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.
"We need to leave now!" Edward screamed, as he shot one of the gunmen. Marc fired forefinger, hitting a man right between his eyes. Joseph yelled for Marc to go find a big vehicle and meet them at the entrance. "Right!" Marc yelled. He left the fight, as Dr. Hoo could be heard saying he can take them to the front entrance. Marc took one more look as he left.
What were the odds that Marc would be told to go find a vehicle big enough to get everyone out? One in a million? He left all the excitement behind as he ran through the gates of the station, following the hundreds of people fleeing in fear, running into the Indian Imperial Police, who rushed into the fight.
Marc swore, hoping everyone else would be okay. Wait. Of course they would. He fought with them numerous times and they all had their own strengths, each one able to hold their own in an altercation. He entered the street looking for a big truck, his adrenaline pumping through his body.
Minutes seemed like hours that he searched for something big. Just when all hope was lost, it appeared, almost in a spotlight. The big, ugly, green delivery truck sat parallel parked in front of a store. The driver unloaded the last crate and walked into the store.
It's now or never, Marc thought. He ran for the truck as he got closer, he saw the driver appear and start to get in. Marc grabbed him and pulled him out, jerking the keys from his hand. "Sorry, Charlie." Marc said as he climbed into the truck.
"Hey!" The man shouted as he stood up. Marc slammed the door, put the keys in the ignition and turned them. The behemoth of a truck roared to life. He threw the truck into drive and slammed his foot on the gas pedal, pulling away from the store. He shifted the truck into second gear, then third, and fourth picking up a little more speed each shift. The engine roared and it seemed like he was flying down the street. What seemed to be really fast, was only 70kmh, the vehicle's top speed.
Marc reached the train station, plowing through parked cars near the entrance of the station. He opened the door. "Zeo!" He called out, waiving to him. Everyone e climbed aboard the truck. "Punch it!" Jasper yelled as he fired his pistol, hitting a gun man midsternal in the chest, dropping him like a rock.
Marc pulled the truck away from the entrance and back into the street, with a lone car chasing after them. The car pulled up next to them, and tried to ram the truck. Marc slammed on the brakes. "Hold on!" He yelled. The car shot forward as the truck screeched to a stop. The car came to a stop and Marc hit the gas, shifting back into second gear, slamming the truck into third. Before the cars driver had a chance to react, Marc literally ran over the car and continued forward.
Vulkie sat in the front next to Marc, her revolver drawn and shooting out of the window at the car.
"Keep this thing stable for god's sake, Marc!" Vulkie shouted, as she fired her last round; it missed.
"Well, that's that; I'm out. Don't suppose you got any guns left?" Vulkie asked, looking hopeful towards Marc. He just glanced at her, with a worried face. "I guess that means a no," Vulkie concluded and banged her fist on the dashboard.
The chasing car suddenly advanced, engine roaring, and pulled up next to them. "IT'S GOING TO RAM US. HANG ON EVERYONE!" Vulkie shouted, hoping the guys in the back were prepared for what was going to inevitably happen.
But what happened, was not exactly what Vulkie expected; Marc hit the brakes, while the chasing car shot forward. Almost immediately, Marc shifted the truck into first gear and put his foot on the gas pedal, building up enough power to shift into second gear and then into third.
The chasing car never stood a chance, as it had stopped in the middle of the road; Marc waltzed the truck right over it, causing everyone in the back, including luggage, to fly around.
"THIS AIN'T A TANK, LACRIMOSA!" Edward roared, banging his fist on the back of the truck. Vulkie agreed; if Marc kept this up, they wouldn't get far.
"I guess we can relax now for a bit," Marc said, shifting back into second gear. "Now we just need a safehouse, where we can lay low for a moment"
At the word "safehouse", the doctor was immediately saying his usual catchphrase: "Eeeeehhh? EEEEHHH?"
"What's going on back there? Does the doctor know anything?" Vulkie shouted. She could hear the guys talking to the doctor, but he didn't budge.
Marc also tried to listen, failing to pay attention to the road for a second. As Vulkie looked at the road, she could see a cow walking on the middle of the road.
"COW!" Vulkie shrieked and grabbed the wheel, twisting it a bit to the right; they narrowly managed to dodge it...
"That's the last thing we need Marc; cows are holy in this country. If you had hit it, we would be in serious trouble; the government would be furious." Vulkie explained. She had picked up this valuable fact when she tried to order a beef dish in Delhi; that did not end well, as she was chased out of the restaurant...
At the word government, the doctor was using his catchphrase again. "EEEH?! EEEEH!!"
"I'm sure he knows something," Vulkie said to Marc, as she casted a glance in his direction. "I saw him talking, while I was fighting with that Sphinx woman. It was as if... I'm almost sure Heimlich was conscious and said something to the doctor..." Vulkie added.
"Well, I'm sure the rest can get the information from the doctor if they apply enough pressure or ask kindly. I'm not sure about that nutcase myself," Marc pondered. Vulkie chuckled, as she reminded herself of what the doctor had done with his curry.
"I sure hope so; because if we don't hurry up, we'll lose the trail..." Vulkie mumbled, as the truck moved through the traffic...
“Hold on!” Marc yelled. The trucked screeched to a stop, throwing everyone in the back off balance. Someone’s elbow jabbed Riza in the ribs, and one of Riza’s heels dug into something soft. There was a general outcry of rage and confusion, punctuated by curses and somebody’s giggling. A moment later the truck lurched forward again, and Riza scrabbled to find something to hold on to. Before she could, the truck hit a large bump and she flew nearly a foot into the air. This ride would be the death of her. What the hell kind of demon driving was this?
As the truck rattled and bumped along its way, Riza slowly slid down to the floor and clapped a hand over her mouth. The ride was making her dizzy. And the air was revolting in there. Probably a poultry delivery truck, from the way it smelled. And one that had probably been moving around in the sun all day. Festering. Riza tried very hard not to think about it as she fought the urge to vomit.
“Aunt Riza,” said a voice at her ear, “give me your arms.” Riza turned to see Arielle’s silhouette and stuck out her arms. Arielle did something with her fingers and was soon massaging Riza’s wrists with her thumbs. What was the girl doing? But…oh. Not even a minute later, Riza felt her nausea begin to subside. She leaned backward against the side of the truck.
“Thank you,” Riza exhaled. “I’ll show you how to throw knives after this is over,” she murmured. Even in the near-darkness, she could make out a hint of a smile on the young girl’s lips.
Meanwhile, the doctor was making strange noises. Ed walked over to him. “What is it? Do you know something?”
The doctor gesticulated and began to speak in rapid Mandarin.
“What? What are you saying? Speak English!” Ed demanded.
The doctor then switched over to poor English, which confused the poor man even more. Riza could tell Ed was trying very hard not to lose his temper.
Arielle rolled her eyes, then calmly walked over and began conversing with the doctor. Within seconds she had gotten the information out of him. “The hideout is at the big government house in the market,” she announced.
“Marc!” Ed stalked to the front as his ears and the back of his neck reddened. “You heard that, right? We need to get to the entrance immediately. Step on it!”
The truck took on a sudden burst of speed amidst the groans and grumbles of its passengers. Not even an hour to rest or eat. At this point everyone was sitting, having determined that standing was probably not the best idea in with this turbulent driving.
“Ed,” Joseph began, “Jack’s got the amulet. I dropped it during the assault on the train.”
Ed rounded on Joseph. “You lost the amulet?” His face was incredulous.
“You didn’t even try to get it back?” Jasper interjected.
“What choice did I have?” Joseph countered. “We were being gunned down. If we didn’t leave immediately, we’d have more holes than Swiss cheese by now!”
Ed gave a shout of exasperation and slammed his fist into the side of the truck. He exhaled. “Fine. It’s fine. We’ll figure something out when we get there.” He wandered off towards the front, looking pensive.
No one else spoke. The atmosphere was tense. As the truck rushed onward, lights from the streets poked their way through the cracks. Although it was dark inside, the sky outside was darkening as well. They needed to get to their destination quickly, or else finding the hidden entrance would be nigh impossible.
The silence was deafening. Edward sat surveying the rag tag group of wannabe private detectives. More like trouble making adventurers. Idiots. All of them. Not one of them had any taste for justice, he thought. What was everyone's real intentions? Money?
The truck came to a stop. Seconds later, the engine shut off. They must be at their destination. Edward was the last person off the truck, stepping into the night with the rest of the group.
"Well, that was quite the performance, wasn't it?" He said with a smile. "I do believe this would be the right place. What do we look for now? Zeo? Oh wait, that's right, you let Jack get away with the amulet!"
"I told you-"
"Save it, hot shot. You all have no respect for the laws. Murder, theft, grand theft auto," he said turning his gaze to Marc, who smirked. "And you," Edward said pointing his finger at Marc. "You're the worst of everyone here. Assaulting a federal agent, murder, threats, what else?"
"We really going to go this far, Ed?" Marc asked stepping forward.
"Did you kill the guy who owned this truck when you stole it?"
"Don't play dumb you WOP bastard, I'm sick of this. I'm placing you under arrest for the murder of Silas and Leo, grand theft auto, and assaulting and threatening a federal age-"
Marc cut Edward off, punching him in the face, knocking the man to his knees.
Marc couldn't believe what he was hearing. Was Edward insane? Sure it was frustrating enough that Jack got the amulet, but was it a big deal? Maybe it was a bigger deal than Marc thought it was. But in the end, it was really a minor set back.
Marc looked down at Edward. He looked dazed and confused. He wasn't bleeding but he would have a nice black eye when a this was done. He looked up at Marc, coming back to his senses. Ed's face flushed three shades of red with anger before he sprang at Marc, tackling him. He was able get two punches before Marc threw him off. Ed rolled over, stopping at Molly's feet.
"Oh!" She gasped.
Edward scrambled to his feet. Marc slowly got up, wiping the blood from his lip. He unholstered his gun, tossing it aside. Edward did the same. He rushed forward at Marc.
Marc caught him and turned, dropping to the ground in a German suplex body slam. Edward hit the ground hard. He shoved Marc away from him. He ran at Marc, tackling him through a small stand, breaking the table and the wall that held up the tiny stand. Clay pots shattered underneath the weight of the two men.
Both men rolled over trying to catch their breath from having the wind knocked out of them. "C'mon, Eddy," Marc grunted. "Got any more fight left in you?"
"You son of a bitch!" Edward screamed back. He stumbled forward swinging a fist. Marc side stepped, dodging the punch. "Yes, that's it." Marc mocked. "Get angry."
Edward turned around to face Marc, who charged at Edward, tackling him though a gate. The door to the gate broke off of its hinges from both men. Marc leaned in and punched Edward in the face over and over, until a set of familiar hands grabbed him.
"Alright," Zeo said. "Fight is over."
Marc stood up as Riza handed him back his gun. Jasper helped Ed up and handed him his gun. Everyone e turned facing large building. "Must be the government building?" Someone asked. Jasper walked over to the door and tried to open it. Locked. He turned to the group. "I don't suppose lock picking is part of anyone's repertoire?"
"I got this," Vulkie said walking forward. She knelt down at the door handle and began to work. Seconds later there was a distinct "click" and the door swung open. Everyone stepped inside, pulling out their lighters and flicking them to give some light to see.
Edward wandered around, keeping mainly to himself. No doubt he was still angry from the fight. He sat down next to the fireplace and lifted his leg to adjust his shoe. Something shifted under his weight. A set of symbols appeared on two wall lighting up the room; one near the fireplace and the other across from it. The letters appeared on a single brick on both walls and both bricks protruded out of the wall. "These letters," Marc said. "They're Greek."
"Any idea what it says?" Zeo asked.
"Sphinx?" Marc questioned. He raised his hand and pushed on the brick in the wall nearest to the fireplace. A loud rumbling sound filled the room as the wall opened up revealing a stair case. He turned to Zeo who pushed on the other brick, which opened that wall revealing another set of stairs.
"Arielle," Joseph said. "I want you and Philippe to stay at the truck with Heimlich. No buts."
Arielle started to object, but after a brief argument she complied. "Edward," Jasper said. "Go get some help. Contact the Indian Imperial Police and bring them here. We could use the back up."
"No," Edward said. "I'm in charge here. I say-"
"Ed," Jasper said with a worried look. "Please, trust me. Let me do this part. "
"Fine," Edward said. He disappeared into the night.
Jasper quickly took charge. "Let's split up. Two groups of three. Joseph," he said, "you, Vulkie, and Molly take the stairs in that wall you opened. Marc, you, Riza and I take the one here."
Marc nodded. Jasper seemed to be in his right mind. Unlike that drunken moron, Edward. Marc was glad he wasn't around, but he couldn't speak for the others. He looked at Riza and then Molly. He took one more look at Jasper and Zeo. "I'll see you guys on the other side," he said. Marc turned and walked down the stairs followed by Jasper and Riza.
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