'So what have we got?' I asked as I sifted through the paperwork scattered across the huge table in the corner of Abril's pub. 'I can't make head nor tail of this lot, it's not in any order, I can't find any names-'
'Alright then, stop complaining,' Demitri said exasperatedly. 'I'll explain it.' He dropped the pile of paper he was holding and turned to me. ''The Twelve Zodiacs' was last on our radar approximately thirty years ago when they tried to stop the chosen one from taking her rightful place as the leader of the magical world.'
'I'm sorry,' I interrupted. 'Leader of the magical world? Is that what I am?'
'Not yet but you will be. I've already explained all this.'
'Obviously not clearly enough,' I mumbled as I rolled my eyes and began stacking paper.
'Anyway,' Demitri said, 'they didn't succeed because before she died, Mimi Jackson killed the leader of their group, a man called Isaac Jones, also known as 'The Dragon'.'
'But he can't be 'The Dragon'. The man Clay referred to was called 'The Dragon', so either Mimi didn't kill that man thirty years ago or someone is going around pretending to be him.'
'He can be 'The Dragon',' Demitri said in his all-knowing voice, pulling out a sheet of paper with a diagram on it. ''The Twelve Zodiacs' have a hierarchy system and when one person dies or is killed, another takes their place.' Spinning the paper around to show me, he pointed at the names at the top of the paper. 'The higher members of the group are given special code names, a sign of superiority. The leader of the group is given the title 'The Dragon'.'
'So there are only twelve active members of this group? How does that work?'
'No. There are other members of the group but they aren't given the privilege of a code name, they're just the foot soldiers, it's the people with the names that organise everything.'
'OK then,' I said, pausing for my brain to catch up with me, 'so how does the system work? Is it a council or...?'
'OK so 'The Dragon' is in charge, nothing happens without his say so. He has two right-hand men, usually 'The Tiger' and 'The Snake' but some leaders have been known to give their second-in-command different names. These two are 'The Dragon's' eyes and ears, they tell him everything that is going on in the group.
'Below them you have 'The Monkey', 'The Horse', 'The Dog' and 'The Rat'. They are the ones who make sure orders are carried out, letting 'The Dragon's' aides know what is going on so they can report back.
''The Ox', 'The Rabbit', 'The Goat, 'The Rooster' and 'The Pig' hold the lowest positions. They organise the troops and carry out some of the more senior solo missions.'
'So if it were a school,' I thought out loud.
'But it's not a school.'
'I know it's not a school, I just need to put it in a way my brain can process it. So if 'The Twelve Zodiacs' was a school, 'The Dragon' would be the head teacher, 'The Snake' and 'The Tiger' would be the deputy heads, then the next lot would be the teaching staff and the bottom row would be the prefects.'
'Sounds about right. Except their jobs are totally different.'
'Well I'm hoping schools aren't planning on attacking us or we might be dead before the week is over.' It was clear as soon as the words came out of my mouth that Demitri didn't get my warped sense of humour. In fact, he was just looking very confused. 'Don't worry,' I sighed, bowing my head back over the table.
'Any progress?' Abril marched over to the table, two mugs of tea in her hands.
'Nothing really,' Demitri confessed, 'I'm just trying to get to grips with how this organisation works. I've almost completely forgotten most of what I knew.'
'Well I think we need to form a plan of action,' I said, taking control of the situation. 'Sitting around here looking at old records is doing us no good, we need to get moving, do some investigating.'
'And how do you propose we do that?' Abril asked, an annoyed tinge to her voice. 'We've got nothing to go on.'
'We have Clay Marshall.'
'We can't trust what he told us,' Abril said immediately, dismissing my idea. 'We don't even know if that's his real name. He probably just gave us the first name that came into his head so we'd leave him alone for long enough so he could escape.'
'Then what do you suggest?' I crossed my arms tightly across my chest and looked down my nose as much as I could at Abril. 'Because I don't see how looking at names of people who are dead is going to help us.' There was a long pause as Abril fought in her head to think of some other suggestion to give me.
'Fine,' she conceded. 'You can waste your time trying to find Clay Marshall but I can say with almost a hundred percent certainty that you will not be able to find him.'