Wasting no time, the coterie left The Last Drink. There was still time to catch Elijah; it was only a little after midnight. It had been a hard night already, with William Blake’s death, but they had no intention of losing Elijah too. Whatever was going on, it had something to do with some sort of secret. Before they left, Deep Throat had learned that Gagnier’s biggest fear was some sort of secret revealed- a secret he shared with Ambroise, a secret he half-feared for some other reason. Could it be true then? Could Ambroise have brought an ancient from the Old World? Could he plan to awaken an ancient, and if so, might he then feed Elijah to the ancient? They needed to get to Elijah fast.
Tricia Bottoms had told them Kivi had brought men to the Last Drink last night to take Elijah to Papa LaCroix for safe-keeping, seeing that the club had been compromised. They drove across town, to Northwest Philly, investigating the neighborhoods on the eastern slopes of the Schuylkill River. Immense gray structures loomed over blackened buildings. Boxed compounds housed hundreds of apartments in the worn projects of Philadelphia. This was a part of town the coterie rarely visited – forgotten, sickly, tired, angry. They drove slowly through the streets while Deep Throat drifted in ghost form on reconnaissance. He investigated a rowhouse with its porch-light on, and an unusual amount of foot traffic, but a hollow and inky spirit emerged from its belly to chase him off. He investigated another building, but it turned out to be a simple crackhouse, careful to evade more of the hungering spirits. Finally he made his way into the heart of the Projects. Armed men guarded a darkened entrance, and Deep Throat decided to investigate through other entrances. He found a couple but couldn’t go far. Spirits lurked the halls like sentries, moving in and out of view, passing by windowframes.
He returned to his body just in time to overhear Tyler giving some local thugs the heeby-jeebies. “I’ll be sure to tell Papa that you interfered with our deal here.” They didn’t exactly believe the American-born caucasian biker, but something in his steely look and calm voice was off-putting. They apologized, one of them nearly tripping over his bro’s feet right behind him.
That done, they decided to take the front door approach. The guards let them in and they saw a menagerie of creatures in Papa’s hall. A crocodile paced a terranium in the center of the emptied entrance-hall. Spiders crawled lazily over vegetation in other glass cases. Papa greeted them from the top of the stairs. They briefly exchanged some witty banter, with Tyler offering to teach Papa a thing or two about Animalism to talk to his animals, and Papa thanking him with a masked smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. His guards snickered as the coterie was escorted to Papa’s backroom. One of his men casually dismembered someone on a slab- the work required for some bloody response to a slight or an insult or unpaid debt. His Jamaican posse was busy as usual. Papa’s ghouled dogs watched the coterie warily, but it didn’t take long for a deal to be struck. Deep Throat negotiated for the whereabouts of Elijah, and Rowana agreed to say a good word in Mother Farka’s ear for Papa LaCroix. His face went ashen when he heard she had awoken, and shortly thereafter he told the coterie that Elijah was brought to the Philadelphia Museum of Art by Kivi’s men earlier that night, and that later this night or early tomorrow night the Doves would have a bigger problem on their hands than they had ever imagined. Ambroise was awakening a sleeping ancient, brought here from Egypt, and hungry. Elijah would offer good sustenance.
The coterie quickly left. More than half the night was already done, dawn was on its way, and Elijah didn’t have much more time. They called Edee and asked for her help in dismantling Museum cameras or taking control. She offered her help for only minor benefits, but warned that she wouldn’t be so generous next time. She wasn’t the local 7-11 or trickturner. But she always made surly promises like that.
They quickly parked the car at the edge of the parking lot, out back, near loading bays. Rowana and Tyler swept in quickly and silently on the mundane guards, and picked them off one by one. The coterie was surprised to find such inexperienced defense. They bypassed laser alarms with codes, and walked quietly past other guards under Deep Throat’s Obfuscate, invisible. They traveled lower until they reached cargo. And there they saw a large box in the center of a storage room, guarded by six armed guards with heavier armor and semi-automatics. This must be it. They hoped they’d find Elijah, and not the sleeping creature known as Naqad. Dawn was less than an hour away and every one of them was getting nervous. Tyler moved into position, motioned silently for Deep Throat to position himself, and Rowana raised her armor then grew claws. And at once they struck the half-dozen guards. Screams filled the air, a spray of blood hit the wooden crates, gunfire erupted, some of the guards scrambled, and then broke. Deep used Obfuscate from a corner to mask body to look like that of an Egyptian mummy. In his deepest voice he called out, “You have cursed yourselves forever! All those who took what’s mine and stole me from my place must suffer!” One of the remaining guards lost his mind and clawed at the closed door while his pants grew wet and warm.
Rowana slung Elijah over her shoulders and they all ran. Outside, the black of night had already given way to the blue of morning. They could feel the rising anxiety. Deep Throat dashed for the green banks of the river, and Tyler quickly followed. But Rowana desperately looked in all directions for a place to put Elijah. She madly threw his unconscious body into the trunk and jumped in afterwards. She shut the trunk behind her. Deep Throat paused at the grass long enough to call Marco Ramos and ask him to move the car to his house. Rowana’s fingered singed in the morning light that pierced the cracks of the trunk, but quickly readjusted the blanket there to cover herself and Elijah. Then all was black.