Monday, September 19, 2005

Intangible Assets, Chapter 9

     I woke up to find all of the injuries I had taken the day before were back to collect, with interest. My hand felt as if I had been demolishing cars with my fist, and my back was still complaining about my room spanning flight. At least my nose worked, and it told me that Calliope was already in and had made coffee. All in all, I’d had worse mornings.

     “Morning, Sam.”

Calliope, as always, looked like a vision. She had headed out not long before I went to bed, and I doubted that she had gone straight to her apartment. I shrugged the comparison off, I was sure that whatever she had been up to was a lot closer to a sane person’s definition of fun than what I had done the day before.

“Good morning. Any sign of Allison this morning?”

“Nope, haven’t seen her,” she said as she set a cup of coffee and the Imperial Times on my desk.

“Okay. Any appointments for today?”

“None.” She didn’t even let on that that had been the same answer for two weeks straight.

“For once, I’m glad. I’ll be heading out for most of the day. When she does show up, the comb is in the safe.”

“And you’ll be where, may I ask?”

“Looking for more details on Victor. Ambrosi still seems hot on whatever Victor had over him, and our best bet on getting out of this is getting our hands on whatever it is.”

Calliope nodded.

“OK, then I’ll hold down the fort, beat off the creditors, and play hostess to a ghost while you’re away. Never a dull day around here.”

“Never let anyone say I don’t appreciate what you do. By the way, got any ideas on where Rachel is working tonight?”

“And what type of big sister would I be if I didn’t? She’ll be at Club Hades.”

“Oh, swell.” Dealing with that place would have to wait, though.

The morning was already in full swing by the time I headed out to my car. The mercury was up at a decent level and only promised to climb. I quickly regretted wearing the suit jacket, but I would have rather dealt with the temperature than deal with the cops for not keeping my gun covered.

Being an obstacle to Giaccomo Ambrosi was not a calling that had much of a future to it. Victor Caretti hadn’t done too well by it, and he had had something that should have bought him an advantage. If I was going to figure out just what that was, I would need more information than Allison had provided.

My first stop for the day was St. Mary’s Church. It was only a few blocks from Allison’s apartment, and I figured that Victor would not have planned on settling down outside of his old neighborhood, especially if that meant outside of his boss’s sphere of influence. If there were anyone in the neighborhood who knows what was going on in the local’s lives, it would be the parish priest.

The church looked like a small cathedral, stonewalls with tall stained glass windows, all of it topped by a narrow steeple. Behind the church, I could just make out a more institutional building that looked to have been made of stones from the same quarry as the church.

A sensation of power made itself felt as I mounted the steps toward the open doors. I steeled myself as I stepped over the threshold. Fortunately, the presence did not object to wizards crossing into its protectorate. If anything, I felt a sense of welcome, an invitation to relax my guard in this place of sanctuary.

I dipped my fingers into the holy water by the door and crossed myself. Not for the first time, I wondered if knowing was somehow less than simply believing.

A priest in full robes came of a door by the altar as I started making my way up the aisle. I put his age at about fifty, gray and balding, but he still moved quickly without appearing to rush. Beyond the physical, he moved in perfect accord with the power of the place, both served the same purpose.

He approached with a smile. He wasn’t looking at me as if to see what was going on behind my surface, but he must have had me made the instant I passed through the doors.

“Good morning. I am Father O’Brian. Is there some way I may be of assistance, my son?”

“Yes, my name is Sam Watson, I’m a private detective. I was hoping that you might be able to answer some questions for me.”

“Indeed? May I ask what your visit pertains to?”

“I’m investigating the deaths of Allison Tierney and Victor Caretti.”

The briefest flicker of surprise crossed his face.

“Would you care to come with me to my office, Mr. Watson?”

His office proved to a cell-like room with a small desk and overflowing bookshelves leaving little room for two people to have a discussion.

“Could I offer you something to drink, Mr. Watson?”

“Thank you, a glass of water would be excellent right now,” I said as I fanned myself with my hat.

“Certainly. Please, have a seat.”

I took the opportunity to look around at the books on the shelves. There were records dating back a little over a century filling one case. Another set of shelves had numerous books with bindings describing their contents as histories ranging from the city to the country to Europe. Further along were tomes with titles written in Latin and Greek. Among them were treatises on demonology and monsters that I recalled from training.

“Do you read Latin, Mr. Watson?” Fr. O’Brian had returned with a pair of glasses of ice water.

“I recall a bit from school. It is an impressive collection.”

“Thank you. I often wish that it was merely a hobby, but times being what they are…” he let the thought die off as he handed me a glass.

“Oh, thank you,” I said. Where I used the water as an excuse to look around unhindered, he used it to look at my hand as I reached for it. There was no way for him not to notice that I did not wear an Order ring.

He worked his way around the desk and sat down.

“I’ll answer your questions as well as I may, but you must understand that there are some areas of which I am not allowed to discuss.”

“I understand, the sanctity of the confessional. First, I understand that Victor and Allison had been engaged?”

“Yes, we had even made arrangements to have the ceremony this coming December. I understand, however, that they had not made any public announcement of their betrothal.”

“Had they known each other long before the engagement?”

“Oh, yes. Their families lived in the same building since the two were toddlers, and Victor had always taken to protecting her. In the wake of the deaths of both of their parents, they relied even more upon one another. They were inseparable during their time in the orphanage, and everyone who knew them believed that it was only a matter of time before they got married.”

He stopped as if an odd thought had crossed his mind and asked, “Mr. Watson, may I inquire as to why you are looking into this matter?”

“I’m sorry, Father, but I also have an obligation to maintain a confidence.” From what I sensed of the benevolent nature of this church and its caretaker, I decided to take a leap. “Suffice it to say that my client does not feel well served in the official investigation of the murder of Allison Tierney.”

“I was of the understanding that the sheriff had ruled her death an accident.”

“That was the conclusion of the detectives, but my client strongly believes otherwise. From what I have already gathered, Victor was similarly unconvinced?”

“Victor was not unconvinced. He knew that she had been murdered.”

“You say that he knew. I take it that you did not doubt the accuracy of his conclusion, then?”

“No, I do not doubt Victor’s conclusion. I made a few inquiries with other members of the congregation who were at work in the Silver Club that night. They all confirmed that confrontation between Allison and Tenebrisi.”

Fr. O’Brian took a sip of water from his glass.

“Sylvio Tenebrisi was a monster, and that is not a word that I use lightly, Mr. Watson. He used violence upon whomever he chose for any gain, and at times for sport. Allison was a strong woman. Victor taught her how to take care of herself in much the way that she taught Victor how to remain human despite everything that had happened to them. She protected herself, and in the end it may have lead to her death.

“Without her there to be his touchstone, there was nothing left to stop Victor from falling to his desire for vengeance.”

“He didn’t come to you for counseling or advice?” I asked.

“No, I went to him. I told him that vengeance would only scar his soul on top of the wound it had already taken. He did not listen.”

“And afterward?”

“And of afterward I may not speak, for it happened within the confessional, and aside from that, I had not spoken with him.”

Great, I thought, and now we hit the brick wall.

“From what I’ve been able to gather so far, Victor believed that he had something that would have allowed him to avoid Ambrosi’s vengeance for Tenebrisi’s death. Would you have any idea what that might have been?”

Fr. O’Brian looked me over closely at that.

“I’m sorry Mr. Watson, I there’s nothing I can say about anything like that.”

His tone of voice had not changed, but something behind his eyes slammed shut like a vault door. My instinct said that pushing on this topic would burn any further cooperation I might get from the good Father.

“Would you happen to have Victor’s address handy?”

“I could give it to you, but I’m afraid no one has lived there since his passing. Even then, I should be keeping such records private as well.”

“I’d hardly think that Victor would mind very much now.”

“Even so, Mr. Watson. But perhaps…” he said looking me over.


“I could give you the address, in return for a favor.”

“What type of favor?”

“There is another member of the congregation that I have lost touch with. His name is Albert Dunkirk. He aids various diocese in defending their faithful with more, shall we say, active means. If I asked you to go look in on his place, I believe that you would have an appreciation of certain details that the sheriff’s deputies would lack.”

“I’m already working a case, Father.”

“And all I’m asking is that you look in upon his residence with no obligation to pursue further. That is all.”

I had to consider for a moment.

“Alright, but just to look in, nothing more.”


With that, Fr. O’Brian reached into a drawer and removed a large ledger book. Less than a minute later he handed me a scrap of paper with two addresses. The first was Victor’s apartment. The other was that of Albert Dunkirk, Fr. O’Brian’s missing associate.

I prayed that it wasn’t one of those favors that blew up in your face.

“Thank you, for your time, Father,” I said.

“Let me show you out.”

We entered into the nave of the church.

“Oh, just one more thing, Mr. Watson,” said the priest.

I was ready for yet more good news.


“This church,” he said with his arms wide to encompass the whole structure, “is a place of sanctuary. If you or any other soul have need of God’s protection, one needs but ask, and it shall be granted.”

“Thanks, Father, I’ll keep that in mind.”

With that we shook hands, and I headed out to take a look at Victor Caretti’s apartment.

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