I was reading through some of the financial documents for "Club Suspect", as Nick referred to it, the other day. I was sitting in my car, flipping through them as I took some quick notes. Yes, THAT Club Suspect. Figuring out exactly which club it was had been something of a headache, but at the end of the day I made a guess based on the simple question: "Which one looks like it'd gotten a massive amount of mystical restructuring as of late."
What I found was a classic case of Shell Companies used for a Shell Game. You've seen them before, that old game where you hide the little ball under one of three cups, and then start spinning them around. At the end, you guess which one it's under. Except that if the guy running the Shell Game knows what he's doing, it won't be under any of them.
Getting the full documentation had cost a lot of money and time, and someone wasn't all that happy about it. So as I was walking with these documents, I had the unfortunate realization that yes, I was being followed. That or the guy in the brown coat talking to someone on the phone had needed to walk in a full circle around the block with me bringing us back to our point of origin. Oh deary me, a young, frail lady like myself being pursued on the streets of Buffalo. How terrifying.
I sidestepped into an alleyway, and pressed my back against the wall. And I waited. He was bigger than me by about a foot, and thick. Not fat thick, mind you. Muscle. It was obvious he was a tough guy, used to tough fights, brawling, shooting, you name it. So imagine his surprise when the knife-edge of my hand impacted against the side of his throat. That wasn't intended to hurt him mind you, just to stun him. Completely off balance, his breathing off by a mile, he didn't resist as I gently tugged him in my direction and pulled him across my body for a hip-throw. The big man collapsed on the ground in front of me, his ass facing me as I maintained control of his arm, and I stomped on that unfortunate ass, finishing his collapse to the ground.
Then I tweaked his arm. Just a little, just enough to let him know that he had no way of unlocking it from the hold, and that I could break it any time I wanted to.
This was old-school Jiu-jitsu my dear readers. You don't see very much of it anymore. But I learned from the best. We were quiet for a moment, he and I.
Then I asked, "Who do you work for?"
He said, grunting as I tweaked his arm a bit more to let him know of my intense displeasure:
"If I told you, I'd have to kill you."
I said, "So you're not going to tell me anything?"
He grunted in affirmation.
I stepped around his arm, careful not to break it by accident, and stomped on his head. He went limp. I stomped again with the same amount of force, just to be safe. Then I checked his pulse. He was fine. I checked his wallet. No identification at all, just a money clip flushed with fresh twenties. I took them, shoved them in my purse, and continued on my way. I continued down the dark, scary alleyway, confident that I was the meanest thing in there.
I exited out the other end of the alleyway, only to run into two other people that did not like me. And one of them had a gun pointed at me. I held up my hands, and the other one tasered me.
You know. Getting tasered is always something of a wakeup call. The lesson here: don't get cocky.
I spent the rest of Tuesday with a black bag over my head. I was thrown into a van, and bounced around like a sack of potatoes in the back of the damn thing. After that, standard procedure was followed. I was zip-tied to a bunch of piping in some kind of industrial area. I didn't know where I was, I couldn't see anything, the only reason I knew it was piping was because I could feel the cold metal on my wrists. I could feel it rising to the small of my back, and I knew that I had plastic zip-ties around my arms and legs on this pipe.
Finally, the bag on my head was pulled off.
I could see the golden rays of sunset out a door behind the person in front of me. That was a good detail to remember. Then my eyes met the old man in front of me. Here's a fact: you never want to go eye to eye with some practitioners. Seeing what lies behind their eyes is a terrifying thing. I saw conviction. I saw passion. I saw the aching void and the stars within. I felt it choking me, and I saw the thing that he desired most: to command and control each and every one of those burning stars that dared to shine in his night. I couldn't breathe.
I gasped for air and he pressed my head back against the piping, bringing his face closer.
And then I remembered who I was.
He recoiled as my eyes narrowed, and he saw that little smile that I'd had just before I'd clip an angel's wings. The one I'd have whenever I had a chance to go to war with the thing that Nick Dwyer used to be. My eyes bored into his, and I could feel my sword somewhere, in my heart, slicing into the depths of that void.
I sometimes dream of cutting infinity. The concept is a paradox. A wonderful, beautiful, awful paradox. He stumbled backwards, surprised.
And then I saw behind him. There was darkness in the doorway. I must have had my eyes locked with him for at least twenty minutes. He pulled out a tape recorder, and started speaking to it. He told the tape recorder my life story, from birth in this world, to living in an Apocalyptic Cult dedicated to the destruction of the reality that you know, to the moment that our eyes met.
And I knew his name as he told my story to the tape: This was Mastermind.
Mastermind said, "Nicely done. Some people never fight their way out of my eyes. Sad too. You know, I could use someone with your strength in the world I will create. We need people like you. Would you like to discuss salary arrangements, or are you set on...well, who are you working with?"
I could breathe again, and I took the chance to do so. I kept my eyes pointed on his neck. I didn't want to meet that gaze twice. How did he not know who I was working for? Oh right, Perception Filters. Gods above and below, it's getting hard to keep track of who can see what at this point. Wait a minute though. Didn't he just see my entire history?
He cut me off before I could say anything: "Oh right! You're working with my little blue friend, Mr. Dwyer! Fantastic to know... you're quite good at the whole detective thing, aren't you? You probably understand my operation quite well at this point. I'm wondering what you think you'll accomplish with this knowledge, however."
I managed to say, "I don't know. I just don't know. I was just supposed to gather it."
He nodded, like a kindly uncle. He smiled, and said, "I'm very sorry to have you all tied up like this, but for the moment I think I'd like to have you where I can see you. I'm going to give the old recruitment drive another shot when I get back though! Don't you worry about that. I think I have a use for you...but for now, try to relax. My men are going to keep an eye on you. Good job whipping Stephens, incidentally. That boy is far too confident for his own good, I almost wish you'd have broken his arm..."
He trailed off, and walked toward the door. Then he stopped and held up a single finger.
He said, "Oh! Before I forget. There are at least six men with silenced submachine guns upstairs, and only one direction you can come out of this hole from. If you DID somehow got loose from your restraints, you'd find yourself being gunned down rather quickly. But if you relax and try to remain calm, I might upgrade you to a proper cell with a warm bed!"
He seemed happy with himself, and he started up the stairs.
Wednesday started, and I have to tell you, breaking the zip ties against the piping wasn't all that difficult. I was in some kind of substation for one utility or another, but the problem was exactly what Mastermind had said it would be: There were at least six men with guns looking in the direction of the only exit from the station the moment I tried to peek out the door.
One of them shouted at me, "Get back down there, damn it. Which shithead fucked up the ties?"
I didn't tell him that no one fucked up with the restraints and that I have a talent with that sort of thing. What I did was walk back down stairs and not get shot.
They tossed me a bagged lunch at some point during the day. It was quite nice of them. Tasty Drugged PB&J! I woke up later in the evening zip-tied to the piping again. There were twice as many zip ties. I was okay with this. I broke them, although it took much longer. This time, as I walked up the stairs to check on the guards, something unexpected happened.
The thick door to the substation opened, and one of the guards ran inside. He didn't even look at me. He just slammed the door shut and started trying to lock it. He looked horrified I took the opportunity to slam his face against the door twice and toss him down the stairs. Then I looked out the door. There was the figure of someone I drugged and tossed into a coffin not too long ago, holding a suitcase.
Nick waved, and said, "Sorry I'm late, I had to cause a bastard of a distraction."
I glanced at the briefcase. Then at his other hand, which was bleeding.
I asked, "Where'd the guards go?"
Nick said, "Four went to look into the reactivation of my cell phone in a strange house. One went to the bathroom where he was rudely ambushed. The last one was yours."
I said, "He looked terrified. What was he running from?"
Nick said, "You don't want to know."
I decided he was right.
It was strange being around him. Keep in mind, before this we'd only known each other as astral projections. In our minds, we were moving differently, reacting to the person we used to know. Except that we aren't those people anymore. Fate is a mysterious thing.
He drove me to where they were keeping my car. I'll write about that more tomorrow. It's been a very strange couple of days.