Nicholas was not upset over the loss of his reliable customer. The incident had him toying with the prospect of expanding with good looking young men to cater to those needs. For the moment, their competition was placed on hold while he selected a new challenge. But this did not spare Beryl from her visitors.
Mr. Herding was arranging more evenings with men that Beryl did not know, and while the drugs were effective they were running low. And the number of patrons having no memory of the previous night was making Beryl nervous. She had an idea about how to enter the house next door, but not what she would look for there.
She departed from the Essex after leaving several letters there for Wisp to deliver. Myrtil set her on this mission, so perhaps she had idea what evidence Beryl could uncover. Even if the young girl had not planned that far in advance, the familiar had their own strategy.
Taking the north road past the hospital, she noted the wreckage from Wright’s loss of control the previous evening. The feud between Domino and John came to a violent conclusion that left the wolf hospitalized. When given cocaine for the pain, it unleashed the wolf inside of him. The opiates he got from Beryl also kept his inner wolf suppressed among other benefits, but a powerful stimulant like cocaine had the opposite effect. Where the hospital doors should have been were bags taped down and a sign asking patients to use the other entrance.
There would not be any stolen supplies from there now, but it had been fortunate she’d stolen them previously. She cabbits and Kasa’s tranquilizers were ready for Wright, but she also couldn’t be seen doing it herself. Fortunately, Russell retrieved the dart she left for him and stopped the rampage before Wright took the adventurers own life.
Even that risked more exposure than she had been comfortable with, but was getting used to walking in the shadows. She turned to the stairs leading down to the Babbage Cabbage, and Qismah’s apothecary. She entered the shop, the herbs within giving it a distinct pungent odor, and was greeted by the horned shop owner. “Ah, Beryl. What can I do for you this time?”
“I have a list,” Beryl replied with a purr, remembering her previous encounters with the ‘Herbalist’ ended well. She glanced out the window, and saw that her follower was placing an order at the Cabbage.
“Business is always welcome. So what can I get for you?”
“Laudanum, Cocaine, opium, and morphine for a start,” She began as Qismah asked questions about the needed amounts and strengths. “I need the more addictive forms you possess. The kind that would make Captain Heinrichs squirm if she knew I was giving it to someone.”
“Why would she squirm? Nothing you’ve requested is illegal.” She gestured towards the cocaine teething drops on the poster behind her for emphasis.
“It isn’t about legality.” Book had more reasons to find her actions and choices distasteful, but she would leave that subject alone. “She is quite squeamish in some ways. She hates seeing people become addicts to anything. Frankly, I’m surprised she never joined the Temperance movement.”
“She is a most annoying woman.” Qismah nodded in agreement while she gathered the supplies around the store. She was surprised Beryl wanted her portions measured in cups rather than in ounces, but followed the request. Within a few minutes the initial order was filled. “Will that be all?”
The familiar shook her head, “I’m also in the market for anything you have that can cause….powerful hallucinations in the subject taking it.”
“Hallucinations?” Qismah rubbed her chin in thought as she considered the question, “Of what sort?
“Is there anything that might leave a subject open to suggestion? See things that aren’t there or remember things that didn’t happen?”
“Do you wish to scare people or drive them mad?” Qismah did not seem disturbed by either outcome. She treated the request the same as she had before, a shopkeep narrowing down what the customer needed. “The local cinder berries have some uniquely devastating effects when they expire.”
Beryl knew from first hand experience. “I would like them to enter a state where it would be easier to lull them into trance,” She had seen Dr. Maddox, Solsen, Helio, and students use hypnotic techniques to make people perceive things that were not happening. They were experienced professionals though, and she needed every edge if she would emulate them. “Make them believe they did acts they did not.”
That was not specific enough to the Herbalist, who pressed her questioning. “What kind of acts.”
“If I get them into a trance, I might let them think any number of events as I need,” Beryl was reminded of Phaedra’s dogged questions. She wondered idly if the Herbalist considered herself a druid. To be safe she noted a few possibilities, “Revenge fantasies, carnal delights, a trip to the beach. Whatever I need them to believe.”
Qismah looked the cat up and down, noting her change in attire from her previous visit and the mention of carnal delights. Perhaps Violet Solano had not heard of her recent change in behavior yet, but that would probably change. The familiar teased, “You haven’t heard?”
The Herbalist shrugged as she walked across her store to another cabinet, “Would it be best if it was an aphrodisiac as well?”
“That would come in handy,” Beryl admitted, thinking it best not to use the chocolates again unless necessary.
She nodded and stood straight, pleased with herself as she came back to her customer with a box in hand. “You are not the first woman who has needed such a concoction in her time. My mother and grandmother had similar requests, and every herbalist has heard it before. It was Mother who taught me how to make the potion that made even my father believe they made love when it was all a dream whispered into his ear.”
“Not every night obviously,” Beryl replied wryly as Qismah’s presence testified. Thinking of the chocolates the familiar asked, “I take it this is not a natural concoction?”
“It is made of natural ingredients. Cinderberries and certain kinds of mushrooms can do surprising things to a person, and like those this should be used lightly.” Qismah handed Beryl the large box. She would need some bags when she finally departed. “Serve it in a tea, but avoid strong alcohols. That might produce rage instead. You will need to start the stimulus and guide their dream initially.”
Beryl held onto the box like it was a small treasure. When she had come into the store she had known there were herbs and incense that might assist her attempts. Qismah had inadvertently handed her the keys to Nicholas’s office in the entertainment lounge. She would need the opportune time to get it into the tea, but the girls and men would sleep unharmed and happily as she passed them.
This would take planning, but she had to settle price. Most of it was common pharmaceuticals, but the rest was more expensive. Still, Beryl was happy Qismah was satisfied by only coin. She reached for her hidden purse under the skirt, which she had just refilled at the Essex. The transaction completed, Qismah seemed pleased but curious, “I cannot help but wonder what you have gotten yourself into to need these?”
“Well if you wanted to know you should have said that was part of the payment,” Beryl chuckled. She’d have traded information and more for the trance aide. With a purr she added, “Then again, you haven’t sold me that aphrodisiac yet.”
“The potion used in smaller doses will work, but if you need anything…else perhaps?”
Beryl shook their head slightly, but then paused. Wright and Russell had both been reduced to poor states by the things that the familiar had provided them. Perhaps… “Do you have something that can help someone get out of depression that is caused by opiates? Something to help get it out of their system?”
“Yes,” Qismah said as she shuffled about cursing to herself about where she had placed it. “But it is not pleasant. It will make the patient very sick. Unable to keep even water down for the first six hours. I give it to Violet when she….over indulges.”
“Oh? I never expected she was the type to..over indulge. But we all make mistakes.” Beryl silently giggled to herself as the gazelle moreau approached her with two bottles in hand. There was to be more haggling that evening, but when she left the cat departed with a better plan in mind than she had before. She only hoped that it went smoother than her idea with the chocolates…
Qismah watched beryl and her tail head up the steps and off down the street, then entered the warehouse canal dock gates, and up the lift to violets office ” well this might be interesting “her mistress looked up “what? and i hope you brought my headache Medicine.”
the Gazelle set down a small bottle which Violet downed quickly ” well, whats so very interesting?”
the Herbalist smirked ” Beryl came into the shop all tarted up and asking for opiates, mind altering hallucinogenics, and aphrodisiacs “
the rabbit moreau looked down at the ledger in front of her the writing becoming clearer as her headache lessoned ” oh is that all, Beryl is working with Myrtil, in some plot involving Nicholas Herding, its old news and has no bearing on my business. “
Qismah looked surprised ” no bearing at all? “
violet glanced up ” none what so ever, i do not deal with procurers, and if i did I’d have simply done him in and taken over his business,hes a small fish in a very dangerous sea,and there are much bigger fish to fry”
“So Beryl went ter Mrs Phadra, then there were that fight in the pub..? An now they’s gone ter that herbie what works fer the bunny an got loads of stuff?”
The small lad nodded at the pensive fox cub, eager for a word of praise.
“Good job, yer keeps it up, but don’t let no one see yer or any of the others, keep switchin round, playin, beggin or lookin as if yer casin a joint, yer know, normal stuff…”
The acolite jumped up and hurried off to continue his duty.
Tepic pondered to himself, wondering why his friend had not come to the urchins for sutch suppies, after all, they had enough in store, not to mention their own brews and distilations. Maybe it was Beryl didn’t need anything quite so… strong. He chuckled to himself, remembering Big Horace the Dockman, large enough to pick up a fully packed mule. He had started getting rambunctious in the Vole one night, so Tepic had slipped him a micky. The man had downed the drink in one, then just continued toppling over backwards. It was lucky the canal bus had been passing for him to land on, otherwise he might have drowned! Still, it was a sight to behold, and the chap never remembered a thing!
Still, they were managing to keep an eye on Beryl, and his watchers, just in case….
Fly looked down at the rusty gun he was passing from hand to hand and rubbed it with the bottom of his shirt in an illusory attempt to make it shine.
The teen had been looking for his sister’s murderer for weeks now and had missed his chance the only few times he had seen him in the street. His new headquarters were in Loki’s Absinthe pub and he had downed quite a few bottles of the eponym liquor after each of his unlucky tries.
The pirate boy looked up at the man-shaped mannequin he had planted in a barrel against the Palisades wall and raised him arm to aim.
The bullet flew out and bounced on the stone behind the target, far to the left.
Fly lowered his arm and stared in front of him, resolution set upon his face. He would need a bit of practice before he started hunting for Nicholas Herding again. The boy held his armed hand with his other to keep it steady. And he would need to quit drinking.
Frowning, he raised his arm again and aimed at the hated figure.
This time, the top hat fell off.