As Gia does what she can to help the injured policemen and Lily keeps an eye on the police captain, Kenny takes Shanna up to the roof to look for the Man in Black and Shanna’s companion, Ruth. Unfortunately, neither of them are there and from the roof they can see an encroaching army of news media, including a couple helicopters. Kenny and Shanna duck back inside.
The four mages head downstairs and slip out the back entrance and make for Emma’s apartment. On the way, they talk to Shanna. She and Ruth are Celestial Chorus and were sent here by the Council to retrieve Emma’s body. Shanna tells the group that long ago, Emma was a fairly big deal in the Traditions, but things happened and she went her own way. The Council respected her wish for privacy, but was also aware that her work had filled her body with dangerous energy and that when she eventually died, that would need to be dealt with. Shanna and Ruth were to bring her back to their Chantry in Iowa for a proper burial. But things are not going to plan.
With Ruth missing, Shanna is rather embarrassingly helpless. She has a bag containing an assortment of religious paraphernalia. She does not have a wallet, phone, etc. This was supposed to be a quick operation and Ruth is the one who normally takes care of ‘practical things.’ Lily is disgusted by the thought of a 20 year-old without a phone.
At this point, they get a message from Max, who was helping track down the ‘N’ from the police captain’s phone:
3140 S Canal St
Owns the Red Steak restaurant
N and the captain are in touch about twice a month.
The four of them spend the night at Emma’s – its built in protective enchantments outweighing the morbidity of the blood stains on the walls. The next morning they all have breakfast and ask Shanna a bit more about the Council’s involvement. Kenny also awakens the two guns (Ruth’s and the MiB’s) and finds out a little about them. After that, they set off to the lawyer’s to find out more about what Emma’s actual wishes are. Shanna stays behind to try to contact Ruth. On the way they text Max to ask him what the will said before he modified it, but he strangely doesn’t get back to them super-fast.
To find out more from Arron Johnson, Gia uses her powers of mental manipulation to change her own brain into that of Jane Smith, fictional professional security expert. She’s there to look into any breach’s in Mr. Johnson’s security and he’s happy for the help. While investigating his vault, Gia also taps into his mind to better retrieve his fading memories.
Emma had the will drawn up many years ago, shortly after Kenny went his own way. Since then, she had it changed only twice, to include Gia and then Lily. The original didn’t have the part about her grandson Max (surprisingly). It instead said, “If you’re reading this then I will already have made arrangements to have had by body cremated. There are reasons it is important that my remains are undisturbed and I trust that you three will make sure they are protected. Thank you for being my friends and for giving me hope that I am leaving the world a better place than when I got here.”
They text Max to let him know that they know and conveniently at that moment get just those words from Max, along with his regrets that that message didn’t send an hour ago, when he told it to (uh huh…). Kenny has his phone break into Max’s computer and overwrites old-lady faces onto everyone’s head in Max’s porn collection.
The three of them decide to check out the Red Steak and discover it to be a fairly good steak house with a soup kitchen for the homeless in the back. Both are run by Nikolai, who is a massive Russian man in an ill-fitting t-shirt and a faded Cubs cap. While they’re eating, Lily sneaks off to investigate the place. She unlocks the upstairs to find Nikolai’s living space, a cozy loft filled with occult books and objects, mostly Russian. Overall it has a fairly positive energy. Lily swipes an ushenka that makes the wearer feel pointedly upbeat, even in the most inclement of weather. She then unlocks the basement and finds a fairly terrifying space, with cots along the wall and a medical table in the center, featuring very serious looking restraints. There’s also a small bathroom and a number of locked cabinets. Lily gets the hell out of there.
After their meal, the three of them talk to Nikolai under the pretext of wanting to volunteer for the soup kitchen. Gia does a small amount of discrete brain-probing during that to establish that Nikolai does know Susie and has a very protective sense towards her. Gia also learns that Nikolai has a very stubborn mind that is hard to probe.
They wait until the shop closes for the afternoon and then confront Nikolai about Susie directly. Nikolai tells them a lot and the four of them come to a deal:
A couple months ago, Nikolai became the target of what sounds like the Men in Black. They apparently came for him in force and he somehow drove them away. Since then, the one in charge has been harassing Nikolai and trying to draw him out. As a part of that, two of Nikolai’s friends have been killed and he’s pretty pissed about that. Now they’re after Susie, but unable to get to her directly, they’ve kidnapped Susie’s pet rat, who it turns out is a wererat. Susie is a troubled young woman and is basically inconsolable without that rat. Nikolai could lead the group to Susie to ask about the whole corpse-stealing thing, but he’s pretty sure they won’t get anything out of her without the rat. So, if the mages can get the rat back, Nikolai will show them to Susie. No problem, right?
To find them, Kenny starts talking to the technocrat’s gun again and because he’s some sort of gun-whisperer, he gets the thing to do its best to describe how to get back to the technocratic base. It’s apparently under a nearby park, in the sewers, and it has what the gun casually refers to as ‘guard beasts.’ This may not be easy.