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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.


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.

The Cloaked Figure
The Cloaked Figure

Sep-12-2015 01:27

At this point, the cloaked figured noticed that whereas the conversation had started with Molly, the room was now filled with detectives on the edge of their seats.

The cloaked figure sighed, reached up and lowered its hood, revealing the face underneath to those assembled.

Heimlich VonVictor
Heimlich VonVictor

Sep-12-2015 01:29

Tears streamed down his face as he choked out, “I have missed you all terribly.”

Molly Maltese
Molly Maltese
Old Shoe

Sep-13-2015 09:19

"I think this shade of red would look just divine on you." Molly said, brandishing a sleek tube of Ravishing Red lipstick. "We just won't tell dear daddy."

Molly sat Arielle in front of a makeshift vanity that Molly had constructed and began to wet her hair and comb it through. Humming to herself, she reached for her arsenals of pomades and waxes, arranging Arielle's hair around her face in sleek finger waves.

"I used to have a maid to help me style my hair." Molly began thoughtfully. "But things being what they were after I went into hiding, and my utter unwillingness to look like a terrible slob... I learned a few tricks myself."

Her fingers worked up and down around Arielle's face as she waxed, combed and then pushed her hair this way and that to achieve swooping waves. Arielle watched her in the mirror, transfixed.

"Let's see, you were Josee originally. Is that what I heard? And Anais is your mother but is not your mother. Sounds like an awfully complex family tree." Molly said casually, rolling pin curls deftly at the nape of Arielle's neck. Arielle leaned her head forward slightly.

"My mother... well, Anais. She's not my mother, but she's taken care of me as long as I can remember." Arielle said quietly.

"Ah, sometimes the best mothers are the ones with no blood relation." Molly said wisely, frowning at a particularly stubborn pin curl, then yipped indignantly as Arielle shook her head.

"No, Anais is really my aunt. My true mother Anais' sister Lisette died."

Molly's eyebrows shot up even as she finished the set. "And Joseph got involved with both of them. How interesting." She shook her head and mouthed "MEN." to no one in particular.

Arielle saw her reaction and gave a tiny smile. She was deciding she liked this somewhat flamboyant woman. She fit interestingly in the group made up of her mother, Aunt Riza, Vulkie, and the various men. Sort of like a peacock roosting with chickens.

Molly Maltese
Molly Maltese
Old Shoe

Sep-13-2015 09:20

"Ooh, did you see how fabulous I looked from that angle just there?" Molly said, opening her eyes wide and tilting her head again experimentally. "I should have all my portraits done this way!"

Arielle watched her with wide eyes. Definitely a peacock.

Molly Maltese
Molly Maltese
Old Shoe

Sep-13-2015 09:33

Presently, Molly had primped, pushed, swiped, rubbed, patted and dabbed Arielle into a striking visage. No mere 14-year old was this! Her lips were perfectly shaped in red, her eyes bright and wide with dramatic wings of smoky liner around them, and perfectly penciled brows. Molly pursed her lips, wondering if this little waif would now outshine her but then decided she could be magnanimous and share the spotlight if only for one night.

In record time, Molly applied her usual red lips and neat eyeliner with dark sooty lashes and brushed out her hair. Noting the shorn piece in the front, she frowned and pinned a neat white velvet cap with a white fishnet applique over the whole 'do. Nipping into a blue walking dress, she left her room and struck an attractive pose in the living room.

"Yoohoo!" she called, and Phillippe and Arielle stepped in from the small porch outside.

"Darlings, really you are holding me up immensely. I must have a new dress." Molly said prettily, and shooed them out the door. Phillippe kept peering at Arielle in distaste as they begin to walk towards the shopping district, and presently Molly took her handbag and whacked him over the head with it.

"Why are you throwing such rude looks around, what a boor you are." She said crossly and Phillippe blushed.

"It's just...she looks so... old." Phillippe said, and with a squawk of inhuman rage Molly pushed him right into a bush and kept marching on with Arielle, linking her arm in the girls.

"I don't know how you stand him, really he doesn't know how to talk to women AT ALL." Molly whispered, and Arielle gave a slight giggle. Brushing himself off, Phillippe trotted after the pair calling apologies and burning with embarrassment.

Molly had hit the perfect department store on the first try, and Arielle exited the doors in a stunning red dress with a slight Peter Pan collar, small ruching at the bust and fitted all the way down into a neat pencil skirt. A small red bow sat on her waist

Molly Maltese
Molly Maltese
Old Shoe

Sep-13-2015 09:40

and Molly had immediately called for white kitten heels and an adorable white clutch purse to match. She personally finished off the look by placing a white fascinator of pearls and fabric flowers above Arielle's right ear.

"Now remember, if your father tries to rush me, I am armed and I will shoot to kill." Molly said, straightening the hem of her own deep emerald wiggle dress. It sat just slightly off the shoulder with a crisply cut bustline, ruching over the waste and slinky material to the knees. Molly kept on her own white pumps and clutch.

So dressed, Molly paraded the group into a restaurant situated at the penthouse of one of the buildings. It was all dark wood and glowing lacquered red poppies in the table and wall panels. Candlelight votives glowed from each table. After a casual card was produced from Molly's wallet, Phillippe and Arielle were ushered to raised booth in the back.

"I hear they always keep this one reserved for the creme de la creme." Molly said casually, whispering to the attentive waiter. A bottle of fine wine appeared, and glasses were poured for all.

"A toast!" Molly raised her glass. "To not being insufferable bores locked in the house tonight."

With a full smile, Arielle and Phillippe returned her toast. Molly took a sip and set her glass down.

"Now, what's the happening? I'm simply on the edge of my seat to know why everyone is so wound up and I won't be satisfied until you tell everything to your Aunt Molly... oooh. oh. No, nevermind you mustn't call me Aunt Molly ever. It makes me sound terribly old and dowdy. Heavens." Molly washed that bad taste out of her mouth with another sip of wine and then looked expectantly at Arielle...

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