In the Office and Stockroom of Black Rose Book Store
This spacious vast space must have been a theater at one point. The floors are carpeted in crimson, plush to walk on, while the stage itself has been reworked into a grand work space. A single column aisle leads from the doors to the stage while the shelving units stand in military rows to serve as a stock room to the bookstore. The curtains which frame the stage have been left in place, so as to provide the option for privacy to the office area where a single desk in carved mahogany sits stage center. The stage has a black painted wood floor, leading to stairs on either side. Located near to stage left is a lush seating area to host guests.
Luciana steps through into the old theater-turned office and stock room for the book store. She pauses, glancing back out of the door to see if anyone followed her into the store then shuts the door and bolts it securely. Turning her back to it the young arcanist first scans a slow circuit of the room, making sure that nothing it amiss or out of place.
Cool and quiet, the office and stockroom are as they should be; empty, save for the owner, the stock, and the furniture. Everything is as it should be. One of the benefits of a bookshop, particularly this time of the morning is the peace, and the solitude, and though Luciana is alone in the stockroom, the peace of her work is disturbed in short order by a gentle 'rap' 'rap' 'rap' on the door.
"Excuse me?" a voice calls, muffled by the barrier between outside and inside. Male, given the sounds of it. "Miss? I was hoping to speak with the manager, if that's alright?"
Luciana doesn't startle so much as stiffen, doing deathly still at the rapping on the door behind her. When the voice rings out her dark eyes lift towards the high, gilded ceiling above the old theater as she whispers in Italian. "Mother Mary, give me strength. If this this another Jehovah's Witness... so help me Gods."
Her plea made, the dark-haired young woman turns, slides back the bolt and opens the door with a smile. A thin smile. Possibly more a ghost of a smile and a distinct air of 'you better not waste my time'.
Behind the door, smile is met with smile, and there just beyond stands a man, perhaps in his mid-thirties, dressed in the sort of smart-casual wear one might expect to see on a professional sort. In his hands he holds a flyer that even a cursory inspection would reveal as one of the leaflets that the bookstore has been papering the town with over the last few weeks. Behind him, the bookstore appears quiet, nary a soul in sight, save for this gentleman.
"Sorry to bother you, Miss," he begins, all charm, sugar and smiles, "I was hoping to organise the purchase of a few books that you don't have in stock at the moment. The flyer says I need to talk to a Miss Rossi. Is that you? I did have a look in your stock, but maybe I missed it."
Luciana's dark gaze drops to the flyer, then a scan of the bookstore behind him as the first natural light begins to drift in softly. Finally they settle on the gentleman himself with a quiet study of his features, his clothing, an possibly markings on his jewelry and such. Finally, a good few heartbeats after he's finished speaking her eyes lift to meet his and she offers a small nod of her head. "That is I," she murmurs. "Luciana Rossi. Please, come in. It isn't often that we have visitors at this hour of the morning." She steps aside for the t doorway and gestures him further in. "What sort of books did you have in mind?"
"I have a list," the man says, stepping inside once invited. He turns the flyer over, whereon his list is written for convenience in a hasty sort of scrawl. "Mostly fiction. There's Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn. Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore. Dirty Job, also by Christopher Moore.. And then The Contortionists Handbook, by Craig Clevenger." He gives a charming sort of smile as he concludes his recitation of his requests, and adds, "I know how that last one sounds."
Once inside the stockroom, he tucks one hand into the pocket of his pants as he looks around, eyes drifting across the interior in a slow circle that comes to a rest on Luciana at the door.
"Always convenient," Luciana murmurs, taking the flyer and reading through the list. Though her smile, slim as it is, doesn't shift it grows more and more plastic the further down the list she goes in the struggle to keep open and dismissive disappointment from her face. Having reached the bottom of the list her gaze flicks up, first to the man's hand in his pocket then finally to his face. "Certainly an...interesting collection. I might have the Dunn in the back somewhere but the others I will probably have to special order. Could I get your name and a contact number or email to reach you?"
The flyer is handed over without much fuss, and the well-dressed customer nods his agreement to Luciana's question. "Of course. It's Jim Mathews, that's my name, obviously. And contact number is Seven...one...two..." 'Jim's' voice trails off, and his eyes dart to something behind Luciana, in the doorway. There's a flash of a triumphant sort of smirk on his lips, and a brief, sharp pinch in the woman's neck.
"Fuckin' hell," comes a second man's voice, and thick, burly arms wrap around the middle of the dark-haired shop owner, taking her weight in them. "I thought you were gonna get her." Jim, for his part is rolling his eyes and slipping his hand from his pocket (Is that a syringe in them?) and the other goes for his phone. "Shut up, we got her, didn't we?. I need to make this call. Get the others to bring the car around."
Of course, for Luciana most of this is moot, because the world begins to swim and her limbs grow heavy. And then its down into blackness, and the arms of the unseen man.
It's the darting of Jim's eyes that sets Luciana off when she suddenly realizes her mistake of being so focused on the details of the man in front of her. She starts to turn when the syringe sinks into her neck, but she's no fighter and no where near as fast as some other supernaturals in this town. The flyer flutters from her thin hand as her eyes rolls, lips parting in a half-uttered, "Fucking... Syndica--" And then she's out like a light.
When Luciana's sense return, the familiar sights and sounds of the bookshop are gone, replaced by cold concrete and silence. She has, perhaps mercifully been laid out on a sad, worn and stained mattress, the only piece of furniture in the room, save for a plastic bucket that's been tucked away in the corner. A single light lights the space, and does a poor job at that, filling the corners of the room with muddy shadows.
Voices can be heard outside the door, hushed, difficult to understand. Or maybe it's the drugs making it difficult to hear them for the moment.
Luciana groans as she stirs, eyes opening then scrunching up closed again at the light before blinking them open again. Slowly she sits up, swinging her legs off the bed and rubbing at her face then setting her hands down beside her to curl around the edge of the mattress. Dark eyes do their usual dance around the room, this time with less casual ease and more desperation as the panic starts to gnaw in her stomach.
She pats herself down, checking for the knife in her boot and if she's still wearing her claw ring. Then she focuses on the door. Her head still swimming the arcanist pushes to her feet, a hand going to the wall to steady herself as she moves towards the door to press an ear to it to listen.
The knife is gone as is the phone, apparently Jim and Co. weren't THAT sloppy, but the claw and all of the other belongings on Luciana are as they should be. After all, what harm could a ring do? They even left her cash, nice guys that they are.
There's chatter beyond the door. Two. Three. Four? Voices. One familiar. One new. One female. And 'Jim'. They're talking amongst themselves, planning, laughing.
"...kidding me?" says one. This one's new, male, filled with arrogance and mocking amusement. "She's like a hundred pounds soaking wet. We could have left that little letter opener on her, and she'd still have pissed herself if we'd just walked up, stuck a gun in her face and told her to get in the car."
There's a chorus of chuckles that can be heard. And then it's Jim's voice that replies, "Fuck you. We treat her like she's dangerous we don't get any nasty surprises. You hear shit about some folks, alright? I'm not dying for a handful of cash and some little girl." Jim's practical defense only prompts more chuckling from his fellows.
Luciana listens, still and quiet as a spider, her breath coming quiet and heart oddly steady in its beating. The expression on her face shifts, concern, then the start of a snarling sneer, then utter confident contempt. Confusion, fearful hope, then the confidence again as she glances at the door. Her eyes close and she focuses on the man she met as Jim.
"Don't matter for now anyway," says woman on the other side of the door. "She was out like a light when I checked earlier. And we ain't heard any screaming or crying, so probably a good bet she's still sleeping beauty in there." There's seems to be some mutterings of agreement. Mostly.
"It fucking does matter," Jim grouses, sounding increasingly irritable about the flippant nature his comrades seem to be showing. "Why the fuck are we being paid so much if she's not dangerous?" The arrogant guy laughs more loudly, and his reply oozes with the smug arrogance of man who thinks themselves bigger, badder and smarter than everyone else. "Speaking of pissing themselves. Fuck. You want we should letter her out? Would that unwad those girl panties of yours? Jesus. Man up."
Footsteps can be heard, growing louder as one body moves closer to another, and the laughter suddenly cuts short, replaced by a thud of fist meeting flesh that can be heard even through the metal of the door. "Shut the fuck up!" Jim bellows. There's a moment of sickening silence and then grunts and shouts can be heard.
"Fucking kill you..."
"Jesus, cut it out. Grab him!"
Still keeping her ear to the door, Luciana stretches out a hand to sense the room to see if it is nightmare shielded or not. When the fight breaks out there is a slow, upward curl of her lips. Now. Now she slowly and quietly tests the door to see if it is locked while they are distracted.
There's still more scuffling through the door. More shouts. More grunts and the occasional blow that lands. The door is locked, they're not that dumb, and efforts to reach for the Nightmare are fruitless.
"Jesus, fuck. Put the fucking knife down!" the woman's bellows at the top of her lungs. "FUCK. God. I swear to Christ if you two don't settle down I'll turn you both into women so you stop swinging your cocks around the place trying to work out who's is bigger!" There's stunned silence that follows, and the sounds of fighting die down. "Mac, since you're not worried, go check and see if sleeping beauty has woken up while you two were fucking about."
There's more silence, and then footsteps start to grow louder as one of the figures draws closer, muttering to himself. "Fucking bitch. Fucking prick. Would fucking gut them both if I could get away with it and still get paid. Needs to stick with reading her fucking books and drawing her little bullshit cult pagan fucking symbols."
Luciana steps to the side of the door so that it will shield her from view when it opens. A large bronze coin is fished from her pocket and brought up to her lips. She closes her eyes, whispering at it in Latin then tossing it out in front of where the door is. "Time to shine, mea Lupa," she murmurs when an ethereal she-wolf crowned with a wreath of rose flowers and myrtle appears with a low growl and hackles up just waiting for the door to open to leap.
The footsteps come closer, closer, closer. The muttering louder, louder, louder. The sound of metal scraping on metal can be heard as the cover on the gated window slides open, revealing a pair of shifty looking eyes that scan the inside of the room. There's no sign of Luciana, of course. She's tucked away neatly out of sight. Mac's eyes fill with anger and suspicion, and behind the door there's some fumbling for the lock. "Hang on guys," he calls out. "I think this little bitch is playing games with us." There's some shuffling further away, mumbles and mutters, and then the door is swung open.
The man, if you can call him that, that stands there is thin and weedy, looking like some distant ancestor of his might possibly have been a weasel. Thin hair. Thin, scraggly beard that's more embarrassing than it could possible be attractive. Dressed in a ragged looking suit pants and t-shirt, with a pair of sneakers. He's got a black 9mm pistol in his left hand, and he waves it about the space boldly.
Luciana breaks into a smile when the door opens, waiting just a moment more for him to step past her. Moving calmly she steps up behind him, a thin hand gripping the back of his neck and the clawed ring ever so gently biting at his skin. "You're right," she all but purrs as she leans in to whisper against his ear. "The little bitch does want to play games with you." Lupa, the she-wolf perks up one ear at that. There's a throb of magic that pulses into the back of his neck and through him, thinning his blood as the wolf leaps to tear into him with a snarling maw.
There's a loud crack as the gun goes off, a shot towards the leaping wolf that sinks its teeth into the arm that's raised reflexively to protect himself. Blood flows like a river where fangs rip flesh, and that ratty suit is made even more so, stained crimson. Predictably, Mac's screams and the gunfire prompt hurried reaction from outside. Curses and objects clattering as they're grabbed hurriedly audible, but only barely as the man in the cell is brought to the ground writhing and desperately to get himself free.
Luciana releases the man as Lupa hits him, bending down to retrieve the coin she was summoned from. She straightens and turns, not seeming in the least bit interested as the wolf harasses the man who will probably bleed out into unconsciousness soon enough. "Come girl," she murmurs, stalking out with a hand over her shoulder like she's carrying a jacket there hooked on her finger. Instead of a jacket though the spilled blood lifts from the ground like a net of twisting, crimson threads that she drags through after her. "Now," she says, briefly wetting her lips, the blood coalescing into a hovering ball in her palm that she brings forward to look at. Her dark eyes flick back up to the others. "Give me my phone back, or kindly decide amongst yourself who dies next."
Behind Luciana, Mac is writhing in pain clutching his ravaged arm with his good one, gun dropped and forgotten. In the interim, his fellows have managed to array themselves in a corridor that has a small space attached to it, where the kidnappers have set themselves up a little watch station, complete with a table that has Luciana's stashed belongings on it.
Between here and there, though, stands a burly man, who's just managed to snatch up his gun, a woman who's eyes dart towards a book on the table, a knife, and a small pistol... And finally Jim who stands at the bottom of the stares, lip bloody eyes fixed on Luciana.
"Listen girly," the burly guy says slowly. "Ain't no need for this to get messy. You just turn around, head back inside, and we don't have to hurt you."
"What about Mac?" the woman hisses.
"Fuck Mac," says Jim. "He got what he deserved. I told you she was dangerous." The other two look far more inclined to believe Jim now than they probably did before.
Luciana's expression slips from that beautiful smile to a thin-lipped nothing and the amused starlight gleam in her eyes fades to a midnight blackness, wheels within wheels working behind that stare. They flick to the woman first, then to Jim, the faint ghost of a sneer catching the corner of her mouth. But then they focus on the burly man who stands in her way. "But I like messy," she says, voice pitched a note deeper than before. The hovering ball of blood in her hand starts to pulse, throbbing like a heartbeat as the man with the gun suddenly sees nothing but red. Then she's on the move, side stepping a potential misfire from the gun and bringing up the ball of blood which suddenly sprouts spikes to slam into his chest.
The gun-toting thug flails suddenly, blinded, surprised, and pained. He squeezes off a few rounds in the general direction of Luciana, but unable to see he doesn't manage to hit anything but the air. All of this is before Luciana's bloody weapon collides with his chest, dropping him like a stone with a sickening, wet squelch.
The woman's eyes widen, and she stares fearfully at the woman who's just taken down two of her comrades, and then looks to Jim. A moment later she sprints for the exit, nearly bowling Jim over in her haste to be anywhere but here. She flings the doors at the top of the stairs open, flooding the hallway with natural light, and then vanishes into the glare.
As for Jim, he locks eyes with Luciana, staring. Studying. Fear and anger written deep in his gaze and in his expression. Those eyes flick briefly to the fallen man at Luciana's feet, and the door where Mac presumably is still bleeding away. And then, wisely he backs his way up the stairs. "Your shit's on the table." That's the last thing he says before he too departs through the still open door.
Luciana makes no move to go after the pair that flee. Instead she crouches down, wiping the blood clean from her hand on the downed man's shirt before she rises again. Moving to the table she plucks her phone and knife from it, then regards the book that the woman was looking at and picks that up to tuck under her arm. Lupa begins to fade away into nothingness as the sorceress moves to the exit and pauses, glancing back with her hand on the door. "Do tell your bosses to take me off their list, will you?" she calls back to the man bleeding out from the wolf bite before she steps out back into Haven.
The book, a treatise on rituals, is probably what the woman used to guide her to stopping escape through the Nightmare. Simple, basic, but perhaps a nice trophy for a morning's ordeal. With no further resistance, there's nothing to stop Luciana from strolling to freedom, out into the bright light of the sun. It looks like she was being kept out in the forest. Not so far out as to risk monsters roaming from the gates, but not close enough that anyone is likely to stumble over the place.
From here, it's a reasonably leisurely walk back to town, and to the relative safety it provides.