#but now he is hanging out in opium dens
We trudge forward in depths of despair, taking one step at a time until we can walk no further.
Nijah stalked from the tallest tower in Kugane, watching the peasants interact below her. People weren’t in the habit of looking above them, at least the average person wasn’t. They’d be oblivious to what happened in the sky. It gave her the perfect vantage-point to scout the area from. She focused in and out of her scope as she inspected anyone that even remotely struck her as a suspicious individual. Before long, a party of well-dressed individuals stood out, offering a stark contrast even amongst the businessmen and their elegant ladies paid to entertain.
A Xaela woman surrounded by a couple strapping young men wearing suits strode down toward an establishment in the eastern reaches of Kugane. Upon a quick inspection the short woman was wearing a black-on-black suit as well, and carried upon her person an unwieldy greatsword strapped to her back. Exactly as Hadriel had described: The target held raven hair and wore clothes of the same color contrasting her porcelain skin. Her left eye was obscured by her dark locks.
“So that’s her little bar…” she brought the bolt back on the weapon and sent it clacking forward, chambering a round. She was too far to make a certain kill but every inch of her being taunted her into making the shot. With grit teeth she zeroed in, inhaling deeply and exhaling thereafter to find the natural rhythmic pause to her breath so that her chest and lungs would stop the subtle movements that would affect her shot. Breathless and focused with every ilm of her being she lightly squeezed the trigger.
“This is a nice view.”
The jarring voice broke her concentration as she flicked her finger off the trigger to bring the butt of the rifle across the chest of her new visitor. A hand came up to stop the weapon in its track. “Oh, did I mention my house is a very short boat-ride away?” Hadriel gave her a polite smile. “By the way, I don’t think you could’ve made that shot from here. I did say I wanted her eye and soulstone, no? What if you accidentally broke either?”
She sneered, “If you’re going to backseat assassinate you might have well done the job yourself.” she pointed out and jerked her weapon away. “Besides, a little bird watching never hurt anyone.” From the corner of her eye, Nijah saw the movement below and her attention cut there for a brief moment, Adala already gone and likely safely tucked away within the walls of her little establishment.
“What is the vibe of the bar she frequents?”
Hadriel maintained his smile. “Busy. But she doesn’t linger about with the rest of the clientele. She heads directly to the second floor behind closed doors.” he pointed at the building, his finger shifting up slightly as he continued. “Or, rather, paper partitions to be exact. Upbeat music, dancing, drinking in droves. Or once in a while a somber tone. Though, that was mostly thanks to mine and Carrera’s presence...” he trailed off. A name Nijah was undoubtedly unfamiliar with, regardless, he continued, “She’s easily excitable and will face any danger head-on to set an example for others to follow. Eager for battle and even more so in spilling blood.”
“A level of tact is certainly needed though. I’d rather not have to deal with hordes of her goons.” Nijah placed her rifle along her lap and looked up to Hadriel once more, “How hard is it to get inside, what is security like?”
“Well, like any other establishment, a beautiful lady would have no trouble getting in. If they were to dress the correct way.” he gave her a once-over with his eye. Hadriel of course was met with quite a high placed perk of Nijah’s brow.
“Are we talking about a normal patron or dancer?”
He chuckled aloud for a moment, “Something in between. Here in Hingan and Doman culture, we have women that entertain the guests. Not necessarily for pure pleasure, but rather the company of a beautiful woman goes a long way. A young, attractive maiden clinging to your arm, pouring your drink, tending to your needs…” he looked over the city briefly, “Well, if that evolves into something else, that’s for later in the night; but in the moment, it’s an appealing feature for establishments to have. Oh, and don’t get me started on how a rare Eorzean beauty would be an ideal accompaniment for a few drinks and a meal. But… you could squeeze in as a guest too.”
She looked none too impressed staring up at Hadriel from her position. She was a tall, fairly tanned woman with short hair who could do some serious damage to a person’s skull between her thighs -- far from the ideal picture of dainty, and maiden-built. Quietly she thought, pale green eyes moving to the bag she brought with her on all occasions, “I’ll find a way in then. Knowing this, I have a few things I can try, though, if it doesn’t go according to plan I might have to fight my way out.”
He nodded approvingly, “And that’s something for you to figure out. I chose you because I believe you have the potential for completing this assignment. There was no one else I thought would be equal to the task.”
“Except yourself.” she stated and stood, shouldering her rifle and picking up her bag in the other hand, “I guess from here on you’ll just have to wait and see what happens. Either I come out with what you need or I don’t come out at all.”
“You’ll come out with what I need. My apprentices would try to outsmart Adala some way or charge in with bravado, cause a scene, and lose. Plus I’m sure she would recognize them. She’s not an easy target just because she’s a woman. Even other women forget that sometimes. And I, myself, can’t be seen in this endeavor. You, though, you who is always out on missions that no one sees, you can get close if you need. That is your greatest weapon. That plus, with your recent debacle, you won’t underestimate Adala.”
The Ala Mhigan woman looked past the trigger close to her face to inspect Hadriel, “You seem so sure of that.”
He laughed lightly as he reached into his vest searching for something. He brought out a soft pack of cigarettes that he lightly tapped against his other hand until one stuck out. He brought it up to his lips, separating it from the pack before striking a match to take a few successive puffs to keep it lit. He exhaled a plume of smoke, giving a content sigh, “It’s a gamble, to be honest. I’m speaking in terms of certainty to give you that measure of trust and assurance that I think most people might need. In hindsight, I suppose I’m wasting my time with that in regards to you. You’ll either finish the mission or be dead, so it doesn’t matter to you in the slightest. It’s less that I believe you’ll win, and more that I need you to win.”
Nijah took in the measure of Hadriel, inspecting him and how he moved. His vices were already clear to her as they were the first time she met him. His overall demeanor sparked some inspiration, “I get it.” she replied.
He held the pack out to her, a singular cigarette hanging out of the sleeve for her to grab, “Good. I can’t afford to get involved. I will if I have no other choice, but ...I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that. I’m sure you’re worth the coin. Moreover, I have your word.”
A hand reached for a cigarette within the pack that had been offered, “One for the road then.” she tilted her head and took a few steps forward to be on her way but then paused, glancing over shoulder and gun to Hadriel once more, “Is there a smoke shop in the area?”
He took another drag off his smoke, breathing fumes as he spoke, “Kugane Dori Markets, you were looking at them a moment ago. Just slightly to the left of her establishment. If you look along the alleyways you might even find an opium den or two.” he pointed in the distance to give her some idea of the locations he was referring to.
“Noted. Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome. I’m going back home now, good luck.” Hadriel stepped off one of the ledges quietly, now out of sight and out of mind.
[ x ]
The door opened to the establishment and the fairly tall woman entered with a few boxes, mumbling thanks to the bouncer at the door, it was obvious they had exchanged a few words before entering with her goods. He had even made sure to open the top most boxes within her arms before allowing her entry, casually waving her in before closing the door behind him once more. The brunette made her way towards the stage she had gone about settling the goods down and for the most part she went unnoticed with how plain she looked though catching some glances on account of how out of place she was. A basic yukata was fit to her form but not too snug which could garner unwanted glances and approach, her bangs pinned back from her pale green eyes exposing her face if only to give off a friendly manner and youthful exterior beyond her more mature wear of her hairstyle. Without being too obvious she glanced around the room and tucked a box under her arm before going to the bar to order a drink.
Several tables, very few windows, dark ambiance within and a relaxing interior to what she felt as a tense room. Even without looking she already felt the eyes on her. Nijah smiled at the bartender and ordered water despite any attention she was already receiving. She drank down the water only to follow it up with a shot from the small bottle in hand -- nothing like a refresher to get to business.
“I’m looking for the owner of the establishment.?” her voice was kind and she smiled across to the bartender, tapping her nails along the wooden box before her which had been placed along the counter, the box itself looked elegantly crafted; it was several ilms long and twice the depth of her hand. A golden seal adorned the front, fancy rivets holding the box together.
"Do you have an appointment?"
"Then you likely don't see her at all." The bartender replied wiping down the bar and he finally set his gaze to Nijah once more, "Anything else I can get you?" he asked pointedly.
"Oh yes. Gin, the bottle and a glass will do." she flashed a dazzling smile.
From where she stood she could see the haze of smoke from a recluse corner. It held about a dozen people and some she recognized from the few that had walked into the establishment with Adala. Drinks aplenty, a woman in fine silks and satin with her hair pinned back was attending them flitting between empty glasses and filling them with the pitcher in hand. Clear as the liquid looked, Nijah garnered it was likely anything but water. To the side, she heard the bottle and glass connect to the wooden countertop and she paid dues, casually placing them atop the wooden box as she took the lot with her.
Casually she brought herself towards the group and once more she flashed that uncomfortable, dazzling smile, “Good evening everyone.” she nodded to a few and when they looked up they seemed less than pleased at the interruption, “Do you mind if I join you all?”
Everyone stopped mid-track, the drinking, smoking, and merriment paused. The group looked to be ruffians dressed to the nines, covered in tattoos and scars, and what some might have considered to be scary faces. The one with the meanest of such faces stepped forward walking toward Nijah.
He knelt down and extended a hand toward Nijah, the other on his heart, his face flushed red from the alcohol, a thick accent came from his words, “Beautiful Eorzea desert rose, marry me?” The group erupted into obnoxious laughter and knee-slapping. Drinking and rowdy partying ensued.
There was a long pause and a ringing in Nijah’s ear as she stared down to the man touching her. Instinct told her to react but such would have likely ended up driving a dagger into the man’s skull. She smiled, and sweetly while holding her items, “Charming! But I just came to see if maybe you fine people could indulge me. My father and I just purchased a Textile shop down the road and I wanted to be neighborly.”
Nijah turned to set her items along a little corner of the table that was littered with ashtrays, empty bottles and a variety of other knick knacks. Gingerly she adjusted the gin bottle and cup and opened the wooden box of cigars, “Imported all the way from the Ala Mhigan Quarter. I thought the owner of this establishment might appreciate a fine cigar, but since I don’t have access to meet them, I guess the next fine people would be….well…” she paused and looked at each of their faces, “-- all of you.” unhooking a cigar-cutter from the lid of the box she set it down, “I brought my own drink to celebrate.” and she followed up with a tap to her bottle of gin.
The man who proposed gave her a thumbs up, “Very good!”
Taking that as an invitation, the short haired Ala Mhigan woman wiggled her way to a chair and she sat comfortably with her bottle of gin and a glass. Once settled she plucked a cigar from the box and gave it a bit of a smell along the length of it. Crisp!
“Are you folks celebrating tonight or is this an every-night-gathering?” she seemed upbeat and happy judging by the friendly smile. She handed the cigar in hand to the person next to her while taking up another one for herself and cutting the end.
“Hai, hai. We celebrate. Together.” a few gladly accepted cigars, imports from Ala Mhigo, no less. Of course they had no intention of paying at the moment but several wanted to partake in the unique experience. A few continued to admire Nijah and others continued about their drinking and shenanigans while the intimidating looking one playfully made kissy faces at her.
She smiled into her glass watching the few, her cigar close in hand but not lit quite yet as she took a heady swallow from the gin. There was plenty to go around from a singular bottle, one in which she had been happy to share when empty glasses would teeter in her direction. She would oblige. Nijah took the time to share some stories about her travels in Little Ala Mhigo as a small child. Sparking up her cigar, some for others and passing around more of her drink while the collective drank and smoked in the little corner of the bar. Surprisingly, the location was a lot more quiet than she imagined.
Some boisterous laughter was interrupted when one of the fellas at the far reach of the table ended up face down into the table itself, jostling the contents a little. Laughing, Nijah reached forward to lift his chin a little, “Too much for him.” she announced and rested the man's face back along the table.
The rest simply pointed and laughed, cackling even harder at their friend’s inability to hold their alcohol. From the sight of things it seemed like they had intended on staying there for a while longer yet. Nijah drank watching the faces around her, it was all fun and games until another slipped out of their chair and failed to get up, ashtray clattering to the floor with them -- to the few that remained inside it certainly looked as if the group was having a hard time holding their drink.
A couple of them rose from their seats, specifically the two that had not touched anything Nijah had brought over as they were too preoccupied with their own drunken conversation. They stared at her a moment before looking at each other. It seems their suspicions had arisen in that instant, one lunging forward to kick at Nijah, the other right behind with a hook. While the rest of the place was aplomb with music, drinking, and dancing, Nijah sidestepped to dodge the first man, a hand grabbing his head as she punched him in the temple swift and hard. She guided him by his head and placed him in a seat while she dodged the second man, the first settled in as he lost consciousness before she spun around and grabbed the other from behind. From anyone else’s view it looked like Nijah was embracing a shorter man from behind while she squeezed the breath from his neck in a chokehold, also guiding him into a chair.
Quickly wiggling out of the yukata to keep herself from being caught up in anything, the woman tucked a hand into the strap of her tank top and felt for the cigarette Hadriel had given her earlier which was still there. At any rate, she might as well have taken the nail before finding herself in her coffin. She took the black cap from the back pocket of her slacks and made her way to the carefully placed boxes by the back of the stage she had put there previously all the while shoving the cap over her head and tugging it down over her eyes a little. From afar, she looked like a simple stage hand, moving around some stage items for whatever reason. Grunt work was easily looked past.
Making her way up the stairs and once out of the way of prying eyes, the Ala Mhigan sniper rested the boxes to the closet windowsill and withdrew the weapons within. Two pistols were outfitted accordingly and tucked into her belt, a more personal touch from none other than Patience and Persuasion. The longer box was discarded and the Widow Maker was unsleeved and inspected before she held it close, walking down the hallway to inspect doors, listening for movement and conversation or sound within the other rooms beyond paper partitions. What she had not taken into account was how narrow the hallways to the upper portion of the establishment were -- perhaps having been better suited for a shotgun, however, the task was to avoid attention where she could. She slung the heavy rifle muzzle-down and narrowed her profile, hugging the wall. She knew she had to move fast before getting spotted in this funnel. The moment someone confronted her, she would have to come out guns blazing so it was in her best interest to quickly find her target and make just as fast an exit.
A desperate anxiety crept up in her mind as she started moving from partition to partition. Nijah kept an unnatural focus on her task; she controlled her breathing to settle down and balance her unnerved state. A few moments had passed and she was back to her cool and controlled self. She was racing against an invisible clock and she knew that she needed to be as cool as a cucumber. A cold, murderous cucumber. Jackpot. She heard an assertive woman speaking Doman with a bit of a rasp to her, and she peeked into the room a second. She knew she wouldn’t have the time to balance a precise shot as she usually managed.
It was now or never, every second spent pondering a course of action meant another second being exposed and ruining her best weapon- the element of surprise. She swung the rifle off and around her shoulder, the stock landing in the nook of her shoulder as she loosed at a muffled shot. A loud crack came as the Xaela hit the floor violently.
A sharp breath came from those at the table around her as they tried to make sense of what just happened. In that very moment a murderous intent spread across the entire room while malevolent energies wore about Adala’s presence. She rose to her feet instantaneously, her heels smashing into the ground. She cradled the crack in her horn a moment, a hand shaking involuntarily and violently; the shot would have been dead-on if her head wasn’t turned to the side in that split second. Adala conjured an abyssal barrier after a quick incantation right as more shots went off, each of which sparked and ricocheted about. She stopped after a few shots, confirming the futility of her action, and choosing instead to conserve bullets. Nijah dipped on the other side of the partition, her presence already spurred the others into action. A multitude of boots thudded against the floor and she had a few seconds at most.
She slung her rifle across her back and tightened the strap across her chest. The first two of Adala’s guard were waylaid by deft hands and an even sharper knife. The sounds of sinew tearing and bone cracking came to a stop while the knife got stuck in the second’s sternum. Her palm struck the end of the handle, driving the serrated blade in further in hopes of dislodging it. The weapon snapped when she attempted to forcibly jerk it out.
Magic was the last thing she wanted to contend with. Hadriel had mentioned she possessed some abilities to manipulate darkness so she had been banking on that one unsuspecting shot to have done the trick; rarely did the Ala Mhigan woman miss and she wouldn’t have if not for a last second turn of the head and her horns. She loosened the strap of her sniper rifle, parrying their eastern shortswords with the barrel and butt of her gun. Maneuvering herself between the two she flipped her rifle between them pulling the trigger while holding onto the sling, pumping one with lead while the heavy recoil sent the buttstock of the rifle colliding into the other’s face.
In that same instant, a violent blow from an imposing odachi struck across her, sending Nijah flying through a wooden wall and into the main hall of the first floor. The violent landing left her dazed as she struggled to get to her feet, the rifle coming apart with one half in each hand. She shook her head quickly to regain her bearings and chucked the pieces of her favored weapon to the ground. Screams and shouting could be heard all about as people ran out of the establishment in droves. It would only be a matter of time before the Kugane peace-keepers raided the place.
Adala landed a few yalms in front of her, sending dust, splinters, and chunks of wood into the air around them. Several suited individuals surrounded Nijah armed with katana and firearms, waiting for the word to rush the woman. She rolled her eyes and groaned at the situation- this was 100% exactly what she wanted to avoid. The sniper drew her pistols out, tipped with silencers.
A sinister grin wore about the Xaela’s expression. “Don’t worry about her, she’s mine. The lot of you leave!” she threw her hand out to the side, the other hand held a death-grip on her odachi. “Make sure none of the Sekiseigumi interrupt me. I have a brave and cute little assassin to deal w-”
Nijah wasn’t about wasting time. She began strafing as she fired a hail of bullets at her opponent. The Xaela had thinned her profile by turning sidelong and used her greatsword to block and deflect the incoming projectiles. In an instant, Adala closed the gap between them and swung down at Nijah with her imposing weapon. Dodged by a hair’s breadth, she took another shot as she spun to the side, cracking off Adala’s horn. The Xaela screamed and cradled what was left of the bony protrusion. Nijah wasn’t in the business of leaving a job half-way done and unloaded both clips at the Dark Knight. Adala’s suit shredded as scales cracked from glancing blows by the bullets.
“You’ll pay for that, bitch.”
Ever the professional, she opted against a witty retort and instead dropped the empty magazines from her weapons, slamming the handles of her pistols along the back of her beltline which had reloads pre-staged for this very purpose. Adala appeared enraged, slicing with her gigantic blade single-handedly with zero regard for her surroundings. The odachi tore into the flooring and the very earth itself, into pillars, and finally the bar counter was sliced in half. Nijah kept moving without pause, using every ounce of her strength and agility. She knew that if she gave but a moment’s pause; she was dead.
Nijah surmised it was highly likely Adala’s energy reserves were about as limited as her bullets and it just might have boiled down to who could out last the other. The sharpshooter was not willing to chance a lucky snag of the large blade on a knot in the wood -- her best choice was perhaps to slow her down.
Sure, bringing a knife to a gunfight wasn’t so bad as long as the knife was just really big, but fuck. This was just overkill! With resolve steeling her mind, the Ala Mhigan side-stepped with erratic pathing and fired off several rounds from one pistol. The silencer glowed a bright blue hue with magic runes glowing along it; her reloaded magazines had possessed aether-imbued rounds. This caused the berserking Dark Knight to pause and block what she could with the flat of her blade. An icy mist sipped out of every spot the magic projectiles touched, spilling out like water at first and then flash-freezing her blade and her skin. She tried to step forward but noticed the burning pain in her feet was from her legs and shoes freezing to the deck.
The other pistol’s silencer glowed a blinding orange, runes appearing like before as she unloaded upon her target once again. The superheated tip burst into a searing flame that burned white hot. The odachi began to hum as parts of it were being melted by intense magic, Nijah emptied both her pistols and as Adala managed a desperate defense. The metal of the blade heated and froze over and over again, shot after shot; It eventually cracked and pieces of the blade fell to the ground. In due course, Nijah ran dry, knowing her weapons had now run far too hot to holster at her person, she chucked them at the Xaela’s face, forcing her to guard with crossed forearms while Nijah tackled her, lifting her a moment before slamming her- hard.
Since her feet had broken free, the Dark Knight wrapped them around Nijah’s waist to gain some leverage for a headbutt, leaving one dazed and the other winded. Neither Nijah nor Adala gave more than a second’s pause before they began aggressively pummeling each other. A flurrying of sharp fists, hard elbows, and painful blocks came and exchanged between the two. Some shots made it past the other’s guard, not without the price of receiving damage in return. They were beating each other bloody as Adala succumbed to her own rage and began delivering wildly powerful blows. Finally, Nijah held the advantage- though the other’s blows were powerful but she was more controlled and calculated. A quick parry and a sharp strike repeated over and over.
After a long minute had lapsed Adala seemed defeated, Nijah no less bloodied. Both were desperate for air as they were winded beyond what either was ever used to. Nijah brought a hand back for a quick finishing blow as Adala swung her head violently to catch and lacerate the sniper’s arm with her remaining horn. It was followed up with a heavy knee to Nijah’s ribs, tossing her off the Xaela. Adala wasted no time mounting her and then darkness gathered around her raised fist; she intended on finishing this encounter.
Nijah’s hand flailed and hit something hard when she was flipped onto her back. Quickly realizing what it was, she grabbed it and stabbed Adala’s broken horn toward her face to stop her from whatever it was she was concocting. She screamed as she rolled around on the ground, “You fucking bitch! I’ll fucking KILL YOU AND FUCK YOUR CORPSE!”
Adala was cradling her face as what was left of her broken horn stuck out where her right eye once was. Nijah’s voice couldn’t have been any calmer through heavy breaths as she stood up, “Good luck.” She cracked Adala’s jaw with the heel of her boot, snapping her neck in the process.
The room was eerily silent as she stared down at Adala’s lifeless body. It was here that the adrenaline began to wane and every ilm of her began to ache. The fingers of one hand tingled and the blood from her arm dripped to the floor. It was the only sound she could hear beyond catching her own breath.
‘Fuck. What a mess.’
Nijah’s pale green eyes observed the room a moment before walking to her broken knife on the floor. She plucked it up along with one of the small boxes she had tucked away by the stage when she first entered. The job was only half done. Adala’s life wasn’t the task itself but the items she had on her person.
She pulled out the cigarette she received from Hadriel earlier in the day as she stood over Adala’s dying form, and sparked the squashed piece between bloodied fingers, “Nothing but piss and shit in the end.” A smokey plume escaped her lips. Nijah kneeled; her free hand patting down the Xaela’s attire. Moving aside the collar of her shirt she coiled her fingers along a chain and tugged it free -- a stone like object attached to the end was enough to catch her eye. She shrugged as she pocketed it.
Puffing away on the dart, Nijah straddled herself over the dead Xaela’s chest and used the snapped blade to move the hair from the woman's face and get a better look at the eyes; beneath the veil of dark hair was the fatal wound she landed with the Xaela’s own horn and a singular blue eye. It was striking, almost unnervingly so.
So, this is what she truly came here for.
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Viaduct Tavern (Final Text & Sketches)
Named after Holborn Viaduct, The Viaduct Tavern first opened its door on 1869 and it is the last 19th century Gin Palace left standing in London. It was a popular spot to hang out back then and it was well known among the poor Londoners since the legislation in the 19th century caused gin to be cheaper than beer. The tavern had a varied customer range as well, from the government officials, to the working class people. Even criminals due to its position being surrounded by prisons.
Viaduct Tavern was built on the site of the Old Newgate Prison, and just across the streets, where now stood a small fountain, was where hundreds of public executions were held every morning. Rumours also said that the first floor of the tavern use to be an opium den, a highly popular taboo during the Victorian era. Some even believed that the cells in the cellars downstairs are from the original cells of the prison. You could ask a staff member to take you down to have a look at the cellars when it is not too busy.
The interior of the tavern is still maintained, and was based on a flamboyant victorian opera house, with deep red walls, gold details, large windows, mirrors, and gas lamps illuminating the opulent space. You can even see the original booth where the landlord used to exchange money for tokens to sell drinks to the customers. If you look carefully, one of the large paintings in the bar has a hole on it, and it was done by a drunk first world war soldier’s gunshot during a scuffle.
Many have seen glasses floating or thrown off the bar tables, and the upper floors of the tavern itself was said to be haunted by a murdered prostitute. Although there were all these reports of strange, unexplainable events happening around the tavern, the most active area is undoubtedly the controversial cellar itself. The paranormal experts believe that the underground river under one of the rooms in the cellar may be the cause, as running water tend to carry energy with them. Moreover, it was said that room frequently floods.
Some of the staff have experienced the flickering lights and have heard terrible noises of pain coming from the cellar. Sometimes the door would lock itself and it would not budge, being pushed from the inside, when it could be opened easily from the outside. However, the spookiest story came from the late 20th century, when the landlord was in the cellar, as the lights suddenly went out and the door was suddenly slammed shut and locked behind him, he then heard a voice saying “There’s just us two down here now.”
Today, the Viaduct tavern is still a busy and a lively place where people drink and socialise. Filled with loud banters and drinks being poured. It was really packed with people when I went there pre-lockdown to get some snacks after an entire day of walking, and it has definitely got an atmosphere to it! Transporting us back in time. It is certainly worth investigating!
You Have a Girlfriend?!
Spencer Reid x ocBianca Bennett
A/N: My last Spencer Reid fic was a little after he first met Bianca. This is set after they’ve been together for a while.
A/N 2: I meant to post the Dia de los Muertos Hobbit fic, but my Halloween weekend was surprisingly busy, so that didn’t happen. Take this one as consolation!
Word count: 2725 (wow, that’s a lot)
“What do we got?”
“The sheriff in San Francisco contacted me about a possible serial killer. Here are the files.”
Agent Aaron Hotchner’s team were gathered in the conference room. JJ, Agent Jareau, had called them in early to brief them on a possible case. They all agreed that it was something they should look into. Then Agent Jareau noticed something.
“Guys, do any of you know where Reid is?” she asked, not having heard his input in the past five minutes.
They all shook their heads.
“Maybe he didn’t get your text,” Morgan offered.
“Call him, but tell him we’re leaving in 30,” Hotch said.
With that, the rest of them dispersed. Morgan held back JJ and Agent Prentiss.
“Listen, why don’t we just go and pick up Reid? JJ, you said he gave you keys, right?”
“Oh, he did?” Agent Prentiss asked.
“Yeah, after we named him godfather,” JJ responded with a smile.
“Yeah.” JJ considered Morgan’s proposal. “Alright, let’s go.”
They beat traffic and got to Agent Reid’s apartment fairly quickly. He wasn’t answering calls. JJ knocked, but when there was no answer, they all silently agreed to go in. JJ unlocked the door while the others kept a hand on their weapons out of habit. They entered cautiously.
“Reid?” JJ called out.
“He must have left by now,” Prentiss said in a reasonable tone.
“The shower’s on,” Morgan pointed out.
“And is that… a woman singing?” JJ said.
They all moved slowly toward the back of the apartment. They heard the water shutoff, and then a woman walked out, still humming. She had a towel wrapped around herself, tucked under her arms, and her hair was wet. She made her way to the fridge and dug around for a moment. She turned, leaned on the island, and started peeling an orange.
“Did you forget something?” she asked.
All three agents froze in surprise. She wasn’t looking at them, her gaze was on her hands, but there was no one else in the room.
“Um, who are you?” Morgan asked.
“And what are you doing in Reid’s apartment?” Prentiss added.
The woman stopped her movements and lifted her head.
“Well, shit. None of you are Spencer,” she said.
This confused the agents even more.
“Do I look like Dr. Spencer Reid?” Morgan asked sarcastically.
“Well I wouldn’t know, but none of you sound like him.”
There was a pause as they all realized something; she was blind.
“That was a joke, guys,” the woman said. She put a piece of orange in her mouth. “Lighten up.”
“You still haven’t told us who you are,” Prentiss said.
“Spencer hasn’t told you about me?”
“No,” all the agents said at once.
“Of course he hasn’t,” she sighed. “I’m Bianca Bennett.”
She extended her hand, which all of them automatically stepped forward to shake.
“Spencer calling,” an automated voice said.
The woman, Bianca, reached across the counter to grab the phone and accepted the call on speaker.
“Hey, Spencer,” Bianca answered. “What did you forget?”
“Hey, Bee,” Spencer said.
His coworkers lifted their eyebrows.
“I forgot my jacket, do you think you’ll have time to drop it off?” Spencer continued.
“You’re lucky I have the morning off,” Bianca said with a smile.
“I don’t know about lucky, but it was definitely—“
“And—,” Bianca interrupted loudly— “you’re lucky some of your coworkers are here. I’ll give it to them and they’ll meet you, yeah?”
“What? Who’s there? It’s JJ, isn’t it?”
“Her and Prentiss and Morgan. I think. And I think they were about ready to shoot me.”
Spencer sighed. “I’m really sorry about that, all of you. I’m guessing I’m on speaker, right?”
“You have inferred correctly, sir,” Bianca said.
“Okay, I promise I’ll explain later, guys. For now, can you just grab my jacket and I’ll meet you at the office, please?”
“Actually, we were just swinging by to pick you up. We got called in early on a case,” Prentiss explained.
“Alright, then I’ll meet you on the plane and get briefed there. I’ve got to go, guys, I’m on the subway, I’m—“
The connection was lost. Bianca turned off the phone and turned back to the agents.
“Reception is spotty on the subway. Let me get his jacket,” Bianca said.
She walked out of the room, and the agents immediately started murmuring to each other.
“Since when does Reid have a girlfriend?”
“And she is blind, right?”
“I wonder if she’s a genius like him.”
Bianca walked into the living room and held out Reid’s jacket.
“We’ve been dating for about a year now,” she said, answering the questions they asked each other. “Yes, I really am blind. Thank you, and no, I am definitely not a genius.”
All the agents averted their eyes and flushed in embarrassment. Prentiss took the jacket with an apologetic smile.
“Thin walls,” Bianca said. She crossed her arms over her chest. “Anyways, you should go. Don’t want to miss your plane. You’ve got to catch some killers, right?”
“Right,” Prentiss said. “Well, um…“
“It was nice meeting you,” JJ said.
“Yeah, you too.” Bianca shook their hands again.
They left and attacked Reid with incessant questions once they were all on the plane. Reid glanced at Hotch and Rossi fearfully. He shushed them and mouthed, ‘Later'. Hotch and Rossi noticed. They only exchanged exasperated glances and ignored the other agents.
The case went by fairly quickly and easily; the team considered themselves lucky. The night before they returned to Quantico, they cornered Reid in his hotel room.
“Okay, spill,” JJ demanded. “How did you even meet her? She doesn’t work with us.”
“That’s because she’s not an FBI agent at all,” Reid said. “She’s a high school teacher.”
“You’re dating a schoolteacher?” Morgan said incredulously.
“Yes. I have enjoyed our privacy so far, so if you guys could—“
“It’s okay, Reid, it’s not like I can judge,” JJ said. “I kept my relationship with Will a secret for about a year, right?”
The other three exchanged telling looks.
“JJ, we all knew,” Reid said.
“No, hold on, I’m not gonna let him turn this around,” Morgan said, cutting JJ off from saying anything further.
“And I’m not going to let you all interrogate me or her about our private, personal life,” Reid countered.
“We just want to know who she is,” Prentiss said.
“And why you’ve been hiding her from us,” Morgan said.
“Well, I told you. Her name is Bianca Bennett and she’s a school teacher. And I haven’t been hiding her from you, you all just assumed I wasn't dating anyone.”
No one said anything for a moment after that. They couldn’t deny it. The possibility never entered their minds that Spencer Reid may be seeing someone.
“Where did you guys meet?” JJ asked, breaking the silence.
Reid gave her a warning look, perhaps trying to determine her intentions.
“She came up to me in the park to ask for advice about one of her students. She had heard me give a lecture before and knew my background,” Reid explained.
“What do you mean, she wanted help with one of her students? Isn’t it her job to teach kids?”
“Yeah, but this student was different.”
“Was that the day you left early?” Prentiss asked.
Reid nodded. “Yup. It still took about seven meetings before she asked me out, though.”
“She asked you out? Oh come on, Reid,” Morgan said.
“It took you guys that long?”
“Well, she was waiting for me to ask her out, but I was completely oblivious. Even her student, the one I was mentoring, and his aunt picked up on it. I liked her, obviously, but I guess I just never thought she would agree to a date. She’s just amazing.”
“Aw. I’m happy for you, Spence,” JJ said, patting the younger man on the back.
“Yeah, it’s about time, man.”
“She’s okay with you being gone for long periods of time like this?” Prentiss asked.
Reid glanced at each of them before answering.
“She would prefer I wasn’t, obviously, but she knows this job is important to me. Besides, it’s not like we have a kid or anything.”
They were all quiet as they thought about their coworker, Hotch. Finally, Prentiss, Morgan, and JJ stood.
“We should get going. We have to be up early for our flight tomorrow,” Prentiss said.
“Yeah, we’ll let you get some sleep,” Morgan said.
“Ask Bianca if it would be okay to ask her to lunch,” JJ said. “I want to get to know her since she’s your girlfriend and all.”
“Okay, I’ll text her in a bit. Goodnight, guys.”
The next morning, they left early for their six-hour flight and got back to Quantico around noon. They went straight to the office to start on reports. Reid was telling his team members about the history of San Francisco as they rode the elevator.
“You know, what’s interesting is that San Francisco was called the “city of sin” long before Las Vegas. The city was rife with prostitution and opium dens as an outlet for the gold rushers who flocked to the city at the time. At first, there wasn’t much law and order to the city and it was run by vigilante groups who would hang anyone who committed a crime.”
Prentiss and Morgan exchanged a glance, but they didn’t try to cut him off yet.
“Then, when they started an actual police force, even those policemen were corrupt and accepted bribes from the madams and drug dealers to turn the other cheek. That all changed after the 1906 earthquake and fire, though. After that, the city’s inhabitants become of a reform-minded mood and when they were rebuilding, they--”
The elevator arrived at their floor, and they stepped out quickly.
“--decided that they would build more respectable businesses, especially on Morton Street, where most of the--”
“Reid, so, how long have you and Bianca been living together?” Prentiss asked.
“Not long. We actually go between her place and mine. We’re usually at her apartment on the weekends.”
Reid’s phone rang.
“Hello?” Reid answered. “What? Are you okay?”
The note of fear in his voice caught the others’ attention.
“Okay. I’m on my way, and I’m going to send some police officers as well, okay? I’ll see you soon.” He hung up and started gathering his things while he dialed another number.
“What’s going on?” Prentiss asked.
“Someone broke into Bianca’s apartment and attacked her,” Reid explained.
“Oh my god,” Prentiss said. “I’ll tell Hotch what’s going on.”
“I’ll drive you,” Morgan said.
“Hey Garcia,” Reid said into the phone. “I need you to dispatch the closest patrol car to Bianca’s apartment. … Everything’s fine for now, but I need you to hurry, okay?… There was a break-in, I’ve got to go.”
He hung up. Morgan followed him with the keys to one of the SUVs. They ran the siren. Morgan followed Reid’s directions and got to Bianca’s apartment in record time. When they got out they saw that there was a police car on the sidewalk. Reid took the stairs two at a time, and Morgan followed close behind. As they neared Reid’s door, they heard Bianca’s voice.
“I’m okay, please stop touching me,” she said.
Reid and Morgan burst into the room to find it a mess. Items were strewn along the floor, the refrigerator was open, a dish was shattered, the coffee table was on its side, and the TV was on the floor near the door. There was one police officer kneeling on a man and putting handcuffs on him. The officer’s partner was attempting to comfort Bianca. He had his hands on her shoulders, ignoring her attempts to shake him off and her stiff posture. Reid barreled through the room toward them, while Morgan kept close to the arresting officer in case he needed help.
“Bianca, are you alright?” Reid asked. “Hands off my girlfriend, she doesn’t like strangers touching her,” he snapped at the police officer.
The man put his hands up in surrender, eyes wide. Reid took Bianca’s hand and led her to the couch, making her sit.
“I’m fine, Spencer. He just surprised me is all,” Bianca said.
The officers stood up with the offender.
“Did she tell you what happened?” Morgan asked them.
“Just that he was here when she came in, and almost knocked her out,” one of them said. “Your boy’s got a good girl there. When we came in she was standing over this loser with her stick pointed at his throat.”
“It’s a cane,” Reid corrected at the same time the would-be thief started shouting.
“She threatened me!” the offender whined. “She said if I moved—“
“Shut the hell up, man,” Morgan said. “It was self-defense. I’d have kicked your ass.”
The officers took him away. Morgan went over to where Reid and Bianca were sitting on the couch. He noticed how Bianca seemed to be melting into Reid.
“Bianca, I think you should go to the hospital,” Morgan said gently.
“What? Why?” Reid asked.
He took Bianca’s face in his hands and examined her. She winced. Her bottom lip trembled and she kept looking up; it looked like she was trying not to cry.
“You said he tried to knock you out?” Morgan prompted.
“Yeah, he tried to hit me with the vase.”
Reid pushed her hair back to reveal a cut on her ear and neck.
“Bianca!” Reid exclaimed.
Bianca touched one hand to her ear. When she pulled it away, her fingertips were sticky with blood.
“I thought it was the water,” Bianca murmured. "From the vase."
Morgan leaned down to examine her. “It doesn’t look that deep,” he said. “But we should still get you checked out. Want me to drive?”
“O-okay,” Bianca said.
“Thank you,” Reid said.
Reid helped Bianca up and to the door, where Morgan offered to carry her down the stairs.
“Thanks, but I can walk,” Bianca replied stubbornly.
She managed it by leaning heavily on the railing and keeping one hand intertwined with Spencer’s. The ride to the hospital was silent, broken only by Morgan and Reid’s cell phones vibrating. Morgan glanced down and saw that it was a group text from Penelope, telling them all that Hotch wants them to meet in the BAU conference room. Morgan looked in the rearview mirror and saw Reid frowning down at his phone, presumably at the same text.
“Spencer, what’s wrong?” Bianca asked.
“What? Nothing,” Reid said.
Bianca’s lips curved up into a smirk. “Now I really know there’s something up.”
Morgan’s eyebrows rose at her keen perception. Bianca, who had been leaning on Reid’s shoulder, suddenly sat up straighter.
“If you need to go back to work, it’s okay,” Bianca said softly.
Reid met Morgan’s eyes in the mirror, the problem clear in his eyes. Reid shook his head.
“No,” he said. “I can’t leave you.”
“But… I have friends I can call. If it’s important--”
Reid’s phone buzzed again. It lit up to reveal a text from Hotch: he was aware of the situation and Reid did not have to come in until it was resolved. Reid sighed in relief and put his arm around Bianca, nudging her so that her head was on his shoulder again.
“Nothing’s more important than you,” he said in her ear.
It was too quiet for Morgan to hear, but the small, shy smile that graced Bianca’s features was enough to let him know of his friend’s plans.
“We just came back from a case, so we probably don’t have to leave again,” Morgan said. “Hotch probably just wants us to go over reports. I can cover for you, man.”
Reid smiled slightly and gave a tight nod. “Thanks.”
“Aaron Hotchner?” Bianca said. She smiled up at Reid. “I want to meet the rest of your team now.”
“Well, maybe we can arrange that for another day,” Reid said.
“Oh, really? I was thinking we could invite them all to the emergency room,” Bianca deadpanned.
It took both men a moment to realize that she was being sarcastic. Reid laughed and buried his face in her hair, and began whispering something else to her. Morgan chuckled and shook his head. He was beginning to like Reid’s girlfriend.
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Viaduct Tavern Research
The Viaduct Tavern was opened in 1869 and was named after holborn Viaduct, which was opened the same year. It is the last remaining example of a 19th century Gin Palace left in the city, and has been beautifully decorated in keeping with its history. The original toll booth is still in situ. Apparently the pub was so rough, the landlord had to sell beer tokens from the booth to the costumers to keep money away from his bar stuff!
The immediate location surrounding the Viaduct Tavern is steeped in history. It is situated just across the street from the present Old Bailey, which is built on the site of the old Newgate Prison. The exit stop where any executions were held from Newgate Prison, now marked with a small fountain, is visible from every window in the property. Some reports say the pub is also built on the site of Newgate Prison and/or the old Giltspur Street Comptoire, a detours prison in use between 1700 and 1853, but evidence has some to light that this claim is doubtful. The absence of graffiti carved into the brick, the size and locations of the “cells” and the location of the pub itself makes this very unlikely to be the case.
However the Viaduct Tavern does have a great atmosphere, and has had much history in its own right as a former Gin Palace with an opium den located on the first floor. One of the large paintings in the bar has a hole in it- it was done by the drunk ww1 gunshot/ bayonet of a soldier during the first world war in a scuffle! Many other things have happened here and it is certainly worthy of investigation by the club.
The pub is just across the road from the Old Bailey. Its interior design was based on a very flamboyant Victorian opera house. The Viaduct is built on the cellars/foundations/cells of the Giltspur Street Compter, an old remand prison, which took the overflow from Newgate Prison across the road. The Cells are now used as the pubs cellar, if you ask the bartender nicely they may even let you take a look. The bartender then started telling me about someone who had died in that cell, and that in his opinion most of the paranormal activity at the pub was focused in this cell. The barmen also told me the staff didn't like to be down in the cellar at night on their own because sometimes the lights went off and the doors locked themselves and noises were heard, terrible noises of pain.
In 1996, a manager was tidying the cellar one Saturday morning, when the door suddenly slammed shut and the lights went out. Feeling his way to the door, he found that no matter how hard he pushed it just would not open. Fortunately, his wife heard his cries for help and came down stairs to investigate. She found that the doors, which would not open from the inside, were unlocked and easily pushed open from the outside. The paranormal activity on the upper floors is attributed to a murdered prostitute. The Landlord says several mediums have visited the tavern and all either saw or felt the spirits. One saw a face in an upstairs window, others claim to have seen or sensed a spirit nicknamed Fred haunting the cellar.
It is also prone to suffer from bouts of poltergeist activity. “Poltergeist” is derived from two German terms Poltern meaning “to knock” and Geist meaning “Spirit”
Built on site of Old Newgate prison, where hundreds of executions and hangings took place, the original debtors cells are still in the cellar of the pub! There are rumours of the first floor being an opium den when this pub was opened, a highly popular taboo during the Victorian era. The upstairs is an area that most of the pub staff will not go up to alone... a woman in white has been seen here on more than one occasion. The pub itself retains original features from its perios, including the deep red walls with mirrors surrounding, giving a very dark yet oppulant vibe. Also still intact behind the bar is the token booth installed by the landlady many years ago. She didn't trust her light fingered staff, so had her patrons buy tokens from her at the booth so they could buy there gin and ale. Staff have many stories here of being touched, hearing loud bangs and footsteps from upstairs, poltergeist activity in the cellars and some rather unusual activity in the toilets!!
Buzzfeed Unsolved Network:
people loved gin for a long time you'll see why they love gin there's a reason why gin was popular among poor Londoners due to the fact that legislation in the 19th century caused gin to be cheaper than beer gin palaces were designed to be as opulent as could be with rose and gold details large windows and gas lamps illuminating the palace the tavern had a diverse clientele including the working-class lawyers and government officials as well as criminals due to the nearby prisons.
debtor's prison that was demolished in 1854 across Newgate Street loomed the notoriously dreadful new game Jail living conditions were horrific inside Newgate with some prisoners sleeping on the floor while more nefarious criminals were locked in cells underground as a result of these horrendous conditions sickness and disease ran rampant throughout the facility.
located just outside the doors of viaduct tavern was the former gallows of Newgate Jail where public executions were held at 8 o'clock in the morning as the bells of the nearby st. sepulchers rang executions became sort of a morbid social event with crowds of rowdy and drunk people gathering to watch as a form of entertainment or fascination some people would even arrive the night before to ensure a good view in fact one pub that still stands today across the street from viaduct called magpie and stump would have viewing rooms that people could rent out and even offered an execution breakfast.
two most active areas of the building starting with the upstairs loft in 1982 the daughter of the landlord was reading the paper one Sunday afternoon in the upstairs loft as she was sitting on the couch she reportedly heard footsteps coming quickly up the stairs the door of the room swung open and the
newspaper was grabbed out of her hands and thrown on the floor the door swung shut and she could hear footsteps descending the stairs afterward the landlord's daughter searched the pub and couldn't find anyone around in 1999 two electricians were working upstairs at the tavern when one claimed he felt a tap on his shoulder without a sign of anyone a few minutes after this odd experience the two reportedly witnessed a roll of carpeting rise into the air and fall back to the floor some believe that a murdered prostitute is responsible for these strange occurrences regardless of the source it would seem that there is indeed a poltergeist of sorts lurking in the loft above the tavern. the most haunted part of the building is undoubtedly the tavern cellar in the 1980s a landlord was in the cellar when the lights suddenly went out the cellar door slams shut behind him and he then heard quote there's just us two down here now end quote. some paranormal experts believe that running water tends to carry energy with it and therefore catalyze paranormal activity and this is exacerbated by underground sources of
water one of the rooms in the cellar flooded frequently until they finally realized that there was an underground stream below the cellar. the most famous part of this cellar and the tavern in general is the cell room it’s long been part of the taverns lore that the cells located in this cellar are the
last remaining cells of the former Newgate jail across the street however historical records don't seem to indicate that the tavern itself claims that the cells were associated with the guilt spur Street compter located just next door some believe the cellar cells are merely a storage space for the pub regardless these cells are definitely wedged between two famous London prisons and are reportedly the most active part of the tavern.
Viaduct Tavern Bibliography:
Ghostclub.org.uk. (2020). [online] Available at: https://www.ghostclub.org.uk/viaduct.htm [Accessed 2 Nov. 2020].
www.twilightghosthunts.com. (n.d.). THE VIADUCT TAVERN GHOST HUNT - UK Ghost Hunting with UK Ghost Hunting | Halloween Ghost Hunts | Book a ghost hunt. [online] Available at: https://www.twilightghosthunts.com/events/43-the-viaduct-tavern-ghost-hunt [Accessed 2 Nov. 2020].
www.ghost-story.co.uk. (n.d.). The Viaduct Tavern, London, England. [online] Available at: http://www.ghost-story.co.uk/index.php/haunted-buildings/haunted-pubs/364-the-viaduct-tavern-london-england [Accessed 2 Nov. 2020].
Amy’s Crypt. (2018). Haunted Viaduct Tavern, London. [online] Available at: https://amyscrypt.com/viaduct-tavern-london-haunted/ [Accessed 2 Nov. 2020]
BuzzFeed Unsolved Network (2017). London’s Haunted Viaduct Tavern. YouTube. Available at https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKUYVu2qZuk [Accessed 29 Oct. 2020]
I do not like watching this friar burn up!