Written by Constance Cochran, Todd Jensen, and Batya "The Toon" Levin.
Previously on Gargoyles....
The woman reached for her blue hood. As she did so,
"We don't," Elisa said abruptly, before Matt could speak.
~ Hammer And Shield
* * *
The man smiled slightly, and said, "You needn't worry,
little one. I'm not going to harm you.
Lexington stared up at him. "Wh-who are you?", he asked.
"My name is Nicholas Maddox," replied the man.
"Lexington, listen to me. I know that your race has
little reason to trust humans.
~ The Sorcerer's Apprentice
The SWAT van pulled up beside the half-dozen NYPD cars and halted. Several operatives were out of the van almost before it stopped moving, taking their places among the uniformed cops with competent speed.
Beside one of the marked cars, Matt Bluestone looked up at the brownstone office building with a grim face, his hands in the pockets of his trenchcoat. The captain of the SWAT team joined him. "We're all in place," he reported.
Matt nodded, then picked up the bullhorn. "This is the police! Step out of the building with your hands up!"
No answer. Matt exchanged glances with the captain and repeated through the bullhorn, "I say again, this is the police. Step out of the building with your hands raised above your heads."
Another silence. "And answer came there none," Bluestone muttered under his breath. He nodded to the captain. "Do it."
The captain dropped his arm and his team went into action. Four charged up the steps like a battering ram. The door gave way with one blow. The team immediately leaped to the sides of the doorway, branching right and left to cover the room, ready for anything. "FREEZE! POLICE!"
No response. Matt's eyebrows drew together and down as the team moved further into the building. An office didn't have that many places to hide; the operation shouldn't be taking this long.
"Got here as soon as I could," came a familiar voice behind his shoulder. He turned to see Elisa Maza standing there, looking at the brownstone rather than at him. "What's flying?"
"Nothing," Matt almost growled. "And that's the problem."
The radio in the captain's hand crackled to life. "We got an empty here," the voice of a SWAT operative reported. "You sure we got the right address?"
"Empty?" Elisa stared.
"Empty. No guns, no propaganda, no hammers, nothing."
The SWAT captain gave a sigh. "All right," he said into the radio, "let's move on out and let the forensics boys do their job."
* * * * *
"I don't get it," Matt said to Elisa, his eyes on the empty building. Forensics cops were swarming into and out of the brownstone, but something about the way Matt watched them gave the impression that he didn't expect them to find anything. "Sparrowhawk leaked us the tip about this location just hours ago. How could they have had time to clear out so fast?"
Shaking his head, Jay Smith joined them. "What a revoltin' development," he grumbled in a fair impression of Daffy Duck, taking off his cap and running fingers through his already-rumpled brown hair. "Don't worry about it, Detective Bluestone. We'll get the rotten scumbags next time."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Jay." Matt gave a tired sigh, and rubbed one hand across his mouth. "All right, people," he said finally. "Let's see if we can figure out what went wrong."
* * * * *
Lexington neatly landed on the ledge by the window looking into Nicholas Maddox's office, and cautiously looked around him before pulling it open. Nobody was about - other than Mr. Maddox, going over some paperwork inside, of course. Lexington breathed a silent sigh of relief, and climbed down the wall.
Mr. Maddox looked up from his desk. "Ah, Lexington," he said with a smile, rising from his chair. "So you made it safely?"
Lexington nodded. "It wasn't easy. I think that some of the others are getting just a trifle suspicious. I had to go to a lot of trouble to sneak off on patrol tonight."
"So you still haven't told any of them?" Maddox asked him.
Lexington shook his head. "They probably wouldn't approve," he said, with a grimace. "Huh! Most of them made friends with humans anyway. They talk to them on the phone, they visit them, they even invite them over to our place. So that gives me the right to visit you as well. But I don't think that I can get them to see it that way."
"Well, I suppose that it's understandable." Maddox gave a gentle nod. "After all, nearly everybody in this city has been crying for your blood for over a month now. Oh, the PIT Crew is making some progress - I've read about its achievements in the newspapers and I am impressed with them - but I wouldn't be too surprised if the majority of the public is still siding with Mr. Castaway. Even the ones who disapprove of the measures that he's taking. The other night, I was at a public dinner where I had to sit next to Assistant District Attorney Margot Yale, and she had a lot of things to say to me about gargoyles, none of them the least bit complimentary." He looked amused. "She seems to encounter them very often, as well. Both she and her husband, in fact. I think that whoever passed the Law of Probabilities would be astounded at just how often she's met you and your fellow clan members."
"You 've got a point there," commented Lexington. "Now that you mention it, we do seem to run into her a lot on our patrols."
"Life is full of these odd coincidences," agreed Maddox. "But at any rate, I certainly don't blame you for feeling so uneasy around us humans. You don't even know whom to trust. After all, the Quarrymen do wear hoods. Anybody could be underneath that headgear. Anybody at all. What if it was somebody whom you thought was a friend?"
"Tell me about it," said Lexington with a sigh. "We ran
into a case like that just a few weeks ago. Well, it wasn't a friend of
ours, but it was a friend of a friend." He seated himself in the
chair facing Maddox's own, twitching his tail out of the way.
"Some," said Lexington. "Mostly with the computer. I used to do it with my brothers, but now it's 'Sorry, Lex, but my girlfriend and I are going to the movies tonight' or 'Sorry, Lex, but the missus and I are taking the kids to the park.'" He scowled. "We were a lot better off before the females showed up. When it was just the three of us."
"The wedding-bells are breaking up that old gang of yours?" inquired Maddox. "I'm sorry," he added contritely, "that was rather insensitive of me. And I suppose that you simply haven't found the right mate for you as yet?"
"You said it," muttered Lexington. "I thought at first that it might be Angie, but, no, she chose my brother instead." He scowled. "Probably didn't even give me a moment's consideration."
"I know the feeling," said Maddox, shaking his head as he set up the pieces on the board, a troubled look in his eyes. "Something like that happened to me once. I don't think that I've ever quite gotten over it."
"What happened?" asked Lexington curiously.
"I'd rather not talk about it," Maddox replied. "It was a long time ago. Let's not rake up bad memories for either of us tonight, shall we? A good game of chess ought to cheer things up a little."
Lex sighed, looking at the board. "Maybe." He moved a pawn out two squares.
"I've always been fond of this game," said Maddox, moving a pawn of his own out to counter Lexington's move. "It's a pastime that puts the emphasis on skill and strategy, rather than on brute force or chance. A game for thinkers, like us. I felt certain before tonight that this was the sort of game that you enjoyed."
"Well, yeah," said the small gargoyle, moving a knight out. "I've even beaten the computer at it a few times. Didn't know what hit it. Of course, checkmating my brothers was a lot easier. I must have beaten them fifty times the first few months after we moved here."
Maddox had his hand hovering over one of his own knights, when he suddenly pricked up his ears. "Do you hear something, Lexington?" he asked in a low voice.
Lexington listened. Footsteps sounded outside, clicking on the hallway floor. "Maybe whoever it is won't come in," he whispered.
"And maybe he or she will," Maddox whispered back. "We can't take any chances." He looked about the office, a worried expression on his face. "Find somewhere to hide, just in case. Over there, behind the filing cabinet."
Lexington hurriedly darted behind the cabinet just as the doorknob began to turn. His tail was just tucked out of sight when the door opened and an attractive dark-haired woman in a smart green trouser-suit entered the room, some papers in her hands. Maddox rose up to greet her.
"Hullo, Mavis," he said. "I wasn't expecting you to stop by."
"Well, one or two things suddenly came up," the woman replied, speaking with a light Irish lilt in her voice. "I'm needing your signature on these papers. Oh, and we've a few problems in our Robotics Division again."
"I hope that it's not that unmanned space probe again," said
Maddox, looking over the papers that she had handed to him. "It really
seems to act up quite a bit. I hope that we can find out what the problem
is and soon. NASA is starting to get impatient."
"Well, I'll look into it," said Maddox, signing the last paper.
"There's no need, really," Mavis assured him. "I can take care of it. I just thought that I'd better warn you about the possible delay in case we start getting phone calls from the Pentagon."
Maddox stared at her. Lexington could not see his face from where he was crouching, but felt certain that the man must be frowning. There was a moment's silence before he spoke.
"Well, I'll leave you to it, then," he said. He handed her back the papers.
She took them, glancing down at the chessboard. "Somebody leave in the middle of a game?"
"No," said Maddox, shaking his head. "I just thought that I'd play a game of chess by myself tonight."
"Against yourself?" asked the woman, arching an eyebrow.
"Of course," said Maddox, with a slight laugh. "That way I'm certain to win."
"Enjoy your game, then," said Mavis, turning and walking out of the office. She glanced back at him from the hallway, before closing the door. The sound of her footsteps receded down the hall.
Lexington crept out from behind the filing cabinet. "Was that -- "
Maddox nodded. "Mavis O'Connor, my Executive Vice-President," he said. "I must admit, I wasn't expecting her to stop by tonight. She almost had you, too. It's a good thing that we heard her coming."
"Do you think that she bought that bit about your playing chess against yourself, Nicholas?" Lexington asked, seating himself opposite the businessman again and resumed the game.
"I hope so," said Maddox. "If she hasn't -- well, I am going to have to keep a closer eye on her. I hate to keep things from her, but..." He lifted one hand in a what-can-I-do? gesture. "It's your secret, Lexington, not mine. And I'd never give away a secret that wasn't mine to tell."
Lexington frowned as he castled. "What do you suppose she was going on about, anyway? That bit about the Robotics Division?"
"I don't know," said Maddox with a gentle shrug. "Mavis handles that part of the company for me. She knows more about what's going on there than I do."
"You don't think...she's up to something behind your back, do you?"
"No!" Maddox looked startled at the very suggestion. "Certainly not," he repeated, a little more quietly.
"Then what do you think she's being secretive about?"
"If there's something she doesn't want me to know, then I'm sure she has good reason. Just as I've my own good reasons for not telling her about you." Maddox reached for one of his bishops, paused, then removed his hand without touching it and resumed contemplating the board. "Mavis is the closest thing to family that I've had for a long while. We've been partners practically forever. I trust that woman, Lexington -- " he picked up a knight and moved it to a defensive position opposite his queen, setting it down with a sharp motion -- "and I'm not about to suspect her of double-dealing without a lot more evidence than her acting secretive."
Lexington stared at the board moodily. "We've been betrayed by people we trusted before," he muttered.
The man looked at him with a troubled expression, and when he spoke his voice was gentle. "How old are you, Lexington?"
"I'm thirty-nine," he said. "About the same as twenty for a human."
Maddox shook his head sadly. "So young to be so cynical." Then his mouth twisted in a rueful smile. "Of course, it's easy for me to talk; I'm not the one who's got a whole city out for my blood because of what I am. I'd probably be just as cynical in your position."
* * * * *
The aborted raid was breaking up, and the various members of the Gargoyles Task Force were drifting away after a gloomy post-mortem.
In his unmarked car, Jay Smith unfolded a cellular phone and dialed. When he spoke, his voice was low, grim. "It's Smith, sir. This confirms it. We have a leak." A pause. "There's no way to know how highly placed. It could be any one of us, straight through to the top. We've got to start being very careful who we trust." Another pause. "Well, it's kind of a double-edged knife here. By now, they've got to know that they have a leak as well." Pause. "Yes, sir, I will. Of course it helps, the way they've been chasing their tails all this time; it'll be harder now that they know that."
Pause, and Smith rubbed condensation off the car window to peer out into the city night as he listened. "No, sir, I don't know. Bluestone's been pretty closed-mouthed about where he gets his information." Pause. "Yes, sir, I will. And thank you."
Pause, and he lifted his other hand to the cell-phone, ready to close it up. "I will, sir. Goodnight to you too, Mr. Castaway."
* * * * *
Dawn was still several hours away when Goliath landed neatly on the ledge outside Elisa's apartment window; Elisa had already returned from her rounds, and opened the window for him. Goliath carefully slipped through the open window and enfolded Elisa in a hug, nodding briefly to acknowledge Cagney, curled up on the sofa. The gray cat opened its eyes, raised its head, looked at Goliath and Elisa briefly, then yawned and went back to sleep again in a very unconcerned fashion.
"How's the guardian business been treating you?" Elisa asked the tall gargoyle as they parted. "Run into any trouble tonight?"
Goliath shook his head. "The city is very quiet tonight," he said. "Quiet enough to take some time off of my patrol to come visit you."
"Hmph. Yeah, nothing at all going on out there." There was a sour twist to her mouth as she spoke. "Glad it's doing somebody some good."
He frowned. "Something is troubling you. What is it?"
"Oh, Goliath, I don't know what we're gonna do!" Her voice was a cry, almost a snarl, of frustration. "The Quarryman tipoff we got? It was a dead end. The place was totally deserted." She sat down on the sofa next to the cat and added bitterly, "I'm starting to think we were wrong about trusting Sara. Again."
He looked startled. "What do you mean?"
"She's Sparrowhawk. The one who's been giving us inside information on the Quarrymen's activities. And so far, every tip she's given us has been one like this. If it isn't a complete dud, it's minor activity, never enough for a conviction." Elisa's fist clenched. "Someone's playing us all for fools, Goliath, and it could be her."
"Do you truly think she could do such a thing?" Goliath asked gently.
Elisa sighed again. "I know we can trust her to do what she thinks is right. The trouble is, what she thinks is right could mean helping a terrorist who wants to wipe out gargoyles because they're a threat to the city. And that means that where the Quarrymen are concerned...." She lifted one hand, let it drop. "I just don't know."
The big gargoyle rumbled deep in his throat. "It's never good to have a member of your clan who cannot be trusted."
She raised her head and looked at him with quick concern. "Goliath, what's wrong?"
He didn't answer for a moment. "It's Lexington," he said finally. "He's been acting in ways that -- disturb me. He has often disappeared, and refuses to tell us where he has been. He has questioned my orders on more than one occasion, and even left the castle without waiting to be assigned his patrol duties, or refused them when I or Brooklyn delivered them. His willfulness is...upsetting."
"How long has he been like this?" Elisa asked.
"Ever since Brooklyn returned from his travels with the Phoenix Gate."
"Well, I think that I can guess what's behind it," said Elisa. "He's just feeling a bit lonely, that's all. After all, the trio aren't exactly the Three Musketeers any more. Brooklyn's all grown up with his own family now. Broadway's spending most of his time with Angela. Lex is feeling left out of things. Beth was the same way after Derek and I both left for college -- Mom says she was impossible to live with for almost a year. I don't think it's anything too serious."
"I wish that I could be certain of that." Goliath's voice was still troubled.
"This is more than just the way that Lexington's been acting," said Elisa, looking at him thoughtfully. "Isn't it, Goliath? Something's really been weighing on you about the little guy. It's been that way for a lot longer than you'll admit. Since we got back to Manhattan with Angela."
"It was -- a dream that I had," said Goliath, slowly, almost reluctantly. "I would rather not speak about it."
"I know the feeling," Elisa said fervently. "But, Goliath, it's really nothing to make a big fuss over. Lex is growing up, remember. He needs to figure out who he is. I'm sure that he'll be all right again, soon enough."
"I hope so," Goliath frowned. He was silent for a moment, then spoke again.
"Elisa, I want to help you find some way to break up the Quarrymen. They are a danger to everyone in this city, human and gargoyle alike; as a protector of this island, I cannot stand by while they threaten the innocent. This is no longer just about the threat that they pose to my clan. Their leader has twice placed your life in danger, and done the same to Matt Bluestone. And he may do the same to others."
"He has." Elisa shook her head. "There've been reports already about the Quarrymen raiding PIT Crew meetings. Nobody's been killed, fortunately, but quite a few people have been injured. And Matt told me about that attack they made on Andrea Calhoun's studio, when they found out about her pro-gargoyle paintings."
"Andrea Calhoun?" asked Goliath blankly.
"She's an artist. Works with the PIT Crew. Brooklyn, Broadway, and Angela helped her out the night that Brooklyn found the Phoenix Gate."
"Ah, yes. The human who painted a gargoyle in flight," said Goliath, nodding. "Remarkable."
"The Quarrymen have changed, drastically," said Elisa. "They used to be mostly frightened citizens, ordinary people who believed Castaway's lies. People like Sara, or that guy who stopped Castaway from doing us in the first night that we ran into them. But a lot of them are gone now. They seem to have left as they found out just how crazy their leader was. According to our sources, most of the remaining Quarrymen are hired mercenaries or criminals. It's not exactly a grassroots organization any more. Now it's just another street gang. The only difference between them and Tony Dracon's old gang is that they're still targeting gargoyles and 'gargoyle sympathizers'. They keep on claiming that they're concerned citizens, but it's not fooling too many people anymore. I'd say that they're ripe for a fall."
"And I have a plan," said Goliath. "But we will need the approval of the rest of the clan, in order to carry it out."
"Well, share it with them tomorrow night," said Elisa. "And see what they think."
There was a moment's silence. "Dawn won't be too far off," said the detective at last. "You'd probably better head back to the castle."
Goliath nodded, and walked over to the window. He was just about to climb out through it onto the ledge, when he turned back.
"Elisa," he said, "I do not think that Sara is a 'leak'.
As I said, she seems sincere enough in her rejection of Castaway. If I
were you, I would look beyond her for the problem." He leaped onto
the ledge, spread his wings, and glided off into the night.
Sara Jasper stared out through the passenger window of the squad car, her hands weaving together nervously in her lap. Beside her, Santiago was drumming his fingers on the steering wheel in time to something he was humming under his breath. The tune hovered on the edge of recognition, irritating her; she was on the point of asking her partner to either shut up or sing out loud, when the police radio spoke up.
"...All units, disregard, return to regular patrol...all units, disregard..."
The voices over the police radio came accented by a hiss and crackle, as officers acknowledged the transmission. Sara let out a small, strangled whisper:
She sat forward in the passenger seat; the location was the address she had given to Matt.
"You okay, partner?" Santiago flicked his eyes from the Manhattan streets to look at her.
"Yeah...fine...." She leaned back into the curve of the seat.
How? She had seen the location herself yesterday, seen the activity, the computers, the Quarrymen coming and going. The greasy burger she'd had for lunch reasserted itself and Sara abruptly closed her eyes.
"Sara!" Santiago pulled the car over to an empty spot on a nearby curb, with more force than necessary, although the tires didn't actually squeal. "Say something, for cryin' out loud!" His tone turned sharp with concern as he turned in the seat to stare at her.
Sara opened her eyes and grinned weakly. "Something...I ate. No more french fries for me."
Her tall, heavily built partner slammed his palms on the steering wheel in relief. "Don't scare me like that. You turned sheet-white for a second there." He pulled the car back out into traffic.
City lights danced along the windshield; Sara watched them as if hypnotized, oddly soothed by their streaks and colors.
How? Unless someone had warned Castaway. Unless something knew certain information was no longer secret. She had to warn Matt immediately...
"...all units in sector three, ten-thirty-nine, robbery in progress at --"
Instantly, Santiago turned the car sharply down a side street while Sara acknowledged the call. Moving with the deftness of habit, she reached under the front seat, pulled out the detachable siren/light device, and unrolled the window. She clamped the siren into place and switched it on.
* * * * *
The loud whoop of a siren on the avenue below caught Broadway's attention.
"Uh-oh." He leaned his head out over the edge of the building for a better look.
Crouched just above him, almost blending with the old brick walls, Brooklyn also leaned forward. "You were saying about being bored?"
The two gargoyles spread their wings and leapt. For a moment they dipped down towards the street. Then the thermals caught their wings, and they rose, following the police vehicle.
* * * * *
The car screeched to a stop. Through the windshield, the detectives saw two running figures, both carrying handguns. Nearby the door of a lone grocery stood ajar. In the doorway, the owner, a heavyset man with glasses, white hair, and a grocer's apron, stood against the light, his shadow spilling onto the sidewalk. His stance suggested quiet fury.
"Just-get-them," he growled as Santiago ran over to see if he was hurt.
Worries about Quarrymen pushed to the back of her mind, Sara felt only the urgency of the Now, of the parking garage where the gunmen had disappeared.
She heard her partner yelling "Sara, Sara wait!" But she didn't pause; she knew Santiago would call backup, he was that sort of cop and partner. She flashed her badge at the startled night-attendant, who only stared in alarm, then ducked out of sight in his booth as she pulled her gun.
The bang of a shot made her drop flat to the ground and realize her mistake. She had raced in alone, without making sure her partner was covering her. Crouching, gun up, she slowly backed towards the street and the detectives' car.
Someone knocked her down, and she heard Santiago's voice cursing about "fool rookies," then another shot, almost all in the same breath of time. Santiago's body jerked, and a dead weight pushed her flat.
He was heavy, much heavier than she was. With a grunt, Sara managed to move from beneath his body. As she did so, the fingers of her left hand met something damp and sticky. There was blood on her wool coat. Still lying on the pavement, she looked down at the front of her clothes. But it wasn't her blood.
"No!" The anguished syllable burst from her as she parted Santiago's jacket and found the dark stain. Staying low, she pulled Santiago's slack weight over to the car and leaned his bulk upright against the back bumper, on the side away from the garage opening. "Santiago, say something -- ohpleasegodno..."
He stirred faintly. The blood was coming from his right side. Feebly, he lifted his hand. "C-call...b-back-up."
"Yes. Sit tight, you hear me?" Sara inhaled a shaken breath, then crawled her way to the open car door. Reaching in, she took out the first aid kit, then grabbed the handset of the radio and opened a channel.
"...in need of backup. Officer down! I repeat, officer down! Send ambulance, officer down, officer do-" Her breath ran out of her. As she gulped, ready to signal again, the reply came:
"Copy that, ambulance and assistance on its way. Please stand by."
But the dispatcher spoke to an empty car.
* * * * *
"What does she think she's doing?" Brooklyn crouched at the edge of the garage roof, his beaked face drawn down into a frown. Beside him, Broadway leaned against the roof railing, his wings folded over his broad shoulders.
"Crazy cop," the large blue gargoyle agreed grimly. "Procedure says you're s'posed to wait for back-up. And her partner's down."
"Should we split up? You can carry him to Manhattan General..."
In the distance came the wail of sirens.
"Guess that answers that question," Brooklyn finished. "Let's do it."
Together, they dropped off the side of the roof and maneuvered through the openings on the top garage level. Broadway landed on the greasy, cold pavement inside while Brooklyn landed on a Mercedes.
"Oops," he said, to no one in particular. "The owner's gonna have a fit about the paint job. Sorry."
Broadway made for the ramp leading to the next level as Brooklyn leapt from the roof of the car and followed.
* * * * *
The garage was still, filled with weak, sickly fluorescent light and deep shadow. Large red numbers marked the parking areas, while the cars seemed to crouch like dormant mechanical monsters that could roar to life if she made too much noise. Gripping her automatic, Sara cautiously moved around a four-by-four, keeping her back flat against the car. As carefully as she tried to move, each of her footsteps seemed to echo loudly in the dank space.
Something shifted off to her right, twitching in the shadows at the edge of an empty parking space. She had him.
The figure stiffened and stilled.
"Hands in the air, drop the gun. NOW!"
A clatter marked his obedience.
"Move into the light."
"Now, kick the gun over here."
The gunman stared at her, the deep lines of his face enhanced by the shadows.
"I said -- "
The blow struck between her shoulder blades, sending her to her knees and driving the breath from her body. Her fingers clenched convulsively, tighter, about the hand-grip of her gun, but for a second she couldn't see, couldn't raise her arm, couldn't do anything but struggle for breath and fight the urge to pass out.
Fool rookies... It was another rookie mistake, forgetting all about the second gunman. Or maybe she hadn't forgotten, but had been too enraged to care. Her partner's blood was stiff and dry on her fingers.
A soft, unpleasant laugh brought her head up, and she found herself staring into a tiny black hole, the barrel of a semi-automatic.
It was a saying she'd heard, that for every cop there was a bullet inscribed with a name. Seconds to oblivion. The silent cars, the shadows, the mocking face above the gun, faded as if swallowed by a mist, leaving only that small black hole, waiting to consume her with a flash of fire.
Twin screams, like those of jungle beasts, and a thud brought the world back into focus with an almost audible snap. Something huge with lanterns for eyes had flattened her would-be killer across the hood of a car. With a shock, she recognized it from the photographs Castaway had given her. You've never seen one up close, have you? Well I have.
A second creature flicked out its tail, knocking down the first gunman, who had bolted.
Fear raced through her as she got a good look at the pointed, beak-like face, the demonic horns, white hair, wings, talons, and those eerie, ever-burning white eyes. Kneeling on the floor, she brought her gun up and sighted down the barrel at the creature.
The two creatures became aware of her, and the white glow left their eyes. Sara held her gun with both hands because she wasn't steady enough to manage with just one. For many heartbeats they stared at each other, the two gargoyles facing the young woman.
Sirens grew louder with a hollow note that indicated that the vehicles had entered the garage complex. The sound seemed to break a magic spell. Slowly, she felt the tension draining from her face. Her eyes went to the two unconscious gunmen. The gun lowered, then clattered to the floor, dropped from a limp grasp as the two gargoyles glanced at each other, then at the woman, before darting away into the shadows with a flicker of wings.
* * * * *
"Hmph," Broadway grumbled as he twitched his wings, catching a higher thermal. "She might have at least thanked us."
"Hey." Brooklyn shrugged in mid-air as they glided north. "At least she didn't shoot us."
Neither of them had heard it, the quiet voice that echoed softly in the big concrete space, barely above a whisper as they had darted away. It was almost prayerful.
* * * * *
A DAY PASSES.
* * * * *
The empty soda bottle teetered, fell, and rolled noisily along the cement, leaf-strewn walk, driven by a blustery late afternoon wind. The bottle came to rest at the base of a statue of Pan with flute raised to his lips. Lit by the slanting rays of a chill winter sun, the forest god looked oddly pathetic beneath the stark branches of the old trees.
A tall figure wrapped in a trenchcoat stepped closer to the railing that divided the broad walk from the trees. He turned, took a few steps, then stopped again. He seemed to be watching and waiting for someone, hands in his pockets, head raised.
At last a smaller figure moved out from behind one of the trees on the other side of the railing.
"Sparrowhawk?" the taller figure said softly.
"It's me." The smaller figure reached the railing and started to climb over; the taller figure took her by the arm, briefly, to help, then let go as she dropped to the walk.
The two sat down on a nearby bench. For a moment they didn't speak, while the wind gusted around them and chased dead leaves like invisible cats at their feet.
Finally the woman let out a low, brief laugh that held a small note of nervousness. "You know, Bluestone, I still can't get used to you using that code name. It feels so silly when I answer."
"It's a necessary precaution," he explained, glancing at her.
"I know," she said hastily. "I appreciate it. But this cloak-and-dagger stuff, secret meetings, code names, that may be your cup of tea, it's not mine."
"Really," he said, voice faintly amused. "Did you bring a grasshopper?"
"Did I bring a...?" She broke off in puzzlement, then groaned as realization dawned. "Very funny. Well, I brought this." Reaching under her coat, she pulled out a letter-sized envelope. "A few addresses worth checking out. Can't promise anything," she added, a bit bitterly. "Might be just like last time."
"Sara -- " he said, forgetting, then caught himself. "That wasn't your fault."
"Sure." She shrugged.
"Look, I know you're not the leak."
She turned to him, shifting on the bench, her brown hair framing her face, which looked pale in the late sunlight. "Do you? Are you absolutely sure?"
"Yes, I am."
"And...what about Elisa?"
He waited a bit too long to answer.
"Ahh," she said.
"She'll come around," Matt protested. "It's hard for her -- to trust people." He paused. "I heard about what happened to Santiago," he said quietly. "How's he doing?"
"He'll be okay," Sara answered with a relieved sigh. "They moved him out of ICU, and now he's sitting up and demanding a chili dog." The ghost of a grin came to her face, and flickered away. "I wish I had more information this time. I hope this time you do catch someone at those addresses."
"Well, here's hoping," Matt said flippantly.
The silence stretched out again. On an intersecting path, three teenage boys on rollerblades whizzed past. Matt stiffened, then relaxed as the three vanished on their way.
"Matt?" Sara said suddenly. She had pulled one glove off and was twisting at the fingers. "Have you -- have you ever been wrong about something? I mean, not just making a mistake or picking the wrong suspect. I mean -- finding out that something you always took for granted, that seemed right, wasn't?"
"Actually, yeah," Matt said, his voice going far away. Then he snapped back to the present. "Why?" he asked her sharply.
Sara sighed, and swallowed. She avoided looking at his face. "No reason. I just wondered." She toed a leaf with her shoe, making a crunch sound. "My father was a cop," she said abruptly. Her gaze shifted to the skyline, visible beyond the trees to the south. "He was decorated. We -- my Mom and brothers and I -- but mostly us kids -- were so proud. Our Dad the Hero. And I wanted to be just like him. Protect people. Be the hero." She stopped playing with the glove and pulled it back on. "He was shot in the line of duty when I was ten. It was the scariest day of my life. We were lucky, he could have been killed. But the bullet -- it shattered his knee. Eventually, with physical therapy and implants, he was able to walk again. But always with a limp. They offered him a high-paying desk job in the LAPD."
"So, it turned out okay."
"No!" She lowered her voice. "He gave up. He turned it down. He could have done a lot of good for people behind a desk. Instead he moved us all to Brooklyn to help his brother with his restaurant."
"Maybe he didn't want a desk job. For some, once you've been on the streets, in the thick of it, you can't just sit in a chair with a computer all day."
Sara shook her head. "That's not it. When he was shot, it was like...his spirit died. When I went to the Academy I swore I'd never let that happen to me, that I'd always find a way to protect, to make a difference, somehow. That's all my joining the Quarrymen was about, I really thought they were protecting people. I didn't know. I just didn't know. But it seems I've been wrong about a great many things." She enunciated the last few words sharply, bitterly. There was a short pause, and when she spoke again it was much more quietly. "I don't think Dad would be proud of me."
"You're probably wrong about that," Matt said softly. "You don't have to explain all this to me. You're risking an awful lot to help us, Sparrowhawk."
The bare tree branches above their heads creaked in the wind. "Aw, geez," Sara quickly got to her feet. "Why am I burdening you with all that? I'm tired, I guess." She rubbed her gloved fingers over her the bridge of her nose. "I'm sorry, I've got to go -- "
Matt closed his fingers around her wrist. She waited.
"If there is a leak," he said, leaning forward slightly, "that means your safety is in question."
"I knew the job was dangerous when I took it," she said, gently pulling her wrist from his grasp.
"I know. Just...uh...watch your back, okay?"
"I think that's 'watch your back,'" she answered with a grin.
An anwering grin crossed Matt's face. "Yeah. Heh." Then he added, putting two fingers to his forehead in a mock salute, "See you around, Spar -- "
But she was already gone.
* * * * *
The clan stared at their leader. "Goliath, with all due respect," Brooklyn said finally, "you're insane."
"Brooklyn," Sata reproved.
"Tell me I'm wrong, Sata."
She paused, then looked down.
"Anyone else?" Brooklyn looked around.
"He's right, Goliath." Broadway was shaking his head. "You can't do this."
Goliath, arms folded across his chest, looked at them grimly. "If any of you have a better idea, I would be delighted to hear it."
"Well, something that gave you a chance of surviving would be nice," Brooklyn said sardonically.
"They won't kill me directly," Goliath said in even tones. "They will want to display their prize first. There will be that much time before my life is in any true danger."
Hudson pulled at his beard. "And just how much time will that be, lad?"
Goliath spread one hand in a who-knows? gesture. "It will have to be enough."
"I don't like this, Father," Angela said very quietly.
"You've gotta at least let some of us come along to watch your back," Lexington insisted. "I'll go."
The leader paused and looked at Lexington. "That may be a good idea," he said finally. "They must know that we normally fly in pairs or larger groups; a single gargoyle alone might make them suspicious." The others nodded. "But whoever goes with me must get away. I'll need to be able to rely on both your ability and your willingness to escape once I am captured."
"I'll go," Lexington said again, louder.
"Me and Sata," Brooklyn overrode him. "Goliath, you know you can count on us."
Broadway sighed gloomily. "I still don't like this." Angela nodded in agreement with him, her eyes troubled.
"Goliath," Lexington tried again.
"Very well," Goliath said. "Brooklyn, you and Sata will come with me. Broadway and Angela, one of you will look after the hatchlings. The rest of you will fly patrol as usual."
Lexington stared at Goliath for a long moment, then turned and launched himself onto the wall and away into the night in two quick bounds. Goliath lifted a hand as if to call him back, then sighed and let the hand drop. "Are we ready?"
* * * * *
Nicholas Maddox looked up from the Genetics Division's latest report on his desk as Mavis O'Connor entered the office. "Heading off for the Cyberbiotics meeting now?" he asked her.
Mavis nodded. "It shouldn't put the day away on us," she said. "Just meself and Preston Vogel signing a few papers, I expect. Pity that Mr. Renard won't be there, but it's his health taken another turn for the worse. I doubt he's that much longer for this world."
"Quite a pity," said Maddox. He read over a few more lines of the report, then looked up, frowning thoughtfully again. "Have you ever noticed it, Mavis?"
"That Mr. Vogel looks so much like that assistant of David Xanatos's. Owen Burnett was his name, I believe. The resemblance is positively astounding. Do you suppose that they could be related?"
"Not likely," said Mavis. "Although I've wondered about it myself. Is there some rule in this city that every resident businessman must have a stiff, wooden, bespectacled assistant?"
"I hope not," Maddox replied, with a slight smile. "Though I'm beginning to get frightening visions of Dominique Destine's new personal assistant being just such a person, only with red hair."
"Heaven help us if that ever happens," said Mavis, rolling her eyes upwards.
She was about to step out the door when the telephone on Maddox's desk rang. The businessman picked up the receiver and held it up to his ear. "Nicholas Maddox speaking," he said.
"Nicholas?" said a voice that he recognized at once at the other end. "It's me, Lex. Listen, I'm going to be coming over in just a little bit. I thought for a moment that I might be doing something else tonight, but -- " his voice took on a tinge of sourness -- "I guess that I'm not."
"Splendid, splendid," said Maddox smiling. "I'm looking forward to seeing you. I'll be waiting for you." And with that, he hung up the phone.
Mavis gave him an inquiring look.
"Friend of mine," said Maddox. "I was afraid that he wasn't going to make it tonight, but it looks like he can after all."
"Ah," she said. "Another chess player?"
He raised an eyebrow at her. "Yes, actually."
"All to the good. Might be nice for you to have an opponent at chess now and again." She chuckled. "Well, cheers, I'm off." And she left the office, closing the door behind her.
Maddox went back to reading the report, nodding occasionally at the words before him.
In the hallway outside his office, Mavis O'Connor unfolded a cellular phone and tapped in seven digits as she walked away, her high heels clicking on the floor.
* * * * *
The unremarkable-looking man with mousy-brown hair stood behind the podium, looking down at the multitude of faces in the auditorium before him. Average New Yorkers, of all ages, races, professions, with but one thing in common. A fear of the "winged peril" that continued to beset their city, a fear which had brought them here to learn more about this menace.
He could recognize many of them, having gotten to know certain areas of New York rather well in the almost two months that he had spent here. Such as Art and Lois, a couple who owned a restaurant that he had occasionally patronized, sitting in the front row. His sources had informed him that they had been passengers on the subway train that the gargoyles had "attacked" just two nights before the destruction of the 23rd precinct police station, so they'd seen these creatures up close. That was good. They had the sort of familiarity that encourages fear, rather than discourages it. A very important point.
He had checked the microphone to make certain that it was in working order. Now he coughed once, then spoke.
"Good evening, everybody," he said. "My name is David G. Cohn. First off, I'd like to say how pleased I am that so many of you have chosen to attend this lecture. In these times, it's good to know that some people still have a little civic concern for the greatest danger to ever threaten this city."
He paused for effect, and scanned the faces again. Troubled, anxious faces, staring up at him. Faces of people still uncertain about what to make of the shadowy shapes that they had glimpsed against the night sky. Faces with fear behind them, fear that could be fanned into something more, with the right words. He nodded with satisfaction, and continued.
"In order to more properly understand the nature of this menace, and how we can solve it, I'd like to give a brief summary of the history of their siege of Manhattan. Particularly in light of new information that research has recently uncovered." He gave a small smile. "The history's a bit long, but bear with me. I believe that you'll find it illuminating.
"About two and a half years ago, one of our leading resident businessmen, David Xanatos, purchased a ruined castle in Scotland. A castle with a particularly dark history, said to have been haunted by the bat-winged creatures we now know as gargoyles. According to local tradition, these creatures betrayed the humans who dwelt in the castle a thousand years ago to a band of raiding Vikings, and were punished for their treachery by being turned into stone, seemingly forever. I suppose it would be going a bit too far to say that Mr. Xanatos should have left the castle alone out of concern for his fellow human beings; after all, they were only legends. But as we're beginning to discover in these times, most legends contain the seeds of truth in them.
"At any rate, Mr. Xanatos purchased the castle and had it moved to the top of his headquarters here in Manhattan, the Eyrie Building. The very night after the work was completed, some sort of disturbance took place on the top of the building. Eye-witnesses reported hearing explosions and gunfire, and seeing bursts of red smoke from above. Large rocks fell from the top of the skyscraper onto the pavement below, causing considerable damage. Mr. Xanatos claimed that this destruction was due to an exploding generator, but later events showed that story to be untrue. Of course, nobody dreamed what the truth was at the time.
"The following night, gargoyle sightings began. Unfortunately, nobody was able to produce any hard evidence of these winged creatures' existence; thus, the only newspaper that would willingly print any reports about them was the ill-reputed Daily Tattler, New York's most notorious tabloid. However, just two nights after the disturbance at the Eyrie Building, three research facilities belonging to Cyberbiotics, one of Xanatos's leading competitors, were robbed by these monsters, who stole computer disks containing valuable Cyberbiotics data and left. While the reports of the surviving security guards as to the nature of the thieves were discounted by the authorities, a search was made for the stolen disks, which were found in the possession of Mr. Xanatos. The connection is only too easy to make out."
He paused again, letting his words sink in. His audience was silent, looking at each other with troubled glances. The mousey-haired man smiled to himself before continuing.
"Unfortunately, the courts were unable to prove that Xanatos's guilt had extended beyond receiving the stolen disks, so he only received a six-month sentence in prison. In the meantime, gargoyle sightings continued to take place throughout New York. The official story put about by the authorities was that they were robots, citing the remains of a similar robot found at the scene of a disturbance at the Statue of Liberty, and disregarding those people that insisted that they had seen flesh-and-blood creatures rather than machines. I won't go into details here, for lack of time, but suffice it to say that the gargoyles made their presence felt in New York, and wherever they went, destruction seemed to follow them."
He paused again, to take a few sips of the glass of water from his podium. This time, he noticed that his listeners were no longer silent. They were murmuring to each other in low, troubled voices. He couldn't make out the actual words, but could easily guess as to their general intent. The speaker gave a small, satisfied nod, and continued.
"The gargoyle sightings reached their climax in late October, earlier this year," he said. "On the night of October 24, the 23rd precinct, where more of these sightings had taken place than anywhere else in New York, was attacked. A pack of gargoyles destroyed the clock tower above the police station in that division. The police station itself was severely damaged, and although there was fortunately no loss of life, many people suffered injuries. A brave WVRN reporter named Jon Carter managed to get footage of the gargoyles leaving the scene of the crime, and broadcast it to the general public, proving at last that these creatures were, to quote him, 'no longer urban myths, but urban reality.'"
He stopped, as he noticed a hand being raised in the fourth row from the front. "Yes, you, sir?" he asked.
"Jerry Pearson for the New York Sentinel," said the man. David Cohn looked at him, and frowned to himself. The dark-skinned newspaper reporter was about the only person present who didn't seem particularly uneasy or uncomfortable. On the contrary, his face was calm and his voice slow and even-toned.
"Yes, Mr. Pearson?" asked David Cohn. "I'm always glad to oblige a member of the press."
"Well, what you just said about the gargoyles blowing up the clock tower," said Jerry. "Didn't the police find out that it was really the Canmore siblings who destroyed it? And isn't it true that this 'Jon Carter' was actually one of them in disguise, trying to frame them and stir up the public against them?"
"I'm glad that you brought that up, Mr. Pearson," said the mousey-haired man, smiling and giving an approving nod. "What you have just mentioned is one of the infamous deceptions perpetrated by the people who attempt to defend the gargoyles. I'll explain the true story behind it in a moment, the story that the so-called 'Gargoyle Task Force' doesn't want you to know."
Jerry Pearson frowned, but said nothing. David Cohn resumed his speech. "Two nights later, these gargoyles were seen by the public on their way to St. Damien's Cathedral, where they launched a savage assault upon the now-famous 'Canmore trio'. Three gargoyle hunters from Scotland, Jason, Robyn, and Jon Canmore have devoted their lives to ridding the world of these monstrous creatures. Because of the failure by the authorities to recognize the existence of gargoyles, they were forced into vigilante action, action that had occasionally, and entirely inadvertently, resulted in damage done to innocent bystanders or to their property. The Canmores had tracked one of the gargoyles, a female, to the condemned cathedral. We're not certain as yet what the gargoyle was doing there, but a search through the rubble of St. Damien's afterwards uncovered some very unsettling possibilities; I'll tell you about them in greater detail after the lecture. Just as they were about to capture her, the rest of the clan attacked them, allowing her to escape. In the ensuing battle, Jason Canmore was seriously injured and left paralyzed below the waist, thanks to a severed spine. His younger brother Jon managed to escape, but disappeared from sight afterwards; a police search was unable to locate him.
"The newly-created Gargoyle Task Force, under Detective Matthew Bluestone, cordoned off the building during the battle, but made no effort to intervene during the proceedings. Detective Bluestone repeatedly refused to send in his men to confront the monsters, until it became clear that his refusal to carry out his duties could provoke a riot among the frightened citizens watching. However, just as he gave the belated order to capture the gargoyles, a mysterious helicopter, bearing a striking resemblance to the ones customarily used by David Xanatos - there's that name again - arrived to rescue them and allow them to escape the authorities. Jason and Robyn Canmore were promptly arrested and are both awaiting trial.
"In the aftermath, Detective Bluestone issued a statement that Jason and Robyn Canmore had confessed to blowing up the 23rd precinct building, in an effort to destroy the gargoyles which were then nesting there, and that the news report blaming these creatures for this act was a lie. However, it is noteworthy that Jon Canmore, who gave the report, disappeared from sight immediately after the fight in St. Damien's Cathedral, and was thus unable to counter the accusations made against him. Indeed, I might add that there is something very suspicious in his disappearance. He was last seen in pursuit of the original female gargoyle that his family had followed to the cathedral. She has been sighted since then...but he has not. A very ominous note." He paused, looking grim. "It might have been easier had his body been found, but as things are... I would hesitate to condemn Jason and Robyn Canmore for agreeing to confess to the destruction of the 23rd precinct police station and absolve the gargoyles of guilt. If it were my own brother, I honestly can't say that I would have done differently." He paused for a moment, and his voice became more matter-of-fact when he continued. "It's worth noting as well that no effort was similarly made to clear the gargoyles of responsibility for the combat within the cathedral; clearly, there are limits to the deceptions that can be foisted upon the public.
"The deceptions continued, as well. Mr. Xanatos claimed that he was not harboring the gargoyles in the Eyrie Building, despite the fact that the helicopter that rescued them was clearly seen by many reliable witnesses flying in that direction, and Detective Bluestone took his word for it and made no effort to search the premises. Nor has he made any effort since to investigate the rumors that continue to connect Mr. Xanatos with these monsters, despite their prevalence in this city."
Another pause for effect, and to take another sip from his water glass. The silence was broken by more troubled murmuring, louder this time. Then he cleared his throat, and resumed his lecture.
"Gargoyle sightings have dwindled since the 'Cathedral Battle'," he continued, "but have still been reported. Unfortunately, the Gargoyle Task Force has never made more than a token effort to apprehend these monsters. In fact, it has put more effort into attempting to counter the efforts by the newly-formed Quarrymen into putting a stop to their ravages, claiming that these people are a dangerous band of urban terrorists. Now, I will be the first to admit that Jon Castaway has behaved rather excessively in trying to get rid of the gargoyles. Those hoods that he has his followers wear have very unfortunate connotations, and he has displayed potential signs of mental unbalance. I wouldn't be too astonished if he were to completely snap and do something foolish like firing anti-aircraft guns at the creatures in the middle of downtown Manhattan. But he is trying to do something about this menace, which is more than can be said for Detective Bluestone. And who's to say that his instability isn't based on the frustration that he must feel after witnessing, time after time, the city's guardians refusing to carry out their duties to protect the public? Could any of us have preserved our sanity after seeing this constant abandonment, perhaps even betrayal, night after night? It certainly wouldn't be easy. Small wonder, I think, that Mr. Castaway and his Quarrymen act the way that they do.
"Now, a few words about Detective Matthew Bluestone, the head of the Gargoyle Task Force." There was a muttering in the crowd, and the speaker carefully did not smile at it. "Originally, he was one of the most determined gargoyle-hunters in New York. But then, a year ago, his search for them abruptly ceased, and he began to give evasive comments to the press and the media whenever questioned about their existence. Now, a man with Detective Bluestone's tenacity doesn't usually give up a search...unless, that is, he thinks he's found what he's been looking for. And the fact that he's similarly given up his attempts to find evidence that David Xanatos is involved with them might make one wonder. David Xanatos is an extremely wealthy man, after all, and has strong motivations to keep the gargoyles secret from the world, so that he can make use of them. In fact, I wouldn't be too surprised if he had something to do with Detective Bluestone's appointment to lead the Gargoyle Task Force. For that matter - yes?"
It was Jerry Pearson again. "Another point that I'd like to have clarified, Mr. Cohn," he said. "A lot of the evidence being turned up about the gargoyle sightings in this city has indicated that the gargoyles generally showed up whenever there were crimes, foiled these same crimes, and only attacked the criminals, not the innocent bystanders. Wouldn't that suggest that maybe they aren't really a menace to us after all?"
"Ah, yes," said Mr. Cohn, nodding. He gritted his teeth in silence for a moment, clenching his hands into fists beneath the podium where his audience could not see, then resumed his speech in as calm and even a tone of voice as he could manage. "Thank you, Mr. Pearson. You've just brought us to a leading part of the Gargoyle Myth perpetuated by Detective Bluestone. This is the claim that gargoyles are really protectors rather than menaces, that they are trying to help people rather than destroy them. And it has received some support by the fact that many gargoyle attacks have coincided with criminal activities that were thwarted by their presence. But that is precisely what they are: coincidences. Remember just how much crime there is here in Manhattan at night. Given the Law of Averages, it's almost inevitable that some crime scenes would also be the scenes of gargoyle attacks. And keep in mind, the only reports of such incidents that we have are from people who had the sense to run for their lives the moment that the gargoyles' presence distracts their assailants.
"In any case, the 'defenders of the night' theory meets with one serious flaw. As I said, all current evidence indicates that the gargoyles are living with Mr. Xanatos, an ex-convict. It is doubtful that they would have chosen to dwell with such a man if they really were crime-fighters. And it gets worse. Mr. Xanatos's wife, Fox, herself has a criminal past. She was once the leader of the Pack, a band of notorious mercenaries still at large, and prior to her marriage had served several months in prison for taking a young woman hostage at gun-point. These are hardly appropriate allies or hosts for the beings that Detective Bluestone makes gargoyles out to be."
"And there we go back to Xanatos again. Tell me, Mr. Cohn, do you really think that living with an ex-convict is sufficient reason for what seems to amount to genocide? That is what you're advocating, isn't it?"
"Some would call it that," replied Mr. Cohn. He now directed his words at the entire audience, which was now murmuring in an unfriendly buzz. "I will not try to whitewash what we're suggesting. Exterminating an entire species is a horrible thing, and not to be taken lightly. But what choice is there? From all the evidence that we have, these gargoyles are too savage and aggressive to be negotiated with. One might as well negotiate with mountain lions. We could attempt to hold them in captivity, for scientific study and analysis, but only the government has the proper resources for this, and it has refused to make more than a token effort at capturing these creatures. So that leaves us with only one alternative if we're to protect ourselves. Destroying them.
"Let me assure you of one thing, though. This is not genocide. Genocide applies to humans, not to animals. And that is what gargoyles most likely are: animals. It is no light matter, as I said before, to deliberately eradicate an entire species -- especially a rare one such as these seem to be. But if they aren't intelligent, then they're dangerous in the same way that a rabid dog is, without malice or harmful intent but deadly nonetheless; if it cannot be taken unharmed, then it must be killed. If they are intelligent, then we can only assume that their actions have all been planned, with the intention of destroying and killing innocent human beings. In either case, whether they attack us out of instinct or out of malevolence, are we to permit them to roam free in our city while we cower behind locked doors at night?"
The muttering of the crowd swelled into shouts. No, no, no.
At that moment, a man stepped up behind Cohn and handed him a small slip of paper. David Cohn stopped in the middle of his speech, and stood there for a moment, reading it. "Just a moment," he said, moving off the stage in its direction. "I'll be back shortly."
He was gone for a few minutes, while the assembled people turned to each other, no longer bothering to lower their voices. "And the police aren't doing anything about them!" ... "Do we really need to kill them? Can't we just -- well, scare them off a bit?" "What choice do we have? They want us all dead!" ... "I've seen those things. They're creepy. They look like demons." "Maybe they are demons. I mean, we're this close to the turn of the millenium. Aren't demons supposed to walk abroad during the End of Days?" "I don't care if they're demons, they're dangerous!"...
Jerry Pearson alone said nothing, but listened to the people speak with each other, grimly jotting down notes in a small notebook.
David Cohn resumed his place at the podium, and cleared his throat. The near-shouted conversations at once ceased, and everybody turned to face him.
"Sorry about the interruption, my friends," said the mousey-haired man. "But there was a rather important telephone call that I've been expecting. I've got a friend who works at Maddox Technologies, and she's noticed for some time a gargoyle visiting its headquarters regularly at night. She doesn't know why, as yet, but she's become troubled about these sightings, and what they might mean. She thinks that Mr. Xanatos might be using it to steal Maddox Technologies' products, the same way that he did with Cyberbiotics. She also believes that it might be coming again tonight. She's noticed a pattern to its visits, and an arrival from it tonight would fit the pattern."
"The Maddox Tech building?" said somebody in the crowd. "That's not far from here, only a couple of blocks away!"
David Cohn nodded. "In that case, it's a good thing that we're so close by," he said. "Because now we're in a position to stop it. Frighten it off if we can, and if we can't...well, there's enough of us to take one gargoyle if we stand together. If you all come with me. We can find it and destroy it before it can do any more harm! We can free our city from the nightmare that has loomed over it for too long! Who is with me?"
Loud cheering answered him, and he nodded with satisfaction. "Then it's settled," he said. "We are one. Together, we can do this! Come on!" He strode down from the stage, and out the double doors at the front of the lecture hall. His audience rose from their seats, and poured out after him, caught up in the excitement.
Jerry Pearson stood up, watching the citizens pour out into the night. He stuck his pen behind his ear, grabbed his jacket and camera, and set off after them.
A cold smile curved Mr. Cohn's lips as he led his little army off along the sidewalk, and he murmured under his breath:
"'Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot; take thou what course thou wilt!'"
* * * * *
Goliath, Sata and Brooklyn winged their way to Battery Park. The clan had seen rallies there every week on their patrols, and mostly tried to keep away. It wasn't like the big, public, recruiting affairs at the malls or Central Park. This was to keep the fervor going, a way to keep the flames fanned among the Quarrymen.
A gibbous moon lit their way to the park, and the chanting and shouting were already audible from several blocks away. Brooklyn looked doubtful about this course of action, but knew Goliath was committed. 'He ought to be committed', he muttered to himself. His mate glided close to him, reaching out for his hand.
"Goliath needs your heart as well as your strong right hand now, beloved," Sata said quietly.
Brooklyn smiled weakly, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze. It was at times like these he wished he were a little more wise and a little less wisecracking. Sata was so wonderful.
The moment's distraction ended abruptly when a voice rang out. "LOOK!!"
The Quarrymen had spotted them and began taking shots at them. Soon blaster fire joined the bullets filling the air.
"Remember, make it convincing." Goliath folded his wings in a long dive toward the pavement. Brooklyn and Sata followed suit, flanking their leader.
Goliath landed a few yards from the crowd of hammer-wielding, gun-toting Quarrymen. He stepped forward, raising his empty hands. "I want to speak with Castaway," he rumbled.
Several of the Quarrymen trained their guns on him, anxious to bag the large gargoyle, but others charged Goliath so quickly that those with guns held off from shooting their comrades.
"I want to speak with Castaway," Goliath repeated in a roar, over the Quarrymen dogpiling on top of him. Goliath tried to struggle out from under the mass of bodies, when someone pulled a knife and grazed his arm. Startled by the attack, Goliath burst up from under the twenty-man dogpile, flinging bodies every which way. Now, those Quarrymen with hammers moved in to catch the gargoyle.
One Quarryman brought down his hammer, but it was intercepted in Brooklyn's viselike grip. Brooklyn's eyes glowed hot white and a growl filled his throat. The red gargoyle lifted the man by his arm and his belt and threw him into his fellows.
A gang of five Quarrymen charged them, but saw Sata's katana and thought twice about it before the got back up and charged the female. The confrontation fell into a full riot. Brooklyn fought his way to Sata and looked for some sign of Goliath. A few bodies flying past him gave Brooklyn a pretty good idea where to look. Goliath was being overwhelmed. Brooklyn wanted to reach him, but Sata grabbed his arm.
With a shake of her head, she pulled him to the trees. The couple fled, leaping into the boughs and taking wing in less than a blink. The Quarrymen with guns fired after them and gave pursuit. The rest concentrated on subduing Goliath.
Goliath went down with a massive crash. A mighty whoop went up among the Quarrymen. They had bagged a gargoyle. The large lavender gargoyle lay motionless save for his deep breathing. One Quarrymen lifted his charged hammer for a strike, when another halted him.
"No!" snapped the second Quarryman, a young man with dark curly hair. "Castaway wants to question it. We need to know where the others are."
"Question it?" The first looked disgusted. "I joined this outfit to smash some stone and it starts with this one."
That Quarryman wound up flat on his back. The second Quarryman turned to the others, in challenge. "Castaway's our leader, and we do as he says. He says he wants a gargoyle for questioning? We bring a gargoyle for questioning. Don't worry. It won't live long after telling us what we need to know."
That Quarryman took control of the situation, calling Castaway and arranging transport before the police arrived. From a hidden nook in a church bell tower, Brooklyn and Sata watched them load Goliath into a truck and take off.
"I hope he has this figured," Brooklyn said, his voice tinged with worry. "Come on, we have to tell Elisa."
* * * * *
"He did what?"
On the rooftop over the street, Brooklyn winced away from the volume of the transceiver in his ear, and lifted his hands helplessly. "I told him it was insane."
"This was his terrific plan?" In her Fairlane, parked at the side of the street below where Brooklyn was perched, Elisa covered her face with one hand. "If he survives this I'm gonna kill him...."
"Nothing. Listen, I'm gonna go pick up Matt. You get on that homing beacon and find out where they've taken Goliath."
"Right," Brooklyn said. "We're having some trouble with tracking the homing device, though; should be able to fix it soon. Blast it, where's Lex when we need him?"
Elisa's voice, when she answered, sounded odd. "Where do you think he is when you don't need him?"
She sighed. "Never mind. Just get that signal and let me know where to bring the squad."
* * * * *
Sara tried to concentrate on the data before her so she could make a coherent report to Matt -- and to Castaway. The numbers -- speculations on weight, life-span, wing-span, blood-type, and reproductive cycles -- kept bleeding together, hazy. The abstract calculations on the paper only kept reminding her of the living, flesh-and-blood gargoyle standing over the unconscious gunmen who would have killed her.
The image she had been trying to block out vanished of its own accord with the sound of a door banging somewhere in the brownstone, and voices, talking animatedly. The office door was open; she picked up the tone of the voices, and the atmosphere changed. The energy level rose, with a background hum of almost palpable excitement.
Quarrymen and women in uniform or plain clothes passed by the open doorway, hurrying, talking in excited undertones.
"Contain it...put up quite a fight...what if it gets out...did you see its eyes?..."
Sara got to her feet, and was moving for the door when a figure appeared there, broad-shouldered, radiating triumph. Jon Castaway spotted her and strode into the room, a pleased smile coming to his lips.
"Ah, Sara, there you are. Excellent news!"
She murmured something like an eager "Oh?" as her fingers closed around the back of a mahogany chair.
"At last, after all our efforts -- we have captured a gargoyle!" He paused, and the smile grew narrower, more secret, as if he were savoring the moment inwardly. There was something feral about it. "And not just any gargoyle, but the alpha-male. The leader." He peered at her thoughtfully. "Speechless? I should think so."
"That's great!" She smiled, wondering why it felt so forced, so detached, why there was suddenly something that felt like a small lead ball in her chest. "How -- " she groped for the appropriate words, "how wonderful for the cause."
"Indeed, indeed." Castaway reached out and took the papers she still held in her fingers. "You will, of course, be at my side during the interrogation and subsequent execution -- along with the most trusted members of the organization. No, don't look surprised -- your efforts as much as anyone else's contributed. After all, it was your deductive eye that provided ideas on how to construct the equipment, the nets, how to trap the beast. I...we...have worked a long, long time for this moment, Sara." His eyes met hers -- and for the first time, she felt a wave of repulsion. They were blue -- cold, but with a strange, alien fire behind them.
Slowly, she lifted her shoulders, then relaxed them with a disappointed sigh. Letting her gaze drop to the papers on the desk, she worked her face into a hopeless expression, then lifted her eyes to his face again. "Jon, I'm sorry. I have to go on shift. Special assignment. It would mean so much to me to be there, but..."
"But duty calls," he said, his voice full of sympathetic understanding. "You're a good soldier, Sara Jasper," he added.
Why didn't the compliment warm her as it once would have? "Give the beast a hammer-strike for me," she spoke after him as he turned and started for the door. It surprised her how convincingly satisfied, hard, and vicious her voice sounded.
"Of course," Castaway said, and left the room.
When he was gone, she counted to thirty, very slowly, then went into the hall. With Quarrymen everywhere, talking about the event, it would be easy enough to find out where the gargoyle was being held. "Nita!" she called, recognizing a face. "Just heard the good news!..."
* * * * *
"Come on, come onnnn..." Brooklyn slapped the side of the tracking device with his open palm. "Work, blast you!"
"The beacon may be damaged at its source." Sata frowned.
Brooklyn looked up at her sharply. "You think?"
She tilted one shoulder in a shrug. "He did take a rather harsh beating when they took him. It may be that a chance blow damaged the homing device...."
The brick-red hand clenched into a fist. "That's it. I'm calling Elisa."
* * * * *
Matt closed the door of the red Fairlane behind him and reached up to grab the seatbelt strap. "What's the word?"
"Did you know about this?" Elisa demanded.
"Goliath set up some fool plan to get himself captured by the Quarrymen so we could find their headquarters by tracking him." She thumped the steering wheel with one hand. "He might at least have warned me!"
As if in response to her hand hitting the wheel, the transceiver around her neck let out a cheep. She picked up the mouthpiece and spoke into it. "Maza here."
There was a pause. "WHAT?!"
Matt almost jumped out of his seat at Elisa's yell. He stared at her as she continued talking. "Did you try adjusting the frequency?...You're sure it isn't the receiver that's broken?... Hang on a second." She turned back to Matt, her eyes a little wild. "The homing beacon's down. They've lost the signal."
Bluestone swallowed a curse. "We'll have to find him some other way. Maybe --"
The cellular phone in his pocket rang. He stared at it for a moment, then grabbed for it. "Bluestone here."
"Matt, they've captured Goliath, I just heard --"
Matt let out an explosive breath. "Sara, am I glad to hear from you! We lost the homing beacon. Do you know where they're holding Goliath?"
"Uh...yes. Warehouse seventeen, on the docks.... Homing beacon?"
"It's a long story," he grumbled.
"Matt, you planned this?"
"Talk to Goliath. It was his idea. You said warehouse seventeen?"
* * * * *
"Yes, Matt...warehouse seventeen. It will be heavily guarded, with alarms," Sara spoke into the phone. "Okay. Be in touch."
She hung up the phone, then headed down the short hallway of her apartment, towards the small room where she kept the computer. Something other than the capture of the gargoyle was nagging at the back of her mind.
Fifteen minutes later, gnawing on her lower lip, Sara typed in the final three dates she wanted to check. The glow of the computer monitor sent odd shadows about her face; in the apartment only one light was on, a small desk lamp nearby.
The CPU beeped, and the results of the search came up. It was the same as before-a negative activity report at each site Sara had leaked to Matt in the past two week. Or if not negative, negligible, never enough for a conviction. Never at the high level of operations she had thought was at stake each time.
How could she have made that many mistakes? Once or twice could have been a fluke. But every time? She practically suspected herself, under the circumstances.
Something was terribly wrong. And there wasn't much time left.
Unbidden, pieces of events from the night before flashed out in her in pieces, like clips of a film -- of blood on her partner's shirt, silent cars in the cavernous space, a gun, a tiny black hole, a beak-shaped face, a gunman lying sprawled on the concrete.
Sara shuddered, closing the images off. Sighing, she began to tap her pencil on the scratch pad at her elbow. Pointless doodles with skilled execution already covered the paper to the point where there was no white space left. Somewhere among them was a sketch of a pair of bat-like wings and the barrel of a semi-automatic.
The pencil froze, poised before contacting the paper. Sara's eyes widened as she studied the list on the monitor.
There was the sound of a chair scraping back sharply, and the pencil clattered to the desktop, rolled to the edge, and fell to the floor, forgotten.
* * * * *
"Matt, it's Sara."
In the passenger seat of the Fairlane, Matt turned and mouthed to Elisa, "Sara."
Elisa frowned, brushing her long black hair back over one shoulder. She turned away, looking out the window at the street lights glowing in the darkness.
"Go ahead," Matt said into his cell phone.
"We have a big problem. A big problem."
"Yeah, I know."
"No, you don't," she came back, a bit sharply. "It's much more than what we discussed. We've been looking at this from the wrong side of the window all along, inside looking out."
"I'm not following you. Slow down."
"We should have checked from the outside looking in. Matt -- I think I've found the leak."
In the car, he sat up very straight suddenly, and Elisa turned to look at him with a sharp glance.
"You know who it is?"
"Not exactly. But I know the source. And it's not someone in Castaway's organization -- at least, not openly."
"What are you saying? Are you all right? What happened?"
Elisa now watched Matt intently, listening to only one side of the conversation.
"It's someone in your task force, Matt."
"Each time my tips turned up negative, I got the information from an encoded fax from one of Castaway's contacts. Faxes which I photocopied and gave to you to be decoded by crypto. Then you told your team, and they moved in a few hours later, only to find nothing. In those cases, someone might have seen me, or might have noticed the fax had been disturbed. Or saw me do something suspicious."
"You think your cover is blown? You don't have to go back in. Just give the word --"
"The other night, it was different," Sara went on, cutting him off. "I didn't get that address from a fax. I got it from a computer screen, and only because Castaway was called out of the room for a second. I think he'd even forgotten I was there; I was buried in files at a desk in the corner. No one was in the room with me. No one saw me stand up and take a peek at the screen. It took 15 seconds tops. So how could they possibly know that address was one of the leaked locations? Unless..."
"Unless the leak occurred after you told me...." Matt's hand tightened around the phone. He turned, and met Elisa's eyes. "That means...it is one of my people," he said dully.
Elisa started, leaned forward, opened her mouth to object, but Matt waved a hand at her to be silent. Eyes narrowing, she waited, listening.
"Whoever they are," Sara continued, "they're telling Castaway a few hours before you go in. Not much time, but enough for him to clear out."
"And my team doesn't know where we're going to hit until a few hours ahead of time...." Matt slammed his palm on the dashboard with a muttered curse. "But I know these people. I trust them...."
"Matt, listen to me. You can't trust anyone. Except Elisa." She paused. "And me."
"Elisa and I were about to call the team to get Goliath out of there...."
"Don't. If you call your task force, Goliath will be gone when you get there. And you know that Castaway will...he'll kill Goliath. Don't call them. If you want to save Goliath's life, if you trust me, tell only Elisa the address of the warehouse. Find some other cops to help, not from the task force. Don't call them."
Matt clutched the cell phone as if it were a lifeline. "All right," he said finally.
"Matt?" Sara's voice sounded very small.
"How many people in your task force know the identity of your source?"
He let out a long sigh, then said firmly, "Just me, Sara. And Elisa and our superior know. That's all. I swear to you."
"Okay." She sounded relieved. "Stay in touch."
"You too." The line clicked in his ear, and she was gone.
For a moment, Matt and Elisa sat still in the quiet car, listening to the rush of traffic outside.
Finally Matt leaned his head back against the seat and closed his eyes. "She says the leak is someone on the task force. She can prove it."
"No way!" Elisa gestured angrily with one hand. "What if she's the leak, and this is all some ploy of hers to cover her tracks? And what proof?"
"She says that for one of the negative busts, nobody could have known the information was leaked except at our end, because she only saw a computer file for a few seconds."
"That's her hearsay." Her expression darkened. "Look, I'm not saying she still likes Castaway's organization. But she hates gargoyles."
Matt opened his eyes. "She wants to save Goliath's life."
"So do I. Which is why I don't trust her."
"Maybe she's changed."
"Look," Matt continued. "We're talking about Goliath's life. Sara didn't say not to move in, she just said don't use the task force. So what have we got to lose? We can call Morgan, get some people he trusts, maybe the captain will recommend somebody."
There was a long pause before Elisa answered. "Okay. We'll do it your way. But I want it on record that I'm agreeing because I trust you. Not her."
* * * * *
"Not far to go now," said David Cohn, looking back at the small mob behind him. "The Maddox Technologies building is just half a block away."
"And that's where we'll find the gargoyle, Mr. Cohn?" asked Art, close behind him.
"I should think so," replied the brown-haired man calmly. "It should be easy enough to bring the beast down and dispose of it. There are a lot of us and only one of it, after all."
"Whatever you say, Mouse," said Art.
The man turned around and grabbed him by the front of his shirt, lifting him a foot off the ground. "Never... ever...call me that again," he snarled through gritted teeth. "Do you hear me? Never!"
"Aagh...sorry, Mr. Cohn," gasped the restaurant owner, his feet dangling helplessly in the air. "Right. Whatever you say."
"Good," said Dave Cohn, releasing him. "Now, hurry!"
* * * * *
The Maddox Technologies building came into view as Lexington glided down towards it. Maneuvering on the air currents in this part of Manhattan was tricky, but if he could just swerve here, he would be landing on his usual ledge in just a few minutes. And then....
A stone barely missed him, almost grazing his left wing. Lexington stared down in astonishment, his eyes widening as he saw the small crowd of humans on the sidewalk below. Many of them held more stones and bricks in their hands, and were shouting in fury at him. Freak, they were shouting, and monster, and other words...and mixing with them, roars and shouts of wordless savagery.
"No!" gasped the little gargoyle in alarm. It was an angry crowd, the sort of thing that he and his fellow clan members had had to watch out for ever since their secret had been uncovered over a month ago. There were no Quarrymen in it, just average unhooded citizens, but all of them were hurling things at them, yelling fiercely as they did so.
Lexington tried to dodge the rocks, but one of them struck him on the shoulder, and then another tore through his wing with a sickening ripping sound. He cried out in pain, and found himself falling. The shouts of the mob reached his ears, louder and louder. "Kill the monster! Kill it!"
Then he hit the pavement, and the world went dark.
* * * * *
"That's it, my friends!" cried Cohn eagerly. "We've brought it down, now let's finish it!"
The New Yorkers closed in a ring the unconscious gargoyle, who now laid sprawled-out on the sidewalk before them. The ring was still fairly wide; none of the people cared to approach a gargoyle too closely, even an unconscious one.
Mr. Cohn stepped back into the shadows that fell across the street corner, a gloating smile on his face. He nodded eagerly as Art reached for another loose brick. "You've attacked our city for the last time, you monster!" the restaurant owner cried, raising a brick high in one hand and preparing to hurl it at the downed creature's head.
"Halt!" came a sharp, clear voice from the direction of the Maddox Technologies building. The people turned their heads around to face it at once, their prey forgotten.
The voice came from an aristocratic-looking man in a formal suit, holding a hawk-headed cane in one hand. Beside him there stood a large reddish-colored wolfhound, growling at the crowd.
"I should like to know what you are doing, trespassing on my property," the man said, advancing upon them. A few uniformed security guards followed closely behind him. "I'm Nicholas Maddox, and I own this building. I'm afraid I'll have to ask you people to leave."
"We've cornered a wild gargoyle that tried to break into your building, that's what we're doing!" Art retorted, still holding the brick in his hand.
"Yes!" put in Lois. "You've got to listen to us, Mr. Maddox! It's a gargoyle! A mean-looking one!"
"I don't care if you've cornered Bigfoot," said Nicholas Maddox, his grey eyes staring at the people sharply. "That does not change the fact that you have no right to be here, and particularly not as such a disorderly lawless gathering. I am going to have to have you shown off the premises."
"But, the gargoyle -- " another fellow began.
"I see no gargoyle here," said Maddox. "Only a potentially dangerous mob. Now leave at once!" He motioned to the security guards who, led by a tall lean man with a patch over one eye, advanced upon the crowd. The large red dog trotted close by them, growling and showing its teeth.
For a moment, Art, Lois, and the other New Yorkers present stood their ground. Then, as the guards were almost upon them, they hurriedly turned about and ran off. Maddox quickly moved over to the pavement where the unconscious gargoyle still lay and hurriedly picked him up. Carefully turning himself around to hide his burden from the eyes of the security guards, he spoke to their leader, the man with the eyepatch.
"Greywolf, have security doubled at once!" he said. "I want to make certain that we get no more intruders here. Is that understood?"
The one-eyed man nodded silently and saluted. Maddox turned towards the growling red wolfhound, and whistled at it. "Here, Garm," he said. The dog turned around and followed its master back to the Maddox Technologies building.
The mousey-haired man watched Nicholas Maddox and his dog enter the building, then turned around and walked into the deepest part of the shadows. He seemed to blend into them, and then disappeared altogether.
A few minutes later, he was walking down the sidewalk some blocks from the Maddox Technologies building, his hands in his pockets and a thoughtful look on his face. As he paused by a street lamp, a limousine pulled up by it, and one of the windows in the back lowered. Mavis O'Connor looked out at him.
"All right, Garlon," she said crisply. "Let's have your report, then."
* * * * *
"Are you all right, Lexington?" asked Nicholas Maddox, standing over the still-stunned little gargoyle.
Lexington nodded, still unable as yet to speak. He turned his head, to see Mr. Maddox's large reddish wolfhound sniffing at him intently, and drew back.
"Don't worry, my friend," said Maddox, smiling slightly. "Garm is perfectly harmless -- except to trespassers. Which I've assured him that you aren't." He whistled to the dog, who trotted away from the gargoyle and settled himself down in a far corner of the room.
"I haven't seen him around here before," said Lexington in a weak voice, staring at the dog.
"I leave him at home most of the time," said Maddox. "Mavis isn't particularly fond of dogs. But she's out at the moment, so she can't protest. It was a good thing that I thought of having him here at the office this particular night. I very much suspect that Garm may have saved your life from that mob."
"What were they doing here, anyway?" asked Lexington, a worried tone clearly sounding in his voice. "It's like they were expecting to find me here."
Maddox frowned. "I'm not certain," he said. "It's possible that you need to be a little more circumspect in your visits, Lexington. Even a single gargoyle can be spotted easily by those who are making it their business to look for him, and you have made enough social calls here for the past few weeks to allow unfriendly searchers to see a pattern."
Lexington scowled. "If you don't want me visiting, you could just say so."
"Of course I want you visiting, but not if it's going to get you killed!"
Lexington was about to speak, when he heard the sound of approaching footsteps in the hallway outside the office. "That must be Mavis," said Maddox, listening as well. "She should be back from her visit to Cyberbiotics by now. You know where to hide."
Nodding, Lexington scrambled behind the filing cabinet again, and crouched low to the floor, ignoring for the moment the throbbing pain from his wing. The door opened, and Mavis O'Connor walked in.
"Ah, Mavis," said Maddox, turning to greet her. "So how did the meeting go?"
"Well enough," she replied. "Mr. Vogel's after sending you his best regards, on behalf of both himself and Mr. Renard. A shame it is that Renard couldn't be there, but it's failing his health is, you know."
"Quite a pity," said Maddox, nodding.
"And what's all the hubbub about then?" Mavis asked. "The security guards were bustling about like a flock of pigeons when I came back. You're never telling me someone's tried to rob us again?"
"No," said Maddox. "It was a small crowd of anti-gargoyle rioters. They seemed to believe that there was a gargoyle hiding here. I had to show them off the premises, very firmly."
"Hmp. Tiresome, that," said Mavis, with a shrug. "Sure that's what comes of moving to a city with a gargoyle problem."
"A gargoyle problem?" echoed Maddox, looking at her sharply. "A gargoyle problem? Mavis, that is not the most appropriate description of this situation. The gargoyles are not the ones who are disrupting life in this city. It's the Quarrymen who are doing that, the Quarrymen and everyone else here in Manhattan who takes part in these protests and riots. This isn't a gargoyle problem, Mavis; it's a human problem."
"Aah, call it what you will," said Mavis, clearly unconcerned. "Just more evidence of how uncivilized these Yanks are. Sure we wouldn't have had this sort of lawlessness back in Ireland."
"I'm still wondering what gave them the idea that there was a gargoyle in the area," said Maddox, a troubled frown on his face. "Any ideas, Mavis?"
Mavis shook her head. "None whatever."
Maddox looked long and hard at her before speaking again. "I see," he said. "Well, they won't be back soon. I've had Greywolf reinforce our security. Even Jon Castaway won't be able to breach our defenses after tonight. And I'm giving serious consideration to informing the police about these trespassers. No matter how great New York City's reputation for chaotic behavior is, I will not tolerate such assaults upon my buildings."
"Whatever you think's best," said Mavis, with a slightly bored shrug. And she left the office.
Maddox cautiously closed and locked the door behind her, then turned to Lexington. "All right, it's safe," he said. "You can come out now."
Lexington crawled out, slowly and still a little painfully, over to the businessman's desk. "How did they know I was here, anyway?" he asked. "Did somebody make a lucky guess?"
"I really don't know," said Maddox troubledly. "Somebody probably spotted you. A person out for a stroll near the building, no doubt. As I said, we may need to find a new route for you to arrive by. You must have used the original route so often that somebody took notice."
"You mean, like one of Castaway's men?" asked Lexington.
"I doubt it," Maddox answered, shaking his head. "Those weren't Quarrymen in the mob. Just ordinary citizens." His eyes flickered in disgust. "Narrow-minded, intolerant bigots. They talk about having to protect their city against the gargoyles. But has it ever occurred to them that the gargoyles have done absolutely nothing to them that they need to be protected against? I've heard a few of Castaway's lectures. He talks about gargoyles plotting to attack people or to steal their children. But when has that ever happened? Can Mr. Castaway ever name one incident where a gargoyle did anything like that? Of course he can't. This isn't about protection, Lexington; that's just the excuse that these people use to justify their hatred and fear to themselves and to others. They're mounting a genocidal campaign to destroy an entire species that is making no effort to threaten them whatsoever, that only wants to live in peace with them."
"Maybe you can do something to help, Nicholas," said Lexington.
"Oh, I intend to," Maddox replied grimly. "I'm not certain as yet as to what, but I intend to do something about the Quarrymen. You can rest assured on that." His voice went low and roughened. "My family lived in Germany for quite some time, Lexington. I've seen what this kind of thinking can lead to."
Lexington was silent for a little while, deep in thought. Then he spoke up again. "Do you think that anybody knows about my coming here?" he asked. "I mean, anybody who works for you?"
Maddox shook his head. "I don't see how anybody can know," he said. "I've kept you a secret from everybody here, even Mavis, and I usually don't keep her in the dark. And even if she knew, I can't see her reporting it to those urban rednecks."
"But she was acting a little odd when she was visiting your office," said Lexington. "Both times, too."
"Lexington," said Maddox, "we've been through this." He frowned. "Then again, you're right about one thing," he added. "She has been acting a bit strange lately. For instance, that expedition that my company sponsored a month ago to look for Circe's island. Mavis was the one who suggested the idea in the first place, and after it was over, she's been suggesting more expeditions, all aimed at places with 'magical' reputations. Such as that idea about underwater archaeology in the Scilly Isles. She's hoping that we could find some artifacts there from the kingdom of Lyonesse."
"Lyonesse?" asked Lexington. "What's that?"
"It's supposed to be an enchanted realm from the time of King Arthur, that sank beneath the ocean after his passing," said Maddox. "A sort of Celtic version of Atlantis. Actually, she wants to go looking for the ruins of Atlantis as well. I tried telling her that we could hardly search the entire Atlantic Ocean looking for a lost continent that probably never even existed, but she just shrugged it off. She's developed almost an obssession with mythical objects and places lately. Next thing you know, she'll want us to fund a search for the Holy Grail!" He threw up his hands in exasperation.
"At any rate," he went on, "there was a little incident that disturbed me at the end of the expedition. Some of the artifacts recovered from the dig at Circe's palace, the ones that were supposed to be put on display in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, vanished under mysterious circumstances. The police were unable to locate them, and finally had to call the search off. But the odd thing was, Mavis seemed very much relieved when I told her. It worried me. I didn't want to believe what that incident suggested, but -- " His voice trailed off, as he stared worriedly up at the ceiling.
"Do you really think that she did steal them?" asked Lexington.
"I don't even want to consider that notion," said Maddox. "It's too frightening. I trust that woman. If I can't trust her, then whom can I trust?" He paced back and forth, shaking his head. "It's not as though she couldn't have had those things for the asking. She's a full partner in the business. And we hadn't insured the items, there was nothing to gain from faking a theft."
"Come to think of it," said Lexington, "remember how she was talking about something going on in the Robotics Division last time I was here? And when you asked her about it, she suddenly clammed up."
"Well, yes," said Maddox, pausing. "I suppose that I must have forgotten about it afterwards. I never have paid much attention to that department. I wonder if I should." He frowned concernedly again.
"And another thing," said Lexington. "I've heard about a lot of museum robberies lately. And that the things stolen were all said to be magical artifacts. We don't know who's behind those thefts yet, but I'm just beginning to wonder -- "
"Oh, dear," said Maddox. "Lexington, I do hope that you're not going overboard with this. I hardly think that Mavis is engaging in that sort of thing. I simply don't believe that she's a criminal. In any case, why would someone steal so-called magical artifacts? I mean, it's hardly likely that they're worth more than the clay they're made from."
"I wouldn't be too sure of that," said Lexington. "We've run into a few of those things ourselves, my clan and me. And they really do work. Why, one of our enemies got her hands on a magic mirror once, and used it to change us all into humans."
"What?" Maddox stared at the little olive-green gargoyle, eyebrows raised high.
"Well, we got better," Lex continued. "And then there was this jewel called the Eye of Odin, that could turn people into werewolves or something like that. Fortunately, we managed to get rid of it. But the point is, we've come across a lot of magical objects. I'm not sure just how many, but they all seemed to work."
"So such things do exist?" Maddox asked, eyebrows still uplifted. "I must confess, that is news to me. Are these things still at large? Because if they are, I can always do something about them before somebody tries to use them against you and your clan."
Lexington shook his head. "Thanks, but we've taken care of them already," he said. "I don't think that any of them are going to be bothering us anymore."
"Well, that's a relief," said Maddox. "Truth to tell, I suppose that I should have started to consider the possibility that there might be some truth to this 'magic' business after meeting you, Lexington. After all, the people who say that magic doesn't exist are generally the ones who say that gargoyles don't exist." He smiled wryly at that. "And we both know better on that score, don't we?"
Lexington nodded. "I think that I'd better be on my way now, Nicholas," he said. "I really should be getting back home. Not that the others are likely to notice, of course," he added sourly, "but just in case they are...."
"I'm afraid that I can't allow this," said Maddox, shaking his head. "Lexington, you're injured. Now, I know enough of your race from my studies to know that a day of stone hibernation will heal you, but until that happens, you're in no condition to go gliding anywhere. Don't try telling me you can fly on that wing."
Lexington looked down at his torn wing, spread his arms as if to glide, and caught his breath in a gasp of pain.
"I thought not," Maddox said soberly. "And if the Quarrymen or those rioters came upon you in that state, you'd never survive. It just isn't safe for you to leave this building at the moment."
"Then what do I do?" Lexington asked.
"Just stay here in the office," said Maddox. "I'll keep everybody out during the day, or pass you off as some new decoration if I can't manage that. Come sunset tomorrow, your wing will be healed, and you'll be able to head back home."
Lexington considered the offer for a few minutes, then nodded. "Okay," he said. "I'll do it."
"Nobody will harm you here, my friend," said Maddox, placing one hand on his shoulder and smiling at him. "You'll be safe here. Trust me."
* * * * *
The signal grew stronger; it was coming from the waterfront. Elisa's Fairlane led three other cars through the streets of New York. Elisa's hands clenched and unclenched on the steering wheel. "Stupid noble rock-headed.... When I get hold of him.... He'd just better not have gotten himself killed, that's all!"
Matt fought the urge to laugh and focused his attention on the scanner, not particularly keen on catching Elisa's ire. He thought about leaving Elisa out of this, but an image of her walking down the streets, wild horses fighting desperately to drag the other way, flashed through his mind.
Elisa suddenly slammed on the brakes. Cross-traffic. "Blast it!" Elisa blared her horn, then reached for the siren, but Matt stopped her.
"If they hear us coming, they'll get away," Matt explained.
Elisa glared at him, but he was right. If Castaway got away, Goliath was as good as dead. Frustrated, Elisa threw herself back into her seat and silently fumed. Matt looked to the traffic and hoped they'd get there in time. He also hoped Sara wouldn't do anything stupid.
* * * * *
Sara nervously adjusted her hood for the third time and hesitated, hand poised, before finally pushing down on the metal bar of the door to the warehouse.
"All right, gargoyle," she said to herself softly inside the muffling blue folds of the Quarryman hood. "It's payback time." Then she added, with a rueful whisper, "And shut up, Bluestone. I know what I'm doing."
Rows of lights hanging from the ceiling illuminated the big space of the warehouse's main room. The door started to swing shut slowly behind her, and Sara reached out and caught it so it wouldn't slam.
The floor of the warehouse was of cement, giving the air a cold feel. Lighting dimmed the starlit sky beyond the big windows near the ceiling, leaving the reflection of stacked crates and many hooded figures going about their tasks for the evening. The place smelled of sawdust and old fruit.
Trying to stay unobtrusive, Sara walked along a row of crates stacked double-high, looking around as she went. She found a clipboard lying abandoned and picked it up, hoping it gave her an air of purpose, as if she were no different than any of the other figures in blue hoods and coveralls.
She turned a corner, dodged a discarded pile of planking -- and stopped.
The creature was about twenty-five yards away from her, enclosed on three sides by a wall of sturdy, high shipping containers. A ceiling fixture shed a pool of light over the gargoyle as it knelt on the cement floor. New, bright chains ran over his broad shoulders, across his chest, around his wrists, and back into the floor, which bore signs of recent masonry. Its dark wings were folded over its shoulders like a blanket, the chains pressing into them. There were scratches on the pale violet hide, and his head was bowed. On the fourth side of the makeshift prison stood two Quarrymen, guarding, hammers at their sides.
Only two; she could take them easily. After all, she was a trained police officer, while they were most likely bankers or school teachers or store clerks in their off-hours. With a surprising sensation of anger tightening in her chest, she took a step towards the guards...
Three more Quarrymen, deep in conversation, strolled across her line of vision. Sara ducked back behind the row of crates, and saw two more busy unpacking something ten yards away from her in another direction. There were too many around. If she released Goliath, she'd have to do it in plain view of everyone -- and if that didn't blow her cover, nothing would.
Turning away, Sara made her way towards the far wall of the warehouse. She needed someplace to wait and figure out something else, someplace to stay inconspicuous until Matt moved in.
She found a shipping clerk's office at the top of a flight of metal steps along a catwalk. A large window overlooked the warehouse, and the light was already switched on, the door open. The Quarrymen had apparently been using this office as a temporary communications facility. It was empty at the moment, but she could pretend to monitor the phones.
Sitting down at the desk, Sara put down the clipboard and eyed the phone. Maybe she could listen in on a conversation or two; several of the lines were blinking red, a call in progress. There were drawers in the cheap wooden desk. Still watching the phone, Sara carefully reached down with one hand and started to slide one out.
"Sara! How wonderful, you made it after all!"
She pulled her hand away from the drawer as if the wood had burst into flames and looked up. Jon Castaway leaned easily against the door frame. He wore his blue uniform with the odd mark on the chest, but his hood was off.
"Hello, Jon," she said, forcing a smile. "Yes, we wrapped things up faster than we'd expected. I thought I'd come here and make myself useful -- and I didn't want to miss this," she added, gesturing vaguely down to the warehouse floor.
"Ah, yes, the captured gargoyle," Castaway said. He straightened up and moved into the room. "I meant what I said earlier, that your input was invaluable. But then, it doesn't surprise me. I had my eye on you from the beginning, when you first joined. I had a hunch about you -- that you were intelligent, skilled, and above all...loyal."
"Thank you." Sara wished fervently that he would go away; Castaway was the last person she wanted to chat with now.
He moved towards the shelves on the far wall, which were empty now except for the remnants of the warehouse's previous tenants: old accordion files, a phonebook, a chipped glass vase, a few dust mice. Castaway ran a finger through the dust, leaving a dark streak. "Imagine, a police officer and a Quarrywoman. The long hours you kept...and yet you were always on time, alert, full of energy. Ready and willing to do -- almost -- anything I asked of you."
Sara shrugged. "Well, it seemed like the best thing I could do to help the city." Slowly she got to her feet. "I was going to watch the phones here, but maybe it would be better if I -- "
"The data we had you analyze, the photographic evidence...you'd sit there, taking notes obediently, so quiet, watching everything, noticing everything. Like a little hawk."
"I did my best," she said in a voice that she struggled to keep calm, stepping out from behind the desk.
Almost absently, Castaway lifted the dust-clouded curve of the vase with his fingers, turning the glass in his hands. "Your best," he echoed, and raised his eyes to look at her; his face was a mask of neutral charm, a faint smile on his lips. "That's all I expect from my people, you know. And for a while, you gave it to me -- but it seems my estimation of you was incorrect after all. A terrible disappointment. Did you really think I wouldn't know what my little Sparrowhawk was doing?"
The vase struck the outside wall of the office, shattering instantly. Involuntarily, Sara flinched, then looked up.
The faint smile and the charm were gone; Castaway's eyes had darkened, his mouth twisted with anger. Slowly, he reached into the pocket of his blue coveralls, pulled out the blue hood, and lowered it over his head, the folds falling into place. "How did Detective Bluestone, weakened from his injury and little nourishment, manage to get out of those bonds all by himself? Who has been telling the police the key addresses of this organization? Elisa Maza was a collaborator," he spoke from behind the mask, his voice deepening and roughening, until it there was nothing left of its usual Anglican sound. "Matthew Bluestone was a collaborator. And now you."
Automatically, Sara's gaze shot to the open door. Before she could take a step, he moved, one swift, powerful pace, blocking her path.
"And you know exactly what we do to traitors, Sara Jasper."
A resounding bang from the depths of the warehouse made both of them turn away from each other for a second. Then came shouts, running feet, a voice yelling through a bullhorn. "Deep blue, deep blue! This is not a drill, repeat, this is no drill! Deep blue, repeat, deep blue -- "
Deep blue. The Quarryman code-phrase for a police raid.
Sara judged the distance between them perfectly. She was a full head shorter than he, and much lighter -- but there were some attacks where weight and size weren't always the advantage. She took the opportunity, and lunged, slamming her shoulder, with her full weight behind it, hard into the middle of his chest.
She clearly heard the whoof of the man's breath being knocked out of him. They both fell back into the room with the impact, Castaway bringing two shelves down with him. While he tried to right himself, Sara darted for the door. Panic shot through her as another figure appeared there. Desperately, she shoved past him, but found no resistance.
There wasn't even time to see if she recognized him before she was on the metal steps, taking them three at a time until she dropped to the warehouse floor, and ran.
* * * * *
Castaway shoved past the brown-haired Quarryman into the hallway. "Where is she?" he roared.
"There's no time, sir," the Quarryman -- Jay Smith -- said urgently. "The cops are already here."
The blond man stared at Jay as if he were speaking a foreign language.
"Sir," Jay pleaded, "you have to get out. We are busted, surrounded, and in deep yogurt. We'll hold them off long enough for you to get away, but you have to leave now. If you're arrested, the Quarrymen die. For all of our sakes, you've got to!"
* * * * *
Matt looked up, startled, as Sara ducked into place next to him. He was busy by the warehouse's main doors, overseeing the assault on the building and speaking orders into a walkie-talkie.
"Sara?! What are you doing here?" he demanded.
She shrugged, trying to sound nonchalant despite her ragged breathing. "Oh, Jon and I had a little...disagreement about my salary."
"Yeah. He couldn't pay me enough to stay in there another minute." She swallowed, caught her breath and said "What's the game plan?"
While the officer on the other end of the radio started making indistinct inquring noises, Matt stared at her in consternation. He opened his mouth as if he wanted to ask her something, then seemed to remember the person on the other end of the communication device.
Shooting Sara a later-for-you look, he raised the walkie-talkie to his mouth and pressed the "talk" button. "The gargoyle's in there somewhere. I want it brought out here alive, is that clear?"
"Like crystal, Bluestone," Sara whispered. A moment's pause to make sure Matt was occupied by his conversation, and she was away before he had time to notice where she'd gone.
* * * * *
Several Quarrymen ran past her in the opposite direction. Some held hammers, others non-projectile weapons, the best money could procure. Staying low as she scuttled along the rows and rows of crates, Sara made her way towards what she thought was the heart of the police advance. Shots sounded somewhere in the building. There were several small crack-POPs as a few of the overhead light fixtures were shot out by blasters.
The air started to grow smoky; she wondered if it was her imagination until she realized Matt had probably ordered the use of smoke cannisters to flush out Castaway's people. She coughed, fanning her hand in front of her face, and kept moving.
Ahead of her, the haze cleared slightly, and she realized where she was. The gargoyle was still chained, his head up, alert to the chaos around him. His guards were gone, and she could see him straining against the chains. Sara hoped she could pick the locks. She didn't know where Castaway kept the key.
But as she moved forward, she spotted someone in the crack between two crates, a slender shape in a red jacket with long black hair. Elisa. In one hand she held her automatic. From the other dangled a set of what must have been police-issue lock-picks.
Sara retraced her steps to cover Elisa's back while she freed the gargoyle. She heard Elisa's voice as the detective moved out from the crates --
As she started around the end of the row of crates, Sara saw a figure in blue coveralls and a hood, hammer held loosely at the ready in his right hand. The Quarryman had been dogging Elisa's steps. As Sara watched, he raised the hammer above his head, flicked the switch, and the hammer sparked into life with a hum.
Elisa must have heard the sudden electric charge. She turned, but she wouldn't have been able to duck the hammer's down-swing in time if Sara hadn't leapt forward.
"Elisa, heads up!" Sara yelled, and grabbed the hooded figure by the wrists, stopping the hammer's descent. For a moment the two grappled, their strength evenly matched, the sparking silver hammer-head above them --
Then Sara kneed the Quarryman in the stomach and kick-swept his feet out from under him. He fell, leaving Sara grasping the hammer handle.
When she looked up from the limp Quarryman, Elisa and the gargoyle were staring at her. Elisa held her gun raised, aiming it at Sara.
Sara looked down and remembered the royal blue that covered her. She switched off the hammer, then tossed it away from her as if it had been a snake. The hammer clattered lifeless to the cement floor.
Elisa lowered her gun, and seemed about to speak.
"Go on, get him out of here," Sara said quickly.
As she turned and left them, she heard the gargoyle -- Goliath -- say distinctly to Elisa, despite the fact that he was the one bound in chains, facing execution -- "Are you all right?"
* * * * *
The fight had been wrapped up rather quickly, thanks in part to the two gargoyles -- a red male and a green female -- who were now flanking their recovered leader in a protective stance. Most of the cops were looking at them oddly, but none went so far as to speak to them...and possibly for the first time since the gargoyles had come to this city, they were standing in full view of the public with no one screaming in terror or in attack. Elisa stood beside them, her attitude distant and professional; no one but Sara had seen the quick hug she gave Goliath before bringing him outside.
Matt watched as cops lined up the arrested Quarrymen, reading them their rights and marching them into the paddy wagons. Before each entered the van, their cuffs were checked and they were unmasked. Most glared at their captors, others turned away or looked at the ground. A news van had pulled up, and the camera flashes and running commentary were starting to give Matt Bluestone a headache.
"Here's the last of them, Detective," someone was saying. "You do the honors?"
Matt focused on the person in front of him, a handcuffed Quarryman. It took him a moment to realize that he was being asked to remove the man's hood. "Sure," he said finally, and reached for the other's head. The hood came off, revealing tousled dark-brown hair, hazel eyes --
The blue hood fell from Matt's hand, unnoticed.
Gasps came from several officers as they recognized the man. Smith twisted his head to one side, turning his face away from them.
Bluestone grabbed the front of his blue coverall, nearly pulling Smith off his feet. "Why?" he demanded. "That's all I want to know, Jay. Why'd you do it?"
"You can ask me that?" Jay twisted back around to glare at him. "You've sold us out! You and Maza, you're in league with the gargoyles!"
"Let him go, Matt," Sara grabbed his arm.
"And you," Jay spat at her. "You're the worst traitor of all. Coward."
Matt's fist tightened in the air, and for a moment there was a red murder in his eyes. Jay's own eyes widened in momentary fear...and then the moment was over, and Matt shoved him towards some other officers with brutal force.
"Book him," he said and walked away toward where Elisa stood with the gargoyles. A couple of cops were there arguing, and he overheard Officer Morgan's voice:
"Listen, I don't care if he's a human, a gargoyle, or a little green man from Planet X. He's a witness and I'm taking his statement." Morgan paused, then turning to the big lavender gargoyle: "Uh...if that's okay with you?"
Brooklyn and Sata exchanged glances and smiled. Goliath gave a solemn nod, and Morgan began asking questions.
No one noticed the elderly wharf-rat watching the warehouse from a distance, nor his quick departure from the area.
* * * * *
A DAY PASSES.
* * * * *
Nicholas Maddox stood in his office, looking at the setting sun through the window. His gaze then turned to the small winged statue a few feet in front of him. "Any moment now...." he said aloud.
As the last rays of the sun disappeared beneath the horizon, Lexington broke free from his stone encasement, stretching and yawning in the usual gargoyle fashion, his eyes glowing brightly for a moment. Pieces of stone skin scattered all across the floor, disintegrating rapidly as they did so. Lexington looked up at the businessman.
"How's that wing, Lexington?" Maddox asked, looking down at him. "Better?"
"You bet it is," Lexington grinned, then sobered. "Thanks, Nicholas. You probably saved my life last night."
"I'm only too glad to have done so," replied Maddox, smiling. "Oh, and a bit of good news for you. Travis Marshall announced it on the news this morning. There's been a successful police raid on the Quarrymen. They found out that a Gargoyle Task Force officer was leaking information to Castaway, but they've arrested him now, and a lot of regular Quarrymen to boot. Castaway escaped, but I don't think that he'll be at liberty much longer. The humans in this city are finally starting to see the man for what he is." He smiled broadly. "And there's a delightfully stinging article in the Sentinel about last night's little imbroglio around here."
"That's great!" cried Lexington, his face lighting up.
"Maybe there's hope for your people yet," said Maddox. "I'm not a gambling man, Lexington, but if I were, I'd wager that Castaway's organization might be completely broken up by Christmas. And I can't think of a better present for you and your clan."
"I can't either," said Lexington. "Well, good-bye, Nicholas! And thanks for everything!"
"Think nothing of it, my friend," replied Maddox. "Just glide home safely. And stop by again next week, won't you?"
"I sure will," the little web-winged gargoyle replied. And with that, he climbed up to the nearest window, opened it, and leaped through it into the night sky. Maddox watched him glide out of sight, then reached up to close the window.
As he did so, the door to his office opened without the warning of approaching footsteps, and Mavis O'Connor entered. She folded her arms and tilted her head to one side, looking at her partner with a peculiar smile.
Maddox turned around to face her, still smiling.
"It's working," he said to her. "We've got him."
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