Contingency Plans

December 16, 2016:

Cutscene: Gottfried Muller gets a visitor, which results in a very important late night chat.

The Excelsior - Midtown - Gotham City

An exclusive, expensive luxury hotel in Gotham City.

Characters

NPCs: Gottfried Muller, Mammon the Demon Prince of Excess

Mentions: Giovanni Zatara, John Constantine, Dr. Mist, Cienzo Basile

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It was already late when he returned to his suite at the Excelsior, setting his briefcase on the side table closest to the door before wandering in further so he could pour himself a scotch.

Snowfall had started in the late afternoon and continued since then, Gotham's bitter winters leaving snow and ice encrusted on the edges of his large floor-to-ceiling windows. He had instructed the suite's butler to leave the drapes open so he could take in the city's sprawling cityscape the moment he returned from more mundane business, and the fact that they were shut suggested immediately that someone else was in the room with him, in spite not glimpsing his visitor just yet, even without seeing how the drifting snowflakes slow to a dead stop outside of the glass. Still, while that would worry anyone, it didn't worry him; an unnaturally long life also came with the kind of apathy towards one's survival that was difficult to shake, especially in his case. Whatever ephemeral tethers were there that connected him to the Lady Death were reduced to cinders several decades ago, an unhappy accident that remained a mystery even to the more notorious citizens of the afterlife. It had been one that he was trying to solve for decades, with very little usable fruit.

There was really only one that would come to call on him and he could practically smell the hint of sulfur in the air, wafting from the most comfortable couch in the room. Gottfried Muller kept his back turned as he poured himself a shot, only giving it two seconds' worth of deliberation before he decided to make it a double. Given who his visitor was, he knew he was going to need it.

"Ricky!" Mammon greeted cheerfully, his wide grin gleaming like a shark's in the dark, all teeth and inherent malevolence. "You're late, I was wondering if I shouldn't order room service. It's been a while since my last steak tartare, you know, and they say the Excelsior's got the best in the city."

Gottfried picked up his short glass, moving in an unhurried pace closer to the array of chairs that dominated the suite's opulent sitting area. The German folded his body on a seat directly across from the demon, taking a sip.

"Isn't it unwise for you to be visiting me personally?" he wondered mildly, taking a gold ring out of his pocket and slipping it in his pinky, twisting it until the embossed eagle-and-wreath sigil caught the dim illumination of the outside world. "You might trigger unwanted alarms."

A large, clawed hand waved dismissively before it rested on Mammon's grotesquely distended belly; the entity took up almost the entire couch, its short peg legs straining to hold up his weight. "With what's going on down in Chile, you can say the Host's got bigger problems than your personal Grail Quest," he remarked with a laugh - he always sounded like he was laughing, perpetually entertained by the goings-on in the physical plane. "But you needn't take it personally, Ricky. They certainly didn't forget about you, I mean the Weavers somehow managed to pull the right strings to bring the Boogeyman to Gotham and on top of your disaffected kraut ass."

The German snorted derisively, a bland, muted sound. "If you're here to warn me about John Constantine, I already know about him. Cienzo might owe the Englishman, but his ledger's gushing red when it comes to me."

"Not John-boy." A cigar materialized out of nowhere - a Gurkha Black Dragon, nothing but the best for the Demon Prince of Excess. Flames sprung to life from the demon's fingertips, taking a few indulgent puffs. "Giovanni Zatara."

The bored look Gottfried had fixed on his glass drained away. The stately blond head inclined slightly towards the demon; it wasn't much of a reaction, on the best days, Gottfried wasn't particularly one to show a broad spectrum of emotions, but it was enough to make the Demon Prince gleeful in his own way. His toothy smile grew even bigger, if that was even possible.

"Didn't know that, did you?" Mammon's legs lifted, slamming on the coffee table in front of him in heavy, aggressive thuds, knocking off the expensive Tiffany statuette on the surface and sending it rolling on the carpet. "I know you're capable of handling good ol' boy John and whatever troops he's capable of mustering, but could you really handle both him and Zatara? You didn't even know he was in town if I hadn't come to see you, he's just that good at disappearing and appearing when you least expect it, but you'd have no way of knowing he mastered that when he was just a poor kid in Jersey nosing into great-great-great-great-great-great-ad-infinitum grandaddy DaVinci's notebooks."

Mammon took a deep inhale of his cigar, his gaping maw forming an 'O' as he blew rings towards Gottfried's direction. "John's enough of a headache - a manageable one if you don't underestimate him, which you shouldn't or you're a bigger moron than I thought, but Zatara's a huge problem. That's what happens when you capture the attention of that desperate immortal's pet project. Centuries in the making, he said. His greatest creation, he said, after eons of manipulating human history and relationships to produce the right protege. Pfeh, you'd think living this long, Nommo'd be less of a drama queen, but nooooooooo. Still gets weepy-eyed at his wife's death anniversary. Wonder if that's how he got his new name."

His companion took another sip, but he knew apprehension when he smelled it. Gottfried was nervous, though he tried not to let it show. Still, it was no use hiding such emotion from creatures like himself, who preyed and fed on humanity's tiniest frailties. It was almost as good as the aftertaste the Gurkha Black Dragon was leaving in his cavernous mouth.

The German finally spoke. "I'll account for Zatara, then," he replied. "Is there anything else?"

"You'd be a fool if you didn't have a backup plan," Mammon said, snapping his fingers, a printed photograph manifesting upon them. "Face it, Ricky. The chips are stacked against you now and you worked so hard, how could a caring pal like me abandon you? You know me, I'm a nice guy."

A flick of his clawed digits sent the picture twisting in the air towards Gottfried, who plucked it from the currents to take a look at it. His pale brows lifted.

"Who's this?"

"There was a time when Nommo thought he reached the pinnacle of his efforts with Zatara," Mammon said. "That he wasn't going to do any better and for a while, he was right. That isn't the case now. You're gonna have to prepare yourself with the near-guaranteed fact that things aren't going to go exactly how you want it, not this time. That doesn't mean you have to make out of it empty-handed, but that's assuming shit does hit the fan, since you're a capable guy. All I ask is that once you're done with her, I get her soul. See? I'm so nice."

Gottfried finished his scotch, banishing the glass back to the bar with a wave of his hand. "Hundreds are ferried down to you every day by your collectors," he replied, and while he was suspicious, he tried every mental trick in the book to prevent it from manifesting too visibly; no small feat, but necessary when one was holding a conference with the Demon Prince of Excess. "Why do you want this one?"

"Once you touch her, you'll understand."

Time resumed its normal pace; it took no movement, not even a blink, but once the rush of seconds have managed to catch up with him, Mammon was already gone, the only indicators of his visit left in his hand, on the floor and in the air, where traces of sulfur mingled with the burned vestiges of fine tobacco. Gottfried rubbed his thumb and index over both of his eyes before he looked at the photograph once more; the face printed on the paper was an unknown to him, he didn't recognize her in the slightest save for a nagging sense of familiarity around the eyes.

Though once he realized where he had seen them before, he finally understood.

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