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Date Posted: 17:38:46 05/25/04 Tue
Author: Lark
Subject: The tale is re-told -- and the gauntlet is thrown again...

This was fun, and I'd like to see it continue... I don't know who is still here, but it would be good to see if we can still write with the best of them!!

And so I give the tale again... offering a new piece... :o)

Lark....

**************

The unearthly wind blew all through the mansion, biting cold, and carrying with it shards of ice. The man standing by the fireplace however, felt none of it. He was used to cold, and this was nothing new. As the wind continued to howl, he continued staring at the fire, as if willing it to warm him. The ticking of the clock couldn't be heard, but he marked every second inside of his mind.

As suddenly as it had began, the wind stopped and the fire died. Within seconds, the fire roared back to life. Kenneth Irons smiled a twisted smile. Eyes glistening with a malicious joy. "So, you've arrived." He spoke to the fire, looking at it and it alone, but it was another whom he addressed.

Behind him, a man in a tattered black opera cloak and top hat smiled, revealing decaying yellow death. "Fe Fi Fo Fum. I smell the blood of a bladewielder."

**************

Sara felt a sudden chill as the wind died, something that she had ignored as she viewed the scene of the latest homicide. An odd whistling, as though through an old doorframe, howled abruptly and was stilled, and she looked suddenly skyward, confused by the darkness.

Jake approached, and was struck by the intensity of Sara's eyes as she stared sightlessly at the dim stars over Central Park. He watched her shiver slightly, though the air was still; he looked back at the gruesome murder behind him, the corpse savaged as though by a dog, the head still not to be found, and he shivered as well.

**************

Across town, Gabriel Bowman sank further and further down into his turtleneck, blushing crimson the entire time, thinking, "How the heck did I let Sly talk me into this one?" On stage the current speaker was just finishing up and consequently, Gabe realized that it was almost his turn.

As the man on stage announced his name, Gabe gulped audibly before standing up and moving forward. "Sly," he thought, "I'm gonna f***ing kill you."

**************

Just outside of Queens, Ian Nottingham was unceremoniously breaking in to a small bodega. The chain gate and front door lock were bypassable security far below his skill in such things, but requests, as far as Mr. Irons went, were orders--and it was a specific request he sought to fill this evening before returning to the mansion.

Just as he had been instructed, he found the item, looking no more interesting than the rusted monkey wrench lying beside it underneath the ancient brass cash register near the store's front.

He extended his gloved hand to take the item, conceal it within his coat, and make his exit. In the half-moon light his silver ring caught a beam, glinting like Christmas tinsel in Macy's window downtown.

Mid-reach he froze. It was not that he heard a breath or any movement--any disturbance. It was not that he heard anything at all. And it was that very absence that created the dread, so uncommon, within him. He was not alone.

"¿Una buena noche, mi hermano?" came the deep voice from out of the darkness.

It was only when Mobius opened his eyes that his form coalesced from the deep shadow cast by a merchandised tower of canned chiles, and Nottingham could see him at all.

"The night is well enough," Ian responded. "If you will be so kind as to let me leave with my spoils, I will promise to mention you in my bedtime prayers." There was a hinted playfulness in his tone.

"If you but knew but the half of what you had been sent to fetch," Mobius intoned, stepping closer to Nottingham, "you would make no joke of prayers--or their necessity." In a smooth gesture, he removed his coat, placing it across the counter by the register as though he intended to chat a moment in casual conversation. "As I stand, you will not leave here with your Master's prize."

Nottingham let the tendons in his forearm stretch toward the unnamed tubular object Mr. Iron's desired, signalling both his defiance, and the fight's beginning.

Quick as a cat, and six times more deadly, Mobius sprang.

**************

Bruno Dante loaded his gun with distinctive bullets, as a tense Jerry Orlinsky watched from the shadows in the alley. A wind blew, high, eerie, and they both froze, Dante staring coolly into the dim street at their mark; he hated being an errand boy, but what he was ordered to do, he did when the price was right.

Orlinsky pulled out a cigarette, but Dante sliced a warning at him not to light a match, they didn't need any extra attention.

As the wind died, he shut the chamber on the gun, raised it pointed high alongside his right ear in an alert stance, and signaled Orlinsky to move ahead of him.

**************

Stepping out of the shadows, Ian's face bore a livid bruise, and his normally deadly gait bore a slight, limping shuffle as he crossed the floor of the great hall of the mansion. Wordlessly, he held out his hand to his master, bearing the small, flat, but ostentatiously decorated lacquer box he was sent to fetch. He was startled when Irons' snaggle-toothed guest melded out from behind a pillar and snatched it from his hand. Ian recoiled as though burned by acid, and stared in horror at Irons for confirmation, but Irons returned a cool gaze until Ian regained his composure, outwardly calm, yet decidedly uneasy.

The man laughed, a grating, rasping sound, like dead leaves rustling, "You look like you've seen a ghost, boy."

"Enough!" snapped Irons, and the man was silenced, but his grey eyes gleamed like cold steel as he ran them over Ian once more, making Ian quiver despite himself. "Is it correct?" asked Irons quietly, almost subserviently, Ian was disgusted to note to himself.

Removing a grey silk glove from his skeletal hand, the man ran gnarled fingers over the box; pressing points on the top and sides, the lid popped up, revealing a delicate bracelet resting on a white velvet cushion. Flawless, pale green jade beads linked by fine white gold glimmered in the firelight as he lifted the piece from its bed, and smiled, running a nearly black tongue over his horribly stained teeth. "Oh, yes, this is the one," he replied, and he shared a malevolent look with Irons.

Ian inched his way back into the shadows, bent on flight.

"No, Ian," Kenneth Irons voice was gentle, but his eyes glinted at his servant nearly hidden by the shadows. Irons sauntered past the horrid figure in black, and held out his hand, "I require the other, as well." The other man looked up from his glittering prize to observe as Ian reluctantly reached into his coat to pull out the slender tube. Turning from his servant, Irons casually backhanded Ian before retreating to his former position before the fire.

Opening the wax seal on one end, he turned the tube over to dump out the shrouded contents therein. The cloth was so ancient, it crumbled as he uncovered the curved blade.

Scrambling to his feet, Ian ran ungainly from the room.

**************

Central Park was not an unfamiliar haunt for Hector Mobius—either by sun or moonlight. Tonight, though, he found this particular corner of it rather overcrowded for his solitary taste. Uniformed and plainclothes police swarmed the underbrush, on the hunt (however inexpert) for something. Large floodlights had even been imported in the ensuing time since the crime to aid in the search and reconnaissance of the scene’s surrounding area.

Disinterested in anything beyond his own quest—indeed, often blinded to anything beyond his own quest, his mind’s focus so narrow, its organization so pristine—Mobius set out through the brush to avoid the crime’s immediate environs altogether, thus eluding any unnecessary curiosity about his attendance upon this part of the city at this inopportune moment.

He slid past a large oak, skirting the violent halogen light from the imported floods. The tiny hairs deep inside his ears stiffened. He ceased any motion.

“Badge number,” a woman’s voice demanded, “and a good excuse for why I haven’t seen your face before.”

Mobius, on a whim (a whim that stunned him, so impervious was he to spontaneity) turned to face the voice. An officer (detective, he intuited) faced him. He could have run. He could have fought. Instead, he provided a valid badge number, slipping into the guise of an easy familiarity with her, as though they were friends—as though he would like them to be something more.

“Stinson,” he introduced himself with an uncharacteristic slow smile, “and I’ve never seen you’re face before either.”

She bought the careless command of his voice, his unintimidated demeanor, his casual disregard of her authority.

“Let’s have your badge number, Detective.”

She complied. “Any luck over here,” she asked. “You’d think,” she quipped—they were brothers-in-arms now—“a head would stick out… like a sore thumb.”

Something inside of him felt generous toward this woman, familiar. She moved with a grace and efficiency—a knowingness—that he admired wherever he found it. She was a woman who could keep a secret. And that, he knew, was something valuable to possess. And so he made a gift to her. “The head is not here,” he told her, truthfully. “He’s taken it with him.”

She nodded her head in agreement, the clues coming together to prove his assessment correct. “You a profiler, then?” she asked.

But the night outside the ring of unnatural light had gone dark, and his momentary whim sated, Mobius was beyond the edge of the Park in an instant, headed deeper into the city. But he was not alone, the whisper of footfalls not an echo of his own reached him within the hectare of his escape from the park. He stopped his run.

“You aided my lady,” Ian Nottingham’s voice came to him. “For that you have my thanks.”

“And for the marks of violence on your person?” Mobius asked, the taunt mild, but sincere.

“I seek answers, not retribution, in return,” Ian promised.

“For now, at least,” Mobius finished the thought.

“Yes,” Nottingham agreed. “For now.”

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