The Secret Garden

Chapter Twenty-Eight: "London Flesh"

Subtle Appetites

Aiden Cavannaugh awakes in an ice bath in a strange hotel room. Blood stains the water; the phone hangs in hand’s reach, next to a note reading “call 999”; pain floods his torso. With trembling fingers he feels the crude stitching in his back and fears the worst. Without understanding why, he manages to call Felix Harrison and then passes out.

Felix, already en route to the hotel with Kailani Benson along for the ride, calls Baedecker and informs him of what has happened. Baedecker immediately goes into danger-close mode, and dispatches Alastair Lewis to lend assistance.

Arriving in Aiden’s hotel room, they find him in the bath, post-surgical litter strewn all about. Aiden gasps out “help” and “kidney”, then passes out again. The briefest of magical investigations confirms the fact: Aiden is missing a kidney.

An ambulance crew arrive, although Aiden does not remember calling one, and nor does he remember calling Felix. While Kailani and Felix accompany Aiden in the ambulance, Alastair subjects the hotel room and bathroom to Crime Scene Interference, and then follows the others.

In the ambulance, Aiden recovers enough to make use of his Mind arts to plumb his memory of the time prior to the loss of his kidney. He recalls whiskey, the promise of sex and a woman called Ruth. In retrospect, he realises that the whiskey tasted funny.

Although Aiden is nominally safe in hospital, the group fear that the loss of his kidney might be the precursor to some terrible magical attack, and so Alastair calls on Baedecker for help. After Baedecker has finished berating Alastair for not using an encrypted line, he agrees to have Aiden signed into the exclusive St. Jude’s clinic in Richmond under the care of Dr. Becker.

There the others visit him and put their heads together to figure out what is going on. And in the midst of this, Aiden and Alastair realise that they share a very murky past, some twelve years gone…

Baedecker (contacted again on an encrypted line) fears that Aidan’s kidney is being used as part of a sympathetic magic effect and urges his associates to look into the matter with haste. To say that Baedecker is paranoid would be putting it mildly.

Felix taps a nearby large ley to help power spells to identify who did this to Aiden. With this extra juice, the mages discover that Aiden was seduced and drugged by Ruth Pearcy. The kidney was removed by Ian “Killian” Mortimer and Zachary Jones, who run the Red House nightclub. The kidney itself was passed onto a man known as Norman Stafford.

Mundane investigation reveals that Stafford works as a projectionist at the Swiss Cottage Vue Cinema. And further scrying of Stafford himself reveals that he is in the process of cooking the kidney.

Felix acts quickly and uses his Correspondence arts to distract Stafford with the doorbell, then snatch the partially-cooked kidney from Stafford’s kitchen. Then the mages race to Stafford’s house.

Upon arriving, Aiden scans the area with his Mind arts, detecting nothing except Stafford’s filthy little mind occupying the house. Scanning Stafford’s mind, Aiden learns that Stafford is ashamed of his virginity, lacks self-confidence, fears he is abnormal (while knowing full-well that he is) and is possessed by a hunger for a richness of experience, which he so sorely lacks. Aiden plants an emotion in him, making Stafford want to talk, and the mages burst into his home.

They subject Stafford to a thorough interrogation (for thorough read: Aiden shoots him in the foot) and learn that Stafford is passing most of the kidneys onto someone called The Spaniard, while being allowed to keep and eat some himself.

They leave Stafford to his own devices and depart, planning how best to deal with the Spaniard. Alastair, meanwhile, devises an Effect to neutralise Stafford by faking a gas leak at his house. He loses control of the Effect and it not only destroys Stafford’s house but the neighbouring house also, killing a father and brother there in addition to the kidney eater.

Recriminations and outrage follow, as well as a dose of Murderous Resonance, but the fledgling cabal hangs together. With the information gleaned from Stafford, they locate the Spaniard in a Docklands hotel. He is secreted in his rooms, every surface – windows included – pasted over with screeds in Enochian. The runes are clearly a ward of some kind, and so the mages resolve to take a mundane approach.

They burst in on the Spaniard and assault him with a flurry of brutal physical attacks. He responds with blasts of lightning and crude bolts of Prime. The mages eschew magical combat entirely, rightly guessing that the Spaniard is their better. Instead Aiden and Alastair resort to gunfire, Kailani hits him repeatedly in the head with her handbag, and Felix summons entirely mundane scorpions to sting the Spaniard in the eye. And testicles.

Unprepared for so mundane an attack, the Spaniard is overpowered and beaten senseless. Grabbing his belongings, the mages smuggle him out of the hotel in a laundry cart, and then spirit him away to an intelligence safehouse arranged by Alastair. There he is to languish, until they decide what to do with him…

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