I hang up the phone and slide it back into my inner jacket pocket.
That was much more informative than I had hoped. We’re still mostly in the dark about this, but there is a glimmer of light. We know it isn’t Olympian Ichor since it isn’t gold in color, but the strange composition of it means it is unlike anything I have ever seen.
I walk over to the bookshelf and search for the familiar title. I run my fingers over the spine of each book, carefully scanning each word. At last, I come to the black book with gold-embossed letters that spell out Myths and Monsters of the Ancient World. I open it up and peruse the pages. Gorgons, Minotaur, Sphinx, and all the other usual suspects littered the pages. “Which one of you is the cause of all this trouble?” I rub at my temples and look back through the one-way glass to distract myself. A few of the usual suspects were still hanging around, and the Sirens I had hired as cocktail waitresses were luring in a couple of newcomers.
They were an excellent investment. You really outdid yourself with that one Caerus.
I finish patting myself on the back and summon a Harewood Rum bottle to me. With a long night’s work ahead of me, I might as well spoil myself with the most expensive rum in the world. I spend the next several hours pouring over page after page, drinking and researching, looking up every major and minor monster from the Arachne to Typhon.
After what seems like only a few moments, my morning alarm goes off. I look at my phone in total shock. It can’t be 5 a.m. already. As I pick it up to verify the time, it rings.
Unknown number. Possibly a pawn?
I pick up and remain silent. The person on the other end of the phone shuffles slightly, as if nervous about this digital meeting.
“Hello? Mr. Caerus? Are you there?” the voice comes out short and staccato, with a thick accent.
“Mr. Kravchenko, it is a pleasure to hear from you. What may I do for you this fine morning?” He’s already calling back, and I haven’t even tipped the scales of fate for his boss yet. What could he possibly want from me?
Silence and more shuffling came through the speaker. “I…I overheard something last night. You told me to call you in case I noticed strange happenings.”
That was a quick return. Might be a trap. Best to play it safe.
“What have you learned, Mr. Kravchenko?”
Denys swore in Ukrainian with his mouth away from the speaker. Finally, he composed himself and spoke clearly. “I heard that the drug, the Ichor, it is coming from Greece.”
This is getting out of hand. Home keeps calling me, and I keep sending it to voicemail.
“That’s a very bold claim, Mr. Kravchenko. What facts do you have to back it up?”
The voice on the other end suddenly became very assured. “I do not speak fancifully and without justification, Mr. Caerus. In addition to what I overheard, we received a shipment of crates this morning. I am at the docks right now, overseeing the transaction.”
What? Hard proof? It can’t be this easy.
“Mr. Kravchenko, take a photo of the shipping manifest and send it to the secure email address on my business card, along with a photo of the crates and their contents.”
I hang up the phone and pace about the room, randomly picking up ornaments and placing them back absentmindedly. I then make up my mind and grab the book once more and flip through the pages, carefully studying the major monsters for any clues I can find. I summon a small notepad and make a note of any monster it could be, pouring over each page, scanning each word meticulously for some detail.
Glowing blood. Comes from home. Not an immortal, but has to be very old.
After a few more hours digging up nothing, frustration gnaws at me and I decide to take a different approach. I press the intercom button on my desk. “Good morning Anita, be a dear and go down to the casino floor and quietly ask around for a volunteer. Someone who wants to try out a new designer drug.”
“Yes, sir, I’ll get on it right away.”
The intercom clicks off, and I spin around to watch her work. She glides through the remaining drunks from the night before and the new arrivals who trailed in after the Sirens, smiling and making small talk as she goes. She stops among a group of shapeshifters and speaks to them for a minute before moving on.
Thank the Gods she didn’t select one of them. I need a mortal for a baseline test.
She stops at a lone craps player with a minuscule stack of chips beside him. She places her hand on his back and leans close to whisper in his ear. He looks at his few remaining chips before nodding and following her to the staircase leading up to my office.
A few moments pass before her polite knock rings throughout my office.
“Come in, please.”
She pushes both doors open, and as she enters, I take stock of my new prey. The sad excuse of a man who enters has all the trademark characteristics of a career alcoholic. Large bulbous red nose? Check. Beer gut? Check. Bloodshot eyes? Check. He is the kind of person who would follow one of my Sirens while stumbling around blind drunk in the middle of the night. He is the perfect specimen for my experiment.
“Thank you, Anita. That will be all.” I look her up and down as she walks out the double doors and softly shuts them behind her. “Now, on to business, Mr…?”
“Look, the attractive brunette promised I would get five grand in chips to test out a new drug. I have no money, my wife left me, just hand me the stuff and let’s get this over with. There really isn’t a need for names.”
Fair enough. “If you say so. Just take a seat, and I will get out my pad and the drugs.”
I grab the metal briefcase beside my desk and carefully place it in front of my new test subject. I open it and present its contents to its new, disheveled owner. He eagerly reaches for the steel and glass syringe and grabs a vial.
“So, what does this stuff do?” he asks as he draws the plunger back.
Now he asks? Did Anita not explain to him? “Sir, that is the reason you are here. Our lab has concocted this new drug, and we need test subjects. I assure you that lab trials showed that 10 CCs was well below a lethal dose for a monkey, so that should be a good starting point for our first human trial. Please only draw 10 CCs.” I see the plunger pull halfway up the syringe as he draws more and more Ichor.
“What is life if not for the living?” He jams the needle into his arm and depresses the plunger.
He certainly is starting things off with a bang.
I shift his scales to good favor so he doesn’t OD on my Persian rug and sit back in my leather chair.
The first hour passes uneventfully, aside from repeatedly telling my subject that he cannot have any more Ichor, even if he doesn’t feel any effects.
As the second hour starts, he begins to sweat profusely, despite saying that he feels like he is freezing.
The next hour is where it gets interesting. His eyes widen, and he starts talking about his new limbs, moving his arm about in a fluid motion and saying he loves his tentacles. He then moves his head from side to side repeatedly, complaining about neck pain.
As the third hour comes to an end, he screams bloody murder, “MY SECOND HEAD! IT’S COMING!” He falls to the floor and grabs his neck, where it connects to his shoulder. As he speaks again, his voice comes out as if he is possessed in a B movie about demons, “I AM ENLIGHTENED. THE POWER OF THE SEA IS WITH ME. I WILL BE AS UNSTOPPABLE AS THE TIDE AND AS UNRELENTING AS A STORM UPON THE OCEAN.”
Can’t have a raving lunatic walking about Manhattan. I summon a heavy book off the shelf and nail him in the back of the head with it. I place the book down and press the intercom once again. “Anita, please have Victor come collect our guinea pig and dump him in the middle of Central Park.”
“Yes, sir, I’ll have him get on it right away.” As the intercom disconnects, Victor pushes the double doors open. He quickly takes stock of the scene before him, and grabs the crumpled man, throwing him over his shoulder with ease. He walks out the double doors and shuts them behind him.
No luck narrowing the beast down, aside from the mention of the sea. Guess I have to reach out to some contacts.
I press the button on the underside of my desk and spin the wheel of the now visible safe. I shove the steel case inside of it and glance at the letter once again. I have much more pressing matters to attend to Father. I’m sure you understand. I slam the safe door shut, spin the wheel to lock it, and rematerialize the desktop. It is time to hit the pavement, so to speak.
Before that, though, I should check my own luck.
I grab the velvet bag from the desk drawer and stare at the dice inside. A foreboding feeling creeps over me as I take them out and roll them across the table.
Well, that’s fucking ominous.