When we last left our heroes, the group had gone their separate ways following the debacle with the Hand Made Man, and had a trulyexplosive start to 2014…
Gareth has been staying with Alia for weeks. One afternoon, Alia’s pimp, Smokey, knocks on their door, and after chatting with her for a second, he asks to see “her fag”, motioning to Gareth. Out in the hall, Gareth speaks with Smokey and a short, fat, balding man in a nice suit. They let him know that the mayor wishes to meet with Gareth regarding the tragedy at his apartment. They let Alia accompany Gareth as he’s led to the street level where a television crew is setting up outside; Mayor DiBlasio and Luthor Grant are visible through the doorway. A woman starts doing Gareth’s makeup, donning ear buds when he and Alia wish to speak privately. Alia tries to get Gareth to bow out, telling him it isn’t good to be visible and public. Before he can process it, though, he’s dragged out to the blinding lights of the press conference. DiBlasio grandstands, makes big promises, and informs Gareth that the city is going to give him a new place to live. Gareth just stares. At one point, he hears someone coughing. It is Luthor, Drake’s old pal, and when he wipes at his nose and mouth, there is blood.
Alia texts everyone, “Holy shit Gareth’s on TV”.
Since the news broke about her new-found wealth, Morgan has been staying in a Holiday Inn. The same evening as Gareth’s press conference, she hears the sound of helicopters, very near, outside her window. There are two of them, hovering in the space between buildings, both of them with news channel logos; when she opens the curtains, she is blinded by flood lights. There’s a knock at her door, and through the peep hole she can see a crowd of people, all press, clamoring at her door to get a snippet, a soundbite, anything. She ignores them, turns the television on loud. A note sips under the door of the room adjoining hers, “I can get you out of here”, which she also ignores. After nearly half an hour, the deadbolt on the adjoining door starts twitching. Morgan shoves a chair under the handle; there is more press on the other side. She calls the front desk, asking them to please do something. They inform her she has over 800 messages waiting for her. In another half an hour there is more shouting in the hallway, but this time it is clear that some security detail has taken charge and removed the press.
One man remains in the hall with a couple of police, and he introduces himself as Josh Goldman, and he works for her now. She cracks the door to take his card. He’s nebbish and fumbling, the CFO of Oracle Group, one of the hedge funds created by her double. Once in her hotel room, he starts talking at her, running through all the things she needs to do now that she’s insanely wealthy. So much of it goes over Morgan’s head, overwhelming her. Josh offers to take her to her Bentley, which will take her to her helicopter, which can take her to her house in the Hamptons if she wants to leave the city for a while. She says she’d rather stay in the city, and after some coordinating and gladhanding, he says he can get her the presidential suite at the Waldorf, but they’ll have to kick Prince out, but it’s okay since The Artist owes them some favours anyway.
Josh presents her with three separate cell phones, all pre-set to only dial certain numbers, for separate purposes. They’re about as secure as can be, and she can’t use any others. He of course freaks out when Morgan starts to use her own cell phone to contact the rest of the group, saying that they’ll have to get her a “family” phone for personal numbers. He is utterly at a loss when she shows him her Goom-radio, but excuses it as just another eccentricity of the wealthy and connected, although he won’t let her use it until they can figure out how to secure it. He leads her through the hotel lobby, where they are utterly mobbed by press. They climb into a swank Bentley and head to the Waldorf.
Wally hasn’t been doing much the past few weeks. He and Alexis are still together, although she isn’t living with him. He spends most of his time working in his lab. That same evening, he hears paper slide under his front door. Grabbing his gun, left over from the raid on the apartment building, he finds that there is an envelope from an unknown source. Donning gloves, he brings it to his lab and scans it for contaminates. Nothing. He opens it and finds a notice that his rent is four days past due, which is funny, as he’s lived in this new apartment for four months and never had to pay a dime. The bill comes to over $7,000. Knowing something is wrong, Wally runs to a corner store, buys a burner, and calls Hank. It rings and rings, never going to voice mail. He checks on line, to see if Hank is dead or in jail. Nothing. It then occurs to him that he hasn’t heard from Alexis in a couple of days – she’s usually good for at least a daily text message. He heads back out to try to find her.
As he passes through the lobby and onto the street, he notices people watching him, spying, pulling the old advance-and-follow. It seems there is a whole conspiracy of people monitoring him. He also notices a man who has been tailing him, but seems separate from the conspiracy, an old school PI by the looks of him. Not caring any more, Wally walks right up to the guy, calls him out, demands to know who hired him. The guy won’t say and starts making threats right back, but says it would really be easier if Wally just lets him go along to… wherever Wally’s headed. They come to somewhat of an accord, and Wally agrees, although he really needs to shake the other group. They dip into a subway station and, just before boarding the train, the PI tosses something into a trash bin and shouts, “ANTHRAX! NINE ELEVEN!” Mayhem, of course ensues, allowing them to get away cleanly. The guy convinces Wally to detour to a titty bar he knows, which has great steak, and where “They let you touch everything.” Wally sees an opportunity to get this guy drunk and talkative, so they make their way to the Joie de Beave. The PI is greeted by name (Jimmy), and they are given a booth, and set up with steaks and beer.
Alex arrives home from his new job, knowing immediately that something is wrong—there is heavy condensation on the door handle of his apartment, and it is freezing to the touch. Seeing nothing in the hallway, he goes in. He immediately notices the 12-year-old boy with electric blue skin, a leather loincloth, compound eyes, and gossamer wings – his were the hands that reached through the portal in Alex’s closet some weeks before. His daughter, Debbie, is there, too, lying naked on the dining table, her chest and ribs folded open. She’s alive, though, breathing, and frightened. There is another figure, tall and limby, looking to be made of sticks and pieces of wood, sporting rams horns, and with black eyes, no nose, and a lipless mouth. It is standing over Debbie, arms elbow deep in her chest cavity. The boy speaks, saying that Alex’s daughter is valuable, and if she is so valuable to him, why did he not want the substitute they made and left for him in the underground tunnel with the red door? The stick man pulls out her still-beating heart, considers it, and puts it back in. The boy tells Alex that he is not the original Alex, that the original is dead. It won’t let Alex reply. They are pulling her apart to understand why she is more valuable than the replica he rejected. Both creatures speak without moving their lips. Eventually, the stick thing pushes Debbie’s chest back together and begins sewing her up with vines. As the creatures back away, the boy says, “We will speak again, Shadow”, before leaving through Alex’s bedroom. Alex rushes to Debbie as the room grows warm again, brushing the vines from her chest. She comes to, gasping, and Alex holds her as she sobs.
Drake is summoned by Yuri-ko, when he arrives to her office atop the Chrysler, her tattooed right-hand man is there as well, seemingly recovered. Madame Butterfly comments to Drake that he doesn’t have many friends left as she turns on the TV. The news is covering DiBlasio’s news conference regarding the apartment explosions – a tweaked out, nervous Gareth is visible behind the mayor. Drake sees Luthor standing behind them, notices the coughing and the blood. M. Butterfly makes a comment about Luthor being ill due to some broken Pledge he made with Drake, wondering what he did to bring illness upon himself. The channel changes, showing coverage of Morgan being rushed out of her hotel. M. Butterfly tells Drake that she can feel the Vanishers, and knows he can feel them too, and that they’re angry about what he did. She calls out Alia, saying that it is interesting that “the whore did not support your artist friend.” She leads them into a room lined with little geisha dolls. As she passes through, their heads all turn and slowly follow her. When it is Drake’s turn, their heads all whip around, on alert. M. Butterfly says it is because they hate him, because he “didn’t kill him”, presumably referencing the Hand Made Man. She tells him that the police are ready to arrest him, for what she does not specify, and that now is the time to mend fences with his old friends. The Vanishers are now more interested in Drake than in her. She hands him a phone that he can use to contact Morgan; their companies have dealings with each other. As he leaves, she lets him know that if he ever needs to hide from Them, her safe room is open.
Alia waits just inside as Gareth finishes his little photo op. She overhears the mayor telling Gareth that they’ll be in contact within 48 hours regarding his new apartment. Once the circus is gone, Alia and Gareth decide to go out somewhere to get several drinks. They hail a cab, although it soon becomes obvious that the driver is not going in the right direction, putting them both on alert. They turn into an alley so narrow that they can’t open their doors. Alia pops her claws as the cabbie turns around, revealing himself to have the same blue countenance and compound eyes as the boy in Alex’s apartment. Alia tries slashing at the window separating the driver from his passengers, but is ineffective, and so starts kicking at the back windshield. Gareth huddles out of her way as the thing begins talking at them, without moving its mouth. It tells Gareth that he also turned down their offer, and that Gareth saved “its” life, and why. Gareth mutters something about there being too many questions. Before the creature can continue, Alia finally shatters the back window and, grabbing Gareth by the collar, pulls him out with her. They book it back to the street, and stumble in to the first bar they find, proceeding to get good and drunk.
Back in the Bentley, one of Morgan’s phones ring, the caller ID showing the call coming from Yuri-ko. It is Drake. While they talk, Josh hands Morgan a dossier on Yuri-ko and the dealings they have together, to the tune of $1.4 billion. The one thing missing is a photo of the woman herself, as she is very private and elusive. Drake is asking if Morgan would like to meet for dinner, privately. Josh is beside himself at the chance to get a sighting of Yuri-ko, as her picture could be worth, well, lots to the right people. Drake gives Morgan the address to his private penthouse and says to have her people contact his people. When the call ends, Josh informs her that she was speaking with the one and only Charles Winston Drake. Morgan argues that it wasn’t really C.W. Drake, just someone who is an awful lot like him. Josh argues it a bit, but brushes it off as just another weird quirk of the rich.
Once Debbie has calmed down, Alex sends a mass text to the group about his blue intruder. Alia and Gareth reply that they’ve seen something similar that same night, and do they want to do another group meeting. Back in the car, Josh asks Morgan if she’s got some issues he should know about, regarding this support group, and she brushes him off. Wally replies back asking them to “Cut me out of your loop. And get new phones.”
Morgan is shown up to the penthouse of the Waldorf, and she and Josh are greeted by a massive body guard who opens a set of double doors. Inside, they find The Artist Formerly Known As “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince”, roller-skating aroundthe suite on a pair of skates emitting purple sparks. He rolls up to her, taking both her hands, and asks her if she believes in love. She replies that she does, he kisses her hands and rolls away, calling for “The Revolution!” A bunch of people, also on skates, follow him out, carrying bags and other personal effects. Once they’re alone, Josh scours the suite, saying that Prince is notorious for leaving behind odd gifts for people. Sure enough, in the large bathroom, a bubble bath has been set up, with candles and flower petals all around, and a stack of warm pancakes is sitting to the side. A note reads “Indulge yourself & make love to your tummy”.
|Make love to it|
Alia and Gareth finish drinking, and she accompanies him while he purchases another bump, staying with him while he shoots up to be sure he is as safe as can be, and just in case more faerie people show up.
Wally continues drinking with Jimmy, but the guy is iron clad and doesn’t let anything slip no matter how inebriated he gets. The guy is nice enough, though, offering to let Wally stay with him since he’s being watched by some other unknown group. Wally concedes and at the end of the night they both return to the fleabag motel Jimmy calls home. There’s a threadbare couch in the room, and Wally sleeps there for the night.
Morgan prepares for her dinner with Drake, her people outfitting her with beautiful evening wear, complete with a brooch that doubles as a camera and microphone – Josh wants any information he can get on Yuri-ko, and assures Morgan that this sort of thing happens often. When Morgan gets out of her car at Drake’s building, right across from Central Park, she is hit by a wave of cold malice washing out of the park and into the building. She heads inside, turning back just once to notice a man driving a horse carriage around the park, and she notes that he bears goblinoid features. Once she’s ridden the elevator up, she is shown into Drake’s penthouse, where he greets her with an obviously forced “So lovely to meet you!” Both are aware that they technically don’t know each other in their new lives. Drake has cleaned up, is clean shaven, different but not. Morgan excuses herself to the powder room where she removes the brooch, leaving it and her handbag behind when she returns. Drake notices the change, cottoning on, and relaxes immensely once they determine that they are alone – he’s even dismissed his staff for the evening. He wanted to check with her, now that she’s come into this bizarre new life, to make sure she is doing well and to genuinely offer any assistance he can, being well acquainted with the world of the madly wealthy.
There’s a problem, he tells Morgan, related to their last endeavour related to the Hand Made Man. Drake has pissed off something powerful—Morgan comments about the wave of malice she felt outside.
They continue talking for just a while longer when they both notice Drake’s front door creak open. Two objects resembling hockey pucks slide in on the floor. There’s just enough time for Drake to hit his panic button before ———