It had been quiet at the Warehouse. Very quiet, and for too long. Almost a month since the last big case, with only a few smaller retrievals sprinkled between. Understandably, the Warehouse staff were becoming restless. Pete, Myka, Steve and Claudia had taken the opportunity to see family, being the most senior agents. Aden Taylor was spending a lot of time with Mary, organizing something he assured the team they wouldn't be interested in. The H.AR.P.team, recently reformed after some decades, were enjoying their side-jobs in the small town of Univille. Even one of the newest Warehouse recruits, Felix Draco, had found some of the magic to fade after spending every day for the last few weeks roaming the endless shelves.
Fortunately that would change soon. Tyler Lepido got the first call. His pocket buzzed and he pulled out his Farnsworth, a smaller model used by H.A.R.P. that was far more inconspicuous. He activated it to see the face of Artie, the aging Warehouse custodian. "Tyler, I need you to call the team and get to the Warehouse. We finally have a ping!"
Tyler arrived in record time. Nikki Nola, Bri Repindata, Matt Sordens and Blaine Biston were already waiting for him in the office. It wasn't long before Sandy Calacer showed up, followed by Aden who looked slightly miffed about being interrupted in the middle of his oh-so-secret plans. Finally Felix staggered into the office, looking suspiciously unstable on his feet.
Their attention converged on Artie, who was in his usual seat by the Warehouse computer. On the desk in from of his was a stack of papers and the chalkboard was covered in hieroglyphs and a map of Egypt. Aden seemed to perk up slightly at the sight of that. "Good, you're all here." Artie addressed the group. "Well, mostly..." He cast a contemptuous glare at Felix, who was staring into the middle distance. "I know it's been too long, but we finally have a case!"
He stood up (not gaining much height by doing so) and grabbed a folder from the pile handing it to Aden. "Mummies?" Aden said, skimming the file.
"Mummies." Artie confirmed. "Last night someone broke into the British Museum and tried to swipe something from the Egyptology department. Authorities found him the next morning wrapped in linen, very much dead. He had this on his face." He handed a photo to Matt.
"An Anubis mask?" Aden asked, peering over his shoulder.
"God of funeral rights and mummification. Nothing else was disturbed, so either the thief was after that specifically and something went wrong, or he made a poor choice at the start."
Bri started to become excited. 'So we're going to London!?"
Artie nodded and handed Matt, Bri, Aden and Matt flight tickets. "Not to the museum, though. The mask was taken into police custody until the investigation is over. You'll be making an evidence pick-up."
Bri's face fell slightly. "But maybe some sightseeing after?"
The trio emerged from their taxi around eight. The light was already dimming through the overcast clouds. Having received his fare, the cabbie tooted his horn and gave a friendly wave as he drove off, leaving the agents almost alone in front of the station. The officers inside were less than receptive. Despite having called in advance, they seemed highly skeptical of the three teenagers claiming to be Secret Service.
The man in charge, Captain Geordie, finally relented and allowed them to enter his office. "I'm still not too keen on this, but if it's the mask you're after then you're out of luck. It's a pretty popular item lately."
Bri spoke up. "I understand the museum wouldn't be happy if thy knew we were here, but we can provide an almost identical fake and..."
The Captain put a hand up to cup her off. "The museum ain't the trouble, 'luv. I think it's best I just show you lot what we found this afternoon." He clicked a few times on his desktop and then turned the screen to face the group. It was a security feed of the evidence locker, and there was someone there. A man in a balaclava was tearing into boxes until an officer came up behind him with a taser drawn.
The thief spun around with the Anubis mask in his hands and it glowed for a moment. Then streams of yellowish linen exploded from the artifact, ensnaring the officer and neatly wrapping him up like a mummy. The man struggled for a while, then crumpled. The thief gave him a nudge with his foot, then pulled an object from his pocket that was out of view from the camera. He seemed to make a motion with his hands, then he simply vanished.
The Captain turned his screen back. "This town has seen a lot of weird, but I've seen nuthin' like that in my life. Now that officer was a good man, an' he didn't deserve to die choking on some magic tea towels. Now I got a lot of things on my plate at the moment, so 'ere's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna leave this to you. Alright then you lot? I've dealt with Warehouse before, I don't want to again. Now you get out there and you make sure I can bring a bit of closure to 'is grieving family."
The three agents didn't even get a chance to speak as the man tossed Matt a USB stick and ushered them out the door. "An' you tell that Fredric woman to stop showing up in my dining room," he called after them from the door. "Me' neighbors don't need ta hear me shouting like that again."
Bri, Matt and Aden made themselves comfortable on a bench outside as night-owls began to fill the streets. Bri had the Farnsworth open and Artie on the line. "Yeah, Officer Geordie. Nice man, bit easily put off. Helped me out around 1998, nice to hear he got his promotion."
"Artie, the thief. Please focus."
"Hm? Oh, yes. That's definitely not a good thing." His attention snapped back into place. "I have Sandy going over that footage, but he can't figure it out." He passed the Farnsworth the the younger agent.
"Frame-by-frame seems to show him drawing a circle on the ground, then he jump in and just vanishes. I've got nothing, but Blaine's corresponding with some folk at Eureka talking about wormhole manipulation."
"Wormholes?" Aden perked up and shoved his head into the view of the camera. "I know wormholes. There was definitely something wrong there, I could feel it. But the scar had sealed over too perfectly." Bri, Sandy and Matt gave him a look. "Well, when a person like me rips a hole in space, it leaves a scar that can be re-opened.," he explained. "But this was so precise. The scar is there, but it's so fine I can't pull it back open. If I had an anchor to the perp then I could, but we've got nothing."
"Wormholes? I know wormholes." Everyone started a bit as the voice of Felix came from offscreen. Sandy spun around to face him.
"Bit of a slow reaction time there, kitty cat. We've covered this part already."
Felix waved a hand dismissively. "I was listening. I know wormholes. Specifically I know these wormholes. Probably."
Matt raised a mocking eyebrow. "Yeah, those pretty colors you're seeing aren't wormholes, buddy. That's a different kind of space you're in."
Bri gave him a slap on the shoulder and gestured for Felix to continue. "Yeah, anyway. I wasn't just hired to be a team mascot. I know a bit about breaking and entering. This artifact has been making the rounds for a while. When you're in the business of using magical objects to make a living, it pays to keep an ear out for anything to add to your arsenal." He sat down at a computer, kicking Sandy off his chair. "Here, three weeks before I arrived there was a bunch of cash stolen from a sealed vault. A week later a lion goes missing from a zoo in Berlin. Last Friday a diamond watch was taken from sealed glass cube."
Sandy leaned over to look. "I remember that one. Artie had me looking into it. No leads. In fact...all of these are Warehouse cold cases, and more. You think it's the same guy?" Felix pulled up a video of a man just like the one in the station vanishing into thin air.
Aden nodded. "Ok, so we know this is the same guy. But you said wormholes. You know what he's got?"
Felix typed some more and brought up a Warehouse file. "Hermann Weyl, physicist who worked on the theory of wormholes. Rumors of a thief for hire using a tool of his for whoever pays him the most."
Bri turned to Aden. "So we know what, sort of, and we know who, sort of. A bit of certainty would be nice about now."
"How about someone who actually knows him?" Nikki announced from a corner of the room.
Sandy and Felix both jumped. "Jesus, woman. How long were you there?" Felix blurted out.
Nikki grinned. "Long enough to do my own little search. In Rio de Janeiro a Mrs. Gloria von Dichi contacted authorities when she said a man appeared as if by magic in her mansion. She later dropped the charges, but it was never explained why. Sounds like a good place to start?"
Artie beamed at her, or at least made the closest expression his gruff face could to beaming. "Fantastic. Bri, you and Aden make your way to Rio. I'll send Felix to meet you there. Oh, and take the mummy with you. I don't know if any of your are fluent in Spanish."
Catching the flight was slightly more difficult that usual. Back doors had to be used to avoid the scanners, which would have quickly exposed Old Bone, the undead Mayan warrior, as an oddity, disguised by Harriet Tubman's thimble though he was. But once the pair were on the flight and had adjusted, the whole thing went smoothly. Felix's airsickness notwithstanding. They touched down in Rio and made their way to the pre-arranged meeting point.
"We have an address!" Aden ran up to the pair. "Mrs. von Dichi lives in a gated community. She runs a small international company called "Attic Antiques" which seems to date way back. Not very social, and no family we could find. She does spend a lot of time in America and Germany, though, and she has a few business locations in both of those places."
"I know her business." Bri said. "Way back before H.A.R.P. I trawled all the old antique shops with my mom. I remember every time I went into one of those I'd walk out with something in my pocket. I know they were artifacts now, weak and not useful. I ended up always returning them, but eventually they clicked and we both got banned for life. They have a surprisingly advanced facial recognition system for a small chain." she mused.
Felix shoved his hands into the pocket of his hoodie and pulled out a small rolled paper. "So we know she's well traveled, she's got a lot of connections and she's likely loaded." He pulled out a pair of wooden chopsticks and tapped them against his joint, causing a small spark to flicker to life. "And all the more dangerous if she has Bugs Bunny doing her collecting for her."
He glanced at the two agents and the Mayan as they stared at him with a combination of confusion and shock. "You know," he said, "Looney Toons and the moving holes..."
Bri put a hand up. "No, no, we got that. But does Artie know you took that artifact?"
"What, this?" Felix held up a stick. "I've been using these things for weeks, and I couldn't bring a lighter on the flight so...do we need to fill out a form or something?"
Aden snatched the chopsticks out of his hands. "First off, yes. Forms need to be filled out. Second, if you couldn't get a lighter, how did you get the..." he put a hand to his head. "You know what, never mind. I'm taking us to the street. We'll walk from there, it will look more normal. For lack of a better word..."
The rogue clicked his fingers and the world seemed to shudder. There was a sensation of movement and everything dissolved into a sudden flash of aqua light. When it faded, there were only leaves fluttering to the ground where'd they'd been standing.
The world reformed around the group who found themselves in front of a large fence, behind which set an entire street of large stately houses. Felix doubled over with his hands grasping his head. "Warn me next time!" he scolded Aden, getting a short scoff as a reply. "I'm not great with motion sickness."
"I'll try to remember for next time." he replied. Once Felix was almost stable, they made their way over to a tiny, yet very well kept, guardhouse. Aden walked up to the window, seeing rows of monitors and security consoles lining the wall and desk. A lone man, slightly overweight and not looking very impressed at a what appeared to be a door-to-door salesman and his two teenage interns, sat in the booth. "O que vocês três querem?" said the guard. Felix had no idea what the man had said, but by the tone he clearly wasn't intending to let them waltz in.
"Temos uma consulta com a Sra. Von Dichi. Somos de Artefato Roadshow." replied Aden, without hesitation. Felix stared at him, impressed. Old Bone shuffled slightly in the back, looking slightly uncomfortable at the stare the guard was giving him.
The guard, obviously unconvinced, leaned over to an intercom on the wall and pushed a button, not breaking eye contact with the group. "Sra. Von Dichi, você tem visitantes. Um homem, dois ... crianças. Eles afirmam representar um Artefato Roadshow. Eles dizem que eles têm um consulta. Devo mandá-los embora?" There was a delay for a second, then a garbled message replied to him. Aden couldn't make out the words.
The guard narrowed his eyes. "Parece que você faz. A Sra. Von Dichi está expectante por você. Terceira casa à sua esquerda. Número seis. Causar qualquer problema e você vai se arrepender." He pushed another button on his console and the gate slowly opened. His eyes remained on the three as they hastily moved inside.
Felix nudged Aden with a wide grin. "You didn't say you knew Spanish," he said. "This will make it so much easier. I was expecting to mime everything. I mean, Old Boney is still a bit rusty."
Aden's face was less cheerful. "First off, people in Brazil speak Portuguese. Similar, but not the same. Second, this might not be as easy as you think. That guard said Mrs. von Dichi was expecting us."
Felix's face fell slightly. "Oh. That's never good." Old Bone gave a short grunt of agreement, although Felix wasn't sure exactly how much of the situation he was understanding. Communicating with ancient Mayans could get tricky sometimes. They stopped at the designated house, a lofty mansion with large white columns and a well groomed and vibrantly colored front yard. They glanced at each other, slightly unsure of what exactly to do, when the door was opened by a young Latina woman of around twenty-five.
She smiled warmly and gestured them to come closer. "Please, senhors, Senhora von Dichi has been waiting for someone from your loja for a long time." she said, once they were close enough to hear clearly. "She waits in the estufa." She led them through a sparsely decorated, yet very beautiful, atrium, then down a corridor.
Aden and Felix glanced at the many glass display cases that lined the walls. They contained all manner of objects. One held an old ramshackle sled, another what looked to be a tattered red beanie. The largest and most ornate contained a large suit of armor. Old Bone hesitated at that one and stared at it intently, though they were prompted forward by the maid who stood before a large glazed glass door.
"Please be respectful to Senhora von Dichi." she said as she grasped the door handle. "She is a very busy woman and will not easily forgive rudeness." With the rather ominous warning left hanging in the air, she swung the door open with another polite smile and gestured the three to enter.
The room could best be described as a small rainforest. Shafts of refracted sunlight streamed through the glass panels that composed the entirety of the walls and roof, dancing off hundred of vibrant greens. Beds of exotic looking flowers clustered the floors and hung from ornate planters and large palm-like trees brushed their leaves against the ceiling. The sound of trickling water was coming from somewhere further in, but the clean-swept stone path curved around a colorful bush of blossoms and out of sight.
The trio heard the door click behind them, briefly snapping them out of their enraptured pause. "It's all very marvelous, isn't it?" came a voice just out of view. They moved a bit further down the path to find a small glass table under the shade of a canopy of white-flowered ivy. Only one of the three wrought-iron chair was taken. In it sat a woman who was clearly advanced in her years, yet possessed a sense of liveliness rare in even younger individuals. From her posture, sharp eyes and calm yet commanding tone, it was fair to say time had left her well alone.
She beckoned the group closer. "Please don't be so shy," she said, in a voice that was both kind and very clearly indicated she was telling, not asking, "You don't need to be so cautious around an old woman like myself."
Aden gave Felix a brief look that indicated he believed that was very much not the case, but still they approached her. Aden and Felix took the remaining two chairs while Old Bone hovered slightly in the back, trying to keep his thimble hand concealed. The woman took a small sip from the teacup in front of her and quickly plucked a small white petal from her finely tailored dress. It stood out against the brilliantly crimson fabric.
"My name is Gloria Von Dichi," she announced with a polite smile. "And I've been told that you three a representatives of the Artifact Roadshow team. What can you finally want from me after all of these years? Enough to make such a long trip instead of waiting for me to visit America next week?"
Aden pulled out the police file they'd received in London and placed it on the glass. "We've been tracking an important relic for a client," he said quickly, using the cover story they'd decided on the flight. "It was taken into police custody as evidence after a robbery but was stolen again from the lockup. Our only lead at the moment was a man we can place in your employ from last year. We were hoping you could help us."
Gloria picked up the file and scrutinized it briefly before pulling a small pair of spectacles out of her breast pocket. "Sorry dears," she said sweetly, "My eyes aren't what they used to be." She made a quick glance at them in order before focusing on the papers. A small frown started to form on her face as she read. "I was rather hoping," she began slowly, not raising her head from the text, "you'd finally come to talk business. I've been trying to get in contact with you group for a very long time. I had some trade agreements I've been hoping to bring up, but you've been avoiding me, haven't you?"
She lifted her eyes at the last line, directing the question at Aden. He was saved having to answer by the maid returning with a tray of glasses, each filled with ice-cold lemonade. Aden and Felix politely thanked her, though Old Bone made a small gesture of refusal. "Marisol," said Gloria, waving her maid over, "Você pode mover a reunião com nosso amigo. Receio que ele esteja preso em casa ultimamente." The maid nodded, bowed politely to all present, and quickly departed.
"Were you going to say something, dear?" she asked Aden. He was still staring after the maid with a look of mild suspicion. "Just more business." Gloria explained with another smile, though even Felix noticed this one seemed slightly less genuine. "I was hoping to talk about that with you as well?"
Aden looked back to their host. " Perhaps once we've finished what we came for, we can put you in touch with our trade manager." he replied, drawing attention back to the case file. "I'm sure Attic Antiques could be a great partner to the Roadshow, but-". He stopped mid-sentence as Gloria put up a hand.
'Oh come now, I think we've had enough of this." she said, her smile now completely devoid of warmth "Your trade manager hasn't tried to make contact since before her sister was in charge. Tell me, what is the Warehouse really hoping to find with me?"