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Chapter the Sixth! - Fool's Gold: A Dresden Files RPG [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Fool's Gold: A Dresden Files RPG

[ website | Fool's Gold: The Game ]
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Chapter the Sixth! [Jun. 8th, 2007|02:28 pm]
Fool's Gold: A Dresden Files RPG

fools_gold_rpg

[museinme8]
[Tags|]
[Current Location |In mi compy chair]
[mood |cheerfulcheerful]
[music |Billy and Mandy]

Players so far:
Warden Harry Dresden
Detective-Seargant Karrin Murphy
Molly Carpenter
Thomas Raith
Gentleman Johnny Marcone
Lena Benadetto
Raoul "Fenrir 'Finn' Sullivan" Tyler
Tori
Dave Arkenson
Edward Bone
Arana Folwns
Marcello Gianni

Part One
Gentleman Johnny Marcone has a problem. Someone is pushing Venom--the latest drug, in his city. Without his permission. After a meeting with Marcello Gianni, son of the Gianni family, and heir to the famiglia, both parties come away feeling as if they don't know the entire scope of what's going on, and start using their respective tools to find out more about it. For Marcone it comes in the form of his big vampire-hating bodyguard, Finn. For Gianni, it is the 'almighty Wikipedia'.

Harry and Molly, discussing the same topic, are interrupted when Arana Fowlns, a visitor to the town, arrives, asking for help and advice for her cousin, who happens to be a loup-garou. While they are discussing his fate, Arana brings up the mention of Venom, and just how bad it's gotten in Chicago. Marcone calls and only cements the fact that Venom is a mystery they have to solve soon.

On the Streets, after the visit with Molly and Harry, Arana is accosted by a dealer, and runs into Finn, who, looking for someone to interrogate, gets rid of the pests (with quite a bit of help from Arana), and collects one to take back to his boss.

While all this is happening, Thomas is still struggling to find a way to help Tori, the girl he found when he rescued his sister. Not accustomed to anything in our world, he is at a loss to help her, and seeks out his brother (and his woolly mammoth dog) to help entertain her while he's away.


-=-Part One: Venom-=-
There are a lot of rumors hitting Chicago these days. It is six months after their last adventure and spring is in the air. Young love is a-borning, and so are allergies and hay fever. People get the urge to frisk a bit. People start buying drugs.

There’s a new drug on the streets, and rumors run fast about it. It’s euphoric. Addictive. Narcotic. Once you taste Venom, they say, you never ever go back.

Not ever.

In his office, Marcone tips a small vial back and forth in his fingers. Back…and forth. Back…and forth letting it catch the light from the window. The wise crime boss does not touch drugs himself, but he oversees the distribution of plenty of it. Cocaine, in its various forms. Heroin, Meth. Pharmaceuticals like Morphine and Valium. A little bit of pot, on the side, as a hobby.

Marcone has never sold Venom. He does not allow it in his territory. And yet, one of his agents brought this sample of the ecstasy-drug to him, after buying it on the street not half an hour ago. Sighing, he sets the vial (very, very carefully) on his desk, and dials his speakerphone. “Finn? Marcone. I need to talk to you.”

The second call he makes is to the agent that bought the Venom. “Kill the vendor. Leave his body out as a warning.” Fenrir Sullivan entered his boss’ office, scowling like he had all day yesterday. His arm was no longer in a cast, but it was still splinted and in a sling, which meant he still couldn’t change shapes.

“You called, boss?” Marcone pointedly didn’t say anything about the splint.

“How much do you know about the Gianni family in New York?” The barman frowned.

“Next to nothing. Why?” Marcone pointed at the vial on his desk.

“Venom is why. People are selling it in the city and the supply’s been traced to the Gianni family.” He sighed and sat back, shaking off his anger. “We’ve always had friendly relations with them, and I don’t think Don Gianni is behind this…but someone in his organization is. And now his son Marcello is in town. He may know something his father doesn’t.”

“I don’t want this to escalate, Sullivan. But I won’t go in with my hat in my hand, either. If all goes well, you’ll just be appropriate scenery.”

“…Venom,” Fenrir said flatly, his face going absolutely blank. He’d heard of the drug, and he had his own, much-ranted-on opinions of it.

Marcone knew that look. And he approved. “Keep that in reserve, for now. I promise, once we find the person or persons responsible, you’ll have all the opportunity to…” he pauses to think of an appropriate metaphor… “Go Hulk on them if you want.” He smiles. “Until then, don’t do anything rash. Nothing is to happen to Marcello Gianni while he’s in Chicago. Professional courtesy, you know.”

-

In a small house less than a mile away from where Gentleman Johnny Marcone spoke with his lieutenant, Marcello Gianni was flopped on a couch, smoking a cigarette and wondering, for the umpteenth time, who broke the Gentleman’s agreements protecting noncombatants and, more importantly, why.

The door behind him creaked open and thumped shut. “Stop smoking, brat,” Lena Benedetto said sharply to her charge. “You’ll ruin my book! Both our lungs as well, and I don’t know about you, but I like breathing.” She was on edge lately; feeling like someone had a knife to her neck. Of course, she had one at the back of her neck and several more in assorted hidden locations, but you never knew…

The merry pair of criminals trotted up to the door of Chez de Marcello. Marcone rang the doorbell…

The doorbell rang. “Shall I get it?” Lena asked.

Marcello shrugged. “I’ll get it.” He put out the cigarette on the ash tray he’d set on the coffee table for that purpose, and sauntered over to the door. He peeked through the peephole. “…well, fuck.”

That sounded bad. “Back!” she snapped, reaching for her knives. “Now, behind the couch! Who is it?” He slid behind the couch.

“I don’t know names and faces, but they’re wise guys, no doubt about it.” Lena swore fluently in Italian, Latin, and English, then pointed the hilt of her best knife at Marcello.

“Stay down, brat,” she told him, then moved smoothly over to the door, put on her best “fussy librarian” face and opened the door. “Yes, what is it?”

Marcone’s tenseness does not abate when Lena opens the door—she wasn’t who he’d been expecting, after that worrying pause between the doorbell and the answer. “We’re looking for a Marcello Gianni,” he says, schooling himself to politeness anyway. “Is he available?” Just behind Marcone, Finn grinned lazily at the young woman. She was kinda cute. Too bad he was seeing someone…sort of.

“I don’t know what you mean, sir,” Lena responded, immediately. “There’s no one here by that name. Just me. Please go away.” She shut the door in his face. Lightning-fast, Fenrir’s good arm shot out and one big hand prevented the door from closing completely.

Perfect poise. “Thank you, Sullivan.” He turns a bland gaze on the woman. “Let’s start over, shall we? I am John Marcone. I have business with Don Gianni’s son.” Marcellos’ eyes widened, but he took care not to audibly register his surprise. He definitely knew that name. The Chicago crime boss.

Holy.

Shit.

The Chicago crime boss.

Has come to my hiding place.

In person.

I am either very, very lucky…

Or very, very, VERY dead.


Lena was a professional bodyguard. She did not make any sort of noise or flinch to indicate she knew what the hell he was talking about. “That’s lovely,” she said instead, in exactly the sort of exasperated confusion you’d expect. “I’m Magdelena Benedetto and I have not the slightest clue what you’re talking about.”

Marcone allowed himself a small, exasperated sigh. “Your loyalty to your charge is commendable, but I really do need to speak with Marcello Gianni. You have my word as a businessman we are not here to do him any harm.” He lifts the sides of his jacket, revealing a marked absence of firearms. “We came here unarmed—feel free to pat us down if you like—and I’m fairly certain if it came to hand-to-hand between us you would snap my neck.”

Marcello hesitated. By all accounts, Gentleman Marcone never breaks an agreement first…and Dad must’ve picked Chicago for a reason.

That decided, he slid out from behind the couch. “Good morning,” he said, coolly, stepping over to the door, but remaining behind Lena. “I’m Marcello Gianni. What can I do for you?” Lena did not stiffen; to stiffen would be to invite attack by the hulking blond bodyguard over Marcone’s shoulder. She forced herself instead to relax, and hissed over her shoulder, “Brat, what are you doing?”

I have no idea!!!! “Business, apparently,” he replied, digging up his memories of all of Tony’s lectures on Negotiations With Semi-Hostile Parties and keeping his eyes on Marcone. Lena could handle the bodyguard. He was certain of that.

Marcone brightened. First hurdle cleared! “Sorry to drop in un-announced, but I need to pick your brains a little. Might we come in?” Nothing but perfectly polite and non-threatening, oh yes. Scary Lady looked a mite neck-snappy.

He hesitated the barest of moments before saying. “Of course. Lena, would you step away from the door, please?”

“You must be crazy,” Lena snapped, “And someday I will make you pay for it.” Nevertheless, she stepped away from the door. She picked up her fan, snapped it open with an audible crack, and began fanning herself furiously. The fact that she could decapitate both men with that fan in less than fifteen seconds was only part of the reason she did so.

Marcello nodded to the two wise guys. “Please, come in. Would you like coffee? I could make some.”

The big, blond, bear of a man was the first of the two to enter, his brown eyes calmly sweeping the room for traps before he moved aside to allow his employer to enter, keeping his body between Marcone and Lena.

“That would be wonderful, thank you.” Marcone got up a little earlier than he was used to for this. He moved to the center of the room, still keeping Finn in between himself and the bodyguard, but not near enough to Marcello to be considered threatening. He was eager to get the talk underway, but manners indicated coffee first.

Marcello nodded, and slipped into the kitchen to start making coffee.

About five minutes later, he returned with two cups of coffee, sugar, and mild. He set one cup down in front of Marcone, then took a chair across the room from him with his own. “Now then, what can I do for you, sir?”

“Please, there’s no need to be so formal.” Marcone gives him one of those smiles that never quite reach his eyes. “Before I jump into this, please allow me to stress that I’m not accusing you or your father of anything. I value our families’ relationship too much to jeopardize it like that; as well, I honestly don’t believe he has anything to do with what’s going on.

“However. The fact is, Marcello, that someone is supplying dealers in Chicago with a drug called Venom – one that I have expressly forbidden – and all signs point to that supplier being someone within the Gianni family.”

Finn did his best to control himself at the mention of Venom. The small room wasn’t much help, though the windows were all keeping him from squirming in his seat at the moment. He wasn’t able to keep his eyes from flashing his anger, however.

Marcello frowned slightly. “Venom…” This made him extremely uneasy. He had never heard of this drug. But he certainly wasn’t about to let a potentially hostile crime boss like Marcone know that. He hesitated, unsure of how to proceed, then said. “You’re certain?”

“As sure as anyone can be, yes.” Marcone gazed at him levelly. “I know it’s a bit of a long shot, but I was hoping you would know something Don Gianni would not.”

Marcello returned the Chicago boss’ gaze praying that none of his uncertainty showed on his face. “Whatever my father has been willing to tell you is all I can feel comfortable with divulging, I’m sorry.”

Marcone let one corner of his mouth go up in a smirk. “Technically, I haven’t been able to get a hold of him yet, so there’s no way of knowing what he is or isn’t willing to divulge.” He was just being facetious at this time. It’s pretty obvious that the boy didn’t know anything.

Marcello shrugged. “Then, I apologize, but I can’t tell you anything. The Famiglia must come first. I’m sure you understand.”

he knows I’m bluffing, doesn’t he? Marcello asked himself. Shit.

“Of course.” Marcone nodded. “I wouldn’t expect anything less of my people either.” Kid, I’ve seen torture victims that were better liars. But that’s okay. It’s kind of cute in a wet-puppy sort of way.

He stood. “Well, I won’t take any more of your time. Thank you for the coffee.” He nodded to Finn. “If you need anything while you’re in Chicago, let me know.” Fenrir rose to his feet as well, nodding first to the boy, then to the bodyguard. He felt a strong urge to either go get smashed or to smash some heads.

Marcello stood, and nodded. “I will. Thank you, sir. I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more assistance.”

Lena stood as well, and glowered back at the blond man’s polite nod. She didn’t like people, dammit. She wasn’t meant to be here. She was meant to be frightening brats into returning their borrowed books on time and cataloging the new arrivals. The brat was going to get yelled at as soon as the others left.

Marcone also nodded to Lena. “Good to meet you, miss. Marcello.” And with that, the two wise guys politely took their leave.

“Well,” Marcone sighed, once safely back in the car. “That was a minor waste of time.”

"Only minor?" Finn did not say as he slipped behind the wheel. But the thought was practically audible. After a moment, he noticed that his knuckles were white and relaxed his death-grip on the steering wheel. Tyler, you have got to get laid. Or at least kill something.

To be fair, it wasn't a total waste of time. The Gianni offspring was alerted. And he'd met the bodyguard and was reassured she could handle any trouble that slipped out of Marcone's control thanks to the Venom. But the crime lord felt like being grumpy.

"Right. I need to think about this. Onward to Taco Bell."

To the barman's credit, he kept his face blank. His opinions on Taco Bell and what they claimed was Mexican food were well-known. But he had a feeling he would get nothing more out of his boss on the subject of Venom unless the grumpiness was taken care of.



As soon as the Chicago boss and his minion were gone, Marcello turned to his bodyguard. “Lena? What the hell is ‘Venom’?” He lit another cigarette, hands shaking slightly. Rules be damned

“I haven’t the foggiest idea,” she snapped, setting her fan carefully atop a stack of books and then planting her hands on her hips. “Put that foul thing out. Marcello Gianni, what the hell were you thinking?”

Marcello ignored her ‘request’ about the cigarette, and sighed, blowing out a smoke ring. “Dunno. It just…it was the right thing to do. He’s reputed to be a man of his word. If he said he wasn’t going to cause trouble, I have no reason not to believe him. Plus, Dad decided to send me here, which means he probably trusts Gentleman Marcone. Besides, we are in his territory. It would be…unwise to deny him the courtesy of at least hearing his questions. Even if I wouldn’t—or couldn’t—answer.”

Lena stalked forward, snatched the cigarette out of his hand, and ground it out against the wall. “Answer me this question,” she said, softly, leaning towards him. “Am I, or am I not your body guard?”

“You are,” he replied, just as softly, turning to meet her eyes.

Lena glared at him. “Then leave decisions on your personal safety to me,” she hissed. She stalked away from him and into the kitchen. “Leave me alone for an hour unless something desperate comes up.”

Marcello, wisely, did not respond, but remained in the living room, smoking another cigarette, and racking his brain for an option. He didn’t want to call his brothers and ask what Venom was and what was going on—if they’d kept him out of the loop, and the Famiglia was selling the drug, they’d done so for a reason. His eyes fell on the computer in the corner. “I am a total fucking idiot,” he told his cigarette, and went to see what the almighty Wikipedia could tell him about ‘Venom’.

-
Meanwhile, not too far away…

“Okay, really good form there,” said Harry Dresden to his young apprentice, “and I appreciate your enthusiasm, really, but please, a leeetle bit less gusto when we’re practicing thaumaturgy. Now, get the paper towels, those bits of exploded orange aren’t going to wipe themselves off my walls.”

Molly wrinkled her nose. It, too, was covered in exploded orange. Ah well, it was better-smelling than most of the magical things she’d blown up in her year of apprenticeship.

“You couldn’t teach me a Steam-Cleaning spell?” she said wryly. “I know you’re holding out on me with that pine-fresh-instant-clean spell you do whenever you leave the building.” She picked up the roll of paper towels and started wiping down the nearest walls and hanging rugs. After a few minutes she paused.

“Harry, have you ever heard of a drug called ‘Venom’?”

-

Arana scowled and strode down the sidewalk, hands stuffed in the pockets of her coat and grumbling. Two hours; two freaking hours had been spent wandering around the wrong side of town looking for the address. Now, she’d finally found the place after so much trauma and was almost ready to say ‘screw it’ and come back another day.

“No, no,” she growled to herself, tugging open the office building’s door and striding in. “You are going up and you are going to see if someone is here since you are here.” She spared a glance at the elevator as she entered and deemed it unsafe as walking out at night now-a-days. Instead she started pounding up the stairs three at a time, cursing under her breath.

-

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Harry replied. “And no, I haven’t. Should I have?”

Molly shrugged. "I went out dancing last night with a friend, and some moron bartender asked my friend if he should put some in my drink. Then we saw two guys dancing with a girl, and things looked pretty heated. 'Get a room' heated. And these guys... I'm sure they had lovely personalities, but they definitely weren't the kind of guys you'd expect to score a girl like this. She looked kinda like she'd been roofied, only she had a lot more, uh, energy. I figure it was the Venom. Carlos said--" she froze abruptly. "Crap."

Harry raised an eyebrow. “And since when do you not only know but are on a first name basis with ‘Carlos’?”

Molly turned back to the scrubbing to hide the fierce blush in her cheeks. “You were the one who introduced us,” she said. “He gave me some tips on how to wizard-proof the house. We just…kept in touch. And he happened to be in town, and I happened to have the night off, and we both happen to like dancing. All there is to it.”

Harry nodded. There was definitely something more there, but it was none of his business. He would, however, be leaving her parents a message. It took every ounce of his willpower not to grin at the thought.

“Back to this ‘Venom’. Those symptoms seem very…familiar,” he said, sounding uneasy. “I’ll give Murphy a call later and ask her if she knows anything. So, what did ‘Carlos’ have to say?”

"He had the same conclusion. He said the symptoms looked pretty much identical to Red Court venom. We kicked the guys' asses and drove the girl home. We talked with her father, who's apparently a drug counselor in the city, and he said he started hearing about it two months ago, that it was still finding its base."

She deliberately did not tell him what happened after they took Cecilia home. She tried not to blush, just thinking about it.

Harry shook his head, disappointed at the new and creative ways the populace at large could discover in which to destroy themselves. “Disgusting. Bet you a dollar this is going to cause trouble directly for us before the week’s out.”

-

Halfway through a warm, crunchy taco (yes, he knows it's not really Mexican food. And that it's unhealthy and probably less sanitary than dog food. He just doesn't care), Marcone has a brainwave.

"All right. We're still waiting on word from Gianni, but in the meantime, I want you to go trolling for information." And yes, he means the 'grind your bones to make my bread' kind of troll. "Find a Venom dealer who'll squeal on his supplier, and we'll go upwards from there."

"In the meantime, I have to make a phone call. And hope I can circumvent a certain wizard's sometimes-inconvenient sense of integrity."

Fenrir grinned like the wolf his name indicated he was and cracked his knuckles. How he did this with only one hand readily available, Marcone didn't feel like figuring out. "Back to the office, then?"

"Back to the daily grind," Marcone agreed, the beginnings of a smile on the corner of his mouth, and took a big bite out of his taco.

Crunch.

-

Frowning at the door, she sniffed and absently checked something under her coat before striding up to the door. “Harry Dresden, Wizard,” she muttered, reading the lettering on it. “Guess I’m at the right place.”

Lifting her hand, she rapped on the glass, then took a step back to see if there was an answer.

Harry turned when he heard the knock, and was more than a little thankful for the distraction. “Duty calls. Keep cleaning, peon.” That said, he went to answer the door.

Arana had her back turned when the door opened, looking suspiciously down the hall at the elevator. Then she turned back and said. “Harry Dresden, I would presume?”

“You would presume correctly. What can Harry Dresden do for you today?”

Smiling, she replied, “I was wonderin’ if I could ask you a few questions, Mister Dresden,” her Southern drawl a bit more evident than it was when she first spoke. “About some things I have issues with personally an’ a few here that I’ve seen that you might not know about.”

Then she held out her hand, adding, “I’m Arana Folwns, by the way.”

Hoping that the dollar signs flashing behind his eyes weren't shining too brightly, Harry settled down behind his desk and stretched out. "Certainly, ma'am. Give me an outline of the kind of issues you're having, and then we'll talk rates. Apprentice, fetch Ms. …Folwns…some coffee." He said, reaffirming her name in his head.

"Yes sir," said Molly, smirking at him behind Ms. Folwns' back.

"Thanks," said Arana with a smile. She sat down in the chair across from them, then sighed.

"Where to begin? Guess I should tell you that I ain't here for me. I've been tryin' to find someone to see if they could help for a few years now."

Nodding, Harry pushed a cup of steaming coffee toward her and gestured for her to continue. "You've come to the right place."

"I hope so," she said, taking the offered cup of coffee. Blowing on it, she took a sip then sat it back down on the edge of the desk. "Guess I should go right out and be blunt; always been told that works best most times." Arana looked up at Harry and asked, "You ever run into werewolves before?"

"Had lunch with a few of 'em just last week," replied Harry, smirking a bit. "Why?"

Arana chuckled at that then sobered. "Ah've been trying to find some way to help my cousin. Every full moon he turns into that monster and all we know to do about it is contain it. There ain't nothing we can find to say how to stop it..." She sighed and continued, "Ah keep looking. And ah keep findin’ nothing."

Harry internally winced. This could turn nasty fast. Maybe even out of his league. Still, he had to do something. He might have to call in some favors to get some things done.

"There...is not a definite cure, as such, as far as I'm aware. Containment may be your best bet for the time being. There's some ways to suppress things, so that he would be less harmful during that nasty time of the month. I can do some research, possibly find a specialist to refer you to."

"So you're thinking it's one of those... oh... the French-sounding ones? Lupin-something? Like the big, nasty one a few years back?" said Molly, who must have inherited Harry's inability to shut up for five minutes.

Rolling his eyes, Harry said "The word is 'loup-garou', and yes, sounds like it."

"Oh, yeah," Molly said. "Note to self: Do not use Harry Potter books as a mnemonic."

"Whatever you can do would be appreciated," said Arana, smiling bitterly. "Always hoped there was one but figured there probably wasn't. Just...just been trying to find some way to make him stop feeling so much like a monster."

"As much as I hate to resort to old clichés," said Harry, standing up and stretching out a bit, "he should be able to live a reasonably—and I use this term loosely, considering—normal life. What do you do to contain him?"

"Some sort of circle with a bunch of swirly symbols," replied Arana, waving a hand. "Ah didn't help him put it together. He found out about it on his own...I only stumbled onto him once right before he transformed."

“Yeeeugh,” Molly said.

Harry nodded. That sounded about right. "If you want, I could come by sometime and check things out, maybe fix them up a bit, for a reasonable price. You definitely found the right place to come to. Got an address?"

"Yeah," replied Arana, digging around in the pockets of her coat, briefly showing her shoulder rig. "Though it’s a bit of a ways from here." As she pulled out a piece of paper and laid it on the desk, she asked, "Also...have either of you heard of something called ‘Venom’?"

Harry simply stared at her for a moment.

Then he planted his head firmly on the desk, muttering something very rude. The words 'fucking knew it' could just about be made out.

Molly choked on her coffee. "There's no chance you're referring to the Spider-Man villain?" she said once she'd recovered.

Arana smiled bitterly at Molly and picked up her coffee mug. "Ah wish I were."

"Why do you ask about it?" said Molly, as Harry continued his mission to bore a head-shaped dent into his desk.

"I've been offered it at least a dozen times since I got in this town," replied Arana. "And walking past the freaking junkies at night is one of my funner experiences."

"I've only seen it in use once. I understand it makes its users very... pliant," Molly said delicately.

"Well isn't this just ducky," muttered Harry, without looking up. "I get the feeling it's going to become a long week. Apprentice: memo me to call Murphy later. We're gonna have some work to do. I know it."

Molly grabbed a pen from Harry's desk and wrote "Murphy" on the back of her hand. "Got it," she said. Arana just arched an eyebrow and sipped at her coffee, wondering just what would happen next.

"This is something I do plan on looking into, Ms. Folwns," Harry said, finally looking back up. "As for your problem, leave me some contact information and I'll get back to you. Take a business card; call me anytime if there's an emergency."

Nodding, she picked up the piece of paper from earlier and wrote her cell phone number on the back. "Thank you," she said, smiling gratefully.

After Arana left the office, Molly turned to Harry. "Man. Venom already?"

Harry filed the paper and rolled his eyes once again at his underling's "memo".

"And knowing the way my life goes," muttered Harry, "some new crisis is going to spring to life any minute now."

"Ring," opined the telephone.

"Harry!" Molly gasped, "Tempt not the Irony Gods! You'd think you would be the last person to say something like that out loud. I bet that's them on the phone right now."

Picking up the phone and blatantly ignoring his apprentice, Harry grunted "'lo?"

"Dresden? Marcone." He's trying to be all business, but tacos make crime lords happy. "I don't suppose you've heard the nefarious tales of a new drug on the streets. By name of ‘Venom’?"

There was a brief pause.

"Hold for a moment, please."

Clicking the 'hold' button on his phone, Harry proceeded to remove his coat, bunch it into a ball, and spend the next minute screaming muffled profanities into it.

Finishing that, he put his coat back on and picked up the phone.

"Word has reached my ears. I'm surprised you don't know more about it."

Molly raised an eyebrow at Harry's reaction. Fuck not with the irony gods she thought to herself.

At that, Marcone's cheerfulness hit a sour note. "Unfortunately, once crime hits a certain level it falls prey to the pitfalls of bureaucracy. I'm working on tracking down the source." A small pause while he gathered his thoughts. "In the meantime, I was wondering if I could convince you to keep your ears open for any vampires supplying the drug. For the greater good of humanity, of course."

"Seeing as how I was planning to do that anyway, sure, why not" said Harry, rubbing his head. "If I'm in a good mood, maybe I'll let you know if something comes up. Maybe." Click.


Marcone stared at the phone a moment before sighing and replacing it back in its cradle. I really ought to be used to him hanging up on me by now.

Turning, he hailed a cab. Another hit of tacos, and then back to his office to await Finn's report.


Slumping down in his chair, Harry began to mumble again. "What I could really use right now is a quart of rum and a ticket to the middle of nowhere. Maybe the top of some secluded mountain somewhere. I think I'd make a good hermit."

Molly sat down on a bare patch of desk. "I'll help you book the mountain view if you share the rum," she said.

-

As Arana walked down to the street, a shadowy figure in a black hoodie approached her. "'Scuse me, miss," he grunted, and extended a hand. "Got a minute?"

Both Arana and the figure in the hoodie were oblivious to the cold brown eyes watching from the shadows of a nearby alley.

The gent in the hoodie's partner, though, was not oblivious to the blond man loitering in the alleyway. He changed the plan without bothering to tell Hoodie anything and sauntered up to the brown-eyed man at the end of the alley.

"Looking for something?" he asked the blond, keeping his voice down and his eyes on the mark. If he needed to, he could be past the blond and keeping up his end of the bargain without a hitch.

"I might be," the bigger man admitted, his voice just as soft. He ran his good hand through his hair, mussing it. "I suppose it would depend."

"Yeah?" This guy had a shuff of black hair that he clearly was very proud of, touching the back every so often, and pimples. He also had a very faint Australian accent, that seemed possibly faked. "What would you be looking for, mate? Anything in particular?"

Finn managed not to roll his eyes, though only just. Best not to tip his hand quite so soon. "It depends on what's on the market. The usual stuff just doesn't do it anymore, y'know?"

Pimples nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah, I know, mate." He leaned forward. "What would you say if I told you I could get you a little something special? I tell ya, mate, this stuff'll knock your frackin' socks off."

In a way, Finn was glad he'd found the kid. He wouldn't have any problems getting answers out of him. "I'd want to know how much this wonder is going to cost me."

Pimples nodded, enthusiastically. "Everybody wants to know that, and here's the miracle, mate." He dug into his pocket, took out a small vial and waved it in front of him. "The first hit's absolutely 100% free. No costs, no strings."

Finn plucked the vial from the boy's hand in a blur of movement. "Is it, now?" His tone was interested, though not for the reason Pimples thought. "That's certainly a gamble. There a name for this stuff?"

Pimples smirked, and shook his head. "Not as much a gamble as you think, mate. Once you get a hit off this stuff, you always come back for more." He grinned, showing curiously white teeth. "It's that good. They call it toe-curler."

Arana took a step back at the sudden appearance in front of her, her right hand twitching halfway underneath her coat. Narrowing her eyes, she said, "If you're offering me something, forget it. I don't want it. Now if'n you'll kindly move so I can keep on my way, I'd much appreciate it."

Hoodie stepped back a bit and put up his hands. "Whoa!" he snapped. "You don't have to be such a bitch about it. Jesus, I just wanted to know if you had the time and maybe directions."

Arana sneered and said, "Sure. I may be a backwoods bumpkin but I ain't an idiot. Now, if you'll kindly clear the way." Without waiting for a response, she made to step around him and keep walking.

Which was patently untrue, but hey, she didn't need to know that. Hoodie dropped his hand and signaled to Pimples, out of Arana's line of sight.

Pimples abruptly dropped the conversation and handed Finn a card. "Here you go, mate, call me when you want more." He shoved past Finn to the alley opening.

Pimples exited the alley.

At a higher velocity than he should have.

When there was a thump and a groan from behind her, Arana turned and stared at the figure slumped on the pavement. "The hell?"

A tall blond man exited after Pimples, tossing a vial up and down in the one good hand he had available and wearing a wolfish grin.

Hoodie took a moment to take in the sight of Pimples, flat out on the ground, before lunging for Arana's back, a switchblade out in his hand.

"Hold it right there, buddy, or the bitch-" he shouted, before being interrupted by Arana, whose hand had blurred underneath her coat as she kicked backwards with one leg at the same time in the general direction of the thug with a snarl. Hoodie's eyes bulged a bit, and he let out a whuff of released air as he fell backwards.

The blond snorted in amusement as he circled around them and caught Hoodie in a strong headlock. "Hey, miss," he said to the girl. "You mind sitting down on Pimples over there? I dunno when he's going to wake up." That said, he turned his attention onto his captive. "And how are we feeling? Comfortable?"

Hoodie spat at him. "What the hell's your problem?" he growled. "I was just minding my own business when this bitch-"

You really think he would have learned from the first time. Arana spun on a heel, drawing a hefty-looking gun from underneath her coat and pointed the barrel down at the fallen thug.

"That shit ain't gonna fly with me," she growled as she glowered down the sight of the gun at him. Then she looked at the guy who'd spoken and said, "How about I just hold my gun on him? That's a good incentive not to get up. And if he keeps calling me that, I'm going to shoot him."

Finn squeezed, cutting off the thug's air a bit. "Now, now, no need to call a lady a bitch when she's a sensible woman perfectly capable of protecting herself." Looking up at Arana, he smirked. "That's even better. Just remember I need at least one of them living. For now."

Arana smirked and said, "Oh I can shoot 'em fine without killin' 'em."

Finn loosened his hold just enough for Hoodie to breathe again. "Your partner was pushing Venom. In John Marcone's territory."

Just as she steadied her aim on the unconscious one, she stiffened and twisted her head around to stare at the blond. "Shit," she breathed, wondering just what the hell she'd managed to stumble headfirst into now.

Hoodie paled. "Oh, no, man, I swear we weren't doin' that, uh, we had no idea what we were doing!" he babbled, twisting and writhing in Finn's headlock. "Wasn't even my idea to sell here, it was his!" He indicated the unconscious Pimples and scrabbled at Finn's arm. "Don't do this, man, you gotta let me go, we weren't doing no harm!"

"Of course you weren't." All the playfulness was gone from the blond's voice. "Do you even know what Venom is, moron?" He'd noted the woman's reaction, but he didn't particularly care at the moment. Right now, he was focused on his captive - and on not killing the damned punk.

Information. Marcone wanted information, and the names of suppliers. "If you want even the smallest chance of coming out of this alive, you'll tell me who's supplying you."

Hoodie's eyes widened in panic. "I swear I don't know, man, he brought it all..." he pointed at Pimples again. "It's not my gig, the drugs, I'm a roller, I swear, man, you gotta believe me!"

"Christ," muttered Arana, turning her attention back to the still unconscious thug. "First I stumble into the mystical, now I'm tromping into gang territory. What's next, dancing brooms?"

Finn considered his captive for a moment, then reached down, grabbed an ankle, and hauled Hoodie off his feet and upside down one-handed to see what would fall from his pockets.

True to Hoodie's word, nothing fell out of his pockets besides a couple of wallets that did not belong to him and a gun without any ammunition in it. A few scattered pieces of paper proved to be old receipts and wrappers. Hoodie shrieked and moaned most piteously; you'd've thought his guts were falling all over.

Seeing someone being dangled above the ground by an ankle served to render Arana speechless. She just stared, mouth half open, and blinked several times.

The big blond grinned. "Guess what, kid? It's your lucky day." He dropped Hoodie to the ground before he could lose his grip - the punk was damned heavy. "Get lost."

Hoodie scrambled for his feet, made a lightning-quick grab for the wallets, ended up flat on his face, scrambled to his feet again and headed for the hills as fast as feet could take him, heedless of his new bloody nose and his unconscious partner.

The blond rolled his eyes and approached Pimples and Arana, all his attention on the former. "Thanks for watching him for me, miss," he said politely to the woman.

"No problem," she said softly. "I think."

Finn looked up from where he'd knelt next to the pusher and smiled. "It won't be a problem. I promise." That said, he returned his attention to Pimples and lightly slapped him, trying to bring him around.

Pimples did not oblige by waking.

Or perhaps he was just pretending. The blond shrugged and grabbed Pimples by the back of his shirt. "Though I do admit that hauling him down to speak with Mr. Marcone about what happens to those who push drugs without his permission in Chicago will be a problem."

"Well, that sounds like it'll be a lot of fun," said Arana with a sarcastic bite. She tucked her gun back under her coat and added, "So if you don't need me to hold anyone else at gunpoint, I'll head on my way."

Finn waved at her negligently with his bad arm and swore, all the while keeping a sharp eye on Pimples, who apparently was not faking after all. "Feel free, miss. Enjoy the rest of your day."

-

Tori didn’t like being by herself every day. Being alone reminded her of when she was with Them. She’d taken to watching the door while she was waiting for Thomas, letting her mind wander over whatever it happened to come across. Her current thoughts were on her new home.

She liked living with Thomas. She liked being clean. She liked being warm and comfortable when she was sleeping. She liked comfortable clothing, (especially of the pretty sort.) She likes that her hair wasn’t always knotted and dusty. (She’d liked finding out that it was blonde. She’d never really know what its color was.) She liked good food, though she didn’t much understand the point of overly sweet things. (She much preferred apples.)

She wished he would get home, soon, though. She was lonely.


With two hours still left to go, Thomas was feeling antsy. He had never felt so wholly responsible for another person's safety. Justine had been an emotional, paranoid mess as well when he first met her, but it wasn't until she'd gotten her emotions under control that he'd started to think of her as anything more than food and a tweak of the nose at Bianca. Tori seemed to be a little happier now and a little more comfortable in her new residence, but Thomas still worried about her, alone in his apartment for hours on end. She was so damn lost in the outside world, and he didn't have a clue how to teach her the basic skills she would need to survive.

As soon as he finished his latest client, he told his assistant he needed a break and went to the back room to call her. He let it ring once, then hung up, then waited a moment before trying again. It was his signal that she should pick up the phone. She'd already spent her life a plaything of the Malvora--she didn't need to be exposed to telemarketers, too.

Tori registered the sound of the phone ringing, but didn’t give it much thought. It rang a lot, so it didn’t necessarily mean anything. When it stopped after one ring, though, she looked over at it, and swung her feet onto the floor, so that she could get up easily when it rang. (If she didn’t, she’d probably trip over her feet when she tried. That had happened once, and her arm had hurt for a short time, afterwards.) It rang again, and she hurried over to pick up the phone.

“Thomas!”

Thomas grinned. He spoke in his French accent, just to be cautious. "Tori, ma petite! Good to 'ear your voice. Everything okay over there?"

The fake voice always startled her a little when he used it, especially when he used words that didn’t belong where he put them, or didn’t exist at all. She kept meaning to ask about it, but she always forgot when he was here. She didn’t want to take the time to ask him when they were on the phone, because he had a lot to do, and he didn’t have much time to talk to her.

“I’m lonely,” she told him, “but everything else is alright.”

"Good. As for ze loneliness..." Thomas trailed off and sighed. He looked around, and seeing no one nearby, continued in his normal voice. "I meant to ask you this morning. I want you to meet Harry--remember, I told you about him? I know how scary new people can be, but he's had a lot of experience helping people that have been hurt by supernatural beings, and he might be able to help us. And even if he can't, he has a big dog and a cat for you to play with. Would you be okay with that?”

Tori thought about the question for a moment. She didn’t like meeting new people, but she liked the idea of going somewhere else even less. If she could meet him here, she could go to her room if she didn’t like him, or if he scared her too much.

“Can I meet him here?” She paused for a moment, then added, “If I can’t, it’s still okay, but I’d like to stay here.”

She hoped Thomas was right about him being able to help her. The world was still such an odd place, even after she’d been here for a long time.

Sarah, one of his assistants, breezed through the door with a "Don't mind me!" and grabbed a fresh roll of paper for the credit card machine. Thomas slipped effortlessly back into his fake accent.

"I am sure it would be no trouble. I'll call 'im right now and let 'im know how you feel. Au revoir, mon petit chou. Take care."

The switching between his real voice and his fake voice was even more confusing. She’d almost thought it was someone else for a moment, before she realized that he’d starting using the fake voice again.

“Thank you, Thomas. Bye.” She put the phone back in its holder, and went into the kitchen for an apple. Since he’d called, that meant more time until he got back. She didn’t need to watch the door for a while.

Thomas waited until Sarah had left the room, then dialed his brother's office number.

-

Harry glared at the phone, as if daring it to ring again. After it did so, he let out a deep sigh and picked it up.

"Dresden. What kind of crisis has just occurred that only I can fix?"

"You greet your clients like that?" said Thomas, amused. "No wonder you're poor."

"Bite me, Frenchie. It's been a long day and it's going to lead into an even longer week. Whatcha need?"

"I'm worried about Tori," Thomas said. "I want you guys to meet. Or more specifically, I want her to meet Mouse. She could use a big, furry friend right about now. Any chance you two can stop by my place after work?"

Harry thought this over, but not for long. "You owe me a beer." Click.

The conversation finished, Harry plunked back down into his chair. "Yup. Looong week. Maybe if I hide under my desk for awhile, everything will just leave me alone."

"Not a chance," Molly said. "With your luck, the dust bunnies will start growing fangs."
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