Behold, the fic lives! With only a few chapters left, it would be a shame to leave it unfinished—two more chapters after this! Also, the Giovanni and Archer in this chapter may or may not be the same ones from the Pokémon-verse (meaning that the cat may or may not be Persian). I do have a future idea for a Pokémon/Kolchak crossover, so it is likely them (and yes, I do have an explanation as to why they are in Chicago, which will be addressed in said crossover, and their appearance in Chicago takes place well after the events in HeartGold/SoulSilver).
Tony had dropped me off at Mr. Giovanni's estate as I requested. He kept his expression completely neutral as he drove away, but I could tell that he was upset about the idea of my getting a job up at the Chronicle. Well, I guess that's irony for you; you could take a look at the two of us arguing and think that he couldn't wait for the chance to be rid of me… just like I always thought it'd be a no brainer to grab any chance to leave the INS for a most prestigious paper.
There was more to it than that, but I didn't have time to think about it; my main concern was preventing anymore lake disappearances. And I would hopefully find the answers I needed here.
The attendant gave Carl a very condescending look when he opened the door to see him standing there.
"Ah, hello, I'd like to talk to Mr. Giovanni?" the reporter said.
"I'm sure you do," the attendant said. "But I am afraid that Mr. Giovanni is packing his bags; he will be leaving this place very soon, and does not have the time or the disposition to meet with anyone."
Carl Kolchak, of course, was not about to give up so easily.
"Actually, there is something I need to discuss with him; something about a rumor concerning a beautiful lady—"
"If you don't leave this instant, I will make you leave," the man said. "This is private property."
"—A lady in Lake Michigan."
"Sir, I told you—"
"Let him in, Archer,"
Carl blinked as he saw a man in a black three-piece suit approaching the door—undoubtedly drawn by the arguing.
"You heard me," the man said. "Let him in."
Carl cast the attendant a smug look (who returned his look with a stony glare) and greeted the man inside.
"Mr. Giovanni, I presume?"
"You clearly know who I am already," the man said, leading him to a study. "And you also know of the problem going on nearby in Lake Michigan. How did you find a way to link that to me?"
"I saw the Eight Instruments of the Sirens in an antique shop downtown—your generous donation, I believe?" Carl said.
He attempted to sit down in a chair, but jumped up almost immediately as an annoyed white cat in the chair hissed at him.
"I am reaching the age of my retirement, Mr.…"
"Kolchak—Carl Kolchak, Independent News Service."
Giovanni gave Carl a searching look, most unimpressed by the newspaperman in front of him.
"Kolchak? The name is not familiar to me, but never mind that. As I was saying, I have amassed enough wealth during my years as a collector that I see fit to start giving it away. You can't take it with you, after all."
True, but I've seen some very determined ones try to come back to get it, Carl thought to himself.
"I fail to see how that links me to whatever it is that is occurring at the lake," Giovani continued.
"Because, Mr. Giovanni, I happened to take a gander at one of those 'whatevers' in the lake, and she was most certainly some sort of mermaid—a singing one at that—just when these Eight Instruments turned up in Chicago!"
"You mean to tell me that a grown man such as yourself believes in mermaids?" Giovanni scoffed. But beads of sweat appearing on his forehead; he was clearly feigning this disbelief.
"Middle-aged men are disappearing thanks to these things. If you have any idea of what's going on and how it's linked to those instruments, then you need to tell someone before the said demographic completely vanishes from the Lake Michigan area—a demographic which, I might add, we both belong to!"
Giovanni suddenly crossed to the study's double doors and closed them, locking them, as well.
"What I am about to tell you is under the condition that you will not put my name into your story under any circumstances, Mr. Kolchak. If you disagree, you may leave now without your story. Should you agree and then later break your promise, I will use one of many ways to ensure that you will regret it."
Carl gave a nod, unflinchingly. He had been threatened so many times before, it really was nothing new to him.
Giovanni was satisfied.
"You said that you saw eight instruments in the antique shop," the man said. "You will not be surprised, then, when I tell you that there are exactly eight siren-mermaids—each of them eternally bound to one of the instruments."
"Why on Earth did you bring them to Chicago?"
"Because, Mr. Kolchak, those siren-mermaids would not leave me alone from the moment I acquired those wretched instruments—Heaven knows I did my best to get rid of them!" Giovanni exclaimed. "Some associates of mine found them while they were excavating—they were younger, much younger than I was, so they did not hear the voices singing or see the faces in the water nearby. I assumed them to be antiques, and… requested that my associates give them to me. They complied."
Carl had a feeling that those associates didn't have much of a choice in that matter, but he kept his thoughts to himself.
"You mean to tell me that even though your associates didn't hear or see them… you did?" Carl prompted.
Giovanni covered his face with his hand.
"From my swimming pool," he said. "All night long, singing that same song over and over again—O, ye who dwells upon the land…"
"And so you brought the Instruments here to get rid of them? You couldn't have gotten rid of them anywhere else?"
"No; I didn't link the siren-mermaids to the Instruments at first… I store several of my art treasures here, and if it meant getting away from my main estate and the siren-mermaids in the pool, a trip here to store the Instruments would not be a bad idea. And then they turned up in Lake Michigan."
"So you generously donated the instruments to the antique shop," Carl finished. "Without asking so much as a dime for them…"
"And now they are no longer my problem," Giovanni agreed. "And that is all you need to know from me, I presume?"
"Almost," the reporter said. "I'm still stumped on why only middle-aged men are being affected by their song."
"I did a little bit of research, but found nothing, except for this," the man replied, handing him a few photocopied pages. "It makes no sense and talks about places and people that are completely unmentioned anywhere else."
Carl glanced over them, eyebrows arched as he came across the unfamiliar names.
"What's the gist of it?" he asked.
"In some land named Labrynna, eight siren-mermaids lived in a luxuriously furnished cavern for many years, each in possession of a magical instrument. Gentlemen came to call on them; regular men, whose rate of aging—our rate, if you will—was faster than the rate of the siren-mermaids. Regardless, the siren-mermaids held their gentlemen callers in very high regard—as they did the siren-mermaids," Giovanni said. "One day, though, everything changed. A Sorceress invaded Labrynna, taking over the cave."
"I guess the siren-mermaids objected to that…"
"Most strongly," the man agreed. "They put up a valiant fight, but it was to no avail; the sorceress—Veran, they called her—cursed them all, binding their spirits to their Instruments in such a way that they would be forced to follow them—and their curse could only be broken by their instruments being returned to them."
"And the middle-aged men?"
"They died of natural causes, but the siren-mermaids, forced to remain in this world, pined for them…"
"…And they're attempting to fill the void by getting middle-aged men living here to come to them," Carl finished. "But what was that you said about the curse being broken by their instruments being returned to them?"
"Exactly what it says," Giovanni said.
"Then why didn't you just throw the Instruments to them when you figured it out?" Carl asked, flabbergasted. "I would've thought that would've been the easiest solution—solve everyone's problems!"
"That's the thing about the curse," the man said. "They are pining so much for their lost loves, they do not show themselves to anyone else other than middle-aged men—and the moment they do, they start singing. It is impossible for a man to have coherent thoughts when they hear them sing—they cannot consciously bring themselves to hand over the instruments because they are so focused on the song."
"…You mean, you tried it?"
"If it hadn't been for Archer snapping me out of the trance at the last second, I would've been another statistic."
Carl sighed. Of course, nothing could ever be that easy—that always seemed to be his luck.
"Why would those underwater ladies ruin their own chances of breaking the curse?" he asked.
"Well, it would stand to reason that they don't know how to break the curse upon them; they're just desperately trying to fill that lost void, as you said," Giovanni said, pouring a glass of scotch for himself. "This sorceress Veran, whoever she was, would've been unlikely to tell them all the details."
He pulled another glass from the cabinet and held it out, offering the reporter a drink, as well.
"On the rocks," Carl said, nodding, and Giovanni complied, fixing the drink as he requested.
They drank in silence, which was interrupted only by the white cat murowring, demanding attention.
"Now that I've answered your questions, Mr. Kolchak, perhaps you can answer one of mine," Giovanni said, obligingly giving the cat an obligatory scratch behind the ears. "Why do you take such interest in these siren-mermaids? Were any of the victims friends or family of yours? Or is it simply worth trying to get a story for your paper when you know the risks of going near them?"
"I never knew any of the victims—never even heard of them. And it's not about the story," Carl said. "Ten to one, my editor wouldn't even publish it at all. I'm just trying to stop this from going any further."
"Newspapermen report the news; they don't make the news," Giovanni said. "I've had my fill of young wide-eyed idealists running around, thinking they can change the world. And you are a grown man."
"Look, just because you've washed your hands of this whole thing doesn't mean that I have," Carl shot back. "Even you tried to get rid of them—though I'll guess that was more to get them off your back, wasn't it?"
"I don't deny it," Giovanni said. "Very well, Mr. Kolchak. Go on chasing your story. But I am not responsible for what happens to you—I have warned you, and you are aware of the risks."
"Yeah, those risks, and the risks of ever bringing your name into this," Carl said, waving his hand in dismissal as he placed the empty glass back on Giovanni's desk. "Well, I guess I'll be off—"
"One last thing, Mr. Kolchak."
"Your tape recorder's tape, if you please. Don't insult my intelligence by thinking that I didn't notice you using it."
He snapped his fingers, and Archer opened the doors, blocking Carl's exit; now it was his turn to look smug. Carl scowled, but handed the tape to Giovanni, who pulled a powerful magnet from his desk, placed it against the tape for a moment, and then handed the wiped tape back to him.
"Next time, Mr. Kolchak, go digital."
"You'd have found some other way to delete it."
"Indeed. Give my best regards to the young lady at the antique shop; I assume you'll be heading there next, after all. Oh, and feel free to keep those photocopied pages; I certainly have no more use for them."
Giovanni and Archer both smirked. Even the white cat seemed to be snarking at the reporter.
Carl just grumbled as he placed the now-blank tape back into the recorder and left without another word.
Well, he lost the narrative from Giovanni, but had gained some valuable information, at any rate. Now, it was time to put that information to use and put a stop to the siren-mermaids' song—before it was too late.