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May, 2010... Fantasy became reality. Worlds overlay for the briefest moment. Outworlders became stranded on earth as more than half the human populace vanished. Our World, our universe, was transformed.

Fiction is now reality. Humans and those now bound to this world will either learn to coexist, or battle for supremecy.
Thomas Gallo

Poison in the Well

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December 12, 2021 

New York

 

NPC: "Boss, we got another one." 

 

The staff of Thyrsus had grown since the Ice Age, largely due to limited mobility, but then stayed out of necessity. Jimmy, or Steve, or whatever his name was, Tom didn't care. He was one of Strollo's boys who typically helped out with the security work of the 'downstairs operations'. 

 

Tom had noticed orders had been down. They slowed down much more than they should have. Rumors began of counterfeits being peddled to Thyrsus's customers. When reaching out to clients, they said that shipments came earlier than expected. Someone had provided their orders to the bottle. The only problem was, it hadn't been Tom. This was a tremendous problem on multiple levels. 

 

Someone had access to his purchase orders and was using that to profit...at the expense of the family. When Tom explained to his clients that this so-called discount was indeed false...and that the product that they purchased was bootlegged and terrible...they were upset. When their clientele started dying, they became furious...at Tom. 

 

"How could you let this happen?!"

 

"What are you going to do about it?!"

 

"You owe us...big time."

 

Tom was furious. Luckily for those around Tom, the timing couldn't have been better. It had been nearly 2 weeks since the last full moon, and this was the time that its influence over him was minimized. Otherwise, Steve or Jimmy or whatever his name was wouldn't have dared to speak to him with bad news. That was often Roderick's burden. People were dying and their deaths were being laid at Tom's feet because he had failed at controlling distribution. He thought he had that controlled, however it was apparent he did not. There was a gap somewhere, and he intended to sniff it out. 

 

Tom looked at Strollo's goon holding a phone. He was good enough at his job, but Tom wouldn't have used him for anything more complicated than breaking fingers or stacking boxes. He'd have to do. 

 

Same thing?

 

Tom knew the answer. Of course it was. Swelling of the eyes and tongue until they asphyxiated or pressure on the brain caused them to have a stroke. Every. Single. Time. Jim-Steve nodded as he was becoming accustomed to reading Tom's moods and decided that further speech was likely unwise.

 

Smart. Perhaps he could find a use for him after all.

 

People were dying. Always after leaving a bar or club. Always after drinking something from Tom's 'early deliveries'. Always dying in the same gruesome fashion. The only thing connecting these murders is Tom's booze. Or...a facsimile of it. This would, undoubtedly, lead to a conversation with some sort of law enforcement. He had to find that lead. Every second that ticked by without squashing it quietly was another second given to police/ARMA to come poking around again. 

 

Tom opened the front door and stepped outside into the winter air. The cold stabbing right into his bones helped to melt away the mind-fogging frustration and helped him to regain focus. It was about time to see this matter resolved. 

 

 

 

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Winter was both welcome and unwelcome to Cassandra. She loved the atmosphere, the layering of clothes, the holiday season, and even the snow, but she could do without the abominable cold. At least this winter — while definitely much colder than previous ones — wasn’t as bad as the winter of 2020. Though that one hadn’t particularly been natural. Of course, it was easy enough to forget the cold when situated before the fire in the library at her and Alec’s place and asleep in his arms when they were both not working, or hidden inside HQ — when the heat decided to cooperate with a building full of magic — doing paperwork and training. It wasn’t quite as easy though when finding oneself out wandering through the blustering winds and flurries cause duty called. It’d be nice if everything could go along peacefully during the cold months, but that was rarely the way of life. Instead another body had dropped on a case that’d been on her desk for a little while now and given the lead that just popped up in connection that meant a little trip to a particular liquor store.

 

What has you out in this awful weather, Mr. Gallo?

 

Wouldn’t it just be serendipity that the owner of that connection was himself just stepping out into the chilly night. Cassandra gave her most charming smile as gloved hands tugged down the thick, heavy scarf that wrapped around her neck and shoulders to cover the lower portion of her face. Her long brown hair was contained by a thick, bright yellow beanie that matched the scarf itself, and she was wearing an unbuttoned deep green military coat that reacher her knees over a heavy sweater just a shade lighter and black slacks. She wore her ARMA badge on a strip of leather about her neck so that it hung just below her scarf for anyone that was unsure and anyone with a brain knew that she was armed — and not just with her magic. The ankle-high winter boots she wore today did nothing to increase her 5’5” frame as far as height and that meant having to tilt her neck to look up at the man who was considerably taller.

 

A visit from ARMA wasn’t necessarily bad though sometimes not viewed in a positive light especially by the criminals of New York. Given that they at least had a prior relationship that was built on something akin. . . or perhaps more in the neighborhood of mutual respect she knew that at least he wasn’t going to attack her or do anything stupid. He was level-headed enough not to overreact just cause she approached him on the street. Though the way she planted herself at an angle between him and the door to Thyrsus while casually tucking gloved hands into her pockets would let him know that she wasn’t just passing by the establishment.

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Really? Tom didn't think Cassandra could read minds, but the petite Arma agent appeared to respond to an unwitting summons. He'd have growled if the cold hadn't clamped his mouth shut. The badge brandished with the unwritten words, 'We're going to talk.' popping from it. 

 

"I know why you are here. Please come inside."

 

Tom held open the door to invite her in. Tom and Cassandra had helped each other in the past. She had been chasing a fugitive that happened into the doors of Thyrsus, assuming that it was some sort of criminal sanctuary. It had seemed like a simple calculus to not stand between a criminal and a police force full of mages. The collateral damage was not likely to be worth it. The fact that this fugitive wound up hurting women and children regularly made even easier. He was fairly certain that Tom was 'left alone' due to this unofficial cooperation. Maybe she could help him with his magic-poison investigation.

 

Once inside, he nodded to Roderick and said, "We'll be in my office. Unless Gaspari himself wishes to speak to me, send whoever comes away." 

 

Tom then entered his office and stood behind his desk while motioning to a seat in front of it. "Please, assume I am wrong. What can I help you with, Cassandra?"

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