Dresden Files: Venice
Recollections of the Dead
Venice is sinking, everyone knows that, but sometimes the fact is brought into sharp focus, such as recently when cracks ripped down the side of the church San Bonaventura. Local TV news have been reporting from the site where a team from Venice university (led by Proffessor Ilario Ricone and Perlita Notaro) are investigating the tomb that has been revealed beneath the chapel. That is of a side issue at least first thing in the morning, when after recieving a letter from Sergai Rastakari, Dolores Alegra Malspina takes some photos of the commission he has requested an update on and sends Gina Tortelli to get them copied so they can be sent to him. On her return Gina is surprised by a face appearing faintly in the glass of the display cabinet (unnoticed by Nina DaCosta who is also in the shop), Mistress states she needs to talk to Gina, but before she can explain further the vision fades in a bright light. Getting some time off from Dolores, Gina rustles up a quick ‘tracking app’ on her phone and heads off following it’s directions, unsurprisingly to the church of San Bonaventura. The area is very busy with workmen and archaeologists, so Gina attempts to sneak in insubstantially, a couple of people possibly notice her eyes as she takes glimpses to orientate herself (including Perlita Notaro), but no alarm is raised. However the threshold on the building defies her attempts to enter and she is forced to return to the Ponte Antico shop.
After Svetlana Korai leaves for work at the Italian pavilion of La Biennale, Luca Porrini spends the morning researching Don Joseph Tormelli and Vivienne. Given her apparant age it is assumed Vivienne is Delphina Tormelli‘s mother, though he can find no proof of this. Needing help, Luca grabs a couple of sodas and heads to St. Marks square to see Mario the Juggler, eventually finding him in the crowd, he waits for a break in his show before offering the soda and a shady place to sit and talk. From him he gets confirmation that Vivienne is Delphina’s mother and amazingly that despite appearances Delphina is only eight or nine years old. School changes and the Don’s money and contacts have managed to keep this fact below the radar of most people.
Back at the Ponte Antico shop Gina Tortelli phones Mistress to see if there is an easier way in, avoiding the threshold. There is the hole in the wall, but Mistress does not know where this comes out. With the archaeologists close to entering the chamber, Mistress suggests Gina come urgently to collect her fathers documents and move the varietys of bodies in bags! Apparantly a man drops them off about once a month and the last is still alive, judging from the muffled screaming. Pausing only to collect Dolores Alegra Malspina and call Luca Porrini telling him to meet them there, Gina rushes out of the shop and across the city. Leaving St Marks square, Luca is puzzled by the fact that the head of the horse of the statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni has turned towards the site, but with time of the essence he does not investigate further.
Arriving at the barrier keeping the public away from the chapel of San Bonaventura, Dolores Alegra Malspina sprinkles some dust over Luca Porrini and Gina Tortelli granting them a ‘veil of invisibility’, before using her innate magic to do the same for herself. Now unnoticed, the three pass the police on the barrier and head over to try and find a way in to the crypt below. As they do so, Dolores notes a remote camera being prepared to pass into the crack in the wall. A quick wave of her hand leaves that hexed and gathers a group of puzzled archaeology students around it to fix it. With no obvious way in, the three head into the childrens hospital next door. They have no luck there, and in frustration Gina refers to the city building plans; from them they realise that what is now the garden of the hospital, was once a monastry, and connected to the chapel by a passage now bricked off. Acess however is still available to that passage via the top of the bell tower. Switching form, Luca flies Gina to the top of the tower but in trying to do the same for Dolores slips and plummets leaving himself with a moderately ‘’bruised shoulder’‘. Dolores manages to save herself with magic but is left mildly ’’dazed’’. Eventually the three regroup at the to of the tower and with the aid of a hairgrip pick the new padlock on the iron grate and stare down the shaft into the darkness.
Dropping a ball of light down the shaft, Luca Porrini and the ladies watch it drop to the bottom, illuminating for a moment a passage heading in the right direction. Gina Tortelli pulls a rope ladder from her bag, anchors it to the grating and lowers it down before climbing down herself. Reaching the bottom she use her mobile phone for light and heads along the crumbling brick passage, finding a hole in the wall at the end which leads into the crypt. She steps through and with a little magic ensures there is enough light to see by. The crypt contains two sarcophagi, a rack of scrolls and over half a dozen bags, from one of which is coming a muffled screaming. Rushing over to open the bag she is joined by Luca and Dolores Alegra Malspina, and upon opening it finds a woman Luisa Mancuso, cruelly bound in duct tape and wire, blindfolded and gagged. Peeling off the blindfold, there is nothing but wild insanity in the woman’s eyes, despite this Gina pulls a pair of wire cutters from her bag and with Luca holding the woman down starts to cut the wire away. Dolores meanwhile spots a mirror behind the door and as she approachs it, Mistress swims into focus in it. She directs Gina towards the rack of scrolls (which are her fathers copies of the Venice contracts she has been looking for), who starts to pack them into her bag. Dolores meanwhile investigates the sarcophagi, which according to the engravings on the surface, contain Cesare Gonzaga and Diana di Cordona. Mistress mentions that Gina’s father put Diana di Cordona in the sarcophagi and she is not dead, Gina cannot resist a quick peek and motions Luca to open it. Lying within an enchanted glass coffin fitted into the sarcophagi is the body of a middle aged woman. With the sound of pneumatic drills indicating that the archaeologists are making progress in entering the crypt from above, Luca and the ladies prepare to leave, planning to take the scrolls, Mistress‘s mirror and the glass coffin!. Gina steps through into the Nevernever and finds the coffin, mirror and Mistress are real at that point. Mistress admits that no-one can leave the crypt via the nevernever as it was designed to be a prison to hold her. With the spirits of the dead girls (from the other bags) coalescing, Gina hurridly returns to the real world. Deciding they cannot (and should not) take Luisa Mancuso with them, Dolores settles for using her magic to rehydrate her and ensure she will survive till help comes. In doing so she notices the girl has two tattoos, one of some age is a gothic cross, the other is recent and some form of butterfly. Moving the various items they are taking to the passage, Gina then uses her thaumaturgy to rebuild the hole in the wall (at least temporarily), giving them time to make their escape. Climbing back to the top of the tower Luca spots a figure in a pale grey suit watching the belltower from a building across the canal. Dolores once again sprinkles her dust over Luca, Gina and the coffin granting them another ’’viel of invisibility’’ and the three make their way away from the scene as cries from the front of the chapel indicate the archaeologists have broken through into the crypt.
Unable to carry the coffin all the way across Venice to the Ponte Antico shop, Luca Porrini phones Hilario Abate and with the help of his water taxi and an ability to look the other way manage to get it, the mirror and scrolls back just before Nina DaCosta closes up for the day. With the Crystal coffin safely ensconsed in the secure store room, Luca heads home to meet up with Svetlana Korai; Nina DaCosta and Gina Tortelli head home to get dressed for their night out and Dolores Alegra Malspina settles down for an evenings mask making. Later that evening Claudia de Tisi Mortinengo mentions to Dolores that there is aman watching the shop, Dolores comments it may be a serial killer, at which point Claudia faints! Concerned, Dolores phones Luca who flies over and together the two head downstairs to confront the man. He accuses them of interfering with things that are his: he knows who Dolores is, and threatens to get his revenge on her, Luca, and Gina. He will not give his name and Dolores pointedly will not invite him into the shop. At this standoff he heads away into the night, hunting for Gina. As soon as he is gone, Luca texts Gina to warn her, and then decides to try and find out who he is. Eventually he is forced to call Cossette and she agrees to come over in a couple of hours.
Cossette arrives at the Ponte Antico shop in the early hours of the morning and over a glass of wine in the living room tells Luca Porrini and Dolores Alegra Malspina what she knows. From the description she thinks the man is Vico Malvera a white court vampire resident of Venice who feeds primarily on fear and terror. He is part of a small family in the city and at least tolerated by vampire society. Cossette is unsurprised about the girls in the bags, there are rumours that Vico has been doing similar for several hundred years, and will not be best pleased that his activitys have been disturbed. Thanking her for her information, Luca ‘accepts’ her offer of a ride home and heads outside and down to the canal where a boat awaits them. Stepping into the cabin he is somewaht surprised to find Rachelle Lenco reclining amidst a pile of cushions, clad only in her underwear. The smile on her face and the encouraging look from Cossette make it apparant what is expected of him…
Meanwhile earlier that evening, having changed into more appropriate clothing, Gina Tortelli and Nina DaCosta take the short walk from Nina’s apartment to the Dark Cross nightclub. The queue is long but the two young woman manage to bypass it with a flirtatious smile to the doormen. Inside the converted church, the music is loud and the environs cramped, but it does not take Gina long to confirm to herself the presence of several vampires. After a short discussion at slightly cross purposes the two head deeper into the building in search of drinks and fun.
Slipping through the crowded Dark Cross club, Gina Tortelli realises that although the church may have been converted, this being Venice means it was probably never deconsecrated. She is trying to consider the ramifications of this when she realises Nina DaCosta is staring at a group of girls and mumbling; “”/wikis/shadow-sisters" class=“wiki-page-link”>Shadow Sisters,
~##!!@". Eventually Gina interrupts the tyrade and drags the still angry young woman deeper into the club for drinks and dancing. Several hours later and although Gina has managed to moderate her intake of alcohol, Nina is exceptionally drunk. So much so that when Gina sees one of the Shadow Sisters go up a narrow staircase to meet a tall thin woman in a black velvet dress, Nina‘s replies as to who they are are incomprehensible. Given that the tall woman appears Fey to Gina, and that the woman making her way up the stairs has a gothic cross tattoo on her shoulder, Gina decides she needs more information and guides her friend to the toilets where a little thaumaturgy sobers her up. Clutching her head and feeiling somewhat the worse for wear, Nina identifies the woman in the velvet dress as Orabella the owner of the club and the woman who went to see her as Carla Spina, the ’leader’ of the Shadow Sisters. With the threat of the presence of Vico Malvera still on her mind, Gina decides that enough is enough for tonight and collecting their things guides Nina home. There is a gentle mist rising from the cannals as the two woamn arrive at Nina’s flat, but they enter safely. Gina quickly changes into her own clothes whilst Nina simply scatters her clothing around as she meanders around making coffee and casting looks at Gina. Gina however departs promptly and despite her misgivings makes it home without incident.
The following morning Nina DaCosta only just makes it to the Ponte Antico shop before 9am opening, but well dressed and still wearing the black enamel choker. She has barely got in the door when Gina Tortelli phones and needs her to press ‘F1 for help’ on the laptop to make it in on time. Seeing Nina’s condition she immediately heads out back to make coffee, just as Mistress enters through the door (It appears she is no longer enchanted within the mirror, as removing it from the chapel of San Bonaventura invalidated the ‘prison’ part of the enchantment). She explains she has just come to collect a few things and heds upstairs to step into the mirror again! Before anyone can really say anything a bunch of flowers arrive for Dolores Alegra Malspina with an apologetic note from Inspector Masa Ursetta, Dolores heads out back to put them in water and the others divide their time between the coffee and the beginnings of the stream of customers entering the shop.
For once when Luca Porrini wakes up Svetlana Korai is already up and making breakfast. He joins her in time to catch the morning news, which focuses primarily on the discovery of Luisa Mancuso in a bag in the crypt of the chapel of San Bonaventura, but also mentions an elderly widower who was found dead ‘under suspicious circumstances’ in his locked flat. It seems at the moment police are not revealing any further details. Finishing breakfast, and with Svetlana getting ready to go to work at La Biennale. Luca texts Gina Tortelli and asks her to keep an eye out for the contract between Don Joseph Tormelli and Catarina. With no further information on either murder on the lunchtime news, Luca decides to dig further and phones his contact at the morgue, Nunzio Arbatti. He confirms the widower was strangled, in his judgement by someone with smallish hands (maybe a woman), and that Inspector Masa Ursetta is upset because the door to the apartment was locked and chained from the inside. Luca offers him diner for his help, and Nunzio shyly asks if one of Svetlana’s friends at Masquerade might be free to join them! Luca promises to do his best.
Later in the morning Dolores Alegra Malspina spots a rat in the workroom, it seems strangely unafraid of her, but moves away when she approaches. During lunch, Gina Tortelli heads to the storeroom to examine the mirror that Mistress used to occupy. It is still enchanted and appears to be a ‘’portal to a private prison’’. She is puzzling over this when she spots a rat observing her, again it departs despite her attempts to talk to it. This is too much for Dolores who heads out to the local animal sanctuary and obtains a cat (Mr Tiddles), along with all the acutraments required for keeping it.
With work on her various projects underway, Dolores then heads to Ca’Rezzonica to take a look at the various masks and determine if any others are still enchanted. She is greeted soon after entering by Adalina Trazino who invites her backstage for coffee and a gossip, it appears that despite her age Adalina is pregnant! Keeping a straight face (as she believes the incident is undoubtedly due to the mask Adalina borrowed for the ball last month) Dolores is now more determined to ensure no other masks there cause trouble, she explains she is writing a book and wants to research some of the masks at the museum for it. Adalina is more than happy to help with this and takes Dolores on a tour of the exhibits. Due to increased security she cannot however open them whilst the museum is open, but she does arrange for Dolores to visit this evening after hours.
After a busy afternoon in the shop, and with Nina DaCosta and Gina Tortelli on their respective ways home, Dolores Alegra Malspina heads back to Ca’Rezzonica where she is met by Adalina Trazino for her private viewing of various of the masks. From her tour earlier in the day she had determined three where still ‘magically active’ and after looking at a few others for her book she starts to examine them. The first is a green and gold mask, made for the Duke of Milan in the 16th century, it is heavy and engraved on the inside with a pattern of lines and stars which Dolores takes a rubbing of. Surruptitiously using her sorcery, Dolores determines it carries some form of warding and was made ‘’for when the time is right’‘. The next mask is crystal over ivory and beautifuly made, it has no provinance but Adalina suspects it is not Italian. Examining it, Dolores concurs but can determine little else about it. The third is the most delicate and beautiful, made for a courtesan in the 16th century, Adalina mentions she is considering borrowing it for the benefactors ball next month. Dolores winces at this, but manages to concentrate on the purple mask, it has a powerful taint of Biomancy and gives the impresion of ’’life without end’’. She is just putting it down when Adalina’s beeper goes off and she walks to the end of the gallery to pick up a phone. Dolores manages not to jump when a voice whispers from the darkness “anytime now”. Feigning indifference, she heads over to Adalina who informs her it is a heat sensor on the gallery below and the fire brigade will be here soon as a matter of procedure. The two head downstairs to let the firemen in. Dolores decides this is her time to leave and saying good evening slips down the side alley casting a veil around herself as she does so, it is succesful but the magic is barely controllable and leaves her mildly ’’unfoccussed’’. Thus it is only when she reaches the Ponte degle scalzi over the Grand Canal that she realises she is being followed. Ahead a voice whispers “down here, he’s following you”, hesitating she makes her way under the bridge footing and face to face with a small grubby man. He leads her further into the darkness under the bridge and into a small alcove which appears somewhat distant from the canal only a few feet away. Waiting until he reckons the bad man has gone, the figure offers Dolores a chocolate bar, and she responds by giving him her bottle of water. Studying her ‘saviour’ Dolores reckons he is probably half-fey, and may or may not be aware of his heritage. Repeating how bad the man folowing her is, the small figure says she should seek out the ‘Gaurdian of the City’ as he will protect her, Dolores smiles and wonders what Luca Porrini would think of that statement. With his final promise that should she get in trouble she can come and find him again, Dolores slips out and heads home.
Unaware of how his name and position are being spoken of Luca Porrini spends the evening sweet talking Svetlana Korai and eventually asking her about the double diner date he had promised Nunzio Arbatti, she smiles and says she will see what she can do.
Gina Tortelli spends the evening at home surounded by the scrolls she recovered from the tomb below San Bonaventura. Begining to bring order to the chaos, she cannot find the contract between Catarina and Don Joseph Tormelli although she does find a contract between Jacapo Malspina and ‘The Queen’ for the purchase of four masks. She makes a mental note to check in the shop records to see if this was ever completed. She also phones Dolores Alegra Malspina to telll her about the old contract and Luca Porrini to tell hime she cannot find the contract he wanted.
The following morning, everyone is on time to work at the Ponte Antico shop, Nina DaCosta seems much more herself, and with everything running smoothly Dolores Alegra Malspina heads to the workroom to continue work on her commissions. Finding a rat in residence on her bench, she heads upstairs to find ‘tiddles’ who is sitting on Claudia deTisi Mortinengo‘s lap in the living room. With Claudia suffering badly from boredom, Dolores takes her downstairs to learn a little about mask making, for which she shows a small amount of aptitude. At that point a very large delivery of flowers arrives for Dolores, with a card and invitation to dinner at De Psis tonight from Fabrini Giacanti. Although she has a good pair of shoes to wear, Dolores decides she needs a new dress and so gets people to work on the problem immediately, Nina DaCosta starts to research dress hire agencies, Gina Tortelli looks into enchanting dress from scratch and even Luca Porrini is brought in to check his contacts for anything that may help. After lunch, with Gina working on her enchanted dress, Dolores heads out to xxxxx to shop, eventually settling on a Prada dress which given the increase in buisness she can just about afford. Returning to the shop she is showing off her purchase when Nina DaCosta storms into the back of the shop, her language ripe and her mood foul. Gina heads out to take over the customer who has so managed to upset Nina, finding a somewhat charming young woman in search of an ’edgy’ mask. Eventually she finds something she likes and pays in cash. As she leaves Gina notices a tattoo on her upper arm of a Gothic Cross. Upstairs Dolores has managed to calm Nina down, with the aid of wine, and ellicited from her the woman is Rosabella Veccitone, one of the Shadow Sisters.
During the afternoon, Luca Porrini spends time sorting out advertising for his P.I. buisness, and after taking a deep breath phones Don Joseph Tormelli‘s office aranging an appointment to see him at 11am tommorrow. He has jusy done this when Dolores Alegra Malspina phones and hires him to follow her this evening during her ’date’.
Luca Porrini sets himself up in a cafe across the canal from De Psis before Dolores Alegra Malspina arrives by water taxi, and watches her enter. Inside she is greeted by Fabrini Giacanti and the two settle down to dinner. She manages to maintain her decorum despite spotting Vico Malvera sitting two tables away with a white haired woman. Dolores is both charmed and charming with her date, and completely ignores the withering look Vico gives her as he and his companion leave, whilst she is contemplating desert. Outside Luca watches the two leave aboard a private boat piloted by an unseen third person. When Fabrini Giacanti and Dolores leave, Luca is prepared and slipping into the shadows shifts form to follow them from the air, along the Grand Canal to Fabrini’s mansion.