It is July 1, 2001.
Our story opens with Vince Ippolito receiving an assignment from his superior in the Family. The job, he is told, should be straight forward: retrieve a bowling-ball sized artifact from the vault in the White Collection of the Cleveland Public Library and take it to a meeting in Akron. He is told to take two people on the job with him; Jared Jaworski, a mechanic with some talent that might be needed, and Ashlynn Collins, a burglar. He's given a set of blueprints to the building and is sent on his way.
Vince hops into his red '75 Spitfire convertible, picks up his partners in crime, and parked in a corner of a downtown parking garage to examine the blueprints. The White Collection, located on the third floor, doesn't seem to have anyplace to put a vault, based on the building plans. They decide to break in and take a look.
Vince, equipping his silencer, takes out the external camera over the service entrance. Ashlynn picks the lock, and swings the door outward. Standing there is a bespectacled blonde woman, standing nearly six feet tall with long blonde braids, medievalish garb, a laptop bag, and a sword.
The confrontation, though short, is heated. The woman, Tillie, forbid any of them from entering her building. She stammers at them, pushing her glasses up on her nose, but either the point of her blade resting on Ashlynn's breastbone, no one presses the point. Until, that is Jared reveals his talent and casts a spell, praising a three inch lug nut hovering in his hand. It spins there for a moment and then launches itself at Tillie. It strikes her, but does no damage.
At that moment, all the cameras and lights short out simultaneously. The group is left standing in the dark until the red emergency lights begin to pulse. Jared takes another shot, but misses. Ashlynn and Vince calm everyone down, and convince Tillie to take them up to the vault in the White Collection. Tillie knows of no vault, and now her curiosity is piqued. They ascent the stairs to the fourth floor.
Tillie stalls for a few minutes in her office, attempting to use the phone to call security. Ashlynn shapeshiftes into a wolf and beats her to the handset, crushing it in her jaws.
Tillie has a major epiphany. She's had a realization that magic is real, something she's long suspected. She needs to know more...and she lets them into the collection.
The White Collection is quiet. A collection of books on folklore and the occult, a collection of chessboards, and a small display of Sumerian artifacts in a plexiglass cabinet. A portrait of John G. White looks down over the room from its perch on the eastern wall.
They group searches the room, pulling books, tapping on walls, turning chessboards, assembling them all on a single table: a board of chessboards but nothing reveals any vault within the chamber. Finally, Vince looks up at the painting and addresses it directly, "Well, Mr. White...where is your vault?"
Beneath the painting, a white ceramic bowl appears on top of the low bookshelf. Our heroes try putting things in it: water, blood, etc. All to no avail. Finally, Tillie gathers up all the white pieces from all the chessboards and places them within the bowl.
The portrait shimmers and fades, revealing a set of double doors sealed with a large pentacle. (White chess pieces...The White Collection...see what I did there?) Beneath the handles of the door is a slight rounded depression, clearly a keyhole.
The party searches the room for the key and finds it within the Sumerian Artifacts. Ashlynn picks the lock on the plexiglass case, and the door pops open...
...releasing the fire demon thing. It hovers in the center of the room, engaging with the thieves. Vince and Jared engage the creature while Ash protects Tillie, who searches for a book with and incantation that can banish the demon. Tillie's astounding luck does not fail her: she finds the book and banishes the fire creature. They take the key, and open the vault.
Inside, on display shelves, are the following:
an old baseball, signed by Rocky Colativo,
an old football, worn and used
a hand-stitched basketball
a spear, handmade, in a Native American style
a newspaper, encased in lucite, named The Cleveland Advertiser,
a blue crystal, shaped as a dodecahedron, that is glowing slightly,
a deed to a property in the city limits, known only by the parcel number
a colonial flag, Handmade and dyed with natural dyes, with the word LIBERTY embroidered on it
Vince recognizes the basketball as the item they've been send to retrieve, and so grabs it. He figures out, thanks to the name on the baseball, that these must have something to do with curses on the Cleveland professional sports teams, and takes the baseball as well. Ashlynn takes the glowing blue stone, and Tillie takes the spear and the deed. And then they flee.
All that is left is to deliver the goods. Vince was given an address which turns out to be a hardware store across the street from St. Vincent's Church. They arrive, and old man showed them to the back room where a man waits with a tall, young black student. The man gives Vince a briefcase full of cash, and takes the basketball from him. The man turns and gives the ball to the kid, "Here, LeBron. Keep this safe."
It's about 7am. The party heads over to Wally Waffle for some breakfast while Vince checks in. They are told they can keep half the money as payment for the job. Tillie, frankly, has no idea what to think about so much money, but the others are professionals...they keep cool.
Photo Credit: The Cleveland Public Library by Ken Lund, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons