Author: Kimberly T PM
An expansion of one of the drabbles in "Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship", also available on this site; this story was featured in the 2009 Gargoyles Anthology. Bluestone and Broadway, Private Investigators at your service!Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Friendship - Broadway & Matt B. - Words: 6,006 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 6 - Published: 06-27-10 - id: 6089235
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
By Kimberly T.
Author's note: This story is an expansion of one of the drabbles that were compiled to make my 2008 story "Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship", also available on this site. It was written for the 2009 Gargoyles Anthology, which focused on the Hotel Cabal.
An hour after sunset, the office of "Bluestone and Broadway: Private Investigations" was occupied, and the air inside was thick with tension. Broadway and Matt Bluestone studied the materials in front of them, then grimly eyed each other, as if their lives depended on their next decisions.
Last year the governor of New York had declared the gargoyles honorary citizens and protected under the law, in recognition for their heroism when they'd saved all of New York City from what the media had dubbed the Blue Death. But the backlash had been immediate and severe; the Quarrymen above all had flat-out refused to accept the governor's decree. They'd shouted that the gargoyles had actually been behind the Blue Death, hysterically insisting that it was all part of their plot to take over the world.
The backlash had culminated in an all-out assault by the Quarrymen on the gargoyles during the day. The assault had been forcibly repelled by the NYPD working with Xanatos' own security forces, but at a horrific cost; twenty-seven people dead, most of them Quarrymen. Criminal trials, and wrongful-death lawsuits from the families of the four innocent civilians killed in the assault, had finished off what was left of the organization.
Matt Bluestone had been one of the casualties of that last battle; taken away in an ambulance after several of his bones had been broken by a Quarryhammer-swinging madman, including a shattered pelvis. It had taken several surgeries and months of physical therapy before he could even walk again, with the use of a cane.
Medically retired from the police force, Matt had decided to become a private investigator after he'd recovered as much as he ever would. Investigating and uncovering secrets was what he loved best, and as a decorated veteran of the NYPD, getting the required licenses had been a snap. All his friends and family had wished him success. And when Broadway had asked him if he needed a partner, Matt had smiled and said "Sure could use one! But you'd have to be licensed for it too."
They'd both been only partly serious… and so they'd both been surprised when, two weeks later, Xanatos had presented Broadway with a stack of papers that only needed his signature in order to make him a private investigator too, officially licensed by the state of New York. Four nights after that, they had a lease on an office and Broadway had painted their names on the door.
'Bluestone & Broadway, Private Investigations' had been in business for three months, and in that time they'd solved and closed twelve cases, ranging from the mundane (cheating husbands, missing pets) to the criminal (solving a murder, recovering stolen property) to the bizarre (don't ask. Please, don't ask.)
Tonight, after finishing and closing the files on their twelfth case, they were intently considering their strategies and options:
"…Raise you two."
Broadway looked at his hand, then laid his cards out with a smile. "Pair of fives!"
Matt flourished his cards with an even bigger grin. "Three nines!"
"Aw, man…" Broadway grimaced. "How'd you know you had me? I know it wasn't my wing-talons; I was holding them perfectly still this time!"
"It's just a talent of mine, pal," Matt responded with a grin as he gathered in the chocolate-chip cookies they'd been using for betting chips. He thought to himself that he wouldn't tell Broadway just yet about another 'tell' the gargoyle had; those fan-shaped ears of his drooped slightly when Broadway had a weak hand.
Then Matt relented and nudged two of the cookies back across the table to his partner; Broadway had been the one to bake them, after all.
While they were munching cookies, the phone on Matt's desk rang, and he answered after hurriedly swallowing and brushing crumbs off his lips. "Bluestone and Broadway, Private Investigations. Matt Bluestone speaking; may I help you?"
"Mr. Bluestone, this is the Grandmaster of the Illuminati," he heard through the phone.
Matt rolled his eyes. "Uh-huh. Right. Well, whoever this is, you can tell everyone else in the 23rd precinct that this joke wasn't funny the last dozen times they pulled it." It ticked him off that the guys on the force were still pulling that lame joke, one that had started the first time he'd told them his theories about the Illuminati.
But deep down, he was also pleased by it; it meant that the guys were still thinking of him, even after he'd been medically retired from the NYPD. Maybe Elisa had put one of the new rookies up to it, as a prelude to inviting him in to officially meet the newest members of the GLU, the Gargoyles Liaison Unit…
"I can assure you, this is not a joke, Mr. Bluestone," the voice said with annoyance. "And to prove my authenticity…"
Broadway smirked around his mouthful of cookies, as Matt complained into the phone about a joke not being funny anymore. He could guess what that joke was!
The whole clan knew about the 23rd Precinct's long-running joke of calling Matt and pretending to be either someone highly placed in the Illuminati, or someone with a really hot tip on the organization. Elisa had told them about the prank calls and how much they'd irritated her partner, making him difficult to work with on some nights, several months before she'd actually introduced Matt to the clan.
But at the same time that Matt had found out about the gargoyles, he and the clan had also found out the Illuminati really did exist. The joke was actually on all those prank callers, if only they knew…
Then Matt went utterly pale, all the blood drained from his face. "S-sir! I'm sorry, I thought… N-no sir, absolutely not! It's a joke that the police force started almost a year before I found Mace Malone and… Yes sir. …No, sir," as all the blood rushed back with a vengeance, till Matt's face was almost as red as his hair. "…Yes, sir. Sir, Broadway is in the room with me; may I put this on speakerphone for him to hear as well?" Then he covered the receiver just long enough to hiss "Illuminati—Grandmaster!" at Broadway, before pressing the speaker button.
A cultured voice came out of the speaker, a voice with an accent Broadway couldn't quite place. A voice that wasted no time on pleasantries with the gargoyle, instead launching right into their mission:
A member of the Illuminati was inside the Hotel Cabal, a 'hotel' that was actually a high-tech deathtrap/interrogation facility run by the Illuminati. And the facility was malfunctioning. The Grandmaster's secretary had received a brief call from the member on his cell phone, saying frantically that his key wasn't working to deactivate any of the rooms—and then the call had been abruptly cut off. Efforts to call him back were fruitless; it was likely that the cell phone had been destroyed.
The Grandmaster had established—he didn't say how, but Broadway didn't doubt him—that the problem wasn't with the member's key, or any existing keys to the hotel. So the problem was with the failsafe program built into the facility's central computer; the program that monitored the key-ports beside each door.
If the failsafe program was malfunctioning, there was only one semi-safe way to reach the central computer and manually deactivate all the rooms:
"The same way Goliath got out, right?" Broadway cut in. "From the roof, through the elevator shaft."
"Correct," the Grandmaster confirmed, though his voice was annoyed now; probably at being interrupted. Well, too bad for him; the gargoyle clans may have achieved a truce with the Illuminati organization after that nightmare in London, but that didn't mean they liked each other much.
"Your mission tonight is to get to the central computer on the 12th floor and deactivate all the rooms, then find the member trapped in the facility and get him out safely," the Grandmaster concluded. "After this call I'll fax to you a diagram of the 12th floor, showing the central computer room's location relative to the elevator shaft, and instructions for once you're in the computer room. Time is of the essence."
Broadway didn't have to ask why it was so urgent; he knew. He remembered that conversation, a few nights after Matt and Goliath had escaped from the Hotel Cabal together…
Matt met the clan at sunset, looking pale and sick. "Hi, guys. Um… Elisa's been delayed."
"Delayed how and why? What's happened to her?" Goliath demanded, flaring his wings; everyone was alarmed at Matt's expression while talking about Elisa.
"Hey, calm down, it's nothing serious… well, not life-threatening, anyway." Matt explained, "The plumbing for her sink has sprung a big leak, dripping so fast she has to empty the bucket under the sink every hour or so before it floods the kitchen. She said she'll be in to work as soon as the plumber comes and fixes it."
"Then why are you looking like that?" Broadway asked him. "Like you're about to barf or something… What's wrong?"
Matt sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. "Well… I suppose I should be thinking of it as good news, actually. I just found out why I'm still alive."
"Huh? Why wouldn't you be alive right now?"
"Because I betrayed the Illuminati, that's why. And Mace Malone knew it, too.
After I kept him from shooting Goliath, he'd guessed that I'd deliberately given Goliath my hotel key instead of losing it accidentally. You should have heard him screaming about the betrayal, and what he'd do to me, while we escaped up the elevator shaft!
"I'd seen Mace lose his key down that shaft, so I'd figured that he would be stuck inside the hotel for a few hours, trying to find a way out, but eventually another member with a working key would go in and fetch him. And when Mace told them what I'd done, it would be all over for one Matthew J. Bluestone; the NYPD would be fishing my remains out of the river, if a body was ever found at all."
"If you were expecting them to come after you, why didn't you stay up here with us that dawn?" Goliath asked, giving Matt the same stern look he gave gargoyle warriors who'd confused bravery with foolhardiness. "The very fact that they needed to bring you in to get one of us, means that they don't know where we perch. Elisa would have kept you hidden here in the clock tower, just as she secretly protects our existence."
Matt shook his head. "And live in hiding both day and night, forever? That's not who I am, Goliath. And besides, I've been half-expecting to be killed by the Illuminati for the last several years, just for learning too much about them. I've had my will written out and my lawyer briefed on what to do if I die or just disappear, since 1989 at least."
"A wise warrior knows death will come for him someday," Hudson said with an approving nod.
"Right. But instead… they made me a member. Martin Hacker gave me a membership pin, instead of a bullet or a contact poison. Martin said I'd done my part in getting you to the Hotel Cabal, and basically that it was Mace's own fault that he couldn't keep hold of you. Understand, I was glad to be accepted instead of executed, but… it hadn't made sense, and I just had to find out why. So today just before sunset, I paid a visit to another member of the Illuminati. Someone you already know: David Xanatos."
"So Xanatos is a member of a secret organization that tries to rule the entire human world, and capture us as well, through various deceptions and other treacherous means," Goliath rumbled. "I'm not at all surprised."
"Yeah, didn't figure you would be, from what Elisa said… Anyway, I went to see Xanatos, and asked him a few questions that I figured an eager rookie to the Illuminati would ask; meeting times, secret signs, stuff like that. And I slipped in a question about Mace Malone; pretending I was concerned about his health, since a guy that's a hundred years old doesn't normally tangle with gargoyles. I was hoping that the answer to that question would give me a hint as to why Mace hadn't told them just how Goliath had escaped."
"And…?" Brooklyn prompted.
"And I found out what had happened to him. The Illuminati hadn't gotten a report from Mace since he'd sent them a brief message saying that a gargoyle had just entered the building. The message didn't say anything about me; I guess I wasn't important enough to be worth noting just then. But after they didn't hear anything more from him, about an hour before dawn, someone went into the hotel to get a status report in person. When they got to the computer room, they found it empty, so they checked the computer records for the various rooms.
"The records showed Goliath arriving, getting bounced around from room to room for a while, then escaping. The records also showed that other doors had been opened, after you clawed your way to the elevator shaft. According to the records, without his passkey Mace had wandered from room to room for some time, opening doors… until he'd opened the door to one particular room. A room that David Xanatos said is called 'The Ant Farm'. And for some reason, maybe because he was disoriented from wandering for so long, he didn't recognize the room and what's inside it; he just stepped inside and let the door close behind him.
"…By the time they found him, there was nothing left but bones…"
Remembering that conversation, Broadway swallowed hard again. Even without someone in the central computer room sending signals to trigger the deadliest traps, several of the rooms in the Hotel Cabal could be lethal. And the rest of the hotel was designed to disorient and confuse a prisoner, break his will and ultimately drive him insane.
If the missing Illuminati member was smart, he'd just sat down in the first non-lethal room he'd found, and was now simply waiting for someone to rescue him. But if he'd panicked…
But even knowing the case was urgent, Broadway still wanted to get one more dig in, and he spoke up. "Matt's usually the one to ask this, but now I'm asking. Mr. Client, are you expecting us to do this out of the kindness of our hearts, or are you going to pay us?"
After a brief pause, the Grandmaster replied curtly, "One thousand dollars, plus expenses."
"It's a deal," Matt said hurriedly. "Send us the fax, sir, and we'll be on our way." After the phone call ended and Matt switched the line to the fax, which immediately began chattering and pushing a document out, he said accusingly to Broadway, "Why were you mouthing off like that?"
"Why weren't you?" Broadway shot back. "Everyone knows what you think about the Illuminati, but with that guy you were all 'yes sir', 'no sir' and 'right away sir'!"
Matt looked both shamefaced and grim. "I know, but it's really bad policy to get the Grandmaster angry. 'Illuminati membership is for life' also means that nobody leaves the organization and lives to tell about it… and neither do their nearest and dearest. And I've got a lot more to lose now than I did when I was in the FBI…"
Broadway glided with Matt across town, to the rooftop of the Hotel Cabal. They had stuffed some supplies into their trenchcoats before leaving the office; the faxed diagram, powerful flashlights and a pair of walkie-talkies in case they got separated.
On the roof of the hotel, it took only seconds for Broadway to rip open the service hatch for the elevator cable housing. From there, they could reach the maintenance ladder that ran along one side of the elevator shaft.
"You okay for climbing down?" Broadway asked, eyeing Matt and his cane with concern.
"It'll be easier than climbing up," Matt said with a shrug and a grimace. He took his cane and tucked it down the back of his trenchcoat, with the curved handle hooking over his back collar. "But if you want to go down first, to catch me in case I slip or something, I won't object."
They cautiously descended, periodically stopping to whip out their flashlights and look around the nearly-pitch-black shaft. "No signs of any of the damage Goliath and I did while we were in here; pretty thorough repair job," Matt mused.
Broadway would have responded, but instead had to expel all his breath to flatten himself against the ladder as an elevator car rumbled past only inches away. Both cars in the shaft were continually ascending and descending, even with no one inside them or controlling them from the computer room; it was probably another sign that the facility's controls were on the fritz.
"Twelfth floor," Broadway announced after a while, flicking on his flashlight and pointing with it across the shaft to a set of currently closed elevator doors, as featureless as all the other doors they'd seen in the shaft.
"Then, since that way is north, the computer room should be… right there," Matt said from where he was on the ladder just above Broadway, as he used his own flashlight to consult the diagram, then aimed it at a spot on the wall ten feet from the elevator doors.
Broadway glanced up, at where the elevator car was rumbling back down the shaft towards them, then down at the car on the other cable that was swiftly ascending. "I've figured out the rhythm for the elevator cars. As soon as this car passes us, let go and get down on my back. Then I'll jump across and get a grip on the wall, until I can punch through into the room. Shouldn't take more than a few seconds."
The elevator rumbled past them, and as soon as they were clear Broadway braced himself and growled "Now!"
Matt kicked his legs out and loosened his grip on the ladder, sliding down it until he landed on Broadway's back with a whumph! The impact knocked the air out of both of them, but Broadway recovered quickly. He made sure Matt had a firm grip on him before he turned and pushed off hard, leaping across the elevator shaft just after the other elevator car went past.
Metal shrieked in protest as Broadway sunk his talons into the wall of the shaft; once he had a secure purchase, he began pounding and clawing through the wall.
"Incoming!" Matt called out warningly, as the rumble of the returning elevator car came closer and closer.
"Almost through!" Broadway grunted, and pulled back enough to deliver one more massive blow. The wall finally gave way, and he frantically shoved at the hole's edges until it was just big enough to fit through. He scrambled through with Matt on his back, clearing the hole a bare second before the elevator car would have scraped them off the wall and turned them into blood pudding at the bottom of the shaft.
Inside the room, they got to their feet and began looking around. "So where's the computer?" Broadway asked.
But before Matt could respond, the room—lurched.
Startled, they both went off their feet again, feeling the unbelievable but unmistakable sideways movement of the room they were in.
The hole punched through to the elevator shaft abruptly vanished, replaced by steel plates showing through the wrecked paneling. And no computers anywhere in sight…
"You read the diagram wrong!" Broadway accused, glaring up at his partner from where he was crouched on all fours.
"You picked the wrong floor!" Matt shot back, as he got to his feet while the room was still rushing somewhere with them. "This isn't your average hotel, where they skip straight from 12 to 14 in their numbering because-" and then he was thrown off his feet again, smacking into the nearest wall as the room jolted to a stop.
After waiting in silence for a few moments to see if the room would move again, they gingerly got to their feet. Matt took his cane out to lean on. "Well, now what?" Broadway asked resignedly.
"Now… we try to find the computer room. It's either just a few rooms away, or one floor level and a few rooms away." Matt pointed at the floor. "Carve a big X in that, will you? And leave an X on either side of every door we go through, and on the floor of every room we set foot inside. At least we'll be able to keep track of where we've been."
Thirty minutes later, Broadway had carved fifty-seven X's. And been annoyed in several different ways, by the features in some of the rooms they'd checked:
Fans blowing ice-cold air on them.
Water slowly dripping down from hundreds of points in the ceiling, droplets spaced too close together to dodge.
Constant murmuring coming from hidden speakers, just low enough that they couldn't quite make out the words.
More strobe lights, on a different frequency.
A room with all the furniture bolted to the ceiling.
A room that was stifling hot and lit by a hellish red glare.
Rooms that had been cleverly painted to look bigger than they really were; Broadway had run smack into a wall that he'd thought had been ten feet further away.
A room that started screeching like fingernails on chalkboard as soon as the door was opened, the sound drilling into their skulls.
And many, many doors that opened onto solid brick walls instead of rooms.
All that was added to their general aggravation over not being able to find the computer room; Matt was becoming more and more sure, after repeatedly consulting the diagram, that they were on the wrong floor. They started searching instead for a room next to the central elevator shaft, so they could try clawing and punching through to the shaft again and finding the right floor.
Broadway cautiously listened at each wall that seemed like a possibility, but never heard the rumbling of the elevator cars going past. The sideways-moving room had shifted them a long ways off… unless the walls were so thick and well-insulated that all the noise had been muffled. They could only hope that wasn't the case.
"You said that there's a room with sharks in it, somewhere in this not-so-funhouse?" Broadway said, just to make conversation, as they checked yet another door and found yet another solid wall behind it. He rapped on it and pushed hard against it, in case it was a fake wall, but the brick sounded just like brick and didn't yield in the slightest.
"That's what I saw on the monitor, when Mace was checking all the rooms to find out where Goliath had gone," Matt said with a shrug, as they marked the door with an X and moved on. "It was on the screen for just a second, but it looked like two Great White sharks, swimming past a chandelier."
"Huh. So how would they get a prisoner into the room with the sharks, without all the water and sharks flooding out into the hall?" as Broadway opened another door, looked inside—and used one of the phrases Elisa used when she was really ticked off, as he clenched his fist and dug talon-grooves into the doorjamb.
Matt poked his head in and looked at where Broadway's accusing finger was pointing… at a large X that had been carved in the linoleum in the middle of the room. "You sure that's yours?"
"You think I don't know my own X's?" Broadway asked indignantly. Then he looked again, just to be sure, while also looking around to see if the room had any other doors… which it didn't.
Matt uttered a few choice words too. "This must be another of the moving rooms on this floor. Which are not marked on the diagram! Sure would've been nice if the Grandmaster had just sent us the floor plans for every floor in the building, but noooo, with the Illuminati every last little thing is on a 'need to know' basis…"
With no other recourse, they went back to opening more doors and carving more X's. Four doors later, Broadway opened another door and noticed, "Hey, there's a door on the other side of this room."
So they stepped into the room to check out the other door—and that's when the floor gave way.
"Shit!" they screamed together as they spun and scrambled up the rapidly-sloping floor to try to get back to the door, but they were too late; first Broadway, then Matt dropped into the yawning black abyss below them.
Broadway flailed with all six limbs, trying to catch air in his wings to slow his fall while reaching for a wall to sink his talons into. And he touched a wall, sinking his talons into it, grabbing hold to stop his fall—just as Matt, also flailing frantically in midair, grabbed one of his wings.
Broadway roared in pain as Matt swung down and desperately hung off his right wingtip; the sudden great weight at that angle had dislocated his wingjoint! But he kept his grip on the wall, grimly sinking all his talons in despite the agony radiating from his wing through his whole body. Then Broadway slowly, painfully climbed up the pit walls to the open door, pulling himself and Matt to safety.
Matt's profuse thanks and apologies tumbled over one another. He said he'd re-set dislocated shoulders a few times while in the FBI and NYPD, so Broadway let him try to set his dislocated wing-joint. He crouched in the hallway, panting harshly from the pain, while Matt carefully moved the wing, found the right angle and shoved the wing back into its socket.
Broadway roared again from the fresh burst of agony and collapsed onto the floor, but several moments later was able to get back on all fours and move his wing slightly. "Yeah, it's back in place; thanks."
"Least I could do, partner," Matt said as he slowly sat down to rest against the nearest wall. "Will you be able to glide again?"
Broadway shook his head emphatically. "Not till after a day's stone sleep."
"S'alright; once we get out of here, I've got enough for cab fare for us both."
After helping Broadway with his wing, Matt was more than happy to just sit against the wall and rest for a few minutes. Now that the adrenaline rush from almost dying had faded, he felt utterly wrung out and the small pains that had become a constant in his life since that last battle with the Quarrymen, were now much larger pains.
Climbing down the ladder and aggravating his hip, falling down twice while in the moving room, and then swinging and banging into the side of the pit while hanging for dear life onto Broadway's wing… about the only part of him that didn't ache was his hair.
But they still had a job to do, and a man to save. After a few minutes of rest Matt reached for his cane, lying next to the door to the pit. He'd been lucky that, when he'd tossed it away from him while flailing for a handhold to keep from falling, the cane had sailed right through the open door.
Once Matt was on his feet again, he pulled out the diagram the Grandmaster had given them as he said, "In a way, finding that pit is a good thing. It's a room that can't be moved on tracks, and what's more, that pit's going to show up on every floor below this one too. We can orient on it, and figure out where we are. Look, here it is on the diagram!"
With diagram in hand, they retraced their steps thirty feet, then stepped into one of the rooms that had strobe lights flashing. Trying hard to ignore the flashing lights, Broadway got down on his knees and dug his talons into the carpet, to start ripping away chunks of flooring. In two minutes, he had created a hole into the room below; he dropped down through it, then helped Matt down as well.
The room below was filled with a large bank of computers and monitors. They said together, "Jackpot!"
The monitor controls weren't hard to figure out. After a little experimenting, Matt began a room-by-room search, starting with the first floor of the facility. And on the second floor, they found a man sitting in a corner of one of the strobe-lit rooms; hunched over and facing away from the lights, his face hidden from their view.
"Room 217," Matt said with satisfaction. "Okay, now let's deactivate the rooms. The Grandmaster wrote instructions on the bottom of the diagram."
But following the instructions didn't give them the results they wanted. The strobes in Room 217 kept flashing. They double-checked the controls, then tried again… and the strobes still flashed, which meant none of the rooms had been deactivated.
Broadway finally got fed up and growled, "I know how to shut them all down!" Then he reached behind the bank of computers and yanked out all the power cords.
With electronic moans of protest, the computers all shut down… and so did the lights in the room. The Hotel Cabal went dark and utterly silent; the ever-present hum of machinery that they'd been hearing died away.
"Sorry. Should I plug them in again? ...Uh oh. This plug got kind-of mangled..."
"And with our luck, if we did plug them all back in, the bug would still be in the system and all the rooms would be activated again." Matt sighed as he pulled out his flashlight and turned it on. "Looks like we'll have to go down and get him the hard way, through the elevator shaft…"
The climb down the elevator shaft was safer this time, since the elevators had stopped running. But Matt's hands were trembling with fatigue by the time they had descended to the second floor.
After Broadway punched through the doors into the second floor, they stopped to rest for a bit before looking for the missing Illuminati member, hallooing up and down the halls while shining their flashlights into the rooms.
After a few minutes, they heard a voice in the dark, coming towards them while complaining, "It's about time you got here! Do you know what I've been going through these last few hours?"
The voice sounded familiar to Matt… and so did the features of the man he swept his flashlight over, following the sound of the voice. Matt knew this Illuminati member, and with recognition came instant rage. Rage born of betrayal, a scar several years old now but still as vivid and ugly as the day it was carved in his soul.
"Martin Hacker," Matt spat as he trained his flashlight right in the man's face, making him flinch back and cover his eyes. "If I'd known it was you, I'd have waited a day or two longer before coming in."
Broadway looked at Martin Hacker, then back at Matt. "Your ex-partner in the FBI, right?"
"That's right. The man who pretended to be my partner—my friend—while stymieing all my efforts to uncover the Illuminati. The man who finally got me fired from the Bureau; isn't that right, Hacker? I got too close to the truth when I started digging into the Hanover Norton Trust, didn't I? So you submitted that evaluation with all the lies about how unstable I had become, and got me booted out!"
"Well, yes, but that's old news; you're not still mad about it, are you?" Martin said with a shrug. "You're a member now, so you should understand; I was protecting the organization. It was nothing personal."
"Nothing personal?" Matt echoed incredulously. It had been pretty damn personal to him; after he'd been fired from the FBI, he'd been rejected by four other cities' police departments before being hired by the NYPD, after suffering through a far more rigorous examination than most applicants ever got. Did Martin actually think that saying 'nothing personal' somehow made it hurt less?
"Well, look at it this way, Matt," Broadway said as he took a step forward, then turned to face Matt—as Martin Hacker shouted and fell backwards. Matt heard the thud of Martin hitting the floor hard, as Broadway continued, "If he hadn't gotten you booted out of the FBI, then you would never have met the clan, and we wouldn't be partners now. So some good came out of it after all, I'd say."
Then Broadway looked back over his shoulder. "Whoops. If you hung around gargoyles more, Mr. Hacker, you'd know to be careful of our tails when we turn around; we need room to maneuver. But hey, it was nothing personal."
Martin got back on his feet, rubbing the back of his head and glaring daggers at Broadway but saying nothing. Stifling his vindictive glee, Matt told Martin, "Follow us down the elevator shaft to the first floor. And after we get out, you're paying our cab fare."
Once they were outside the Hotel Cabal, Martin Hacker did indeed pay their cab fare, handing a twenty to the cabbie while waiting for another cab for himself. They took the taxi back to their office; after calling the Grandmaster and giving their report, they'd call the clan to come give Broadway a lift home.
His wing still hurt like hell, but Broadway was less concerned about that than about the way Matt's hand trembled with exhaustion as he leaned on his cane, while they rode the elevator up to their office. Matt wasn't safe to drive his car; the clan would need to give him a lift home as well.
As they opened the door to their office, Broadway muttered, "The Illuminati can officially go suck gravel. I don't care how much they pay us; I'm never setting foot inside that screwball 'hotel' again!"
Matt fervently agreed. "But we finished the case… and I am going to double the Grandmaster's fee!"