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Dear Diary...

05/17/07:

               First thing this morning I received a message that Binion wanted Olivia and I to join her for breakfast to brief her on everything that had occurred. Her note read, "The Quilting Circle wants details on what you've learned so far."

               "Leo, you're on your own for breakfast. We'll be back." I said.

               At the Stratosphere, over eggs and croissants (I do so love croissants!) Olivia and I reported what had transpired, what we knew and what we thought we knew. Binion was quiet for a bit then asked me, "Since none of you started out as Elves, does your God consider you as lesser Elves?"

               "I honestly don't know. I've never asked Him," I said. "He's never said anything to indicate so."

               Olivia said, "Crom doesn't care."

               Binion said, "I don't care about that. Your faith is not racially based. Jazz's is. My thought…my concern is this, these poor creatures - some of them were/are in Elven form, yes? Well, their situation is not dissimilar to ours."

               Olivia told her, "I said the same thing to Lucifer, yesterday."

               "I disagree," I said. "The situations are totally different."

               Binion asked, "So they're not like us?"

               "I don't believe so. Someone changed them into what they wanted them to be, to look like, to act like. But you and I, we changed because we wanted to. We changed to what we really were, inside," I said. "Someone can come along and wave a wand over us we won't change back to what we were, Before. Ours were complete changes, inside and out."

               Olivia said, ""They're still themselves in really good costumes."

               "So if they are Elves," Binion said, "would your God welcome them to an afterlife?"

               I thought for a moment and said, "No?"

               "You don't sound sure."

               "I can't really say, but using Olivia's costume analogy - they're just a dog or a cat, wearing an elf costume. They're not truly an elf. Their inner nature has not changed."

               "But if we don't change them - say ten years from now…?" Olivia asked.

               I shrugged, "Maybe. If in those ten years they truly change and become an elf 'inside', not just on the outside."

               Binion said, "If you leave them as they are and they enter the public and their 'inner natures' have not changed, it will be against the Law regarding training animals to act in a way against their nature." She paused and took a deep breath, "I want the people who did this."

               "We understand. So do we," I told her.

               Olivia told her, "One is still at large, Lucifer has one in custody and two are dead. But we don't know if any of them actually cast the spells that changed them."

               Binion said, "Tell me about the angry one, the one who wants vengeance so badly. Do you believe her to be a danger?"

               "We believe her attitude is a danger. She could turn out to be a hamster, for all we know," Olivia said.

               "A hamster with an attitude," I said.

               "Do you have a plan to deal with her?"

               Olivia nodded. "I thought I'd teleport her out to the desert, change her and teleport out."

               "Do you prefer that we handle this as a group?" Binion offered, meaning her and her 'girls'.

               "If you want to," Olivia told her. "Send someone to pick her up, and then we can investigate House Scarlet."

               Binion said, "Very well. Do you want to be involved in changing her? We don't have the magic ability and I would rather not get our mages involved and let them know such things are going on." So Olivia volunteered to teleport Rodrick, Leo and I.

               "Very good," Binion said. "How far away can you be from her and still Change her?"

               Olivia thought for a moment, "Maybe two hundred feet?"

               "Very good," and we were dismissed. We returned to the Aladdin where I was met by one of the Cathedral attendants, Celia. She was all excited. "Brother Thomas is asking for you," she exclaimed.

               "I bet he is," Olivia said to me.

               "Shhhh!"

               "He says it's urgent," Celia said.

               "Oooooh, urgent!" Olivia cooed.

               "Stop!" I told her. "Do you know what it's about?" I asked the girl.

               "He says he's got a problem."

               I glared at Olivia before she said anything about that. I sighed, "How urgent is it, really? We've got something we have to do."

               Celia was continuing, "A girl showed up at his Temple, beseeching his help. She said that she needs to be freed from a horrible curse. But Brother Thomas' prayers haven't been answered."

               Olivia and I looked at each other, then Olivia asked, "What does this girl look like?" The person she described could only be Vengeance.

               "You didn't put a guard on her?" I asked Olivia.

               "I told Karyn to do it."

               I asked Celia, "Where are they right now?"

               She led us to the main sanctuary and there they were, Thomas and Vengeance. She turned as we entered and the look on her face was pure, "Oh, crap!" Thomas was oblivious to it all and started in, telling the whole story. Olivia cut him off, "We know who she is, and if you had lifted the 'curse' - you'd be dead right now."

               "What do you mean?" he stammered.

               Olivia looked at me, "He's one of yours…"

               I nodded at her, "Right. Thomas - she is really pissed off and will gladly kill anyone she can get her paws, claws, talons or teeth on and you would have been the first."

               Vengeance pooh-poohed that. "I admit, I was in a funk yesterday, but I was only asking for the fundamental right to live and be happy."

               "Great! We are going to return you home and change you to your former self," Olivia said.

               I said, "Thomas, thank you for returning her."

               "Oh sure, glad I could help. What's going on?"

               I said, "Olivia - you go call Rodrick, let him know what's going on and I'll explain to Thomas."

               Olivia left to make the call and to find Karyn because she wasn't responding to her pages. Olivia called Security for an escort for Vengeance and to find Karyn. "Start with the room this one had last night," she ordered. As they left, Olivia asked Vengeance, "Did you do something to Karyn?"

               "Hmmmmm, what answer will get you to Change me back faster?"

               "Have you seen Karyn today?" Olivia tried.

               Vengeance said, "Sorry. You all look alike to me."

               I finished explaining to Thomas on the way and we got to Vengeance's room as Security was kicking the door open. Karyn was inside, on the floor, tied and bleeding from a nasty looking head wound. The bed had been dismantled, as had the TV.

               Vengeance looked at her and said, "Aw, she fell down and went 'boom'." Olivia didn't miss a beat; she drew her Glock and pistol-whipped Vengeance with it. The security people moved in closer to Vengeance as Olivia moved to tend to Karyn.

               Rodrick arrived about then, "I wouldn't miss this for anything. And the curiosity is killing me - who did that to Karyn?" I pointed to Vengeance, who was on the floor trying to get her bearings. He checked out the room and said that Vengeance had taken parts from the TV to make a trip wire and once Karyn was down, had hit her with a steel support piece taken from the bed.

               Once Karyn was up Olivia said, "Someone who can take a TV apart and use it as a weapon probably isn't a simple coyote." We all agreed to that.

               "But I don't care anymore," Olivia said. "Let's take care of this now." She told Security to take Vengeance downstairs. I almost felt sorry for her - she had no idea what was coming. With Security escorting Vengeance, we descended to the parking garage where Olivia put one bullet in the back of Vengeance's head, execution style. She hit the concrete and began to change.

               And grow.

               When it was complete, she was about thirteen feet long from the tip of her horns to the tip of her tail. She was covered with hair and no one had the slightest idea what she was. Picture a fur-covered horned toad the size of a polar bear. Knuckle-walker, muscled for wrestling and leaping. This thing was an ambush-hunter.

               Rodrick said, "Look at those claws! Whatever else it is, those were designed for shredding things." That was when Binion showed up with a few of her girls. She looked at the large and dangerous creature on the floor, then looked at us with a raised eyebrow and agitated lash of her tail.

               "There was a change of plans," Olivia said.

               "Well, I suppose this is a successful conclusion, of a sort," Binion allowed. We had someone go get Thomas so he could have a look. He was quite disturbed by what he saw.

               "Glad you almost changed it back into a killing machine in the middle of Vegas?" Olivia asked. He declined to answer. One of Binion's girls asked if they could have the body. We looked at each other. Sure! What the Hell? Why not? Calls were made and a truck with a heavy winch showed up and took it away.

               Thomas watched it go, "I feel like such an idiot."

               "Yeah well, shit happens," I told him. Back upstairs, we met in Olivia's office to decide what to do next. House Scarlet or the six women who want to stay humanoid?

               "We could talk to them first," Olivia said. "They might know something about who did this to them."

               Rodrick said, "Save that for later, we should hit Scarlet right now. If they heard about what all happened yesterday at the house in West Vegas, they may try to leave town. We might still be able to catch them at something."

               "Wait" Olivia told him. "I'm going to go talk to those women, see what they remember about House Scarlet."

               "But we're not sure they were ever at House Scarlet," I said. She went anyway.

               She rejoined us a time later. All any of the women could remember was being outside (in their original forms) and then waking up in a cage and not feeling 'right'. One or two remembered feeling a sharp pain in their hindquarters first, but nothing of House Scarlet, nothing at all.

               As we were leaving Olivia's office, Karyn entered, looking a little wobbly. Olivia told her where we were going and then told her to call the Chief of Security and have him take over for her. Much to my surprise, Karyn agreed. "I'm not feeling so hot. I'm going to take a couple milligrams of morphine and call it a day."

               Everything about her radiated embarrassment. I told her, "C'mon now - I've been at Death's door 3 times now - you weren't even dead when we found you."

               That didn't seem to cheer her up any. "I know! She didn't even have the good graces to kill me."

               "Good thing," Olivia said. "It's easier to fix you before you're dead." Well, that's another Hallmark moment from Olivia…

               We made sure we were all armed, armored and ready to go before heading for House Scarlet. Rodrick and Olivia said that it looked just like it had last time, the same two men were at the door to greet customers, Olivia told them, "Good morning. Step aside."

               They gave little half bows and opened the doors, "Welcome to House Scarlet."

               The Hostess met us in the foyer and she looked like she knew that trouble was in the House. Olivia demanded to see Madam Samantha, "Right now."

               "Madam is overseeing preparations for a large, private party scheduled for this evening."

               "Good. Where? I'll speak to her there," Olivia said.

               The Hostess was persistent, "She is occupied. May I take a message?"

               Olivia said, "No, but you may take me to her. Now." Then Olivia did that 'thing' she does - where she looks so much bigger and meaner.

               The woman caved. "Right this way, then," and she led us to a large round room that had to be about 100 feet across. There was a brass plate on the door that read, "Orgy Chamber." In the center of the room was a deep pool and there were pillows, cushions and low couches spread around the chamber.

               How quaint.

               Samantha was discussing details with some assistants, whom she dismissed when she saw us enter. The four really butch security guards stayed where they were.

               Olivia said to her, "Tell me about this auction you're conducting tomorrow."

               Samantha shrugged and said, "It is our privilege to bring in young people, uneducated in the erotic arts, and to educate them in traditional..."

               "Where do they come from?" Olivia interrupted.

               "From everywhere. Vegas draws people of all sorts, seeking to make a living in the new world."

               Olivia pulled out some of the photos we had found in Dead Newbie's collection and showed them to her. "Do any of these people look familiar?"

               Samantha looked thru them with complete disinterest. "No. Should they?" Once again, Olivia's truth ring was no help, so Olivia ordered Samantha to remove all Magic items she had on her person.

               Samantha objected to that, "I cannot answer questions that may compromise my business, my clients. They expect confidentiality."

               Rodrick said, "Do you know who you're talking to? She can revoke your license. Put you out on the street. And on a personal note I will be happy to run your skanky ass out of town. So go ahead. Piss one of us off. Please!"

               Olivia said, "Talk to me."

               There was a pause and Samantha seemed to come to a decision, "Talk goes better with wine, don't you think? And some food, perhaps some fruit." She summoned a servant and sent her for refreshments, and then she gestured to some cushions set around the pool, "Won't you all please sit?"

               As we did, I noticed a very fine powder rising from the carpet and cushions. I called the Power and set a barrier of wind around Leo, Rodrick, Olivia and I to keep what ever it was away from us. Samantha looked surprised and the wind stirred up enough of the powder that the rest could see it, too. "Just a little housekeeping," I said, "it seemed a little dusty in here. I hope you don't mind."

               Olivia said, "Madam Samantha - I find you guilty of trying to harm two Overlords and we will now impose your punishment."

               Rodrick raised his gun and squeezed off three shots. One at Samantha's head and one each at two of the four guards in the room. Each one connected. Samantha was knocked off balance and one of the guards was knocked off his feet. Samantha's face was contorted in rage and she stretched out her arms towards us and they seemed to stretch way further than they should have been able to. Her fingers became claws and she slashed at Rodrick.

               The scratches didn't look too bad, but Rodrick looked really hurt. I could feel Samantha gathering Power and suddenly twelve, maybe fifteen razor-edged chains appeared from nowhere - yet everywhere, coming at us form all directions. One flew at Rodrick and he ducked, but it caught him a glancing blow, anyway. Leo managed to snatch one from mid-air and swung it at Samantha. It hit her but didn't really injure her. He did, however, manage to disrupt her concentration and all the chains (including the one in Leo's hand) vanished.

               One of the four guards moved in to impale Leo with the halberd he carried but before he could do so, Rodrick grabbed it, wrestled it away from him and attacked the guard with his own weapon. Leo, in the meantime, had taken aim at Samantha and shot her, repeatedly. She was still moving. Before she could recover, I called some Power of my own and hit her with a flame strike. That really pissed her off.

               Olivia had a wand in her hand and shot some acid bolts at Samantha. Damn! She was still moving! The third guard finally reacted by trying to skewer me with a halberd, but I saw him coming and managed to duck it. The last guard charged Leo with his halberd leveled but Leo was too quick for him.

               While we were dodging sharp pointy things, Rodrick got three more shots on Samantha and she finally went down in a bloody heap. She was still breathing, I noted, but we still had some live enemies to take care of. Leo turned his attention to the guards, shooting and killing the one who'd lost his weapon to Rodrick. I pulled my Walther and managed three shots at guard number two (and I hit him twice!). Olivia finished him off with her Zapper wand. The third guard took a look around him and decided to run.

               Bad decision. Rodrick dropped him with a single shot to the head.

               That left one guard. He noticed that all attention was now on him and he dropped his halberd. But before we could do or say anything - he squeezed his eyes shut, yanked up one sleeve and grabbed something on his forearm. That was when he - erupted.

               When 'stuff' finally stopped falling we had a chance to check ourselves out. Rodrick and Leo had been closest and took quite a bit of shrapnel damage. Olivia and I lucked out and had only cuts and bruises. We all turned to Samantha and as I was trying to see if she was dead or not, Olivia started looting her body.

               Samantha gave one last gasp (really - she did - just like in a movie) and died. As she died, her illusion of 'normalcy' faded away, revealing a head with a cobra-like hood, just like the guy in Jim's office. Her body was mostly humanoid, but instead of having breasts, she had two snake heads, each about a foot long. If I may say so, EEWWWWW!!!!

               Over the ringing in our ears, we heard alarms going off in the House. I said, "Before any more guards show up, we'd better take care of ourselves." So I healed Leo, Rodrick, and then myself while Olivia took care of healing her own wounds.

               While we kept an eye open for more guards, Olivia went back to stripping Samantha's body. Her robe and a sword she'd been wearing both glowed with magic, as did two rings and three small rocks that had fallen to the floor. Olivia took them all. With her robe removed, Olivia saw a piece of genital jewelry that was also glowing.

v"Hey Rodrick," she said, "get that for me, will you?" And he did! Please don't ask me to explain…

               With all of the magic stuff removed from the body, Olivia started removing all of the non-magic jewelry that Samantha had been wearing and found a full key ring in the mouth of one of the snakes on her chest. Looking around the room I saw that one wall had quite the selection of 'party favors', but there was a group of them that was separated from the rest. One of them, a twenty foot bullwhip caught my eye. It had a strange purple light running up and down its length.

               I had just taken it off the wall when Rodrick said, "Did you hear that? That clicking sound?" It was coming from the only doors to the room - we were being locked in. Olivia took the bullwhip and shoved it and all the stuff she'd taken from Samantha's body into the Altoids tin. Rodrick put a fresh clip in his gun and fired at the hinges on the doors.

               Every last bullet ricocheted around the room. We all hit the floor and managed to stay un-perforated.

               Taking a closer look, there was a green light coming from the hinges - protecting them. A speaker in the ceiling clicked on but all we heard was hissing and spitting. I don't think it was a technical problem - I think someone was trying to 'talk' to Samantha. Rodrick put the gun down and tried his axe on the door - no luck. Olivia's Zapper wand was equally ineffective.

               I looked around the room again - only the one door and no windows. Then I looked up. Jackpot! About twenty feet above us was a small balcony, overlooking the room. "Up there?" I asked. Everyone agreed so I transformed us all into wind form and we moved up towards it. We had just gotten to the balcony when an ugly yellow gas began to enter the room below.

               "Mustard gas," Rodrick said.

               Thru the opening, past the bleacher seating to observe the orgy chamber and around to where I thought the people must be gathered outside the locked doors. There was a short flight of stairs leading down to a set of doors that were 'guarded' by a life-size statue of Samantha in her 'true' form.

               Olivia let herself solidify and opened the doors. She joined us again and we whooshed thru the doors to an area overlooking the 'greeting' area and saw that people were leaving the building. Quickly. Olivia changed, pulled out a wand and sent a stream of purple pain at them. There was screaming, panic and when it cleared there were fourteen dead on the ground.

               Rodrick suddenly said, "Oh, shit." and pointed to one man in particular. Something had fallen from his hand. "That's a remote detonator," Rodrick explained. Olivia returned to wind form again and we started to leave the building, but not before another person emerged from the building. He trip over a body and fell. Right smack dab on the detonator.

               As the charges started going off we could actually see the building come apart around us. We reached the front lawn just as the thing completely collapsed. We all took solid form and looked around us. People were still scattering in all directions and Olivia was quite disappointed that she hadn't killed them all and took a shot at a group of three people who were headed off in the same direction.

               Rodrick, Leo and I were kind of picking thru the rubble and Rodrick found the body of a male gnome wearing a French Maid's outfit (please don't ask) who'd been carrying some accounting books out of the building. They all had double locks and the pages looked like they were made of flash paper. Rodrick pried them out of the dead gnome's hands quite carefully.

               While Olivia continued to take potshots at another group that was fleeing, I found a woman's body. It had the same cobra-like head and was wearing a dominatrix outfit (again - please - don't ask) and in one hand she had a wand. It was decorated with paisley designs and daisies and had the word "Frodis" etched into it, surrounded by marijuana leaves. Olivia said that "frodis" was a word from the old Monkees show. They used it to describe anything that had 'special' powers and it could be used only for good. Then she went back to looking for a TV camera crew.

               No luck yet but the police and Lucifer's people were showing up by then. Before they got out of their vehicles, I aimed the wand at a tree, just to see what would happen. Nothing did, so I stashed it inside my suit jacket to figure out later.

               The officials were demanding answers. Olivia told them, "They tried to harm a couple of Overlords and were doing other bad stuff. We took care of it." Lucifer himself arrived at that point. Olivia gave him the same explanation and I said, "They blew up their own building, though. We had nothing to do with that."

               "But I did all the dead ones outside," Olivia said.

               Lucifer looked at the rubble, "Should we send people in to look for survivors?"

               Olivia shrugged. "If you want."

               "But have them be careful," I said. "Between the explosives, the mustard gas and whatever else they tried to poison us with, it might be dangerous."

               "Let's go home and clean up," Leo said. That's my sweetie; he has such good ideas. We headed home. Once we were in the car he said, "You know, we should recruit some young punks to do this stuff. After all, what good is it having power and money if you don't use it?"

               "Are you going soft on us, Leo?" Rodrick asked.

               Leo gestured my way, "Umm, hello? My wife!"

               "Yeah, so? I have a girlfriend," Rodrick countered.

               Then Leo said, "There's simply not, a more congenial spot, for happily ever aftering….?"

               I stared at him for a moment and said to no one in particular, "You know, an ex-SEAL quoting Broadway show tunes makes me a little nervous."

               Rodrick laughed, "Did we leave him at that gay bar too long?"

               Leo was insistent. "I want happily ever after! I want marital bliss!"

               Olivia said, "Talk to your wife - that sounds like a personal problem."

               I said, "We have marital bliss. In between trips to kill people."

               Rodrick said, "Don't forget getting blown up! That was cool."

               Leo just fumed.

               Hee-hee!

               We stopped back at the Aladdin for more healing, then Olivia identified all the magic items we'd gathered and Rodrick sent some of his people to get him some more ammo. The Frodis-wand turned out to be pretty damned nasty. It would leave the 'victim' feeling very, very happy for a couple of hours, but when it wears off they see everything as really, really bad. The whip I found was magically enhanced to inflict extra pain. I told Olivia I wanted nothing to do with either of them so they were added to the stuff she keeps for selling or trading.

               Then, what to do about the 4th guy? He's still out there, somewhere.

               "Let Lucifer clean up the loose ends," Olivia suggested. "I agreed to look into areas of magic for Binion, not play bounty hunter." Works for me!

               So let it be written, so let it be done.

05/19/2007:

               Leo and I took yesterday off and just enjoyed the day. Alone. Together. Karyn called in the afternoon and we made plans to meet for breakfast. I figured it wasn't going to be a social occasion, and I was right.

               Rodrick suggested that we go back to the house and check out the sewers near it for a trace of that 4th guy. Olivia countered that, saying that she wanted to go back to the house to find something that belonged to the 4th guy and then use it to scry his location. I didn't want to go back there at all - it was a horrible place. Of course, we went back.

               So at the house, I don't know how she did it, but Olivia found something that belonged to Number Four and sat down with her crystal ball to find him. Once she located him, the ball showed him working as a caravan guard, escorting a semi somewhere out in some desert.

               "Should we tell Lucifer and let him handle it?" Olivia asked.

               Rodrick shook his head. "Let's pay him a visit. Teleport the four of us onto the road, well in front of the caravan, and hope they stop. If they do, we'll just explain what we want: him and him alone."

               Olivia asked, "How do we get them to stop?"

               "Wave a white flag at them," Rodrick said.

               Well, Olivia wanted nothing to do with that! "I'll let you do that," she told him.

               "White flag means you want to parley, negotiate… " Rodrick explained. Olivia still wanted nothing to do with it, so Rodrick got us a white flag and Olivia teleported us to the middle of nowhere. We could see the caravan headed our way in the usual formation; motorcycles out front and in the rear. Some pickups with large weapons mounted in the beds right in front of and right behind the semi. Rodrick waved the flag and one of the scouts' bikes slowed to a stop in front of us while its companion did slow wide circles around us.

               "What do you want?" the scout rider asked. "We don't pick up stragglers."

               Rodrick said, "You have an individual in your outfit who is wanted by officials in Las Vegas."

               "And why is that your interest?"

               "They are the Las Vegas officials," I said.

               "I'm an Overlord," Rodrick confirmed. "Lord Paris, in fact."

               Olivia said, "Turn him over to us and no one will get hurt."

               "It could happen." I thought to myself. "Really it could!"

               The rider said (pretty sarcastically), "Oh, of course!" Even so, he did radio back to the caravan. "We've got ourselves an Overlord here who wants us to stop. It seems we've got a wanted man with us."

               "No, there are two Overlords," Olivia corrected him.

               "The two craziest ones," Rodrick added.

               "No, Lord Bellagio can beat us," Olivia opined.

               "Yeah - but he doesn't get out enough anymore," Rodrick said.

               "Focus," Leo reminded us.

               The rest of the caravan slowly approached and stopped. The leader stepped down out of the semi's cab and tapped the butt of his gun. "You're a little far from Vegas, aren't you?"

               Olivia said, "It took us awhile to track him down."

               "We'll compensate you for your loss," Rodrick assured him.

               "What?" Olivia turned to look at him in surprise. "We will?"

               "So who do you want?" the leader asked Rodrick. He and Olivia pointed to the guy, who was in the back of one of the pick-ups, manning some sort of large gun. He swung it around and aimed it at us.

               "I'm not going anywhere with you people," he said. The leader never even turned around, he just snapped his fingers and instantly, every weapon in the caravan was turned on the man.

               "How much is he worth to you?" the leader asked.

               Rodrick thought for a moment, "10,000 Vegas."

               "You're kidding?" Olivia asked.

               The leader snapped his fingers again and the man was wrestled down out of the truck, bound hand and foot and dropped to the pavement in front of us. "Deal," was all that the leader said.

               Rodrick paid him and the leader actually smiled, "Nice doing business with you. Want a drink?"

               "No thank you," Rodrick said. "But next time you're in Vegas, stop by the Paris and I'll buy you a drink." They shook hands, then everyone got back into their vehicles and off they went.

               Olivia gave Number Four a poke in the ribs. "Lord Venetian wants words with you."

               "I have nothing to say to him or to you."

               Rodrick assured him, "That's your prerogative," and Olivia shifted us back to the Venetian. We were making our way thru the lobby when I noticed that he was acting oddly. Then I figured out what he was up to and asked, "Rodrick, do you have something to put in this gentlemen's mouth?"

               "What?"

               "I believe he's trying to bite his tongue off."

               Leo tripped him to the floor and Rodrick knelt on his chest, pried his mouth open and shoved a particularly groddy bandana in it. When Rodrick got up off of him I noticed that in the tussle Number Four's shirt had been ripped open and there was a tattoo of a cobra on his chest. It was moving! From the tattoo a 'real' cobra rose up, hissing and spitting.

               "Rodrick!" I yelled and pointed. Am I clever, or what?

               Rodrick pulled his axe from his back and sliced the snake into three or four pieces that fell back onto Number Four's chest where they turned back into puddles of ink that faded back into his skin. I pulled power and used it to dispel any Evil coming from the man. I'm pretty sure I felt something … 'turn off' - I really don't know how else to explain it. Then Olivia pointed at Number Four and right before our eyes, he disintegrated - along with everything on him.

               "Oh," Olivia said after a moment, "Now he can't answer anything."

               Lucifer showed up, rubbing his hands together with anticipation, "So? Where's my prisoner?"

               Olivia gave him a huge smile. "I've got good news! He didn't stain your carpet."

               "Oh, my heart goes 'pitter-pat'," Lucifer sarcasmed at her.

               "And she's got bad news," Rodrick said, "There's nothing left of him. At all."

               Lucifer sighed and rolled his eyes like a flaming drama queen. "What did he do?"

               "He resisted arrest," Rodrick said.

               "I was only going to hurt him a little," Olivia said. "But he disintegrated."

               "Disintegrated?" Lucifer repeated, "Didn't that seem a bit - extreme?"

               "Not if he was like Muerte," Olivia insisted.

               "But I like interrogations," Lucifer pouted, "They're helpful, you know."

               "He attacked two Overlords, what did you expect?" Rodrick demanded.

               "I expected you to torture him into telling the truth and find out who else was involved. Now we'll never know," Lucifer said. Then he changed subjects, sort of. "We're still finding bodies at House Scarlet. It was a popular place, but we've got no incriminating evidence. If you find that anyone else was involved, I would at least like the chance to make introductions." He stomped off in a huff.

               With "that" taken care of, we adjourned to the pool at the Aladdin to talk about Olivia's project for Binion. Rodrick was cleaning his axe as one of Olivia's girls, Crystal, brought the drinks out. She handed me mine and I Felt something in her. Something not right. Something really wrong. Evil.

               No not Evil - Unholy!

               Leo, Rodrick and Olivia already had their drinks so I did the first thing that came into my mind to stop them from drinking - I held my glass up and yelled, "A toast!" They all looked at me like I was nuts, but they didn't drink!

               Rodrick said, "Umm, okay."

               "Jazz?" Leo asked.

               "To what?" Olivia asked.

               I shrugged. "I just wanted you all to stop." I tuned to the girl and Commanded, "Freeze!" But boy! Did she not freeze! She backed up a foot or two and I used Corellon's power to create a ring of His Aura around Leo, Rodrick, Olivia and myself. When it was complete there was a faint glow around us and where an edge of it touched the girl she seemed to fade into a shadow that wasn't really there.

               Olivia asked, "Jazz, is something wrong? Why are you attacking my girl?"

               "Can't you feel it?" I asked. "She's just - wrong."

               Olivia looked at the girl and threw some magic her way to disrupt any magic that might have been affecting her. That turned the girl's attention away from me and towards Olivia. "Help me?" she pleaded, "I didn't do anything, pl…".

               Rodrick was drawing a weapon but Leo beat him to it and started firing. Hit her square, too, right in the chest.

               And the bullets bounced right off!

               The girl turned away from Olivia and back to me, snarled, and then leapt - claws first. (And they were CLAWS!) Somehow I dodged or she missed, but as she leapt, the skin along her back split open and two big, black bat-like wings unfolded and whacked Leo backwards off his feet.

               I could hear Rodrick firing but all I could see before the thing French-kissed me was that she was wearing a human skin, sort of like a cape and her head with the hair falling out and maggots and beetles in the otherwise empty eye sockets. Over my screams I could hear Rodrick's bullets bouncing off of the thing. One of them ricocheted off and hit Olivia.

               And thru it all - she never let go. We were on the ground, rolling around (not exactly Leo's fantasy of me and another woman!) and I pulled as much Power as I could and set a wave of destruction at her. She screamed in pain as it threw her back (and off of me, thank Corellon!). She was writhing on the ground and the skin she was wearing had fallen off when Olivia sent the disintegration magic at her. She seemed to deflect most of it - but couldn't hold against it all. She screamed even louder as she disintegrated in slow motion.

               In the resulting silence Olivia yelled, "Karyn!!!"

               Leo propped himself up and asked, "What the Hell was that?"

               I said, "Undead."

               "Succubus," Olivia added.

               "Skinwalker," Rodrick finished.

               Finally another one of Olivia's girls appeared. She looked frazzled, disheveled as she took in the scene. She either ignored the guns that Rodrick and Leo had trained on her or they didn't register. She turned and used a House Phone to call security. Aladdin security people started to arrive almost immediately, but it was a few minutes before Karyn finally showed up on the scene.

               She was a mess! Her feet and hands were scraped and bloodied, "I apologize for taking so long - I had to kick my way out of a maintenance closet."

               "We were attacked by a Succubus!" Olivia proclaimed.

               "Wait a minute!" I said. "Why were you in a closet?"

               "I don't know," Karyn admitted. "I woke up there, bound with plastic zip strips. And there was someone else in there with me. Someone with no skin."

               Olivia said, "Was it Crystal? Was she dead? This 'thing' had her skin."

               Karyn said, "I couldn't tell - she was pretty 'juicy'."

               Olivia told her what happened and demanded the Karyn have all of the Aladdin employees tested with faerie fire and anyone with access to her quarters be brought to her so she could test them with True Sight. I really wanted to go back to my room, but Olivia wouldn't allow it. Leo finally told her that he'd take me, so she consented.

               Once we were safely 'home' I jumped into the shower. I scrubbed and scrubbed and then I gargled with Listerine. Then I did it all again, just because. When I finally felt clean, I collapsed on the bed in my robe. Leo, the sweetie, just held me.

               A few hours later Karyn knocked at the door. Leo checked her out real good before letting her in. She reported that her security people checked out the harem's quarters and found that the phone lines had all been cut, as had the phones in Olivia's suite. The door had been 'locked' with more plastic strips. The last time the 'real' Crystal had been seen was at breakfast this morning. Security also discovered that an open bottle of water in Karyn's room had been drugged. Then they checked the drinks that we'd been given and each one had a very deadly poison in it.

               Leo asked how the Succubus had gotten into Karyn's room to begin with.

               "We don't know - the lock wasn't disturbed - neither was the lock on the closet that she put Crystal and I in." Karyn looked down at her notepad for a moment, then looked back up at us. "Lord Paris has returned to his hotel to check his employees. He called Lord Excalibur to warn him as well. Both have reported back that everything and everyone has passed inspection."

               Leo still didn't look convinced. "What about Olivia's people?" Karyn nodded in understanding.

               "Everyone here has also passed inspection. Sort of."

               "Sort of?" I asked.

               Karyn actually smiled (a little), "One of the girls in the harem was not what she seemed."

               "And…?" Leo and I prompted her.

               "Donna used to be a man. Apparently he pissed off the wrong Gypsy and was on the receiving end of a nasty little curse. But other than that - he/she was fine," Karyn said. "I also need to inform you that Olivia ordered me to have my people check out the Temple and everyone in it."

               "And?"

               "I caught two of your acolytes humping like bunnies."

               "Were they who they were supposed to be?" I asked.

               "They were - but one of them supposedly took a vow of celibacy. I thought you might want to know."

               "Okay. Thank you Karyn, for everything. Who was is it? I'll talk to them tomorrow. It sounds like someone needs to re-think their vocation."

               "You're welcome," she said. "I asked one of your Priests to do the honors and you'll be glad to know that the remains at the pool responded well to the holy water that he used on them. Anyway - the pool has been cleaned, all the phones have been restored and everything is back to normal."

               "Normal?" I asked her.

               "Well, as normal as things ever are," she said and left.

               Much later that night, when I thought everyone would be asleep, Leo snuck down to the Cathedral with me. I wanted to thank Corellon for His assistance and to ask who had sent that thing. Corellon must have been feeling sorry for me; He answered me plainly. No riddles, no ambiguity. "No one sent her. She came on her own accord. She was a silent partner in House Scarlet and you and your friends pissed her off."

               "But how did she get like that?" I asked.

               "She was a succubus who'd been killed and animated quite some time ago."

               I asked, "Who would want to do that?"

               "You really, really don't want to know that," was all He'd say. Since I wasn't going to get anymore information, Leo brought me back to bed.

Continued...