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Pope killed by inferior wine

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Ash is busy. The trouble with knowing everyone and being the best fixer in London is that when people want things, they come to him. Sometimes it’s simple things, like contact details for someone else, and other times it’s much more complicated and he actually has to get involved. This particular week everyone who’s ever contacted him or worked with him wants something, and inevitably something will fall through the net. It’s unfortunate that it’s something for his crew, but it’s easy enough to sort out. He’s trying to break a prototype security system, and now he’s calling Sean as well.

“Sean, you need to pick up the wine. Yeah, for the plan. No, cyclops’s partner. It’s all sorted, just pick it up and pay him. He’s in Bloomsbury, I’ll text you the address.”

In a taxi driving most of the way across London, Sean has a lot of questions. Firstly who is Cyclops (and if the answer is no one he will not be happy), secondly why is he picking up an expensive (if fake) bottle of wine from a bookshop, and thirdly why isn’t Ash picking it up. Why isn’t Ash more involved in this job is a sort of secondary part to the third question, a 3B is you will. But Sean’s speculation only goes so far, and he’s not about to ask. It’s not vital to the job, and he really doesn’t want to know if it’s personal.

The Bookshop doesn’t look like a good place for wine of any sort (despite the numerous bottles of wine from Londis), and Sean's stuck to the floor. He’s not happy. He’s got decent shoes on, and if this ruins them Ash will be buying him at least one new pair. Compensation. The bookshop doesn’t look like a good place for books either. Piles everywhere and there are mushrooms growing out of the shelves that do exist. It’s not healthy. While Sean’s looking at the mushrooms, which on closer inspection seem to be growing out of the books as well, he spots what look like but can’t possibly be molluscs on the pipes, and hears something growl and snuffle near him. He’s stuck to the floor and there’s an undefinable creature heading his way. He quickly, without looking panicked, detaches his shoes from the floor and doesn’t quite run toward the till.

“You really should clean the floors,” he says to the bloke behind the counter. He’s got longish hair, a haiwaiian shirt, and an air of quiet disdain for customers.

“Got stuck to the floor?” he asks, as if this isn’t the first time he’s had this conversation.

“Yeah. shouldn’t happen.”

“Oh no, you’re supposed to stick to the floor there.” Sean doesn’t know how to respond really. There isn’t a response to that. “Anyway, what can I do for you?”

“I’m looking for Cyclops.”

“Ah, Greek mythology. Down there.” he gestures to a bit of the shop that Sean hadn’t noticed and has no intention of going into.

“Nah. Ash sent me. Got some wine to pick up.” the second Sean mentions Ash, this blokes demeanour changes. No longer a slightly bored but helpful shop assistant.

“Oh, you’ll want Bernard then.”
“Is he about?” Sean asks after a brief period of silence where he and the man he assumes is Cyclops stare at each other.

Once Sean asks possibly Cyclops squints at him suspiciously, then looks at his watch, then back at Sean and shrugs. He mumbles something that might be “it’s your funeral” (and Sean is not investigating that further) and heads into whatever room is hidden by the curtain behind the counter.

“Bernard! Customer!”

“Tell them to piss off. Don’t they know it’s 10 am?” Sean hears this muffled by both the curtain and the unmistakable sound of someone trying to shout and smoke at the same time.

“He doesn’t want a book.”

“What?”

“He’s not here for a - Bernard! Just come downstairs.”

“I have to do everything round here?” the voice gets closer and less muffled. “What does he want?”

“He’s here, for wine. Collecting for Ash.” the unnamed man probably Cyclops says, audibly annoyed.

A new man, who Sean assumes is the mysterious Bernard, flings open the curtain dramatically and strides through it with a confidence not earned. He’s got the appearance of a man who has only just woken up having fallen asleep in a grubby suit with a wine glass in hand and a cigarette stuck to his lips. He ignores Sean, says nothing to him, and disappears under the desk only to emerge with a large wooden crate.

Bernard rifles through the crate, muttering occasionally. His cigarette moves from mouth to left hand to right hand as he does so, and Sean sometimes hears him complaining that this is what Manny’s for.

“Naughty bottle of 1847 Chateu de neve, hiding from me.” is the sentence that Sean hears clearly. He’s not planning on asking any questions. He doesn’t get the chance to, as he’s suddenly got a bottle of wine shoved into his face. It’s a very convincing bottle of wine. It looks almost exactly like any other bottle of wine Sean’s ever seen. It’s a bit grubbier than he’d expected, more dusty and has what appears to be a dead bee clinging to it.

Bernard wipes the dust off the bottle, delicately plucks the dead bee from it, and puts the bottle into a plastic bag. Into the bag he adds an unnecessary amount of cigarette ash, and a number of books. He writes a receipt for the books, extracts 500 pounds from Sean, and hands him the bag. Sean emphatically does not want the books, or to be fair the cigarette ash, but does want the wine.

Sean leaves the shop traumatised, confused, and absolutely refuses to ever visit another of Ash’s forgers ever again.