A Plan Forms
"Okay, Armand Roget, just who the hell are you?" Alex asked himself. Dinner at Evie Cartwright's had ended with the decision to offer the Manada de Lobos a target - himself - on the premise that it was a little too convenient for a member of that gang to be attempting the armed robbery of a liquor store where Alex happened to be shopping.
The internet yielded its usual torrent of information. Apparently, Roget was somewhat of a celebrity in the day - the winner of a long-odds bet, Roget had taken his millions and invested them for long-term returns, as well as in civic efforts. He'd not only put up the namesake building under which Thomas Cardinelli had been buried, but contributed to political efforts. Whether that was out of a genuine sense of giving back to the community or buying a politician or three was debatable.
The construction company had been an older, family-run concern that had broken up in the 1990's, the sons had set their eyes on something other than pouring foundations and walking steel. If the grandfather or father had been involved with hastening Ragnarok, that information would be buried or lost. Call it a dead end for the moment, though Max Bayer over at the City Planning Commission should have blueprints for the Roget Building - a requirement for all commercial buildings after 9/11.
Back to Roget. He'd been big on bankrolling commercial development. Rumored to have ties to the Mafia, but that was said of most people with influence at City Hall. The property had been an office building by design, but more of a museum (mausoleum?) by the time of Roget's death. No heirs on record. No trust for the estate. Could an auction house have sold things off without realizing their significance, or even still have 'junk' in their warehouse and not know it? Worth checking on.
Alex glanced at the menubar clock. 3AM, and he wasn't tired in the least bit. It was convenient when one was self-employed and could set their own hours, but he still tried to keep a semblance of normal hours. Just one more search. Cardinelli's family. His mortal family. There. Parents deceased. A younger brother and sister - although that was relative, as they'd both be pushing 80. Brother in a senior community, sister living at home. He'd call them later in the morning. He shut everything down and stretched out on the couch. He could grab a shower at the gym in the morning ...
Alex woke to a ringing phone. "North."
"Mr. North, this is Officer Anderson," Saul said. "I'm just checking up on you as a courtesy. You're doing okay?"
"A little stiff," Alex allowed. "No bruising, no problems breathing. Lucky for me, I guess."
"Prepared is better than lucky," Saul advises. "Even street punks are packing serious heat."
"I think we've both heard enough stories on that count," Alex said. "I appreciate the call, Officer Anderson."
"How was your dinner date?"
"No luck, eh?"
"Wasn't that kind of date."
Saul chuckled. North wasn't one of the boys-in-blue, but he was part of the law enforcement community, and subject to a measure of coarse humor. "Maybe next time you'll get lucky."
Alex winced. Anderson clearly didn't know his 'date' was Evie Cartwright. And that 'next time' was going to be with Lya's band-mates. "Hope springs eternal," he said, rolling his eyes.
Regardless of his plans, Alex needed to go home and get a change of clothes. In the end, he wound up taking a cab to get there, as someone had spiked two of his tires. He hadn't thought holding the one gang member back would be such a grave offense to the gang's image, but that didn't preclude prompting from a scion on the other side.
His home hadn't been spared, either. It was in a nice neighborhood, but someone had slipped a dead rat into his mailbox. Lovely. At least there wasn't a scrawled note reading, 'Death to the Son of Tyr' pinned to it.
The garbage bag of wine-stained clothes from the other night couldn't go into the wash just yet. His rumpled suit would go to the dry cleaners. Since he hadn't gone to the gym, a quick shower was in order. He couldn't help but examine where he'd been shot. There wasn't even a bruise to show he'd been injured at all. He scraped the stubble off his chin, brushed his teeth, the usual ablutions. He settled on a tuxedo, but with an aviator's leather jacket instead of the formal one. His Bates dress uniform shoes would do nicely. Wraparound shades. His West Point ring. Alex considered whether or not to take a sidearm; he held a concealed-carry license, after all. No, best to avoid any suggestion that he was expecting a fight ...
After the meeting at Officer Cartwright's place, and after dropping Lya off at her place, Hitoshi makes some calls once he's home. His housemate Matt is there with his boyfriend. They both wave. Hitoshi nods back. He had no problem with Matt and Kyle. they stuck to themselves, and Matt was always on time with his rent check.
The first one is to his Mother.
"Umm hey mom." He says a bit meekly. "Yes, yes I DO need a favor. Yes, I do remember the earlier conversation last night. yes.. yes. Look, all I am saying is give me a weeks notice before you go making plans. I am not against having dinner with you, I just need to know a week in advance." Hitoshi sighs and listens as his mother once again chews him out. "Fine mom, I'll have dinner with you and that nice lady you found. Yes, next Wednesday works for me... Yes mom, yes mom... Mom, will you be quiet for one moment?!" Hitoshi looses it and roars at his mom. Inside he regrets it.
"Look mom, this is a business call. Do you still need a gig for that Friday show next week? Yes, I AM talking about the Furies. Look, you were the one wanting to draw in a younger crowd to the casino. Go online and look at how popular Punk rock is right now with the eighteen to twenty seven group. Go ahead, I'll wait."
Hitoshi waits and rolls his eyes. "So that will be the Friday Jam next week. Yes mom. Oh, umm By the way, can we use the Limo again?" He holds the phone away from his head suddenly as his mom yet again reads him the riot act. "Mom, The Furies are NOT the first ones to have trashed the Limo, and you know it. Stop trying to guilt trip me, it won't work. Can we get the Limo or not? Thank you. Now, I must go, I love you, Bye."
He closes the phone and sighs. Matt walks over. "Whats wrong Toshi?"
"Setting up a gig at the Casino for the band. Having to deal with mom. It all sucks." He wasn't about to say "Oh yea, and the world may actually be ending."
Matt frowns and walks over to the Minibar. "So, Rum and Coke, or Mojito?"
Hitoshi thinks for a moment. "You know what, hit me with the Mojito."
It's well after you retire for the night. Your dreams are a bit unusual, given recent events, but there's nothing prophetic or overtly troubling about them.
A loud crunch comes from outside. There's the sound of a revving engine, tires spinning as they search for traction, then a squeal as someone peels out and roars away down the street.
Matt is in the hallway, holding a baseball bat and not looking all that threatening. "What the hell, Hitoshi?"
"Stay back," you warn. You have your sword to hand, and carefully glance out from the edge of the window.
Someone drove onto the front lawn, turned a couple of donuts, then drove off. The mailbox post is knocked over, and the lawn is a mess.
Hitoshi frowns then head into his room and starts pulling on clothes, if they knew where he lived then they could easily find Lya .
"Matt, I won't lie to you. The last night Lya and I ran across the lobos at the diner downtown. They were looking to start shit. Luckily a cop was there and the band showed up. I think we stopped a robbery or a shakedown. However, they said they'd get payback."
He walk over to the mirror and puts a magnetic key against a hidden latch in the frame. Sliding the mirror to the side to reveal a safe he palms the lock and opens it to reveal stacks of money, passports, and other keep sakes. Reaching inside he pulls out 500 dollars.
"I want you and Kyle to take that vacation you've been saving up for. It's on me, but you need to leave tonight." He pulls out his cell phone and dials Lya as he closes the safe and slides the mirror back. They lock with a "click"
"Come on Lya, pick up." Glancing over he waves the small stack of bills at Matt.
Hitoshi collects a Gym bag and throws a few sets of clothes into it. "We will be. I'll give Lya your regards. I'm headed over there now just to make sure she will be okay. The band can'r handle" He smiles and heads into the garage. He watches the door as it opens to make sure it's clear then peels out in the Camaro taking the long way around and cutting down side streets in case the Lobos were tailing him.
"You're kidding me... real End of Days shit?" exclaims Toxic as she grabs a beer off the table of their booth in the back of The Dive. The sounds of driving bass and mosh pits echo around them as Lya does her best to explain what she learned after dinner with the other Scions.
"Effing Norse, always ruining everything with their utter lack of humor," moans Phoebe as she leans back in the booth and puts her boots up on the table. "I appreciate a good fight just as much as they do, but come on!"
"Tell me about it," agrees Lya as she lays her head in Orithia's lap and dangles her feet off the edge of the seat. "Such a buzzkill for the planet, right?"
"Look on the bright side, guys," Orithia adds as she strokes Lya's hair. "At least it's going to be one hell of a fight, right? When's the last time we were really challenged?"
"She's got a point," agrees Klepto before chugging a beer and setting it on the table with a burp. "So we're going to guard this Alex guy in the hopes that we can lure the Lobos out again for another try at him? I don't like leaving you unguarded, Lya, and I'm sure your dad wouldn't like it either. What if one of those creeps tries something while we're busy with him?"
"Let them try," snarls Toxic as she grips the edge of the table tight. "I still owe that asshole who slapped my ass and I'd be more than happy to take it out on his entire gang. I'll stay with Lya while you guys guard Alex. We wouldn't want to ruin things with one of them recognizing me, anyway."
"Promise me you guys won't destroy the place... or the limo," begs Lya as she blindly grabs for another beer off the table. "I'm still getting shit from Hitoshi because of last time, you know."
"Hey that was just us having fun...this is going to be business," Phoebe replies. "If things get damaged... is it really important when you consider the bigger picture of saving the world?"
"Oh Gods..." Lya moans.
"Alex is a little clean-cut, isn't he?" laughs Klepto. "He's gonna stick out like a sore thumb, unless you're going to ask that we dress like women who trade away their dignity by catering to men who don't see further than dress size and bust measurement."
"Well we don't want to change his look too much or else the assassins won't even recognize him," Lya warns. "We don't want you guys to be so uncomfortable that you stand out too much either though," she groans before taking a gulp from her beer.
"Wait... what if you guys dressed like high rollers at the casino instead of...you know... " she waves her beer at Klepto, "what you said. Then you'd all be equals who just want to gamble and party, right?"
"Full dress leather?" Phoebe grins. "I can do that."
"Just remember to not look like you're ready to kick someone's ass, ok? They're never going to try for this guy if we're too consp...conspic...(burp)...obvious."
Lya's pocket suddenly begins to vibrate and she gestures to Toxic to grab her hand and help her sit up while she fumbles with her cell phone. "God damn head rush..." she mutters before sliding open her phone on the third ring.
"What's up, Hitoshi? Figured a party animal like yourself would be asleep by now." Klepto snorts as Lya grins and waves at her to be quiet so she can hear. "Wait, slow down... what happened with the car?"
"Some asshole destroyed our yard and our mailbox with a car tonight," warns Hitoshi. "If they know where I live, then they probably know where you live too. You need to be careful, Lya."
"Good thing I'm not home then," she chuckled. "I'm surrounded by four of the best bodyguards a mortal could wish for, Hitoshi... if those asshole Lobos want to try anything we'll be ready."
Toxic stiffens at Lya's words and slams her fist on the table. "Damn straight we'll be ready for them."
"You know what they say," Orithia smiles coldly. "If you're going to pull on a tiger's tail, you'd better have a plan for dealing with the teeth."
"In the meantime... " Lya starts as she chews her lip in thought, "maybe I should check out my apartment and make sure they didn't sack the place... maybe throw together a Go Bag so I can stay away until things get settled." She looks to Orithia and Toxic. "You girls up for coming upstairs with me to check it out? The rest of you keep an eye out down here in case they come in and try and start something."
"No one is that stupid. At least I hope not. An attack on a daughter of Dionysus in what is pretty much a modern-day temple," Phoebe frowns. "Oh, wait. I've actually seen some heroes of old who were that stupid."
"You mean Jerk-ules?" Toxic's eyes flash with mock innocence.
"More like Durrr -cules," Phoebe sneered. "Not the brightest of lamps. Nice ass, though."
The apartment is safe, though faint scratches around the deadbolt and doorknob suggest that someone may have picked (or tried to) the lock. Most likely the latter, as the door and bolt are still securely closed.
Both Orithia and Toxic produce collapsible batons and shake them open with a metallic ch-chak.
Lya unlock the door and Toxic is first through...
"Oh my Goddess, what did they do to this place!" Toxic exclaims, causing Lya to rush through the door in a panic to see her apartment just as she left it.
"Very funny...very funny..." Lya mumbles as she stomps past the two snickering Amazons to grab her backpack from under her couch.
"I'm going to throw a bag together just in case... then if the coast is clear I've got to get some rest before everything hits the fan tonight." She grabs some clothes off the back of the couch, sniffs them, then shrugs before stuffing them in the bag along with a pack of cigarettes, some toiletries, some of their CDs, a few band photographs, and 3 bottles of liquor. "You guys feel free to make yourselves at home if you want. There's beer in the fridge and I've got some new games on the PS3," Lya calls out to the others.
"God of War? Really, Lya?" Orithia replies with a laugh as she picks up one of the cases off of the coffee table. "What would your father think?"
"That irony is a wonderful thing..." she walks back into the living room and sets a now full backpack down by the couch. "Especially when you're not involved." Lya flops down on the couch with a yawn before she lies down with her feet on Orithia's lap.
"Come on, Orithia... I won't tell if you won't," laughs Toxic as she walks out of the kitchen with two beers. "We can switch off between levels."
"Okay...okay...let me just text the others and let them know we're clear. " Orithia caves.
"Dibs on Dur-cules!" exclaims Toxic.
About 30 minutes later Hitoshi pulls up. Getting out of his car he grabs the gym bag, Masamune, and the band's favorite take-out. Figuring on staying up all night also meant figuring out that he and whoever was up would get hungry. Shaking out his keys, he unlocked the back door to the dive bar and stepped inside pulling it quickly closed behind him and throwing the latch closed. The scrape of a heel on the floor behind him let him know someone was there. "Just me." He says.
A snort issues from the dimness. "I knew it was you, only one person in this town wears that Japanese perfume you call cologne. "
Hitoshi chuckles and shrugs before handing off the bag of food. "Brought you ladies something. Where's Lya?" He asks moving into the bar proper.
"She passed out upstairs with Toxic and Orithia once everything checked out," Phoebe answers before taking a big sniff from the bag. "Mmmn...Thai food. Klepto and I were going to wait till the bar closed so we can secure the area before we head up, so save some for us, kay?" She hands the bag back to Hitoshi. "You wouldn't want us grumpy after a hard day's work, right?" she winks.
Hitoshi grins. "No, I really don't want that. I'd much rather you ladies be mad at the Lobos. I don't think I can take on all of you, and I don't want to even try... unless it's at Poker." He pulls a deck of cards out of an inside pocket and fans them out with a flourish. He tilts his head. "Go on, the food will still be here. I won't start eating without you."
"You're just lucky she's the scion of Dionysus and not Hermes," Phoebe jokes as she waves over her shoulder and walks back into the bar.
Hitoshi chuckles. "And I thank my Lucky stars every damn night." He heads into the bar and sets the food down. "Hey Michelle, Crack me a cold one would you? Light please. I'm going to head up and check on Lya. Be right back down." He says recognizing tonight's bartender. He slides her a 20$ and takes the steps to Lya's apartment two at a time. He slides his key into the lock and opens the door quietly. "Hey, It's Hitoshi, I'm coming in." He says softly. He closes the door behind him and locks it again before stepping into the Living room.
"Good thing too, or I'd have had your kidneys," whispers Toxic from behind Hitoshi as she retracts her baton. "You brought food though... so I'll forgive you... this time." She grabs the paper bag with her other hand and heads back into the kitchen. "It's OK, Orithia," she says to the blonde Amazon crouched protectively in front of Lya as she sleeps fitfully on the couch.
"Geesh, Hitoshi... give somebody a chance to answer the door before you come in," warns Orithia as she puts her baton away. "Especially after putting us on alert with that phone call, and all."
Hitoshi Snorts. "I knew you were back there the minute I closed the door, Toxic. Its why I said something in the first place." He leans against the wall and takes his shoes off, placing them by the door before following Toxic into the kitchen.
"Also, I'm the only other person to have a key. That should tell you enough who it was, but whatever, I could have just knocked, but I was afraid I'd wake her up." He shrugs. "Anyways I can to check on sleeping beauty there and bring you gals some food for the long haul."
He talks softly as he walks and pauses by the couch to gently pull a light blanket over Lya as she sleeps before stepping into the kitchen proper. "Klepto and Pheobe are closing up downstairs, I got a beer waiting on me downstairs, and a deck of cards, and we have food. I'm in this for the night."
"Could you guys get along long enough for me to sleep?" mutters Lya as she rolls over and sits up with a rub of her eyes. "Hey Hitoshi..." she mumbles as she runs her fingers through her hair. "...is that Thai food?"
An hour later the bar has closed and Lya, Hitoshi and the Furies are all sitting around the coffee table eating out of take-out boxes. "All right... so everybody but Toxic rides with Alex as he enters the casino. Say the attempted hit happens and they catch the guy... what then? We're wanting to interrogate the guy, right?"
"I could always question him with my fists in the back alley," offers Klepto before grabbing a box of pad thai.
"As much as I prefer simplicity, that might leave us a little too out in the open," warns Lya. "I'm thinking that you guys take him through the back alley and we take him in the back door of the casino where we question him in the security station of the casino. What do you think, Hitoshi? Think with a little buttering up they'd let us borrow their room for a bit? That way we can also get him out of the cops way when they come."
Hitoshi looks up with a mouthful of Pad Thai halfway in his mouth. He swallows and leans back against the kitchen counter.
"Umm yea, no, we don't even have to ask. Remember the steam and maintenance tunnels we used to sneak through as teens? Yea well I have a key to them that I managed to snag. I know a room way back down one of the tunnels where nobody goes. Door's thick enough to muffle sound, and the noise from the machine room down the hall will cover any sound the guy makes."
He shoves more Pad Thai into his mouth suddenly ravenous, chewing three times before swallowing.
"My question is do any of you gals know how to do proper torture? Beating the guy up is not the way to go. That just breaks the body. Torture is about breaking the mind while leaving the body relatively intact. Repeatedly punching the guy isn't going to work for long."
He drains his beer in one go and pulls another one from a small cooler he had gotten from his car and pops it open with the nearby church key as he tilts his head back and forth as if debating something. Suddenly he runs a hand through his hair and sucks in a breath. Then he starts talking faster, like he just wants to get it all out.
"Look, if you can get the guy down to the room, I can take care of the rest, but no questions asked. This shit is gonna be scary. Mind you I don't want to do it, but hey we all gotta bite the bullet sometime and do things we don't like."
He looks at Lya and the rest of the Furies waiting for their answer.
"What about letting someone do something that they do like?" asks Klepto with a smirk as she cracks her knuckles.
Lya chuckles. "I know you're eager, Klepto... but if Hitoshi thinks his idea will work, we'll give it a shot. All else fails we can still let you guys at him." She turns to Hitoshi. "I'm not going to let you go in there alone, though. Besides... I always wanted to play the Good Cop."
Hitoshi shrugs. "You want to be good cop, I'm okay with that." He takes a swig of his beer. "I agree that the girls should be back up. However, don't beat him up so much that he dies from internal injury or shock. I've seen the results of what you gals can do when you don't hold back. Hospitalization is great, murder is not." He grins and hold out his beer. "But beer sure to have fun whatever happens. "
"We'll make sure he can still talk, Hitoshi, don't worry," replies Phoebe.
"I miss the old days..." laments Toxic as she grabs a beer. "Things were much simpler back then."
"But much more exciting now, right?" Lya winks and grabs her own beer and holds it up for a toast. "Here's to good friends and exciting times!"