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Airs and Heiresses
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Molly Maltese
Molly Maltese
Old Shoe

Jul-6-2015 11:19

New York, 1938
St. Regis Hotel
Rooftop Nightclub

"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.


Molly Maltese
Molly Maltese
Old Shoe

Sep-11-2015 18:42

The little house filled with people and emptied of them just as quickly, Molly thought as she watched everyone leave with interest. As though the doors were revolving, Jasper, Marc, Arielle all departed, and presently Marc and Arielle returned with a completely different individual in tow. Quick as a wink, everyone had suited up and disappeared, leaving Arielle, Molly and the unknown young man standing in the kitchen.

Molly briefly wondered if she ought to have said something romantic and touching to Ed as she left, but then again she found such exchanges passe. Although she was interested in the man and he HAD seen her practically naked, she still wasn't going to stand on her head and recite poetry for him. If he died he died, she thought grandly. As the French say, c'est la vie.

"And who are you?" Speaking of French people, she had heard Arielle give a whispered aside to the boy, naming him as Phillipe. Although she had been gazing around the room in curiosity as everyone made plans and departed in a fluff, she had noticed that the Frenchman's eyes drifted to her quite a bit.

As she spoke to him, he stiffened and the hint of a blush swept over his cheeks though he kept his chin square as he met her eyes.

"Forgive me for being rude, I am Louis-Phillipe Messellier, though those who know me call me-"

"Phillipe." Molly finished, rolling the name over her tongue experimentally. He nodded, casting down his eyes briefly. Arielle watched him with both eyebrows raised, a look halfway between shock and amusement touching her otherwise serious features. "And tell me, what is your connection to this circus, Phillipe?"

"Well, I'm here to see that Elle--" Phillipe began, but already bored with the exchange, Arielle cut in.

"Phillipe is sworn to me and will be assisting me moving forward. There are several tasks I need my father, Phillippe and my mothers friends to complete." she said somewhat dismissively. "I'm sure we don't want to bother you, Ms. Maltese...

Molly Maltese
Molly Maltese
Old Shoe

Sep-11-2015 18:56

"... so of course we will leave you be and Philippe and I will entertain ourselves until Father and the rest finish with their escapade." Arielle said in a tone that conveyed no room for argument. Molly gave the most imperceptible of Mona Lisa Smiles at Arielle and tilted her chin.

"You will most certainly not. I have been charged ever-so-grandly by your dear popsy to keep you company and company I shall keep you. I'm feeling festive, and I think we shall go window-shopping downtown and then dine at a truly marvelous restaurant I've heard about clear in New York. They say that the chef is a master and reservations are quite exclusive... but then again I never worry about that sort of thing."

Molly flapped a hand dismissively. "I do declare that I've been pent up and pushed around with slackjawed idiots falling off trains, shooting at things, getting in car chases, being stabbed, people exploding unexpectedly and a queer central theme of genitals, and someone is going to come with me and have a good time or else I shall be VERY displeased. Philippe your shirt is dreadful and so I shall find you another."

So saying, she moseyed off in the direction of Marc's room, humming a little tune to herself. Philippe and Arielle looked after her mutely, then at each other.

"Well, I suppose I can look for shurikens downtown. There must be back alleys." Arielle said doubtfully.

"I did not hear much about this one." Philippe admitted. "She seems somewhat bossy."

Arielle considered this. "I suppose I never heard too terribly much about her from Mother, just the basics. She's a socialite I think. Also her husband, or ex-husband- no one can ever keep track- is the kingpin in a radical criminal organization and has tried to murder her and steal all her money on many occasions."

"I'm certain he's an ex husband a the moment." Molly said kindly, and the pair jumped and turned to see her standing behind them, holding a serviceable white button-down shirt that must have come

Molly Maltese
Molly Maltese
Old Shoe

Sep-11-2015 19:02

from Marc's closet. "Though I can barely keep track myself. Ex husbands are nuisances, Arielle. Please don't make a habit of collecting them."

She pressed the shirt into Philippe's hands and hitched her thumb over her shoulder in the direction of the bathroom. He complied wordlessly, slipping past the two women to go change. As he went, Molly turned a critical eye on Arielle.

"Whatever happens to be troubling you can certainly wait until tomorrow- in fact I demand it." she tilted her chin again. "I propose that we do your hair and a little makeup and find the largest department store in town. I feel I need a new ensemble to dine in this restaurant and you should have a pretty new dress as well."

Arielle raised her eyebrows. "If you insist." she said in a voice devoid of emotion. "Philippe and I are at your disposal."

But secretly, she felt a thrill. Though she had many things weighing on her young mind, and knew that she couldn't afford to slip up and fail to help her mother, Arielle was of course a fourteen year old girl. A new dress and a night on the town, and even makeup- it seemed like the perfect night in another girls life- a carefree girl.

Chuckling in an all-knowing sort of way, Molly steered Arielle towards her bedroom and center of all glamorous operations. "It is going to be a night to remember!" Molly said cheerily, and meant it.

The Cloaked Figure
The Cloaked Figure

Sep-12-2015 01:23

“So they’re bound for London?” Archibald Kerr asked, still in disbelief over the sight in front of him.

“Yes,” the figure responded, “and the doctor you provided will be invaluable in ensuring the woman’s survival until they arrive there.”

“My personal physician,” Kerr replied, “and the least I can do after the assistance you rendered to my secretary. Visas, asylum for the family, a physician, and the cost of the boy’s treatment; is there anything else that the crown can do for you?”

The figure chuckled, “No, I don’t suppose there would be. Though, I must give you credit for that broadcast you put out in an attempt to track me down. The tale of the phantom has become quite a legend around the city.”

“Whom do you serve?” Kerr demanded, “According to the diplomatic cables that have come through, you’ve stopped countless crimes, protected victims, attacked perpetrators, and taken quite a few lives in the process. As far as I can tell, I’m the first man to actually get a meeting with you. Now those with a voice may delight in speaking of the phantom who has been keeping the street clean, but those in power would sooner see you swing. I’m offering you asylum, a salary, and the full protection of this office to come work for me.”

The figure began walking towards the door, “I owe allegiance to no man and I serve only myself,” it responded plainly, “I am without a country, without a master.” Then, stopping before it exited, “Somehow, I think that the legend of the hooded phantom would lose its effectiveness were it to sit behind a desk and operate under the control of the British government.”

The Cloaked Figure
The Cloaked Figure

Sep-12-2015 01:23

The figure sat atop a stone gargoyle across from the embassy. It placed a flute to its mouth and began to play. The sun was beginning its descent, and the world was beautiful for once. Soon the sun would set and the world would become dark. Then it would be time for the phantom to rise, to protect the streets from the malfeasance that had spread everywhere.

Crack! Ping!

Gunshots! In an instant the figure had leaped up. Snipers! Where were they aiming? The ambassador’s window!

The figure leaped to an awning, and pulled itself to an adjacent rooftop. There, three rooftops away. It broke into a run, unseen by the man crouching with the gun. Then came the edge and a leap! Two rooftops away! A longer jump! One rooftop away. Jump! Grab the wire, swing around, 200 feet, 100 feet, 50 feet! Boom! The sniper collapsed forward and tumbled off the building! Damn! Good shot!

The figure could see that the scene was chaos in the Ambassador’s office, people were dying. Good people? Bad people? Hard to tell from this angle.

The figure noticed the sturdy wire running between the embassy and the location where it currently stood. It let out a sigh, “Suppose you don’t get to be a mythical figure without doing something crazy every now and then…” The figure lifted its walking stick over the wire, firmly gripped a hand on either side, and jumped.
Instantly it felt itself being hurled towards the embassy, hundreds of feet above the ground, if it let go it would surely be done for. On the other hand, for anyone on the street, this would surely spread the legend even further.

As the embassy grew larger, the figure braced itself, one shot! Just one shot! It leaped at just the right moment and landed on the balcony rolling. No time to think! It burst through the door and slammed its staff into the head of the nearest guard.

“The phantom!” he heard a man’s voice shout, “It’s real!”

The Cloaked Figure
The Cloaked Figure

Sep-12-2015 01:24

Just then, the figure caught sight of a light haired man raising a knife. No! The figure rushed him swinging its staff, too late. The shot was deflected from the woman’s heart but planted firmly in her side.

“You!” the man shouted, “Oh, so you’re the one that’s been killing my men! Making them afraid to go and complete their assignments. I am going to enjoy watching you bleed like the pitiful mortal you are!”

The man drew a knife from his sleeve and slashed catching the figure in the arm. It felt warm liquid begin to pour down.

“Aha!” he shouted, “Just a human being! Nothing supernatural at all!”

The figure winced in pain. Curse him! How could this happen! It rushed towards him, taking hold of his knife arm and attempting to twist it. The figure felt a piercing pain in its knee, the man sadistically smiled as he twisted another knife into the figure’s leg.

“Did you know I’m ambidextrous?” the man cackled, “One of the reasons Sphinx wanted me so badly!”

The figure twisted its neck and headbutted the man, breaking his nose. He jumped back in surprise, blood pouring down his face.

That opening was all the time the figure needed. With every ounce of strength it had, it swung its staff hard into the side of his mouth, knocking out several teeth and flooring the man. The figure bent down, pulled the knife out of its leg, and for good measure, stabbed it into the man’s arm pinning it to the ground.

The figure surveyed the scene, four guards dead, the ambassador and the would be assassin severely wounded, and the detectives much worse for wear.

“Don’t move!” shouted Joseph Zeo, “We’re not done with you yet!” He turned to attend to a companion.

The figure slowly moved towards the balcony, and noticed the girl, the one it had saved bleeding there. She wasn’t long for this world.

The figure gently picked her up, pulled a rope ladder from under its cloak, attached it to the balcony, and disappeared into the night.

The Cloaked Figure
The Cloaked Figure

Sep-12-2015 01:25

The figure gently laid the girl into her bed. The surgeon at the French embassy had really done an incredible job. She would be in pain for a long time, but she would live.

“I’m so sorry Molly, but she didn’t make it,” a woman’s voice said, “we didn’t have time to save her.”

“What do you mean?” another demanded, “No! No! No! The last thing I said to her… no! She can’t be gone. This isn’t how this ends!”

“She gave her life to save the ambassador,” the first replied choking back tears, “and she knew that you didn’t hate her!”

The figure crept back towards the window it had entered. Too much emotion in this home, and it didn’t want to be here when the amazing resurrected girl was discovered.

It had one foot on the ledge when a woman’s voice interrupted, “Hey!”

The door to the room had been opened, and there stood Molly Maltese, not at all the paragon of perfection and class that she represented in public. No this was a broken woman, hair disheveled, makeup running, tears staining her face. This was a Molly that few had seen.

“So you’re real,” she began, somewhat cautiously, “You’re not just something I’ve invented in my mind. Look, I understand if you need to go, but you’ve saved our lives countless times since we’ve been here, you’ve created this mythical phantom that criminals fear, and you do it all without a face. Just tell me why? Then you can go. I promise I won’t tell anyone that I saw you.”

The figure stared at Molly for what seemed like days. Looking like this, she couldn’t have been more vulnerable, more open, more naked if she hadn’t had a stitch on in the middle of the street.

The figure lowered its foot from the window frame, took a seat on the hope chest, and began to speak.

The Cloaked Figure
The Cloaked Figure

Sep-12-2015 01:25

I arrived in Shanghai fully intending to leave any memory of my past behind me. The life I had lived up until that point was over. I had dedicated my life to the pursuit of justice, to doing what was right. It was what people expected of me. I wanted to start over, to live a life of anonymity.

I searched for anything that would give me the peace I so desperately sought for my entire life. True unburdening, bliss and harmony. Fortunately, on my third day here, I was presented with just that.

Shanghai has a persistent gang problem, such that certain streets are to be avoided, something the locals have instilled in them from the time they are young. Areas which are safe are known to be so because there is a protector. This can be a business owner or a politician who exerts their influence to keep crime away, or in rare instances a spiritual leader who can ward off delinquents with the implied threat of divine retribution.

There is a neighborhood, just north of the Jing’an Temple that is considered safe. The protector of this neighborhood is an elderly Chinese woman who is known to the locals as Mama Kai. Mama Kai walks the streets with her walking stick, a solid staff bearing complicated carvings and letters. In Mama Kai’s neighborhood, crime has never had a presence. Such is the reverence for this woman. Some say she has been around as long as the temple itself, some say she is not immortal but lives only because the next world is too afraid to accept her, still others say that the stories are largely exaggerated based on Chinese respect for their elders.

On my third day in Shanghai, I found myself with the unusual opportunity to sit down and speak privately with Mama Kai. With the limited time I was afforded, I asked her to unburden me. She let out a hearty laugh, a rare sight I’m told.

“Mama cannot take away your burdens, they are yours to put down or carry.” Mama Kai sternly told me.

The Cloaked Figure
The Cloaked Figure

Sep-12-2015 01:26

Mama and I walked the streets that night together. The few people that were present on the streets bowed to her and thanked her for her presence

Mama told me if I wanted to find peace I needed to go on a journey. As luck would have it, another opportunity presented itself the next day.

As I walked through the countryside, I came across a blind beggar. When I passed him a coin, he took hold of my hands and told me to head west to find peace.

When I asked him how he knew what I was looking for, he simply responded, “People only come this way after they’ve seen Mama. She never tells them to come here, but they all do.”

I continued on until I came to the base of a great mountain. A woman there handed me a smooth polished staff, telling me that I would need it to reach the top. When I asked her what was at the top she smiled and said that I would know should I survive the journey.

It was a journey indeed. Five weeks I toiled to reach that summit. I passed the remains of countless individuals who had fallen on their quest to reach the top. I endured snow, rain, lack of food, exhaustion, illness, wild animals, and freezing conditions.

When I reached the top, I had to smile at the woman’s prediction of my walking stick. I did need it, as it was the only thing holding me up. As I stepped forward, several cloaked figures surrounded me, scooped me up and carried me inside.

I quickly learned that I had made a pilgrimage to a great monastery, thought lost for centuries. They are known as the Cloaked Guardians. Upon arrival, their walking sticks are branded with the name of the monastery. Then slowly through each trial, each test, each moment of initiation, the staff is carved with more and more symbols.

The Cloaked Guardians have no regard for gender, status, or color. One of the first steps of training is to learn to use the neutral voice. The voice used by all of the Guardians, one that betrays neither gender nor age.

The Cloaked Figure
The Cloaked Figure

Sep-12-2015 01:26

There I labored for several years. My masters asked me what I wanted, and I responded that I wished to start over, to leave the pain of my past behind. Every day they pushed me towards this. They trained me to fight, they taught me to remain calm no matter what, and they opened parts of my mind I had never utilized. I had my peace, I had my anonymity, and I was unburdened.

Then the day came. The day they told me it was time to return, to use what I had learned and to live my life as I chose. You see, the Cloaked Guardians don’t stay at the monastery for the rest of their lives. The final test, the final measure of peace, is to take this philosophy, this maxim, and be the person you have become in the world as we know it.

A young woman had come there many years ago. Her husband had left her because she could not bear children. She had climbed to the highest bridge she could find and prepared to jump when she saw the sun glint off the top of a mountain. She resolved to find out what that light had been. Years later, when she returned, she chose to call herself Mama, and be the mother to her neighborhood. She’d set out to fix herself only to discover that what she wanted to be most of all, she already was. In unburdening herself, she became the guiding voice and guardian for generations of children.

When I returned, the problem of crime had only gotten worse. Sphinx, a minor presence in Shanghai at my departure, had become a major player in the world of organized crime. I began patrolling the streets, stopping muggers, preventing theft, only returning proportional force against those who meant me harm. Slowly the news of the phantom spread. This avenging angel who kept the streets safe, and suddenly the safe neighborhoods began getting bigger.

I found my peace, my unburdening, and it was in helping those who were helpless. Under this cloak, I have no responsibility, no obligations, no history, no pain.

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