The Show Must Go On
The lights dimmed, blue and red spots lancing through the crowd. A kicker light snaps on, illuminating Phoebe as her fingers dance across the fret board, establishing the bass line. Klepto rides her cymbals to create the charged-air feeling before a lightning strike, adds a beat on the bass drum to counterpoint Phoebe's bass.
Toxic and Orithia's guitars join in, and the fun begins. The kicker lights fade to an angled backlight before Lya steps out of the shadows and is highlighted as she begins to sing.
"I'm Lya, and these are the Furies!" she calls out as the first song ends. There's barely a beat before more notes trill from Toxic's guitar, and the set continues ...
Hitoshi is watching from a riser to one side. The crowd is already amped off the music, and the switchover between the Furies and the Nekromantix, which Kim and Lya had collaborated on during their sound check / jam session, would peg the meters.
It isn't until his second scan of the crowd that he realizes Mika Hanamura is standing off to his right. Gone is the formal mien of the executive-assistant-with-an-MBA-from-Stanford. She is wearing black jeans and motorcycle boots. A leather jacket with studded epaulets has seen better days - there are worn patches and even a few splits/scores in the leather, perhaps from laying down a bike. Her hair is coiled in a tight braid, and she is wearing glasses with high-contrast lenses.
It is a delicious irony, you realize. The rule-bound Japanese businessman driving his daughter to rebel. Mika could easily pass as the girlfriend of a boryokudan , a gangster. And, if she had those kind of sympathies/allegiances, she might find working with you somewhat challenging.
The left side of Hitoshi's mouth quirks up into a crooked smile as he raises an eyebrow and catches Mika's eye. With a slight nod he signals his approval at her manner of dress. Moving along the wall he slides in her direction as Lya belts out another great number.
"Miss. Hanamura, If I didn't know any better, I would think you were a biker gal, and not am executive Assistant. Definitely a change from earlier today" He says during a lull in the music. His gaze flicks up and scans the crowd for trouble again.
"Growing up with a strict father, it was necessary to become something of a chameleon," Mika says. She is aware of you scanning the crowd, but says nothing.
Lya takes a moment to catch her breath and take a swig out of her flask as Toxic blazes away at a guitar solo. She grins to the audience as she scans the audience, secretly looking for anyone who looks like an odd one out in the crowd.
"I don't think you guys are loud enough," she yells out as she grabs the microphone and leans out over the stage. "Let's remind everyone what it's like in Vegas, baby!"
There's a thunderous response from the crowd, local fans turning their outburst into an a capella chanting that becomes part of the next number's bass line. Never mind that the vocalization of 'euai' is a rough equivalent of a Greek exclamation, a cry of joy and celebration, so any performance of this song became a tribute to Dionysus.
It would have been less conspicuous if the gang members hadn't been living up to their name and travelling in a pack. As it was, they stood out, and badly so. They weren't like the rest of the crowd, caught up in the infectious feel of the song and the chant, but ... skulking.
Hands in pockets, furtive movements, but nothing that could immediately be called out as problematic...
Lya turns back to the band and catches the eye of Toxic and Orithia before gesturing that they join up around her as she moves to the front of the stage. She gestures with her head toward the crowd where she saw the Lobos and gets quick nods from the both of them in return.
When the music hits the driving drum beat Lya grabs her microphone and yells out "Let's hear you howl!" before she points her microphone out into the crowd toward the Lobos as best as she can. Klepto begins a thumping beat with the bass drums as Orithia and Toxic surge forward with their guitars on the beat in the same direction.
Come on, Hitoshi... tell me you see them!
Hitoshi saw then moments earlier. He'd had recognized one of the members from the Diner.
"Great, just what we need right now, and inside of all things." He mutters under his breath.
His eyes lock with Lya's, and he nods, signaling that he's seen them. Then he shakes his head telling her to do nothing yet. He wanted to see what they did first. However, his gaze moves over the crowd, counting gang members and likely gang members, and he moves to position himself better in case they try and rush the stage. Lukily, he also saw in the pit quite a few regular fans of The Furies, and he knew that Should the Lobos try anything, it would be just him putting proverbial boot to ass.
Only an idiot would look to start something in a room filled with edgy fans riding the adrenalin surge of music built on challenging conventions. But, then, it had already been established that the Wolf Pack weren't a bunch of rocket scientists.
Hands dip into pockets, then back out. Innocuous, except for the billows of acrid smoke that rise from the floor an instant later. At first, the crowd does not react, perhaps thinking it's part of the staging.
And then a string of firecrackers goes off, flashes of light in relative darkness, loud bangs.
Someone yells, "GUN! He's got a gun!"
And all hell breaks loose.
The crowd surges as the mosh pit spills outward, people pushing and shoving to escape a threat that likely doesn't exist. A fire alarm is pulled, adding the ear-piercing warble and strobe to the chaos.
Hitoshi sees the Furies close ranks around Lya, something they'd have done even if it was a fan tripping out on a bad cap of Molly. But, again, any attackers would have to know it was SOP for any band - get off the stage and into a secure location.
Had he missed someone slipping into the back to set up an ambush?
Not that it would matter, unless it was a show of overwhelming force, and even then, they'd be leaving with pieces missing. Calling the quartet of Amazons, 'The Furies' was entirely apt.
"Everybody stay calm, it's just some assholes with firecrackers trying to ruin the party," Lya calls out over the speakers to the crowd as the Furies gather around her protectively.
"We need to get you off stage, Lya," Klepto says worriedly as she scans the crowd.
"I don't know about all of you," Lya continues to yell out to the audience over the alarms, "But a few firecrackers aren't going to stop me from having a good time and showing the world that we're here to stay... are they going to stop you? I say we turn that fucking alarm off and turn up the speakers!"
"Are you sure?" Phoebe asks.
"Look, this is going to get way out of control if we don't get them focused," Lya whispers as she covers up her microphone. "Hitoshi and the rest of the security are out there handling those Lobo assholes... our job is to make sure everyone else comes out of this alive and having a good time."
Just to be safe, Lya grips her staff and mutters another incantation "Sicut oculus Deus impetus prohibere iniuriam (God protect me from harm like the eye of the storm) that was a gift from her father as Klepto starts on the drums and they break into a rousing cover of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Going to Take It."
"EUAI! WE'RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT!" thunder some of your more devoted fans.
You're not sure who starts it, but that's not entirely odd for a mosh pit brawl. Now, instead of a panic, you have a fight with spectators. You're pretty sure you see at least one of the Wolf Pack go down under a studded-glove punch.
That's gonna leave a mark.
Someone heaves a chair towards the stage; it flies through the space Lya had been standing a moment before.
"Konbawa," Mika says, stepping in front of another Pack member. "My employer will want to speak to you."
"Get the fuck out of my way, Jap bitch," the gang member snarls. He pulls a switchblade and flicks it open. "Or I'll cut you."
"No, you won't," Mika says. Her own hand comes up; there is something in her fist, perhaps a canister of pepper spray.
"That's all you got? Too bad."
"For you," says Mika. She sidesteps the knife thrust, and brings a short, black bar across the back of the gang member's wrist. By reflex, he jerks his arm back and grimaces in pain.
"Drop the knife, please," Mika says quietly.
"Fuck you! Lemmego!" the gang member yells. Mika moves her hand ever so slightly, and he begins to sink to his knees, his face contorting.
"Drop the knife."
The knife clatters to the floor. Mika's kubotan is moving in an instant, a quick jab to the side of the man's neck, and he slumps to the floor ...
Hitoshi sighs. Some people just didn't know how to recognize their betters... or they were too stupid to care. Inside he was impressed with Mika's actions. They'd have a talk about that later. For the rest of the song he watches her work, and finally the song stops. He shrugs out of his jacket, hanging it over a spare mic stand next to the stage, and rolls up his sleeves
He tilts his head to the left. Crack. He tilts his head to the right. Crack.
Slowly he walks towards the gangers. The Fans of the Furies that have seen him at work quickly get out of his way, and soon a large circle is cleared on the floor. Him and Mika on one side, The gangers on the other.
Someone in the crow shouts "Hitoshi's gonna kick their Asses!"
He holds up a hand and the person falls silent. "I'm going to give you dumbasses a chance to leave... One chance. Conisdering you have started shit in my Casino, I'm being rather Generous. You can take it, or end up like the Black Talons, and unable to walk ever again. Possibly worse depending on how much my mood changes. I honestly don't give one fuck which one you pick, but make it quick, I got karaoke later."
All the gangs had heard about the Black Talons, and what Hitoshi had done to them that night for trying to have their way with Lya.
He cracks his knuckles and waits.
"Fuck you Esse!" One ganger screans and charges Hitoshi with a knife. Hitohshi's right leg snaps out like lightning, catching the man in the stomach doubling him over. Again it snaps out catching the ganger on the chin, breaking his jaw and knocking him out. He hits the floor like a limp noodle.
"Fine, have it your way... your funeral." Hitoshi says quietly. There s scary light in his eyes, and a smirk on his lips.
A lobbed bottle wings past Lya. So does a fan being flung across the lip of the stage as part of a body surfing wave.
Meanwhile, there seems to be no shortage of gang members. The one taking a nap is quickly replaced by another. The newcomer has a slightly larger frame and well-developed muscles show beneath his shirt. And there's a strange look-and-feel about him, something animalistic and primal. His brow is furrowed, his eyes slightly rolled upward, his facial muscles twitching as if he's a berserker on a too-tight leash.
Look out the window
Back away from the glass
There she blows
The city's been leveled
Hills are in flames
Streets cracked open
And they're pushin' up clay
It wasn't on the set-list, but another cover, this one of the Wallflowers' Everybody Out of the Water sets the tone for another beat-down ...
Hitoshi raises an eyebrow. Something wasn't right about this guy, but he couldn't place his finger on what. Hmm, built large like a train. Don't want to get hit, but he's probably slow. Lets se what happens when I get him angry.
The man throws a punch and Hitoshi takes a step backwards.
"Thats it? I saw that coming a mile away. Man, you telegraphed that so well I think the New York Times has it down."
Still, the offered punch isn't the untrained flailing about you've seen from others. There's a bit of MMA styling to the man's stance and presentation. He closes again and begins to circle, working the space better than the first guy.
"El Maestro has ordered your death," he says in a monotone. He throws another punch, and you dance aside once more, but even with the advantage of being a Scion, you know any hit from this guy will hurt.
Outside, there are several audience members milling about, coughing or wiping at their eyes. A hint of smoke lingers in the air, but it isn't accompanied by the smells one would associate with something burning.
"It's just the opener," one concert-goer says. "It's too bad, they're good, I hope they have stuff out there. I'll go back in if things settle down, not missing a chance to see the Nekromantix."
"Stupid fuckers with smoke bombs," another fan bitches. "Some assholes did that at a concert in Seattle, once. Gonna make 'em eat one if I find out who it was."
Hitoshi grins "Finally a challenge." He snaps a kick towards the man's head but it's a feint, and he quickly turns it into a jump spin kick driving his foot deep into the man's stomach and using the kick to throw himself backwards into a flip. He lands on the balks of his feet, his hands up and ready. "Lya, sing me a song I can dance to, it seems I have a partner."
Lya spies Hitoshi and the brutish gang member circling each other in the crowd as they finish their song. She turns to the band and says with a grin into her microphone, "Are you ready, Toxic?"
"Uh huh," she moans into the microphone as Klepto begins thumping out a beat on the drums.
"Yeaaah," she replies with a knowing grin.
"Well all right girls..." she leans backwards as she belts out into the microphone "So let's GOOOOOO!"
The gang member goes down as Hitoshi launches his kick-flip off of him. He staggers, but seems otherwise unfazed, and resumes stalking Hitoshi. As the two men circle, the gang member seizes one of the stanchions marking off the first row of tables.
The stanchion is a heavy metal-and-chrome affair, its base weighted with a lead plate, but the man wrenches it around like it's a toy, upending it as if he's going to use it to smash Hitoshi's head in.
Hitoshi responds to the move by shrugging out of his shirt, revealing a muscled physique, his torso covered by an intricate tableau of tattoo work, motifs from Japanese legend and his own personal trials.
He dangles the shirt from one hand, so it can be brought into play to lash around the stanchion's end.
TOSH! TOSH! TOSH! TOSH! some of the regular fans begin to chant.
"Kick his ass!" someone else yells, and the crowd picks it up as a chant.
It was post time, Hitoshi knew. The first few exchanges in a fight were a chance to evaluate your opponent. But then you had to act decisively, instead of giving them a chance to stave your head in with a metal pole ...
And this is the scene that Evie and Alex walk into. Evie's eyebrows creep up her forehead as she sees one gang member brandishing a stanchion as though it was nothing more than a billy club. Still, she does not move to interfere...yet. It seems that Hitoshi has this under control and she's afraid that any police involvement could truly set things off and make it much worse than it is at the moment.
Instead, she starts scanning the crowd, looking for any stragglers that might decide to jump in and help a fellow out. Also, she's keeping her eyes peeled for the mysterious man she had seen outside...or anyone else unusual, for that matter. (Well, besides Hulk, over there...)
When the pole came out things went from bad to worse, Hitoshi knew. That man with that stanchion could cause some serious deadly harm to anyone around him. As if to prove a point the ganger swings the pole around and hits one of his fellow gangers, knocking the man to the ground. Hitoshi winces.
"Come on big guy. It's me you want!" Hitoshi yells at the big ape who seemed to be getting dumber by the second.
Th ganger brings the stanchion up and hammers it down right on the spot where Hitoshi was seconds before. Hitoshi wraps his shirt around it and tries to jerk it out of the mans grasp, but the guerrilla was just too strong, and His shirt rips from his grasp with a loud tear.
"Hitoshi!" Toxic's shout makes him look over.
She's Holding his walking stick. He nods and she chucks it before going back to playing. The stick sails through the air between them. Judging its arc, Hitoshi holds up his hand and his grasp closes about the hilt end.
The Giant of a ganger swings stanchion around again, aiming for Hitoshi's head only to have it shopped with a jarring clang. Where the stick used to be was now a Japanese Katana of Pure impeccable quality.
Hitoshi spins, bringing the blade around and down. Any normal Sword would break against the heavy chrome stanchion, but this was Honsho Masamune, the most master crafted sword to ever come out of Japan, and a Legend to boot. It had seen many wars, and something like a Chrome stanchion was not goings to stop it.
With barely a tug, the blade slices the Stanchion cleanly in two. Hitoshi Spins out from inside the man's reach as he tries to swing to two piece at him. Bringing the blade around Hitoshi spins it through his grip and the next thing removed is the gangers right wrist.
Apart from an animal-like roar of pain, the gang member doesn't seem to be impeded by the loss of his hand. Casting aside the pole end he'd been clutching in his left hand, he jams the stump of his right beneath his left armpit, lowers his head, and charges at Hitoshi, bellowing loudly ...
Hitoshi sighs. Anyone looking at him can see the sad look of determined resignation on his face.
He charges towards the man, and then at the last moment, falls to his knees sliding between the man's legs on the blood slicked floor. As he passes between them he slices the back of the man's left leg with his sword, severing the man's tendons. He rises to his feet and turns around.
"Stay down, I don't wish to kill you."
Arms already wrapped about himself, the gang member topples gracelessly to the floor.
A fan darts out of the crowd, edges close to the prone figure and shouts, "TEN!"
"NINE!" someone else shouts. Klepto does another drumroll, a wicked smile coming to her face.
The count gains speed and volume as more of the audience join in. Finally, a half-dozen or so fans are gathered in a semicircle around the man's feet.
"THREE! TWO! ONE!"
A rimshot and a clash of cymbals, along with a wry guitar riff of Three Blind Mice.
While everyone is looking at the downed ganger Hitoshi quickly wipes the blood off Honjo Masamune and taps its tip on the floor where it turns back into his cane. Quickly he heads towards the stage to check on Lya.
"Time for all of us to go. I don't think the gang will be a problem anymore, but the police might."
"Alright everybody we're the Furies and that's our show for tonight! If you could give us 10 to let them get this smoke clear and the mess cleaned up Necromantix is going to continue to rock the roof off! Eua! Eua!" Lya yells out over the speakers as the Furies gather around her and they raise their fists in unison.
"You guys were great," Lya says to the others as they exit the back of the stage and let the roadies do their work. "You sure you all weren't Muses before you were Amazons?"
"What we do may be an art..." starts Klepto.
"But I don't think the Muses liked our color palette and choice of medium," Orithia finished with a chuckle.
Evie frowns, arms crossed, as she waits to see how the casino security handles things. She'd rather not step on any toes, if possible.
"Well, this isn't good," she mutters to Alex. "How much you want to bet that video footage of that fight is hitting YouTube as we speak?"
Already, her mind is trying to figure out what to do about Hitoshi. She doesn't know who started this mess, but there is most likely direct evidence of assault with a deadly weapon happening, here. There are tons of witnesses. And, it is known that she is here. She can't ignore this...
"Shit," she says, trying to think of a loophole to get her out of having everyone involved, including Hitoshi, hauled off.
"I'm on a store security camera and probably a dozen cell phones from earlier getting shot at close range," Alex said. "People look for explanations. They see things that aren't there, ignore things that are. Hitoshi's skill as a martial artist is a matter of record. People are familiar with samurai swords. But the rest? It's Hollywood to them. Show a picture of a severed hand, and there'll be people calling it a fake right alongside people swearing it's real."
"I'm an officer of the law, you're an officer of the court," Evie said quietly. "We can't just ignore this or pretend it didn't happen."
"I'm not saying that we should," Alex pointed out. "Process the crime scene, interview the crowd. Don't make any definitive statements. The crowd may turn out to be your allies - they'll start coming up with an explanation for everything."
Lya makes her way off-stage, across the wings and into the backstage spaces. Kim waves at her and gives her a reassuring thumbs-up.
The band makes their way into their dressing room.
And someone is waiting for them.
"Good evening, Ms. Bach," says the gentleman seated on the couch. Lean of frame and face, tailored suit, smarmy grin. "We have some business to discuss. I've left my people outside, so if you'll dismiss your ... associates, we can keep this relatively pleasant."
"Don't do it, Lya," Toxic says. "Give the word, and I'll send this skiazo packing."
"Oh, and Hit-on-me, or whatever your name is. You're one of us, so you can stay. But stay over there, please. Glower all you want."
"Mister Lying Bastard, I presume?" Lya sneers as she grabs a beer and leans against a table. She nods to the Furies as she mouths "it's ok" and grips her staff tight with her other hand.
"I think Hitoshi left plenty of pieces of 'your people' outside already. Hopefully they can behave around women or I'm sure they'll leave plenty more." She takes a long swig of her beer and then wipes her mouth with the back of her hand.
"Oh, yes," Mr. Lying Bastard says. "The Furies do live up their name, don't they? Kiss, kiss, darlings. What I have to say isn't for the hired help. Or for second-hand reporting to Dionysus."
"So go on... let's hear the threat that's supposed to convince me not to tell him myself," Lya replies with a wave of her hand.
"Threat? My dear Lya, I don't deal in threats," Liar Liar tells you. "Neither will I insult you with the tired line that I make 'promises.' Those kind of dramatics work when one is cowing humans. You and I are different."
"A war is coming, Lya. You know it, I know it, even Hitoshi knows it. It's not about who wins or loses; it's inevitable. Fimbulwinter, Ragnarok, World's End. Oh, but it's the Titans. It's a fight for humanity, free will, blah, blah, blah," he continues. "I don't know about you, but humans aren't as good at creating as they are destroying things. Even Vegas. A nice enough town, I suppose, but built upon catering to human's base urges. Greedy, carnal, venal urges."
"It's inevitable because that's life... that's what it does. We constantly go through the cycles of creation and destruction because you can't have one without the other. If all you do is destroy, then eventually there's nothing left and no point. If all you do is create..." Lya finishes off her beer with a gulp, "then you lose appreciation for what you have and eventually you run out of room for all your stuff. But this is something we all know already... so get to the point."
"Yes, exactly. Part of a cycle. Life and death. Order and chaos. War and peace," Lyman says, smiling. "Gods and Titans. Why pick the side that is destined to lose? That must lose? Accept it instead of fighting it."
"But you're making it so interesting..." Lya sighs. "What I don't get is why set the Lobos on us in the first place when it only made us more interested in your actions?" She leans over and grabs another beer from the small fridge under the table. "I mean..." she twists off the cap and takes another drink, "Wouldn't it have made more sense to just leave us all alone and oblivious?"
"Hit-on-me..." Hitoshi had heard it before. It was rather lame by comparison. He lights up a smoke and takes a breath. After a moment he stubs it out still half unfinished.
"Look Fucktard, If you want to upset me, you are really going to need better insults than that. You ain't even close to what I used to get as a kid. And Lya right. My life was dull up till now. Things just got fun. Next thing you know we'll be having a chase down the strip with me and girls in a Corvette."
He walks over to a fridge and cracks open a beer. After a second thought he tosses one onto the couch next to the man and hands one to Lya. As long as it was just conversation and verbal sparring, he wasn't going to be terribly rude.
"Oh, and those guys of yours.. Kids. Stop using them. Those poser wannabees think they are tough? The only thing they are is stupid. It's going to get them killed, but then I bet you like them just smart enough to follow orders. So, what did you promise them? Money? Power? Eternal life?"
"Diamonds for their girlfriends, apparently..." Lya nods and takes the beer from Hitoshi before sticking it in her pocket for later. "That is if they don't go insane and blow their own heads off first."
"Yes. Well, Esteban was an unfortunate outcome. Jotunblut does that, sometimes," Lyman shrugs. "Hitoshi, when the time comes for us to be enemies - if that's what you choose, of course - I won't be wasting time with juvenile insults."
He raises the beer. "Thank you for this. One of the benefits in dealing with a daughter of Dionysus, or coming from a pantheon where they drink mead like soda pop. Glorious stuff, when it's brewed right."
"The Wolf Pack is useful in a number of ways, not the least of which is that they're deniable. Even the police will laugh at stories about gods and their earthly agents when they have gang members with prior records to hand. Amazons, Einjehar, whatever - we all have our disposable tools."
"And that is why we're having this chat. It would be a shame for you to be the pawns in this little game of gods and titans, swept off the board as an afterthought. Because that's how they see us. They tell you that you've earned a place, that you're worthy, when that's not really true. They weren't there when you almost got raped, Lya. They weren't there when you needed them that one night, Hitoshi. If you ask Alex, he'll tell you Tyr wasn't there when his chopper got shot down."
"Now we get to the meat of the problem..." Lya chuckles. "You've got Daddy issues." She finishes off her beer before setting it on the table behind her.
"Look... I didn't really know my mother much either, and personally I'm pretty happy with that because she was a real bitch." she reaches into her pocket and pulls out her other beer. "But I get it... you're tired of acting out your role..." she takes a swig of her latest beer,"because you think you're special,"she finishes with a sneer while making quotes in the air with her hands.
"I have the blood of a god in my veins," Lyman says. "Do neither of you see it? When the gods and titans are done beating each other senseless, we can be the ones to take up the reins of power. A golden age for man? A land flowing with milk and honey? All these things are possible. Choose whatever side you wish, as long as you understand there will be a point where your choice will be between being a mere minstrel and being a goddess."
He looks Hitoshi up and down. "Or a Power Ranger. Whatever floats your boat."
Hitoshi glowers at the man. "Jason David Frank and Austin Saint John have nothing on me. You aren't the only one here with the blood of a God or Goddess in their veins, so I suggest you remember it. You are in my casino, and my home, and frankly, you and those you keep company with are not welcome, and if I have to get rid of you one by one, I will."
He cracks his neck for emphasis.
"Oh and on that subject, who do you call daddy? Fenerir perhaps. Would that make you a son of a bitch? Or maybe it's Loki. I'm curious to know."
The audience had been ushered back into the hall. A pair of security officers from the casino were recording quick video depositions, asking people to provide their names and a phone or email address, plus a quick description of what they saw.
"Where are the paramedics?!" shouted an officer, kneeling beside the fallen gang member.
"Right here," came the answer as two paramedics wheeled in a stretcher. "Okay, severe trauma and blood loss. Need a compression bandage. Who's got the ... um ... hand?"
"Here," said a casino security guard. "Baggie and ice from the bar."
"Smart move. Tourniquet?"
"My tie," said the police officer.
"Vitals," said the paramedic, calling out numbers. "He's in shock. We'll transport to general, but he'll be going into surgery, stat."
"We'll still want someone there to interview this guy."
The gang member's eyes snapped open. They were glazed, but still charged with lambent fury. He looked at the paramedic, smiled.
"Mein leben fur Fenris!"
"Ruhe, krieger," she said softly.
The man's eyes closed, and then his body began to glow, forcing everyone to look away ...
"What the ...?" shouted the officer, reaching for his weapon. "Get back, get back!"
The light faded. The body of the gang member was gone.
"Huh? Where'd he go? Williams, you see him?" the officer said.
"He's not over here!"
A glance towards the stage. "He back there?"
"No. Nothing here."
"You saw it, right?" the officer asked the paramedic.
"There was a flash of light, you shouted get back, and ... no patient," she said.
"You're gonna love this," said the hotel security officer. He held up the bag that had held the severed hand. It, too, was gone. Nothing but a bag of ice remained, the melt not even tinged with a hint of red.
"Jesus. Why me?" the officer asked. "How the hell do I write this up?"
"Responded to report of disturbance, no victim?" suggested the other paramedic.
"Where'd he go? He was right here, he didn't just disappear!"
"Someone said there was a smoke bomb, maybe firecrackers earlier," said the casino security guard.
"Maybe some kind of flare? Guy probably had priors, doesn't want to get made. Plays possum, then lights a flare and slips out a door. Put out an APB or something."
"I guess," said the officer.
"We're done here, then," said the female paramedic. She and her partner began picking up their gear.
It's as the paramedics are leaving that Alex stops and stares at the young woman.
"Holy shit," he says. "Hey! Wait!"
The paramedic glances over her shoulder. "Are you injured, Sir?"
"No, but ... I thought you were someone else," Alex said. "Sorry."
"I get that a lot," she smiles.
"I imagine you do," Alex says. "Again, sorry. There's no way you could be who I thought you were. It was years ago, and in another country."
"It's still not your time, Son of Tyr," she said quietly.
Alex eyes widened. "What did you say?"
"I said, 'It's time for us to get out of here.' My partner and I," she said.
"Will ... can I ... look, can we hook up later? Dinner or something?"
"Is this the part where you scribble your number on a napkin?"
Alex offers her his business card. "Call me. Really."
"I can't promise anything," she says. She glances at the card. "Bye, Alex."
During this whole affair, Evie stays towards the back of the crowd, taking statements from onlookers and letting other officers actually handle the body. She breathes a sigh of relief when the other officers seem to pay her no mind. She's more than happy to let the paperwork for this particular incident fall upon someone else's shoulders.
From where she stands, listening to the statement of an over-enthusiastic and slightly intoxicated young man, she overhears Alex's conversation. She mentally notes it, but says nothing to him. After all, it doesn't seem to be any of her business.
Besides, it's hard to get away from this particular, young rocker.
"Duuuude! Did you fukkin' see what happened? That was, like...BWEEEEH!...," exclaims the young man, who is making the 'mind blown' gesture as he speaks.
"No, sir, I didn't. That's why I need you to tell me what you saw," Evie patiently explains for about the fifth time.
"Oh, yeah...dude...like, this huge guy, right? He like starts picking a fight with this little Asian guy. He's like picking up shit and trying to hit him and the Asian dude goes all Mortal Kombat on him and..."
"Uh-huh," Evie tries her best to maintain an air of slight disbelief, just as would be appropriate in this situation.
"No, no! You gotta listen to me, Fuzz. I am totally not making this shit up. There was like...KWAH! and KZANG!...and then there was blood and a hand...Oh! go talk to the EMC dudes. I bet they have the hand. I bet it's all gnarly and bloody," the guy grins and nods his head. "Sweet."
"Okay, then. I'll go talk to them. Thank you for your time, sir," Evie smiles politely and walks back over to where Alex stands.
"So, what now? Think we should find Lya and Hitoshi?" she asks.
"They're probably backstage," Alex nods. He glances towards the doors and the departing paramedics. "EMT's are leaving ... wait, they didn't have anyone on the stretcher ..."
An officer approaches Evie.
"Sir, I think ... I think I fucked up," he says.
"How's that?" Evie asks.
"Sir, we had a suspect in custody, and ... he got away. He's gone," the officer tells you. "Threw a flare or something, everyone looked away, and he's gone."
Evie frowns and makes a soft hrrm, sound. However, she shakes her head and waves it off, "It looks like no one here was hurt (aside from the suspect) so...no real harm done."
"Besides, he's missing a hand, right? He shouldn't be too hard to track down. That will need to be treated. We can check the hospitals and vets, visit some of the "unofficial medical staff" that we are aware of...," she shrugs.
She claps the man on the shoulder, "Don't worry about it. Just put out an APB and we'll see what we can turn up."
"So much for hospitality," Lyman says with a shrug. "Oh, nice to meet you cousin, by the way, I want to kill you and your friends. As I was telling the lovely Lya, here, the Wolf Pack are useful in that sense. Foot soldiers in a long war."
Lyman stands and sets his beer aside.
"My father is Loki. Please don't tell me my pseudonym had you stumped. And Fenris' pups are somewhere around here," he says with an airy wave. "Fortunately, they're housebroken. Just as vicious as their father, though. I'd think twice before picking a fight with them."
"A pleasure, dear Lya. Do consider what I've said." He moves closer to the door. "And, Hitoshi, I hope you are wise enough not to do something rash like attempting to turn me into sushi as I walk by, yes?"
Hitoshi shakes his head.
"My Father is Hachiman, so you are no cousin of mine, however, considering you have not directly threatened myself or the Furies while in this room, and unlike you, I abide by certain codes of Honor. I'm done with fighting for the day, but if your wolves come around again before the sun has risen, I will make Sushi out of every one of them."
He moves to the door and opens it. "Tell me one thing though, if you want to let the Gods and the Titans fight it out then make the dearth better, why are you even involved? Why not just sit back and let everything blow over?"
"Third cousins, twice removed, then," Lyman smiles. "I think you'll get away with tonight's performance, but even the police aren't so thick that they'll ignore a bunch of gang members turning up minus bits and pieces."
"As for the rest, it's like surfing," he says, miming being on a board. "Ride the wave, through the pipe and out as it all breaks apart behind you. Good night, Hitoshi Ryder. You have a busy day tomorrow; you should get your rest."
The officer nods to Evie. "Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir."
"Evie. A word?" Alex says, indicating a corner with a nod of his head.
Evie nods to show she heard, but continues to survey the crime scene and keep an ear out for further 'amazing stories.' It's several minutes before she approaches Alex.
"You know they're not going to find him, right?"
"Standard procedure. He'll turn up, or he won't," Evie says, her words giving nothing away. A raised eyebrow asks her question.
"I'll explain more later, but it's like something I read in a fantasy novel, a mythical warrior that could be summoned forth to fight for its master."
"That's right up there with BWEEEEH!" Evie says, making the same mind-blown gesture as the one witness.
Evie glances around at the scene, taking note of everything that is going on. The paramedics have already left, casino security is cleaning up the scene and it looks like people are finally starting to disperse. Most of the officers who were called are also either taking care of talking to a few straggler witnesses or packing up and heading out to the next scene where they are needed.
"I think it's safe for me to wander away, at this point," she says to Alex. "Let's go catch up with the others."
"You know why the Gods come down to Earth and have us kids?" Lya asks as she walks up to him at the door. "Because they're sick and tired of being gods with all that responsibility and crap that comes with it. And you..."she points a finger into his chest as she holds her bottle of beer with the rest of her hand, "You want to start all that shit down here?" she gestures with both hands at her temples. "Blows my mind, man...blows my mind. Maybe you should think about if you really want all that shit, or if you're just angry that daddy didn't play enough ball with you as a kid."
"Good night, Lying Bastard... I've got better things to do then be your therapist."
Lyman gives a polite bow. "I'll take that as a 'no,' then. Pity. The war will come regardless, and, now, perhaps sooner than you think. I bid you farewell, Lya."
He pauses at the door. "When you're having your little denouement tomorrow, consider that we're both liars, Hitoshi. I'm just honest about it."
Hitoshi smiles. "Go fuck yourself, and have a good night."
He slams the door in the man's face then goes as sits on the couch and sighs. After a moment he walks over to the coat rack and pulls a spare shirt and tie out of a garment bag and puts it on.
"Did Phoebe tell you I was planning on taking her out to eat and Kareoke?" He asks softly as he messes with the tie.
"What she does in her free time is her own business, Hitoshi," Lya sighs as she closes the door. "I just hope for all our sakes he leaves us alone tonight and I don't have to interrupt." She finishes off her beer with a long gulp before throwing it across the room into a can. "I'm going to gather the rest of the girls and find the others so they know what went down." She grabs her cane and her backpack and slings it over her shoulder before heading out the door. "You two be careful."
Hitoshi Sighs as Lya walks out the door then he follows.
"Lya wait... It was supposed to be just me and Pheobe, but after these events, I'd like to take you all out tonight. I have some news for all of you, and it may be good, it may be bad, but I want to tell you all over dinner. Pheobe and I will have to go out by ourselves another time."
"I'm just honest about it," Lyman says. He ignores Hitoshi's abrasive farewell and steps into the hall. Whereupon he comes face to face with Evie and Alex.
"Ah, the Detective and the Bullet Magnet," he smiles. "So, what does it take to kill you, North?"
"And you are?"
"You can call me Lyman. As you might have guessed, I'm on the 'other side,'" he says, making air quotes around the phrase. "You clearly take after your old man."
"Ah. Well, let me tell you what he once told me," Alex said. "Just because we're related doesn't mean I won't beat the tar out of you."
"You'll have to wait in line, I'm afraid. Hitoshi is just itching for the chance."
"Well, I'd love to stay and chat, but I must be off," Lyman smiles. "Good night, Evie."
With a light step, Lyman heads out the door.
And the moment he does, the Furies emerge from two of the other rooms. Toxic has a compact crossbow to hand, while Orithia has a collapsible baton. Klepto has her drumsticks, and Phoebe is tucking a knife back into her sleeve.
"So, that's the Son of Loki," Toxic says. "Slimy bastard. Phoebe, did he say anything important? You had your ear to the wall."
"Lots of 'dear Lya' and smooth talk," Phoebe said. "Offered her a chance to side with the Titans."
"Like that's going to happen," Orithia said. "Toxic, you should have shot him."
"Wasn't a clear shot. Not that Alex couldn't take it, but he's had enough of getting shot at for one night, I imagine."
"Um, yeah," Alex said. "I could do without an arrow in my chest."
"That doesn't mean I won't shoot you if you're in the way," Toxic added.
"Good to know."
"Hmmm," Evie eyes the man's back as he walks away, lost in thought as the Furies arrive. This does not stop her from hearing their news, though.
"It's a shame he didn't stop to talk. I think I'd like to hear what he has to say," Evie muses.
"Don't tell me that you're actually thinking about joining his side?!" Phoebe exclaims, a dangerous look passing over her (and the rest of the Furies') features.
"No, no," Evie waves off their concern. "My loyalties lie here. However, there's something to be said for letting your enemy talk...and talk...and talk. Get them monologuing and you can learn things. Granted, I'm betting he'd try to feed me a pack of lies...he pretty much admitted that as he was walking out the door...but that just means that I'd have to sort everything out, afterwards."
The detective shrugs and smiles, "But, at least I'd have some more puzzle pieces to work with."
Hitoshi sighs. "Detective Cartwright, his type only gives out what he wants to give out, and nothing more. A Bond Villain he is not. However, that being said, I'm sure we will see more of him."
He slings the now empty garment bag over one shoulder and closes the door behind him and Lya.
"Phoebe, I still plan on going out, but due to the attack, I'm worried about Lya and the rest of you. So you and I shall have to go out ourselves some other time. Tonight I'd like to take everyone out to eat. On top of all this there's a few things I found out today that may change our lives possibly for the better."
"The Westview comped my dinner earlier," Alex said. "But a drink and a light bite with some friends, I'd like that."
He glances back at the theater.
"Lyman, or whatever he calls himself, is being a smug bastard," Alex adds. "He made sure to point out that he knew our names, and that he knew my divine parentage."
"Where are we going?"
"There's a place I know called the Rising Sun Lounge. It's an actual proper Sushi Restaurant that also has some interesting entertainment." Hitoshi replies.
"Hitoshi, I used to be in the Army. You'd be surprised what soldiers get up to when they're on leave," Alex laughed. "There even used to be a place here in town, a BattleMech center or something like that, where you could 'pilot' a giant war machine."
Hitoshi shrugged and started walking towards the exit.
"I hope you like to sing then. Tonight's Kareoke and a few other things."
He nods to the security at the door then opens it and looks around. seeing it was clear, he holds it open.
"Well, whose going?"
"Karaoke. Yeah, the boys did that, too," Alex said. "Saw some really bad acts, too. Might have even been me."
Evie rolls her eyes at Hitoshi's comment about Bond villains, "Oh, sure. I guess I'll just never ask any questions or listen to anything my enemy says from here on out. Obviously, I will never, ever glean anything of use from it because these guys never, ever fuck up. Ever. Never ever.."
"I've totally been doing my job wrong for the last decade. Who knew?"
She follows the others towards the door.
"The nice thing about Bond Villains is that they like to brag about their amazing plan to take over the world," Alex said. "I think that's what we're seeing with Lyman. He'll want us to know all about it, understand it ... so he can do an I-Told-You-So dance in the end zone after scoring."
"Personally? I think he just told us the stakes are going up."
"Actually Officer Cartwright, what I meant is he's going to be a tough nut for you to crack, and you will probably have to do more investigating than outright questioning. Even then I don't think much of anything will turn up until exactly when he wants it to, like a trail of breadcrumbs."
Hitoshi replied over his shoulder. Then he turns around.
"But, I have been wrong about things before."
"Ah, but the important question is, 'Are they any good at karaoke?'" Alex joked. "Right now, it's all about pushing us out of our comfort zones. If we want to push back, that's something we'll have to talk about."
She snerks softly at Alex's statement, "I think karaoke is just about as far out of my comfort zone as it gets. And, if I sing, I'm pretty positive that Lya and the Furies' head will explode. Or they will try to put me out of my obvious misery."
"Nonetheless, you are still invited for dinner, Officer Cartwright. If you don't wish to sing after that, no one will make you." Hitoshi smiles.
"He actually talked quite a bit... made it pretty clear that he resents the fact that he didn't know his daddy and now he wants to take over the world so daddy and everyone else will have to pay attention." Lya adds as they walk out and she catches up with the others. "What I don't get is why get us involved? We wouldn't have had any idea if he hadn't showed himself. Ego, maybe?"
"And maybe it's a momentum thing, you can't push against something without resistance, or ... I'm not making any sense, am I?" Alex says.
"Like the football player who runs farther when he gets to plow through people?" Suggests Lya. "It's the challenge that makes the doing worthwhile."
"Sort of. You can't fight or grapple with something you can't touch. It's how you judge your stance, your next move," Alex said. "So he's sizing us up, figuring out where he can hit us."
"He already tried to disrupt the concert... he's going to do whatever he can to bring us out into the open so we'll be too busy explaining our existence to the public to stop him. We should all be careful," Lya warns.
"If Loki is anything like Eris we're talking about some epic level button pushing."
"I'm sure we will figure out was to work in the public eye at some point, and then, well lets just say he will be the one needing to watch out." Hitoshi says grimly as he holds the door to his Mustang.
"Who's riding with my to the Restaurant? I'll have to see about getting a car for the rest."
"I have my own car. I'll follow you there," Evie says.
"I've got to take the gear back in the van so I'll meet you guys at the restaurant," Lya replies.
"If someone can drop me off at my office, I can get my car as well," says Alex.