"The Path Unfolding" – Part One
It's a basic reality of existence. Most things, eventually, are discarded and forgotten. Perhaps it becomes damaged or destroyed. Maybe something better is created to replace it. Such is the case with subway tunnels as newer, longer routes are created to replace the old. And eventually, such tunnels become little more than pitch black ruins, never to be ventured into again. Of course, if one has no wish to be found, such neglected nooks can also offer a welcome opportunity for sanctuary or escape…especially when a pair of nocturnal eyes can make light unnecessary for them to see. However, when one is being pursued by three pairs of glowing eyes which each possess the same ability, that advantage is quickly lost.
"He's getting too far ahead," a female Gargoyle noted between breaths, regarding her fellow pursuer who had pulled ahead, closing the gap on their quarry. "He shouldn't be so reckless down here."
"At least he's keeping up, which is more than what WE'RE doing," the male voice running beside her replied. "Don't forget what we're down here to get back. Would you rather we lost it?"
"No," the female replied, "But I'd like the thought of losing HIM even less."
"You have to stop underestimating him," the male answered. "Trust me. He can take care of himself."
"You know, we can put a stop to this anytime you like!" the third pursuer, another male, called out to his quarry, who was quickly losing ground. "I mean, it's not like you're actually going to lose me down here!"
The fugitive up ahead spoke not a word, merely clinging tightly to the prize she was determined to get away with. But with her lead dwindling fast, it was looking less and less likely that her determination would be enough. Desperate to stay out ahead, she surged off to the side and leapt past a fragile pillar, slashing through it as she passed as causing it to give way.
Her chaser's eyes went wide as he noted a portion of the tunnel ceiling crashing down right in front of him. But in that split-second, he realized he had a decision to make. Either press forward, or let his target escape. His glowing eyes now taking on a grim determination, he braced himself and surged ahead, picking up speed.
"Wait!" the female Gargoyle behind him called out as he leaped forward, just as the rubble smashed into the ground.
Luckily, he managed to make it to the other side, ahead of the falling debris. But his bold move had cost him as well. Sprawling to the ground from his leap cost him precious strides, which his prey was already taking full advantage of in order to pull ahead.
He could easily rise to his feet to take up the chase again, but enough was enough. His patience was quickly wearing thin. Luckily, his prey's escape attempt had now given him weapons he could use for himself. Acting quickly, he grabbed some fair-sized chunks of the tunnel ceiling that had collapsed and whirled around with a yell, pitching them both through the air and striking the female escapee hard in the back, sending her sprawling forward.
As she slammed into the damp tunnel floor, a small metallic cube came dislodged from the bundle she was holding and clattered off to the side. But she was too lost in her primary concern to notice as she turned around to see her pursuer standing over her, just a few short yards away.
"Are you done?" he asked simply, with crossed arms and a confident grin, "Because you KNOW I can keep this up all night."
No way to escape on foot now. She could try to stand and fight, but with her opponent's reinforcements only moments away, the odds were clearly not in her favor. There was only one move left. Reaching for the item she'd collected, she pressed a red button, with sent trails of twinkling lights spiraling all around her.
"Oh, I think you're going to find that you have far less time than you think," she taunted, glaring up at her pursuer with glowing, blood-red eyes as the glittering trails converged, surrounding her and causing her to vanish in a blink, before her hunter had time to recover from his surprise and make a move.
Seconds later, another flash caught his attention as a laser blast slammed through the debris that had kept his two allies separated from the chase. But by the time they had both trotted up to him, it was already too late.
"What happened?" the first male asked as soon as hey saw that their quarry was nowhere in sight.
"You know what? I'm not really sure," was all the second male could say, looking around before his Gargoyle eyes spotted the metallic cube that had rolled away, compelling him to crouch down and pick it up. "But…from the look of things, at least it wasn't a CLEAN getaway. This might help shed some light on a few things."
Just then, the tiny cube, gripped in his fingers, came to life with an eerie glow, instantly catching everyone's attention. But before anyone could even make sense out of what was happening, trails of twinkling lights began to swirl around him, just as they had done with their escaped fugitive.
"Oh…this can't be good," was all the second male could say, his worried eyes turning to his compatriots as the trails of light quickly began to close in on him.
"No…! ADAM!" the female Gargoyle cried out, reaching desperately for her companion.
But she was a split-second too late. In a blink of light, he was gone…leaving his teammates confused and alone.
The sun was gently completing its descent beyond the New York skyline. And from Castle Wyvern, atop the Eyrie Building, that could only mean one thing, as the air quickly echoed with the sounds of crackling stone and roars that sounded almost like the great yawns of wild beasts. And after a few moments of waking stretches, The Gargoyles' Manhattan Clan was ready to face yet another night in the Big Apple.
"Hey Angela, want to get some breakfast?" Broadway asked immediately, heavily trotting up behind her while the rest of the clan prepared to go their separate ways for the evening.
"Hm…wouldn't miss it," Angela replied, her words mixed with a light giggle as Broadway took her hand in his and the pair glided down into the courtyard.
Oblivious to them, however, was Brooklyn, who was peering around the corner, nearby. And as they gently made their descent below, it only served as a reminder of how much closer they were becoming, night after night. Brooklyn, of course, had his own opinions about this blossoming relationship. But it was quickly becoming apparent that as far as Angela was concerned, his opinion would amount to very little. And that reality only made Brooklyn's heart feel even heavier as a heavy sigh crossed his beak. In fact, he was so lost in his own unhappiness that he didn't even notice Goliath's massive frame land not two feet behind him.
"Brooklyn, I'll be back in a few hours. Until then, the castle is yours," Goliath stated as old Hudson walked up behind him, only to take notice of Brooklyn's faraway stare. "Brooklyn?"
"Huh? Oh…yeah, yeah. Don't…worry about it," Brooklyn replied, even though it was clear that his mind was still nowhere in the general area of the conversation.
"Are…you alright?" Goliath asked, raising a curious brow.
"Huh? Yeah! Yeah…it's…it's okay," Brooklyn answered, his mind slowly being pulled back to reality. "Go…do your thing. I've…I've got things here."
It was obvious to even a blind man that something was clearly bothering Brooklyn, but Goliath felt it best not to pry. After all, Brooklyn tended to be very private when it came to his own personal problems. He'd tell someone when he was ready. With that, Goliath leapt off the side and proceeded to glide into the city. And the sooner he reached his destination, the better, as he noticed heavy, black storm clouds rolling in off the horizon.
But Goliath wasn't the only one to take notice. Watching him fly off, Hudson's gaze immediately turned to the skyline before him, seeing the dark clouds rolling in. And an uncomfortable feeling began to well up inside him as a thoughtful groan passed his lips.
"Take care, Lad," he mused quietly to Goliath as his outline got further away. "I sense a foul nature to this wind…"
"…Something is coming."
"Well…he's off in a hurry," Xanatos noted, observing Goliath make his quick departure from the window of the castle nursery.
"Yeah, like we don't know where HE'S going," Fox chuckled before turning her attention to Little Alexander, her voice turning to motherly coos as she bounced him in her arms and gently nuzzled his cheek. "Yes we do. Yes we do."
Little Alexander only gurgled and giggled in response, much to Fox's delight as faithful Owen simply stood off to the side of the room watching the scene play out in his usual stoic demeanor. Just then, a series of beeps caught his attention as he looked down and noticed the time on his watch.
"If you'll forgive me, Mr. Xanatos, I'll be out of the building for the next few hours," Owen announced straightforwardly. "I have an appointment to keep."
"Of course," Xanatos replied to Owen, who merely responded with an acknowledging nod. "Owen?"
"Sir?" Owen answered as he turned, just short of the nursery door.
"Anything we need to know?" Xanatos asked his curiosity getting Fox's attention as they both regarded Owen with serious looks.
"Not yet," Owen answered simply, after a brief pause. With that, he merely turned and promptly took his leave.
"Have I ever mentioned how much I hate it when he gets cryptic like that?" Fox mentioned suspiciously as little Alexander reached up and patted her cheek.
"It's not exactly one of my favorite traits, either," Xanatos remarked in agreement before shrugging his shoulders. "Still…he's never given us a reason to doubt him before."
Try as Goliath might, the clouds had rolled in faster than expected and the rain was already coming down in sheets before he was even halfway to his destination. Still, there was an advantage to the torrential downpour in that most everyone was too busy scrambling to stay dry or find shelter to look up and see a Gargoyle flying overhead. While things had significantly improved over the last year, between John Castaway's arrest and the positive media exposure in the wake of the Red Eye Commuter Train incident, things remained far from rosy on the issue of human-Gargoyle relations. Still, to hear shouts of support now in concert with the jeers of contempt from the street couldn't help but make Goliath feel that at least some small steps were being taken in the right direction. Especially when so many cheers he heard were coming from small children. After all, Goliath new it was THAT generation that the clan would have to ingratiate themselves to in order to insure a harmonious future for both races.
However, the time for such thoughts quickly fled his mind as he found himself grinning with relief at the sight of a familiar skylight. Landing on the balcony just outside, he opened the skylight door and slipped inside as quickly as his massive figure would allow, trying to let in as little rain as possible. But no sooner did he close the skylight and turn around, than a white towel came hurtling through the air and flopped over his head.
"I have to be honest, there's a part of me that was hoping you wouldn't even TRY to make it out in this," an all-too familiar voice sounded through the darkness with a small laugh as Goliath raised the towel from his eyes. "Not that I'm complaining that you did."
Goliath wasn't exactly complaining, either, as he took in the sight before him. A blanket had already been laid out on the floor, complete with plates, silverware, a salad bowl and other assorted dishes. Of course, the setup only made sense, as there was really no piece of furniture in the entire apartment that Goliath could comfortably sit in. A pair of wine glasses sat on the coffee table, which was adorned with half a dozen candles. To be sure, it all added up to a very warm, inviting setting.
But all that paled in comparison to the sight of Elisa, who stood before him with a large stew pot in her hand. No surprise that she was using pot holders to protect her hands. Oven mitts would only have clashed with the look she was trying to pull off. The black mini cocktail dress she was wearing hugged her body like a second skin, with just the right amount of plunge in her neckline and the silk stockings accented her legs perfectly. Her eyelids were touched up with just the slightest hint of mascara and her lipstick was as red as the deepest rose. And Goliath could help but return her smile with one of his own as she opened her lips to speak.
"Hope you're hungry."
The storm was raging harder than ever as a sphere made of trails of twinkling lights suddenly appeared in an abandoned, hollowed-out building. Within seconds, the trails converged, creating the briefest flash. And just then, where the light had been, the young male Gargoyle now stood. But only for a few seconds as he suddenly shuddered and crumpled to the ground, his body wracked with pain.
"Uuuuunnnh…o-o-o-kay," he groaned, his talons shredding into the solid tile floor as he writhed in agony. "That was VERY uncomfortable…"
Just then, a pair of bright headlights flashed through the gaping holes of the building as a vehicle pulled into view. Without a word, the driver's side door opened and a lone figure emerged, strolling around to the front of the car and staring into the building, where the young Gargoyle was still struggling to get to his feet.
In fact, the Gargoyle was doing everything he could just to raise his head. But when he was finally able to get his bearings and looked over to regard the silhouette bathed in the headlights and rain, he could only hope that it was an ally. In the shape he was in, he was in no condition to fight an enemy.
"Well, looks like the storm's passed now. The clouds are breaking up and I can even see some stars," Elisa remarked as she looked through the skylight from her seat on the floor. But as she turned to Goliath, she couldn't help but notice the faraway look in his eyes.
"Goliath, are you okay?" she asked, getting his attention as he glanced over to see the worried look on her face. "There's nothing wrong with the food, is there?"
"No. The food was delicious, as always," Goliath answered, regarding Elisa with a tender smile as he reached over and softly ran the back of his fingers down her cheek, "Although, it could never compare to the company."
Nothing could keep Elisa from beaming at that moment as she closed her eyes and snuggled against Goliath's fingers, savoring the gentle warmth of his touch. But it would only be for a few blissful moments before her curiosity got the better of her.
"So, are you going to tell me what's bothering you?" she asked, reaching up and taking his hand into both of hers.
"I've been growing concerned about Brooklyn," Goliath sighed, his eyes turning away toward the skylight. "His craving for companionship has been growing stronger in recent months. I understand it's only natural. But when I think about his role as second-in-command, it pains me to think of what might happen, to him or ANY member of the clan, should he allow it to distract him at a crucial moment."
"Sounds to me like he just has a lot of love to give," Elisa noted with a shrug before sliding into Goliath's lap, draping her arms around his neck and pulling herself up along his chest. "Maybe the best leaders always do. After all…it does remind me of someone else I know."
The warmth of Elisa's smile, combined with the softness of her eyes and the gentle caress of her hand against his cheek made it hard for Goliath to argue the virtues of responsibility at that moment. He could only look into her eyes and reply with a tender smile of his own.
"There we go. That's what I wanted to see…," Elisa noted, getting lost in his eyes for a moment longer before leaning in. Her voice then lowered to a seductive whisper as her arms wrapped tighter around Goliath's neck and her lips hovered just millimeters away from his.
"…Now let's see how long we can keep it there."
Goliath, himself had no objections as he reached up and put his hands on Elisa's hips, supporting her weight. Elisa, herself, meanwhile, slowly moved in, closing the remaining sliver of air that lingered between their lips. And a pair of soft, lingering pecks passed between them, all warming up to the moment they finally met in a long, deep kiss. And the moment their mouths locked together, Goliath gently freed his wings and spread them out wide, only to fold them back in again. And within seconds, both were wrapped from head to waist inside Goliath's wings, like a giant, leathery cocoon.
The rising sun was only scant minutes away by the time Goliath finally made his way back to the castle. But the look of contentment on his face made it perfectly clear that the time had little meaning…even as Brooklyn was waiting on the topmost tower for him to arrive, looking somewhat impatient.
"Do you have any idea what time it is, young man?" Brooklyn scolded, although his tone of voice made it clear he was only joking. "Your mother and I have been worried sick."
"So much for being back in a few hours," Broadway chimed in as he came up the steps. "Stayed for seconds, huh?"
"I don't know. Maybe he's just not feeling well," Brooklyn noted suspiciously, pointing towards a slight mark on Goliath's neck that could only have been made by Elisa's lipstick. "I mean, he IS looking a little blotchy."
"Ooo, could be an allergic reaction," Lexington chimed in, teasingly, gliding to perch behind Goliath. "I seem to recall he had symptoms like this one night last week, too…and then a couple of weeks before that."
"Oh, I think I've heard about this allergy," Broadway added, getting in on the joke. "I believe some of the other symptoms include…'getting all hot and bothered'?"
"Alright, that's enough out of the three of you," Goliath dismissed lightheartedly. "Now take your places. The sun is about to come up."
Clearly, the "teasing Goliath" portion of the night was over as the trio glided down to their individual spots to prepare for the dawn. Still, as Goliath took his own position, he found himself reaching up to rub the lipstick smudge off his neck. And as he looked down at the faint red mark on his fingers, he couldn't help but shake his head with a smile and letting a slight chuckle pass his lips, which didn't escape Angela's ears as she sat on her perch, taking in the last few moments of the night.
"Now there's something I never thought I'd hear," she mused happily.
"Oh? And what might that be?" Hudson asked as he walked by.
"The sound of my father laughing," Angela answered, looking up to Goliath's ledge. "I know things haven't been easy for us here. They still aren't. But these last few months…he's been happier than I've ever seen him."
"Aye, Elisa's been good for him," Hudson remarked, his gaze shifting upward as well. "I know I've not seen him smile like that since…well…since…"
"It's alright, Hudson. You can say it. You're not going to hurt my feelings," Angela assured, even as her voice took on a more somber tone. "You mean, since…Demona."
"She took so much away from him, Lass. You have no idea," Hudson noted with a note of regret before his voice once again turned more upbeat. "It just does an old heart good to see someone giving it back."
"A few young ones, too," Angela added with an approving nod.
Hudson had to share Angela's smile as they took their places and prepared to say farewell to the world for one more sunrise. But at that moment, he found his mind turning more grim thoughts as he looked back to the storm that had rolled past earlier in the night and the feeling of dread he felt blowing on the wind. And as the first rays of dawn struck him, the last thing Hudson could remember going through his mind was his hope that whatever he felt at the beginning of the night was only his imagination.
Time spent in jail is primarily a waiting game…waiting for meals, waiting for exercise, waiting for mail, waiting for meetings with lawyers, waiting for dates to appear at trial. In fact, there's little else to do but sit and wait for the next thing to happen on one's daily schedule, sometimes for months or even years until they've seen their day in court. For even the most methodical minds, it can truly be a phenomenal test of patience.
For John Castaway, leader of the anti-Gargoyle cult known as the Quarrymen, however, patience was one commodity that he was beginning to find in very short supply. It had been a year since he was denied bail, following his arrest in the wake of the Red Eye Commuter Train incident - an arrest which quickly resulted in multiple charges…not the least of which was a count of Attempted Murder for every person who was aboard the train that night. Since then, his days seemed to consist of nothing but to sit in his cell at Rikers Island and await trial, separated from his loyal Quarrymen members.
Of course, if that were the only issue, things wouldn't be so bad. He knew he could easily continue to lead his troops from inside jail. But with so many Quarrymen continuing to have clashes with police over the past year, and even more getting arrested in the process, it was becoming harder and harder to maintain their numbers by drawing new recruits to the cause. Then, when the court seized all of Castaway's corporate assets six months ago, he lost his primary means of funding the group's activities. And what personal resources he had left were slowly, but surely, dwindling away to nothing. Try as he might, Castaway was soon forced to realize that he was fighting a two-front war…and losing on both sides. Now, a year later, with each setting sun, he was beginning to feel it all gradually slipping further and further away.
But suddenly, a whole new concern was about to enter his mind. As Castaway sat in his bunk, contemplating his fate, a small white envelope slid across the floor to stop right at his feet. Even more curious was when Castaway lifted his head, only to see a guard he didn't recognize standing off to the side of the cell door, his face partially hidden from view.
"Not the traditional venue for Mail Call," Castaway noted suspiciously.
"Just thought you might want to know what was going on in the outside world. Consider it a gift," the guard replied, tipping his hat with a smirk, "From one who is loyal to the cause…brother."
Castaway couldn't help but raise a wary eyebrow in the guard's direction. After all, a mysterious messenger with an even more mysterious message…how could this not feel like a setup? Still, it was only a few short moments before Castaway's curiosity overpowered his cautiousness as he picked up the envelope. And as he examined the simple, unassuming piece of paper within, all thoughts of distrust immediately fled his mind, his eyes going wide with shock.
"Is this verified?" he exclaimed in a quivering voice, his head whirling around to the guard.
The guard spoke not a word. He simply replied with a simple nod in Castaway's direction.
"No…NO!" Castaway bellowed in fury, his whole body shaking in rage as he ripped the message into confetti, tossing it about his cell. "They can take my reputation! They can take my livelihood! They can bury me in some God-forsaken pit! BUT THEY WILL NOT…DO…THIS!"
Scrambling to his bunk, Castaway frantically rummaged under the mattress until he found a second white envelope, this one of his own making. A second later, he was at his cell door, holding it out to the guard with his trembling hand.
"Take this message to our brothers on the outside," he shuddered to the guard, who gently took the envelope from his hand, responding with another simple nod. "We have to deal with this immediately…"
"We cannot wait for one more day…NOT FOR ONE MORE SECOND!"
As Castaway's voice echoed through the halls of the jail, the strange guard obediently strolled away. But as he got a few steps from Castaway's cell, a sinister smirk once again crossed his lips.
The sun was just beginning to set in the sky, signaling the end of another day as a pair of jail guards made their way to the wing of Rikers where Castaway was being held. From the outset, there didn't seem to be anything unusual about either of them…except for the trolley one of the guards was pushing in front of him, covered with a simple white sheet.
"Hold it," one of another pair of guards announced from a small monitor room, bringing the procession to a halt, "You know the rules. Gotta check it."
The two guards trying to get in spoke not a word, but merely responded with unassuming nods. This gave one of the guards felt little reason to be worried as he emerged from the monitor room to examine the trolley's contents. But his everyday approach to the search quickly turned to one of alarm as he pulled back the sheet to discover a set of Quarrymen hammers lying underneath.
"What the…?" he blurted out in shock.
At that moment, the two disguised guards sprang to life. One quickly snapped up a hammer and swung it hard into the monitoring guard's chest, sending him crashing through the reinforced security glass of the monitor room. Desperately, the second monitor guard tried to activate the alarms, only to be brought to a halt as the second disguised guard smashed his own hammer into the control panel of the monitor room.
Moments later, the lights went out inside the entire wing, driving the entire population into a rabid frenzy. All except John Castaway, who merely sat quietly on his bunk, a wide, evil smile crossing his face. After all, unlike the savages in the cells next to him, he knew exactly what was coming. And sure enough, moments later, the two disguised guards appeared outside his cell, snapping the sheet off the trolley and revealing Castaway's specialized Quarryman armor.
"Your trappings of war, brother," the first guard announced, bowing slightly as he handed Castaway his Quarryman hood.
Another sunset, another night on the streets of the Big Apple…those were exactly Matt Bluestone's thoughts as he checked his watch outside the police precinct, waiting patiently for Elisa to arrive. Of course, he would only be waiting a few seconds longer as an unmistakable red car quickly pulled up, with Elisa popping out an instant later.
"Hey partner. Just gotta check in and we'll be ready to hit it," she announced as she trotted up the steps, a cheery lilt lingering in her voice.
"Well, well, 24 hours and still glowing," Matt teased, checking his watch again. "Can I take this to mean that last night's dinner plans went better than expected?"
"YOU can get that smirk off your face," Elisa responded lightheartedly, with a warning finger in Matt's direction.
Of course, as Elisa turned back to walk inside the precinct with Matt, she couldn't help but toss her hair back with a very satisfied grin as her mind drifted back to the night before. But she was about to be faced with other concerns as Captain Chavez quickly stormed into the main room.
"Okay, listen up! We just got word of a jailbreak in progress at Rikers!" she announced urgently, instantly grabbing the attention of every police officer in the room. "Early reports are that there are Quarrymen inside the facility!"
Instantly, the entire precinct sprang to life, with officers darting about in all directions to respond to the emergency. After all, they all knew what they had to do…especially Elisa, who turned back towards the precinct doors with a scowl of fury across her face.
"Come on!" she shouted to Matt, bursting out the doors and nearly knocking down a young man with tanned skin, dark, brushed-back hair and a black leather jacket.
"Elisa, wait up!" Matt called after her, hopelessly trying to keep up as she bounded down the steps and vaulted over the hood of her car.
"You and I both know there's only one reason they went there!" Elisa responded angrily as she jumped behind the wheel and fired up the engine. "There is NO WAY that animal is getting loose on MY watch!"
With that, Elisa's car was tearing off down the street, almost before a yelping Matt could get into the passenger side and leaving a very perplexed young man still standing on the steps of the precinct. But as he walked inside, all he found was even more confusion, as the building was filled with a bustling din of officers moving around in all directions.
"ExcusemebutI…! I'mverysorrybutcouldyouplease…! Ibegyourpardonbutifitwouldn'tbetoomuchtrouble…!" he called out, desperately trying to get someone's attention before finally slumping over in exasperation. Just then, he found his own attention being taken up as Captain Chavez's voice once again sounded over the commotion.
"Alright people, if the Quarrymen are looking to get Castaway off the island, it's either going to be by boat or by air!" she called out. "We're going to have choppers and Harbor Patrol sweeping the area ASAP! But I want all available units heading to the nearest docks! We are NOT letting THIS one get away!"
At the very mention of the words "Quarrymen" and "Castaway", the young man's ears suddenly perked up. At that moment, his focus moved back towards the precinct doors with a curious eyebrow raised as his gaze shifted in the direction Elisa had just driven off in.
While the police were still marshaling their forces, a Quarrymen helicopter was already proceeding toward Rikers Island. Armed guards were already on the scene, ready to repel the helicopter as it appeared overhead. But a lengthy spray of automatic gunfire from a pair of Quarrymen inside the aircraft soon had many of them diving for cover. Pressing the advantage in the commotion, the Quarrymen tossed a pair of smoke bombs down into the courtyard just as a Quarryman hammer from the ground smashed open the door to the jailhouse where Castaway was being held.
With Castaway fully clad in his Quarryman armor, he was virtually indistinguishable from the rest of his fleeing troops, which only added to the confusion of the guards. Everything was going according to plan. With a quick rope ladder tossed down, the helicopter waited just long enough for Castaway and the others to get a firm grip and then it was taking off across the East River, with its precious cargo in tow. The guards on the ground, meanwhile, were left with no choice but to fire blind through the smoke and hope that they managed to hit something.
"We just got word from our lookouts in the Bronx," one of the Quarrymen pilots reported once Castaway had clambered inside. "Police are already being dispatched to the waterfront. And Elisa Maza is apparently leading the charge."
"Of course she is," Castaway replied, almost in amusement as his wicked smile practically beamed from underneath his hood.
"Elisa, look!" Matt exclaimed as he pointed to the sky, seeing the Quarrymen helicopter come streaking overhead.
"I've got it!" Elisa responded, swerving the car around as the helicopter passed and charging back after it, with two other police cars close behind. "Call it in!"
"This is Detective Bluestone! Quarrymen aircraft sighted, Detective Maza and I are in pursuit!" Matt announced over the police radio. "We are proceeding north along Hunts Point!"
Elisa, meanwhile, pressed her foot down hard on the accelerator and surged ahead, determined to keep pace with the helicopter. But after minutes of dogged pursuit, the chase entered a neighborhood slum, where suddenly, the helicopter began to look shaky. And as Matt squinted upward, a thin thread of smoke could be seen trailing from behind.
"It looks like they're leaking fuel," Matt observed. "One of the guards at Rikers must've gotten a lucky shot off."
"Let's just hope that luck stays with US," Elisa replied, wanting to cautiously avoid being too optimistic.
"We're going down! I've got to find us a safe place to land!" the Quarrymen co-pilot shouted as Castaway scanned the area intently.
"There! Put us down on that rooftop!" he ordered, pointing towards an abandoned apartment building. "It's perfect."
Moments later, the helicopter touched down on the roof, just as Elisa and the other two cars pulled up. Guns drawn, they all hurried towards the dilapidated structure moving quickly to cut off the Quarrymen's escape.
"Alright, we are ALL we've got until backup arrives. The object of the game is to KEEP-THEM-IN-THIS-BUILDING," Matt quietly instructed to the other two units. "You two, cover the fire escape. You two go around the side and make sure no one tries to get out through the back."
With silent nods, the uniformed officers quickly went their separate ways, following Matt's orders as he and Elisa proceeded inside. But as determined as they were to recapture Castaway, with only flashlights and streetlights to see by, it wasn't long before the eerie silence of the building began to wear on their nerve.
"Am I the only one who thinks it's WAY too quiet in here?" Elisa whispered uncomfortably over her shoulder.
"Tell me about it. To be honest, I'd rather be SHOOTING my way through this," Matt answered softly. "Something here does NOT feel right."
At that moment, as if to prove Matt's point, the ceiling directly overtop of them was smashed in and a pair of Quarrymen dropped from above, causing Elisa and Matt to both drop their pistols in the dark. The first Quarryman charged straight towards Elisa, taking a swing with his hammer. Luckily, Elisa stepped into the attack, throwing the Quarryman off balance as she grabbed the handle, struggling to get it out of his hand. Meanwhile, the second Quarryman, too close to take a swing, slammed the handle of his hammer across Matt's forehead, knocking him flat on his back. And with Matt on the ground, the second Quarryman turned around and headed towards Elisa, who was still trying to fight off her first attacker.
Elisa, however, was in no mood for a wrestling match as her knee shot up, planting hard into the first Quarryman's gut and knocking the wind out of him. As the first Quarryman dropped to one knee, Elisa tore the hammer out of his hand and whirled around to face the second Quarryman who was running in, preparing to take a huge swing. Fortunately, his telegraphed attack was easy to spot and Elisa easily ducked under the blow, snapping back up and driving the hammer she'd procured into the second Quarryman's chest. The jolt from the electrified weapon ripped through the Quarryman's body, sending him flying back into the wall and crumpling to the floor next to Matt, who was still recovering. With that, Elisa turned her attention back to the first Quarryman who had just managed to catch his breath. But it wasn't fast enough to counter Elisa, who dashed towards him with a yell, swinging the hammer hard into his ribcage, just as he turned. The force of the blow, combined with the electric burst from the hammer sent the Quarryman hurtling down the hallway and smashing through a rotting door before finally sliding along the floor in an unconscious heap. That left him easy pickings for Elisa, who ran into the room and quickly handcuffed him to a nearby radiator.
"You okay, partner?" she asked, rushing back over to Matt, who was just getting back to his feet.
"Uunnh, yeah…I think so," Matt groaned, still shaking out the cobwebs as he handcuffed the second Quarryman to an exposed wooden plank, which was part of the building's structure.
"Good. Here, you might want to take this," Elisa responded, surprising Matt by handing him the second Quarryman's hammer while charging up her own. "I think it's about time someone put these things to some GOOD use for a change."
"It's too quiet down there," Castaway mentioned nervously to two other Quarrymen as the commotion downstairs had noticeably subsided. "Go and check on our brothers. See that they're alright."
Obediently, the two other Quarrymen rushed out of the room to look in on their comrades. But just as they got within two steps of the entrance, the fragile wooden door was suddenly blown to splinters and they were both knocked back by the force. Desperately, both troops tried to recover. But as they quickly shook themselves out of their daze, they were as stunned as Castaway to see Elisa and Matt standing in the doorway, both wielding their appropriated Quarrymen hammers.
"Knock knock, Johnny!" Matt called out in Castaway's direction.
"You know, Castaway, I have to admit, these things actually ARE pretty cool," Elisa noted tauntingly, "I guess all it takes is the right person to use them, huh?"
"Grind…her bones…TO DUST!" Castaway roared in fury, sending his loyal Quarrymen springing to their feet and charging towards Elisa and Matt.
Unfortunately for the Quarrymen, this was no surprise attack like the first one was. Elisa and Matt were both more than prepared this time around. And it quickly became apparent that a couple of muscled goons in funny get-ups were no match for a pair of street-hardened police officers. As one Quarryman took a wild swing toward Elisa, she quickly blocked the hammer with her own before sending a fast kick straight into his knee, blowing out his vertical base and dropping him to the floor. Before he could recover, Elisa slammed a roundhouse kick square against his right temple, smashing his head into the old plaster wall and knocking him unconscious. Matt, meanwhile, ducked under the hammer of the other Quarryman before jamming the handle of his own hammer into his ribs, then right between his eyes, putting him down as well.
Moments later, uniformed police officers came running into the room from other units that had just arrived on the scene and the two Quarrymen were quickly cuffed. But as Elisa's attention shifted back across the room, Castaway was already out the far door, where he could be heard running up the stairs.
"FREEZE!" Elisa shouted, taking off after him.
"Elisa, wait!" Matt yelled, following right behind. Unfortunately, his foot planted down on a piece of rotted floor and his leg fell through, leaving Elisa to carry on alone as the other officers had to fish him out.
It was only a few flights of stairs that Elisa had to scale before making it to the roof. Charging outside, Elisa looked around, only to see the lifeless helicopter still perched on the rooftop. But there was no sign of Castaway.
Just then, Elisa heard the familiar crackle of a Quarrymen hammer go off right behind her and whirled around to see Castaway surging forward, swinging wildly at her head with a growl of rage. Luckily, all his attack hit was the wall of the door leading to the stairway as Elisa stepped back and slipped, causing her to fall backwards onto the roof, her hammer sliding away. But that wasn't about to stop Castaway, who tromped toward Elisa, tearing off his hood to show his face twisted with rage.
"Did you really think you could get away with such a thing? DID YOU THINK I WOULD LET YOU?" he bellowed, sounding almost completely unhinged as he stalked Elisa, who was trying desperately to scramble to her feet. But she was too late as Castaway already was lifting his hammer overhead to deliver his final blow.
"FOR THE PURITY OF OUR RACE!"
Just then, a monstrous roar sounded off from across the roof, getting both Castaway and Elisa's attention. But just as Castaway turned, the unconscious body of his helicopter pilot flew through the air and knocked him against the wall. Recovering quickly, Castaway looked up, only to gasp in shock at the sight before him. For what he saw was a shadowy figure in the form of a large, long-haired Gargoyle, snarling under his breath with glowing eyes and holding the unconscious Quarrymen co-pilot by the scruff of the neck.
"…Goliath…" Elisa uttered under her breath, her voice laced with welcome relief.
The shadowy figure didn't answer, but merely growled under its breath as it plunged its hand into the steel side of the helicopter with its talons and tore it back out, causing fuel to gush out over the roof. Castaway, however, did have a response as he heard Elisa's reaction to the stranger's arrival.
"You…" he hissed under his breath, recovering his hammer and charging at the figure, who simply tossed aside the unconscious Quarryman in its hand. "This time I'll put an end to you BOTH, Goli…OOLPH!"
Castaway didn't even get to finish his boast as the Gargoyle lunged forward with blinding speed, driving its talons into his armored chest plate before he could swing his hammer. Not enough to pierce the armor, but enough to collapse it into his chest, pressing the metal hard against Castaway's ribs. With that, the shadowy figure flexed its hand, crumpling the armor even more, which began to restrict Castaway's breathing.
"You…y-you're not…Wh-what…?" Castaway rasped as the growling form pulled the hammer from his loosening grip.
With a roar, the Gargoyle threw its arm upward to send Castaway's flailing body high into the air. But it was only a matter of time before gravity would have its way and Castaway was sent hurtling back down. And that was right where the figure was waiting, with a charged hammer in hand. Stepping in, the Gargoyle took a massive swing with one arm and drove the hammer into Castaway's side as he came down. And Castaway was send smashing into the wall by the stairway door before flopping onto the roof in a heap. With that, the Gargoyle merely dropped Castaway's hammer at its feet and the fight was quickly over.
"Goliath?" Elisa called over softly, having already risen to her feet.
For a moment, the glowing Gargoyle eyes turned their gaze to Elisa, eying her intently. It spoke not a word. All Elisa could hear was its breathing. But as she took a step forward, the shadowy figure leaped back to the edge of the roof.
"Goliath, wait!" Elisa shouted in confusion.
Again, the figure remained silent, but merely folded in its wings to regard Elisa with a formal, flourishing bow. A moment later, it then jumped across to the next building, using the talons on its feet to sprint along the wall before spreading its wings and gliding off into the night.
"Elisa! Elisa!" Matt could be heard calling to her as he hobbled onto the roof, hurt, but uninjured. Of course, his sore leg soon became the least of his concerns as he surveyed the devastation around him.
"Are you alright?" he exclaimed, "What happened up here?"
"Oh, you know how it is," Elisa answered with a shrug, turning a warm smile in the direction her rescuer had soared off in. "Just an ordinary citizen doing his civic duty."
The echoing voice quickly got Goliath's attention. He was quietly enjoying a good read in the Eyrie Building library until Broadway's large frame came bursting through the twin doors.
"You've gotta come see this!" Broadway exclaimed, making Goliath even more curious. "It's all over the news!"
Following Broadway into Hudson's TV room, Goliath quickly discovered the rest of the clan had gathered as well. And it soon became apparent why. Spread across the bottom of the television screen was the news report's tagline, "JOHN CASTAWAY REARRESTED", which instantly piqued Goliath's interest.
"This is Travis Marshall, reporting from The Bronx, where a daring raid by New York's finest has just put a quick end to a jailbreak attempt perpetrated by John Castaway, leader of the now, all-but defunct, anti-Gargoyle group known as The Quarrymen," Marshall spoke in his usual professional demeanor, with the clan hanging on every word.
"Hey look," Lexington piped up, pointing at the corner of the screen. "Isn't that Elisa's car?"
"If she was there, I hope she's alright," Angela noted, which only caused a worried grumble to pass Goliath's lips.
"Castaway, who was indicted on numerous charges, including multiple counts of Attempted Murder for his efforts to destroy the Red Eye Commuter Train last year, was remanded to Rikers Island, pending…," Marshall's continued report was cut off as Captain Chavez muted the sound on her TV monitor, turning her attention to Elisa and Matt, who were both standing in her office.
"I've already looked over your initial reports," Chavez noted, a somewhat cynical tone lingering in her voice. "So Maza, you have absolutely no idea who this person was that jumped in when Castaway attacked you?"
"As the report says, Captain, I never saw a face," Elisa replied confidently with a shrug, as her answer had the virtue of being true.
"Okay," Chavez responded, tossing Elisa a suspicious look, "Look, Maza…do you want to sit down and talk to anyone?"
"About what?" Elisa asked simply.
"Well, you DID almost get killed tonight," Chavez answered with some concern, "I've known cops who've been on the job twice as long as you who couldn't remember their badge numbers after going through something like that."
"Relax, Captain. I'm fine," Elisa chuckled in protest, even as she was quick to change the subject. "Look, I'm just going to swing by my parents' place, let them know I'm alright. I'll be back at my desk in an hour, okay?"
"Alright," Chavez reported uneasily as Elisa walked out, with Matt right behind her. "Bluestone…hang back a minute."
Matt was naturally confused and a little concerned about Chavez's request for a private talk. Nevertheless, he wasn't about to defy an order from his Captain as he closed the door, letting Elisa continue on her way.
"Look, about Maza," Chavez began, making Matt slightly more nervous, "Does she seem alright to you?"
"What, Elisa?" Mat replied, shrugging his shoulders. "Yeah, she's fine. Come on, Captain, you know how it is with her. She lives for the job."
"That's what worries me," Chavez noted. "I've seen my fair share of good cops burn out because they end up setting a pace for themselves they can't handle. Look, you talk to her more than I do. I'm just wondering…does she…unwind when she's not here? Is she at least seeing somebody?"
"Seeing somebody?" Matt responded as he rolled his eyes, turning away so Chavez wouldn't see his expression. "Oooooooh yeah, she's seeing somebody alright."
Sensing that Matt didn't want to elaborate, Chavez felt it best not to pry any further. So she simply turned the sound back on and went back to watching Travis Marshall's report on Castaway's capture. However, a few moments later, she couldn't help but notice that Matt was still frozen halfway out the door after he'd opened it.
"Something wrong?" she asked curiously.
"I've been going over what happened tonight in my head, that's all," Matt replied with a hint of distress. "And I just had a very disturbing thought…"
"…What if that escape attempt…WASN'T an escape attempt?"
While Matt was talking with Chavez, Elisa had already made her way outside the precinct, heading toward her car. But just as she was about to get inside, she noticed a large shadow pass by overhead, followed by a familiar gust of air. Turning in the direction the shadow had gone, she looked across to a dark alley across the street and found a sly grin crossing her face. She then quickly trotted across to the alley, where she casually stepped inside. And sure enough, moments later, Goliath dropped from above, landing right in front of her, much to her delight.
"Elisa, are you alright?" he asked worriedly, having taken off as soon as Travis Marshall's news report had aired.
"I'm fine, you big dope," Elisa giggled in response before reaching back and slapping Goliath across the arm.
"Ex…cuse me?" Goliath responded with a raised brow, clearly more confused than hurt in any way.
"THAT…was for taking off tonight before I had a chance to do THIS…," Elisa replied, poking Goliath in the chest before jumping up and throwing her arms around his neck.
Now Goliath was TRULY baffled, his eyes widening as Elisa's mouth met his in a long, deep kiss. He had absolutely no idea what was going on. But it wasn't long at all before the why had lost all meaning. Within seconds, he was closing his eyes and putting his hands on Elisa's hips to support her full weight, more than willing to let the moment play out. And Elisa had no intention of letting it end anytime soon as every moment she thought about breaking the kiss, she simply pressed onward. Eventually, though, her lips finally parted from his, but even then, it was monumentally slow and steady. And she still couldn't stop from leaning in once more to flutter one more delicate peck across his lips for good measure, right at the very end.
"And THAT…was for saving my neck tonight," she added with a loving smile, her arms still around his neck as she suddenly began to laugh. "Although, I have to say…that whole 'bowing' bit you did at the end there…kinda over the top. I don't know if you're gonna want to stick with that. But that 'running along the building' thing was pretty cool."
"Uuuhhh, what…ARE you talking about?" Goliath wondered, his bewilderment instantly returning.
"Wait a minute…what are YOU talking about?" Elisa asked back, now becoming confused, herself.
The clamor of large twin doors slamming open echoed throughout the large room as a tall, well-built young man with fiery red hair and a black suit with gold-plated armor stormed inside, slamming his gold mask on a nearby table with a yell of frustration. Following right behind him was a young female Gargoyle with blue skin, violet eyes, a small beak, long horns that curved behind her head and flowing, jet-black hair, wearing a short, yellow kimono with black trim and a pair of samurai swords strapped to her back.
"I am NOT going to be the one to tell them that we just stood by and watched their only son vanish into thin air!" she yelled, clearly as angry as her human teammate. "We have GOT to do something to FIND him!"
"No one is disputing that…but would you happen to have any particularly clever ideas as to how we're supposed to PULL THAT OFF?" the young man shouted back.
The female Gargoyle, while still frustrated, could offer nothing in reply, which then sent the young man back to his irate brooding. What the pair of them didn't know, however, was that their argument was being very closely watched on a security monitor in a darkened office. Inside the office, a lone man sat at a desk with another man and a woman standing on either side behind him.
"It's time," the man behind the desk uttered simply, sending the second man silently over to a filing cabinet to pull out a large envelope.
"Finally," the female added, watching the monitor intently. "I was actually starting to get a little worried."
A few moments later, the second man appeared in the room where the young, armored man and his Gargoyle friend were still wallowing in their frustration. And they were both quick to turn their attention to him as he knocked on the door.
"Look, whatever it is, it's going to have to wait," the young man sighed dismissively. "You have NO idea the night I'm having right now."
"You might be surprised," the second man replied straightforwardly.
Almost immediately, his words caused the young man to raise a curious eyebrow in his direction, only to have the second man extend the large envelope towards him. Even more perplexed, the young man took the envelope and opened it. As soon as he took it, he felt something on the bottom that looked like a key. And sure enough, as soon as he opened it, he turned it over and a key for a safe deposit box flopped into his hand.
Growing more confused by the second, the young man quickly turned his attention to the handful of papers that were also inside. But as he read the words on the first page, he soon received more answers than he bargained for as he turned back to his messenger with a look of shock.
"You've GOT to be kidding," he uttered in astonishment before looking over his shoulder at the female Gargoyle, tilting the letter slightly so she could get her own look at it. "You are NOT going to believe THIS."