Seeker Triad 1341

By Michael Cleveland


Sikaldiel laid on the bed in the cheap hotel room, looking at the camera mounted on the television set and watching the timer above it count down the seconds until the appointed contact time. Looking over at the two other in the room, she took a draw from the beer in her hand and shook her head. "You know, it strikes me that we should be attempting to do this job ourselves, not hiring it out to a group of unknown assassins and thugs. We should have sufficient strength to take him you this time."

From one of the chairs at the table, a thin black woman shook her head in the negative. "You're crazy, Most Holy. How many Triads have been lost trying to take out Cibarak? Eight? Nine? Myself, I don't care to be the tenth."

Across from the young lady at the table, a trio of kittens picked the fleas off of each other. From one of them, a very high pitched voice emerged. "We've lost five bodies to him, and we've been in two other Triads that tried to take him. We've taken our chances - give it to a group of professionals."

The woman on the bed stretched and nodded. "Especially ones that accept payment after the job is completed, so long as a Seraph negotiates. I have heard all this, Kazzah. It makes it uncomfortable nonetheless, but I accept that I have been overridden. Just tell me Sirva - you are sure these people can pull this off?

The black woman shrugged. "Probably. I've hired them twice before - once about ten years ago and the other time about three centuries back. They've gotten much easier to contact in this day and age, let me tell you..."

One of the kittens looked up. "And their performance?"

The lady shook her head as she doodled in her notepad. "Good enough that I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of one of their contracts. Honorable enough. High priced and secretive, but worth their price in my opinion. They're either former Gamesters or Judges - they know exactly where to stop pressing a person in order to keep a confession viable, and as far as their hunting abilities... well, let's just not worry about it since the clock's almost gone."

The blonde on the bed sat up and straightened her suit jacket. "Right. Everyone go silent. Eyes open, and remember that these may be infernals, so be careful what you say."

After a few moments of empty silence, the screen flickered to life and shifted to a scene of a similar hotel room, with a translucent bluish curtain and two figures standing behind it. The male figure on the right made a motion like he was nodding to someone off camera, then apparently turned to face the camera. "I'm glad to see that you found the directions at the drop point, Sirva. Friends of yours?"

The Malakite nodded, gesturing towards the suit-wearing blonde and the group of kittens who were now lined up on the bed. "Yes, I'm sorry I didn't put it in the note, but my plans to meet you privately were overruled. These are Judges Sikaldiel and Kazzah."

The male figure nodded. "Nature of a Triad - irritating, but acceptable." The voice changed somewhat, hardening. "Acceptable in this one particular case only, Sirva. Don't let it happen again, or the meeting's off and there won't be another."

Sirva nodded. "Understood. Again, my apologies." The Malakite looked at her companions, then looked back at the screen. "We have a Calabite that we want gone, who goes by the name of Cibarak. He's a -"

The female silhouette moved slightly, typing something into a computer. "Gamester. Somewhat high ranking if my intel is current. Typically stays in Dis, however. That makes things more difficult, you know. What precisely is it that you want to happen to him?"

The Seraph stepped forward. "Preferably, we would like him captured and bound for trial. He is a former Judge, and he must be brought to justice with all due speed. We understand that he has recently been spotted in the Houston area. Triad 314 mentioned that he seems to have taken a permanent posting there, but their information was spotty. He was not their concern."

The male nodded. "Of course. Do you have a particular timeframe for his capture?"

Sikaldiel shook her head. "No. Of course, we wish him dealt with quickly, but the important thing is the results. Now, we are willing to pay you -"

The female silhouette moved closer to the screen. "Fifteen million dollars."

The kittens sat up as a unit, the fur on their backs rising. "FIFTEEN MILLION DOLLARS?! What are you, nuts? We're not asking you to assassinate a Prince, for God's sake!"

The female figure nodded perceptibly. "That's right. You're not asking us to shoot some cheap punk Habbalite from a rooftop. That takes two snipers and a five dollar box of ammunition. You're asking us to capture, hold and transport a rather powerful, well trained and well motivated Calabite who is rather unlikely to come willingly. You want him kept on the Corporeal Plane and not dropping to Hell the moment he realizes he's in trouble. You want him in one piece, which limits our options and greatly enhances his. If you want it done right, it's not going to be cheap."

The kittens slowly lowered themselves down, while the two ladies looked at each other, making motions with their hands. After a moment, the Seraph turned back to the camera, looking uncomfortable. "Sirva tells me that you might be willing to lower the cash payment in exchange for certain other services. Is this correct?"

The two figures turned to look at each other, then turned back to the camera. "Actually, there are some things we can use that Judges could provide... you are aware of the Tether of Judgment in Cincinatti, yes?"

The two women looked at each other quizzically, while one of the kittens turned its head slightly. "I know the place, yeah. The seneschal and I worked together a few times years back. But I don't know what I can -"

The female silhouette spoke up, her voice taking an odd tone. "You'll give us a note to give to the seneschal. No names on it, no questions asked. Good for a three week stay to remove dissonance. Person will do whatever work is required, but won't be forced to give a name or affiliation. That'll knock three million off the bill."

Kazzah looked at itself for a moment, then turned to the women, its tails swishing and twisting into approximations of hand signals. <I COULD TALK HIM INTO IT> The Malakite nodded her head, gesturing quietly. <STIPULATION - ONLY USED BY ANGELS. SENESCHAL VERIFIES THEIR ALLEGIANCE, THEN ALLOWS USE> After a moment of consideration, the Seraph nodded. <MAKES SENSE. OUTCAST SEEKING HELP IS OUTCAST LESS LIKELY TO FALL>

Turning back to the camera, the Seraph nodded. "This can be arranged. There are four other Tethers who would make similar deals, provided the users prove they are angels. Is this offer satisfactory?"

The male figure shook his head no. "We'll take four of them, but a minimum of three million dollars will be required to take this job. How much did you bring with you?"

The Malakite reached over to a briefcase and opened it, pointing it towards the camera. "Half a million dollars in twenties and fifties. No marks, no traces. Non sequential. I figured that was how much you wanted for operating funds last time we did business together. Will that do?"

The two figures nodded. "All right. If you three will simply write out the terms of the agreement and sign it with your names and sigils, we'll be along to pick up our payment once you've left the building. Once the job is done, we'll let you know where to make the pickup for the prisoner andwhere to drop off the rest of our fee."

After a few moments of writing, the Judges nodded to the camera, and walked out the door. As the got into the elevator, one of the kittens jumped into a young woman's arms, who then turned to the others beside her. "So, you really think they'll nail the guy?"

Sirva turned to look at the others in the elevator. "Did I ever tell you who told me about this group of people?" After seeing their heads shake, she closed her eyes and smiled wickedly.


Later that night in a nondescript car speeding down a highway, a man named Sergei was on a cellphone while his partner was taking her turn driving.

"Look, tell Melissa to hold on for a few more weeks. I've managed to get an entry pass to the Judgment Tether in her town - it's going to take some doing, but I've got it set so they won't ask any questions. No, I doubt that they'll even know she's one of us. It's set with a no questions asked other than 'Are you an Angel?', so she should be fine. I'm working on getting ones for George and Larry as well. They'll probably have to get in a car and drive, but it'll be something. Look, we've got to get running. Once we get to Houston, we'll link up with the local chapter there. I've got some friends in the local Creation Tether who'll set us up for the op. Gotcha. Stay righteous, Nicole. Yeah. Give my love to Kim, too. Bye."

Turning to the woman beside him, he squeezed her shoulder reassuringly. "Nicole says there's a couple of us in Houston who'll help out. We'll want to be the ones that do the real job, but we do at least have family there. It'll be all right, Kari."

Kari smiled for a moment, then went back to concentrating on the road. "Good. I just wish Stefan was here to meet them as well. I know he'll be out soon, but I still miss him."

Sergei looked out the window for amoment, then turned back to his partner. "Look, Buddha owes me a favor or two, and... I think he knows who and what we are. If he can pull some essence off of his Tether, I'm sure he will. Eli's pretty understanding of us and all." He frowned slightly, then continued. "No matter what, we're not going to leave him in there any longer than we have to. As soon as the relinquaries are prepped, we'll send him some more juice."

The teenaged girl nodded as she took a sharp turn. "Right. You know, you'd think that after all this time, it would get easier." She drove for a while longer, an awkward silence between them until she spoke again.

"Do you think he even remembers that we're out here, Sergei?"

Sergei quietly reached out and put his hand on her arm. "It's an injustice, Kari. And it may take ten days, ten years, maybe even ten thousand years, but he'll see it through. And so will we." He smiled wryly. "And besides, you've got to admit - for a choir whose note has been all but silenced, it's funny how often what used to be our solos has found its way into the background noise that nobody notices...

Budarial lounged back in his favorite chair, watching the denizens of his coffee shop go by while they chatted with their friends about the appalling number of yuppies that had moved into the neighborhood. Although he was known to occasionally throw in a comment or two, the Seraph had found that by sitting back and nodding in all the right places, he was able to cultivate the proper image of someone who knew much but let people come to their own conclusions. Today had gone much like most days around the Tether - brew coffee, talk with people about their problems, listen to people gripe about the coffee shop down the way, and most importantly - watch for people who needed that last little bit of pep to get off their hindquarters and do the right thing.

That was the day - the night was going to be different. The large black man slowly walked over to his expresso machine and reached for the 'special blend' that he kept for certain specific customers that had a tendency to come in after hours. Brewing himself a cup, he took a moment to relax, and then turned to face the young couple that walked through the door.

"Welcome to Cafe Avino - can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea? Supernatural powers?"

The young lady lowered a pair of rose-tinted glasses, and then came around the counter and wrapped the man in her arms. "Buddha - it's been too long. How have you been?" The caretaker smiled and pointed them to a table. "Doing all right, actually. Had a few problems with Judges in here looking for the owner of the establishment, and the Novalisians from down the way have been visiting this place more than their own Tether in town, but that is not such a bad thing. And what about you all? Where is Stefan?"

The tall, slavic man that had come in at the same time shook his head. "He's in Limbo. We were on a job running against the Game, and somebody managed to get the call off before we could drop them." He chuckled slightly. "Stefan was true to form, though - not just a man of substance, but of style. He was sniping from a rooftop across the way, and took Asmodeus's vessel in the back of the head with a God Gun." He frowned for a second, then smiled again. "Of course a trick like that only works once on a Prince, and since he got Asmodeus's undivided attention with that stunt, he didn't have many options except to blow his own head off and pray the vessel's matrix collapsed before Asmodeus reached him, but it worked. We're working on getting him out, though."

The Seraph shuddered slightly, his resonance filling in too many of the details of the encounter for him to be comfortable with. "Man, that is a tough break. Ow. Still, popping Azzie is not an inherently bad thing. Not wise, mind you, but still good. Is there anything I can do to help you all with getting him out? I really can not afford to divert too much energy from Tether operations at the moment, but if things relax even the slightest bit, you know I will."

Sergei nodded. "We didn't come all this way to try and sap you for energy, although if you can send him a couple of drops, I'm sure he'll appreciate it. But actually, we're in town for a job. Can't say who or what, you know. But we need to find a good place to stay, and we need a few maps of the area. Basics - places to go to in a bind, places to avoid like the plague - that sort of thing."

Buddha nodded. "I can do that." His brow furrowed slightly before continuing. "Now, I have to warn you - I can not get too involved. There have been some very serious problems that have been coming out of the local Gamester Tether, and I can not risk some of the humans that come around here getting inadvertently pulled into anything. They have a good number of heavy hitters in there, and as sad as I am to say it, most of the Divive Tethers are trying to lay low." At seeing Kari's look of irritation, the Seraph shook his head. "You do not get these people, Kari. The bodies of the last group of angels that tried to cross them were found in a heap across the street from the Flowers Tether. And the Soldiers... the soldiers were unlucky enough to be found alive. Let us leave it at that, all right?"

Sergei and Kari nodded solemnly. "We'll try to keep you out of it, Budarial. But seriously, if you need us to take out the local Gamesters, we'd be happy to significantly lower our prices for -"

"You just do not get it, do you?"

The two Grigori stood in the middle of the courtyard, a standing wall of water splashing behind them as they looked up at the towering skyscraper before them. The nighttime lights reflected and glinted from the forty-something stories of gleaming marble and glass. Overhead, a spotlight rotated slowly, its beam shining down upon the city like an omnipresent eye, further adding to the tower's impressiveness.

Their escort, a Soldier of Creation known to them as Bob, stepped between them and put his hands on each of the Grigori's shoulders. "This, my friends, is Transco Tower. It's actually Williams tower now, but everyone still calls it by its old name. Inside, on any given day, there are about ten thousand or so people working inside. There are several energy companies, a few printing businesses, a small but well established marketing and advertising firm, and most importantly, there are two separate ISP's that have offices inside, complete with technical support staff twenty-four hours a day." Bob looked at his watch, then continued. "Now, with it being about eleven O'clock at night, you have about four to five hundred people inside. That's in addition to any of the Tether's people that we don't know about. There are security patrols that canvas not only the building itself, but this park here and the waterwall behind us."

Sergei looked up at the building, then turned to his partner. "Blow up the Tether. Destroy the affect it can have on the population. Minimize the likelihood that the Gamesters can receive backup. We've done it before. How hard can it be?"

Kari shook her head slowly, still looking up at the structure. "Maybe I was just a little bit hasty this time. It's... it's very..."

Sergei looked back at the building. "Big."

Bob chuckled. "Yeah, that it is. And it's pretty well staffed - somebody was saying something about there being fifteen or so demons being stationed here permanently, with others rotating through here. I personally don't know about that, but this is, by all accounts, the most powerful Infernal Tether around here. Lightning's people over at the Johnson Space Center might be able to match up to it, but still..." He shook his head ruefully. "You don't mess with these people."

Kari turned away from the Tether to look at the Creationer. "I can imagine. Still, are you sure they said fifteen people on permanent assignment here? Most Tethers are lucky to get three or four permanents. Maybe more like five or six, maybe?"

Bob shook his head. "No, ma'am. Fifteen. It's something on account of this place being some sort of weird Tether. Something... I don't know, its a... Cathedra Tether? Capacita Tether? Something like that, I can't -"

The two angels slowly looked at each other and then looked at the human before them. "You don't mean Capitol Tether, do you?"

Bob snapped his fingers and smiled. "Capitol, that's it! It's a Capitol Tether." He scratched his head for a moment as his two charges traded worried expressions. "You know, Buddha never did explain to me what that meant. What is a Capitol Tether, anyway?"

Sergei tooked to look back at the building as he began speaking. "A Capitol Tether is a very massive and very powerful link to either Heaven or Hell. It's a place that either has personal significance to the Prince or Archangel that it belongs to, or it's a major strategic base of operations. Most Capitol Tethers oversee operations for their Prince's Word for several hundred miles around them, sometimes even commanding Seneschals of lesser Tethers in the area. They are invariably well staffed, well guarded, and in the case of Gamester Capitol Tethers, usually have a Seneschal that's ranked highly enough that they directly report to the Prince themselves. If you're right, then this area is a rather dangerous place for us to be. We should be on our way."

The three of them walked back towards where they had parked their car. Allowing the somewhat dazed human to lead, the two angels quietly motioned to each other, trying to keep the Creationer from noting their actions.


Sergei shook his head ruefully as he continued. <YES, BUT WE TOOK IT. WHAT NOW?>

Kari shrugged, pausing for a moment to point toward the car in a restaurant parking lot. <TETHER IRRELEVANT. ANNOYING BACKDROP. FOCUS ON TARGET. HAS TO LEAVE SOMETIME.>


Kari lowered her head slightly, then snapped up. <BAIT.>

Sergei shook his head negatively. <WHAT BAIT? WE HAVE NOTHING.>

Kari smiled slyly, looking at the Tether and tossing her head coyly. <WE'LL MAKE SOME.>

Sergei rolled his eyes, then glared at his partner. <KICK THE HORNET'S NEST. GOOD CALL.>

Kari frowned, then spoke up. "Excuse me, Bob? Aside from the Gamesters and the Creationers, who all is here in town? Buddha mentioned something about Flowers, and you mentioned something about Lightning having a base around here."

Bob turned around, color returning to his face. "Well, there are a couple of Angels of Flowers in the Heights area, and there's the really small Sword Tether down at Ellington Air Force Base. There's the Johnson Space Center, but they keep to themselves unless you beg for help. And then there's us. On the bad side, you've got a small Tether of Lust in one of the local strip clubs, there's a Tether to Vapula at Compaq's main production facility on Highway two-ninety, and there's a new Tether of Theft in downtown at the Enron building. And, of course, there's that place behind us."

Kari chewed on her lip for a moment, then spoke again. "So, you'd say there are a bunch of people here in the area, but they don't talk too much except for the Flower and Creation Tethers?" At Bob's nod, Kari smiled and unlocked the door for her partner as they reached the car. "Don't worry. I have a plan."

Sergei raised an eyebrow as he got into the car. "Ok, good. Tell me about it after we drop him off." As he buckled his seat belt, he reached over and tapped the lady in the driver's seat. <WHAT PLAN?>

Kari smiled and motioned as she put her keys in the ignition. <TASORA'S THIRTY-FOURTH RULE OF EFFECTIVE MERCENARY WORK.> Sergei blinked several times, then laughed as he simultaneously made the same symbol as his partner.


(Author's Note - this segment of Seekers 1341 is dedicated to the memory of Nora Crowley, a fan of my writing and a good and devoted friend, who passed from this world to the next on Thursday, May 16. If there is a place somewhat analygous to Yves's Library in the place she now resides, may she find this piece to her liking, and may she have even more fun in that world than she did in this one.)

Florelis was used to having new faces in her club every night, but it was somewhat uncommon to have a couple walk into a strip club and specifically request a virtually unknown girl who didn't advertise. The Balseraph watched from her position in the DJ booth, surveying the situation and wondering whether the newcomers were a couple of vice cops, or simply a couple of kinks new to the area. As she watched the activity become more lascivious, she turned her attention to the Djinn beside her. "Business is almost done for the night, TJ. Another hour and we'll have the humans out. What is the tab looking like for the back rooms tonight?"

The DJ sniffed indifferently, his nose wrinkling at the scent of perfume as one of the human dancers passed by. "Only eight customers. I've reviewed the tapes, and I didn't notice anyone that should really spark our interest. That Creationer Mujadai came back again, trying to talk Gloria out of 'this lifestyle', but I don't think he knows that we replaced his pet human with her. She's got him hooked good. Few more weeks and she'll own him." He narrowed his eyes slightly. "Ofanim are stupid. He'll never catch on."

The Seneschal nodded. "Quite right. I think we want to keep him from falling for now, though. Soak him for information, of course, but we'll leave him alive. He'll be a good plant so long as he doesn't get all ethical on us." She motioned slightly towards the hidden camera monitor that was recording one of the back tables. "What do you make of the couple? Not sure I like the read I'm getting off of them. Cops, you think?"

Tahzjik focused the camera slightly, then frowned. "No... not cops. But they're not here for the show." As the Balseraph leaned forward, the Djinn pointed at the young woman who was gazing intently at the dancer in her lap. As she watched, she realized what he was talking about - every time the dancer looked away, the woman's eyes darted away quickly to survey the area, snapping from point to point quickly and then retraining on the dancer before her attention returned to her and her companion. The man was doing the same thing, happily and cheerfully watching the two women writhing against each other until both of their attention was squarely focused on each other.

Florelis chewed her lip uncomfortably. "No. No, those aren't cops. Possibly a group of dealers waiting for a contact. Trying to not be bothered. Makes a bit of sense, although it's odd they'd choose -" She stopped as her eyes narrowed in on a small bulge underneath the man's shoulder. She drew in a quick breath, hissing slightly as she noticed the faintly perceptible glow of an item of power beneath the man's jacket. "Those aren't dealers. Look at the jacket. That's an artifact." She motioned another one of the dancers over, while kneeling down and pulling off her jacket and unbuttoning her shirt. "Stephanie, I need you to do something for me. I'm going to go work for the floor. I want you to go into the back with these clothes and get dressed quickly. Once I'm out on the floor, you stay up here with TJ and keep an eye on the place. Got that?"

The brunette nodded, quickly slipping into the skirt and grabbing the shirt off the floor. "Got it, Rose. Should I call for the... extra security in the back?" The strip club manager shook her head no as she pulled her hair out of its ponytail and fluffed it quickly. "No, not yet. Over on camera nine there's two people with Sheri - TJ and I are betting that they're agents from another crime family. I'm just going to see what they want, and get them out of here. Everything should be fine, but I'll expect you to hit the panic button while TJ comes to help me if there are any problems." She ruffled her hair one last time, and then reached over to a counter and swallowed a gulp of whiskey from a bottle secreted there, then splashed a few drops on her face and upper chest while rearranging her bra. "How do I look?"

The Djinn looked her over once more, then turned back to the cd players. "If you just slip into that scaly bob-and-duck routine you do so well, you should pass for slightly tipsy. Looks good to me, boss. Go get 'em." As the manager now turned dancer slipped down the back way to the stage, the brunette dancer leaned forward as she slipped the shirt onto her shoulders. "Another family's in here? Aw, damn. Please tell me she's lying, TJ."

The DJ just hunched down lower in the booth and concentrated on the screens in front of him. "Who knows, Steph? I don't even bother to ask these days..."

Florelis slowly moved up to the table where the two unknown celestials were watching Sheri finish her (soon to be) last dance of the night. As the song ended, the Balseraph tapped her lightly on the shoulder and whispered in her ear what she needed to know - that TJ needed to talk to her about something important. As the dancer balked momentarily, Florelis reached out lightly with her resonance and re-explained it to the girl, who nodded and excused herself from the table. Gingerly sitting down in the chair that the dancer had been using, she began to work on the people before her. "I'm sorry about that - Sheri had to take care of something real quick. I'm Rose. Maybe there's something I could... do for you?"

The man smiled and motioned to the chair that she had already taken. "Actually, there might be something you can do for me... Florelis."As the Balseraph's eyes widened, the man shook his head lightly. "Don't even think it. Put your hands on the table and wave your people off. This is a business meeting, not a shakedown." The man glanced down towards his hand and opened it slightly, revealing a remote control detonator with a plunger that was being pressed down by his thumb. "That is, unless you don't want to talk business."

Florelis quickly folded her hands in front of her, franticly wondering if she could shield the Tether Locus and herself before an explosion took place. "Look, talking business is just fine by me. This place is here specifically for business. But that thing away - you really don't want to do anything rash." The Balseraph smiled sweetly at the two people before her, trying to turn on the charm that her coworkers sometimes displayed. Reaching out with her mind, she leaned forward and whispered. "You really want to turn that bomb o -OWWW!" She recoiled in pain as the young woman beside her target reached out and flicked the Seneschal's breast. "Bitch! What the hell was that -"

The blond woman cocked her head slightly. "You're wrong. We're Malakim. We very much want to do something rash, and we very much do not want to turn off the bombs. That's bombs, as in plural. Do you think we brought just one? Now, you really want to bet you can do a mind job on us before one or the other of us can twitch? Do you?"

The Balseraph shook her head slowly, her eyes narrow and her voice angry. "Think of all the humans you'll kill. You halos don't work that way. You don't kill civilians." She blinked when the female smiled in a way that Florelis normally associated with Shedim about to drive their host to Hell with their next act. "Most of these people are headed to Hell anyway. We can get away with expediting it, so long as we send you and your cohorts with them. But you're not the ones that we're after. You help us get the people we're after, and we can both agree to let you and yours off the hook. For a while, anyway."

The man leaned forward and looked around conspiratorially. "You see, you have a problem. You have a few contacts in the local Game Tether that are trying to shake you down. Common knowledge, really - they do it to everybody. But you can't take them down, since they're game. Cibarak, Holsten, Maffraghon - between the three of them, they've got you in a bind. Bwtween the money they take, and the girls that Cibarak and Maffragron abuse, it's got to be a problem keeping this place afloat."

Florelis nodded warily. "It's... an inconvenience. But we manage to make ends meet, though I doubt the two of you are really concerned with out wellbeing."

The man nodded. "Oh, we're not. Make no mistake, we do fully intend to kill all of you people. But our oaths don't have a time limit, and although my partner can be a bit overzealous about things, Lust does the least direct damge to the mortals. You aren't really the biggest of our problems, so we can let you all be, so long as we can do some damage to people that are bigger problems."

The Seneschal's eyes lit up momentarily. "Like the Game."

The woman nodded. "Exactly. Now, you're not the only people that those three have screwed, and there are quite a few people that would love to see the Game brought down a peg or two locally. Now, the boys down at Ellington did a nice job on getting your predecessor, but they haven't done a thing to mess with the Tower. Sword is afraid to take them on with the limited resources they have, just like you and everyone else in town. But if you help us, we can do a serious hit on the place and make sure it gets traced back to someone who the Tower can't lash out at."

Florelis shook her head violently. "No way. Nobody's that stupid that they'd take the hit. Only people that could have a chance of not getting smoked by Asmodeus himself would be -" She paused in midsentence as she locked her eyes on each of the two confident and self-assured people before her, then smiled wickedly. "Judgment. Oh, this is rich..."

The two strangers looked at each other and smiled. "Our partner is outside waiting for us. Now, here's the deal. We know from our surveillance that in addition to the money the take monthly, Cibarak and Maffraghon require their payments to be brought by one of your prostitutes. Now, Maffraghon is picky about his people. We can't pull anything past him. But Cibarak likes young, shapely brunettes. And it just so happens that fits the description of one of our coworkers." The man reached into his coat and pulled out a dossier folder. "It's incomplete of course, but it should have all the relevant information you would need. She used to work as a prostitute before we found her, and she has some experience in dealing with Calabite predilictions."

The serpent's eyes flicked across the pictures and the brief bio. "Ok, so I send her with the money and let him do whatever he wants with her. If she kills him, it comes back to me. You've got to have a better plan than that."

The man nodded. "We've got a way to attune to him without him knowing. All we need you for is to get us close enough to mark him. After that, we'll handle him in our way. Believe me, there won't be any way of mistaking it. In addition, we're willing to reimburse you for the payment you make to them. Call it a measure of good faith."

Florelis half-cocked an eyebrow. "Ok. We can do that. Have her pick up the money four nights from now. I'll put this in my records tonight, and have her listed as on parole to explain why no one's seen her. Everything will be set by Friday night. Just make sure you keep our names out of it, all right?"

"Done. Remember, if you doublecross us, we'll be back."

As the two people drove away from the club, both of them reached forward and pulled a loose film off of their faces, revealing two very different sets of features. Kari looked over at Sergei, who was slumped back into the passenger seat. "You doing ok, Sergei?"

Sergei was silent for a moment before speaking. "Yeah, just hate having to deal with Lusties when I don't have to. I know that your plan will work, but I still don't have to like it. You're sure there's no other way?"

Kari shrugged. "I've done worse." She chuckled softly, patting her partner's leg. "You should have seen the look on the face of that Djinn when I told him that I wanted him to attune to that vial of spermicide. Thought he was going to die laughing, but he did agree with me that if I stay with him and give him the rest of the vial, he can track Cibarak until he remembers to shower and clean it off. I'm betting we'll have about a day to catch him."

Sergei nodded. "All right. I've hired three more renegade Djinn to keep tabs on where Cibarak's main targets are, and I've got GPS tracking signals set on both his car and his motorcycle. Between those and the Djinn, we should be able to keep tabs on him pretty well. Anything else we have to do before we set this in motion?"

Kari shook her head. "Not that I'm aware of. But try calling Erica and set up a meeting with the local Grigori so we can check them out and see who needs help. But as far as the rest goes, we wait." She paused for a moment, then rubbed her temples and muttered unintelligibly. "Tell you what, Sergei - if it's all the same to you, I'm going to drop you off at Avino and then I'm going to go drive for a bit... clear my head."

"No problem, babe. Off to get in touch with your inner Ofanite, eh?"

"Something like that."

(To be continued...)


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