Thursday, October 20, 2005

Intangible Assets, Chapter 16

So that was how I ended up in a warehouse, tied to a chair, getting myself worked over like a rack of ribs in a Count’s kitchen. Even worse, I had yet to spot an opportunity to do anything about it.

“Where is the girl?”

I had lost count of how many times they had asked me that question.

“Where is the comb?”


I wasn’t giving anything up. The Tusk didn’t seem to be getting frustrated. He probably preferred my not answering, because that was when he got to play. And it wasn’t Taps he was playing, or at least not yet.

The Voice was not nearly so happy. He had the Tusk working on me with breaks only for questions and unconsciousness. That I was still breathing was a good sign for all concerned. As opposed to Victor who expired quickly when they put the screws to him. Evidently the Tusk was not part of that interrogation. I imagine that he could keep me going for days. Lucky me.

Carlo took a rest. That meant it was the Voice’s turn.

“I fail to understand your attachment to this matter,” he said. “Ms. Tierney has absolutely nothing to offer to interest a gent. No access to money, certainly no means to offer the more physical interests.”

“I’m just a sucker for a dame with a sob story.”

He gave my response its due consideration of half a second.

“This doesn’t have to continue, Mr. Watson. Give us what we want, and you may go.”

“Yeah, and I promise to never speak ill of your boss, either. I’d put money on you making good on my promise first.”

An opening wasn’t going to happen. I had to take a chance to make one.

“That is,” I said, “if you can actually get back to your boss with something useful this time. Do better this time than you did with Caretti.”

“Shut your trap.”

“And all this time I thought you wanted me to talk. Does your leach of a boss know…?”

That was as much as I was able to get out before he was on me. He gave me a backhand that sent the chair and me flying out of the cone of the light.

“Where is the book?!”

“Ay!” yelled the Tusk, “the boss said that I do the poundin’.”

No doubt, I thought. I thought that Paulie had hit hard, but Giuliano was another weight class entirely. He was moving in on me for more when Carlo got in between.

“The boss said I do the poundin’. He don’t want what happened last time, capisce?”

The Tusk was trying to hold back Angelo “Bloody” Giuliano, Boss Ambrosi’s number-two man.

Focus, focus! I screamed in my mind. I could not lose this chance to unconsciousness. Neither of them was looking at me right then, something that had yet to happen while I was conscious. I focused on the satisfaction of having figured out who the Voice was and tried not to follow too for into the implications of being in the clutches of someone nicknamed “Bloody”. I had landed on my side, my hands hidden from them. A magician can do a lot in that position, and a wizard a hell of a lot more.

I felt around so that I could get at least a fingertip on the hemp rope. Once I found it, I called down an invocation of fire: “Ignis!” No time for subtle, no time for control. The beatings I had taken left me too groggy for anything fine. Fire erupted and swallowed the ropes quickly. Unfortunately, they also seared my skin and scorched the sleeves of my shirt. Before the Tusk turned or Angelo noticed, I caught the flames and hurled them at the back of the Tusk. His clothes leapt into flames, and his shriek only died out after he fled from the warehouse.

Angelo only caught a portion of the flames, staggering back and beating at his suit. I took the opportunity to disappear into the shadows. Once I was out of sight, I slipped my ring onto my finger. Thankfully, they had not recognized it as a weapon. Their loss.

The Tusk was outside, so that left Bloody Giuliano. Looking around, I saw that I was roughly in the middle of the warehouse, slightly behind where I had been tied up. I couldn’t see the end of the warehouse that had been behind me for all of the palates and boxes. I headed deeper into the boxes and took stock of myself. The glaringly obvious was that I was a physical wreck. If I had more time, I could probably find a bone or two that didn’t hurt. My hands were also burnt red, but I could handle that for now. After the Fire invocation, I didn’t have much stamina left for many more castings. I’d have to make them count.

And the surest way of making them count would be to get my gun. Since I had to guess, I figured that they would have kept my piece on the table that Giuliano had been standing by most of the time Carlo had been working on me.

I crept back to the edge of the crates, and looked across the thirty feet between the gun and me. Way too much open space, especially if Giuliano had a piece. Well, if the flat foot can’t get to the gun, let the gun come to the flat foot. I cleared my mind except for the image of my squeezer and the incantation of motion repeated over and over again. Using motion for this is doing it the hard way, but I had never gotten to any lessons on Space. Remember, battlefield, not intelligence.

I opened my eyes when I felt the familiar weight settle into my hand. I almost smiled until I saw a dark blue blur pass into the aisles of crates on my right.

“Nice trick, shamus,” called Angelo from somewhere behind me. “Looks like you’re packing more than the typical flat foot.”

“That’s why I’m the detective, Bloody. I already had your boss figured for being a vampire.”

The quiet sound of air very briefly disturbed sounded in the distance, and Angelo’s voice came from a new quarter.

“You know, I’m sure that we could work something out. The boss could make the life of someone with your skills very comfortable.”

He was somewhere else by the time he finished his offer. He was just too damn fast. I could squeeze off a round where he was only to find him someplace else by the time the bullet got there. I had one chance, anticipation. Calliope might not be telepathic, but I can no in a pinch. And this was a pinch.

I reached out and found him; he was the one slightly more complex than the rats. When I tried to make contact, I ran right into a dead wall.

“Oh ho!” he laughed. “Another trick, Watson?”

Damn, tipped him off. Always the danger. His mind was just not right, aside from being that of a sadist. It was a mind in a dead brain. It made it too easy for him to block me. I had to force him to crack in far less time than they took for me. Then something occurred to me.

“So you’re a leach too?” His shield recoiled at that. Evidently he didn’t like that word. “You were a little slow on the uptake earlier. I don’t need the comb, or the girl. I already have the book.”

Panic. In that one instant, he almost broke. One more push.

“Everything Dunkirk had on Ambrosi. Funny thing, you weren’t even mentioned. So much for the reputation.”

Bastard!/Go left. I got an image of an intersection behind me and to my right. I spun around the corner and fired two shots at the empty air. He was not there on the first pull, but he was for the second. He staggered back as I kept shooting, two more to the chest and two more to the head. It wouldn’t keep him down, but I wasn’t yet willing to wing killing a made man. Not without what must have been the journal of Albert Dunkirk, Monster Hunter.

“Sam, are you in here?”

Rachel? What was she doing there?

“Over here, Rachel,” I said as I stepped out from the maze of crates.

My step turned into a stumble as she raced across the floor to hold me up.

“Nine hells, Sam. I just can’t leave you alone.”

“Nope. I just go getting beat up and shooting made men in the noggin.” I pointed back where I left Angelo.

That startled her.


“Bloody Giuliano.”

She let out a breath.

“Nothing permanent then.”

I gaped at her.

“You knew?”

“It’s my job to know, and that is kind of a first thing you notice type of thing.”

“We still have to do something with him. He saw me using magic.”

“Too late for that.”

I looked back where she was looking. Nothing.

“How’d you find me?”

She gave me her best innocent look, and started helping me toward the door.

“Oh, a little bird with a square jaw and blond hair was telling some friends at Armstong’s about the private dick Angelo was putting the screws to down here. He said something about the detective saving one of his boys from getting run over during the chase. I figured that had to be you, so I headed to the docks where he said Angelo was. I figured I had the right place when I saw a flaming ork jump off a pier.”

By that time we had gotten out to my car. I let her drive, I wasn’t in a mood for a fight right then.

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