1965-09-11 - Shanghai Soiree, 1922
Summary: It's all fun and games behind the masks at the premier All Hallow's Eve shindig until someone gets poisoned and nearly assassinated. These two can't have any fun!
Related: None
Theme Song: None
lamont ambrose 


Fall is officially in the air in Shanghai. While the weather hasn't got the frosty nip of the upper regions of the world, it's not the balmy and never-dry warmth of summer any longer. The nights can be chilly and tonight, the sky is clear to showcase the stars above. It's also time to celebrate, for those who cares, All Hallow's Eve. The talk of the town?

The shindig held at the mansion of one Hubert Weiss. A small and somewhat portly man, balding beneath the slick of his side-combed hair, he is one of Ambrose's many connections in the black market for antiques. Anyone who is anyone has been invited via ivory-pale invitations with hand-inked writing announcing time, date, and place. Enter onto the property tucked near to the river and then travel through the double-wide and opened doors to a large salon directly beyond the short entry way. Weiss has hired the best decorators in the city. Everything is tasteful and yet haunting, in its way, with homages to popular cinema and ancient tradition alike. The man, dressed as Napoleon, is happy and ruddy-cheeked as he greets each guest beside his major-domo.

Within the salon proper, the guests gather. Drinks are whatever one is inclined to ask after, though the offering is finest champagne, brisk and bright or warmed mulled cider, redolent of apples and cloves. The small, gathered orchestra plays music from their corner, all wearing dominos in white to counter their entirely black concert garb. White gloves add another counterpoint yet and while the volume is soft, the key is continually a wistful if even haunting minor. Nothing particularly joyful to add…not just yet. Perhaps as the night goes on and the guests get more drunk yet, some major notes might find their way in, all the better to bolster the atmosphere.

The costumes are fantastical. Many singles and couples spared no expense in putting together their disguises. From the mundane, a gentleman in fine form sporting a kilt and even the Pictish blue of woad across various bare sections of skin — to the impossible, in a tall and pale woman in purest white silk and feathered headdress, a pegasus given the mantle of swan-down across each shoulder and equine nuance of her Nouveau half-mask. All present have put their best foot forwards.

Some chose to go a darker route. Of course there's a Reaper, behind a heavy cowl and even holding a scythe. Then there are those who chose to forgo humanity entirely this evening and ascend into the pantheons.

Twin, tall, and black ears ascend from a mask as glossy as a raven's feather. Gilt covers the canine design along the major angles, outlining the crest of cheek and along the underside of eye-holes, dropping almost as golden tear-streaks on each side of the muzzle and along it to the pointed nose. From behind, the drop of a mantle in striped black and gold falls to the man's mid-shoulders, for it could only be a male beneath by the span of them. About his torso and close to the skin, a fitted vest in matte-black to reveal the muscles of arms; about each wrist, a golden gauntlet reflecting the light of the room and thin black gloves tucked into each gauntlet. His shendyt skirt hits at the knee, in matching stark black, trimmed in gold along any edge of fabric, including panels. He even sports golden sandals, perhaps painted over cleverly to allow movement of leather beneath gilt. In one hand, a glass of champagne. The mask turns in short-nosed canid profile as he laughs at something clever said within the small group he attends upon, the voice familiar despite the proposed anonymity. There's no doubt to anyone who this one is impersonating tonight: Anubis, Lord of the Egyptian Underworld.


No mask for the arrogant Mister Black. No, his face is bared to the world, neither covered nor painted. The only thing on his head is a gilt laurel wreath, set carefully around the dark waves of his hair. He's in the proper imperial toga - a deep maroon with a golden border, over a matching tunic. Even draped correctly, it seems. At least he moves with ease. At the moment, he's in idle conversation with someone in a gleaming vixen's mask, her red curls tumbling loose from behind it. The lady in question keeps her hair a little longer than is strictly fashionable in the age of the severe bob. Her red lips are bright against her white teeth, and by the playful way she touches him, she's baiting Kent. Kent, for his part, has the severely polite expression he wears when he doesn't like what he hears and wants to conceal it. Though he perks up a little when he sees that profile, permitting himself a little grin.


The conversation shifts into things more business than joviality and Ambrose politely detaches most of his interest. He lifts his glass to his lips as he scans the room again, wondering if he'll see… Of. Course. — and no mask, the prideful son of a desert cur. And next to him, ooh. Oh ho. Oh yes. Hello there. He excuses himself from the small group with a promise to return later and begins making his way through the small islets of gathered guests.

On approach, more of his costume is revealed. The mantle seen from behind is also apparently part of a headdress, with the fall of fabric to the man's collarbones identical in coloration and pattern. From the front shows the panel of golden silk hanging vertically from the belt of the shendyt skirt. About his neck, the plain silver (and so-called lucky) ancient coin rather than something gaudy and sporting an Art Deco gemstone. No hair to be seen at the moment. Behind the gold-lined sight-holes of the glossy mask, he's taken the opportunity to indulge in eye-grease, the very same used by military snipers to prevent glare. Applied thoroughly, it gives his irises a startling brightness of color despite the shadows cast by his disguise. He lifts his champagne flute once in easy hearing of Kent and his vixen-guised conversational partner.

"Ah…Ying Ko. «Be well upon this darkest night.»" That must be Egyptian flowing from his tongue with a deep resonance put on for show. The drop of the mask is just enough so that his jawline can be seen and barely the movement of his mouth; too much more and he wouldn't be able to drink his champagne, after all. "«And be cautious, for the souls of the dead are restless yet.»" His smile shows about his eyes and then Ambrose laughs to himself, unable to keep up the most serious charade. Too much bubbly to remain stoic, apparently. "You look well." His eyes then shift to Kulikova and wander with absolutely no sense of propriety whatsoever. "And a good evening to you as well, oh foxy lady." Apparently, bubbly also makes Ambrose the worst flirt.


Her dimples are not in the least hidden by her mask, and she lifts her flute to him in return. "A pleasure, Jackal," she says, in that purring Russian accent. Then she's excusing herself for the moment to go powder her muzzle, leaving Kent cocking a wry brow. "That's a nice costume you have there," he says, and his voice is low. "A happy All Hallows to you, as well."


The Jackal watches her go and oh — so sad to see her go, but love to watch her leave. Kent speaking brings his attention back first with a turn of his face, but the eyes are slow to shift away from the swing of Kulikova's hips.

"Ah, yes, thank you," he says quietly in answer to both thoughts. "I thought…for once, I might not spare any expense. All the better to blend into this gaudy display, don't you think?" His empty black-gloved hand lifts and gestures in a half-circle to include all costumed present. "Have you tried the mulled cider? It would be good but for the cloves. Too much." The sound of his tongue tacking off the roof of his mouth is mild disgust can be heard from beneath the shadows of his mask. A mild tilt of his flute makes the bubbling champagne dance. "I do, however, recommend this here. Fine stuff."

Another deep sip kills nearly half the glass in one go. A lush, this one here. "So. No mask for you then…" He nods approval, the canid nose dipping down and up. "…and what is Kulikova up to then? Call it a hunch…or perhaps bias in her costume this evening, but I can never figure out what's going on behind those eyes." Probably because he's half-distracted with keeping his own from straying elsewhere most of the time.


"She's a Bolshevik agent," he says, with weary disgust. "I'm not her primary target, but something she's run across in her travels who interests her a little. I did some work for some of the Russian royals years ago, when I was young and very foolish. I'd hoped to be forgotten in the turmoil of the Revolution, but…." He trails off, shrugs draped shoulders with a certain nonchalant grace. "Lovely to look at, isn't she? I've idly considered letting her seduce me, but she hasn't gotten to that point yet, I think, in terms of interest." He sounds….bored by it. But there's a clink of his glass against Ambrose's. "It is very fine," he agrees.


The clink isn't returned and there's a looseness to the impact, as if Ambrose stopped paying attention to the drink for a handful of seconds. His eyes rest on Kent, wide in their blacked outline.

"A…Bolshevik agent," the Jackal repeats, his own tone equal parts curious and outright dismay. "…I'll be damned," he adds, ignorant of the irony of his statement. "I…should have suspected something akin to that, but…" He shrugs shoulders beneath the black and gold mantle. "A shame. Also a shame that you weren't able to escape your past. Tsk."

He pauses and then murmurs, "You should let her do it." The brunet scans the crowd, even lifting onto his toes briefly to see if he can spot the red-head, but no luck — she must be elsewhere or still powdering her muzzle. "Seduce you, I mean." He meets Kent's eyes again and while the smile can't be seen, you can bet it's wicked. "What would be the loss in it?"


Another of those shrugs, and he takes a sip of champagne. "Who can really escape their past?" he asks, and his tone is more than a little bleak. "No one I know of." Then he looks more directly at Ambrose. "I don't want to end up with a knife between my shoulders. She's lovely, but I could buy a night with a Russian just as beautiful without wondering if she's after anything more than money." Still matter of fact.


The faint shudder of shoulders is a silent laugh. Even a few bubbles knock free from the interior surface of the flute for the jiggling.

"Ah…yes, true. You and knives get along very poorly," Ambrose agrees amiably, flippant in his observation. He spots a silver tray approaching and quickly shoots the rest of his drink. A quick and fluid swap of empty flute for one nearly filled to the brim and he thanks the white domino'd waiter, receiving a quiet 'welcome' in reply.

"And you then, sirrah." He looks up and down Kent and again comes the sense of a smile behind the canid mask. "You look the part. Indulging your inner hedonist?"


Lamont gives him an arch look at the knives comment. "I was thinking more Caesar Augustus than Nero or Caligula," he says, drily. Nursing his own drink a little more slowly. He plucks at the folds of the toga with his free hand. "This seemed easy enough to put together, and more comfortable than many of the other options. Nice work on your mask."


The Jackal reaches out to mimic the light grab of fabric and mulls it between fingertips — as if he'd be able to sense it through the gloves. Champagne does dull conclusions. Letting it go, he gives a thoughtful and approving nod.

"Your toga and tunic must be more comfortable than this, though thank you, again. It's papier mache, believe it or not." He raps on the mask lightly upon the gentle curve of brow with knuckles and the sound is telling as to its composition. "Light and relatively sturdy, easy for the creator to paint. I wouldn't know the name of half of the fabrics otherwise." Wiggling open toes, he considers the sandals. "I'm not certain of the shoes, but it's only for one night. I'm not about to go running my errands in them."


Lamont looks down at them…and then extends his own foot. Yep, he's in sandals, too. Plain leather, of a distinctly Roman style. "I can't abide wearing masks now," he says, more softly. "Not after the war. Even the lightest feels stifling."


"Ah. I…" A light laugh, but the sympathetic tone can't be missed. "I can't imagine. I was left behind. Look where it got me." Ambrose then sighs, glancing away from the man across from him to scan the room again. Old habits of caution die hard, even when blurred and softened by the lightness of champagne in his blood.

"Well, how about I do you the favor and continue to wear mine?" Those bright eyes flicker back and twinkle with the unseen grin. "I've got half the room befuddled and I admit, it's rather amusing. Addictive, almost, the…mockery of anonymity."


He looks out at the crowd, puzzled. "What do you mean?" he asks, softly. "In terms of knowing who you are? And you were far better out of that chamber of horrors. Give thanks to whatever gods you worship that you weren't subjected to it." No levity in his voice, despite the champagne.


"I am thankful," the brunet says in a soothing, low voice, as if to ameliorate the serious nature of his companion. "Believe me. I saw what came of war, in many facets, despite my time spent otherwise occupied." He lifts his glass in bitter salute and sips of it again before continuing on, glancing back to Kent again.

"What do I mean in regards to the anonymity? The mask." One fingertip taps at its edge, where it glides smoothly just beneath the crest of his cheek. "Wait." He even turns in place to better face the other man. "You…think I regularly hobnob with these people? That they know who I am behind the mask? Black." A subtle tilt shifts the mantle upon his shoulders, the golden fabric catching light. "I dare not show my face in my endeavors. You know how I normally arrive." With headscarf wrapped about his face but for his eyes. "You may have introduced me to your table that one time at the Black Cat, but not by true name and certainly not well enough for any of them to pick me out of a crowd, much less behind a mask. I'm here because I received a spoken invitation from Weiss and for this right here." He shifts the champagne flute rapidly between fingers without spilling a drop. "That you're here is a boon. At least now, I can talk with familiarity and take a rest from the intrigue."


"That's why you came, eh?" he asks, turning again to Ambrose. "Since it isn't generally your circle, so to speak?" Curious…and not willing to brave the sea of humanity. Someone walks by dressed as the Mad Hatter, hand in hand with a lady who can only be Alice.


Ambrose leans slightly outwards after the would-be Alice walks by, looking her once over and again before turning his attention back to Kent.

"An accurate statement, that. Too much…" He struggles for the word he wants in the buzz of champagne. "Too posh," is decided upon. "I wished to escape this as a child. All of the boundaries and enforced manners and…bah. It's a favor, to Weiss. He wishes to speak of business once the guests begin to leave, but…I've half a mind to vanish before midnight and claim that I had other things to attend to. As if that were a lie," he mutters, rolling his eyes in the shadow of his mask. "And yet, here I am, dipping my toes into the pond of the wealthy for a night. Yourself? I presume you received an invitation?"


Kent glances back at him, sidelong. "I sympathize," he says, quietly. "I hated that part of my upbringing. The emphasis on tradition, the…the stuffiness of it. Like a room where no one's opened the windows in far too long." A curling little smirk. "It's not a lie," he agrees, voice dropping in both volume and register, almost a purr. "You always have something to attend to at night. Yes, I received an invitation," he agrees, on a sigh. "I thought I'd best come, before the rest of Shanghai's foreign community forgot I existed." AS if he isn't out and about every night, attending to the businesses he owns.


The look askance is returned out of the corner of Ambrose's darkened eyes. He curls a smirk beneath his mask and lifts his drink to his lips, taking the volume down another third yet. A swallow and he speaks quietly,

"Woe betide anyone who forgets you, sirrah. Puh, forgotten," and he laughs once. "You wear no mask, you dine in high style…no one could forget you, Black. As I mentioned before, you make a statement in your garb. Courageous…confident," he lifts a fisted hand somewhat dramatically with the air of a thespian. "Powerful." Then it devolves into chuckling again. "Have you found anyone else you know within the rabble then? Meyers? Your Russian compatriots? Or have they done a better job than you of hiding away?"


Lamont rolls his eyes at that. "As I said, I hate masks. And it's still warm enough that I didn't want something I'd be sweating to death in," he murmurs, taking another sip. He nods his head at a man dressed like a sheikh. "There's Meyer," he says. "He's got on nearly as much eye paint as you do." And indeed, the Viennese proves to be kohled to within an inch of his life. "Afanasyev is around here somewhere. Dressed as one of those Russian knights-errant, the bogatyrs."


Ambrose leans closer to his companion briefly in order to see across the distance and around someone standing before Meyers. Indeed, there he is, gesticulating as he talks loudly about…something he's passionate about, apparently.

"Hmph." That's definitely stifled amusement at the amount of paint about the man's eyes. Pot, kettle, black? "And Afanasyev as a bogatyr, eh? That's a statement. I'll have to keep watch for him." Again passes by a waiter sporting a white domino and again, the Jackal makes a smooth swap of empty glass for full flute. An aggressive sip downs another third of it and he sniffs, aborting a half-sneeze with some effort. "Tickles your nose when you swallow quickly," he explains, absolutely borderline drunk at this point if not sliding rapidly down that slope.


"You're very nearly drunk," Lamont's voice is lazy, unaccusing. It might be fun to see if Ambrose can make his way to that house in the alley drunk as a lord, and not fall off the roof and break his neck. "I doubt I shall stay long here myself," he says, tone just a hair too casual. Especially when the statement is accompanied by a sensation like a finger brushing Ambrose's spine from nape to tailbone, lightly.


It's probably amusing to watch the Lord of the Egyptian Underworld rise up on his toes and emit a rough chirp of surprise at the sudden sensation. Champagne spatters the floor as he turns on a dime to look behind him, canid mask turning left and right for something go on point about.

"…what in the bloody hell," he mutters, turning back to face Kent again with a bemused frown visible through the eye-holes of his mask. He frowns at his drink. "Perhaps time to…oh, yes! I've been meaning to ask," and Ambrose weaves in place as his inner ear rebels at his habitually-quick motions. "Have you seen Janaya about? The pretty bird I brought to the table that one night? She's not been where I normally find her and I haven't yet discovered if she's present tonight. Granted, I have no idea if she would be, but you have keen eyes and…frankly, you're more sober than I am." The laughter that bubbles from him is loose and a little wild, half-muffled as it is by his mask. "And d'you know, I've another suspicion yet. I…" He lifts one black finger to accent his point, holding Kent's gaze. "…think she might be attempting an affair. With me. Imagine that." His pupils seem…more dilated now than usual even given the relative shade of the mask. In his gloved hand, the champagne flute has begun a fine trembling interspersed with stronger jerks of flinch. He seems heedless to it.

Across the room, one of the servers in their white domino has paused momentarily to let a small gaggle of guests cross before him. He expertly keeps the entire silver tray of empty glasses from falling to the parlor floor despite his abrupt stop. While he waits, however, he's absolutely watching the pair of men with some intention in mind.


"I'm sure she might be," Kent agrees, with a little smile. No hint of jealousy. "You're presentable enough. And mysterious, which is almost always intriguing to women, in my experience." He's watching that hand tremble, and asks, nearly in a whisper, "Atherton, are you all right? Or does liquor take you badly?"


The concern brings Ambrose to look over at Kent. "What? Am I alright? Beyond compare. I am…splendiferous," he slurs heavily. "Have I grown another ear?" He reaches up and misses touching at one of the mask's pointed ears entirely at first. Another bumbling feel and there's one…and now two, and he almost knocks the entire thing askance on his face. Another fairly-loopy laugh and he's centered it again. "Oh-ho, oh…this stuff. Hmph."

He considers the nearly-empty champagne flute, not having any idea whatsoever that he basically dumped nearly all of it in his antics. He then side-stumbles in place, but catches himself before he falls or bumps into a passing be-robed guest. Ambrose notices the man and grins broadly. "Oy! Bacchus, eh? Cheers!" The other man, just short enough to wear some heavy muscle beneath his kaiton, lifts his glass of mulled cider and laughs back, rosy-cheeked as the god he mimes. Then comes a heavy stumble, as if his knees were to almost give from beneath him; it means grabbing at Kent's tunic and toga clumsily, the Jackal emitting another startled sound from behind his Anubis mask.

The butler has disappeared into the crowd once more with silver tray.


"Atherton," Kent's voice is startled, and he clutches at Ambrose in turn, after hastily setting aside his flute on a windowsill. "Are you ill?" he demands, and there's no humor in his voice at all. He slips an arm around Ambrose, under the jackal's armpits, the better to support him, and drapes one of Anubis's arms over his shoulders, looking around for a seat to deposit his companion in.


"It's just the champagne, Al — Black." There's some cognizance left rattling around his skull, enough to check himself at revealing the true name of the crime-lord. "Don't need a damn nanny tonight." Kept upright by Kent's actions alone, it's a wonder that he manages to deposit his empty flute beside the other on the windowsill. Ambrose then waves a hand dismissively, confident in his assessment of himself and oh so wrong. "Go nanny some'un else." Of potentially startling note…the Bane appears to be so very dulled by whatever's coursing through his system that it barely nibbles at any skin touching his arms.

Across the room comes a sudden clanging CRASH. That's definitely another server who's lost an entire large tray of mulled cider to the hardwood floor of the parlor. Glass shards twinkle wetly even as the man stoops, appearing mortified. Conversation stutters throughout the room as feathers shift and masks turn and people rise onto their feet to see which poor bastard will be docked pay this evening for proposed ineptitude.

Out of the throng appears the white domino'd butler again, this time carrying not a tray, but a silenced Ruger — and the empty black eye of the muzzle is rising towards the two gentlemen in toga and shendyt skirt.

"Da zdravstvuyet revolyutsiya!" comes the venomous hiss even as the gun settles in its final aim. Long live the revolution, in Russian — a Bolshevik assassin, looking forwards to reporting to his superiors that one Robert Black, proposed sympathizer to the demoralized and vanquished Old Powers of Russian, has been removed from play.

Ambrose stares at the gun-toting man and utters in a small, barely-intelligible voice, "…oh shit."


|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d10 for: 9


|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 16


|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 6


The assassin's greeted with a decidedly owlish look from Kent. A second's hesitation - at least on the physical front. Mentally, however, he wastes not a moment and lashes out, wrapping his will around the would-be assassin's, and freezing him in place. Which means that Kent can summon laughter, and wander forward to pluck the gun out of the would-be murderer's hand, grinning as if this were all a joke. "Oh, good one, good one," he says, richly amused. "You had me for a moment there." Nevermind that he's discreetly unloading it, one-handedly dropping the bullets into a tunic pocket hidden by the folds of the toga. "What was your name again?" he asks, as if sure he must know the 'joker'. The question has that iron weight behind it, the force of command.


|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d10 for: 4


There's not enough fuss in their corner of the room to warrant much attention from the surrounding crowd. The poor bastard trying to mop up mulled cider is of more interest, with titters blossoming here and there and snide comments abounding. Kent's laughter and smiling demeanor does the majority of the smoothing-over in and of itself.

But oh, the would-be assassin. There's no missing the gleam of sudden sweat on his upper lip and on his palms; his own eyes are wide behind the white domino. "Gzkt…gkt…" The glottal clicks continue as he tries to fight the compulsion, but to no avail, scared into freezing as he is by the weight of the willpower upon him. "Gedeon Kuznetsov."

"Y'mean bloody-fuckin'-bas'ard," slurs the Jackal from where he now sprawls almost boneless against the wall, giving the Bolshevik assassin his best baleful glare from behind his mask. His knees and hands tremble both. "'s'not the champagne, Black, 's'sommun else. Kin feel it now. Ask 'im what 't'is."


He's got the pistol itself wrapped in the draperies of the toga, snug as a pocket….and draped that arm around Kuznetsov's shoulders, drawing him towards Ambrose. All bonhomie, at a casual glance….nevermind how the fingers have dug in to the Russian's shoulder. "What did you give him?" he asks, tone utterly mild. But Ambrose knows that look in the pale eyes, calm and cool and utterly dangerous.


The Bolshevik assassin walks within Kent's spanning arm, too terrified to attempt any bucking or bolting. The weight of the mind upon him is too much to allow otherwise. He seems no happier to be closer to the guised Egyptian god; there's no missing his attempt to slow their approach, frail as it might be.

"Lithium citrate," he says in a thick accent after another second of trying to keep from spilling the information. "A non-lethal dose right now. One more glass and…and — " He curses in Russian. "…would have been lethal. Kept him from aiding you." Oh, that confession makes him go milk-white.

Then there's a thump as Ambrose slides down the wall and onto his behind. "…I hate you," he informs the assassin in the coldest voice he can manage despite the drugging. "I hope he does you justice."


"Who is your handler?" asks Lamont, still grinning. To the casual glances of the partygoers, it's all merriment and teasing in their little corner. But that lethal gleam is in his eyes, now - Ambrose knows it.


"Barkov," blurts the would-be assassin, licking his lips. Oh, he knows his goose is cooked now — that's a name not tossed around in idle conversation. One of the late Vasiliev's token handlers indeed, of the death squad purported to have contacts to the Bolshevik takeover out west in the Motherland. Connection confirmed there. Giving Kent the name is as good as signing his own coroner's report unless the Englishman with an arm about his shoulders is going to be lenient. The look in Kent's eyes doesn't bode well, however.

"I'd say take'im out back 'n shoot 'im, but tha's too good for a bloody bas'ard like'im," grouses Ambrose woozily from his seat on the floor, his head lolled back against the wall and general demeanor slack through and through.


"Why were you sent to kill me?" he asks, softly. A worried glance shot at Ambrose…..but for how long can he hold this unfortunate. "And who are your fellow agents in Shanghai?" Indeed - even if he doesn't kill this fool himself, he won't survive the wrath of his superiors.


|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d10 for: 8


The explanation as to the 'why' is concise:

"Loose threads need to be snipped." That chilling reply is implication that someone knows of Kent's past indeed. Kulikova isn't the only interested party. "Dragomirov. Yolkin. Lukoz." All known associates of the late Vasiliev and dispersed throughout the various factions within Shanghai, with Lukoz a powerful player in Li's own personal entourage. The list ends there, however, indicating that the Bolsheviks' reach is still fragile and new in its way.

"'m fine, Black. 't'll take more'n this Rushkie cur 'n his poison to drop me." Ambrose lifts a seizuring hand to flip a rude gesture at the Bolshevik agent and then drops it, apparently still able to do that much at least.


Lamont's lips purse, and by the look in his eyes, he's turning over options rapidly. More people are going to have to be killed, clearly. "No others?" he presses, fingers digging in again. A nod to Ambrose, though there's that furrow of worry, there, between his brows. "They're going to kill you for your failure, aren't they?"


|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d10 for: 10


"No other fellow agents," Gedeon spits out, his temples now gleaming. They warned him about the risks of being caught — but never like this. "I will die, yes. I have failed." It's just that simple in the end, callous and inescapably clear. Barkov does not tolerate failure.

"Good," and that's Ambrose attempting to get to his feet now, heedless of the wet-noodle feeling in his legs. He has to heavily use the wall and muscles work to keep tense as he inches his way upright by roll of spine, like a caterpillar ascending a vertical surface. "Bloody deserve it. No honor wha'soever."


"Do you want to die?" His voice is smooth as glass…and there's something behind the gray eyes. Thoughtful, speculative. What an odd question. At Ambrose's comment, he shoots him a quick glance. "Many die who do not deserve it, and many live who would be better dead," he says, gently. Remembering his blood pooling on the boards of his own bedroom, Ambrose a figure of terror and torment.


|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d10 for: 8


"I don't want to die, no." Points to the man for delivering the line with an almost perfectly monotone but for the faint crackling of emotion beneath. The mind's weight on him will catch the gut-watering terror and fight to keep from weeping. "Barkov will not tell my family what happened to me. My wife. My son. I will be nameless at the bottom of the river."

Ambrose manages to keep upright now against the wall, though it's visibly taking effort on his part. He has no clever response to Kent's comment but for a slurred and snide-sounding huff, almost a raspberry of disgust from behind his mask — commiserating with this fool. The lack of trust in humanity shows forth brightly now.


"If you left the city tonight for America…." He trails off. "Hm. You have a family. Exile would be hard. But…." What on earth is Kent considering….


|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d10 for: 2


The Bolshevik assassin stiffens beneath Kent's arm about his shoulders in shock. "…you do not mean that?"

From the Jackal, a sound of dismay at the offer and a lisping splutter of, "What inna bloody hell are you doing?!" — before his knees give out again. A shuff and a thud and a wincing growl and apparently, Ambrose in his regal costume decides to remain sitting upright there on the floor now. Not worth the concurrent bruising of tailbone to try again. "…stupid bas'ard," he mumbles before a full-body tremor rattles him in place.


"I am offering you your life," says the Emperor, still cool as a marble statue. "I'm disposed to be merciful. What you do when you make landfall in America is up to you, but San Francisco has a Russian community, I do know. If you go now, tonight, you'll be out of their reach before they realize you've gone. You have a chance. They'll assume, when you don't report in, that I killed you, won't they?"


The Bolshevik agent nods. It appears that some color has returned to his skin now; it's not nearly so close a match to his domino mask.

"They will assume that you dealt me death, yes. I will go. I can write to my wife, my son, explain what happened. This, you promise? I shall leave tonight. To see my Irina and Andrei again will be worth the wait." He seems incredibly sincere, soaked through as his suit is with sweat. It still shines on his lip and one drop rolls down his neck. Kent has successfully scared the everliving daylights out of him.

No thoughts from the Jackal. If anything, his head is beginning a pattern of drop…and lift, drop and…lift, as if he's attempting to remain conscious.


"Give me your address. I will have someone contact them. Do not write to them until I give you leave. Write to me. Come with me now," he says, simply. And he turns a hand, displaying the ring. "This is what they sent you for, isn't it?" he says, quietly. Even as he speaks, he's reaching for Ambrose with his other hand. They've had enough of this party. "Atherton. Can you walk?"


"Yes." Confirmation of the fact that the ring was indeed of extreme interest and to the former instructions. The Bolshevik agent then clams up as best he can, his lips gone thin. Sparing his life is all well and good, but it's clear that he doesn't want to follow Kent — still, an order is an order from the man who is just shy of the boogieman now, even dressed in royal finery as he is.

Ambrose lifts his head slowly and makes eye contact with Kent. His pupils are enormous, wheeled out at complete odds with the light in the parlor room. "'Course I can walk." All well and good to say it in weak petulance, but getting up is a relative mess. He slides down the wall once before using the windowsill to leverage himself up. He takes the offered hand and a good handful of the tunic fabric with his other, desperately needing support beneath his armpits once more. At least he looks drunk rather than moderately poisoned!


"Get his other side," Kent directs the Russian. "Help me with him." Kent has a car waiting for them outside. He drove himself, apparently - no driver sitting bored in the front seat. They both get the back seat, it seems - Kuznetsov to support Ambrose, it seems. Once they're safely seated, he plucks the laurel wreath from his hair, tosses it impatiently to the passengers' seat. As he backs out of the drive, he says, "Both of you lie down. The fewer who see all of us together, the better."


Ambrose lets out a literal growl at the presence of the Bolshevik agent at his other side, even if the man is simply following orders and helping. The assassin leans away as far as he can manage without breaking away from supporting the Jackal in their travels.

Once in the backseat, it's far too easy for the brunet in his Anubis get-up to simply slump limply to his side and half-curl upon himself, ears of his mask jammed up against the interior of the door. Gedeon crunches up into a small ball up against the opposite door of the car, beneath the window and out of sight.

"…don' you think to sleep t'night, Ruskie," comes the slurred threat and by the timbre, Ambrose is desperately interested in getting his hands on the man. His mask is terribly askew now, but damned if he can do much to fix it.


It isn't the house in the alley they go to. It's the house Ambrose may've only been to a time or two before, a rambling white villa set in its own garden. The staff've apparently gone to bed, save for a maid who pokes her head out of the kitchen to be dismissed with a wave from Kent. There will be gossip, but of a sort calculated to confuse, hopefully. Up the stairs to a long hallway with multiple bedrooms, a study. It's in to the guest bedroom next the master bedroom that they go, neatly and richly furnished. Kent does have money, after all.

Once he's got Ambrose disposed on the bed, he orders the Russian to get him undressed, as he ducks into his own room to change. He emerges with a plain leather suitcase, full of clothes. He's a little bigger and taller than his would-be assassin, but they'll do.


There's an upswing in Ambrose's inability to process the drug in his system and it coincides with an equal inability to process his environment. Poor Gedeon; the well-muscled brunet in his costume is nearly all dead-weight with loose knees, but between him and Kent, the Jackal does end up sprawled on the bed.

By the time the crime-lord emerges from his master bedroom and re-enters the guest room, Ambrose is undressed but for his tightly-fitted black vest and the pair of cotton shorts he had on beneath the shendyt skirt. The gilded sandals are discarded upon the floor while the mask with accompanying mantle, gauntlets, and skirt are slung upon the end of the bed.

"I could not remove the gloves," Gedeon explains with a frightened drop of chin and averted gaze from where he stands at the end of the bed. Ambrose's kohl is far more contained, turns out, that the mess that Meyers had on display — he even went so far as to inscribe a wadjet curling line outwards from the corner of each eye, as if losing the mask didn't mean losing his guise entirely. His face is slack, turned mostly away from the other men, and his breathing even if not disconcertingly slow.


"Ambrose," Kent pauses, glances over his shoulder at Gedeon. "Go into the next room and wait for me. I won't be long." It's an order, and that force of dark magic is behind it. Not letting the assassin off the leash, not yet.

Once he's gone, he works on removing the gloves. "Llew," he says, softly. "Take from me. Heal yourself - can you? I just need enough strength to get him to the docks…."


The Bolshevik agent is quick to leave the room, happy to be out of immediate reach of the snarly man not snarling at the moment. Footsteps mark him as walking down the hall and into the next room and pausing there, precisely as commanded.

The gloves come off easily enough once the Jackal opens his eyes and squints at Kent. Oh, you. Ambrose must have said something fairly frightening to Gedeon…or maybe acted the worst bedridden patient at the time, making it impossible.

"…dunno if I can. Never tried t'fix m'self with…lithium, wassit? Lithium in m'system. 's'a drug, right? IV. Could set an IV. Don't know if…" His brows knit in concentration. There surfaces the Bane to take a lazy bite at Kent, with pins-and-needles setting in barely before disappearing again. "…could, but it'd take time. Go…deliver th'damn man. 'fore I get t'him firs'." His eyes slide shut and another seizure dances through him, leaving him wrung-out upon the covers. "Go, y'idiot. 'm not leaving." He tries for a faint smile and succeeds despite not opening his eyes.


"I don't have an IV to set. Try…take the time," he says, softly. "I won't set him free to have you die…and I daren't use a driver to take him. There has to be a minimum…." He's taking Ambrose's hand in both of his, opening the link.


''m not going to die, you bloody drama-sop," Ambrose mutters even as he recognizes the kything's expansion within his mind. There's no missing the faint shimmer of aquamarine through the warm comfort that is a champagne buzz; the lithium is subtle, malignant, slipping through Ambrose's mind and dulling everything more yet. Relaxation is something more akin to the lead-limb of exhaustion. Trails of thought flare and then dead-end to incompletion, like unfinished sentences all herded about in circles.

Still, up rises the Bane after a harrowing wait and latches onto the life-energy within easy reach, given how Kent commits both palms to touching skin. Pins-and-needles becomes more intense with each passing second until it feels like milk-teeth shy of drawing blood. The energy draw isn't as strong as usual by any means, but there's still a low-grade constant pull. The Jackal is intensely aware, somehow through the miasm of drugging, of the sound of the foreign heartbeat that the curse is threatening. A minute passes — and then another. Close to five minutes when there's a flare from the brunet's half of the mental space.

— let go. NOW. The sharp command flies even as he tries to jerk his limp-wristed hand free of Kent's grasp.


He obeys, for a wonder, lets go. Steps back, and then sinks down to his knees. He's in street clothes, now, dark and discreet. Did it help? The mental voice is faint, weak, but eager.


— hold on… Without the effort imbued to warn off Kent, Ambrose's own mental voice is just as hollow and faint. He pulls his hand up and over his torso, resting it upon his upper abs as he inhales. Dark brows knit in a frown of concentration and then comes the inhale held. One second…two second…three seconds…five seconds…nearing on ten seconds when he exhales sharply. Nothing dramatic to be seen of his actions, given the lack of broken skin — all internal. He pants for a few seconds more and then seems to melt back onto the bed.

"…yes…it helped." There's the crisp diction again, rounded as it always is with the influence of the Fertile Crescent. "Now…honestly, Kent, begone. Go…and tell him that I'll be checking to see if he's listened. And I mean business." The brunet rolls his face over towards the gentleman and opens his kohl-darkened eyes enough that the blue irises show, with pupils gone back to normal. "I'll rest. Cross my black little heart. …you're alright?" he then asks.


"I am," he says, getting up. Now comes the hard part….getting Gedeon a ship before morning. Kent hauls himself up with a hand on the edge of the bed, gritting his teeth. Sweat on his brow by the time he succeeds. But his tread is steady enough, as he makes his way out into the hall. Murmured Russian next door, the sound of footsteps…and then the car in the drive again. Followed by silence.


The mildly-remonstrative comment is kept behind Ambrose's teeth as he watches the other man work his way upright again and leave. He rebuffs himself instead; that took far too much out of Kent, he should have warned the man sooner, how dare he slack in his attentions… With eyes closed, the other senses come into sharper play. He listens to the quiet talk, but can't quite make it out. Once the footsteps are gone and car has vanished, he's left to his devices on the bed.

Not buzzed anymore. Not under the influence of the damn lithium. Still…rather exhausted, honestly. While it won't be sleep, it might be the cousin to a catnap that the Jackal indulges in on the comfortable covers of the bed. It's not too cold in the room to require pulling material over himself and so he does as he promised: he rests, doing his best to lock his mind into a state of meditation similar to that of practiced Bane-lulling.


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