Liber Consecratus

November 23, 2016:

Takes place before 'A Stray Cat Named Stan' and right after 'Cookies Make Everything Better.' Jessica and Zatanna finally check out Madame Chong's in Chinatown, which ends up becoming a crime scene, propelling them to sneak into the New York City morgue for answers.

Madame Chong's - Chinatown - New York City

A mahjong joint that is also an antiquities store, situated in the outer fringes of New York City's Chinatown.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Giovanni Zatara, Bruce Wayne


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Chinatown, especially New York's Chinatown, is just as colorful as it is dingy; neon signs flash in the midst of Autumn's early darkness, situated on top of rundown storefronts and less-than-pristine streets. Hawkers mingle freely with tourists and locals, and the smell of food and smoke is everywhere, along with the pungent traces from the nearby open-air market. Some would say that it beats more rapidly than downtown Manhattan, always packed with bodies as it is - a miasma of humanity that stretches and flows from all directions.

Madame Chong's stands in Chinatown's outer fringes, past the heavy pulse of its most active parts. It is a quiet two-story building, framed by thick shadows and its large sign proclaiming that it is currently closed for business; lit laterns within the antiquities section of the store, however, indicate that there may signs of life yet that could be investigated within.

Zatanna meets Jessica at the eastern corner right before Madame Chong's becomes visible, her misty breath laced with the scent of coffee, her rapid exhalations the only indication that she has hurried there after Jessica has called. "How's life?" she asks conversationally, her hands tucked in the pockets of her coat. She leads the way once there, clearly not the passive sort - after all, the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Reaching the front, the black-haired girl tries the door, though it is a halfhearted attempt at best, seeing the closed sign pressed against the window. "I guess we're a little too—"

The wooden appendage cracks open, the unexpected movement giving Zatanna paused.

"….that's odd…" she says, glancing over at Jessica. "Did they forget to lock up? Maybe someone really is still in there."

Her brows furrow; much like the investigator herself, Zatanna reads people well; being what she is has made her an avid student of human nature. Why would someone close their shop for business but refrain from locking the door, especially while they were still inside, in a crime-riddled area like Chinatown?


Jessica had shown up in clean clothes. They smell like Tide. Of course, she'd also shown up in enough of them to make it look like she's shaped roughly like your average burlap sack. Given that heavy coat, scarf, jeans, and boots only the skin of her pale face and hands show. She showed up drinking coffee, lots of it. And if one may well have cause to suspect the stuff is Irished up, she's nevertheless fed and sober and ready to do her job. She crumples her coffee cup and throws it in the trash the moment Zatanna arrives, however.

"Either that, or we're expected," Jessica says, narrowing her eyes. "I'll go in first and have a look. Just tell me if I'm going to step over any invisible occult shit. I've got enough problems without turning green or being cursed to a life of ingrown toenails everlasting."

She had spent their time apart going through credit reports and the file as she had promised, as well as trying to grab some of the same books Zatanna had been carrying around. Sadly, she went to the library, where the best she was able to pick up were "Drawing Down the Moon" and Frazer's "The Golden Bough." It gave her a headache but…it also gave her enough wisdom to ask the question, and enough caution to avoid crossing the threshold before Zatanna can render an answer.


Who was she to argue with her elders? Zatanna lets go of the door, letting Jessica step through first. "Well, it's one of those shops, so chances are we're going to be surrounded by them," the young woman says. "Just try and not to touch anything when you walk in, no matter how much it looks like booze."

Rumors about Jessica were plenty, but the fact that all of them are rather consistent in describing her superhuman strength and constitution is enough to persuade her that the woman with more experience in invesigating a disappearance ought to go first. The younger girl follows, stepping inside gingerly right after. She doesn't even call out, more than content to let the contractor take the lead on this; were she doing this alone, she would have announced her presence already.

The smell of sandalwood incense hits their noses before they even see anything; the interior of the antiquities shop exhibits some obvious wear and tear - scuffed wooden floors and wall panelings are so thickly lacquered to hide the stains that they absorb most of the brightness emanating from the lanterns. Buddhist effigies, carved wooden masks and various aged knick-knacks fill the shelves; a glass case full of jade polished to a shine stands at the very back of the room. Chunks of old ruins are mounted in prominent display behind the counter, where tins and boxes of tea and dried herbs are labeled in Pinyin and its equivalents in broken English.

There appears to be a gray-haired woman sitting behind the counter, her back to her visitors. She hasn't moved a muscle, nor has she shifted since they walked in.

The hairs at the back of Zatanna's neck rise. She tastes it in the air, a vile sort of wrong that is both human and not, traces of evil more felt on the skin than seen, smelled or heard.

"Jessica…" she murmurs. It's a warning, already digging into her pockets to find her phone just in case.


The elder lets that booze comment slide, though not without a flat look.

But the unmoving woman catches her attention easily enough. Jessica just vaults rapidly over the counter, landing beside the old woman to take a look, *just* in case someone is prepping something nasty. But she doesn't really expect to find a live old woman about to hit them with something awful. She expects to find a corpse. Sandalwood would easily hide the smell of fresh blood, after all. If this sudden maneuver rattles the walls and shelves a bit…

Well. It just can't be helped.


Madame Chong stares at her collection of tea with dead, lifeless eyes.

What is strange about the corpse is the absolute lack of any vestiges of the life that came before; her skin is as gray as ash, withered and brittle like old tree bark. Her mouth is frozen and open wide, reminiscent of the famous Edvard Munch painting, and her fingers are curled like talons, frozen in the midst of convulsing on the armrests of her chair. Jessica knows from Zatanna's earlier visit that she was alive just a week before, and had she been dead all of this time, someone would have called the police by now.

Seven days would not be enough to do this to a body; there would be rot, a stench, all the putrid, gaseous indications that someone has died in an enclosed space that would be too strong for a single stick of incense to mask.

Zatanna moves towards the counter, her ice-blue eyes widening when she catches sight of the body. Her hand moves to clap over her mouth wordlessly at the horrific state of the course.

"What do we do?" she asks Jessica. "Should we call the police? I mean, there's…I don't see any blood, any wounds, but this isn't….are bodies supposed to /do/ that?"

This could be an accident at best, something freakish and chemical induced.

This could also be murder, at worst.

In which case, the police are going to have to get involved.


The woman scowls in thought. She does not touch the body, but she leans over to just see if she can't…smell anything tell-tale. She doesn't know what exactly. Her first thought is the scent of almonds, like cyanide.

"We're going to have to, though I don't particularly want to be here when they show up, unless there's a traffic cam outside positioned in a way that's going to tell them yep, we walked right on in here. We haven't done anything wrong, exactly, but…involving ourselves directly means spending a great deal of time answering questions and getting watched." She holds up a burner phone and wriggles it back and forth, as if to say Zatanna should put her own cell phone away at the earliest possible opportunity, or maybe even like yesterday.

"Besides, they'll send this body to the morgue, and we might need the results of whatever tests they run. We won't be able to come by them precisely honestly, but we will need them."

She pauses, though, switching on a flashlight and slowly running it around the counter and under it, looking for…anything. Powders. Open drawers. Trace evidence that she might want to see but not tamper with. Clues.

"Two minutes," she says. "Then we get the hell out and call."

The PI license is only so much of a shield. "Look in the back real quick. See if you spot anything of immediate interest."


"Okay," Zatanna mutters, craning her neck to take a look at the shelves surrounding them. Taking her own advice from earlier, she doesn't touch anything, though she clearly gravitates towards one artifact to another, feeling the pull of magic in different parts of the shop. Her blue eyes cast downward, taking a look at the fine layer of dust on the floor, a multitude of footsteps imprinted there, suggestive that Madame Chong probably doesn't have that much time to clean and she's had a few customers recently, but really, those prints could belong to anyone.

That sense of wrongness lingers. As the teenaged magician attempts to sniff it out, what Jessica finds under the counter is something else entirely - a carved dagger, though the metal is clearly not steel, etched with runes and set in a handle made out of ivory or bone. She would find a holder nailed underneath the cash register, but it has fallen from its grasp, lying on the floor…a clear sign of an attempt at self defense.

As Jessica moves around crouched on the floor, a loose floorboard creaks. It jolts the wheels of the chair holding the corpse, tilting it back. The sound is downright thunderous in the otherwise silent shop, Madame Chong's head falling back against the backrest, her open mouth tilting towards the ceiling.

What happens next can't be described as anything more than a cloud - the errant buzzing of insects swarming from between the cadaver's teeth suddenly pours into the shop and filling the space. As air hits their wings, flames suddenly explode outward, the pests doing kamikaze runs into the wood; over the floors, the walls, smashing into the artifacts.

The room catches fire almost instantly, smoke stinging their eyes and blazing heat scorching their skin - unnaturally fast, unnaturally hot.

"Su dleihs!" Zatanna cries, one hand pointing towards Jessica as the fiery swarm circles towards them, slamming into their bodies - or they would have, and as a result reduce them to a crisp, maybe, were it not for the young woman's protection spell.

"What do I do now?!" she asks, panicked, holding their protection up by hand and will. "Do we put out the fire? Then they'll really know someone's been in here!"

There might not be a choice but to bail.


"Out! We get out. Come on!" Jessica tugs unceremoniously at Zatanna's arm, aiming to drag her right back out to the street. "If you can put it out, put it the hell out!"

She charges towards the door, swearing, hoping the flaming insect swarm doesn't follow them…but one thing at a time. She'll worry about the cops and their inevitable entrance onto the scene in a moment, along with the fire department's. For now, not inhaling a metric boatload of smoke or getting trapped in here is definitely her number one concern.


Grabbed, Zatanna has no choice but to follow Jessica, hauled bodily by the stronger, faster woman. Flames lick at their heels, the scorching heat causing glass within to shatter, and cinders to fall from the ceiling. The black-haired young woman catches sight of a black box close to the door, the label in broken English letting her know what it is. Her hand swipes it from the shelf, a half-formed plan germinating in the back of her mind as the two women throw themselves out of the antique store.

The flaming insects don't follow; strangely enough, they stay right within the building, eating away at its foundations and reveling in the fiery chaos that they have created. It wouldn't be long until sirens fill the streets, firetrucks blocking traffic and presence of yellow tape - the universal sign that something terrible has occurred.


It takes the police and the city's fire department to put out the fire, and process the scene. The water hoses have managed to put out the flames before the foundation caved in completely. Well hidden amidst rubberneckers and nosy tourists, Zatanna stays with Jessica, her hands in her pockets, watching as a black body bag is placed on a gurney, crime scene specialists moving the corpse into the black van heading for the city morgue.

"…I'd say we completely missed our chance to ask the woman a few questions," she tells Jessica under her breath. "But there might be a way just yet."


Jessica has been blank faced as she stares at the fire, happy enough to NOT be singled out or have to explain what the hell happened. But she looks at Zatanna when she speaks, her eyes narrowing. She motions her away from the lookie-loos before she'll even speak further.

"You want to speak to the spirit or the corpse," she guesses. She makes leaps of logic as effortlessly as she'd leaped over that counter. "Well. I'm game. What did you grab from the shop?" For she'd noticed something of the sort out of the corner of her eye, even if she didn't bother to call the girl on it at the time. She seems antsy, shoving her hands into her pockets as if to hide them as well as she's hidden the rest of her body, but without anything specific to attach her antsiness too.


"I can't exactly whip it out here, it's uh…well. You'll see."

They've technically already broken into private property today, what was another one? Zatanna does give Jessica a resigned, but helpless glance, though she does appear relieved that the other woman seems to be handling her brand of weirdness in stride. "I could do it myself, but I have a feeling your questions will probably a little more nuanced. I'm not exactly a detective."

With that, the young magician follows Jessica; she has absolutely no idea where the city morgue is, though she knows that's where Madame Chong's body is headed. But she has a feeling that the private investigator probably knows, and greasing a few palms was certainly a load off her back that somehow putting everyone in the building to sleep.

Save for the late night skeleton crew, the New York City morgue was empty - fifty dollars had been enough to buy their way in, though the surly caretaker had warned them that they had to be out in ten minutes. Upon entry, Zatanna carefully locks the door, before moving in the other room where Madame Chong's body had been stashed….along with other body bags from other crime scenes, laid out in other tables. The macabre tableau would be enough to make anyone sick to their stomach, but Zatanna is thankfully not squeamish.

She lets Jessica unzip the body bag, the acrid stench of burnt, dessicated flesh hitting their nose, enough to trigger the gag reflex of even those with the strongest constitutions. The young woman presses her palm into her nose, swallowing hard; the last thing she wants to do is puke in front of the private investigator.

"Okay…this is going to be even grosser," she mutters, pulling the box out from her satchel and opening it.

It was a severed hand, its bony fingers frozen in a loose claw, its flesh dark and leathery - pickled, no doubt, in some manner of fluid to change its texture and preserve it. She holds it up for Jessica's inspection.

"The left hand of a hanged man," she says. "Preserved in amniotic fluid then dried. It's a pity Madame Chong's burned down, if she can get shit like this to put up for sale in her store."

She fishes for a lighter.

"You ready for this?"


Jessica couldn't help but agree - she probably /would/ ask better questions. She spends most of her no-nonsense stride down the streets of New York towards the morgue doing just that—formulating what she can get asked in the few moments they'll no doubt have.

As for the horror show in the morgue…Jessica just stares at all of this in grim-faced, tight-lipped expressionlessness. She'd unzipped the corpse with only a slight curl of her lip and twitch of her nose, eyes hardening. She had allowed Zatanna her moment to settle her stomach, pretending not to see the younger woman's discomfit. She offers no word of encouragement or praise for her ability to do so, but perhaps her silence and unwillingness to offer any embarrassing barbs is praise enough.

"All she had to do to obtain that on the regular," she says with dry cynicism, "is to have thugs hang men in a back alley and chop off their hands whenever she needed to update her stock."

But this dark observation is not enough for her to tell Zee to spare the hand for prints or identification purposes or anything like that. In response to the question of whether or not she's ready, she takes out a slim silver flask, uncaps it, and takes a swig. Her eyes *dare* Zee to say a damn word about it as she tucks it away.

"Yeah. Dial me up a Madame Dead Lady."


"Nah, it can't just be like that." Zatanna turns the severed hand in her fingers, the ease in which she examines it running somewhat incongruously to the way she has reacted to the burnt body smell. "The hanged man has to be a total shit - judged and executed for his crimes. There's power in conflict, and there are very few more powerful conflicts than the demands of Justice versus a person's fervent belief that he doesn't deserve his punishment."

She flicks her thumb against the lighter, producing a small flame that she holds underneath each digit of the severed hand in her grasp, letting it linger until it results in a fiery array, a five-point candle made out of flesh and bone. She lifts both of her own hands in a defensive gesture at the sharp look the woman gives her, though she is clearly hiding a smile, turning to the corpse.

She holds the severed hand over the burnt body, her other set of fingertips pressing over her knuckles.

"Ataiv ni eniv av etraom," she whispers. Backwards spellcasting has been her bread and butter for as long as she can remember. It is a hundred times easier in English than it is Romanian.

After a beat of two of absolute, stony silence, nothing happens.

And then, corpses suddenly start /rattling/ around them, jerking spasmodically within their body bags; human-sized worms attempting to escape their plastic prisons. Her heart leaps into her chest, Zatanna nearly dropping the hand as the bodies around them flail and twist and shake on top of their gurneys. They don't stop, at least, not for a moment or two.

And then, everything is still again, their grisly piece of the world growing eerily silent.

Madame Chong's burnt body suddenly jolts upwards in a seated position, her gaping mouth swaying even wider as she croaks for breath, expelling dust and ash and insect leavings at Jessica and her young charge. Empty eye sockets - lidless, endless - stare at them both, vertebrae cracking and twisting in effort, her head turning slowly sideways in an unnatural angle.

"KIllEd mE…" comes the unearthly, sibilant hiss. "iT KIllEd Me…"


Jessica had immediately dropped into a defensive stance, looking ready to punch corpses back into death if necessary.

But they settled down, and the one she wanted to talk to started talking. She presses her lips firmly together to shove her natural reaction to this down into a box, then asks, "What was it, and do you know who sent it, or why it was sent?"

While her first thought is to go straight to asking about her client's missing dad the fact is she doubts she'll get anywhere until Madame Chong feels like she's been heard out on the subject of the murder. And they might, after all, be totally related…


Madame Chong's skeletal jaw rattles in its hinges, its utterly scorched face turning to look at Jessica in a jerky, twitching fashion. Given the state of the corpse, she can't probably be blamed for having difficulty speaking. The fire has not been kind to her body….or what remains of it, anyway.

"sPELL…" replies the disembodied voice. "CUrSe…fRoM FAR awAY….oLd….POwErFUL…"

The cadaver rattles and shakes again, its unseeing eyesockets jerking towards Zatanna, shifting on the body bag so it can lean towards her. The young woman stands her ground, barely blinking, though her eyes water visibly at the smell. The young magician takes slow, deliberate breaths, staring into the abyss presented in its eyes.

She brought it back to talk, to turn away now would be irresponsible.

"….wanTed…to kNow WHaT zATaRa waS aSssSSSkinG…"

Zatanna presses her lips together. "My father came to see you a week ago," she says, looking hopeful, but cautious. "What did he want from you, Madame Chong?"

"iNformAtion…" Madame Chong drones, bones cracking as her head twists slowly to look at Jessica again. "…tHe bOok….wHeRE iT WAs…"


One question leads neatly into another, then.

"What book was he asking after? Did you give him the information he sought? And where is the book now?" She stacks questions to maximize time, convinced the corpse is more than intelligent enough to keep up. She keeps her piercing gaze locked onto this most likely of interrogation subjects, and if her neck and shoulders are tense she nevertheless presses like she would any other witness or subject. More questions come to mind, but she rearranges them in her head; reverse-pyramid style…most important to least important, as they do not have unlimited time.

This, after all, is the crux of what it will take to find Zatanna's father, and that is what they are about this evening. But it seems they are after a murderer as well, one the cops could never handle, or probably even find.


The pile of burnt bones shudders at every pointed question Jessica asks, tilting this way and that, its half-eaten fingers playing at its ribcage as if it was a xylphone, clattering like scattered teeth on hard ground. Its head starts twitching again in a spasmodic motion, looking less than human by the minute as it struggles to keep up with its post-mortem interrogation.

"…L…L….lIbER…c…c…CONse…cRATusssss…" Madame Chong utters, before crumbling back into the body bag, the dull sound of the body hitting the gurney echoing loudly in the mostly silent morgue.

It fails to move again. Zatanna shakes the severed hand over the corpse, uttering a few whispered words, but the lights flicker out one by one on each of the digits. "Wait…not yet…!" she cries, frustration scratched into every syllable as she attempts to bring the spirit back into the ruined body. But for all of her attempts to do so, Madame Chong's corpse refuses to move any more.

The young woman's shoulders slump, sighing quietly. With a quiet grunt, she tosses the hand back in the black box and shoves it in her bag.

Any other girl would be driven to tears by now, as desperate as she is to find her father, knowing that /something/ was after him after all, and killing those who even so much as uttered a word to him. But there is no sign of the expected fright, and while those ice-blue irises glisten, moisture refuses to fall.

"Time to consult Madame Google, I guess," she says, turning to Jessica. "We better get out of here before that guy kicks us out."


Jessica's eyebrows raise in surprise. She had expected Zatanna to recognize the name of the book.

"Back to my office," she says decisively. "I have quite a few questions to ask /you/ now. You know things you don't know you know, and what you know can lead to leads as surely as Madame Google can." She walks towards the door, then looks over her shoulder at Zatanna.

"We will find him," she says, firmly.

Then she pushes her way out, giving a salute-wave of thanks to the guy they bribed.

When they hit the street, she pauses and passes the flask back.


She does recognize the book, but Zatanna's general surprise about it being mentioned doesn't stem from the fact that she doesn't know what it is.

It is a piece of information that Jessica will inevitably drag out of the girl once they were back in her office; once leaving the morgue, the two manage to hail a cab that would take them back to Alias Investigations - all in all making it rather likely that the young woman was probably going to be late for her Physics class tomorrow morning, when she's out and about away from Gotham at such late hours.

It doesn't take long; it is approaching two in the morning and the brick facade of Jessica's building looms before them once the cab turns a corner. The young magician follows Jessica up through the familiar, dingy halls and the equally dirty elevator leading into her office, where they finally have some respite from the unseasonable cold.

She seems to have recovered from that momentary bout of frustration and discouragement once they see the inside of the woman's office once more. Zatanna takes a set on the same chair she has occupied the last time she was in this room, setting her bag down.

"The Liber Consecratus was a book said to have been penned by Saint Honorius himself," she tells Jessica. "It's a grimoire compiled during the medieval times, copies were supposedly distributed widely throughout Europe, but the original, they say, fell in the possession of John Dee sometime in the 1500's. It was part of the British Library's collection for a time, but about a decade ago, it fell back into private hands after an auction sponsored by the Library. I don't know who has it now."

She rubs her eyes. "Might very well be that Madame Chong knows who it is…well, knew."


It is much cleaner in here. It's a bit of a polished turd, but an effort has been made. The few dishes are in the drain racks. There are only one or two booze bottles out on the counter, one empty, one half full. Though Jessica did leave her coffee pot on, and she wrinkles her nose to find it burning. All the crap has mysteriously disappeared from the floor and the chair, and at the very least dirty clothes have been kicked behind the closed bedroom door. The smell of Lysol drafts out of the bathroom, mingling with burnt coffee. Even when she tries, Jessica Jones has trouble creating anything like a pleasant environment for herself.

She sits down on the couch. "Well, that's not the angle we can use," Jessica points out. "I think she's said all she has to say. I've got a /lot/ of questions, Zee. Just bear with me. So it's a rare, valuable grimoire, but there have to be other rare, valuable grimoires. What makes this one worth killing for?"


"…I'm honestly a little amazed that you haven't remarked on how weird this all is by now," Zatanna says, apropos of nothing. "Usually when I even hint that I believe magic is real, I get laughed out of the bank. But I guess given what's happening in New York and everywhere else, these days, it's not so far-fetched anymore." If aliens came come out of wormholes and rodents can grow into unusual sizes in New York, then anything is possible now.

Zatanna purses her lips in thought, mulling over Jessica's question, going back into her mental library - in spite of her lack of interest in mundane academics, this was her forte: artifacts, antiquities, old documents….she was majoring in current and dead languages, and she knows her history. Whatever she doesn't know now, she is confident she can find in Giovanni Zatara's inner sanctum, a vast library of very hard to find items and books.

"It's one of /the/ books on Necromancy, for starters," she replies. "Supposedly the greatest sorcerors of the age got together one day and compiled everything they knew in that book, and Saint Honorius was their scribe. Ninety-three chapters of pure magical knowledge - /old/ magic, pretty close to the Source as one could get at those times. And not just that…I guess even more importantly, it's a book how to obtain /more/ information from some of the most ancient forces out there. If you want to find out what's actually in Heaven, for example, that's the book that'll tell you how to obtain those answers."


"Nothing surprises me anymore," is all Jessica says to that comment. "And I can tell when someone's full of shit. You're not, therefore, it's just something to deal with."

"So okay. Pretty heavy shit." And none of it good, at all, but she leaves that rather obvious thought unsaid.

Jessica stands up and turns off the coffee pot, realizing she'd sniffed and sat down without doing anything about the problem. She dumps the offending pot in the sink and runs water into it, then leaves it alone. "The spell that killed Chong. It was pretty powerful, and from what I've seen, you don't just wriggle your fingers and make that happen. You've needed components; sometimes pretty rare ones. What kinds of components would our Killer have needed for that specific spell? And if you don't know, who would, other than Chong or your father?"


"Blood," Zatanna says, because there is nothing more powerful in ritualistic spellcasting than a conduit for life - especially the life of the person one intends to harm or heal. "To tie your will to your target - there's honestly a few long range spells that can inflict similar effects, but the literal fire flies are new, to be able to have them manifest and contain them in the corpse to lie in wait until someone finally started poking around to make forensic traces all the more confusing. It'll take a couple of days for me to consult the books, but I'll get you the information as soon as I can."

She closes her eyes, thinking back to the grisly interrogation at the morgue. "Though I can pinpoint the rarest element of all without doing my research," she tells Jessica. "A sponsor - the corpse said something old and powerful. When it comes to magic, there's always a price to pay - I've never experienced it myself, probably because I don't use it willy-nilly, but especially when you cast a spell to perpetrate a crime - and taking a life is among the worst of these - the caster puts his soul on lien with the sponsor lending his power to make it happen. So you're really not looking for just one person, you're looking for two."

She digs out her smartphone, acting on a hunch, calling up Google and tapping on a few keys. Seeing the results, her eyes widen.

"Well, I'll be damned," she says, showing Jessica her LCD screen.

"I guess the announcement just came up yesterday," she continues. "But the Gotham Antiquities Commission is holding a closed auction - one of their most exclusive events on the year. Look what's listed in the catalogue."

When Jessica takes a peek, she would find it:

Liber Consecratus - St. Honorius
Lot #617


"The auctioneer must not know people are killing people and going missing over that book. Or…maybe he does."

Jessica jumps up, a sort of grim fire in her dark eyes. A hunting hound who has caught the putrid scent of two she wants to track, and the relatively decent scent of someone else she wants to find.

"Come on. We have to get to that auction house like yesterday, research or no research. The killers are definitely going to show up there. Your father might, too. He might also be the captive of the person running the auction, since he was after the book as well. Or the killers might be the auctioneers, and just wanted money instead of necromantic power. Either way…that's our next step, and as soon as we can get there."

She steps into her bedroom and grabs a go bag that's already packed, because Jessica is that kind of paranoid.


"Whoa, wait a second, we can't just barge in there and see it, let alone touch it," Zatanna protests, standing up when Jessica does, still fiddling with her phone as she roams around her office/apartment grabbing her things. "They're bound to keep these items up under lock and key and chances are, authentication for the items in the auction will take a few days, and when they do display them, there'll be guards everywhere. Knowing how these things go, there's no way we'll be able to even get a gander on them until the day of the auction when people are bidding on them—"

The more she talks, the more her words slow as she thinks. "….wait. Are you thinking of gatecrashing the event?" she wonders. "The guest list is set, we might need to go through the back, if you know what I me—"

She pauses, an entry catching her eye on the website. Among the list of sponsors for the event is one very familiar entity. At the very end of the alphabetical list are two names she didn't think would be all too relevant to her life until perhaps this evening:


"….nevermind," she says. "I think I have a way in, but if that doesn't pan out, we can always go with Plan B."


"Yeah, I was thinking of crashing," Jessica admits, shrugging without being repentant. "But if you've got a better way in, then I'm all for it. Either way, it's a long drive to Gotham. What /is/ your way in, anyway?" She has missed the scroll of the sponsors, since she was jumping up and charging into action. She had figured on formulating some sort of plan on the way, but this is probably better.

She pulls out her own phone, curious to see if any news stories or Lexus Nexus legal cases or anything show up for the auction house itself. It's kind of a long shot in a case full of this much whacka-doo, but if the owners of the auction house are on her suspect list it's just basic due diligence.


"Well…." Zatanna begins, scuffing a toe and looking so innocent that any court in the world would convict her on the spot. "….it doesn't /have/ to be a long drive to Gotham." The implications are there; young as she is, the girl was still a Zatara, which means she is just as capable of exacting actual miracles as she is in faking them. "You can stay at Shadowcrest for the time being, since the event won't be a few days yet." Jessica would still need a car, but if she has one, there's no sense leaving it here either, not when she can transport her and the vehicle without breaking so much as a sweat, so long as she knows where she's going.

"As for my way in….Daddy was close to Thomas and Martha Wayne. In fact, when they died, he was so guilty that he couldn't do anything about their murders, or for their son Bruce, that he actually left Gotham for a few years. He later did the young Mr. Wayne a favor when he showed up in our doorstep one day, might be time to cash that chip."

She scrubs her cheek with one hand. "Anyway, it's up to you. I'll tell Kasim to expect you, if you want me to send you there now. I kind of want to see Ginny before I go back."


Jessica is…not really the type of person to pay attention to all the upper level goings on. The Wayne names mean nothing to her at all. She looks blank, like many of these names mean exactly nothing at all to her. But she puts it together quickly enough. Rich people, connections, back door the smooth way because the young Heir is likely to care that Mr. Zatara is gone.

"I don't own a car, so…just me," she says. "A few days gives me time to find something more appropriate to wear to one of these things than anything I actually own. It also gives me a few days to run basic surveillance on that auction house, which I can do without dragging you into it as it's likely to be boring, and a little fruitless. You'll have plenty of time to see your friend; I'll keep you posted if anything interesting comes up."


"Sounds good. So if you got all of your things, I'll wave my magic wand. Don't mind Kasim, he's a construct, but he'll provide you with a guest room and food and whatever else you need."

Zatanna smiles faintly, taking a few steps closer to Jessica. "Thanks again for everything, Jessica," she tells her sincerely. "I'm glad the overall weirdness of this didn't chase you off yet."

She reaches out, to trace an invisible symbol on the private investigator's forehead with her thumb, closing her eyes and visualizing the inside foyer of Shadowcrest inside of her mind.

"Tsercwodahs ot Senoj Scissej ekat," she whispers.

To Jessica, the world fades away, colors bleeding into one another like spilled paint across canvas. As she blinks and attempts to reorient her vision, she would find her surroundings utterly changed. Gone is the peeling paint, the dingy floors and the must of Old New York. She finds herself, instead, in the middle of a grand foyer, in a mansion no one else could find situated in the exclusive Gotham neighborhood of Crest Hill.

A dark-skinned man in a turban stands directly in front of her, his white beard perfectly combed, and while he appears friendly and welcoming enough, a woman with Jessica's instincts would be able to taste the unsettling aura that surrounds him - as if he isn't quite right.

As if he isn't quite /there/.

"Miss Jones," he greets, giving her a bow from the waist. "My name is Kasim. I've been expecting you."

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