Part II - the plot begins to emerge...
See chapter 1 for disclaimers etc.
On AO3: http://archiveofourown.org/works/1995981/chapters/4324434
On TTH: http://www.tthfanfic.org/Story-30429/MarcusRowland+London+Calling.htm
Marcus L. Rowland
“Kensington Church Street next,” said Dawn, looking at her check-list, “there are a couple of antique shops there that occasionally handle magical artefacts, they’re pretty expensive, but it’s just possible Ethan might buy something. We might as well walk, it isn’t far, and the traffic’s really snarled up today.”
“Okay.” They walked together in silence for several minutes, then Buffy said “Okay, I’ve got to ask. What happened to what’s his name? Your boyfriend? You haven’t mentioned him once since I got into town.”
“I haven’t got one.”
“Sure you have, you spent a fortune calling him the last time you were in Cleveland.”
“That was four years ago, Buffy, I broke up with him a year later, you really weren’t paying attention. Pretty sure I mentioned it.”
“Three years ago? How the hell did that happen?”
“You were busy in Cleveland, I was busy in Cambridge, and he had to transfer to Sheffield University. We just drifted apart, I guess neither of us was ready for commitment. It wasn’t really anyone’s fault.”
“And since then?”
“I’ve had a few dates, nothing serious. Don’t worry, the gossip mill hasn’t let you down, there just hasn’t been any juicy news.”
“Crud,” said Buffy. “I’ve been having no luck lately, I was hoping that you were getting some. One of us should have a life that isn’t all work.”
“Don’t worry, sooner or later someone’ll come along. For both of us.”
“Here’s Kensington Church Street. Let’s hope Ethan’s been buying from the shops along here, my feet are killing me.”
“I don’t think ‘buy’ necessarily comes into it,” Buffy said five minutes later, looking across the road. There were two police cars parked outside an antiques shop named Musgrave & Sons, and a photographer was taking pictures of a smashed window. “That’s on the list, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Musgrave’s a nice guy, but he has a sideline in magical artefacts, and he’s not always careful enough about who he sells them to. I’ve had to speak firmly a couple of times.”
“We need to speak to him, but with the police there…”
“I’ve got some ID that ought to do the trick, but we need to get rid of your shopping first, the police won’t buy it with half a dozen Harrods bags. We’ll head back to the hotel and maybe you can change into something that looks more like… well, smart business clothes… then see what we can find out.”
“What’s wrong with my clothes?”
“They won’t buy an insurance investigator wearing leather trousers, trust me on that...”
“In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape the power of this fully armed and operational battle station.” Vader scowled at the viewscreen, watching the Yellow Lantern Corps starfighters approach and waiting for the perfect moment to... Darcy stopped, deleted everything after ‘approach’ and added a period, then typed He turned to his young padawan and said “Before they attack, I have something to tell you. Lex, I am your
“How’s the new grant application coming along?” asked Jane.
Darcy clicked back to the other file she was working on, and said “I’ve got the technical and financial side of it done, I’m just trying to think of a better way to phrase the justification than ‘we saved your asses at Greenwich, now give us the money we need to carry on with our potentially catastrophic experiments.’ I think the Health and Safety risks assessment might need some work too.”
“This was a lot easier when SHIELD was funding us.”
“Sure. If you forget about Greenwich and New York and New Mexico, and the giant crater, and the whole thing about them secretly being Nazis, which I totally could have told you when they stole my iPod…”
“Yes, yes, I get the point. Well, obviously we’re trying to prevent further problems.”
“We need more than that as a Health and Safety policy,” said Darcy.
“I was thinking of it more as justification for the research.”
“Hey, nice one. Yeah, I can work with that. Defending the Earth from the scum of the universe… Then there’s trade and stuff.”
“Just don’t suggest anything that sounds like aliens coming to Earth to take jobs in Britain,” said Ian, who was soldering a repair to one of their sensor units. “You can imagine the headlines in the Daily Express – ‘Dark Elves Steal British Jobs – Housing Prices Rise.’ Come to think of it, I think that was pretty much their headline after Greenwich.”
“Hey, political scientist here, I know that stuff. Anyway, we need to get some input from Thor on trade,” said Darcy, “make sure we aren’t committing to anything his dad wouldn’t like. Where is he anyway?”
“He had a call from Captain America this morning,” said Jane, “they’re meeting up in France to take out a Hydra base.”
“Do the French know about that?”
“If they didn’t, they probably do by now.”
“Before we go in,” said Dawn, “I’d better mention that Musgrave is an Ano-Movic demon passing for human. Nice guy, but you’ll get the demonic vibe off him.”
“Okay, they’re usually pretty harmless. You’d better talk to the cops, I’m no good with officials.”
“Okay.” They crossed the road, and Dawn handed a policemen a card from one of the Council’s cover organisations, a real insurance company specialising in antiques. “Global Insurance, we’re here about the robbery. Any chance we can have a word with Mister Musgrave?”
He spoke to his sergeant, then held the police tape up to let them duck underneath.
“Good afternoon,” said Dawn,
“Miss Summers,” said Musgrave, smiling as they entered. He looked like a balding man in his forties, wearing a smart business suit, but Buffy's senses were tingling with a demonic presence. “That was fast. And this is…?”
“Also Miss Summers,” said Buffy. “I’m visiting from the Cleveland office. Any questions?”
Musgrave flinched slightly but said “I’m glad to see you’re taking this seriously.” He glanced meaningfully towards a forensics technician who was working in the window, and said “With the taxes we pay, you’d think they could put more security cameras on the street.”
“All I know is that I’d locked the shop for five minutes to go upstairs to the loo, and while I was there someone smashed the window. By the time I got back into the shop everything on that table was gone. The police say a witness saw someone smash the window with a hammer and bundle everything into a car, then drive off. If you’d like to come back into my office, I have pictures of everything that was stolen.”
“So what’s the real story,” said Dawn, once they had a little more privacy. “What’s gone missing? And what would we have said if we’d known you had it?”
“I don’t think you would have cared,” said Musgrave, “all I had there was some Greek and Roman household gods and icons. Very valuable, but no intrinsic magical powers, about what you’d expect for gods that haven’t been worshipped seriously in a couple of thousand years. As for what’s missing…” He turned the screen of his computer so that they could see a white bust. “First, a small marble bust of Pallas Athena. About eight inches high, carved marble. But the condition is suspect, I think it’s a nineteenth century fake, so I doubt the thief was after that.” He clicked the mouse, showing a badly pitted bronze statue. “Zeus throwing a thunderbolt, circa 170 BC, that one’s about a foot high. But if you look here you can see that the thunderbolt and hand aren’t original, they probably came from another statue; the hand is out of scale with the rest of the body, and the articulation of the wrist is completely wrong. It looks deformed.”
“I don’t think you’d want to invoke Zeus with that one,” said Dawn, “he might get a bit upset.”
The next picture was a badly weathered marble tablet, with figures that looked vaguely like a man and a woman flanking steps leading up to a door. “Next we have a Roman altar tablet, probably someone’s household gods. About eighteen inches wide and a foot high. Believed to show Vesta and a male god, nobody’s entirely sure which one. It could be Janus, god of doorways, though he’s usually depicted with two faces. That one’s probably authentic, but someone stored it where it was exposed to rain, it’s badly weathered..”
“Janus fits in with a wizard we’re trying to find, but the rest of it’s a little vague. What else went missing?”
“Another Greek figure, this time of Poseidon.” A marble statue of a bearded god holding a trident. “About a foot tall, probably fourth century BC. Good work of its type, but derivative. ”
He showed them another statue, a woman with a bow and arrows, obviously hunting something. “Now, this was the most valuable piece. Diana the Huntress, a first century bronze, in beautiful condition, about two feet high. Valued at seventy-two thousand pounds.”
“Seventy-two thousand?” Buffy repeated. “More than a hundred thousand dollars? Why wasn’t it in a safe or a bank vault?”
“It goes in the safe at night, of course, but you can’t sell items like that if nobody knows you have them. It would be worth considerably more if it were just a little older. Now, if you look at her belt you may notice something interesting.” He zoomed in.
“That looks like a stake,” said Buffy.
“There’s reason to believe that Romans aware of the supernatural associated Diana with… well, with your vocation.”
“Finally, we have some less sophisticated work.” The screen showed three figures carved from grey stone. “More Roman gods, found in Wales so probably from around the first to third century AD. Neptune, Liber, and Ceres, the gods of the sea, wine, and the harvest. All about nine inches tall and carved from local rock. I’d imagine they were from a merchant’s home.”
“Okay,” said Dawn. “Can you give me copies of the pictures?”
“Of course.” Musgrave dug in his desk, found a memory stick, and started to copy the files to it.
“What do you think, Dawn?” Buffy asked.
“All of them could be used in invocation rituals, I guess, none of them are especially chaotic. Except maybe Liber, he’s the Roman equivalent of Bacchus or Dionysus. Can’t see any of the others really appealing to Ethan.”
“Ethan?” said Musgrave. “Would that be Ethan Rayne?”
“You know him?” asked Buffy.
“Know of him. I’ve never met him, but he’s owed us two hundred and fifty guineas since ninety-eight.”
Musgrave shrugged. “He bought a spell book, the cheque bounced. When my father went round to his flat it was locked, the landlord said he was out of the country. The next time he checked there was a new tenant there, with no forwarding address.”
“Which book was it?” asked Dawn.
“I’d have to check the ledgers, but I think it was something about Meso-American ritual magic.”
“Probably the spell he used for the Band Candy,” Dawn said to Buffy. “A lot of Mayan rituals involve chocolate.”
“You think he’s the one that robbed me?”
Musgrave’s face momentarily shifted to his true red angular demonic form, then back to human. “If you catch up with him let me know.”
Steve Rogers raised three fingers, then two, then one. On one Thor threw Mjolnir at the door of the warehouse, smashing it off its hinges, Steve threw his shield to ricochet off a chimney stack and knock out one of the guards on the roof, and Sam Wilson swooped down out of the sun to kick the other guard in the back; he fell off the roof and landed in a dumpster. Steve ran forward and grabbed the guard’s Uzi, while Sam retrieved the shield, tossed it to Steve, and circled round to the back of the building.
Mjolnir flew back to Thor’s hand and he strode forward into a hail of bullets, which pinged off the hammer and his armour. Steve caught the shield and ran to the left, jumping up and through an upper window, shot one of the guards he found there, and threw his shield at another. Meanwhile Sam used a thermite charge to burn through the back door’s lock and walked in. Everyone’s attention was focused on the front of the building, and he began to work his way forward, using a dart gun to take out the personnel as he found them. A minute or so later it was all over, with most of the guards unconscious, three badly injured. Steve and Thor handcuffed them, and Sam did some quick first aid then found a clean face mask and checked out the elaborate laboratory that took up most of the ground floor. Steve called for support, and a minute later gendarmes and two ambulances arrived to remove the prisoners.
“Okay,” said Sam. “You want the good news or the bad news first?”
“Might as well start with the bad,” said Steve.
“I’m pretty sure these guys aren’t HYDRA after all, or not directly anyway. No weird flags, no uniforms, no cells or torture chambers, no dart-boards with your face or Fury’s as the target, no incriminating documents I can find.”
“So what the hell is all this?”
“Well, I’m not exactly an expert, all I know is what I’ve seen on Breaking Bad, but I’m guessing it’s a meth lab, a big one. I’m also guessing we’re damned lucky we didn’t blow the place up during the fight.”
“What is meth?” asked Thor.
“A drug,” said Sam, “very addictive, the chemicals you use to make it are toxic and can be explosive. We should check if there’s anything else that combination of ingredients can be used for, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it is.”
“Banner would know,” said Steve. “Give him a call. Meanwhile I’d better tell the gendarmes their hot tip was wrong, and we’ll need a chemical clean up crew. Probably a gang making trouble for their rivals.”
“Disappointing,” said Thor.
“Well, it’s not HYDRA but this was worth doing,” said Steve.
“Tell that to the guy I kicked into the dumpster,” said Sam, “I think his leg’s broken in three places.”
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