I do not own One Piece or Elton John's songs. Shame I can't write any Flogging Molly or Linkin Park.
Note: Think about '58 to '61 as the time-frame, please. Also, this is almost like closure and in a way has Chapter 440/441 spoilers... and my fanon. Lovely, lovely fanon. Oh, and some racial insults. Don't mind those; all part of the plan.
Take Me to the Pilot
If you feel that it's real I'm on trial
And I'm here in your prison
Like a coin in your mint
I am dented and I'm spent with high treason
Ace knew he was in trouble from the moment he saw him. Teach was a big man, almost too big to plausibly be of any trouble, but the young man knew better than that. Ace remembered the anguish the bastard had caused when he left the gang. The entire ordeal had been a catastrophe, shaking the foundation of the organization old Pops Newgate had worked hard to build from scratch. Even though they were called a "gang" by the police, it was more like a large band of brothers, uncles and fathers; Marshall D. Teach disrupted all of that. A man was now dead, a new widow was grieving and the heel was still on the run.
When Pops had assigned Ace the mission of tracking down Teach, he immediately jumped on it. Teach and Billy Sachman had been two of the men under Ace's command in the Atlanta branch, so he knew them better than Pops even did. The two had been almost like brothers in the years they were in the gang together. Teach was even one of the groomsmen when Billy married his wife, Denise, five years ago. The past twelve years were only a ruse to that man, the past three of them a now-painful stint of memory in Ace's mind.
Of course, it was Ace was the one who found Sachman, or "Sachi", the morning after Teach killed him, bloodied and hacked to pieces. Denise had called on Ace, wanting to know where he was keeping her husband. He immediately rushed down to the meat processor place that Sachi and Teach had been watching the night before to scout rival gang activity. It had been a gruesome sight, one that he made sure Denise never saw. Ace's blood had boiled over when he found that Teach was nowhere to be found. He knew the only way to resolve the somber pain was to take out the splinter causing it.
To Ace, this was a moment to truly prove himself. He was much younger than most of the men under his command, some beat him by twenty or thirty years at the least. He had been a prodigy, doubted by a few of the older men to have much skill and intellect. Pops knew Ace was an able and effective leader, simply due to his war-hero relations in the military. He had total faith in Ace that he would complete his mission and bring back Teach for punishment. Cement shoes played with Ace's mind as he booked a flight to Vegas, the place where he knew to find his prey. The budding city was brimming with the booze, women, money and lackeys he knew Teach craved. It was only a matter of time now.
Through a glass eye your throne
Is the one danger zone
Take me to the pilot for control
Take me to the pilot of your soul
The air was thick and heavy, warm and pungent with the sweet smell of cigarettes from the other patrons. Long ago, the bartender had dimmed the lights, allowing the girl on the stage to monopolize the attention with her sequined dress and beehive coiffed hair as she sang some song that was not even anything new. Even from the bar, Ace could see that she was just another washed up nobody. Any second, he knew, the thick layer of cosmetics would crack and fall from her face and onto the floor. The other customers loved her however. It was a filthy dive, filled with hookers and scumbags not fit for the casinos of reputable status. Ace sipped his scotch with disdain; these were the kinds of places that made people like him seem unsavory. It was disgusting how he could have picked the Sands or Mirage and the people would have been exactly the same, only dressed classier.
Turning around on the stool, Ace put his back to the songstress and stared at the ice left in his glass. The rounded cubes were melting, the little mounds sliding to and fro as he shifted their clear container. He pretended to not notice the casually-dressed man that sat down next to him, placing a manila folder on the oaken bar.
"I thought you weren't going to rest until you caught Sachi's killer," the man said in a low tone so that only Ace could hear.
"Hey Joe, I need another round; one for my buddy here too," Ace said towards the barman. The burly man poured two more drinks and went back to watching the house entertainment, completely ignoring Ace and his company.
"I'm serious, Ace," the man said, picking up his drink. "Pops is beginning to wonder if you really have what it takes to catch a stray lamb."
"Pops never said anything like that."
"It's been a few months. I thought you said you nearly had him three weeks ago."
"You know what happened Marco. It's always the same thing that happens whenever I need my cool."
"I fell asleep."
Marco sighed and slid the envelope closer to Ace. Intrigued, Ace picked it up and looked at the contents. One was a smaller white envelope, but the others looked like blurry security photographs. It reminded him of the blurry Polaroids that his grandpa would take of him and his brother when they were little. The outline was clear enough for Ace to recognize the man in the foreground, reading a newspaper in a hotel lobby. His nostrils flared in anger.
"This was taken a few days ago at the hotel down the street," Marco said, noting Ace's rediscovered anger. "I know the owner; he owes us a few favors. He's been keeping close tabs on Teach. Apparently, he's trying to start a gang of his own."
"Why would he do that?"
"It might have something to do with this," Marco said, pointing at one of the photographs still on the bar. Ace picked it up and saw that it was Teach in his room, along with a few other men. He was holding out a handgun in admiration. Even without the aide of color and clarity, Ace could tell exactly which gun it was.
"That's Sachi's Switchblade," he muttered.
"Custom made, right?" Marco asked. "Heard he was protective of that thing and it was second only to his wife."
"Switchblade is probably one of the best guns ever made. No other gun is like it. The thing has such a balanced form and precision shot that even a brat could make a kill-shot with it."
"Then what is Teach planning on doing with it?"
"That's what I want to know," Ace said. He stood up quickly and near ran from the bar. Marco glanced at the abandoned scotch and sighed.
"Damn kid's going to get himself killed."
He downed both drinks and thought nothing more of it.
Take me to the pilot
Lead me through the chamber
Ace leaned up against a tree, gasping desperately for air. Silently, he thanked it for being there. The young man tensed as he heard the roar of the jalopy engine speed towards him. This would have been a score time easier had he not had to deal with the lackeys.
"Gracias for the ride, Doc!" laughed a burly voice. Ace grit his teeth in disdain. The car sputtered into idle on the other side of the tree and a thumping sound shook the leaves on the tree. Ace reached for the gun in his side-holster and braced himself.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," smirked a voice from behind his ear. The wrong end of a cold pistol shaft found Ace's neck and he froze.
"Go home," Ace said as an arm curled around his neck. "This isn't your fight."
"Oh, but it is definitely our fight hombre," the burly voice laughed again. The largest, most powerful-looking Mexican man Ace knew he would ever see stepped into his line of vision. He slipped on a pair of brass knuckles and chuckled.
"Careful Jesús," the man behind Ace warned. "Teach wants him alive."
"Just a little sport, mi amigo," the large man smiled. "Can't let the boss have all the fun."
"So," Ace spat, "Teach really has sunk then. Since when does he need to rely on a displaced kraut and a migrant beaner to do his dirty work for him?" A spark was lit in the Mexican man's eyes.
"Tú canalla!" Jesús roared, lunging for Ace. The young man smiled as the barrel went from his neck and into the air, setting off a wasted round into the sky.
"What did I tell you!?" the man with the gun roared. "I don't care what he says about us!"
"Now, now, Auger," sighed a voice that made Ace's nostrils flare. It was low; too low for the Mexican man to hear. "You know I picked Jesús because he wasn't the smartest one in the field. All he needs to be able to do is deck a guy good and he's excellent for the position."
"You have a point," the gunman said, letting go of Ace's neck. Ace immediately pushed away and turned to face Teach. He was standing near the low shrubs, the car about fifty paces behind him.
A big man, just like Ace remembered. Maybe, a little too big.
Take me to the pilot
I am but a stranger
"Why'd you do it, Teach?" Ace asked. He felt the angry eyes of Jesús, as well as Auger's cold stare, bore into him. Teach's eyes, however, were full of mirth and amusement.
"Do what?" he asked.
"You're the one who killed Sachi."
"Now how would you know that?" Teach scoffed.
"Sachi and you were the only two men in that area that night. You also have Switchblade. Something tells me that you're planning something real big if you murdered your best friend and stole his prized gun."
Ace stared at Teach, his eyes alight with an angry fire.
"Zeh-heh," Teach laughed. "I guess there's no hiding it from you, kid. I never would've guessed it, but you really are something."
"I'm your commander. Don't you think that should be proof enough?"
"Ah, but sometimes it is those lower in the pecking order you should watch out for." Teach aimed the gun directly at Ace's forehead. "Sachi was never my friend and never were you. The only reason I've been here was for Switchblade, and that is all that matters."
"All lies. Sachi and Denise were fond of you, Pops was fond of you. You can't just turn around and say that none of the past twelve years mattered."
"I just did," Teach smiled. He clicked his tongue with a wicked grin on his face.
Suddenly, all went black.
Take me to the pilot
Lead me through the chamber
Ace groaned as he wearily came to. His throat was raw and his skin clammy. He fidgeted slightly, only enough to figure his hands were bound behind his back. The floor he was on was slick with something, though colder than a winter's breeze.
"Good to see you are awake now," Auger's voice said in a detached deadpan. Ace opened his eyes and looked around. Auger sat on a crate about five feet away, cleaning his rifle. Large racks of meat hung from the ceiling, still dripping blood from being slaughtered. His breath was misty as his body began shaking in the chilled environment.
"Where am I?" Ace demanded, careful not to lose his cool. Auger went on cleaning his gun.
"A meat freezer," he answered.
"Where is Teach?"
"What are you planning?"
"I do not plan; Teach does that for me."
Ace lay there for what felt like hours. The longer his stomach growled, the more his head began to throb. His captor must have had ten different guns on his person, for all he did was clean and inspect them.
Dietrich von Auger: a sniper so skilled, he could have won the entire war in Europe had he not been in prison for squabbling with Hitler. There was no escaping as long as he had firepower.
A door somewhere slammed open and four sets of heavy footprints walked in. Ace tried to crane his neck to see, but Auger hit him with the butt of a rifle.
"How's our little guest?" Teach chortled.
"Awake now," Auger sneered. A kick found itself in Ace's spine. He must have tried to think about escaping; he only asked three questions."
"Four or less and he's plotting something," Teach said casually. He yanked Ace up by the scruff of his neck and threw him into one of the half-frozen racks of meat. "You're plotting something, aren't 'cha boy?!"
Ace crumpled to the ground, foreign blood splashed against his face and clothes. In his state, he knew fighting was out of the question. He was too cold and too hungry to be of any use to himself. If he warmed up a little, then maybe his muscles would cooperate long enough to get him out of there and to the nearest diner. Yeah… a diner. Food was what he should focus on.
"What should we do with him Teach?" coughed a raspy voice. The coarse Jesús replied.
"We kill him, of course! What were you thinking about Doc?"
"Oh, I don't know. He seems like such a lively boy."
"I know just what to do with him," Teach said menacingly. "He might actually become useful." Ace sprang to stand up, maybe even fight off the bastard, but froze in mid-air. With a silent cry, he fell to the ground, harmless and asleep. Of all the times.
Take me to the pilot
I am but a stranger
Ace sat in the corner of the filthily bare room, glaring at his captors. Auger was peering out the open window, spilling the dull roar of a crowd below into the room. Teach was cleaning Switchblade, meticulously fussing over each part. Jesús and "Doc" were discussing something that was only half in English. The fifth, a lean man with a cane, had yet to come around again. He had left a few hours previous for "prep work" and never returned. Ace's body ached from when he was beaten in the meat cooler. He found no diner; only brass knuckles and steel-toed boots. After he fell asleep, they made sure he was not going anywhere.
"How long until Lafitte comes back?" Auger asked uneasily. "I doubt getting the security clearance is what is taking the time."
"Let him play," Teach yawned. "Lafitte always comes back. The parade may have the tightest security in town, but we need tighter. He came back north of Seoul."
"This isn't Korea," Doc said. "We're all older now with lives on the line. What do you have against this guy anyways?"
"A lot, actually," Teach said, popping the final piece of the gun back into place. "More than anyone will ever know."
"Are you going to frame me?" Ace asked, his voice weak. He tugged a little at the handcuffs shackling him to the pipe. He had not eaten or drank in two days.
"Look who decided to grow some balls and talk," Jesús laughed. "What do you think, mijo? We're just going to let you walk on out of here without a care?"
"I think you might like who we've got in store here," Teach said as he admired Switchblade in the sunlight spilling in from the window. "I think he's just your kind of person."
Just then, Lafitte slammed into the room. The cane he held looked more like the kind a pimp would carry than a policeman. He pointed it at Auger, his eyes cold and chiseled.
"Get away from the window. They're doing a visual check as we speak," he ordered. Auger jumped back from the window and hid in the corner. Everyone else shifted further towards the opposite wall.
"Thanks Lafitte," Teach said, standing up to shake the cop's hand. "How's the rest of the security system look?"
"Pretty tight up until this turn," Lafitte said. "If anyone is going to make a move, it would have to be from this corner. Even brick has eyes around here."
"Good, good…" Teach trailed off into thought. "Is the procession set to start soon?"
"Already embarked from Fifth and Kings."
"Nice job. Get back out there so you can bag the suspect. We're counting on our good men in uniform to do their duty and serve the law well."
"Right then," Lafitte smiled. He turned around and smacked Ace in the shins with his cane before walking out of the room.
"I think I see them coming," Auger whispered. Teach rushed to the window and laughed heartily. He quickly grabbed Switchblade and one round of ammunition. He shoved it in the cylinder and cocked the pistol.
"Can I at least know who I am killing?" Ace asked. Auger smiled as he backed away from the window and came towards Ace with a pipe.
"Dear old Opa," he grinned. He raised the pipe over his head just as Teach took aim out the window. Ace felt a pang in his stomach; he had not left home under the best of circumstances and had yet to tell the old man he was sorry. Now he was too weak to do anything; no rope binding for his lighter to burn through, nor energy to squander in hand-to-hand combat. The pipe connected with his head and Ace faded out, the pistol only a soft noise in the distance.
Well I know he's not old
And I'm told he's a virgin
"Do you recognize this gun?" the officer asked. Ace glared at Switchblade, tagged for the murder case and held by a white glove. "Well brat, do you?"
"That is Sachi's gun, not mine," he said, the bright overhead light making his eyes squint. "I never killed anyone with it."
"I never asked if you killed anyone yet," the officer frowned. He took a puff of his cigar and sighed. "Listen, kid, you're not cooperating and we can be in here all day if you don't shape up."
"You mean if I don't confess," Ace said. He wished he could rub his wrists, as they were sore from the handcuffs that kept him bound to the chair. He had struggled early on, but the chair was bolted solid to the floor; it was no good.
"I'm warning you, kid," the officer said. "No more cheek out of you, or you'll go straight to Texas and you know what they do to killers like you."
"I'll admit I've beaten up many men, but I have not killed anyone," Ace said. "You're looking for Marshall D. Teach!"
"Teach has an alibi for that day: he was clear on the other side of town."
"He had inside help from a police officer!"
"If you're talking about Lafitte, he was present and accounted for during the incident as parade security. He was the one that found you, isn't it?"
"I have other names… Dietrich von Auger, Doctor Quentin Nigma, Jesús de el Toro…"
"…all with Teach and are part of his alibi. Do you seriously think you can get away with publicly murdering your own grandfather and blaming it on men who were clear on the other side of town? Since you began spouting that off, I've gained written documentation that proves those four men were working at the stables. While you were off killing, they were teaching fifth-graders how to ride a horse like a cowboy."
"…but Teach killed Sachi and I went after him and then they framed me! Officer Smoker, I had been trying to prevent something like that from happening! What reason would I have to kill my grandfather?"
"As many as a runaway can have," the officer said. He looked at one of the mirrored walls and frowned. "Tashigi! I need more coffee!"
For he may be she
But what I'm told is never for certain
"Smoker, you know I would have never even dreamt of going near Garp," Ace said, his tone as low as possible. "I have a good life now working in Atlanta. I'm seeing this girl; she's real nice and is probably worried sick over me. She knows I wouldn't do a damn thing wrong, 'cause she'd figure it out before I had a chance to do it. My girl's too smart to hide anything as big as this from her."
The door creaked open and in walked Smoker's assistant with coffee. She was a nice-looking Oriental girl with thick spectacles that Ace knew Smoker was eyeing as she delivered the steaming hot mug. She stared coldly at Ace, silently telling him that he would be dead if she had any say in the matter.
"You look a little like my Kai," he said smoothly.
"Kai is a boy's name," she said acidly.
"Well she couldn't help what her parents wanted, could she now?"
"Tashigi-san, iie," Smoker said, halting what would have been angry words in the woman's throat. His assistant took the empty mug from earlier and stormed out of the room, closing the heavy steel door effortlessly.
Smoker sipped his coffee and glared at Ace. They had been in there for hours already, looping around the same old conversation. It was time, the cop thought, to take this to a different level.
"What does Edward Newgate have to do with this operation of yours?" he asked, leaning slightly over the table. Ace resisted against the handcuffs, making his wrists bleed.
"Pops had nothing to do with this!" he screamed.
"He sent you after Teach, didn't he?"
"Who told you?!"
"Teach has sought protection from the police, on account that he left your little gang a few months ago. He figured someone would be after him, though I never expected we would get someone so high in the ranks."
"Leave them out of this!" Ace hissed. "I'm no snitch, nor a sell-out."
"Then admit this was your own plan, independent of anything Newgate could have concocted."
"Teach killed William Sachman and I was out to bring him to justice." Ace sneered at the police officer, passing along all feelings of conviction he may have had bottled up. "You should know something about justice, being a cop and all." Smoker turned back to the mirrored wall, refusing to look Ace in the eyes.
"Take him to Impel Down," he said, his controlled anger barely surfacing. "Maybe a while in there will change his attitude." A voice came over the speaker system in a box above their heads.
"Do you think that is wise, James? Edward Newgate is not known for letting his subordinates go so easily."
"So be it," Smoker said. "We will even execute him if that's what it takes. Get him out of my sight."
Smoker walked out of the room and allowed the burly security guards to handle Ace. He did not care that the young man was going to fight it out, or fall asleep in the process, but that was all irrelevant. What mattered was "justice" for the fallen Garp and he was going to get it, one way or another.