The Waiting Game
Written by: Stephen R. Sobotka, Jr. & Brian Dumlao
With contributions by: Kathy Pogge
Story concept by: Patrick A. Toman & Stephen R. Sobotka, Jr.
Illustrations by: Noel Leas
Previously on Gargoyles...
Madoc: "Who would have thought that Loki escaping from his prison, would be the key to undoing the geas that bound us? How many times had he escaped, I wonder before he was bound in the Phoenix Gate? And what force brought about its destruction?"
Maeve: "You'll be needin' to ask him about that one. For my own part, I'm simply glad that the Gate was unmade. A pity, in a way; it could have been useful to us. But Loki, he'll be of use, in his own way."
~ The Rising, Part 1 ~
* * * * *
Coldstone: (after watching Coldsteel fly off from their battle in the trees) "Blast! He must not get away, not now! Not when we are this close!"
Colfitre: "Beloved, he is flying towards that direction!" (She points towards Steward Army Sub-post)
Coldstone: "He is doing so to prevent us from following! Come, we must not let him get away, even if it means we have to expose ourselves to the humans therein!"
Coldfire: (grimly) "He has a good lead on us, love."
Coldstone: "It matters not! I will not allow him to slip away again!"
* * *
Goliath pleaded once more. "For the good of the clan, Coldstone ... brother ... please stay with us at the castle."
Coldstone looked at his former leader, then to his mate and their offspring. Closing his eyes, he nodded. "Very well . . . at least until the threat is gone, or until the spring comes to this place."
~ Reunions ~
* * * * *
The Waiting Game
* * * * *
Though a bright sun beamed down on the city, it offered little warmth to the people trudging in the streets below.
A pair of New York's Finest were stamping their feet, waiting in anticipation for a cup of coffee provided by one of the few hot dog vendors not yet driven off the street by the cold.
"Hey, thanks for the hot stuff, Sal," Officer O'Malley said, his freckles hidden by the ruddy-redness of his wind burn.
"I'll say," his partner - the august Officer Morgan - added, thankful to have his hands wrapped around the heated Styrofoam. "Man! I have never known Old Man Winter to blow in so early before!"
Sal smirked a toothsome grin, wiping his half-mittened hands on a stiff, dirty apron. "Tell me `bout it!" He reached over and tapped the side of a beaten-up radio. "Weatherman been sayin' that they's a good chance for snow flurries tamorra! Snow! This early in September!" The first cop looked at him with a disbelieving eye, to which Sal replied, "I know, it don' make sense! Wonder if that El Nino thingie had somethin' to do with the freaky weather we've been gettin' lately?"
"El Nino was over last year. This year it's La Nina. I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean for the weather," Morgan replied.
"Well, I don't know what's causing it, but it's gonna be a first class headache for us beat cops," O'Malley said. "Other folks too. My landlady's already working on a blanket and space heater drive to help the old folks who hang out at the community center."
"That's nice of her," Morgan interjected. "You can bet a lot of people aren't going to have enough sense to stock up early. My heating oil dealer said that even as cold as it's been, people haven't started placing their orders yet." He tipped his cup at Sal. "Well, time to get to it. Appreciate the coffee, Sal. You keep warm yourself, hear?"
"Yeah, thanks, Sal!" his partner chimed in, then added, "You listen to Morgan. It starts getting real cold, you head on in."
The two policemen dumped their cups into a trash bin and walked into the trickle of pedestrians.
"Don't mention it, guys! Just make sure youse guys don't get stuck to no lamp post either, ya hear?" Sal replied jokingly.
* * * * *
Oblivious to the cold air that gripped the old stones of the parapets of Wyvern, Coldfire watched the wide vista of the city below her. The scurrying humans held her attention for a while, then she transferred her gaze to the stone-locked forms of the rest of the Wyvern Clan, arrayed on the parapet below the main watchtower. Her former clan leader was crouched, a brooding, vigilant sentinel.
"Who could have imagined that our clan could have survived the attack of the Vikings to find themselves here, in this amazing new world? Or that our egg," she said as she looked down fondly at a photograph of herself, Coldstone and Gabriel taken at Angela's Naming Day party, "would become leader of a new generation of gargoyles so long after their parent's clan had perished?"
She gazed at the photograph again and sighed. "My son... It sounds strange, even now. But he looks too much like my beloved to deny it."
Her musing was cut short by the sound of an approaching powered engine. Looking up, she scanned the skies, coming to rest on the advancing form of her mate as he dove out from an upward arch, coming to land on the parapet beneath hers.
"My love!" she called out.
Coldstone let his engine power down, snapping his wings back into their resting mode as he looked over to where his brothers and sisters - old and newly made - were resting. He grimaced and began to pound his way up the stairs.
"What is wrong?" Coldfire asked, her metallic features making a valiant attempt to appear worried. "How goes the search for our brother?"
Coldstone looked at her briefly. Then, with a soft growl, he stalked away, headed for the inside of the castle.
Coldfire sighed in frustration.
"I fear you still manage to vex us, Coldsteel, my brother," she said softly. "Where are you now? And what schemes are you planning against us?" She retreated from the late afternoon chill into the safety of the castle and a troubled reunion with her mate.
* * * * *
"Come on, come on!" Tony Dracon looked at his watch for the third time in less than five minutes.
"Relax, Tony," Glasses reassured his boss. "Big Mickey will be here any time now. He probably stopped off to pick you up a house warming present. Seeing as you've got a new pad and all." He gestured toward the unopened packing crates and boxes that lined one wall of the dockside warehouse. "You know a few throw pillows, maybe some ferns, and this place could be real homey."
"Cut the sarcasm, Glasses," Dracon snapped. "This is just temporary until the new operation kicks into high gear. Don't worry, we'll be living large again in no time. But until then, I want to keep an eye on our merchandise personally."
"I dunno, boss. I appreciate fine weapons as much as the next guy, but you've brought in some real artillery here." Pal Joey edged his way toward Dracon and Glasses holding a clipboard. "I just finished the inventory, boss." He handed the clipboard over to Dracon. He smiled as he reviewed the list. "You've got everything from grenade launchers to slingshots in those boxes."
"And we're going to get top dollar for all of it," Tony concluded. "Look, sure it's been okay so far. Those Unseelie haven't muscled in much- yet. But revenues are down. And we are businessmen, gentlemen. We owe our employees the tools to keep them safe. So that means if the second-story men and the sneak thieves need a little more muscle to keep those vampires and weirdoes off their backs, then we provide it."
"That's why we've got two gross of wooden stakes?" Pal Joey asked carefully.
"Sure. I don't know if the legends are true or not, but it can't hurt," Dracon replied. "As long as you're carrying one of these babies as backup." He took a couple of quick steps over to one of the boxes and removed a snub nosed laser pistol. "I don't think much of anything, natural or unnatural, could last very long with a hole drilled through its chest."
The gangsters nodded in agreement.
"So we're just gonna give this stuff away?" Glasses asked incredulously.
"Only the party favors," Dracon replied as he carefully replaced the pistol in the protective layer of raffia. "The heavier firepower we're gonna keep on reserve until things heat up."
"You really think they will, boss?" said Pal Joey.
"Sure, it's just a matter of time. I don't know who's in charge of these Unseelie freaks, but whoever he is, he's playing a really twisted game of cat and mouse, trying to keep everyone off balance." Dracon settled himself in a comfortable couch imported to the warehouse from his former, more luxurious digs. "It's working too. You can't walk down the streets of this city without noticing the change. People are different, more subdued-"
"That is when they're not disappearing outright," said a voice from the doorway.
The trio of gangsters looked up to find a small, sallow complected man clutching his hat between his hands nervously.
"Rosco," Dracon began, "what are you doing here? Where's Big Mickey?"
"Big Mickey ain't coming, Mr. Dracon," said the little man. "That's what I come to tell you. We was getting ready to come over here, just walkin' out to the car. A pair of white faced, pointy eared goons, grabbed Big Mickey." Rosco began to stammer as he recounted his story. "I-I tried to stop them, I did! Big Mickey was struggling, going for his gun. I tried going for mine, but that vampire chick turned on me, her eyes started glowing and she had fangs and-"
"Go on, Rosco, what happened next?" Dracon coaxed.
"The three of them just disappeared," Rosco concluded. "I dove into the car and put the pedal to the metal all the way here. You gotta do something, Mr. Dracon. It ain't right when a pair of self-respecting mugs can't walk the streets without some freak putting the snatch on them!"
"No, Rosco. It ain't right," Dracon agreed. "Glasses, give Rosco a security blanket out of our toy chest. I've got to pay a call on Detective Maza."
"You're going to the cops with this?" Rosco said, shock coloring his words.
Dracon pulled on a heavy wool coat and gloves over his immaculately tailored pinstripe suit. "Not just any cop, Rosco. This one has friends in high places."
* * * * *
Tucked away in a side tunnel off of the main gathering area, a small group of children listened with Hudson as the voice of Brentwood filled the Reading Room.
"...and they lived happily ever after. The end." The clone of Lexington closed the small hard cover book with a timid smile and handed it over to Hudson. "Did Brentwood do good?"
"You did very good, lad," the old soldier said, placing the book on a large, ramshackle shelf. "You did a fine job on the story tonight."
The clone smiled at the kind remarks while the rest of the Labyrinth clan, and the human children under their protection, applauded his efforts. Hudson rose, yawned, and stretched out his wings before re-caping them around his body.
"Och, you all did a fine job tonight, and I do hope you'll continue your readin' lessons wi' your parents."
"Will you read us a story now, Hudson? Please?" asked a little girl with cornflower-blue eyes and russet-brown hair.
"Yeah! Will you?" piped another child.
"Ah, wee ones, I'd love to stay an' read to you, but 'tis time for me to go back to the castle."
His words were met with frowns and several expressions of disappointment.
The gargoyle smiled a bit and tried to calm down his audience. "Now, now, lads 'n lasses. I'll be back another night. Until then, keep safe and listen to Talon and your parents."
The cries of the crowd turned back into happy squeals at his promise, and they filed out of the room to seek out their parents. The clones lagged behind in a small knot, leaving Hudson to clean up and arrange the books on the bookshelves.
He was nearly done with everything when Dr. Goldblum walked in. "How are the reading lessons going, Hudson?" he asked cheerfully.
Hudson turned to face the good doctor with a smile. "Very well, lad. 'Tis a grand thing to pass along such a wondrous gift. To think, I'd once scorned Goliath for encouraging his brothers and sisters to learn. I was verra foolish then."
Dr. Goldblum smiled. "But you did learn and you are teaching others."
"True. 'Tis a fitting punishment," Hudson quipped.
"Ah, Hudson, I don't mean to impose, but I was wondering if I could ask you for a favor?"
"What would you be needin', Doctor?"
"Well, you see, when I was back at the clinic a week or so a go, a colleague of mine gave me two tickets to a play tomorrow night. I'd really like to go, but I had a minor emergency come up and I won't be able to attend. I was wondering if you'd like to use the tickets to see the show."
Hudson stroked his beard thoughtfully. "Well, lad, I canna go on account of the obvious," he replied wryly. "But I do know of a few friends who might be able to use them."
"Thank you, Hudson," Goldblum said gratefully, shaking the elder gargoyle's hand. "I'd hate to see them go to waste."
"'Tis nothing I would'na done for any of the others," Hudson replied. "Well, I'd best be gettin' back to the castle. I'll be seeing you later this week then, Dr. Goldblum."
Goldblum handed Hudson the tickets, then exited from the Reading Room in search of Sharon Nomura and the results from their latest set of experiments.
* * * * *
Elisa pulled on a heavy parka over her long-sleeved black turtle neck sweater and locked the apartment door behind her. "I cannot believe they're predicting snow already," she grumbled some moments later as she reached the parking garage. "I'd better make sure that Joe winterizes the car when I take it in for its oil change next week."
"Seems like that's the least of your problems," a voice said smoothly.
Elisa's head snapped up, her muzzy reverie broken by the familiar voice. "Dracon!" she gasped surprised. Quickly Elisa collected herself. "What do you want, Tony?" she asked in a more collected tone.
"Just to talk, Elisa. We got problems." Dracon gestured toward his limousine. Pal Joey stood at attention by the passenger door.
Elisa quickly assessed the situation. There was an earnestness behind Tony's normally suave tone and Pal Joey looked down right scared. "Five minutes, Tony."
Dracon gestured to Pal Joey and he opened the limo door. Dracon inclined his head and Elisa slid into the back seat of the big car. A moment later, Dracon was ensconced next to her. "It's warmer in here and private," he explained.
"The clock's ticking, Tony," Elisa reminded.
"Those Unseelie are at it again," Dracon said without preamble. "They put the snatch on one of my boys."
Elisa turned to the gangster and narrowed her eyes. "Really. What was he doing at the time, handing out cookies at the bloodmobile?"
Tony winced at Elisa's sarcastic remark. "Nothing! I swear to you, Detective. A couple of the guys were just walking down the street and these two vampires made off with one of them and scared the other one half to death."
Elisa sank back into the padded leather seat and closed her eyes. "I wish he'd just get it over with!" she muttered as her thoughts raced. "Did either of them say anything, do anything, that might have given your guy a clue what they wanted or why they'd grabbed- who did they grab anyway?"
Dracon hesitated. "It was Big Mickey."
Elisa stared at him coldly. "Big Mickey who picks up runaways at the bus station and teaches them the finer points of purse snatching among other career options? Maybe the Unseelie are on our side after all."
"Don't make jokes, Maza," Dracon pleaded.
"Who's joking? Big Mickey is street slime. The world would be a better place without him in it."
"Could we argue philosophy some other time please? I told you before I would help you get rid of these Unseelie. I'm doing what I can. Why don't you do your part?"
"All right, Tony. I'm not making any promises. We don't know a lot about the Halflings, except that they were chosen because they didn't have any family or friends that cared about them. It could be that a few of them were graduates of Big Mickey's finishing school and they decided they didn't like the way things worked out."
"A revenge hit?" Dracon said, mulling it over. "I guess that could make sense. Kind of makes me feel better too."
"Why?" Elisa asked surprised.
"It means these Unseelie operate the same way the rest of us do," Dracon explained. "Sure, they might have better fire power. But it's what happens up here," He tapped his forehead. "that matters. Just maybe they make a little more sense."
"Don't get too comfortable, Tony," Elisa warned. "Maybe their motives will make sense, but they've got us beat in the means and opportunity category. We still can't predict how or when they'll strike next."
"Don't worry, Elisa. Comfortable hasn't even entered the picture yet. I know these aren't the next Yakuza. But that doesn't mean they don't have angles."
"And you know how to work all the angles, don't you, Tony?"
"I try, Elisa. I do try." The mobster knocked on the glass and Pal Joey opened the door on Elisa's side of the car. He looked at his watch. "Five minutes. Just like I promised."
Elisa slid out of the car. She took a few steps toward her Fairlane then turned back towards Dracon's limo. "Wait up a minute, Joey."
He opened the car door and Elisa leaned in. "Tony, I appreciate the information," she began. "I know it's not really your style to go outside your organization for help."
Dracon shrugged. "Even I know when to bring in a consultant, Maza. Take care." He signaled to Joey and the door slammed shut. A moment later, Pal Joey was behind the wheel and the limousine purred smoothly out of the parking garage.
* * * * *
Coldstone watched the flames dance in the library fireplace. Though he felt no real sensation of warmth, he found the crackling fire soothing to his frayed nerves. His latest patrol had yielded no sign of Coldsteel and his frustration at his inability to locate his evil brother was threatening to boil over. And so he hid, first from the human inhabitants, then from his mate and finally from his clan.
Coldfire entered the library quietly. She watched Coldstone stare moodily at the flames and her heart ached. Slowly, so as to not to startle him, she walked into the room and knelt at his side. "My love, was today as bad as the rest?" she asked, hoping her words would not sour his mood further.
Sighing heavily, he replied, "Aye. Even with this wretched cold, there were too many humans out for me to make a thorough search!"
"But, where could our brother have gone? Surely he did not leave the city."
"He could be anywhere!" Coldstone rose and stood next to the fireplace. He dug his talons along the hearth stones, leaving deep scratches in his wake. "If I could have just a few nights of uninhibited searching, I could seek him out and end this!" He turned to look at his mate, seeing her concern in her robotic eyes. "But I do not believe that he remains here. It is time to widen our net and search elsewhere."
Gasping, Coldfire replied, "But we cannot do such a thing! We promised Goliath that we would stay and help him defend the city!"
Growling, Coldstone turned to face his mate. "I know what was promised! But I cannot ignore the threat that Coldsteel poses to our clan! He could return at any time and attack them without warning!"
"Coldsteel would never risk such a confrontation now that Goliath and the human, Xanatos, know of his schemes," she countered. "Besides, from what I have been told by Lexington, Xanatos has made sure Coldsteel can never again take control of his constructs again!"
"He may try some other means of attack," Coldstone offered, brushing aside her argument with a wave.
"If that were so," she returned, rising to face her mate, "would he not have done so by now?"
Coldstone did not reply.
"My love, our duty is with Goliath and our clan, to protect them and help them with their protectorate," she said soothingly.
"And if that duty exposes someone else to what our brother is capable of? We both have seen what he will do to anyone that stands in his way of flight!" he returned, reminding her of the carnage Coldsteel had wrought during their months of chasing him. When she turned away, he turned around and forced her to look at him. "Beloved, I do not want to leave, but our task is clear to me. Coldsteel must be stopped, and we are the only ones that can do such a task."
She looked up at him, her robotic eyes glowing. "Even if it means abandoning Goliath? Leaving the castle, our home?"
"Goliath will understand. He knows that we must do what we must to insure the safety of the clan!"
"Perhaps, but our responsibility is to protect, not to destroy," Coldfire reminded her mate.
"We must not allow our brother another chance to cause more destruction! We must make sacrifices to ensure that he never causes mayhem again!"
Frustrated, Coldfire rounded on Coldstone. "Even if we must leave the clan when they need us the most?"
"Even if we must leave. Stopping our brother is the only course our lives must take or the next people to fall prey to his evil will be our responsibility!" Shaking his head, Coldstone reached out to take Coldfire by her shoulders. "Beloved," he pleaded. "I do not want to leave the others, but you and I both know what needs to be done."
Sighing, his mate nodded. "But to leave our brother after having been away for so long."
* * * * *
Just outside the door to the library, Owen stood with a folder full of papers tucked under his arm.
He listened to the Cold Duo argue. A tiny muscle began to dance in his cheek. Shocked at his lapse in control, he took a deep, soothing breath, and walked quietly away back towards the main hall.
* * * * *
Elisa and Matt walked into the castle's spacious yard, shivering from the wind-chill. The night had turned bitter cold and the wind whipped around them.
Elisa snuggled deeper into her parka. Matt shivered despite a heavy knit sweater under his beige overcoat.
Elisa tugged her collar close around her ears. "I hate winters in the city!"
"At least it's warmer in there," Matt commented with a nod to the main doors of the hall. They had walked through the castle giving high thanks to the extensive heating system Xanatos had installed.
"Yeah," Elisa agreed. "Come on. I can't believe the guys aren't back from patrol yet," she said as she looked at her watch. "We can wait inside."
The two returned to the gargoyle's wing, and made a beeline for the kitchenette. Elisa put on the tea kettle, swatting at Matt as he stuck his hands over the stove to warm them. As they re-adjusted to the warmth in the room, Matt said, "I sure hope the guys didn't freeze! Man! This weather up here is intense!"
Just then, the sound of footsteps echoed through the hallway. Goliath, followed by Broadway and Angela, wings caped to ward off the chill of the wind, entered the common room.
Elisa stood waiting for the kettle, her faced flushed from the cold. Smiling Goliath greeted her. "Good evening, Elisa."
The kettle began to whistle and the detective paused to turn off the gas before stepping out of the kitchenette. She smiled and wrapped her arms around the big gargoyle's muscular body, reaching up to give him a quick kiss on the cheek.
"Ugh! You're cold!" Elisa protested, as she wiggled out of his embrace.
The gargoyle rumbled a low chuckle. "It is a good thing the cold does not affect me as it does you."
"Thanks. I'd nearly forgotten I was freezing," Elisa replied dryly.
Goliath's smile widened. He turned his attention to Matt, who was watching, bemused. "It is good to see you as well, Matt," he said, acknowledging Elisa's partner belatedly.
"So nice to be noticed once in a while," Matt said with good-humored sarcasm.
Goliath cleared up his throat before continuing. "Is something the matter, Elisa? I had not expected to see you this evening."
Elisa's facial expression changed from delight to complete seriousness as she uttered one word. "Madoc."
Goliath's face deepened with worry immediately. "Has something happened?"
"Yeah, the Halflings are loose again," Elisa replied. "Tony Dracon told me a pair of them attacked a couple of his lieutenants earlier this evening."
Goliath and Angela frowned and Broadway's face turned dark with anger.
"We were talking and I've been doing some thinking," Matt continued, "Madoc has been making hit and run strikes so far, Goliath," the detective said, "keeping us off balance. All we've been doing is repelling his attack. We shouldn't stay on the defensive. We should take the fight to him."
Elisa chimed in. "Sooner or later we are going to have to make some kind of move of our own."
"They're right, Goliath," Broadway added. "How many people are gonna get hurt before we take this guy out?"
Angela looked up at Goliath expectantly as she wrapped her arm protectively around Broadway. "There must be some way, father!"
The lavender gargoyle sighed very slowly. "We cannot do anything against Madoc right now. It would be too risky. We still do not know the extent of his powers."
"But the more we wait around, the more powerful he could become," Elisa argued. "For all we know, he could be less than half strength. If we wait around much longer, it might be too late!"
"The answer is still 'no'." There was a note of finality in Goliath's voice that brooked no argument.
Matt was about to prolong the debate when Elisa raised her hand. She allowed Broadway to pour tea while she considered the best line of attack. Before she could renew the discussion, Bronx began to bark happily.
A moment later Hudson entered the living area. "Aye lad, I'll have a cup of that if you don't mind," he said as he watched the burly gargoyle hand round the heavy white ceramic mugs.
"Sure, Hudson," Broadway muttered.
Elisa nodded and Broadway handed the elderly gargoyle the mug he'd meant for her. He poured a cup for Goliath and handed it off.
"Has there been any other Unseelie sightings?" Goliath asked as he accepted the cup.
Broadway took the teapot back into the kitchenette for more hot water and another cup.
"You mean beside Big Mickey?" Elisa asked. Goliath nodded. "It's hard to say. There hasn't been much we can document," Elisa answered. "Matt's been monitoring the incident reports. As far as we can tell all the probables are run of the mill loony calls filed by disturbed individuals in need of professional help."
"But it doesn't mean that they're not slipping through the cracks," Matt added.
"Or too scared to report any attacks to the police," Broadway finished as he re-entered and handed Elisa a cup.
Goliath was beginning to purple with frustration. Hudson cleared his throat.
"Ah," Hudson began, "if I might change the subject for a wee moment?"
"Sure, Hudson," Elisa said, grateful for the interruption. "What's up?"
The old soldier shot her a look of confusion. "The sky, lass. I thought everyone knew that."
She smiled and shook her head. "No, I mean, what's on your mind?"
Hudson's look of confusion transformed into one of relief. "Our friend, Dr. Goldblum, just gave me two tickets to a play. I canna use them, but I thought maybe you'd be able to."
Elisa looked at the two strips of brightly printed paper in Hudson's hand. "That was nice of him." She examined the tickets more closely. "Hey, I've heard of this. It's supposed to be noisy, but good." She checked the date on the tickets and her face fell. "Sorry, Hudson, but I had other plans for tomorrow night," she said, looking towards Goliath. The gargoyle purpled again but not out of frustration this time. "Why not give them to Xanatos?" Elisa handed the tickets back to Hudson.
"I would, but he mentioned somethin' about his spendin' the night in wi' Fox and young Alexander. What about yourself, Matt?" the old soldier asked, holding the tickets out to him.
The red-headed detective took a ticket from him and considered. "Well, I have tomorrow off too and I didn't have any real plans, so I don't see why I couldn't go."
Hudson heaved a relieved sigh. "There you go, lad! Dr. Goldblum will be glad that his gift is bein' well received."
"Thanks. To tell the truth, I'd been meaning to see the show for some time now." He paused for a minute. "Of course, I'd need you to go, too, seeing as how you were the one who offered the tickets."
"Matt! How could he get in to see it?" Elisa asked incredulously.
Hudson stroked his beard. "'Tis true I canna be goin' with you, Matthew, but I do know someone who might be able to. I'll have to give you instructions to his home, but if you will meet me there tomorrow, I'll introduce you properly and you can go together."
Matt looked at the others, who simply shrugged. "Who did you have in mind?"
"A good friend of mine," Hudson explained. "Come over to the television room with me and I'll tell you a bit about him."
Matt exchanged glances with Elisa and she nodded back. She also unzipped her jacket and put her hands on her hips. Matt grabbed Broadway by the shoulder. "Why don't you come with us?" he invited.
"But-" He followed Matt's gaze. "Uh, right." Elisa and Goliath were getting ready to square off again. "A little TV sounds good right now. Come on, Angela."
"But-," she protested, then she too noticed the storm clouds brewing in Elisa's eyes. "Isn't there a detective movie marathon on Channel Thirteen?" she asked as she followed the others into the safety of the den.
* * * * *
Elisa tossed her jacket over a heavy beamed chair before rounding in on Goliath. "How much longer are we going to let this go on?" she began, renewing the argument. "Three months ago they almost killed Broadway. You can't walk half a block down the street without seeing a seven pointed star tagged on a wall. The poor guys in the Gangs Unit have no idea of what they're up against. The copycats they've managed to catch just shrug and tell them they don't know what it means but it's 'dope and they like it.'"
"Elisa," Goliath rebutted as calmly as he could muster. "I cannot make war on an enemy that I cannot find- who refuses to stand to battle. I fear for the safety of this city as well. We are doing all we can."
"It's not enough," Elisa countered. "Goliath, if we don't end this thing- if we fail- then others will be brought into the war to take our place. Innocents."
"Like Beth?" Goliath asked, homing in on the true source of Elisa's frustration.
"Yes, like Beth. And others like her, who still think this is some sort of big adventure. You should hear her, Goliath. She's scared stiff, but so honored that Coyote chose her she can't wait to do her part. She's a typical rookie," Elisa said, her eyes flashing. "I want her to stay that way. We have to end this. Soon."
Goliath sighed in frustration. "Elisa, if I could take the battle to our enemy I would have done so already. We fight a war where the rules make no sense, and our own allies," bitter irony flooded his words, "refuse us the most basic of guidance. I share your anger, my love, and your frustration. But if we turn on each other then we shall have no one at all."
Goliath held out his arms and Elisa's resistance crumbled. She stepped into his arms and held him in a fierce embrace.
"Together we will fight them, Elisa," he promised. "Together we will prevail."
* * * * *
Matt, in Elisa's Fairlane, drove up the long street, marveling at the houses that lined its sides. Hudson had given him the address, but it was still a shock to see that his 'friend' lived in an upscale section of the island.
"Must do pretty darn good as a writer," he said to himself.
He double checked the address and parked alongside a winding drive. Stepping outside and taking a moment to adjust his overcoat, he looked the place over once, then he started looking around the neighborhood. No one was outside, obviously because of the bitter cold, but several homes had their lights on, indications that the residents were in.
"No sign of Hudson. Stupid cross-town traffic. He probably gave up on me and went home." Matt looked up toward the spacious home where Hudson's friend lived. "Okay, now what am I going to do? I just can't go up to the house and say `Hi there! Hudson sent me!'."
"No need f'r that, lad!"
Matt spun about, just in time to see Hudson ease into a half shadow just behind his car. "Jeez! Don't do that! You scared ten years off of me!"
Hudson only chuckled, "Sorry, Matthew, but I thought I made enough noise to let you know I was comin'. I see you made it here just fine, then?"
"As much as could be expected, considering the night traffic," Matt retorted. "So, what happens now?"
"You need to come to the door in a few minutes, lad. I'll go around back and make Robbins ready with th' introductions," the old soldier explained. With a whirl of wings he disappeared.
Matt settled back to wait a few moments, before pulling the car up the long driveway.
* * * * *
Hudson had no more than knocked on the pane of the French doors before Gilly had led her master over to them. Robbins opened the door and greeted his visitor.
"Hudson! Good to see you again, old friend! How is young Graeme doing with Nudnik?" he asked.
"Och, the wee beast is still full o' fire and wind," Hudson replied with a laugh, "but, Graeme is getting along fine with his training."
Robbins laughed along with him. "That's good to hear. So, to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit, Hudson? You were very mysterious on the telephone last night."
"Well, somethin' of an opportunity has come up," Hudson explained. "A friend of mine gave me some tickets to a show that is playing this evenin', and I was wonderin' if you didn't want to join another friend in seein' it. There was only two tickets available, an' I thought-"
"You thought of me, is that it?" Robbins smiled. "Hudson, I would be delighted, but most shows are kind of lost on me. I can usually follow the action through the actors when they speak, but a lot of the visual stuff is wasted on an old blind man like me," he said with good humor.
"Then you might like the sound of this show," Hudson replied, "for it's not full of fancy fluff. From what my friend told me it's a kind of musical. I think the ticket said it was called 'Whomp'."
Robbins smiled widely. "I've heard of that group! From what some of my daytime friends tell me, it's extraordinary! Hudson, I'd be delighted to go."
"Good! We won't have to waste any time then, Robbins! My other friend arrived with me an'-" The front doorbell rang smartly. "I believe that's him right now."
"Well, let's not keep him waiting, shall we? C'mon, Gilly!"
Together, he and Hudson made their way through Robbins' house, arriving at the front door just as the doorbell rang a second time. Opening it, Robbins smiled out into the night, saying, "Hello? I assume I must be talking to Hudson's friend, am I?"
Matt was there, smiling as he took in Robbins - from his shaded glasses to Gilly at his side - before he answered with his hand out, "Good to meet you, sir. Matt Bluestone. Hudson's told me a lot about you."
As soon as Matt identified himself, Robbins stiffened. "Hudson, do you realize who this young man is?!?"
Hudson and Matt both looked at Robbins, then at each other, in confusion. "He's a friend, Robbins."
"He is also the head of the NYPD's Gargoyle Task Force!" Robbins replied flatly.
Matt saw where this was going. "Hey, don't let my title confuse you! I've known Hudson and the clan long before they made me head of the taskforce."
"Hmph! I... I see." Robbins grinned. "So that's why the police had such a hard time catching up with the gargoyles. It doesn't hurt to have someone working on the inside, does it Hudson?"
"Aye, it was pretty useful."
"You'll understand sir, if I ask you not to give my secret away," Matt asked anxiously. "It took a lot of tap dancing to make it seem like I was doing all I could to investigate the gargoyles and not come up with any tangible evidence."
"Your secret is safe with me," Robbins replied solemnly.
"I guess we should get going," Matt said, in the silence that followed. "Will you be taking your dog, or will she stay here?"
Gilly whined impatiently at Robbins' side.
"Oh! Excuse me," Robbins said to the dog. "Gilly, this is Matt. Matt, meet Gilly."
Matt knelt down and offered his hand to the dog. She sniffed cautiously, then lapped at his fingers.
"Gilly likes you too, Matthew," Hudson noted.
"I think Gilly's going to sit this one out, if you don't mind being my eyes tonight, Matt," Robbins said.
"I'd be happy to, sir."
"Please," Robbins gestured to the room at large. "we're all friends here, call me Jeffrey, or Robbins if you prefer."
"Sounds good to me," Matt said. "Robbins it is. I'll take good care of him, Gilly. Don't you worry."
"Then I'll just leave you two to enjoy the show," Hudson said. He turned to exit by the back door. He'd only taken one step when Robbins clapped a hand on his shoulder.
"Wait one moment, old friend! I don't think you should have to miss out on tonight, just because of your - ahem - condition."
Hudson muttered, "Now, wait one moment. I, er, don't think I'd be able to join you on account of-"
"On account of the fact you are a gargoyle?" Robbins chuckled. "Oh, I think I might have a way around that little wrinkle. It wouldn't be right to leave you out since they were your tickets to begin with. So, I see no reason as to why the three of us all can't go together."
Matt said, "I'd like to agree, but just how is Hudson going to get into the theater? He sorta stands out in a crowd, Robbins."
"Detective, are you game for a little friendly deception?"
Hudson looked at his old friend. "I dinna like the sound o' that!"
Matt could only smile and hold back the laughter. "Do tell, Robbins, do tell."
* * * * *
"I don't think I need to remind you all to be careful. The Halflings have been sighted again," Goliath said to his clanmates gathered around him on the parapets. "While it seems that this particular attack was…" he hesitated, looking for the proper descriptive, "…personally motivated, it does not mean that the rest of you should not exercise proper caution as you patrol."
"Got that right," grumbled Broadway.
Angela wrapped her arm protectively around the big gargoyle's bicep. "I will patrol with you, Broadway."
"Angela, maybe you should stay here," he suggested carefully.
Angela's eyes flared red. "Broadway, how can you suggest such a thing? I will patrol at your side as my duty demands it."
"We will all patrol in groups," Goliath continued. "Brooklyn and Sata, leave the hatchlings home tonight to watch over the castle. Patrol to the north."
Graeme and Ariana opened their mouths to protest but Sata cut them off. "A very important duty, my young warriors. Are you up for such a great responsibility?"
"Hai, Okasan," Ariana replied gravely. "No Unseelie will attack while we guard our home."
"Good," Sata replied benignly. "Come my love."
Brooklyn gave his children a final warning glance before hurling himself off the castle into the frigid night air.
"Lexington," Goliath continued. "You shall patrol with Coldfire and Coldstone."
"Right, Goliath." Lexington joined the Cold Duo. "We'll take the East Side."
Goliath nodded his agreement and the trio moved to the wall to follow Brooklyn and Sata's departure.
"Angela, you and Broadway shall patrol with me."
"Okay, Goliath, let's go. I want to kick a little Unseelie behind. I owe them." The portly gargoyle's eyes flared white and a look of concern crept into Angela's features. She hesitated a moment, uttering a protection charm beneath her breath before following Goliath off the edge.
Graeme watched the last of the adults glide away into the icy night. "Did you really buy mom's 'grave responsibility' speech?" he asked his sister.
"Sort of," Ariana replied thoughtfully. She twirled her bo in a distracted manner. "I mean, sure, they're trying to protect us, but think about it, Graeme. They broke in before, they might try it again."
"Yeah, and who better to stop them then a pair of half grown gargoyles and their beasts," Graeme reasoned. "It makes perfect sense to me." He shivered in the chill air. "Well, until we're attacked, do you want to watch that hospital space opera?"
Ariana rolled her eyes. "You just like it 'cause that actress that looks like Elisa is always sucking face in a closet with some guy."
"Nuh uh," Graeme protested too rapidly. "If I wanted to watch Elisa sucking face, I'd just hang out in the library. I watch it for the special effects. Are you coming or not?"
"Sure, Graeme. Whatever." Ariana thumped her brother on the head with her bo and raced ahead of him into the castle, Bronx and Nudnik at her heels.
* * * * *
On the rooftop of a derelict apartment house, Coldstone perched on the edge of the concrete ledge looking out over the neighborhood. Most of the buildings around him were in a sorry state of repair: faded brick, concrete and stucco, mixed in with shattered windows, barred with rust-ridden grates, and boarded doorways that had "CONDEMED" signs slapped haphazardly on top of them.
The cyborg snarled softly, frustrated. They were no closer to finding Coldsteel and the patrol had been fruitless; even the human criminals had been driven inside by the cold.
Now, alone and left to his own thoughts, Coldstone looked disgustedly at the dilapidated buildings around him.
"Phagh! How can anyone dare to even allow such filth to remain?" he remarked.
Turning away from the ledge, he made his way across the roof to one of the access doors of the building. The knob rotted away in his grip, so he cautiously made his way inside.
When he came out onto the floor below, he was even more disgusted with the dust, smashed furniture, and cobwebs that spread throughout the room. Before he could do anything further, there was a sharp BrrrrrIP! in his ears.
He made an unconscious motion to activate it. "Yes, have you found anything, Beloved?"
The voice of his mate came through, clearly disappointed, "No, my love. We have found nothing. No sign of the Halflings."
Sighing, he replied, "I have found nothing as well. The building I am in is in a sorry state. I doubt even rats would want to live here."
"Please be careful, my love," she said, a note of worry in her tone.
"I am always care-" he started to say, when something triggered his sensors, something from far below. "Wait! Something is in this building!" He peered around, switching from his normal range of vision into a more enhanced mode. The walls and furniture disappeared from view, replaced by a resonance scan that showed the building as ghostly white, full of wire-framed forms and images.
"What have you found?"
Still looking, he replied softly, "I am not sure. But my sensors are telling me something, or someone, is in this ruin!" Suddenly, he shifted his gaze downwards, looking past the floor beneath his feet, into the descending floors below. Several feet below him a collection of eerie shapes appeared as mottled, multi-colored blobs on his read-out.
"What have you found?" Coldfire's voice repeated inside his ears.
"I have found them! But there is something strange here," he said softly, puzzled by what the sensors were sending back to his analyzers.
"What is it?"
"I am not sure," he replied back. "Beloved, I think it would be best-"
A loud booming sound clawed its way from below, as some force began hammering into the floor beneath his feet. Cracks began spidering in a wide circle around Coldstone, just a second before the entire segment of the floor he was standing on gave way.
With a roar of indignation, he plummeted through three stories, tumbling amid the ruins of concrete, tile, wood, and metal before he came to rest with a loud metallic thud!
"See, boys? I said all this old shack needed was for someone to just drop in, and things would start picking up!"
Snarling, Coldstone slowly got to his feet, shaking his head to clear the mental cobwebs before he opened his eyes. A lone figure, dressed in black denim and leather, stood before an open window.
The sharp nosed man grinned. "Now, I know that bringing you through the floor is hardly nice. I apologize. I should have brought you through the window. Now, that would have been pane-less!" he cracked, motioning towards the empty window frames.
Eerie, high-pitched laughter echoed from the shadows in response to the quip.
Coldstone didn't get the gibe. Instead he focused on the leather-clad man and growled, "Who are you, and why have you attacked me?"
"You can call me Loki," the stranger said with a mocking half-bow. "And these are my crew!"
With a wave of his hand, some of the shadows retreated to reveal a gaggle of short, thick limbed, ham-handed creatures. Their gray-skinned faces leered stupidly. A few banged small but lethal looking gnarled clubs against the floors experimentally.
"So, what brings you to this neck of the woods, friend? Looking for a midnight-madness sale at the county junkyard?" Loki said snidely.
The ugly beings snickered and giggled evilly.
Coldstone ignored the wisecrack. "I am looking for someone-" he looked at the red-capped creatures and their leering companion, "else. I suggest you let me continue my search unmolested."
The creatures burst out in guffaws, some rolling on the floor with laughter. But Loki was not laughing now. He looked distinctly bored.
"Ah, looking for someone, eh? Well, it's a shame but you found me instead," he replied. "Since me and the boys were going to have a little fun tonight, I guess we could include you as well. Redcaps!"
The evil little beings stopped chortling, looking up at Loki with a group "Huh?!?" on their faces.
With a gleeful sneer, the Redcaps turned as one to face Coldstone. Before the cyborg could raise a hand, use his weapons, or even try to fly out of the deathtrap, they pounced.
* * * * *
Matt pulled into a parking lot near the theater. A mittened hand emerged from the guard shack and Matt reached for his wallet.
"Five bucks." The attendant's voice was muffled by his scarf pulled high over his face.
Matt fumbled the money out of his wallet and into the man's hand. It retreated back into the guard shack and the bar rose admitting them into the lot.
"Friendly sort," Robbins commented dryly.
"Are you sure this will work?" Hudson asked, his voice muffled from underneath the scarf wrapped around his face.
"It worked all right for that guy," Matt reassured Hudson as he pointed his thumb at the attendant. "You can't tell who or what he is. Except maybe cold."
"Trust me," Robbins added as he straightened Hudson's overcoat. "If anyone gets suspicious, we have the perfect cover story."
"As long as they don't get a good look at your feet," Matt added. "If they do then we might have to talk really fast."
A sigh made the cloth over his nose puff out, the warm air turning to mist in the cold night air. "Och, I hope this works, or else there's gonna be a ruckus!"
"Don't worry. I was kidding about your feet. Just keep your coat drawn tight, that blanket over your lap and your tail hidden and we'll take care of the rest," Matt said with a grin. "Ready, Jeffrey?"
"Lead the way, Matthew."
Matt unloaded a wheelchair, borrowed from a friend at Manhattan General Hospital, out of the trunk and unfolded it quickly. Hudson settled himself in the chair and tucked a bright blue woolen blanket over his legs.
"Let's roll, shall we gentlemen?" Robbins said as Matt began to push the chair towards the sidewalk.
"Mmmph," Matt strained against the rough pavement. "Maybe I should have gotten a motorized chair."
The trio walked down the street to the theater unnoticed, merging seamlessly with the other theater-goers. Matt and Hudson escorted Robbins, murmuring instructions from time to time to keep him out of harm's way.
"You two had better wait here while I get the other ticket," Matt said as he parked his companions in a small alcove near the box office. "I'll be right back."
He strolled the short distance to the box office and examined the posters for future attractions as he waited his turn. A bright poster featuring circus performers in fancy dress costumes caught his eye. "I'll bet Sara would like that one," he muttered without realizing it. The short line in front of him cleared rapidly and soon he was standing before the cashier.
"One ticket, please," Matt asked the young woman behind the glass. "Oh, wait a minute." He pulled the other tickets from his coat pocket. "Would it be possible to get three seats together? My friend is in a wheelchair."
The ticket vendor glanced at the ticket numbers, punched them into her computer and nodded. "Not a problem, sir. We've had a lot of cancellations due to the storm warning." She tapped more buttons. "That will be thirty six dollars please."
Matt passed her the money and a printer to the left of the woman's gaily braided, red uniform-jacketed arm purred. A moment later, a freshly printed ticket and receipt popped out.
"Here you go, sir." She passed him the three tickets. "Enjoy the show."
"Thanks." Matt started to turned away. He changed his mind at the last moment bumping into the man behind him. He snagged a flyer for the circus and stuffed it into his overcoat pocket before stepping aside and allowing the next patron to step up to the window. He waved to Hudson.
Hudson tapped Robbins on the elbow. "Take the arms of the chair, Robbins and I'll guide you. We need to go about ten feet up the walkway. About five feet up there's a heavy set woman on your left. She doesn't seem to be movin'."
"Right. Shall we?" The pair joined Matt and they walked calmly to the doorman.
"Tell me about him, Hudson," Robbins requested. "I remember the staff used to wear the most amazing costumes at this theater. Of course that was a long time ago."
"They still do," Hudson replied. "Let see. He's a tall fellow, taller than Matt, maybe six feet three or four. He's wearin' a long red frock-coat with these gold colored decorations down one side."
"Just as I remember it!" Robbins said excitedly as they handed their tickets to the usher.
"Up the stairs to your right," he said automatically as he glanced at the tickets. "Oh, excuse me, sir. There's an elevator as you enter the lobby on the left."
"Thank you," Matt replied courteously.
As they filed passed, the doorman cleared the way for Matt and Robbins. He paused, kneeling politely to address Hudson. "Would you like me to check your coat, sir?"
The trio froze.
"That would be kind of you, lad," Hudson replied, getting into the spirit of the deception. "But I'm afraid I'll be needin' it. I've got a condition, you see-"
Robbins could see that Hudson was faltering so he added, "He's terribly sensitive to the cold and the weather just makes it worse. Thin blooded or something, I guess."
The usher gave the bundled up form of Hudson a quizzical look. "What's he doing out on a night like this, then?"
"Hey," Matt shrugged, adding his own bit to the tale, "he wanted to come see the show, and it's the last week it's in town. So, he figured it should be tonight or never. You know?" Matt replied.
"Oh, well, I'm sorry to hear that," the doorman said sincerely. "I hope you feel better, sir," he said addressing Hudson.
"Thank you, lad," Hudson replied, just as sincerely. The trio continued on into the lobby area.
"Whew! That was close!" Matt said in relief.
"Aye," Hudson seconded. "'Twas a miracle that your ruse worked, Jeffrey!"
Chuckling, Robbins said, "It's all a matter of attitude, my friends. And a little deception doesn't hurt for a good cause. Shall we go take our seats then, gentlemen?"
* * * * *
Loki watched from his perch on the open window, as the donnybrook unfolded. "And I thought this was going to be soooo boring!"
The Redcaps circled Coldstone sizing up their opponent. They closed ranks and dove en masse, dog-piling the cyborg. Those on the bottom began to wail in pain. They peeled off, only to be replaced by others. The little men broke off their attack, their bodies smoking from where they had touched the metallic parts of Coldstone's body.
"Master! It be iron-burn!" they wailed piteously.
Loki's eyes narrowed. "Well then, try something different!" he said as he examined the gargoyle more closely.
The Redcaps began to circle again, but they kept their distance, hopping up and down in frustration. One picked up a piece of rotted wood and flung it at the cyborg. It hit him squarely in the chest and he staggered. The little men cheered and howled their glee. A second flung his club and caught Coldstone in the head. The cyborg roared in anger. Chaos broke loose as the brutish men lobbed bits of broken furniture, slabs of stone, pieces of non-iron metal, or whatever else they could get their grubby hands on.
Snarling, Coldstone decided it was time to get serious. Lashing out with his tail, he surprised a few of the attacking imps, smashing them into a wall with the rounded end of his tail. As he did so, he reached down and dug his claws into the pile of rubble that had cascaded down with him from above, coming up with a long slab of concrete.
"RRRRAAAGGHH!!!" he bellowed, slamming the slab down on top of six of the hapless Redcaps. A jumble of arms and legs poked out from the edges.
One of the Redcaps, either feeling brave or lucky, charged in with a caterwauling howl, its club raised to smash. Coldstone snapped his forearm blaster out, and fired from the hip, sending the Redcap's smoking body careening across the room. It landed with an ominous splat.
Turning to face his remaining opponents, Coldstone saw that while he had struck a good number of the Redcaps down, those that had fallen were picking themselves up, crawling back to their feet with an evil grin.
Loki smirked at the shocked look on Coldstone's face. "Makes you want to break out a big can of Flit doesn't it?"
Coldstone snarled, "Perhaps when you have fallen, they will learn to stay DOWN!" He triggered a lethal blast from his particle cannon directly at the smiling man.
With a feral grin, the impudent Unseelie raised his hand and the particle blast ricocheted off of a shield of energy. "Sooo, Robo-garg wants to play a little hardball?" Loki made a gesture at a pile of rubble and a large section of concrete, studded at the end with warped rods of iron, lifted up and hovered. "Here, catch!" Loki shot his hand out and the slab launched itself at Coldstone.
"AHHH!" Coldstone threw himself down, as did several of the Redcaps standing behind him. The slab imbedded itself in the far wall like a dart on a dart-board. One of the Redcaps was snagged by the passing missile and left hanging on a piece of re-bar by the back of his shirt. He kicked and screamed in an unrecognizable guttural language.
Coldstone slowly got up. "What manner of a man are you?" he asked.
Loki slowly got to his feet, pulling up the sleeves of his jacket as he sneered, "Why, I'm not any sort of man, Erector-garg! But, I don't think you're going to be worrying about that for much longer!" He fired off a bolt of energy, shaped like a small, compact diamond, straight at Coldstone.
Once more, Coldstone dodged, but it cost him when his foot slipped on one of the pieces of stone rubble. The bolt passed by, tagging another Redcap by mistake, reducing the imp to a pile of flaming ash, and Coldstone's foot slipped beneath a heavy piece of metal, where it was stuck.
"AHH-RRGH!!!" Coldstone reached down to pry himself loose, but the sharp chuckle coming from Loki made him face the stranger once again.
"Well, you really put your foot in it now," he snickered, as a glow surrounded his right hand, casting an eerie light all around. "I guess you did what you could, but no one is ever a match for me!" The glow coalesced into a ball of yellowish-green light, and he grinned at the cyborg. "Wonder if you even have a good warranty plan?"
Just as he was about to throw the ball, there was a sudden flash, and twin streams of fire raked along either side of Loki, causing him to leap away before he was burned.
Giving it all he had, Coldstone wrenched his foot free, just in time to see the golden-colored form of his mate as she soared into the room. "Beloved!"
Coldfire aimed another twin shot of fire at the black-clad man, but he now had a warding shield up to protect him from the flames.
"When you cried out, I tracked your communicator signal to your last known location!" She moved in beside her mate.
Loki and the Redcaps were eyeing the newcomer warily. "What is this? A casting call for the Metropolis remake?"
Both Coldstone and Coldfire turned to face the gaggle of foes. "You cannot beat the both of us, cur!" Coldstone growled.
"You mean the three of us!" Lexington tumbled into the fray, flattening a trio of Redcaps with a large chunk of roofing.
Loki paused for a moment, then simply grinned. "Maybe, but I can have fun finding out!"
* * * * *
Goliath, Angela and Broadway glided over the West Side in a tight "V" formation.
"Do you see anything?" Goliath asked, scanning well ahead of their glide path.
"Nothing, Father," Angela replied, searching the streets below her intently.
"Me neither," Broadway admitted. "But I've had the feeling that someone's watching me for the last few minutes. Whenever I turn around though, nothing's there."
"What's that?" Goliath said suddenly. He veered sharply, diving under the younger gargoyles and facing the empty air behind them. A mocking peal of high, silvery giggles came from everywhere, and nowhere.
"Reveal yourself!" Angela demanded. She thought frantically, trying to remember the words for the spell of revealment her mother had taught her. Her eyes glowed in frustration as the words skittered away like frightened mice.
"Don't do it, Angela," Broadway warned unnecessarily.
The spell eluding her, she tried the next best thing. Silently uttering the incantation that would reveal the presence of life energy, she scanned the skies around them. "There's no one to do anything to," she muttered frustrated. "Whoever was following us is gone."
"Are you sure?" Goliath asked confirming his own suspicions. The itchy feeling Broadway had described, that had plagued him as well, was gone.
"I'm sure," Broadway chimed in.
"More harrying tactics," Goliath decided. "Come we must finish our patrol."
"Father," Angela called and pointed to the street below. "Look! Those boys are attacking that woman with the shopping bag."
"If we can't have the Unseelie then let's take out some human trash," Broadway snarled grimly as he dove toward the muggers.
* * * * *
"So explain to me just what this show is all about," Hudson asked as they settled into their seats. He opened his program and his eyes widened as he took in the cast photo. A large group of roughly dressed men and women were posing in front of a collection of garbage cans and other paraphernalia.
"It's kind of different," Matt began. "Not really a play."
"In away," Robbins added, "it's kind of an introduction to my world. The performers make you aware of the background noise. Well," he amended, "it's background when you're sighted. When you're blind, your other senses sharpen to compensate and the world becomes a very different place. All sounds take on a new meaning."
"And you're saying that these performers allow you to see into that world," Hudson replied doubtfully.
"You'll see," Robbins said confidently.
The house lights began to dim.
"I guess we all will," Matt said as he settled into his seat. "The show's about to start."
* * * * *
Back to back, Coldstone, Coldfire and Lexington circled and dodged the incoming attacks from the gang of Redcaps. Working in concert, a pair of Redcaps leapt at Coldfire attempting to drag her down. She raked blindly with her talons scoring the creatures and sending them howling away in agony from the iron-burn.
Coldstone blasted away with his particle cannon, alternating volleys with slashing tail strikes. "By the Dragon! Is there no end to these things?" he snarled, blasting another Redcap, only to see three more take its place.
"Stubborn aren't you?" Lex growled as he went toe to toe with a leering Redcap. He lashed his tail around the Redcap's ankles, pulling its feet out from under it. Grabbing frantically for a piece of re-bar, he pivoted and dropped a second Redcap with a blow to its head.
* * * * *
A pair of men bounded out onto the stage. They were dressed, much as the people in the program, in rough clothing - khaki pants rolled up to mid-calf and tank- top shirts. They each carried a pair of garbage can lids. Hudson leaned forward as the men began to size each other up. They lunged together with a CLANG, and began to spar using the lids as twin shields.
"What the devil," Hudson murmured, his eyes wide with surprise. "They're fighting up there!"
Robbins leaned forward as well. "How gracefully they move!" he exclaimed.
Hudson shot a look at his friend. "How can you tell that?" he asked interested.
"Listen to them, Hudson. You too, Matthew. Close your eyes and listen to the beat."
The sighted companions complied with their blind friend.
"Are you seeing them in your mind? Are you following their movements just by the sound?"
"Yeah," Matt nodded, bobbing his head, shadowing the mock-fighters movements. "I see them."
"I as well," Hudson agreed.
"Good. Now open your eyes. Look at them move, really look at them."
"You know there is a kind of beauty there I hadn't seen before." Hudson nodded thoughtfully. He sat forward in his seat and watched the show closely. From time to time he closed his eyes and let the cacophony of sound be his only guide.
* * * * *
Loki grinned like a feral wolf. "Oh, you're the one to talk about not taking a fall, Bot-Boy! Who's your father? A little pink bunny?" He pointed at the ground, and two long cables snaked out from amid the rubble. They darted around and around the trio of gargoyles before they could act, wrapping their arms and legs until they were tied up tight.
"Hey!" Lexington yelled as he struggled against his bonds. "Let me go!"
"Uh-AAAHRRR!" growled Coldstone.
"Release us, you monster!" Coldfire said. She snarled like a metallic mountain lion.
The Redcaps, seeing an opening, leapt out at the metal duo, grabbing onto the cables instead of their bodies. Lexington renewed his struggles as a half dozen Redcaps closed, clubs raised high.
Loki grinned, swaggering forward to motion to his impish allies to ease off for a moment. "Monster am I? Just what kettle are you looking at?" His grin was still there, but there was an edge of steel in his voice.
Coldstone glared at the white-haired fay.
Lex quickly assessed their situation. He ducked a flailing club and yelled, "Coldstone, Coldfire, extend your wings!"
Both the cyborg and the robot complied. Their wings snapped outward, slicing the cable like razor cutting silk. Before Loki could pull back, Coldstone dashed forward, snatched him by the front of his shirt and threw him the length of the room, hurtling him toward the re-bar embedded in the wall.
"WHOOOAAAH-WHOA!" Loki shouted, startled by the suddenness of the attack. He threw a defensive force field up around his body. It materialized only a bare inch away from the iron bars and he recoiled against it.
"That was just a little too close for comfort!" he complained as he levitated himself back to a safer distance out of reach of the gargoyles.
* * * * *
The lights dimmed and the curtain rose on the performers. The stage was filled with municipal garbage cans and Hudson's brow ridges arced in alarm. "I'm not sure I'm ready for this," he whispered to his companions.
"What are they doing now?" Robbins whispered back.
"The main event," Matt replied.
Robbins patted Hudson's arm. "Don't worry, my friend. It's not as scary as it looks, if you take my meaning."
Hudson and Matt chuckled and the old gargoyle leaned back to watch as the performers began to tap out a rhythm using the trash cans as a giant drum set.
They started softly, thump, thump, thump. The players began to alternate, using different parts of the barrel to create variants in tone and pitch. Other players slowly joined them on stage using long handled brooms and cigarette lighters and matchboxes to add new notes to the building symphony. Noise faded away and was replaced by melody, harmony, music.
* * * * *
Loki bounced against a ceiling support as he watched the gargoyles take on his Redcaps with new enthusiasm. "By the host of Hel! What sort of demons are these?" He closed his eyes for a second and thought hard. "This ought to do the trick!" He sketched a small circular motion in the air and a tiny vortex materialized. "Poof!" The vortex grew and began to suck debris from the room up into itself. Smashed furniture, concrete, anything that wasn't nailed down, even a hapless Redcap or two swirled around the Cold Duo in a maelstrom of fury.
"What matter of sorcery is this?" Coldstone bellowed a large chuck concrete bounced off of his chest, staggering him.
Coldfire twisted aside, barely avoiding a similar missile. "The stranger! He is trying to wear us down!"
"Just trying to keep you busy, Goldie!" Loki snarled. He concentrated on the pair of cyborgs, his eyes glowing with an eldrich light. He probed the two confused gargoyles, seeking, searching. "By Odin's Beard! They aren't really alive," he said, awe coloring his every word. "They are just- just a pair of souls, bonded to those metallic shells!"
He shouted to his entourage, "Redcaps! Time to blow this pop stand!" He turned into a white, swirling nimbus of light and was gone.
The Redcaps quickly followed his example, dashing and ducking into the shadows until not a single impish face was left.
Without magic to sustain it, the whirlwind dissipated as quickly as it had begun, leaving Coldstone and Coldfire standing together, dazed in the center of a pile of debris and junk.
"Wh-What happened? Where did they go?!?" the female gargoyle asked aloud.
Coldstone looked around, then with a growling huff he replied, "Away from this place and good riddance to them! Whoever they were."
"Those were Madoc's men," Lexington answered grimly. "We'd better get back and tell Goliath!"
The gargoyle and his cybernetic companions quit the derelict building to spread the news of the latest Unseelie attack.
* * * * *
"Nice work on those thugs, Angela," Broadway congratulated his beloved as they alighted in the castle courtyard.
"I cannot believe that they would try and steal an old woman's groceries," she replied her eyes glowing hotly. "Sometimes it amazes me the depths that humans sink in their cruelty towards each other."
Goliath looked at his daughter with surprise. "True," he admitted, joining the conversation. "But for every act of cruelty there is another of selflessness. It is hard to believe sometimes that they are both created by the same species."
"Yeah, like the people at the shelter that we carried the old lady to after she fainted. They took her in. And I heard one of the workers say that they would replace all the food that the thieves took and then some." Broadway looked thoughtful. "Maybe we can make sure that Xanatos makes them a donation through the Foundation so they can keep helping people."
"That's a very thoughtful idea, Broadway. Let's go suggest it to Xanatos right away." Angela grabbed the burly gargoyle by the hand and the pair hurried inside.
Goliath watched them go with a faint smile and turned toward the sound of wings behind him. Brooklyn and Sata were gliding toward the castle, hand in hand. Sata was laughing, covering her mouth in embarrassment at something her mate had just said.
"An uneventful patrol, Brooklyn?" Goliath said to his Second.
"Yeah," He turned towards his mate and blushed. "for the most part."
"I see," Goliath said mildly. "No sign of trouble?"
"We broke up two car-jacks and a mugging, Goliath-sama. But other than that, it was very quiet," Sata added as she smoothed her tunic.
Before Brooklyn could add to the report, Lexington hurtled in from over the tower followed closely by Coldstone and Coldfire.
"We ran into a bunch of those little men, Redcaps and Loki!" Lexington said, barely pausing for breath.
Brooklyn growled and his eyes glowed white. "Why won't that guy just dry up and blow away?"
"Are you all right?" Goliath asked as the Cold Duo joined them.
"We are fine, Goliath. We defeated the trickster and his minions," Coldstone answered before he stalked off towards the castle.
"We defeated them," Coldfire added to explain her mate's curt behavior, "but they did not fight honorably. The trickster Loki took great delight in tormenting Coldstone rather than battling us fairly."
"Yeah," Brooklyn added grimly, his good mood evaporating. "he excels at that. Can't say I blame Coldstone for being in a lousy mood."
"I will see what I can do for him. If you will excuse me?" Coldfire hurried off to find her mate.
"It's cold out here," Brooklyn grumped. A dusting of snow flakes began to flutter. "I'm going in. You all coming?"
"Yeah, right behind you, Brooklyn," Lexington agreed.
"I as well, Brooklyn-san," Sata added.
"No, I must go tell Elisa of this new news." Goliath turned away from the warmth of the castle and glided away into the increasingly heavy snow.
* * * * *
Coldstone stalked through the castle, his frustration barely contained. "Our time here is wasted!" he growled.
"My love," Coldfire called after her mate as they rounded the corridor into the main hall. "Please, talk to me!"
"There is nothing left to discuss. Our search for Coldsteel has been fruitless. It is time for us to continue the search elsewhere."
"Beloved, what of the Unseelie? We promised Goliath and the others that we would stay and help them with their fight!"
"Goliath and the others can handle them! We handled them well enough tonight," Coldstone retorted.
Coldfire gasped at Coldstone. "We did not defeat them! They retreated, though I know not why. They clearly had the advantage. When will you see that we cannot leave the clan? They need our help!"
"Goliath and the clan have survived without us before," he countered with a growl, "and they can do so again!"
"My love, you cannot abandon-" Coldfire started, but Coldstone snarled and rounded on her with his one good eye glowing white-hot.
"I will not hear anymore about it! Our duty to the clan is to stop Coldsteel first, and that is what we must do!" he roared. He turned away from his mate, stalking to where the open window lay. "Come! We must not waste another night!"
Coldfire looked at him, fuming at her mate for being so pig-headed. "Will we at least tell our brother that we are leaving?"
Coldstone turned to regard his mate. He paused before answering. "Very well," he sighed. "We will say our farewells," he conceded. "But then we must go!"
"As you wish it!" she said stiffly, coming over to stand by his side. They stood together before the great fireplace watching the embers spark and pop for a long moment before going to seek out their clanmates.
* * * * *
"It was a glorious night!" Deimos chortled.
"Oh, yes!" Phobos added. "Glorious, absolutely glorious! The humans ran in terror before us."
"And what of the others, how did they do?" Maeve asked the pair.
"Well," Phobos began. "Rangda reports that her witches have reawakened. They-"
"I don't know where they came from," Loki began without preamble as he entered the throne room.
"Well!" Phobos huffed. "How rude!"
Loki barely glanced at the toga clad twins. "Blow off, why don't you. I've got something important to report."
Madoc frowned at the impudent trickster and opened his mouth to utter a sharp rebuke but Maeve raised her hand. "Wait, my lord Madoc, I wish to hear what troubles the irrepressible Loki."
Phobos and Deimos exchanged shocked glances and dematerialized in a huff and a flash of green light.
Loki shot a brief glance at the Unseelie leaders before continuing. "You said to go to New York and stir up some trouble. So there we were, me and a posse of Redcaps, just out to destroy a few buildings, maybe cause a multi-alarm fire, just to get warmed up before we really cut loose, you know what I'm saying?" He began to pace before the twin thrones. "Anyway, just as we're getting started these weird looking gargoyles crash the party, three of them. This runty little gargoyle…" Madoc looked pained. "…and this other pair. None of them were all gargoyle-"
"Explain yourself, Loki," Maeve said, growing impatient.
"They were gargoyle, but they weren't. Someone had used magic to bind the life-energy to their bodies and the bodies were made of metal. The female completely and the male, he was made of parts and pieces, some flesh, some not."
Madoc leaned over to rest his chin on his hand, listening to his underling's report.
Maeve looked at Loki sharply. "Magic, you say? An' what drove you to that conclusion?"
"Duh! I checked them out! They were reeking of it!" Loki looked up, realized Maeve's eyes were glowing, and apologized rapidly. "I meant no disrespect. It's just that..."
"None taken, I'm sure," Madoc said soothingly. "You're just over-wrought from your evening going awry. I am pleased that you brought us this news, Loki." He waved his hand dismissing the trickster. "You may go now."
Loki nodded, bowing to both the Lord and Lady of the Unseelie Court, before vanishing in a swirl of light.
"This is a bit of twist, now isn't it?" Maeve commented thoughtfully.
Madoc shook his head. "They are gargoyles, no matter that they are flesh, metal, or magical stone. They are still simply beasts, and will be destroyed in the end."
Crossing her arms, Maeve shrugged in reply. "But it would be useful to find out just what forces made them."
"All in due time. All in due time," Madoc said with a note of finality. "Now, if the witches of Rangda have emerged, it means that the Asian forces are nearly at full strength. Our time grows near, Maeve. Very near indeed."
* * * * *
"Matt," Robbins said as a ominous clatter filtered from the kitchen. "Are you sure you don't want me to finish up in there? You're my guests after all."
"I'm fine," he called back. "You two relax. Enjoy yourselves. I'll just be another minute or two."
"Yuir sure we can't give you a hand, Matthew?" Hudson added.
There was another clatter. "I'm fine," he protested once more.
Robbins shrugged, accepting the situation resolutely. "I hope my kitchen's fine, too. Not that it hasn't seen a broken dish or two in its day."
"So tell me, Robbins," Hudson said, to change the subject. "Has your editor said anything about your latest book proposal?"
"I'm glad you brought that up," Robbins leaned forward and looked hopeful. "He was hesitant before about the idea of setting a series of historical stories in ancient Scotland. But he's changed his mind. Celtic culture is still red hot, but William Wallace has been done to death. He wants something new, fresh. He's ready to cut a deal for at least three books."
"It sounds like you'll make a fine bargain," Hudson nodded, happy for his friend.
"True," Robbins agreed, "But I'd love to have a real feel of realism in these stories. Oh, I imagine there might be some fantasy elements, but underneath it all-" He broke off and took a deep breath. "Hudson, how would you feel about collaborating with me?"
Hudson sat back in his chair, stunned.
"Yo, Hudson are you all right?" Matt inquired as he juggled an over- laden tea-tray out of the kitchen. He set the tray down in front of Robbins and went to Hudson's side.
"I'm fine," the old gargoyle protested. "You just startled me is all, Robbins."
"Why?" the author inquired. "It seems like such a natural idea. You're a living window to the past, Hudson. It would be a shame not to share that with others."
"He's right, Hudson," Matt added. "I say go for it! Pick yourself out a snazzy pen name and make the Times Best Sellers List."
"A toast, then," Robbins said as he handed around the tea cups. "To our new partnership."
Matt smiled as the china cups chinked softly together. Seeing Hudson still needed a time to collect himself, he steered the conversation in a different direction hoping to give the elderly gargoyle a little breathing room. "Robbins, did you have a good time tonight?"
The writer smiled. "Marvelous time," he said. "It felt good to be at the theater once more. All of the sounds and music and color it gives is something I miss. Besides, with the company I had tonight, who wouldn't enjoy themselves?"
"What about you, Hudson?" Robbins inquired. "Did you enjoy yourself?"
"It felt odd to be walking, or rolling, as it were," he amended, "openly among so many humans," Hudson admitted. "I've not done that in a good many years."
"Were you uncomfortable?" asked Robbins, concerned for his friend's well being.
"A little," Hudson admitted. "While there have always been a few exceptions, humans have never been exactly welcoming towards my kind."
"Human's are never comfortable around anything that's different or unfamiliar, Hudson," Robbins said sadly. "It's one of our great shortcomings."
"But you've got to admit, we're getting better," Matt interjected. "We're getting better all the time."
"Are you sure you're really a cop, Matthew?" Robbins asked.
"According to my city I.D. I am," Matt replied. "Why?"
"Because you're too optimistic to be a hardened police detective."
Matt shook his head. "See Hudson? Pre-conceptions come in all forms."
"Aye, lad," Hudson agreed. "As Brother Edmund told me once, 'we all have our crosses to bear.' You would have liked Edmund," Hudson said. There was a note of remorse in his voice. "I wished I'd gotten to know him better myself. But I had a few pre-conceptions of my own in those days."
"We're all learning, Hudson," Matt consoled.
"Amen to that!" Robbins said as he raised his tea cup into the air. "So, does this mean we all go out together again?"
The detective raised his own cup and put it near Robbins'. "I'm game."
"That would be grand," Hudson added, copying the movements made by his companions.
They all clinked their cups to seal the pact.
* * * * *
"My love, you know this is the right thing," Coldstone said softly. "Once we have subdued our brother, we shall return to stay with Goliath and the clan for good."
Sighing, Coldfire merely nodded in agreement. She stared moodily out over the city. It had stopped snowing and a fine layer of brilliant white coated everything within view. "I will go with you, no matter what comes before or against us. But I still feel we will be abandoning them when they need us most."
"Why does Goliath not return?" Coldstone muttered impatiently. "It is almost dawn and I do not wish to wait another day to resume our search."
Coldfire placed her hand on her mate's shoulder. "Perhaps he had decided to stay the day with Elisa. We may have to wait one more day before we depart, beloved."
The cry of a child and the soft crunch of footsteps scraping the snowy flagstones caused the pair to whirl. Owen approached carrying Alex. The boy was wrapped in a soft blanket.
"Forgive me for disturbing you," Owen said softly. "But I thought I'd bring Alexander out for some night air. He's not been sleeping well as of late."
Coldstone looked a bit perplexed, but nodded slowly. "Of course."
Coldfire came over to examine the red-haired child, a look of sympathy on her face. "Has he been like this long?"
"All evening," Owen replied. "Nothing seems to calm him." Owen attempted to reach into his pocket for one of Alex's toys, but the combination of his stone forearm and the child he was holding was too much. "Would you care to hold him for a moment?"
Coldfire looked at the major-domo in surprise. "I- me?" Before she could protest or refuse, Owen smoothly transferred Alex into her arms, and she was forced to cradled the child. "But, I really don't know-" Her protest was extinguished as Alexander rapidly calmed down. He nuzzled close against her, sighing contentedly.
"By the Dragon," Coldstone said in awe.
Coldfire was equally taken aback. "He- he trusts me?"
"Of course," Owen replied blandly. "Alexander has been protected by gargoyles virtually since the day he was born. To him, other than his parents and myself, of course, they are his ultimate guardians."
Both cyborgs looked on, watching as Alex slowly drifted off to sleep in Coldfire's arms. "But we are not normal gargoyles," Coldstone protested. There was a hint of sadness in his rough voice.
"In my experience, Coldstone, a gargoyle is a gargoyle. It matters not if they are flesh or steel. A true gargoyle will always protect," Owen explained. He hesitated slightly before broaching a new topic. "I understand that you are planning on leaving the castle."
"That is true," Coldstone admitted gruffly. "We will be on our way as soon as we take our leave of Goliath."
"I see." Owen removed his glasses, dusted an errant flake of snow off of them with his handkerchief and settled the spectacles back on his nose. "You place me in a most difficult position."
"I do not understand," Coldfire said softly. "Why?"
"You are unique," Owen began. "You have many attributes that make you an asset to the defense of the castle. Your bodies are mostly compromised of an iron-based alloy. You also have the advantage of being able to operate beyond the dawn," Owen continued, "an ability that none of Goliath's clan, save Demona, has. You are strong and virtually tireless. If the Unseelie were to ever attack during the day, your assistance would be vital in repelling the assault."
"You wish us to stay?" Coldfire interpreted.
Owen relaxed a fraction. "Yes," he said flatly. "It would be in the best interest of those I served if you did not leave."
"Our decision has been made," Coldstone replied. "There is nothing you can say that will change my mind."
Nudnik began to bark and the sounds of Graeme and Ariana mock-fighting drifted from somewhere inside the castle.
"As you wish. However there is one point I should mention, Coldstone," Owen said softly. There was a hint of real emotion in the normally cool tone. "When the Unseelie attack, there is little hope that they will spare the children."
Coldfire looked down at the young boy nestled in her arms in shock. "This Madoc would harm an innocent child?"
Owen's voice became flatter and harder than usual. "Madoc does not care how innocent anyone is. He perceives anyone and anything that could be a threat to his power expendable. Alexander would be very useful to Madoc. I suspect that he and his mother would become powerful bargaining chips in Madoc's campaign to control Queen Titania." Owen finally let his gaze fall on Coldstone. "I know you believe Coldsteel to be your priority, but if not for Goliath and the clan, please consider the twins, and Alexander. They will need your protection during the coming storm."
"I never thought- the children-" He looked at the sleeping form of the Xanatos child, then at his mate. She met his eyes calmly, waiting for his decision.
Coldstone moved to Coldfire's side. Carefully, he placed his flesh hand over that of his mate, gently touching Alexander's cheek.
"I will never abandon my search for Coldsteel," Coldstone said at last. Owen's cheek twitched. "But I will honor my pledge to remain in this city until the Unseelie have been vanquished."
"I have your word?" Owen inquired carefully.
Coldfire spoke up. "You have our oath. At least one of us will remain at all times within the boundaries of this protectorate."
"Thank you, both," Owen said. "Now if you'll excuse me, I believe young Alexander is ready to return to his bed."
Coldfire hugged the toddler gently before returning him to his nanny. "You are canny, Owen Burnett," she said as Coldstone moved away to search the skies. "I am glad you are on our side."
"Indeed," he replied, as he settled Alexander into the crook of his arm. "Good evening, Coldfire, Coldstone."
Owen Burnett, young charge in arms, withdrew into the castle a much happier man.
* * * * *