Eternal Lies: The Masks of the Liar

Episode XII: The Man Who Sold the World (Part 15)

By evening, Millicent had not returned to the pool hall. Jimmy was trying to keep his face from betraying his overwhelming sentiment of “I told you so.”

“James,” said Ruby. “Do you know where he is?”

“Well,” said Jimmy. “She went to tea.”

“Tea takes a couple of hours! She’s still not back!”

“I have no idea where she is! But if she went to meet this person for answers, then she probably got knocked out and taken prisoner.”

“Is wherever she’s going bad? Yes or no?”

“Yes.”

“Is there anything we can do about it?” asked Ruby, at the exact moment that a Molotov cocktail came sailing in the room through a window.

“Fernando,” said Geronimo. “We need vehicles.”

“You’re not kidding,” said Fernando, peering out the window. “There’s a lot of them. Some look like they’ve been shot. You guys shoot them?”

“Some of them,” said Ruby.

Fernando bit his lip. “Go with Umberto. We’ll draw off the rest. We have Thompsons.”

“You need to get Betty and Janet out of here,” said Geronimo. “They can’t come with us.”

“We can take them out to our boat,” said Nando. “We have one in the harbor. You paid for it, after all. We can drive them out in our car—they’re not looking for us, after all, and we’ve got the firepower to shoot our way out if we have to.”

“I trust your skills,” said Geronimo.

“Great. I’ll just put this on the invoice.”

“If anything happens to them…” began Jimmy.

“This thing that happened in the paper,” said Fernando. “Did it happen, and did you do it?”

Jimmy nodded curtly.

“I’ll personally make sure they’re unharmed,” said Fernando, eyes bugging slightly.

They were able to head out the back of the burning building and up the alleyway. They could hear the heavy tramp of mafiosi boots approaching to cut them off. Jimmy, Ruby, and Geronimo sprinted up the alleyway, followed by Umberto. They dashed out before they could be intercepted and ran as fast as they could into the maze of buildings along the waterfront, pursued by six very angry Corsicans.

Jimmy pulled up and emptied his clip rapidly at their pursuers, causing them to scatter for cover, then turned to follow Geronimo.

[JP used the Ammo cherry to do suppressive fire to open up some daylight between them.]

“Where do we go?” said Geronimo to Umberto.

“There’s a little square up ahead where we might be able to shake them. But we need to go quietly from now on.”

True to his word, Umberto slipped into an unnatural, panther-like grace, ghosting up along the sides of the road. Geronimo followed as best he could. Jimmy simply swept up Ruby in a fireman’s carry. He was tired of her high heels betraying their position.

They stalked into the tiny square. It was a dismal affair, a few weathered posters long out of date covering the peeling stucco walls. A small kiosk, probably a food stand of some kind, stood in the middle of the square. The lock was child’s play for Jimmy and they all managed to slip inside, where they held their breaths as the sound of footsteps drew near.

The inside of the little kiosk was stifling. A heavy wooden shutter, probably an awning when the place was open for business, blocked off the opening above the countertop. Ruby peered through the crack between it and the counter, hoping to get a breath of air. Behind her Geronimo, Jimmy, and Umberto were having a whispered conversation about the best way to rush their attackers.

The Corsicans were murmuring to each other, clearly unsure as to where their quarry had gone. As Ruby stared at them, she saw something completely unexpected.

A man, wearing a long white surcoat with a red cross embroidered on it was walking quietly down the street behind the Corsicans. He carried an enormous Norman kite shield with a Maltese cross painted on it, seemed to be wearing actual chain mail if the coif on his head was any indication, and had a ridiculously long sword hanging from his belt. As Ruby watched, he drew his sword and charged the Corsicans. One swift blow decapitated one of the mobsters.

The Corsicans yelped. The…knight? ignored them and made a fancy inside-out move with his sword, slashing another one of them and dropping him.

“Geronimo,” said Ruby, “Reality isn’t fair. It keeps throwing strange at you, and when you really need to just be normal, knights come down the street murdering people.”

“What?” said Geronimo, trying to peer out with Ruby.

“Quiet, maybe he’s on our side!” hissed Jimmy.

Ruby and Geronimo watched as one of the Corsicans tried to rush the knight. He got the shield in his face for his troubles, and skidded to the cobblestones with blood pouring out of his broken nose. The knight flipped his sword around and stabbed his prostrate attacker. Another of the mobsters took the opportunity that afforded to jump on the warrior’s back. The knight rolled his shoulders and flipped his grappler to the ground. He got the sword as well.

“He’s kind of old,” said Ruby. “Look how grey his beard is.”

The remaining two Corsicans turned and ran away in panic. The old knight sheathed his sword, reached with his right hand into the straps binding his shield to his left arm, and retrieved a huge .45 revolver. He fired six quick shots into the backs of the fleeing men, dropping them dead to the ground.

With a heavy tread, the knight began walking to the kiosk, sword drawn once again. He pounded on the door with the pommel of his sword. Jimmy opened the door a crack.

“Hi,” he said. “That was really impressive—”

The knight held up one hand. “Come with me if you want a place to hide,” he said, and then turned away.

“Let’s go,” said Jimmy. Umberto and Geronimo looked at each other and shrugged, then followed after Jimmy.

The old man took them through narrow alleys they might not have even suspected existed had he not shown them the way. He seemed to have an intimate, encyclopedic knowledge of the hidden ways of Valletta. After a long, slow trudge, they came in site of the desolate ruin of an ancient church on a bluff overlooking the harbor. The old man lead them around behind this edifice and into a cave that yawned below its foundations.

They followed him through ancient dusty chambers of stone, catacombs perhaps; they saw tombs and flagstones engraved with illegible names and dates. One room off of the main corridor was well-lit (in contrast to the dim or no light they had encountered so far) but it provided little comfort because it was so unusual. Inside the room they could see, as they filed past, an effigy tomb—but the statue carved on the lid was no Crusader knight, but an American cowboy in full regalia, his Stetson carved with supreme delicacy from marble.

Finally the entered a large room with thick ceiling beams. A few lanterns hung from them, casting a feeble illumination that was enough to reveal a couple of large trestle tables, and some faint frescos in a medieval style painted on the walls—knights, mostly, or coats of arms.

“This looks like the Temple of the White Buddha,” muttered Jimmy.

The old man unfastened his shield and hung it on a rack bolted to the wall. He regarded the Maltese cross with a frown. “Forgive the deception,” he said. “This was once a chapel of the Knights Hospitaller, vulgarly called the Knights of Malta. I have adopted it for my own ends. It suited my order’s purposes at one time.”

“Who are you?” everyone said more or less in unison.

“My name is Sir Godfrey Welles. I am the Grand Master of the Order of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, in exile.”

“The Templars?” said Ruby.

“Jimmy Wright,” said Jimmy, holding out his hand.

Sir Godfrey did not take it. “I know who you are, Mr. Wright.”

“We thought your order was extinct,” said Jimmy.

“Yes. It was intended that the world should think that. What is not commonly known is that the Pope rescinded all the charges of heresy against the Order and its leaders, although many of them ended up being martyred by the cruel flames of that great hypocrite and apostate, Phillip IV, King of France. We survived, though, hidden inside the other orders, inside the Hospitallers. Here, in our secret base, in Malta.” He looked at their stunned faces.

[That bit about the Pope was true, although it only has been proven by recent scholarship; look up the Chinon parchment for details.]

“You have many questions,” he said.

“Yeah… we…uh…” said Ruby.

“We’re still processing,” said Jimmy.

“You are here because you fight the great evil,” said Sir Godfrey. “The one who Lies. There are many evils in this world and the Knights Templar have struggled against them. There is the one who comes from Egypt, the black man, Nyarlathotep. We have fought against him.”

Jimmy tried not to spit at the mention of the name.

“This one, the Liar,” continued Sir Godfrey, “this is a very serious matter. My order has struggled for centuries against it.”

“We know,” said Jimmy. “We saw the signs in Bangkok.”

“The Temple of the White Buddha? Then you are following in the footsteps of Ramon Echevarría.”

“Yes,” said Ruby.

“I thought someone might. And yet you seem to fight against this being—or have I made a mistake?” he said, grasping for his sword.

“Why are you so surprised we are fighting against it?” said Jimmy.

“Ramon sought to gain power from this being, and yet you follow his path.”

[Me to my cat at this point: You are not allowed on the table when Mommy is monologuing.]

“You can’t find out how to stop him without knowing where he has been,” said Jimmy.

“Fair point. But as Mr. Cuevas knows, one must be careful when you tread in the footsteps of Satan. However…knowing you are led by him, a man I have heard much about, a true warrior of God…”

Geronimo stared at the old knight, his soul tortured by his recent loss of faith. “Yes,” he said as humbly as he could.

“My Order has studied this foe for centuries. What may I tell you about it?”

“Will destroying the Final Mouth destroy all the other Mouths?” said Jimmy.

“No. The Final Mouth has some mystic significance that is somewhat unclear to me. I do believe that if the Liar is destroyed, then all the Mouths will die, since It is their body.”

“Is the Final Mouth the Liar?”

“No. The Liar’s body lies beneath a specific location on Earth.”

“Where?”

“Underneath Mount Kailash, in Thibet. My Order visited it long ago.” He unrolled a long illuminated scroll with miniatures of knights climbing a mountain and then descending inside it.

“Is there snow there?” said Jimmy.

“Yes, it is a high mountain in the Himalayas.”

“We may have accidentally been there,” mused Jimmy, remembering the second place the Pyramid of the Xoxul had carried them to.

“There is a ritual you can use to make the way into the mountain clear. You must be on the summit, of course…but it will lead you into the underworld the Liar inhabits, which is not quite a place of this world and yet not apart from it. The parchment containing the ritual has been lost—or should I say, stolen. By Montgomery Donovan.”

“I recently put some bullets in his back.”

“I would normally not condone such an unchivalrous act, but against these men, no quarter must be given, no stratagem is beyond the pale.”

“If it makes you feel better, I allowed him to make the first move.”

“How…gallant of you.”

[MP: I know this! It means “stupid”.]

“Do you know where the ritual is?”

“It is held inside the warehouse where they keep the Source of this vile Nectar. There is a network of tunnels beneath this cavern, dug by my Order and the Hospitallers—when they had the time—that can lead you to this warehouse. It is a difficult way. There are many traps. You must take some time to recover. Please make yourself at home. There are refreshments in the larder.”

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Episode XII: The Man Who Sold the World (Part 14)

Millicent returned to the pool hall with what she had learned, giving the others had a chance to compile their information on Montgomery Donovan Jr. He was about 15 years old, and under the care of one and only one doctor, Dr. Solazzio, a specialist in unusual diseases. Reading between the lines, Jimmy and Geronimo agreed that his reputation seemed somewhat unsavory.

Bethany Mae they guessed was in charge of a warehouse that Donovan had gone to enormous lengths to conceal his ownership of it. It was regularly serviced by a ship called the Thyrsus, which Ruby recognized as the name of a staff carried by the Maenads, the female followers of Dionysos who were known for their ecstatic, wild rituals.

They also met the team Nando had assembled:

Boris, a hulking Russian infiltration expert.

Smythe, the medic, a nervous Englishman who had lost his medical license for reasons he didn’t want to discuss.

Xavier, the Irish demolitions expert, a veteran of the Rising and the Irish Civil War.

Yvonne, a half-Algerian, half-French sniper with experience gained in the long guerilla wars of North Africa.

Umberto, another Spanish Republican, the recon and rescue specialist, known to Geronimo by reputation. “He was a wire-cutter, the one who would go between trenches to cut the barbed wire,” he told Ruby.

Dallas, an American ex-lawman, their weapons expert who carried an enormous collection of guns. He wasn’t Texan; he got the nickname because he had killed a bunch of Texas Rangers in Dallas.

While everyone else pondered this, Millicent changed into something she hoped was appropriate and left for her meeting, a small pistol wedged into her garter.



Annette met her in front of the Grand Hotel Maltois, one of the best on the island. “Do I look all right?” Millicent said nervously.

“You look fine. This is really important to me. Try to make a good impression her.”

They went inside and were shown by the concierge to a private parlor off of the lobby. A couple of young woman searched Millicent before she went into the room, but they missed the gun she was carrying.

The parlor was decorated in a mad floral explosion of Second Empire poor taste. Everything was gilded, or covered in a floral pattern or both, from the comfortable sofa against one wall to the porcelain tea set perched on a small table in front of the davenport. Sitting there was a very old woman, dressed in modest but stylish clothes.

“Come on in, MIllicent, please,” she said. Her accent was American and had the clipped tones of an upper-class Easterner. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you for a long time.”

“Yes ma’am.” Millicent sank into an overstuffed armchair Miss Adler indicated with one elegant hand.

“Now, my child, we have been looking for you everywhere.”

“Why?”

“That’s a curious story. I specialize in certain feats of, shall we say, criminal derring-do. There’s nobody better than me at the long con on four continents. Never could get it to work in Australia,” she said as an aside. “I was mostly retired but was asked to help out someone looking for you. She was building a mole operation, an organization concealed inside another organization, seemed like an interesting play for me. One last ride into the sunset, eh? Pray let me give you some tea. Lemon?”

“No ma’am.”

Irene Adler handed her the teacup. “My client was of a mystic bent, and the quest for you involved contacts with that sort of thing. In the course of our investigation we uncovered this Nectar drug.”

“Bethany Mae seems to like working with it.”

“Oh, Bethany is a bright girl with a good future, if she stays dedicated. The chance to make such an enormous profit off of the Nectar was too good to pass up; and in any case, it would help me find you.”

“Have you ever taken it?”

“Oh, heavens no. I’m not stupid enough to get addicted to my own drug. And I can tell you, it makes more money than anything I have ever been involved with in my life.”

“It seems to do different things in different places.”

“That’s a marketing issue,” said Irene with a wave of her hand. “Here in Malta we’re doing the best. We have a very skilled manager, of course. Good bloodline, I worked with his father for a while, long ago. But you, child, probably have some questions.”

“Where do I fit into all of this?”

“You’re the focus of this cult, the Epsilon Sigma sorority we organized. They think you are the child of a god, and are necessary for the completion of their grand design. We’ve been looking for you all around the world. Had to go through a lot of candidates. But I knew the Nectar would help us out.”

“How did that work?”

“Drew you like a fly to the investigation, didn’t it? I won’t say it didn’t cost us anything. Our Los Angeles operation is basically not functioning; I have no idea what Samson is up to, building some mansion out in the Valley. Savitree, we were probably going to eventually lose anyway.”

“We tried to help, but she made it so difficult…”

“She had unsound means.”

Millicent put down her cup. “Do they want to kill me, the Epsilon Sigmas?”

“My stars, no! They think the world of you.”

Suddenly Millicent realized that Irene’s bodyguards weren’t staring at her with a steely determination not to let her make a sudden move, but with a rapt attention approaching worship.

“I still don’t quite understand this god thing,” she said.

“God, supernatural intelligence, I don’t get into the metaphysics of this thing. I took the job for my client, and it gave me a chance to tweak an old friend of mine. Friend, enemy…in any case, we took care of her. As a matter of fact, that helped me turn one of my most valuable agents.”

“I’m not following all this, I’m afraid.”

“Don’t trouble yourself, child. An old woman rambling is all. I so rarely have a chance to talk without thinking about what I’m saying. The funny thing, though, is that you don’t look like what we expect you to look like.”

“I may have lost a little weight?”

“No, child, that’s not close to what I mean, and I think you know that. I mean, obviously it would have been easy to just find Vanessa Brady.”

“But she’s just an ordinary woman—”

“I wouldn’t call Vanessa an ordinary woman.”

“Did you kidnap her?”

“My word, no. She came to us. With your sister.”

What?”

“Maybe sister isn’t the right word, but again I don’t trouble myself with that. I leave it to the girls.”

“I’m so confused,” said Millicent miserably.

“It will make more sense once you leave with us.”

“Where are we going?”

“India.”

“Now?”

“I’m afraid so, child.”

“I was going to bring my friends back some cake…”

“If you tell me where they are,” said Irene, leaning forward. “I’ll be sure to deliver it to them.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.”

“Give it to Annette. I’m sure she’ll find your friends.”

“Probably she could. How did you meet? She thinks the world of you.”

“She tried to rob me. Very silly thing to do, don’t you think?”

“She probably didn’t know who she was stealing from.”

“She learned,” said Irene with a rather satisfied smile. “And then I hired her. As for you, well, you represent my last obligation to Epsilon Sigma and my client; now I can manage the purely criminal aspects. I’ll keep some of the girls on staff to handle the…metaphysics. It’s time for you to go meet Vanessa, and your sister, and the inner circle…the priestesses of the Starry Wisdom. I wrote that down as a joke, but they decided to use it. No sense of humor. Bad as Holmes.”

“There’s something I’m trying to figure out,” said Millicent. “There was a crazy woman who wanted to kill me to save the world. Was she right?”

“Honestly, Millicent…or should I say Mirabelle? I really don’t care at all. Be a good child and come along peacefully.”

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Episode XII: The Man Who Sold the World (Part 13)

Nando had taken up headquarters in a decrepit poolhall. When they arrived, the owner gently ushered out the other patrons with a shotgun. “Private party,” he said.

“You’re already covered in blood,” said Fernando with sang-froid. “That didn’t take long.”

“I don’t need your commentary, Nando,” said Geronimo.

“Sounds like you need my help.”

“We are more than willing to pay,” said Ruby.

“We need shelter, not sass,” said Geronimo.

“Well, don’t worry about this place. Nobody knows anyone’s name here; it’s part of the charm.”

Geronimo commandeered one of the pool tables to use for surgery and examination. Jimmy’s bullet wound had passed through him and wasn’t as bad as it looked; he needed a few stitches for the knife wounds, but overall he was in relatively good shape.

Betty needed to have an arm set and a lot more stitches; Janet’s wrist wounds were relatively superficial, fortunately, and Geronimo was able to close them up without much trouble. Millicent was an efficient little nurse, settling Janet and Betty on cots in a back room, passing out alcohol as anesthetic and disinfectant.

Jimmy took a moment to talk to Geronimo about Janet’s condition.

“She has lost a lot of blood,” said the Spaniard, “But worse than that, she has lost the will to live. Ruby, move the mirror over slightly.” Geronimo creased his brow, and then resumed stitching the knife wounds in his side.

“Here is what I will tell you, my friend,” continued Geronimo. “If she loses the Mouth, she has a chance of regaining her will to continue living. But as long as that Mouth stays on her…she will be suicidal. I know the amputation is a relatively high one—”

“And her dominant arm,” said Jimmy.

“—but it will at least give her some hope again. I can only deal with her physical wounds. You must do something about the intangible ones.”



Night fell. If Ruby and Geronimo took more time treating each other’s wounds and did so in a more intimate space, no one felt they had any standing to say anything. Millicent, who was the only one not wanted by the police, went out and got some comic books for Betty. She read them in a soft voice to her, while Jimmy stood by her bedside.

Betty reached for his hand and clutched it. “Did I do good, boss?” she whispered.

Jimmy smiled at her. “You always do good.”

At dawn, Fernando came in with a stack of newspapers. “You guys made the front page,” he said. “All of them. I like this headline the best. I terroristi has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Also, good picture of you, James. Oh, and bella senorita? That plane of yours, the one painted bright red? You’ll be happy to know the Royal Navy has impounded it.”

While everyone else tore into the breakfast of sweet rolls and coffee Nando had brought, Jimmy went into the back room. Betty was snoring on her cot, but Janet was awake and staring at the doorway.

“I thought I was in heaven this morning,” she said. “Then I heard It talking.”

He sat down on a stool next to her bed. “Do you trust me?”

“Of course, Jimmy.”

“You know I would do anything for you. You know I will find a way to beat this.”

“Can you beat it, Jimmy?”

“Yes. I can beat this. I will beat this. I just need you to hold on. Can you do that?”

“Yes,” she said. Her eyes closed and she fell into a shallow sleep, but she was smiling for the first time in a long while.

[We did this as a simple Psychoanalysis test (plus, as it turned out, Reassurance use) in order to keep Janet’s morale up. Then:

JP: I’d like to make a Credit Rating spend to have retroactively bought…]

Jimmy took a small box out of his jacket pocket. He opened it, and the diamond ring inside sparkled faintly in the early morning light. He slid the ring on Janet’s finger and left her to rest.

[Me: (sniff) This is the happiest Credit Rating spend I’ve allowed in my life.]

Oh, I know. Not a dry eye in the house, right? Our bold heroes have their arcs and everyone cheers them on. And if you spare a thought toward the rest, it’s only in reference to Jimmy and company, right?

But is that fair? Do you think that Charlie really saw himself as a sidekick? Or was this for him the last act of his tragic tale of redemption, the scarred but indomitable old warrior taking on an apprentice who could barely look out for herself? But then, when have any of you asked about the poor sap. About his own story, about why he left family and home and wandered the world, soaking up religions and philosophy into his vast, curious mind.

Have you forgotten that it’s Watson who wrote all the Sherlock stories?

Makes you think. If you let it, that is. Have you spared a thought for all those faceless Corsicans your heroes just massacred? Would it change anything if you knew Matteu, the guy Jimmy nearly decapitated, was trying to avenge his father’s death by working his way up the mob hierarchy, hoping to get close enough to the bosses to do them in? Or that he had a poor widowed mamma back home who depended on him? Sure, he didn’t want to slash out the throat of that blonde American, or do half the horrible things he had done. But then fate didn’t ask him about what he wanted when that car bomb killed his nieces, beautiful girls. It didn’t ask him about what he wanted when those two corrupt gendarmes back on le Corse arrested and violated his sister. So he did what he had to do to play out the game.

And really, haven’t this little crew done their own terrible deeds? Or can’t you think over the screams of Dr. Savitree?

Anyway. One man’s heroic fantasy is another’s labyrinth of death and bad choices. Sometimes they meet, and one of them ends his tale. Life is pain, after all.

Anyone who tells you different is probably an extra-dimensional entity getting its kicks.



Millicent set out to track down the boy that Bethany Mae had mentioned. She used her experience as a candy striper to ingratiate herself with the nurses from the nearest hospital; she found several of them gathered at a small street cafe.

“Master Donovan?” a pretty young nurse told her. “Oh yes, I heard about that. He’s in Superbissima Hospital. I hear he’s very sick.”

“How terrible. Let me get you another cup of coffee,” said Millicent. As she got up, she saw Annette motioning to her from the corner of a building. She strode inconspicuously over to her.

“I am so sorry,” Annette whispered. “I didn’t know! I had no idea about any of this! I’m sorry your freinds got killed!”

“Charlie did. But the rest survived. Is Bethany Mae one of yours?”

“I’ve worked with her before. She’s running security for Donovan now; that just happened, some kind of reward for good service, I think.”

“Really? But you know what that means, right? The Nectar? You know what it is?”

“It’s not good…but it makes a lot of money.”

“You can always steal money.”

“Sure, I can…but there’s a higher level to these things. That’s what I learned from Miss A. Speaking of which, they called me in to deliver this to you.”

She handed Millicent an envelope in a heavy, expensive cream colored paper. Inside was a note, written in an elegant old-fashioned hand:

Dear Miss Lowell,

If you would do me the very great honour of taking tea with me this afternoon, I shall endeavour to answer those questions concerning your heritage I am reliably informed you harbour.

I remain very truly yours,

Irene Adler



During the break, among other things we discussed where to hide all the items LSAS planned to find.

RP: We can bury them in abandoned mine sites, there’s plenty of those in America.

Me: That will go over great in the 1950s. “We were digging this bomb shelter and found all these books! Then we read them! Now the great summoning will be completed…”

RP: No, what we’ll do is use the bombing ranges so they can test their “atomic weapons”.

Me: Don’t use a lead-lined fridge!

GP: Oh, God…

JP: Well, there will be all those spaceships, maybe we can use them in the future…

Me: Hey, maybe that’s why Katakatak sent you that postcard from Cape Kennedy…

RP: Oh! That’s why there were only so many moon missions! They took all the stuff up to the moon and then were done!

Me: Ha! (Bad Nixon impression): Jimmy, don’t you think you could help me out on this Watergate thing? We gave you everything you wanted!

RP: That’s it! The blank spots on the tape were Jimmy!

Me: I gave up my presidency for you!

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Episode XII: The Man Who Sold the World (Part 12)

Jimmy and Ruby burst through the door into their suite. The first thing they saw was Charlie, stretched out on the floor, a stiletto sticking out of his heart. Just beyond him was the body of one of the mobsters, a bloody kukri shoved in his throat at a loathsome angle.

In the center of the room, Betty was lying on the floor, with two more Corsicans pinning her down spread-eagle beneath them. One was the man with the scar they had seen enter the room before. He was holding Betty’s head down, face to the door, with one hand while with the other he was readying a knife to slash her throat out.

Jimmy moved across the room. Without breaking stride, he snatched up the kukri with one hand as he approached Betty. Her eyes grew wide as Jimmy reached out, grabbed Scar on the shoulder, and pulled him around to face him.

“Hey,” he said and chopped down savagely at the man’s neck, nearly severing his head from the his body.

The other Corsican stood up, but Ruby drilled him in the head with her pistol.

“Boss, we put Janet in the bathroom like you said,” croaked Betty.

“Take care of her,” said Jimmy without turning around. He ran down the hallway toward the bathrooms.

Ruby sank down to her knees next to Charlie’s body. His face looked peaceful, so peaceful, more tranquil than she ever remembered seeing it before. In death, his features showed his true age; she saw the deeply worn lines of grief and sorrow on them, although his mouth was crooked in the gentlest of smiles. She took one of his huge hands in her own and held it gently.

When Geronimo staggered into the room, she didn’t get up but wrapped his legs in her arms and gave a single heaving sob.



The door to the bathroom was locked, Jimmy threw his broad shoulder into it twice, and it cracked down the middle. He pushed hard again and the door flew open.

He saw Janet lying by the bathtub, in a pool of blood. She raised up arms slick with blood. Her wrists had been slashed.

The Mouth was singing a wordless chant of misery and exultation.

“I thought they were going to kill me, so I thought I’d do it myself,” she said woozily. Jimmy bound her wrists with a couple of towels and swept her up in his arms.

He came into the living room. Geronimo had put Betty into a fireman’s carry. “James, the police,” he said. Sirens were already audible.

“They’ll be looking for us. Let’s get out of here,” said Jimmy.

They stumbled down the fire stairs and into the alley behind the hotel. A car pulled up at the end of it, blocking their exit. The door opened and they saw Millicent behind the wheel.

Once they were inside and speeding away, Millicent said, “I have more bad news. Bethany Mae is here and working for Donovan.”

Geronimo sighed. “Take us to Nando,” he said.

[Stability loss was bad; 5 points for Ruby (her cap was much higher because of Charlie’s death), and she lost 3 Rating points for losing a Solace. Jimmy took 5 as well; Geronimo was relatively untouched, only losing 3 points.

This sequence played out awesomely, although it was a bit of a tightrope walk; the Assess Honesty spend that Ruby and Geronimo used did tell them that the Corsicans worked for Donovan, but I did not volunteer the obvious corollary that therefore staying in a hotel they ran might be a very bad idea. (Had they moved, the Corsicans would still have attacked, but the circumstances would have been very different.) Also, the whole campaign I had been relatively…easy-going about the PCs stashing their Sources of Stability out of harm’s way. I’m not saying that this was compensation for that, but certainly the shock factor of it finally happening made this encounter even more memorable. I sort of think about this as a way to simulate Monty Donovan’s uber-competence and, as RP put it, “genre savviness”. I had been foreshadowing this for a while by constantly reminding Jimmy that Janet was exposed to danger whenever things got hot.]

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Episode XII: The Man Who Sold the World (Part 11)

Millicent climbed up the servant’s stairs in Donovan’s townhouse. She popped her head up above a landing in time to see the man she guessed was a doctor come out of room at the end of the hall. She had a glimpse of a prostrate man spread out on a bed with a bag of blood suspended next to him before the door closed and she ducked down below the landing.

She heard a woman’s voice. “Well, what’s his condition, doctor?” She had a rich, Georgian accent that Millicent recognized all too well.

“Madam, it is grave. He suffered several gunshot wounds to the back and legs at close range. I believe he will recover but his convalescence will be long.”

“We’ll keep you on call,” said Bethany Mae. “How’s the young boy?”

“I have talked to Dr. Solazzi. His condition is unchanged.”

“And the other one? The control?”

“You will have to speak to my colleague,” said the doctor dismissively. “I am sure I do not know what you plan for him. Good day, madam.”

Millicent turned and ran back down the stairs. She shot through the kitchen and down the alley. A chauffeur shouted something in Italian at her, but she loped away without incident.

[In certain cases I like to differentiate between Fleeing and Athletics. This was one of them; a successful check of either would get Millicent away, but Fleeing would have kept her from being discovered.]



As Geronimo backed up the stairs, a couple of men with shotguns clambered over the ruins of the front door. One had hair as black as the robes of Death, and the other was incongruously blonde haired. Geronimo emptied both barrels into the chest of the black-haired man, leaving it a shattered ruin. He immediately rolled to his left but felt white-hot needles in his leg as Biondo pegged him with his own scattergun. He pulled himself up by the railing of the staircase and reached for his pistol.

[Nine points of damage to one thug, but the other did 4 points to Geronimo, dropping him to -1]

Biondo climbed the stairs. He threw his shotgun away and drew his stiletto. Geronimo tried to level his pistol, and then fired off several rounds. One of the lamps shattered. A flower pot exploded in a cloud of dirt. A few shots ricocheted at the blonde man’s feet. But none struck home.

Grinning, Biondo stabbed Geronimo in the chest quickly, over and over.

[Geronimo did damage, but not enough to put Biondo negative. Then he did 3 points to Geronimo, dropping him to -4]

Geronimo slumped down as Biondo threw him into the railing. He had been close to death before now, but never in circumstances as bad as this. He took a ragged breath and closed his eyes, trying to summon up the images of his faith that had always calmed him: the huge wooden crucifix hanging in the mountain chapel of his youth, the smell of incense on Christmas morning, the glory of light streaming through a stained-glass image of Our Lady he had seen once in a cathedral.

But those images did not come. Instead, he saw Ruby at a party in a dress that gleamed golden in the dim light; the scent that tickled his nose with a sudden sharp shock of memory was not incense but the delicate jasmine scent she favored in the summer; and it was not the Holy Mother he saw but Ruby, in the Greek isles, wearing a flowing white dress, her red hair streaming behind her in the brilliant sunshine, the air translucent, the sea so deep blue around them…

His crucifix slipped from bloody fingers. Biondo was leaning over him. “I’m going to make you smile, pretty boy,” he said, and then raised his knife to stab Geronimo in the heart. The Spaniard caught the man’s wrist as it came down, and twisted it roughly. “The only one smiling will be you,” he growled, and then shoved the inverted knife into Biondo’s chest.

The Corsican staggered back and fell down. He crawled over to his shotgun, stiletto still sticking out of his sides. He cracked the gun open and tried to reload it with trembling, bloody fingers.

Geronimo walked up to him and kicked him the face, snatching away the shotgun as he did. He raised the gun up in his fists and brought it down on Biondo’s head as hard as he could. Gore splattered everywhere, splashing across a painting of the Madonna and Child behind the Corsican. Geronimo’s shadow loomed hugely in the dim yellow light. For a second, as he raised the shotgun a second time, it almost looked as if he was carrying a cross on his shoulders.

Then he brought it down with all his force onto the head of his enemy.

[Geronimo challenges his “My faith is strong” Value; the telenovela and religious imagery came out of our table talk, and the fact that it was Ruby he saw instead of Jesus at the moment of his death came out of discussions GP and I had during a break.

At this point, I felt the Values system was a qualified success. Certainly it was doing a good job of simulating those moments in action films where the heroes use their last reserves to fight back from the brink. In good action films, this is almost always because of some resolution or character growth that they make; for example, I was rewatching Fury Road last night, and the moment where (spoilers) Furiosa manages to attack Joe’s car despite having been wounded is clearly (at least if I were running it in a game) the moment when she challenges her “I still have hope” value.]

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Episode XII: The Man Who Sold the World (Part 10)

Ruby and Jimmy reached the top of the stairs. Ruby threw a glance back down them when she heard Geronimo shooting, but once she saw he was still standing she turned to follow Jimmy.

They slowly came around the right-hand turn into the corridor that led to their suites. It was maybe thirty feet long; there were no other doors lining it, just the single door directly at the end of the hall that led to their room. False pillars bulged out of the wall every ten feet or so, breaking up the lines of the space and providing a place for the sconces to hang.

At the end of the hallway, heaped up in front of the door, they saw two corpses wearing the same bad suits. Their necks had been horribly slashed, probably by a vicious broad-bladed weapon. Two men carrying knives, one with a wicked-looking scar along his jawline, were crouched on either side of the door, which they could see had several large holes in it—Jimmy recognized them as having been made by a shotgun at close range. As they watched, the two men along the door seemed to draw in their breath (or their courage) and rushed through the doorway, vanishing into their suite.

Further up the hall, flattened behind the false pillars, were another two of the Corsicans. One had brown hair cut in a bowl-shaped fringe, the other had auburn-red hair. They both were carrying sawed-off shotguns, and focusing their attention on the door.

Jimmy gave a growl he had dragged all the way from the east African plains and ran forward, clubbing his gear shift handle in his fists. Gasping, Ruby ran behind him, firing off a snapshot at the brown-haired man on her left with her ladylike Colt .25. She caught him square in the middle of the chest and he slumped back against the wall, dropping his shotgun—but he also managed to shout out, “Rosso! Attenzione!”

The redhead spun around and saw Jimmy just in time to slightly duck the savage blow the detective struck him with his makeshift cudgel. Blood sprayed from the ruins of his nose, but he managed to get an arm up and ward off a second blow. With a grunt, he shoved into the American.

Jimmy slammed up against the wall and felt Rosso’s stiletto slide into his guts. “Ahhh…” he sighed and slid to the floor. The hall began to fade to grey.

[Ruby took out her guy with a good shot, but while Jimmy took his target negative, he made his consciousness roll and stayed up on his feet long enough to get a good one in.]

For a moment, Jimmy thought about staying where he was and letting Death finally take him. It would be so easy to give up now, to let down his burden at last. Then he heard a high-pitched shriek from beyond the door. It sounded like Betty.

If the man I was can’t stop them, he thought, then I’ll become a different man. As Rosso turned around to face Ruby, his knife dripping blood, Jimmy summoned up all his strength and stood up. He grabbed the redhead from behind, wrapped his arms around the man’s head, and quickly and cleanly broke his neck.

[And Jimmy challenges his “I’m still the man I was” Value, refreshing health, and uses Scuffling to take out Rosso.]

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Episode XII: The Man Who Sold the World (Part 9)

They could see smoke billowing out from the second floor of the hotel—the same floor where their rooms were. As they drove up, the sound of shotgun blasts echoed through the square, and a couple of men in the ill-fitting suits that screamed mafiosi to them fired off a few rounds with their sawed-off shotguns. The driver’s side window shattered and the front windshield starred with impact, but Geronimo kept moving forward.

[3 points of damage, but this was more about using up luck than anything physical.]

Suddenly, even over the roar of the engine and the barks of the shotguns they heard a man’s voice bellowing “Ka mate, ka mate! Ka ora! Ka ora!” For the briefest of moments everyone stared in wonder up at the second floor of the hotel.

“That’s Charlie!” said Ruby. “It’s a war cry he knows! He told me he would only shout it when his death was near!”

“We have to get inside!” said Geronimo.

“Take out the door! They’re not structural!” said Jimmy. “Trust me, I know how to drive into buildings.”

[Architecture spend for Jimmy to finally get his revenge against buildings.]

The car sped forward, smashing into the revolving doors with a horrible crash. It raced into the lobby in a cloud of dust and wood splinters, the tires exploding under them as the car skidded forward and came to a rest at the foot of the Grand Staircase.

[Everyone took 4 points of Health damage and the car was destroyed.]

Jimmy hobbled out of the car. He glanced around at the ruins of the lobby. Before they had turned it into an impromptu garage it had been a shabby-genteel kind of place, with ratty old sofas with faded gilt detailing in the center of the room, a few racks of postcards, and the one touch that remained of the hotel’s faded glory years: a large staircase that swept a stately, red-carpeted progress up to the good rooms on the second floor. It had crystal lamps spaced out along the balustrade and reproductions of religious paintings from the 17th and 18th century hanging along it. Now everything looked grim and surreal, with heavy grey dust sifting down through the air, turning the light from the large windows on the left side of the room yellow and sickly.

The body of one of the gangsters was crushed beneath the remains of their car. Jimmy stepped over the body without a look and began making his agonizing ascent of the staircase. He was carrying the gear shift handle from the car—it had wrenched free in the crash.

Geronimo spilled out of the driver’s seat. He saw a flash of movement from his side of the staircase, but no target presented itself. “Ruby!” he shouted. “Follow Jimmy! I’ll cover you both.” He heard Ruby racing up the stairs while he swiveled his big Russian automatic around the room, slowly backing up the stairs.

[Athletics spends—2 points for Jimmy, 1 for Ruby—to climb the stairs quickly. Then a Sense Trouble roll for Geronimo…]

Something crunched by the railing of the staircase. He whirled around and saw one of the Corsicans leveling a sawed-off shotgun, clearly drawing a bead on Ruby. Without even thinking, Geronimo put two rounds in the man’s head. His shotgun tumbled down and rolled to a stop at Geronimo’s feet. The Spaniard picked it up and swiveled around to cover the entrance.

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Episode XII: The Man Who Sold the World (Part 8)

As Millicent watched Donovan’s house, two cars came tearing through the streets and squealed to a stop in front of it. Several men in dark suits jumped out of the cars, and soon they carried the unconscious body of a man she was pretty sure was Donovan himself into the house. A few minutes later another car pulled up and a dignified man carrying a Gladstone bag hurried into the building.

Millicent went to the local grocery and bought a couple of bags of groceries. She walked nonchalantly down the alleyway next to Donovan’s house, pushed open the door at the end of it, and stepped into his kitchen.

A young woman in a maid’s uniform and an older woman wearing an apron were embracing in the middle of the kitchen, murmuring in Italian to each other. As Millicent heaved her bags of groceries onto the counter, the cook looked up and said sharply, “There’s no deliveries scheduled for today…is there? I don’t know, everything has gone to hell!”

Il patron,” sobbed the maid. The cook embraced her again and made comforting noises. Millicent took advantage of their distraction and slipped into the house proper.

[MP got a 10 on her Stealth check and as I generally believe in “let it ride”, that was good for a whole host of infiltration.]



Geronimo and Ruby, having concluded their business with Fernando, took advantage of their circumstances to make a long, slow walk back to the hotel, traversing the nicer parts of the old city on their way. Ruby felt herself relaxing for the first time since they had found the bomb on their plane; here they could look like an ordinary tourist couple, perhaps a pair of young honeymooners here to enjoy the beautiful, pure white Mediterranean sunshine, the fishy smells of the harbor, the multilingual music of the speech of crowds around them, the softness of the breezes.

A car came careening towards them, weaving from side to side, barely missing sideswiping a motorcyclist who sped off trailing a rich mélange of Italian curses. The car shuddered, gunned its engine, and came to a grinding stop directly in front of them, its front wheels over the curb.

Astonished, they looked down and saw Jimmy, covered in blood, behind the wheel. “Get in,” he growled.

“Move over!” said Ruby.

“I’m fine! Get in the car!”

“James,” said Geronimo, “Passenger seat.”

“Just get in and when we’re a safe distance away you can take the wheel.”

Geronimo sighed and crossed to the passenger side while Ruby got in the back. Jimmy savagely ground the gears and sped off in the direction of their hotel.

As they approached it, they saw a traffic sawhorse blocking the entrance to the nice square their hotel overlooked. A man in a police uniform waved them down. “Non e possibile,” he said. “Road closed, mac.”

Jimmy backed them up about thirty feet and put on the parking brake. “No way that was a cop,” he said to Geronimo.

“Agreed.”

I am the man I used to be,” muttered Jimmy. “I won’t run him over. You take the wheel.”

He slid over as Geronimo swung into the driver’s seat. The Spaniard revved the engine with the brake still engaged, then released it while jamming down the clutch. The car shot forward and obliterated the sawhorse. The man in the cop uniform leaped out of the way as they skidded into the square, clipping a four hundred year old fountain on the way.

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Episode XII: The Man Who Sold the World (Part 7)

Jimmy took a cab to the historic center of Valletta. The restaurant Donovan had invited him to was on the first floor above the ground floor of an exclusive club catering to Valletta’s businessmen. He was quietly ushered into the dining room, which was almost empty. The chairs were still upside-down on top of the tables. A trumpeter was warming up behind the dance floor; other than him, there were only five or six men that Jimmy immediately identified as some of Donovan’s torpedoes.

One of them, a smooth character with a pencil mustache, met Jimmy as he came in. “Mr. Wright. You’re expected. Mr. Donovan is waiting for you on the terrace.” He swept out his arm, indicating a pair of French doors at the far end of the room. Jimmy walked out through them and stepped onto the terrace.

It was a smallish balcony, only able to hold five or six little cabaret-style tables, with a heavy stone balustrade enclosing it. It jutted out over the street, although there was almost no traffic in the hot noonday sun. Donovan was sitting at a table near the edge, smoking, a glass of juice with ice in front of him. His posture was relaxed and he didn’t so much as glance at Jimmy. Two goons stopped Jimmy as he came through the doorway and gave him a brisk, professional frisking. One of them relieved him of the big .45 automatic he carried in his shoulder holster. Luckily they missed the small, flat Colt .38 he had tucked into his shorts and taped against the small of his back.

[Conceal Test by JP.]

The goons stepped inside the restaurant and closed the doors behind them. Jimmy sat down across from Donovan, who swung his gaze down from the tall steeple of the 17th century church across the street to look at Jimmy. Behind him some ancient Roman tower loomed over the rooftops a few blocks away.

“Mr. Wright. So glad you could take the time to meet with me. I suppose I owe you an apology for the incident in India. You understand of course that it was just business.”

“Bad business.”

“What can I do for you, Mr. Wright? Can we not agree to just leave things as they are here?”

“No,” drawled Jimmy. “I can’t abide these affairs. I can’t abide the drugs, I can’t abide the corruption and the violence.”

Donovan took a sip of his juice. “Are you a rich man, Mr. Wright?”

“I suppose.”

“I can offer you a great deal of money, you know.”

“Money doesn’t matter.”

“I didn’t think it would, to you. In some ways you remind me a bit of my father. I did not really have a chance to know him before he was murdered. A fascinating man. Mathematician by trade—and also the head of one of the larger criminal networks of Europe. I was his illegitimate child, so I had very few chances to meet him.”

“I was the black sheep of my family too.”

“But so that you know,” said Donovan, leaning forward and putting out his cigarette, “it took me forty years, but I found his killer. By that time he was a pathetic old man, marooned in Kent, trying to live out a quiet retirement. And despite the fact that he probably had but months to live, I made sure he died in front of me.”

Donovan picked up his glass and put it on top of the stone balustrade. “You see, Mr. Wright,” he said. “You’re very extravagant with the lives of your people.”

Jimmy looked at the glass of juice, sweating moisture along its sides. He began to push himself out of his chair. The glass exploded, sending crystal shards scattering in all directions, drenching him with a fine spray of juice. How odd, Jimmy thought, calmly somehow, the analytic part of his brain taking over even as he felt himself thrown backwards at the wall. Blood splattered against it, a fresh red bloom that he could not but somehow admire for its floral beauty and symmetry. He sat down heavily in the corner.

Something red began to soak through the front of his shirt.

“So terribly rude to have to end things this way,” said Donovan, leaning over Jimmy. “But at least this way, you don’t have to attend their funerals.”

Donovan turned and began walking into the restaurant. Jimmy rolled over onto his side, grunting in pain, and ripped the Colt out from under his jacket. His hands and the gun were slick with blood.

“You watched the old man die?” he said through a grimace. “You should know I’m not dying until you’re dead.”

He fired wildly with the Colt, shattering panes of glass in the French doors with slugs from the little pistol. Several slammed home into Donovan’s back and legs. Donovan cried out and slumped forward, into the waiting arms of one of his bodyguards. The doors slammed shut and curtains fell down across them. Jimmy could hear the charming sound of shotgun shells being racked from behind the doors.

[Quick anatomy of this scene, which I had imagined for a while. I gave JP a Sense Trouble roll here, which kept the sniper from scoring triple damage on Jimmy; he took 8 points of damage, which isn’t even enough to put him negative (the blood was trappings.) Then Jimmy used his Ammo cherry and spent Firearms in advance to do extra damage, this worked out (since JP spent enough to hit automatically) 2d6 + 6. He did 15 points, enough damage to send Donovan to Seriously Wounded, but not dead.]

Jimmy rolled back into a sitting position. Somewhere out there was a sniper with a bead on him; if he poked his head up, he’d get a bullet in the brains for his troubles. He fished into his pocket and took out a small hand mirror.

[Preparedness roll by Jimmy.]

Where are you? he thought. His eyes ran across the houses opposite the restaurant. Not them, he thought, I’d have heard the report of the gun. He looked at the steeple and shook his head, and then fixed his eyes on the old Roman tower.

There you are, he thought, catching a glint of sunlight from near the top. He carefully brought the mirror up in one hand. He had one chance at this…

He stood up quickly, waving the mirror towards the tower. Sunlight flashed brilliantly off of it. In one smooth motion, he took a step and jumped up onto the balustrade. Not stopping, he leaped again, landing on the balcony of an apartment building next door. He rolled through the doorway into the cool darkness of the room behind him seconds before a rifle bullet slammed into the place where he had been.

He got up with a groan. A man was sitting in an armchair with a newspaper spread out in front of him, a cigarette dangling from his gaping mouth as he stared at the gore-covered man in front of him with surprise.

“Thanks,” said Jimmy, and he dashed through the front door of the apartment.

[Outdoorsman spend by JP pegged the sniper, and then a hell of an Athletics roll got him a graceful leap onto the balcony next door.]

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Episode XII: The Man Who Sold the World (Part 6)

With his contacts, it was no problem for Jimmy to get tickets to the opera. Getting into Donovan’s box would prove more difficult.

“Sorry, old man, even you can’t twist my arm that much,” said a Colonel of his acquaintance.

Mais non, c’est impossible!I” said one of his old friends from Paris.

Non, non, e impossibile!” said a local Italian businessman who had “operations” in Los Angeles.

Thus it was that, dressed in his best evening clothes, Jimmy arrived at the operahouse with no plan other than his usual reliance on his own abilities. As always, this was his best design.

“I’m Mr. Donovan’s guest,” he said to an usher. “Running late.” He slipped a twenty pound note into the man’s hand, and smiled his most confident and reassuring smile.

[Reassurance spend by Jimmy.]

“This way, signore.”

“I’d prefer you not tell him I’m here, I’d like to surprise him.”

“I assure you, signore, we are always extremely discreet about signore Donovan’s guests.”



Montgomery Donovan, local eminence grise and the opera’s greatest patron smiled tightly as he walked to his box, trailed by his bodyguards and the usual coterie of brown-nosing apparatchiks of the opera. He was a tallish man in his fifties, with a face that had gracefully made the transition from handsome to distinguished. His hair was receding a little but had just the right touch of grey to make co-eds with daddy issues swoon. He walked with the supremely confident gait of a man with nothing to fear, an engineer who held all the levers of the people he met. Despite this, he didn’t come off as smug, exactly; perhaps it was the hint of steel that he kept hidden behind his velvety facade.

[With James Mason as Montgomery Donovan!]

An usher opened the door to his private box—located just off of center, in the acoustically most perfect spot on the Grand Tier—and, as was his custom, strode in before his bodyguards could check the space. It wasn’t courage, so much as an Olympian arrogance.

There was a flash of light from the darkest corner of the box. In the flare of a lighter, Donovan saw Jimmy Wright ignite his cigarette and take a long puff, the tip glowing a deep, bruised red.

“Ah, Mr. Wright,” said Donovan. “I hadn’t expected to see you so soon. Are you a fan of Verdi?”

“Yeah. I haven’t been to the opera in a while.”

“More’s the pity.”

Jimmy kicked a chair and it slid across the floor and came to a rest near Donovan’s knee. “Have a seat,” said Jimmy.

Donovan sat. “I hope to wrap up our business here quickly. What is it that you want to say to me?”

“Nothing.”

“Indeed?”

“Nothing.”

“You’ve come such a far way.”

“Just here to repay the favor.”

Donovan’s men reached into their coats. “That’s not necessary,” Jimmy said coolly. “I like to think myself a better man than you.”

He stood up. “I’ll be seeing you soon.”

“Mr Wright,” said Donovan, not getting up. “If you do wish to speak to me, I would be very happy to have you as my guest tomorrow at a small restaurant I happen to be part owner of. Come alone, of course.”

“Of course.”

“Shall we say one, then? Excellent.” Donovan turned to face the stage. “Good-bye, Mr. Wright,” he said without turning around as Jimmy slipped out of the box.



Geronimo and Ruby went down to the waterfront to a despicable sailor’s bar. Geronimo pushed aside one of the derelicts passed out at the bar and they sat themselves down at it. Ruby ordered some red wine that turned out to be vile beyond imagining.

Nando walked in. He looked every inch the stereotypical mercenary captain, from his epauletted khaki shirt to the three days’ growth of beard crawling up his face to the sunglasses he wore beneath a battered peaked cap. He slid over to the bar and sat down in front of them.

“Geronimo, I was so intrigued to receive your message. What were your last words to me? ‘Die, you mercenary son of a bitch, I hope never to see you again’?”

“Life has taken many turns. I have need of your particular skills.”

“So I gathered from your cable. What kind of a crew do you need? You’re not crazy enough to go back to Spain, are you?”

“No, unfortunately that would mean suicide.”

“Except that you are so devout, I wouldn’t put that past you.”

“I see that you still have not accepted the will of God in your life.”

“I seem to be doing very well without it, so I plan to ride that hot streak. And who is the charming Señora?”

“Ruby,” said Ruby. She had made a point of leaving her prosthetic exposed.

Enchanté, Ruby.” Nando kissed her hand. Geronimo grimaced. “So what is the mission? And I cannot help but notice you are not wearing a wedding ring. Forgive me…señorita.”

“I sold it,” said Ruby.

“We need six men,” said Geronimo. “The most cunning and stealthy.”

“Ah, my specialists,” said Nando, pulling out a small ledger.

“We have need to infiltrate a specific location.”

“Half a dozen of my best special operations people. That’s not cheap, you know.”

“Money is not an object,” said Ruby.

“You sure? I need a lot of it.”

[Bargain and Flattery spends by Ruby (Flattery because Nando doesn’t want to help Geronimo), and Streetwise by Geronimo. I made a point to reassure them that Fernando really was competent, and they would get good men.]



Millicent, having discussed the idea with Jimmy, set out to find Donovan’s house, since she knew he would be away during his meeting with Jimmy. She sat down and surveilled it from a street cafe cattycorner to the townhouse Donovan lived in.

After a while she canvassed the area. “Donovan? Il inglese? Yes, private guy, you never see him. I think he gets his groceries delivered from a place down the block,” said the cafe owner.

“Sure, we deliver to him,” said the grocer. “Mostly it’s his maid who comes by to place the order. No, I don’t know much about her, she lives with him. I think she goes to the taverna near the square on her night off…”

“Mathilde?” said the tavernkeeper. “Sure, I know her, she comes in once a week at least. Happy to point her out…”

And soon, thus armed, she began to form a plan of infiltration…

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