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Abigail nodded in response to Montag and with a slight gesture of her hand put her red locks away from her face and behind her ear; looking back at Montag she opened her mouth to reply to him, but before she could out of nowhere Mary seemed to just reappear between the pair again - with a rushing tone in her voice and a quick explanation of her unexpected return to follow. Abigail slightly frowned and cleared her throat meanwhile, sipping whiskey which she forgot about once the talk started. Still wet from the rain outside, she sipped the whiskey mostly in order to warm herself up from the clinging and sticky wet cold, the one which is the most dangerous to have around - the creeping coldness causing various illnesses able to lead you anywhere on the street, even into the grave. She could not deny though the fact that she liked the taste of the whiskey, and specifically this one served to her. As well as the aftertaste of it was helping her head to feel lighter and thus less stressed.
She never allowed herself to go hard onto the bottle. If there is a suffering to endure through, she has to come through it with her head clear.

The explanation coming from Mary meanwhile was simple enough - the pair of watches, given to both her and Montag would make the timer until the moment of the hit. It was a nice detail and a very convenient thing to have around, Abigail thought, which would help them both to track the time. She held the watch in her hands, carefully flipping them around, tapping at them with the tip of her fingernail - for no real purpose really. It was a really peculiar thing - in a way more sense than it would seem for a bystander - a simple pocket watch was somewhat mesmerizing to watch at and touch to, it felt warm with its faded gold of a material and it for some reason was just heartwarming to have this thing close enough. The way Mary addressed the watches didn’t help of course - it only made the impression of a thing to look and feel somewhat like a thing of being some sort of an animal. Or else.

The way the clocks worked confused Abigail at first, the watches despite their old and rusty look probably had some very intricate mechanism under its cover, due to how the arms would move around - the idea of mechanism was the simplest one to explain the oddity of how accurately the arms of the watches would point up directly at the time present in here and now. Or at least around it - not that Abigail had watches on her own, but the precision on where the arms of the watches stopped fascinated her. She did not know much about physical science - physics that is, it was way out of her field of skill, so who knows what fascinating discovery was made?

She closed the watches after that though and tucked them in the inner pocket of her coat, noticing the glance of Montag being pointed at her and the watches which were in her hands a moment ago. Abigail raised her eyebrow looking at the detective, but once he explained himself she nodded in response: “Aye, fai’ enough, mistah' Montag. I agree, we should find a bette’ place to talk”. With that said Montag pulled the empty pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and quickly scribbled down something there. Once the pack was given to her, she looked carefully at the words. The address. Fair enough.

Same building the newspaper is at, mistah’ Montag? Convenient for yer line of job. All the rumors and news are at arm's length from yer office”, she said with a chuckle, an attempt to break some ice or just trying to lift the rather dim mood - dim due to the convoluted mystery they all have found themselves in due to this invitation. It was all weird, and strange; but it was worth coming through if they manage to save the innocent girl. “And I got ya, mistah’ Montag. Meet ye in two hours. Don't worreh, I know this city betteh' than you might think of me. I won't ge' lost.”, she said and bid the man farewell with a slight nod, allowing him to leave.

She spent some more time sitting in the bar before taking a leave herself - she had nowhere to go anyway for tonight, and the place was warm and tidy enough. She waited there for some time to make sure her clothes are more or less dry, as well as her hair; as well as thinking and pondering over all of the information that was given to her. It was strangely elusive to make some sense out of, due to the weird nature of this context - once she tried to gather up all that was said and given to her the puzzle was not coming together, and not like it had a missing detail, more like it was escaping the glance at it. She sighed deeply, thinking she is not smart enough for this kind of job.

With the time passed, she gathered what little things she had with her in the first place and stepped outside of the bar again, aiming to go to the address Montag gave to her, in order to discuss the plan and set it into the motion.
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"Alright. And don't bother with the mister part. Just Montag is fine." The dark-haired detective returned Abigail's nod to signal her farewell, promptly leaving the bar afterwards.

The night sky tonight was fairly crowded, with an ensemble of stars and a half-full moon picturesquely hung so high above the world. It felt almost comfortable to look at. But, though it was nice to have their illumination on a dusky evening like this, it was hardly needed. Street lights stood like sentries along each road and pavement, with some emitting an almost piercing light, others producing only a faint glow, but many were somewhere in between on that scale. Many streets were still completely packed and would be for hours, with merry rabble and burning romanticism heard and seen in equal measure in every establishment you passed. Some streets were desolate, with only the occasional couple passing through after a dinner date, eager to get back to their home to let their evening really begin. Eduard didn't bother to look through into the branching alleyways though, nor did he want to. Where there was no light, there was no law. Thinking about it, it was curious how someone could get used to this atmosphere. How this much life could draw out this much apathy. But Montag knew couldn't change how he felt, at least not now. And he was sure he wasn't alone in that sentiment, some people just hid it better.

"Ah, hello! Mr. Montag, my friend!" A familiar, boisterous voice called out from within the building he was currently walking past. Its volume, though faded, was easily audible through the large window that made up most of the front of the ground floor belonging to the relatively small, terraced building. Montag looked up, surprised to see that he'd been so deep in thought that he'd almost completely missed the place he'd set out to go to, especially when it was so familiar to him. A small bell hung on the front door chimed as he entered and passed by the staircase to his immediate right, instead carrying on past the reception desk to the somewhat portly Turk working diligently at his own desk, masses of paper and documents spread about him. At the moment though, he was simply looking to the detective with a beaming, bearded face.

"Evening Deniz. Just you tonight?" Montag stopped next to Deniz's desk, craning his head around to catch a few squinted glimpses at any interesting news that would be printed the following morning.

"Just me, Monty. Most of the other night-workers are off sick. Some nasty bug. Don't know how it didn't get to me. Must be all this Ayran, eh?! Ahahahaha!" Deniz slapped his belly and threw back his head, his curly black hair bouncing a bit as he belted out some unsurprisingly loud laughter. Montag couldn't help but smile just a little bit, waiting for his now red-faced friend to calm himself down and continue talking. "Ahh, anyway... Tonight's been busy for me, so I wasn't able to bring the usual, my friend. I'll get the next two days off for this, but next time I see you I'll bring the kebab along with some extra sujuk as well for you to enjoy!"

"No worries Deniz, I'm not hungry tonight anyway, but thanks. I can't stay and chat though, I've got work to do as well." Eduard began to step away from the desk, taking a moment to take off his coat as he spoke. "Oh, and by the way, a red-haired woman will probably pass through in the next couple of hours. Make sure that she doesn't go into the wrong building and point her to my office."

"Ah, another client?" Deniz inquired casually, bowing his head down again as he started to focus back on his work.

"Yeah... Well... Not exactly." Montag spoke, giving a slightly indecisive answer as he approached the staircase leading to his office on the top floor. Mind you, how exactly was he supposed to refer to her without giving away his activities of the evening?

"Ahh, I see how this is. Detective Montag strikes again, ah? Another case, another lady sedu-" Deniz was cut off suddenly, but not too surprisingly, by the loud slam of a door as Montag dismissed the teasing in the clearest non-verbal way possible. Deniz paused for a moment, before chuckling to himself again quietly as he got back to work.

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The rain stopped and it was somewhat enough of a comfort already, even though the wind was still rushing and cutting, to be felt almost like a drag of a blade across the cheeks. Abigail pulled the collar of her coat up to cover her neck from the wind and went on walking around the city - towards the address the detective gave to her. She stayed in the bar enough for the time gap of two hours Montag gave to her to pass; it was obvious why he needed one - not only to simply rest and relax, but too - to make his mind over what’s been told today; at least Abigail thought so as she spend her time in the bar deep in the thoughts as well. It was not easy to comprehend what was told, not easy to comprehend the context, and was not easy to comprehend what they were tasked to do with. Doubts were raging in her head, doubts caused by the long history of her fighting with her own arising cynicism - how much could one bear hoping that these miserable people would find peace in God’s hands? Hope was not enough and the erosion caused by spilling blood was sometimes too much to bear.

But she could not allow herself to be weak or indifferent when there is a life of an innocent on a stake. That thought stayed solid enough in her head, probably among few other solid thoughts remained there. It was not a mere chance that she was chosen to do the job - among many she was picked to do so. Not by that Mary woman - that was certain, even aside from her being an envoy for some other kind of a party. There was a motion of God’s will upon Abigail’s path, giving her new direction.
After all she hoped so. For the first time in many years.

The path towards the address Montag gave her was not too long. She knew the city pretty well, for someone who might drop a random glance on her it might’ve come as a surprise - judging by her impression of a woman merely steeped out of the boat from the Old World. But the impression was false at that, as due to living among the poor she had to know all the hidden little alleys here and there. As well as people living around, and parties interested in her job, even though she never even thought of it as her job, or her cause - the supplies wouldn’t appear in her bag out of nowhere after all. Come to think of it again, Abigail found herself floating down the stream of events she thought she had no power over, and this path led her to this point. That thought cheered her up. There was a great plan in all of this.

Oi… now ta’ not ta’ pick the wrong door..”, she mumbled under her breath as she stood in front of the building and looked around it. There was indeed something humorous as well as quite logical and fitting for a private detective to have their office just in the same building with the newspaper. Stepping inside of the building the redhead doctor looked around and was sure to not to confuse herself - the line was clear: “The staircase on your right”. She looked on her right and indeed she saw the staircase in question, aiming to get towards it.
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As Abigail turned her head towards the staircase, she suddenly heard the voice to appear behind her back, from somewhere she could not see.

"Ah, hello, my friend!" A loud, welcoming voice resonated from further down the maze of desks used as office space for the newspaper on the first floor. Abigal twitched on place, and turned around in a sharp and rather nervous move, to face whoever held ownership of the voice calling at her, addressing her as a "friend".

Deniz was looking straight to Abigail with a large, warm smile, but with discerning eyes as well. After all, he wanted to make sure this was the person that Montag had told him about, even if she seemed to fit the brief description that he'd been given before. "You are here to meet Detective Montag, yes my friend?"

"Aye.. I am to meet 'im 'ere. And ye are..?", Abigail asked rather bluntly, not that manners were of any of her traits.

"Ah, my apologies, I am Deniz! I am a friend of Monty's, and well..." He gestured to the mounds of paper around his desk, "I work here at the paper. But do not waste your time talking to me, he is up there waiting for you now."

"Oi.. Pleasure to meet ye, mistah' Deniz", she replied in a still rather surprised tone. A friend of "Monty" and a paper worker. It made fair sense to Abigail that she was greeted like so - at this late hour given by how she looked to a person not knowing who she is exactly, she indeed looked suspicious, or generally like someone who one would not want to witness on the doorstep. She was not surprised by that; quite instead she got used to it already, quite some time ago.

Deniz gestured with a hand to the door Abigail was already half making her way towards. He was satisfied now anyway. Strange accent though, perhaps she was as far away from home as he was.

"Thank ye, mistah' Deniz.", Abigail replied and made her way up the stairs after that rather brief exchange.

"Please, just call me Deniz." Deniz called out to Abigail as she ascended the stairs, his voice tailing off as she got further up, before he put his attention back to working. Second person in a day asking her to drop the "mister" part. Abigail was not sure if people felt it was rude to be addressed like so - by her specifically, giving her rather poor looks? - or if they just wanted to make friends with her. In the end she was confused by the possibility of either option.

Once finding herself in front of the door leading to the detective's office, Abigail knocked on it. "Its'a Abigail.", she said as the knuckles of her fingers tapped at the door lightly.

After knocking at the door there was a few seconds of pause for Abigail to wait through, before the familiar voice of the detective responded from behind it, with the same, mostly flat, tone as before. "It's unlocked, come in."

Once after a short pause Abigail heard the familiar voice of the detective that the door was unlocked, she carefully pulled the knob and opened the door, stepping inside and closing the door right behind her.
The office inside was small, but it felt oddly cosy. A box-shaped room, there was a window with blinders looking out to currently dark roads and alleys, with patches of light strewn across them from street lights. On the left wall were various filing cabinets and boxes of files, some arranged neatly and others in a somewhat chaotic state. One the right wall stood an averagely sized closet, presumably for extra storage and as a container for extra clothes in the occasion of a need for a change. A corkboard was also hung next to it, but currently it remained bare, save for an array of pins stuck into it. With a coat hanger stood just by the door inside, all that was left to note now was the averagely sized desk in the centre of the room, if positioned slightly more towards the back. In front of it were a pair of chairs, both showing a slight bit of wear and tear, to the right of it was a small bin and behind it sat the detective himself, who was currently extinguishing a cigarette on a rather full ashtray.

Upon entering, Abigail looked around the room - small, cramped, dimly lit with the boxes of papers laying around the place and the light of the street barely getting inside through the blinders. Smoked air - something the room would acquire if people smoke in it with little pause and of everyday, so the smell stained the walls in the series of invisible nicotine spots. She knew that smell well - often to encounter one. The office of the tense detective work as well as of the tense detective living - judging by the closet, the ashtray full to the edges and even over them and the condition of the room in general and the furniture in precise, the detective surely was not having a strike of fat payment checks as of late. Still it felt rather comfortable to be in here, at least at the hour like this - it was quiet, calm and warm; good enough in short. "Good to see ye again, mist-; Montag", Abigail greeted the detective.

Montag ignored Abigail's small slip-up, giving her a small nod as she entered. "Come in, take a seat, Miss...?" He knew her name, but it was always polite to check.

Passing towards the detective’s desk and the chair proposed to her to sit on, Abigail noticed the coat hanger right by the door, and decided to use it - taking her coat off and hanging it accordingly. "Hope ye don't mind, but it is still soaked", she said, as she stepped towards the detective's desk, a very simple grey blouse remained on along with the long skirt. She sighed as she sat in front of the detective and looked over the place of his work, giving a light and rather sarcastic smile on being dressed to as a "miss"

"I think Montag, if we drop the "mistah" thing on ye, we should do same to me.", she said, giving herself a small pause. "Abigail. McCarthy. Common name, ay?"

Montag didn't oppose at all to Abigail hanging her coat up on the hanger when she entered, simply letting his gaze wander along with her as she made her way towards him and took a seat. He seemed thoroughly relaxed, leaning back casually on his seat and extending his legs out. Yes, he was generally pretty serious, but he was far from uptight. He actually chuckled, if very slightly, in response to what Abigail said, a small smile remaining on his face for a moment before dissolving away back to his usual, more indifferent, expression. "You're the first one to come into this office, that's for sure. But, as you wish, Abigail McCarthy. Hope you don't mind the small space. It does its job but sometimes it's not the most inviting for clients."

Abigail shrugged a little and shook her head in response to Montag's claim over the condition of his office: "I've bee' at worse places meself. Ye office looks rather.. cozy", she said taking a short pause in the sentence to find a word that could express her feeling towards this place. It indeed looked cozy, despite its rather messy state, or possibly because of it. Abigail relaxed a little herself too, allowing the warmth of the room to lay on her body.

"Mhm..." Montag hummed, nodding in agreement with her. It was generally the opinion that his office was either quite cosy and warm, or a disgusting and slobby mess. There wasn't usually any in-between. Though it was clear that the people that had the latter opinion were usually of a... higher class, to put it in simple and blunt terms.

A moment of silence rose after that, redhead woman getting into her thoughts over a moment, looking past Montag's face somewhere onto the wall, before she snapped out from this. Her distant gaze in that moment turned into a motionless hazy, and felt for anybody to look into it, as if into two wells of deep and hidden pits of memory, holding emotions to not to be disturbed. "Forgive me. All tis... tis, what's we bee' asked to do. It's confusing. Some of what’s been said makes no sense at all. Tis’all cryptic and filled with half truths. Most intricate lies are tis’ half-truths.", she said finally.

Montag paused for a second after Abigail spoke again, tapping an index finger idly onto a relatively fresh pack of cigarettes. "Yeah, I've heard whispers here and there of this kind of thing before, but I've never heard about it as closely as we did earlier. These Fates... well, the more you think about it, the more questions that come up. But, in any case, we should discuss how we're going to execute things tomorrow. You got any ideas?" Eduard looked over to Abigail, a curious glint in his eyes.

Abigail leaned back on the chair crossing her arms on her chest, the sleeves of her blouse lightly pulled up by the gesture exposing some scars on her right arm - short and mostly not deep, like a series of short dots and lines webbing over her skin. She cared to cover the arm again with the sleeve of the blouse, after that though.

Ay.. I can’t help meself but to wonder what tis’ Fates are. But I also understand that it is not in my grasp. I’m a mere street doctor, not a crime fighte’.”, she said and after a short pause added: “I’m only interested in saving tis’ innocent girl's life. If by.. any, real fate, I’m ‘ere - I do it to save.”, she finished and then looked a little away onto the wall, giving a deep sigh yet again. She at least tried to keep her thoughts and her will collected for that one simple goal - a goal simple enough to determine, but rather difficult to achieve. Such simplicity in forming the end objective helped her to stay on tracks though.
Clear head and breath. And think.

So, ye, I have some idea. The woman said that tis’ party of the riches going to have is happening in Meropis. I know the place meself, the shelter building too. I work ‘ere, treating sick. Miserable place, people are already left with only the remains of their dignity. So what if...”, she said to the detective, starting to explain the idea she had in mind.

***

And so the night went by as the plans were made, the calculations of time and distances, the possibilities and risks observed, chosen. It was no easy planning as the information they had was rather limited and the options to gather more of it were none due to as limited time frame they were given. Most of what they had in mind relied on improvisation, some on pure luck. But considering all the circumstances it was their best shot and shot they were willing to take.
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A Bird in her Cage

After a day of preparation and planning and the two companions Abigail and Montag more familiar with one another, the time had come to begin. The potential energy was now becoming kinetic and dynamic. Montag and Abigail had departed from each other, ready to enter the stage to begin their separate operations.

The villa house was much more of a sight than a single picture could ever hope to capture. It is brightly lit, like a lighthouse of glamour and electrical wonder in the forgotten scenery of the California shoreline. The opulence and insistence of the expensive home dwarfed the humble greenery that surrounded it. Nature and it’s innate joys are swept aside by the wondrous house meant to delightfully exhibit the progress of human science and architecture. It is placed on its perch, overseeing a cliff with the prestige of a castle, far away from the peons in the busy city of New Haven that glimmered in the distance.

Meropis’s location spoke much on its purpose. A secluded lair for it’s master to rule from. The ominous arches of the classical styled pillars and the long and dark railings that stretched on along with the night sky spoke of hidden and ancient power rooted in the designs of that on the surface modern building. There is an odd symmetry here. The powerful and magnificent source electrical lights that radiated from within and outside the building via lamp posts and lanterns, with the shrouded and mysticism of the classical past, harkening back to ancient gods and their divine traditions. One must wonder if this symmetry is at odds or in harmony.

The villa is abundant with life. Many cars are parked in a parking area off to the side of the main entrance, with guests in wait at the main entrance for the security to allow them passage. These guests are much different than the patrons of the bar that Montag and Abigail frequented earlier. They are dressed in fine cotton suits, trimmed and groomed hair and moustaches for men, exotic and flaunting displays of jewelry on the women. They keep their noses high, speak in practiced cadences and always have smart one liners or lovely laughs to punctuate their festivities. The carefully groomed and maintained cream of the crop of the New Haven ruling elite.

In sharp contrast. Abigail’s mob of the disenfranchised from the shelter are dwarfed in the disparity of splendor. It is a sight that would make any staunch progressive’s heart wrest in a rage of the display of inequity. It is well worn on their faces, and the tension is real. The group get many uncomfortable looks from the passersby, and husbands pull their wives away as if they were about to be grabbed by the group. The preacher’s cohorts were less than a dozen in number, dwarfed by the gathered guests but their presence is strongly felt regardless. Security is gathering up by the main entrance, and it’s clear a move to push the homeless off the property will be made soon already.

The hooting, hollering and yelling would start very quickly when one of the homeless would recognize an older gentleman entering the villa. “Hey! I know that bastard! He was the boss of the factory I worked at! He got away scot free while the entire factory was shut down!” The broad shouldered, stubble faced giant of a man launched into a tirade at the man, pointing a finger right at him. The accused quickly pulled a hat over his face to hide his identity, darting through the crowd lest he be put under a court and tried right here and now.

Once the big man made his statement, a series of jeers and cries would join his. “Ay, I went through the exact same! What are they doing here, why aren’t they on the streets like us!” And other phrases like: “Bankruptcy only hurts the poor, not the rich!” The crowd was already getting worked up, and security was quick to act. Firm, angular and aggressive looking guardsmen are marching out across the tarmac. One of them is armed with a baton.

“This is private property!. Remove yourselves from the premises at once!” A policeman shouts down at the crowd, but it only riles them up further. Lines are drawn as the police spread out in an attempt to intimidate the gathering but they stand their ground. Guests are hurried inside, with a very stressed and anxious Thomas Arnault doing his best to insist everything was under control and those hooligans would not be interfering with the night’s planned events…

Montag’s chance is now. Security is in a flux and is completely unprepared for the impromptu protest. Guests are being rushed past the main gate without second thought or even a check on who they are. This chaotic state would be temporary, as Thomas is already ordering his staff to quickly crack down on events.

Abigail too is now facing a crisis of a potential engagement. Her distraction may’ve worked too well, and her accomplices are looking to take out years of frustration and failure out on their perceived oppressors. A violent situation would only make it harder to save Marie’s life. A dark thought crosses her mind. Had she started the series of events that would lead to Marie’s death already?

In the quiet window of Maropis. A lone woman watched over the events with her hands together in front of her. Her gaze is like that of an alert cat. Her posture is prim and contained, and her lips pursed in thought. Marie Arnault is being forced to attend by her father, to keep his appearance as a loving family man. She has spent many years of her life holding her tongue, and she wonders now if today is the day that the dam finally breaks loose and she may find her freedom yet.

It is 6:04pm in the evening. Unbeknownst to the young lady looking out from her cage, she is fated to die in two hours.
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Eduard was pleasantly surprised with the execution of Abigail's plan as he arrived at the site of the villa. Though he'd agreed to go along with it, deep down he hadn't been fully convinced that it would work it, and he'd had a feeling Abigail felt similarly. With how well it looked to be going though, Montag's part of the plan was made much simpler.

He came in a formal white shirt, buttoned up to the collar and accompanied by a black bow tie, and his sleeves were neatly rolled up to his elbows. Along with that, he wore black trousers, held in place by a black belt, and similarly coloured shoes, which looked as though they'd been meticulously polished. Of course he wasn't wearing these clothes to pass off as a guest, he had neither the demeanour nor the type of wit to pull that off, but instead to pose as a waiter. He'd been to these kinds of events a few times in the past, and knew that practically all, if not all, waiters wore what he was currently wearing, or at least some kind of variation on it. But, in a way, that would be more effective for the operation than disguising as a guest. No one there was likely to make any kind of conversation with a simple server, meaning he could focus on Marie while moving around and keeping an eye and an ear on the other guests.

Montag approached the stage that had been set for him, a confused crowd of the affluent, not-so affluent and those who were trying to maintain the balance. Ironically in this situation, with them all blending in together, for once it seemed as though they were all similar, just ordinary people. He kept his hands in his pockets as he got closer. He kept his lighter and a fresh pack of cigarettes in one pocket, but the other pocket concealed something very different. In fact, the pocket itself had been carved out quite precisely, presumably with a sharp knife of some kind, essentially making the pocket merge with inside of his right trouser leg. There, holstered to his thigh, was a semi-automatic pistol, fully loaded.

The holster had been strapped to his leg almost painfully tight so as not to reveal its shape or the shape of the gun it contained, both items pulled as far in and away from his trouser leg as possible. It would take some caution to make sure no one would notice, but it was a necessary risk. Mary's words from the previous evening played again in his mind: "...If you succeed in preventing Marie's impending death. Then someone else will have to die in Marie's place. You can choose who will be, by simply killing them. Or let the Fates decide. Don't be upset at what the Fates will choose, if you choose not to kill."

Whether it be out of defence or necessity, if Montag had to kill someone tonight then he would. He hadn't mentioned the gun to Abigail though. Some people make fuss whenever guns are involved, and he wasn't going to take a chance dealing with that kind of disagreement.

Now, however, he had to focus on getting into the villa in the first place. He kept out of eyeshot of the angrily protesting mob that Abigail had amassed, wanting to avoid getting called out, or worse, dragged in. Not only that, but he avoided the line of sight of the police that opposed that mob, a blob in their peripheral vision. Even though his time in the police was behind him, he certainly didn't want to risk being recognised, especially by one of the long list of people from there that disliked him.

Luckily for him, there was a fairly large group of guests about to enter through the main gates all at once, and it wasn't difficult for him to weave through them practically unnoticed, especially with the surrounding chaos and the desperation of the security to let in the rest of the guests so all risk of some kind of uprising could be quashed.

He hastily made his way through an array of inquisitive, panicked and shocked half-whispers, never really hearing a full sentence as he passed by, almost totally ignored. He simply muttered unheard formalities, "Apologies...", and, "Excuse me..." and similar expressions while he slipped past those ahead of him.

Once he was just behind the people at the front of the wealthy procession though, he slowed down to match the pace of those around him. He figured there was probably a side entrance for waiters to enter from somewhere, but with only the photo and what he could see within the crowd as a reference he decided it was best to stay mixed in until they were all inside, at which point he could sidle off and blend in with the other servers of the evening. Besides, going off separately to find another entrance at this point would draw too much attention to himself.

With the kerfuffle continuing on behind him though, Montag couldn't help but think about the possibility of Abigail losing control of the mob, and the repercussions of that occurring. If she had such an influence on these people though, he put his faith in her to keep any chance of a proper riot at bay. Hopefully they hadn't shot themselves in the foot with this.
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It was of course a gamble.
Abigail was not sure in that plan, even though she was one to propose it. A shredding cloud of doubt laid over her mind and nested there like a mist of poisonous gas, seizing her mind in a slow drag, akin to the grey sky glooming over her head. She stepped through the streets slowly, surprised at how just a passing of a night made her ideas in her own eyes look so fragile and rather easy to be shattered in pieces - due to the simple fact of how much it relied on a chance in the end.

It was simple in words, but now, as she was walking from Montag’s place towards the shelter for the homeless she started to doubt her ability to put this all into motion. Was she enough of authority to these people? Would they listen to her? She herself looked like one of them, but she was not them, not in spirit or soul. That she at least hoped for. Yet she would need at least a few of them really beside herself, even three people would be enough to provide some distraction. After all, all she needs is just to drain attention of the guards towards herself - she alone of course posed no threat to them, but with at least a few more people beside she would be able to at least drag a momentum in favor of Montag to quickly get into the villa and get the girl out. She calmed herself with a thought that if even her plan would fail utterly, she can be loud and scandalous enough to provide such distraction for Montag just by herself.

Weather remained grey and grim, and it felt like if the closer she was getting to the shelter - only the duller the colors were, like if the building itself was a gaping hole in the reality aiming to suck all the color from around itself and held down inside by the mere weight of the suffering swirling within these walls. It was a very specific gloom towering over this building - even if unseen from outside, through the walls one could sense and feel this leaking anxiety, leaking and forming around in the invisible puddle, people tend to instinctively walk around it not to get their feet stained in this miasma, knowing by insticint the contents of the shelter might as well create a little yet ever growing gap in their everyday perception of life.

On both the outside and inside the building looked like a warehouse; in a sense it was a warehouse - a storage of broken lives. The air inside was still, motionless and stiff, like a jelly made of dirt, sweat, aching pain and cough; dirty spots formed a layer on the floor and merged into a carpet of sorts. Abigail got used to this smell. It would turn any other person away, but even this drench of poverty and misery was not as close to be compared with the smell of the war hospital, and the overfilling stench of the rot. Abigail was sure she will never forget that smell, ever in her life. Not the case it was now though to let her sink into the past. She approached a few people of personnel in the shelter, as usual, ready to take her duties into her hands. There were a few people who needed medical examination. A few who just needed to talk. Most of the people were men, most of them were alcoholics. Some of them saw war and never were able to return back from what they were to see there. They were usually to be surprisingly timid and meek to an outside, reveling in their misery and social solitude; outcasts from life, left to be hanging on the edge of existence and never to be returned again. They knew there was no way back for them, they were not sure if it was just a mere unlucky token they pulled out, or it was their own deed that brought them here. The whole process of them trying to find a reason for being there was mostly to take most of their days, forcing them to indulge into the never ending cycle of self pity and shame. Some were past this point and were merely seeing a day after day passing by their eyes, indifferent to the world which proved to be indifferent to them as well. It was somewhat inaccurate though, as Abigail knew that there was a storm of rage and frustration boiling within these people; they were just numb to its calls.

Abigail could not help herself, but to feel some relation to that feeling and that condition of things. The only thing probably which she could find in herself that she did not see in all of these people were the remains of her compassion. Some bits of it at least. As well as some parts of her spirit were to be addressed to God. She felt the presence of the will leading her somewhere onward and she could only further push into her endeavour.

She was not sure if that plan was so good after all. Looking over these miserable souls, stuck in the swamp which their life was, sinking into it, sinking into their despair and covering themselves into it like it was the most warm and most cozy thing ever. She also questioned herself if she even has the right to do what she had in mind. Was it the right thing to do? She wanted to bring some of these people into the streets, only to cause the ruckus, but did she consider what they felt? She was going to use them. The thought so clear only now managed to strike her, and it was a simple thing. It have come to her when she sat in her usual place to work with men who needed medical treatment.

“Nasty cut ye have ‘ere”
“When did ye have yer tooth removed”
“Yer stomach feels too firm. Did ye have aches?”
“I told ye to clear the wound every day! Why didn’t ye listen!?”
“Yer reflexes are not responsive”
“If ye gonna drink more of that moonshine, ye gonna lose yer sight”
“Did you have sex recenetly?”
“Why did not they gave ye gloves to work in?”
“The muscles feel stiff.”
“Who shot at ye?”
“Who beat ye?”
“It is not good”
“It is a recess. It will come back.”
“Yer skin has melted”
“Ye smell of rot”
“I have to cut”
“I have to put it away”
“I can’t keep it”
“I have to remove”
“I’m sorry”
“I can’t do anything”
“I can’t help”
“May God be with ye..”
“May God help ye..”
“I will pray to God for ye”


Her daily routine. Never different. Different people sometimes perhaps. They knew she could give them a moment of unity with God. She told them this much. It was enough for some. She was not sure if they believed or they just wanted a hope. Or an escape. Or just to be grateful to her somehow. Did it matter in the end? She thought it should, but in this place, in this shelter? A glimpse of hope was enough already. Could she be giving this hope to them? If she was to pull them onto the streets? Could it be she would also give them an opportunity to speak? To speak up for themselves, to remember who they are? To wake up from this slumber of misery? Was she using them or the God was using her to get to them?
She did not know.
She had to try.
For herself. For them. And for the girl.

“So… did ye know.. the riches are throwing the party..? Just ‘round the corner.”

***

Abigail was never a passionate speaker. But she knew her way with the common folk, their troubles and their losses. And she knew their frustrations sleeping within. It was of little to do in result, she had to just explain, just to tell what was going on. She had to just say how God is sick of this. How she is sick of this. To remind them how they are sick of this as well.
It was a matter of moment the hollow eyes responded with the glare of twisting frustration.

It was just a matter of getting into what they were truly thinking beneath all that indifference. Just talking with them, like wth people, no patronizing, no pity. It was surprisingly effective. And it was surprisingly successful.

To the point that Abigail thought it came out to be too good; even though she was sure there could not be such a thing as too good - due to her personal experience with rather having the opposite, always having a result of being bad, or underwhelming. But here she had it: the crowd she gathered was standing in front of the villa gates, from where they all could see the expensive luxury, which was annoying to an eye to say the least. The more poor people were, the more annoying it was and Abigail managed to gather a crowd of people who were extremely poor, which made them extremely annoying. It was somewhat of an irony in her mind; she was not even a socialiste, but acted as one. And she did not even like them.

The crowd of poor were to become aggressive with every passing second. Yes, it was good of a distraction, certainly the majority - if not all - of the guard has gathered towards the front gate aiming to get the damn hobos out of their property, but the said hobos were too riled up enough.

There was violence lingering in the air.
She thought she might’ve made this situation which will take people’s lives. That girl’s life.
No, God can’t take her life just like that.
But he took her family away.

Abigail clenched her teeth and slapped her on her cheek to get her mind back on the track, to focus, to concentrate. She was still here, she was still in action. She was still to take them back on the right path.

“Brothehs’ and sistehs’! Don’t allow them to stray ye away from God! God accepts no violence, but we can not be silent no longer! Shame them, ye; but don’t allow violence to take ye over! because they are too just souls lost in vanity and greed! They are to be saved too if we remind them of injustice they see now before their eyes, but we can’t show it to them if we yell and not follow the word of God”, she yelled over the crowd, after gathering a full chest of air, quoting passages from Bible on the go, as her memory raced faster than ever. Surprisingly she did not forget her favorite passages from the book.
Deep within she prayed for Montag to get the girl out. As soon as he could.
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Policemen were now front and center in direct opposition to the gathered crowd. They had arrived with such great speed, a response time that many in the downtown areas would’ve enjoyed. The vocal chants that the crowd jeered have now deteriorated into isolated insults and shouts and angry noise. Nothing intelligible could be gleamed, other than collected animosity to the rich and privileged versus the poor mob.

It is a feast for controversy. Any of the active political parties in New Haven would have much to say on such an event. Already a reporter had some photos snapped and some words written, characterizing the event with his own biases. It was such attention directly on his own villa home that Thomas feared the most. He had just barely scraped by in his mayoral election, and such a controversy waiting to happen like this protest would be a feast for political opponents.

Montag overheard this anxiety as Thomas can be heard speaking to the Chief of Police, Clancy Robinson, a large man with a larger mustache.

“Put this down swiftly and quickly. No injuries and no blood spilled. I respect the freedom of speech but this is just an unruly mob.” The white haired mayor ordered like the policeman was his lackey. Clancy did not seem to object to this attitude himself.

“Roger that. We’ll have em pushed off. C’mon boys!”

Clancy grabbed a whistle and signaled for some policeman watching the gathering to come and join. They force their way through the crowd, akin to a pack of sharks flowing past a school of fish. One officer smacks into Montag’s shoulder as he sneaks in, nearly knocking him to the ground.

“Watch where you’re going, pal!” He shouted at him, though quickly moved on with his job to do.

The patrol has gathered into a fully armed and prepared force to match Abigail’s crowd. The impoverished are outnumbered 2 to 1, and the policemen have made sure to block the mob from interfering with coming and going guests, or making it inside the villa. They’ve done this by making a rectangular shaped box of men, lined up like a firing squad to prevent passage.

Clancy has taken to a megaphone, tapping the instrument before beginning to speak.

“By order of the New Haven police department, we order you to stand down and remove yourselves from the property! This is the private villa of the mayor himself, so this will be handled with the utmost efficiency from the head of police. Which is me, by the way. That's right, you're dealing with the leader of the police himself, with the full authority of the law behind me! So think about your next moves carefully"

The chief’s booming voice deafened and shook the crowd. This had become too real, with the sight of those stern jawed bobbies and their commander in chief barking behind them gave the appearance of a disciplined army. It was easy for the imagination to jump to images of war and conflict, fighting and death. The weaker willed of the crowd have already stopped their shouts and are beginning to pull back. Abigail can tell this distraction has reached it’s zenith, and would not stand a chance if the police decided to push forward. It was only Thomas’s orders that were staying Clancy’s hand.

The priest was in a difficult position. Should she stay with her flock to the end, risk a fight all in the name of buying Montag time? The words of Mary again flow in her head, warning her of the guarantee of a death tonight, surely such a commotion would lead to this. Was it right to abandon them to join the detective to better help Marie? The priest’s decision here would impact the fate of many people tonight already.

Meanwhile, Eduard had some comparatively easier decisions. He had infiltrated the grounds now, and before him lay a party in remission. Many of the guests were preoccupied with the events unfolding on the grounds, despite Thomas and his staff’s constant assurances that things were under control. The backyard is full of tables, chairs, drinks, waiters, a fountain and even a small vine garden section. A gazebo is in a corner of the yard, and some children play carefree as the adults do their strange business. A direct path to the backyard entrance of the villa is possible, but is closely monitored by staff and security who are on alert due to the disturbances. There is a stone wall at the garden, with a white barrier with green vines grown over and stretched like fingers. It is climbable, and possibly unnoticed if guests nearby are distracted enough. On the side there are two uniformed waiters taking a smoke break, perhaps an idea for bribery or other means is there to get oneself a uniform or another way inside.

The iron gates are brought to a close with a loud clang. The last of the invitees are inside, and for their protection they’ve been walled in. Montag is now trapped in Meropis, like Marie in her upstairs room. Many options lie ahead for him to get his entry inside, with their own risks and rewards.

There's tension in the air, but the party still seemed set to go on. A jazz band began their tune, a nice uplifting beat to hopefully drown out the noise from outside.

It was very fitting for the moment.
---

A curious girl hung over the balcony, observing the standoff outside the villa. Her eyes are bright with intrigue, as she dabbled in her head what the possible outcomes would be. Much more fun to do this than read fictitious books or play board games or propped up mechanical challenges. Here was true conflict as two opposing forces squared off. She could only imagine herself being there, an imposing police officer or an invigorated poor woman, leading a revolution like she’d read in her newspapers.

Her imagination grew wings and flew farther as her body remained in her small enclosed world.
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It had been easy enough for Eduard to settle into the setting of the backyard of the villa while everyone was distracted, but now he faced a new challenge: the villa itself.

His guesswork with the uniform of the servers had paid off, showing his experience, but it wasn't perfect, as he noticed upon setting eyes on the two waiters smoking against a wall. There was always some extra accessory or item of clothing with the especially high-profile parties and events that would be exclusive to itself. A subtle way for the organiser to really show off how much cash they were willing to throw around on seemingly unimportant things. In this case, the adornment in question was a black waistcoat with thin, grey vertical stripes running through it. It was distinct and unique, and Montag knew that if he wanted any chance of getting into the villa itself, or any chance of not being thrown out by security if they bothered to give him a second look, he needed to get it. The servers were a fair distance away from any security or the snapping fingers of attendees, so there was little chance for interruption, at least for now while the gala was only just getting on its feet.

He made his way over hastily, though still acting as casual as he could, taking time to note the scenery and structure of the backyard, especially the stone wall which had vines sprouting from it like tentacles. They could possibly take his weight, but he decided he'd save them in case of an emergency. If things did get chaotic, he knew he'd had an easy way between this outside area and the villa itself. His mind briefly returned to the weapon concealed against his leg, and it was at that moment that the gates behind him closed. He felt his heart sink ever so slightly for a moment, but he didn't show it, still wearing the po-face that he usually kept as he got closer and closer to the uniformed workers, jazz music blaring to drown out the echoed clangs of the gate and the conflict on the other side of them. At least for now it seemed as though the first stage of his and Abigail's plan had worked.

"Evening." He addressed his 'co-workers' with a small nod, slowing down as he stood at their side against the wall. Now close to them he could see that one of them was abnormally tall, probably just above the 2 metre mark, but the other, standing right next to him, seemed about his height. Perfect. He exhaled deeply before turning slightly to the man, who seemed about his age, perhaps a little older.

"Hey, I'm filling in for my friend tonight who's sick, but he didn't give me an idea of what the dress code would be like so I had to play the guessing game." Speaking in a more casual tone than he usually would, Eduard turned his uncut pocket towards the one he was trying to bribe, the unopened pack of cigarettes shown to him in full view, though still in a subtle manner. The dark-haired investigator wasn't thrilled with the prospect of just giving away the carton just like that, but he probably wouldn't have much time to smoke at this point anyway, and this was the main purpose he'd brought them for anyway. "I really want to make a good impression on Mr. Arnault so he might offer me a job. My uncle works for him, y'see. So could I borrow your waistcoat? Just for this evening. I'll make it worth your while." Montag gestured with his eyes down to the packet of cigarettes to emphasise his point, before looking back up at the man. At this point, his response was crucial. If this guy was a stickler for rules, or worse an asshole, then the whole plan and Marie's life would be thrown into jeopardy. The bold, virtuosic tooting of a trumpet solo drained out of his ears like water down a drainpipe as he waited intently for the determining response.
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Abigail’s words seem to take some manner of some control over the crowd; she was not sure if it was what she said specifically, how she said it. The people seem to have calmed, at least a little - at least enough for her to be sure they would not attack first, and at least enough for them to listen to what she is saying. It gave her confidence.
Or of course it could all be due to the fact that the police have arrived.

Was Abigail expecting something like this to happen or not, was up to speculation even to herself. When she and Montag were discussing this plan, they both of course considered that if Abigail would be successful with collecting a crowd and not just a few half awake hobos - sooner or later the police would arrive. The surprise she felt was mostly coming from the fact that she expected the police to come from the other side, from the side of the street. Not from the side of the villa itself - and certainly not so quick and not with the numbers like so. She and the crowd of the poor and homeless led by her were quickly outnumbered by the policemen with the expressions on their faces to look rather annoyed. It was to be understood: they hoped to have a calm and joyful evening in the rich villa with little effort to be made in guarding this place - and instead they now had to deal with some appeared out of nowhere crowd.

Abigail scowled as she was to face this row of man, forming a battle shape just in front of them; the sound of the megaphone-amplified voice made her head to ache, her ears felt assaulted by this volume of sound and it was certainly one of the reasons it was used - the sense assault of intimidation and fear.

She was not afraid though. For someone who was to be a witness to an explosion of a bomb, many of these - the sound of the moustache man yelling was not very intimidating. Abigail only grit her teeth as she - suddenly, and for the first time in probably many years - started to feel some inner shape of herself coming into a more solid, determined form.

Brothehs’ and sistehs’! Do not be afraid and do not let them scare ye! We ‘ave come to show them violence they did to us, to remind them of greed and vanity they revel in! We have God’s mercy on our side, and they have only their vision blinded by their fear!

It was amusing to her - even though she could not properly reflect that at this moment - how much her faith and her personal strength of a human has elevated in this situation, leading this crowd of poor and forgotten people. She even forgot about why she was there at all for a moment. So strong the emotion of this situation was so overwhelming.
The sight of the stiff police faces though, ready to burst into attack, made Abigail to get a grip on herself. She was in charge of people here, as well as she was a part of the plan to rescue the girl from her demise. She needed to think, fast, to prevent the escalation of violence as well as to get inside to help Montag.

She was quick enough to come up with a solution. Driven only by her intuition, she came forward, in front of her crowd and in front of the police.

I ‘ave come with no weapon at hand, and so my brothehs’ and sistehs’ here. Only with a word of God. Can’t ye see the mark of suffering on their faces?! I know ye can see, I know it hurts ye souls. I want the mayor to remind himself of these people suffering! Allow me to speak with ‘im
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Tensions build as Clancy and his police officers meet eye to eye with Abigail and her protestors. Morale for the mob was firm earlier, but continues to slip. The sight of batons, police dogs and revolvers at the hips of the officers was intense. It was easy to imagine how quickly this situation could deteriorate into them being used.

Abigail’s speech is powerful, and reached out beyond the material danger presented to them and to the spiritual malaise they had all been suffering under. Though some still deserted, Abigail could quickly tell who she was left with. The young and jobless, with everything to gain and nothing to lose. No families behind them for the youths to worry about. Then there were the old and weary, veterans of similar protests. They were used to the danger, and perhaps even invigorated by it. They’d stay by Abigail’s side, even as her numbers dwindled to only a dozen now against the over twenty heads of policemen she spotted by eyeball.

The pleading for the suffering of the poor goes unheeded and ignored by the officers largely. Since the depression had begun, the everyday suffering of the impoverished had become so widespread that the common man felt no longer moved by their plight. They just saw more sunken faces and exposed ribs, more signs of the need for an order according to them. The police seem steadfast, and unmoved.

“God’s mercy is not for one lone preacher to decide, miss. You’re putting at risk innocent bystanders for a very misguided crusade.” Clancy announced over his microphone, trying to drag down the heightened mood.

With a blow of the whistle, the police began to march forward roughly in a battle line. Since there were more of them, they began to envelop the protestors and put the squeeze on them. Batons out and ready, it was clear a move would be made to disperse them.

“On my order, I am going to detain and arrest anyone who has not left this gathering. This is your last chance to leave peacefully.” The large man would finish, putting aside his megaphone. The time for talk was over, as he had decided.

Abigail had her last moment here for action. Disperse peacefully? Stand her ground? Was this all worth it for a mere distraction? People’s lives could be at risk.

--

Tensions are much quieter in Thomas’s situation. The roar of the band and the promise of free drinks gave new life to the party. It was just as Thomas had arranged. The confrontation outside was out of sight and out of mind, and the guests were distracted with leisure and luxury with loud music to blare out noise.

As the mayor of New Haven, he’s had to use this tactic a few odd times in his career.

The two relaxed staff members give Eduard a simple look over before returning to their cigarettes. They were young and just here for a paycheck, not looking to rock the boat.

“Heh, buddy the bossman has new staff for each gathering he’s got about every new event. He don’t give anyone steady work but the secretaries who got cute faces.” A tall auburn haired boy who looked no older than 18 took another drag on his smoke.

“He says his uncle works for him. He must think he’s a big guy.” His companion, a black haired boy with an angular face jested.

“If you’re such a big guy then where’s your waistcoat then, eh?”

The association with Mr. Arnault did Montag more harm than good, as he didn’t seem very popular with the lower level staff.

“Whatever man. I’ll take your fucking cigs if that’s what you’re offering. I don’t give a damn anymore. My dad lost his job yesterday and our family is good as dead at this point.”

With a cynical flair and pure apathy, Auburn slung his waistcloth right at Montag’s face, colliding with it. The pair douse their cigarettes into the ground and rub them out into the finely cut grass with their shoes. Uncaring of the damage done to the furbished lawn.

“C’mon let’s go check outside and see if there’s a scrap. I wanna see someone get their fuckin skull kicked in.” Black suggested with a laugh, and the two part off without even listening to a word Montag had to offer.


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Eduard knew the kind of reaction he was probably going to get from cynical, working class young adults like the ones he'd been talking to. That's why he wasn't too surprised when most of the response he received from them was teasing and jaded comments, with a fairly aggressive exchange of the waistcoat from the taller one. He just kept a blank face the whole time, not really reacting to anything they did or said, pretty disinterested and apathetic himself to their less than savoury replies. He just passed them the cigarette carton in return before they wandered off, before he quickly slipped on the waistcoat. It was a little big, but not noticeably so, and the undercover detective swiftly buttoned it up and was soon on his way as well. The next issue was getting in.

Despite Montag's now-complete uniform, the amount of security and staff personnel surrounding the backyard entrance, with which he hoped to enter the villa from, meant that he probably wasn't going to go in there without heads being turned and questions being asked. And, even if he had means to, he had a feeling the men there weren't going to be tempted like the two waiters had. For the pay they would probably get, they weren't going relax for just a few cigarettes. And so, he'd play the long game.

It wasn't his ideal plan, but Eduard wasn't in the mood to take risks at the moment. Too much was at stake, supposedly at least. Walking with purpose, he strode over to the table hosting the evening's refreshments for the waiters to offer around: chilled bottles of champagne, compact and portable beer taps and large, clean platters with decadent canapes arranged decoratively on them. Sighing inwardly, the young man expertly lifted a platter of devilled eggs and turned towards the heart of the party, jazz still blaring in the background. He'd done this sort of thing before, so he felt comfortable knowing he at least looked the part as he wandered around, following snapping fingers to their beck and call while not saying a word. The first rule of these things was to always be barely seen and not heard, mingling upper-class men didn't want to have their conversations interrupted or bogged down by a common tongue.

The other thing about upper-class men was that, in most cases, their stomachs were deeper than their pockets, and so Montag soon found himself with an empty plate not too long after he'd started. But even so, the dark-haired detective knew his finite amount of time was running shorter with every wasted moment, meaning there was no hesitation before he slipped back out of the crowd as unnoticed as he'd entered it and approached the backyard entrance once again.

A group of three security guards stood around the entrance, eyes scanning for potential trouble like hawks searching for prey, when their collective vision honed in on the approaching waiter. It seemed as though the other staff had dispersed around the grounds, some still around in the backyard chatting amongst themselves, while others had probably entered the villa itself. Eduard didn't let those thoughts affect his performance though, and he kept up appearances as he got closer to the human security barriers blocking his way in.

"Evening gentleman. I've got an empty plate to return to the kitchen, mind if I pass?" Montag was aware of the various possibilities of how things could go wrong, but he tried his best to focus on the matter at hand. After all, he thought as he awaited the response of the three men that stood before him, there were other options for him to take, even if they probably weren't as neat and tidy as this one. And the detective knew, probably better than anyone present that evening, that trouble would follow him, wherever he went.
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Police of course were left unamused by everything Abigail said. It was very easy to understand - only a mere simple glace, a look over their faces was to reflect enough: their eyes almost shallow at the depth of possible thought and remorse to appear in their tired heads of hopeless resolve - one could only cling tightly onto the only stable place of work in the desperate times; and no wonder it was that Abigail and the gathered crowd were quite a threat to that stability. It came out to be that she was not only a threat to the luxurious condition of the residents and the guests of that villa; mere civilians stuck in their foolishness and disinterest to the world around them, but also to the people who were a mere hired staff around the villa, organizing the flashing party, organizing the defense lines to keep it isolated. Just holding up some order.
For some reason it reminded Abigail of the war. Some people back in the day too, were just holding up some order. Or trying to.

Yet, she was not the one to judge. The contrast between poor and forgotten people standing against the line of police who were threatened by them; threatened by the prospect to join them in the end - was enough of a thing to be spoken.
The situation kept on escalating though. Despite her best attempts the only thing she did manage was to bring the remains of her crowd closer to her and so more organized in a way. Organized to stand til the very end that is - no matter what kind of end it would be. They all - Abigail included - knew the most expected outcome - the batons coming out and police lashing out all of their daily humiliation and frustration at them, until they are physically exhausted. Abigail knew that by the rumors and the talk of the people on the street and the shelter. Others knew it by their own experience.

She could not allow this to happen though. There had to be some way to avoid the violence to come - the violence she herself executed to the possibility of it happening. She brought these people here and in so she put them threatened against the police. They followed her here and in so were ready to stand their ground - seeing as they did not leave as soon as police appeared. She appreciated that resolve, the passion of theirs to stand still for their life, for their own dignity - a thing Abigail herself thought to be lost on her forever, ever since she left her home. She appreciated it, but she also could not allow for this hell to break loose.
Especially considering she still had a girl to save. And provide the backup for Montag.

But she felt she could not just abandon these people either. She thought of it as it was her full responsibility for what was happening - and to some degree it was so, at least in regard to these people. Some compromise had to be taken.

With a deep sigh she raised her voice once again:
"We’h will leave peacefully, as peacefully we ‘ave come ‘ere - as we ‘ave come guided by the mercy of God. But we can’t leave without our voices being heard. Allow me tah’ speak with the mayor in the stead of these poor souls and we will leave."
She said, hands open and shown to police; at least she promised to the police a way for this rally to be over with no violence.
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Guards eye the approaching waiter with stern scowls. Half of their job is in their appearance, taking on the aspect of a grizzled and dangerous man that would deliver punishment if tested. Bags of meat to intimidate guests.

The guard Montag approached is a tall man, over six feet with broad shoulders and a shaved head. He waited after the waiter’s request, glancing at his fellow guard beside him. The opposite man looked Montag over, and then gave a quick nod. The third one is motionless like a statue.

“Make it quick and don’t linger.”

He reached over with an arm to yank the door open, the detective gaining entry. He’d be under close watch, and there would no doubt be further guards inside, but this is a start.

As the detective began to enter, someone appeared from within the villa to rush out past him. It is a tall male in a dirty trench coat. Obscured by the brown and baggy fedora on his face, a large face tattoo is etched onto his right cheek. It is that of a large snake swallowing what appeared to be a sun, though the sun in this case is the man’s right eye. He glanced a quick side eye at Montag, a deathly look that felt he was gazing right through Montag’s very being. Before anything can be discovered, the stranger is quickly off and on his way through the party. The guards paid him no mind as if he had not even been there.

All of the detective’s instincts demanded he tail and investigate that strange man, but the opportunity is lost for now. Instead he is now inside the villa kitchen, packed full of panicked kitchen staff struggling to deal with the unprecedented amount of guests the mayor’s party received. Waitresses brush past the dark haired boy shouting out orders at the pressured chefs in the back. Hot steam wafted throughout the kitchen, spreading out to other rooms. Animated and eye catching movement distracted any thought to the environment Montag had just stepped into.

This whole place felt like a pressure cooker with the lid barely latched on.

---

Silence fell over the standoff as the police processed Abigail’s words. Some muttering from the brass in charge as they huddled together and whispered plans. Tension remained steady, and time crawled like a snail. One of Abigail’s more impoverished protestors is fidgeting. He wanted his opium fix.

The priestess cannot understand much of what is happening on the other end. It is quiet as hard decisions are thought through. Abigail's brain screams at her, warning her. They will draw their guns and batons and that will be the last noise you ever hear! You will get them all killed!

Instead of the crack of a gunshot, there is instead a new voice on the loudspeaker. Much more friendly and warm than the harsh baritone of the police chief.

“Hey, hello? Test test! Ah, yes! Okay! Hello! This is your mayor speaking! You requested an audience with me? I’d be happy to have you! I care about the people of New Haven and being a religious man myself, I can never turn down a chat with a priest!” The politician broadcasted in the recently taken megaphone.

The police give away for the mayor to come to the forefront of their line. Thomas wore a navy blue three piece suit with dark slacks that were getting dirtied by the rough grass he was currently standing in. He had a loud voice like a showman but a fine pronunciation like a school teacher. He always seemed to smile, showing two big sets of white teeth that are radiantly bright.

“Now I really don’t like how this has been handled, fellas. In fact, to make amends. I’ll have the serving boys give ya all some meals, and a few drinks. All on me. How does that sound?”

His offer immediately got some of the more desperate among Abigail’s crew to come around to his side. Thomas knew the crowd he was appealing to.

The mayor confidently struts forward, a complete contrast to the exhausted and anguished before him. He’d extend a hand to Abigail, ignoring some of the dark stares he got from more riled up members. With no megaphone now, he used his raw voice.

“This is one helluva way to get a meeting, my dear. Care to introduce yourself? We can talk more in depth about your grievances in my office, once your people are taken care of.”

He had a youthful charasmia about him, regardless of his age and it is easy to get swept up in his energy. He already had Abigail pulled aside as the police line is broken up by his words alone.

The tensions vanish up into the wind, Thomas Arnault spoke and mountains moved.
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Montag didn't hesitate, simply giving the guard a breath of approval and a nod to acknowledge his words before entering through the door.

However, no sooner had he stepped past the doorframe, a figure literally coated in mystery passed hastily by suddenly. It was so sudden and unexpected, in fact, that the stoic Montag let out a small, but surprised grunt of exclamation as they momentarily locked eyes before the tattooed man swept past him completely. Montag spared him a quick look back, his mind racing even as the man simply glided through the yard and into the crowd, where even his distinctive figure was lost to a sea of the wealthy. A shiver ran up the young man's spin as he recounted the man's expression. He froze in place, eyes glazed over as he was consumed by thought.

Who was he? Why did he have that tattoo? What did it represent? How could he pass all these people while staying practically unacknowledged? Why was he-

"Excuse me!" A young female voice broke Montag out of his concentration as its owner whipped past his side, almost knocking into him. She walked with purpose but still as though she was panicked, as if she was rushing herself. And it wasn't long until the detective found another waitress practically barging past him again, with the same demeanour as the first. He stepped to the side to gather his bearings as the literal and metaphorical heat of the kitchen became more apparent to him. It was an intense atmosphere to be sure, and it definitely hindered his ability to hear what was going on outside past the gates with Abigail, Thomas Arnault's voice becoming nothing more than an incoherent drone in the background. In here, orders, food and people were being flung around in an equally chaotic fashion.

That chaos gave him a thought, one that made his stomach turn in panic and anxiety. That man. What had he been here for? Or rather, who had he been here for?

"Shit..." Eduard muttered, his legs already in motion before he'd fully thought of a plan. His intuition pointed him in a certain direction though, and to him that was at least better than nothing. He walked casually but at an above-average pace through the tight spaces of the blaring room, weaving in between servers rushing to push out orders as quickly as possible and busy cooks at their workstations. One such workstation was unmanned though, seemingly being used to as an area to lay out main courses, with dozens of immaculate and near-identical steak dishes placed with absolute care. However, despite all that care, all it took from Montag was one calculated swipe of his hand, and he had one.

He carried it with purpose as though he was going to carry it straight out to the yard to offer it to the first aristocrat he laid eyes on. But he didn't go to the yard. On the contrary, he made his way to the room that had its entrance closest to the workstation. If he was lucky, it wouldn't be occupied. If he was luckier, it would have a staircase upstairs. If he was extremely lucky, it would be both. For now though, he took a deep breath and stepped through, leaving the epicentre of the hustle and bustle. He could see why a place like this had a high turnover of workers now.
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The silence felt endless. It was a moment of falling down through the time into a gaping hole of panic, terror, horror - right after Abigail said her words - her determined words; and this mouth of future to come got suspended in time and in so swallowed all her senses: a matter of watching the crowd of policemen reaching towards their batons and guns, slowly, too slowly. She knew that sensation all too well, she hoped though she would not ever encounter it again in her life. It was somewhat of a similar thing to look at a grenade suddenly appearing amidst the things around yourself: a countdown to inevitable things to come, and yet there was always a chance of things to go elsewhere, anywhere differently - this space between future sealed and future still possible to happen humans usually called hope.

Abigail remembered that grenade now as she watched the police officers ready to snap at long last. But why? Who would use a gun in a situation like this? Anyone would, this was war, her bones remembered that ache of war crushing down on her with all the weight of blood and broken lives.
It was the smell of flesh melting. She remembered it now. It was the smell coming out of this gaping maw of the time: where the past met the future and blended into the one insufferable image. It was too real. It too much looked like reality - and so it was a reality forged out of her fears and memories, intuition and suffering. There was no God in this swirling pithole of one’s mind: only endless terror.

And yet. Somewhat awkward of a tone in a megaphone puts the violence on pause. And even furthermore into a reverse. It was somewhat of an amusing sight to see as Mayor himself finally showed up in a few seconds and managed to put all of the raised tension of the situation to none. It was weird, it was somewhat like acknowledging yourself in your own dream and now being able to process what was just a natural part of a dream, and yet looking at it was leaving an impact dazzling and confusing. Thomas did not look like a person to move fates by a command of his hand, and yet it was quite easy for him to just stop the situation from coming anywhere Abigail certainly did not want it to go.

It was a relief as well. A glimpse of God’s light appeared yet again, pushing back this storm of terror Abigail experienced. She now could feel the sweat collected on her forehead dripping down her face - she was quick to wipe it off with a deep exhale to follow. And more the mayor spoke, the more it felt like divine intervention: the promises, amends and gentle speeches, careful approaches, a carrot to appear instead of a threat of a stick from mere moments before. Abigail felt conflicted about that - Thomas surely was not a divine creature and he was trying to soothe the situation as much as it was possible without getting dirty - in any possible meaning of the saying. On the other hand - he indeed stopped the worst things to come, like if it was nothing. Was it nothing or not for him though she did not know; and before she could even attempt to think this through and ask herself some questions about what to make out of his appearance, she was already isolated from her crowd by a quick motion of Mayor himself.

She responded with a handshake as well. More of a reflex than anything, and in any way; no matter how she felt about the man, she did not think of him as being unworthy of some manners to be shown.

Abigail. Abigail Mccarthy. I am .. e’ priest, both for body and soul of these poor folk”, she replied to the Mayor, as she was pulled aside and escorted away, “Tis’ very hard to reach ye attention, mister Arnault. I do pray that ye words are true and ye not going to harm any of tis folk who ‘ave come to ye seeking for help and aid”.
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Montag's lucky break continued as he dived into the workstation, finding it nearly empty. The staff were busy with the nearly ruined party and were working overtime to accompany the numerous guests that they were not prepared for. With all the shuffling around of human bodies, shouted orders over hot ovens and steaming food trays. Montag was nearly bumped into by several frantic passerby's. Montag's plan of blending in worked as he passed through the rooms. Guards would flank doors, and a pair were stationed near the staircase to prevent any entry. The second upstairs floor of Meropis is clearly off limits. Last obstacle before Montag managed to get to Marie, hopefully.

There is a poke on Montag's shoulder from behind, he's been spotted.
"Hey, you look a little lost there. Any reason you're taking a steak to the laundry room?" A woman's voice came from behind, playful but with a threatening undertone to it.

The room Montag is pointed toward is indeed the laundry room, stashed away between the second kitchen and a broom closet. The staircase on the opposite side of them, so close but so far away. The grassy yard lay behind a door, no sign of anyone in sight but coated men with large hats like they were trying to hide in plain sight. They remind Montag of the mysterious man from earlier.

Cat like green eyes observe Montag up and down, a practiced but tense smile stretched over the woman's face. Like Montag, she stuck out and didn't seem to belong despite being dressed as a waitress. Her nametag said her name is Carol. Although she appeared attractive and charming, a sense of unease filled the air. She'd be the type of woman to hold a weapon behind her back.

"Care to explain what you're doing here? You trying to sneak around, look for jewels? Perhaps the mayor would like to hear about that, huh?" Her right hand twitched at her side with dangerous anxiety. The young woman continued to leer at Montag, getting closer and demanding his full attention. On the back of her neck is a small snake tattoo, the snake is coiled around the hilt of a small dagger, letting out a hiss.

Did she know something about their mission?

---

"Well of course my words are true! What you think I want beaten up homeless people on the front cover of the morning paper? I can kiss my reelection goodbye!" Thomas would speak loudly even though he's right in front of Abigail, by habit. Already the police are dispersing, being replaced instead by an attachment of waiters Thomas had summoned over. One police officer lingers, his eyes boring into the back of Abigail's skull. Thomas did not acknowledge it.

Once he had Abigail accompanying him, he's quick to move back to the front of the black iron gates of the Meropis. He is always looking around, conscious of the people around him, always weary of his image. Now that the two are properly pulled aside, Thomas can pull his mask off for a moment.

"Look little lady. Did Bob send ya? Be honest here. I know he's been gunning for the mayorship for decades but this has got to be the lowest trick he's ever pulled. Or are ya with the socialists? Communists? Ah they're all the same thing." A hint of weariness wore down his normal upbeat tone. He had many enemies.

He clapped his hands together, as if to shock himself and Abigail awake. "So what, you want a donation to your parish or something? How much? I don't really appreciate being extorted but I gotta say I've seen some slimy shit in the political world but this has got to be one of the best tricks in the book! Dredging up every junkie and deadbeat out onto a man's lawn, about to start a riot! Wow! I would've done it myself if I thought I could get away with it..." His arms moved about, emphasizing his every word. His eyes are wired and full of energy, it's easy to mistake him for being on drugs if it wasn't obviously pure adrenaline.

Even in this 'private' moment there is a horde of people begging for the politician's attention, lingering in the background and waiting with anticipation for Tom to end his talks with the priest so they may pester him for their own pet projects. Everything was in flux here, relationships constantly adapting and moving to the needs of the crowds. It is hard to say if Thomas is taking advantage of them or being taken advantage of himself in this situation.

"I don't have a lot of time. Alright? So just, tell me where to send the donation and just who the hell sent ya alright? And we'll keep this all to ourselves and we'll never have to deal with each other again. Priests and politicians are like oil and water."

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Abigail was certainly confused. Thomas appeared as if out of nowhere - a deus ex machina on his own, but unlike the ancient gods appearing at the last moment to give higher judgment, Thomas was seeking resolution - and as quick one as it was possible. His reputation was shaking and it was obvious to Abigail that despite the best of words he had to say to her, there was a certain desire to wrap things up as quickly as possible. That made him speak fast - faster than the girl could even respond, faster than she could think of a proper response. A few times she tried to part her lips to pronounce a simple “Mister Thomas” to make the man stop, or at least pause, but before she could - he would start a next line, barely making a break to even have a new dose of oxygen to fill his lungs. That was somewhat of a signature of a man used to talking publicly and for long periods of time like so.

And publicly speaking he still was, somewhat: even though they both have left the rally Abigail created, the crowd of poor and lost left behind, they were still surrounded by people all around, as they walked through the mansion. She could see them briefly - the glances of patience, yet ready to jump in at the first possible opening - in order to of course grab the man’s attention. Which could’ve been a reason for him to speak up with no pause and on and on; as his arms moved around to make sure every word he said was to be pointed at with the gesture of his hands. It was most certainly a case of professional deformation at this point - in the meaning of him not only being used to speak like this all the time; but rather being put in the circumstances, where he was demanded to speak like this all the time, even if it seemed like there was no need for that. In the end there was a need, Abigail could see it with the glancing gazes looking at her and Thomas all around. Mainly at Thomas though; as for others she was a mere obstacle that for some reason took the place they all needed.

But while they walked on and Thomas talked it gave Abigail the needed time to actually think through what he was saying to her. It is as if Thomas decided to be open with her and push her to drop the facade - for what reasons she was not sure. Irony was there was no actual facade - in a sense Thomas was trying to find at least. She was indeed not entirely honest with her motives to the full, but she never lied as well. Her heart did ache for these people. As her heart did ache for this man’s daughter. She had to be here to make a change, and she took this chance. Abigail was not a politician, she could not lie a lot for too long and not that she liked it in the first place and the games of this world were alien to her.

The fact that Thomas thought of her as of one made Abigail feel something she did not feel for a long time though. It was not confuse, it was not anger either. The cosmic irony of this miscommunication was not lost on Abigail and a gigglish laughter rose up in her stomach and left her lips in a giggle rather soft and gentle - contrast to her usual appearance.
Somewhat of a glimpse, or a shard of what she once was.

I’m sorreh’ to dissapoint ye, mistah Arnault. I’m afraid I ain’t no agent of people ye speak of.”, she said at last, after a giggle has passed on her - enough to answer at least: “God sees that happens: a priest who tries to make a change”. Is she still a priest though? It was quite some time since she actually addressed herself like so. Could she still consider herself being one even? She thought she abandoned her post, and with it her vows.
She pushed these thoughts away for now. It was not time for them.
There were far more aching questions to answer at the moment. Like what to answer to Thomas? Abigail was again as lost as ever, her inability to understand how the political world worked and moved was certainly her weakness in this situation.

I would not deny, a donation would help our shelte’; we could buy some beds and new set of medical equipment. Ya see, we’ve bee’ struggling with getting proper supplies as of late; painkillers are hard to get tis days...

She was not sure why she was saying this. She just had to say something to keep this situation going, she did not know how to handle it. Thinking back, it seemed like standing against police was at least easier to understand.
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Montag was quick to take in his surroundings. A keen and experienced eye like his own only needed a few innocuous glances to pinpoint where exactly he needed to go. The question now, though, was how to get past those two guards at the staircase.

Before he could begin to put that next piece of the puzzle together however, his inner monologue was suddenly interrupted by an intrusive tap to the shoulder from behind. A smooth voice that would wring out uncontrollable temptation from most men, but one that was laced with poison in its tone, addressed him teasingly from behind. He didn't turn around to face her though, not just yet. As usual, he played it cool, remaining calm even as his mind was kicking into high gear. Eduard could tell from her voice though, and the fact that she hadn't immediately reported him to some higher-up, that she was no more welcome inside this villa than he was. Apart from that though she was a total mystery, and so for that reason he remained cautious. He had to admit though, he hadn't done himself any favours by walking straight towards the laundry room, of all rooms.

Plate in hand still, the undercover detective slowly, but surely, turned himself to face this newest obstacle. A slender, fairly tall, and all around classically attractive woman was what faced him, with slight feline features that were a perfect match to her voice. 'Carol' was the name that appeared on her nametag, but the young man very much doubted that that was anywhere close to her real identity, especially once he spotted that tattoo on her neck. The snake and dagger etched into her skin pierced his vision, and suddenly the venom to the woman's voice made sense.

"Hey, take it easy, it's only my first day. It's only natural for me to get at least a little lost, especially in an environment like this. And besides..." Montag's eyes sharpened slightly, and if 'Carol' looked especially carefully, she'd probably see a very discreet curl of his lips edging into a slight smile. He could feel her advancing closer towards him, almost as though she were trying to push him further into the closet, away from prying eyes. That didn't deter him though, and he made no outward acknowledgement to it. "I doubt you're the type Mr. Arnault would be pleased to see, or to hear about. Or is that tattoo just a fashion choice?"

A glance over her shoulder, and Eduard also noticed a few inconspicuous individuals dressed similarly to the one man he'd come across before. Was this them? The people that would set the chain of events leading to Marie's death in motion? Were they the trigger themselves? Or was it just bad luck? Before he had time to really mull, he attention was brought back to 'Carol' when her hand jittered at her side. Though she was good at hiding it like himself, Montag observed, nerves couldn't help but show themselves in some capacity.

What was becoming increasingly clear, however, was that this woman probably had the power to make or break the whole operation at this point, depending on how Eduard could handle her and how she might react. It was risky, but if he played his cards right, and with a bit of luck, she could be the key to finally reach Marie. And he wanted to hurry, especially when it seemed like each time the detective looked out to the garden again, another coated man would stand amongst the others to grow what would eventually probably become an intimidating and dangerous force.
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Carol's piercing gaze bored through the boy's own, seeing the spirit that inhabited that flesh. She'd stay quiet for a moment, holding onto that cat like smile a moment longer. She took a few moments to process all these new details about her newest object of interest.

"Oh Mr. Arnault doesn't concern me. My concerns are far beyond your tiny understanding." She'd snark in a smug tone.

She'd walk around Montag, proudly showing off the black mark down her neck with no effort to hide it. The tattoo appeared to morph and change in Montag's vision. The snake would squeeze tightly around the dagger, climbing up to get a better view of the detective. It was so fast a movement like an illusion of the eyes than anything real.

"You look a little familiar, reminds me of a cop I knew. Not sure you're quite who you appear to be, not that we really are either."

Some of the servants would watch the scene from afar, Montag had gathered a lot of attention in a short amount of time. All of the serving staff watching carried those same black mark tattoos. Some had ink on their arms, others on their leg. Like Carol's they would morph and transform if gazed upon, as if they carried some sort of spirit inside of them. Carol continued to toy with her prey, suddenly getting behind Montag and speaking directly into his ear.

"I strongly advise you get going here, 'waiter' boy. Things are about to get very interesting and I am not sure you are going to want to be around when it starts. The exit is this way."

Carol prodded him towards the kitchen Montag first came through with a hand. It was becoming increasingly clear they had their own mysterious agenda for Meropis Villa and had figured out Montag as a third party actor they wanted no interference with. Montag could attempt to pry into these strangers and try and get a glimpse of their plans but that carried clear risks with these threatening stares and sinister tattoos.

They were prime suspects of the murder soon to happen this evening, just a flight of stairs away from Marie.
---

"Oh yea yea. We all want change, I understand. Threatening my villa and reputation however is a lot more different than asking for change, lady." Thomas's tone sours as his patience wore thin. He'd take a moment to compose himself.

"Alright, I'll write a check for seven hundred and fifty dollars, alright? I don't believe you're not affiliated with someone, but it's clear Bob was the one to do it. Whatever, just tell me where to send it and I'll send it."

He'd flip out a checkbook from his chest pocket, quickly thumbing over to a blank slip and beginning to fill out the information. With some quick strokes of a black pen, he passed over the filled out slip to the confused priest.

"Now with all due respect to God the creator and the Virgin Mary, get the hell off my lawn." He'd growl to Abigail, thrusting the check into her hands.

Above the pair on the balcony, a girl leaned on the railing to observe the conversation below. They were behind Meropis Villa now, where the bedrooms lay for its residents. Marie Arnault watched her father do his business, finding the entire exchange amusing.

"Are we giving out another bribe, Dad?" She'd call down from the balcony with a big smile on her face.

"Marie! I told you if you didn't want to socialize then stay in your room!" Thomas shouted back up in an instant.

"I like to find my own entertainment, dad. Your big parties are just full of boring people trying to impress me. I'm fine here reading my books."

"I don't have time for this. Take the check and do as I asked." Thomas returned his attention to the priest, already preparing to leave.

"And you! Stay inside as I told you to!" He'd bark at Marie, pointing a finger at her.

Marie would watch on from above with her bored expression, unphased by her father's warning. She was a girl who had it all in her luxury life but never could find that thrill that came to people who lived outside her tiny bubble. She'd look over Abigail with some awe, always enjoying those that gave her father a hard time. Slowly she began to retreat inside, stretching out her arms and clearly in no hurry. Her arms were held behind her back and she swayed in the evening breeze, wishing she had some better music than the noisy band outside.

There was the girl to protect, relaxed and calm. How Abigail would find a way to get upstairs to her or persuade her or her father of the danger tonight would be a challenge in of itself.

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