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.
Light glowed from the figure's hand, and when it moved away, the cut was healed. The figure turned towards the crowd of people. "The ambassador is now one of us. He will be our new liaison into the world. The ambassador will show the world the Order of the Sphinx. Soon, we will all be in a perfect world. There will no longer be any gender superiority. We will be one gender, one race united. Those who try to stop us will see death by Brazen Bull." The figure raised its hands once more, making a series of symbols again. It gently touched the ambassador's throat. "Do you aware to uphold our way of life, to keep secret the cause of our order even in death?"
"I do," the ambassador said. What ever the figure had done, it changed the ambassador's voice to gender neutral. The figure looked at the audience.
One by one, they left the room. The figure turned and nodded at the two people holding the ambassador. They too, turned and left the room. It turned and looked at the group of detectives. "Now," it said. "Where were we?"
Molly shuddered and winced as she took in the scene. Several things were happening at once that simply did not agree with her. Namely, some poor fool just got burned in an archaic display of torture. Oh, these temple types. Always carrying on with arcanum and whatnot, prone to such overdramatized displays.
Should she really be thinking this? She wondered, and then deduced she may be in shock. Anything to avoid the pervading odor of burned flesh and the appalling display of castration before them. She wondered if one in their group would be next. How hopelessly outdated. She wondered what they might do to women- it seemed their situations may be a little harder to reverse.
The glowing figure shifted, as though in surprise- and then, booming laughter. "Another come to witness majesty?" it asked no one in particular, and raised its hand to the ceiling commandingly.
"What in the--" a familiar voice was heard, and then a coarse yell as Jasper plummeted unbecomingly from the sky and landed with a solid thud on top of Molly.
Death. Death death death she was going to die, she thought grimly as her cheek met cold tile, pinioned under the weight of Jasper... who was huge. Every bone in her body screamed in protest and her neck was jarred at a most alarming angle. The spectacle drew mixed reviews from the group- some shouting "Jasper?" in alarm and most whispering "Molly, are you alright?" Whatever force kept their arms and legs immobile prevented Molly from righting herself though she tried, and from Jasper's muffled curses above her, he also was unsuccessful. She dimly felt blood running from her lips to pool on the cold tile, but wasn't half so preoccupied by that as she was by the blazing pain traversing her spine. It felt as though it would snap like an overwrought tree branch at any moment.
"You've got to let her up!" Riza called to the thing. "She can't...she's hurt ."
"I'm so sorry, Molly!" Jasper called frantically to her, and Molly gave a little cough in reply.
"I've been thoroughly trounced, toppled on and snapped this way and that." she whispered to the tile with a sigh, wondering why she continued to bandy about with this group year after year. How terribly embarrassing if she just happened to die quietly under Jasper. What would her tombstone say? Or the headlines? Here lies Amelia de Maltesse, who died fittingly under the weight of a man?"
"Tawdry." she told the tiles with a frown, and her eyes wandered up to see several pairs of eyes glittering in the semi-darkness, focused on her with varying degrees of worry.
The glowing figure seemed to think on this for an eternity, and with a gesture Jasper was whisked off of Molly as a rag doll would be and plonked down right near Ed. With a sigh of relief, Molly curled up, nursing her burning back. Though she could move all her various limbs, she didn't particularly feel like exercising them at this moment. The others appeared to still be held in the invisible hold the figure had placed on them.
"Horrific beings... shall we make perfection of your lowly group?" The glowing figure asked, seeming to muse. "Face perfection or a similar fate by Bull. I think this is fair and benevolent of me."
Molly saw horror and revulsion cast her friends faces unrecognizable...except for two. Ed and Jasper had leaned awkwardly close to each other, and both had sharp eyes on the figure, talking in low and rapid voices. Were they perhaps making a plan?
That blue stone embedded in its left palm- Zeo was certain it was the source of the creature's power. Ed and Jasper, who sat right across the chamber from Zeo, were quietly talking. From his former trainings Zeo could somewhat decipher what they were saying. Their lips moved quickly in the glow of the figure... Gun! Jasper still has his gun!
Given the figure vortexed their weapons away, Zeo knew it was not invincible. They must prevent the figure from realizing that they now had a weapon... and Zeo must let everyone become aware of its possible weakness... Besides the hint, a distraction was needed. Zeo cleared his throat, "Your new world order," the figure turned its full attention to Zeo, "can you promise it to be painless with your <cough> amazing healing?"
The figure took the bait and proudly smiled, if one can call the splitting of rocks a smile. "Yes, it will not hurt a single drop. I possess power beyond your imagination!" The figure unconsciously loosen his fist for a moment, revealing the blue gem, only to tightly clasp his fist again.
Knowing glances glowed from the eyes of his friends. The question was how they could fire the gun when everyone were bound to the ground. As Zeo pondered on the problem, Ed called out, "Do it on me first!" The figure turned and examined Ed.
"No!" Molly cried out. She ran to where Ed was bound, "Not Ed, please!" and she hugged him tightly. Ed was betting on it. Molly was the only human in the room who could move about freely. Ed quickly spoke into her ears.
Zeo knew he needed to distract the figure again, "Your greatness! Why don't you give the poor couple some time to bid farewell to their old forms and take me first instead?" The figure turned its attention back to Zeo, good.
"Mortals!" The figure spat, "Why can't you all understand you will become perfect and there is no reason to be saddened?" With another series of gestures, Jasper's bond was loosen and he was flown directly into the arms of the figure. "I shall perfect first the only man here who hasn't volunteered, just to make my
just to make my point clear."
"Jasper!" Shouts and worries resounded around the room.
"Don't worry about me, I'm always ready." Jasper assured everyone.
With the same blade that castrated the ambassador, the figure thrusted down at Jasper's manhood. Heads turned away as blood spilled on the ground in muted splatters. The figure's left hand lifted and open up in readiness. Now was the chance!
A single shot echoed through the chamber. The blue crystal in the figure's palm shattered into a million pieces. Molly's aim was flawless. In moments of madness the dying figure slashed at Jasper with its blade, cutting his windpipe in half. With his last ounce of strength, Jasper shot the figure in its head with his spare gun, before the brave man gave himself up to darkness.
It all happened so fast. Molly shattered the gem. The leader slashed Jasper's throat. Jasper shot the leader in the head. The group of detectives gaped in horror at the two dying figures before them. The leader began to disintegrate, collapsing in a plume of ash on the ground. Meanwhile, burbling noises issued from Jasper as the blood surged out of his neck. The blood and ash mixed as they pooled on the ground.
"Jasper!" Ed screamed. "No, Jasper!"
Suddenly, Riza felt as though a weight had been lifted from her. She could move again. Looking around, she saw it was true for everyone else as well. Ed immediately darted toward his best friend and knelt on the ground by his head, slumped over. The air was solemn.
"Ed! Get away from there!" Joseph yelled suddenly.
Ed looked up in alarm, and slowly started to back away. The pile of ash on the ground beside him had began to glow bright blue. It was as though an invisible gust of wind had lifted the ash, spinning it at a furious speed into a column. Then that column began to take on a familiar shape.
"No," Riza whispered, dread enveloping her. For a second, she thought the leader had come back to life.
A laugh echoed throughout the room. It was a different laugh from before. But this one was familiar. The ash stopped spinning and solidified into its final form. Before them stood none other than Jack, though no longer outfitted in his signature pinstriped suit. He stood there bare.
"You killed our leader," he stated, his face showing no emotion. Then he cracked a huge smile. "Finally, it's my time." He lifted both arms up as if welcoming something into his body. "This power--it's glorious!" He began to cackle evilly. This felt different from earlier. Just what intentions did Jack have?
Unlike the leader, Jack had two legs to walk on. As Riza looked closely at Jack's face, she realized something terrifying. Jack had one all-blue eye, and around that eye were markings consistent with the patterns which she had seen on the amulet. Looking around, Riza saw she wasn't the only one who had noticed.
Jack weaved a series of signs with his hands, then placed one hand over his right eye. As he spread his arms, a ten-foot wall of fire sprung to being, encircling the detectives and Jack. The heat was suffocating. They were trapped. The detectives huddled in closer.
"What's this?" Jack asked. He glanced down at the Jasper's body lying on the floor. "Ah, the one who killed our former leader. I should properly thank you." Jack raised his foot and stomped down on Jasper's skull with a sickening crunch.
"You bastard! Don't touch him!" Ed screamed, charging forward as Jack raised his foot again. Jack quickly wove another series of signs, touched his eye, then shot his arm forward. As if an invisible giant had knocked him backwards, Ed went flying over the heads of the others and landed on the edge of the fiery circle. He fell on his back, the wind knocked out of him.
Molly immediately rushed to his side and helped him sit up. The others only watched, wary of Jack. "I'm okay," Ed wheezed, flashing Molly a bloody smile.
Edward struggled to stand, as Molly helped him up. Every bone in his body felt as if it had been crushed. "I'm going to have fun with you." Jack said smiling, as he slowly walked towards Ed and Molly. "Hey, asshole!" Someone yelled out.
Jack turned towards the voice. "Yeah, I'm talking to you," Marc said. Jack approached Marc. "You'll regret that. No respect for the dead? Defiling a dead man's body stoops pretty low." Marc said. Then, he spit in Jack's face."I'll teach you, some manners, you little-" Jack said as he raised his hand and slapped Marc in the face. Jack flashed a series of signs with his hands and touched his eye. He quickly shot his arm out sending Marc backwards.
That was the distraction Edward needed as he made his move. He charged at Jack, not giving the man time to react. Ed tackled Jack at the waist, and slammed him into the ground, but Jack was stronger than Ed had anticipated. He pushed Ed off him and tried to get back to his feet. Ed stood up faster, kicking Jack in the ribs, knocking his breath out of him. Jack grabbed Ed's ankles and pulled him down.
Edward pushed himself on top of Jack and hit him in the face several times, cursing with every hit. He pushed his thumb into Jack's left eye, pushing until he felt the soft tissue give way and warm liquid puddles around his thumb. Jack screamed in agony as he pushed Ed off of him with a new found adrenaline. He stood up, making a series of symbols again with his hands. He touched his eye and shot his hand out at Ed sending him backwards.
"I'm going to make your death very painful," Jack snarled walking to Ed. "And then, I'm doing to kill all your friends slowly, one at a time, cooking them alive in the Bull. "
"Hey!" Molly yelled out. "Jack!"
Jack turned toward Molly, as he moved his hands and touched his eye. He raised his hand, but she was faster on the draw.
BANG! The revolver she held kicked back as she squeezed the trigger. The bullet shattered his blue eye. Jack stumbled backwards grabbing his face and screaming. Edward tackled Jack again. He wrapped his hands around Jack's throat and neck, squeezing. Jack gasped for as he tried to pry Ed's hands off. "How about a taste of your own medicine?" Edward asked.
Ed tightened his grip around Jack's throat, and began slamming his head on the ground repeatedly until Jack stopped struggling. One more slam, and his head made a sickening "splat" against the ground. Jack was finally dead. Edward turned to face the rest of the group, as they helped each other stand up. A door in the wall opened up. One by one, dozens of officers from the Indian Imperial Police poured into the room and began administering help where it was needed.
Ed wandered over to Jasper's lifeless body. "Jasper..." He whispered. "No, please no. No, not you." He reached down and closed Jasper's eyes. "Rest in peace," he said quietly, standing up. He went to Molly and helped her move as everyone made their way out of the labyrinth.
Before Vulkie was escorted outside, she asked for a small moment to look at Jack; she wanted to be sure he was dead, forever. Looking at his body, Vulkie was assured; she wouldn't see him ever again. Blood was still pouring from the back of his head and covered the tiles in a reddish color.
A police officer walked towards her and asked Vulkie to leave the room. She nodded and walked out of the room, being thankful that she managed to survive the events that had transpired.
*** Outside the Sphinx Hideout ***
It was early in the morning, as the detectives walked outside. The sunlight blinded them for a second or so, before they continued to walk towards the truck.
As Vulkie looked, she could see Arielle and Philippe waiting for Joseph to come over. As soon as he came over, she could see that Arielle quickly began to speak with him and Joseph looked worried; was something the matter?
Just then, Ed and Molly walked past Vulkie. They both looked battered to hell. "Guess you won't be attending any soirees soon, Molly?" Vulkie said, giving a sly smile. Molly smirked, before responding: "I'll be up and running with the Crème de la Crème before you can say "Sphinx"."
Ed just simply nodded and Vulkie nodded in return. She was thinking about what she was going to do next... she was sure the rest wouldn't approve, but she had to do it nonetheless.
All of the detectives were now standing together and Vulkie joined them, as the conversation had turned towards another topic.
"... Anais is still trapped in Karachi. How about we go free her up?" Riza concluded, looking for approving faces. As soon as she looked at Vulkie, she could see it in her eyes that she wasn't coming along.
"I guess you're having other plans? Not gonna help out an old friend" Riza queried, raising an eyebrow.
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