The sun was just rising as the trio of agents left the hospital. Artie, bundled in his coat, clothes, and the blanket given to him by animal control, slid gratefully into the back seat of Myka's vehicle. They drove back to their rooms and gathered up their special gear, carefully repacking most of it in the trunk. Artie's special doctor's/gadget bag, and the sealed canister of neutralizer mixed with the dyes that magically transformed man to beast were secured. None of them bothered to open it. That would wait until it the contents could be safely examined and stored inside the warehouse.
"Think MacPherson is still nearby?" Myka queried as she packed her belongings.
"Probably not," Artie commented coldly, anger bubbling up from deep inside his chest. "He's not one for watching the chaos he creates. Most likely he's en route to a preplanned destination and already working on some other fiendish plot."
Pete didn't know whether to shiver at the solemn pronouncement or to make a joke about it sounding like something from the pages of a suspense novel. He may have been better than most people at finding humor in the macabre but experience taught him that MacPherson and his machinations were nothing to laugh about. Wisely, he kept his mouth shut.
Since their flight wasn't for another couple of hours, they decided a hearty breakfast was in order as soon as they completed their packing. Pete scooped up his keys and pocketed the spare change he'd left in his other slacks. Last, he packed his dirty clothes, shouldered his bag and walked outside to toss it in the trunk. He hadn't gone more than four steps when his foot caught on the protruding concrete block in front of the vehicle. With a yell, he pitched forward, dumping his bag. Slamming the palm of one hand against the sideview mirror as he fell, he managed to catch his balance at the last possible moment by putting his hands down on the pavement. Groaning, he staggered to his feet and immediately slammed his head against the bottom of the mirror so hard it rattled the car. Both hands covered the back of his head.
Hunched over, he glared evilly at the offending mirror, and carefully rose to his full height. He took a couple of steps backward and tripped over the same barrier. Arms pinwheeling, he tumbled into Myka and Artie, who both righted him.
Pete let fly with some very colorful words.
"Having a bad hair day?" Artie asked ingenuously.
Myka answered for him. "Bad hair week."
Clearly Artie was intrigued, "Really?"
"He's been jinxed," she said with conviction. "Cars that won't work for him but will for me. The same with the Tesla and the Farnsworth. Tripping, You've seen some of it already."
"No, been pretty random but downright annoying just the same," Pete answered through gritted teeth. He angrily kicked at a small pebble by his feet. The innocent little rock hit a hub cap at a weird angle, rebounded and popped him in the knee with enough force to make him yell from the pain. "See what I mean?"
"Strange," Artie said, slowly stroking his goatee in that way he had when puzzling through something. "When did it start?"
Shrugging with his hands, Pete said, "Well, the guy next to me on the plane dropped his carry on right on my head."
Myka snickered at the memory. "Yeah, and later some kid bumped his elbow with a book. He did one of those reflex things…" she shot her arm outward as if it had been given a shock.
"That wouldn't have happened if you'd let me take the window seat. Long arms and tight spaces can lead to trouble now and then."
Artie was listening to the bantering with an intensity that told them these happenings may not have been mere coincidence.
"Oh no-no," Pete stuttered. "Don't tell me, I came in contact with something freaky on the plane, right?" He turned to look first at Artie and then at Myka. "Why do these things always come to me? Why not her for a change?"
Arties answer wasn't long in coming. "As Leena has said, 'You are in tune'. Artifacts sometimes sense this. You aren't exactly summoning them but you are calling out to them simply because of your special gifts which act as a sort of bridge between you and them."
Pacing beside the vehicle but being careful not to get near anything troublesome, Pete asked, "So what did I come in contact with on the plane, and how the hell do I reverse the effects. Obviously I can't go back in time to figure out who had what."
"Maybe it will wear off," Artie suggested calmly.
"And maybe it won't," growled Pete, frustration giving his voice a hard edge. He rammed his hands in his hands in his pants pocket but yanked them out again when he realized he might need them to break another fall.
Their meal was uneventful which made Pete inordinately grateful. He'd been edgy and testy when he sat down but when no further mishaps occurred, he settled into his meal like a hyena at a fresh kill.
Myka didn't know whether to be astounded or repulsed at the rate he was shoveling it in, along with an accompaniment of the usual sound effects. She kept her eyes off his plate even if she couldn't distract herself from the pleasurable noises he was making. Mentally she shrugged, well aware that he got like this sometimes after a long and difficult artifact procurement. At such times, table manners flew out the window.
He ate in record time. Next to him, Artie was devouring a breakfast steak with a ferocity that made her wonder if some residual ink remained in his system. Looking down, she realized she had barely touched her no-yolk omelette with garden veggies. Slowly, she pushed it away and sat back, waiting on her partner and boss to finish. The wait wasn't long.
Unexpectedly, Artie picked up the checks. Fishing into his coat pocket for his wallet, he retrieved several bills. He patted his pockets with the hand not already clutching the money.
"Um, Pete…or Myka…whichever. Either of you have some change?"
"How much?" they asked in unison.
Looking at the check again as if he didn't already know what was on it, he pursed his lips a second and answered, "Thirty four cents."
Pete's hands dove into his slacks pockets before Myka could even open the change compartment of her wallet. Palm open and flattened, he counted out the money. He nudged aside a bright silver coin while digging out some pennies near it. "Uh, no, not this. Darn Canadian money pops up everywhere and then you're stuck with it," he said to no one in particular.
Artie and Myka had stopped to watch him if no other reason than to give them something to do. Myka saw Artie's torso lean forward suddenly, so that he was looking at Lattimer's hand.
Artie's voice was soft and curious yet somewhat restrained. "Where did you get that coin?" He gestured with one thick finger at the large silver coin.
Separating it from the other silver ones in his palm, he held it up without giving it a second look. "This one?" Without waiting for Artie to answer, he stated, "Someone pawned it off on me, I guess. You know, you get change and there it is. Only problem is that no one wants to take it off you next time you use change."
A hand came into view and Pete surrendered the coin.
Leaning over for a better look, Myka asked, "Something interesting?"
"Something missing," answered Artie in a hushed tone.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Pete queried with a note of suspicion in his voice.
"Let me tell you about this particular coin and maybe it will bring back some memories." Artie donned a single purple glove before taking it out of Pete's palm. He flourished it as if about to do a magic disappearing coin trick. "This little beauty is a Queen Victoria "Godless" florin. And while I can see why you might mistake it for currency from a foreign but English speaking country if you weren't looking closely, this particular one has a bit of a history."
Pete sat back, already knowing what was coming. But Artie was easily sliding into his role as artifact educator, so Lattimer let him run with the ball…or coin as the case may be.
"The 'Godless' florin was produced in fairly large numbers in the mid 1800's. It had gone through some design changes over that period and one such change is evident here. Now, the important thing to note is that it isn't unique in itself. As I said, quite a few were created. However, some of them, for unexplained reasons, were reputed to cause…" He paused and gestured at Pete with a sweeping hand.
Pete didn't disappoint him. "Bad luck!"
"Exactly!" Artie said, clearly enthused. "It was impossible to say if that was true or not for every coin minted. It boiled down to just here-say and rumor. But a few coins had a traceable history of causing their owners grief. One of them was stored in a bank vault to keep it out of anyone's physical presence."
He stopped his lecture, looked around the restaurant, lowered his voice to barely above a whisper and continued, "Eventually Mrs. Frederic obtained it and shipped it to the Warehouse for safe-keeping."
"So why was it here and in my pocket?" Pete asked, already getting hazy images of what really happened.
"Let me finish and it'll probably come to you," was Artie's rather abrupt reply. "As I was saying, it arrived in the Warehouse and I gave it to Claudia to catalog and put on a shelf. She'd only been inside for a month or so. Naturally, she opened the package but didn't pay attention to the safe handling protocols, picked it up without gloves, and you can guess what happened next."
"Something fell on her when she was in the stacks?" Myka suggested.
"She tripped and landed flat on her face," was Pete's guess since he'd been acutely aware of all the tripping he'd done lately.
Artie clapped briefly and then stabbed a finger in his direction. "Bingo! Give that man a prize!" He took a long drink of his coffee, draining the cup. "Claudia stumbled with it in the office, dropped the coin. It rolled heaven knew where and neither of us could find it. It is the Warehouse after all. I figured it'd show up eventually." He leaned back, crossing his arms over his stomach. "So, did that explanation help matters any?"
Groaning, Pete looked up at the ceiling. "Yeah, yeah. I remember now." He trained his brown eyes back on his boss and combed his close cropped hair with long fingers before saying, "I had some coins fall through a rip in one of my pocket seams. I'd been meaning to fix it or have Leena help me, but…anyway, yeah, the coins fell. I got down on my hands and knees to pick 'em up and just scooped up everything that had rolled by one of the desks. I did a sweep underneath to make sure I caught anything that had gone under and out of sight. That's probably when I picked this up. I just didn't realize it. I shoved the change in my other pocket and…" he closed his eyes in thought.
"And that's when you came over to ask me what I was searching for on the computer," Artie finished for him. "I remember hearing the coins drop to the floor. It just didn't connect that you might pick up the bad luck florin."
Breathing a heavy sigh, Pete stated, "Well, that's a load off my mind. I'm assuming the run of rotten luck will stop now." He said it in such a way that it sounded as much a question as a comment.
"One would hope," Artie answered wryly. Then he caught Pete's worried expression and flashed him a half smile. "Don't worry. By all accounts, getting rid of the coin got rid of the 'curse'."
"Well, that's the best news I've had all week." Pete called out in relief. "That is, aside from finding you alive and in one piece," he amended.
Artie bestowed a rare grin on him, and caught the waitress's attention with a quick wave of his hand. She finished warming up a cup from the next table over and then reached out for the money. "Keep the rest," Artie informed her as he prepared to stand. Pete and Myka followed his example.
"Look out!" a young voice hollered from behind them.
All three agents, trained to react quickly, did just that. They wheeled as a single entity, just in time to see a young busboy struggling valiantly to hang onto a toppling tray. He lost the battle. It came down at the foot of the waitress who did a very quick dance to avoid all the garbage about to splatter on her new shoes. She succeeded in moving away but collided with Pete's chest forcing him backward. His foot caught Myka's ankle and from there it was a short and sudden plunge to the floor.
Eventually, he rolled over onto his back and looked up at a perplexed Artie. "You were saying? Get rid of the coin, get rid of the curse?"
Bending over, Artie helped him to his feet, and made a show of brushing off Pete's suit jacket. His face settled into a mask of neutrality. "Coincidence. Pure coincidence. The curse is lifted, I assure you." Then he gently pushed Pete toward the door.
As a limping Lattimer exited, Artie pulled Myka aside and, in a stern whisper, stated, "Don't you dare let him drive! And don't even think about putting him near me on the plane!"