People, Places & Things
Just Add Dice
It Came from the SlushPile
Written by Denis "Malkavien" De Plaen, and Edited by Jan Milller
Special thanks to Wayne Seeley for his information about the Vietnam's US forces.
All products referred to in this story belong to each respective owners. No copyright infringement intended.
Clinton-De Witt Park, a rainy evening in the autumn of 1970
Holland Derringer was feeling more and more frustrated by every second that passed.
He told them, oh yes he did! When you get a dog, you have to take it out so he can find some place to pee. Had they - his wife Gillian and his daughter Amber- listened? NO!
It's not like he had to do everything with that blasted animal, the girls took good care of it - him, he repeated to himself, not it - but when Amber wanted to take the dog out, guess who had to go out with her because Gillian had this Crystal Meditation séance with her hippie friend Summer O'Green? Those who answered Holland Derringer win a dark look and the finger from him.
"Hurry up, sweetheart." he said to the almost 7-year-old red haired girl. "It's getting late, and you have school tomorrow."
"S'okay, Dad! Hendrix just found a lead. I'll investigate it and we're headin' home," the child replied lightly, running after her pet.
He blurted something that was covered by the wind in the boughs of the park's trees.
Amber Derringer was running after Hendrix, the 3 year old Golden Retriever of the family, giggling.
"Not so fast, 'Drix!" the girl puffed between two quick breaths. "I can't follow you!"
She turned around the bush, on the track of the dog, running as fast as her young legs allowed her to. Her left foot stuck under an uncovered root, and fell on a soft orange yellow carpet of dead leaves. A couple of yards ahead of her, Hendrix was in an en garde position, growling menacingly at a silhouette not far from them.
The silhouette approached, one heavy step after the other.
"Are you hurt, child?" he asked softly.
"I may not speak to strangers!" Amber stated matter-of-factly, getting up by herself, and checking her clothes for dirt.
"I'm not a stranger, kiddo. I'm Petey. And I'm not much older than you are. I'm just 15."
"Oh! You’re an oooold kid!" Amber exclaimed, all precautions falling apart.
"Yes, I'm an oooooooold kid!" He said, mimicking Amber's emphasis on the 'old'.
Unseen by the younger child, the teenager gave Hendrix a dark side-glance. The animal backed off a few steps, and resumed its barking.
Petey walked close to Amber and put a hand on her shoulder. She winced, and backed away. A veil of anger passed on the boy's face, but he quickly regain his composure and showed a face of friendly understanding.
"How long has he hit you, kiddo?"
"I'm not Kiddo! I'm Amber... Well.. my real name is Ambrosia Wendy Derringer."
"Ah! Ambrosia! I love that name. Didcha’ know it was the food of the Gods, back in Greek ol' times?" Petey said softly. Amber wasn't smiling, but looked downright pissed
"...And I'm not hit!"
Petey snorted, as to say Yeah right! and pulled the scarf he had around his neck, revealing a nasty looking scar that circled his whole neck.
"Ouch!" Amber winced in sympathy.
"My stepfather tried to strangle me with a rope because I didn't have good grades in school, so I ran away."
Amber's mouth formed a circle, her eyes wide. Petey smiled.
Holland was getting angry, now. He had called five times already. He tried to regain his calm. That brat will learn to heed my summoning, I swear! He thought.
He sighed and called again.
"Amber! Come here immediately. You don't want to make me angry, don't you?"
Petey's mouth twisted again, but curved again in a sly smile.
"You want to go back him?" he asked Amber.
"Where else...?" She shrugged
"With me, par example."
"With you, Petey?" she asked doubtfully.
"Yeah! With some pals, we found a nice place. No stupid adults to tell you what to do, no school, no homework, and got we even have a video and a TV!"
"Cool! You sure I can come?"
"Hey! You’re my guest! Of course you can!"
Smiling broadly, she gave her hand to Petey
Not a single regard back... Not even for Hendrix.
Hendrix was aghast to see his young mistress follow that...thing that looked like a man, but smelled way too bad to be one. Not even hoboes smelled like that one.
Without anymore hesitation - what kind of dog would he be if he had hesitation when he had to defend his mistress? - he rushed after her and this man-looking-thing...
He never knew what hit him, but it was strong, painful, sharp and cold. It sent him flying between the trees. How many, he couldn't have known. Dogs don't count, after all, but it was a lot. It didn't matter anyway, as a violent shock stopped him then and there. His last conscious thought was for his mistress that he failed to protect. He didn't deserve better than this death.
Derringer's blood froze in his veins as he heard a hurt squeal that couldn't came from anything else but a wounded dog. He rushed in the direction of the squeal, praying that it wasn't Hendrix. But his prayer hadn't been fulfilled, as his gaze fell on the pathetic dislocated form of the Golden Retriever. The poor thing's back was forming a boomerang shape around a tree and a red star spot eight feet above the ground showed where he it the tree.
"Oh God!" Holland exclaimed. He looked around. Who did this to his daughter's dog... and where is she, to begin with? "Amber? Aaaammber? Where are you, honey?" he called. No more anger in his voice, but merely concern...and fear...and a growing note of panic, too.
Joe's Dinners, New Jersey, present day.
The man who was talking on the payphone looked like he was going to blow up a fuse. His face was beyond red, it was purple. It was almost the same shade of his loosened tie.
"FOUR DAYS?!" he yelled in the phone. "I have to be in Manhattan this evening at 10 PM! I can't darn wait for my car's carburetor!"
He listened for a moment and yelled, "A CAB?! You want me to go to Manhattan from..." He turned his head to the left, then to the right, obviously looking for something. He covered the receiver with his palm. "What's the name of the nearest town?"
"Netcong, New Jersey." one of the waitress answered acidly, and muttering something under her breath that the man on the phone didn't hear, but that sounded a lot like, "Moron".
"...So you want me to go to Manhattan from that Viet.. uh, Netcong town? And I imagine you'll pay the fare?!" A pause. "Ivory. Daniel Ivory, yes. Yeah, see you Monday too!"
To see how violently Ivory hung up the phone, it was sheer luck that it wasn't broken.
Visibly upset, he walked back to his seat and sipped the rest of his cold coffee. He was too upset to notice the look that a good share of the patrons of the dinner was giving him. He dropped a bill of five dollars, and was getting up, when a finger tapped on his shoulder.
He turned the head and saw a young woman clad in leather pants and jackets, with knee high, high-heeled boots. Her sable colored hair was shoulder blade long, tied in a loose ponytail, except for a couple of locks, each dyed in a different color. One of green and the other was platinum blond. Her lithe silhouette made Ivory estimate her age in the late teens, early twenties at most.
"Yes?" he asked, more bitterly than he wanted.
"I've heard that you needed a lift?" she said. Judging by her accent, she was from California.
"Your parents never taught you that eavesdropping is rude?" Ivory asked, getting annoyed by that girl who was young enough to be his daughter... and who looked depraved enough to be his son Kurtis' girlfriend.
"Never knew any of my folks, actually. Look if I care. Beside you were yelling loud enough to be heard in New Zealand." She answered casually. "So, are you looking for a lift, or not?"
The smile she gave him was disarming...and he didn't have much choice, anyway.
"Fine. When do you leave, and how much do you want?" Ivory asked tiredly, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Well, as soon as you're ready and having your joyful company will be payment enough." The young woman replied, snickering, detailing the man who was towering him by only a couple of inches. "Oh, and my name's Tanya Caine." Ivory nodded.
His hair was gray, though she wondered if it was from age or the stress he seemed to enjoy putting himself into. He looked in a fairly good shape, despite the aureoles of sweat that were adorning the front and sides of his shirt. Somehow he reminded Tanya of that lawyer guy she saw on TV, when her roommate would watch Sunset Beach on a daily basis, back in her college years. Gray Richardson, or something like that. Though Ivory looked more stressed, and less machiavelic than the soap's character.
"Fine. Well, if you're ready, let's move on. I've to be..." Ivory started.
"...In Manhattan before 10 pm!" Tanya finished for him, earning a dark glance from her hitchhiker.
As the couple reached the parking lot, Ivory froze. In front of him was parked a Harley Davidson, loaded with bags, sleeping sack and God knows what else, including what appeared to be a 12 gauge shotgun.
"That's not your motorcycle, is it?" Ivory asked, paling a bit. "You don't expect me to climb on that hellish...thing?!"
If Tanya Caine's eyes were guns, Daniel Ivory would have eaten the whole clip.
"Don't you dare insult my baby." Tanya said in a low, menacing tone. She then walked to the bike and stroked the reservoir gently, almost motherly. "Shhh, Mommy's here. The man didn't mean what he said." She turned to Ivory. "Did you? Apologize, okay? She will never start if you don't apologize."
Ohhh boy! What did I do to the Heavens to always fall on wackos?! Ivory thought.
"Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean what I said. It has just been a very long week. A very long and hard week. Can we go, now?"
Smiling, Tanya nodded, took Ivory's small duffle bag, harnessed it, and climbed on the bike. "If you please, kind sir?" she said, and handed her newfound companion a helmet.
Ivory rolled his eyes and accepted the helmet, and climbed behind the young woman.
The engine started; and the bike bounced forward, accompanied by Tanya's yell, one that would make a warrior princess proud.
A disaffected building in the Hell's kitchen, the night before.
The teenager was sitting in the corner of the room. The room smelled like public toilets that had not have been cleaned in over a decade, in the most optimistic estimation, but he didn't even notice the odor, anymore.
Not after the six nights he had spent here.
A stolen boom box was broadcasting loud music, in the story right below.
The teenager plunged a hand in his backpack and pulled a little box with a caducei carved on it. Nodding in rhythm of the music, he took the syringe, and the small bottle filled with a translucent liquid in it. He was humming between his teeth.
"Rock is deader than dead/shock is all in your head..."
He stopped humming as he was focusing to position the syringe near a vein. But he didn't inject the poison in his bloodstream, as he felt a presence near him.
Another teenager was standing right in front of him, looking at him and smiling. His hair was burgundy red, cut at the neck level. Even though he was male, the standing teenager's lips were paint in a dark violet shade. His lithe form was clad in a black three-piece costume.
"Hi." He said simply. "You’re about to have a fix, mh?"
"Mind your f****g business!" the sitting teenager grunted.
The other smiled.
"What's your shoot, buddy?" the red haired teen asked. As far as 'buddy' could tell, the redhead was around 16 or 17 years old, around his age. But their clothing was the exact opposite. 'Buddy' was wearing torn blue jeans, and a tee shirt on which a logo proclaimed 'Corrosion Of Conformity'.
"Why do you ask?" 'Buddy' asked coldly.
"Looks like morphine to me. I’ve got better and more natural"
'Buddy' snickered. "Herbs? Nah, thanks."
"Actually, what I had in mind is pain." Red Hair replied casually, not parting from his smile. Buddy, on the other hand, didn't look too confident anymore.
"Pain is nothing more than nervous impulses between the neural terminations and the thalamus, through the thalamic spine, right? And when you're hurt, what do you feel?"
"Hum. A rush? A jolt?" 'Buddy' replied tentatively. Red Hair nodded.
"Now, push the pain to certain level, beyond some threshold, and you'll gain more rush, more..."
"Pleasure!" Buddy yelped, and grimaced. "That's sick! You're not into the Sad.."
"Nononono. I don't mean pleasure in the sexual sense, but the ecstatic sense. Close to the nirvana."
"Bullshit! I don't buy it," 'Buddy' exploded, getting to his feet at once.
"Try it, at least..." Red Hair said, leaving the last part hanging in the air. His smile grew predatory, his amber colored eyes shone with eagerness. A pale yellow ray of light from a dying light bulb reflected on the silvery scalpel in his gloved hand.
"Kurt Ivory." 'Buddy' filled in. “Okay, go for it, Mister..."
"Bane. Pete Bane." Red Hair answered. He presented some kind grayish stick in front of Kurt's mouth.
"Bite this. You don't want to wake up such charming sleeping beauties, do you?" Pete said, waving around, showing a collection of sleeping tramps, most of them snoring loudly, and several of them clenching their fist around the necks of cheap booze bottles half-sorted from the brown paper bags, empty more often than not. Indeed, it was safer to keep it quiet.
"Ready?" Pete asked Kurt, the blade of the scalpel only a fraction of a inch above the skin of the young junkie's lower arm.
With the stick - that tasted oddly like a chicken's bone - locked tightly between his teeth, Kurt nodded.
In the story below, the song had changed. The arch voice of singer was now asking who was he to disagree that sweet dreams were made of something.
The scalpel slid effortlessly through the juvenile’s skin. Surprisingly enough, there wasn't much of blood, only a few pints from the skin vessels, but no big arteries were severed. The muscles grew apart, but the young Ivory didn't pay any further attention, as his body arched, pain rushing through him like a
train launched at full speed, a tsunami of sheer aching, errupting from Kurt's
[A corridor in an old building]
arm's open wound. His heartbeats grow faster. His
[As if flying in a corridor in an old building]
blue iris are nothing more than a thin circle around the dilated pupils.
[Screams. Children screaming. Women crying. Chains tingling together.]
[Many doors, many open, all old looking]
[Rancid odor, doors flashing faster and faster, as if flying in a corridor in an old building, spinning on your axis]
Kurt's chest was ascending and descending faster, his body tensing and relaxing and tensing again, at the verge of convulsing on
[spinning on your axis, avoiding metallic beds with leather straps on the sides, blocking the way]
the humid floor, trashing the morphine bottle that shatters on the con
[A little girl]
concrete. The syringe fell do-
[Wearing a school uniform. Uniform 30 years old. A hood]
wn, and exploded on the impact, wasting its poison.
[You stop. Abruptly. The little girl pulls the hood]
Pete was watching, a knowing smile on his purple lips. With his glo-
[Hood, revealing Pete Bane's smiling face]
ved hand, the young man was rubbing the nasty, reddish, scar that circled his
[Face. He smiles to you, and his head start to turn left to, as saying no]
neck. Kurt was like possessed, twi-
[Turns faster, like a pendulum. Faster than your eyes perceive. A blur]
[A scream. YOUR scream.]
Breath in. Breath Out.
Slowly, Pete knelt next to Kurt, who was now hyperventilating
[The light spectrum flashes back and forth negative and positive. A scream]
Kurtis Ivory's eyes blinked open, trying to focus his sight. This was, beyond a doubt the worst trip of his life. But, at the same time, better than he ever thought possible. Never before has he been so... scared.
Pete looked at him, a slight grin in the lips. He offered his hand to Kurt to help him back to his feet. The young man noticed that his forearm has been bandaged.
"So?" Bane asked, supporting a staggering Ivory.
"Whatta gawddamn ride!" the young Ivory exclaimed. "Haven't had such a rush since I got blitzed last year. Heck, never got a rush like this!"
"Glad to hear it." He paused, and, running a hand in his red hair asked, "Hum... Blitzed?"
Kurt grinned sheepishly and nodded.
"Well, ya’ see, in high school, I played Running back in the football team. Three defenders of the other team struck me during a Blitz - When you block the Quarterback or the Running back as early as possible, so the offensive looses ground - and I got my knee twisted twice! Bu-bye, my crossed ligament, sayonara my career and my dreams for college..."
"Sorry to hear that, Kurtis." Pete said sympathetically, and showed the former Running back to the outside. "Let me get you home and clean your scar. Pain is cool, infection is not."
Kurt nodded, and grabbed his backpack, leaving his shoot box behind.
A gas station on Route 206, Late afternoon
Daniel Ivory was laughing, as Tanya was feeding her dear bike.
"So let me got it straight." He said, trying to catch his breath. "You called your bike Thelma, because your middle name is..."
Without looking at him, Tanya finished his sentence. "Louise."
The fifty-something year old man howled with laughter as he leaned against a pole.
"Well, I'd have though it was about that clever Scooby Doo character, but that, gosh, it wasn't expected!" He said, trying to regain control of himself.
Tanya shuddered. "Nope, I've quit watching that show years ago. At the same time that I quit eating chocolate éclairs."
Ivory blinked, and the young woman gave him a "You don't wanna know" look. He sobered immediately, and an uneasy silence followed. Tanya went to pay the gas, and walked back, and handed her bike mate a candy bar.
"I told you I was heading to New York for my job, but you haven't told me your reason." Tanya said after a moment. Ivory's expression changed, and betrayed his worry, and grew even older looking. Previously, Tanya would have given him 47-78 years, but now he was looking well into his fifties. The young woman fought the urge to hug him, but gave him a sympathetic smile.
"My ex-wife has been assaulted yesterday afternoon. Her neighbor and best friend called me, in Cleveland. She spent the night in St Clare Hospital."
"Ouch." Tanya winced. "I hop she wasn't too badly hurt?"
Ivory shook his head. "Not too badly. She was badly shaken and refuses to stay alone."
"But the neighbor..."
"...Works by night in a nearby 24/7 grocery store, and start her duty at 10:15." Ivory finished Tanya's question and answering it. The young woman nodded, finishing her snack and threw the amber colored paper with the red four letters logo in the trashcan.
"Let's go, then. The sooner we resume our trip, the sooner we arrive." She said firmly, sitting on her Thelma's seat.
Ivory gave her a grateful smile and climbed right behind this amazing young woman.
Shortly before six PM, they were in view of New York City and the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Tanya, who always half-expected to see a taller building with a medieval castle on the top, like in the series her roommate was watching -and made her watch as well- at UCLA, was feeling an odd feeling in her stomach, and she knew it wasn't Thelma's engine that caused, nor her companion's arms wrapped around her waist that tightened their grip. Ty - her Goth looking comics/anime/cartoon/what's not-driven roommate at college - called it her Caine-Sense. And her Caine-Sense always tingled when she was stepping right in trouble.
"Hang on there, Daniel!" She shouted to cover the traffic on the Narrow Bay Bridge. "It's gonna get acrobatic from here."
She giggled as she heard the man gulping loud enough for her to hear.
They drove through Brooklyn, and downtown Manhattan to finally reaching the infamous neighborhood known as Hell's Kitchen. It spread between the 34th Street and the 59th, and the 8th Avenue and the Hudson River.
Tanya could almost feel the presence of the ghosts of Owney Madden and Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll, floating above the streets that they called their turfs, back in the times of the Prohibition. For what the young woman had learning in History classes, and doing researches for her thesis about urban legends.
Mad Dog, so nicknamed after he was acquitted from the accusation of the murder of a five years old boy called Michael Vengalli. He was killed less than a year after by the gunmen of another gangster named Dutch Shultz, a dozen street north from Hell's Kitchen.
Yes, that's a part of the city that gave Tanya the creeps. Not because of the gangs and the high rate of crimes. Heck, she grew up in Watts, one of the most dangerous parts of the City of Angels. But...but Hell's Kitchen was different, more oppressive, and yet indefinable, sly. As if there was a presence, somewhere that influenced the entire neighborhood, and its inhabitants, unaware of it.
Shaking her head, slowly enough to look for her way around, but, in fact, to clear up her mind, Tanya asked Ivory where he's heading, exactly.
"Uh ... 215, on the 49th Street West." Ivory replied, shuddering.
Swiftly, Thelma drove them to the address given by the gray haired man. The condition of the street was worse than both expected. He hasn't been around this place in months - not since the divorce actually - and he thought it had gone further down the hill since then. Next to a porch a bum was lying lazily on an old cardboard. On the other side of the street, a group of teenagers were listening to the rap song of a singer who couldn't even say his own name without trying three times. The young woman secured her bike, taking the most valuable stuff with her.
"There goes the neighborhood." Ivory muttered, barely loud enough for Tanya to hear him.
Tanya shrugged. It's relatively calm, all things considered. Silently she followed Ivory inside. Tagged mailboxes were the same in Watts and Hell's Kitchen, only the themes of the tags were different. As Ivory pushed a little button on a - surprise, surprise! - tagged name board.
Tanya looked at the name beside the button Ivory pushed, and winced.
"Moira Derringer? She took back her maiden name, he?"
"We didn't part in the best terms. We made friends again, but we're beyond reconciliation." he answered casually.
A young Asian woman opened the door, after going thru a series of three sets of locks and keys.
"I'm glad you arrived, Daniel," she said, relieved, without any Asian accent, but a rather strong Brooklyn accent.
"'Evening, Luan. I made it as fast as I could. My car died on me, and Ms. Caine here graciously gave me a lift here. Tanya, meet Luan Wong. Luan, this is Tanya Caine, a young reporter who has a taste for weirdness."
"Nice to meet you, Tanya. A new Harry D'Amour in dress, I heard?"
Tanya chuckled, as Luan locked the door behind them.
"Well, Harry D'Amour is a detective, and I don't think that Scott Bakula would look good in a dress."
"Take the word of an ancient Quantum Leap fan, he doesn't!"
"True. Who knows? I might become the new mix of Lois Lane and Wynonna Earp."
"You lost me there, hon!" The Asian American woman, half a decade older than Tanya, concluded, as they drifted in from of the door of Ivory's ex-wife. "She's been sleeping, most of the time. Go easy on her Daniel. She’s being pretty much shaken and shocked."
'Shocked' didn't even begin to cover what Daniel Ivory felt when he saw his ex-wife lying on the couch. A gaze patch covered her left eye; her cheekbone was purple and mummified, pretty much like her lower lip. Her right forearm and wrist were enclosed in a cast. Her weather blond hair covered by bandages, with some locks finding their way out. Her breath was not has deep at it should, but at least, it was steady. Slowly, Ivory walked by his ex-wife's side and took her hand in his.
Moira's eyes fluttered open and a slight, weak, smile curved her wounded lips.
"Hi," she said, with a hoarse voice.
"Hey," Ivory said, returning her smile. "How do you feel?"
"Like a chick who was attacked because she didn't pay attention." Moira replied. "If Dad was still alive, I wouldn't hear the end of it from now and until Kingdom Come."
Daniel grinned. He hadn't known Holland Derringer very well, but all the time they had been in the same room, they started to fight. Mr. Derringer had the habit of accusing the young Daniel Ivory of stealing the only child he had left. The poor old man was alone; his wife hadn't made it through the grief for the loss of her youngest daughter Amber.
"You need to rest, honey." Ivory said gently, brushing his knuckles on her brow.
She took his hand and gave him a pleading look. "Find Kurtis." Moira begged. "Danny, please."
Tanya walked next to Ivory. Moira saw the younger woman and snickered.
"Robbing the cradle, Danny boy?" his ex joked, laughing, and then coughing.
"Ouch! My ribs." She winced.
"I'm Tanya Caine, Ms Derringer." Tanya said.
"I'll find Kurtis." Ivory promised his ex-wife.
"We’ll find Kurtis." Tanya correct. "Don't expect me to get me out of it, now, 'Danny Boy'."
Moira snickered weakly and looked at Tanya. "I don't know why you are going to do that, but thank you."
A weak smile on her lips, Moira drifted back to sleep, and Tanya picked her up off of the couch. Surprised, Ivory showed her where the bedroom was.
Leaving Moira to her much needed sleep, Ivory and Tanya returned to the living room.
"How did it happen, for Chrissake?!" Ivory exploded, yet his voice wasn't louder than a whisper.
"For what it seems," Luan explained, pouring coffee for her guests and herself "as Mo was opening the door of the apartment, the low-life who attacked her pushed her inside, beat her until she lost consciousness, and took some stuff." She looked at Ivory. "He took her bracelet. The one she got from her mom."
Ivory's fist was clenched so tightly his knuckles were white.
"And for your son? Do you have any idea?" Tanya asked
"I'll look for him first thing, tomorrow morning."
Tanya shook her head.
"Daniel, I know neighborhoods like this one. If you want to look for someone who is hiding or running away, the day isn't the time you should look. And alone, by night, it's suicide."
"She's right, Daniel." Luane said.
"Beside, I've grown up in Watts, it can't be worse" Tanya shrugged.
"Believe me, hon here... There are rumors. And people vanish. I don't know...perhaps its not called Hell's Kitchen for nothing."
Ivory rolled his eyes and sighed.
"Luan, please! We're looking for my troublemaker of a son, not the Boogeyman!"
The young Asian shot him a dark glance. "The problem with you Westerners is that you don't believe in what disturbs your perception of the world." She shot back. Ivory was about to reply when Tanya walked between them
"Guys! Easy. It's not helping the situation to debate whether or not there is supernatural going on here. Daniel, do you have a photograph of your son?"
"Well yes, but that's before he started to shoot himself with morphine." Ivory reply, his contempt perfectly perceptible in his voice.
"Well, let's go. The sooner we start, the better."
Ivory looked longingly at Tanya, and let out a sigh.
"You're right. Let's go."
Luan and Tanya exchanged a smile, and, once again, Tanya Caine and Daniel Ivory took leave together.
Near the disaffected Whaitts Dispensary, on the 52th Street, 2 hours 45 minutes later.
Daniel Ivory was starting to loose patience, and the amount he had was rather small, much like the bills in his wallet. Most of the time, it was Tanya who asked the people.
After all, like she had mentioned before, she grew up in a neighborhood like this, not him. As for him, he grew up in Boston, in a middle class family.
He had to admit that Miss Caine was doing very well. Most of the time, she played the role of the ex-girlfriend who's trying to find her ex. Where Ivory would have charged head first, Tanya was walking slowly, smiling and exchanging words with the homeless people, and, so far, it paid off.
An old bag lady who was calling herself Dancing Lucy, directed them to an old dispensary. From what she said it used to be a dispensary until 1918, after that awful flu epidemic, and a scandal about 'Angel Making'. Abortion wasn't treated lightly, back then.
"They even found the poor things in jars filled with alcohol!" Lucy had explained to a concerned Tanya and a slightly annoyed Daniel. "That's how the scandal started, actually. Some workers found jars filled with Bourbon, and drank it, thinking they got lucky with free booze, ya see. Until they found the fetuses…. After being sick for days, they told friends at work, whose relatives then who told the cops. My dad was one of them, actually." Dancing Lucy began to drift off into her own mangled mind. "Petey like this story, too, ya know? Such a good boy, Petey... Yes, a good one..."
They left Dancing Lucy, but not without giving her 10 bucks.
They were now in front of the former dispensary, on 50th Street, almost at the corner of the 11th Avenue.
"So here we are, the Watts Dispensary. Why would he go here?" Ivory asked impatiently to his companion.
"Because this had beds, or what are of left of them anyway."
"Come on, Tanya! This Dancing Lucy was obviously out of her mind. Alzheimer or something like this."
She shook her head. "I don't think so. You know the story with the jar filled with alcohol; it's an urban legend. Not as current as the stolen kidney, or the headlight-off chasing car gang,
but It has been heard before..."
"Great! Now, we're here because this wacko lady gave us a concrete fairy tale?"
"We're here because there is a chance to find him where some comfort could be found," she countered. "The fact that this place has an history is just another thing."
"Whatever. Let's get that bad seed and get back home." Ivory snapped, throwing his hands up to the sky.
"Lookin' for somebody, fellahs?" A voice asked from behind them, startling the beejesus out of Ivory.
Glaring at the newcomers, a man in his early sixties, sitting in a wheelchair, with both legs cut at the knees, wearing kaki fatigues, his ID tags hanging around his muscled neck, as well as a Stars And Stripes bandanna. A long and wild white beard surrounded his large, frank smile, and his long white hair cascaded on his shoulders.
"Don't worry, I ain't gonna’ hurt you. I'm just an ol' soldier of the B Company, 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry. Lieutenant Peter Abrams Brannigan, at your service. At least for the part of me that are in the States, and not fertilizing some paddy fields."
"Yup! You got that right, kiddo!" Peter exclaiming, his smile broader.” So you're looking for the flesh of your flesh, if I got you right?" the veteran asked. "Come inside, then. We'll attract less unwanted attention..
Not without some apprehension, they followed Brannigan inside the dispensary, but neither Tanya nor Ivory could hide how impressed the older man managed to move with his chair, almost better than they did with their own legs.
"Do you have a picture of Travis?" He asked, his tone closer to a demand than to a request.
Before he could stop himself, Daniel handed the veteran the picture of his son.
"Yes, that's him, Travis.. or something else finishing in his. Like a martyr, he told me."
"Kurtis. He's a fan of Kurt Cobain."
"That's it! Kurtis-with-a-K! My memory is tricking me, sometimes!"
"It's perfectly understandable, Lieutenant." Tanya nodded, and daring Ivory by a killing glare to spill and insulting smartass response, but the man judged better to keep quiet.
"I've seen him yesterday evening, ac'ally. He was much thinner than on this picture, but that's him. For w'at I've got, he got accustomed to morphine after some football accident?"
"If he had paid more attention and assiduity during the training sessions with his coach, he would have been able to dodge the blitz, to begin with!" Ivory snapped.
Tanya wanted to reply to her friend, but the former airborne soldier moved swifter than her.
"AND IF YA SHOWED MORE BLOODY UNDERSTANDING AND SUPPORT, HE WOULDN'T HAVE RUN AWAY TO BEGIN WITH!" Brannigan shouted. "He did all he can t' impress ya, and all he got was contempt!"
Ivory's face took the color of his name, as he took several steps back, truly shocked by what he has been told, and more, by the truth in the words. "I...I never knew..."
Tanya rolled her eyes. "No $%^&, Sherlock!" she snapped at him. "You had the chance to have a family, and you distractedly threw them away."
Brannigan seemed calmer now and wearing that smile of his again. "Finally ya unders'and. I've shown Kurt to a refuge where he could take some rest, without this poison of his."
Ivory looked relieved. "Where?" he asked, "Could you show us?"
"Unfortunately, I've got engagement for tonight already, but my niece, here, could lead you. She works there, shall we say. Good for t'e Karma and all t'at crap!" the veteran chuckled, as he wheeled to a nearby door.
The notes of a song could reach them from the now opened door.
You had all of them on your side, didn't you?
you believe in all your lies, didn't you?...
The opened door, the archetype of a Goth girl walked in, complete with tattoos, ritual scarification, piercing, the head half shaved, and the rest of the hair dyed in the same purple that the lipstick used to paint her lips and the mascara on her eyelashes. Her figure was so slim that for a moment, Tanya wondered if she was anorexic.
The girl bit into an apple that didn't really look in its prime. The girl could be anything between 16 and 25 years old, for all the reporter could estimate, considering all the things that young lady had done to her body.
"Gate, my dear, show our guests to the Refuge." He asked gently.
"Yes, LT. Sure. You two follow me." Gate ordered.
The last lyrics they could hear from the song were:
The ruiner's got a lot to prove
he's got nothing to lose
and now he made you believe
the ruiner's your only friend
well he's the living end
to the cattle he deceives...
Tanya couldn't help but having a bad feeling about this. Gate, the young Goth, was leading them through the corridors and halls of the dispensary.
[I can't breathe]
Tanya whirled around, looking around where the voice came from, but found none. Ivory looked at her.
"Never mind." the young reporter said. "I thought I've heard something."
Tanya kept looking. The hall must have been really pretty, a century ago, with a mosaic on the ceiling, imitating Aztec style. It was hard to figure out what was represented, but she could see a star, and water. Perhaps a reference to the Star People of the Algonquin's mythology, but not very likely. The desk was built in some kind of blue-ish marble, and the ground was green, like the water in a pound, or deep under the surface of the sea.
Now, I know where Lovecraft found some of his inspiration for sunken island in his stories! She though, suppressing a shiver.
Gate smiled - and, for some reason, Tanya wasn't reassured by that smile. In fact, quite the opposite, actually - and explained, "The air into the old plumbing sometimes sounds like voices, because of the cords placed in the joints, to prevent rodents from roaming in them. The air plays in those cords like it does in vocal cords, causing..."
"...The voices." Tanya completed Gate's sentence.
"Ahem. Could we continue, ladies? The sooner out of here, the better."
Gate smiled again, and nodded. "We'll take a shortcut." Gate suggested. "It'll be faster. But stay close to me. It's easy to get lost."
There was, indeed, something about Gate that made Tanya's skin crawl, a sense of familiarity, deformed through some sickening lenses. But she was unable to put her finger on it.. After a walk that seemed like ages to Ivory and Tanya, the trio finally reached a door. They had seen a couple of squatters -which neither Ivory or his companion could determine if they were sleeping, or if they were even alive. Only the sirens of the police cars were evidence that they were in an American country, the Big Apple, no less, and not a Third World hospital forsaken by everybody. They just crossed the laundry devoid of any sheet and towels but hosted
another type of squatters, as one of them crossed the trio's path and died under Gate's ranger boots with the sound of chips when you step on it. Ivory paled, and Tanya assumed a disgusted grimace.
"Roaches! I hate roaches!" Tanya muttered under her breath.
When finally they reached the outside, they paused, taking a deep breath.
"Better not to stop here, guys." Gate said firmly.
They were in an alley, with a few windows, a dozen feet above, and an arc lamp was blinking above their head. Tanya tried to locate herself, but they had turned so many times that she couldn't tell if they were heading north, south, east or west anymore, and she kicked herself for not having taken her compass.
And they walked, and walked...
Surprisingly, Ivory didn't even grouse once. Tanya was quiet too, but her body was tense. She was trying to keep tracks off all the changes of direction that occurred.
Gate never ever once turned to make sure that Tanya or Ivory were following.
The young reporter risked a look on the surrounding...and couldn't pull back a surprised hiccup. The houses weren't made of concrete and bricks, but of red bricks and wooden beams. The sounds of the city -cars, sirens, klaxons- couldn't even be heard, and the only part of the sky she could see between the houses were clouded, and thus it was impossible to find any guidance in the stars. A gas lamp was hanging at one of the houses' wall, diffusing a wan yellow light that wasn't illuminating much more than a couple of square yards. It was as if they were in another city, another time, altogether.
As they passed, shutters were closed, one after the others, house after house. Tanya couldn't honestly say she saw anybody, just rushing shadows and short, imperative whispers.
Tanya's Caine Sense was tingling so much it was a real chime. For the nth time, the young reporter regretted she didn't bring her compass. And her 12 gauge as well. She was sure that this girl, Gate, was up to no good. Yet, she has no choice but follow her. She has made a promise to a mother to find her, or, at the very least, help the father of this son to find him. And the father, Daniel, hadn't piped a word in what? An hour? Two?
Tanya shook her head. Even her perception of the time was altered!
Not far ahead of them, Tanya saw the entrance of a tunnel, clouded by a forged portcullis that looked so dusted it seemed that it would fall into dust just by touching it. A detail captured the attention of reporter in Tanya. A figure was forged in the portcullis, representing the same model than the mosaic in the Dispensary's hall. Still she couldn't identify what was represented, but it made her stomach turn in revulsion, and she diverted her eyes from it. Instead, she looked at Ivory. He was pale, and sweating abundantly. She touched his upper arm and gave him a gentle smile, her eyes expressing concern.
"Hey, Danny. You're okay?" she asked, unnoticing how familiar she was with him. They have not known each other for more than twelve hours, give or take something like 2 hours. He nodded, and gently patted her hand.
"I'm okay, dear." Ivory replied with a softness Tanya didn't know he had. "I'm just exhausted. And processing what Brannigan said, about Kurtis..."
"You need to rest a bit, Daniel." Tanya said gently, but firmly. "What good would it do your boy if you have a stroke?"
Ivory knew that his companion - and guardian angel - was right. "I suppose five minutes wouldn't harm," he agreed, although reluctantly.
"Gate, let's take a break. Daniel's exhausted, and..."
"No." Gate said, her voice as chilly as the breeze that came from the tunnel.
Tanya stopped right there, surprised.
"What do you mean, no?! We're taking a break. Period."
"No. We must continue." came the reply, even colder. Gate didn't even turned and stepped in front of the post grill.
If she wanted to upset Tanya Caine even further, she did an awesome job at it. Gate was about to push the rusty metal clench, when Tanya grabbed her upper arm and was going to spin Gate around to face her.
"Not so fast, young lady!" the reporter roared. "Where are you leadin-*" She stopped right in the middle of her sentence, as she made Gate face her. "Oh dear God!" Tanya exclaimed, jerking her hand away from Gate's arm, reared back, tripped on a cobblestone, and fell backwards.
Gate was facing her, her eyelids sewn close, her cheekbone bare of skin and muscles. Her windpipe was also visible.
"Home." she said simply, before turning on her heels, and vanished in the tunnel.
[COME!] a loud voice thundered.
Tanya and Ivory exchanged a look, obviously unsure what to do.
"She wasn't leading us to Kurtis, was she?" Ivory asked, wiping his brow.
"Even if she was, I don't think that it was by the shortest road!" Tanya replied, helping Ivory back to his feet.” But we'll find Kurtis. I tell you that."
With a smile, Ivory nodded.
"I don't think it's a good idea to stay around." Tanya said.
"The question is, where to look?" Ivory asked, his no-nonsense attitude back in gear.
The recognizable sound of a pair of metal spurs echoed in the tunnel in which Gate wanted them to follow her. Useless to say, neither Tanya nor Ivory stayed to meet with the bearers of the spurs in person.
After a few more minutes, the duo looked around, trying to catch up their breath.
"Daniel..." Tanya began, seeing her gray haired friend bending over, panting hard, his hand clenched on his chest.
"I'm okay, Tanya." He gasped between two breaths
"Not for long." A new voice cantered, an obvious malevolent note in his voice.
As one, Tanya and Ivory turned toward the new comer and gasped in horror
In front of them, was standing a tall humanoid creature, scarcely deserving the name of "human". Six feet tall, long black hair, black leather pants and jacket, santiags and iron spurs and a butcher hook in his left hand. Both his forearms seemed to be clad in a mail armbands and his teeth were shinning white like diamonds.
He walked toward the stunned couple, who was horrified and shocked.
"Oh God." Ivory gulped.
"Buuup! Wrong name!" the spurs bearer exclaimed maliciously, the hook hissing against the stones of the houses as he came even more closer.
Standing under a gas lamp, more details of the new comer were revealed, much to Tanya and Ivory, who looked whiter than his shirt. What they thought to be a jacket was actually a piece of black leather plastron sewed directly on his bare chest. Not just to the skin, like she'd seen during a reportage/homework about the piercing, this was so beyond description, only belonging in one of those movies with that guy with the all the needles planted on his head and face. The hook wasn't in his left hand, but actually grafted between his medium and ring fingers, like a sixth finger as sharp as a razor blade. His forearms were clad in a tight steel mail
armband, only leaving a line devoid of the steel wiring, but also skinless, leaving the muscle exposed to the air. His broad smile showed teeth cut and sharpened in points. From his both of his knees were protruding two enormous screws.
On an intuition, Tanya took the picture Ivory gave her. Past the detail, the picture and the... man standing there but she couldn't connect the boy on the picture, and...him.
"Ku...Kurtis." Ivory gasped, recognizing his son in front of him. He was paralyzed, sweating porously, tears blurring his side.
"Paying attention to me, now, daddy? Are you ready to suffer for my friends and me? Are you ready to pay for your sins? I starve for your pain, Dad! Feed me!"
Tanya's eyes widened in horror as Kurtis' hand clenched in a fist, except for his sixth finger/claw, drawing a descending arc toward his father's chest.
"DANNY!!" Tanya shouted, grabbing Daniel's sleeve and pulling hard toward her.
Kurtis' hook missed its target, but still penetrated deep into his father's flank, finishing its course with a ping sound as the tip of the hook met with the hipbone. Daniel howled in pain. With a frustrated growling, the attacker pulled his blade from the wound, the hook coming to rest in the opening in the forearm.
He turned toward Tanya who let a terrified "Eep!"
"Ohhh ain't we tempered?" Kurt, known now as Hook cooed, leaning over Tanya. New details of his metamorphosis were now displayed a few inches away from her face. A monocle was carved directly in his orbit, with an eyelid less eye, the tiny vessels in the eyeball pulsing wildly. " Be patient, little girl." I'm finishing with my old man, and then I'll be all yours." He stuck his tongue out, and to Tanya's horror, the tip parted in two, like it was a reptile tongue with the double tip sneaking closer to her lips.
The moment it touched the tip of lips, it was like a strong electroshock. She punched the zone where the plastron was sewed in the chest. As she expected, it was a sensible spot. Hook recoiled and snickered "yesssss! paiinnn!" Tanya didn't waste the time, and got up, standing between Daniel and Hook.
He raised his arm, and the claw snapped in place with the sound of sword withdrawn from its sheath. To Hook's surprise, Tanya blocked the blow, and grabbed his wrist, and in the same move, pulled it down abruptly, moved her left leg above the arm, pulled the arm further down and, at the same time, thrusting her leg forward as fast and strongly as she could.
Hook yelped in surprise as the top of the bike boot of the young reporter met with his, breaking it on impact, and flew backward for a good six feet before landing hardly on the cobblestones, out cold.
"Daniel! How are you?" She asked alarmed, pushing her hand on the wound.
"O...kay, I think. It looks worse than it is. It hurts, too. Gosh!" He replied, trying to smile.
"Can you walk?" she asked, looking back and forth between Daniel and Hook.
"I'll...need... some help." Daniel admitted. "I screwed up big time, didn't I?"
"We'll worry about that later, if we make it alive." Tanya said, as they walked away.
How long after, neither Daniel or Tanya could tell, they saw a man lying on the ground.
Looking at each other, Tanya and her wounded friend smiled and nodded. If there was a beggar here, they were probably not too far from Hell's Kitchen. A small oil lamp was posed on the ground next to him.
"Hey, guys. Got something for you." The beggar said, and he pulled a small box from a patchwork tissue bag. It has a caduceus carved on the top and the initial KI cut on it too.
"Kurtis' injection box! Where did you find it?!" Daniel asked, trying to furrow his eyebrows. "Who are you?!"
"Easy, Daniel." Tanya hushed gently, and looked at the man.
He seemed to be around her age, with his face covered with scars, and an eye missing. He was wearing a torn red tee shirt that said MOONSP and the rest of the word was missing. His fingertips were black or missing.
"My name is Leper. I forgot my real name long ago, when I fell behind, and ended here with Pete. He's a real tyrant. I couldn't stay with him. I'm not a saint, but he's... a monster. I got the leper because of him. We gotta’ get you outside, now. Come." He bent and picked his lamp.
"But who's Peter?" Daniel asked, walking with difficultly and leaning on Tanya . "That Vietnam veteran?"
"He can look however he want. I think he ceased to be human long ago. He used to have a lot of teenaged followers, his 'Lost Boys'. But only Gate remained; the others left or died until Hook joined him, yesterday. He's the worse of them all. Perhaps the equal of Pete, when it comes to cruelty." Leper explained. "He's already feared in Under York."
He turned, and climbed in a covered stairway. They arrived in a colossal hall, literally dug into the rock. From the ceiling, thousands of chains were hanging. Mean-looking hooks dangled from the end most of them.
"This way. Please, don't fall from the bridge. Deep down there is Peter's domain, and nobody has ever come back from there."
"How long is this bridge, anyway?" Tanya asked, panting, trying to keep up with Leper.
"Who cares? You'll never make it to the end, anyway." An angry voice echoed in the large cavern. Hook's.
"Go!" Leper ordered. "At the end you'll find a stairs heading up. On the top you'll find a light store. Tell the owner, Candle, that Leper sent you. He'll help you. Go, now! I'll hold him back!" He gave the oil lamp to Tanya.
"Ohh, Leper! Now that's mean! You don't even want to teach your new colleague some tricks?" Hook asked sweetly.
"Kiss my hide, rookie!" Leper growled, a scissor blade erupting from his palm. He charged into the darkness.
A tear rolled down Tanya's cheek, as she helped Daniel to walk faster. Suddenly, something pushed them on the back and both fell on the bridge. She turned instantly, and yelped. Between her legs was lying Leper's head.
Slowly, Hook approached. Taking both Hook and Tanya by surprise, Daniel charged the assassin, punching him hard on the face, on his wounded nose. Hook hissed in pain, and staggered slipping to the edge of the bridge, barely keeping his balance. Losing it would mean a fall for heaven knows how many feet.
"Daaad!" He called, pleading. "Heeeeelp!"
Hook was definitely loosing his balance, grabbed by the gravity.
"Kurtis!!" Daniel gasped, gripping something that protruded from Hook/Kurtis' right hand's glove. It took a few seconds to the older man to recognize what it was. Moira's bracelet. The one that had been stolen when she has been attacked, yesterday, or the day before. It all clicked into place. That's how the aggressor has been able to enter. He had the keys to the apartment door. It was...
"YOU!!!" Daniel shouted. "You did this!!!"
His eyes, showing hurt at first, grew hard, and suddenly he opened his grip, giving the monster he once called his son back to the gravity. Hook just had the time try to cut through Daniel's body, but missed by a mile. His feet lost contact with the bridge's edge, and he started to fall. His uncovered eye was wide in horror.
"Nooooooo!" Hook yelled, falling and spinning.
All that Tanya and a profusely bleeding Daniel heard was the sound of wood breaking.
As Tanya joined Daniel, who was now kneeling, panting hard, she was knocked off her feet, and felt air rush on her face. A grunt told Tanya - who had her eyes tight shut - that whatever knocked her; it had taken Daniel as well.
"I'm sorry, Danny." she said, waiting for the impact that would kill them both.
But, to her surprise, the impact was very supportable, and she was well alive. Sore and her left wrist swollen, but definitely alive.
She opened her eyes and gasped. She was on a beach of an island covered with twisting trees, on which cabins were built. Bordering the beach, every five yards a pole was planted, 15 feet high, with a human skull on the top of each of them, and the spine circling the pole around the top. On of them, a good distance from where she was, she saw the form of Hook, impaled on a pole devoid of any skull.
"Very cozy." Tanya commented.
To her surprise, a male voice, well cultured, with a light Dutch accent.
"Thank you, Miss Caine.. I must admit, you have cost me quite a lot, and been much of an annoyance."
"Thanks, LT. I always try to give the best impression."
"Oh, you're perceptive, Miss Caine." Peter said calmly. He glanced at the unconscious Daniel Ivory, then to Gate. "Amber, wake him and cauterize his wound. Make sure he feels it. Then bring him to Johnny's cabin." Gate nodded and took Daniel on her shoulder, and moved swiftly away, between the trees.
Tanya's jaw fell open, in shock. Now, it all made sense.
"So Gate is Kurtis' aunt, Amber Derringer." Tanya asked, deadpan.
"Oh, I can see that your diploma as a reporter hasn't been usurped. Unfortunately, you won't be able to use your talent of writing. Now, if you follow me, I'll show you your new quarters for the next few days."
As Peter led her around the island, Tanya couldn't help but being impressed.
"You may be a sick bastard, Peter, but I must admit that you've made a great place here. When I was a kid, I've seen that movie with the adult Peter Pan and from what I see, it fits... in a sick and twisted way."
"I hate to disappoint you, Tanya, but I didn't not make the island. I barely had what you see around here built. This..." He pointed to a grayish blue monolith appearing between the trees. "...Was there even before I arrived here. I think that it was there even before mankind even reached the standing position. All I did was to adapt this place to my convenience, like 100 years ago. Before... I created the Under York. I wanted to give the poor, the slave, the forgotten a home."
Tanya smiled despite herself.
"And gave me a source of endless suffering and as many sufferers as I need."
Peter chuckled at the disappearing of the smile from Tanya's lips.
"You sick bastard!" the young woman hissed at Peter's face which was currently the face of a young man, sunset red haired, perhaps 20 years old, wearing 17th century shirt over blue jeans.
Peter's smile vanished and he caught a handful of Tanya's hair, pulling her closer, their noses almost touching.
"You think I chose to be like this?! You think I chose what happened to me?!? You think I woke up, someday, saying to myself 'Oh, Let's see the Constable Hans Derringer raping the burgomaster, and being seen; and after that, oh! Why not being hung, accused by the rapist of his crime, with the overwhelming testimony money of Gerda Van Der Steen, the very victim of the rape?! It would be so much fun!" Peter roared. He pointed the scar on his neck, vestige of the bite of the rope. "But I survive, somehow. I died, yet I survived..."
Realization hit Tanya like a ton of bricks, but she kept quiet.
"But you feed with pain." Tanya observed.
"Pain makes me physically real and living. True, but I took my revenge. All the skulls you see there belong to the criminals who hung me, and their descendants are my followers, my Lost Boys."
"But me? And Daniel?"
"About your friend, Mister Ivory, well, since he killed my Hook, he'll have to take his place. As soon as he get better, the change will be done. As for you, my poor, poor dear, you people of the 20th Century have a fitting expression for this situation: Curiosity killed the cat." They arrived in front of a cabin and stopped. Peter opened the door, and let Tanya in. "If you please, Madame."
Giving Peter a dark look, she obeyed, and entered her new 'home'.
And that was quite a sight! Beside a big double bed, a table, with a couple of chairs, the rest of the house was filled with laboratory material from diverse era. Some were pretty archaic and belong into a Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam movie, but some others were the state-of-art in biology and chemistry.
As she was surveying the surroundings, the door was unlocked and opened, only to have Daniel Ivory tossed inside, and then violently slammed afterward. Tanya rushed to his side, to help him to remove the gagging ball from his mouth and kissed him, tenderly. Surprised, at first, he returned the kiss.
"Thanks, hon." He said, after they broke the kiss. "It's harlots like this Gate who give sisters-in-law a bad name!"
Tanya glanced at Daniel, and burst out laughing. Joined soon by the man, when he wasn't wincing.
"So? What's the deal with Mister Pan, there?"
"Well, it seems he's like a variant of the Slaughterfold, a variety of ghost, hung unjustly. This one, however, managed to keep his body, which he sustains with pain and suffering both from himself and others. He also seems to be demented, and overconfident."
"I have had my share of pain, thank you very much! If we had that darn box that Leper gave to us, it'd be welcome."
"Taadaa!" Tanya exclaimed, taking the box from her inner pocket of her jacket. "That moron didn't even think to search me!" the young woman snickered.
"At least some painkiller! You're a queen, Tanya!.. what?"
She was looking at Daniel and the box, back and forth.
"Danny, you are a Genius." She whispered, a mischievous grin dancing on her lips.
"I know. But why am I a genius?" He asked, pressing a hand where he had got the blade, and painfully nursed by Gate, the psychopath who has been a young blond-haired girl called Amber Wendy Derringer.
"What we’ll do is simple. We'll starve him,” she explained
"The pain killing effect of the morphine! Of course! But that'll only weaken him, that won't kill him, for good." Daniel observed, scratching the area around his wound.
"I've taken a look around, and I found a few chemicals I think that'll come in handy."
"I thought you were a reporter?" He grinned.
"Well, I had good grades in chemistry, in high school. I was a nerd with an attitude problem who gave kick boxing lessons to pay the bills at college."
Daniel coughed, and snickered "Oh Be afraid! Be very afraid!"
"Lessee... glycerin, here.. Oh, and some H2 SO4... and H2 NO4. Excellent!"
"H2S...H2N.. Could you replay, but in English, this time?"
"H2 SO4 is sulfuric acid. H2 NO4 is nitric acid."
"And you want to mix it with glycerin that'll be..."
"C3 H5 (NON 3) 3... nitroglycerin, exactly." Tanya replied, carefully transferring liquids, and mixed them even more carefully. "Here, you see those plasma bags there…. in the broken fridge…. the empty ones."
"Oh gosh!" He said, moving around as fast as he could, bringing the requested empty plasma bags. "You sure you can do it?"
"If Kevin Bacon could do it, then so can I!" Tanya whispered, filling one of the bags.
Soon four bags were filled, that made two for each of them. They had yet to escape from the laboratory. Daniel looked at the walls.
"They're made of wood." He observed.
"Hu-Hu." Tanya nodded distractively.
"So, isn't gas in canisters extremely cold?" He asked, almost candidly, as he was feeling the syringe with morphine. Slowly, he placed the safety head on the needle, and made a second syringe. This time it was for himself, less in quantity. Anything to keep him busy, to not think of his wound, of his son, of his ex-wife...
"Yes." Tanya replied, distractively, and then her head rose slightly. "Yes!"
She moved beside Daniel, and helped him move a big bottle near the wall, and opened it, the valve turned toward the wall that slowly turned to white. It took over an hour to empty the bottle, which left a good part of the wall as white as snow and as solid a crystal cup of Champaign.
Using a clamp, Tanya tapped on the wall, making a large breach, the second hit damaged it further and the third knock was the last needed one, shattering the wood
The couple exchanged a quick kiss, and moved out. They reached the beach, but were stopped by the sight of a trio of big white crocodiles, crawling out of the water. If there was one legend she hoped would be just that, a legend, that was about the crocodiles in the sewers! Yet, there they were!
"I see you've met my pets?" Peter's voice asked, as if the answer wasn't obvious.
"He's mine!" Daniel told his friend. He knew that he wouldn't survive such foolish charge, but he had to. He was a goner anyway. He had lost too much blood, and more was even flooding inside him along with the infection that was spreading through his body. Lord, make that my death serve to something, and protect Tanya. And Moira. They’ll need it. With this prayer, he rushed to Peter. The assault took the living ghost totally off guard. On impact, nothing happened, besides throwing both, him and Peter, in the sand.
"Damn!" Daniel hissed, realizing that the explosion he expected didn't happen. Still using the effect of surprise, he took the syringe from his pocket, removed the safety and injected all the contents of the syringe, straight into Peter's jugular artery.
"NO!!!! FOOL!" The Slaughterfold roared kicking Daniel in the stomach so hardly that he was sent flying almost 30 feet away, splashing in the water. Again, the nitro didn't explode.
Tanya didn't know what to do. To be glad it didn't work so Daniel was still alive, or being angry and sad that her plan didn't work. Attracted by the smell of blood, the three crocodiles rushed blindly toward Daniel, who was still unconscious, or dead. Suddenly as one of the reptiles planted his strong teeth in Daniel's jacket, the charge went off in a loud BANG that threw Peter off of his feet. The beach was covered with pinkish and reddish pieces of crocodile meat.
Tanya's glare was aimed straight a Peter, who was growing thinner and thinner by every minute, as he was starving under her very eyes. "Petey, you are soooo dead!" the reporter snarled, starting to walk toward him, but was stopped by a solid punch in the face that dislodged one of her good teeth.
Gate. For a while, Tanya had forgotten all about her. She looked at the half bald, totally blind woman in camouflage attire, who was moving like a marines in close combat. Even with her eyes sewn she was a dangerous adversary. With Tanya's swollen wrist, it wasn't going to be easy, but she opened her jacket and let it slide onto the sand, gently, and adopted a kickboxing fighting stance.
The two women circled around each other, it was as if Gate could see through her sealed eyelids, anticipating all her moves.
"You can't win, sweetie." Gate cooed. I've given up my sight when I was 13. I've had more than 20 years to learn how to rely an my five other senses, and fight in total darkness. I'm faster and stronger than you are. And I'm more than willing to kill you!"
"And you talk too much!" Tanya said, less than a second before drawing a curve under Gate's guard and kicking her hard in the midsection.
The blind woman gagged a moment, and then smiled. Tanya narrowed her eyes, and looked at Peter who had regained some stamina.
Shoot! Every time I hit Gate, I feed Peter. Tanya realized, panting hard. Her wrist hurt from each of the attacks, which was also feeding her enemy.
With only one thing to do she charged Gate, who grinned evilly. As Gate was about to catch her, Tanya’s dodge slid beneath the strong but lithe arms and moved behind Gate, and wrapped her arms around her neck and head, and squeezed. She squeezed until a sound that was so awfully reminding of the sound of a broken branch. Gate's body went limp in Tanya's deadly embrace. When the young reporter released her embrace, Gate's lifeless body fell on the ground. Tears blurred Tanya's eyes.
Oh my God! What have I done?! I took another life! She thought, on the verge of panic.
You've defended your own life, and stopped a demon's minion, another part of her replied, that had Daniel's voice.
That left the demon itself. The ghost. Peter.
She looked around, but saw him nowhere. Just at track in the sand.
"Darn it!" She growled.
Swiftly, she removed one of gate's Ranger boots' laces, and bound her two last bags of nitro, each one on an end of the lace, and then picked her deadly bolas, and ran after Peter.
They made almost a complete circle around the island, sometimes between the trees, when they reached a wooden pier, with a zodiac armored to it. Each was standing at one end of the pier.
"Peter!" She shouted, arming her explosive bolas. Before he could stop himself, Peter turned toward Tanya, and the lace found the exact place of the previous rope's scar, circling twice around his now thin neck, strangling him half a second before the bags full of nitro impacted with his head. "Go to Hell, 'Hakon'!"
A deafening explosion, from both the nitro and the zodiac's diesel reserves, shook the island, and send Tanya far away from the devastated pier, splashing in the water
The beach was close enough to swim to, but she was so tired. She let herself float, drifting in a blissful sleep, a red nape spreading around her. Her nose was bleeding too, as well as several other minor cuts, and... Who cares what else?
"I'm so tired..." she said, aloud. Barely.
She closed her eyes, and lost consciousness.
Saint Clare Hospital. an unknownst time later.
Light. Bright light. It hurt.
Everything is a blur. Focus.
"Look! She opened her eyes! I told you, Luan!" A joyful voice exclaimed.
"Ladies! Quiet, please! This is a hospital, for Pete's sake!" a masculine voice demanded, in a rich accent of Brooklyn.
The form on the bed grunted something that sounded like "Oh no, not him again!"
"Miss Caine? Can you hear me?"
"As long as you don't say 'Pete', I can." Tanya reply, trying to smile, but every muscle of her face was painful. No, not painful, sore.
"How long?" she asked, and licked her lips "How long have I been out?"
"Almost a month. We have to do some tests to check if everything is okay, neurologically speaking. You need rest now. I'll come back later. Same goes for you, ladies."
"They can stay." Tanya countered. The doctor, looked at her, and she returned his smile.
"Fine." He said, rolling his eyes. I'll check tomorrow. And you better not give the nurse a hard time, is that clear?"
"Yes, sir." she whispered."
Luan walked close to her. "We thought you were going to die too, hon," the Asian woman said, with a gentle smile.
Geesh! She should learn how to use some tact! Tanya thought, chuckling inside.
"You received a letter, while you were in the coma. It was dropped in my box, with just your name on it." Moira said, handing Tanya a large brown folded parchment. She opened the seal that looked like an oil lamp.
She unfolded and read it to herself:
All the dwellers of Under York have an eternal debt toward you, for freeing us from the tyrant Peter. Whenever, wherever in New York, when you need us, we will be there to help you. Please, though, keep the existence of Under York a secret.
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