After a half an hour or so, I made my way back downstairs. I raided Lucy’s icebox for a beer and something to eat. She had some cold cuts and cheese. I scarfed down the food like I had not eaten in weeks. I downed the beer in a long pull and exhaled in satisfaction. Much of the pain had settled by then and I could think and see straight. I walked into Lucy’s workshop, careful not to trip over or knock into anything. Lucy stood over Tanis diligently at work. From what I could see she was bolting bits here, soldering bits there. There was a small haze of smoke in the air above her. I walked over slowly and stood next to her.
Lucy did not look up from her task. She kept working on repairing Tanis; little sparks flew here and there as she soldered bits and parts in place. Tanis lay perfectly still with her chest open, her internal components exposed. I may not know what all the winding gears and levers and cogs do when put together; but I admit it was a beautiful thing to see. Tanis, looking in much better shape, looked at me and smiled faintly.
“What’s the prognosis doctor?” I asked lightheartedly. I was broody but I didn’t want Lucy or Tanis to see that.
“I don’t know, ask her.” Lucy said. “This girl is a work of art, I’m just patching up the holes.”
“I will be fine.” Tanis said. “I won’t be running marathons anytime soon but I will be okay.”
“She speaks!” I said feigning astonishment.
“Yes, looks like my secret got out,” She sighed. Which I thought was odd; from my vantage point I could see she did not have lungs.
“You are safe with us, Lucy will get you patched up while I find out where Arlena has stashed the kid. I believe I am going to have find her office.”
“Something as important as the location of her nephew and brother in law will likely be kept in her personal office, not her office at Devlin Works.” Lucy said in between soldering down another point within Tanis’s chest.
“Hmmm. That’s going to be a bit trickier.” I said leaning back against and nearby table.
Lucy sighed heavily and slid her goggles up to her forehead. She stared blankly at me with those big aquamarine colored eyes. “What would you do without me?” she paused and I shrugged my sore shoulders. “The Silverstein’s like to flaunt their wealth and as my father was a prominent elf before his demise. I get a monthly invitation to their parties.”
Lucy stopped working on Tanis and walked over to one her desks. She rummaged around for a bit and recovered a grease-stained envelope. She walked back over to Tanis and handed me the invitation. I broke the wax seal that born the Silverstein’s family crest.
I withdrew the sweet scented invitation from the envelope. The paper was thick and heavy; the color of cream and it appeared to have tiny flecks of gold in it. Embossed in golden letters was, “You have been duly invited to the monthly Silverstein party. This invitation is for yourself plus one other.”
“This is fine and dandy, Lucy,” I said. “But I can’t just waltz right into the lioness’s den. I have the element of surprise right now.”
“You silly bugger. I have already thought of that, we’ll put an illusion over you. That will get you in as my plus one. Afterward you will drink a little invisibility potion. That way you will be able to sneak up into Arlena’s office.”
I smiled shaking my head, “I am still amazed how you can come up with a working plan while repairing something you have never seen before. Sorry Tanis.”
“It is okay, I know what I am and I’m not ashamed of it.” Tanis said.
“It’s not so hard. The hard part is going to be getting you a new suit.” Lucy said looking me up and down.
“I’ve got suits at home, I’ll just run by there.” I told her.
“Ha! You cannot go into a high society party dressed like a pauper.”
“Hey!” I protested.
Lucy continued while bolting another piece in place. “The party is not till tomorrow, so we’ll have time to take you to Richie.”
“Who’s Richie?” I asked my arms crossed defensively around my chest.
“If I were a tailor instead of an techomagus, I would be Richie. The gnome has talent unmatched, when it comes to sewing cloth.”
“Fine,” I relented. “I’m going to run to my place and gather some things. I’ve one bullet left for Lucy and the last batch you made me are there. Also the Apollo is under the protection of my cousin, Tobias. I’ll need to know where you want him to drop it off.”
“Very well Marcus, find out where he has it and I’ll have it towed here.”
“I’ll call him when I get home, also I better tell you now. The car is in pretty bad shape.”
“I figured as much. I mean look how well the two of you came out of this situation.” She smiled still not taking her eyes of her work.
I leaned over and kissed Lucy on top of her strawberry blond head. I looked over at Tanis and gave her a reassuring nod, and then I walked over to the garage where my Athena had been since the night previous. I grabbed my key off the wall on the rack and hit the button that opened the hidden garage door. It was full night by then and it was still raining.
I got into my steam-powered car, started it up and headed back towards midtown to my little brownstone apartment. I drove cautiously, looking for a possible tail. I knew there should not be one since I was presumed dead. Call me paranoid; still my track record of late had not been so good.
The rain drummed against the car as I pulled into my parking spot in front of my apartment building. I took the long way home and circled the block twice. I shut off the engine and ventured out into the rain. My apartment building was one of the older style row houses. I rented the top floor from Milton Branson and his wife Grace. I walked up to the building while scanning my surroundings. I looked for anything out of the ordinary or out of place. Satisfied that I did not see anything I turned the key in the lock and quietly went upstairs to my apartment. The old wooden stairs creaked as I went and it made me winch. A moment later I could Mrs. Longgrove’s dog, Pepper, barking. I sighed and continued onward to my home.
I reached my door and listened through it. I did not want another surprise like my last two encounters with closed doors. I sniffed the air making out the different aromas. Once more satisfied that there were no new smells or any unexpected sounds; I turned the lock and entered my apartment. My apartment is nothing spectacular, modest furniture most of which belonged to my parents. To be honest, I could afford new ones, but I like the rustic feel of them. There are two chairs and a couch seated in front of the fireplace. The floor was made of hardwood and I had a comfy rug underneath the furniture. I have several bookshelves filled with books along with a phonograph, a radio and a scrying mirror. The only thing that would really stand out is the unfinished painting of two nude maidens on a bed of red velvet. The apartment featured a small kitchen and a decent size bedroom.
I didn’t bother turning on the lights. My low light vision was equally as good as daylight. There was more than enough light coming in the two tall windows to see clearly. I stripped off my wet jacket and hung it on the coat rack by the door. I walked over to my desk and hit the button just underneath the top, a familiar hiss of steam being exhaled from the pressure lock on the bottom drawer. I sat in the desk chair and pulled out the drawer. I loaded my pistol in the recharge station Lucy had designed for it. I usually can go weeks without needing to recharge. Granted during that time I don’t fire nearly a third as many rounds.
The gun locked in place and I could hear the tiny motor charging. The two tiny vials of green liquid glowed faintly as they began to bubble. I closed the drawer and the room fell silent. I got up and went to the scrying mirror on the breakfast bar next to the kitchen. I made a summons to Brill remembering that I had not spoken to her yet. She picked up on the first chime with a relieved expression on her green face. I could see she had been crying. It was odd on her as she was extremely strong-willed. I started to speak but she cut me off.
“Marcus Moore, you bastard! The radio reports have be blaring all night about a shootout at your office. Sweetie, what happened?”
“I was playing a game of checkers while my opposition was playing chess. My “client” was a few moves ahead of me. Her men shot me down, as a frame up for the nanny. Fortunately for me they were really poor shots.” I told her with a shrug. I had never told her the whole story about my gifts and myself.
“Are you okay? Do you need me to come and patch you up?”
“No, I’m fine. I got all patched up.” I said running a hand through my hair. “ Listen, I may summons you later? Do you think you may be able to rouse the troops for some mayhem?”
“Tell me when and where. I owe you big, sweetie. You handed me my brothers kingdom and because you single-handedly defeated my brother with your bare hands, you have gained the respect of the gang.”
“I was glad to be of service. I’ll summons you tomorrow night sometime.”
“Okay, Sweetie. I’m going to get my beauty sleep and dream about what I plan to do to you once I get you alone.” She told me in her sweetest seductive voice.
This is of course is when she shifted the portable scrying mirror. Revealing the lacy purple lingerie she was barely wearing. I could see the defined curves of her voluptuous breasts and toned abdomen through the sheer material. I smiled sheepishly and ran my finger along my collar as a flash of heated desire rushed over me.
“Sleep well, Brill.” I told her.
She purred and bit her lower lip. “I intend too, sweetie. I intend too.”
I closed the connection and I summoned Tobias briefly. Our conversation was short and to the point. He told me the location of the Apollo and I jotted the address down on a piece of paper I kept handy by the mirror. I closed the connection with Tobias and entered into my bedroom. The room was of a decent size fitted with a queen size bed, a tall chest of drawers a single end table with a porcelain-based lamp.
I pulled a small bag out of my closet and stuffed some changing clothes into it. I opened the top drawer of my chest of drawers. From inside I withdrew a small stack of sovereigns, the enchanted necklace that buffers me from magic, and one of the three healing tonics I kept for just in case situations. I picked up my gentleman’s cane out of the corner. The cane was another gift from Lucy and like all of Lucy’s gifts; it was more than just a cane.
The cane stood three feet in height, jet black with a ring of bronze separating the head and the base. Fashioned to the top was a small ruby framed in a ring of bronze. When the ruby was pressed and the head twisted, the internal mechanics would go into motion. The head of the cane and the shaft separated and a bronze cross guard would uncoil and lock into position. The shaft would split in two halves; fifty-two one-inch blade segments fell from between the two halves and lock into position. The two halves of the shaft locked back together and a one and a half inch point would springs forth. The end result was a thirty-four inch single-handed sword.
I walked back into the living room and opened the top drawer on the writing desk I pulled out the carton of standard ammunition and the glass case with my remaining spell rounds. I loaded the speed loaders with the standard ammunition and slid my remaining seven spell rounds into my belt. I would have to get Lucy to make some more. Which also meant that I would have to purchase more components. You would think spell components would be cheaper for the size of the bullet. This however is not the case. If you include the shell casings each round is worth a day’s wages at my usual fee.
When I did the math, I had gone through a week and a half’s worth of earnings in two days. And all that on a case I likely won’t get paid for. I sat back in my chair and stared up at the dark ceiling for a while. I remember feeling myself begin to nod off when the rather unpleasant smell of vinegar and old butter assaulted my nostrils. I quietly rose from my seat and grabbed my cane. Silently, I walked to the door. The smell grew stronger as I approached and in the dim light I could see the tendrils of smoke as acid ate its way through my locks.
I positioned myself behind the door so that whomever it was breaking into my home would not see me. An average-sized elf with long pointed ears in a brown derby and silver spectacles poked his head through my door. I had had a long day and my wits were not about me. I wish I had, had something sly to say. At that moment, however nothing came to mind. So I hit him hard in the face.
He tumbled across the room a rolled with a loud thud of impact. During that motion my intruder withdrew a small wooden wand and grunted through clenched teeth “Aero!”
A controlled burst of hardened wind rushed toward me like a freight train. The burst struck me squarely in the chest and dissipated with little to no effect. The amulet on my chest turned ice cold and sent a chilled sensation throughout my body. I shook off the chill and pressed the ruby on the top of my cane. I twisted the shaft and twirled the handle in my hand, and then I quickly crossed the room. With the grinding of gears and the clang of metal locking in place, I placed my blade at the Magus’s throat.
“Listen pal, I’ve had a really long day and at this very moment I could really care less about killing you. I do however would prefer not to stain my rug, as it is a memento from my mother. So let us keep this short and sweet. Who are you, who sent you and did you really have to melt my lock?” I grumbled.
“Wait… wait... Marcus is that you?” The blond haired intruder yelped.
He threw his right hand up in a submissive gesture while rubbing his jaw with his left. I took a step back and allowed the elf to get to his feet. With my sword still pointed at him I backed up and flicked on the light. The elf slid his wand into his jacket pocket and placed his derby hat back on his head. He stood about five feet and eight inches tall. He was wearing a dark brown pinstriped suit with a light blue shirt and a dark blue vest and bowtie. Like most elves, his angler face was clean-shaven. Looking directly at him I recognized the guy.
“Winston Harper? What are you doing breaking into my place in the middle of the night?”
“The Fates, Marcus you hit like a truck. You nearly broke my jaw.”
“You are lucky I gave you the love tap instead of the blade point. Now have a seat I’ll get you some ice for that jaw and beer for your head.”
“I will not object to that.” He said as he took a seat on the couch.
I tapped the ruby on the sword’s hilt twice as I walked into the kitchen. The gears within went into motions and retracted the blades returning the cane to its original form. I opened the drawer next to the sink and withdrew a gray hand cloth. I opened the icebox and withdrew a few pieces of ice.
After I tied the towel tight I withdrew two bottles of Bristorn’s dwarven ale. A heavy dark brew with a touch of honey my brew of choice when not having bourbon. I walked back in the living room and handed Winston a beer and the ice. I sat down in the chair across from the couch and said, “Sorry about the head it’s been a rough day.”
“That I can see and I can’t blame you, I suppose I should have knocked first.” Winston laughed and took a sip of the ale.
“That may have been the safer option. So you are resorting to breaking and entering now? So when did you quit the force?”
“About six months ago. One too many goons walked for me to give a damn anymore. I joined the private sector and got a gig working as P.I. for Devlin Works. Mostly, I investigate leaks in the company. You know, track down people selling company secrets on the black market.”
“Who pointed you my direction?” I asked.
“Not you specifically. I got a summons telling me to check out this address. The resident was suspect of having information pertaining to company secrets. I was asked to check this place out and recover and stolen information.”
“I have a good idea who sent you. I’m pretty sure I know what she wanted you to find as well.”
“Arlena Silverstein, she tried to have me killed today. I’m guessing she hopes for you to find out whether or not I’m dead and recover any info on recovering her nephew.”
“There was talk of recovering any information having to do with the Silverstein’s. Still, I work for the company, not it’s individuals.”
“Interesting, something must have pointed you in this direction.”
I sat there and contemplated for a moment. Winston took a long pull from his bottle. I drank from mine and rolled the brown bottle in my hand as I plotted another plan. I rose and went to the kitchen, a minute later I returned and handed Winston a second bottle. He took it graciously with a smile.
“How much they paying you?”
“Round about fifty sovereigns a day.” he answered.
I choked on my ale a bit. I really needed to raise my rates a bit. I put the bottle down on the table, reached into my vest pocket and withdrew the ransom note and my wallet. I counted out fifty sovereigns and stacked them on top of the note. “Okay, Winston I’m going to have to ask you for a solid. I need your boss to believe I’m out of the game. This document is the information you seek. This stack of sovereigns is to tell them that no one was here and it appeared no one had been here for a few days.”
“I can do that for an old friend.” He said. “What exactly is going on?”
“Honestly, I believe it’s better if you don’t know. I’m already asking you to lie for me once.”
“That doesn’t matter Marcus. I left the force because I got tired of seeing bad guys get away with bad things. I don’t want to be an accomplice to more of the same.”
“I understand…” I hesitated considering how much I would tell him. “ Arlena has gotten her hand on a powerful item. That for all intent and purposes is rightfully Devlin Work’s property. There is a catch to this find. The prize she seeks is in the chest of an eight year old kid.”
Winston’s eyebrows rose, “What could possibly be so important that she would try to kill you for it?”
“A new power source; a compact self-contained generator. It was developed in secret by a scientist that works for your company.”
“Interesting, that would be why I was sent in, but Marcus there is no way Arlena had me sent here. My orders come directly from Mr. Devlin himself. I spend most of my days shadowing his board of trustees for leaks and spies. If he sent me here he must have found out the Ms. Silverstein had hired a P.I. And he wanted to know why.” Winston said between sips of ale.
“So it is likely he does not know that the item exists,” I said mostly to myself “You think he would care if gaining access to this item would possibly mean the death of a kid?”
“I don’t know. He is a family man himself. He may have an issue if he were to find out that one of his own threatened the likes of a child for personal gain.”
“I’ll have to remember that. It may be useful later.” I looked over at the clock that was mounted on the wall. It was ten till midnight. I polished off my drink and I rose to my feet. Winston stood up, finished his drink and we walked to the door.
He turned back to me and said. “Once this is all over we’ll have to catch up on the old times. Keep your head low Marcus and summons me if you need anything.”
“Will do, hopefully I won’t have too.” I insisted.
Winston tipped his hat and walk out into the hallway and I closed the door behind him. I started to lock the door but recalled that Winston had destroyed the lock. I turned off the lights and waited a moment for my keen eyes to adjust. I ventured back to my desk and press the pressure release button underneath the desktop.
I withdrew Lucy and loaded the gun with standard ammunition; I holstered Lucy and gathered the remainder of my belongings. I threw on my long overcoat that was the shade of ash gray. After shouldering the bag full of items I might need I ventured out of the apartment and back outside to my Athena. I placed the travel bag and cane in the passenger’s seat. As I walked around to the driver’s side, I glanced over my surroundings again before I got in the vehicle. The street was quiet and most of the lights were out in the neighboring homes. I turned on the steam engine and made way for the highway.