* = Regrettably, neither D&D nor porn stars were involved in the creation of this chapter.
It did, however, start with Alex’s final vision of the jaguar.
The Pinkertons have arrived, and it’s decided that the group will take three cars: one to carry the jaguar, one to ride ahead of it and one to ride behind. Clara is designated as the driver of the jaguar car, after the others have exacted a promise from her to actually let them get caught this time. For extra insurance, while nobody else is looking, Alex slips a brick underneath the gas pedal.
The drive from the Ritz to the auction house is uncharacteristically sedate and pleasant. In fact, it would best be described as entirely without incident.
The “jaguar” is escorted into the auction house. Again, without incident.
Doris glances up from her desk to see a dozen, well-armed people approaching her desk. She buzzes through to Dr. Bishop, who comes out surrounded by security guards. He appears puzzled, but says nothing, and leads them downstairs to the vault. The group is looking around alertly for potential ninja-hiding spots; but see nothing. As they slip the “jaguar” into the vault, Jack stealthily ascertains that the real jaguar is still in the vault.
The group decides to monitor the auction house overnight in shifts. The plan for the next day’s auction is thus: Jack will be posing as the auctioneer, Clara will be spending time with Monsieur Leschende discussing the fine art of fishing, Alex will be in the audience being alert and vewwy vewwy still, and Molly will be looking to augment her collection of meso-American art.
The auction begins…
The ‘bargain-hunters’ arrive first, so the auction house is relatively quiet to begin with. As time passes, more people arrive, and the items grow more valuable. The auctioneer (Jack) is keeping the pacing comfortable, allowing people time to continue to examine the items from later in the catalog. As Molly wanders among the items she notices a well-dressed Oriental woman arrive with an entourage of men who are completely not carrying concealed weapons. They seat themselves on one side of the room. Shortly thereafter, Brother Poole arrives with an assortment of men wearing matching lapel pins, who are also completely not carrying concealed weapons. They seat themselves opposite the collection of belaying pins. The auctioneer glances up and notices a person who may or may not be Tony, but who is most definitely thug-like, arrive and stand in the back surrounded by similarly thug-like people. Alex, being vewwy vewwy still, notices the favorite friend of her favorite Pinkerton (Freddie Biscoe) arrive; yes, the laconic Ron Livermore is back on the proverbial case. She considers breaking her decision to remain vewwy vewwy still, but restrains herself.
Meanwhile, in a speeding automobile somewhere near the Empire State Building…
Clara “talks shop” with Leschende via the lawyer, and besides learning fifteen different ways to prepare squid eyes, she finds out that squid have a very short season, and in the time of his great-great-great grandrelatives there were virtually none at all to be squidded. Asked about the number of shipwrecks near his home, he mentions that because there are only a few ways into the inlet because of the reefs and islands there have been a number of them. He can’t give a specific number because it’s difficult even for them to get out to that area. At this point they have returned to the auction house, and they are about four items away from…the Jaguar. As they enter, a peal of summer thunder echoes in the distance, startling Clara. Guiding Monsieur Leschende in, she also realizes that they are standing just behind Senor Rojas – dapper and be-gloved as always.
Auctioneer Jack: “Up now, a mortar and pestle – if you sniff carefully you can still smell the chocolate…and the blood…”
A few more Pinkertons subtly sidle into the room and stand about the aisles looking serious and utterly inconspicuous.
Auctioneer Jack: “Up next, Lot 333 then, a beautiful example of pre-Colombian art, a legendary piece thought to be both missing for hundreds of years. Authenticated by the greatest minds of science and academia, we shall start the bidding at…ten. Thousand. Dollars.”
Senor Rojas <raises>: “Twelve.”
At this, Ms. Toy nods imperceptibly.
Auctioneer Jack: “TWELVE thou-”
<poof> <poof> <poof>
A small flock of renzhe suddenly appear from the shadows.
Auctioneer Jack: "-sand "
A herd of pinstripe-suited men stampede in from the wings followed by serious looking Pinkertons shouting “Stop!”
Auctioneer Jack: “doll- oh heck!”
The men wearing the lapel pins leap up, and chanting the while, rush the stage.
Senor Rojas: “sigh”
Clara: <sticks> “I believe they said ‘Stop?!’”
The first of the stampede hits the floor, scattering weapons everywhere. The Pinkertons set upon him while Clara quietly scoops up some of the guns and secrets them on her person.
Clara: <handing> “Here, dear.”
The OTO and the renzhe converge in front of the stage, and the OTO prove that faith is no real match for a throwing star. The Pinkertons begin shooting at the pinstripes, who to their credit do not actually shoot back (immediately). The civilians in the crowd have begun screaming, panicking and fleeing, as is their wont.
<<<Melee, melee, melee>>
Meanwhile, Auctioneer Jack scans the crowd, searching for people who appear too calm or too focused. He discounts several people who simply appear to be in shock or who are slightly senile and confused. Nobody appears to be suspiciously calm, though. Madame Toy has stood up to better conduct her people, and Senor Rojas has resigned himself to the temporary pause in bidding and remains seated.
Auctioneer Jack: <to> “We’ll be returning to the bidding momentarily. There is coffee in the lobby, if you feel the need.”
<<<Melee, melee, melee>>>
As Clara stands armed and alert in the wings a sound catches her ear.
Annnnnnd…the ceiling explodes!
A woman drops through the resulting hole, trailing an inky cloud of smoke behind her. Clara immediately realizes that they are now face to face with Baroness (dun dun DUN!) Blackheart. After Clara’s initial reaction of “Such a tragic, tragic figure – perhaps calamari would make her feel better and reanimate that cold, metallic heart…” she snaps out of it and begins to consider her actual options.
Jack spins around at the sound of the explosion and sees the Baroness moving towards the jaguar in an unusual manner: seeming blurry as if she was skipping space to space rather than moving contiguously. A Pinkerton attempts to block her progress and is hurled bodily into the audience. Chairs scatter everywhere, thus confirming Alex’s suspicion that they weren’t attached to the floor.
Molly, seeing that she has a clear shot at the Baroness, pulls out her gun and aims.
Heart: Ka-SPANG (ha-ha!)
Clara, realizing that she’s being almost entirely ignored by the underlings around her, decides to shoot at the Baroness. She pulls out her gun and aims.
Leather-Clad Hide: Scuff/Scrape! (ha-ha!)
Alex rushes forward to the pointy sticks that used to be chairs before they came in intimate contact with a Pinkerton. Grabbing up the pointiest, Alex flings it like a spear.
Soft, Squishy Bit: Fwump (ow!)
The Baroness pauses, glances down at the pointy stick disdainfully, removes it with a squelching sound, and begins looking around for the source of the annoyance.
Auctioneer Jack: (to the Baroness) “Baroness, the bidding is at twelve thousand.”
The Baroness turns to face him and Jack throws caution to the wind-and his knife as well.
Knife: Zing! annnnnd Miss!
Baroness: <raises> “No. The bidding is over.”
Rex, who has been waiting in the wings, takes the opportunity to shoot.
Gun: Bang annnnnd Miss!
A puff of renzhe drifts by on the breeze.
The Baroness lifts the jaguar gently from its podium and begins an interesting non-Euclidian ascent towards the hole in the ceiling.
Molly shoots again, intending to knock the Jaguar from her arms.
Result: Non-Euclidian Fail
Clara shoots from the wings.
Baroness’ Unspecified Squishy Bit: Ow!
Alex, feeling the deep-seated angst which is the result of a lifetime’s obsession with this nemesis, and sporting some new broken bits of chair, flings them at the retreating form of the Baroness.
Chair: Fwip, fwip, fwip
Baroness’ Retreating Legs: Owww—quit it!
Jack, in an astounding leap of both bravery and…well…leaping, manages to fling himself…onto a chair, up to the podium, into the air, after the Baroness’ hovering form…nothing…but…BLACKHEART!!!
<<<And the crowd pauses in their fleeing and panicking to momentarily go wild>>>
As Jack dangles precariously, he notices Rex tapping at his wrist and looking distracted. This worries him a little. After all, even in the 1930s, one should text and shoot.
Clara, realizing that she’s gone almost an entire day without driving at dangerous speeds around town, bolts for the door and the lovely, lovely car (of Molly’s) beyond.
Molly and Rex exchange glances and follow.