Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Intangible Assets, Chapter 19

     Allison stood looking about her burnt out apartment. The firefighters had done what they could, but they didn’t stand a chance against the professionals Ambrosi had sent to torch the place. She remained intangible to the normal senses, but I was still keeping an Eye on her. It was several hours after sunset of the day after my meeting with Ambrosi.
     A single candle burned next to me as I sat in a corner. Its light failed to penetrate into the room; my magic turned the feeble light around and into a circle about me. Only darkness and the faint luminescence of Allison’s astral form remained outside of that circle.

     The apartment was a difficult place for Allison to be. Now that I understood her story, I could understand why. I reminded myself to apologize later for the moll crack I had made the first time I was here. The sense of sadness coming off of her would have been palpable to anyone in the room. No one would have needed my senses to be able to tell that this room was haunted. Where before the fire I hadn’t been able to keep my senses active, the desperation of putting the fire out and the fear of the neighbors diluted the resonance of Allison’s murder.

     We had been waiting there for those hours before the other presence made it felt. Arrogance and Hatred imposed itself into the room. Allison turned toward it quickly, lashing out with her spectral stiletto.

     The new form coalesced around its wound. It was a man of maybe thirty-five, although the look of rage on his face made him seem practically ancient. Despite the fine suit and hat, there was little about him that seemed human. His face appeared frozen, as if incapable of holding any other emotion, and at the first manifestation of his form he seemed to be drenched in blood all down the front of his jacket from a gaping wound to his throat. Without his body, there was no pretense as to what Sylvio Tenebrisi was deep down.

I drew the last of the warding spell as he appeared in the room. This time, the ward was set so that he could not get out.

Allison leapt backward away from Sylvio as I drew my gun and pulled the trigger. The report was both silent and deafening at the same time. To any other living person in the building, the round in the gun failed to fire. In actuality, the gun was only loaded with spent brass that I had fired off at a Resistance shooting range. Before I had fired them off, however, I had pushed some of my power into them, much like the cigarettes I had given Stewart Cutler. The crack of exploding powder reverberated through the ghostly aspect of the room, and my theory was born out by Tenebrisi falling to the ground.

He turned at me with a snarl of rage on his face. His move was like lightning; I had failed to consider what not having a body could do for one’s mobility. He was almost as fast as Bloody Giuliano had been in the warehouse.

I did learn another lesson very quickly after that. I learned that what my instructors had said was true in that looking at the spirit realm makes one vulnerable to that realm. He cut at me with his knife and I felt life flow out of my arm as I missed the clean block.

Tenebrisi had forgotten about Allison at this point, and she made him pay for that sloppiness with a stab to where his kidney once was. Evidently Victor had taught her how to use the blade when he gave it to her.

“Get clear of him!” I told Allison.

She again got clear before I hit Sylvio with a spell of Motion. He went flying back and to my right until he ran up against my ward. Despite the hard slam into the wall, he still managed to keep his feet. He kept his feet until I put a spectral bullet into his leg.

His form and fight went out from under him.

“You have to be a special kind of stupid to be messing with me, flatfoot. Your life ain’t gonna be worth a plugged nickel once my boss hears about this.”

I hunkered down at my spot across the room from him. Allison came over and stood to my left.

“I’d be concerned about that, Sylvio, if your boss didn’t already know about this little set-up here. You have to be the first I’d ever heard of a guy getting sold out by his boss twice.”

The realization crossed his face as the understanding dawned. In truth, he was only half of the deal. The other half was that I got to keep the journal. Ambrosi had been fit to blow a gasket, but then I pointed out that he had deadly blackmail on me. All he had to do was drop a dime on me and my soul would be fueling one of the emperor’s war machines by the end of the week. So rather than doing that, he could let the standoff continue indefinitely. Treaties had been signed on less, and that treaty would be keeping Allison, my friends, and me safe for as long as it lasted.

Tenebrisi did the math, and realized that he wouldn’t be getting out of here as alive as he entered. He leapt at me; the look on his face very reminiscent of the proverbial cornered rat. Again, however, he wrote off Allison as a frail and not a threat. She was in my line before I could get the shot off.

Sylvio’s knife slashed a new slit through Allison’s dress and into her side, but her knife caught him square in the chest. She took him right where his heart should have been, and that was enough.

She leaned into him and said into his ear, “Victor avenged me on you, now I do it for myself and him.”

Sylvio’s face was a mask of confusion. He must have never considered that a woman could ever have been a threat. It had driven him to murder her, and it had led him to die on her blade. The look of confusion faded with the rest of his form. He slowly faded, as if he was retreating into a black mist, and then the rest slid downward like sand through an hourglass.

Allison watched Sylvio disappear. Once he was gone, and there was no doubt that he was gone forever, she looked down at her knife and threw it aside like something evil.

“I don’t suppose I’ll be needing that anymore,” she said.

“I don’t reckon you will, either.”

It was then that I noticed a faint glow growing brighter in the former living room of Allison Tierney. I saw that the light was the perfect source for the sparkle of the sequins of her dress.

“He confessed,” said Allison through a smile and a sob, “thank God, he confessed.”

I couldn’t see anything either in or through the light. It wasn’t my time to know that, yet.

Allison turned after taking two steps toward what awaited her. She was already partly obscured by the glow.

“Thank you, Sam.” She giggled and took a last look about the place. “Help yourself to what you can find. I’m sorry I can’t pay you better.”

“Just go, and be happy.”

“I’ll visit if I can.” With that, she continued walking until she disappeared in the mists. Once she was gone, the light dimmed until I was alone in the burned out apartment.

I lit a cigarette and considered the apartment. Then, I took my handkerchief, pushed a touch of power into it, and used it to pick up her discarded knife. I was surprised it was still here, and I figured that I could get a decent trade from Akbar for it.

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