Authors: K. A. Lange
My smirking only seemed to piss him off more as I stood there in disbelief. “You know very well that I am here out of courtesy to the courts.” Stepping to the side and turning I was able to get a better view of the stunted little man before me. “It is my sworn duty as a vassal of Comus to report any crimes of this nature” Glaring at the idiot I didn’t even try to hide the contempt in my voice for the man. “As you know it is my sworn duty to serve the court as well as the community at large. If you have an issue with how I carry out my duties,” giving him a contemptuous smirk before moving on “perhaps we can discuss it on King’s Day with Comus himself!”
The Gatekeeper turned several shades of red, veins bulging out around his neck and face. “What I disagree with ‘Viktor’” his voice cracking once more as his anger made him nearly horse, “is the fact you summoned a conclave for nothing more than a single murder that involves only you and perhaps the ailing Rex.” He stuck a stubby finger in my direction, shaking it at me wildly. “ The rest of us shouldn’t have to clean up your mess. How dare you summon them here without asking my permission?!”
“I didn’t summon the conclave for starters...” I started.
“Oh don’t even try to make excuses! I know it was you! You are always trying to undermine my authority!” The gatekeeper screamed.
I saw Rex lean forward in his chair about to speak but I waved him off before he could do so. He leaned back in his chair, anger obviously welling up inside him. “Leonard, I’m sorry you feel that way. I assure you that isn’t the case.” It really wasn’t. The man was incompetent enough to screw things up himself without my help. “While it’s true we rarely agree on anything I have never tried nor will I ever attempt to undermine what little authority you possess.”
“You will address me by my title!” Nearly in tears, Leonard slammed his fist into his desk. “You don’t deserve to clean the soles of my feet let alone address me in such a common fashion!” Leonard sprayed spittle across the room as he screamed.
Shaking my head in pity I sighed. “We have greater problems here than our personal differences Leonard.” I was tired of his constant whining and continued interference. It was times like these when I thought about moving to another city. “What I came here for was information. I would like to use the eyes and ears of our people to find the hole that these sleazebags are hiding in as quickly as possible.” Closing the screen on my phone the lights gradually returned to normal. Frustration built up inside me as I resented the constant bickering and backbiting.
Leonard turned several deeper shades of red and purple, causing his voice to go an octave higher as he spoke. “So it is information you need! What if I say no?”
Taking a step forward Leonard fell back in his seat as he tried to scramble out of my way and even failing at that minor task. “You would risk more lives over your pride? Dear God Leonard you are pathetic. With ever increasing repetition you demonstrate that you are nothing more than an over indulged child!”
Leonard turned a sickly shade of green and white as his face twitched uncontrollably. “You overestimate your worth Viktor! Now that this chapter of your life has come back to haunt you everyone else will see you for who you are, a small insignificant manling with visions of grandeur.” He shook with anger as his voice came out seething with hatred and dripping bile as he spoke. “You have no place here and I am hereby withdrawing the court’s official support! Let’s see how well you do without us at your beckon call. As is my right as the Gatekeeper I hereby declare Viktor Engel Warden persona non grata. No official support shall be given in this matter and anyone who wishes to challenge my authority will be brought before Comus for summary judgement! Am I clear?”
The room went silent for a moment, then a very sultry laugh came from the Queen of the Nine Muses cutting through the stillness like a bullhorn. Her long red hair flowed around her face as if it were alive with wind as she tossed her head back laughing. When she got to her feet, all five feet three inches of her, her face lost all of its humor as she caught Leonard in her gaze.
“Little man, make whatever proclamation you wish!” She paused to brush her hair over her shoulder for dramatic effect. “You only think you wield the power of Comus!” She sneered at him as she spoke. “You are the most reprehensible Gatekeeper in the history of the courts!” She seethed. “Bring me before Comus!” She held her delicate wrists out daring anyone to try and slap her in irons. Thankfully no one was dumb enough to take the bait. “You don’t have the balls for it you spineless sack of shit!”
Looking around the room to ensure she made her point she finally leaned forward putting her hands on the desk giving those of us in the front row an excellent view of her feminine form. “Officially or not, I’m sure Viktor will receive whatever help he needs. It isn’t as if ‘you’ could stop any of us!” Sitting back in her chair all prim and proper she gave him one last insult. “What are you going to do, march the entire conclave before Comus? It is you who overestimate your worth!”
Leonard again stamped his foot and clenched his fists as he slammed them down onto his desk. “I commanded you to stand down and leave Viktor to his own devices or you will all pay!”
As I mentioned earlier Leonard doesn’t care for me in the least. I believe that if I were on fire and he had water, he would drink it! Raising my hand I whistled to get everyone’s attention before giving Leonard a quick wink. “Not to worry Leonard I’ll help you out here” He started to stand but quickly fell back as I advanced on his position. “My offices are open for anyone who needs my help. Otherwise please do not jeopardize yourself on my account.” As I headed for the exit I turned to Leonard giving him a wicked little smile. “Oh, and Leonard, I look forward to our meeting with Comus.” “I don’t think it will turn out the way you would like.” As I turned to leave the room I gave him the finger, just for shits and giggles. “Oh, not to worry Leonard I am on my way out of the building now.”
As the door closed I heard voices from the room explode with furious accusations, almost running over Nathan as I made my exit. He and three of his guards had escorted Gregory off the third floor. “Wow do you ever know how to piss someone off!” Nathan observed, shaking his head as he took the stairs two at a time. “You two need to get the hell out of here before he decides to have you arrested.”
I nodded at Gregory asking. “You alright?”
Gregory was obviously confused as to what was going on but tried to hide it. “I am not sure what the hell happened back there but I am suspecting it isn’t good. As far as the other stuff goes, Nathan says I scored well.”
Nathan looked back at me as he guided us through the back halls to a stairwell. “His scores are some of the highest I have ever seen. But since you have negotiated the sixty days I am sure he will have his pick of krewes. That is if anyone will have him after today’s fiasco. For fuck’s sake Viktor, haven't you ever heard of playing nice?”
I shrugged. “I’ve heard of it, I just don’t really believe in it with some people.”
Nathan shook his head. “I am supposed to tell you that until the will of Comus is known to us that you are no longer welcome. Your security clearance has been revoked and you are to be arrested on site if you try to enter the building.”
Smiling broadly at Nathan I assured him. “Don’t worry so much. I am sure it will all turn out the way it’s supposed to.” Before giving Nathan a hard look as the humor left my face. “Not to worry Nathan I wouldn’t put you in the position of trying to arrest me.”
Nathan visibly relaxed. “Thank you for that.”
With very little fanfare we were led out of a nondescript door on the side of the building facing the French Market and unceremoniously dumped on the curb like yesterdays trash. I heard the door close with a loud thud just after Gregory passed through it.
“So what the hell happened?” Gregory asked curiously.
“Oh a child had a temper tantrum and threw us out on principle, which means we shouldn’t expect any help from the courts anytime soon.” I laughed shrugging my shoulders. “I should drop you off at the Federal Building before heading to the office. Once you conclude your business with Smith, why don’t you join me at Warden Industries?.”
Gregory nodded. “We will talk about this later, but for now we do have work to do I suppose.”
We got back to the car only to find it booted. I’m sure that this was one hell of a fuck you message from Leonard. Gregory and I walked a block over to the French Market where we each hailed a cab. I have to give Leonard credit, but his present was a particularly low blow. The rotten bastard booted my car! What an asshole!
The cab pulled up to 1225 Rampart, my place of business and the current headquarters of Warden Industries. I bought the building from a funeral home many years ago. It was a gleaming white multi-level wooden structure with eight Doric columns spanning the forty feet between the ground floor and the roof. Due to Leonard's gift of a boot to my car the private parking lot at the rear of the building would be of absolutely no use to me until this afternoon at the earliest. Between the time it would take to remove the boot and the tow truck’s arrival I was looking at several hours to do office work, which would thrill my second to no end. She was always requesting some sort of paperwork to be signed in triplicate, all of which I hated doing. Hell I always thought that your subordinates were there to do all the stuff I hated to do. She's informed me on several occasions that no matter what I believe, someone misinformed me somewhere along the line.
Stepping out of the cab I stopped at the passenger window to give the driver his fare. Before I made my way up the steps of my office, I stretched for a moment while admiring the building. The basic layout was the same since its days as a funeral home. The double brass doors were in the center of the building which I took a moment to admire. Modern buildings rarely had the flare and style of historic ones and these highly ornate gleaming brass doors were a prime example. Pulling the door open I stepped inside the bustling office.
The old dark and highly polished hardwood floors creaked slightly as I walked across the room. Just to the right of the door was a semicircular mahogany desk containing a stunning young woman in her mid twenties. Justine, my receptionist, could easily make a living as a prettier though shorter stand in for the lovely Kylie Minogue. She barely glanced up to see my ID as a formality before waving me on. Cameras outside were used to gain facial recognition before I ever entered the door. Scanners embedded in the columns out front scanned my electronic ID tag verifying the facial recognition. And as a last line of defense the scanners in conjunction with a live feed from the cameras created some sort of biometric imprint of me as well as all of my employees. Everything from my carriage to my heart rate were calculated to make it nearly impossible to impersonate anyone working here. After you encounter a shapeshifter once or twice you get a little particular. The one place more advanced than the council chambers of the courts was this building. Where do you think they got all the cool gadgets from? Did you seriously think they came up with that stuff on their own?
Thinking about it for a moment I stopped and turned back to Justine. “Could you put the word out that we are looking for any information about the murder in City Park this morning.” This is New Orleans after all and the only thing more motivating than free food and booze is money. “Offer a reward if you think it will help. Take it out of the discretionary fund.” Security would need to be tightened until things calmed down with the case and the courts. “Also, could you please place a call to security and ask them to step up the patrols until things settle down?”
“Will there be anything else sir?” She flashed a bright smile at me.
“Not at the moment.” Her smile was infectious as I smiled back. Suddenly the thought of my second, Kira, waiting for me flickered through my mind and the smile faded. “Is she waiting for me?”
“Of course sir” Justine smirked as she glanced up at the second floor balcony. “And she’s in a mood, even for her!” I saw pity in her eyes as she looked at me. “She came flying out of the conference room about thirty minutes ago in a huff.” She mentioned as she pulled an expense voucher from under the counter and handed it to me. “Could you sign this now, just in case you don’t make it back down...ever”
I quickly signed the voucher approving her use of the discretionary fund. “You inspire me with such confidence Justine.” Sighing heavily, I returned the paperwork. “Thanks for the heads up.”
As I turned to leave I remembered that the Queen of the Nine Muses might stop by. “Oh hell I nearly forgot. Katherine and perhaps a few others from the court may pass by.” I looked up at the balcony and shook my head. “It might be safer to show them to the conference room and call me right away.”
“Safer? For who, you or them?” She laughed. “More likely you want a way out of whatever trouble you have landed in!”
“I am glad I can amuse you.” I grumbled.
“I should thank you for it more often than I do.” She quipped.
“You would think you would want to thank me for keeping you employed.” I joked.
“Oh, please.” She looked at me without a hint of amusement. “No one else would take this job, so you’re stuck with my smiling face.” She gave me one of those sultry smiles that made men stop thinking with their brains. “You’re welcome for that by the way.”