Chapter 1: The Enchanted Door
The door to the bookshop only opens to certain people, and under certain circumstances.
Warning for an allusion to domestic violence or abuse of some sort. It isn't discussed or shown on the page
Characters likely will not be long term, unless like, a lot of people like them like what happened with Amy in my other fic lol. I'm figuring 9 times out of 10 they'll show up for one chapter only, to show a specific aspect or side of the story
Frankie has never been to the bookshop.
She'd asked about it, once, and her mom had just said they didn't sell any books there. Frankie had been seven, and so she wanted to ask a million questions, but they'd had to do things right then and her mom had shushed her.
Now, though, she was twelve. And Mr. Fell's bookshop was a cool place for kids to hang out and say they're doing homework and then get absolutely no homework done, and all her friends wanna go there.
"Are they open?" Brayden asked, trying to peer over Kiersten's shoulder.
"Don't you guys come here all the time?" Frankie asked. "Look, the lights are on, there's people in there, let's just go in."
She walked around her friends and pushed on the door. It refused to budge. She frowned. She tried again.
"It won't open unless you read the sign," Reuben said. "It's been math problems for like, a month and a half now. Changes every day."
"Look," Neveah said. "You solve the problem, you learn the opening hours. But the door doesn't unlock until you solve it. That's just how it works."
"It's super stupid," Brayden muttered.
Frankie pushed her way through to see the sign, and sure enough, it had math problems in place of actual opening hours, and listed the store as closed on Mondays through Wednesdays. Around it were other, equally strange signs. 'We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.' 'NO PARANORMAL INVESTIGATORS-- STRICT ENFORCEMENT.' Old book quotes that looked like they had been printed out off a typewriter and taped there. An eclectic mix of newspaper clippings that went back centuries. Random old photos. An info sheet about proper duck diets. Several different pride flag stickers, in addition to the big one flying up above the door.
She kept coming back to the math problems. They looked hard. Or at the very least, time-consuming.
"That's so stupid," she repeated.
Reuben huffed and got out his phone and started typing. "Yeah, especially 'cuz it's at my grade level. They don't teach this stuff in year seven; you guys are lucky that I'm here."
"What?" Kiersten said. "Yeah, they do. We literally did problems exactly like this today."
"Oh yeah?" he asked. "So you'd be able to simply that expression? All on your own?"
"It's literally an equation, dumbass," Brayden said.
"It doesn't have an equal sign."
"Yes it does."
"No it doesn't."
"What the frick are you guys talking about? It's a long division problem," Frankie said.
"Guys..." Kiersten said, eyes wide. "What if we're all seeing different problems? And it's changing for each of us, but like, in our minds?"
Neveah huffed a word that Frankie didn't quite get.
"This is dumb," Reuben said, and he pulled up his phone's camera and took a photo of the sign. Kiersten did the same, and the kids all crowded around to examine the two phones.
They were silent for a long time.
Then came the outraged yelling.
"We've been standing outside for literally three hours and every problem just says 'math'?!"
All in all, it took the children another four minutes of anger before they could calm down enough to focus. Then Neveah solved the problem, and she was able to open the door.
Mr. Fell barely looked up from his book as five grumbling middle schoolers stalked in from the cold, slamming down backpacks and textbooks.
If a couple of them shot glares his way, he didn't notice.
And, well. Mr. Fell had hot cocoa and cookies laid out, and stupid math riddle entry or no, it was still better than going to the local library, or-- Heaven forbid-- one of their houses.
Despite the inherent horribleness of having to do math that wasn't even for school or homework, Frankie and her friends became regulars at the bookshop, for a few hours in the afternoon, on school days when it was open (those changed sometimes). It was nice. It was pleasant.
Mr. Fell was also nice.
Sometimes an old man dressed like a goth would show up and hang out with him. Mr. Fell said that was Mr. Crowley, 'an old business associate,' whatever that meant.
Frankie had told her family all about the weird bookstore with its terrible math door. Her mom had pursed her lips and said she shouldn't get mixed up with things she didn't understand, that the fae were dangerous. But her nan had just laughed and said she didn't know where her mother had gotten that.
"Don't you listen to her," she'd said. "Mr. Fell is good people. There are good fae and there are bad fae, Frankie, just like people. You be kind to him, and he'll be kind to you."
"Mum, if she gets abducted into the faerie realm, I'm holding you personally responsible," Frankie's mum had said.
"Oh, nonsense," her nan had waved that off. "It's perfectly safe. That man has been protecting this community for longer than you or I have been alive, Julia, I won't have you slandering his good name."
Her mother had frowned. "Don't eat the food there," she said. "Or drink anything, or-- so help me God-- take something. You might not be able to leave again."
So now Frankie brought her own snacks. Mr. Fell didn't seem to mind, as long as she didn't try to touch the books, which were off limits. But her other friends drank the cocoa and ate whatever pastry was there that day, and they seemed fine.
None of them had ever made the mistake of touching a book, though, and Frankie had a sneaking suspicion that that was a much more important rule than not eating the food.
Right now, the kids were doing homework, mostly of the social studies variety, and Mr. Fell was reading at his desk, while Mr. Crowley sat in an obnoxious sprawl in the comfiest armchair, frowning at an old smartphone.
"Hey, Mr. Fell, do you know what caused the Great Depression?" Brayden asked.
Last week, they had discovered that mentioning which book they were reading in class caused Mr. Fell to light up. Almost literally, Kiersten swore. Since then, the children had all decided he was a very good source for homework help, so long as you were willing to listen to a rant about his personal opinions on any given piece of literature.
"Hmm. It was credit cards, wasn't it?" Mr. Fell said, turning to Mr. Crowley.
"Nah, I think Mammon just got pi--"
The door to the bookshop slammed open and knocked into the wall, the bells over it jangling harshly. A woman ran through almost too fast for Frankie to see her, dodging past the stacks until she was out of sight.
Mr. Fell and Mr. Crowley were on their feet in an instant.
The woman was crying, sobbing-- the kids could hear her, clearly, pleading for something and saying sorry over and over while Mr. Fell talked softly.
Frankie felt frozen in her seat. She looked around, and her friends seemed to be in the same position, eyes wide and bodies motionless.
A man appeared outside the door and tried to shove it open. It stayed shut, and Frankie could hear him swear even through the glass, snarling and shouting threats and slamming his hand against it, over and over. He was cursing up a storm, words she had never even heard before.
Mr. Crowley stalked over to the door, looking fluid and sinister. Frankie had never even thought to be afraid of him before, but now, she thought, that man probably should be.
Frankie blinked her eyes open, raising her head off her textbook. The page stayed stuck to her cheek until she twitched it off.
She frowned. She was at home, in the kitchen. Her homework was open in front of her, pencil just off to the side, the next problem waiting to be filled in. Everything was exactly how it had been two minutes ago, except the location. But... she hadn't dreamed that. She hadn't imagined being in Mr. Fell's shop.
She pulled out her phone and started texting.
Chapter 2: The Barbershop
Content warning for one instance of misgendering of a closeted trans character. Also someone is kind of a dick to Aziraphale for a hot second in a way that could be interpreted as transphobic
I'm an American who has an American keyboard and too much laziness to seek out currency exchange rates and go through the whole process of inserting special characters, so a haircut costs $15, just go with it
If I get something else wrong, correct me on it though, but not the money thing, I don't care.
The Patitucci family had been owning and operating a barbershop down in Soho for seven generations. And for as long as the shop had been open, Mr. Fell had been a regular customer.
It was an old family legend, the stories passed down from generation to generation, along with the shop. You learned how to cut hair, how to talk to the customers, how to manage the books. The barbershop was an essential part of family history, and Alyssa had been told-- time and time again-- that it would have failed if it hadn't been for Mr. Fell.
Her father had always been one to talk about his work, and Alyssa had been hanging out around the barbershop since she was old enough to run around and cause trouble. But these past few years, her father had started training her to take it over one day, and now he would give her specific advice on how to handle the regulars-- away from prying ears, of course.
Most of it she already knew, and most of the regulars already knew her. A barbershop tended to attract broke or old-fashioned men (or very occasionally women), and almost all of them had seen her growing up in the periphery over the years. They'd talk about the economy and their families and occasionally politics or sports, and all of them made a huge fuss when they heard Alyssa would be taking over. A good number of them volunteered to let her practice on cutting their hair, but the price for that was the constant good-natured ribbing about her ruining it completely.
Alyssa always just grinned and told them it wasn't possible for her to make them look uglier, or she'd joke about how no one would even notice if she shaved it all off, given how little hair a given customer had left. Sometimes she'd throw in a joking threat about bad dye jobs or scissors near their neck for good measure.
In general, everyone was very supportive.
"Oh, Mr. Fell!" her father cried, and heads turned to see the shop's oldest customer walk in. "I haven't seen you in ages! Where've you been?"
"Oh, I've just got a bit of business to attend to in the countryside, that's all," he said. "Haven't had the chance to get into town much at all lately."
"Yeah, I saw your shop's been closed," Ernie said. Ernie was another long-time customer, though a mortal one, and he was having his hair cut by Alyssa's dad right now.
"Hey, I'm busy right now, dealing with Ernie, the insufferable bastard, but my son, Tom, you remember Tom? I've been training him to take over, and he can be the one to cut your hair for you today, is that alright?" Alyssa's dad nodded his head towards her.
"Oh, perfectly," Mr. Fell nodded, and he turned to give Alyssa a smile. She give him a polite grin and got out a barber's cape in preparation.
"Just a little length of it like usual?" she asked, snapping the cape closed around his neck.
"Oh!" Mr. Fell's hair visibly grew about a centimeter before her eyes. "Yes, yes, just like usual. A trim."
Alyssa had to pause to soak in that.
Mr. Fell was a bit of an odd one. He was obviously immortal, everyone knew that, but Alyssa didn't think anyone in her family had ever quite seen something like that before. It was one thing to know, intellectually, that the man did not age. And sure, he didn't seem to have a concept of some basic things. For instance, he doesn't seem to realize that the Patituccis know he's immortal. It's as if he thinks that information just disappears with every generation, as if they don't talk to each other or something. He sometimes blatantly lies about not being centuries old, as if he is fooling anyone.
And he comes in for haircuts sporadically, sure, usually about twice a month, and he always gets the exact same trim. But, well, Alyssa had kind of just assumed his hair grew fast. Some peoples' does! Not that fast, generally, but expected standards do not apply to Mr. Fell. But then, now that she thinks about it, if he doesn't age, then why would his hair grow? It seems obvious in hindsight. But then--
"Dear?" Mr. Fell asked.
"Oh, right. Sorry," she said. She picked up her scissors. "So, you've got business in the countryside?"
"Ah. Yes," he said. "Nothing important. Not really 'business,' either, just... Well. Again, it's nothing important. How's your school going?"
"Fine," she said. "Set to graduate in three months. I already got all my cosmetology certifications-- one of those trade school programs."
"Certifications? To cut hair?"
"It's more complicated than people think," she said, which was a terribly familiar line by this point. "Mostly to do with chemicals for treatment solutions and dyes and stuff, though. Lotta chemistry."
"Hardly need that in a barbershop," Ernie called out. "Who here is getting their hair dyed?"
"The single half of the old geezers," Alyssa said flatly. Her father and Old Lenny laughed.
To be clear, Old Lenny was not getting his hair cut, and he did not work there. He was just reading the newspaper.
Her father shook his head, smiling. "And you get these young kids in here nowadays, they all want bright colors. They want stuff shaved into their head. Lines and things. The other day, a college boy came in here and asked for a green mohawk. A green mohawk!" he said. "I sold a lot of hair gel to that one. Taught him how to use it, too."
"Oh, I know just what you mean," Mr. Fell said. "Crowley is exactly the same way. Always changing her hair, doing the latest modern thing. Very fashionable." He shook his head fondly. "I wouldn't be surprised at all if she got some spiky mohawk here soon."
"She? I thought your Crowley was a man," Alyssa's dad said.
"Oh," Mr. Fell tried to wave a hand nonchalantly, then realized the cape was in the way. Alyssa backed off as he moved and fussed about, rearranging the cape so that his forearms were out of it and resting on the arms of the chair. He does that every time, and every time, his jacket gets covered in hair. Alyssa has been annoyed by it since she was nine and first noticed.
Mr. Fell also moves around a lot, and, generally, makes his barber's job harder.
"That's variable," he said.
"What?" Ernie said, in absolute confusion.
"Crowley, gender, all that. She changes it sometimes. Never stays in the same one for very long. She's been a woman for-- oh, dear, well over a decade now."
"So..." Ernie trailed off. "I don't get it. She, like, transitioned, and then transitioned back? A lot?"
"No, no, you misunderstand. Crowley is genderfluid. She switches her gender presentation frequently, and only stays in one 'mode,' as it were, for short periods of time."
"How the fuck is a decade short?"
At this point, Mr. Fell visibly realized he had made a mistake. Oh no. He let it slip. He called a decade 'short,' everyone will figure it out now.
"It, uh, it just is." He nodded, as if pleased with himself. Like that was some excellent save or something. "Human lives can span many decades."
"Fuckin' freak," Ernie muttered, and Mr. Fell's expression curdled.
"You're done," Alyssa's dad said, voice far more curt than usual. "That'll be $15 at the till."
He led Ernie away to the cash register, walking briskly and forcing the other man to hurry to catch up.
Alyssa worked in silence. Mr. Fell was actually sitting still for once. Good to take advantage of it while it lasted.
"I'm so sorry about that," Alyssa's dad said as he returned. "Ernie is a simple man, bit of a temper. He gets frustrated when he doesn't understand things. He's a funny guy, and a hard worker, it's just-- if he had his way, the whole world would be as simple as he is."
"Ah, not to worry," Mr. Fell said. "And it's hardly your job to apologize for every rude person in London, Marcus. I assure you, I've faced far worse."
A pang of something hit Alyssa in the chest. Fear, maybe? Dread?
She hadn't been expecting this when she woke up today.
"People are gonna hate," Old Lenny said from his corner. "But Soho wouldn't be Soho if we didn't look that hate in the eye and say it wasn't worth a lick o' anything."
"Right you are, my good man," Mr. Fell said. "And you and I would know better than most, Leonard, about the power of standing firm and staying."
Old Lenny nodded slowly. He looked straight at Alyssa and pointed at Mr. Fell. "You be nice to this one," he said. "He helped me out when I was a teenager."
Her throat felt tight. "Oh wow," she said. "Centuries ago, was it?"
They both chuckled. "About right, about right," Old Lenny said. He straightened his newspaper, pages crinkling under gnarled joints, and went back to reading.
"Mr. Fell," Alyssa asked. "How long have you known Crowley?"
"Oh, six... Hmm." He smiled. "Forever. I've known her forever."
That was a part of the stories, passed down from generation to generation, as both customer handling tips and legends of an entity who is both unimaginably old and unimaginably kind. Whatever Mr. Fell was, Ms. Crowley was too.
It was nice, to know that Mr. Fell wasn't alone.
"Was it ever hard?" Alyssa asked. "With all of her gender changes?"
Mr. Fell decidedly to turn around in his chair suddenly, narrowly avoiding scissors to his ear. "My dear," he said gently, and Alyssa's stomach dropped as she realized he knew. "It is never hard if you truly love someone enough. I want Crowley to be as happy and comfortable as possible. The idea of not treating her with the most basic respect-- it's unthinkable to me. And," he said. "while I realize it's different for hu-- I mean. For people who are-- unfamiliar, there can be some initial difficulties. Slip-ups happen. Heaven knows I used Crowley's incorrect name at least a handful of times over the years. But I apologized, and I corrected myself, and I tried not to do it again."
"Hm," Marcus said. "I have never heard of someone who is 'gender fluid.' Today, I learned something new." He shook his head. "From Mr. Fell of all people. You're going to make me feel old."
"Oh--" he laughed. "I assure you, it's nothing new. Crowley has been genderfluid for ages, and will be for ages more, I should hope."
"With the way you keep going, old man?" Old Lenny said. "She'll be mixing it up straight into the space age."
"Ah ha, you and me both," Mr. Fell said, as if anyone here had been under the slightest impression that Old Lenny was joking. "While we're on the topic, though, I'm not quite a man either."
"Really?" Alyssa asked.
"Yes. Yes, I'm agender, actually. Never got caught up in all the fuss and bother like Crowley did, I'm afraid."
"Agender?" Marcus asked.
"Opted out of gender entirely. Decided not to have one. Not a man nor a woman, properly."
"Oh? What do I call you then?" Marcus asked, frowning. He looked worried, unless Alyssa was reading way too much into that. Was he worried? Was he just confused?
She was absolutely zeroed in, and frankly, it was a good thing Mr. Fell was moving too much to even contemplate cutting his hair right then.
"Oh, Mr. Fell is still fine, or Ezra, if you like. You've certainly known me long enough. My pronouns are he or they-- whichever, really."
"Mr. Fell," Marcus blustered, frowning deeper. "You have been an old ma-- You have been old since I was in diapers. I cannot call you by your first name, it's impossible," he said.
"You call Leonard by his first name." Mr. Fell blinked.
"Lenny is a disaster and a punk, has been always--"
Old Lenny nodded sagely.
"--you are esteemed. Dignified. I will use your last name and an honorific, you want that honorific to be 'Mr.'" He gave some sort of shrug/nod combo. "Great. We have an understanding now. I'm glad."
"Oh, wonderful," Mr. Fell smiled, in that way that made Alyssa think there should be some sort of charming harmony to accompany it, and she went back to cutting their hair.
She felt lighter.
"You say your bookshop's been closed lately?" she asked. "When'll it be open again? Maybe I wanna show up and bug you. Yell at you for using too much shampoo or something."
"Shampoo--?" they asked, as if they had never heard that word before, and Alyssa clamped down firmly on her gut reaction.
It was fine. It was fine. Mr. Fell's hair didn't even grow naturally. If they didn't think it needed washed, then it probably didn't. It was clean right now, wasn't it?
Yes. It was clean right now. This is fine.
"Probably not for a while," they said. "At least another month. If... Well. I certainly hope to have it open regularly again within a month from now. Crowley and I should be finished up with our business by then."
"Oh? So it's you and Crowley's business now?" Marcus teased. Mr. Fell immediately blushed-- like a kid-- and Alyssa burst out laughing.
"You said you loved her a while back," Old Lenny said, complete with a shit-eating grin. "Don't think you even noticed."
"What! I most certainly did not!"
"Oh my God, you did!" Alyssa said. "Yeah, I asked you if it was hard, and you were like, 'not if you love them truly,' casual as can be. You love her."
"When are you gonna make a move, man?" Old Lenny asked. "It's been way too long, and that's just from what I've seen. Mountains have moved slower. Empires have fallen, probably. What are you waiting for, at this point? The end of the world? You gonna ask her out after?"
Mr. Fell actually paused, and Alyssa raised an eyebrow.
"You know," they said. "You might just have a point."
"You're going to ask out Crowley? After all this time?" Marcus asked.
"...Yes. Yes, I'm going to-- to do that soon."
"You stay right there," Marcus said. "I have just the thing. A new cologne. She is going to love it, I guarantee."
He went off into the rooms at the back to fetch it.
Alyssa kept cutting Mr. Fell's hair, and she felt warm and a lot better than she had, even just a few minutes ago. As much as her dad had learned something new today, so had Alyssa. It had been eye-opening.
Maybe it was time they had a conversation.
Her dad came back with the new cologne just as she was ringing Mr. Fell up.
"Oh! How much do I owe you?"
This was a misleading question, as Mr. Fell never paid the actual amount owed. He used coins that were definitely no longer in circulation, but that had the "right" numbers on them. A single visit from Mr. Fell was worth about as much as half a month's regular business.
Attempts to explain this had, so far, resulted in Mr. Fell getting anxious and flustered and asking about inflation while giving them even more precious coins. The policy was to no longer explain, and also to lie about prices.
"Oh, the cologne is free, Mr. Fell, you're an old friend," Marcus said. "You're finding love! Romancing the one who captured your heart so long ago! I can't send you out without anything to help you along. It's free, I insist."
"Oh, oh, really, that's not--"
"Just take it," Alyssa said.
Their lips twitched. "Alright," they said. "Well, how much do I owe you for the haircut? I definitely have to pay for that, and A-hn, uh, um, you did such a fine job cutting my hair. Lovely work, really."
Alyssa realized with a small drop of terror that not only did Mr. Fell know she was trans, but he also somehow knew her name.
God, she's going to be researching supernatural garbage on the internet after this, trying to decide if she needs a tinfoil hat or not. This is ridiculous.
"Charge is ten," she said. It isn't, and she very specifically doesn't say ten what, because Mr. Fell doesn't know what a Euro is, and ten pounds means something different to him than it does to Alyssa.
She has no doubt he would pay ten pounds if asked, and perhaps her family could buy a condo or something with it if he did.
Mr. Fell gave her coins that totaled to thirteen. They may have no clue what currency was being used in this century, but they certainly did know that tipping was good manners. Mr. Fell had always had good manners, and he likely always will.
They dropped the coins into Alyssa's hand and gave her a genial pat. "I wish you all the best," he said, looking at them both.
A sense of warmth and hope and love flooded through Alyssa, starting in her hand and spreading out.
Mr. Fell left, off to go about his day and finally woo his Crowley, hopefully.
The Patitucci family had been running a barbershop in Soho for seven generations, run by every oldest son since they first came to this country until Alyssa. The barbershop had stood through two world wars, and great deal of turmoil both before and after and in between.
It never would have lasted three years if it hadn't been for Mr. Fell.
Alyssa had been told that, over and over, but before today, she had never felt personally blessed.
Chapter 3: Aziraphale's (FBI) SIS Agents: Part 1
it's the eeennnd of the wooorrld as we know it
Bookshop address is completely made up, including the street name
Underlined things are not actually links lol, I just wanted them to look like it
The British government is aware of the true nature of Mr. Fell. Or, select parts of the British government, anyway.
It started with his taxes, of all things. They had been flagged by the tax service in the 50's as being far too good, too thorough. Mr. Fell had recorded finding loose change on the ground and putting that in the little exchangeable-change dish on his shop's counter. That was absurd. The government does not care about 37¢, except for when it is an obvious ploy to keep them from looking too closely.
So he had been audited. Thoroughly.
And then he had been audited again every year for the next three years with increasing frustrated confusion, until his case was referred to what was then called MI5, for a more formal investigation.
Frankly, Mr. Fell's finances just didn't make sense. He is the owner-operator of a corner bookstore in Soho, specializing in rare and valuable texts, yet the shop records a loss every year. It's actually driving down property values. His collection of texts themselves has been meticulously estimated to value between $50,000 and $6,200,000, but frankly, some of the stuff in there is so old as to be truly invaluable, if it's real. This is not counting the value of the property and the shop itself, which has been nominated a few times to be added to the national historic landmarks registry.
Mr. Fell sells an average of 0.7 books per year. The books he does sell are always common copies worth less than $20, and the only 'common copies' of anything within his shop, and always mysteriously purchased just the week before, or at least that's what his records say. Horribly, the tax investigators were never able to prove otherwise.
He spends thousands a year on new purchases in addition to running and maintenance costs, food costs (which ran the gamut of things from dinners at the Ritz to 3am street falafel to organic gourmet ingredients to boxes of packaged snack cakes), an exorbitant amount spent on high-society entertainment, weird random shit (fluffy bunny slippers, terrible and cheesy movie rentals, bath bombs, antique vinyl records), and unsettlingly rare visit to the tailor's. His shop essentially produced no income and cut a massive loss, over and over and over. Yet Mr. Fell never ran out of money, which he attributed to his generous inheritance. Old family money, allegedly.
Looking into said 'old family money' had only raised more questions. Allegedly, A. Z. Fell & Co's bookstore had been passed down father-to-son for generations. However, the paper trail didn't support this. It had been purchased in 1795 by longtime, well-respected, completely undocumented London citizen Anthony Zira Fell. The original Mr. Fell had been unmarried, at least legally, and had had no children. There was no death certificate on record for him. The shop had never been sold to a different Mr. Fell, it had never been leased out, there was no indication whatsoever that it had ever changed hands, or even gotten new management.
On paper, Mr. Fell had opened up a bookshop 166 years ago and was still running it to this day.
After the tax service had handed the case over, MI5 had reviewed all the information themselves and confirmed the initial reports. Then they created a task force charged with gathering further information on the entity. That was in 1961. Now, in 2019, Subject A has continued to be a baffling surveillance assignment and bookshop owner for now 224 years. Still does immaculate taxes.
MI5 became the SIS, and still, Subject A is there, running a bookstore, not really doing much of anything but still being just dangerous enough to warrant watching. These are the basics of their files.
SUBJECT: Entity known officially as Subject A
ALIAS(ES): A. Z. Fell, (Brother) Francis Kalon, Ezra Fell, Aziraphale* (see notes)
RESIDENCE(S): 4004 Selcouth Avenue, Soho, London, England, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
KNOWN ASSOCIATES: Subject B (see file), unknown Subject C** (see file),Thaddeus Dowling, Harriet Dowling, Warlock Dowling, Marcus Patitucci, Alyssa Patitucci, Joyce Blake, Shaheed al-Rahmani, Motome Takahashi, Motome Tatsui, Motome Hinako, Hayden Wallace, Xavier Dawson, Francine Moore, Brayden Robertson, Jaden Hodge, Micaella Benson, Neveah Campbell, Reuben Rees, Emma Wilkinson, Cameron Davis, Keirsten Mitchell... (extend list)
OCCUPATION: Book collector
DESCRIPTION: Subject A appears to be a human man about 50 years old. Caucasian, white hair, hazel eyes. Average height and larger build. Typically clothed in 19th century suits in pastel colors. No identifying marks. Subject A's appearance has not changed at all since being put under surveillance 58 years ago, as of August 2019 (see photos)
ABILITIES: Subject A appears to be non-aging and functionally immortal. It is uncertain what the limitations of this are, if there are any, or how this would pertain to normally fatal injuries. Subject A does appear to be vulnerable to an extent. They have been witnessed to burn their tongue on hot drinks and stub their toes on numerous occasions. Subject A's dwelling has unusual effects, especially in regards to its door, which is locally rumored to never open to those with malicious intent, but to always allow those who need shelter. There is also some sort of illusionary effect over the sign listing the store's opening hours (see further notes). Subject A additionally appears to have perfect luck in all things, with few exceptions (see further notes).
THEORIES: Eight (8) theories have been proposed to explain unusual incidences regarding Subject A. The demon deal theory posits that Subject A traded their soul (or possibly other favors) for immortality, in a deal likely struck with Subject B, or the devil, using Subject B as a transactionary agent. The faerie theory states that Subject A is simply one of the Good People, definitely of the Seelie Court, and should be left unbothered and treated with the utmost respect. This theory is one of the most accepted, and seems to have significant local acknowledgement, but critics state that even a Seelie faerie would enact more tricks, mischief, and general mayhem then Subject A displays. The angel theory supposes that Subject A is a divine being inexplicably living amongst humans. This theory is supported primarily by Subject B's frequent address of Subject A as 'angel,' and the debate among experts as to whether this is meant as a title, species designation, or merely a pet name; in addition to Subject A's regular acts of goodwill and charity, and the high number of lucky coincidences that happen to them and those around them. The conspiracy theory supposes that this is an elaborate Russian psyop designed to waste British government resources and drive us all to insanity and doubt. The conspiracy theory steadily lost traction as time went on and was mostly abandoned by the 1990s. The Mandela Effect theory claims that this is all a mass hallucination and none of it is real, that we have imagined all of this, including the shared experiences and hard evidence. Perhaps one day we will wake up and it was all a dream. It should be noted that this theory was first proposed on a night when the task force was drinking heavily together and playing Cards Against Humanity, and it has only been included in the file because Agent Kowalski insisted. The alien theory says that Subject A is an extraterrestrial being who is living on Earth for unknown reasons and has elected to disguise themselves as a human, either for simplicity's sake to make their life easier or as a nefarious stealth tactic, possibly related to espionage. The dragon theory states that Subject A is a long-lived dragon in human form and the bookshop is their hoard. This theory was proposed and championed entirely by Agent Kowalski. The natural immortal theory posits that Subject A is simply like that, possibly due to being born that way, or under unusual circumstances, or cursed within infancy, as these are all things known to have happened in historical folklore, which might be based in truth somewhat. This was also devised by Agent Kowalski.
*Subject A has been addressed as 'Aziraphale' solely by Subjects B and C. The name is linguistically Hebrew, though not used by anyone else on the planet (past or present), and means roughly something like "And Then Also God Heals." The fact that it is only used by similarly suspicious subjects has been considered telling, and to mean that these subjects are, so to speak, in the know, and also possibly of similar alignments. The fact that this alias is biblical-esque in nature has been used as support for the angel theory.
**Subject C has only one confirmed appearance and one unconfirmed one. Their relationship towards Subject A appears to be hostile or antagonistic in nature, and the confirmed encounter preceded Subject A to fleeing London indefinitely, for presumably the first time in centuries. No aliases known. It has been postulated that Incident 2008.503 was an issuance of orders, which would support either the conspiracy theory or the alien theory. This was leveled as irrefutable evidence of the conspiracy theory by Agent MacGregor (now retired). Further information to be found in files.
And then there were files on files on files of incident reports and surveillance minutes and on and on and on. It was exhausting to think about. When Siddhi Dhavale was first assigned to this post, it had taken a whole month to read through just the reports that her supervisor, Andrew Walker, had decided were 'important' and 'relevant.'
But 58 years of surveillance will do that.
On the plus side, despite what spy action movies will try and convince you, this was actually one of the most enjoyable posts for an SIS agent. Little to no threat of sudden violent death. No soul-spiraling crises of morality. No politics at all, especially international ones, which was a relief in this day and age. Her coworkers were pretty cool and chill, they told a lot of jokes related to their assignment. These jokes tended to run on repeating themes of the X-Files, Torchwood, Area 51, and Men in Black. Plus, of course, anything even vaguely cryptid related.
Kowalski had made a group chat. Only Walker and Burns weren't in it, and more importantly, they didn't know about it.
Chapman, interestingly, was in it, despite being 52 and still playing farming games on Facebook, which was his only social media. He was actually a pretty funny dude, and very nice. Basically the friendly dad of this SIS intelligence-gathering task force.
The polar opposite of Burns, that absolute dick.
"They're approaching a bench," Kowalski said, leaning forward.
"You think they'll actually sit down?" Porter asked, popping a chip in her mouth. Her feet were propped up on the dash of the surveillance van, crossed at the ankles.
Burns shot her a malicious look. Dhavale scooched her chair closer to Porter defensively.
"They're out of disguise," Dhavale said. "Think it means something?"
"They did both just get fired, mysteriously, and together, under mysterious but separate circumstances," Kowalski said. "I think whatever's going on is coming to a head. Question is whether something went wrong and they're panicking, or if this is the natural conclusion to their plan."
Eleven years ago, Subject C had appeared (allegedly out of nowhere) in the middle of the Motome sushi restaurant. They had spoken briefly with Subject A and seemed to cause them significant distress. Subjects A and B spent the entire following day together-- which wasn't unusual-- but Subject A continued to appear distressed, defensive, and avoidant the entire time, which was unusual. Both subjects began putting things in motion immediately afterwards, and within one week, they had taken up new false identities and employment at the estate of the American ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Ambassador Dowling had been discreetly red-flagged for a government watchlist. Every member of the estate had had a full, thorough background check done on them, and now had a thick file. All of Ambassador Dowling's political decisions and finances had been examined with a fine-toothed comb. The task force had been put on high alert.
And a few years had passed. Then a few more. Then even more.
Dhavale had been hired on three years ago, so she was the newest member of the team. Chapman, obviously, was the oldest, been here twenty years, and then Burns after him, and so on, and so on.
And with every passing year and every visibly exhausting workday and every indignity suffered from the Dowlings, it became increasingly obvious that whatever was going on here, it was big. Big enough that an immortal who had not changed their habits or even clothing style in hundreds of years would uproot their entire life for it. Subject A absolutely was not a neutral but unusual citizen-- they were playing the long game here.
But weirdly, they seemed more focused on the Dowling's child than the actual ambassador. Sure, Subject B had regular contact with Harriet Dowling (insofar as could be said), but that contact was kept solely to talk of Warlock's current interests and issues, and also clothing, and complaints about men. Subject B was subtly urging Mrs. Dowling to pursue a divorce. This seemed counterintuitive to any possible political ploy, except maybe to serve as a distraction to the ambassador.
But the ambassador absolutely had not been involved in anything actually important in eleven years now. Part of that was the government no longer considering him "safe" to receive confidential/sensitive information, and part of that was almost absurd bad luck. All of his initiatives failed. Policies he supported never came to pass. Legislators he backed ended up losing their postings. It was like the man was cursed. His whole career was imploding in on itself.
Subjects A and B sat down on the bench and the whole task force straightened up to attention.
You see. They can't bug the ambassador's estate. His American Secret Service agents would notice. And then either the British government would be accused of spying on their allies, or they would have to attempt to explain about Subject A and the task force, and then it would become a whole big thing, and the Americans would want involved, and next thing you know, the whole thing's on WikiLeaks and the SIS is a laughingstock.
The bookshop itself is also a no-go zone. Despite having a phone that they even appear to use sometimes, the phone is not actually hooked up to anything. A. Z. Fell's bookstore does not have any electricity whatsoever, actually, just a big oculus and candles for light.
There is also a gramophone. Subject A appears to use it sometimes. It also not hooked up to anything.
They do not bug Subject B's residence or vehicle. No one knows why. Dhavale knows somewhere intuitive that it would be very stupid of them to try.
And then there's St. James' Park, which cannot be bugged due to the high number of other international operatives who meet there and bring interference devices and regularly check their surroundings for listening and recording devices.
Combined with the local community's refusal to speak to any outsiders about Subject A, the task force has very little concrete information on their interactions with others, and any conversation with Subject B in particular has the potential to be extremely telling.
This local park had been bugged merely as a precaution, but now they might get the clearest evidence of something this task force has had in years.
"Well, we've done everything we can. All we can do now is wait for his birthday," Subject B said. "The hellhound will be the key. Shows up at three on Wednesday."
"...Right. You've never actually mentioned a hellhound before," Subject A said.
"Ohhh, yeah. Yeah, they're sending him a hellhound to pad by his side and guard him from all harm."
"Biggest one they've got."
"Won't people remark on the sudden appearance of a huge black dog? His parents, for a start?"
"No one will notice anything. It's reality, angel. And young Warlock can do what he likes with that, whether he knows it or not."
Kowalski swore quietly, eyes glued to the distant image on the tiny screen. Dhavale felt the same.
"It's the start of it all. The boy's meant to name it. Stalks-By-Night, Throat-Ripper, something like that. But, if you and I have done our job properly, then he'll send it away unnamed."
"What if he does name it?" Subject A asked. Dhavale's fingers were curled into the arms of her chair with a death grip.
"Then you and I have lost, he'll have all his powers, and Armageddon will be days away."
Porter lurched forward, chair rolling back, as she clutched at her throat and choked. She coughed, and went back to gaping, face red.
"A turn of phrase," Burns said, and he would've said more if they hadn't kept talking.
"There must be some way of stopping it," Subject A said, distorted through tinny speakers.
"If there was no boy... then the process would stop."
"Yes, but there is a boy. He's over there, writing a rude word on a description of a dinosaur."
"Well, there is a boy now. That could change," Subject B said. "Something could happen to him."
"I'm saying you could kill him."
Chapman reached over and grabbed one of the old input tablets. He started typing, and 'CONSPIRACY TO MURDER' appeared on one of the screens, one which was almost always blank. Since Dhavale had started working here, the only things that had ever been on it were 'JAYWALKING' and 'PARKING VIOLATION.' There had been an instance of debatable arson and destruction of government property, but the evidence was ruled too circumstantial.
Not their fault an inconvenient ticket happened to spontaneously combust when they approached.
"I've never actually... killed, anything," Subject A said. "I don't think I could."
"Not even to save everything?" Subject B asked. "One life-- against the universe."
"Turn of phrase my ass," Porter said.
"Then, this hellhound, it'll show up at his birthday party?"
"Well, then we should be there! Maybe I can stop the dog. In fact, I could entertain."
"No no no, please, no. No--"
"I just need to get back into practice."
Subject A appeared to be making dramatic hand motions, dropping things, and annoying Subject B, who appeared as if tortured.
"Oh no, no. Don't do your magic act. Please. Please! I'm actually begging you. You have no idea how demeaning that is. Please. --In your finger."
"No, it was in your ear."
"It was in your pocket."
"It was close to your ear."
"Never anywhere near my ear."
"You're no fun."
"It's humiliating. You can do proper magic. You can make things disappear."
"But it's not as fun."
"Make you disappear."
There was silence, on all ends.
"We'll need to add that to their list of abilities," Chapman said, seeming impressed. "Never even heard of those being updated."