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May 22 - 14:38:32
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Old Soldiers, New Battlefields. Started by: Isabella-Luciano on Feb 22, '19 15:27

With one hand, Isabella pulled the black double-breasted wool jacket tighter around herself and with the other she held tight to her large brimmed hat.  Head down, her face out of the arctic onslaught, she pressed forward into the wind which ripped mercilessly down the Philadelphia city streets.  If she was to stay warm while traveling to the meeting place which LouisMezzo had sent her, she had to place her trust in the eyes of her bodyguards rather than her own.  

A moment later, the Wolf ran up beside her and shot her a sidelong smirk.

"What are you grinning about, this weather is shit!"  Bella snarled.  "If Louis had owed this bastard anything short of his life, I'd be pitching a fucking fit!"

Gavin chuckled.  "I was just thinking that in this weather, no one can tell if my hair is mostly silver now or if it's just covered in snow."

Bella smiled and shook her head, amused at her husband's vain worries.  He was never going to be convinced that she found his silvering hair attractive, no matter how much she insisted upon it. 

"What's the guy's name again?"  Gavin asked, still struggling to catch up on all he'd missed during his seven-year hiatus from active duty in the Race Street operation.

"Professor HeinrichGrimm.  He's Made, but has been almost exclusively operating on the outside in an advisory capacity so... he and I haven't really had a chance to cross paths yet.  Louis still has hopes he'll move up in time.  He's a war vet as I understand it.  Means he's got skills we can use.  Of course... who the fuck knows why he's chosen today, of all days, to cash in his chip with Louis."  She shivered as a bit of wind got up under her hat as they neared the front door.

"A war vet?  Named Grimm?  Cashing in on a life debt owed to him by a Godfather... yeah, this should be fun."   Gavin checked his guns again.  Bella didn't think he was attempting to be funny.  Neither she nor Gavin had reached such an advanced age in this life by leaving things to chance.  They certainly didn't gamble on unexpected meetings, even when those meetings were with people the Godfather owed his life to.  

The Byrnes walked up the steps just behind their bodyguards and waited as the Jamaican born Linval knocked for them.  Beside the bald black man, was a mountain of a honey-haired midwestern man who looked as though he had some mental disabilities.  Neil, known as Nails by most everyone in criminal circles, wore mostly denim and looked as suited to work on a farm as being the enforcer that he was.  His peaky cap sat snug on his overly large head and his expressive eyes darted around ever watchful for danger.

Bella bounced a little on the balls of her feet, "Come on man..."  

No answer. 

Gavin stepped up and knocked assertively.

Still no answer.

Gavin looked to Bella.

She rolled her eyes and sighed.  "Get me in."

Gavin dropped and within just a moment's time he popped the lock and opened the front door to reveal a comfortable, above average home.  The sort of place that only someone in a secure job during these tough economic times could really afford... well, that or they were a criminal.  In the case of Professor Grimm, it helped that he was both.

Bella tapped her feet as they entered, Gavin and the guards had their guns out but Bella acted as if she'd arrived for tea - a guest in Grimm's home.  She removed her coat, hung it on a peg and then followed a safe distance behind her guys who were sweeping first the foyer and then into the den.  

Not seeing Grimm Bella narrowed her eyes, and became concerned.  Linval went into the kitchen.  Neil down the hallway on the first floor.  Gavin and Bella went up the stairs.  Bella tried not to let memories of a previous engagement on a stairwell peak into her head.  

A noise.

Gavin and Bella froze.  They realized it was coming from the bedroom to the left of the top of the stairs and moved as fast and quietly as they could towards the open door.  

"Shit."  Gavin said entering, putting his gun down as soon as he saw the conflict was clearly over.

"Professor!"  Bella rushed to Grimm who was bleeding out, seated in a high back chair near his phone, likely the place he'd called Louis from.  Gavin was checking the man on the floor for a pulse.

"Gone."  Gavin confirmed.

"Find gauze... needle, and thread if he's got it.  If not send the guys back to fetch my bag out of the car.  I have some there."  Gavin was moving as soon as the words left Bella's lips.  Bella returned to tapping Grimm's cheeks lightly, "Professor Grimm... Heinrich... wake up... come on... I need you awake."  

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Heinrich had been slipping and out of consciousness ever since he ended his call. The ripped sleeve of his right arm was drenched in blood that had managed to seep through the piece of cloth he had pressed against the wound on his shoulder. Incoherent memories of the past began to assault his senses as his arm began to go numb.

He saw himself as a child running through the gardens at his father's estate. He saw his tutor teaching him about Bismarck and Moltke in a regal library. He saw himself as a teenager, butchering a stag in the forests, the first one he had ever hunted. He saw himself in Sicily dining with an exiled Prince at the court of a local noble.

His eyes flashed open momentarily and he shook his head as he tried to stand up only to collapse back into the chair in exhaustion. Once again the memories continued, blending seamlessly from one to the next. Here he was when his father first informed him that war had broken out and he had insisted on enlisting. There he was as a young Stoßtruppen, scaling the alps to earn his first Edelweiss.

The memories progressed faster as he breezed through tunnels in Somme, trenches in Verdun, toxic fog in Ypress, all the way to his capture in Amiens. The dark prison cell where he spent 5 years of his prime earning his doctorate flashed by his eyes. His return to his deceased father's estate, his journey to Philadelphia, the mundane morning lectures and the horrific sleepless nights all flew by him in a whirlwind. The entirety of his life had just been relived and he expected the next image to be of Death himself welcoming him like a brother into its arms. 

Sure enough, he saw a bony figure cloaked in black with arms stretched wide open, beckoning him over. As he began walking towards the figure however, the earth began to shake and a strange voice entered his ear. A voice he had never heard before, a voice that called out to him. Stuck as he was between the two, he could not decide which path to follow. The shaking only grew worse and his body began to stir.

"Den guten Namen des Hauses Grimm nicht beschmutzen. Sie können sich noch nicht ausruhen. Nicht, wenn Sie nicht bezahlt haben, was Sie schulden."  Came the accusatory remark from his Father's phantom beside him. Heinrich looked at him in confusion and the phantom gestured to Thierry's body that now lay at his feet. 

The shadowy figure of death seemed to be drifting further and further away, while the ground continued to tremble and the skies began to collapse. "Professor Grimm... Heinrich... wake up... come on... I need you awake."   The distant voice echoed yet again.

With tremendous resolve Heinrich forced his eyes open and coughed as the spell was broken. An unfamiliar woman stood above him tapping his cheeks. For a moment he thought his mind was playing tricks on him again, but then he felt the sharp stinging pain in his shoulder and was convinced that this was real.  "Der Körper, bewahre es." He whispered through teeth clenched in agony. "Der Körper, bewahre es." He mumbled again incoherently.

The confusion in her eyes made him realize she could not understand him. Mustering what little strength he could, he clenched the back of her neck and hoisted himself up slightly. With a determined look in his eye, he said. "The body, don't get rid of it." Then he let go and fell back against the chair, slipping back into unconsciousness.

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Gavin came back with the requested items & also a bottle of booze she hadn't asked for, a wise decision on his part.

Bella spoke to him in a near whisper, "Take care of that, would you?  I got this."

The old wolf gave a nod and with the help of the bodyguards, the three of them began to clean up the mess.

She reached up and finished tearing open the sleeve of his shirt so she could see the full extent of the wound. 

"God, damn it."  She hissed at the sight working quickly to use the torn sleeve to clean away the blood gently and begin tending to the thing before it got any worse.  It wasn't her first 'battlefield' stitching, but Bella was far from a master seamstress.  She had focused much of her life on doing damage to people, not patching damage up.

"If only Doc Santoro were still around." She lamented the woman she hadn't thought about in years.  "She'd make you look pretty as well as fix you up.  I'm afraid you're going to have to suffer with my shit sewing.  Whiskey?  It'll dull your mind a bit so the sting isn't so bad."  She offered him a bit before she got to the task of threading the needle.

"My name's Bella."  She said letting him have the whiskey bottle with his good hand if he wanted some.  "Bella Byrne.  Louis sent me.  I'm sorry we haven't met before now, Professor.  Even more sorry we had to meet under such circumstances."

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When Heinrich came to his senses again, he shook his head and sat up. The sleeve of his shirt had been completely ripped apart and his wound lay exposed in the woman's hand. Strange men flitted about, attempting to clear away the mess his brawl with Thierry had created. As he recalled the events that had transpired, he repeated his words more firmly this time so there was no room for negotiation. "Don't get rid of the body."

Bursting up into a fit of cough he hunched over and reached for the bottle the woman had offered him, his ears still somewhat ringing as her incoherent words echoed through his eardrums. The first touch of the bitter liquid on his tongue was enough for him to gag. Turning his head away from the woman he sprayed out the booze and cursed as he let the bottle fall to the floor below and wiped his lips with the back of his palm. 

Despite his ears in the trenches and his time in America, he never quite developed a taste for the swill that the masses seemed to favour. The aristocrat lingering somewhere deep within him, never allowed him to consume anything but the finest Reisling. Pointing to a bedside drawer he indicated where his favoured liquor could be found, just as he felt a sharp sting in his shoulder as the needle pierced his skin. Curses flew out of his lips unrestrained even as clarity returned to his eyes and ears. The pain such as it was, helped him regain his footing as the woman continued her work.

She introduced herself and informed him that Louis had sent her. It seemed the wop had not honored his promises, a pleasant thought, if naive. With his senses having returned something immediately jumped out to him and he did a double take to make sure he had heard right. "I knew a woman named Byrne once." He whispered. "Cloaked in intrigue, brimming with melancholy." The memory of his day with Tara and the night that never came briefly entered his mind before he let the thought drift away into the recesses of his mind.

"Frau Byrne, thank you for coming to my assistance. My abode is humble, but I am happy to offer what little hospitality I can to you and your associates. Has Herr Mezzo informed you of the details of my request?" He asked formally as she finished stitching him up.

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Bella nodded, as she tied off the bit of string and wiped away some of the blood.  "He was ... vague, but the circumstances required such.  What I know is that he has a very steep debt to you or he wouldn't have asked me to handle this personally."

She stood up and looked down at her handiwork.  It wasn't perfect, but it would do.  He wouldn't keep bleeding and at the moment that was all anyone could really hope for.

"My people will put the man somewhere safe until you tell me why we're not disposing of it as we normally would or you tell me where he's supposed to go.  I and my people are at your disposal for this one.  It's not mine to question - but obey in this situation."

She picked up a bit of the discarded shirt and cleaned her hands and thought about Grimm's words a moment.  "I don't suppose your melancholy ridden lady friend went by the name Tara?"  

Gavin froze and gave Bella a brief glance but said nothing and returned to his work.

"I suppose there are a lot of Byrnes in this world though."  

She glanced around the room.  For the first time really taking in the sort of man she'd come to the aide of, the sort of man who Mezzo owed such a debt to.  Perhaps it was her desire to protect Louis, or natural curiosity, but she wanted to know more about him.

"Quite the home you have, though, to be honest, I never would have guessed this for the sort of place we'd have to come to for work like this."

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Heinrich's limited involvement caused him to blank out on her role in the enterprise, but with the greys in her hair and the efficient manner she had led her men into dealing with the situation so soon after the call suggested that she was no mere enforcer. For someone like her to be sent with limited information, along with the talent and the resources she undoubtedly possessed, he might just pull this off. If Louis had intended to showcase just how generous he was with compensation, he had succeeded for Heinrich was cautiously optimistic.

"London." He said softly. "I need to go to London along with the body. Tonight if possible or tomorrow if not." Pausing to recall his previous visit through England he realized that there might be trouble if he was recognized, trouble he may not be able to deal with in his current condition with such precious cargo.

"I could use some assistance while there, it is true. But you would have already done much by smuggling me and mine," Pausing to glance at Thierry's body he continued. "into the country. My business from there on out would be an imposition I would not presume to levy upon someone of your esteemed stature.." If he was right about Louis's gratitude and the woman's strength of character, she may just relent to tag along. It was a gamble, but he was a gambling man after all.

The mention of Tara caused him to view the woman and her associates in a different light. He picked up on a curious double take from one of the men beside her as if the name meant something to him as well. Heinrich wasn't surprised. He had always had his assumptions about Tara and the nature of her business, but their brief Liason had never been about their respective pasts so the details never came up.

"I see you are acquainted with her. I hope her travels are proving relaxing. If you can get a word to her, do ask if she's learnt how to cook a goose yet. I will remember that as a personal favour."  He answered with a smile as he slowly got up to his feet, wobbling briefly as his legs threatened to give out, before he steadied himself against the chair.

He followed her gaze around the room and chuckled as he teased. "Oh? Here I was thinking most scholars needed some cleanup every other weekend."  He considered the possibility that this might be an opportunity to befriend a potential business partner and changed his tone to a more respectful one. "This is the second time since I met Herr Mezzo, that someone has broken into this wonderful house with the intent to kill me."  Of course one had nothing to do with the other, but he was not above using embellishments where necessary.  "I am considering moving into a more secure neighbourhood, perhaps you could offer some suggestions. Ideally, not 'the sort of place you'd have to come to for work like this' as you put it."

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"Probably not a bad idea.  Nearly getting killed in your home once is a fluke.  Twice is a reason for concern."  She smiled.  "As for Tara, she's my sister-in-law.  My husband's twin sister.  So yes, we're well acquainted.  I'll ask her about the goose next time I hear from her.  It might not be for a bit though.  She's become something of a gypsy in recent years."

"As for the body - you're not an imposition.  I was instructed to help you to the fullest extent and a trip to London doesn't seem so terrible.  Anything I can do to assist you while there seems to fulfill those orders.  We'll just need a little time to make arrangements for the plane, pack some things and have someone see to our children.  It shouldn't take more than a couple of hours.  Until we're ready to go, I'd like to leave some protection with you... if you're not opposed?  You should rest, maybe eat something... you'll survive your injury but I'm sure it's taken something out of you."

"Once I have all the arrangements in hand I'll come back by and pick you up and we'll go to the airport together.  How does that sound?"

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A few hours later, Heinrich sat stiffly with one hand lying possessively and the other, bandaged beneath his fresh set of clothes, supported by a sling. All around him, luggage clattered against the reverberating metallic walls of the hold of the cargo plane as they flew over the seemingly endless Atlantic below. 

Gazing out from his spot by the window, his eyes caught sight of land, peeking out from beneath the early rays of the sun emerging from behind the horizon as dawn broke. "The last time I was in London, I fantasized about escaping out of the chains that held me and smuggling myself out of the country." He whispered quietly to the couple sitting behind him. "Fate has a cruel sense of humor. I find myself smuggling into the country today instead with metaphorical chains still holding me in place."

Shaking his head as a dry chuckle escaped his throat, Heinrich turned to face Isabella.  "There are questions vital to the purpose of my return to this gottverlassen land. The answers to which will not be easy to obtain. I trust you've broken into your fair share of secure places Frau Byrne. I imagine you and your husband are rather good at it, or at least I hope so because otherwise all of us will be facing the end of a noose by day's end. The answers I seek are within the Directorate of Personnel and the Directorate of Military Intelligence in the War Office of the British Army you see."

With an eyebrow raised in amusement, he said hyperbolically."I humbly ask your assistance in helping me steal state secrets from His Imperial Majesty the King."

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