This story was revealed to me by an associate who chooses to remain anonymous, mostly due to embarrassment. She’s part of an exclusive community of characters residing in the Shed, a Tardis like building I’m fortunate to own. Our facilities are simple but homely. The house rules are a little strict due to an incident a while ago, involving two drunken dogs and several traffic cones. I can’t reveal who the perpetrators were (Cerberus and Anubis if you wanted to make a note). The POV is confusing, details are patchy and I started to get a nervous twitch halfway through. This tale is long and convoluted and for now has to be mercifully short:
“The Apothecary’s art is subtle and filled with mystery. See their phials of jewelled tinctures, resplendent on handcrafted drawers and cedar perfumed shelves. Beautiful in nature, yet edged with terrible power, nascent, silent. Nature provides but advises caution, She yields her secrets only to those with the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the heart to feel. For things not of just one world but many. Hers is the skill of artificer and alchemist”.
‘Ms A’ stopped typing and sat back. It’ll do, the local ‘newspaper’, as the rag liked to call itself wanted a short bio from her. She didn’t trust any of their muckrakers not to twist the facts, no insult meant, they did indeed clean the Squire’s stables.
This odd little community was unaware of her previous profession. The imbecile of a town council would choke on their sherries if it was ever revealed. Most of them had appeared on her ‘list’ and were still considered candidates. She opened the desk drawer and took out a document. The wax seal had been broken long ago, it was fingered nostalgically. What heady days they were, socialising with the cream of the profession. Their AGMs were riotous affairs (behind closed doors) and held in the most intriguing locations the organisers could find. The Guild of Dishevelled Assassins had a lineage going back to the early 8th century BCE. Their history was documented meticulously, it had to be as the auditors were quite particular. Fortunately or unfortunately they uncovered discrepancies in several documents, the issue appeared to start in the Dark Ages. One of their number had been falsifying ‘hits’ and transferring Guild funds into an unnumbered account in Mongolia. Not exactly one’s idea of a tax haven. Regardless, it was a dirty business, tainting the good name of the Guild and its Members. Luckily the tabloids hadn’t got wind of this affair.
The memories were rushing back like a bout of food poisoning. Poison, a subject close to her heart. Nature provided a huge assortment of raw materials with which to produce her elixirs. The mother tinctures were seven in number and guarded carefully, they had to be being extremely toxic substances. One even managed to eat through carbon fibre. What a result! Anyway, an undercover assignment ensued. It lasted about 600 years and the resulting admin paperwork was horrendous. For others perhaps, for her it was a dream. Everything was categorised and filed in alphabetical folders, which were backed up of course on an external hard drive and memory sticks. The files were cross-referenced as well. Sounds a little anally retentive? Not at all. The information was stored off-site in several locations. Security was of the utmost importance.
The trail lead to a cemetery in North London. One of their operatives, a necromancer, had their office/home in a perfectly presented mausoleum within the cemetery. They’d been tracking the rogue assassin for several years, finally locating them to an exclusive area of this part of London. Highgate was too obvious a place for this individual to escape to. Something was amiss, one of their number wouldn’t behave in such a slapdash manner. Their greed was resulting in mistakes and dulling their senses. (at this stage I was screaming inwardly wanting her to move on). He was followed to a local coffee shop, where he proceeded to drink coffee, a lot of coffee. It was evident that he was addicted to caffeine. The shots of espresso only aggravated his latent psychosis. If he carried on it would put everyone in danger. They managed to sedate him and get him into a sorry looking Robin Reliant which was parked round the corner. A hearse passed them slowly, the driver looked rather familiar. It was the necromancer’s associate who worked part-time in the funeral profession.
Everything was going as planned. They reached Highgate Woods and parked the cars in an underground carpark, one no one was aware of apparently. It had been excavated by their Roman colleagues as a garage for their chariots and to stable the horses. My friend and her companions soon got to ‘work’ on their quarry. The session didn’t last long, a hefty dose of atrocious 80’s music and bad poetry had him sobbing and pleading for them to stop the torture. It unravelled bit by bit. He was only small fry, the real culprits were higher up the echelon. This was unwelcome news, the Guild had suspected something like this but hoped it wasn’t true. The rogue operative pleaded for clemency in return for further information. He was put in the witness relocation programme and ended up managing a seedy nightclub in a less salubrious district of Tartarus. Apt punishment one would say.
(The White Rabbit fell asleep at this stage, at least I think he did. It looked as if he’d lost consciousness. Whatever, he looked unwell. I think my sanity was just about hanging on).