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.
"Why did you want in on selling opium?" Asked Jasper.
"Whoever controls the opium, controls the streets," Marc suggested before Johnson could answer. "You would have had your own opium ring...an empire. But Sphinx wouldn't let that happen. With that money you could put them out of business, running everything including your own brothels."
Marc looked at Jasper who nodded. Kerr was next. They needed to stop it before it was too late.
Marc was not expecting to run into Vulkie like he did. Despite trying to reason with her, she had some how convinced herself that Marc was responsible for throwing her off that train in Istanbul. Before he knew it, Vulkie was pointing one of his own revolvers into his face. He activated his Derringer and it shot into his palm, daring Vulkie to pull the trigger as he cocked the hammer back.
Jasper grabbed Vulkie quickly by the wrist, placing his right leg behind hers, and swept her leg out from under her, knocking Vulkie to the ground. "Victoria Nouson," he said as he placed her in handcuffs. "I'm placing you under arrest for attempted murder, and assault with a deadly weapon." He gave Marc his revolver back and they headed the car.
As Vulkie was brought in by Jasper into Marc's safehouse, Molly and a stranger stood in the middle of the living room. As Vulkie looked at Molly, she saw that she had a necklace in her hands. It was a beautiful necklace, a ruby choker with opals inserted in intervals.
Just then, Molly glared at Vulkie for a moment, before she said: "Vulkie, I hope you get used to the feeling of those handcuffs, you little thieving wretch!" and paced herself over towards Jasper and Vulkie.
"Jasper, darling. Would you be so kind as to sit her down at the kitchen table?" Molly asked, with a calm voice, but looking angry at Vulkie. Jasper nodded and started to guide Vulkie towards the kitchen table. Jasper forced her to sit down on a chair and then stood guard next to the door. Vulkie could hear the rest of the gang talk, frequently hearing "I can't believe she did that" and "how could she?". Vulkie sighed and closed her eyes for a second, as she recalled the events that took place when she got a hold of Molly's necklace.
*** The Jewelry Theft ***
It was late in the night; the gang was still on their way to Istanbul. As Vulkie strutted through her compartment, she began to think how she would steal the necklace from Molly. Molly had shown it to her, and Vulkie instantly recognized it for what it was worth; a lot of money.
Vulkie prepared herself, grabbing her lockpicking set out of her handbag, and prayed that Molly wouldn't wake up; otherwise, hell would break out.
Vulkie exited her compartment and walked over towards Molly's compartment. As she put her ear on the door, she tried to listen; a small, little snore could be heard from the compartment.
Molly was asleep. "That's good," Vulkie thought to herself, and made sure to check both corridors for any passing people. She got on her knees and started to work the lock. "Insert the pin," she mumbled, "hold the tumbler.. there we go!" Vulkie quietly exclaimed, as she turned the lock open 30 seconds later..
(cont in next post)
A quiet click could be heard. She slowly opened the door and closed it.
In the train compartment, she could see Molly; she was vast asleep on her foldaway bed. Vulkie quickly stepped to the left side of the foldaway bed and opened the closet door. She scooped out a suitcase and looked at it. She smiled; the suitcase wasn't locked with a combination lock, but with two simple locks that you could flick open. As Vulkie flicked one lock open, she could hear another tiny snore and Molly turned around. She was now directly facing Vulkie and if she'd wake up...
Vulkie flicked open the other lock and she opened the suitcase. She began to feel around, until she had finally found what she was after; she held the necklace into the moonlight and caressed it. Knowing she needed to get out immediately, she closed the suitcase and flicked the locks. Vulkie then placed the suitcase back in the closet.
Quietly, Vulkie walked over towards the door and slowly opened it, peeking out. She could see the conductor coming from the right side, so she closed the door. She held her ear against the door and could hear the conductor whistle a song, as he passed along. Moments later, she could hear the conductor opening a door and closing it; probably moving towards the next compartment section, Vulkie thought.
Vulkie opened Molly's door quietly and did the same as she was closing it. Vulkie still held the necklace in her left hand and scurried back to her room. As Vulkie was back in her own compartment, she tried the necklace on and got a mirror from one of her own suitcases. As she looked at herself, she could already imagine herself somewhere warm. Possibly Cuba, or maybe the Canary Islands; a warm drink in her hand and a handsome man lying next to her on the other side, all the while wearing that beautiful necklace.
Vulkie knocked herself out of her little fantasy and hid the necklace in her round velvet suitcase. She then turned to sleep, knowing that Istanbul wasn't far away.
*** Back at the Safehouse ***
As Vulkie opened her eyes again, she could see that Molly had sat herself down, opposite Vulkie. The unknown man, who Vulkie saw before when she entered the safehouse, placed a cup of jasmin tea in front of Molly. He did the same for Vulkie as well.
Vulkie gave a fake smile, before she said: "I'd love to have a drink, but my hands are kinda tied up at the moment."
As Marc entered the kitchen, he couldn't help, but chuckle at Vulkie's little joke. Marc instantly grew silent again, glaring at Vulkie and recalling the events that had taken place before, in the hospital.
After Molly threw Marc a glare, with a raised eyebrow, she focused immediately back on the most important thing at this moment; questioning Vulkie, about the theft...
Zeo couldn’t believe mere spiders would get the sniper to confess. Well, whatever floats his boat. Zeo set the tank down. "We're listening."
The man in restraints shivered, “but there really isn’t an ‘address’…” Zeo frowned and was about to lift the tank of spiders. “Wait!!! Hear me out!” The man wailed as his limbs rambled in his restraints, then he added in tears, “please…”
Just then, the mental door to the interrogation chamber creaked open and Ed entered. Zeo nodded in acknowledgement. Ed stared at the set up in horror but withheld his comments. At least there was no bloodshed… Ed signaled them to go on as he crossed his arm and leaned against the wall.
“It is deep underground, and it is the size of several palaces.” Frank confessed nervously, “To keep everyone reticent about the location of our headquarter in Delhi, the entrance keeps changing. It could be anywhere and nowhere. An entrance tunnel today can be sealed up tomorrow with rocks and concrete so strong not even heavy machinery can knock through.”
“Then how does your people know where the current entrance is?” Riza asked, stroking Frank’s hair, sending shivers down his spine.
“The amulet. Jack always wears it on him, touching his skin. It shows him.” Frank breathed. As if realized he made a mistake, the man shut his eyes, his facial muscles in twists of agony.
“Jack?” Riza looked up. “Hassan, the one who pushed Vulkie off the train, once said to look for a guy named Jack, but Marc had asked the Order of Socrates about them and the name Jack didn't ring a bell.”
“I guess the Order didn’t know enough,” Zeo turned his gaze back on their prisoner. “but YOU do.” The man trembled. Another stream of urine flooded his torso, this time without the aid of the spiders. “Who is Jack? Where is he now?” Zeo bellowed for the effect.
“I can’t… I don’t…”
“You know we have more of these,” Riza knocked on the glass tank, “cockroaches, snakes,” she paused, “salamanders…”
Frank suddenly wailed out in hysteric laughter. The torture and the lack of rest and food had finally gotten to him.
“This is enough…” Ed walked over to the stone table and started to unbelt one of Frank’s ankles. Zeo grabbed Ed’s wrist and tried to hold him back. “I said, this is ENOUGH!!” Ed stormed.
Knowing the man’s temper Zeo backed off. Ed continued to unloose the restraints, taking out a few toothpicks that were carelessly left behind. Frank flinched weakly as he did that. “This man will be extradited back to the U.S. and tried for treason and murder. That is all. We will find out about Jack in other ways-“
Zeo tried to talk some sense into the FBI agent, “Ed you are being unreasonable. He’s our best lead and-”
“WHO is being unreasonable here?” Ed challenged, as he hauled Frank up on his shoulder. He then realized in disgust that the prisoner’s garments were nowhere in sight. He kicked the mental door open and yelled up the stairs. “Jasper! Come down here, and bring me a trench coat!”
Fuming as he waited at the bottom of the stairwell, Frank suddenly opened up. “Since I’ll be publicly tried, I may as well…” and he told Ed that two days after their raid on Kent Johnson, Jack was supposed to lead the final assassination on Archibald Kerr. “He’s the Heel of Sphinx, in charge of global operations, the second in command…”
“Who is the leader of Sphinx?” Ed demanded, but Frank only giggled and shook his head. Ed genuinely believed that the sniper did not know.
Joseph took the watch out of his pocket and checked. It was nearly evening, almost two days since he parted with Zhou Zuan. Although the girl kept reassuring him that she would be all right, Joseph had his concerns, knowing full well the murkiness that was Opium. He needed to check in on her. Today she had no performance and usually Zhou Zuan would stay at home making Xiao Long Bao or other delicacies. Yes, very unlike the Star that she was supposed to be.
Eyeing Riza guiltily, Joseph muttered something about a need for a change of cloths and a hot bath back home, and that he’d either call Ed at his hotel or be back there tomorrow morning. Noticing that Ed was no longer by the stairwell, he strode up to the ground level two steps at a time. He heard some commotions in the kitchen, but his mind was on Zhou Zuan and decided it was better that he leave quickly.
He could help Ed locate Jack, and he would help obtain that amulet if possible. However, Joseph had no plan on leaving Shanghai. If his friends will head for Delhi, so be it. Zhou Zuan was the closest thing he had that resembled Anais, and he was not going to part with her.
Quietly Joseph closed the door behind him. Breathing in the twilight air, Joseph swiftly dashed down the road and entered some narrow alleys.
"What I want to know is why you would trespass on your friends and companions in so disgusting a manner." Molly said, swinging the necklace from her fingers. "To think, we actually missed you, felt sad at you falling off the train when really, you just wanted a payoff."
Vulkie tilted her head. "One can never have too many payoffs. Plus, you have a thousand pieces of jewelry and wealth coming out your nose. You wouldn't even miss this piece."
Molly thought to herself, that is definitely not the point. But she gave a sweet smile. "You're absolutely right. Que sera sera. Whatever Vulkie wants, Vulkie should have..."
Quick as a flash Molly dove over the table, upending the mugs of jasmine tea as Vulkie reared back in surprise and tipped her chair over. Wielding the necklace in her fist, Molly straddled Vulkie, pinning her to the floor where she had rolled from the chair. Grabbing a hank of her hair, she pulled Vulkie's head back nearly to Molly's chest and fisted the necklace at Vulkie's mouth with the other.
"You want this so bad, perhaps you ought to just EAT IT, you thieving bitch!" Molly howled, trying to stuff the opal and ruby creation in Vulkie's mouth as she frantically tried to jerk away. Hearing the commotion, the sound of feet running up the stairs was heard, and Ed and Riza came upstairs in a flash. Jasper folowed close behind, leading a haggard and abused man in a trenchcoat.
"Oh." Riza said matter-of-factly, smirking. Ed cleared his throat a few times, trying to think what he should do. Presently he dutifully went over and lifted Molly off of Vulkie's back even as she clawed at the air like an enraged tiger.
"Now now, Molly. There's no need for that kind of display." he said firmly, setting Molly down. She practically vibrated, so on edge with rage she was. Her pretty auburn twist was all a-fluff. But, she gave a practiced breath and nodded.
"You're right of course Ed. There's no need for such a display."
"...UNLESS YOUR SUPPOSED FRIEND IS A LYING STEALING NARCISSIST!" Molly howled and dove for Vulkie again, intent on exacting her revenge. Ed reached out to grab her but missed, and quick as a wink Molly had Vulkie by one of her handcuffed arms, dragging her down the stairwell from which the gang had just come up from.
"Molly!" Ed said sternly, starting for her but was met in surprise when Riza reached out and placed a warning hand flat on his chest.
"But..." he said bewildered, and Riza just shook her head, a smirk playing on her lips.
"I guess its poetic justice." Marc said, placing his hands on his hips as he listened to the crashes, howls and curses emanating from down the stairwell. He himself wasn't too thrilled with Vulkie's maudlin display at the hospital.
"ARE THOSE SPIDERS?!" Vulkie's shriek was heard.
"MAYBE YOU OUGHT TO EAT THESE TOO!" Molly's enraged howl came drifting up the stairs. "OH, HOW ABOUT A SALAMANDER OR TWELVE!"
"Molly get ahold of yourself---AIEEEE!" Vulkie's indignant tones ended in a high-pitched shriek.
The detectives all stood around the upper floor, looking at each other and wondering whether to laugh or break up the hell-raising scene occurring below.
The scene unfolding between Molly and Vulkie was highly amusing, but Riza thought it best not to get involved. Besides, she had other things on her mind. Joseph had left not too long ago in a rush, rattling off an excuse about needing to check something at home. Though Riza had nodded her assent, the alarms in her head were going off. What was it that he needed to check so badly? She was curious.
Riza excused herself from the group, saying she needed some air after the taxing ordeal of extracting information from Frank. She headed outside and scanned the area. Squinting, she caught the outline of a slim man in the distance. Joseph. Riza hurried after him, quickly closing the distance. Then suddenly, he made a sharp turn down a narrow alleyway, and she lost sight of him. She scurried after him, wishing she had changed into more sensible shoes. Just as soon as she thought she had caught up, Joseph was winding his way down another alleyway.
"Dammit!" Riza cursed to herself as she struggled not to fall behind. Her progress was impeded by throngs of people waking in different directions, passing trolleys, and her unfamiliarity with the layout of the city. This was crazy. It was like a giant maze. Who would want to live here?
By some miracle, Riza managed to maintain Joseph in her sight most of the time. Where the hell was this man going? It wasn't home, that was for sure. The way he was moving, it was as if he wanted to lose anyone who might be trailing him. Suspicious. Riza wondered what Joseph was hiding, that he needed to go to such lengths to avoid being found out.
Twenty minutes later (though it seemed like an eternity to Riza's poor feet), he stopped in front of a nondescript residential building. Riza stopped as well, immediately dodging behind a car. Peering over the top, she could see Joseph surreptitiously turning his head left and right, checking his surroundings. Riza squinted as she watched him fiddle with the door and enter the building.
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