Archivist note: This post is from an older recovered archive.
((Posted by Moses Mureaux on July 14, 2010))
Alfred Jameson flew like a tossed rag doll across the parlor, landing in his seat, which tumbled over with the momentum. The Old One pounced upon him.
“Please, for the love of all that is Holy, I’m begging you… TRY THAT AGAIN!”
Jameson’s ill conceived escape attempt had ended, quite predictably, in failure.
“Psst… I wouldn’t if I were you,” I whispered knowingly. “Help him up, and set him right.”
My men were quite gentle as they aided Jameson. He was relieve to have anyone attend to him except the Old One.
“Now then… Here, have a brandy. Sip on that and calm your nerves while I explain your situation. You, my friend, have set yourself in league with those who would attempt to steal from Ms. Verlia Bilavio and her family. Because of this, she has asked for my assistance. I thwarted your little group for a time, and if you had been intelligent, you would have given up then and there. Instead, you pressed on, and so I withdrew my men from Ms. Bilavio. Now… Why would I do that…?”
“I… I don’t know…” Jameson whispered.
“Because, my friend, human beings are utterly predictable, and so impatient. I knew that none of you would consider that I’d withdrawn on purpose. You assumed that I thought you’d given up. Oh how intelligent you all must have felt to have outwitted me! And so, you stuck! However… All you did was earn the wrath of every person who loves Ms. Verlia. Now, they want you, and everyone else involved, dead. Oh, they won’t say it out loud, but the desire burns in their hearts! They will use any excuse to cross that line and end your miserable existence! As one of your associates recently learned. How unfortunate that I have you, and not one of them.”
“What do you mean…?”
“Simple. They would kill you. I will not,” I said with a smile, “But you will wish that I would… Unless, of course, you give us your full cooperation.”
The look of terror in his eyes told me that my reputation had preceded me. In my travels through the Steamlands, I’d purchased the alliances I have made with the blood of many a wretch such as Alfred Jameson. At first, it struck all of us as being quite odd that men and women of power in these lands were so unwilling to take that final step to protect those in their charge. However, that same deficiency had provided me with the niche I required. I would attend to matters they wished they weren’t even aware of, and they in turn would shield my activities in shadows. Indeed, few, usually only the most vile, know anything of the House’s movements. It is a perfectly symbiotic relationship and, in fact, those of my house have postulated that these arrangements grant me even more power and freedom than I possess within the Arcanian Commonwealth. Perhaps so. It matters not.
“Alfred… I can call you Alfred, seeing as we are making such fast friends, can I not? Good! Alfred, I would like to do this the easy way. You would too, wouldn’t you?”
“Y-yes… I’ll cooperate! Just keep him away from me!”
“Excellent. You’ve met Mr. Batriani, haven’t you? He is going to sit right here, and you are going to look into his eyes as he asks you some questions. Answer truthfully, or we’ll know. Simply listen and answer, listen and answer. And never take your eyes from his. Understood?”
“Yes, I understand. And you won’t kill me, or… worse?”
“No, I won’t kill you, or worse. Now, before we begin, look at that clock please. What time is it?”
Jameson gave me a quizzical look, but answered readily.
“It’s a bit after 2:40 in the am.”
“Good. Now, look into Mr. Batriani’s eyes.”
Demitri sat down in front of Jameson, and spoke calmly and gently.
“Never fear, this will be quite painless. Just a simple conversation. Nothing to worry over. Just keep your eyes focused on mine, and that way I’ll know that what you say is true. And it will be, will it not? You are an intelligent man. You can see your situation. Cooperation will set you free. So I trust you. But, pardon me, if you wouldn’t mind, without looking at the clock, exactly what time is it?”
“Well, I don’t know… 2:42? 2:43, maybe?”
Roughly two minutes ahead with his first guess.
“Very good. Now, as I was saying. I’m only going to speak, and you will listen. When I ask, you will answer. Nothing to it. Never mind those in this room with us. Let them fade from memory. Just focus on our conversation, and allow me to worry over the others. Yes? Yes! Now, pardon me once more, but I can sometimes be forgetful. You understand, do you not? Of course you do, so I know you will indulge me, and tell me, what time is it exactly?”
Jameson looked perplexed. A bit drowsy, but perplexed.
“I… I suppose it’s about… 2:44?”
The gap was down to less than one minute ahead.
“Yes, yes, of course. So, as I was saying, we need not bother about the others. This will be quite easy for us. We’ll talk, have a nice laugh, and you’ll tell me what I need to know. Then, we’ll return you home. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Of course it does.”
“I feel… I feel like I’m falling.. What… What’s going on…?”
“Oh, never mind all of that. Just focus on my eyes, and you will be fine. Now, again I must apologize, but what time is it exactly?”
“It is 17 seconds past 2:45 am.”
I smiled, “Ah, even the unconscious mind of a dullard is unerringly precise.”
“He submitted rather quickly. Weak mind. My Lord, I’m telling you, if you’d pushed the girl to allow herself to be placed under incursion, we’d have known all we need to by now,” the Old One said.
“Indeed. However, she has been through enough. And once it is done, it can not be undone. She would be attuned to one of mine, and those who claim to protect her might begin to see her as a liability,” I retorted, “I won’t allow it.”
The Old One merely grumbled. Demitri continued.
“Tell me… Where are you, and what is there?”
“I am nowhere. There is nothing. Except your eyes… Your voice… And me…”
“Good… Remember my voice. Attune to it. Let it resonate within you. When you hear my voice, you will know it is true.”
“Your voice is true…”
“Yes, it is. Hear it now. You are sitting outside the abode of Verlia Bilavio. You have arranged for a toxin to be introduced into her drink, and now you wait as she sleeps. Are you there?”
Jameson sat more upright, and appeared to be checking a pocket watch that isn’t there.
“Yes… It’s nearly time… She should stir any moment…,” he said.
“Tell me, why are you watching her? What are you waiting for?”
“The formula… She knows the formula… Only, she doesn’t know she knows…”
“What is this formula? Please explain.”
Jameson eased back, obviously eager to demonstrate his knowledge.
“It is the key… The greatest achievement of mankind… The formula that unlocks the power of the earth itself!”
Jameson grinned through his stupor.
“Go on… I don’t understand.”
“The formula allows one to harness the magnetic… the magnetic field of the earth itself… Allowing the generation of limitless electromagnetic power…”
The Old One whispered, “Quite an achievement. It could change the world. Or destroy it.”
I nodded in agreement. “Demitri, how is it that she might know this formula, yet not know she knows?”
“Why do you believe Verlia Bilavio knows this formula, yet does not know that she knows?”
Jameson chuckled, “Because her father never told her she knows… He implanted the formula… into her mind hypnotically… He perhaps thought that only he could retrieve it… But we are so close… Look! She’s moving to the easel!”
Jameson points subtly, with a look of anticipation upon his face. It’s time to move on.
“Demitri, the paintings…,” I whisper.
“Listen to my voice. You are no longer watching Verlia Bilavio. You are adrift.”
“I’m falling… Into… Nowhere…”
“You need not fall for long. There is much to be done! The paintings! What will we do with the paintings?”
“The safe-house… We must take them there… Until they might be studied…”
“But where? Where is the safe-house? You must remind me, my friend.”
“Of course… You remember the way…”
Jameson details the location of this safe-house, as the Old One writes down every detail.
I turn to him, “Send five, plain clothes. Have Lt. Cmdr Zane mobilize a squad of Sentinel Elite and prepare to escort us once we are finished with Jameson. If this turns into a fight, I want it brief, with no survivors or witnesses. However, we keep our distance. All will await my arrival. Unless absolutely necessary, no one enters the safe-house but me.”
“You’re going yourself, your Lordship? God help them. But why alone?” the Old One inquires.
“I made a promise. What was taken, no one shall have. I can account unerringly for myself, but how can I assure Lia of everyone else in my service? I will recover them, and I will seal them. As to God’s help, I doubt He will render it. No one can save them, my friend. Anyone I find who has seen these paintings, except for our good friend here, has forfeited their lives.”
Demitri tapped my hand. He needs more direction, how to proceed.
“This is enough for now. You will be able to retrieve more information if we need it later. Have him dropped off,” I commanded.
“My friend, do you recall the men who chased you? Do you recall the young couple? The Laborers? Being surrounded on all sides, until you escaped through a shop, only to be cornered by an old man with shining eyes?”
Jameson shuttered, “Yes…”
“Forget… It never happened.”
Jameson looks puzzled for a few moments, as the memories slip away.
“Never mind. Sleep.”
Jameson slumps back and begins to snore.
“Pathetic…,” the Old One huffs in disgust, “Funnel brandy down his gullet and drop him off.”
I smile, “Ah, the old fashioned way… Now, gentlemen, seems we have a few canvases to retrieve…”
*Comment by Sky Netizen on July 15, 2010 at 7:48am
watches, hears only a moment of faint yelling and eventually sees members of the House escorting a drunk from the premises
mumbles to herself Either they threw yet another party or that man has no idea how lucky he is to be breathing…for now.
*Comment by Verlia Bilavio on July 15, 2010 at 10:49am
I thought Moses threw the wild parties that you needed a secret invitation for….
*Comment by Moses Mureaux on July 16, 2010 at 1:14am
My dear friends, did not a great poet once pen, "Ain’t no party like an interrogation party?"
*Comment by Verlia Bilavio on July 16, 2010 at 2:02am
I’d heartily disagree unless the death pig was involved.
*Comment by Moses Mureaux on July 16, 2010 at 2:31am
We had considered Death Pig, but we wanted him to remember something. I mean, to this day you don’t remember the beating up that mime for being "too mimey", or the obscene comments you made about the Clockwinder’s mother. (I have it on good authority that the clocks she winds do not run two and a half minutes slow…)
*Comment by Aizek Tchailenov on July 16, 2010 at 2:26pm