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January 19th, 2020

6:30pm

Thyrsus

 

 

 

Dark lashes were narrow as small hands flipped elegantly through the financial report.  Legs crossed demurely in her pale gray silk crepe business suit, vintage Vince Camuto Naveena heel bobbing quietly up and down in the back of the sleek S 350.  Opalescent russet irises glanced up and out of the tinted window, resting her forehead on her fingers.  This rebuild was costing a fortune.  She really didn’t give a shit, truly.  Her resources were substantial.  The price of her people could not be measured in dollars and cents, but if someone was rebuilding her facility she sure as hell would have been at the forefront.  This man was either a dick that didn’t give two shits, or lazy enough to make someone else take care of it for him.

 

Ahanu seemed to speak well of the liaison at least, Roderick, which would probably be the first fragile ego she would shatter within moments of stepping out of the vehicle.  Maybe her assistant had a hard-on for the guy, maybe he was just doing his job well enough that his boss felt he didn't need to be involved.  With the exception of her own people, and that big ass moose brother of hers from L.A., not one person on this planet made her cock a brow in appreciation.  Not even Ausar.  Old fart.  An absent Bakkhos boss trusting everything to an 'underling'?

 

There was a reason she didn’t deal with Bakkhos.  They spent to much time stroking their egos in the mirror. This trip was going to be as pleasant as drinking broken glass in shitty bourbon.  They annoyed her, more than the general population annoyed her.  She was a faceless enterprise that slid easily through 'their' world, and she was content watching from a distance.  There were no Sheut that she was aware of in their folds, so they were only something to be watched and not interfered with. Her own actions had given her a reason to interact.  It would either be a smooth relationship, where she could in no uncertain terms tell them to fuck off in their encroaching "possession" of her airfield compound, or she could make it worse.  She'd been watching the dogs try to piss on her fence.  Ahanu had been given the OK to shoot them the next time she saw them sniffing around.

 

The car slid to a stop, report set on the seat as the door opened.  It was deep  into dusk, the buildings' shadows helped, but the sky was still light enough to annoy her eyes.  Sunglasses slid on, she smoothed her effortless updo and the tiny vampire volcano stepped out.

 

“Wait in the car, take a nap,” a smile quirked one side of her lip, purposeful steps toward the suave liquor store.

 

Sunglasses slid off and into her inner pocket.  Hm.  They really weren’t doing a bad job. Last time she saw it she was ripping it apart to the smell of burning buildings and crushed glass mixed with booze, gas and radiator fluid.  Door opened, hands rested casually in her suitpant pockets as she perused the aisles briefly. Satisfied, she approached what she could assume was the front counter.

 

“Your big boss please. If you bring me Roderick I’ll send you back for his boss.  I’ll wait,” terse expression paused, then a taught smile flicked up the corners of her lips only to disappear as she went back to browsing.  She really didn't want to go to their 'headquarters' to drag people from their comfort zones, but she would if she had to.  That would definitely expedite a business relationship of some kind.

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The construction crew had gone for the night. The work being done was coming along rather quickly. Roderick was cleaning up the incidental dust and debris that would find its way into the store proper. It did no good to have sawdust marring the mahogany walls. Having done all the “hard work” for the day, Roderick was looking forward to a relaxing evening tending the counter and socializing with the patrons. When the petite woman entered the store, he smiled bright. Maybe tonight was going to be pleasant after all.

 

“Your big boss please. If you bring me Roderick I’ll send you back for his boss.  I’ll wait.”

 

His smile faded for a brief instant. Perhaps not. Then the smile returned, not the cheesy smile of a salesman, but the pleasant smile of someone who is genuinely…pleasant. This woman was all business, whoever she was. Best not to upset her, especially if Tom was expecting her.

 

Putting a hand on his chest, he replies, “I am Roderick. Mr. Gallo is downstairs…who should I say is asking for him?”

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 “I am Roderick. Mr. Gallo is downstairs…who should I say is asking for him?”

 

Head tilted slightly, studying the man, drawing the scents swirling around him quietly through her nose to linger on her palate.  He was tasty.  Eyes narrowed slightly as she swallowed, the construction dust was not.  It was not overly dusty, but she didn’t have the dulled senses of most people either.

 

Chest rose and fell with a relaxed sigh and a nod.

 

“Seems Roderick is already here.”

 

Smile did seem genuine.  Ahanu had spoken well of him, and she trusted Ahanu’s judgement, about to put it to the test.

 

“That saves some time and some bullshitting with chain of command ceremony.”

 

She really wanted to just walk downstairs.  Working through a buffer like Roderick was not something she wanted to do, but again she HAD destroyed the place so it was really their turf to manage.

 

“Eris London,” smile lingered on her lips briefly and then turned back into business.  Eris, tiny destroyer of other people’s shit in this case.  The tiny Tasmanian Devil, Toby had said to her once.  If she didn't love him like a brother she would have killed him for that.  She had no idea if Roderick knew it was actually her that threw the car, but she wasn’t going to offer that information either way.  “He’s not expecting me.  Ahanu sends her regards, she speaks highly of you.”

 

Something else though was bugging her, on the edge of her senses, darkly lined elegant eyes wandering over the shop.

 

“That’s a good place to be with me.”

 

Why lie?

 

She smiled again at him, more cat-that-ate-the-canary than anything as she moved away from the counter and continued to peruse with her hands casually in her pockets.

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Roderick’s brows quirked up slightly at hearing her name. Eris appeared to be everything that Ahanu had eluded to. Hints of mirth showed in his eyes as he finally put a face to the name. Ever the professional, Roderick did not let that look linger, lest he upset the ‘petite, volcanic, vixen’ as Ahanu had lovingly referred to her. Roderick subtly pushed a button under the counter while speaking to Eris. This would alert Tom that something important was going on. Not an alarm, but rather, something worthy of his personal attention.

 

“I appreciate her endorsement. I hope I manage to live up to it.” Humility oozed from Roderick. It was sincere; however, Eris could see plain as day that Roderick was no simple crony. “I let him know that you are here. Can I offer you a drink in the mean time?”

 

 

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Lashes lowered at him through a side glance, the brief tautness of her lower lids akin to ears sliding back on an attack dog.  Something had clicked the momentary expression trickling across his face at her name, and it spurred the need to speak with Ahanu when she returned to her airstrip.  What exactly Ahanu had been conversing about with –Roderick- while she was here representing the Viceroy?  Ahanu wasn’t one to speak of anything but business, curious.  Secrecy was how the Sheut stayed alive.  It had been  less than a second, features returning to their neutral.

 

Senses were always perked, but even more so now, her casual, slow perusal of their wares hiding her ‘hunt’ for silent information. He had her undivided veiled attention when so few others in this world did.  Most would admit that was either a bad thing, or a horrible thing.

 

“I appreciate her endorsement. I hope I manage to live up to it.”

 

He was adorable, sincere, but he was stalling… or maybe just being a good host.  For as charming as he was, she didn’t come here to speak with him.  She was about to lick out a ‘get on it then’ when he did it for her.

 

“I let him know that you are here. Can I offer you a drink in the mean time?”

 

Of course he had.  Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky little nibblet.

 

“Ron Zacapa XO,” she said rather absently, squinting at a bottle of rum on the shelf.  The color always reminded her of gasoline.  Fun stories from another life and time.  “If you have it I’ll buy the bottle.  My driver will settle the account… if you have it.”

 

It was a hard one to find, and she bought it whenever it popped up somewhere.  Central and South America were nearly obliterated, and there was next to no chance in the foreseeable future they would ever make it again.  Fond memories, or at the very least exciting ones.

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Roderick could sense that he was on the edge of danger. His good looks and charm can keep hostiles at bay, most of the time. This woman, however, was different. He silently applauded himself for hitting the button almost immediately. Roderick was the gatekeeper of sorts for Thyrsus…the sentry on duty. His poise and charisma was often all that was required for most patrons. Not this one. However, until Tom got in here, the show must go on.

 

“Ron Zacapa XO…yes, the rum is over here.” He gestured to one of the corners of the room. He glided over to the corner with nearly silent feet…as if his feet never did quite make contact with the ground. He gestured towards a shelf about four feet off the ground. There were two rows of Ron Zacapa XO, each about three bottles deep. “Any particular bottle catch your fancy, Ms. London?”

 

Just as the question was asked, the elevator door slid open and out walked Tom. His solid frame was draped in a Brunello Cucinelli charcoal suit. Unlike Roderick, the sound of his Fratelli Borgioli shoes striking the floor echoed across the room like small claps of thunder. He approached Eris and Roderick as he was asking Ms. London which particular bottle she might prefer. Roderick was a good find. A trusted lieutenant that didn’t need much guidance, and knew where permission was required. Loyal to a fault, he was. Tom was lucky.

 

“Ms. London,” Tom’s rich, baritone voice spoke. “I take it you have come to check on the reconstruction progress?” The sentence may have been a question, but his tone was not. Tom is generally a friendly man, however he doubted that Eris came by for a social call. Tom was making no attempt to be intimidating, that came naturally…just by being alive in the same room…however his look, demeanor, and tone said without words, ‘I am in control here. You are welcome here because I allow it.’

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“Ron Zacapa XO…yes, the rum is over here.”

 

The keen doe-eyes found the bottles Roderick gestured to, closing the distance with barely a whisper of fabric.

 

“Any particular bottle catch your fancy, Ms. London?”

 

She was quiet a moment, the sound of the elevator interrupting her special time.  Fingers lingered on a bottle, just the hint of a mischievous smile on her lip.  She hadn't seen this brand in years.

 

Seems the elevator had delivered Mr. Gallo… scent warmed on her palate as he approached.  Well well... wasn’t that a daisy… Now she was almost as intrigued as when she’d found that dragon several years ago.  Almost.  A Were?  Well then.  Had she killed one of these mother fuckers?  Yes.  Actually had a conversation with one?  No.  There was a first time for everything, anxious to find out if the odd little feeling of –you look human but you ain’t quite right- was mutual.  The doors she’d had to rip through to retrieve Mouse suddenly made more sense.

 

“I’ll take them all,” she said to Roderick and glanced up at Mr. Gallo finally.  Phone flipped out from an inside pocket to send Toby a quick message.  She was going to keep most, but the rest would be stocked into her planes.  “Mr. Lavoie will settle the account shortly.  Ahanu will pick them up at your leisure Roderick.”

 

“Ms. London, I take it you have come to check on the reconstruction progress?”

 

Phone disappeared swiftly, hands sliding elegantly into her pockets.  Dark lashes parted a bit more to focus on the giant, no qualms in the world about studying him in detail, or taking her time to do so.  Hell, everyone in this world was a giant to her really.  Even with the vintage designer heels on, she barely crossed five feet.  Somehow, she still made looking eye to eye with someone that towered over her seem effortless- probably because she didn’t give two shits if they lived another second or had a bullet between their eyes… but effortless nonetheless.  Intimidated also didn't exist in her vocabulary.  She'd punched the big moose of a Sheut Executioner in the arm before for pissing her off, everything else on Earth seemed to pale in comparison after you'd slugged the one person that could smite your ass.

 

“I haven’t heard the click of Borgioli’s in years,” voice was quiet, head cocking slightly.  "Truly well dressed men are rare these days."

 

She didn’t offer her hand, she hated shaking hands.  She hated touching anything in public if she could avoid it, a lingering habit from the front edge of the Resonance.  Eyes blinked softly, satisfied with the visual she had added to the name, taking a breath to almost regretfully get on with her business.  Why couldn't they just... drink?

 

“No,” she finally answered his question, looking across the rest of the shop.  “I don’t need to check up on anyone’s progress, least of all yours.  I'm not anyone's mother.”

 

It was a compliment, it really was.  She didn’t dance around the fact that he was going to do whatever the fuck he wanted with her money and she didn’t give a shit.

 

“I came to ask you personally if you needed anything else to make the inconvenience of this rebuild more palatable.”

 

…and to put a face to one of the names that kept getting spat out when her people caught Bakkhos ants crawling into her corner of the world.

 

“...and apparently to accidentally find something to stock my Cessna for the next decade,” the million dollar smile that really could light up her face did exactly that, fading to a more relaxed expression.  Time to see if Mr. Borgioli the beastie was half as articulate as her favorite dragon, and somewhat competent to boot.  "Family" organizations many times didn't put the brightest crayon in the box on top of the pile.  Ball was in his court.

 

"Is there anything else I can do for you?"

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Tom’s eyebrows furrowed slightly for a moment as he caught her scent. Something was…off. Based on the accounts of her ripping the doors off their hinges, she wasn’t simply human. It reminded him of Mythos a little bit. He’d have to ask him about her later. There was a long pause as the two sized each other up. She was beautiful. There was no question about it. If pride had a scent, you wouldn’t need to be a wolf to smell it. It radiated from her like light from the sun. She could be a real problem. She could also be a powerful ally. No doubt, she was conducting a similar analysis. This would be an interesting encounter.

 

"Truly well dressed men are rare these days."

 

She was immaculately dressed as well. No doubt that she was a person who always looked their best. He understood completely. “Indeed.” He recognized the compliment. She didn’t seem to be one overly concerned with formalities. This was refreshing…sometimes the ‘family’ became stodgy and overly-formal without ever saying anything. Nowhere near as bad as pre-Resonance corporate elites, but still…

 

“I don’t need to check up on anyone’s progress, least of all yours.  I'm not anyone's mother.”

 

Tom reached into his jacket and pulled some folded papers and handed them to Eris. “Perhaps you should.” He walked behind the counter that served as a bar as well. He produced two glasses and an open bottle of Ron Zacapa XO and poured two drinks. He nudged one in her direction as he took a sip from his own. Roderick had seemingly disappeared.

 

“You are overpaying your crew by about 30%. The foreman for the masons is skimming about 10% to put into his own pockets. Friday afternoons appear to be holidays for the welders. Also, apparently, they only need two out of every three workers, as the rest appear to be idle at any given time.” Tom was revealing a part of himself with that report. He was an efficient, nearly mechanical man when it came to business. Inefficiencies were personal offenses to him. Especially when they were so easily corrected.

 

“I came to ask you personally if you needed anything else to make the inconvenience of this rebuild more palatable.”

 

If he didn’t know better, he would have interpreted this as an attempt to appease the Bakkhos out of fear. However, this was obviously not the case. She wouldn’t have sauntered in here like this if she was afraid. Which led to the next obvious question…why was she here? Why was she doing this? During the chaos of the Blood Moon, no one would have known it was her. What did she want from the family for her cooperation? This was a question he would have to get answered…although a direct approach was not likely to be fruitful. He’d have to be careful.

 

“Despite the inefficiencies and thievery, construction appears to be going quite well, if a bit slower than I had hoped.” He took another sip from his drink. He too enjoyed this brand of rum. He looked into Eris’s eyes and raised his glass slightly toward her in a gesture of salute. “Now that we have finally met, I’d like to thank you personally for contributing to the rebuild. Many would have taken advantage of the chaos of the Blood Moon and vanished into the night.” He left the unspoken question of “Why?” hanging in the air.

 

He studied her closely now. His eyes were still friendly, but calculating. He was looking for any sort of tell. No. He was no incompetent beast. He was no thuggish brute. The Capo ring on his hand was not given to him in recognition of his strength or blind obedience…but rather his mind and loyalty. The Beast and all the physical gifts that came with it were add-ons…supplementing what made Tom truly dangerous…his mind.

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Shit.

 

Damn that tick. It was the tick she didn’t want to see.  The tell.  The brow furl.  The big frackin’ neon sign that the brute knew something was off.  Well, the big pups did have master snoots, but damn if it wasn’t an adorable snoot.  Bully for him.  Pure caged rage wrapped in Borgioli tastes.  It was intoxicating.  Another plus.  She’d put off investigating Bakkhos for too long. 

 

She didn’t take the paper right away… the petite Viceroy didn’t do paper reports, her brain could hold everything verbally.  Hand slid from her pocket to acquire it, placing it onto the counter without a second glance before returning to her pocket.  Attention was on the glass he poured, blink slow.  Last time a man poured her a glass of this, of anything for that matter, was a helluva long time ago.  He’d touched it, which by all means gave her no interest in taking it, but it was Zacapa- and she wanted it.  Not many had something she wanted.

 

Just as she went to reach for it, he started rattling on.  The heel of her hand set itself on the counter.  Buzzkill.  Hammers didn’t always hit the nail even if they had a lot of force, and he seemed to be a hammer.  He was a damn spirits connoisseur for Pete’s sake, even he should understand what it meant to appreciate it for a moment.  Attention stayed on the glass, disappointed, as she listened... somewhat.  Maybe she’d misread him.

 

“You are overpaying your crew by about 30%. The foreman for the masons is skimming about 10% to put into his own pockets. Friday afternoons appear to be holidays for the welders. Also, apparently, they only need two out of every three workers, as the rest appear to be idle at any given time.”

 

The smell of rum was enough to keep her interested.  She wanted it.  She wasn’t Gaspari and didn’t need a mechanical report spouted to her… well she did, but timing.  Timing was everything.  Christ, this was like smoking the cigarette before sex.  She wanted that damn glass, a second, a moment to breathe it in and enjoy it.

 

Fingers reached up from their stationary hand and touched the glass gently.  Just drink it, and all will be better…  slow intake of air preceded just that, eyes watching him a moment over the rim of the glass.  Tasted just like she remembered, low lashes for a moment and a soft exhale to swirl it over her senses.  The Sheut looked at it and nodded slightly in approval of the bottle.  It was what it said it was.

 

“Despite the inefficiencies and thievery, construction appears to be going quite well, if a bit slower than I had hoped.  Now that we have finally met, I’d like to thank you personally for contributing to the rebuild. Many would have taken advantage of the chaos of the Blood Moon and vanished into the night.”

 

Her brain was a steel trap, the two words she needed snatched from the other things that had interrupted her drink.  She’d heard what was required.  Made up for disturbing her drink in a way.  All about honesty.  Trust.

 

A perpetually coiled cobra beneath the cool façade turned their large chocolate irises back to him.  The sound of Toby’s hushed footsteps moved toward her, her attention shifting effortlessly from the brute to her charge, nodding once.  Toby handed her a thin leather executive portfolio, moving off to find Roderick.  Leather was set silently on the counter on top of his paper.

 

Nothing he’d said needed an answer.  She gave people the courtesy of speaking their mind, most of the time.

 

“Do the full moons frighten you, Thomas?”

 

Voice was almost inaudible, casting aside the Mr. and Ms. crap.  She picked up the glass again; swallow slow with the last slide of the amber liquid as she watched him.

 

Nostrils flared slightly as she breathed in his delicious crazy… she loved coiled rage, the single act of nonverbal communication enough for him to catch.  She knew what he was, she was aware he had ferreted out her unusual blood, and she wanted him to know that.  Toby’s presence was also intentional, he smelled like her; more of the same unknown beastie that could intelligently rip doors from hinges during even a Blood Moon- together in one place.  Either the tasty brute knew what her flavor of beastie was, or he didn’t, but her silent admittance that she wasn’t going to blow smoke up anyone’s ass cast aside any shreds of formality that were left.  She could, and would speak plainly.

 

“Steel doors. Panic rooms,” she contemplated quietly, looking at the light refraction in her glass.  “Weres never terrified me.  Never.  I don’t have steel doors.  Mouse called and said she was trapped.  It wasn’t the Weres that scared her, it was being trapped.  They very thing that was supposed to make her feel safe, didn’t.  I didn’t save her to save her life, I saved her because she deserved to make a choice when, how and if she died.  She refused to cower in a corner, and they trust me to give them the opportunity to find that strength.  It makes them fearless, they cannot control their circumstances, but they have total control of their fate.”  Glass lifted so she could scent it one last time.  THIS was what one spoke of over liquid memories.  “Once you cast aside the fear of death, you find everything in this lifetime becomes enjoyable, every minutia the opportunity to give you a sensation or an emotion you’ve never experienced before.” 

 

She even welcomed annoyance and anger; it forced people in split seconds to decide whether or not they gave a shit about someone. 

 

“Most people would have taken advantage of the Blood Moon chaos for a free pass to escape the wrath of Bakkhos because they fear you.”

 

There was so much more, she was such a complicated beast.

 

“I fear nothing, let alone taking responsibility for my actions.”

 

Empty glass clinked softly on the counter, gaze resting on the leather with a subtle cue it was his to take before shifting her eyes back to him.  His report, paper, her folder.  That’s what she used to do for a living.  Lived, breathed.  She couldn’t get away from it.  Learning ways that everyone she was after manipulated and stole from each other, it even permeating into the ranks of the DEA themselves. All for one purpose, to make more money than the other guy, or shut them down completely.  It was a constant chess game of power, betrayal, plotting, planning for one end alone.

 

To find who you could trust.

 

He’d caught the money, but she was still curious why he hadn’t fired them himself when he discovered the bullshit.  She was not in charge, or a contributor.  That was his position.  It was his business.  That was her end game.  Could she trust him when she handed over the money to not squeeze her for more.  She found him to be sharp, gracious.

 

“Thank you for not taking advantage of my responsibilities, that cash will take care of all your concerns.  The other annoyances are your purview.  It’s your money, not mine.  It ceased being mine the moment I chose to destroy your property,” warm rum rich hum of her voice was still below conversational level.  “But you’re too kind, I hope not for the sake of offending me.  I don't get offended.  If they displease you, fire them.”

 

Toby’s footsteps out the door lit up her face as she watched him leave.  If anything, that was her tell.  She truly thought of her people as family.  They made her happy.  She was proud of their strength, the progress from where she'd found them.  Toby, hunted by the Sheut for being an orphan.  Mouse, cowering in a flop house in what was left of Detroit.  Ahanu, almost on her deathbed.

 

She contemplated taking the next step she’d saved for another day.  Addressing the Bakkhos sniffing around her compound like they owned the lot.

 

 “I now know I can trust you.  I could learn to like you.  You're interesting when so few people are.”

 

That was the closest she ever got to a compliment.

 

“Pour me another drink and we can talk about the weather, and who does your tailoring.”

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