Airs and Heiresses
New York, 1938
St. Regis Hotel
"So there I was, staring down a barrel INCHES from death...and I told the man, 'darling REALLY, if you simply must shoot me do allow me to remove my earrings. They are Cartier, you know." Molly Maltese paused to take a sip of her Red Snapper, popping the olive neatly between her cherub lips before gnashing it to a pulp. "And the man was quite flummoxed, he said- I say, is that Riza Hawkeye?"
She rose, the group of rapt men in tuxedos and women in glittering dresses and furs murmuring their protests as she wended through their knees. But the apparition she was quite sure had been Riza Hawkeye had vanished in the crowd of New York socialites populating the exclusive terrace.
"Well, this place is a bit ritzy for Riza." she murmured, fairly certain her old acquaintance didn't make a habit of populating social-climbing fetes. And she reasoned, any time Riza had appeared before it was hardly ever for a pleasant cause. Well, maybe that was unfair. It just seemed she was more the swirl-of-furs-and-stiletto-daggers type than a frothy socializer like Molly herself.
Peering around, Molly saw nothing but the shadowed faces of revelers partially cloaked in the smoky haze. She had just been about to give up and go back to her companions when the most shocking hubbub began. Over on the north part of the terrace, she could distinctly hear the shouts of men and panicked screeching of females. Moving forward, she could just make out..
"Did you see... The Ambassador... who could have... murder! Someone has pushed the Ambassador off the building!" Molly picked up speed, expertly weaving through the crowd of panicked voices. Sirens already began to sound twenty stories below. Just as she grasped the ledge and looked over, an all too familiar voice sounded in her left ear.
"Oh hello there, old friend. Lovely breeze out today."
Before her stood Riza Hawkeye herself, looking utterly unruffled as several ladies fainted behind her.
"Sphinx," Marc growled, "start talking."
"What the hell!" The man on his knees exclaimed. Marc held tightly as the other struggled to free himself. Marc looked at Riza and nodded as he let go and the man stood up to fight. Faster than anyone could move, Riza produced a rather large blade. "You move, you die," she whispered.
"I'll say it one more time, and only one more time. Start talking."
He hung his head in shame. He knew this was it. "Don't say anything," the other one said. "Shut it," Vulkie snapped. "I swore an oath," he said. "Give up," he told the other. "We're dead anyways..Sphinx is everywhere. Trust no one, not even those closest to you. You, and those who follow you, will die. You meddle in that which you do not understand." He bit down something, making a sickening pop.
"Vulkie, check his mouth!" Riza yelled as the other began gasping for air and foaming at the mouth. Vulkie dug into the other man's mouth as he tried to bite down. She pulled out a small capsule as the other man expired. "Cyanide," Vulkie said.
"I'd start talking, if I were you," Riza said.
"Sphinx is everywhere," he said. "I'm dead anyways...start in Shanghai. Then Delhi...you'll find what you're looking for."
Marc loomed down at the lifeless body. "Go," he said talking to the other. Warn your friends about who is coming."
"Who do I say you are?"
Marc looked around at Molly, Riza, and Vulkie. Then back to the Sphinx member. "You don't."
They went back to the safe house. Marc stood in the loving room in silence ignoring most of the conversation. He watched in silence as everything calmed down for the night, Riza finally stood up, with deep thought written on her face, as she stepped outside.
**should say living room not loving room..dang autocorrect on these tablets**
Riza inhaled a lungful of cool nighttime air as she walked down the dusty street. She needed to get away from the safehouse and everyone there. It had been a hectic day and she desired nothing more than some alone time, when she would not be constantly bombarded by Sphinx talk coming through the walls. For a while Riza wandered aimlessly, not caring where she was going. Now, surrounded by relative quiet and the intoxicating scent of exotic brewing coffee, she felt the knots in her shoulders loosening.
“It’s good to see you again,” said a voice suddenly from behind Riza. She froze mid-step, pivoting on her heel, and hurled her sharpest dagger towards the shadowed figure.
The steel embedded itself into the brick an eighth of an inch beside the man’s head. “Sneak up on me again, and next time it’ll go straight through your forehead,” Riza said.
“Your aim is much better now. I think you could actually kill me, Elizabeth,” the man replied, grinning. Riza’s eyes widened a minuscule degree as recognition dawned upon her, but otherwise she showed no reaction.
The man neither approached her nor made to move away. He simply stood there and stared at Riza with a lop-sided smile plastered to his face. Around them, the night air was silent save for the occasional passing car and the gentle rumble of voices from a nearby coffee house.
Riza’s lip quivered ever so slightly. She was torn. One part of her desired nothing more than to rip out this man’s innards and watch the life drain out of his eyes, but another part of her was so happy to see him again that she could almost see herself flinging herself into his arms and sobbing. Almost.
Riza raised her arm and slapped him hard across the face, fighting back the tears threatening to drop. The man raised a hand to his stinging cheek. “I suppose I deserved that,” he said softly.
After a moment he tentatively reached out for Riza, but she did not pull away. She stood: rigid, conflicted. As the familiar arms pulled her close, she closed her eyes and allowed herself to breathe in his scent. Old books and a whiff of cigars. So familiar and so warm. It was as if nothing had changed. Except in reality, everything had changed.
“What are you doing here?” Riza asked brusquely, forcibly pushing herself away from him.
“It took me ages to track you down. You changed your name--”
“Leave,” Riza demanded.
“No,” he countered, “I’m not leaving here without you.”
Riza glared at him. Equal parts of rage and longing were tugging at her. She hated how vulnerable she felt at that moment. It was sickening.
“Elizabeth, it’s time I did the right thing. What I should have done all those years ago.” He placed a hand gently on her shoulder.
“Roy,” Riza whispered. Then she caught herself. “No. No. It’s far too late for that. Look at me now. How can I--“
“I am looking at you.” He tilted up her chin so that the moonlight illuminated her face. “And you look beautiful.”
Perhaps for the first time ever, Riza was lost for words. Both their cheeks smoldered as the silence dragged on. She cast her eyes away.
“Will you come back with me?” Roy asked.
Riza did not answer; instead, she buried her face deep into his chest. Small droplets cascaded down her cheeks and dotted the pavement.
Before the detectives went to the safehouse, they still had to get rid of the Sphinx - goon that had used his cyanide capsule. "Help me carry him towards the trunk" Vulkie asked and looked at Molly, who frowned at her. "I got shot in the shoulder, remember ? If you want me to rupture my bullet wound, I'll be glad to help." Molly replied, with a bit of a snark. Vulkie let out a small smile and waved to Marc, who took the upper half of the Sphinx - goon, whilst Vulkie took the lower half.
"Don't forget the money" Molly said and Riza scooped up the suitcase filled with a wide variety of $10, $20 and $ 50 - bills.
As Riza and Molly got into the backseat of the Rolls Royce, Vulkie laid down the lower half of the Sphinx - goon, so she could open the trunk. "Boy, never knew that he would be so scared to go back.. He'd rather suicide than confront this Jack character." Vulkie said. Marc took note of that. "The other guy wasn't so scared." Marc replied. "No, but I have a distinct feeling that we won't see him... ever again." Vulkie replied. With the trunk opened, Marc and Vulkie stuffed him into it.
"Now then.." Vulkie said, "we need a remote location to dump him.." she added. "I know just the spot... but you won't like it.." Marc replied, throwing her a shady look. Vulkie sighed, as she had a feeling to where they were headed...
*The Torture Location*
As Vulkie pulled over the car, Marc got out and told Riza and Molly to stay put. "This is between me and Vulkie... we need to settle this, once and for all." Marc replied. Riza nodded and Molly looked at Riza, albeit she didn't know what they were talking about.
As they got the body of the Sphinx - goon out of the trunk and dragged him into the torture room, the penetrant smell of piss, puke and a dead body filled their nostrils. Marc coughed slightly and held his hand before his mouth and nose, but Vulkie instantly gagged and rushed out of the room and threw up in a corner near the front door...
*cont. in next post*
"Great" Marc said, "We could really use some fresh puke next to that smell. The only way it would be worse is if someone crapped him or herself." he added.
As Vulkie hurled again, Marc patted her on the back. "There there, it's not that bad.. you'll get used to it" he said, with a grin on his face.
Vulkie stared back at him and said, after wiping her mouth: "Staying around you for so long, I'm hardly not getting used to it."
When Vulkie was done, she got back to the body and Marc helped her drag it further into the room. As she looked towards the chair, she could still see the body sitting in it.
"My god.." Vulkie murmered. "I..." she began, but instantly cut off. The horror that was in the room, was almost too unbearable to describe. The body was already in a state of decomposition and was almost unrecognizable. A small bullet wound was still visible in the front of the head.
"At least we ended his suffering cleanly.. as much as we could" Marc said. "We've had our discussions, Vulkie. You have made your point. I am not the same person who I was before and you won't see that person no more, not for the rest of your life. Things have been set in motion which have changed me from the inside and are irreversible as far as I know.." Marc added.
"I understand, Marc. But again, I warn you - if you don't watch yourself, you will lose all that is precious to you in the following few weeks.." Vulkie replied, while staring at Marc. Marc simply nodded; he understood what she meant. If he continued to be like this, it would result in the end of a long friendship he had established.
"Remember what the Sphinx - goon said. Trust no one, not even those close to you." Marc said, while glaring behind him. "I understand" Vulkie replied.
They went back to the car and got seated in the front. "So, darlings, can we finally go towards the safehouse? I haven't had anything to eat for dinner yet and I'm hungry. Also, we need to return Willie's money" Molly said.
cont. in next p
As Vulkie looked back towards Molly and Riza, they could see the horror in her eyes. "My lord, what happened in that room?" Molly asked. Vulkie said nothing, stared back at the front and started the car, driving towards the safehouse.
*** The Safehouse ***
As the detectives entered the safehouse, Molly went straight towards the kitchen. "Right, I'll see if I can make something up for dinner. It's a good thing that we still have some cans lying around here. We haven't had any time to get any supplies today, with what all happened." Molly said and went off to cook something.
Vulkie, Riza and Marc went to the living room. As Vulkie got seated in her father's favorite chair, an old arm chair, she laid down her head as Marc and Riza started talking. As they started talking, Vulkie closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep...
*** Dream Section ***
"Stop or I'll shoot!" a man with a voice said. As Vulkie looked back, she could vaguely make out the face and couldn't believe it. She kept on running and running, down the stairs, out of the doors, towards the sea.
"I won't say it again!" the person chasing Vulkie said, "I WILL SHOOT YOU, YOU THIEVING BITCH!" he added, while running and breathing heavily.
As the air got sucked into Vulkie's lungs, she kept on running and running, ending near a cliff. The fresh smell of salt entered her nose, as she stared over the sea.
"Nowhere to go now.." the figure said, cocking his gun. "Return that necklace to me, and we can talk about it..." the figure added.
Vulkie turned around and faced the figure. "Forget it.... father" Vulkie said, the words sounding as harsh as one could imagine. She held in her necklace her mother's jewelry, that was locked into the safe. An alarm had gone off as soon as she had opened the safe door. Her father hadn't told her that he had placed an alarm a couple of weeks before, just in case.
"You are no daughter of mine.." he said and took aim. As Vulkie turned around, she prepared to dive...
As her father took aim and took the shot, Vulkie felt a pain in her right shoulder, which caused her to stumble over the edge. Falling and falling and falling down. A splash and that was it.. she was slowly sinking towards the depths of the ocean, until she opened her eyes slowly and began to swim upwards. "Air, I need air.. otherwise, I'll suffocate." Vulkie said, as she swam up towards the surface. Finally, she reached the surface and gasped for air...
"Wake up Vulkie.." Riza said, as she poked her on the shoulder. Vulkie rubbed her eyes. "Is dinner ready?" she asked. "No, we've all eaten. There's a plate for you if you want in the kitchen, but I'm afraid it's gone cold."
As Vulkie looked closer at Riza in the light, she could see that she had red-rimmed eyes. She had either been crying, or an allergic reaction to whatever Molly prepared with what was left.
"I'll just go towards the kitchen. Good night, Riza.." Vulkie said and wandered off towards the kitchen, leaving Riza alone in the living room. As she saw the plate of food, she tried to have a small bite. "Doesn't taste too bad.. but it's cold." she thought to herself and put the fork down.
As she sat down at the kitchen table, she lit up a cigarette and had thought about the dream. She remembered much more now, even that her father shot her and threw the revolver that he always cared about after her. He didn't want to be reminded of a daughter that had stolen her mother's jewelry, nor be associated with her at all.
As she inhaled the smoke, she kept awake until it was morning. First, Marc entered the room and grabbed a cup of coffee. "You're up early." he remarked and she gave a fake smile, still inhaling her cigarette. It was the fifth she had put up. Then, Molly entered and finally, Riza. All the bags were loaded by Marc and Riza into the trunk and for a change, Molly sat in the front, while Marc and Riza sat in the back of the Rolls Royce..
"First, we have to drop off the money at Willie's. Then, we need to go to Alexandria Airport and get a plane towards Venice. From Venice, we'll travel to Istanbul via the Orient Express. It'll take a couple of days, but once we reach Istanbul, we can make our way on a different train towards Shanghai." Vulkie said. Molly frowned and asked: "But they call it the Orient Express, for lord's sake. One would think it would run towards Shanghai at the least."
Riza smiled and answered the question. "One would think that the Orient Express would go from the West of Europe towards the East of Asia. But in fact, the train only goes from Paris towards Istanbul. There are a lot of different routes that can be taken. I recall that the Original Orient Express line went from Paris via Strasbourg, Munich, Vienna, Budapest and Bucarest towards Istanbul, which was called Constantinople back in the day... But now, with the modern era, new routes exist and we have luck that we can board the train in Venice." she said.
"Well, thank you Professor Hawkeye. Now, Vulkie, can we get a move on? " Marc said, as Riza gave him an angry stare.
*** Willie's club ***
As Molly quickly walked in with the suitcase, she emerged 10 minutes later with an envelope. "Payment for our job. Willie is happy we helped him out with his... particular case. He gave us 20% of the blackmail money" Molly said, as she opened the envelope and showed the money to the detectives. The detectives smiled. "Nothing like a good job done.." Marc said, lighting a cigarette. Vulkie also lit a cigarette.
"Off to the airport, James.." Molly said. Vulkie stared at her. "It's Victoria, Molly. For god's sake, if you're gonna quote, use my own name.." she replied and started the car.
30 minutes in, Riza poked Vulkie on the shoulder. "I don't want to disturb you while driving" she whispered into Vulkie's ear, "but I think we're being followed.." she added.
As Vulkie looked in her rearview window...
*cont in next post*
She could see that two black Buick Sedan Model 47's followed her.
"How long have they been following us?" Vulkie asked, while steering her car through the waves of traffic.
"At least 20 minutes, maybe even from Willie's club." Riza said, still staring at the front, while revealing her gun. Marc also got his gun out. Molly also got her gun out.
"I hope you all buckled up... cuz this is gonna be one hell of a ride.." Vulkie said, as she shifted the car into it's 3rd gear. The car immediately boosted forward as Vulkie placed her right foot on the gas pedal, as she still moved the car through the traffic.
The Buicks immediately responded and tried to get closer. As Riza and Marc looked out of the sides, Marc's hat flew off his head. "That was one of my favorite hats!" Marc said, while aiming. "Don't worry, we'll get you a new one in Shanghai!" Molly said as she also looked out of the side and fired a shot. It hit the front window of the first Buick, but no fatal shot had been made.
"Damnit Vulkie, keep this car straight!" Riza shouted, as she fired a shot as well. It hit the passenger of the first Buick car, who instantly keeled over.
"You want Molly to get shot again?!" Vulkie shouted, albeit with a sarcastic tone. Molly quickly glanced at Vulkie and gave a fake smile, while Marc took his shot. The first Buick began to spin out of control, since Marc had shot the front left tire and the car crashed into the oncoming traffic.
"One down, one more to go!" Marc shouted. Vulkie grinned. She shifted the car into it's 4th gear and the car instantly sped quicker and quicker away. The remaining Buick decided that it would be best to help their remaining compatriots and turned around, going back towards the crashed Buick.
Everyone got seated properly again in the Rolls Royce and Vulkie shifted back towards the 3rd gear.
30 minutes later, they arrived at the airport...
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