"If I'm going to die, I don't want to die wearing a dress." Peter's being reasonable, using his best no-nonsense tone that nobody in his right mind would dare argue with.
"It's not a dress," Neal argues, a smirk stealing across his face. "It's a robe. Men wear robes."
"It doesn't feel like a bathrobe. It feels like a dress." Peter glances up and down the hallway as Neal caresses the lock on the stout wood door.
"And you would know this how?" Neal seems to be more focused on the conversation than the lock, but given that it's the kind of lock that Neal could literally pick blindfolded with one hand behind his back, Peter's not too worried.
"Let's just say what happens in a college frat house stays in a college frat house. As long as nobody's hurt, it's really best for everyone concerned," Peter explains as the lock submits to Neal's will, and the twosome slip inside a cluttered office.
"Sounds like fun," Peter can't quite tell if Neal's being charming or sarcastic. Both is definitely a possibility.
"Okay. Of the forty-seven Doomsday Cults taking credit for the Hostile Weather Phenomenon or the Apocalypse or the Semi-Terrestrial Threat or whatever we're calling it this week, these guys were the only ones that stole a building shortly before all Hell broke loose."
"Do we know if they've actually eliminated that possibility?"
"Not that I've heard. But then, as far as I know, they haven't eliminated the possibility that it's all a figment of our imaginations."
"A tenth of the population of New York just imagined that they're dead?"
"It's as good an explanation as any I've heard. Okay, you try to find a safe or hidden compartment, and I'll check the filing cabinet," Peter tells Neal, gesturing towards the piles of loose paper stacked on top of the desk and office's two guest chairs.
"Safe," Neal comments after about ten seconds, pointing at a painting of a disturbing alien landscape. Or possibly New Jersey. He lifts the painting off the wall, deliberately putting it down facing the wall, and contemplates the safe it was hiding.
"Why would you steal a building?" Peter wonders, looking idly around at the pilfered walls around him. He gives a suspicious glance at the heavy fog pressed up against the window.
"Real estate scam?" Neal's doing something to the safe's hinges.
"Manhattan real estate isn't worth what it was a month ago." Before the entire city had been enshrouded in a heavy fog that never lifted. A fog that hid ... things. Dangerous things.
"True. Even for a long con, that's pushing it. Although this building is under twenty stories." People that went above the twentieth story of New York's skyscrapers tended not to return. Occasionally bits of them would be found in elevators (oddly most were still functioning), or at the base of inside stairwells. "Maybe there was something in the building they wanted."
"Like a really big fog generator?" Peter skims through the assortment of papers. Most of it's easily identifiable as useless, but every now and then he stops and peruses something more intently.
"You remember a couple of months ago, when Sara investigated a claim by that university in Massachusetts who said they'd had some extremely rare books stolen from their restricted section?" Neal has the safe open in less time than it takes Peter to find his car keys in the morning.
"Sure. Wasn't a security guard killed in that break-in?" Some part of Peter's mind has the habit of cataloging unsolved crimes for future reference. It's come in handy more times than he can count.
"Found them." Neal pulls an old pair of mismatched leather-bound books out of the safe, setting them on the desk.
"Interesting. Do they say anything about ... all this?" Peter gestures towards the fog on the other side of the window.
"Depends. How's your Greek?" Neal's lightly paging through the books.
"It's all Greek to me," Peter deadpans. He spots something interesting amid the papers he's going through. "This could be significant. Building blueprints and star charts. It looks like they're connected somehow."
"That's strange." Neal's stuffing the books into a padded messenger bag he spotted under the desk; probably how they arrived to begin with.
"Strange is the new normal," Peter points out, returning his discovery to a long leather tube.
"Can we get out of here now? While these robes really make us look the part of crazed cultists, it's not quite the same as a carefully constructed cover ID."
"Sounds good to me," Peter agrees. Neal closes the safe and replaces the painting, and the duo raise their hoods before slipping back into the hallway.
They shuffle down the heavily carpeted hallways , staring intently at the floor as they pass a pair of cultists in robes identical to their own. A cramped servants' stairwell takes them to a fire exit, its alarm cheerfully dormant and awaiting Neal's next order. Outside, the ever-present fog keeps them from seeing more than about ten feet.
Once outside, Peter places a small headset in his ear. "We're out." He's listening to a response when someone else comes out the door he and Neal just used.
"Gentlemen. I believe you have something that belongs to me." The man holding his hand out towards the bag Neal's carrying is at least eighty, his hair gray and sparse, his slack skin spotted with age. His eyes show that age hasn't dimmed his intelligence, and they're gleaming with malevolence. Two robed figures flank him, and Peter draws his gun from the folds of his robe to keep them at bay.
Neal half-shrugs, looking at the old man keenly. "Sorry, but they don't. They're overdue, so we're just going to return these to the library. Your fines must be pretty bad for them to send the library police after you."
Their opponent chuckles. "Those fools at Miskatonic didn't know what they had. The door was already built," and he gestures toward the building, "we just needed the keys. Just a tiny portal at first, only affecting a small area, allowing lesser creatures to come through. But soon we'll be able to widen the aperture. Our whole world will know the glory of the Old Ones."
"Not gonna happen," Peter tells him resolutely, flourishing his gun.
Another chuckle, followed by muttering in a language neither of the partners understands. "Sounds like Greek?" Neal wonders, sparing a glance at Peter, equally clueless. But Peter suddenly cries out, clutching his arm in pain, and his gun clatters to the asphalt.
"Get the books," the octogenarian snaps, and his two guards approach Neal, who has moved to Peter's side.
Neal's not sure who's more surprised, himself or the approaching guard, when a bright red welt appears centered in the guard's forehead. Neal's surprise certainly lasts longer as the cultist collapses to the ground, his lifeless eyes staring into the heavy fog. The other man is staggered by a shot to the leg, stumbling into their leader and both fall in a tangle of arms and legs.
Two dark figures approach the group from out of the mist, their appearance coalescing into that of Jones and Diana, both heavily armed.
"Need some help, boss?" Diana asks cheerily as Jones covers the cultists on the ground.
"I wouldn't say no to a lift," Peter accepts gratefully. "Watch the old guy. He said something in Greek that made my arm feel like I stuck it in a wood chipper."
"It just so happens that belts for robes make great gags," Neal informs Jones, handing him the recommended item as he divests himself of the plain brown garment. "And I know Peter doesn't want to give his up."
Jones goes through the formalities of arresting the older man while Diana does the same for the younger one. As the group heads off into the fog, none of them notice the tentacle that has wrapped itself around the body of the fallen cultist and is dragging it away.