Whitechapel, Part II: The Scene of the Crime

The Storyteller
Melissa and Jason joined the Guardians backstage in the Assembly Hall. Seventeen and his entourage had been making themselves comfortable here, from the looks of the open bottles of soda and the chairs. The two Proximi bodyguards were there, looking sinister with their sharp suits and compact assault rifles. Whim and Cuchulainn, on the other hand, looked relatively normal, though all the Guardians wore masks. Whim had DC draped around her neck, the serpent's tongue flicking in and out.
"Ah, Marduk, Athena, so good of you to join us." Seventeen welcomed the two Libertines. He checked his watch. "Anyone object to a brief road-trip?"
Ilkin
"Where?" Ilkin asked. It came out a little shorter than he intended. The Acanthus really wasn't trying to make an enemy of Seventeen, but the proclamation in the auditorium had left a bitter taste in his mouth. He managed to stand in an easy, non-threatening posture, but he didn't really like where this was going. Kertenkele stirred and poked his head out of Ilkin's jacket pocket.


The Storyteller
"To the scene of the crime, of course." Seventeen said, glancing at the two Libertines. He sighed, then tilted his head a little at Ilkin and Athena. "If you want, you can scream at me for being a fascist now and get it out of your system. I'll muffle the sounds so we don't frighten the rest of the Assembly."
Ilkin
Jay frowned and his eyes narrowed just a little, but from surprise, not anger. "So you vaguely suggest I join your Order in the coffee shop and when I politely decline, you intend to drag me along whether I like it or not? Why do you want the two of us to come? Why not the Talons?"
The Storyteller
Seventeen pursed his lips. "Athena needs to be there as a ranking member of the Assembly. I would like to have a second Libertine witness. If nothing else, so that you can tell the others that we haven't made this up."
The Storyteller
"The Guardians are not the enemy, Marduk, despite what most people believe." Seventeen said with a faint smile. A smirk, really. "How does that go? We're from the government and we're here to help?"
"So you're tax-collectors and leeches." Melissa said coldly. "Fine, let's get this over with."
Ilkin
Bloody hell, Melissa, calm down. Ilkin didn't know if she'd hear his thoughts but he put a hand on her shoulder to try and calm her. "The government causes as many problems as it solves," he said and sighed. "Very well, if we're to do this, let's do this shall we? I've been looking for a chance to talk to Whim about proper etiquette for bringing snakes to visit." He cast a glance at the green-haired girl. "What do you expect us to do at the scene, though?"
The Storyteller
Whim stuck her tongue out at Ilkin, very properly conveying the demeanor of the mature, thoughtful Guardian of the Veil. Seventeen just rolled his eyes, while Melissa glared.
The Storyteller
The Obrimos made his way to the door. "You're an Acanthus, Marduk." Seventeen said quietly. "We want you to tell us who the killer was."
Ilkin
Something was fishy about this. Of all the Acanthus in the Consilium, why come to me? Ilkin wondered. "Don't you have your own Time experts in the Guardians?" he asked as he followed Seventeen.
The Storyteller
"Would the Libertines believe any of them?" Seventeen said, cocking his head to one side. The group made its way down to the parking lot, where a pair of large, four-door black sedans were waiting. Each of the bodyguards got into the drivers seats, while Seventeen gestured Ilkin and Melissa into one of them. The other two Guardians took the second car.
Ilkin
That is a good point, Ilkin supposed as he held the door open for Melissa, then slipped into the back seat after her. There would be talking later. But still, Ilkin suspected Seventeen already knew what he'd see there. He just wanted Ilkin to confirm it.
The Storyteller
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The Storyteller
The London Consilium was, insofar as such things were organized, fairly standard in its structure. There was the Hierarch, and there was the four-member Council, and between the five of them they represented all of the Orders of the city. The Hierarch was, of course, Civitas of the Guardians of the Veil. The Libertine Councilor was a young man by the name of Catesby, a young and passionate Thyrsus with a tendency towards occasional melodrama and pamphleteering. The Mysterium Councilor was Magister Devon Erasmus, an old, old man with a flowing beard, though objectively he was at most half of Civitas's age.
Erasmus was a born reactionary and elitist. Catesby named his Cabal after Guy Fawkes. When the two met, there was always drama.
"I am bloody well telling you, we do not need more prohibitions on magics. We can't just hide from the bloody world!" Catesby was yelling.
The Storyteller
"That is precisely what the Orders have done for centuries without end, young Turk," Magister Erasmus said, raising his voice. He had a good voice for declaiming, loud and sonorous, and it resounded through the board room at the Civil Engineering building near Westminster. "We do not flaunt our magics for all without end to come and gawk."
Ilkin was sitting in one of the fold-up chairs at the sides of the room, next to Melissa on one side and Benjamin on the other, along with the other half-dozen or so Liberties who had come to watch the monthly open meeting of the Consilium. Melissa leaned over and whispered, smiling faintly. "One of these days Erasmus is going to earn himself a heart attack in mid-session."
Ilkin
Ben was trying desperately not to yawn. He wanted to be a good sport here, he really did. But Consilium politics didn't really matter to him -- real world politics barely mattered. Rare was the occasion he voted at the Assembly, though he did make sure to vote for Parliament. Athletics always took priority. He was really only here because Ilkin dragged him along.

Ilkin was more interested, but less in the politics for politics sake and more for the interactions, the mental stimulation Consilium politics provided. Sure, one could usually predict how certain groups would respond. Erasmus would almost always shoot down anything Catesby said out of hand. Catesby usually disagreed with Civitas's propositions. And so on. But sometimes interesting things happened. And sometimes Ilkin got some great dialogue ideas.
Ilkin
If nothing else, it was a great place to spend time writing his column. Something about the loud bickering made it easier for him to write sometimes.

"That would be something, wouldn't it?" Ilkin whispered back, "Halfway through a speech about how daft Catesby is, the old codger just falls over dead."
The Storyteller
"Doubt we'd be so lucky." Melissa sighed, even as Civitas quieted down the screaming to call for a procedural vote on the proposal. Whatever else, Civitas was a master of political bureaucracy. "Too many life mages around."
As was likely expected, the proposal went ahead 3 to 2, with the Erasmus, Civitas, and the Silver Ladder delegate in favor, and Catesby and the Arrow against. Several more locations were added to the list of places were no magic, vulgar or covert, was allowed, including the tower of Big Ben.

Ilkin
"I'm a little surprised the Arrow voted against it," Ilkin raised his eyebrows appreciatively, "Likewise that the Ladder voted for it. But it's good to have the Arrow on our side, I suppose."
The Storyteller
"Still a losing vote, though." Melissa said, looking distantly at Magister Devon Erasmus. The aging mage was a fellow Mastigos, but there was little sympathy between the two. "If only Erasmus wasn't such an old crony of Civitas's... for that matter, if only we'd had a new Hierarch since before Lloyd George's day..."
Ilkin
"This Consilium could do with some fresh blood," Ilkin agreed, "Longevity has its uses, but in politics all it means is you're stuck in your own rut."
The Storyteller
"Someday, maybe..." Melissa said, then shrugged. "Not any day soon, though."
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The Storyteller
Devon Erasmus, it turned out, lived in a neat, two-bedroom house in one of London's suburbs, where he maintained a life and career as a school teacher. The black cars pulled into the driveway, and Seventeen ushered the lot of you outside and into the house quickly, taking the kitchen door. The bodyguards had worn long coats to hide their weapons, and Seventeen did something to dim all the lights, but it was nevertheless better to be inside as soon as possible.
The Storyteller
Erasmus had been killed in the kitchen, and that was where his body still was, splayed on the cold tiles, dressed in a richly patterned dressing gown. He'd been strangled, and so there was very little blood, though there were hideous red marks all around his neck.
Ilkin
"Time of death?" Ilkin asked Seventeen.

Ilkin tried not to grimace and was moderately successful. Despite being a movie producer and part-time adventurer, real corpses still turned his stomach a little. He stepped carefully around the kitchen, taking stock of the crime scene, then nudged the tiny lizard in his pocket.

The Storyteller
"Whim?" Seventeen said, glancing at the girl with the acid-green hair and the mask.

"Three Forty-Two PM." Whim replied with a glance at the body. The Guardians, by and by large, looked rather blaise about this, but then they were specialists with dead bodies, both the creation and removal thereof.
Ilkin
Ilkin nodded and crouched beside Erasmus, then waved a hand over the body. He closed his eyes and concentrated, reaching back to that minute and calling it forth to his consciousness.
The Storyteller
The images flashed in the minds eye clearly. There was Erasmus in his dressing gown, talking loudly with a figure who just came into vision. A figure that was very familiar, a feminine figure. Melissa.
They spoke, Erasmus asking only what she was doing here, that this wasn't what was agreed upon, and then all in a sudden swoop Melissa was upon him. She strangled him, choking the life out of the old Mage. He cast some spell, but it merely fizzled away against a barrier of her will. And then he was dead, and Melissa ran. And then the image was done with.
Ilkin
Ilkin stood in stunned shock and replayed that minute again. And again. He couldn't believe it. It couldn't have been her. There was no way. Melissa couldn't physically strangle someone like that. She could fry brains but choke a man to death?

Finally, the Acanthus broke the spell. Melissa had been awfully nervous coming here and it was odd that Seventeen wanted to bring her and not Catesby.

He met Seventeen's gaze levelly. "You knew this already, didn't you?" It wasn't completely a question.
The Storyteller
"I did." Seventeen nodded. He didn't exactly look happy about the situation either. "Whim interrogated the body."
The Storyteller
Melissa looked at Ilkin and then at Seventeen, brows furrowed. She looked even more nervous now. "What did you see?"
Ilkin
"If it wasn't you, it was a doppelganger mage," Ilkin said softly, turning his crestfallen gaze to Melissa. His eyes held a silent plea, begging Melissa to have an alibi, something to prove it wasn't her. "Someone physically stronger than I figured you are."
The Storyteller
"What..." Melissa said softly.
The Storyteller
"Magister Erasmus was eighty years old. It would not require a great deal of strength to strangle him." Seventeen said quietly. "Magus Athena, I am taking you with me to Highgate Cemetery."
Ilkin
"Wait!" Ilkin cut in sharply, "Athena, where were you when this happened? If you tell me where, I can verify it."
The Storyteller
"I was at the office." Melissa said, looking fearfully at the corpse on the ground. "Catching up on paperwork."
Ilkin
Ilkin shook his head in disbelief. He couldn't wrap his mind around this. "Why?" he asked. Why would she do this, and if she didn't, why would she lie about it? "Was it really you that I saw?"
The Storyteller
"Don't be stupid, Marduk." Melissa said, almost fondly. Her expression softened for a moment. "I didn't kill anyone. I'll be proven innocent, you can do it. But..." But Melissa, apparently, was not going to be of much help in the proving innocent business. Seventeen raised an eyebrow, but he kept silent.
Ilkin
Ilkin smiled a little bit despite himself. "You knew too, didn't you?" he asked. "You have been frightfully nervous this whole time."
The Storyteller
Melissa bit her lip, glancing aside at the Guardians. Seventeen sighed heavenward, then looked at his watch. "Why, what do you know, lunch break. All Guardians of the Veil back to the car to get our lunches, where we shall be gone for the next three minutes."
Ilkin
Ilkin smiled a little bit despite himself. "You knew too, didn't you?" he asked. "You have been frightfully nervous this whole time."
The Storyteller
Melissa bit her lip and glanced at the Guardians. Seventeen sighed and cast his eyes heavenward, then ostentatiously looked at his watch. "Why, look at the time. It's the Guardians' union lunch hour. All of us will now troop over to the cars to pick up our brown-bag lunches, where we shall be gone for three minutes." One of the bodyguards started to protest, but Seventeen quelled them with a look before turning to Melissa and Ilkin.
The Obrimos held your gaze, and though he was smiling, there were sparks of energy in the back of his eyes. "And when we come back, you two will be right here, yes? Excellent. Carry on then."
Ilkin
"So, what's the story?" Ilkin asked. He didn't see much point in beating around the bush, especially not with only three minutes. "If you want me to do prove you innocent, you'll have to help me out."
The Storyteller
"It's far too complicated for me to explain here." Melissa said, biting her lower lip. "Listen, go to my office and look for the file marked Richard Fairview. There's transcripts in there. You'll understand. If you have to, Catesby knows the full story, but this is more important than just me."
Ilkin
"All right," Ilkin said softly. "But at least tell me this -- was it really you?"
The Storyteller
"It wasn't. Jason, you know me better than that." Melissa said. "I'm sorry he died. I really am sorry he died. It's... damaged a lot of things."
Ilkin
Ilkin smiled. "Good to know." He put a hand on her shoulder. "I'll figure this out. Richard Fairview. And Catesby. I'll get you out of that horrid graveyard before you know it."