Mercy parked her car on the street beside her apartment building and took a moment to admire the view. Tertius always looked so fantastic after a visit to Oldtown, in another sector of the extensive realm of Concordia. This city was the playground of the Sons of Ether and Virtual Adepts, and it showed. Slender skyscrapers of dizzying height pierced the sky while aircraft ranging from antique-styled biplanes to jetcars and dirigibles moved lazily between them.

            Mercy liked it here. She even liked the taste of oil and paraffin that permeated the air, even now, at two in the morning. The others could have the isolated grandeur of the Hub with her blessing. Mercy had been a city girl since the Euthanatos had first released her from the crèche.

            After briefly scanning the area for observers, Mercy let herself into the relatively modest apartment building she occupied – five stories in the shadow of a building nearly a mile high – and thought longingly of a hot meal and a cold shower. The heat and work of the evening had made her sweat almost all the way through her clothes and the idea of cool air against her overheated skin was a delicious one. One of these days, I have to learn enough Magick to perform a ‘cool-off’ rote, she mused lazily, laying her tool belt next to the bathroom sink and peeling off her black bodysuit.

Mercy had nothing against Ric’s Pleasure Palace - where she had just spent four hours assisting in the investigation of the murder of an employee - but keeping six Marines distracted and on a short leash was not something she had expected to do. The Palace was not a place that encouraged denial, nor was Mercy a person who denied herself much of anything.
            Some time later, cleaned and fed, Mercy flopped into her bed and almost immediately drifted toward sleep.

            A sharp noise startled her back into waking. Tell me that’s not the phone, she thought irritably, even as she turned to the televideo machine by her bed. Flipping it on, Mercy spoke before the receiving image had formed on the device’s small screen.
            “Make it good,” her incipient yawn stopped cold when she saw a familiar face. Erich Newhope, Vrynnian golden boy and man of Teflon, stared back at her, a slight smile on his lips.
            “Mercy,” he greeted her. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”
Mercy was very glad she always wore a tank top to bed – on the belief that you never know when you might have to go from sleep to the street. She didn’t need to be naked in front of this man. Well, not yet, she admitted to herself.
            “Of course not,” she replied dryly. “I do some of my best work in bed,” such exchanges were the heart of their relationship.
             Newhope matched her tone. “So it would seem.”
             Mercy sighed. “What do you want?”

            “It was quite a surprise to see you tonight.” Newhope referred to their meeting at Ric’s. “A paranoid man might think he was being stalked,” Mercy rolled her eyes at Erich’s smirk. “But enough of that,” he dismissed the comment as easily as he had made it. “What's your interest in the dead whore?” he asked bluntly.
            Ah, so that’s why you’re calling me in the middle of the night, Mercy realized.

            “What’s yours?” she replied sharply. The murder she had been investigating at Ric’s involved one of his employees, a young woman named Jesse, and her client, a member of the Syndicate that Erich Newhope had met with immediately before his death. Although Newhope had been cleared of direct complicity in the murder of both prostitute and client – which had been performed by a member of the New World Order, not one of Erich’s Progenitor ilk – neither Mercy nor any of her newly met fellow investigators believed he was entirely innocent in this affair.
            “Your bout of playing detective made me late to a very important meeting. I went back to the club because I decided that it might be best for my public image to cooperate. The girl's death was an annoyance, nothing more.” He replied, unruffled. “Your turn.”
            “She was the friend of a friend.” Mercy lied easily, shrugging and idly noticing Erich’s interest in the motion. Men were so distressingly similar, really.  “He wanted me to look into it. “
            “I see.” Newhope’s tone indicated he clearly didn’t believe her. “and Ric's interest is entirely non-political I'm sure.”
            Mercy made a non-committal noise “Ric, yes...” Since I’ve got his attention, I might as well ask a few questions. “Been short of money lately, Erich?”
            That surprised him. “No. Why do you...ah, yes! My business deal with the honorable Mr. Nagajiro.” Erich laughed. “You really don't think that I went in there prepared to lose money on a deal without another agenda in mind, do you? I'm hurt by your lack of faith.”
            Another deal, hm? “Then restore my faith,” she demanded. Overconfident men sometimes boasted, she knew.
            Erich smiled. “From where I am now?” Mercy wondered what that meant. “All right, how's this? Did you know that your little joygirl friend has a reputation?”
            Mercy raised an eyebrow. “You mean beyond being a whore?” He’s trying to be a tease, Mercy sighed mentally. Two can play that game.
            “Sex is an honest profession, politics on the other hand...” Erich smiled wickedly. “But I'm surprised that I'd have to tell you either.”
            “Answer the question.” Mercy persisted.
            “My, you do seem…aggressive,” - Erich savored the word - “tonight...perhaps you need a release.” Mercy filed the idea away for consideration. It had been a very long evening. “Very well,” Newhope continued. “The girl has been known to take confession from a high ranking member of the Celestial Chorus. Very long confessions.” Newhope’s tone was rich with innuendo.
            Mercy didn’t feel like playing along yet. “A life of sin lived by a whore, there's a surprise.” She stretched languidly and again noticed Erich’s passing appreciation of the gesture. Yes, it’s been a long night, she thought
            Erich couldn’t hide a flicker of irritation in his eyes at Mercy’s behavior. “Well take for it what you will. But Father Ruiz is a Catholic priest known for his past indiscretions. Another scandal could ruin him.”

            And that must be something you won’t object to, otherwise you wouldn’t be telling me, Mercy didn’t add. “Oh my, a fallen priest.” She yawned artlessly. “What delicious irony.”
            As it to confirm her unspoken thoughts, Erich continued. “Not quite so fallen so as to lose his place and the right hand of Reverend Newsome.”  Mercy recognized the name of the leader of the Celestial Chorus within the realm. He’s getting irritated, Mercy observed. Better throw him a bone. “Got any idea why the New World Order would want to kill a whore?” She wondered if Newhope already knew that an agent of that group had murdered Jesse and her client.
            “Who knows why they do anything.” Newhope replied flippantly, reinforcing Mercy’s impression that he was using her to plant suspicions. “Why don't you ask them?”
            Mercy replied absently, distracted by thinking of Newhope’s possible motives. “Don't assume I have a death wish just because of my Tradition,” she warned him.

            “Well, one couldn't tell by your manner.” Newhope countered. “Chit-chat aside, I wanted to let you know that I'll be away on business for a few weeks. I know you'll miss me terribly.” He smile took on predatory overtones.
            Mercy was deeply sarcastic. “With every fiber of my cold black heart. I'd invite you over,” she declared theatrically. “But it's the maid's day off and the place is simply a mess.”
            “I've never minded it when things get a bit messy.” Newhope commented, with a sigh. ”I suppose that I'm going to have to drive home then.”

            Mercy fought down a curious mixture of dread and anticipation and couldn’t help glancing towards her window. “Where are you?”
            Newhope’s answer was a raised eyebrow. “I'm surprised that you didn't think it odd that I knew when you arrived home.” He replied. “Look out of your window.” He suggested.

            Mercy sighed and moved to her window. Three stories down, she could see Erich Newhope standing at a public phone, with his car parked beside him and a bottle of champagne in his hand. Mercy couldn’t quite see his expression, but she was sure that he was smiling like a cat.

“Champagne?” Mercy commented, deadpan. “You devil, you.” Hm, it would be a shame to let that go to waste. That and…other things.
            Mercy heard his laugh as she returned to the phone. “And the devil did grin, for his favorite sin...was pride disguise as humility...” Erich quoted.
            “And poetry, too.” She continued flatly. “How's a woman to resist?” she shook her head and smiled. Mercy, you knew this was inevitable from the moment you met this rogue, she admitted. “You may as well come up, then,” she conceded.

            Of course,” Erich agreed. “Since I'm in the neighborhood after all.” The phone’s screen went blank as he hung up the phone.

            Mercy appraised the state of her townhouse. It was actually extremely neat, as she was rarely in it long enough to make a mess. As a precaution, Mercy took two of her favorite knives, tucking one beneath her bed, and another under her pillow. Can’t be too careful, she hummed to herself, pulling on a pair of loose chiffon pants over her sleeping ensemble of short shirt and underwear. The pants didn’t hide much, but acted as a soft contrail to her movements. Mercy was quite aware of her advantages as a woman, and was always willing to use them.

            A minute later, Newhope knocked on the door and Mercy let him in, noticing that he had changed from his clothes of earlier that evening into a dark blue suit with a mandarin collar, a light blue shirt beneath and a tan trench coat above it all. Dressed up for me, did you? Mercy smiled inwardly.

            He looked around the tidy dwelling. “Did you clean just for me?” he smiled. “I'm touched.”
            Mercy replied with a slow smile. “Not yet.”
            Erich set down the bottle he carried on a nearby table and slid an arm behind Mercy’s back, leaning in close. Well we should correct that, shouldn't we?”

            Oh no, Mercy thought wickedly. You’re not in charge here. She easily slipped out of the nascent embrace with a confident grin. “I want a drink, first, since you're obviously not buying me dinner.” She declared.
            Erich returned her smile. He knew the game, too. “Of course. How thoughtless of me. Where are the glasses?” The bottom floor of the house was open, and he easily found the kitchen.

            Mercy sat down on the sofa, learning deep into its soft cushions. “Over the sink, behind the ammunition.”
            Erich chuckled. “I like a woman who's prepared for everything.” He quickly found two glasses and an ice bucket. Moments later, the champagne was open and poured. “So... to letting go of business for an evening?” he suggested, sitting casually on the arm of Mercy’s sofa, next to her.

            “I'll always drink to that.” Mercy agreed, sipping at her drink. She was glad to taste that he had bought the best.
            Newhope looked around. “Nice place you have here. I'm looking forward to seeing more of it in the future,” he commented bluntly.
            “Aren't you the optimistic one?” Mercy replied, an edge creeping into her voice.
            Erich shrugged. “If that's what you like to call it. I call it Fate.”
            That perked Mercy’s interest, as it would any Euthanatos. “You believe in Fate? I'm surprised.”
            “Not in some grand force that controls my decisions, no.” her companion qualified. “Only I can do that.” He put his glass down, resting an elbow on one knee. “I meant that circumstances seem to throw us together quite often.” He said mildly.
            “True enough,” Mercy conceded. “But that's hardly fate.”
            “Take tonight for example.” He continued. “I know that you were as surprised as I when we saw each other at the club.” He moved in closer still. Mercy continued to lounge comfortably. ”Face it,” he whispered. “There's a connection. We're drawn together.”
            Like I haven’t heard that before, Mercy thought, momentarily derisive. But he did have a point…”And what if we are?” she asked, already sensing the answer.
            Now Erich’s face was almost touching hers. “Then I'd say that it would be foolish to deny our instincts.”
            “Now that I’ll agree with.” Mercy smiled. Enough games, she decided, closing the distance between them, letting her glass spill onto the furniture.

 

            Much later, Mercy casually asked Erich where he was going on his business trip. His reply was blurred by sleep that was already overtaking him. “A bit of a camp outing, that's all I can say,” and it was enough for her, as she drifted off beside him.

 

            Later that morning, Mercy awoke to an empty bed and a note on her kitchen table.

Mercy - As I said before, "Sex has always been an honest expression". Business awaits, but looking forward to expressing such sentiments with you again soon.

            Mercy smiled, even as she winced at a slight soreness from their activity. Got you, she thought smugly. Who would have thought your weakness to be so mundane, Erich Newhope? I’ll ruin you yet…

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