Dash and Bela meet at an antiques store. Bela acquires a possible new client.
Grand Galerie, San Francisco
Market Street is a bustling area during the work week. Filled with businessmen and those holding the money - as bankers and stock brokers as well as those investing and saving large piles of cash. It only stands to reason that a few high end stores catering to those wealthy customers also are staggered through the area. While the streets are rather empty on the weekends, there are some stores that prefer such things.
One such store deals in high end and expensive antiques. Le Grande Galerie is well known for having one of a kind items for both the experienced collector as well as those men and women who simply wish to have a one of a kind piece of art in their homes to show off. The storefront is not much to look at, a small affair without a window in front to display wares. The door has a buzzer and a sign on the front declaring, 'By Appointment Only.'
Inside the store is neat and organized, the priceless pieces kept securely in proper storage behind another set of locked doors. The owner - a venerable woman wearing a pair of wire-rimmed glasses, her steel colored hair pulled back into a sever bun - sits behind a well polished wooden desk. Across from her sits a young woman. She's dressed remarkably well, long brunette hair pushed over her shoulder, a Burberry rain coat folded neatly in her lap. Her dress is sleek and black and low cut. Her heels are red and Louboutin.
Back home, Dash Gardiner had no need of antiques. The stately manor house known as Fair Haven held more rare and beautiful antiques within its walls than several shops like this one put together. The west coast feels positively sterile and infuriatingly new for someone accustomed to being surrounded by history. So, he's decided to acquire a few more pieces for his new home.
Normally, he would hire a decorator and let that person decorate to his personal standard. Indeed, he's done that, but decorators - most of them, anyway - can't sense an object's innate power.
And so, he's made an appointment at Le Grande Galerie. It's his third stop of the day. He's acquired a few pieces of some interest at the other shops, but nothing significant enough that he'd feel satisfied with his day's work. He's dressed in a classic gray Brooks Brothers suit, sans tie, and a camel-coloured wool Burburry peacoat. He presses the bell.
The buzzer sounds to let Dash in to find that he and the two women are the only ones in the store. "Mr. Gardiner?" The owner looks up to Dash and gives a polite nod at the question. He does, after all, have an appointment. At the question, Bela looks over her shoulder and takes in the form of Dash. She has an appraising look, as if she's sizing him up against the other antiques in the store.
On the desk between the two women is a velvet cloth holding a jewelry set. They're quite lovely, a necklace, ring and bracelet set made of gold inlaid with emeralds and rubies. The ruby pendant of the necklace, seems to be speckled somehow, giving it the appearance of blood. However, what Dash might find most interesting is the feeling he gets the closer he comes to the jewelry. They practically hum with magical power.
"Sorry, am I early?" asks Dash. He checks his watch (not a Rolex - he's not that predictable - but something still worth a considerable amount of money) then looks over to the proprieter. "Apologies. I hope I'm not interrupting." He takes a few steps in. He starts to look Bela over, but then his eyes are immediately drawn to the case. He's not used to that sensation. He swallows. "Interesting piece."
Bela has yet to introduce herself. Instead, she continues to study Dash. When his eyes move from her tot he case holding the jewelry, only then does a slow start of a smile quirks at her lips. Instead of being annoyed at the interruption, she decides that perhaps this could become far more interesting.
During the time Bela has turned from annoyed to curious, the owner shakes her head. "No, you are not. Ms. Harker was just on her way out." The case is closed and a check is slid over the desk toward Bela. "I need to place these in the safe, if you'll excuse me, Mr. Gardiner. It will only be a moment." Cradling the precious case against her chest, she moves to the back room.
In the meantime, Bela folds and slips the check into her purse and stands from the chair, jacket folding over her arm. "It is, isn't it?" The moment she speaks, her British accent makes itself apparent. "I had a hard time in acquiring it. Something like that is rather dangerous." Her eyes sparkle.
While she's studying him, Dash is studying the case. His facial muscles tic in a slow pattern. His pupils dialate. He flexes sweaty palms and inhales slowly. He's a doctor, not a lawyer. He's never really needed to hide these kinds of tells. He can spin a yarn to a patient, but that's from a position of power. So focused is he on the energy of that piece that he doesn't register that the woman has left the room until a few seconds after she's gone.
He blinks, then finally takes in Bela properly. "How can a necklace be dangerous? Other than to a bank balance." He tries to smile casually, but fails.
Bela smirks as she already can identify what it is about the jewelry that must have Dash so worked up. There are quite a few beautiful objects around. Only one of them carries with it a magical punch. When his attention is focused back on her, she gives him a smirk.
"Oh dear. You are not very good at the discreet," she tells him with something almost like a pitying smile. "Perhaps it is the American sensibilities." Moving closer, her voice lowers. "You know as well as I do how something like a necklace can be dangerous to more than a wallet. It's written all over your face. You knew what that was."
Dash steels his expression and stands up a little straighter as he's called out by Bela. He doesn't deny it - doesn't insult her intelligence or her skills of observation. Instead, he takes a moment to size her up, then says, "I know it's not just a necklace. But that's all I know." Again, not the best tactic, admitting that. But all this business is new to him.
The request only makes Bela all the more interested. Someone with the money to spend in Le Grande Galerie, but isn't quite advanced enough to know everything? Well, isn't it just her lucky day. It's rare that she goes for the direct approach, but there are also times when it's clearly the best way for her to get what she wants.
"Well, you're quite right. That jewelry set is powered by a blood ruby. When all three objects are worn, it will make you incredibly powerful. However, the stone requires blood to attune the jewelry to each other. Quite a bit of blood, in fact." She smiles. "Janet, of course, does not know that. To her, it's a pretty bauble. To you and I, however..." she trails off.
It's hard to miss that flash in Dash's eyes when she speaks of power. But it tempers almost immediately, and the edges of his lips tug down into a frown. "What's the price? It can't be just the blood." Clearly he doesn't mean dollar signs. He may be new to magic, but he's learned that every spell, no matter how small, has some kind of cost. "And what kind of power?"
He tries to regain control and appear like less of a mark. His hands fall into the pockets of his jacket. He stands more casually. "Let me guess. You're a dealer. If you were a collector, you wouldn't be telling me any of this."
Bela would be a fool to not see it. If she were the type to care about why people were using the objects she were procuring, she'd be far more wary. However, she doesn't, and her concern is usually reserved for herself. It's a character trait to note and file away for later: both in terms of sales and in terms of how to deal with him. "I did say it required quite a lot of blood. And all of the same type. All it takes to activate it is a few drops, however it then takes from the same source until its magical batteries are filled. That usually in the region of 5 litres." Also known as how much blood a human has in their body.
At the guess, she practically beams. Like a lady, she holds out her coat, hoping that he will help her put it on. "Be a dear, would you?" she asks of him. "I do, in fact, make my living on acquiring such items for interested buyers. While I do dabble in the stolen Monet, my forte is in objects very much like the blood ruby."
Even though Dash recognizes it's a sort of tactic, he's still a gentleman. He takes her coat and holds it out to help her on with it. "Well, you're not going to find a buyer in me for that particular item. I'm not interested in anything that's going to take every drop of blood from a human body. And yes, I know exactly how much that is. I'm a doctor." He says that with a certain sternness - and as if to say that he'd never do anything to hurt anyone. But something about him, something below the surface suggests otherwise. It's nothing overt, but the observant can sense it. "Do you make it a habit of dealing in deadly artifacts, Miss...?"
As Dash helps her with her coat, Bela slides one of her business cards into his pocket. It's a subtle gesture, one she's well practiced at - though usually she's taking things //from// pockets as opposed to placing them there. She looks over her shoulder at Dash through her eyelashes and smiles despite the stern warning she's been given. "Legosi," she supplies. "Though, you may call me Mina." Without knowing more about Dash, she's not about to give her actual name. The card in his pocket will match the name given.
"Anything can be deadly, depending on how it is used," she tells him as she turns around, slipping her purse over her shoulder as she does so. "With an item such as that, however, I thought it best to go to someone who did not know of its powers. It will be bought by some clueless banker for his wife, locked away only to be cooed over at some black tie event and then put back into a deposit box." Is that true? Who knows. She certainly sounds convincing.
"However, I do deal in just about anything of the like. Charms, trinkets, amulets, I have a remarkable eye for useful items."
"Any relation to Bela Lugosi?" drawls Dash, clueless of how close he's come to her real name. He steps back once her coat is settled across her shoulders. "I'm guessing I'm not going to find anything else in this shop that would be what I'm looking for. You'd have purchased it already." He reaches into his pocket for his wallet. There's a brief flash of a New York State driver's license before he fishes out a business card. He hands it to her.
The text is simple, clean, black on white. Doctor Dashiel Gardiner, MD. Mercy General. "I'm in the market for items with latin inscriptions that entered the US via the east coast sometime in the 1800s. I'm also interested in any items attached to the name Beauchamp. Beyond that, I have a feeling your instinct will tell you what I might like. And if it doesn't, then you're a dealer not worth her salt."
When Dash catches the reference, Bela gives a bit of a smirk. That's exactly why she uses that alias, though few people actually make the connection these days. "Very distant," she tells him in a pleased sounding tone. "I don't usually buy here. Janet is one of my contacts to sell items that are valuable even without there more, ah, unique properties. She may still have some, if you're still interested." Plus, the necklace, though she won't bring it up again.
Taking the card, she studies and and then slips it into her purse in the same pocket as the check went. At the thought, she merely grins at the almost insult. "I'm worth far more than salt," she tells him. "I do believe I've heard the name. I'll be sure to be on the look out for anything that might...excite your interest."
Dash may be flat-footed when it comes to the world of magic. But when it comes to negotiating financial transactions and guarding himself against opportunists, he's a pro. You don't grow up with his kind of money without being quick to spot a slick salesman. Normally he wouldn't deal with the likes of Bela, but she does offer more than your average broker.
He looks at her for a long moment, as if trying to sum her up. "People who anticipate my needs often find themselves in my long-term employ. And I'm not afraid to pay for quality service."
Bela smiles at Dash with a raised eyebrow. "I'm not your personal assistant," she tells him, finally a bit of steel hitting her voice, though the smile remains. That's too much like being in someone's debt and that is certainly not what she's into. "I procure items for the knowledgeable and the wealthy," she tells him. "If I find something you may be interested in, I will contact you and if you hear of something that piques your interest, you may contact me. But, I am not interested in being your employee, Dr. Gardiner."
Settling her hair back among her shoulders, she starts to make for the door. "It's good to hear that you are willing to pay for quality service, as that is all I provide. I will look forward to hearing from you," she tells him. "I'm sure you'll know where to find me." There is that card she put in his jacket pocket, after all.
"There's a difference between being an employee and being in someone's employ, Ms. Lugosi," the way Dash says the name suggests he suspects it may be an alias. "I didn't mean to offend. I only meant that if you deliver, I will continue to come to you with requests." He makes a vague hand motion, then settles his hand in the pocket of his jacket. When he feels the card there, he smirks and raises a brow. "You're slick." He says that with some admiration.
"Yes, of course," Bela responds. Perhaps she catches the note of suspicion in regards to her name, but for now she merely smiles. She's used to people attempting to track her down and to find out more about her. Hence all the different aliases. Those who do wish to get her actual name should be able to do so with a little digging. "I merely prefer to remain as freelance as possible. Cages bore me. As do offices." Putting her own hands in her pockets, she nods. "I am sure you'll be happy with my services," she assures him. At the compliment, the smile turns a bit more natural and she bobs her head just slightly. "Thank you. Till we meet again, then."