"Elisa. Tis good to see ye,
lass." Hudson was watching television in his usual corner.
From beside the easy chair, Bronx lifted
his head and rumbled his own greeting.
Elisa hid a grin as she strolled
across the living area of the clock tower. Hudson looked so... grandfatherly.
Of course, saying
that would probably earn her a serious dirty look, and from a gargoyle, dirty looks were pretty darn scary. "Hi. The others out
"Aye, they left just after sunset."
"Hey, Bronx." Elisa sank down
on the floor beside Bronx, who promptly shifted over to rest his head in
her lap. A pleading whine
and imploring nudge from his nose got her attention. "You're such a baby." Slender fingers slid behind his fan-shaped ears and she
began to rub and scratch. "I tried to get here earlier but... oh well. I have to start shift in ten minutes anyway, mind if I hang out
here with you until then?"
"Of course not, and as to Bronx, I doubt he wud let ye leave besides." Hudson rolled his eyes in disgust at the watch gargoyle.
Bronx only grunted and rolled onto
his back, all four legs sticking up in the air, tongue lolling mindlessly
as he sighed. Elisa shifted
her ministrations to his tummy and behind the spurs at his elbows. "We used to have a dog who was like this. Marshall was pretty
intimidating, but a good scratch turned him to Jell-O."
The sound of steel drums caught her
attention and she looked at the television. A reggae band was playing
on a white sand beach,
while people frolicked in the intense blue-green water. "What are you watching?"
"A travel show. It's about
the Caribbean." His voice turned soft "It's always warm there,
they say. Amazing. A place without
winter... I canna imagine it."
The movement of her hands stilled.
"I thought gargoyles didn't feel the cold." Bronx moaned in protest,
and she resumed rubbing
"It's not that we don't feel it, just that we have a much greater tolerance to it than humans do."
Elisa eyed the bearded gargoyle speculatively.
Hudson was getting old. Was he feeling the cold more, the way a human
he aged? He was so sensitive about his advancing years; she didn't dare ask.
The television showed a harbor clogged
with yachts. "Oh, I know that place. It's Charlotte Amalie,
on St. Thomas. I was there
once, when I was just a kid. It has great beaches."
Hudson gazed in fascination at the
shining water, white yachts gleaming against the deep blue of sky and sea.
"Things seem to sparkle
in the sun, like jewels. It must be hard on the eyes."
"It is. That's what sunglasses
are for." He was intent on the pictures, almost fixated. "You
really wish you could see it don't you? The
sun, I mean?"
"This television device has brought
me closer to daylight than I ever dreamed." He glanced her way and
directed another frown at Bronx.
The doglike gargoyle was showing no modesty in his upside down position, and gave the occasional chesty grunt of enjoyment. "But it's
no good dreaming about the impossible. Gargoyles are stone when the sun shines, that's just the way it is."
Elisa noticed him unconsciously lean
forward as he turned his attention back to the television. The travelogue
had shifted to Barbados,
curved palms dipping over a golden sunset-drenched beach. "Still, you can wish."
Hudson was silent for several moments. His voice was quiet, wistful. "Aye. One can always wish."
"Brooklyn, you there?"
Brooklyn scanned the alleyways and
behind the building once again. Neon light spilled from the sign
above the front door. A green palm
tree: the words 'Club Tropico,' in bright pink below. "Can't see anyone and I've got a pretty good view."
"OK, I'm going in."
The door swung open silently with a nudge from Elisa's foot. He watched her listen intently and then slip inside, gun drawn and ready.
The night was cool and damp against
the membrane of his wings. Without thinking he increased their pitch,
spilling air in a controlled fall. Just
before touching down he flexed the struts, cupping air to slow his descent. An agile twist of his body and he landed on his feet, balanced and
ready, a natural and instinctive skill.
Just inside the open door he could
see Elisa moving stealthily across a lobby or reception area of some type.
He stepped up to the doorway.
Behind the reception desk, another door stood ajar.
"Careful!" she whispered.
The window in the door had been shattered
and the floor was littered with splinters of glass. Brooklyn lifted
his tail a few inches off the ground
and carefully stepped through the litter of shards. The beam of a small flashlight bobbed from the other room. Stealthily he moved to the side
of the door, pressed up against the wall opposite her, and nodded.
"This is the police. Come out with your hands in the air." Elisa's voice rang with authority.
>From behind the door came the crunch of something breaking and a muffled obscenity.
"Hey! I said come out. Now!"
>From inside the office, the click of a door opening wordlessly countermanded her order.
Elisa spun and edged her way into the ransacked room. "They're gone!"
Brooklyn snarled low and ducked around
the corner into the office. On the opposite wall, another door stood
open. Leaping across the
room, he looked round the corner to see a fleeing man turn right and run down a corridor out of sight.
"Go! I'm right behind you."
Brooklyn dropped to all fours for
maximum speed and galloped down the hallway after the thieves. Skidding
around the corner, he halted
and listened intently.
"It's a dead end, Don!"
"Shut up! Try over there."
Whispered voices, from the large
room at the end of the hallway, echoed in the silent building. Carefully,
he began to stalk. A light touch
on the point of his wing alerted him to Elisa's presence right behind him. Together they moved silently down the hall to the entrance of the room.
He heard Elisa's jacket slide against
the wall as she reached around the corner, feeling for the switch.
"Watch your eyes." He closed his
eyes and turned his head away as the room was flooded with light.
"All right you two. Police. Hands up, right now. Face the wall."
The two men turned at the woman's
voice. Eyes widened and the crowbars they held fell to the floor
with a deep metallic thump as they
beheld the red monster that stood snarling beside the policewoman. Without a word of protest, they obeyed.
Elisa closed the door of the closet
with a smirk and watched Brooklyn bend the handle. Those two wouldn't
be running anywhere, at least
until they police showed up.
"Nice work, partner."
"Don't mention it."
Brooklyn had been working with her
a lot more during the last couple of months. Broadway sometimes still
accompanied her like he used
to, but lately he wanted to spend more time with Angela, which was perfectly understandable. Matt was spending more and more time on
his Illuminati investigations, and Goliath... well, things were rather painful in that area. They had been avoiding each other ever since returning
from the Avalon trip.
There was so much that had to remain
unsaid. Talking about it wouldn't change anything. 'We are
what we are,' she had told him. Still, a
part of her wished...
No matter. Brooding wouldn't change anything either.
She snapped out of her reverie with a shake of her head.
Brooklyn stood beside the equipment lining the walls of the large room and ran a talon down the dark metal tubing. "What is this stuff?"
"Exercise equipment. You know, for working out. Building muscle."
The red gargoyle gazed around him in astonishment. "Looks more like something you'd find in a dungeon."
"I'm sure some of the users think so, too."
Behind the equipment, several doors led into small rooms. He peeked into one. "Whoa, these things look like coffins."
Elisa stepped up beside him. "I think they're tanning beds."
"They put out a kind of light, that
makes people tan. They're skin changes color, gets darker..."
Elisa's words slowed as she eyed the
equipment speculatively. "...like from the sun."
The glaring green and pink neon cast demonic, skewed shadows upon the group of Gargoyles looking down from the rooftop.
"Are you sure this is the place?" Goliath's bass rumble was rife with doubt. This seemed a very strange place for a meeting...
"Yep, one-hundred percent." Brooklyn replied flippantly. "Elisa said to meet us here, at the back doors, at two a.m."
"She said it was a surprise." Lex fairly bounced with curiosity as he answered. "It's time, can we go now?"
Goliath paced to the back of the
building and looked down into the alley. All was still. "Very
well. Wait here, I'll go first." He fanned his
wings, jumped off the side, and coasted silently the ground. The alley was damp and chill; a pile of snow remained unmelted in a sunless
corner. Beside him was a fire escape door. He eyes the gray metal warily. Raising his hand, he tapped four times.
The door opened immediately, flooding the alley with light. Elisa stood in the brightness, an exotic, dark angel.
"Hi. Come on in."
"Elisa, what is this? Why did you-"
"Didn't the others come?"
"They're above. Waiting."
"Well, come on! Time's a wasting."
Goliath sighed and looked up. Six eager faces stared down at him. At his brief nod, they leapt down to the alley behind him.
Elisa stood aside. "Come on in, guys."
Goliath paced into the building,
ducking to fit through the hallway, and entered a large room full of exercise
equipment. "What is this place?"
He couldn't help but cringe inwardly as he heard the door slam shut behind him. Too many times that sound had preceded betrayal.
"Relax. Everything's OK," Brooklyn whispered from beside him.
Elisa trailed Bronx as he sniffed
his way cautiously into the room. She was dressed... strangely.
The usual jeans and jacket were gone,
replaced by a robe of some sort. She was barefoot.
"I know you're all curious as to
why I invited you to this place. Well, a few weeks ago Brooklyn and
I stopped a break-in here. The owner
was very grateful: they have a lot of expensive equipment. Anyway, to make a long story short, that gratitude enabled me to make a deal
with her, and let me hire this place for the rest of the night for a private party.
Goliath glanced around the room.
Strange equipment lined the walls, the kind of things he would expect to
see in one of Xanatos' testing
labs. "A party? Here?"
Elisa followed his gaze and chuckled
softly. "Not quite here. Follow me." He followed, the
others close behind as she led them through
what appeared to be a locker room before stopping at a set of double doors. Brooklyn moved up to stand on the other side of the doors.
She was absolutely beaming, an impish grin lighting her features. Together, she and Brooklyn pulled open the doors.
"Welcome to the Caribbean!"
Goliath reared back, squinting against the intense light. Hudson stepped forward stand beside him and together they moved into the doorway.
"It... it canna be."
Sand stretched before them, sand and blue water that tossed and foamed as waves crashed onto the beach.
"Yes it can, Hudson! It's a wave pool! A piece of the Caribbean, right here in Manhattan. Or at least, as close as it gets."
"Oh, wow! Look at this place!" Lex scurried forward to stand beside a lounge chair. "It's so real!"
It was. Amazingly.
"It's just like some of the places Avalon sent us," Angela breathed in wonderment.
Goliath looked up at the domed ceiling,
painted with a mural to resemble a practically cloudless day. The
huge painting lent a very convincing
illusion of space, changing near the base to fool the eye into seeing a beach that stretched for miles. Life sized palm trees gave credence to the
illusion. Folding chairs rested on the glistening sand. The bright sunshine was actually warm against his skin and made vision difficult. A touch
on his arm brought his attention back to Elisa, who stood beside him holding out a very large pair of sunglasses.
"These will help." With a brief
nod of thanks, he slipped them on. The grip design made the strangeness
of his head and ear shape immaterial
and improved his ease of vision tremendously. The others had already donned similar pieces.
"Alright, people! The cart
over there has drinks and things." She gestured to the cart where
Brooklyn, posed in his best Tom Cruise imitation,
stood at the ready with shaker glasses and a blender. "Towels are folded up in the basket beside the cart, and on the table are some snacks
for you to try-"
Broadway had already found the table
and was hovering over its contents. "Yeah, fresh pineapple, and mangoes,
and other stuff I can't even
recognize! And meat on sticks!"
"Right." Elisa laughed with delight. "It's all ours until dawn. Have fun, guys!"
It had all gone according to plan.
Elisa felt like she was glowing with
joy as she watched her friends move onto the sand, flexing talons into
the gritty softness. Angela and Lexington
made their way directly to the waters' edge and dipped their feet into the waves.
She glanced over to see Hudson walk
gingerly across the warm sand and sink down onto a lounge chair.
She followed and sat beside him. "Do
you like it?"
Hudson gazed around the room, speechless.
"It's incredible. I know it's not real, but it feels like it is."
He spread his wings to the side and settled
back into the chair. "It's so warm," he sighed.
"Sunlamps. You can actually tan in this place."
"The sun? Real sun?"
Brooklyn carried over a large frothy
drink. "Not quite real. After Elisa and I stopped that break
in, we did a little experiment with a sun lamp, to
see if it would turn me to stone or not. It didn't. Hey, try this. It's a pina coloda."
"Brooklyn, we forgot the music!"
"Oh, yeah, right!" He returned to his bar and a few moments later the lively sound of a steel band broke the quiet.
"You and Brooklyn planned this," Goliath murmured from behind her.
She didn't bother to suppress her
grin as she glanced up. He looked so... interesting... in sunglasses.
A yowl from the water's edge caught her
attention. Angela stood in the water, completely drenched from a huge wave, giggling in delight as the waves pushed against her.
"Yeah, we did. I organized
the facility. Drinks and food are from a Caribbean caterer in town.
Brooklyn helped set up the bar and everything
and got you all here." She glanced up at the imposing presence beside her once more. "I hope you don't mind. I thought it would be nice to
just have some fun for a change."
Unearthly shrieks and roars echoed
off the domed ceiling, and Elisa tore her gaze away to refocus on the water.
A serious water fight had
developed, Broadway and Lexington vs. Angela.
Totally unfair odds.
"Excuse me, but I think Angela needs
a partner." Standing, she removed her robe and ran to the waters
edge. "Hang in there Angela! I'm
She was wearing a two-piece suit,
a bright yellow bikini with blue trim. The garment displayed her
every curve and clung like a second skin
to the ridiculously small amount of flesh left to conceal.
It was scandalous!
It was indecent.
It was... terrific.
Hudson glanced over at his leader,
who watched Elisa jog away. Intently. The sunglasses hid any
expression in his eyes, but not the sheen
of phosphorescent white that glowed briefly from behind the dark circles.
Wings were a definite advantage in
a water fight. Hudson laughed and cheered as Broadway tossed a wingful
over Elisa, drenching her
completely. "Perhaps ye should join in on the fun, lad."
"Yes. It seems as if I may be needed." Goliath strode down to the water's edge and forged into the waves.
Hudson reclined in the comfortable
lounger. The heat soaked into him. He groaned in quiet pleasure
as he sipped the frothy drink Brooklyn
had brought. What on earth the purpose of that little green umbrella stuck in the cherry could be was beyond him. But it tasted sweet and
And the sun! The heat beat down upon him. It felt as if his joints were melting.
Goliath's bass roar drowned out the
sound of the surf and Hudson observed the antics of his clan with a grin.
They were having so much fun.
Brooklyn had left his bar and was floating on his back in the waves. That was, until a large blue hand reached up from beneath him, grabbed
him by the waist, and pulled him under. Moments later he surfaced with a snarl and looked wildly around, yelling angrily. "Hey! Who did that!?"
The water fight broke up once Lexington
discovered his particular wing configuration made him the ultimate body-surfer.
Broadway left the
water, grabbed some towels, and began helping himself to snacks and drinks. Elisa and Angela ganged up on Goliath, but weren't having
much success in dunking him. Bronx ran back and forth at the water's edge, barking with excitement.
He hadn't heard Goliath laugh like
this in years, and he couldn't help laughing with them. It was good
to see them relax and just play. Ever
since awakening in this strange new world, life had been one long procession of conflict, chaos, and betrayal. Except for a few good friends,
it was a cold and lonely place for a gargoyle.
Elisa too had bourn her share of
hardship. She had sacrificed much to keep their secret, keep them
safe. He had often thought that sometimes
they took her for granted. She, too, needed this break.
Hudson stretched luxuriously.
The younger ones could play in the surf. He was perfectly happy here,
letting the sun bake his bones, feeling the
heat penetrate, warming him to the core.
Yes, he was quite content.
Elisa switched off the power and the waves settled into a still pool.
The others had all left. Dawn
was less than a half hour away and they needed to get back home.
She was pretty tired herself; water exercise
always seemed more draining than any other kind.
With a yawn, she turned to give one
last inspection to the room. The trash had all been picked up and
deposited in the alley dumpster. The
drinks cart had been repacked and tucked away into its corner spot. Brooklyn had taken the ghetto blaster with him and would return it to
her tomorrow. Absently, she picked up an overlooked towel and tossed it into the laundry box.
It had gone better than planned.
She had never seen Goliath quite that way before. He had really had fun. They all had.
Well, it was time to go. She
took her regular clothes from the locker and changed out of her swimsuit.
Keys in hand, she went to the front
door and, after glancing outside for any potential trouble, locked up and began the short walk to her car.
She jumped at Hudson's voice, which issued from the alley beside her car. "Hudson?"
He stepped forward a bit so the light could catch him. "Aye, it's just me. I wanted to thank ye."
"You already did, I-"
"No, I thanked ye with the others.
But I know why ye came up with this, what lead ye to it. It was our
conversation from a few weeks ago.
This was for me, and that I need to thank ye for, personally. You gave me an impossible dream - a day in the sun! I'll never forget that."
"Well, I guess sometimes wishes come true."
"Aye, that they do. And some
dreams may be closer than we think." He regarded her intently with
his good eye, then glanced up at the huge
winged shadow that circled slowly overhead, waiting "Perhaps, lass, all we need is a wee bit o' creativity." With a warm smile and a murmured
good night, he turned to scale the building and took to the air.
Throat tight, she watched him glide off to join Goliath and together they banked for home.
She'd given him an impossible dream. Made it real.
Behind her ear was itchy and she reached up to dislodge a few stray grains of sand.
Perhaps other dreams weren't quite
so impossible either. Maybe all she needed was to find some creativity
for herself. Maybe... maybe there
could be a way, after all.
She unlocked her car and started
the engine. The red Fairlane roared to life and sped away down the
deserted street, leaving a light cloud of
exhaust and the fading echo of an enthusiastic but off-key mangling of the Beach Boys.
"We'll be falling in love,
To the rhythm of a steel drum band.
Down in Kokomo..."