Monday, February 26, 2018
Chapter 132: Veracity
There it is!
"So have you moved in here?" Izalee finally puts in an appearance, to question her little sister's absence from their home.
"I don't know. Maybe. Seeing my kid helps distract from the sadness." Lucida shrugs. "Are you okay? Do you need me back?"
"Do what you want, but the house is in your name, and the bills are piling up..."
The 'withdraw from society' thing is coming back to bite Izzy in the ass.
Lucida sucks in her breath, eyes widening. "Oh, I, um, I will take care of that."
Izalee blinks a few times. "Is something wrong?"
"No!" Lucida thinks about knife jugging, about great-grandchildren, about butterflies, about anything that could distract her telepathic sister off the scent, but her tone of voice has already betrayed her.
As it turns out, Izalee and Lucida's supernatural status has not been as much of a well-kept secret as they've had liked. Ben has been paying hush money to someone for a long time now. That someone has the connections to turn them in to the 'creepy secret police fairies', are Lucida's exact words.
"How did you hide this from me?!" Izalee shrieks.
"I knew you would be angry," Lucida whimpers. "It's my fault we were investigated. I was careless."
"You always were the careless one!" Izalee snaps. "But we're not causing problems, there's nothing for anyone to report about us..."
"Someone willing to blackmail us may be willing to lie about us," Carlos warns.
The shouting has attracted the attention of the entire household. Molly, an expert on watching families fight, casually seats herself at the chess table and tries to appear inconspicuous.
"I think it's safer to not cross this guy," Lucida agrees.
Izalee facepalms. "What did you do?!"
Lucida lowers her head. "I was... caught transforming, obviously. It was when you were away. This... person... was willing to cover up the incident for us, but we've had to pay him monthly ever since. With Ben gone now, he's probably wondering where his money is."
"Can't Aunt Izzy alter the would-be-informant's memories?" Dysen tries to poke holes in this out-of-the-blue development.
"He almost certainly is not defenseless," Izalee grumbles. "The SC has plenty of spies. None of them are just 'normal people'."
"Oh. Well what is he, if he's not normal?"
Lucida frowns harder. "Look, I don't know what he is. Some kind of wizard. We only have to keep bribing the man until he dies. Simple, easy, no way around it. He's my age, he might be dead already for all I know."
Carlos does not like this at all. "Who's to say him dying will be good for us? He could have files on us that could be recovered by his superiors..."
Dysen sighs angrily. "Give me a name, in case I run into him."
"Todd Landgraab. But you won't find him. He relocated to Champs Les Sims some time ago."
"Todd Landgraab?" Ceth balks at the name. "He called me out for a sing-o-gram not that long ago..."
Lucida twitches. "He... he was one of Ben's political acquaintances. I had no idea he was back."
"I can't believe this..." Izalee is beside herself with rage.
Lucida apologizes profusely, but the stress is too much for her, apparently, because she keels over in the middle of the scene...
...leaving Izalee to forever feel terrible that the last words she spoke to her sister were words of anger.
Molly has never seen the reaper before. That is so metal, she thinks.
The timing isn't great, but that's no one's fault but her own, so Lucida accepts her death gracefully.
"Thank you for letting me live long enough to see my grandchildren grow up," she expresses her thanks to Grim before he whisks her away.
Lucida and Grim are gone. The family is left with shock and tears.
"A bizarre confession... and then she died," Carlos tries to process today's events, once things have calmed down a bit.
Izalee rocks back and forth slowly. The chair looks rickety, but moves smoothly. "All these years, I thought Ben was funneling all that money to charity! I never questioned it. Even when your mother sold off everything in her collection of actual value. I didn't think... I didn't catch them thinking about anything like this." She balls her hands into fists in her lap. "I will have to speak with this Landgraab. Before one of you does."
"Do you think he could be related to the, uh, famous Landgraabs?"
Izalee glares venomously. "You've been in Starlight Shores too long. This isn't a time to talk about celebrities."
"They're not famous for entertaining. They're famous for being wealthy and influential across the globe," Carlos explains. "It's obvious they do a lot of shady things mixing business and politics, but they always seem to come away from scandal unscathed."
"I'm not interested in conjecture. I'll find out what he knows and what he intends to do with what he knows."
"Todd Landgraab?" It doesn't take long for Izalee to arrange a meeting. This Landgraab is in a public place, but is making things easier for her by being up here alone, fiddling with his laptop. She can sense immediately he's a mage; she can't risk trying to get into his mind.
"Yes? And you must be the lady looking for me?" His voice is cheery. "It's Lau-Landgraab, actually! I'm recently married! How may I help you?"
Izalee stares at him. Could this young man with messy hair, ugly glasses and an uglier shirt really have scared her fiery sister into submission? "My sister accused you of extortion, before she died. Though she gave me the impression you were older."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Well you won't get it. Cut the crap and tell me what your deal is."
He stands to face her, and in the process removes his glasses. The minor hex they project over his face fades away, causing his true features to appear. "I'm sorry to hear Lucida and Rossi are both gone. It doesn't surprise me they didn't tell you about our... arrangement."
"You're older than you look," Izalee says bluntly.
Todd smiles. "Todd Landgraab retires from his cushy job and leaves for Champs Les Sims. Eventually his 'son', Todd Landgraab, who happens to look exactly like him, arrives in Monte Vista to continue his father's legacy. Back and forth. Back and forth. There are ways of dealing with a long lifespan other than hiding in your garden until your neighbors think you are dead."
Izalee glowers. "I doubt mine will be as long as yours."
"True. Our similarities are only skin deep."
"Then you know more about me than I'd like."
"I know you're a mage using uncommon magics. Very interesting, but they won't save you. You live... well... lived with your half-sister, a werewolf of all things, and her insufferably unremarkable husband. You have two nephews and one adopted daughter, all of whom left to pursue their careers in Starlight Shores. Did. I. Miss. Anything?" Todd pauses. "I had no intention of chasing them down, but now, they have come to me. How fortunate."
"They were always in danger if you're really a... a... a spy."
"Ah, well, I am, but I am not."
Izalee taps her foot impatiently. "Go on."
"I am a Landgraab. We have, you might say, connections? When my father found out he'd accidentally married some supernatural freak... that is, when my abilities manifested... he had the company take her for, ah, science. He wasn't a very forgiving man. He turned me over to Supernatural Control, but due to his considerable influence they've always treated me differently from their other acquisitions."
Izalee shrugs, confused. She doesn't care about this weirdo's backstory. "They treat you differently because of your rich father? I don't understand."
"My family provides a lot of their funding and research." Todd looks annoyed now. He's never met someone so obviously clueless about the weight his family name carries. "I live a relatively normal life. They give me my privacy. That luxury is not something their usual brainwashed or otherwise strictly controlled spies enjoy. You should be happy I've used my freedom to allow you to keep yours... for a price."
"For a price..." Izalee repeats.
"Pay it and you have no problems. Don't pay, or let any of your family try to leave, and I'll see your nephew and his son put down for being a danger to the public. And as for you... well I have no idea if they'd want you alive or dead so I won't guess."
"Aren't you already wealthy? Or has your human family thrown you out like trash even while you coast on their name?"
"What's important is our arrangement still stands. You will pay my fee, and there won't be a report."
"This is ridiculous."
"No, dear, this is business."
"I'm probably a better mage than you."
"Is that a threat, Miss Goldbeard?"
"Good. Because I wouldn't be blackmailing witches and werewolves if I didn't have ways of ensuring it wouldn't literally come back to bite me. Vera?"
A spark of bright light appears from behind Landgraab and flies towards Izalee, hurting her ears with a high pitched humming noise. Not good. Not good at all.
"Veracity," a tiny voice says. "Address me by my name, you filth!"
"I'll address you as I like," Todd yawns.
POP! The sound and the flash of light are painful to the senses, and then, a slim fairy with dark green skin and glittering silver eyes appears. "I heard everything," she says.
Todd's eyebrows rise in comical surprise. "Then it wasn't a threat?"
"I always watching and hearing." Veracity's eyes are pinned on Izalee's, so it's hard to say if she's answering Todd or warning Izalee. "If was threat she would be gone," the fairy clarifies.
"You're a fae handler?" Izalee ventures, glancing at Todd.
"Oh no, no. She's my bodyguard."
"...Yet she doesn't seem to like you."
"She lets me get away with... what was the pretty word you used? Extortion?"
"That's the one..."
"Well, if she told our superiors about it, they might punish me. And she was told to protect me? See the conflict? Fae logic is as twisted as it is predictable."
"If trouble from other non-human things, I protect," the fairy says.
"The fairies aren't good at making decisions in the field, but they're excellent for keeping other agents alive. So naturally, I acquired one."
My talents are waste on this," Veracity laments, her gaze unwavering.
Todd smirks. "She's a living lie detector and very efficient at the protecting. I've never dirtied my hands."
Izalee folds her arms, looking away. This is a more dangerous issue than Orazia faced with the vampire. Hiding from a vampire is one thing... hiding from these agents is different. "H-how... can I be certain you won't inadvertently harm my family, just by knowing about us? What if someone else gets the information out of you?"
"I don't keep a record of you. Don't you worry your pretty little snowy white head."
"I watch," Veracity says, frowning. "Please, please go."
Izalee returns to her garden to sulk.
"I can pay whatever he's asking," Ceth tries to downplay the whole thing. "It's not like I gave Acheron all of my money. I'm still sitting on a fortune."
"I'm sorry I failed you."
"You didn't fail anyone. You only found out about this today!"
"Perhaps a better mage would have put Landgraab in his place."
"I'll put him in his place right now. Do you know where he lives?"
"Stay out of it," Izalee commands gruffly.
"Then you will forget about it!" Izalee snarls.
"Mother!" Ceth protests.
Ceth is pretty stubborn, and struggles to hold on to her memories, but at the end of that struggle she's forgotten the entire day.
Carlos gets to "break the news" that Lucida died.
"I'm a little disturbed you did that," Carlos tells his aunt.
"I am too old to give a shit," Izalee responds.
"Really? Do you think that's how your grandmother felt when she drove Gysael away? Too old to give a shit?"
"My grandmother wanted to protect her child! Just like I do!" Still deep in grief from the day's events, Izalee begins to cry, and that shuts Carlos right up.
...Mostly. "Just promise me you won't do anything like that to anyone else in the family."
"We can't seriously just pay these people," Dysen protests.
"I understand you're angry, but we can't do anything rash." Carlos is forced to try to calm his son down. The last thing he wants is a confrontation between Dysen and some evil guy with a fairy sidekick.
"Anything rash?! All I see you suggesting is we do nothing at all!"
"...Your aunt says Landgraab can't be reasoned with. I believe her. I'm sorry, I'm not sure what other options that leaves us with."
"Living in fear can't be your ideal either! Come on. Use the scientist brain. Outsmart the situation."
Carlos tilts his head, incredulous. "...We need to find out more about him. Before we can devise some way to get away from him. But this isn't a video game..."
"Where's Acheron with a potion when you need him..."
"Never mind. This can't possibly have happened at a worse time. Molly thinks she's pregnant."
Carlos winces. "...Right, then..."
"Now I'm thinking I did a bad thing, like it's irresponsible to pass on my genes, no matter how cool my wife thinks they are. It's just trouble and it's unfair to the child. Did you ever have thoughts like that?"
Carlos doesn't say anything.
"...Dad? Dad. Hello?"
"I'm sorry. I was... thinking."
"I wouldn't have done anything differently, except move back here."
Dysen goes to work and puts on a happy face, as if nothing is wrong, but his boss would rather remind him how everything just got messed up.
"I'm sorry about your grandmother," Marvin says. "She was a real class act, everyone loved her. Hey, if you need time off to mourn or something, you tells us, okay?"
"I'll be fine," Dysen replies. "I'd just like to get to work, if that's okay."
His fears are realized that afternoon, when Molly's doctor confirms she is pregnant.
"It's so weird... we wanted this just a few days ago," Dysen reflects.
"Now we're just scared," Molly finishes the line of thought.
"It might be okay... maybe the kid won't have any weird powers," Dysen replies. "I was kind of hoping that was the case anyway."
Etc.: Some fairies have their special powers right there in the name.
Uuuggghhh Lucida dying ruined all of my plans and forced me to rewrite the scene but them's the breaks I guess.
Now will I have a girl Polly, or a boy Polly? And will it want a cracker, or a doggie treat?