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Noontime
August 1st, 2015
Bayview, Freedom City
House of the late Leland Comtois

 

Leland Comtois had lived a full life, as evidenced by the photographs on his wall. As a child he was standing in waders next to a goat in the mud; as a young man he was smiling broadly, one arm around a woman and the holding a smoking cigarette. Then he was in uniform, marching under a French flag. There was a gap in the photographs, the next one being labeled 1951 and Leland standing in a group of severe young men, none of them smiling, all of them facing the camera like it was an execution. More photos from the 1950s showed him either in art galleries or walking out of police stations.

Then the 70s and he was in New York City, and later decades saw him move to Freedom City. He was seen wearing doctoral robes and standing authoritatively at the front of a FreeSA classroom. Books lining his shelves bore his name, biographies of people like Andre Breton, Salvador Dali, and Jacques Vache. Most of the art had already been tagged with red banners marking it as SOLD, but it was still displayed and it showed the clear influence of Surrealists.

Of course, all of this was a backdrop to the estate sale. The sale of the art was being handled by an auction house in the city; on display for the crowd to peruse were the numerous pieces of furniture, books, crockery, upholsteries, gewgaws, wines and bourbons, knick-knacks, old clothes,  and a thousand other pieces of detritus collected over the antiquarian’s long life. They were all for sale in his rambling Bayview mansion, all discreetly tagged and priced according to how impressive the estate handling agency considered each piece.

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Lynn Epstein had been to a lot of estate sales since reopening Silberman's Books nearly a year ago, and they were always a bit uncomfortable for her. Part of it was due to the fact that due to her keen senses, it was as though the deceased had never left; to her nose, Leland Comtois would still be walking these halls, the kitchen and dining room would still smell of his last meal, and his suits and shoes would still waiting to be slipped on. But her very Jewish attitudes towards death and the departed also rankled to see the stream of bargain hunters rummaging through a dead man's belongings, like a wolves tearing at a corpse-

"Stop it," she muttered to herself as she pulled up in front of the house. "You're no better than anyone else here." Was it not a good thing for these precious articles to find a new life somewhere else? Might there not be family debts that could finally be paid off after clearing out this house? There was a cycle to life and death, and sales like this were as much a part of it as a baby shower, wedding, or of course a funeral.

Her star bookseller Maddy and her family were out of town for the weekend, and were nice enough to lend her their Subaru Outback, so if she did come across a nice lot of books she could get them back to the store with ease. Today she wore a comfy pair of Teva sandals, a denim skirt cut just above the knees, and a sleeveless white cotton blouse. A large vaguely Southwestern leather bag was over her shoulder, and pair of horn-rimmed sunglasses perched on top of her head.

She got out and strolled through the gathering crowd; you started to see the same faces if you went to enough of these events, the same set of colorful characters who loved a good deal or even just a good story. Lynn had developed a bit of a friendly rivalry with Andrew Orlando, the owner of The Never-Ending Story in Riverside, and always took the time to stop and chat when she saw him; she gave a him a smile and a nod as she headed for the main entrance. 

"Alright, let's see what the scavengers can find," she said under her breath.

Edited by Heritage

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The estate was one big story and a piece of it disappeared with each sale. Like a page torn from a book and carried away from the other pages. That was one reason he liked to get to these things early. While his old rust bucket of a truck waited outside like a grumpy old man rest in the shade Isaac was inside with his held close to his ear as if listening to a an audio only call. Who wanted strangers listening in on a Skype session anyway? The black clad young man didn't seem shy about handling other people's property as he moved around talking up a storm to some unseen other party. Only he wasn't talking to someone on the other end of a phone call.

Isaac was talking to Leland's shoes, his pictures, a knife here, a well used mug there. A mirror over there. The house itself ... and so on. Appearing to talk to a person over an electronic device was a lot easier for people to accept than someone talking to a dead man's she about a soccer game he once played. Ever so often to aim the back of his tablet at some item as one might while taking a picture. Or he'd poke at the tablet , as though researching one of the more exotic items on display. He did those things, yes. But he also used the device's ability to check his surroundings for mystical phenomena. People stumbled onto them without even realizing it sometimes.

While the wiry limbed, messy haired youth seemed to be in his own world most of the time he didn't ignore the people around him. Ever so often he noticed someone had dealt with in one fashion or another and he'd take the time to pause in his practice absorption of the spirit and history of his environment to greet them. But those engagements tended to be on the brief side.

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Lynn moved through the building, observing the pickers and value hunters picking over Leland’s belongings. There were old clothes, antique furnishings, and linens and crockery -- all things that Lynn didn’t have a use for. Soon enough, though, she entered a room and stumbled on the motherload; three large tables entirely covered with books. Signed hardcover books and paperbacks with broken spines, self-help books with dog-eared pages and even stacks and stacks of TV Guides and Reader’s Digests and National Geographics. Whatever else Leland’s sins were, he was an avid reader.

Lynn was looking over a complete collection of Tom Clancy knock-offs when someone nearly knocked her off her feet. It was a tall man in a long, dirty trenchcoat, and he seemed entirely unconcerned with almost bowling over the tiny shopowner. He was reaching out and grabbing books seemingly at random, flipping through them and then dropping the books on the table without any regard for where they had been. This close, the fae could smell the man; he smelled of dead things, of musty earth and bones and stale earth.

Isaac’s conversations weren’t very productive/ The spirits weren’t talkative, in fact some seemed downright sullen; they would answer direct questions but were resistant to opening up. The few facts he did manage to wheedle out suggested there was a very strict hierarchy among the house spirits, with mentions of counts and dukes and bishops. Certain spirits definitely had position above others, but it was hard to suss out exactly who it was organized around. The people who set up the estate sale had jumbled the different rooms together, so if the hierarchy had been local then the sale would destroy it. His tablet had a more interesting story to tell; several of the items had a low level of magical energy, like they had spent a long time in the presence of something highly magical.

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Once she came upon the room with the books, Lynn steepled her fingers and grinned. "Ehhhhhxcellent!" By nature, she wasn't terribly discriminating, though certainly a rare first edition would be nice. Lynn smiled when she saw the National Geographics, one of her favorite magazines as a child; there was something both thrilling and comforting about those yellow spines, promising to sweep you away to exotic places.

She'd just started poking through the offerings in earnest when the tall man jostled her out of the way; if not for her amazing balance, she no doubt would have done a faceplant. "Pardon me," she hissed through her clenched teeth as she picked her sunglasses up off the floor where they'd tumbled. She was about to lay into the jackass when she got a whiff of his scent; if it came in a bottle, they'd call it 'Eau de Cadavre' or 'Calvin Klein's Obsession for Grave Robbers'. That charnel house stench was not something you soon forgot. Undead? Necromancer? Demi-lich? Too early to say at this point

As discreetly as possible, Lynn returned to her browsing, but kept a keen eye on the stranger, and everyone else in the area just to be safe.

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Isaac studied the readings NX-Infinite was getting. Magic. Given the hierarchy of spirits, it seemed reasonable that something imbued with powerful mystical energies might garner considerable prestige and respect. As he thought through social dynamics of the resident spirit population he began t notice a patterned in the items that were registering an arcane signature. Mostly bed linens and clothes. Things that would reside in a private room. Deciding to prioritize his search for the source of mystical energy over quick low priced purchases at the sale, Isaac ventured away from the main room.

It was time to break away from the herd and explore. Mindful that such free mindedness might be frowned upon by those organizing the sale, Isaac kept and eye out for watchers and he casually slipped off to search the house's bedrooms. The young man had such an ease about him that you might think he belonged ... where ever it was that he might be. With a leisurely stride, and an analytical eye he inspected the rooms accompanied the mechanical spider spirit that lurked in his tablet.

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The big man in the trenchcoat continued rudely rummaging through the books, manhandling them and indifferently abandoning them. Lynn observed the big man, but while he would shove people aside he never acted maliciously to them -- just callously, like they were mobile furniture getting in his way. Before too much longer she spotted one of the polo shirt’d men manning the tables slip free of the pickers and start towards the big man. She didn’t have to step between them, though, because another tall man in a dirty coat moved into the room and there was a quick conference between them. Lynn was easily able to overhear their conversation, and it took her a minute to realize they were speaking something that sounded halfway between French and German. They didn’t waste much time, just a few guttural words and they walked out of the room together.


Isaac followed his tablet from room to room, trying to find whatever had contaminated so many things with such powerful magic. It seemed like a fool’s errand, as it took him through what felt like every single room of the mansion, twice. Eventually he ended up in the front of the house, where a long table had been set up with cashiers and adding machines. There, he spotted it, a strong magical source hidden in a pink shoulder bag with a skeletal Hello Kitty on it. The woman with the bag had her hair dyed in alternating hot-pink and blue-black, and was wearing a shirt with a jolly Grim Reaper on it. She was gathering her change and preparing to leave.

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Isaac stopped as he noted the location of magical source. Naturally someone would have been drawn to it. It was fortunate that that whatever it was hadn't already been removed from the premises. Even so, he'd nearly missed it. Lowering the hand holding his tablet to his side Isaac walked towards the departing skull-cat bag totting woman. As he carried himself forward Isaac mentally ran through scenarios for the social situation, and contingencies in the event of less than optimal results. Hopefully the worst that happened is he would need to track her to her residence, observe from a distance, and confirm that the source of magic wasn't a threat to her or the people around her.

Heavy black hiking boots thumped along the floor signaling his presence as he drew near until Isaac maneuvered to walk alongside the pink and black haired woman, making sure to position himself so that her pink bag was on the side opposite him. His free hand rose, fingers loosely apart in a gesture of greetings. As he greeted her Isaac studied the woman from his new angle, measuring her demeanor as he did so. Not everyone was comfortable with random strangers coming up to them, after all.  

"Hello. Did you find any treasures today?"

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Beneath her shoulder-length curly hair, Lynn's pointed ears were twitching this way and that as she strained to pick out the two men's words; her fae gift of tongues struggled a bit, like she was trying to find a weak radio signal om an old AM radio. But when she finally wrapped her words around her head, she knew she had to keep an eye on these two; she had no idea who or what this 'king' was, but she sensed is probably fairly important.

Applying years of sneaky shadow superhero training, Lynn followed the two brutes without seeming to, sometimes just allowing them to the leave the room and just keeping their bizarre scent in focus. She was good at her job, but she knew there was always the chance they were sharper than she was, so she murmured a little prayer as she trailed after them.

"Lord, let me be a speck of dust on the breeze."

 

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