Dresden Files: Venice
It's Never Black or White
In the Wagner dining room of the Casino d’Venicia on the Grand Canal, Luca Porrini is taking dinner with Cossette, luckily, given the expense, she is paying. Seductively she draws his attention to a woman in a green dress and dark glasses sitting at a table close by (Carlotta), and explains that the woman and her ‘sisters’ are not welcome in Venice and she would be very grateful if Luca could make them go away as soon as possible and at least before the tourist season is in full swing. Suspecting them to be the ’’drones’’ identified to him by Dr Magnus, Luca is more than happy to agree to help her. Cossette indicates that the women will be at the Burlesque Ball at the casino tommorrow, and slides an envelope across to Luca containing tickets for him and his female friends to attend. Dinner complete, the two then head upstairs to the Wagner gallery and museum, where Cossette bypasses the ropes closing off the exhibits, explaining she has an agreement with the management, and takes Luca inside.
With Cossette busy later in the evening, Luca Porrini phones Gina Tortelli, who is out dancing, and seeks her aid in fulfilling Cossette’s wishes. Gina heads somewhere quieter and looks up the details of the burlesque ball with some incredulity, indicating she will catch up with him in the morning and finalise the details.
Meanwhile Dolores Alegra Malspina is spending a quiet evening looking through ‘’Uncle Gulio’s notes’’. She is disturbed however, convinced that someone is watching her. Unable to find sign of the intruder she gives up her reading and heads upstairs to phone Nina daCosta, its time to get to the bottom of that feeling! Initially she gets Nina’s answer message but the girl phones back within the hour and agrees to head on over despite the time. Arriving looking tired, and in need of coffee, Nina daCosta is escorted upstairs by Dolores. Wary of the new coffee maker, Dolores presse ‘F1 for help’ on the laptop and a rather surprissed Gina Tortelli arrives and grumpily makes the coffee. Cup in hand and curled up on the sofa, Nina starts to ‘translate’ for the spectral and unssen Uncle Guilio who is seated in the chair at the end of the room. Amongst the more pertinent information she recieves is that Uncle Guilio has the key to the last security box on him (but Nina daCosta manages to trace the shape of it), and that he drowned in the canal and was hit by an underwater rowing boat! He also had some words for Nina daCosta that she declined to share with anyone. With the late hour and having an early start Nina begs a blanket and the sofa and is mostly asleep when Luca Porrini arrives to brief Gina and Dolores on the pertinent parts of his dinner date and to make plans for the following day. Also some late night research into ‘’Uncle Guilio’s notes’’ turns up a few sketches of a human/insect hybrid, some of which may have been drawn by Leonardo. It appears that the drones are a magical creation, but have since bred and could be considered a ‘natural’ species.
The following morning Nina daCosta has already left for her early work shift, and with Gina Tortelli minding the store, Dolores Alegra Malspina and Luca Porrini head out to shop for outfits for the evening. Drifting through the crowds and casually chatting they are surprised by the sudden poresence of Cossette, who suggests a shop she knows that might be ideal for Dolores’s needs. Leading the two down a narrow alley she takes them through a non-descript door into what appears to be a frontroom, and elegantly spreads herself out on the sofa. A few seconds later an elderly woman Marla Grimani emerges from another room and after ascertaining Dolores needs dissapeared again. She returns a while later with a beautiful Golden Gown which Dolores retires to try on and which fits perfectly. The woman does not even request payment (Old debts always come due) and the three depart with Cossette heading off and leaving the others to finish their shopping. In the afternoon Dolores watches the shop whilst Gina heads out to complete her outfit for the evening.
In the evening, Luca Porrini, Dolores Alegra Malspina and Gina Tortelli take a water taxi to the Casino d’Venicia. After a short delay, they manage to dock, and presenting their tickets are passed through with the minimum of fuss. Deciding to start with dinner, Luca escorts the ladies upstairs, and in doing so they pass Carlotta wearing the same dress as the previous evening and on the arm of a different gentleman; interestingly she also bears a white stick. Gina is convinced she is not human, but cannot detect any trace of the supernatural from her.
Having been seated in the restaurant, the group settle down to dinner, noting from the voices around them that there are ‘’more tourists than residents’’ amongst the guests tonight. Gina spots a couple she has seen before Don Joseph Tormelli and his companion Vivienne. It appears he to has seen them and whilst they await desert he steps across to join them. He politely explains he wishes to locate a buisness whose MD passed away recently, La Belle d’Venice, as he wishes to put a bid in for the company. Handing over his card he asks Luca to pass a message requesting a meeting, as a little consideration for this he has left a little something for Luca and the ladies in the Casino’s games room.
It being early in the evening, the Casino games room is barely occupied when Luca Porrini escorts Dolores Alegra Malspina and Gina Tortelli in. Dolores, accompanied by Luca, settles in at the roulette table and manages to lose a few hundred euros over the space of an hour or so, without noticing anything unusual. Gina meanwhile has settled into a table next to Chesko Barbini and his companion, a woman in a striking red dress (Donna). Neither group take much notice of the man in the tuxedo playing chemin de fair with a man in a panama suit, both observed by a delicate young woman. The curt exchanges and sharp body language between Gina and Donna cause a degree of surpressed mirth to Chesko Barbini and eventually lead to Donna storming away summararily ’’dismissed’’. Leaving Gina and Chesko Barbini to continue their games, Gina and Dolores head up to the ballroom to continue their investigations.
In the ballroom, judging from the conversation, it apears there are ‘’more tourists than residents’‘. Dolores Alegra Malspina notices a group of five well dressed men, and one very beautiful woman standing by the casino’s fireplace, and taking Luca Porrini‘s hand, sweeps him out onto the dance floor and off in the direction of the unusual group. Dancing divinely as usual, Dolores attracts the attention of the group and one of them politely cuts in, with Luca’s permission. Somewhat ’’smitten’’ by him, Dolores allows herself to be led back to be introduced to the rest of the group. It becomes rapidly apparant that the group are russian and all part of the entourage of the well-dressed Sergai Rastakari. His charming manner, intellectual conversation and seemingly generous nature rapidly leave Dolores severely ’’enchanted’’ by him. This does not seem to go down well with the beautiful young lady (Svetlana Korai), who is getting the cold shoulder and thus is more than happy to accept Luca’s invitation to dance. Despite her very limited Italian and his non-existent russian, they manage some basic communication, and after drinks, she drags him to the other end of the room to see one of the portraits on the wall. Luca is somewhat surprised to see the figure in the painting wears the identical dress that Dolores sports this evening, the Golden Gown! Peering closer, Luca observes it is a portrait of Elizabeth Grimani the wife of the last doge of Venice.
Meanwhile down in the Casino room, things are getting much busier and Chesko Barbini invites Gina Tortelli for some dinner in the casino’s Ca’Noghera restaurant. She accepts, and despite being momentarily distracted by a man sitting by himself in the restaurant, is soon hanging on his every word, and then to his arm, as they leave the casino and take a boat back to his apartment.
In the ballroom, Sergai Rastakari decides it is time to leave and that Dolores Alegra Malspina is accompanying him on a tour of Venice’s waterways by moonlight! Dolores offers little resistance to this idea and the group sweep out of the casino to his waiting cabin cruiser. Svetlana Korai however is less than happy with the sharp exchange she has with one of the men in the group and it takes a degree of Luca Porrini‘s charm and a visit to the casino to console her. His luck is definitely in, in more ways than one, and taking the 1000 euro stake left for them by Don Joseph Tormelli he soon doubles it on the roulette table. Luca is by now moderately ’’intrigued’’ bySvetlana Korai and escorts her back up to the ballroom, still trying desperately to keep half a mind on the mission that brought them to the ball. There he spots the woman in the red dress (Donna) that Dolores noted earlier, along with another similar woman in a green dress (Francesca) who is chatting amiably to a pair of foreign men. Svetlana Korai is happy to dance for a while, so Luca has a chance to keep an eye on the two prespective ‘drones’ and when they do leave he and Svetlana Korai head after them. Realising that with a lady on his arm he has no chance of tailing the group, which has been joined by a another woman in a yellow dress (Elettra), Luca looks around wildly and as luck would have it spots Nerina coming out of the cloakroom. He manages to peruade her to follow the group, who are now boarding a water taxi in return for collecting Nerina’s bag from the dock where she will leave it when she transforms to her aquatic form. Svetlana Korai seems sowewhat concerned over what occurs but Luca reassures her, and they head back to his apartment, where a trail of her clothing from inside the door to the entrance of the bedroom leaves a visible marker as to what happens in the darkness. In the shadows of the lounge, unseen by either participant a delicate figure takes a long drink……
Disentangling herself from the sheets of the large bed, Dolores Alegra Malspina came face to face with the one of the ships maid’s who was busy tidying the room of discarded clothing. Her offer of tea was more than welcome, and after indicating that breakfast was to be served on deck, the maid aided Dolores in selecting some suitable clothes from the wardrobe and dressing quickly. Out on deck Sergai Rastakari was deeply involved in a phone call so Dolores helped herself to breakfast from the ample spread, sparing little attention for the other two men at the table. Finishing his call, Sergai Rastakari made scant remarks about the previous evenings activities, instead enquiring as to whether Dolores had thought more upon accepting his commision. Running through the details quickly again, Dolores agreed to the work and the handsome renumeration that went with it. With that Sergai excused himself, stating he had to be in Rome that afternoon to deal with buisness, and headed away with barely a backward glance. Watching him depart, Dolores once again pondered the ‘’intriguing tattoos’’ she has seen on him last night and what exactly they indicated. With Sergai Rastakari gone and Dolores having finished breakfast, one of the other men at the table introduced himself as Sergai’s lawyer and handed Dolores a contract for the work. Reading it, she was somewhat taken with the renumeration package and finding nothing in it she objected to she signed it immediately. Tucking away his copy the lawyer also took his leave and after a further period of relaxation, Dolores finally took up the offer of transportation, and left the massive private yacht moored outside Venice lagoon to return to the Ponte Antico shop completely forgetting to take her gown of the previous evening with her.
Meanwhile Gina Tortelli has risen before Chesko Barbini and manages to rustle up breakfast in his kitchen before he stirs. Despite his cajoling she declines to be drawn into a repeat of last nights performance, instead pressing him on the woman he was initially seen with at the casino (Donna), however he claims he had only met her earlier in the evening and can provide no more details about her. Manging to extracate herself from the apartment without any further delays, Gina arrives back at the Malspina’s Masks comfortably before Dolores Alegra Malspina and has the shop open, and the coffee on, when the owner finally swans in. Not that Dolores would notice as her mind is still to full of the commision she has just recieved and the money it will make for the shop. In fact so much money that she can afford to hire another assistant; Dolores muses for a short while before leaving a message on Nina daCosta’s answerphone, inviting her to interview for the job! She responds a while later, agreeing to come in to see Dolores after her shift ends.
Waking mid-morning in his apartment Luca Porrini tiptoes past the discarded clothing in the direction of the kitchen, looking to get a glass of water before Svetlana Korai wakes up. He is somewhat surprised to find Cossette sitting in his living room with a glass of wine, she has apparantly been there since before he and Svetlana Korai came in! Despite the situation, he maintains his decorum, explaining that they have not got rid of Carlotta and her sisters yet but are working on it. He even manages to recover the buisness card Don Joseph Tormelli handed him the previous night and and pass it over to Cossette along with the message. She sighs, stating he must wait, but that she will talk to him eventually. With Svetlana Korai stirring Cossette slips out, with a lacivioous and well fed smile on her face. Despite there lack of a common language Luca manages, over breakfast, to communicate to Svetlana Korai that she can stay at the apartment, something she is very grateful for (gratitude which delays him further), and finding she has been effectively abandoned in Venice leaves her some money for emergency’s before rushing out to try and find Nerina, promising to be back at tea-time.
With too many tourists about the city to make catching sight of Nerina unlikely before sunset, Luca Porrini heads to the Ponte Antico shop to rendevous with Dolores Alegra Malspina and Gina Tortelli and compare notes on those aspects of last night relating to Carlotta and her sisters. With little progress on their part they realise they need to wait for Nerina‘s report on where the two ’drones’ went last night. At this point Svetlana Korai phones, needing to explain to Luca she has practically nothing to wear, Gina translates and Luca promises to get (Gina to get) some things for her. Realising that, for at least his own sanity, he needs to communicate with Svetlana Korai on more than a tactile level, Luca allows/persudaes Gina to spend the afternoon enacting a ritual which although it leave him with somewhat ‘’poor speech’‘, does enable him to ’’communicate in Russian’’.
With Gina Tortelli heading out to spend the rest of the afternoon shopping for clothes for Svetlana Korai, Luca Porrini heads back to his apartment to try out his new communications skills. On arrival he finds Svetlana Korai cleaning, whilst wearing nothing but some rather expensive underwear! Communication thus took several hours and was more tactile than Luca had planned. This left Dolores Alegra Malspina alone at the shop when Nina daCosta arrived for her interview, wearing a smart buisness suit and an interesting black enamel choker. It rapidly became apparant that Dolores wanted Nina daCosta to take the job and Nina daCosta wanted the job and thus it went from an interview to a discussion of terms and conditions. There was a slight interruptin when fed up of Uncle Guilio watching over her shoulder she drew an impromptu salt circle to keep him out. In the end the women agreed that Nina daCosta should start first thing tommorrow morning and that Gina would oversee her induction.
Gina Tortelli meanwhile had arrived at Luca Porrini‘s apartment loaded down with shopping bags, luckily as she had shopped for both Svetlana Korai and herself, she had taken some time, allowing Luca and Svetlana Korai to complete their “conversation” and proceed on to dinner. Whilst the girls cracked open a bottle of wine and started trying on oufits, Luca slipped out to find Nerina. Eventually he found her just after sunset, drifting close to the dock near the most fashionable ball of the night. From her, he learnt that the two ’drones’ had taken their guests into the foundations of the Hotel Italia (which were also acessable underwater)and there along with another four men they had met a grisly fate at the hands of at least two dozen of the creatures and their queen, many of whom could not readily pass as human. As Nerina slides away into the water, Luca realises he is being watched by a woman in an all concealing burkha,and heads off determined to lose her. In fact he ends up tailing her, eventually leaving off his pursuit when she enters the run down area of Dante Court. Heading back to the Ponte Antico shop. Luca updates Gina by phone and then Dolores Alegra Malspina in person after his arrival.
Over coffee in the Ponte Antico shop with Dolores Alegra Malspina, Luca Porrini phones Dr Helen Magnus and gets an update on her limited knowledge of the drones species. Apparantly she faxed what details she had to his aprtment, but they seem not to have arrived. Deciding that a scouting operation is required, the two brainstorm ideas, eventually deciding on the same method of entry Nerina used to get into the basement of the Hotel Italia; underwater. Rather than the difficulty of oxygen tanks etc, Dolores determines that a simple reversal of the mask she made for Nerina would suffice and working late into the night she crafts three masks, each capable of temporarily transforming the wearer into a mermaid. Each is bonded to its wearer with the faintist of ‘’Blood Magic Links’’. Luca heads home to Svetlana Korai and upon his arrival Gina Tortelli makes her way back to her apartment for a well deserved rest.
Nina daCosta was prompt for her first morning at work in the Ponte Antico shop, arriving dressed as for her iterview, in a smart suit and wearing the black enamel choker. After Dolores Alegra Malspina gave her the basic tour she left her in the charge of Gina Tortelli for her first day of work, Dolores meanwhile retired to bed having had a very late night previously. When she awoke in the mid afternoon the shop had had a profitable day, and Nina daCosta seemed to have settled in very well. Gina had discovered that Nina daCosta already had a set of keys for the shop (having been directed to Uncle Guilio’s set by the ghost of the previous owner), but other than that there were no surprises and the two women seemed to work well together.
With his newly arrived Private Investigator license in his pocket, Luca Porrini takes Svetlana Korai, for a wander around Venice, incedentally passing Dante Court. It is slightly less ominous in the daytime, with a small fountain in the centre and buildings looming over the four sides, he determines there is only the one entrance to the small square. The two then take a light lunch before heading back to the apartment.
With the shop closed, and dusk settling on the city, Luca Porrini, Gina Tortelli and Dolores Alegra Malspina slip into the water, don their mermaid masks and start to navigate their way towards the underwater section of the Hotel Italia. Swimming with a tailfin takes a little getting used to, as does being female for Luca!, but the three arrive at thier destination without incident. Slipping in through the foundations (which used to be the ‘ground floor’) they pass kitchens and storage areas before entering the semi submerged ballroom. Drifting gently to the surface, they watch as a couple of insectoid creatures sort through the bones and body parts, seperating clothing and helping themselves to any remaining tasty morsels. Dominating the room is the queen, a bus sized beetle hybrid, barely mobile, but with several limbs giving it access to most of the chamber. Looking around the rest of the chamber, they note a doorway and stairs probably leading up to the hotel above, and several areas of the room that are curtained off and in which the three are fairly convinced that many more of the creatures lurk, asleep, and unseen from the water. Having stayed long enough, the three slip away and swim back towards the dock near the shop where they left their clothes, and then back to the Ponte Antico shop to plan their attack!
Before the three retire for the night, Gina Tortelli sits Luca Porrini down over coffee to discuss Cossette and Svetlana Korai and hopefully put him on a more sensible course of action with regard to the pair. Dolores Alegra Malspina meanwhile starts to re-enchant the masks for the attack on the Hotel Italia. Despite the amount of power required still being in excess of her natural ability, Dolores decides to forego the blood magic link; she succeeds, but leaves herself with a ‘’Mermaids Cravings’’.
The following morning Nina daCosta is once again early for work, which is handy as just after the shop opens Inspector Masa Ursetta arrives, ostensibly to return Dolores Alegra Malspina‘s drawing and update her on the burglary at the museum. With Nina DaCosta sent out for pastries, Inspector Masa Ursetta also plucks up the courage to ask Dolores to accompany him to the policemans masked ball on saturday night at the Hotel Italia. She agrees and retains enough of her wits to delay Luca Porrini’s arrival when he phones to tell her he has sourced guns from his contact Orlando, after an early morning meeting with him at a rubbish barge on one of the cities quieter canals. With the inspector departed, and Luca secreting an AK47 and an Uzi in one of the storerooms, the postman arrives with a parcel for Dolores. Carefully wrapped inside is a beautiful onyx statuette of Dolores, dressed in the gown she wore at Fabrini Giacanti’s party last month. There is no note or explanation with the figurine, but suspicion falls upon the mysterious Delilah, who tried to entice Dolores into an art challenge at the event.
Svetlana Korai calls the shop in the afternoon, excited that she has a dance audition this evening. Pleased for her, Luca Porrini arranges to take her out for dinner, at the Hotel Italia restaurant. Selecting a table from which he can see the door he suspects leads eventually to the flooded former ballroom, Luca divides his attention between it, and his beautfiul dining companion. He still maintains enough awareness however to observe Francesca sipping coffee near the door, obviously providing a lookout for the group down below, and more interestingly a slender blonde in a pink skirt suit at the bar, a Mac10 SMG in her handbag! Meanwhile back at the Ponte Antico shop, at Dolores Alegra Malspina‘s wish, Gina Tortelli employs all her talents to re-animate ’Hector’ the clockwork mannequin who had broken into Ca’Rezzonica. She succeeds, at least for a limited time (24 hours) but the strain leaves her with a nervous, almost ‘’clockwork twitch’’.
Having finished dinner with Svetlana Korai, and learnt no more about the armed woman at the bar. Luca Porrini escorts his charming companion home, her to change for an audition, and him to plan for the nights raid.
Dolores Alegra Malspina, Gina Tortelli, and Luca Porrini meet at a secluded jetty just after 3am and donning their masks slip into the water and head towards the Hotel Italia. Sliding through the drowned foundations they head into the ballroom, arriving in a room full of drones! Luca surfaces and sprays the group with the AK47, he is joined moments later by Gina who plucks an MM1 grenade launcher from her bag and slams a 40mm round into the queen, despite a suiicidal drone which just fails to get in the way. Half a dozen drones spash into the water to attack the mermaids, and Dolores reacts by spraying them with bullets from the Uzi. A second round of fire from Gina and Luca avoids more suicidal drones, and the queeen explodes in a fountain of gook! This however does not stop the wave of attacking creatures and the three mermaids find themselves struggling in close combat, whilst several of the more normal drones head through the door and up into the hotel. Luca is more than capable of holding his own, killing two in quick succesion, the women are less succesful however, with Gina suffering minor ‘’slashed scales’’ and Dolores a minor ‘’gashed arm’‘. Gina then summons her magical power, sending ripples of frozen ice through the water, lacerating drones but leaving her slightly ’’twitchy’’, whilst Dolores tries to entice her attakers deeper into the water where they will hopefully drown. Still the creatures pour into the water however and the three decide discretion is the better part of valour and flee through the flooded foundations and away, returning safely to dock.
Removing their masks, Gina Tortelli, Dolores Alegra Malspina and Luca Porrini head quickly to the Ponte Antico shop, where Gina passes the Uzi to the clockwork Hector and instructs him to hunt down any drones that fled the ballroom. She then phones Christy offering her the chance to mop up any surivivors, she is somewhat surprised to discover Christy already knows about the raid, and clearing a space enacts a divination ritual to find out more. Although she cannot identify the name of the onserver, Gina determines that the watcher is both a ‘’warped human’’ and an ’’amphibian’’.
After a few hours sleep, and with Nina daCosta safely in charge of the Ponte Antico shop, Gina Tortelli, Dolores Alegra Malspina and Luca Porrini (who left an exhausted Svetlana Korai asleep in bed) head to the Hotel Italia for breakfast. All seems quist and undisturbed, and within a few moments Luca spots Cossette drinking tea alone, he heads over and at her invitation sits down to talk.
Luca Porrini confirms to Cossette that the task she requested from him has been dealt with, and that all should now be well. She accepts his word and congratulates him on the job, suggesting that she owes him for his efforts, an offer he does not immediately take her up on, rather surprisingly. Gina Tortelli and Dolores Alegra Malspina meanwhile are oblivious to this, with Gina having to comment to Dolores on her excesive intake of raw fish. Buisness concluded the three depart to continue their respective days.
Returning home, Luca Porrini is confronted by the sight of Svetlana Korai practicsing a rather provocative dance routine in a mask and lingerie: apparantly she got the job with a new dance troupe called ‘Masquerade’ and her first performance is that friday. After a private performance of the full routine, the two take time to celebrate.
Back at the Ponte Antico shop, Dolores Alegra Malspina and Gina Tortelli arrive to find Nina daCosta has opened up without incident. She does however mention that Hector has returned. Racing upstairs the ladies find the clockwork automaton standing motionless in the middle of the living room, covered in blood and still clutching the Uzi. Examining the blood, Gina determines it to ‘’be both human and not’‘, and ’’the product of more than five bodies’’. Dolores starts to clean up the machine, whilst Gina starts work on the bloodstained carpets. The Uzi is empty and there are some dents in Hectors chassis, signs of a tough night. Finally finishing up, Gina heads downstairs to relieve Nina daCosta, who tells her that a ghost has appeared in the shop, a young woman in a pale evening gown, but being insubstantial (even to Nina) she cannot yet communicate with her.
After lunch, Luca Porrini heads out to check the word on the street; the police have recovered one body from the canal, and apprantly have three more in the morgue, whilst the supernatural community have been dealing with several stragglers form the firefight. From Orlando Luca also learns that the mob have been disposing of further corpses. Fortunatley it seems everyone wants to keep the details of exactly what went on under wraps.
Late in the afternoon Nerina visits the Ponte Antico shop, dressed in a new red dress, strikingly similar to the one last seen on Donna. She would like her special mask to altered to co-ordinate with it. Whilst Dolores Alegra Malspina is seeing to that, and Nerina is draped (tail and all) across the chaise longe in the lounge, the mermaid is unusually chatty, confirming that all six of the mermaids in the lagoon are in Venice at the moment, with food being unexpectedly plentiful. She also mentions that Catarina went to see Don Joseph Tormelli for some reason. With her mask altered and Gina heading out for new shoes to finish the ensemble, the group relax with coffee and pastries, their work apparently done.