Meanwhile, in Hoboken…
Jack goes to visit Aunt Veronica, who reads palms, tarot cards, tea leaves, and such in a storefront in a residential part of town. He brings the actual Silver Jaguar with him in a carpet bag. Cousin Tully meets him in order to go over with him and assure that he gets something out of the transaction.
He enters the residential part of the house, which smells of the foul-smelling cheap cigarillos which she obsessively smokes. He allows for the offer of coffee/whiskey, chats a bit about the family, her ailments, and other assorted niceties. She always has time for her favorite nephew, though…who seems to be doing so well given his appearance. The satchel is settled on her table (next to the various cards, crystal ball, and chicken bones), and the jaguar is revealed. Also, the vial of dust (all that remains of one of the renzhe) gets brought out and put on a side table.
He’s given no additional information about the jaguar, so she really only knows what the rest of the criminal community knows. She studies the statue with a magnifying glass (and possibly a jeweler’s loupe). Candles are lit, she purifies everything with a willow branch – the effect is half process and half showmanship. She glances at Tully (who has a bit of ‘sight’ as well) and imperceptibly he responds with a head movement. She cackles – then coughs disturbingly – and continues to puff on her cheroot.
“This is a big hunk of metal.”
Jack isn’t entirely surprised. “Why is that so funny?”
“Because you brought it all the way out here.”
Jack is willing to go with this. If nothing else, it brings the price down. She gets up to refresh the whiskey/coffee.
“Do you mind seeing what you can get off of this…um…former assailant?”
“You setting people on fire now – or he was just a very short guy?”
“Let’s just say he lost the fight and…this was what happened afterwards.”
Crickets chirp. Tully and Veronica exchange glances.
“When he died, his body immediately turned into this…substance.” Most of the rest of the story comes out.
She reaches for the vial, and before she can grasp it she suddenly drops the mug, goes into a trance, and begins to speak several octaves deeper in a completely unfamiliar language. If only there were a linguist present! Alas…
Meanwhile, back at the warehouse…of DOOM!
Molly heads in the direction the Dragon Lady went, and sees a definite female form…JUST BEFORE THE LIGHTS GO OUT! Off to the right in another aisle there’s a brief hissing sound and then a sudden hail of explosions. Gun shots? Firecrackers? Hard to tell in the dark. In the flashes that accompany the explosions, it’s apparent that the Dragon Lady has once more disappeared.
At the same moment that the light goes out, Clara grabs her lighter and one of the candles which was conveniently lying nearby on the shelf. With a light flickering in her hand, she then pulls her gun and begins to follow Molly.
Alex, ever more highly motivated by the encroaching “chuffing” sound below, attempts by sheer grit and will to climb further. This is unsuccessful, so she gathers her strength to try again.
Clara comes around the corner with her light, giving just enough illumination. Among the aisles, the sound of footfalls can be heard. Molly takes a chance and shoots in their direction. The footfalls stop momentarily. An echoing whisper which seems to come from both sides of the room is suddenly heard: “Why are you here?”
Honesty being the best policy, Clara answers: “We’re tracking down the masks worn by the men we fought last night. Why are you attacking us?”
A sound very like bells, but actually peals of laughter echoes.
“And having tracked those men, why are you here?”
Crickets chirp as the women look at each other.
“What do you want?”
“We want to understand why you want the jaguar.”
“Enlightenment is a slow process. Why do you want the jaguar?”
“I don’t want it – but I don’t want it to be stolen from those who have claim to it, either.”
“Ownership is a relative state. It is in your possession now, no?”
“I know where it is.”
“And the men sent for it are dead, no?”
“Along with quite a few others.”
“And so your business here is completed, no?”
“But why do you want it?”
“I cannot give you the answers you seek. Or rather, I won’t give you the answers you seek, round-eyed barbarian.”
“Fine. Where’s our companion?”
“Your companion is in the back room, no?”
“She’s been awful quiet to just be in the back room.”
“We’ll call this meeting a draw…you may retrieve what’s left of… – uh, your companion. And I suggest you leave Chinatown. This offer shall expire in ten minutes time.”
A door opens along a back wall and a shaft of light can be seen. Clara and Molly back slowly the way the came, being alert to possible attack.
Back dangling over the pit, Alex pulls from reserves of strength she didn’t know that she had. Just as Molly and Clara arrive, Alex’s hand emerges from the pit and an impressive tiger roar emerges from below. Clara and Molly leap forward and each grab a hand, dragging Alex up just as the sound of wood splintering under tiger claws is heard. The tiger roars again, sadly.
The three head out the front door, intending to go for the car. Clara: “I’m driving.” Molly: “Shotgun.” In their alertness, they realize they’re being followed by three people – each wearing identical pins on their lapels which glint in the sunlight.
Meanwhile, in Veronica’s psychic parlor…
Jack to Tully. “Do you know what she’s saying?”
>Shrug< “But I’m pretty sure I can repeat it.”
With a final sweeping hand gesture, the show is over and she hangs cruciform for a few moments while she comes back to herself.
“Aww…my coffee…I’m going to sit down now.”
“Do you remember what happened?”
She remembers everything up to the trance, and Jack goes to refill her coffee. When he returns, she is more together, but still a little shaky. She ‘gratefully’ takes the proffered mug and takes a full pulls, Jack lights her a new cheroot and she takes the vial again.
“Oh, did Tully tell you about the telegram?”
Cousin Kristoff in Berlin had sent a troubling telegram. Some younger members of the family got into an altercation which they…lost…rather spectacularly. Jack agrees to make some inquiries.
“This used to be a person.”
“But it isn’t now. It’s like kind of what’s left of a shadow. If a shadow were a piece of paper and then set it on fire…and you gathered it up. That’s what this would be.”
“That’s the most disturbingly prosaic thing I’ve heard all day.”
She blows smoke in his face.
“Thanks for clarifying. I should get back into town – do you need me to do anything while I’m here?”
She directs him to some small task, and as he does, he leaves the ridiculous sum of $40 under a hideously twee vase in the corner.
Jack asks Tully to come with him (with plenty of time to get back to get a racing form for Aunt Veronica), planning to buy him lunch and pay his train fare. As Jack reaches to pick up the jaguar he notices that it is slightly off kilter from where it had been placed originally. His suspicions are aroused.
“Tully…did you move this?”
Jack notices the direction in which its pointing and looks for landmarks it might be indicating. As he’s putting the jaguar in the bag he realizes that the weight doesn’t entirely feel the same as it had been before he took it out.
Tully: “Time to go, right?”
Jack: “Auntie…could I have the jaguar back.”
Smiling around the cheroot, she lifts the tablecloth on her table, revealing the REAL jaguar. Jack carefully examines THIS jaguar, drops an extra $5 on top of the chicken bones and takes BOTH jaguars with him.
Before getting on the train with a slightly downcast Tully, he triangulates the compass directions associated with the landmarks he’d noted earlier.
Together, they head to New York. Jack notices that they’re being followed by a man with a pin on his lapel… As they’re heading to the mode of transport, Jack moves closer and bumps into Tully:
“Are you trying to steal my wallet man? Again?”
“Wha-no! You bumped me…” Jack winks, Tully takes the hint.
As they patter back and forth, Jack studies the man: he is about a block back, dressed in grey-very much not ready for the heat, and is nonchalantly looking at a mailbox. In the midst of this, just for the heck of it, Jack also steals Tully’s wallet.
Jack grabs Tully’s lapel and calls out to the man: “Hey, buddy-c’mere! Can you help me out-this guy, my cousin, just tried to steal my wallet and I need a witness.”
“Did you see what happened?”
Jack takes the opportunity to check out the lapel pin as the man in grey stammers. There is a chalice with an iron cross and flames, a downward facing dove and an Egyptian symbol inside a triangle.
“Well, thanks anyway.”
The man in grey flees across the street and makes a phone call as quickly as he can. Jack and Tully continue to the station.
Meanwhile, back at the car…
The women head for the edge of Chinatown, in the direction (eventually) of Molly’s, with Clara at the wheel.
Alex, looking discreetly through her compact out the back window: “Wasn’t the idea to have them follow us?”
They make a few turns in an attempt to enact a cunning plan, but eventually realize that they’ve inadvertently lost the men in grey. She makes a few more turns while Alex keeps a keen lookout to try to flush out any possible super secret tails, but there don’t appear to be any.
They decide to head back to Molly’s.
Meanwhile, in the station…
Jack calls Molly’s, but gets Rufus, the butler who must sadly inform him that Molly is not at home. In fact, she’s never at home. He often wonders why she even has a home. Or a butler for that matter. And he never knows when she’ll be back. Ever. Jack asks him to detain her if she does actually come back. The butler makes no promises but will try his best. He then asks if Jack has made contact with Rex yet. Apparently Rex has something impressive in his workshop.
Jack decides to call Rex’s workshop.
The line picks up, but there’s a deafening buzzing sound and a rhythmic pounding in the background.
Rex: (Shouting) “Hello? Jack? Do you know if the ladies are back from their trip?”
Jack: “Not to my knowledge.”
Rex: “I have something to show you – I’m working out the details. Do you know when they’ll be back?”
Jack: “No. When can you join us?”
They agree to a late lunch at two.
Rex: “Did Mick Totem ever get in touch with you? No? He was bending my ear about our bag of…guy? He had some theories.”
Jack calls Molly’s, warning the butler that lunch will need to be served around two. The butler assures him that…something…satisfactory…will be available, and he waits upon Jack’s command.
Jack calls Mick and finds out that the man is giving a lecture/having lunch at the American Museum of Natural History. He and Tully head over to the museum to find him.
Over at the museum…
Mick Totem, rugged manly explorer, greets them and Jack summarizes the ninja dust story.
“I think you might be dealing with Shadow-khan!”
“Can you tell me more?”
Totem describes what little is known about the ritual (since nobody Occidental has ever seen it…and lived), and mentions how it always involves a focal point. The word around town is that it is likely the Jade Dragon.
“Can you tell me more about this Dragon Society?”
While from the Orient, they have their claws in many of the areas of Chinatown. If the Tongs are scared of something, it probably has something to do with Jade Dragon Society. Totem offers to assist if he can, since he’s got many contacts. Jack describes the lapel pin to Totem, who says it sounds modern (post-Renaissance) though the symbols themselves are older. The dove strikes him as curious, since it would seem to indicate a connection to Crowley’s order. He can’t say much more, but offers to contact Jack if he thinks of anything else.
As Jack heads back to Molly’s it looks as though there might be another cab tailing them, but it is hard to say. Jack isn’t too concerned, but errs on the side of caution and has the taxi drop them off early in order to wander a bit through the park, pick up a bottle of Rufus’ favorite liquor. All of which (and more) is being paid for out of Tully’s pilfered wallet.
Meanwhile, back at the Ritz…
The ladies have arrived. Rufus elaborates reluctantly on the wide variety of calls which Molly has received, including one from the art gallery hoping that she had the missing jaguar. There was also a message for Clara from a Miss Bolin regarding her ‘fisherman client.’ Also, Ms. Petrenko’s office has called several times about…a missing jaguar.
“Did anyone call while I was out?”
“Not yet, madam.”
>Knock, knock, knock<
“I stand corrected.”
Rex, Jack and Tully arrive at the same time. Rex is carrying a huge wooden crate. Jack slips the bottle into Rufus’ pocket.
Jack introduces his cousin, with the qualifier “You’ll want to keep an eye on him – he is my cousin after all.” Clara and Alex keep all four eyes on him while Jack and Molly go to the safe to return the jaguar…and discover there are in fact two jaguars. Both go in the safe. When they return, they find Rufus with an empty platter and Tully with full pockets.
Jack summarizes his day and then has Tully repeat what Aunt Veronica said in her trance. As Molly listens, she transcribes. She believes it might be a dialect of ancient Mayan: “Great Jaguar god, please grant us the blessings of gentle rains bright sun and kind winds with… uh… Hunahpu’s mystic staff we do your will that the people might prosper.” After he finishes, Tully is quickly escorted from the apartment, given a fiver from his own wallet, given his wallet, and given the boot. Jack is cheered to see Tully mouth hang agape just before the door slams shut.
Upon his return, the ladies summarized their own day, which shows some of the connections between the Jade Dragon ritual and what the professor had described.
Jack then shares the Ordo Templii Orientiis image and Alex confirms that that is what it is.
“A man wearing this was attempting to follow us.”
“We were also followed…but we lost them.”
“They tried to follow us from the museum as well.”
Jack asks Rufus to bring the phonebook in order to look up the Order and see if they have a listed storefront. They do!
Rex has had an interesting morning.
“Does anyone know Aldous Griffin? He’s a big guy at the club? Long story short….” He opens the crate and pulls out copper ‘bracelets’ with dials and antenna attached. He passes one around to be looked at. “Note the logo on the underside – a Tesla International Product.” It’s not Rex’s logo. There’d been an accident with the temporal vortex manipulator and a mop bucket and these showed up a few days later. Concerned about transdimensional artifacts getting into the wrong hands, they Club has opted to give them to Rex. “They seem to be some sort of communication device. If you turn one dial to indicate a different bracelet, it seems to be able to send messages via Morse Code.”
Jack: “So, does it ACTUALLY do that?”
Rex: “Well, I haven’t tested its range…”
Jack: “You science people…. So, does everyone know Morse Code?”
Jack: “All right, then.”
Dr. Bishop calls once more to confirm the jaguar’s continued safety, and Molly reassures him that yes, it is secret and it is safe.
Many phone calls need to be returned…