walk away unscathed.

Back when I was a young lad, I enrolled in boxing lessons, much to my father's chagrin. He didn't think it was appropriate for someone my station to be getting repeatedly punched in the head, despite the fact that we were new money and really had no social standing at the time. He really was a bit of a snob, even then. One of the most memorable days of my time training as a boxer was when I took on a boy about 50 pounds larger than I was. I was always tall and lanky, so I had the reach, but he had the weight and strength to drive me into a corner and work the body. Our instructor was trying to teach the difference that weight brings in a method that probably would be banned today, but I received the full force of it. While I had already given up the prospect of actually winning, I really wanted to make this boy pay.

He had started to toy with me, as he maneuvered me into the corner to continue his body blows in order to finish me off. I let him approach without defending his jabs and steadied my body against the post so I could throw one wild haymaker as my last, defiant stand. A combination of skill and luck resulted in his head moving forward just in time to meet my fist across his jaw, dropping him to the canvas. Everyone was shocked, nobody more than I. It was the most perfect punch I had ever thrown and had scored me a knock out against an opponent I had no business beating. Actually, it was the most perfect punch I had thrown until that fateful morning on a mostly empty street in London.

As the assassin tried to drive the point of his dagger further into my chest, I gritted my teeth, ignoring the pain and slammed my left elbow into his chest and slipped his attempt to lock his arm around the back of my neck. Using the leverage from the car behind me, I was able to knock him back about a foot, much to his surprise. Even more to his surprise was the right cross I let fly that connected with his jaw, snapping his head around, his knees buckling beneath him. As time seemed to slow, which I’ve found happens when you're in a stressful situation, I watched as his eyes rolled up into the back of his head, his damaged jaw swinging loosely, and he dropped onto the sidewalk like a sack of potatoes, a pool of blood forming beneath him.

I stared in disbelief at his prone figure, motionless on the ground, aside from a slight twitch coming from his right leg. Looking down at my fist in amazement, I could only guess that I must have possessed enough of my armored skin ward to have made that punch far more effective than either of us would have expected. My fighting days were long behind me, but those lessons were apparently not completely wasted. I slowly shifted my eyes downwards towards the dagger poking out of the front of my coat, and I winced at the sobering sight. As I gingerly laid a hand on the hilt of the blade, I knew by its position that must have at least punctured a lung.

As I touched it, no shooting pain was evident. In fact, I didn’t feel much of anything. Wondering if the adrenaline had numbed my senses, I reached under my coat, expecting to find my shirt damp with gushing blood from a gaping chest wound. As I felt the edge of a solid object that seemed to be in the pathway of the dagger, couldn’t help but smile. I began to laugh uncontrollably as I wrenched the knife free from my coat. My concern for my magical supplies turned out to be fortuitous, because my attacker had stabbed the dagger through my leather case instead of my chest. I had heard of bibles stopping bullets, but I was quite sure my childhood priest would have been scandalized that I had been saved by pagan ritualistic paraphernalia. Who cared at this point; I was alive! Not only that, but I had defeated my attacker with barely a bruise on me. I was feeling pretty full of myself as I stood there over the fallen mercenary, dagger in hand, laughing like a madman when I suddenly heard words that made my blood turn cold.

"Freeze! Police! Drop the weapon and place your hands on your head!"

I looked towards the shouting and was met with the sight of two men crouched behind their car doors, weapons drawn and pointed at me. I dropped the knife like a hot potato and shot my hands above my head, feeling my heart race as yet more weapons were pointed my way. While I don't much recommend this method for beating a hangover, I must admit I was definitely wide awake at this point.

"It's not what it looks like..." I mumbled, feeling like an idiot. Those are the foolish words of a guilty man. I had always wondered why people say stupid things like that when caught red handed; now I knew.

"Mr. Zelin? Is...is that you?" the voice asked in an incredulous tone. The voice may have waved, but the guns never did.

I tore my eyes away from the pistols pointed at my chest and focused on the man speaking, recognition finally dawning on me. Of course it was them. With the luck I had experienced on this trip, it had to be them.

I straightened up as best as I could and offered a friendly smile. It’s pretty hard not to look ridiculous when you have your arms up over your head. "Inspector Wright...and Inspector Long, is it? Good morning, gentlemen..." I stared down at the man lying at my feet, now moaning and twitching about as I continued, "I take it you had some follow up questions? I…uh…I’m ready whenever you are." I had a feeling this interview was going to be much, much longer than the first one. One thing was for certain; the worst vacation ever was finding new and creative ways to complicate my life.
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Scipio Zelin

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Join date : 2012-01-30

PostSubject: Re: A Witch's Guide to Surviving London   Fri May 18, 2012 8:34 pm

Chapter Eight: Law and Order-Know your Rights!

"Let's go over this one more time, shall we?"

I stared through drooping eyelids at the far too fresh looking inspector, seated across from me in that drab interrogation room. Despite the gallon of coffee I had been fed and the countless cigarettes I was allowed to smoke, I was fighting off my desire to sleep as best as I could. As you might imagine, standing over an unconscious fire fighter, weapon in hand, with a burning historical hotel as a backdrop was not the best impression to make on a team of police detectives that were sure you were up to no good. I was taken into custody, but spent several hours waiting until the lead detective, Inspector Wright, managed to make his way back from the crime scene.

By pure chance, they had been the first officers on scene at the Cadogan Hotel fire and shoot out, so they were also appointed lead detectives on the entire matter. It was a lucky coincidence that the two cases they were currently investigating were connected by one familiar thread; a retired history professor from America who seemed to be more than he appeared. While that was true, it wasn't in the way they most likely expected.

"I've told you countless times already. How many times are we going to do this? And where the hell is my lawyer?"

He continued to stare at me from across the table, pen tapping at a notepad already filled with scribbles from the previous hours. "We're going to do this until you start telling me the truth." He turned towards the corner of the room and the other detective, leaning against the wall looking blithely unconcerned. "Have we been able to contact the American embassy with Mr. Zelin's requests yet?"

"We sent someone down. Nothing yet. It is Christmas time, innit?"

They both turned their eyes back on me and I slumped down in my chair, exhausted and depressed at my current situation. I had no idea what time it was at this point, but I knew it had to be evening. Maybe even late evening. After they brought me back to the station, I had spent several hours in a holding cell with a collection of drunks until they had brought me here. Over and over, they had asked me to recount the events of the morning. Over and over again, I had done my best to tell them nothing. While I was technically under arrest, due to the seriousness of the crimes I may have been involved in, they were allowed to hold me for up to 36 hours without any charges. At least, that's what they told me. I'll admit, I wasn't up on English criminal law and the solicitor I had been promised still had not yet materialized.

"Look...I don't know what you two think I may be guilty of, but at this point, I don't much care. I've already told you; I was attacked in my hotel room and I managed to slip out in the confusion where I was attacked by a man masquerading as a fireman. I'm the aggrieved party, here! Why am I being treated like a criminal?"

Inspector Wright flipped down the pen and leaned across the table, jabbing an index finger in my direction, "You're hardly an innocent victim here!" He gathered up his notepad and slammed it down onto the table with an echoing boom throughout the drab, sterile, interrogation room. "You were at the scene of a violent criminal act at an airline shipping facility. A few days later, you're in the middle of one of the most violent shootouts our city has seen in decades! This isn't the bloody wild west, Mr. Zelin!"

I through up my hands in a defensive gesture, "Hey now...I didn't fire a weapon at anybody! I told you a hundred times and I'll tell you a hundred more if I have to; I did nothing wrong!"

He stared coldly at me for a moment, slowly gathering control of himself once more. I had the feeling that didn't happen very often to Inspector Wright; judging by his fastidious notes and thorough lines of questioning he had inflicted on me previously, he probably took great pride in his ability to remain calm and in control.

"Nothing wrong, eh? Then why is it you had a plane reservation for this morning at 7:55 AM for JFK after we gave you implicit instructions to not leave the city?"

I sighed heavily and shook my head. "I didn't make that reservation. I mean, I know it's in my name, but...look, my nephew Xomar made the reservation. I told him about the incident when I arrived and he just decided that I needed to come home. I bet if you checked it, you'll see that he's moved that reservation twice already; I've been ignoring his phone calls and texts."

His left eyebrow arched upwards as he stared at me with skepticism, and then picked up his pen and began to jot down a few more notes. "That's easy enough to check, isn't it, Inspector Long?"

His partner, seemingly bored by the situation and sipping on a cup of coffee as he stood in the corner suddenly came out of his daze and nodded vigorously. "Right. Simple enough."

"What are we to make of your decision to refuse to have your friend buried in the lot you went to all the trouble to pick out and travel halfway around the world for? We paid a trip to Mears and Cotterill this afternoon and they stated how you cancelled the burial ceremony that you flew thousands of miles to conduct. Care to offer an explanation?"

I scowled and slumped back into my seat, staring down at the table top. "What's to explain? If that place was in the states, the Better Business Bureau would have shut it down years ago. They lied to me about the location of the plot, lied about the pricing of the services, had paid absolutely no attention to the types of flowers we had requested...I could go on and on about the level of incompetence by those fools for hours. But, frankly, it's none of your damn business."

"I'm making it our business. Folks don't just fly thousands of miles, transporting a body, only to change their minds at the last second and fly back."

I looked up from the table over the tops of my glasses and asked, "Really? You've done a lot of research into this, I take it? Nobody has ever changed their minds in order to make sure their loved ones were buried in the manner they requested?"

He leaned back, hemming and hawing a bit as he said, "Well...I mean, it's just strange..."

"Yes, well, when someone close to you dies and places you as executor of their Last Will and Testament, you can get back to me to see how seriously you take it. From what I can tell, not very."

He cleared his throat, eager to move on to the next subject. I could see I won that round, but this fight was just getting started. "We understand you met with a solicitor last night, a Mr. Curtis Waterman."

"Yeah...what of it?"

"What did you discuss?"

"I don't see how that's any of your concern."

"Mr. Waterman is currently under investigation for fraud and embezzlement charges dating back to 2009."

I raised my eyebrows. "Eh? Well...I'll be sure not to have him handle any investments for me, then."

"Interesting, how an innocent man such as yourself, is continually in the presence of the criminal element."

"That’s rather faulty logic; I'd imagine you're also surrounded by the criminal element on a daily basis. Does that make you a criminal as well?"

Inspector Long let out a small guffaw and then turned his attention back to his coffee after a harsh glare from Wright. He slowly turned the glare back to me as he reached under the desk and pulled up a small leather satchel and spread several pictures across the table. I most likely visibly winced as I was once again face to face with Lasarevic as well as the man who had tried to fillet me that morning.

"Do you recognize either of these men?"

I tapped the picture with the knifeman and answered, "Well, that gent introduced himself quite rudely to me right before you two showed up. Other than that, I wouldn’t know them from Adam. From what I’ve seen, they’re definitely ugly enough to work for the London police department."

Ignoring my insult, he placed a finger on the other photo, "This is Dragoslav Lasarevic, a war criminal and one of Interpol's top 10 wanted fugitives..." He gestured to the one I had my hand on, "...and this disgraceful excuse for a human is his brother Kosta, believed to be involved in a multitude of criminal operations. Both men are believed to have been behind the attack on the United shipping facility two nights back, the one that you just happened to witness take place.”

I leaned back in my chair and adjusted the glasses back up on the bride of my nose and attempted a disarming smile. “Well then, there you have it. The man that attacked me is obviously a wanted criminal. I obviously did you boys a favor…is there reward for apprehending a dangerous fugitive?”

He pressed on. “Exactly how is a harmless, retired professor able to single handedly break a dangerous fugitive’s jaw in three places with his bare hands?”

“I don’t know…he probably didn’t drink enough milk as a child.”

He glared back at his partner when he started to laugh again, quickly shaming him into silence, and then turned his angry gaze on me before slowly rising to his feet. He leaned menacingly across the table as he jabbed a stubby finger towards me and barked out, “Enough with the lies and half truths, Zelin. What aren’t you telling us? Who are you working for?”

I blinked in surprise at the accusation and raised my palms towards him in a supplicating motion. “What are you talking about? I told you already; I’m self employed. I own part of an herbal healing shop in…”

“…what I can’t figure out is if you’re working with them or against them,” he quickly interjected and then glanced back to his partner before continuing. “We had an interview with the solicitor you paid a visit to last evening that was quite interesting.”

I felt my stomach turn as they mentioned the attorney once again. Keliah and I hadn’t exactly treated him very well; was it possible he was considering pressing charges? I forced a swallow in my suddenly dry mouth and said quietly, “And? What did he say?”

“He refused to tell us anything, other than to imply that you might be some sort of spook. I’ll ask you again, Mr. Zelin. Are you in the employ of any foreign governments?”

I did my best to match his accusatory gaze as I leaned forward, but failed miserably as I lapsed into peals of laughter. “You can’t be serious! You think I’m some sort of spy?”

My reaction only seemed to rile him up as he shouted over my cackling, “This is serious business, Mr. Zelin! The penalty under the Official Secret Acts carries a penalty of up to 14 years in prison!”

I did my best to gain my composure as I dabbed at the corners of my eyes, and then focused on my interrogator. “That is very serious. Well then, I guess I better come clean.” I sighed heavily, milking the moment, before continuing. “It’s true; I’m part of a super secret governmental agency known as CONTROL, and we are all that separates the world from being conquered by an international organization of evil known as KAOS. As a matter of fact, most of our agents are drawn from old, retired college professors and grandmothers from various knitting circles..."

The room suddenly echoed with the sound of Inspector Wright's hand slammed flat onto the metal table. Pausing for a moment during my confession, I leaned forward to adjust my glasses further up the bridge of my nose. "You already told me it was serious business, inspector. However, if you're going to continue to ask ridiculous questions..."

He said in a low, trembling voice, barely holding his anger in check, "If you are not an agent of a foreign country, then it's even more likely that you are working with these gentlemen in some sort of criminal conspiracy. Let's go over the events of the last couple days, shall we? After a violent incident at a shipping facility, you meet with a strange woman from Club Chaeronea, a den of illegal operations currently under investigation. You then meet up with a soon to be indicted solicitor known for laundering money for the underworld, only to be assaulted by what appears to be a team of mercenary criminals."

"Well...when you put it like that...it sounds kind of bad."

He leaned over the table, practically snarling at me. I'm not sure if it was his seething anger or the fact that he needed a breath mint that made me suddenly slink into my chair as far away as I could get. It was probably a combination of both. "Would you like to know what I think?"

I took a deep breath trying to steady myself; no sleep and a full bladder was starting to make me say things I was probably going to regret. "Not really. You don't seem particularly smart." Like that.

He raised his arm as if to strike me and I made a show to hold my ground, my body tensed and fearful for the contact, but he eased back and ran the raised hand through his hair as if to steady himself. "I think you had some sort of deal with Lasarevic, most likely smuggling in weapons or drugs. The deal fell through. You decided to unload the merchandise through another contact with our mystery woman and arrange payment with a well known money launderer. We already know she was there with you when you met the solicitor. Then, when Lasarevic caught wind of your double dealings, he decided to pay a trip to your hotel room to discuss matters in his usual, brutish manner."

I nodded slowly as I stroked the hairs on my chin. "Well, well, that's quite a story. Perhaps you missed your true calling. Have you thought about becoming a novelist?"

He smiled cruelly down at me as he said, "We're getting a search warrant for your freight. If any gunpowder or illegal narcotics were transported in that box, we'll find out."

I just shrugged. "You won't find anything in there." And that much was definitely true. They’d find absolutely nothing at all, especially not the body of a Jennifer Goodwin, age 52. That was probably going be hard to explain. Was I a good enough actor to appear shocked when they opened an empty coffin? Could I cast the blame on the incompetence of the funereal home? Would my shipping insurance cover this sort of loss? All these questions passed through my mind as the inspector stared down at me with searching eyes.

As inspector Wright opened his mouth to add something else, there was a light knock on the door. He reluctantly turned away from me and opened it a crack, exchanging a few hushed words. He turned back to his partner and they both exchanged knowing looks. Suddenly, Long drained the coffee in his hand and tossed aside his cup before heading out the door.

"It appears Kosta Laseravic has regained consciousness and is ready to talk. We'll be back soon enough with more questions. Don't go anywhere." He gave me another frustrated glance and then began to follow after his partner.

"And I'll be waiting, inspector Wright. But...before you leave, do you think I could use the restroom?"





I paced about the small interrogation room for what seemed like hours. Nobody came to check on me, nor did I get my bathroom break as I had requested. Why had I drank all that coffee? I felt sure I was about to damage my kidneys if I was trapped in this room any longer. I very much doubted this Kosta would give them anything incriminating on me; after all, I was hardly a criminal. Aside from smuggling a vampire in the country, that is. The empty coffee cup sitting on the metal table was beginning to look quite inviting. What if I filled the entire cup and still wasn't finished? I had a feeling urinating on the floor in a police station wouldn't go over very well.

Just as I picked up the cup to examine it's volume in comparison to my almost bursting bladder, the door opened once again. I quickly pulled up my fly and sat down in the chair with my hands on the table, doing my best to look nonchalant. The man entering the room was neither of the inspectors. He stared down at me through heavily lidded eyes, offering a curious smile, and then sat down in the chair across from me. I examined the badge clipped onto his overcoat to try and make out his name when he suddenly spoke with a deep, rolling voice, with just a hint of a French accent.

"Good evening, Professor Zelin...or morning, I suppose? I've been waiting for this moment for some time, but I had hoped it would be under more positive circumstances. My name is Kristof von Friedwich. I trust Keliah has spoken about me before?"

Had Ronald McDonald walked into the room, I'm not sure I would have been any more surprised. This was Keliah's sire and the man she spoke about in hushed, reverent undertones? I stared up at his face in shock and bewilderment.

"Are you alright, Dr. Zelin?"

I shook my head and rested it in the palms of my hands, blinking furiously as I fought off a slowly forming migraine. I knew better than to look a vampire in the eyes. Thankfully, I was far too mentally gone at this point to have really focused on anything, other than trying to not wet myself as I waited for a bathroom break. I took a deep breath and furtively looked up at the man across from me, studying his face while I pointedly avoided his gaze. This was definitely Kristof; he looked exactly like the man in the photograph Keliah had on her mantle in her Seattle flat. Before me was a nondescript, pale, blonde man in his mid thirties with a penchant for outdated fashion. Hell, he might have even been wearing the same overcoat from the photo. It’s somewhat jarring to be faced with a man who appeared to have stepped out of a fifty year old picture.

Looking down at my hands, I said, "I'm fine, Mr. von Friedwich. Just very tired, is all. I have no idea how long I've been in this room, but I'm reaching the point where I’m questioning my reality where ancient vampires disguised as police sergeants wander in to have a pleasant chat. As for there being positive circumstances surrounding our first meeting, I'm quite sure it was destined to be under circumstances such as these. Something bad is always happening when Keliah is around."

He chuckled to himself as he shook his head and answered, "I believe you are correct. Had you known her as long as I have...the stories I could tell." He waved a hand as he continued, "Truth be told, I'm here for your assistance."

I laughed harshly as I threw my hands up. "I can't even help myself at the moment. They seem to be under the impression that I'm a drug dealing, secret agent, mastermind criminal instead of a retired history professor. It’s probably the beard. Besides..." I said softly, "I won't help you kill her."

He leaned back in his chair and rested his hands on his thighs. "Is that what you think I'm here for?"

"Why else would you be here? I know about the incident that resulted in her exile. I’ve heard there is new evidence floating about, and I know that her testimony on the matter can back it up. Her very existence puts your entire family in jeopardy."

He arched an eyebrow as he said in a cold voice, "What did she tell you?"

I shook my head violently as I barked out, "Nothing. She never tells me things like that. I learned it from a psychotic little Nazi we had the displeasure of running into last night."

He curled his upper lip in disgust. "Reinhardt?"

I wasn’t surprised he figured out who I was talking about; that description did sum up Reinhardt to a tee. He should probably have it put on his business cards. I nodded in assent. "He was most insistent that she accompany him to Munich so she could work for his Prince. She, of course, told him where he could stick it."

His expression relaxed as he smiled in amusement. "That definitely sounds like Keliah. Look...I understand your reservations with me. In fact, your suspicions are correct in a sense. My Prince has sent over a team to eliminate her before she can be compromised by any of our enemies. However..." He leaned forward as he looked at me with a conspiratorial wink, "...I have other plans. I have no intention of letting my childe be destroyed due to my cowardice."

I looked up at him once more, eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Funny; you didn’t seem all that gung ho about helping her until your own ass was on the line. You’re all a bunch of backstabbing, self interested pack of leeches…"

He was out of his chair and across the room, holding me by the throat and pinned to the wall before I even knew what had happened. Speaking in a low, dangerous tone, he said, "How dare you! You don't understand anything. You have no idea how things operate in our world...You're just a human."

I flailed against his insanely strong grip at my throat as I croaked out, "At least...I...didn't abandon her..."

He released his grip and I dropped to the floor in a heap, gasping for air and doing my best not to piss myself. My protective skin ward was completely gone and I could feel the strength in his arm against my windpipe. He could snap me in half before anyone was the wiser. I shuddered as I was suddenly aware of my fragility in the face of this creature. However, showing fear was the last thing I could afford to do. These creatures could literally smell it on you.

"I apologize for that outburst. Our kind must seem so very terrible to you, but we are no better or worse than the human world. Immortality changes your perception of everything.”

As I rubbed at the chafing on my neck, I barked out, “Allow me to break out the world’s smallest violin; I’ve heard this sob story about how misunderstood you poor vampires are before. You can make all the excuses you want; it doesn’t change the fact that you let your boss put her in that position in the first place and stood by while she was banished from your court. And now, suddenly, you’ve turned over a new leaf and want to help her, coincidentally when it directly affects your well being. Color me skeptical.”

He turned away from me, hands clasped behind his back. "I know how this must appear to you, and I won’t deny that my past actions were shameful. I should have stood up for her when Mystro assigned that suicidal mission. I knew that it was a fool's errand, yet I did nothing. I could do nothing. Mystro is...he's very powerful. I cannot refuse him anything. Like I said…I can’t explain it to you as you’ve never been one of us."

As the red spots disappeared from my eyes and my breathing returned to normal, I clawed myself upright once more. "You’re right; I don’t understand it and I hope I never will. If you think you can use me to help you track her down, wherever she’s hiding, you can forget it. If she’s smart, she’s already on her way back to the States right now."

He turned to face me, looking me up and down as he chewed on his bottom lip. "I suppose you wouldn’t know what had happened since you’ve been locked up in here. Look, I'm not in the habit of asking favors, especially from someone that I have no right to do so. However, I'm taking a leap of faith that you care about Keliah more than distrust me. She was taken prisoner at your hotel and the captors have been moving locations ever since. Even with all the resources of the Prince of London, they have been unable to locate her. Now, I know that you have certain skills that would assist in this dire situation. While my influence is reduced in London, I can get you released from your incarceration. In return, I need you to find her. I don't expect you to free her; I sincerely doubt that you can navigate the dangers that will be in your way, even with your rumored abilities. But, if you can track her down and send me word, I can get both of you safely out of the country."

My heart sank as he told me about her situation. I had hoped that her skill and ability would have helped her escape as I did, but I suppose even she has her limits. I was curious what exactly my rumored abilities were; supernatural bloodhound was apparently one of them. I wanted to believe he was here to help; hell, I needed to believe him, considering my other options at the moment. Of course, that’s probably what he was betting on. "Why shouldn't I just go to the Prince? He granted her safe passage while she was in his territory. Surely he would be able to..."

He quickly cut me off. "That is a bad idea, Dr. Zelin. I have reason to suspect the Prince's court is compromised. The very fact that this attack was able to occur after Aidan offered her his protection should be clear enough. And, there’s the matter of Mystro and Aidan’s long history of collaboration. Aidan’s only guaranteed her safety in his city; it doesn’t apply once he hands her back to Mystro’s team of assassins."

Well, there it was. I couldn't trust the Prince of London to not turn her over for execution, nor could I let her be taken off to heaven knew where to be used as a pawn in a vampire power struggle. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place; whether I liked it or not, working with Kristof was starting to look like the most favorable option. I didn't like it. I thought about it some more and still didn’t like it.

"Come now, we don't have much time! I'm not even supposed to be here without explicit permission from the Prince himself. My very presence is violating protocol! I understand your reservations about me; we've only just met. Forget about my request; do it for her. If you care about her at all, you'll..."

"Don't start with that bullshit!" I yelled back, angrily. The last thing I needed was a guilt trip regarding Keliah's safety, especially from a man who turned his back on her at the time she needed him most. He was also the man that had choked me a few moments before, so it was not one of my wiser decisions. However, I was operating on no sleep over the past several days, so the odds of me making wise decisions were astronomically high.

He took a step back and looked up as a sly smile spread across his face. "I suppose that was unfair of me, but time is running short. It will be daylight in a few hours and I fear if she's not found before the next evening, they will succeed in spiriting her out of the country. The Prince managed to foil one of their plans, but I only imagine they've regrouped and plotted out another alternative. The longer we wait, the colder the trail grows or the closer Aidan’s people get to finding her. Please, Dr. Zelin...if we can't put aside our pride and work together, she will slip from our grasp forever."

I took a deep breath and nodded, doing my best to display a stoic sense of purpose. "I was planning on looking for her as soon as I got out of this damned mess anyways. If she's still in the city, I will find her."

"Excellent!" he shouted as he clasped my hand between his own. As he took his hand away, I felt a business card sitting in palm of my hand and I stared down at it in curiosity. "I can be reached at that number. During daylight hours, I will, of course, be unavailable. Leave a message with her location and as soon as the sun sets, I will be there. We will find her and send you both back where you belong. Most importantly, you will be out of the reach of Mystro's machinations."

I followed him to the doorway and tugged on his sleeve as he began to make his way back out into the station. "Before we go any further, I need to ask you one vital question. Where the hell is the bathroom?"
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