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Tales of London #7

Chapter 7

By John H. KnightPublished 5 months ago 16 min read

Amongst London's countless secrets, there was one that was kept so badly, that at some point it stopped being a secret and became a kind of general knowledge. And with the big secret popped like a bubble, all the other, smaller ones surrounding it came to light, too. But such as rumours and secrets are, people knew different truths about the same thing.

For instance, everyone knew that there was a very old pub in London, with a fae for a bartender. Of course, most of them couldn't tell what a fae actually was, only that they were people of the old times, who disappeared long ago.

Seemed to be wildly agreed upon that the pub was under the Tower of London, and could only be reached via secret passages, with entrances all around the City. A few claimed that the pub was somewhere in Camden Town and could be only found on rainy days. Some people also seemed to know that the fae itself was a woman, ageless and beautiful, a creature of light. Others claimed to have a friend, who had a friend, who visited the pub and was never found again.

This, naturally, was almost all wrong. The pub existed, and the keeper was, indeed, a fae. But the place was in Islington, in a narrow little backstreet between a salad bar and a coffee shop. It was open most days until late and could be found by anyone. The Broken Shield, it was called.

As for the beautiful fae, whose gaze was rumoured to be so seductive that no man could ever be happy with another woman after seeing her… Well, this was plain rubbish. He was a big, bald man named Luther.

Jenna never really gave any thought to the fact that Luther wasn't actually a human being. She knew it very well that people tend to be afraid of everything that was a little different, but being a demon hunter prepared her to accept weird bollocks. Not like she was all that normal, anyway.

Now she was sitting on one of the tall stools at the bar, enjoying Luther's excellent whiskey, not caring about the time being only half-past two. She never understood the whole "don't drink too early"-thing anyway, not to mention that she was waiting for not one, but two Montgomerys, and of course their friends, and there was no way in hell she was gonna see this through without a drink. Or four, in this case.

Jenna was surprised when the older Montgomery recommended this place for the meeting. He was the kind of bloke who would know about the pub, the real one, but the girl never saw him here before. Maybe they just never crossed paths by chance. It was probably for the best.

The Broken Shield never changed. Jenna looked around and saw exactly as it was some 8 or 9 years ago when she first stepped over the threshold. Walls covered with wood up until shoulder-height, old, cracky wooden floor, tables and chairs not matching one another, huge fireplace at the corner, with faded armchairs and an ancient sofa around it. On the other side, under the tall, translucent windows were booths, made from real wood and real leather, both darkened as the years went by. Behind the long, oak bar there was an actual broken shield, hanging high up on the wall, above the door opening to the kitchen. It was huge and kind of a triangle and was properly broken into two pieces. The line separating the halves looked like a lightning bolt. Next to it, a sword was hanging, beautiful and shiny, the type someone would need two hands to raise. While the blade was immaculate, the crossguard had some scratches and the hilt looked well-used. Jenna always had a suspicion that the weaponry wasn't just decor, but Luther's gear from his past. A past that was most likely as long as London’s itself.

The pub had a few regular customers, mostly old sorcerers who always greeted Luther with a simple nod, but it was way too early for them. Jenna was the only guest for a while. Luther wasn’t the talkative sort, so she could be drinking in peace. That is until the door opened and Robert Montgomery walked in. He wore a different, but also blue suit today, without waistcoat and tie, but with the long, dark grey trench coat. He had a new cane, identical to the old one, with a silver top. Jenna felt that she did not dress for the occasion with her ripped, high-waisted jeans and a plain white T-shirt tucked in, not to mention her muddy Doc Martens boots. But then again, Montgomery always had been a dandy.

'Miss Carvelli,' Robert nodded politely.

'Mr Montgomery,' she pressed the first word with a cheeky grin. The man sighed and sat down next to her. Luther, who always remembered everyone's drink, grabbed an empty glass for him, but Robert shook his head.

'I will have the same as her,' he said.

The barkeep gave them a long, deliberate look, then he probably decided that he wanted to see what happens, and poured some whiskey. He put it down in front of Montgomery, who picked it up and let some light through it, almost like someone who actually knows what he was doing. The liquid looked like it was lit up, with dozens of different, beautiful colours in it.

'Stop fooling around and drink, you moron,' said Jenna, rolling her eyes. Montgomery did so but started to cough after the first sip. 'Pussy,' said Jenna with a sweet smile, and drank as well. She didn't cough and she kept her smile as the whiskey exploded in her stomach, with a hot, pleasing blast.

'That has to be the nicest name you ever called me, Carvelli,' Robert said with his posh accent and took another sip. He didn't cough this time but frowned nevertheless.

Jenna shrugged. She was tired and had one too many drinks without anything to eat, which made her light-headed. Rookie mistake. But mostly she just really wasn't in the mood for having a sparkling spar. To what end, anyway? At the end of the day, the guy will still be a Montgomery, maybe not the worst one amongst them, but that didn't matter, did it? Not like they were gonna be friends or something.

He picked up on her mood quickly and stopped trying to make conversation. That was even worse somehow because it was actually nice to sit with him in complete quietness. It was almost like they were old mates, strangers for the concept of awkward silence. She didn't like this idea at all and turned slightly in her seat so she didn't have to see him, not even from the corner of her eye. Instead, stared into the rattling fire. That only made things cosier for her, something she wanted to avoid.

'Are you all right?' Robert asked carefully after a while. 'You look… I don't know… tense.'

'I'm just nervous about this whole screw-up,' she said, half-honestly. 'Have you made your decision?'

Robert nodded with a sour face.

'Funny thing is, if I didn't have to participate in this, I'm sure I would want to. I mean, it got everything I love: immortal criminal mastermind, stolen art, weird new kind of magic… What?'

Jenna was smiling.

'Nothing. Continue.'

He sent her a searching look but then started again.

'So as I was saying, this is my sort of thing, almost like an adventure from a book. But now that I'm forced to be a part of it, I just don’t want to be anywhere near it. Which doesn't really matter now, considering we haven't been given a real choice, have we?'

'No, we haven't,' Jenna shook her head, her face almost as sour, as Robert's was a minute ago. 'We will have to help the Commissioner out, rather we like it or not.'

'I just hope our friends will think about it in the same way. I got the feeling that Teodore is not fond of the idea of working with me.'

'No, he is just… He is here, actually,' said Jenna, saved by an actual bell, above the door, which told them to turn around.

Indeed, Teodore just arrived, a slim, black silhouette against the rectangle of sunshine coming from outside. Then he closed the door, and remained a black silhouette, only now with a pale, angry face, in an all-dark suit. Robert got up, back against the bar, considering his surroundings carefully.

'What is he doing here?' he asked Jenna in Italian, looking at Robert, who involuntarily changed his grab on his cane, ready to defend himself. Jenna hopped down her bar chair and stepped between the two men.

'I asked him here,' she answered in English. 'Same as you and the others. We have a big decision to make, remember?'

Teodore just stared. Jenna saw that something was happening with Robert's eyes. They went somehow cold and calculating, like something without a soul, like a predator. Jenna knew that look too well: her job was to hunt things with that look.

It could have been a catastrophe, but just before all Hell could have broken through, Jenna touched Robert’s arm gently. He looked at her, eyes still empty for a heartbeat, then he blinked, took a step back and raised both of his hands, in a gesture of surrender.

'I will just put this down here,' he said and leaned his cane against the side of the bar very slowly. 'See? Unarmed. I'm not here to fight.'

Teodore stared at him for one more second, then turned his head and sat down on the seat Jenna was occupying before. Luther gave him something completely transparent in a very small glass, and he drank it with one go.

'Everything is going to be okay with you?' the bartender asked them. Jenna put his mind at ease with such confidence she did not feel. Minutes went by, so slowly and heavily like they were made out of leaden. Nobody spoke, and the men didn't even look at each other.

Thankfully, Rose arrived very soon. She must have come straight from work, because she wore a pair of worn-out skinny jeans, ankle boots (almost the same as Jenna's, only brown instead of black), and a baggy blue shirt, with a logo and company name on it. Her blond hair was in a cute little bun at the top of her head, something that Jenna could never pull off.

Rose had a medium-sized, black toolbox in her hand. Jenna had to blink a couple of times so she could be sure that her eyes did not cheat on her.

Rose gave them an uncertain little smile, and put her box down, next to Robert's cane.

'What do you do for a living, plumbing?' asked Teodore mockingly.

'I am a magi-sec expert, usually working on big events, mostly with the MET’s anti-terror division.’

Teodore just mumbled something as an answer and went back to his third drink.

'That’s kinda cool, not gonna lie,’ Jenna said. Rose sent her an actual, honest smile. She ordered a coffee and Jenna did the same.

Bailey showed up just minutes after Rose, and the area of the bar got crowded, so they moved to the seats around the fireplace. Jenna sat down on the old sofa, next to Robert, who, the girl noticed with a smile, was still working on his first whiskey. Teodore settled down on her other side. The sofa wasn't really made for three people, and even though both of the men were skinny enough, Jenna and Robert almost had to cuddle. It was a little uncomfortable, but none of them complained about it. Bailey and Rose both took big, soft-looking armchairs, opposite the couch.

'Marcus is late, as per usual,' said Robert.

'That's okay,' answered Jenna. 'In fact, maybe for the best.' She looked around. 'So, Robert and I were talking about this whole shitshow and agreed that we don't really have a choice, but to do as the Commissioner said. Any thoughts?'

Bailey raised his hand, seemingly unsure about how things work now, and got a scorn little smile from Teodore. He put his hand down.

'I was thinking about this…'

'Thinking is a strong word, Montgomery,' cut in Teodore.

'Shut up, Teo,' snapped Jenna. 'Yes, Bailey?'

'Yeah, so I guess you are right. I mean, I don't give a shit about the Commissioner's problems, really, but isn't this is like everyone's problem now? I mean, that Priest dude sounds real bad. And he isn't wrong, you know, the old man: we fucked up a lot of times already, and doing his chores is still a lot better than going to jail, right?' He looked around hesitantly, waiting for some reaction.

Jenna felt slightly ashemed. She never got around to the thought that if they won't catch this guy, others might die.

'Pains me to say it out loud, but Montgomery isn't wrong,' said Teodore, bringing Jenna back from her half-drunk thoughts. 'I ended up with the same decision after the meeting yesterday, not like that ancient cazzo gave me any reason to like him. It shouldn't be our responsibility, but given that our police force is basically useless, someone has to step up.'

'Wouldn’t be the first time that we do it, too' added Robert. 'We have a tendency of saving people when we aren’t trying to kill each other.'

'Humble as always,' said Rose and the two girls shared a grin. 'I'm in, too, by the way. Although, I'm not exactly sure what we should do…'

'I might be able to help you out with that,' said Marcus. He had just arrived and caught the last few sentences. 'I'm really happy that you decided to be good boys and girls, it would be very awkward if I had to arrest the lot of you, and I left my cuffs at home anyway.'

'Are you a cop?' Teodore asked surprised.

'No, God, what makes you think that? I have cuffs for… Personal use,' he answered and winked at Jenna, who smirked at him.

'But you just said something about arresting people…' Bailey pointed out.

'I most certainly did not, as I have no jurisdiction whatsoever, and dude, let it go, okay? Be cool.'

Bailey looked confused. Jenna leaned even closer to Robert, and asked him quietly:

'What is his job again?'

'Honestly, I have no idea' answered Robert.

'But he is your best friend, isn't he?' whispered Jenna astonished.

'That is… Complicated.'

Jenna murmured something about some goddamn weirdos, while Marcus continued.

'The Commissioner wants us to use our skillset on this. You all possess knowledge or skills or contacts that can be useful. Even Robert.'

'What is your special skill exactly, apart from being amazingly useless?' asked Montgomery. Jenna giggled and even Teodore snorted.

'The whole operation is being carried forward under my supervision,' Marcus answered with a serious face.

'That is a rather spectacularly bad idea. Possibly the worst one in the history of ideas,' said Robert.

'I know, right?' grinned Marcus. 'Total fucked up. Anyway… We have a necromancer who probably stole some art. That's pretty much all we know. Rose, darling, wanna start?'

Rose flushed because everyone looked at her, but cleared her throat and said:

'I can examine the security of the Museum, but I'm sure that the MET did that already. I don't know who the Museum hired for the job in the first place, not my lot, for sure. But a place like the British Museum must have top-notch security, I know the Tate Modern has, I’ve worked on that one.’

‘Yeah, but security is to catch people who try to sneak in, isn’t it?’ asked Bailey. ‘I guess this Priest guy just kinda walked in, not really scared from cameras and stuff.’

‘To an extent, yes,’ nodded Rose. ‘But there are spells and enchantments, too, to stop intruders. I want to know why those didn’t work.’

'We should start with that,' said Marcus, pacing between the sofa and the armchairs. 'Anyone else?'

Jenna finished off her coffee. Then she sighed and started to talk:

'If this guy was a demon or anything I usually hunt, the first thing I would do is to make up a file. I'd go to the scene, which is now the Museum, and I'd talk to everyone, eyewitnesses, neighbours, etcetera. I'd collect all the information I can get, so I can tell what is it exactly I'm dealing with. Mistake a revenant soul for a simple ghost and you are dead. So I say we make up our file. Marcus could ask his uncle for everything the MET knows about the Priest. Maybe even ask around, you know? Interpol and such? And Robert and I could go to the Museum. We both have seen some weird shit, so we might be able to notice something the police couldn't.'

It was odd to make plans, and to assign tasks, but Jenna kinda liked it. She liked to boss people around,

'I think we do need a file,' agreed Rose. 'Also, our man isn't a demon, which means he has to have a motive, right?'

'About that,' pitched in Bailey. 'I have… Weird friends,' he said slowly, staring in his drink. 'Friends who are not strictly following the words of the law all the time. And they might have friends whose friends actually might know this guy. Assuming he is working for someone as always… Not like I've heard of him, mind you, and I don't know that he is a mercenary, of course, but assuming that he is, someone will know who hired him. So I guess I could ask around.'

'That sounds promising,' agreed Marcus. 'But maybe don't go alone. Let's see… Teodore?'

'What?' he asked reluctantly.

'Would you mind accompanying Bailey? This job could be tough, maybe it's better if he isn't alone.'

Teodore looked at Jenna, who nodded.

'Fine, I'll go. But I'm in charge!' he said. Neither he, nor Bailey looked happy about it, but happiness wasn't the main concern here anyway. Even Jenna volunteered to spend hours with Robert, and she really wasn't looking forward to it. Not even a little bit.

Bailey checked his phone and looked at Teodore.

'I guess we could start right away if it's okay with you,' he said. The other one nodded grimly, so they grabbed their coats and left.

'Shall we go to the Museum today as well? They are closing soon, but I'm sure we can convince them to let us have a look.' asked Robert, looking at Jenna. She shrugged, then peered at Rose. 'Hey, erm… Do you wanna tag along? You could check out their security, while we… I don't know, what we are gonna do, but yeah…'

Rose said yes, so they decided to get going.

'Hey, mate, do you… Do you need a hand?' asked Marcus, looking at the trio with some jealousy.

'I assure you, my friend, I am more than capable of entertaining two beautiful ladies at once,' Robert answered. 'So sod off and get the files Jenna asked for.'

Rose poked Robert with her elbow at the ribs, but she was smiling.

'You really do not look like a man who can handle the both of us, Montgomery, but business before pleasure anyway, right? Let's go,' said Jenna as she put on her leather jacket.

So off they went, leaving Marcus alone. He wanted to say that "I have a bad feeling about this", but there was nobody around to talk to.

Young AdultSeriesMysteryLoveHumorFantasy

About the Creator

John H. Knight

Yet another aspiring writer trying his luck on the endless prairie of the Internet.

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