volume two, issue three
"Fatherly sins, part two"
Montgomery was a man of means. A man of the streets – something more common than not in New Orleans, sure, but he had always described himself as unique.
Most thought he was crazy. That just because his beard had now joined the visible chest hair just above his (now) off-white v-neck t-shirt he'd lost his mind. It wasn't the case, he'd argue (mostly with himself, not really helping his claim of sanity), it was just that there weren't many showers on the streets.
If you were lucky, it rained. It was better and much safer to use God's shower than it was to take a dip in the bayou. Lord only knew what was in there.
But things were about to change for Montgomery. Things were about to change for New Orleans.
He'd been a wealthy man at one point – a man of status. People respected him, respected his input: he was more than terminally unique then, and he was about to be more than he'd ever been before.
He was going to save New Orleans.
Montgomery brought the razor he'd finally found (didn't anyone throw them away anymore?) to his neck.
Save New Orleans indeed.
"Your blood was on de carpet," Gambit stood before Jean-Luc LeBeau. Before his (adoptive?) father.
"My blood's left my ol' body many times over, son," Jean-Luc stiffened. "Since when does bleedin' count as dyin', hm?"
Three tiny knives slid down LeBeau's arm and into his fingertips. "Who are you?"
"Your daddy," the elder LeBeau took a step toward him. "I been tryin' to get your attention, Remy… for about two weeks now, as it were. Yer too busy wit' Bella Donna and destroyin' my Guild t'notice."
"Daddy?" Gambit smirked. "My 'daddy' is dead. Been dead. Deader'n you."
"Fine," the former Thieves Patriarch cracked his knuckles. "If I gotta beat de truth into you, might as well. Ain't de first time it's had t'happen."
The three knives left LeBeau's digits, slicing through the air and connecting with the wall behind his supposed father. The wall splintered, exploded, lashing out in every direction possible after Jean-Luc flipped from harm's way.
He landed a few feet before Gambit and stood. "Last chance, Remy. Drop dis and hug yer ol' man."
Gambit's elbow connected with Jean-Luc's jaw, the older man stumbling back and slamming into a bookcase within the wall. Several novels hit the ground with a thud, the elder LeBeau rebounding and tackling Gambit onto the floor.
Remy reacted quickly, bringing his knees up into the man's gut and sending him flying from atop him to the floor behind. Gambit threw himself up in unison with Jean-Luc, grabbed a few cards from his pocket, and let them fly.
One card he'd overshot, another undershot and still another exploded in Jean-Luc's face. The man stumbled back and fell back to the ground. "Damnit, boy!"
Jean-Luc had little time to retort further, Gambit landing atop him, his staff pressed firmly against the man's throat. It began to glow a bright pink amidst his grip.
"Who are you?"
"De answer is right in front of you," Bella Donna stared into Henri's eyes from behind her young daughter.
"H'lo, Jack," Henri smiled down at the girl within Bella Donna's office.
"Henri," Jacqueline grinned and nodded. She was no ordinary seven-year-old.
"Bel," Gambit's second-in-command stood, "we need t'talk. Alone."
"S'been comin'," she agreed. "Honey, why don' you—"
"—go find somethin' t'do, Caroline's in the kitchen, it's time to eat anyway," Jack smiled up at her mother. "I know, mama."
The Assassin's heir smiled again at Henri and pecked her mother on the cheek before heading off to the kitchen.
"What're you doin' to Remy?"
"Walk wit' me, Henri," Bella Donna left the sanctity of her porch, her arm locked with his. She pulled him along, not having given him much choice. It reminded Henri of the old days – the days before Remy. He'd loved her once.
But that was a long time ago. "Get off me, y'old witch."
Bella Donna retracted her arm, crossing them in front of her chest instead. The two walked toward the Bayou. "You're messin' wit' somethin' bigger'n you realize, Henri."
"I ain't stupid, Bel. You an' Remy been fraternizin', de whole of New Orleans knows it. Remy ain't been right for weeks, one of my members is missin', and de one who was s'posed t'show up with him told me he stopped by t'see you. I ain't in de mood for games."
Bella Donna stopped a few feet from the water, turning deadpan to Remy's second-in-command. "I killed Davis. He's dead."
"You said you didn' wanna play games. So we won't. I killed him. Dat headstrong boy ain't got no business chargin' into my home, somethin' all of you seem to have a problem wit' lately. Demandin' drugs."
"Leah's got track marks, Bella Donna. She get 'em from you? Why was he demandin' drugs from de head of de Assassins? How are you runnin' your guild, woman? Where's de honor?"
"So you're peddlin' drugs? Are you out of your mind?"
"I'm an Assassin, Henri. I kill. Wit' a knife, I kill. Wit' a gun, I kill. Wit' drugs…"
"I get it," Henri's stomach turned. She looked satisfied – he'd never been more disgusted with her. "Every time I t'ink you're a decent woman…"
"Listen to yourself!"
"I'm serious, Bel. I don't like you, but I at least used t'have some respect for you… you're supposed t'be a leader."
"You watch the news, Henri? People don' need assassins anymore. Hell, people don' even need t'ieves! They're doin' it all them damn selves!"
"So you start sellin' drugs? You start givin' heroine to kids wit' a kid of your own in de house? What in de hell is wrong with you? Are you usin'?"
Bella Donna pulled up one sleeve at a time. Her skin was porcelain, clear, untouched. "I ain't stupid."
Henri sighed. "You killed one o'us, Bel. I can't just let dat go."
"Honor," Bella Donna scoffed. "Codes. Rules. Regulations. Dat's de past, Henri. Dere ain't no deals with immortals. Dere ain't no immortals. We're all just people, just people tryin' to survive. Guild is just a name."
"It all used t'mean somethin'," Bella Donna looked away. The winds blew over the bayou and through her hair, "yeah. It did."
"Back when you had him? What about your little girl? Have you even told him?"
"He knows, Henri. I know he knows. She told me she met Remy."
"He don' know, Bel. And if he did… what d'you t'ink would happen? You gonna move in together, sell drugs together? Be one big happy family? Remy ain't like you, he ain't like me, he ain't like any o'us. De boy's a hero."
"Because he was an X-Man?"
"Because he's his father's son," Henri shook his head. "He got outta dis mess. I love havin' him here, yeah, but dis ain't his place. Not anymore."
Bella Donna stiffened. "De old ways, de heroism – an' listen t'you, dere ain't no heroism in bein' a goddamn T'ief – it's all gone. Jean Luc took it with 'im. Jean Luc is dead."
"I'm tellin' you I ain't!" Jean Luc stared up at his son. Remy felt his eyes pierce his own. Gambit pulled his staff back, its glow disappearing. "I'm right here, you swamp rat!"
The younger LeBeau took a step back, surveying the damage in the room. He suddenly felt at ease. Jean Luc pulled himself up, rubbing his neck. His hand fell on Remy's shoulder, Remy's tension mounting again. Gambit turned quickly, grabbing his wrist and pulling his father forward into the knife he'd held in his hand. Jean Luc doubled over, his blood-fused saliva leaping from his lips.
"You. Ain't. My. Father."
Gambit shoved the old man away from him, the body falling to the floor with a crunch. LeBeau turned, walked to the battered desk at the front of the room, took a seat and lit a cigarette. He ran his hand across his forehead and fell limp in the chair behind him, the cigarette toppling to the ground.
It was several hours later that the door to the room slammed against the floor, its hinges broken. Henri stood at the office's entrance, the door knob in his right hand, staring blankly ahead at the destruction. His eyes focused on Remy, asleep – dead? – in the chair behind what was left of the desk.
"Remy?!" Henri darted forward, LeBeau jolting upward and stumbling forward a second later, his palms sweaty and against the desk as he caught himself. "What in de hell happened?!"
"I… don' know," Remy confessed. He looked up at Henri, his only friend grabbing his arm and tossing it over his shoulder. "Jean Luc!"
Remy pushed him aside, moving around the desk to see an empty room with no sign of his father, imposter or otherwise. "He was here, Henri… somebody was… it was… it was horrible," Remy's knees went weak. His second-in-command caught him effortlessly, his shoulder at the ready once again.
"I know what happened, Remy. Bella Donna."
Remy's head turned. He looked so lost, so confused. Henri had never felt such a swell of pity for the man – it wasn't a good feeling.
"She told me everyt'ing."
"An what's dat?"
"De woman put a spell on you."
"Drugs, Remy," Henri sighed. "Bella Donna drugged you. Last night. Somethin' from New York, somethin' she or somebody else got from somebody in… Mutant Town?"
"An' here I thought I wasn't makin' any sense."
"We gon' deal wit' dis tomorrow, Remy. We gon' deal wit' it hard. Right now, let's get you to your bed, hm?"
Gambit wanted to fight, wanted to struggle. He wanted answers, explanations. But right now, Henri knew best: he wanted sleep.
THE NEXT DAY
"Run de tape again, Henri," Remy leaned forward, his face only a foot away from the monitor before him. He was glad he'd won the fight to install security cameras around the Guild home, a notion many of the comers-and-goers of the Guild home found invasive and ridiculous. But, then again, they were thieves.
"How many times you gonna watch it?"
"Just once more," LeBeau waved his hand, Henri starting the tape up again. Remy watched the fight ensue. There were waves of kinetic energy – in cards, in knives, in his staff. There were splintering doors, shards of desk, papers flying.
He watched himself topple to the ground, slam into bookcases, all of it. Only there was no one else there. There was only Remy LeBeau. Only Gambit.
He'd been alone the entire time.
"Dat's enough," Remy watched himself collapse in the chair for the seventh time. "Jesus, Henri," he looked up at his old friend.
"You saw Jean Luc de whole time, Remy?"
"I wasn' just talkin' to myself," Gambit shook his head. "Well. I guess I was… but I didn't t'ink so, not at de time. I'm not crazy, mon ami."
"You were," he replied. "What I been tryin' to tell you, Remy, it was Bella Donna. She drugged you."
"I heard you. I just don' want to believe it."
"Somet'in foul, Remy. It was green… almost reminded me of de bayou, 'cept a lil cleaner."
"What's everybody got against de bayou? I was born an' raised in dat thing."
"Like I said. Foul."
Remy smiled for the first time in a day, running his hand through his hair as he stood. "Only one t'ing t'do, den."
"Pay a visit to Bella Donna," Remy's eyes narrowed. "You say she killed Davis."
"She's got Leah in wit' drugs heavy."
"Leah who's since disappeared, Remy."
"An' she drugged me. Wit' somethin' from New York herself. T'inks she's playin' all fancy, dealin' with someone in Mutant Town?"
"From what she told me, Remy, yes."
"De guilds, Henri… they're fightin' a different kinda war dese days."
"One you," the door to their left slammed open, Bella Donna standing in the doorway, "ain't prepared to fight, Remy LeBeau."
Remy reached inside his pocket, Henri stepping in front of him. "What are you doing here, Bella Donna?"
"You been payin' enough visits to my home," she shifted her weight, "I figured I owed you one."
"What did you do to me, Bel?"
"Well, if you remember, it started wit' wine…"
"And apparently somet'in' else, not long after."
"You look like hell, Remy."
"I kicked de shit out of myself, dat's why. Whatever it is you got from Mutant Town… whatever it is you slipped me to touch your filthy hide…"
Remy pushed past Henri, moving toward his ex-wife and stopping a few centimeters from her face. "You're lucky you're a woman, Bella Donna."
Bella Donna's eyes narrowed and her stomach tightened, the Assassin spitting directly on Gambit's face. LeBeau turned, wiped his face and extended his staff all in one movement – bringing it toward Bella Donna until she stepped aside, her young daughter revealed behind her.
Jack winced at the staff but remained still. She brought her hand to it, wrapping it around its end. "This is nice."
LeBeau retracted his staff.
"Bel," Henri spoke up from behind. "What are you doin'?"
"It's time he knew, Henri."
"What are you--?" Remy stared down at the girl, his eyes darting to Bella Donna a second later, then back to Henri. "You knew about this?"
"Remy, I didn' t'ink… Jesus, Bel, get her outta here. Have you lost your mind?"
"I'm sorry, Remy, but Jack here is your daughter. Look at her."
Gambit took a step back.
"We've met," Jack said innocently. "At the candy store?"
"Yeah, petite. I… remember."
"Come home wit' me, Remy. Wit' us. I been tellin' Jacqueline all about you. She's excited to get to know her daddy."
"Get. Her. Out of here."
"Henri," Bella Donna glared, "dis ain't none of your concern."
"De hell it ain't—"
"—no, Henri, she's right. It ain't."
"I ain't got no daughter," Remy stiffened, his eyes avoiding the stance of the young girl. "I ain't interested in playin' house wit' a murderer and a drug pusher," he glared at Bella Donna, "and I sure as hell don' have no friends in New Orleans," he finally turned to Henri.
"Remy, I was tryin' to—"
"Shut up, Henri."
Bella Donna's hand grabbed at LeBeau's, Gambit knocking it away. "Touch me again, woman, and so help me…"
"Calm down, Remy. I know dis ain't de…"
LeBeau shoved past her, past Jack, leaving the three behind and moving downstairs.
"Mama?" Jack turned. "I thought…"
Bella Donna grabbed at her daughter, pulling her close, but she didn't follow.
TWO WEEKS LATER, THE CHURCH OF THE LOST THIEVES
For once, the warring town controlled by the Thieves and Assassins Guilds in New Orleans was quiet. The Patriarch of the Thieves stood tall, stood silent, staring down at his gathered brothers and sisters with a solemn expression.
When he spoke, he did so with carefully arranged words; planned words, down to the last syllable. The crowd matched his silence, all personal feelings placed aside – at least today. For as liberal as the Guild had become, in a time like this, tradition served them best, or at least as best it could.
The candles placed strategically around the church blew out quickly, the wind seeping inside from the gaping hole – tarp-covered or not – from Remy's run-in with the church walls. Henri made reference to this, several Guild members recalling LeBeau's trademark explosions with a smile.
"I will lead dis Guild to places it's never been wit' Remy's memory to guide me," Henri vowed. "We will continue de tradition de LeBeau's have laid before us, my T'ieves… I promise you dat."
Henri finished the service, as was his right after his succession to leader of the Thieves only three days ago, and stepped outside. Bella Donna met him in the shadows, pulling her cloak back slowly to reveal her blonde locks.
"They really t'ink he's dead, huh?"
"They t'ink what de Patriarch tells 'em to t'ink, Bel. For all intents and purposes, Remy LeBeau is dead to dis life. You made sure of dat."
"You could have told them de truth."
"What, Bel?" Henri stiffened. "Tell 'em dat you drugged de leader of de T'ieves? De one claim any of them have, personal feelings about Remy aside, to de hey-days of Jean Luc LeBeau? To tradition? An' more importantly, to money? Tell 'em dat because you brought your daughter into de mix, he just up an' left?"
"Do you ever get tired of de sound of your own voice, Henri?"
Henri's eyes were blank, the leader of the Thieves waving her away. Bella Donna pulled her hood up, turning into the shadows and heading home.
"…yes," Henri sighed. "Yes. I do."
NEXT: REMY HEADS TO NEW YORK.