James’s Note: Just when the end seems in sight, we find out things are more complicated than they seem. It looks like the details are messier than expected, and a Witcher Man doesn’t like messy details. Also, we learn about a most peculiar box. Don’t worry, I’m sure that won’t come up later.
After stepping out of the shower, which was itself a bracing experience as the hot water be against my myriad lacerations, I rubbed some healing salve on my superficial wounds, and bound my ribs with a bandage inscribed with runes to encourage healing. They weren’t broken, thank God.
I grabbed the wooden flute I had been using and went into my study to return it to its place behind my desk. I passed the empty cage where until recently I had kept my tarantula. Not long ago, I had released him into my garden. Thankfully, the annual garden was not part of the destruction wreaked by our vampiric visitors. I still checked in with my spider weekly, making sure that he had everything he needed to remain a holy terror on all invasive species. So far, he had wiped out several non-native species of beetle and was doing battle with squash bugs. He was a very diligent little hunter, and I admired his zeal.
I opened the curio cabinet that sits behind my desk and replaced the flute. As I did, my eyes couldn’t help but be drawn to a heavy wooden box that sat on the top shelf. I tried not to think about that box anymore than I had to. It had been in my family for three generations, ever since my grandfather got his hands on it. Every Witcher man since him, meaning my father and I, had been tasked with protecting that box. I didn’t know what was in it, but I knew it was as powerful as it was dangerous.
My dad once told me that if that box was ever opened, it would make the Apocalypse look like a Sunday picnic. Grandad, who unlike my father, may have actually known what was in the box, told me that the only way that box should ever be opened was if the world was totally screwed anyway and it couldn’t possibly get any worse. Even then, it would probably get worse, but at a certain point you just have to say screw it and do something. I’ve often wondered what would be bad enough to make me open it. Probably when things were bad enough that opening it didn’t sound completely insane anymore.
I really hate that box.
Replacing the flute and relocking the cabinet careful not to touch the box on the top shelf, I made my way to my bedroom. I really hated having to sleep during the day, but sometimes there’s just no help for it. If I didn’t get some sleep today, I’d be screwed since there was no way I was going to get any sleep that night. I finally crawled into bed, and had to use every meditative technique I could think of before I finally drifted off to sleep.
When I woke up that night, I brewed the strongest coffee I could manage. Considering I had access to world-class coffee beans and a nifty French press, that was some pretty strong coffee. Every once in a while, I considered throwing in a few coca leaves. But, even though they’re nowhere near as dangerous as the refined product made for them, the last thing I need to add to my list of troubles is an opiate addiction. So I stuck to the caffeine.
Israel was still asleep in the guest room when I got a text from Anton saying he was on his way to meet me. A little while later, I was pouring Anton and myself coffee in my kitchen. Coffee is one of the few things in the culinary world vampires can still consume, and Anton was grateful for it, since it seemed his night was not off to the best start. He had brought a black briefcase with him, which he slid across the table to me.
“I know you prefer cash, so I arranged your payment accordingly. Master Morgan wants to thank you for your efforts and we’ll be in touch if we ever need your services again.”
I managed to squint at Anton while simultaneously raising my eyebrow. I’m talented like that. “Don’t get me wrong, Anton, I like briefcases full of money as much as the next guy. It just seems like you’re missing a key feature of the situation. Mainly the fact that I haven’t actually done the job you hired me to do yet. I still don’t know who killed Conchobar. Hell, I haven’t even ruled anyone out.”