Thursday, November 03, 2005

Intangible Assets, Chapter 18

     We had a lot to do and not a lot of time to figure out just how to do it.

     There were few options to my situation. I considered, briefly, finishing Marquis Dunkirk’s mission and killing Ambrosi. That would be the path suggested in fables and tales of yore. What those tales never took into account were the dozens of men that the monster could have surrounding himself. Beyond that, there would be no guarantee that the other bosses wouldn’t thank me by rubbing me out on their way to a bloody war over the spoils. The Families might not like each other all that much, but they do have a certain esprit de corps when it comes to outsiders messing with their own.

Second option: make it so that pursuing either Allison or me would not be in Ambrosi’s best interests. I preferred not to use the term blackmail because it sounded so sordid when it was being applied to my actions, but there you have it.

I was going to have to speak with Ambrosi, and that meant I had to make arrangements. More than time and place, just getting the word to him would be difficult. I also needed to find a venue that was secure enough for me to walk away from. The more I thought about it, the more certain the answer became: Tempeste and Club Hades.

I carried the book with me in my pocket as I headed for the club. Calliope called ahead for me, and Tempeste was apparently intrigued enough to grant me an audience. Having my secretary call from a phone booth outside a church to arrange a meeting with the Princess of the Isle of Grey was just another note to the surreal history I had lived over the past week.

     So far as the Fae are concerned, Tempeste is the one in charge in New York City. The Isle of Grey is technically only Manhattan, but Tempeste oversees operations in the other Burroughs as well. Not many mortals know that, and how I came to know it is part and parcel with how I came to the city in the first place.

Samira was at the door to greet me when I knocked. She was dressed casually and didn’t seem to mind that I was there in the middle of the day. The interior of the Club was dim, and the chairs had all been turned over onto the tables. All of the chairs except those at Tempeste’s table. Those were being used by the Mistress of the club and a thin, sallow faced man with wire-rimmed spectacles. A pair of leather bound books sat open between them.

“That’s enough for now. Thank you, Nicolai,” said Tempeste.

I had to do a double take. I hadn’t recognized the gentleman who heads the club’s bartending crew during the evening. It also went to say that I didn’t recognize him as Tempeste’s go-to messenger. Those would be the messages that get delivered via a meaningful item left on your pillow while you slept. He cleared the books away, and I filed away the information that he was also Tempeste’s accountant. I would have hated to get a message from him about outstanding debts. Thank God my landlord doesn’t know him.
“To what do I owe this visit, Sam?” Tempeste asked. She rose from the table to meet my en route. She wore a silver silk blouse and a pair of black pants over her long legs. She always carried herself with the air of one who makes their own rules, and fashion was the least of those. I appreciated the aesthetic, and mentioned as much.

“Thank you, but I doubt that couture is what brings you at this ungodly hour.”

“Ungodly? It is two in the afternoon.”

She smiled.

“Perhaps not for barbarians, but certainly civilized folk prefer the night.”

“And the not-so-civilized in some cases. Say, Giaccomo Ambrosi and Bloody Giuliano.”

“Why whatever do you mean?” She was so clearly enjoying our little game.

“I couldn’t imagine Club Hades being the place it is and not attracting at least a couple of vampires.”

“Vampires? My, that would be scandalous, even if they didn’t advertise the fact.”

“A few prefer to play their cards close then?”

“Oh yes, a few prefer to earn their reputations through more mundane avenues. Business, for instance.”

“The old family firms, I should guess.”

“Certainly. You get all sorts here.”

Samira approached the table and set a Bloody Mary at my elbow.

“I hope you don’t mind,” said Tempeste, “I asked Samira to fix one up for you. You look like you could use one after your adventures last night.”

“You heard about that?” I asked as I held up the drink, as if examining the glass in the light. Instead, I was looking it over with my Sight. No enchantments were noticeable. So it was to be a gift of another nature.

“I’ll let you have that one for passing a small test. Tell me something I already know.”

Interesting game. She wanted to know that I knew something, as opposed to what I knew.

“Alright, how about that Giaccomo Ambrosi is a vampire?”

“And I would know that already?”

“He’s been to the club,” I said, making a broad gesture to take in the environs. “And no one gets in without you learning their natures.” I can’t say just how much that had scared me after the first time I had been there.

She nodded, and I enjoyed the drink. A little light on the Tabasco, but I always took my drinks strong. I didn’t know how much I needed that drink until the first swallow. Leave it to the Fae to get me feeling human again.

“So what is it that you need, Sam?”

“I need one of the private rooms for a very private meeting.”

“I’m sure the Sheraton would have something available for that.”

“Not if one side is very concerned about it turning into a lead swapping party.”

“And I would want such a party happening in my establishment?”

“No, but Ambrosi has done business here before. Your reputation of neutral ground is too useful for him to trash on my account.”

“It would be expensive for him as well, I assure you.”

I nodded over another sip of my drink.

“Something like this could be expensive for you as well,” she said.

I knew that was coming, and there was only one thing that I had to pay her with.

“Then let me tell you the secret that I am counting on to keep me alive.”

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