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Pat's Pizzeria
Bayview, Freedom City, New Jersey

Monday November 16th, 2015

5:12 PM

 

Finding dining off campus that was both hygienic and allowed a monkey to enter its premises was no small task.  But, Annibal was up to the challenge.  Spending the entire weekend searching the motivated youth was able to uncover a small hole in the wall pizzeria called Pat's.  A secret hotspot among metahumans, Pat's was quite possibly the most primate friendly dining spot.

 

The secret behind the place's cleanliness?  Pat the owner had the ability to create and manipulate soap, bubbles, and foam.  Making her a one woman cleaning machine.  It also made eating at Pat's an attractive option for people whose powers came with a fur filled face lift.  Not to mention the regular people who loved seeing Pat's nonthreatening powers at work.

 

Suffice to say, Raina and Annibal had no issue finding a booth that would allow them to bring Merlin inside.

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Raina had spent three hours getting ready for her date this evening, a pastime that had required foregoing her hero history class, but that was a sacrifice she was willing to make. She could've glamoured herself up the perfect outfit, had seriously considered it in fact, until Merlin had pointed out that if anything went wrong and she needed to call upon her magic talents, the glamour could fail and she could find herself suddenly revealed in a cruddy old t-shirt and jeans. That was entirely unacceptable. Eventually she'd settled on her favorite cream-colored Philip Lim sweater and tailored slacks, and instead used the glamour to hide the fact that both were a little short in the arms and legs since her last growth spurt. They were also a little snug in the chest and derriere, but she didn't alter that. After a great deal of agonizing, she settled on a pair of nearly-sensible no-name black pumps instead of her precious shoes from Talya. The occasion wasn't formal enough for that, plus they made her tower over Anibal. That was okay sometimes, but if she towered over him on every date, she'd look like she had something to prove. 

 

Merlin had been no help at all during the proceedings, and was also insufferably smug about the fact that he could go on a date naked. Raina had reminded him acerbically that at least she did not need flea baths four times a year since she could just change her clothes, which was enough to shut him up for awhile.The restaurant sounded nice but not formal, so she went light on the makeup, double and triple-checked her appearance, then hustled Merlin into her backpack so that they wouldn't be more than a little late. Raina knew she shouldn't be on time, but she was too impatient to wait very long. She arrived at the restaurant only five minutes tardy, parking her broom out of sight and sauntering in with the air of a woman who had all the time in the world. 

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When he first met Raina's familiar, Aníbal reacted with a (rather embarrassingly campy) delighted exclamation of "¡Ay, un monito!", before collecting himself and greeting the peculiar creature in a more dignified manner. He took a liking to the diabolically intelligent critter, and responded with cautious agreement to the suggestion he come along on their next dinner date. It took a lot of requests, which were usually met with utter befuddlement and suspicions of a prank call, but Aníbal had finally located the one dining spot in Freedom City that allowed animals while still being a presentable place to take a date. After hours of fruitless searching, he had given up and enlisted the aid of Señor Gutierrez, who worked for his father as... Well, actually, he had no clue what Gutierrez did. Nobody else seem to know either, but the soft-spoken older gentleman was the most trusted man in his father's employ, an enigma who somehow always seemed to get things done. This time, the task was trivial, but he came through an hour after Aníbal had called, informing him of a place frequented by the city's supers. How he managed to dig up the information was anyone's guess, but Aníbal didn't bother himself with the details. It was a relief to find the establishment was clean and, apparently, the pizza there was pretty good. Perhaps not the best in town, but certainly in the top ten. He had arrived early, and patiently waited for Raina to arrive, quite relaxed and confident. This would be a good evening.

 

Inside the quaint little pizzeria, Raina could easily spot Aníbal, seated at a booth, idly nibbling on a breadstick. He was wearing a navy blazer over a crisp burgundy gingham dress shirt and a pair of tobacco-colored chinos with brown suede dress shoes. No enchantments were necessary to make him look stylish, although he did, as usual, spend quite a lot of time, thought and effort to make his outfit look effortlessly dashed together at a moment's notice, according to the ancient art of sprezzatura. When he spotted Raina's regal entrance into the establishment, he smiled and waved to get her attention, then swiftly finished off the breadstick.

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Raina allowed the hostess to escort her to the proper booth, waiting for a second to allow Anibal a chance to rise before sliding into the booth opposite him. She ordered an iced tea, not bothering to even attempt fake ID for a place like this. "This is nice," she commented as she opened her menu and gave it a quick scan. "It definitely smells good. And you're looking very nice." Raina had come to the conclusion, after deep consultation with the internet, that if she wanted more compliments from her nearly-boyfriend, the best way to go about it was priming the pump. It helped that he really was looking yummy this evening, with the sort of casual elegance she'd learned to appreciate at her mother's knee. 

 

Merlin, who was much less concerned about any of this social complexity, warbled a greeting to Anibal and hopped off Raina's shoulder onto the table, where he promptly stole a breadstick from the basket and demanded Raina pour him some red sauce on a plate. They'd compromised over the years, she would sometimes let him eat human food, but she would not tolerate him sharing a bowl with her. It was just a little too weird. 

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As Raina was escorted towards the booth, Aníbal rose to greet her properly. He sat down after she did, and ordered orange juice. Temperatures were dropping in Freedom City, so a little vitamin C seemed like a good idea. He may have control over the air, but airborne viruses were not under his jurisdiction. Raina's compliment made him smile.

 

"Thank you. You're looking wonderful as usual.", he replied. He'd learned his lesson after being burned the last time, and was determined to give as many compliments as he got over the course of the evening. It was a sincere compliment. The sweater was nice, youthful yet elegant, right in between casual and fancy - a little too short for a girl of her height, but it was a minor issue. The choice of colors was smart, and the tight sweater nicely accentuated her figure. Eyes, look her in the eyes...

 

"This is a nice place. Best I could find that would let us take this little thief along.", he nodded towards Merlin, "Will he be alright eating that? If there's one thing I don't want at dinner it's a monkey with indigestion."

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Raina beamed at the compliment, looking pleased with both herself and her date. "No, he's fine," she assured Anibal as she selected a breadstick of her own. "He eats monkey chow most of the time, but as long as he doesn't eat anything stupid like ice cream or a pound of pork rinds, he can have people food. Capuchins are omnivores, just like humans." Merlin agreed heartily with that sentiment, adding that capuchins were considerably more attractive. Raina rolled her eyes. "I'm just going to get him some chicken fingers or whatever they've got on the kids menu. He's a cheap date." Merlin rolled his eyes right back, but his mouth was full of bread. 

 

Satisfied that she'd won the exchange, Raina took another look at the menu, immediately ruling out anything too garlicky or that might stain her clothes. "The fettucini alfredo sounds good," she mused aloud. "I wonder if they make their own noodles. Or do you want to split a pizza?" The air smelled tantalizingly of cheese and baking pizzas, so it seemed like a pretty good bet. "Have you ever been to Italy?" 

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"Splitting a pizza sounds good. Supposedly it's one of the best in town. Let's see if it lives up to the hype, no?", Aníbal agreed with Raina's suggestion, his eyes still on the menu. The little pizzeria offered a fine selection of pizzas, from the classics to the more Americanised stuff (he was pretty sure Italians didn't eat it with pineapple). Most of it sounded tasty, so he had no problem with letting Raina pick whichever was her favorite. Money was certainly no object, as he intended to foot the bill for both Raina and Merlin. He lifted his eyes from the menu as Raina mentioned Italy and nodded.

 

"Yes, last year, with my parents. We did a tour, Rome, Florence, Venice, Verona, Trento... We were going to go to Naples too, but there was a garbage strike or something. Mafia stuff, you know?", he recounted cheerfully, "It was nice. We saw the Duomo, the Sistine Chapel... I visited the Casa di Giulietta, with that statue of Juliet. Supposedly, if you rub the statue's right breast, it brings good luck in matters of the heart. Dunno if it works..." 

 

He paused for a moment and met her gaze.

 

"Then again, I did meet you, so maybe there is something to it.", he added smoothly, "How about you? Did you ever visit Italy?".

 

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Raina raised one eyebrow, the corners of her mouth quirking upwards in appreciation of the smooth line. She knew he had potential all along. "Not for very long, I spent a long weekend there once when I was ten or so, while my folks were at a conference. We saw some of the big important cultural sights, but most of what I remember is the party afterwards. It was Halloween, and the circle was doing sort of a haunted house, but only for adults, and it must've been really scary. Every time somebody came out of the basement, they looked absolutely wrecked, and a couple of them even passed out or ran away screaming. I wanted to go down there so badly, but I was too young. But it was creepy cool just to watch." As she spoke, the traitorous little corners of Raina's mind recalled the incident along with her, recast them in the light of what the heroes said they'd found in the course of their investigation. Those little corners started to wonder what had actually happened down in that basement, if not a haunted house, which was kind of a weird explanation anyway in retrospect. What, exactly, had she been watching people live through and flee from? 

 

Like most of the unpleasant thoughts in her life these days, Raina found the best way to deal with this idea was to shove it far away and not think about it. "Anyway, I really want to go back someday and do the touristy thing properly. I always figured that once I graduated high school, I'd take a summer to backpack Europe, just to get a really good flavor of it all. And speaking of, how do you feel about spinach, feta cheese, and carmelized onions?" Merlin had pulled out his phone while they were talking and was extremely preoccupied with something on it, so he didn't so much as vioice an opinion. 

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GM

 

"Hey toots."  A deep voice roared nearby.  The declaration followed by a series of guffawing.  The other three people sitting with the rather large man at his table raucous with laughter.  The quartet of rude men were sitting in the booth right next to Anibal and Raina.  The waitress who was originally heading in Anibal and Raina's direction turned to the man's table.  Not before rolling her eyes.

 

"How may I help you sir?"  She asked politely.

 

"Yeah, sweet cheeks.  My boys and I would like another pie.  You didn't tell us they were so small.  That's really gonna go in your tip.  IF we eve give you one.  Now hurry up."  He rudely declared.  To her credit, the server maintained her polite demeanor smiles.

 

"Yes, sir another pepperoni and spinach pizza.  It'll be right out."

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Aníbal listened to Raina's account of her Italian trip with increasing bafflement, although he did his level best to conceal it under a facade of polite interest. She could probably notice his eyebrows arching and a look of slight discomfort in his eyes. There were a lot of things he didn't know about Raina, or the world she grew up in. The story of a haunted house for grown-ups seemed peculiar. There was more going on there, certainly, but he had no clue whatsoever as to what it may have been. While he was aware of the existence and effectiveness of magic - the proof of it sat on the other side of the table - he had no knowledge of how it worked or what it entailed, and prying too much would only spoil the atmosphere of the evening. Whatever secrets Raina had were hers to keep and reveal at her discretion. 

 

"Oh... That's interesting. A little weird, but... interesting.", he commented awkwardly, and was relieved when Raina turned the conversation towards her plans after high school. Taking a gap year to find yourself before college was common to the point of cliché, but even so it was often a valuable experience, provided you didn't end up locked away in a Burmese prison. Aníbal hadn't honestly planned that far ahead. Even figuring out what college to attend and what to study seemed like the distant future, although a part of him understood the years would go by awfully fast. Whatever notions he had before were upended by the manifestation of his powers, which made everything a lot more complicated. 

 

"Backpacking across Europe sounds like fun. Although you have to do it properly, really blend in. A lot of people travel the world but mentally they stay at home. Like Americans who go to Paris and eat at McDonald's... No offense, I mean, just an example. You have to experience the country the way the locals do, or you may as well just stay home and look at the tourist ads.", he remarked, visibly relieved that the conversation had moved on from weirdo brujería to more mundane topics. 

 

"Anyway... Spinach and feta cheese... Hmm. Salty. Yeah, that sounds good.", he accepted Raina's suggestion. It was an unusual choice, but he was okay with it.

 

"I didn't like feta when I was a kid, but recentl...", he continued, but was cut off by the noisy complaints of the "gentlemen" seated near them. His cheerful expression soured in an instant, and turned to seething rage when the man threatened to not tip the waitress. A low growl of disgust rose from Aníbal's throat, and his gaze was steely and contemptuous. Vulgarity of manners was something he loathed with every fibre of his being. Still, he was determined not to let a bunch of rude idiots ruin his date. He had to restrain himself from blurting out a harsh rebuke. Nothing would be helped by making a scene, and going up alone against four rather burly men had bad idea written all over it. Instead, he was determined to help the waitress in a subtler fashion.

 

"Pendejos...", he muttered, keeping his voice down so the group at the other table couldn't overhear it, "I really hate it when people are rude to waiters."

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"There are assholes everywhere," Raina agreed. She shot a hard look over at the misbehaving table, then turned back to her own business. "Anyway, backpacking would be fun because I have this spell that lets me speak any language, so it would be a lot easier for me to really get into the local culture and experience it. I always envisioned making friends with a bunch of people from different countries, even staying in hostels a few nights just to see what it was like, you know? And then when I started college, I would have all these cool stories and pictures." She shrugged and waved a hand airly to dismiss those dreams, a gesture that cost her slightly to make so casual. "But now I'll become a superhero instead, so I guess the stories are taken care of. Lot more dangerous than sleeping in hostels, to judge by the stories they tell us in class, yeah?" 

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The waitress came back out to take Raina and Annibal's orders.  Receiving a similar level of unwarranted fanfare from the table of rude patrons as she did so.  Their hollering ending only after the server returned to the back intent on informing the kitchen of the teen's orders.  When next she emerged it was with the pizza the men had asked for.  Without so much as a thank you from the table, they began each grabbing a slice.  Although the only one to dive right in and actually eat his was the guy who gave the waitress such the aliases she could have done without earlier.  Not that she gave them so much as a word this time before heading back to the kitchen again.

 

Not more than a minute had passed and the man who took his bite began complaining about dizziness.  He stood up out of his booth and immediately dropping to the ground in front of Raina.  The man looked up at them with labored breathing, his face growing more desperate with each breath taken.  The whiff of bitter almonds found its way to Merlin the monkey's nose.  Coupled with the symptoms on display the monkey was able to easily identify the signs of cyanide poisoning.

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"Yeah...", Aníbal agreed with Raina and rubbed his shoulder. The burns he sustained in his encounter with Firestarter had healed a long time ago, leaving little trace. Backpacking through Europe sounded fun. For one, there was a distinct lack of angry women on fire in most European hostels. He frowned as he remembered the events of his first big heroic exploit - AEGIS was on the job, supposedly, but he had heard no new information on the fugitive supervillainess or the group she was affiliated with. It was one score he was keen to settle, but there would be time for that. Right now, he wanted to relax, unwind and have a good time with a girl he liked. The waitress came and took their order. He thought about mentioning something about the rude customers, but decided against it. Discretely adding to the tip seemed like the better option. He didn't want the bastards overhearing any of it, and besides, he wasn't exactly sure the waitress was the same one that handled that table. You never pay attention... It's going to get you killed some day.

 

"That's a very useful talent to have, the languages thing...", he continued, "I had to learn them the hard way. Well, it's not that hard, really. You just have to immerse yourself. Or watch cartoons, like I did."

 

He took a sip of his orange juice. "I don't really know what I'll do with my life yet. I mean, outside of the whole hero business.", he sighed, "You could still go backpacking. Maybe we can go together, no? Trekking across Europe, solving crimes with our little monkey sidekick. It'd be awesome."

 

"But yeah, if you want crazy stories, Freedom City is the place to be. Did you hear abou...", he trailed off in shock as the big oaf from earlier collapsed in front of their booth, visibly out of breath. Aníbal leapt to his feet and instinctively backed away. The man seemed pathetic now, a frail, scared human being, not the swaggering asshole from earlier. Was it a heart attack? Food poisoning? Asthma? He had no idea what ailed the man, nor how to help. There was a whiff of some strange scent in the air, but he couldn't tell what it was. A rather selfish feeling of irritation at his big evening being ruined briefly came over him, but he angrily shook it off. You're better than that... Pull it together. Take control. A doctor, we need a doctor...

 

"Is there a doc... is there a doctor present?", he shouted, awkwardly trying to assume an air of authority and poise as much as his age permitted. Moving out of the booth, he shot a worried and apologetic glance to Raina before looking around the pizzeria for any staff that could help.

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Merlin chirruped urgently that it was cyanide poison, and nobody should attempt mouth-to-mouth or the poison could spread. Raina nodded, her eyes huge as she stared at the convulsing man. Merlin gave her a hard nudge and gave her the phone, which stirred her enough to have her dialling 911. "I'm at Pat's Pizzaria in Bayview, there's a man here convulsing and not breathing, somebody said it looks like cyanide poisoning. He needs an ambulance, he needs help, he's going to die!" Her voice was high and sharp-edged by the end, panic and adrenaline making her hands shake as she held the phone.

 

In the meantime, Merlin was scrolling frantically through his own phone, navigating between websites and absorbing information as only a hyperintelligent monkey could do. He ordered a nearby waiter into the kitchen for two clean and empty plastic bottles with lids, a plastic bag, and as much plastic wrap as they had available. He then jumped up onto the table and addressed Anibal, instructing him to turn the stricken man onto his back, tilt his head back, and use his fingers to push the man's jaw up towards the ceiling. For a monkey, he was surprisingly authoritative. 

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Cyanide... It all seemed surreal. Who would poison the man? An asshole like that must have had a lot of enemies, it occurred to him, but there was no time to ponder the details of the case while the victim was on the verge of death. In any case, Aníbal was no great detective, especially not in the hectic atmosphere that reigned inside the pizzeria. He turned to Merlin, listening to the little monkey's chirps and chatter with an expression of dumbfounded panic. Somehow, it made sense. Somehow, the noises revealed their hidden meaning, became words, the words connecting into sentences, an imperative given with the self-assurance of a medical expert. I'm taking orders from a monkey...,he thought, but nodded in silent agreement. Merlin sounded like he knew what he was doing. Aníbal knelt down next to the man and followed the instructions given. He pulled the hefty man up and laid him onto his back, grunting with effort, then tilted his head and pushed his jaw, as instructed. He had no training in any of this, and wasn't enthused about having to practice on a live specimen. Still, he endeavored to keep his cool, even though his pulse was quickened by fear and beads of sweat trickled down his forehead. The medics would arrive and take over, he thought, hopefully in time to save the man's life. 

 

"Is that it?", he turned and asked Merlin. A part of him suspected the effort was in vain.

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GM

 

The waiter who was ordered into action by the surprisingly vocal monkey let out an ear splitting scream upon arriving in the back.  His attention taken from the task he was sent on.  Meanwhile the male operator on the phone confirmed that an ambulance was on the way.  Asking what signs of cyanide poisoning the man had ingested, how long he had been in convulsing, and all around trying to squeeze as much information out of the teen as he could.  He also went on to suggest that if they can, they carry the victim outside to fresh air.  Unaware of their strides towards making the BVM.

 

While positioning the hefty man into a head tilt chin lift position the tension in the air was cut by the sudden sound of his ringtone.  The glow on his chest pocket indicating where the phone was stored.  Apparently having received a text message at the most inconvenient of times.  In a closer angle to the kitchen than Raina, Annibel was able to see the waiter in the kitchen trip over his own feet.  Whatever surprised him serving as enough distraction to slow his progress in providing the necessary pieces of plastic.

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The buzzing of the phone added a dose of absurdity to a grim situation. Bad timing. He didn't check who it was that sent the message, nor what it said. It felt somehow unseemly to rifle through a dying man's pockets. If he somehow survived the ordeal, he would probably not be pleased with some punk kid prying into his personal business, and besides, it didn't seem like it would help matters much to check who sent the text message. If it were a call, it would be different, but for now, Aníbal ignored the phone. It didn't look like there was anything left to do but wait until the ambulance arrived to take him off his hands. He glanced around. The man's companions seemed oddly unwilling to provide him any aid. It was probably for the best. They didn't sound like the smartest bunch. His gaze swept across the pizzeria. What only a few moments ago was a cozy little place was now bustling with nervous energy. He looked towards the kitchens, wondering what took the waiter so long, only to witness an unusual sight. The man fell over his own feet, obviously trying to run from something. Aníbal had tuned out the scream of terror that came from the kitchens earlier, figuring the guy was just panicking. Now it seemed quite probable that something odd was going on in the back. 

 

Muttering a few choice Spanish expletives, Aníbal stood up, leaving the victim alone for now. "Keep an eye on him!", he shouted back to Raina as he made his way to the back.

 

When he reached the kitchen entrance, he moved swiftly towards the panicked waiter. "What's going on here?".

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Upon arriving to the kitchen Annibal was treated to the site of the entire kitchen staff knocked out on the floor.  From where he was standing everyone was still breathing.  The kitchen itself wasn't even upturned.  With pizzas slowly inching closer to burning unattended.  Whoever struck had done so silently and without warning.

 

"Hey what are you doing guy!"  One of the rowdy patrons called out to Annibal.  Unsure of what was going on, but clearly assuming the youth had abandoned helping his buddy out for some random unimportant task.  "I'll have you know, Bob has an important presentation to the mayor himself today.  He's important, you brat!"  It wasn't exactly the most appreciative rally cry.  But, the distraught expression adorned on the pudgy man's face did at least measure to genuine concern for his friend's well being.

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Aníbal's eyes widened as he observed the scene in the kitchen. It was now clear what had spooked the waiter so much. Something had knocked the staff out cold - to his immense relief, it seemed they were still breathing, but it wasn't clear for how long. Were they poisoned too? The sight was eerie, particularly since the kitchen was otherwise unremarkable. Nothing was spilled, there were no signs of struggle, no mess. What could have done this? Who could have done this? The questions zoomed through his mind at light speed until he was snapped out of it by the voice of one of the poisoned man's associates. He sighed in annoyance before dragging the terrified waiter away from the kitchen. For a few seconds, he stood awkwardly between the two areas, unsure of what to do. The poisoned man's friend piped up again with spectacularly unhelpful commentary, and Aníbal finally snapped under the tension of the situation.

 

"He won't be holding any goddamn presentations if he's dead, will he?!", he shouted back with surprising fury, looking the man straight in the eyes, "I'm trying to save your friend and I have to get some things from the kitchen. Meanwhile, there's half a dozen people back here OUT COLD and your whining isn't helping matters in the slightest, so shut up and let me work!". 

 

It was white-hot imperious rage, the ancestral blood of two dozen generations of hidalgos speaking through him with authority. He flinched a little, embarrassed by the intensity of the outburst. This wasn't the way he normally treated people, but then again, this wasn't a normal situation. 

 

"Raina, tell them to send more ambulances. There's more people back here, unconscious. No idea what happened to them.", he told Raina before turning towards the entrance to the kitchen and rushing inside. It was a risk, perhaps a foolish risk, but someone needed to fetch those supplies, and the waiter was clearly not in the state to do it himself. It struck him that it was technically a crime scene, and shouldn't be tampered with, but a life was at stake, and had to What was it that Merlin asked for? He strained to remember the items as he stepped between the unconscious staff members, surveying the kitchen. OK... So... Two plastic bottles, plastic bag, plastic wrap... It's gotta be in here somewhere.

 

Composing himself, he began to search the kitchen for the items required, hoping he'd manage to find them in time to do whatever it was the ingenious little monkey had intended.

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Raina relayed the information into her phone, even as she dropped to her knees next to the afflicted man. His lips were beginning to turn blue, and from here even she could smell the almost marzipan scent of the poison he'd ingested. She hoped it wasn't a lot, but she was no doctor. She had no idea how to even help the guy! With no idea of anything better to do, she fished the glowing phone out of his pocket and turned it on, looking to see who might be trying to get in touch. Maybe the guy had next of kin or something, somebody who ought to know if something bad was happening? While she dithered with the phone, Merlin raced for the kitchen as well, loping on all fours and dodging feet, the better to find the supplies he needed. 

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The kitchen was a mess, or, rather, it felt like a mess to him. He had never set foot into one of these before, and had no idea where anything was. The fact he was surrounded by unconscious people didn't help him maintain composure. Muttering curses under his breath, he methodically went through the various cupboards and shelves in the area, trying not to leave behind too much of a mess. After a while, he found one item from the list, which boosted his spirits somewhat. It was going fine. everything was under control, he had the situation well in hand, he repeated in his mind, clutching the plastic bottle like it was made of diamonds. Surely there was another one nearby? He continued his search. Soon, he could hear the patter of little feet behind him. He turned and spotted Merlin, who decided to look for the items as well. Two heads were better than one, he thought with a smile, even if one of them was tiny and simian. 

 

"Well... This is highly unsanitary.", he remarked to the monkey, "Come on, help me look."

 

Together, they soon found the items required. Aníbal breathed a sigh of relief, and noticed the back door was opened. On the ground lay something white, possibly an apron. He handed the rest of the items to Merlin. He was small, but the stuff seemed light enough for him to drag it back to the pizzeria's dining area and use it for whatever crazy purpose he had in mind.

 

"There, take it to Raina. I'll go look outside.", he told the little familiar. Determined, he stepped outside the back door and picked up the piece of cloth on the floor. It was an apron, the kind the waitresses wore. Whoever was responsible wore it as a disguise before discarding it and fleeing the scene. An inside job... Huh. This was big, he thought. The poisoned guy had powerful friends, if his buddy wasn't lying about the talk with the mayor, but it seemed he also had powerful enemies. He wished Riley were here - he'd probably be able to track the fugitive's scent all across town. But, alas, he didn't have the Woodsman's survival skills. Aníbal checked the apron, hoping against hope to find any clues, like a nametag, that might shed light on the situation. It was all he had to go on, for now.

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With the items Annibal had managed to aquire, Merlin found himself outfitted with enough material to easily build his makeshift breathing apparatus.  But, it was still a race against time.  And the sounds of sirens could still not be heard nearby.  However, before thinking of making his trek back to Raina, the intelligent primate was able to fall back on something fare more primitive than his brain.  His nose that was far sharper than a regular person's was able to catch a hint of the scent of the apron also coming from a nearby walk in freezer.

 

Annibal's searching of the apron did manage to find a nametag.  Belong to someone named Janiris.  There wasn't much else to find in the cloth though.  The apron was completely empty.  Without so much as a pad to write down orders on.  Which didn't make for an especially useful food server.

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A closer examination of the apron turned up little of value. There was only a nametag, with a name that meant nothing to him. The pad wasn't there, which was suspicious. Either whoever dropped this apron took it with them, or they never had it in the first place. Thoughts raced through his mind as he tried to overcome the stress and put the pieces of this mystery together. Someone on the staff would probably know who Janiris was, and if she worked here regularly. That would have to wait until after the guy was given medical assistance. Hopefully Merlin was on the case. Aníbal put the apron on a nearby counter and looked around. To his surprise, the little monkey did not take the items he asked for back into the restaurant. Instead, he was snooping in front of a large door, one that probably led to a storage room or a freezer. Aníbal rushed to his side.

 

"Why didn't you take the things?", he looked down at the monkey, then at the door he was so interested in. An uncomfortable hunch gripped him. "There's something inside? Is that it?".

 

Aníbal exhaled to relieve the pressure building in his chest, and took a deep breath. He slicked his hair back and rubbed his neck for a few tense moments.

 

"Okay, take that stuff to the guy and do what you wanted to do. I'll go check in here.", he said, trying to muster as much calm authority as he could. His father was much better at that tone of voice than he was, but it was a valiant effort given the circumstances. He closed his eyes, wondering when the damned police and ambulance were going to get here, and dreading the possibilities of what was inside the freezer. It could be nothing, or it could be a scene that would make the kitchen look positively serene in comparison. He opened his eyes and pushed the door of the walk-in freezer open, taking a resolute step forward. With trepidation, he scanned the scene.

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