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And In The End
“What are you playing at?” Delareux grumbled at Rasputin who was holding Toli and him at gunpoint in his lab.
“Thanks to the many fine subjects, yielded by the streets of New Orleans, I’ve have finally perfected a serum that will give me an unstoppable army. Soon the Goblin Liberation Army will administer my Ichor into the water supply and the whole city be a mighty force,” Rasputin flipped a switch and the portraits of Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra slid up and revealed the preserved corpses of the same, in glass cases, “A force I will use to crush the Soviets, bringing glory back to the Russian Empire, to Tsar Nicholas and his lovely bride Alexandra.”
“You’re insane,” Toli barked, “They’re dead.”
“Is okay,” Rasputin replied, “I know a guy. Now, you two. You’ve been thorns in my side long enough,” he raised his gun to shoot.
Shelby emerged from her hiding place behind Rasputin and kicked the gun from his hand.
“Infuriating child,” he yelled.
As Toli and Delareux lunged to grab him, he opened one of his many rings and blew a powder at them. They seemed stunned for a moment, then began to attack each other. Rasputin skipped up the steps and out the door into the street. Shelby followed and chased him as he ran toward Canal Street. It was early evening and the street was teeming with bar hopping revelers and buskers. He looked behind and saw Shelby gaining ground. He began blowing his powder in the faces of people as he passed. The street began to erupt in chaos as fighting broke out among the affected. Shelby was pushed to the ground by a busker who attempted to strike her on the head with his banjo. She rolled and scurried along the ground between the legs of the rioting crowd, darting up the drain pipe of a corner building and flipping up the fire escape to the roof. She watched in horror as the crowd tore at each other.
“Delareux and Mr. Palazzo,” she gasped and bounded over the rooftops, clear of the madness, making her way back to Rasputin’s house.
When she arrived, she found them grappling on the front lawn, trading blows.
“You guys, knock it off,” she yelled circling them. She looked around in vain desperation. She leapt up and grabbed a large tree branch, bouncing in an effort to break it free. It cracked and she fell to the ground, the heavy branch landing on her. She jumped to her feet and hefted the branch in her hands.
“I’m real sorry about this guys,” she swung the branch and smacked Delareux on the side of the head and he rolled to the ground unconscious. Once free of Delareux’s grip, Toli flipped over on this hands and knees facing Shelby. His face was twisted in rage as he charged toward her. Shelby jabbed him in the stomach with the branch and he tumbled backward. She ran over and gave him blow on the head, knocking him cold.
Toli awoke and found himself in a high-backed easy chair, “Ugh, what in Murgatroyd happened?” he said squinting around the room. He tried to stand, but his knees buckled. He missed the chair and hit the floor.
“I’m not lugging you back in that chair,” Shelby said perched on a window sill, “You’re more heavy than you look, Palazzo.”
“Shelby?” he groaned in pain and clutched his head, “Where’s Rasputin?” he slid back into the chair.
“Get it together first,” Shelby said walking out of the room, she returned with an ice pack and handed it to Toli, “Did you know rich people have ice? In their house?”
“It’s amazing,” Toli grumbled, “What happened to me?”
“You and Delareux tried to kill each other.”
“Can’t say the thought has never crossed my mind before. Didn’t think I’d ever actually go through with it.”
“Rasputin put the whammy on you guys.”
Toli could hear what sounded like a thousand distant sirens and the din of a multitude.
“What is that commotion?” he asked.
“He also put the whammy on Canal Street. It’s gonna give me nightmares for the rest of my life,” Shelby said, flopping on a couch.
“Downstairs in the lab. He trying to figure out how Rasputin is making all this crazy stuff.”
“Why does it feel like someone hit me with a tree?”
“Because I hit you with a tree.”
Toli glared at her.
“Worked,” Shelby shrugged.
“Thanks, I guess.” Toli sunk into the chair and closed his eyes, pressing the pack against his head.
Delareux emerged from the basement with a similar icepack strapped to his head. He was carrying a large, heavy-looking tome.
“Well I think I found a clue,” he said, more gravelly than normal.
“Why are you so ambulatory,” Toli griped.
“I’ve had worse benders than this.”
“What’s that book?”
“It’s a tome.”
“What’s the difference?” Toli sighed.
“The binding, I think.” Delareux handed it to Toli.
“Principia Arcanum,” Toli read, “By Cletus Wensleydale and Abigayle Rosenkreutz. Okay. What do you want me to do with it?”
“I found a few recipes, among the spells and dickadeedo in there for some dodgy mixtures,” Delareux replied, “Including one that can drive people bonkers and another that grants superhuman strength.”
“Shelby, be a dear and light the fire,” Toli said, “Let’s get rid of this thing.”
“Before you throw the baby out with the bath water, it has a recipe for a concoction to reverse the effects of the serum. Also, I think it’s stolen,” Delareux said flipping open the back cover, “Look, there’s a list of names.”
Toli scanned the two columns of twenty-five names accompanied by dates stretching back to the late 1400’s.
“The last one is Sylvia Winthrop,” Toli began to ponder, “Isn’t that the name of that weird old witch that lives on the outskirts?”
“She’s a banshee, some kind of curse,” Delareux replied.
“Fine, banshee,” Toli jerked up, “Should we really be convalescing while Rasputin is out there raising Cain?”
“Just waiting for you to get your legs back.”
“They’re back. Let’s get going.”
“First place we need to go is my office,” Delareux said.
“This is no time to tie one on, Delareux,” Toli scolded.
“No. Really my office this time. It’s over on Canal Street.”
“You might want to brace yourself,” Shelby said in a grim tone.
As the three walked onto Canal Street, they were met with a vast scene of carnage. The bloodied and dismembered bodies of young and old littered the street belonging to pedestrians, buskers and first responders. The police and medics that weren’t caught in the melee stood among the dead and dazed as they surveyed the aftermath. Civilians had begun gathering and those that recognized victims were overcome with horror and grief. Murmuring and wailing filled the air.
“My office is a few blocks down,” Delareux said in a mixture of solemnity and apology.
They made their way down the sidewalk, skirting around the corpses taking care not to step over or on any.
Delareux’s office was a small, dingy room, mostly empty save for a desk, a few chairs, and a prodigious liquor cabinet. Against the back wall, behind the desk was cast the stark shadow of streetlights through venetian blinds despite the office having no venetian blinds. Toli examined the shadow, placing his hand in front. His hand cast a shadow on the wall, as he expected. He saw the shadow of the blinds on his hand. He jerked away and moved as far from the shadow as he could. Delareux unlocked his liquor cabinet.
“Dear god, man, do we have time for this?” Toli yelped.
Delareux pulled out a bottle of bourbon and poured three shots, “It’ll take me a bit to mix up the antidote. In the meantime, you’d have to made of stone not to need one of these.”
Toli looked on aghast as Shelby was the first to down her shot. She didn’t blink as it went down.
“Nevermind,” he sighed, resigned and took his shot.
For the next hour or so, Delareux was up to his elbows in mortars and pestles, vials and burners as he mixed together herbs, strange plants, bugs and animal parts, and various colored powders. Toli paced, making an effort not to look either out the window at the warzone or at the vexing shadow on the wall. Shelby sat in a chair, dangling her legs and reading the funny pages.
“This should do it,” Delareux said scraping the bluish powder into three small snuff boxes. He handed two of the boxes to Shelby and Toli, “Take some now as a preventative.”
“How do you take this?” Toli asked.
“Anyway you want, I guess,” Delareux replied, snorting a pinch up his nose.
Shelby did the same. Toli frowned and dipped his finger in and put some on his tongue. He began coughing and gagging.
“How much of this do I need to take?” Toli hacked.
“The book says a little goes a long way. Rasputin’s powder shouldn’t have an effect on us now.”
“‘Shouldn’t’ is a thin rede to hang your hat on,” Toli grumbled, “What about the Ichor?”
“One is just a variation of the other,” Delareux said, lining up several large mason jars and syringes full of a blue liquid, “If we dump these jars in the water supply, it won’t matter if Rasputin dumped his serum in too. This will neutralize it.”
“The water plant is in Carrollton. We’re going to need a car if we’re going to get all these jars there.”
“No problem,” Shelby said and darted from the office.
A few moments later a black Dodge D17 weaved and jerked to stop in front of the office, tiny hands gripping the wheel. Shelby poked her head up in the driver’s side window, beckoning Toli and Delareux.
“I should stop being surprised by any of this,” Toli said, mouth agape.
Delareux opened the driver’s side door. Shelby frowned at him.
“Sorry, kiddo,” he said, “I’m driving.”
“I never get to have any fun,” she protested and slid over.
Toli loaded the mason jars in the trunk and opened the passenger’s side door.
“Shotgun,” Shelby said, giving him a hard stare.
Toli rolled his eyes and got in the back. Delareux floored the accelerator and headed for the water plant.
Once at the water plant several goblins were patrolling the area. Randal was loping around with a goblin sitting on his back, dangling a tenderloin in his face at the end of a fishing pole. Delareux parked the car out of their sight.
“I’ll take care of Randal,” Shelby said, pulling a syringe from the trunk.
“Be careful,” Toli said.
“Didn’t know you cared, Palazzo,” Shelby grinned.
“Child endangerment wasn’t on my to do list today,” Toli frowned.
Shelby stuck her tongue out at Toli and jogged over toward the goblins, “Hey rubes,” she shouted, “Remember me?”
The goblin on Randal’s back jerked it’s fishing pole toward Shelby. Randal’s head followed the rotting meat and he noticed Shelby waving her arms. The goblins began chanting as he charged toward her. He grabbed at her and she leapt onto his forearm, scurried onto his shoulder and slapped the fishing pole goblin off his back. Randal swatted at her, but she dodged around to his other shoulder and he slapped himself on the head. Shelby jammed the syringe into his neck and punched the plunger in. Randal dropped to his knees, howling. He began to look as though he was deflating or crumpling into a normal sized goblin. Shelby jumped down and looked at the other goblins who had fallen silent and were glancing at one another. They scampered off in all directions. Shelby turned back toward Delareux and Toli and mimed dusting her hands off.
“Well, now we know it works,” said Toli.
Toli, Shelby and Delareux entered the water plant and found Rasputin atop a containment tank dumping the Ichor in through the hatch.
“You can’t stop it now,” Rasputin called down to them, “Soon a new Russian empire will rise in the ruins of what was once America. Tsar Nicholas the second will rule once more.”
Toli pulled his revolver and shot at Rasputin. The bullet stopped a few inches short of hitting him between the eyes.
“Ha,” Rasputin bellowed and held up a medallion etched with an Enochian seal.
Delareux put his jars down, “Get this stuff into one of the other tanks. I’ll handle this.”
Toli juggled the four jars in his arms and made his way to one of the other tanks. Rasputin jumped down and intercepted him. He opened up a different ring and blew the contents at Toli. Toli stopped and became expressionless.
“Drop the jars,” Rasputin whispered to him, but was drowned out by Delareux firing his pistol, “Drop the jars,” he repeated. He was again muted by Delareux’s gunfire.
Rasputin approached Delareux who had wrapped a wet handkerchief over his mouth.
“Fine,” Rasputin growled, “You want to go first, is okay with me.”
Delareux took a swing at Rasputin, but landed against a shield. Rasputin advanced, grinning. Delareux held out a disk engraved with the symbol of Legba in one hand and a desiccated chicken foot in the other
“Please,” Rasputin scoffed, “What can your crude voodoo do against centuries old alchemy? Even the witch Winthrop was no match for my power. And that was before I absconded with her precious book.”
Delareux continued to back away, drawing Rasputin’s attention from Toli and Shelby who had crept in and began collecting the jars. Rasputin grabbed him by the throat and pulled out a dagger.
“Were you the one who inflicted her with Bansheeism?” Delareux asked.
“No,” Rasputin shrugged, “But whoever that was, I’m very impressed.”
Shelby dumped three of the jars into the infected tank and hopped down for the last. Delareux lowered his disk and chicken foot.
“That’s one problem down,” Delareux motioned his head toward Shelby dumping the last jar into the tank.
Rasputin turned his head to see Shelby shaking the last of the contents into the tank, “Meddlesome little rat,” he howled, released Delareux and turned to approach her.
Delareux grabbed him by the back of his neck. Rasputin looked at him in astonishment.
“If you knew anything about voodoo,” Delareux said, “You’d know that Legba opens doors and lowers barriers,” he struck Rasputin on the bridge of his nose. He dropped to his knees clutching his nose, blood oozing out between his fingers. His eyes were wild as he watched Delareux raise his pistol and whip him on the crown of his head. Rasputin fell to the ground, unconscious.
Shelby was snapping her fingers in Toli’s face, “Palazzo, Palazzo, you in there? Wake up.”
Toli blinked at Shelby and noticed the jars were no longer in his hands.
“Good Lord,” Toli gasped, “Where are the jars?”
“I took care of it for you,” Shelby gloated, “You’re welcome.”
Toli gave a relieved chuckle and patted Shelby on the shoulder.
“Good work, Shelby,” he said softly, “Where’s Rasputin?”
“Having disappointed dreams, I imagine,” Delareux said pointing at Rasputin curled up on the floor.
“Let’s get him in safely the hands of Detective Danvers.”
“I’m going through his pockets first,” Delareux said and pulled out a pair of tongs, “I’ll need his teeth too”
Shelby looked at Toli, her face twisted in disgust.
“I’ve learned not to ask,” said Toli.
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