October 30, 2009

The Santore family Vault

We took one of the cars and headed to the library. Nadi drove, I was way too edgy to risk it. We drove in brooding silence. I was really the only one brooding, but I was doing it enough for the both of us. I was trying not to be completely panicked. I didn't even know why it mattered that the family knew, Giuseppe never would tell me, I just knew that it did.

When we got to the library, Volkas wasn't there. I cursed. Profusely. Of course he wouldn't be, he was dealing with his niece. I'd been so agitated I'd overlooked that.

Nadi and I sat in the car and debated our next course of action. I tried calling Tommy, our other resident spirit expert, and got no answer. Between the two of us the only other person we could think of to ask was Mac. I called Gio first.

"What." He sounded annoyed. I didn't really care..
"Volkas isn't here. How likely do you think Mac would be to give us any information?"
"Not likely. He'll probably go 'Huh, that's weird.' and 'Good luck with that.' and stop talking."

Goddamit. The one night I need werewolves and I can't find any that will talk to me.

I fought the urge to slam my fist into the dash in sheer frustration. "Fucking useless."
"Hey, that's Mac for you, he's just not a big talker..."
"I wasn't talking about Mac." and I hung up on him.

That might have been a bit unfair, but I didn't give a shit. I was in a royally terrible mood and had currently had no patience left to spare on anything.

I sunk lower into my seat, arms crossed. "What about the guys at the hair of the dog? They owe us."

Nadi gave me a look. "You really want to waste a favor on information that could wait another night?"

I scowled. "No. Fuck. Unless you can think of anything, lets get back."

We drove back, and to me, the silence was even heavier. I texted Mona on the way.

From: H
To: M
There is a really pissed off Italian spirit-talker who figured out how he and I are related. How worried should I be?

From: M
To: H
Don't go out if you don't have too.

Fantastic. More and more reasons to stay secluded in the underground away from scary fuckers who might or might not want to kill me. And more and more reasons why I can't do it. I started ticking off the groups after me in my head.. it didn't improve my mood much.

Thankfully, I didn't have to worry about Nadi trying to engage me in unwanted conversation.

We arrived back shortly after Giovanni returned from talking to his uncle, the Bishop. The night was still young, it was only about 10pm. We like to start brushes with death early in the evening, in order to fit as many into the night as possible. We're pretty damn good at it.

As Nadi and I walked in I heard Gio scream from inside Nobody's room.

"MEDIC!!" See what I mean?

My reaction was immediate and reflexive, I was in the room practically before he finished the word. Nobody was convulsing. He was bucking and pulling against his restraints, faces were flowing over the skin of his own in rapid succession. Male, female, sometimes nothing at all, just blank, smooth skin. I couldn't even get something in his mouth to keep him from biting off his tongue, because the mouth kept disappearing. Fucking mirror skin changelings.

There wasn't a lot I could do. I realized pretty quickly the seizure wasn't natural. I stood back from the bed and shook my head at Gio.

"Nothing I can do.. its not being caused by his injuries... its not physical."

We watched in a slightly sickened fascination as he bucked and shook. I watched his sutures as they strained to hold his wounds closed. The skin on his face flowing almost like water. He gasped once, then uttered something that none of us understood, but all of us understood. It was in a language that we'd never heard before, but the meaning resonated inside of all of us.

"The call has gone out. They are coming."

Then he fell still. We looked at each other and I motioned them out of the room. I took a few minutes to check all of his vitals, then left silently to find the others in Gio's lab.

"Well that was downright creepy wasn't it?"
I nodded. "Yeah. And I swear to God, If he's bringing more shit down on us I'm going to get him healed, then kick his ass."
Gio agreed. "If it's his fault, I'll help you."
Nadi frowned at us. "You really think its productive to kill the messenger?"
Gio and I responded simultaneously, and with similar annoyance. "Yes."
"It's not like it will keep 'them' from coming, whoever they are."
Gio shrugged. "But it will make us feel better. Besides, if its not his fault he has nothing to worry about."
Nadi just rolled her eyes at us as I changed the subject.

"What did your uncle have to say?"
"Well, he said that Sansome has a very specific reason to be pissed about Giuseppe, and therefore you, but he couldn't tell me why.. confidentiality of confession and all that."
I glowered and crossed my arms.
"However... I think the fact that Bella has yet to come smashing down our door means that he hasn't told her. And if he hasn't told her by now, I doubt he's going to."
I felt some of the tension in my chest release. Maybe I would actually catch a break tonight.
"Thank God for small mercies."
"If you could call it that. That's all Uncle would say."
"Fuck.. so he didn't leave you with any other leads?"
Gio started laughing and pulled out a pair of keys. "Oh he gave me somewhere to start."
I raised a brow, "And what are those? And to preempt your smart ass comment..besides keys, I mean."
"Keys to the vault."

Nadi and I fell into a stunned silence.
Nadi recovered first. "Why did he give you those if he can't tell you anything?"
I smirked. "Because he still thinks its important for us to know."
Gio nodded. "The problem is now, our resident sneaky, shape-changing fucker is comatose. I have to have someone turn the other key at the same time. And there's no way that they'll let a non family member into the vault with me."

Well shit. We discussed our options and just became increasingly frustrated. I thought we could dose the guards with something, but then Gio pointed out that the guards may not have normal metabolisms. Fucking werewolves. All my problems seemed werewolf related tonight.

After about a half hour of everyone pitching ideas and getting them shot down for one reason or another, we were all still determined, but discouraged. No one wanted to wait until Nobody was able to participate. We had no idea what may come up in that time to keep us from doing this. I had a small breakthrough.

"Hey..what about Antonio? Do you think he'd help?"

Gio considered that for a moment and took out his cell. "Lets find out."

"Hey Antonio, how you doin'?"
"Hey Gio! Doin' good, doin' good. What can I do's for ya?"
"I have a question for you... lets say, hypothetically, I had a key to the family vault, and I needed to get in...and well, I can't reach both locks at the same time."
"Well, hypothetically, you'd need both keys."
"Lets say, hypothetically, that I had both of them, and just needed someone in the family to turn the other..."
"Well I would say that you quite lucky to have found such a ting... hypothetically what would you be offering for dis favor?"
Gio hesitated. "What would you want."
"C'mon Gio, you know how dis works. You makin' the request, you gotta offa me somethin'."
"Hold on."
Gio put down the phone and we discussed it. We knew that making deals with changelings was risky business, but we also trusted Antonio. However, changeling bargains are always to be handled carefully. He was the Knight of the Summer Court after all. We had a quick hushed conversation on what we could offer him that he might like to have. Gio had to go back to the phone two or three times to let Antonio know he was still there. We argued a bit, made suggestions, and finally Gio settled on something.
"I have a nice statue of a dog, a bulldog even, upstairs in the shop that you might be interested in, and I'll take you and the pooches out for steaks."
"Really! Dis statue..how big is it?"
"About the size of a bulldog."
"Nice! Is it solid? or real fragile like?"
"Naw, its wood, so its really solid."
"Wood! nice! Okay, yeah. Dat sounds great."

I made an impatient gesture at him and he frowned at me and mouthed, 'I'm getting to it.'

"One more thing, Antonio.. I need to bring someone else in with me. The subject I'm researching, it involves her."
"Oh yeah, what subject?"
"One we aren't really supposed to talk about..."
"You know for sure she ain't gonna do anyting to hurt da family?"
I gave Gio my innocent look. It's not very convincing. He just rolled his eyes at me.
"Positive. On my word." then he muttered to himself, "If she does, I'll drag her out into the sunlight myself." Which earned him a rather withering glare from me and I was much better at those.
"Okay, but I gotta make an amendment, we talk about it over da steaks, okay?"
"Sounds good."
"When you need dis to go down?"
"Sooner than later."
"Okay. Meet me there in a hour."

He hung up. "You can keep yourself hidden?"
I grimaced. "I can try."

(PLAYERS NOTE: Amusing fact: Harper has a stealth score of 0 at this point. Mehket FAIL)

He sighed, "I guess that will have to be good enough. I need your voodoo in there."
I nodded. "You'd be hard pressed to keep me out, Gio."
I went and changed into clothing more appropriate for staying out of sight and spent the rest of the time pacing in the library trying not to let my nerves get the better of me. I was going into the Santore family estate and breaking into their vault to get info on a forbidden subject. Any one of those could get me killed. Hell, if Sansome saw me, I'd be dead before got through the gate. I wasn't as confident in my stealth abilities as I should have been for this.

Gio walked into the library, watched me pace for a minute. I stopped and looked up at him. "You know this is probably a terrible idea right?"
He modded. "Of course. But that's never stopped us before."
I smiled slightly and nodded. It really wasn't different than any other life threatening situation we'd been in recently, except the pay off was potentially bigger."Lets go."

So we went. I hid in the backseat. Gio stopped at the gate and bullshitted with the guards for a few minutes that felt like hours. I knew it was necessary to divert suspicion, but still, I was just about to jump in his head and tell him to get moving when he pulled forward.

He parked and hobbled out, leaving the door open long enough for me to slip out behind him. I lingered in the shadows of the house, the trees, anything that would give me some sort of cover. We approached the front door, there was a guard leaning casually against the wall. No mafioso here, just some guy chilling on the front steps who just happens to be packing a Mac 10.

"Hey Gio! What brings you here tonight?"

Gio limped up the stairs and the guard opened the door, but Gio paused to talk to him. I didn't bother to pay attention to what he was saying, it didn't matter. It was a distraction for my benefit. I focused that attention on the shadows stretching out from the porch. I felt the blood move, and willed the shadows to do the same. I made it slow, watching the shadows lengthen gradually until they cut across the entry and into the house.

I smirked to myself. I had just recently discovered I could manipulate shadows like that, and it intensely satisfying. I had done it accidentally one night. I had been meditating in my room and Becca had walked in and flicked on the light out of habit. I flinched away from it and reflexively threw my shadow over the source. It had surprised us both.

I used that darkness to slide into the house. Thankfully, it wasn't well lit on the inside. I lurked in the shadow of a bookcase until Gio closed the door behind him. Antonio was sitting in one of the overstuffed chairs reading the paper. He looked relaxed. I was wound so tight it was ridiculous.

He greeted Gio enthusiastically and didn't so much as glance in my direction. But I saw his nostrils flare briefly. He knew I was there.
"You ready?" Antonio asked.
"Lets do this."

We took the stairs down to the lower level. Harder for Gio, but safer for me. We had to pass a few mores guards before we even got down there. Thank God for shadows and unobservant Italian men. We got to the room with no incident. Two more armed guards stood outside an unassuming oak door. Same deal, distraction and slipping through shadows. As I slipped past them one of them frowned and inhaled deeply. I flattened myself against the wall and froze.

"Huh.. weird."
"I smelled something..off.."
Gio called back over his shoulder, "Sorry guys! That was me!"
"Ugh.. Jesus Gio.."

Antonio closed the oak door behind us and I gave Gio a look that was something like grateful annoyance. "Good to know my scent can be passed off as your gas, Gio." He just smirked at me and tossed a key to Antonio. Once the steel door was opened, Antonio set a chair against the oak door we entered through. "I'll give yous guys your privacy. Gio, got a smoke?"
"Sure thing." He handed him a cigarette and lit it for him. Antonio slowly exhaled, and as the smoke traveled across the threshold of the vault, a series of red lasers flickered into view spanning the entrance.
"Make sure anything dat crosses dat is more than 96 degrees. Whatever you gotta do to warm up, do it now."

Well holy shit. It's a good thing we had him here. I coaxed blood into my face, felt my body warm up, a natural flush of life spread across my features. I nodded to Gio, and we entered the vault. I had a moment of mild panic as I crossed those lasers, paranoia that the blush of life wouldn't be enough, but no alarm sounded, no guards ran in.. I let myself relax (a little). I had made it. I was in the vault. I felt a surge of defiant excitement. It was an accomplishment I didn't take lightly. We started our search.

The vault was huge. They had files on every member of the family spanning generations, not to mention valuables, artwork, keepsakes, the works. I looked around in silence for a few minutes. I was actually here. In the Santore family vault.. secrets and information lay everywhere. I smirked to myself. This.. was going to be fun.

We stopped walking when we came to the archived files from the 80s.
"Hold on a second.. there's something I want to look up." Giovanni said.
"My parents."
I tilted my head and regarded him as he dug through files and pulled out two birth certificates. He looked over them both hungrily.
"Isabella Santore... Salvador Santore..."
"Gio.. do you not know who your folks are?"
"Nope.. no one would ever talk about them..."
"I didn't know that about you."
He just nodded. The other birth certificate was Bella's.. the mother was the same, but the father's name was heavily redacted.

He held out Bella's birth certificate to me.
"Try not to bleed from the eyes."
I smirked. "I appreciate your concern." Usually the mundane stuff doesn't cause that. Usually.
I took it, and focused.

I was in a room. There was a very attractive women sharpening a very wicked looking combat knife. There was a familiar photograph on the wall. She sheathed the knife and winced, her face going pale. She put a hand on her pregnant stomach and grabbed the phone. The vision faded, and faintly I heard, "Vittorio, It's time!"

I looked up and handed the certificate back to Gio.
"Do you remember that first day we were in Mac's bomb shelter? There was a photo on the desk, I picked it up and stared at it for awhile..."
"Yeah.. it was Mac with a woman. What about it?"
"She was your mother. The photo was on the wall.. so.. evidence would lead you to an assumption concerning who Bella's father is, but remember, it's still just an assumption."
He nodded slowly, and I told him the rest of the details of what I saw. He handed me his own birth certificate and I repeated the process.

She was pregnant again, in a wheelchair this time, and she looked worn down. She had lost a great deal of the vitality and ferocity she had possessed in the last scene. A man in a doctor's coat came in, he looked shockingly similar to Giuseppe. "How are you feeling today?" He checked a few things, asked her to move certain appendages... "Good, that's good. You're making progress." He put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. She looked up at him slowly.
"Salvador... what will we tell them?"
He paused, then squeezed her shoulder. "We'll tell them its mine."

I frowned and handed it back to Gio. I explained once again.
"Son of a bitch."
We returned the certificates and went over to Salvador's files. There was nothing interesting. He had died a couple years after Gio had been born. As had Isabella. When we went to her files we ran into a curious roadblock. Her files were locked away. The file box was behind lock and key. We discussed trying to pick the lock (damn Nobody not being here), but then noticed the gate was wired to an alarm system. Gio looked extremely frustrated.

"We can come back later, Gio. It will still be here."
"Yeah... lets keep going."
"Where? I don't even know where to start."
Gio thought a second then smacks his forehead. "Duh!" He pulls out an oddly shaped glass rosary from his coat pocket.

"Where did you get that?"
"It was the only thing in Giuseppe's box the last time I was here."
"Let me see it."
I gave him a look. "Why do you think, genius?"
He blinked. "Wow.. I completely forgot about that.. I've had this thing for awhile."
"Wow Gio...just...wow. It's not like I don't use that power on every damn thing we get our hands on.."
I held out my hand and he let the glass beads pool in my palm.

This vision was odd. Nothing was going on. There was just a piece of paper on a table in front of me. It was medical file from the 20s on Rosa Santore. There wasn't anything interesting about it. It was a normal file on an old woman. I came back to myself slightly confused. When I explained it to Gio he perked up and hobbled quickly over to the area that held her file. We dug out the medical file, but again, nothing unusual. The type setting was a bit off in some places, but it was consistent with a stuck key on an old type writer. Gio grabbed the paper out of my hands and laid it flat against the wall. He also took the rosary and put it against the page, looking through the glass.

Clever. Decoder rosary.

It was mildly frustrating, but not unexpected when the decoded chart gave us another name. Jessica Rachael Santore.

We found her box and pulled it out. Behind it was another file box. We pulled it out. Beside it was another one. We looked up, around... from what we could tell she had 12 boxes. I shook my head. "That sneaky mother fucker..."
"I was going to say slippery, but that works too."
"Either way. Lets make this as quick as we can."
We started going through boxes.
Jessica was a woman who lived a few decades ago. Apparently she was a singer. There was a copious amount of information on this woman. Buried near the bottom of the first box was a lone black and white photograph. A young Giuseppe, roughly 13, stood next to a priest. The priest had a hand on his shoulder and they looked at the camera with stony expressions. We took the photo and replaced the box. The next box held a letter from Giuseppe to Vittorio. It was heartfelt, telling Vittorio to be careful, telling him he hadn't thought Vittorio should enlist.. it didn't say anything particularly revealing, but it was apparent that Giuseppe and Vittorio were close. It was odd to know that Giuseppe was older than Vittorio. He still looked, and always would now, about 20. The only give away was the look in his eyes which most people never got a chance to see anyway.

The next box held a photo of 5 people, three of which were in US military uniforms. Davaro, Mac, Vittorio, Giuseppe, and Mona sat in a small cafe in what looked like Italy circa WWII.

When I concentrated on the photo, the scene came alive.
"I just don't think its a good idea." Vittorio looked upset.
Davaro scowled. "You DON'T challenge the leader of the pack during a time of war. You especially don't challenge the leader of a pack you aren't a part of!"
Mac looked between the two of them, then to Giuseppe. "Fuck what they say, I think you can do it."
Giuseppe stood and nodded to all of them, straightening his coat. "Gentlemen." And walked out with Mona.
Once I relayed that to Gio he grabbed for the next box. Inside this one was an envelope, the outside said "Benito" in Giuseppe's handwriting. Inside the envelope where three dessicated fingers.
"Uh..ick." Gio made a face.
"Yeah..." I pulled one out delicately and held it in my fingertips. It looked like it had been severed with a very sharp knife.
Now I was in a huge torchlit room with stone walls. I could see moonlight shining down from somewhere. I saw Giuseppe standing across from the biggest werewolf I'd ever fucking seen. He faced the raging beast calmly, knives in hand, as the monster roared, fangs dripping, claws extended fully.
I shuddered and let the finger drop back into the envelope. Holy fuck.

"A werewolf? Good God." Gio was as impressed as I was.

"You forgot one.." He handed me the photo of young Giuseppe and the priest.
That vision was simple. I saw the same scene depicted in the photo, only I noticed the priests hand squeeze the boy's shoulder, and the boys expression harden into an apathetic mask.
I set the photo down and felt sick to my stomach. I was reminded of the conversation I forced Giuseppe into on the way to Mexico about the priest, and how he'd reacted by forcing everyone in the car to answer extremely personal (in my case, secret) and uncomfortable questions because of my relentless probing. Gio looked at my expectantly.
I shook my head. "Don't worry about this one."
Gio frowned. "We'll talk about it later."
"No. We won't."

I grabbed the letter, hoping to avoid more conversation about the subject. Gio muttered under his breath and started digging in the next box. I didn't get anything from the letter that I couldn't have read from it. Except more mental drain. The next box held another letter, in Latin. Gio read it to me. It was a notice of Excommunication from the Catholic Church for forsaking the Holy Spirit and murdering another priest. Gio and I exchanged looks.
I saw a priest walking down the hall. I watched as a shadow crept up behind him, grabbed him by the hair and not only slit his throat, but used his strength to take the priests head clean off. I watched as a priest on the other side of the hall looked up and snarled at Giuseppe, baring fangs and lunging at him. They fought...Giuseppe staked him, and dragged him into the sun. Both bodies dissolved into ash.
"That's ironic." Gio mused.
"What, that he's a vampire now?"
I made a noise in my throat and went to the next box.

The next box didn't seem to have anything about Giuseppe in it, at first glance. We finally just dumped everything on the floor, and still could find nothing. As we were putting it all back Gio noticed the box wasn't as deep as it should have been. I pulled out my knife and used it to peel the fake bottom up. Inside was a black address book. Its pages were yellowed and cracked with age. We didn't recognize any of the names.

From the next box I pulled a lock of black hair.
I saw Giuseppe on top of a rapidly shrinking werewolf, pinning him down with one knife to his throat. Three fingers were missing on the werewolf's right hand. Giuseppe's back was torn to ribbons, blood coursing over the ruined skin in thick rivulets. But he did not waver.
"Yield, Benito."
The now human werewolf glared at him. Giuseppe applied more pressure, blood oozed out from beneath the blade.
Benito grunted, speaking in Italian, his voice coarse. I couldn't understand him.
Giuseppe withdrew the knife and stood. "However I need to." And walked away.
When I came back to reality, I repeated the Italian phrase as best I could to Gio to translate.
"'How will you lead your pack?' I think. Your pronunciation is terrible."

Next up, there was a small token, about the size of a silver dollar. It had something scratched in it in a language neither of us knew.
"You must do it because I cannot." Giuseppe said.
Vittorio threw his hands up in frustration. "But I'm a soldier. I don't want to lead anyone! I'm not a leader!"
Giuseppe tossed him the coin. "But you're clever."
The next box held a plain note card with a name scrawled on it in Giuseppe's handwriting. 'Thomas Mattheson'

When I concentrated again, I saw the man. He was attractive, with dark hair and a strong jawline. He had green flame in his eyes. What I noticed most was his arrogance. He knew he was attractive. He knew that he could get whatever woman he wanted, WHATEVER he wanted. I knew, without hearing him, that he would speak with a very slight lisp, nothing drastic, just elongating his 's' sounds a fraction of a second longer than normal. He looked oddly familiar, but I couldn't place from where. I knew I'd never met him.

Gio and I searched through the address book and located his entry when I came back to myself. When the entry was written, he was living in New York.

The next item was a necklace made of gold with semi precious stones. I held it in my palm, but I couldn't get much of a read off of it. I was mentally strained. Using my abilities like this didn't require the use of blood, but the mental focus was draining and demanding. All I could tell was that it was from a "Miss L" from Milan.

When I told this to Gio he took the necklace from me. "Miss L from Milan." He made a face when the necklace touched his skin, an expression I couldn't really describe. "The Lucifuge is from Milan." He tossed it back to me and I slide it into my coat pocket with the other items we had collected so far.

In the last two boxes we found a cassette tape, and a contract, signed by both Vittorio and Giuseppe. We pocketed them both. The cassette we would listen to later, and the contract was written in that weird language that made our heads hurt to look at, the language we knew Nadi could decipher.

I frowned. "I still don't completely understand why Sansome would be so upset that I'm Giuseppe's childe...think we have time to go look at his files?"
"Lets make it quick."

We made our way in that direction, scanning as we went. We both paused when we got to the early 50s. We had the same idea at the same time. It paid off. We looked through the files surrounding August of 1952, when we knew Giuseppe had been in Cook County Asylum. One notation stuck out to us. It was about a boy about 13 years old who had been admitted to cook county for paranoid schizophrenia, violent episodes, and homicidal tendencies. His name was Mathias.

"Holy shit.. that's why he went in. That's why he was working with Frost. They were trying to get Mathias out."
I nodded. "Seems that way. Can you imagine what the normal world would do to.. say.. Nobody? A guy who thought he could make himself look like anyone and had the job of killing waywards? They'd lock him up faster than you could say 'crazy'... not that that would hold him for too long.."
"Heh, not long at all. Well that explains a few things. We should go talk to Mathias once Nobody recovers."
I paused and regarded Gio for a moment. Something about how he was holding his head... "What?"
"You know, that Mattheson guy.. he looked familiar to me."
"Oh yeah? How so"
"The hair.. shape of the face.. jawline... he looked like you."
At this, Gio got notably pissed. He started going off about a forked tongue, green fire, and the prince of lies. I let him rant. It took him a few minutes to calm himself down.

We moved on. Unfortunately, Sansome's file gave us absolutely nothing. As we were replacing the sovereigns and keepsakes he had collected from his travels, we both looked up suddenly.

There was a whirl of an electric wheelchair, and the sound of someone breathing through an oxygen mask. I think we both just about shit ourselves. I backpedaled and tried to fade into the background. I knew before Vittorio rounded the corner in his wheelchair that it hadn't worked.

He rolled over and looked up at Giovanni. "Hello there Giovanni. How are you doing this evening?"
"Doing well, and yourself?"
"Very well. Thank you." Vittorio turned and looked up at me. "Giovanni, where are your manners? Young Lady, I don't think we have been properly introduced. Vittorio Santore." He offered me a hand that shook slightly and was marked with age spots, but when I shook it, his grip was firm and unwavering. He wasn't as weak as he pretended to be.
"Harper O'Shea. It's a pleasure to meet you." And I meant it. Though I might have to rescind that if he decided to tear my throat out in the next few seconds.
Gio cleared his throat. "In an attempt to not beat around the bush..."
Vittorio cut him off with a wave of his hand. "Manners Gio! Now if you will excuse me, I need to add something to my file. I would appreciate a little..privacy." He placed his oxygen mask over his face, turned his wheelchair, and started towards another area of the vault.

He didn't have to tell us twice. Giovanni and I made a beeline for the door. Antonio was standing there with a wide eyed look on his face. When he saw us he hid his face in his hands and exhaled loudly. "Oh thank you good God Almighty! You're alive! Dere wasn't anything I could do, I'm so sorry!"
"Don't worry about it Antonio, you couldn't do a damn thing."
He nodded. "Lets get the fuck outta here. Coffee.. wanna get coffee? Lets go to that Diner offa 4th, yeah? Yeah. Lets go."

He and Gio talked up the guards so well on the way out that I could have flashed them and they still wouldn't have seen me stalk out.

We made it out without incident, but none of us relaxed until we sat down at the diner.
I was so thankful to be out of there in one piece that I even ordered coffee. I was glad to see my hands weren't shaking anymore as I sipped it. I didn't drink much, but for some reason the taste was comforting, even if it wasn't as good as it used to be when I was alive. "I thought we were fucking dead. I swear, if it had been Bella? shit." I took a deep breath and let go of the rest of the tension on the exhale.
Antonio shook his head. "I dunno. Vittorio... Vittorio scares me more ya know? Bella I could handle, at least for a few minutes. But Vittorio? No way."
"I don't doubt that... but my point is, if it had been Bella, she would have been more likely to try and gut us then and there." I said.
Antonio shrugged acquiescence. "True, True."

We talked about nothing for a few more minutes, then Antonio excused himself and left. "I'll give you a call later about those steaks Gio. Yous guys take care."
Gio tossed a few bills on the table. "Lets get lower."
"Amen..." I muttered.

When we got back to base, Nadi was waiting for us. We handed her the contract. She looked over it and seemed pretty impressed.
"This is amazingly well written. The attention to detail.. no loopholes...basically its a contract between Giuseppe and Vittorio, stating that the leader of the family will be recognized by a token, but that the real leader, the one who won the leadership of the pack would never be mentioned, but always given respect. I mean, it goes into a lot more detail than that, but that's the basic premise. Giuseppe is really the leader, but in order to avoid appearing weak to other werewolf packs, that is never mentioned. From what I can tell, as far as most people would know, Vittorio is the rightful leader..."

I pulled out a stool in the lab and sat, taking the items we had gathered out of my coat and laying them out on the table. I had held them all in case someone felt inclined to pat Gio down on his way out.
"Well, now we know why Giuseppe is such a taboo subject. Why do you think he did it?" I gave Gio a measuring look.
He laughed. "Why? That's the easy part. Because he needed too. I'm sure he felt that, whatever he needed to do, he'd rather have the family at his disposal than not. I'm pretty sure at least half of what that man does is made up as he goes along, but its pretty obvious he'd be better off with that kind of power, regardless."
I smirked and nodded. "That's pretty much what I was thinking. Probably why Sansome is pissed too. The Santore's don't seem to like showing any sort of weakness. If Sansome was Vittorio's adviser like he is Bella's.. he's probably in the loop. And I'm the walking, talking reminder of his families weakness..."

Giuseppe, you conniving bastard... you're a fucking genius.

I took out the necklace again. I was still drained, but I was more curious. It was the only thing I hadn't been able to get a good read off of.
This time, I saw a woman. She was tall and statuesque, and gave me the creeps. She looked right at me. "Are you sure?...Very well." And she walked away.

I frowned, that was... kinda odd. Gio looked down at his cane and started talking to it. I forgot at times that he had a demon bound into it. His side of the conversation wasn't very informative. He looked up at me suddenly.
"You know, you have a bad habit of using glass objects to call dangerous people to us. You really need to stop that."
I was too fucking tired to even roll my eyes at him. "Well fuck. You'll excuse me if I don't shit myself. I used up all my 'give a shit' in the vault. I can only go around fearing for my continued existence for so many hours a night before it gets boring. It's only 2 am. I think I may have actually been disappointed if our list of problems stopped growing before 6." I tossed the necklace to him.

I got up to go check on Nobody after a few more minutes. We still wanted to listen to the tape, but decided to wait until he was at least conscious.. or until we ran out of patience. What I said to Gio was true. I didn't have the energy to care at this point. I had spent the last 8 hours alternating between nervous and terrified, and it wasn't doing anything but straining me. The wealth of information I'd learned made it worth it, and the night had certainly been interesting. Sometimes I had to be reminded of the philosophical training I'd had from the Ordo Dracul. If my options were unexpected events, death threats, and random complications.. or static routine.. I realized I'd take the death threats in a heartbe...in a second. It required me to stay alert, ready, and constantly planning.

I reminded myself again that I had chosen this path knowing full well shit like this would happen, knowing I'd be forced to deal with occurrences nearly impossible to foresee. But we'd figure it out. It was frustrating when answers only gave us more questions, but on the other hand, it meant we would always have more mysteries to unravel. Besides, if Giuseppe could face down a werewolf solo when he was only a ghoul, we could at least manage to take care of these problems with four of us.

With that train of thought, I had actually worked myself into a pretty good mood when I opened Nobody's door. He woke up as I walked into the room. I checked his vitals, his sutures, all that shit, explaining to him what we'd learned as I did so. Gio and Nadi wandered into the room and gave their two cents here and there. When I finished I took a step back and frowned at him.
"What did you dream earlier? You were talking in your sleep."
Obviously the dream came crashing back to him when I mentioned it, because he started screaming, bucking against his restraints, and having an all around fit. Only this time he was lucid. He startled babbling something about the freehold. We stared at him until he calmed down enough to be intelligible. Gio taking a step forward in preparation to smack him got him a little calmer.

"We have to go to the freehold. now. I don't care how hurt I am, I don't care. We have to go NOW. The Lady of the Lake called the TRUE FAE. The Royalty! They're coming. We have to go!"

Tonight continued to get more and more interesting.

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