"I don't give a damn what you think, I know my own body and I'm well enough that we can do this. It's been a week; I'm tired of sitting on my ass."
"And a very fine ass it is," Dunworth muttered under his breath, earning him a scathing look from Fletcher.
Winston held up his hands in defeat. "You're right Fletch you are the only one who can tell if you're back in top form. We'll take your word for it. So," he looked at everyone gathered in the room, "we need to come up with a plan of attack."
"You don't want to just walk right in there," Dunworth stated. "Malburn's expecting that."
Ellery nodded. "What are the chances he'd be there in the flesh if he thought we were walking into his trap?"
"None. He's your basic coward who uses others to do his dirty work and then shows up after the fact."
"We could play it out, let him think he's got us, and go from there."
"No El, I'd rather not take that chance." Fletcher drummed his fingers on the arm of the sofa. "What if we forget the mansion all together for the time being, save it as a last resort."
"And do what?" Winston asked.
Fletcher turned to Dunworth. "How does he get the gems delivered from the overlord's plane?"
"They just show up."
"Where you worked?"
Dunworth shook his head. "He owns a building that used to be a clock tower connected to the old Mercantile Exchange. The Exchange is gone but the tower's still standing."
"Been there, seen it. As a matter of fact that's were we first found you," Ellery told him. "Wil checked it out but that's as far as we got because of the wards."
William nodded. "I was able to get inside because I ghosted and entered on the third floor. Is the building checked to make certain all the day people have left before the wards are put up for the night, Dun?"
"You better believe it. Not even a mouse would escape detection so if you were thinking of hiding inside somewhere until after dark, forget it."
"Is the tunnel to the liquor store warded as well?"
"You found that did you? No it's not. Or at least it wasn't the last time I was there."
"Why does he use the tower for the deliveries?" Fletcher asked.
"His choice of the tower had something to do with the co-ordinates and the height. The gems actually show up in the room that holds the clockworks at the very top of the tower," Dunworth told them.
Fletcher made note of that, asking, "Does Malburn collect them himself?"
"Damned straight. He doesn't trust anyone with that, not even me and I was tacitly at least his right hand man. He collects them, brings them down to the command center on the second floor, and does something to them. Only then will he release them to be tagged and bagged for sale to our...well his customers."
Winston was up and pacing. He turned, asking, "Do you have any idea what he does to them?" Dunworth shook his head and Winston paced some more, a deep frown on his face. Finally he stopped again to ask, "How large is the distribution range for the gems?"
"All over the world. Why? What are you thinking?"
"Alright," Winston leaned back against the desk, "we have the overlord who wants to capture us to save his world. That's part one. But what if he'd also like to gain control of our world? What if these gems are more than they seem? Yes, they're financing Malburn's life here from what you told us Dun, and that's happening by his selling them to the highest bidders around the world. Am I correct?"
"You are," Dunworth agreed. "The highest bidders are well-respected dealers with deep pockets so the chances are their clients are wealthy."
"And wealth like that belongs to businessmen or politicians, people in power," said May, who had been quietly listening up to then. "If the overlord could control them..."
"Not a happy thought," Ellery growled.
"So we have to stop the gems from arriving here."
Ellery smiled tightly. "Easily done, destroy the tower."
Fletcher shook his head. "We do that then Malburn just finds somewhere else that works and we loose him altogether. We need to be there for the next delivery. Do they come at specific times of the month Dun?"
"You're going to love this, it's so out of a mythological story. They're delivered on the night of the dark moon."
"Death of the old, birth of the new," May said. "I wonder if that choice is symbolic in the eyes of the overlord."
"More likely a warped sense of humor and easy to remember but not pinned to one specific date just in case someone happens to hear about a delivery," William pointed out. "Although there's also the factor that moving through the ether is marginally easier during dark of the moon."
"I'm sure any or all of those factors come in to play." Dunworth crossed to a calendar hanging on one wall. "Three days until dark moon. Three days to come up with a plan and be there to capture Malburn and get the gems."