Chapter 7Disclaimer: See previous chapters.
“All right,” Mac Taylor nodded in agreement. “So, what have you found in Ms Limo’s paperwork?”
“The following things,” Danny began to bend fingers as he made his points. “Firstly, what she and Rachael Straw had had between themselves was, I don’t know, mutual dislike of each other. Rachel, as we have learned, had a same-sex partner, while Ms. Limo was much more conservative.”
“But that’s not all?” Mac’s question sounded more like a statement than a question.
“It’s not,” Danny nodded back. “Yeah, they didn’t like each other, but the real falling-out began almost a year ago – Rachel Straw’s faction decided to sponsor a, well, I think the right word here is ‘show’ ran by someone named Tim Ackerman.”
“But there was a catch or a flaw?” Josephine joined in. “A scam, perhaps?”
“Possibly it was any of the three, or any combination of them,” Danny nodded in agreement, “but from what I have read on paper, it looked more like a case of unbridled optimism and undue self-confidence – the show’s host arranged for him to be parachuted into the rainforest on northern Australia, and from there he was to make his way to civilization, all on his own, using only nature’s bounty to sustain himself.”
“End quote,” interrupted Don, as he returned to the office. “Sounds to me that whoever was doing this had balls bigger than his brains.”
“The feeling’s mutual,” Danny responded. “This was supposed to be something of a survival docudrama, whatever this means. In any way, the show’s would-be host – Tim Ackerman – died in the process, so the project was scrapped.”
“Whoa, back up a bit,” the d-word got Josephine into an investigating mood. “Somebody else died before Ruth Limo?”
“Yes, Tim Ackerman,” Danny repeated. “He left behind several days’ worth of video tapes that suggested that he was either bitten by something venomous or ate something poisonous, developed some sort of a disease, and died several miles off to the side from an Aboriginal village, whose inhabitants had eventually discovered his corpse, contacted the authorities, and generally ensured that Tim got buried back home, rather than back there.”
The others exchanged looks. “This sounds like a long shot,” Josephine told in a somewhat uncertain voice the two men. “I mean, even in the city some deaths aren’t caused by other people, and in a rainforest – if one of us were to be dropped there, we wouldn’t last there very long. Except for Mac, who would probably find an Aboriginal village and be flying home within a week, two at most.”
“As nice as it is to hear Mac’s ego being stroked here,” Danny said dryly, “there’s one more thing that I should probably tell you. See, Ruth’s notes clearly show that according to her calculations the financial reparations that were paid – as opposing to those that should have been paid – were slightly too big.”
“Pardon?” Mac asked, now interested for real.
“Ackerman’s death caused a serious PR problem for the museum: financial expenses to the man’s widow and other family, for PR actions and so forth had to be paid. Unfortunately, Ruth has deduced that Ms. Straw, who was responsible for the reparations, had skimmed several thousand dollars into her own pockets along the way, apparently.”
“Now wait just a moment,” Jo frowned, thoughtfully. “Rachel Straw may not had an office on Wall Street, but she was very well-to-do, especially recently. Why would she be skimming?”
“Considering that it’s a small amount by the museum’s standards, I have no idea,” Danny admitted. “Mac?”
“Not sure either, but it looks like it’s tied with that Australian fiasco,” Mac said, thoughtfully. “It will probably require more looking too. Danny, can you show me this paperwork?”
Before Danny could reply in any way, Don’s cell phone rang. “Yes?” the latter spoke into it. “Stephanie? What’s- Oh. Thanks.” He switched it off and looked at everyone else. “This was Stephanie. She had heard via her car radio that the museum’s PR spokesperson, Olympia Silver, is going to make a speech there in less than twenty minutes. Are we interested in that?”
“We are now,” replied Mac. “Danny just told us about the PR disaster that was the trip to Australia – odds are that this Olympia Silver was somehow involved in that too. I think we ought to take a look at her at the moment.”
“If you say so,” Jo said, still unconvinced.* * *
The newspaper articles have done their job, Faith thought idly, as she and the others stood in the crowd surrounding the museum of Natural History, listening to its spokesperson – a rather non-descript, brown-haired woman spin-doctor... a whole lot of nothing, in Faith’s opinion.
Not far from Faith, the younger Slayers, Genevieve and Courtney, were pestering Giles about Dreamtime; Kailey and Oz, though not participating in the discussion, were listening in as well.
“So what is Dreamtime, precisely?” Genevieve asked, clearly sceptical. “Roden once mentioned it as a part of Australian folklore, something about the time when monsters roamed the earth...”
“Exactly,” Giles nodded back. “For a classical student like you, it was the age of heroes – Perseus, Heracles, Theseus... Here, in North America, there was Hiawatha and the various ‘Tricksters’, in a manner of speaking... The Dreamtime was the time when the Old Ones were gone, but some of their direct descendants – and also their pets.”
“Such as that lizard?”
“Perhaps,” Giles nodded, “but we will have to wait a bit before we try something else – we have packed light weapons-wise, and-“
“This woman is seriously bland,” Faith interrupted the discussion. “Blah-blah-blah about natural history, with the notable emphasis on history. Seriously, if she would’ve ever worked for Big Boss Wilkins, her career would’ve been in serious jeopardy, not to mention her life-“
“Really?” Courtney asked, just for the sake of it. “I thought that her speech was rather nice, if a bit boring.”
“Make that a lot boring,” Genevieve snorted. “Anyone got a water balloon? You colonials are so-“
The museum’s doors were smashed from the inside out, and a huge lizard-like reptile, as big and mean as Faith and the others had saw it in the Astral plane, burst into the streets. As the first screams began to echo, the reptile charged forth with a speed that was surprisingly quick for its great bulk, straight for the brown-haired spokeswoman.
The latter, who was shocked by the reptile’s crashing arrival, regained some of her senses and tried to get out of the way, but the monster was too quick for her: a head-thrust, and the jaws clumped shut on the woman’s torso. A snap, and the woman exploded in the shower of bloody gore.
“Giles,” Faith hissed, “a weapon, now.”
“Faith, we’re in public-“
“You give a shit-“
And then the sun came from beyond the city’s jagged rooftop line. The reptile, who until then was surveying its grisly work with the smugness of a child who had squashed an ant, stiffened and fled back into the museum.
“Oh, bugger,” Giles groaned. “I was afraid of that.”
And then the police sirens were heard from further up and down the street.
“A dollar short and an hour late,” Genevieve snorted, as Courtney glared at her.To be continued...