This was the second time tonight that he had walked into the room where Gerald had been killed.
It didn’t matter that the murdered man was standing right next to him: it was just downright off-putting.
He hadn’t actually seen the body; but he had seen a torn bloody sleeve on the floor in the midst of a pool of blood that no one man could survive losing. Strictly speaking; no man had.
Fitz looked over to his right where Gerald was standing; looking at the spot on the floor, where he had died earlier that same evening. The enterprise bruiser usually sported a ruddy complexion on his broad face; but in the light of the electric torch, he currently looked quite pale.
Fitz laid a big hand gently on Gerald’s shoulder and said softly; “don’t worry, we will get him for what he did.”
The bruiser shivered; and nodded his head slightly in the affirmative: “that’s right!” he said grimly.
Earlier in the office of the Penrose enterprise; they had learned about the artifact that the Pixie needed them to retrieve from Ottimo Cibo.
Pecht had told them that it was a small amphorae he needed: it had been taken by Vittorio.
Teague had asked what an amphorae was: Fitz actually knew; and was going to tell the other man but Gerald interrupted and said; “it’s like a jar.”
Fitz was a little surprised, because Gerald was not generally a knowledgeable fellow.
Teague had asked the Pixie how the Italian had gotten hold of the jar if it were so precious; and Pecht did not have an answer for him.
“What I know;’ the small fae had said in his high soft voice, “is that Vittorio has it in his possession; and for so long as he does, he is able to exert influence over my Tenkha.”
Of the four men there; only Gerald looked as though he understood what the Pixie was saying.
Fitz spoke up; “what’s a Tenkha?”
Pecht said, “Who.”
Gerald spoke up; “She’s the fairy what Mr. Pecht is in love with: even though generally those two types don’t get along.”
The three other men slowly nodded with Gerald’s proclamation, and the Pixie said; “Gerald is quite right!”
They had left the office of Penrose enterprise with a description of the artifact, and an assertion that it was ensconced in the Italian eatery that the three men had visited earlier that evening.
The three men were only lightly armed as they set about on their nocturnal mission. The men were used to handling things with their fists: Gerald especially enjoyed getting physical for little or sometimes no reason.
None of them were carrying a firearm; as Mr. Penrose had deemed the mission be a quiet one. Fitz knew that Teague owned and rarely used a Webley Mk VI revolver that his father had carried in the second Boer War.
Gerald owned a Colt 1903 hammerless pistol; but much preferred his fists.
Fitz himself used a Colt 1911 in .45 caliber: he enjoyed the heft, and stopping power of the American weapon.
The pistols were left in their respective places; because they wanted as little noise as possible this night.
That being said; they did each have a silent weapon. Teague carried a trench knife that he had gotten from a Yank in the Great War. Gerald kept a cosh in his back pocket. It was dark brown leather; filled with heavy lead shot, and relatively supple. Fitz favored a trench club that had an empty Mills bomb affixed to the striking end.
Because of the late hour, it was easy to get to the back entrance of Ottimo Cibo unseen. The building was dark and seemingly empty; not a surprise considering the time of night.
Gerald had wanted to bash the door in; as this was generally his approach to most problems he encountered.
Fitz had told the bruiser to “wait a moment.” Fitz had then leaned against the door near the knob; and started to push against it. It took maybe 30 seconds; and you could see the strain on the big man as he struggled. The door gave up the ghost; and with a slight popping sound, it had granted them entry.
They had searched the empty eatery for more than an hour before they ended up in the room where Gerald had lost his life earlier that evening.
Fitz still couldn’t believe what had happened. Oh; he had no trouble believing that Vittorio had sliced up poor Gerald: the Italian had done for dozens of men with that wicked razor of his.
What he couldn’t get his head around; was that the big bruiser was walking, talking, and otherwise just living, after what had happened to him.
Fitz attended mass; well, religiously: and as far as he knew, the only people who had ever come back from the dead were Lazarus, and Christ himself.
And yet here was Gerald, looking around the very room where it had happened: it was just downright off-putting.
He looked more pale than usual; but otherwise he was the same old Gerald.
Fitz noticed that Gerald had his head cocked; as if he were listening to someone, and then the bruiser pointed his electric torch at one of the other doors in the room.
Gerald spoke;”it’s in that room over there.” He said.
Teague asked him; “how do you know that Gerald?” The answer they got surprised both of Gerald’s companions.
Gerald said: “a mouse told me.”
Both of his coworkers had obviously incredulous responses.
“What did you say?”; Teague asked, and Fitz himself just blurted out, “what the hell!”
Fitz went on with: “and who are you now? Dr. Doolittle himself”
Gerald looked confused: or maybe even a bit amazed, but responded, “there’s a family of mice that live in the walls over there.” He pointed to one side of the room. “There’s something not natural in the next room;” Gerald pointed his electric torch again to that other door and said, “they don’t go there, because of it.”
Teague shrugged his broad shoulders and said,“it’s worth checking out.” Fitz went to the door in question; and finding it locked, repeated the tactic he had used on the outer door earlier. This one popped open much quicker as it was an interior door, and not nearly as sturdy as the other.
This room was clearly a storeroom of sorts. There were boxes and bags of foodstuffs and other items on shelves all about the large room. Teague started looking at shelves on one end; so Fitz went to the other end to started poking and probing about.
After a minute or two of searching on various shelves; Fitz noticed Gerald just standing by the door and slowly looking around. He was about to ask Gerald to help out when the bruiser walked to a shelf by an opposite wall and pulled a wooden crate off of a tall shelf.
He placed the crate on the ground and then stood on it so that he could reach into the spot that the crate had just recently occupied. He came out with a corrugated paper box that was about thirty centimeters square. “Gotcha!;” he exclaimed triumphantly.
His two companions crowded around Gerald as he pried open the box. Teague was looking between the discovered carton, and at the storeroom around them, to be sure that the trio could not be caught unawares. They were after all; here stealing something. It made no matter that they were taking something that had already been taken from its’ rightful owner. Fitz knew that if they were discovered here with what the Italians would consider their own property: well things could get ugly.
The big man shone his electric torch into the corrugated paper box: inside the carton, on a dark velvet cushion, was a little glass jar. It was rather small; maybe twelve centimeters in height. It was made of glass in translucent green, with twin emerald handles. It reminded Fitz of images he had seen as a boy, when he lived with his family in Rome for two years.
He had never shared that part of his boyhood with his coworkers: so he had not been surprised at their surprise earlier in the evening when he had shown his mastery of the language while ordering a lavish Italian meal in Ottimo Cibo.
The images Fitz recalled; had been of larger amphorae, but the resemblance was there, just the same.
Fitz reached into the box and withdrew the small glass vessel. Gerald pulled a cloth bag from his pocket and accepted the green jar from the big man.
Afterwards, Fitz would recall thinking that the thing smelled like the sea.
Once Gerald had secured the artifact in the cloth bag; and tucked it into his loose borrowed shirt, he took a moment to close the corrugated paper box. Then he replaced the now empty box in its’ hiding place; even going so far as to replace the wooden crate exactly as it had been before their arrival.
The bruiser grinned at his companions and said, “let them chew on that!”
Fitz had to grin along with Gerald; and he noticed that Teague had a slight smile on his face as well.
“Let’s get out of here;” Teague said, and he led the way out of the storeroom.
It didn’t take long to exit Ottimo Cibo: and the whole visit was accomplished with minimal fuss. Luckily, they did not encounter anyone on the way out: this was not surprising, since Fitz could see the beginnings of the morning sun creeping its’ way into being.
He supposed they were lucky that the artifact had not been hidden in a bakery. Fitz had a favorite bakery; and knew that they routinely started their day, long before the sun did. That would have made their visit much more of a dynamic affair.
He was glad of it: all things considered, because even though he was very good at being “physical” in his job, he took no joy in it.
The drive back to the Enterprise office was uneventful. Fitz did notice that Gerald was driving somewhat more sedately than was his usual wont.
Fitz thought this mostly due to the fact that Gerald was guiding the motor coach with only one hand. The other hand was clutching the bag that was holding the artifact, tucked within his shirt.
By that, Fitz did mean that the shirt Gerald was wearing did in fact belong to Fitz. That’s why the shirt was obviously loose on the big bruiser. A big grin split his face as Fitz considered what it would look like if his employer were wearing the borrowed shirt.
It would surely be like a child wearing his fathers’ night shirt.
The trio of men made their way; along with the recovered artifact, to the upper floor that housed the enterprise office.
As they neared the office; Fitz could smell coffee, and maybe bacon. The big mans’ stomach rumbled, and he remembered vividly the food he had devoured not long ago at Ottimo Cibo. He remembered the Pixie saying something about the food becoming a craving because the Italians used so much Pixie dust on it; and even knowing this, he felt that he would do near anything to get more of that deliciousness.
The unique door to Penrose’s office was open; it nearly always was, and Fitz couldn’t help but notice the dark handprint. He knew it was Teague’s hand; and that it was Gerald’s blood that made the print so dark.
That door had honestly always given Fitz the creeps. He didn’t say so to anyone; but it was hard not to be put off by that strange portal.
Fitz was surprised when they entered the office: he was expecting his employer and the Pixie to be there; but he wasn’t expecting Nellie.
The lovely young woman was on the settee with a cup of tea; and was clearly distressed.
Fitz had been finding more and more reasons to visit and spend any amount of time in Flowrys.
It was the floral boutique that was run by Teague’s mother, and more importantly it was where Nellie worked.
Fitz was the first one through the door and his heart jumped a little when the lovely young woman looked at him: honestly, it always did.
But Teague followed directly after him and when she saw her cousin she jumped up from the settee; dropping her cup of tea to the floor.
“Teague!” she cried out as she ran to her cousin, “he took her!” Teague asked explosively’ “What!”
Nellie told the enterprise troubleshooter; “That man took your Mother!”